Monday, September 22, 2014

Fall 2014 Fierce Reads Tour Recap + Giveaway


Last Wednesday evening, I had the privilege of meeting three talented authors, Ann Aguirre, Caragh M. O'Brien and Marie Rutkoski, at the Fall Fierce Reads tour stop at Water Street Bookstore in Exeter, NH. This bookstore and entire town is completely adorable, and it was the perfect backdrop for an evening filled with conversations about books.  

Of course, I didn't remember until the very end of the evening that I needed to take pictures, so I missed getting one of The Green Bean, an adorable cafĂ© where I got to do a little pre-interview with the three authors. We sat outside in the lovely September evening and chatted about were-beasts and love triangles of course. Then we walked over to the bookstore for the main event. 



Instead of outlining questions and answers from the evening interviews, I've listed out highlights from each author below. I apologize if I misheard/misrepresented anything.  The main talk at the bookstore was moderated by Even in Paradise author Chelsey Philpot


Marie Rutkoski, author of The Winner's Curse and its upcoming sequel The Winner's Crime:

1) If the main characters in The Winner's Curse suddenly turned into were-beasts, Kestrel would be a Kestrel of course, and Arin would be a lean, sexy tiger.

2) Marie recommends Claire LaZebnik's The Trouble With Flirting, and says it's one of the best written love triangles she's read. It's also a really great retelling of Mansfield Park, probably the hardest Austen book to connect with.

3) In The Winner's Curse, the Valorian Empire is obsessed with the military. Marie said their culture was influenced by talks with her father and brother who have both served in the military.

4) There were a couple of moments in The Winner's Crime that broke Marie's heart to write. (I'm nervous already!) Books two and three will also have much more of Arin's POV. 

5) Marie says she writes Young Adult because books aren't as genre specific, and YA readers are more open to reading any genre as long as it's good. Adult lit tends to classify more specifically, and cut off readers as a result. 

6) The cover for The Winner's Crime was originally going to be red, but when marketing switched it to blue, Marie decided to put Kestrel into a blue dress in a pivotal end scene of the book. 

7) Marie says she likes writing from the male perspective and her next book - after The Winner's Curse series - will have an entirely male POV. Though she's not saying if it will be Middle Grade, YA or Adult. 


Ann Aguirre, author of Mortal Danger, the first in the Immortal Games trilogy:

1) If the main characters in Mortal Danger suddenly became were-beasts, Edie would be a honey badger, because she's vicious and doesn't care. Kian would be a dolphin, an animal that is helpful and altruistic, but also has a dark side. (I didn't know this about dolphins, and it prompted quite a discussion).

2) On love triangles: Ann believes many people see love triangles in books when they're not there. Like in her Razorland series, which was firmly a love T, with a third party looking longingly in on the building couple. She also thinks that triangles do make sense at times, especially when you're 16, though she doesn't often write them. 

3) On book two: The Harbinger, a character mentioned in Mortal Danger, will play a much bigger role in the sequel. Readers do meet him in the first book, though they don't know it at the time (time to re-read!). Ann thinks he's going to gain his own set of fans, but she says it's not really a love triangle. 

4) When asked a question about strong girl characters paired with bad boys, Ann says she doesn't really think that way about her characters, instead she likes to "write partners" into her stories. Characters who support each other - emotionally, physically, the balance between them flows back and forth. Each has moments when he/she support the other. Ann also says that Edie doesn't start off as a strong character, but she grows in strength as she learns to accept herself. 


5) Edie's struggles with bullying came from Ann's personal experience.

6) Mortal Danger is set in the Boston area because it has a subway and a nearby area where one could invent a boarding school, but also because its seasons, history, and architecture helped with the creepy mood of the book. According to Ann, "California is just not ominous."

7) Ann decided to write YA when she kept being asked by her kids when she would write something they could read. So she started the Razorland trilogy where "monsters eat children."

8) Ann really cried when writing one scene in Mortal Danger (you can probably guess which it is). She briefly wondered if she'd gone too far with it, before deciding it had to be in the book. Her editor was really upset about that part, and wanted to know if the story had to be written this way. But Ann argued that was important for readers and the characters to realize that in this story, no one is safe. 

Caragh O'Brien, author of The Vault of Dreamers:

1) If the main characters in The Vault of Dreamers suddenly became were-beasts, Rosie would be a "Poe-esque raven." Linus would be a wolf.

2) Caragh said if The Vault of Dreamers weren't the start of a series, she would have been happy with it as a standalone. She thinks the ending fits the book really well.

3) When Caragh writes stories, she likes to be surprised and says she would get bored if she planned everything out in advance. Most of her series planning ends up changing as she follows her characters and story. 

4) Caragh talked a little bit about getting into the head of her teen character Rosie, and how she enjoyed writing a character who doesn't always see the world clearly, whose perspective could be skewed. As a budding filmmaker Rosie has the ability to see things as if through a camera lens. But she doesn't realize how the world sees her, as a private, difficult person. Rosie doesn't know how to make friends and is oblivious about guys, not understanding that this guy likes her. 

5) The cover to Promised was being designed while Caragh was writing the book, and as a result she changed the jewelry one character wore to match the blue bracelet on the book's cover. 





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Friday, September 19, 2014

Early Review: Chasing Power by Sarah Beth Durst

Chasing Power
by Sarah Beth Durst
Read: August 26 - 29, 2014
Published: October 14, 2014 by Bloomsbury
Source: NetGalley (Thank you, Bloomsbury)
Category: YA, mind powers, adventure, history, travel

Find: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | The Book Depository 


Book Description: Lies, secrets, and magic — three things that define Kayla's life.

Sixteen-year-old Kayla plans to spend her summer hanging out on the beach in Santa Barbara and stealing whatever she wants, whenever she wants it. Born with the ability to move things with her mind — things like credit cards, diamond rings, and buttons on cash registers — she has become a master shoplifter. She steals to build up a safety net, enough money for her and her mom to be able to flee if her dad finds them again. Well, that, and the thrill of using her secret talents.

But her summer plans change when she's caught stealing by a boy named Daniel — a boy who needs her help and is willing to blackmail her to get it. Daniel has a talent of his own. He can teleport, appearing anywhere in the world in an instant, but he lies as easily as he travels. Together, they embark on a quest to find and steal an ancient incantation, written on three indestructible stones and hidden millennia ago, all to rescue Daniel's kidnapped mother. But Kayla has no idea that this rescue mission will lead back to her own family — and to betrayals that she may not be able to forgive... or survive.

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I thought the description of Chasing Power sounded like so much fun, when I first read it. Anything about traveling the world always gets my attention, and adding supernatural abilities to the mix, seemed like a great idea to me. In fact, after reading this book, I've decided that if I could have one superpower it would be the ability to teleport anywhere. I grew quite envious of Daniel's talents. However, even after reading the book, I'm still not sure the meaning of the cover or why the image was chosen. Instead, I wish the cover had highlighted the adventure aspects of this story. I'm also sad to say that I have very mixed feelings about the story itself. 

To be honest, it took me about 35% into the book to connect with it enough to keep reading. I'm not even sure why that was. Part of it was lack of connection to the characters, especially the narrator Kayla. It didn't help that the book was written in 3rd person. I don't usually mind that choice for point of view. But I think first person POV would have worked better for this particular story. 

A few other thoughts about Chasing Power:

1) I loved the adventure and travel, especially all the archaeological/historical sites. I saw a review that mentioned this having an Indiana Jones feel in places, and I can definitely see that. 

2) These characters are upfront with each other about their emotions and personal angst. They are dealing with an extremely stressful situation, but they continue to communicate and express when they are upset about something. I was thankful that this didn't dissolve into a drama fest, which was important because the story is fairly fast paced and there wasn't really time for that. The energy between Kayla, Daniel and Serena was great, I just wish I had felt it more. 

3) For some reason this just wasn't as swoony as I'd hoped, even though the romance is paced nicely. Kayla and Daniel are forced to work together very quickly, but they don't have an immediate love connection. It takes time for them to trust each other and for their mutual attraction to grow. All of this is usually a win for me, as well as the fact that I was thankful that there are absolutely no love triangles. But I didn't feel any overly strong emotion about the romance, likely due to my lack of connection with Kayla.

4) As best friends go, Serena is a good one, and I'm always up for a high energy best friend. But I found her banter with Kayla to be more annoying than charming. I didn't feel invested in her part of the story. I did like, however, that each of the the characters' relationship to her/his parents played a big role in the story, and that these characters truly loved their parents while also acknowledging their faults. 

5) Through most of the book I struggled with lack of context or origin for these supernatural abilities. When a book introduces magical powers, I have trouble when I don't understand where they came from or how they fit into the rest of the world. By the end of Chasing Power, explanation is given about why these characters have their powers, and it helped a lot. I was actually surprised - in a good way - by the way the plot came together. I also found myself surprised by several elements, and unsure along with Kayla, about who she should be trusting. I like that this story kept me guessing, but I think I would have connected to the book earlier if I'd gotten more context sooner. 

My final verdict is that I think this book would have worked better for me as a movie. I wish I could have seen the places Kayla and Daniel travel on screen, and experienced the action live. Plus if this were a movie, I'd spend less time thinking of the lack of context or origin for their powers, since I think a lot more about background elements when I'm reading a story. Basically, I think I just need to go and watch Indiana Jones now. 

Love Triangle Factor: None
Cliffhanger Scale: Standalone? A few loose ends, but overall a solid ending. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: Bloomsbury

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly meme, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine 
that spotlights upcoming releases we can't wait to read.

It's been a while since I've done a WoW post, but at one time I had been using the meme to highlight upcoming books by specific publisher or imprint. When I started blogging, I was so confused about who published what, and this has been a great way to get to know different publishers better. 


This week I can't wait for: 
Bloomsbury 

I just had to revive this WoW concept when I saw all the Winter/Spring Bloomsbury books I'm dying to read! The Mime Order will be published by the Bloomsbury adult division - though it has fantastic crossover - the other 3 books will be published by Bloomsbury Children's imprint. 

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I really enjoyed The Bone Season and I cannot wait to get into the sequel and find out what Paige is up to next. I'm definitely going to need to do some recapping prior to reading this, however. The world building is quite complex. 

by Samantha Shannon
Published: January 27, 2015

Paige Mahoney has escaped the brutal penal colony of Sheol I, but her problems have only just begun: many of the fugitives are still missing and she is the most wanted person in London.

As Scion turns its all-seeing eye on Paige, the mime-lords and mime-queens of the city’s gangs are invited to a rare meeting of the Unnatural Assembly. Jaxon Hall and his Seven Seals prepare to take center stage, but there are bitter fault lines running through the clairvoyant community and dark secrets around every corner.

Then the Rephaim begin crawling out from the shadows. But where is Warden? Paige must keep moving, from Seven Dials to Grub Street to the secret catacombs of Camden, until the fate of the underworld can be decided. Will Paige know who to trust? The hunt for the dreamwalker is on.
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I enjoyed Open Road Summer so much when it debuted last year, and I've actually just finished Lord's sophomore story The Start of Me and You. It's another winner - preorder your copy everyone! I can't wait for it to come out so I can get my own too.

by Emery Lord
Published: March 31, 2015

Following her pitch-perfect debut Open Road Summer, Emery Lord pens another gorgeous story of best friends, new love, & second chances.

It’s been a year since it happened—when Paige Hancock’s first boyfriend died in an accident. After shutting out the world for a year, Paige is finally ready for a second chance at high school . . . and she has a plan. First: Get her old crush, Ryan Chase, to date her—the perfect way to convince everyone she’s back to normal. Next: Join a club—simple, it’s high school after all. But when Ryan’s sweet, nerdy cousin, Max, moves to town and recruits Paige for the Quiz Bowl team (of all things!) her perfect plan is thrown for a serious loop. Will Paige be able to face her fears and finally open herself up to the life she was meant to live?

Brimming with heartfelt relationships and authentic high-school dynamics The Start of Me and You proves that it’s never too late for second chances.

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While I liked Scarlet, I LOVED Lady Thief and I cannot wait to read the third book in this Robin Hood retelling where Will Scarlet is a cross dressing girl. The end of the last installment was so intense! I'm biting my nails to find out what will happen next. 

by A.C. Gaughen
Published: May, 19 2015

No description yet, but I already love it!

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Confession time. I haven't read Maas's Throne of Glass series (yet). If you read my blog at all, you can probably guess that it has something to do with my fear of love triangles - even though several people have said it disappears. But I do plan to pick it up when a few more books are released. However, I cannot resist Beauty and the Beast retellings and this one sounds FANTASTIC. 

[No Cover Image]

by Sarah J. Maas
Published: May 5, 2015

For Feyre, the downfall of her merchant-class family into poverty wasn’t easy, but after five years, she’s starting to get the hang of things. Hunt, and her family lives; fail to catch anything, and they starve. It doesn’t help that her two older sisters are lazy and ungrateful, or that her father hasn’t bothered to recover from his misfortune, but Feyre is managing.

All that changes when a ferocious beast barges into their cottage, demanding that Feyre come live with him as payment for plucking an ordinary forest rose. Dragged off into the night, the beast brings her to a beautiful manor located in Faerie, the mysterious and deadly lands bordering the mortal world. There, he sheds his animal skin, and reveals himself to be Tamlin, a young, handsome Faerie Lord.


But the estate is overshadowed by a curse: each of its inhabitants wears a mask permanently attached to their face, and Tamlin is no exception. Despite her initial desire to loathe Tamlin and his world, Feyre soon finds herself attracted to the Faerie Lord by more than her curiosity.


Just when Feyre accepts the depth of her feelings for Tamlin, they’re torn apart by forces so dark that there’s little hope of standing against them. But Feyre has endured hardship before, and she refuses to accept that her happiness could be forever stolen from her. Resolving to save her beloved and discover a way to break his curse, Feyre sets out into Faerie, where unknown challenges and dangers await, and where her love and strength will be tested in ways she never imagined.

A retelling of ”Beauty and the Beast,” “Tam-Lin,” and ”East of the Sun, West of the Moon,” A Court of Thorns and Roses tells the story of a young woman growing into herself, learning to love, and understanding the true nature of sacrifice.




What books are you waiting on this week? 

Are you waiting on anything specific from this publisher?

Monday, September 15, 2014

Early Review: Salt & Storm by Kendall Kulper

Salt & Storm
by Kendall Kulper
Read: August 10 - 20, 2014
Published: September 23, 2014 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers 
Source: Edelweiss (Thank you, LB)
Category: Historical, Whaling, New England, Witches

Find: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | The Book Depository 

Book description: A sweeping historical romance about a witch who foresees her own murder--and the one boy who can help change her future.

Sixteen-year-old Avery Roe wants only to take her rightful place as the witch of Prince Island, making the charms that keep the island's whalers safe at sea, but her mother has forced her into a magic-free world of proper manners and respectability. When Avery dreams she's to be murdered, she knows time is running out to unlock her magic and save herself.

Avery finds an unexpected ally in a tattooed harpoon boy named Tane--a sailor with magic of his own, who moves Avery in ways she never expected. Becoming a witch might stop her murder and save her island from ruin, but Avery discovers her magic requires a sacrifice she never prepared for.
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So much about Salt & Storm grabbed me immediately, including the beautiful cover. The story is set in New England's maritime past, especially its whaling history, which I found fascinating, and close to home, living on costal Massachusetts. I've also become a big fan of the historical fantasy genre, and adding romance to that is always a win for me. I enjoyed the history in Salt & Storm and the book overall. But at the same time, this story didn't bring out a lot of emotion for me until very close to the end, and I've been struggling for a few weeks about how to review it. 

Set-upAvery Roe has always known that she would become the next witch of Prince Island, protecting the sailors who spend their lives hunting whales, and residents who support those at sea. Generations of Roe women have made charms, tied the winds and kept their people safe and prosperous. Avery cannot wait to follow in her grandmother's footsteps and do the same. But Avery's mother does not want her daughter to become a witch, and she has kept Avery from her grandmother and magic for the last 4 years. Still, Avery is determined to unlock her magic herself and escape back to her grandmother's cottage. Unfortunately, before this happens, Avery dreams that she will be murdered. Interpreting dreams is Avery's gift, and she is never wrong in her predictions. This adds an even bigger complication, but Avery is not giving up. 

I tried to write an essay review of this book, but struggled to make my thoughts fit together, so I'm just listing them out. Five thoughts on Salt & Storm:

1) Avery is not always the easiest girl to like. She is quite selfish and narrowly focused on her objective, with a tendency to blame others, and get her friends into trouble. But she also endeared herself to me. Avery isn't given much information or support from either her mother or her grandmother, although she has this huge legacy and destiny that she has always understood she must fulfill and believes is vitally important to the health of her island. Then Avery begins to realize that the reality of her future may not be what she's always wanted, and she has to figure out what to do with that information. I enjoyed watching this struggle of identity and purpose play out; however, it wasn't until closer to the end that I felt a strong emotional connection to Avery and the other characters. 

2) It's always tough for me when huge secrets are kept from the MC, even when it is all explained later - including the reason for the secret keeping - and I struggled at times with why Avery wasn't given more information. Especially, why her mom and grandmother wouldn't tell her anything. It all make sense by the end, however. But as the story was going, I got a little frustrated along with Avery about the lack of help. Maybe that was the point? I did enjoy the way that those revelations changed Avery's perspective on characters and situations, and caused her to grow up. 

3) The plot is a little choppy in places. There were a lot of pieces that had to come together to tell this tale and some of the way they were put together felt like Avery was being led from one thing to another based on how she was affected by others. For instance, Avery was very determined to do a certain thing, but when that didn't work out, she switched her focus pretty quickly. It did all lead to the same place in the end, despite the flow issues.

4) I liked harpoon boy Tane (pronounced Taah-neh), he is a  sweet addition to the plot, and he is featured in some great scenes (one involving tattooing). I'm very glad that Avery had him, as they tempered each other well. But I never felt a huge amount for his relationship with Avery. Highlight for SPOILER>> Perhaps this was a self fulfilling issue, since I knew going in what his outcome would be (end spoiler).

5) I had no idea how vital whaling used to be to the economy. Whale parts were used for so many products - corsets, oil, candles, perfume, soap to name a few items. Weaved into Avery's realization that her life might not be exactly as she always expected, is a parallel discussion of how a community run on whaling was affected by fewer whales due to overhunting and newer more efficient products countering the whale trade. I really enjoyed the way this was done, and I was more interested in the true historical aspects of this book than the witch/fantasy ones. 

Final thoughts: Overall, I enjoyed reading Salt & Storm, and, perhaps surprisingly, I  appreciated the ending much more than I thought I would. However, over time, I'm not sure this one is going to stand out so much to me. Mostly, I wish I'd felt more of an emotional connection to Avery and her struggles. I am still interested in seeing what else Kendall Kulper writes, including a possible companion set in this world. 

Love Triangle Factor: None
Cliffhanger Scale: Standalone. But I believe the author has a companion book planned. I don't know who the main character would be, but I'd be interested in reading it. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Early Review: I'll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson

I'll Give You The Sun 
by Jandy Nelson
Read: September 4 - 8, 2014
Published: September 16, 2014 by Dial (Penguin)
Source: BEA
Category: YA, contemporary, twins, dual narrative/time

Find: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | The Book Depository


Book description: Jude and her twin brother, Noah, are incredibly close. At thirteen, isolated Noah draws constantly and is falling in love with the charismatic boy next door, while daredevil Jude cliff-dives and wears red-red lipstick and does the talking for both of them. But three years later, Jude and Noah are barely speaking. Something has happened to wreck the twins in different and dramatic ways . . . until Jude meets a cocky, broken, beautiful boy, as well as someone else—an even more unpredictable new force in her life. The early years are Noah's story to tell. The later years are Jude's. What the twins don't realize is that they each have only half the story, and if they could just find their way back to one another, they’d have a chance to remake their world.

This radiant novel from the acclaimed, award-winning author of The Sky Is Everywhere will leave you breathless and teary and laughing—often all at once.
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I'll Give You The Sun is the story of Noah and Jude, twins formed together in the womb, separated by misunderstandings, grief, jealousy and walls of their own making. I felt the chasm between them like a physical force, and became desperate to breach it. The lives of these two characters consumed my mind the whole time I was reading this book. I'm still thinking about them.  

The story begins as Noah's narrative when they are 13, before everything falls apart. Then it jumps to Jude's perspective at 16. When I got to the later story, I wanted to cry and scream "No. No. NO. This isn't what was supposed to happen at all!" Because they are not who they thought they'd be 3 years later - at least on the outside. Oh it hurt! I had to know what happened, and I wanted everything to be okay for them.

I adored Noah's inner monologue and the way he views the world as an artist in an explosion of images and color. He is a boy who is struggling with knowing how to be true to himself and find where he belongs. The one thing Noah has always had as a constant is his sister Jude. But with her love of surfing, expressive homemade clothes and many friends, it appears they are headed in different directions. It was hard for me to split my affections to 16 year old Jude, after being inside the head of her brother. But pretty quickly, she won me over too. I'll admit that I connected less to Jude's inner conversations with her dead grandma. I could have done with that thread, but I acutely felt her pain and loneliness mirrored in her brother's.

I'll Give You the Sun is a story you should experience for yourself, so I don't want to break down the plot further. But as expected from a Jandy Nelson book, it is filled with both painful and beautiful moments, as well as complex characters you'll love even while you're yelling at them. The strong art themes were a favorite element, and I enjoyed both romances, especially Noah's. But it was Noah and Jude's relationship that stole the book. I loved the focus on family in this story, especially a strong sibling relationship.

It took me a little time to get into the rhythm of Noah and Jude's voices, even though I fell in love with them both. Their story is told in dual time period, alternating chapters, that could get quite long. Also, once the secrets come out at the end, I thought everything wrapped quickly and rather neatly. But I was so glad to leave these characters in a better place after what they've faced. It's something I needed for them. 

I'll Give You the Sun is a book that is beautiful even when it aches. It is highly recommended and not to be missed!

Love Triangle Factor: None. It wasn't an easy journey, but it's clear who wants whom. 
Cliffhanger Scale: Standalone

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