on January 2016
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Geeky introvert Tessa Rodriguez will do whatever it takes to get promoted to video game engineer– including create a fandom-based video game in just three weeks. The only problem is, she can't do it alone. Now, she needs to strong-arm, cajole, and otherwise socialize with her video game co-workers, especially her room-mate, Adam, who’s always been strictly business with her. The more they work together, though, the closer they get…
Adam London has always thought of his roomie Tessa as “one of the guys” until he agreed to help her with this crazy project. Now, he’s thinking of her all the time… and certainly as something more than just a room-mate! But his last girlfriend broke up with him to follow her ambitions, and he knows that Tessa is obsessed with getting ahead in the video game world.Going from friends to something more is one hell of a challenge. Can Tessa and Adam level up their relationship to love?
I received this book for free from CBB Book Promotions in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Welcome to my tour stop for Level Up by Cathy Yardley. This is a romantic comedy and the tour runs January 4-22 with reviews, interviews, guest posts and excerpts. Check out the tour page for the full schedule.
Firstly, over to Cathy, where she tells us how she found the awesome illustrator for the front cover of ‘Level Up’.
I have wanted to write this series for a few years. I love romance novels, which I know isn’t every one’s bag, but I especially wanted to write about nerds, geeks, cosplayers, fangirls. People who can have an entire conversation in movie quotes. People who have been to the Con and lived to tell the tale. People who know what SuperWhoLock is and that the guy in green in the Legend video game is Link, not Zelda.
Basically, I wanted to write books about people like me and my friends.
I’ve been in publishing for fifteen years, and the closest I was able to get to writing something like this was publishing a Chick Lit novel about a manga artist moving from the U.S. to Japan on in internship… and that was a hard sell. I really wanted to do this one on my own. I hired the editor, the copyeditors, the whole nine yards.
But what really excited me was getting a cover designer.
I knew I wanted the cover to be illustrated: like a comic book, infused with the playfulness and romance of the novel. I was researching designers and comic book artists. There are a lot of people out there, but nothing seemed like a good fit. I was running out of faith.
Then I discovered The Dreamer, by artist and author Lora Innes.
Lora offers The Dreamer webcomic in instalments every Friday at TheDreamerComic.com. (It’s also available in print form through IDW Publishing.) It’s the YA story of a girl who time travels from present day to Revolutionary America, and finds herself embroiled in the revolution even as she struggles to balance living in the past and the present. Lora’s style was just what I was looking for; her stories and her panels had the right look, and she obviously could handle action and romance with equal skill.
I was nervous when I contacted her. She’s a four-time Harvey Award nominee. And she’s the founder of Comic Creators for Freedom, an organization to raise awareness and fight human trafficking in the world.
In a word, she’s awesome.
But she’s also really friendly, and she graciously agreed to work with me. Which resulted in my wonderful covers, for both my first novel in this series, and the free novella I’m offering on my website!
So far, the high points of my geeky life have been: going to Comic Con in San Diego (twice!), cosplaying Catwoman at the Castro, having a novel made into a Manga. But right now, working with Lora is now the top of the list. I can’t wait to work with her on future covers for my Fandom Hearts series!
Geeks are becoming a ‘thing’. We’re a ‘thing’ now. Traditionally relegated to ‘the weird one up the back, who gets to make a cult reference occasionally’ we’re now flung front and centre, with a bloody huge bandwagon dragging along behind as a caboose. I attended three conventions last year, this year I’ll probably double that, and there’s an overwhelming sense of eye-rolling every time someone overhears another attendee gushing about how ‘geeking out’ is ‘cute’. 30+ years ago, I was called a freak for obsessing over a space saga filled with robots, princesses, a funky religion and an eight foot teddy bear. Now, you’re a freak if you don’t ‘ship’ ‘SuperWhoLock’ (sicks up in mouth just a bit). I blame Big Bang Theory (oop..here it comes again). Clearly ‘Geek’ sells.
So when a novel comes along that’s written by someone who’s clearly been in ‘the system’ for a long time, it’s refreshing, as the genuine love for the culture shines through in their writing. Saying that though, the first chapter of ‘Level Up’ does suffer from what I call ‘throw all the references in NOW’ syndrome, which very nearly had me giving up on the book straight away. We geeks may have uncontrollable spasms over trailer releases and Hot Toy exclusives, but that doesn’t mean we don’t appreciate subtlety. I don’t know if it’s a ‘tumblr thing’ (are we too used to quick, flash-bang, gif over-loads I wonder) but I’m seeing ‘geek-dumps’ more and more. It’s like smashing a marshmallow with Mjölnir.
But I kept going. Want to know why? One word. Diversity. Absolutely, bang-on-the-money diversity. Lead character Tessa is Latino and her opening convo over Skype is with her distant BFF Ani who is clearly of Indian descent. How do we gather this? Is it by shoehorned references to feasts days, or knowing winks via their food choices? Not a bit of it. We just get it because of their names and the brief physical description of Tessa, and then – guess what – they’re allowed to continue with their story arc without any mention of their race again. No ‘comedy’ friends, no racial misunderstandings, just full-on integration into the story, with no need for the awful flashing neon big ‘D for Diversity’ trope that gets shoved in by writers just so they can be seen to ‘get it’.
Take a bow Cathy.
Yardley also nails the male-dominated office environment, particularly a gaming industry one, as Tessa tries to prove she deserves a place on the coding team. The office setting is wonderfully atmospheric, with a ‘code-off’ the stand-out highlight of the novel. Romance is a genre I tend to avoid as a rule, and the burgeoning relationship between Tessa and Adam did leave me a bit cold I must admit. While Tessa is a strong, gutsy young woman, I found Adam to be a bit of a twit, with the sudden realisation of his feelings for Tessa coming from left-field, almost overnight. Considering they’d been living together for years, you had to wonder if he was walking around with blinkers on, no matter how introverted Tessa is. Tessa comes out of her shell when she meets up with a group of girls from a local bookstore who are in financial difficulty. Although I would’ve like to see them more fleshed out, the supporting characters (along with the programming team) are strong, funny and well-realised. Hopefully in following novels, the agoraphobic Cressida will make an appearance. Really, at 166 pages ‘Level Up’ is more of a novella, and could do with an extra 100 pages or so for depth, especially as far as the characters are concerned.
All-in-all ‘Level Up’ is a solid little comedy romance, appealing to many New Adult readers, that shows a new side to a ‘Geekdom’ so rarely seen.
$25 Amazon Gift Card (INT)
Ends Jan. 27, 2016