Friday, December 2, 2016

"Poppies for Christmas" by Stacy Renée Keywell

Poppies for Christmas
by Stacy Renée Keywell

Poppies for Christmas by Stacy Renée Keywell is currently on tour with Xpresso Book Tours. The tour stops here today for an excerpt and a giveaway. You can also read my review. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

A celebration of love without labels. It’s easy to be brave with you by my side!
Popular DJ Dexx finds himself positively smitten by the precociously pristine Poppy Paris. Too bad she’s already taken by an older boy, Declan Davies, a beautiful model with a thriving career, and a perfect family. By a dreamful stroke of chance, Dexx finds himself invited to spend Christmas at the Davies home by a gorgeous girl, granting him the opportunity to pursue the precious Poppy. But in his quest to win her over, he unlocks a world of imperfection and insecurity, where people are picked on for their disabilities, speech, appearance, and eccentricities. For Poppy and her friends, love trumps labels, and everyone deserves a brave friend to stand by their side. What gifts will Dexx discover this Christmas? Will he ultimately find true love, or will he discover something even greater?
You are invited to read a powerful story about living with autism, but not letting it define you, about being bullied, but carrying on with determination and grit, and about having dreams, but not giving up in the face of adversity. Come celebrate something beautiful with Poppies for Christmas.

Chapter One
The Science of Baking
I read somewhere once that cooking is an art. It takes imagination and flare. But baking? Baking is a science. It takes exactitude and precision. It requires patience. It requires dedication. It requires love. A whole lot of love. And well…that’s what I’ve got…love…love for a girl, a special one, one who deserves dedication. So what do I choose to prove my love? I choose baking.
Deep inside my tote, my hand grazed against my faithful sketchbook before I removed it. The metal spirals comforted my fingers as I dragged them across the row of sharp-edged rings. Firmly gripping the book, I flipped it open to a blank page near the middle. I smoothed out the slightly texturized, eggshell white page. I bent down and buried my nose in the crease, inhaling the faint lead pencil scent. It calmed me, readying me to add another chapter to my visual saga.
Spreading my tools around me, hard and soft pencils, a ruler, several firm erasers, and a small metal sharpener, I steadied my hand and cleared my mind, inviting in only the most blissful images of my fantasy. With a soft lead pencil, I constructed an oval blank for the face. Art classes definitely assisted in perfecting the technique, but dedication and talent trumped instruction.
I used the ruler to estimate the proper dimensions. I added eyes, a nose, some crazy-hot lips, all his beautiful features. I gave him expressive brows. I sketched his glossy dark brown hair, shaggy bangs flopping over to the side, covering his ear, exposing that sarcastic, twisted grin on his lips, the same way he looked when he joked around with his friends in the corner of the library during study hall.
A trusty eraser mopped up all of the stray, miscellaneous marks. I blew away a couple gummy shreds before I shaded in his taut jawline. I wiped up the last scattered pieces left behind on the page before I started on adding myself to the portrait. Duplicating the process, I gave myself a hipper, manga-esque look, allowing for a more whimsical likeness of myself.
Poppy and Kit sat at the same long, wooden table, on the opposite side of me. Kit swiped through the pages on her tablet, desperately trying to find the right page number, since she had neglected to tap the bookmark before closing out her chapter the previous night. Nervous oohs and aahs escaped her lips. Poppy, sitting with her legs crossed, jiggled her feet beneath her chair, shaking the table, creating a rattling earthquake under my artwork.
I shot a glare in her direction. “Would you please stop? The both of you! You are driving me crazy, and ruining my picture.”
Poppy and Kit stopped suddenly. They looked at each other, wide-eyed and innocent, two does in the midst of a meadow. Unaware! Clueless! Oblivious!
“I can’t think when you moan that way,” I snapped, addressing Kit. She squirmed underneath her oversized flannel shirt and baggy jeans.
“And, you,” I turned to Poppy. “You are going to smudge my drawing with all of that wild motion going on underneath the table. Can it!”
Their jaws dropped. They both stared at me, wordless.
“Please.” I hugged my journal protectively. Softening my voice, I turned to Poppy and asked her again. “Please?”
“Sorry,” they announced in simulcast, sighing, shrugging their shoulders, lost together in the great woods of their minds.
They looked back down at their own musings. I continued to draw.
In this picture, the two of us relaxed together on a chaise lounge, him with his large, bulbous headphones, and me with my skull and crossbones ear buds. Our eyes drifted in the opposite direction, lids almost closed, in a sleepy trance. My arm draped across his chest until our fingers entwined, intimately. We zoned out to his simpatico beats.
Dare I say heaven? Total reverie? Dare I label it? Give it a title like Lost Together, or Technotransing it, or D-lightful?
I absolutely planned on scanning my image when I returned home, possibly even uploading it to his fan page, once I swallowed a dose of bravery and forced myself to take that leap of frightening faith. My mouth dried up like a petrified prune, and puckered at the thought of posting my reveries.
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]

Praise for the Book
"I really enjoyed this book. It is beautifully descriptive, with a meaningful love story. It intertwines the lives of four young adults and their individual issues and insecurities. Even when we think someone is so perfect and leads an enchanted life, their true feelings are revealed. They learn to over come their self doubts and become more caring people. This book is a good example to love without labels. It is a good read for young and old." ~ Cookie
"I struggled through the first part of this book and I am so glad that I didn't give up. I found the beginning it was going from one character to the next and then certain characters just disappeared from the book. Once Dexx got the Davies house everything got so much better. [...] I am very glad that I was able to stick with this book as it was great!" ~ Rebecca A

My Review

By Lynda Dickson
Lenn, Kit, and Poppy are best friends. Lenn has a massive crush on Dexx, the local DJ. But Dexx falls for Poppy, who is going out with Declan Davies. Trouble ensues when Denver (Declan's sister) invites Dexx to spend Christmas at the Davies family home.
The story is told from the points-of-view of Lenn, Dexx, Denver, and Declan - but, strangely, not Poppy. Lenn's point-of-view is unnecessary and irrelevant, as she disappears a third of the way into the book. It's difficult to keep track of who is narrating the story because they don't have distinct "voices". When they tell us how they are feeling (ad nauseum, by the way), they repeat the same thing two, three, four, or even five times in slightly different ways (e.g., "at the edge, on the fringe, away from the crowd, alone, off to the side"); and it's not just one character doing this, they all do it. Dexx even starts using Denver's made-up words towards the end of the book; I know it's meant to show their connection, but it feels forced. The italicised passages comparing relationships to baking are the best part of the book, but it doesn't become clear who is narrating them until the end of the story (unnecessarily so).
All of the characters are unlikable: Lenn is obnoxious, self-centered, and mean; the peppy Poppy Paris is a cardboard cutout Barbie doll who appears innocent but is dating an older man; Kit is a sycophant who uses annoying teen-speak likes "totes" and "supes", but her "voice" later changes to being wise and understanding; popular Denver is mean to Poppy and makes up annoying words; creepy Dexx pines over Poppy but is physically attracted to Denver, and he has no memory of childhood incidents that have scarred other characters; Declan is weak and childish, and the written depiction of his stutter is excessive and practically unreadable. And there is way too much crying from everybody, even (especially) the boys. While it becomes apparent that our perceptions of these characters are clouded by how other people see them, everybody acts one way in school and another way in private. In addition, all the characters - even if they live a life of luxury, are beautiful, and appear perfect to the rest of the world - lack self-confidence, think no one likes them, and rely on other people for affirmation. And, even though they redeem themselves by the end of the book, it's too little, too late.
The writing is repetitious, full of lame similes, extended mixed metaphors,  cringe-worthy dialogue, and just about every cliché imaginable. The use of annoying teen-speak (e.g., "totes" and "supes") and euphemisms instead of swear words (e.g. "flip") makes it sound juvenile. Editing errors include misused words (e.g., two or to instead of too), the incorrect use of commas (a comma before nearly every "and"), and the consistent absence or misuse of the plural and possessive forms of "Davies" (hint: don't pick a family name ending with an "s").
While the book conveys a nice message about loving people for who they are, it fails in the execution.

About the Author
Stacy Renée Keywell enjoys spending time misusing, mispronouncing, and misspelling languages, especially in her native tongue, English. When she is not stargazing or daydreaming she creates adventures for her family to conquer. Besides following her whimsical dreams, Stacy likes to sing to the music in her head, dance poorly, and compose non-sensical words. She is also the author of Forbidden Sky - Book One of the Dark Wing Series. Stacy resides in Michigan in a little house in the woods with her husband, and two daughters.

Enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card.