Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Blog Tour: Interview with Cassandra Rose Clarke, Author of THE WIZARD'S PROMISE

Today is extremely exciting for me because I have the honor of hosting one of my favorite authors, Cassandra Rose Clarke for an interview and reviewing her upcoming novel, THE WIZARD'S PROMISE!

THE WIZARD'S PROMISE (The Hanna Duology #1)
by Cassandra Rose Clarke
The blurb as seen on Goodreads:
Release Date: May 6, 2014
Publisher: Strange Chemistry
336 Pages

All Hanna Euli wants is to become a proper witch – but unfortunately, she’s stuck as an apprentice to a grumpy fisherman. When their boat gets caught up in a mysterious storm and blown wildly off course, Hanna finds herself further away from home than she’s ever been before.

As she tries to get back, she learns there may be more to her apprentice master than she realized, especially when a mysterious, beautiful, and very non-human boy begins following her through the ocean, claiming that he needs Hanna’s help.



1) You have another duology written in the same world in which The Wizard's Promise takes place. What made you decide to write another series surrounding that world?

I was blown away by the reception that the first duology received, and by the time the second book was published, I realized I didn’t want to leave that world behind entirely. The story of Naji and Ananna was largely finished, and even though the two of them are certainly off having plenty of adventures (mostly together!), I wanted a chance to look at some of the other parts of the world and some of the other cultures that I had hinted at. 

2) How did you come up with the idea for this story?

I knew I wanted to write something that took place after the first duology, and I knew I wanted the setting to be up in the northern part of the world, since there are a lot of references to the ice-islands throughout the first duology, although we never really get to see them. I also liked the idea of writing a story where the weather is cold, since so much of The Assassin’s Curse takes place where it’s hot (I know it sounds weird, but I’m really into weather and climate). The plot and characters pretty much grew out of those criteria. It was almost like writing fanfiction in a way, because I had the world, and here was a chance to fill in the gaps.

3) Can you share your favorite scene, or line from the book?

Some of my favorite scenes are the ones where Hanna first meets Isolfr, the boy in the water. Here’s a little snippet of one of those encounters:
“You never told me your name,” he said. 
I hesitated. I got no sense of danger from him, it was true. He waited for me to answer, moving with the rhythm of the waves. In a way, he reminded me of the illuminated ice Frida had shown me that afternoon. He was that lovely, that unearthly.
“Hanna,” I finally said.
Nothing happened except that Isolfr smiled again.
4) Who is your favorite character from The Wizard's Promise? If you don't have a favorite character, who do relate to the most?

I actually really relate to Hanna, the main character. I based a lot of her experiences on my own experience growing up in a small town. However, I think my favorite character is probably Asbera. She gets introduced in the second half of the book, so I don’t want to say too much about her, but she’s another fisherwoman (one who’s happy to work as a fisherwoman!) and she befriends Hanna when Hanna needs it most.

5) How has your writing changed since the release of your first novel?

I’ve become a lot more wiling to branch out and try new things. Before I was published, I tended to stick to the type of writing I was most comfortable with--character-focused literary fiction. Now I find I enjoy moving beyond my comfort zone and bringing in elements that I would have found too difficult to include before. I’m not sure why getting published led to more risk-taking: maybe it’s a boost in confidence thing?

6) What do you find to be the most difficult part of writing a book?

External plotting. My favorite thing about writing is developing the characters and crafting beautiful sentences and passages (you can tell I come from a literary fiction background!). But you can’t just ignore external plot in a story--stuff has got to happen. The first duology was actually one of my big experiments in writing a plotty book, but I’m still learning how to really put plot threads together in a satisfying way.

7) What was your initial reaction to finding out you going to be published?

I actually found out I was going to be published when I was at work. I’m a college instructor, and I had a quick, ten-minute break between my classes. I was waiting in line to use the restroom when I checked the email on my phone and saw that Angry Robot had accepted my two manuscripts. So I was completely ecstatic, but I had to keep it to myself, since I didn’t want to start jumping around and shouting in joy in front of a bunch of students.

8) What kind of books do you read in your free time?

All kinds! I tend to jump around between genres. I get in moods where I’ll want to read a bunch of space opera, and then I’ll feel like reading mysteries, and then I’ll want to read literary fiction. Right now I’m reading an historical literary fiction novel called Evidence of Things Unseen, which is a love story set around the time that the first atomic bomb was developed. Up next I think I’m going to read Alif the Unseen, by G. Willow Wilson, which is a kind of literary fantasy novel. I’m definitely in a literary fiction phase right now.

9) What is in store for you next?

The sequel to The Wizard’s Promise, the Nobleman’s Revenge, will be out sometime next year. I’m also working on a couple of new projects--both YA and adult--but I don’t want to say too much about them yet!

10) Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

I’ve talked about this before, but I really do think it’s the best piece of advice I’ve ever received: learn to tell the difference between dreams and goals. A goal is something that is completely and one hundred percent under your control, whereas a dream is something that depends on other people to happen--it’s the difference between writing 1000 words a day (goal) and publishing a book (dream). Writing can be an incredibly frustrating career because so much of your success is dependent on other people, and focusing on those things that you can control--goals that will help you reach your dreams--can really alleviate some of that frustration.


Thank you to Cassandra for allowing me to participate in this tour, and for the wonderful interview. I will be posting my review this weekend, so look out for that!  If you haven't already, please check out Cassandra's wonderful works and pick up a copy of The Wizard's Promise when it releases next month!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Book Review: Steal the North by Heather Brittain Bergstrom

The blurb as seen on Goodreads:
Release Date: April 10, 2014
Publisher: Viking Adult
336 Pages

A novel of love in all its forms: for the land, for family, and the once-in-a-lifetime kind that catches two people when they least expect it

Emmy is a shy, sheltered sixteen-year-old when her mom, Kate, sends her to eastern Washington to an aunt and uncle she never knew she had. Fifteen years earlier, Kate had
abandoned her sister, Beth, when she fled her painful past and their fundamentalist church. And now, Beth believes Emmy’s participation in a faith healing is her last hope for having a child.

Emmy goes reluctantly, but before long she knows she has come home. She feels tied to the rugged landscape of coulees and scablands. And she meets Reuben, the Native American boy next door.

In a part of the country where the age-old tensions of cowboys versus Indians still play out, theirs is the kind of magical, fraught love that can only survive with the passion and resilience of youth. Their story is mirrored by the generation before them, who fears that their mistakes are doomed to repeat themselves in Emmy and Reuben. With Louise Erdrich’s sense of place and a love story in the tradition of Water for Elephants, this is an atmospheric family drama in which the question of home is a spiritual one, in which getting over the past is the only hope for the future.



Steal the North is a heartbreaking novel about family, faith, and self-discovery. Told from multiple perspectives, this book is the story of Emmy, a young girl who hasn't dared to stray off of the path that her mother has set for her. When Emmy's mother sends Emmy off to spend the summer with the aunt and uncle that the young girl didn't know existed, Emmy must come to terms with her past and find the strength to build a future, all the while figuring out what it truly means to love.

Now I have to admit that I went a bit out of my comfort zone when reading this as I am not usually a fan of books that deal with faith and religion. That was a major theme in Steal the North. I think that Heather Brittain Bergstrom handle the subject very well. She did not shove the ideals of faith in the faces of her readers, but rather gave us something about which we should think. She also used this theme to flesh out and differentiate her characters as each one sees God and religion differently.

The plot moved steadily, and I found myself captivated enough to read through the last two-thirds of the book in one night. Though I must say that I did get frustrated a few times with how the author jumps ahead weeks, months and once years in some of the chapters. I understand why the book was written that way, and I think for much of the story, it was beneficial. That being said, I was curious about what the characters were feeling in some scenes and because of the skip ahead chapters I will never know.

There was nothing in Steal the North that stood out to me in a extremely negative fashion, though I did note my slight annoyance with the "fast forward" chapters. In fact, I enjoyed the story much more than I could've imagined. It resonated with me in a way that I was not expecting. By the end of the novel, I could hardly see the pages through my tears. Steal the North is a very emotional story that I know will stick with me for some time.

The characters were so wonderfully flawed, and though each had obvious faults, it was impossible to not care for them. They were broken, and put into situations that changed their lives completely. Their journeys make for the most heart-wrenching, and inspiring tale. I loved them all, in their own way. I didn't agree with every decision they made, but no one is perfect. You can mean well, and still do something wrong--that is just one of the lessons that I learned from Steal the North. I miss these characters already, and I hope that wherever Bergstrom's imagination took them, they are happy.

I'm sure that not everyone will love this story as much as I did, but I believe that each person who picks it up with find something within the novel with which they can connect. Steal the North is riveting and extremely thought-provoking. It's a harrowing emotional journey for every character, and for the audience as well. You will learn, and think, and feel as you read. I am so happy that I was the given the chance to read this novel, because it has become a favorite of mine.
I received a copy of this novel from the publisher for my honest opinion and review.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Blog Tour: Guest Post: SHE IS NOT INVISIBLE by Marcus Sedgwick

I am delighted to be hosting Marcus Sedgwick for a guest post as part of his SHE IS NOT INVISIBLE blog tour! You can find the other stops on the tour listed here.

SHE IS NOT INVISIBLE 
by Marcus Sedgwick
The blurb as seen on Goodreads:
Release Date: April 22, 2014
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
224 Pages

Laureth Peak's father has taught her to look for recurring events, patterns, and numbers--a skill at which she's remarkably talented. Her secret: She is blind. But when her father goes missing, Laureth and her 7-year-old brother Benjamin are thrust into a mystery that takes them to New York City where surviving will take all her skill at spotting the amazing, shocking, and sometimes dangerous connections in a world full of darkness. She Is Not Invisible is an intricate puzzle of a novel that sheds a light on the delicate ties that bind people to each other.



Seeds

Superb British art-rockers Radiohead are on record as saying that what you throw away is as important as important as what you produce. I recall a school librarian, to whom I was expressing some concerns over whatever I was writing at the time, telling me that I ‘couldn’t write a bad book if I tried’. But that’s maybe because they hadn’t considered what I throw away: the stories that end up bound as books with a nice shiny cover are of course the ones that make it through an extensive selection process, first by me, then by my publishers.

I’ve written around 15 novels. It’s taken me around 15 years. And three times at least in those 15 years I have started to write a book, got around 10,000 words in, and then decided to abandon the project. Once I wrote a whole book, 80,000 words, and threw it away. You probably don’t need to be a writer to understand how painful that is. It’s not just the time, or what else you could have been writing instead; it’s the waste of an idea that hurts.

I like, if at all possible therefore, to avoid this wastage. I like to be as sure as I can that the seed of an idea I have decided to work on is going to not only grow, but bear leaves and healthy fruit besides.

That’s where these things come in: my notebooks.


Notebooks have an obvious function and a less obvious function.

The obvious function is that of recording thoughts so you don’t forget them. The less obvious function is that they serve as the first filter through which an idea must pass. I don’t just have an idea and then sit down to write it the next day. I have an idea, I put it in my notebook, and then I wait for months, if not years, while I develop the idea into a potential book. Many, many, many ideas therefore never leave the pages of the notebook. They just don’t happen. I deem that they are rubbish. Whatever.

But there’s still the danger that an idea can seem good enough to leave the notebook, and yet it still doesn’t work out – and that is the greater danger, because then we’re in the territory of spending years on something that proves to be futile.

That seemed to be the case with She Is Not Invisible. I first had the thought that I would like to write a book about coincidence around 8 or 9 years ago. Great idea, I thought. Superb. But years went by and I couldn’t crack how to do it. Twice, I planned out large sections of the plot, and even started some writing, but I could see that I didn’t know what I was doing. I had the very strong feeling that I had chosen a ‘bad idea’ to write about. Yet, finally, I made something of it, and the breakthrough came around two years ago when I came to a startling realization; one which goes like this: it’s very hard to write about coincidence. That might not seem like much, but the point is that coincidences are hard to write about for a couple of reasons. First, a relatively small coincidence can seem very cool when it happens to you, but try telling someone about it. The most common reaction is feigned politeness, or perhaps you might be treated to some outright boredom. So in order to make the coincidences in your novel more interesting, you exaggerate them. What’s the problem with that? Well, very unlikely happenings are just what bad writers use to get themselves around holes in their plot.

In the end therefore, I decided not to write a book about coincidence, but to write a book about a writer writing a book about coincidence. They say you should write what you know (and though I don’t agree with that) - in this case I had plenty of experience of being a writer trying (and failing) to write about the subject of synchronicity.

After that, things got easier – I did what I usually do to develop an idea which involves lots of reading, lots of thinking, lots of travelling places that might make good settings, and lots of staring into space through the window and calling it work. I read countless books about coincidence, most notably Carl Jung’s Synchronicity, and along the way, managed to generate a few little happen coincidences of my own.

So the book is done and sits on the bookshelves now, but generally speaking, no one sees what was thrown away in order to get there, and that’s the way it should be.

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What did you thinking of Marcus's guest post? And come back tomorrow to read my review of SHE IS NOT INVISIBLE! (Spoiler alert: I loved it.)
Thank you to Marcus for joining us today with a fantastic post, and to Ksenia from Macmillan for letting me join the tour!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

ARC Review: The Forever Song (Blood of Eden #2) by Julie Kagawa

The blurb as seen on Goodreads:
Release Date: April 15, 2014
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
416 Pages

VENGEANCE WILL BE HERS

Allison Sekemoto once struggled with the question: human or monster?

With the death of her love, Zeke, she has her answer.

MONSTER

Allie will embrace her cold vampire side to hunt down and end Sarren, the psychopathic vampire who murdered Zeke. But the trail is bloody and long, and Sarren has left many surprises for Allie and her companions—her creator, Kanin, and her blood brother, Jackal. The trail is leading straight to the one place they must protect at any cost—the last vampire-free zone on Earth, Eden. And Sarren has one final, brutal shock in store for Allie.

In a ruined world where no life is sacred and former allies can turn on you in one heartbeat, Allie will face her darkest days. And if she succeeds, triumph is short-lived in the face of surviving forever alone.


When I started this book, I knew that first off, it wouldn’t end happy. This comes from the author who pretty much feeds on our tears. So I was expecting heartbreak. How bad? Now that I was unsure of. So I came up with 3 versions of how it was going to end:

Scenario 1. There is no life anymore and there never will be again.
Scenario 2. I feel only pain and happiness doesn’t exist.
Scenario 3. I understand, but it doesn’t mean I have to like it or be ok with it.

While I admit, I thought Kagawa would go for 1 or 2, I ended up getting Scenario 3 – which, not going to lie, still killed me.

Forever Song picks up where the second book ended with our three “musketeers” on the hunt for Sarren. Kanin, Allie and Jackal: one quiet, one angry, and one just flat out amusing. Allie is still dealing with the loss of Zeke at Sarren’s hands and her mind is only on revenge. With every step she takes, she becomes closer to accepting the monster inside her and Jackal is all too happy to help her along. Along their way, they find all of the surprises that Sarren has left for them, including one especially for Allison. 

What I love about Kagawa’s work is how true she stays to her characters. Throughout all three books, there is a constant growth of every character. While you may not always agree with their actions, they always make sense. We see Allison’s struggle to maintain her humanity for Zeke, and when he’s gone, we see her struggle to accept the monster. She is constantly at war with herself over doing what she thinks people expect of her and what she actually wants to do. Kanin tries to guide her, but there’s only so much he can do. Especially when there’s someone counteracting his every move.

Enter Jackal, who has quickly become one of my favorite characters. I don’t know how Kagawa did it, but she took a character who was egotistical, conceited, sarcastic, and basically an all-around ass and…well, actually he kind of stayed the same, but oh how I loved him. In a book that was so burdened with heartache and horrors, we needed his comic relief. So thank you, Jackal.

Parts were predictable, but not so much that it ruined the journey for me. The whole series was a giant build-up to the inevitable showdown between Kanin and Sarren, and Kagawa did not disappoint. There were losses and tears and anger but I truly loved this series…and I totally feel like I’ve made my payment in tears to feed Kagawa’s muse. 


I received an e-copy of this novel from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for a honest review.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

"Real" Book Challenge March Recap

Real Book Challenge on Swoony Boys Podcast and Fiction Fare

Month 3 and still going strong! Wasn't quite sure how many I'd get this month considering I picked one gigantic book to start with, but seems I'm still steadily moving along. Here's a list of the "real" books I read during the month of March:



So that's 7 for the month of March.

Total So Far: 21
Current Level: Real Book Snob

If you're interested in joining us, you can sign up here. See you next month!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Teaser Tuesday: Friends and Traitors (Slayers #2) & Bad Blood (House of Comarré #3)

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by MizB over at Should Be Reading!
To participate, all you have to do is:
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) "teaser" sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (Make sure what you share doesn't give too much away! You don't want to ruin the book for others!)
Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can ad the book to their TBR lists if they like your teasers!

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"At six foot four and two hundred pounds, very few things frightened Ryker Davis. Dragons were one of those things, but they hardly counted since dragons weren't real."
Chapter 1, Page 10
Friends and Traitors (Slayers #2)
by CJ Hill



"'How well do you know Chrysabelle?'
'We're from the same house, the Primoris Domus, but what I know about her comes from her reputation, not from really knowing her personally.'"
Chapter 28, 65%

What are you reading this week?

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Monday, March 31, 2014

ARC Review: Torn (Connections #2) by Kim Karr

The blurb as seen on Goodreads:
Release Date: April 1, 2014
Publisher: NAL Trade
352 Pages

Rock star River Wilde brought Dahlia London back from the brink of hopelessness with his unwavering love and devotion. But their entangled history is about to test the strength of their relationship…

Dahlia was certain she had found true love and met her "Once in a Lifetime’ when she reconnected with River. But Dahlia’s world comes crashing down when someone from her past resurfaces, and all of River’s carefully hidden secrets are exposed.
                                                                                                  River wants to show Dahlia that life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass—it’s about dancing in the rain. But how many times can one broken heart be mended?  Will River and Dahlia be able to stay together or will they be torn apart?


Warning: Contains spoilers from the first book.

Why does the model on the cover have black hair when your MC has blonde??? Ugh, anyway…

Well, we’re slowly getting better. Part 2 of the Connections series picks up right where the first left off, River and Dahlia are about to head to Vegas to get married when Dahlia gets a phone call that changes everything: Ben’s alive. So of course the wedding’s put on hold, emotions are thrown out of whack, everything is drama drama drama, but unlike the first book, there’s at least a reason for the drama. 

The book is told from mostly Dahlia’s POV’s, with entries from Ben’s journals. It was an interesting way to introduce the character of Ben. The ending of the first book was a journal entry of Ben’s explaining why he faked his death and here we are told of his journey back into his life through his diary. First off, he keeps a diary – wait sorry, journal? And also, what did Dahlia ever see in him? He’s a grade A asshole. Everything that came out of his mouth just made me want to cringe. His main goal is to get Dahlia back just to get her back. I don’t honestly believe that he loves her, she’s just a possession to him. It’s sick. 

River and Dahlia’s relationship is also explored more here. We finally move from just sex to angry sex, make up sex, sex instead of talking, and of course sex for the sake of sex. Dahlia spends the whole time running from any type of serious conversation with River about Ben because she’s scared of what will happen. When she does try to talk to him, it turns into a sex scene. Then when River tries to leave the conversation, she gets pissed that he’s constantly running away. Umm, excuse me? What have you been doing this entire time? Oh yeah, running. 

The mystery of how Ben knows River’s family is finally explained (called it in the first book). The music references still drown out the actually scenes they’re in. Dahlia finally makes a decision between the two and life goes on. Slightly better than the first and I’m glad to see the author progressing, but still not one I would recommend. 

I received a copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for a honest review.

 
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