The College Diaries: Surprise! More School!

Happy Dance GIF by FIU

Hi everyone, Jessica here! I know it's been a little while since there's been a college diaries update from me -- as a matter of fact, I think the last post I put up about this was talking about how sad I was that I wasn't getting a proper college graduation due to the pandemic. But I'm here with some slightly different (and very exciting, in my opinion!) news today...

I decided to go to graduate school to get my MFA! 

I'd been on the fence about graduate school or no graduate school all during my senior year of undergrad, with my biggest concern being the fact that while I absolutely wanted an MFA in Creative Writing (so I could be a teacher or professor down the line if I so choose!), I didn't want to wait two more years to start my career. So when I realized that a lot of the programs I'd been looking into all involved me going to classes in-person full-time, I shied away from the idea of graduate school because as much as I wanted my education, I didn't want to put myself further back in terms of waiting to start my career. (And to be entirely clear -- there is NOTHING wrong with anyone who chooses to make that decision for themselves! It just wasn't what felt right for me at the time.)

But then I noticed some of my Book Twitter friends all graduating from online Creative Writing MFAs where they got to focus on YA Literature, and it seemed like a dream come true. After talking to them and poking around for a little bit, I discovered that the program that a lot of them were enrolled in at SNHU was the program that I'd already been researching, and it just seemed like a perfect fit for me.

And now, voila -- I am the newest SNHU graduate student! What I love about this program is that it's all asynchronous, which means I can finish my assignments and projects on my own time instead of being chained to having to show up to classes in person (or through Zoom) at specific times of the day. This way, I'm able to get my MFA in two years while still being able to work full-time. It's a win-win for me and I'm super excited to get started next month! You guys have NO idea how hard it was to keep this whole thing under wraps until I officially got accepted. But now I can shout it from the rooftops and update you all on this next phase of my life! Which is pretty wild to think about, since most of you have been around since OUR FRESHMAN YEAR OF HIGH SCHOOL when we started this blog. Now we didn't only graduate high school AND college, but now I'm starting graduate school! It's so weird how quickly time flies when you're doing what you love.

So that's all I've got as far as updates for you all today -- but you can definitely expect more from all of us soon, since this month is when Amber starts going back to school for undergrad, Emily's nursing school program kicks back up, and I am starting my graduate school classes! I was a bit worried about juggling everything in addition to blogging, but I did it for four years of college already, so what's a little more?! 

Now, if you'll excuse me...a new school year means it's obviously time to buy a new planner and some new notebooks, of course!

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Review: The Glare by Margot Harrison

Title: The Glare
Author: Margot Harrison
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Sci-Fi, Horror
Source: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers via NetGalley
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: July 14th 2020

After ten years of living on an isolated, tech-free ranch with her mother, sixteen-year-old Hedda is going back to the world of the Glare-her word for cell phones, computers, and tablets. Hedda was taught to be afraid of technology, afraid that it would get inside her mind and hurt her. But now she's going to stay with her dad in California, where she was born, and she's finally ready to be normal. She's not going to go "off-kilter," like her mom says she did when she was just a little kid. Once she arrives, Hedda finally feels like she's in control. She reunites with old friends and connects with her stepmom and half-brother. Never mind the terrifying nightmares and visions that start trickling back-they're not real. Then Hedda rediscovers the Glare—the real Glare, a first-person shooter game from the dark web that scared her when she was younger. They say if you die thirteen times on level thirteen, you die in real life. But as Hedda starts playing the so-called "death game"—and the game begins spreading among her friends—she realizes the truth behind her nightmares is even more twisted than she could have imagined. And in order to stop the Glare, she'll have to first confront the darkness within herself.
Content Warnings: Suicidal thoughts, self harm, suicide, death, underage drinking, drugs, psychological torment, murder.

Dark Web. Psychological Thriller. Horror. Alright, I was sold immediately. I am really glad I gave this book a shot, I enjoyed it so much more then I thought I would. I stayed up until 4 a.m. to finish because I needed to know what was going to happen next.

For the past 10 years of her life, Hedda has lived on a ranch isolated from society and technology by her mother who is protecting her from "the glare" which is any from of technology with a screen, mainly cell phones. Now 16 years old, Hedda is going back to California to live with her dad, step mom and step brother in a world full of technology that she has no idea about. Shortly after arriving and being reintroduced to technology Hedda begins to have flash backs from her childhood and that dark things that happened because of technology and the final straw that led her mom to whisk her away to their isolated ranch. Exploring her belongings from childhood Hedda comes across a link to a game from the dark web and begins to play. But urban legend says if you die 13 times on level 13, you will die in real life too and Hedda just died for the 13th time. 

I think The Glare brings up a good discussion on technology in this day and age. There is no set time frame of this book so I am going to assume present day (2018/2019) which would make 10 years ago 2008/9. Tablets were only released in the last decade for Android ('08) and Apple ('10), which would mean that when Hedda was 6 years old this technology was still fairly new. It also talks about a social media that is used and most of the characters have used as children. But we live in a day and age now that this isn't unheard of, children using Instagram, Twitter, TikTok and having cell phones. The internet can be a dangerous place and I think The Glare does a good job in showing that, even if 99.9% of children don't have access to darkweb games.

The Glare actually refers to the game that circles on the Dark Web that played a huge part of Hedda's childhood. When Hedda is introduced to the game and then introduces it to her friends is when the story begins to get interesting. The horror and creepiness of this story really does creep up on you, at first I was like "this isn't that scary" and then suddenly my dog was making noise outside my room and I was paranoid that one of the creatures from The Glare was behind my door. The later half of The Glare is unpredictable and the action keeps happening and as more of the secrets behind The Glare are released the more I needed to know. 

Overall I really enjoyed The Glare and I am really content with how the story ended. Margot did a great job in keeping her readers invested in the story as well as addressing the issues in current day society about technology. If you love sci-fi, horror and thrillers you should check out this book! 

Book Blitz & Giveaway: The Fall Changes by Marie McGrath

The Fall Changes
Marie McGrath
(Honey Cove , #1)
Publication date: August 11th 2020
Genres: Romance, Young Adult

Change where you live.
Change your parents being married.
And maybe, change who you are.

At 16 years old, Riley Mills has had more change than she ever wanted. A new high school would be daunting for most teens, but between getting attention from the most popular girl and being paired with a boy for her class project, she is navigating many situations she never could have imagined.
With homecoming fast approaching and rumors about her swirling, Riley must confront her true nature. Is she a popular girl at heart? Could someone actually like her?
With no clear answers, Riley may just find some answers from the most unexpected sources.
A girl with reddish-brown hair didn’t allow me to dwell on it for very long as she sat across from me. “Hey, new girl.”
Now what? Wasn’t one interaction enough? Couldn’t I have one minute of peace in this school without someone bothering me? All I wanted was to blend in and move on. If people kept reminding me I was the new girl, then neither of those things would ever happen.
“I’ve never seen those two stomp away in my entire life. I decided I had to introduce myself to the person who would accomplish such a feat. I’m Sophie Graham.”
I was unsure what to say. After what I just experienced, my walls were all the way up, and I wasn’t exactly thrilled with being called the new girl.
“Look. I know you don’t know me, and I can only assume what those two must have said to you, but seriously, I mean no harm. Okay? I think it’s cool what you did. Those two have been asking for it for, well, forever.”
“Thanks … I guess. I didn’t say much.”
“Well, for not saying much, they certainly bolted out of this lunchroom. Not to mention their bad mood could be felt like an earthquake across the cafeteria.”
I tried to stifle a giggle but wasn’t very successful. I imagined those two as an earthquake and couldn’t help it.
Sophie seemed to be really nice. But I thought Shelby seemed nice too, and look how well that turned out. I supposed if I was cautious with Sophie, it couldn’t hurt, could it? Something about her made her seem familiar and genuine. As my mom-mom always said, “You catch more bees with honey.” If I didn’t try, I would never know.
Sophie sat and blabbed about the school and her classmates.
I had a hard time concentrating. Instead, my brain churned everything that had happened so far. My thoughts were at war with each other. How much should I trust these people?
Sophie waved her hands in front of my face and snapped her fingers. “New girl! Hello! Are you in there? I asked you what class you had next. Lunch is almost over.”
I retrieved my schedule and showed it to Sophie. “I think it’s gym.”
“Well, isn’t that ironic. So do I. I’ll show you how to get there. Follow me, new girl.”
I hesitated before getting up and throwing away my trash. “The name’s Riley.”
“I know, new girl. Remember it’s a small school and town. You’re famous. We don’t have many newcomers, and most people have already heard your name, but new girl is more fun to say.”
I shot her a look.
“Well, I guess so is Riley. Come on, let’s go. Coach Schneider does not like you to be late. Trust me, I learned that the hard way.”
I may have only known Sophie for what felt like ten minutes, but Sophie was easy to listen to and seemed like she would be easy to get along with. I hoped things would be different with Sophie than how they had turned out with Shelby so far.

Author Bio:
Marie McGrath lives in a small rural town in Maryland. She hopes to inspire others with her stories. Her favorite genres to read are YA Romance and Contemporary Fiction. She loves the color turquoise, tigers, and listening to music.

We'd like to thank the awesome team over at Xpresso for allowing us to participate in this book blitz today! If THE FALL CHANGES seems like the type of book that you'd be interested in, don't forget to add it to your TBR!


Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Loved but Never Reviewed!

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl in which we create bookish lists about everything from our favorite characters to love triangles and everything in between! 

This Week's Theme: Books I Loved but Never Reviewed! 

I'm notorious for reading books and never writing their reviews. It happens more often then I would care to admit. But I struggle to write reviews for books that I actually love? I feel as if my words can't accurately describe my emotions well enough. Here are ten books that I loved but never reviewed!

*Click on the covers to be redirected to Goodreads!* 


Maybe my inability to review is the color red? That is what all these covers have in common. 😂 Despite not writing reviews for these books, these are books that are among my favorite! 

What books made your list this week? Leave your link below so we can stop back! 

Blog Tour: Lobizona by Romina Garber!

Today on the blog we have an except of LOBIZONA by Romina Garber, which we're so excited to share with you! We were a huge fan of Romina's Zodiac series, so having the ability to share more news about her latest release is *so* exciting. So without further ado, let's get into it!

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Title: Lobizona

Author: Romina Garber
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Hardcover, 400 Pages
Published August 2020 (Out Now!)

Summary: Some people ARE illegal. Lobizonas do NOT exist. Both of these statements are false. Manuela Azul has been crammed into an existence that feels too small for her. As an undocumented immigrant who's on the run from her father's Argentine crime-family, Manu is confined to a small apartment and a small life in Miami, Florida. Until Manu's protective bubble is shattered. Her surrogate grandmother is attacked, lifelong lies are exposed, and her mother is arrested by ICE. Without a home, without answers, and finally without shackles, Manu investigates the only clue she has about her past--a mysterious "Z" emblem—which leads her to a secret world buried within our own. A world connected to her dead father and his criminal past. A world straight out of Argentine folklore, where the seventh consecutive daughter is born a bruja and the seventh consecutive son is a lobizĂłn, a werewolf. A world where her unusual eyes allow her to belong. As Manu uncovers her own story and traces her real heritage all the way back to a cursed city in Argentina, she learns it's not just her U.S. residency that's illegal. . . .it's her entire existence.

I awaken with a jolt.
It takes me a moment to register that I’ve been out for three days. I can tell by the well-rested feeling in my bones—I don’t sleep this well any other time of the month.
The first thing I’m aware of as I sit up  is an urgent need  to use the bathroom. My muscles are heavy from lack of use, and it takes some concentration to keep my steps light so I won’t wake Ma or Perla. I leave the lights off to avoid meeting my gaze in the mirror, and after tossing out my heavy-duty period pad and replacing it with a tampon, I tiptoe back to Ma’s and my room.
I’m always disoriented after lunaritis, so I feel separate from my waking life as I survey my teetering stacks of journals and used books, Ma’s yoga mat and collection of weights, and the posters on the wall of the planets and constellations I hope to visit one day.

After a moment, my shoulders slump in disappointment.
This month has officially peaked.
I yank the bleach-stained blue sheets off the mattress and slide out the pillows from their cases, balling up the bedding to wash later. My body feels like a crumpled piece of paper that needs to be stretched, so I plant my feet together in the tiny area between the bed and the door, and I raise my hands and arch my back, lengthening my spine disc by disc. The pull on my tendons releases stored tension, and I exhale in relief.
Something tugs at my consciousness, an unresolved riddle that must have timed out when I surfaced . . . but the harder I focus, the quicker I forget. Swinging my head forward, I reach down to touch my toes and stretch my spine the other way—
My ears pop so hard, I gasp.
I stumble back to the mattress, and I cradle my head in my hands as a rush of noise invades my mind. The buzzing of a fly in the window blinds, the gunning of a car engine on the street below, the groaning of our building’s prehistoric eleva- tor. Each sound is so crisp, it’s like a filter was just peeled back from my hearing.
My pulse picks up as I slide my hands away from my temples to trace the outlines of my ears. I think the top parts feel a little . . . pointier.
I ignore the tingling in my eardrums as I cut through the living room to the kitchen, and I fill a stained green bowl with cold water. Ma’s asleep on the turquoise couch because we don’t share our bed this time of the month. She says I thrash around too much in my drugged dreams.
I carefully shut the apartment door behind me as I step out into the building’s hallway, and I crack open our neighbor’s window to slide the bowl through. A black cat leaps over to lap up the drink.

“Hola, Mimitos,” I say, stroking his velvety head. Since we’re both confined to this building, I hear him meowing any time his owner, Fanny, forgets to feed him. I think she’s going senile.
“I’ll take you up with me later, after lunch. And I’ll bring you some turkey,” I add, shutting the window again quickly. I usually let him come with me, but I prefer to spend the morn- ings after lunaritis alone. Even if I’m no longer dreaming, I’m not awake either.
My heart is still beating unusually fast as I clamber up six flights of stairs. But I savor the burn of my sedentary muscles, and when at last I reach the highest point, I swing open the door to the rooftop.
It’s not quite morning yet, and the sky looks like blue- tinged steel. Surrounding me are balconies festooned with colorful clotheslines, broken-down properties with boarded- up windows, fuzzy-leaved palm trees reaching up from the pitted streets . . . and in the distance, the ground and sky blur where the Atlantic swallows the horizon.
El Retiro is a rundown apartment complex with all elderly residents—mostly Cuban, Colombian, Venezuelan, Nicara- guan, and Argentine immigrants. There’s just one slow, loud elevator in the building, and since I’m the youngest person here, I never use it in case someone else needs it.
I came up here hoping for a breath of fresh air, but since it’s summertime, there’s no caress of a breeze to greet me. Just the suffocating embrace of Miami’s humidity.
Smothering me.
I close my eyes and take in deep gulps of musty oxygen, trying to push the dread down to where it can’t touch me. The way Perla taught me to do whenever I get anxious.
My metamorphosis started this year. I first felt something

was different four full moons ago, when I no longer needed to squint to study the ground from up here. I simply opened my eyes to perfect vision.
The following month, my hair thickened so much that I had to buy bigger clips to pin it back. Next menstrual cycle came the growth spurt that left my jeans three inches too short, and last lunaritis I awoke with such a heightened sense of smell that I could sniff out what Ma and Perla had for dinner all three nights I was out.
It’s bad enough to feel the outside world pressing in on me, but now even my insides are spinning out of my control.
As Perla’s breathing exercises relax my thoughts, I begin  to feel the stirrings of my dreamworld calling me back. I slide onto the rooftop’s ledge and lie back along the warm cement, my body as stagnant as the stale air. A dragon-shaped cloud comes apart like cotton, and I let my gaze drift with Miami’s hypnotic sky, trying to call up the dream’s details before they fade . . .
What Ma and Perla don’t know about the Septis is they don’t simply sedate me for sixty hours—they transport me.
Every lunaritis, I visit the same nameless land of magic and mist and monsters. There’s the golden grass that ticks off time by turning silver as the day ages; the black-leafed trees that can cry up storms, their dewdrop tears rolling down their bark to form rivers; the colorful waterfalls that warn onlookers of oncoming danger; the hope-sucking Sombras that dwell in darkness and attach like parasitic shadows . . .
And the Citadel.
It’s a place I instinctively know I’m not allowed to go, yet I’m always trying to get to. Whenever I think I’m going to make it inside, I wake up with a start.
Picturing the black stone wall, I see the thorny ivy that

twines across its surface like a nest of guardian snakes, slith- ering and bunching up wherever it senses a threat.
The sharper the image, the sleepier I feel, like I’m slowly sliding back into my dream, until I reach my hand out tenta- tively. If I could just move faster than the ivy, I could finally grip the opal doorknob before the thorns—
Howling breaks my reverie.
I blink, and the dream disappears as I spring to sitting and scour the battered buildings. For a moment, I’m sure I heard a wolf.
My spine locks at the sight of a far more dangerous threat: A cop car is careening in the distance, its lights flashing and siren wailing. Even though the black-and-white is still too far away to see me, I leap down from the ledge and take cover behind it, the old mantra running through my mind.
Don’t come here, don’t come here, don’t come here.
A familiar claustrophobia claws at my skin, an affliction forged of rage and shame and powerlessness that’s been my companion as long as I’ve been in this country. Ma tells me I should let her worry about this stuff and only concern myself with studying, so when our papers come through, I can take my GED and one day make it to NASA—but it’s impossible not to worry when I’m constantly having to hide.
My muscles don’t uncoil until the siren’s howling fades and the police are gone, but the morning’s spell of stillness has broken. A door slams, and I instinctively turn toward the pink building across the street that’s tattooed with territorial graf- fiti. Where the alternate version of me lives.
I call her Other Manu.
The first thing I ever noticed about her was her Argentine fĂștbol jersey: #10 Lionel Messi. Then I saw her face and real- ized we look a lot alike. I was reading Borges at the time, and

it ocurred to me that she and I could be the same person in overlapping parallel universes.
But it’s an older man and not Other Manu who lopes down the street. She wouldn’t be up this early on a Sunday anyway. I arch my back again, and thankfully this time, the only pop I hear is in my joints.
The sun’s golden glare is strong enough that I almost wish I had my sunglasses. But this rooftop is sacred to me because it’s the only place where Ma doesn’t make me wear them, since no one else comes up here.
I’m reaching for the stairwell door when I hear it.
Faint footsteps are growing louder, like someone’s racing up. My heart shoots into my throat, and I leap around the corner right as the door swings open.
The person who steps out is too light on their feet to be someone who lives here. No El Retiro resident could make it up the stairs that fast. I flatten myself against the wall.
“Creo que encontrĂ© algo, pero por ahora no quiero decir nada.”
Whenever Ma is upset with me, I have a habit of translat- ing her words into English without processing them. I asked Perla about it to see if it’s a common bilingual thing, and she said it’s probably my way of keeping Ma’s anger at a distance; if I can deconstruct her words into language—something de- tached that can be studied and dissected—I can strip them of their charge.
As my anxiety kicks in, my mind goes into automatic trans- lation mode: I think I found something, but I don’t want to say anything yet.
The woman or girl (it’s hard to tell her age) has a deep, throaty voice that’s sultry and soulful, yet her singsongy accent is unquestionably Argentine. Or Uruguayan. They sound similar.

My cheek is pressed to the wall as I make myself as flat as possible, in case she crosses my line of vision.
“Si tengo razĂłn, me harĂĄn la capitana mĂĄs joven en la his- toria de los Cazadores.”
If I’m right, they’ll make me the youngest captain in the history of the . . . Cazadores? That means hunters.
In my eight years living here, I’ve never seen another per- son on this rooftop. Curious, I edge closer, but I don’t dare peek around the corner. I want to see this stranger’s face, but not badly enough to let her see mine.
“¿El encuentro es ahora? Che, Nacho, ¿vos no me podrĂ­as cubrir?”
Is the meeting right now? Couldn’t you cover for me, Nacho?
The che and vos sound like Argentinespeak. What if it’s Other Manu?
The exciting possibility brings me a half step closer, and now my nose is inches from rounding the corner. Maybe I can sneak a peek without her noticing.
“Okay,” I hear her say, and her voice sounds like she’s just a few paces away.
I suck in a quick inhale, and before I can overthink it, I pop my head out—
And see the door swinging shut.
I scramble over and tug it open, desperate to spot even a hint of her hair, any clue at all to confirm it was Other Manu— but she’s already gone.
All that remains is a wisp of red smoke that vanishes with the swiftness of a morning cloud. 

About the Author:

Romina Garber

Romina Garber is a NYT/International Bestselling YA author who also writes under pen name Romina Russell. Born in Buenos Aires and raised in Miami, Romina currently resides in Los Angeles but would much rather be at Hogwarts. As a teen, Romina landed her first writing gig—“College She Wrote,” a weekly Sunday column for the Miami Herald that was later picked up for national syndication—and she hasn’t stopped writing since. She is a graduate of Harvard College and a Virgo to the core.

Keep up with Romina:
 Goodreads / Twitter / Facebook / Instagram / Website / Pinterest / Tumblr

Thank you so much to Romina and the awesome Wednesday team for allowing us to host this tour post! If LOBIZONA sounds like something you'd be interested in, make sure to add it to your TBR!