Blog Tour Stop: Claire Legrand’s Furyborn!

Welcome to one of the stops for Raincoast Books blog tour for Claire Legrand’s Furyborn! Read on for my thoughts on the book as well as a short Q & A with Claire!

Review: Furyborn (The Empirium Trilogy #1) by Claire Legrand
Source: ARC courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Expected publication: May 22, 2018 by Sourcebooks Fire
Book Description:

The stunningly original, must-read fantasy of 2018 follows two fiercely independent young women, centuries apart, who hold the power to save their world… or doom it.

When assassins ambush her best friend, Rielle Dardenne risks everything to save him, exposing herself as one of a pair of prophesied queens: a queen of light, and a queen of blood. To prove she is the Sun Queen, Rielle must endure seven elemental magic trials. If she fails, she will be executed… unless the trials kill her first.

One thousand years later, the legend of Queen Rielle is a fairy tale to Eliana Ferracora. A bounty hunter for the Undying Empire, Eliana believes herself untouchable-until her mother vanishes. To find her, Eliana joins a rebel captain and discovers that the evil at the empire’s heart is more terrible than she ever imagined.

As Rielle and Eliana fight in a cosmic war that spans millennia, their stories intersect, and the shocking connections between them ultimately determine the fate of their world-and of each other.

Claire Legrand has critically acclaimed children’s fiction titles to her credit, including Some Kind of Happiness and The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls. Furyborn, book one in the planned Empirium Trilogy, is young adult fantasy title with a deeply intricate, wondrous and explosive story.

With an opening chapter that is absolutely fierce and spellbinding in its mystery, Furyborn starts off with quite a bang and continues in this propulsive manner for the duration of its course. Post-opening, Furyborn is told in two alternating third-person narratives: one being that of Rielle Dardenne in the Second Age; the second being that Eliana Ferracora, of the Third Age. Rielle’s and Eliana’s stories are 1,020 years apart, but readers will come to know their exact bind by the end of the novel. Rielle’s life in the land of Celdaria is that of veneration to elements (sun, air, fire, shadow, water, metal, and earth), where casting of the elements (magic) is practiced and the long-dismissed prophecy of two human queens- one good and one evil- comes to light. Long foretold, it was thought that a Sun Queen and a Blood Queen- each with all the elements of magic- would rise and predict the future or end of the world. As we follow Rielle’s storyline, we’re taken along an unsettling journey as it is revealed that Rielle may hold the magic of all seven elements and will thus have to endure- i.e. survive- seven trials that the King and his advisors have created. With her extraordinary claim of being the prophesied Sun Queen- the good Queen that will protect the world from the savagery and vengeance of banished angels- Rielle’s life is forever altered, as are the lives of her best friends- the King’s heir Audric, and his bride-to-be, Ludivine. Eliana’s world, millenia after Rielle, is one where magic, prophecy and angels and the stories of the prophesied queens are thought of as mere remnants of old tales- completely fictitious. In contrast with Rielle’s life, Eliana’s is perhaps even more disturbing and dark. Making her living as an bounty hunter by working for the terrifying ruling Empire and ratting out supposed traitors to the Empire, Eliana’s life is completely derailed when a man named the Wolf traps her and forces her hand to join forces against the empire. As the two narratives get deeper and deeper, the relationship between Eliana’s present and Rielle become clearer- as do the seemingly gossamer connections between the two protagonists inexplicable, leviathan powers, the banishment of and venom against angels, and the catastrophic battles that have attempted to forever keep angels away from human life.

Legrand has carefully built up a pretty incredible world here especially given the fact that our main characters live in the crafted world of Avitas millennia apart. From dress, armor, weaponry, geography, not to mention the details of the seven elements, their respective saints and casts…there is so much to awe over and ingest here. Legrand also does a solid job in maintaining tension between Rielle’s and Eliana’s storylines; as the reader, we know we’re going to come to a massive reveal as to how they are actually connected (and why that has somehow survived centuries of time!). While readers might immediately or in short course of time figure out the exact link between Rielle and Eliana, the journey to get to the ultimate end (at least end of book one!) is fascinating. I would argue that Eliana’s storyline, and perhaps even her character, is the more nuanced and complex protagonist, especially as Eliana’s story with the Wolf moves forward and her loyalties and love for her beloved brother Remy and her mother Rozen are tested time and time again. Rielle’s storyline reminded me, in some capacity, of the trails and tribulations that Katniss goes through in the first of The Hunger Games– but it did not make it less intense. With so much packed in Furyborn, not everything is made sense of nor entirely cleared; some major questions are left unresolved, plot points left uncertain, and character choices left vague, but I was nonetheless held captive with the story start to finish (…I also imagine that the second and third books will illuminate any unanswered questions and issues!).

Readers who adore the work of authors such as Leigh Bardugo, Stephanie Garber, Laini Taylor, or Kendare Blake might especially love all of the elaborate world creation, character dynamics and sheer ferocity of Furyborn. Fans of Claire Legrand’s previous titles, even those not so familiar with fantasy, might also want to check this book out, as Legrand’s writing is graceful and fluid no matter what genre she is writing in; the novel simply flies by. Look forward to two more books to come in the Empirium Trilogy!

 

Q&A with Claire Legrand

Q: Big congratulations on Furyborn! On your post for Furyborn on Goodreads, you note that it has been thirteen years that you have been working on the books- and that they are “the books of your heart”. Since 2012, when The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls came out, you have been busy with other multiple book releases. How was your work on The Empirium books impacted by experiencing the release of your other titles and/or with the changing receptiveness to young adult fantasy series?

Claire Legrand: Yes, Furyborn—and the Empirium Trilogy overall—is the story of my heart. I’ve been working on the series off and on since I was eighteen years old. During that time, there were sometimes months-long stretches when I wouldn’t even look at my Furyborn notes because I was busy with other projects. But it was always there, in the back of my mind, waiting patiently for my return. Each book I’ve written has taught me many new things about myself, both as a writer and as a person, and I don’t think I would have been able to make Furyborn the book it is now without the experiences of creating my other books.

Thank you so much for your time!

 

Be sure to check out the other stops on the blog tour:

I received a copy of this title courtesy of Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review and for the purposes of this blog post. All opinions and comments are my own. Author interview was arranged by Raincoast Books.

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Blog Tour Stop: If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say by Leila Sales

Welcome to one of the stops on the blog tour for author Leila Sales’ latest young adult novel, If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say! Read on for my thoughts about this timely novel…

 

If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say by Leila Sales
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group. Thank you!
Publication: May 1, 2018 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Book Description:

A novel about public shaming in the internet age, the power of words, the cumulative destructiveness of microaggressions, and the pressing need for empathy.

Before we go any further, I want you to understand this: I am not a good person.

We all want to be seen. We all want to be heard. But what happens when we’re seen and heard saying or doing the wrong things?

When Winter Halperin—former spelling bee champion, aspiring writer, and daughter of a parenting expert—gets caught saying the wrong thing online, her life explodes. All across the world, people know what she’s done, and none of them will forgive her.

With her friends gone, her future plans cut short, and her identity in shambles, Winter is just trying to pick up the pieces without hurting anyone else. She knows she messed up, but does that mean it’s okay for people to send her hate mail and death threats? Did she deserve to lose all that she’s lost? And is “I’m sorry” ever good enough? Decide for yourself.

“It was just a stupid joke!”

In this era of social media, how easy is it to declare hatred for someone for something they’ve posted? Or to dismiss them outright as an evil person unworthy of another chance? And just how easy is it to compose a post on social media that might inadvertently change the course of your life forever?

“You probably shouldn’t have posted it online, though…”

In If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say, the latest contemporary young adult title from Leila Sales (Tonight the Streets are Ours), the author explores the breakneck speed and magnitude of internet shaming and the repercussions of a teen posting something gone unintentionally, horribly viral.

“…I’m asking, why did you put it up on the internet?”
And this was the humiliating part. Because there was no good reason for it. “I just hoped people might think it was funny,” I mumbled.

The morning after posting a comment online regarding the Scripps National Spelling Bee and the recently-announced winner, high school senior Winter Halperin wakes up to online pandemonium. Winter’s posted comment- just shared to her relatively small group of followers (i.e. mostly friends)- has gone viral thanks to an influencer’s share. Overnight, Winter Halperin has gone from (self-described) good girl, good student, good daughter, proud past winner of the National Spelling Bee, to a nationally known, supposedly evil, racist, thoughtless, spoiled individual who is now at the center of a maelstrom. An individual who is now at the receiving end of internet strangers making threats to her life, threats that she should be raped, threats that she should burn in hell. Winter has become, within a span of hours, a public disgrace and subject to a spectrum of harassment. As Winter tries to process what has even happened, and her parents and older sister try to assess and help, Winter’s previously comfortable life and life plans take one major hit after another. Winter experiences just how quickly the general internet public (as well as some friends) are able to vilify, condemn, and name-call (whether justified or not). The extent of the social media furor and outrage at Winter reaches a boiling point, leaving her college plans, and thus future plans, in relics. This is when Winter, to the initial skepticism of her parents, turns to Revibe, a ‘reputation rehabilitation retreat’ in Malibu, that seeks to help ‘victims of public shaming’.

“Here’s why [your apologies] didn’t work: because none of you were really apologizing. Or, I should say, you weren’t just apologizing. You were also explaining and defending yourselves. You were saying, ‘I’m sorry, but I didn’t mean to do it, and it’s not my fault, and it’s not as bad as you think it is.'”

I would argue that the character of Winter might incite feelings of deep discomfort, anger, bewilderment, sympathy and intense dislike. The character’s course of actions, especially in the last third of the novel, are, shall we say, surprising. Sales has written a complex story here, and how the reader processes Winter herself is also complex. Intention is a core concept of this story: Winter expresses multiple times that she didn’t mean her comment to come across as racist or mean-spirited in any way, she just meant to be funny- and Sales offers no simple truths or answers on whether the lack of intent is enough. Is the fact that Winter claims she didn’t mean any harm enough to excuse her? Does her comment- argued by a journalist to be “pretty thoughtless” but not “outright malevolent” – warrant the backlash, threats, public vitriol, and major fallout? Is her feeling and saying sorry enough?

While it is made clear that Winter is indeed sorry for her comment, how Sales writes and leaves Winter’s apologies and final actions makes for fascinating, if not vexing, reading. We are left, in the end, with a feeling of unease. Is Winter’s forever-changed life warranted given her course of actions post-Revibe rehabilitation? Sales does not necessarily excuse or forgive Winter, nor does she make her out to be irredeemable and contemptible, leaving everything uncomfortably unsettled…which I suppose, in the end, might have been what the author was aiming for!

“…It will keep happening forever, as long as there are humans and the internet and anonymity…”

Sales is at her best in the novel when combing the grey, often difficult and fraught areas that Winter has to wade into- especially notable during the course of Winter’s time at Revibe.  The discussions and arguments involving intention, inherent privilege and internalized prejudice, sincerity behind apology, justified punishment and penance, etc.- all wrapped up in the chaos of social media fallout- are very well done and the standout here. The material is absorbing, quite compelling, and it is clear that Sales herself has spent much time thinking about these issues. In her acknowledgements, the author gives thanks to Jon Ronson’s So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, YouTubers, writers and podcasters “who informed the ideas that appear in this novel”. Sales also makes it clear that “issues of privilege, microaggressions, and culpability are nuanced and complicated”, and recognizes that she “did not get everything right” in the novel. On the whole, If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say proffers thought-provoking, if not sometimes contentious, subject matter up for discourse. Readers interested in exploring these topics further in a complicated, reflective, contemporary YA novel, or those who have previously read Sales’ other titles, might want to check this novel out.

Blog Tour Schedule!

April 29th- Page Turners Blog

April 30th- Books and Ladders

May 1st- Who Ru Blog & Evie Bookish

May 2nd- Fab Book Reviews

May 3rd- Good Books and Good Wine & Across the Words

May 4th- Alexa Loves Books

May 5th- The Book Bratz

I received a copy of this title courtesy of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group in exchange for an honest review and for the purposes of this blog tour. All opinions and comments are my own.

Coming Up: Blog Tour for Leila Sales’ latest YA & more!

The blog tour for Leila Sales’ latest young adult title, If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say, begins on April 29th and it will be stopping here on May 2nd! Do stop by and check out my thoughts on Sales’ contemporary, timely story.

I have had such a string of wonderful- truly excellent- reads lately: P.S. I Miss You; Be Prepared; Speak: The Graphic Novel; the picture book Petra. It’s looking like the streak might just be continuing! I recently finished reading K.A. Holt’s terrifically moving House Arrest, and am diving into the follow-up Knockout. Look forward to a new great picture books round-up post, as well as review posts talking about the latest books from Kate Messner & Matthew Forsythe, David Wiesner, Kyo Maclear & Julie Morstad, and more!

Blog Tour Stop: Amy Spalding’s The Summer of Jordi Perez (And the Best Burger in Los Angeles)!

Welcome to one of the stops on the Thomas Allen & Son’s blog tour for Amy Spalding latest contemporary young adult title, The Summer of Jordi Perez (And the Best Burger in Los Angeles)!

Read on for my thoughts on the book, my thoughts about burgers (yes!), more about Amy, and …the link to The Jordi Perez Prize Pack giveaway! The giveaway closes in about two days, so Canadian residents, enter away!

The Summer of Jordi Perez (And the Best Burger in Los Angeles) by Amy Spalding
Publication date: April 3, 2018
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Available in Canada through Thomas Allen & Son
Goodreads link

Description:

Seventeen, fashion-obsessed, and gay, Abby Ives has always been content playing the sidekick in other people’s lives. While her friends and sister have plunged headfirst into the world of dating and romances, Abby’s been happy to focus on her plus-size style blog and her dreams of taking the fashion industry by storm. When she lands a great internship at her favorite boutique, she’s thrilled to take the first step toward her dream career. Then she falls for her fellow intern, Jordi Perez. Hard. And now she’s competing against the girl she’s kissing to win the coveted paid job at the end of the internship.

But really, nothing this summer is going as planned. She also unwittingly becomes friends with Jax, a lacrosse playing bro-type who wants her help finding the best burger in Los Angeles, and she’s struggling to prove to her mother—the city’s celebrity health nut—that she’s perfectly content with who she is. Just as Abby starts to feel like she’s no longer the sidekick in her own life, Jordi’s photography surprisingly puts her in the spotlight. Instead of feeling like she’s landed a starring role, Abby feels betrayed. Can Abby find a way to reconcile her positive yet private sense of self with the image others have of her?

 

Sometimes (or perhaps a lot of the time!), you need a true confectionary, romantic, delight of a book. Happily, Amy Spalding’s recent YA release, more than met my need for that kind of read. In The Summer of Jordi Perez (And the Best Burger in Los Angeles), we follow the first person narrative of seventeen year old Abby Ives as she steers her way through a summer of a busy internship at clothing boutique, balancing new and old friends, issues with her health-obsessed mom and oh yes, a romance (and first relationship!) with fellow intern, Jordi Perez.

There are numerous focal points in The Summer of Jordi Perez as we can read from the book description, and Spalding navigates them all well. At the core of the story, however, we have the focus on Abby’s internship at fashion boutique Lemonberry and how her relationship with co-intern Jordi (who also goes to Abby’s high school) grows into a significant relationship. As readers get to know Abby, we hear about her history of romance, or lack thereof. While her friends have been dating or attracting attention and in relationships, Abby confesses to feeling like that sidekick in a rom-com- the best friend who proffers dating advice, quippy comments, is cute but definitely not the star. While her best friend Maliah, her sister Rachel, and new friend Jax claim Abby to be delusional about that fact- Abby is supremely stylish, fashionable, runs a talented and popular plus size fashion blog +style, and beautiful- Abby is pretty adamant about her sidekick status being permanent. If she’s a star, then where is her love interest? We learn that the one girl that Abby had really ever been interested in (but just quietly), is actually in a relationship with a boy; that leads to Abby basically writing off the idea of crushing on or dating any girl in real life. But then, along comes fellow intern Jordi Perez, talented photographer, casually stylish, adorable, and very much interested in Abby. I pretty much fell immediately in love with Abby and her narrative voice, her candor, as well as reading about her growing friendship with Jax. And perhaps most importantly of all, the relationship and romance between Abby and Jordi? It is is so beautifully and warmly written, one cannot help but feel a heartfelt connection with how Spalding writes about both glorious and devastating moments in getting to know and love someone- and being able to come to terms with their unintentional mistakes.

Overall, The Summer of Jordi Perez (And the Best Burger in Los Angeles) is a genuine treat of a novel. Featuring an array of bright and funny characters, including a fantastic lead narrator, and a bustling yet focused story that flows from beginning to end, there is so much to appreciate about this YA title. Readers who enjoy the work of authors such as Becky Albertalli, Julie Murphy, Jenny Han, Nina LaCour, or more unique contemporary YA might especially love this wonderful, lovely read.

Burger Talk
One of the plot lines in the book involves Abby and Jax trying to decide on the best burger in LA for a new app…and as part of the tour, us lucky participants get to share a little bit about our love of burgers and what our favourite burger is! Now, I have to admit, I love a GOOD tasty burger that hits the spot- though I don’t consider myself too picky or any kind of burger connaisseur! I was torn between the Five Guys bacon cheeseburger with everything (minus mushrooms) and the California Burger at Milestones which has been a fave for years. In the end, I went with the California Burger! Mmmm…I think it might be the toasted bun and the avocado on the burger which makes it all WORK…so good. Also, many moons ago, when Mr. Fab and I were in the earlier stages of dating, I introduced him to Milestones and we had many an awesome brunch and lunch dates happily munching away on California burgers and fries. Happy memories there as well! Some pics below of the burger taken on a recent lunch outing with Mr. Fab!

 

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Get Your Copy Today!
Indigo
Amazon.ca

Photo by Robyn Von Swank, from author’s site

About Amy Spalding:
Amy Spalding has a B.A. in advertising and marketing communications from Webster University, and an M.A. in media studies from the New School. Amy studied longform improv at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre. By day, she manages the digital media team for an indie film advertising agency. By later day and night, Amy writes, performs, and pets as many cats as she can. She grew up in St. Louis, but now lives in the better weather of Los Angeles.

Follow Amy:
Website: https://www.theamyspalding.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/theames
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AmySpaldingWrites/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/thatames/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5768552.Amy_Spalding

 

Tourwide Giveaway!

The winner will receive:
1. 1 hardcover copy of The Summer of Jordi Perez (And the Best Burger in Los Angeles) by Amy Spalding
2. 1 pack of FujiFilm Instax Mini Film
3. 1 $5 gift card for Five Guys (Canada)

Details:
– Canada Only (full rules found in the T&C on Rafflecopter)
– Giveaway ends Wed. Apr. 11th @ 12AM EST
– Winner will be drawn randomly through Rafflecopter, contacted via email and will have 24 hours to claim their prize

Link to the giveaway on Rafflecopter!

 

I received a digital copy of this title courtesy of Thomas Allen & Son in exchange for an honest review and for the purposes of this blog tour. All opinions and comments are my own. Thomas Allen & Son is providing the prize pack for the winner. Publicity information has been provided by the publisher.

Blog Tour Stop: Flower Moon by Gina Linko

Welcome to one of the blog tour stops for Gina Linko‘s Flower Moon, a children’s novel full of charm and magic!

Review: Flower Moon by Gina Linko
Source: ARC courtesy of Thomas Allen & Son. Thank you!
Publication: January 2, 2018 by Sky Pony Press
Book Description:

Tempest and Tally Jo Trimble are mirror twins—so alike they were almost born the same person—and they’ve been inseparable since birth. But it’s the summer they turn thirteen, and it seems like everyone can tell something is changing between them.

Pa Charlie, whose traveling carnival is the best part of every summer, is watching them closer than ever. Digger, who sneaks poor kids onto the carnival rides for free and smiles faster than anyone, seems to be fixing for a fight. Even Mama is acting different, refusing to travel with the carnival this year even though her own twin, who she hasn’t seen since childhood, will be there.

And Tally and Tempest are the most different of all. There’s a strangeness between them, a thickness to the air, an unseen push and pull, and it’s getting stronger. It starts as a feeling, but soon it’s sputtering and sparking, hurling them backwards, threatening to explode.

When Tally learns that she and Tempest may not be the first twins in their family to be separated by whatever this force is, she realizes she’ll have to find a way to stop it—or she might lose not only her sister, but everyone she loves.

Gina Linko’s Flower Moon is a contemporary children’s fiction title that hums and sings with elements of magic, intense familial bonds and friendship.

In Flower Moon, readers follow the emotive first-person narrative of twelve year old Tally Jo Trimble. The story begins when we’re taken into a classroom where we witness the friction and complicated love between Tally and her twin sister- her mirror, her other half- Tempest. As Tally makes a decision to deflect one of Tempest’s many scientific experiments that may lead students to ridicule Tempest, Tally finds herself at the beginning of a strange cycle of growing distance and strangely potent energy that seems to be physically pulling her apart and keeping her away from Tempest. But why? Why is the world- or magic in the world- trying to keep Tally and Tempest apart?

As Tally and Tempest begin their usual summer journey with their grandpa’s traveling carnival, more and more peculiar events- dangerous, electric moments that physically hurt- spark and flicker between the twins, leading Tally to believe that there really is some bizarre, inexplicable force in the universe growing to keep Tally and Tempest apart. With the help of her wonderful and kind carnival friend Digger, Tally starts investigating her family’s history- specifically into her mother’s unexplained broken relationship with her own twin sister. The closer Tally comes to discovering just how incredibly strong the magic of her twin bond is, the closer Tally and Tempest get to discovering a way that might allow them to stay together. Linko writes an affecting story here; you can feel the intense, inextricable bond and love between Tally and Tempest almost vibrate off the page. The elements of magic (as well as exploration into the earth’s rhythm and moon cycles) that tie the mystery of the twins’ bond is an intriguing one; one that is written well, though I found myself wishing for even more explication into the reveals of ‘why’, as well as the big denouement and resolution.

Give yourself a little bit of time for the tone and pace of the story to settle and allow for the magic and unknown to makes its home; once the essence of story seeps in, you’ll be rather taken in with Tally and Tempest’s story. Overall, Flower Moon is a charming, warm story that will likely appeal to readers who like a little bit (or a lot!) of supernatural elements blended in with contemporary, family-oriented coming-of-age stories.

I received a copy of this title courtesy of Thomas Allen & Son in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.

Blog Tour Stop: Eileen Cook’s The Hanging Girl!

Welcome to one of the stops on the Raincoast Books tour for Canadian author Eileen Cook‘s latest young adult novel, The Hanging Girl! Read on for my thoughts on the novel as well as a special Q&A that the wonderful author herself participated in!

The Hanging Girl by Eileen Cook
Source: ARC courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Expected publication: October 3, 2017 by HMH Books for Young Readers
Book Description:

Skye Thorn has given tarot card readings for years, and now her psychic visions are helping the police find the town’s missing golden girl. It’s no challenge—her readings have always been faked, but this time she has some insider knowledge. The kidnapping was supposed to be easy—no one would get hurt and she’d get the money she needs to start a new life. But a seemingly harmless prank has turned dark, and Skye realizes the people she’s involved with are willing to kill to get what they want and she must discover their true identity before it’s too late.

Eileen Cook’s last released YA novel, With Malice, was met with solid reviews and great reception from the YA reader and mystery lover crowd. I had the luck of getting to read and review With Malice, and was delighted to see Eileen focus more in the mystery/suspense genre (a genre which I particularly enjoy!). With The Hanging Girl, the author strongly continues in the mystery genre with an even twistier, more complex, layered, exciting- and surprising- story.

At the core of the story is our protagonist, high school student Skye Thorn. Daughter of a single mom (who is a self-professed psychic), Skye has used tarot reading and her own ability to read people well to fake classmates out (and make money) with her own so-called ‘psychic’ and tarot reading abilities. Then, in a quick turn, readers find out that Skye has gotten herself with involved in…a kidnapping scheme with a supposed big payout and no repercussions. Yes, Skye has become inextricably and dangerously- due to reasons which will reveal themselves- involved in a seriously unnerving, twisted kidnapping plot. And readers, let me just say that the author does a wonderful job of throwing major curveballs in how Skye’s involvement with the kidnapping- and the supposedly ‘simple’ kidnapping job itself- turns around. The Hanging Girl is one of those hard-to-put-down reads- I actually read it in one big gulp (staying up very, very late into the night) transfixed by this unusual, suspenseful story. Skye herself is not the most sympathetic of characters, but she holds major interest- and experiencing the story- especially as big reveals happen- through her first-person narrative makes it all the more intriguing and edge-of-your-seat. While a tiny bit rushed toward the end of the novel, my enjoyment with the story was absolutely held from start to finish. With The Hanging Girl and With Malice, I think Eileen has more than shown herself a very strong, exciting writer in the YA mystery genre.

Overall, a solidly plotted mystery with genuinely shocking moments, The Hanging Girl bests With Malice as an even darker, more surprising, sophisticated mystery entry. Readers who adored With Malice, and/or readers who have enjoyed novels such as Caleb Roehrig’s Last Seen Leaving, Mindy Mejia’s Everything You Want Me to Be, or the work of Megan Abbott might especially enjoy sinking into The Hanging Girl.

 

Q&A Time with Eileen!

Q: I am always interested in hearing about the research that goes into a book! In With Malice, the protagonist deals with post-accident amnesia and recovery- areas in which you have personal experience given your past career in counseling patients recovering from major trauma and injuries. For The Hanging Girl, what was the preparation for writing the character of Skye and the plot focus on tarot reading and psychic abilities? Did you have the opportunity to research and/or interview practicing psychics and tarot readers?

A: One of the things I enjoy best about the writing process is the chance to do research. I love learning things. Sometimes this can become a procrastination technique (I also can spend hours online chasing random bits of information.) However, in this case I felt if I was going to write a character who read tarot then I felt it was something that I needed to understand. Especially because reading the future was so important to Skye and her mom. I wouldn’t say I’m very good at it—but I did like learning about the history of tarot and the meanings of different cards.

A lot of what makes for a good tarot card reader is like being a counsellor. Counsellors are always listening not just to what you say, but also what you don’t say. We’re paying attention to body language. For example, if you cross your arms and scowl as I’m saying something, I get the idea that you either disagree with me, or have strong feelings about what I’ve said. A psychic is often doing the same thing, paying attention to how you react and moving their reading in that direction.

I also went to about a half a dozen different psychics to have them do a reading for me. I compared what they said to what I’d learned at a conference put on by The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. They’re a group of people who use science to investigate various topics— including psychics. The session I went to covered how easy it is to fool someone into believing you have psychic ability. I found that fascinating and filed away the information knowing it would be useful for a character and because I hadn’t realized how easy it could be to take advantage of someone who wants to believe.

Thank you so much for your time, Eileen!

Don’t forget: you can check out the other stops on the blog tour this week!

I received a copy of this title courtesy of Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review and for the purposes of this blog post. All opinions and comments are my own. The interview with the author was kindly organized by Raincoast Books.

Coming up: Blog Tour for Eileen Cook’s The Hanging Girl!

Coming up next week: the Raincoast Books blog tour for Canadian author Eileen Cook’s latest young adult novel, The Hanging Girl, stops by Fab Book Reviews on October 2nd! I’ll be talking about The Hanging Girl as well as sharing a Q&A I had the opportunity to do with the lovely author. Hope you get a chance to visit some of the other great stops on the tour as well!

Blog Tour Stop: Jennifer Honeybourn’s Wesley James Ruined My Life!

Welcome to the last stop on the Raincoast Books blog tour for Jennifer Honeybourn‘s contemporary YA debut, Wesley James Ruined My Life! Read on for my thoughts on the book as well as a short Q & A with Jennifer!

Wesley James Ruined My Life by Jennifer Honeybourn
Source: ARC courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Publication: July 18, 2017 by Feiwel & Friends
Book Description:

Sixteen-year-old Quinn Hardwick’s having a rough summer. Her beloved grandmother has been put into a nursing home, her dad’s gambling addiction has flared back up, and now her worst enemy is back in town: Wesley James, former childhood friend and life ruiner.

So when Wesley is hired to work with her at Tudor Tymes, a medieval England-themed restaurant, the last thing Quinn’s going to do is forgive and forget. She’s determined to remove him from her life and even the score for once and for all-by getting him fired.

But getting rid of Wesley isn’t as easy as she’d hoped. When Quinn finds herself falling for him, she has to decide what she wants more: to get even, or to get the boy.

Jennifer Honeybourn’s debut novel, Wesley James Ruined My Life, is a contemporary young adult title that blends teen romance and comedy with some more serious issues. From the first-person narrative of sixteen-year-old Quinn, readers are taken into her world, where her once-best-friend/crush and now mortal enemy, Wesley James, has returned to town.

Quinn, as we learn, already has enough on her plate: trying to save up money for a band trip to her dream city- London, England- Quinn is balancing work at a medieval England-themed restaurant, dealing with the aftermath of her parent’s separation, her father’s gambling addiction, and her beloved grandmother’s seriously declining health. Into all of this walks Quinn’s once-upon-a-time former best friend and perhaps crush, Wesley James. Back in town after a few years, and suddenly everywhere Quinn turns, Wesley James is infuriatingly inescapable- and charming, sweet, kind, and stirring up feelings that Quinn does not want to have. In an intriguing turn, readers learn that Quinn’s now years-long despisement of Wesley stems from her holding him responsible for the break-up of her parent’s marriage. As the book description hints, Quinn turns her focus to try and make Wesley pay – somehow- for the perceived damage he has caused her; but, as we can guess, things don’t quite work out or reveal themselves the way Quinn anticipates!

While on the whole a lighter, often frothy and fun (and very cute) read, Honeybourn fortifies and freshens the more traditional rom-com story in a few ways. Namely, with a genuinely likable and cognizant protagonist/narrator in Quinn (Wesley is also very likable); weightier storylines in terms of family matters; and a peculiar, funny, and memorable story point with the themed Tudor Tymes restaurant. Likely to appeal to readers who enjoy YA rom-coms, and those who like the writing of authors such as Leila Sales, Jessica Brody, Sarah Ockler, or Huntley Fitzpatrick, Wesley James Ruined My Life makes for fun, yet rooted YA reading. Overall, Jennifer Honeybourn has done a very good job with her debut YA, crafting an endearing and self-aware protagonist with a sweet romantic element and thoughtful story.

Question & Answer with Jennifer!

Q: One aspect of the novel I really appreciated- and think made the novel stronger!- was the combination of fun and romance with more serious issues. Was there ever a version of Wesley James that did not include more serious subject matter- i.e. Quinn’s father’s gambling addition or declining grandparents? Or did you always set out to write a rooted, real contemporary YA romance that delved into some harder issues?

A: The bones of WESLEY JAMES RUINED MY LIFE were always there, even from the first draft. I don’t think I set out to write about specific issues, they just sort of presented themselves along the way, as I was drafting and learning more about the characters. I wanted romance to play a large role, but not be the only focus of the story, because I felt like there was more to Quinn’s life, things she was grappling with, and that made her more real to me.

 

I received a copy of this title courtesy of Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review and for the purposes of this blog tour. All opinions and comments are my own. Q & A organized by Raincoast Books. Thank you!

Blog Tour Stop: Danika Stone’s Internet Famous!

 

Welcome to the last stop on the Raincoast Books blog tour for Canadian author Danika Stone‘s Internet Famous! Danika is the author of the YA contemporary novel All the Feels, as well as the author of adult fiction titles including Edge of Wild. Today, I am sharing a special guest post from Danika as well as an excerpt from Internet Famous, Danika’s recently released contemporary YA romance. Enjoy!

Internet Famous by Danika Stone
Publication: June 6, 2017 by Swoon Reads, Feiwel & Friends
Book Description:

An engaging and relatable novel for the digital age that perfectly captures the complicated interaction between what goes on in our real lives and what we say online.

Internet sensation Madison Nakama has it all! Her pop-culture rewatch site has a massive following, and fans across the world wait on her every post and tweet. And now Laurent, a fellow geek (and unfairly HOT French exchange student!), has started flirting with her in the comments section of her blog. But Laurent’s not the only one watching for Madi’s replies…

Internet fame has a price, and their online romance sparks the unwanted attention of a troll. When Madi’s “real life” hits a rough patch, she feels her whole world crumbling. With Laurent’s support, can Madi rally her friends across the globe to beat the troll, or will he succeed in driving her away from everything—and everyone—she loves?

Internet Famous is a fresh, contemporary young adult romance for the iGeneration from Danika Stone, author of All the Feels.

Writing with a Soundtrack by Danika Stone
If there’s one truth about writing it’s that somehow, someday, no matter how dedicated you are to scheduling writing or working through the stress, you WILL experience writer’s block. For me, it was the aftermath of a rough grad school thesis meeting. I was mentally burned out, physically exhausted. I finished my thesis, but when I tried to return to my beloved fiction, I found—
Nothing.
The words simply wouldn’t come.
I’d open the project and stare at it with baleful eyes. Where were the voices of my characters? What had happened to the plot I’d so carefully crafted? As days stretched into weeks, I knew that I had to get my writing juices going. And with this in mind, I decided to create a soundtrack.
This was my breakthrough moment!
A soundtrack is the voice of your story. It breathes the lives of your characters and the choices they make, it provides an auditory link to scenes and setting, it IS your story without the words. When writing is tough, putting together a series of songs can make the difference between breaking through the hurtle of writer’s block and getting stuck in the quicksand of self-doubt.
Since that long-ago day, I’ve made soundtracks for every one of my books. I don’t always play them while I write, but I use them when I feel the rush of words slow to a trickle. For Internet Famous, this group of songs was it:


“New Slang”, The Shins
This song captures the unique language of the internet. I love how many phrases that appear in Internet Famous are words that have developed in the last year or so.
“Shyer”, London Grammar
Madi has a great, outgoing personality online, but the jump to real life friendship is terrifying for her. This song matches the feelings of uncertainty that happen before she moves from the internet famous blogger of the MadLibs blog to “Madi” herself.
“Here”, Alessia Cara
I don’t there there’s a single one of us who hasn’t been lost at a party. This song evokes the feelings of Madi when she’s caught up in the MadLibs crowd in New York.
“Nicest Thing”, Kate Nash
I love Laurent! The purity of Kate’s voice really captures the feeling of his relationship with Madi.
“Wreck of the Day”, Anna Nalick
I struggled a bit with what song fit for the troll. (I don’t listen to a lot of ANGRY music. Ha ha!) But this song felt like the aftermath of an attack to me.
“Dreams”, Beck
Madi’s dream for herself is one of the driving forces behind the plot. I love the idea that we all have the chance to live our dreams if we just have the strength and determination to make the leap.
“What Kind of Man”, Florence + The Machine
Madi has a personal crisis in the book when she finds herself questioning everyone and everything she knows. This uncertainty – not trusting yourself – is key to her finally taking a stand against the troll.
“Tether”, CHVRCHES
The connection between Madi and her sister, Sarah, is one of my favorite parts of the book!
“Gold Guns Girls”, Metric
I love the energy of this song even more than the words. It captures online energy!
“Happy Idiot”, TV on the Radio
Of all the songs on this list, this one really shows the distance between where Madi and Laurent start and where they (for a time) end up. I love the idea of “ignorance is bliss”.
“Roses” (feat. ROZES), The Chainsmokers
Any kind of conflict gets to have a reunion scene (in my opinion) and this 80’s movie worthy last scene is one of my faves!
“Happy”, Pharrell Williams
I won’t lie, “happily ever after” is always end-game for me. This song just GETS it!
So how about you? What songs are the go-to for your current work-in-progress? Do you have other tricks of the trade? Give YOUR answers in the comments below!

…after the break…an excerpt!

Continue reading

Blog Tour: Secrets in the Snow by Michaela MacColl

secrets-in-the-snow-blog-evite

 

Welcome to one of the stops on the Raincoast Books organized blog tour for Michaela MacColl‘s latest historical YA title, Secrets in the Snow: A Novel of Intrigue and Romance! Be sure to check out the other stops on the tour!

 

secretsinthesnow9781452133584Review: Secrets in the Snow: A Novel of Intrigue and Romance by Michaela MacColl
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Publication: October 4, 2016 by Chronicle Books
Book Description:

Jane Austen’s family is eager to secure her future by marrying her off. But Jane is much more interested in writing her novels, and finds every suitor lacking-until the mysterious Mr. Lefroy arrives. Could he be the one? Before Jane can find out, she must solve a murder, clear her family’s name, and face a decision that might cost her true love.

Author Michaela MacColl has a number of well-reviewed historical teen titles to her name. Her latest novel, Secrets in the Snow, centers on a dramatic time in Jane Austen’s young life. Mixing biographical facts from Austen’s life with a fictionalized story of mystery and possible romance, Secrets in the Snow offers an engaging mystery with an iconic author as its protagonist.

With a strong and terrifically sharp and droll nineteen-year-old Jane Austen as our main character, readers are taken on an eighteenth century-set adventure full of deception, some dancing, and a murder. After eavesdropping on a charged conversation between her brother and a member from the War Office accusing one of their family cousins of being a spy for France, Jane becomes entwined in a life-changing chain of events. Altering her plans and returning to her family home, Jane takes it upon herself to approach her beloved, vivacious and widowed cousin, Eliza- the family member under suspicion of being a traitor to England. Back at home, Jane also finds herself mixed up in another drama- that of the possible attractions of a young, handsome man named Tom LeFroy, who appears, at first, to be a disagreeable and slightly haughty. MacColl easily blends Austen-esque attributes of character friction, witty banter, grand dances at halls, and pointed conversations of class and money with that of an unfolding mystery. While the murder mystery and suspenseful aspects of the story are well-done (if a tad hurried toward the end), I found that one of the most thoroughly enjoyable aspects of the novel is that of Jane’s voice. MacColl interestingly writes Jane from the third-person rather than first-person narrative, and she does a fantastic job in how Jane is presented and written as a thoughtfully-defined, energetic and wholly rooted character.

Overall, I found Secrets in the Snow to be a delightful and cozy read. A lovely surprise of a historical fiction title and very smoothly written, MacColl more than capably takes on what could be a daunting prospect and creates lively, well-imagined characters and a fun story with a dash of suspense. Any readers interested in an intriguing but not overly intensive look inside the imaginings of Jane Austen’s life, or have interest in a charming mystery might do well to check Secrets in Snow. MacColl also includes a generous Author’s Note section which divulges more about Jane Austen’s life, her family, her relationship with sister Cassandra and her history with Tom LeFroy. Readers who have enjoyed work by authors such as Katherine Longshore, Jennifer McGowan, Y.S. Lee or Sharon Cameron might especially enjoy this title!

I received a copy of this title courtesy of Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review and for the purposes of this post. All opinions and comments are my own.