Thursday, January 19, 2017

Interview: Jill MacKenzie, Author of Spin the Sky

Today I'm excited to present to you an interview I did with Jill MacKenzie, author of Spin the Sky, regarding her debut novel that was published on November 1, 2016 by Sky Pony Press. I'll be posting my review of Spin the Sky within the next few days, so look out for that. But now onto the interview:

1.) Can you tell us a little bit about your debut young adult novel, Spin the Sky?
Why, of course! I’d love to! 

Spin the Sky is about a girl from a small, Oregon-Coast town who auditions with her BFF for a reality TV dance competition in hopes of changing her image--an image her town has given her. I felt inspired to write this story after watching multiple seasons of the popular TV dance show, So You Think You Can Dance, and wished the dancers’ lives on that show were explored little more. Because of my own upbringing in dance, I always knew that dancing like the way those competitors do takes strength, desire, determination and perseverance. I kept asking myself the same question about each dancer: what was it that made them never give up? There had to be something bigger than just the love of dance…didn’t there? Well, for my character, there was. Something bigger than her mother, her sister, her town, and the people she was surrounded by. It was her own self-worth at stake. The possibility that without proving to the world that she was valid that she might not be valid at all. That’s where I started with this book. What my main character, Magnolia, had to loose if she didn’t achieve what she set out to. 

2.) Do you have any dance experience like your heroine Magnolia?
Yes! I spent all of my life in dance, immersed in ballet, tap, jazz and contemporary styles. I don’t think I ever possessed the drive or natural talent that Magnolia does, but I loved it even still, and I love it now as well. Dance is life! 

3.) Spin the Sky centers around a dance competition that's broadcasted on television. Do you watch reality television and how did you come up with the idea?
Ah! I answered some of this in question 1. But--and this is a serious guilty pleasure confession here--I also watch…wait for it…The Bachelor. It’s not that I love reality TV. It’s quite the opposite, actually. I find it fascinating that people watch these shows as if they were sitcoms, as if the “actors” are regurgitating lines written by a writer, instead of said organically. I spend a lot of time wondering if reality TV shows are scripted and if so to what extent. I tried to explore this sort of “Hunger Games” side of reality TV and how its participants live under microscopes for as long as they’re on the show. So, I guess it was a combination of my loving that dance show and appreciating how it really, truly makes dancers’ dreams come true and my fascination with the dark side of reality TV.

4.) Which character was the most interesting to write about in Spin the Sky?
For me, the most interesting character to write was Rose. Of course, I LOVE Magnolia with all my heart, but it was really hard for me to write the story of a sister--especially the older sister. In my own family, I’m the youngest, and it’s hard to see outside of that perspective. But Rose ended up being someone I truly love, her compassion, her selflessness, her wisdom. I think it actually made me view my own older sister in a different light. A better one, absolutely.

5.) What do you hope readers will take away from reading Spin the Sky?
I hope readers will take away that dreams--any dreams, all dreams--are everything. At least, they’re everything to me. Right now, I’m writing books. But I have other dreams too, you know? So I want to believe that I can visualize those and go after those one day, too. It’s what I go to sleep each night thinking about. It’s how I get up the next morning and do it all over again.

6.) Do you have any plans for future releases?
Yes! But I’m a very superstitious writer-type! I can’t say a word until things are set in stone, done and dusted. But you’ll be the first to know when I’m ready to spill!

Thanks so much for joining us today, Jill! 
Thanks so much!  

Please check out Jill's novel, Spin the Sky.
Amazon Link: HERE

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

YA Review: You Don't Know My Name by Kristen Orlando

You Don't Know My Name by Kristen Orlando
Publication Date: January 10, 2017
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Amazon Link: HERE
Received From: Miss Print's ARC Adoption

Summary (from Amazon):
Fighter, Faker, Student, Spy.

Seventeen-year-old Reagan Elizabeth Hillis is used to changing identities overnight, lying to every friend she's ever had, and pushing away anyone who gets too close. Trained in mortal combat and weaponry her entire life, Reagan is expected to follow in her parents' footsteps and join the ranks of the most powerful top-secret agency in the world, the Black Angels. Falling in love with the boy next door was never part of the plan.

Now Reagan has to decide: Will she use her incredible talents and lead the dangerous life she was born into, or throw it all away to follow her heart and embrace the normal life she's always wanted? And does she even have a choice at all?

Find out if you are ready to join the Black Angels in the captivating and emotion page-turner, You Don't Know My Name, from debut novelist Kristen Orlando!

Reagan has never fit in anywhere. She doesn't have any close friends and the friends she does have, she lies to because she knows she'll have to move at any second. Her parents are spies for a top-secret agency, The Black Angels, and Reagan is expected to someday become one too. She's been trained since she was a child to fulfill her parent's legacy, and even though Reagan's great at combat, she doesn't know if she wants her parent's lifestyle. When they have to move after a dangerous criminal breaks into their house, she meets other students that for once in her life she feels connected to. As a spy's daughter, Reagan's never felt like she could be herself, except around Luke. He's more than Reagan's best friend, but Reagan knows she can't get too close to him or allow herself to fall in love because he might be the one person that could make Reagan wish for something more.

From page one, I was pulled into You Don't Know My Name because of the high action plot and interesting heroine. The whole plot of the novel is that Reagan's training to become a top-secret spy, and in the first chapter you get to see her moves and intelligence when it comes to combat. The novel begins with their house being broken into by a criminal and because their privacy is compromised, they have to move yet again. Moving frequently doesn't bother Reagan, because she's so used to it, but once she becomes close friends with Luke, the boy she secretly has a crush on, she begins to see that life isn't all about combat and the Dark Angels. The romance between Reagan and Luke was definitely my favorite part of the story. Their chemistry was apparent from the first page and it was heartwarming seeing how much they both cared about each other, but neither acting on it. Reagan doesn't want to let herself fall in love with Luke because she knows she'll be moving again and doesn't want to hurt him, and Luke isn't sure about Reagan's feelings for him. But once they figure it out, wow was it hot. When the two of them were together, it felt like they were going to burst into flames. I loved seeing Luke and Reagan's relationship transform and then Reagan's dilemma with becoming a spy. Since You Don't Know My Name is about spies, there's obviously a lot of action and suspense, which I thought the author wrote extremely well. And I'm so happy that there's going to be a sequel because I want to read about Reagan and Luke forever.

Overall, I would definitely recommend You Don't Know My Name to any readers looking for a novel about a teenage spy with a hot and sweet romance.


Friday, December 30, 2016

YA Review: Ever the Hunted by Erin Summerill

Ever the Hunted by Erin Summerill
Publication Date: December 27, 2016
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Amazon Link: HERE
Received From: Publisher (in exchange for an honest review)

Summary (from Amazon):
Seventeen-year-old Britta Flannery is at ease only in the woods with her dagger and bow. She spends her days tracking criminals alongside her father, a legendary bounty hunter—that is, until her father is murdered. The alleged killer is none other than Cohen Mackay, her father's former apprentice. The only friend she's ever known. The boy she once loved who broke her heart.

She must go on a dangerous quest in a world of warring kingdoms, mad kings, and dark magic to find the real killer. But Britta wields more power than she knows. And soon she will learn what has always made her different will make her a force to be reckoned with. 

In a divided kingdom at war, Britta's father, a famous bounty hunter, taught her everything he knew alongside Cohen MacKay, his apprentice. Working with each other, Britta and Cohen soon became close friends until Britta began developing feelings for him. Even after Cohen moved to the kingdom to work as a bounty hunter, Britta believed that he would come back to her like he promised. But after her father is murdered and there's no sign of Cohen, Britta begins to lose hope. She's alone and starving, and when she's caught illegally poaching in the king's land, she assumes she'll be killed. But to Britta's surprise, the king doesn't want to kill her because he knows of her tracking skills and wants her to find Cohen, who he believes killed her father. This comes to a surprise to Britta because she thought she knew Cohen, but when all the facts point toward a guilty Cohen she makes it her mission to find her father's murderer. Unfortunately the facts aren't always what they seem and Britta's journey turns into a mission to not only find her father's murderer, but also answers about herself.

I added Ever the Hunted to my Amazon wishlist as soon as I read the summary because it sounded similar to The Hunger Games, and since I loved The Hunger Games I knew I had to pick this one up. As soon as I sat down to read Ever the Hunted I was pulled into Britta's world. The book itself is sort of a medieval urban fantasy and features characters with supernatural abilities. And much of the story takes place in the forest, which is one of my favorite settings because it allows the characters to show off their intelligence and skills. Britta is a great character and the author used the forest in order to play up her strong characteristics. She also comes across as relatable since she isn't perfect or completely confident with herself.

And even though I enjoyed Britta as a character, the romance between Britta and Cohen was probably my favorite thing about the book. The story begins with Britta poaching in the woods because she's starving and left with few other options. At this point her father was already murdered and Cohen has already been gone for months. So the resentment and disappointment that Britta feels toward Cohen is definitely there, and it grows even more when the king tells her Cohen was the one who murdered her father. And even though Britta views Cohen more as a villain at this point in the novel, there was still definite chemistry between them. And it was the best type of chemistry as well. Britta doesn't know where she stands with Cohen and vice versa. And because their relationship is so strained, it takes Britta much of the novel to figure out her feelings. Cohen is also purposely kept in a mysterious light throughout the novel, which made his character and the relationship more interesting.

While I loved many things about Ever the Hunted, one thing I couldn't get past was the fact that it was too similar to The Hunger Games. Britta reminded me of Katniss and the plots of both novels were often similar since they both revolved around the corrupt society that the heroines lived in and them trying to survive in such a society. While I would have liked to see this novel stand on it's own, I wasn't able to completely separate it from The Hunger Games because of these similarities. But even with that being said, I did genuinely enjoy Ever the Hunted until the last page and I'm looking forward to reading the next book in the series (especially after the book ended on a cliffhanger).

Overall, I would definitely recommend Ever the Hunted to any fans of The Hunger Games or to any readers who are fans of young adult novels that take place in the forest and feature love/hate (enemies to lovers) relationships.


Wednesday, December 28, 2016

ARC Giveaway: Frostblood by Elly Blake

Giveaway: An Advanced Reader Copy of Frostblood by Elly Blake

a Rafflecopter giveaway

-Must be 13 years or older or have parental permission to enter
-Winner will receive an email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends
-Winner must respond to email within 48 hours in order to receive prize or a new winner will be selected
-Prize will be mailing within 2 weeks
-No contact information will be kept; I will delete the mailing address as soon as I mail out the prize in order to protect privacy
-I can't be held accountable for prizes that get lost or damaged in the mail
-Since this giveaway is for an advanced reader copy, the winner must abide by the publisher's rules to never sell it

Good luck and thanks for entering!

Waiting on Wednesday: A Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine that highlights future releases that we're excited to read.

A Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi 
Publication Date: March 28, 2017
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Amazon Link: HERE

Summary (from Amazon):
Gauri, the princess of Bharata, has been taken as a prisoner of war by her kingdom's enemies. Faced with a future of exile and scorn, Gauri has nothing left to lose. Hope unexpectedly comes in the form of Vikram, the cunning prince of a neighboring land and her sworn enemy kingdom. Unsatisfied with becoming a mere puppet king, Vikram offers Gauri a chance to win back her kingdom in exchange fro her battle prowess. Together, they'll have to set aside their differences and team up to win the Tournament of Wishes—a competition held in a mythical city where the Lord of Wealth promises a wish to the victor.

Reaching the tournament is just the beginning. Once they arrive, danger takes on new shapes: poisonous courtesans and mischievous story birds, a feast of fears and twisted fairy revels. 

Every which way they turn new trials will test their wit and strength. But what Gauri and Vikram will soon discover is that there's nothing more dangerous than what they most desire. 

Why I'm Waiting: 
A Crown of Wishes sounds interesting and based on the summary, it sounds like there will be similarities to Throne of Glass by Sarah Maas. I also love enemies to lovers storylines, so I can't wait to see Gauri and Vikram's relationship grow.

What books are you looking forward to?

Read First 6 Chapters of Caraval by Stephanie Garber FREE

I know a lot of you are excited to read Caraval by Stephanie Garber, which releases January 31, 2017. Well now you don't have to wait. You can read the first 6 chapters for free through Amazon Kindle HERE.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

YA Review: Tales of the Peculiar by Ransom Riggs

Tales of the Peculiar by Ransom Riggs
Publication Date: September 3, 2016
Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers
Amazon Link: HERE
Received From: Giveaway

Summary (from Amazon):
A companion to the New York Times bestselling Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, now a major motion picture directed by Tim Burton.

Before Miss Peregrine gave them a home, the story of peculiars was written in the tales.

Wealthy cannibals who dine on the discarded limbs of peculiars. A fork-tongued princess. These are but a few of the truly brilliant stories in Tales of the Peculiar—the collection of fairy tales known to hide information about the peculiar world, including clues to the locations of time loops—first introduced by Ransom Riggs in his #1 bestselling Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children series.

Riggs now invites you to share his secrets of peculiar history, with a collection of original stories in this deluxe volume of Tales of the Peculiar, as collected and annotated by Millard Nullings, ward of Miss Peregrine and scholar of all things peculiar. Featuring stunning illustrations from world-renowned woodcut artist Andrew Davidson this compelling and truly peculiar anthology is the perfect gift for not only fans, but for all booklovers. 

A perfect gift, reminiscent of classic bookmarking, this beautifully packaged volume features full-page woodcut illustration, gold foil stamping, a ribbon, and removable back sticker. 

Tales of the Peculiar is a set of ten short stories about peculiars. Each story features new characters and a new story. The first story, The Splendid Cannibals, is about peculiars that can regrow limbs. The second story, The Fork-Tongued Princess, is about a princess with physical disfigurements including a fork tongue and scales. The third story, The First Ymbryne, is about a bird that can turn into a human and who is also the first peculiar to create time loops. The fourth story, The Woman Who Befriended Ghosts, is about a girl that can see and interact with ghosts. The fifth story, Cocobolo, is about a man who slowly turns into an island. The sixth story, The Pigeon's of Saint Paul's, is about a fight for the sky between pigeons and humans. The seventh story, The Girl Who Could Tame Nightmares, is about a girl that can take nightmares out of people's heads. The eighth story, The Locust, is about a boy who takes the form of whatever shows the most love towards him. The ninth story, The Boy Who Could Hold Back the Sea, is about a boy who can control the current. And the tenth story, The Tale of Cuthbert, is about a giant that sinks and gets stuck. Each story is creative, fun to read, and has an endearing moral. And the hardcover edition features a beautiful gold-foiled cover, a bookmark ribbon, and full page illustrations that correlate with each story.

I've never been a big fan of short stories because it takes me a few pages to get into a story, so when I read short stories, by the time I'm interested, the story is already over. Tales of the Peculiar isn't a story that kept me reading late into the night, but a book that I read little by little each night. I enjoyed reading each story and getting pulled into Riggs' characters and worlds. My favorite story was The First Ymbryne because it was interesting getting to see how the first peculiar created time loops. Some stories were more interesting than others, such as The First Ymbryne, but I found each one to be enjoyable, and if nothing else, I wanted to see how each story would end. Tales of the Peculiar is much like Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children. The stories are witty, quirky and fun, but there's also an added horror element such as in the story The Girl Who Could Tame Nightmares, which centers around a murder.

Overall, I would definitely recommend Tales of the Peculiar for any fans of Ransom Riggs looking to read more about peculiars in a short story format. I also recommend you splurge on the hardcover edition because it's downright gorgeous and will be something you'll want to come back to more than once.