Wednesday, May 11, 2016

"Hope" by Grier Cooper

(Indigo Ballet Series Book 2)
by Grier Cooper

Hope is the second book in the Indigo Ballet Series by Grier Cooper. Also available: Wish (read my blog post; keep reading to see how you can get a FREE copy).

Hope is currently on tour with Goddess Fish Promotions. The tour stops here today for my review, an excerpt, a guest post by the author, and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

Indigo is living the life she’s always imagined at the famed New York School of Ballet. Or is she? Although she hopes she’ll be chosen for the company, her ballet teachers aren’t talking and their silence is confusing.
When Indigo is singled out for a coveted solo she feels her dreams are finally within reach, until she finds out she’s dancing with Felipe Gonzalez, the school’s smolderingly hot rising star. In the days that follow, Indigo questions everything she thought was true and finds herself making surprising choices.
After a fateful piece of paper reveals the truth, Indigo must ask herself the hardest question of all: can she take control of her own future to create the life she wants?

Maggie plunks her bag down, grabbing the spot next to me. “Ten minutes ‘til the fun begins,” she says. She glances around furtively before adding, “Who knows what torture she'll dish out today. But inquiring minds want to know: will she reach new levels of cattiness or will we be left sorely disappointed?” She grins wickedly as she finishes tying a ribbon on her pointe shoe.
Neither of us fares well when Alexa Damore teaches class. She's known for her snide comments and keen ability to pick people apart. “I’ll take disappointment over outright humiliation any day,” I counter. “But who knows. Maybe one of these days she’ll be miraculously transformed.”
Maggie arches an eyebrow. “What?” I continue. “It’s not too much to hope for–a little prayer can’t hurt. Pray with me. ” I fold my hands together and duck my head down. Maggie smacks me.I stick my tongue out at her while I finish tying my shoes. I refuse to climb on the negativity train with her. It's never a good way to start class.
The door to the studio glides open and a sudden hush sweeps through the room, as if the oxygen has been sucked away. Alexa Damore has arrived–but she’s wearing street clothes–and she’s not alone.
Benjamin Stafford, Artistic Director of Manhattan Ballet Theater, also known as the man who holds our future in his hands, stands in the center of the room. From where I stand, the ambient light behind him illuminates the outline of his body, as if he's a living embodiment of a god. Then again, he is a god in the world of ballet. The silence is deafening as he slowly rotates around, gazing at each of us in turn. He flashes a brilliant smile and it’s all I can barely look at him. He's even larger in life than he is onstage with  broad shoulders, chiseled features, dark, tousled hair, and blazing blue eyes. On any given day he’s something to look at, but the glowing outline thing further illustrates the glaring difference between him and everyone else in the room.
His eyes fall on me and my heart flutters in my ribcage. I immediately stand a little bit taller and suck in my gut. My breath gets shallower and tighter. I close my eyes and force myself to breath normally. Passing out in class is not the way I want to make an impression.
I may not survive this class.
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]

Praise for the Book
"Grier Cooper in no way glamorises the hard work that goes into being a dancer. The descriptions are raw and real, managing to show the hard work and dedication that is needed. Exceedingly well-written, with no editing or grammatical errors that I found, this was a thoroughly enjoyable second book. I am hoping for more from Indigo, as I really don't want her dreams to end. [...] For anyone with an interest in Young Adult Contemporary Dance stories, then I can highly recommend this book and this series, although I would recommend you read Wish first to get Indigo's full story." ~ Merissa (Archaeolibrarian)
"This book was amazing. You get pulled into Indigo's world and are rooting for her to reach her dream. Indigo's journey is one so many young girls can relate to (though with the added pressure of ballet). Even though she is at an elite school it's like any other high school with its cliques and pressures. I love how the book is truly about her growth during the year and friendships. The discovery that Eliza is a true friend and so many other girls (like Vivianna and Kimmy). Even if you don't know much about ballet (like me)- it's approached in an accessible way with a glossary at the end if you are curious. I love the positive message from so many that you need to be the best you can be. You can't be anyone else. I feel like there is so much more to tell and I hope there is another book." ~ UIBB
"I found the story beautiful to read. There was no real need to be overly familiar with the first book in the series but it would not hurt in any way. There were quick summaries to the information being glazed over from that book. Grier Cooper did a good job bringing the teen high school ballet world to color." ~ The Book Junkie Reads
"This book is heavy with ballet terms which may be hard for non-dancers to follow at times. However, there is a glossary in the back to help anyone along. The story isn't really dependent on the ballet action, so I wouldn't discourage a reader who isn't familiar with the craft. Indigo's experiences go beyond just dancing. There's a colorful cast of side characters who are well-developed and easily distinguished from one another. They're typical teenagers who hang out together in coffee shops and have typical teenager angst, but who just happen to be preparing for careers in performing arts. [...] Cooper's picture of the ballet life is spot on. Hope is a sequel, but I had no problem picking up the story. It's really a stand-alone novel with a little background peppered in when needed. I really enjoyed Hope and I highly recommend it." ~ RM

My Review

By Lynda Dickson
Indigo got her wish and now attends the New York School of Ballet. But she's finding that "It isn't enough to work hard and sweat; there has to be something more." Indigo is struggling: surrounded by great dancers, she no longer feels special; she has no family support; her instructors are harsh or - worse - uncaring; her feet are in constant pain; she doesn't get on with her roommate; her best friend turns on her; her crush ignores her; she's struggling to find time for homework, practice, Pilates, and work - not to mention, fun. She started the year so full of hope, but now she just feels sorry for herself. Her mother says she can come home if things don't work out, but that's the last thing Indigo wants. Then she finds a forgotten keepsake that reminds her to have courage. And Linda, her Pilates instructor, reminds her that, "If you want to be a dancer then be a dancer. You have to decide. It's that simple." Will Indigo's hope of dancing with the Manhattan Ballet Theater ever be realized?
This is a solid, enjoyable story, but without the emotional impact I was expecting after reading the first book. There is too much ballet detail for my liking, but it does lend authenticity to the story. There is a Glossary of dance terms at the end of the book, which I didn't discover until I finished; a hyperlink to each definition would be helpful the first time each term appears in the text. I struggled to believe the depth of Indigo's feelings for Felipe, however, I enjoyed witnessing her growth throughout the course of the story, and I'd like to see where she goes from here. The author manages to weave some pretty important life lessons and advice into the narrative, without being too obvious.
An uplifting tale for those who may be struggling in their own lives.
Warnings: underage drinking, sexual references.

Guest Post by the Author
My Inspiration for the Indigo Ballet Series
Even though a lot of people dream about becoming ballet dancers, very few actually get to do it. Many of you may wonder if movies like Black Swan or TV shows like Flesh and Bone are at all realistic. I wanted to share my experience as a professional ballet dancer to show readers what life as a dancer is really like.
I moved to New York City when I was fourteen, leaving my home, my family and my friends behind after receiving an invitation to become a full-time student at the School of American Ballet. New York City has long been associated with glamour and all of the perks that come with a big city lifestyle; it's also one of the most major hubs in the world for the arts, which means anyone who's serious about a dance career knows they need to be there.
My years in New York were an incredible time of growth for me, both as a dancer and as a human being. It was a pivotal period that shaped so much of who I am today. There were fun discoveries, like finding the best breakfast spots (especially the delicious super-sized muffins at the deli two blocks from my apartment), trying coffee for the first time (hated it – although it's a very different story now), and exploring the city with friends during rare free moments.
It was always a glorious inspiration walking past Lincoln Center (which I did several times most days, hustling back and forth between high school and ballet classes and rehearsals), the opulent buildings were home to a life I dreamed about: dancing with New York City Ballet some day.
There were incredibly difficult moments, too. Ballet is also one of the most competitive careers on the planet. Just how competitive are we talking? Check out this recent statistic: the website for the School of American Ballet (one of the top professional ballet schools in the world) states that the school conducts an annual 20-city tour where over 2,000 dancers compete for 200 spots for the Summer Intensive. Only a small percentage of these Summer Course students are invited to become permanent students. Out of the 200 permanent students who attend the school, approximately 20 students each year sign contracts with companies across the U.S. and around the world. That's ten percent of the original ten percent. When you do the math it's immediately apparent just how few dancers ever "make it".
Ballet requires strength – incredible strength. Ballet dancers may look like wispy sylphs but they perform choreography so physically demanding it would bring most football players to their knees. Dancers rehearse all day long (and sometimes in their sleep). But here's what's not immediately apparent: emotional strength is far more important than physical strength for ballet. Why? The ballet studio or company is not the kind of place where you'll ever hear "Good job" or get a pat on the back. Just the opposite. Dancers must be comfortable having every move scrutinized ... and be able to take constructive criticism without melting. This isn't easy for most adults; but most dancers get serious about ballet in their teens. Many of them are on their own, with no family to come home to at night. They have to find a way to dig deep, keep up their resolve, and maintain a positive, professional attitude in the face of sometimes scathing criticism from teachers (or even worse, complete indifference). That's a pretty tall order.
I didn't go to a regular high school, so I never had a prom, but I occasionally attended performances of New York City Ballet when I worked at the gala events. Those were some of the best parties in New York, evenings when everything in life felt magical. Wealthy patrons shimmered in exquisite gowns, the top dancers of New York City glittered like the stars they were, and the huge Lincoln Center fountain sprayed liquid diamonds all night long.
When I started writing the Indigo Ballet Series, these were things I wanted to share with readers. Even though it's been many years since I experienced that part of my life, most of it lives on in my memory in crystal-clear detail and I've woven some of my favorite moments and memories into the stories.
No matter who you are or what you're doing, high school years are a crazy, stressful time. Today's teens are under immense pressure to do it all: excel in school, play sports, volunteer, and be involved in other school clubs, in addition to slogging through hours of homework every night. I think each of us has to discover and use our inner resources of strength, determination, and intuition to decide what's right for us and go for our dreams. We have the power to create the lives we want, especially if we believe in ourselves. I love writing stories about characters who are going through this process and figuring out how to meet challenges.
Happy reading! I hope you enjoy the journey.

About the Author
Grier began ballet lessons at age five and left home at fourteen to study at the School of American Ballet in New York. She has performed on three out of seven continents with companies such as San Francisco Ballet, Miami City Ballet, and Pacific Northwest Ballet, totaling more than thirty years of experience as a dancer, teacher and performer.
Her work has been praised as "poignant and honest" with "emotional hooks that penetrate deeply". She writes and blogs about dance in the San Francisco Bay Area and has interviewed and photographed a diverse collection dancers and performers including Clive Owen, Nicole Kidman, Glen Allen Sims, and Jessica Sutta. She is the author of Build a Ballerina Body, The Daily Book of Photography, and the Indigo Ballet Series for young adults.

Enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win a $20 Amazon or B&N gift card.

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Plus, everyone can download a FREE copy of Everything You Wanted to Know About Ballet But Were Afraid to Ask by Grier Cooper.