From the Earth to the Shadows by Amanda Hocking {giveaway!}

Tuesdays are the best, aren’t they? They’re not Mondays, and they’re new book days! And what a new book I have for you today {even though, yes, it doesn’t come out until next week, but that’s okay. This is just to get you excited!}.

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Title: From the Earth to the Shadows {336 pgs}

Genre: YA Fantasy

Publication Date: April 24, 2018

Summary:

The epic conclusion to the thrilling Valkyrie duology by New York Times bestselling YA author Amanda Hocking, From the Earth to the Shadows.

While dealing with dark revelations about her life and her world, Malin finds herself with new allies–and new enemies. Her quest for the truth leads her to places she never thought possible, and she’s never been one to shy away from a fight. But for all her strength and determination, will it be enough to save the world before it’s too late?

Review:

Oh boy. I sped through this one. Like the first book in this duology, From the Earth to the Shadows has everything: romance, mythology, pissed off immortals. Malin and her friends are back, this time with a little bit of help from this guy you may have heard of, Odin. With the all-Father in their corner, there’s no way that they could lose…right? This rag-tag group of barely young adults race to destroy the forces of evil that are trying to take over the world, forces that are determined to make a world full of immortals. Malin might also be in a race to save the boy she cares about, Asher, even though she’s not entirely sure he wishes to be saved.

If you like exciting, edge of your seat action and mythology sprinkled through your never-ceasing attacks, then this is the book for you. Did I just include everyone in that description? I should have, because this book is for everyone.

Also, in case you missed it earlier, this is a duology, which is fine, really, it’s fine. Except it’s not. I need more Malin in my life. I need more Quinn and Oona and Atlas and everyone else in this book, even the bad guy jerks that have been banished to the end of time. Malin is so relateable, even if I can’t imagine a life as a Valkyrie. Still, she goes through the normal stuff, too: falling in love, losing friends and family, trying to live a normal life. You understand her on a basic level, even when she’s fighting chupacabra’s in the jungle.

Need more convincing? Take an excerpt from the first chapter of the book and then try to tell me that you don’t need this book in your life:

 

ONE

The air that fogged around me was thick enough that I could taste it—earthy and wet, with a trace of salt. It stuck to my skin, which was already slick with sweat, and that only seemed to attract more insects. They buzzed around me, leaving burning little bites in my flesh. I wanted to swat them off, but I couldn’t. I had to stay perfectly still, or the Kalanoro would spot me too soon.

The oversaturation of green in the jungles of Panama had been a strange adjustment from the smog and bright lights of the city. Out here, it was an endless emerald sea: the plants and trees, the rivers, were all varying shades of green—even the sky was blotted out by a thick canopy of leaves.

This wasn’t where I wanted to be, crouched motionless in the mud with a giant millipede crawling over my foot. Not when Asher was still gone, held captive in Kurnugia by the underworld goddess Ereshkigal and her mad centaur boyfriend, Gugalanna. Not when the fate of the world felt heavy on my shoulders, with Ereshkigal attempting an uprising that would unleash the underworld on earth.

It had only been three days since I’d gone to the Gates of Kurnugia, along with Oona, Quinn, Asher, and Atlas to aid me. I’d wanted to avenge my mother—and I had killed the draugr that had killed her—but all of that may have set off a chain of events that would bring about the end of days.

And I had lost the guy I … well, not loved. Not yet. But I cared about him. All I wanted to do was rescue him. But I couldn’t. There was too much at stake. I couldn’t let my heart get the best of me. I had to hold it together, and follow my orders.

After Gugalanna had pulled Asher down into the underworld where I could not follow, the rest of us had gone to Caana City in Belize. It was the safest city near the Gates of Kurnugia, and Oona needed medical intervention to survive. She was on the mend now, and that’s why I had left her behind, with Quinn and Atlas.

I didn’t want to risk losing them the way I had Asher, and I was on a special assignment, coming directly from the Valkyries’ highest authority—Odin.

Odin had found me outside of the hospital where Oona was being treated. I had never met him before, and, like most of the Vanir gods, he changed his appearance to suit his needs, so I hadn’t recognized him.

He towered over me in his tailored suit, with his left eyelid withered shut. He had a deep rumble of a voice, with a softly lilting accent, and a grim expression. His large raven, Muninn, had been watching over me, but when I tried to press him for a reason why, he had told me that there wasn’t time to explain.

“I need you to go deep into the heart of the jungle, where no man dares to live,” Odin explained, as we had stood in the eerily silent parking lot in Caana City. “You must retrieve something for me.”

“Why can’t you retrieve it yourself?” I asked bluntly. I wasn’t being rude, but the reality was that Odin was a powerful god, and I was just a young mortal Valkyrie-in-training. He had far more knowledge and power than I could ever hope to have.

“I’m not allowed to meddle in the affairs of humans or any of the other earthly beings,” Odin clarified.

“But…” I trailed off, gathering the courage to ask, “What is this you’re doing now, then? Isn’t directing me to get something for you the same as meddling?”

A sly smile played on his lips, and he replied, “There are a few loopholes, and I think it’s best if I take advantage of one now. If you want to save your friend, and everyone else that matters to you, you need to act quickly.”

“What is it that you need me to get?” I asked, since I didn’t seem to have a choice.

“The Valhallan cloak,” he explained. “It was stolen centuries ago by a trickster god—I honestly can’t remember which one anymore—and he hid it with the Kalanoro of Panama.”

“The Kalanoro?” I groaned reflexively. Having dealt with them before, I already knew how horrible they were.

If piranhas lived on land, they would behave a lot like the Kalanoro. They were small primate-like creatures, standing no more than two feet tall, and they vaguely resembled the aye-aye lemur. The biggest differences were that the Kalanoro were tailless, since they lived mostly on the ground, and they had razor-sharp claws on their elongated fingers and a mouth of jagged teeth they used to tear apart the flesh of their prey.

“What is the Valhallan cloak, and how will I find it?” I asked Odin.

“You’ll know when you see it. It’s an oversized cloak, but the fabric looks like the heavens. The rumors are that the Kalanoro were attracted to the magic of the cloak, though they didn’t understand it, so they took it back to their cave,” Odin elaborated. “They apparently have been guarding it like a treasure.”

“So I have to go into the treacherous jungle, find the man-eating Kalanoro, and steal their favorite possession?” I asked dryly. “No problem.”

Which was how I ended up in the jungle, alone, in the heart of Kalanoro country—at least, that’s what the nearest locals had purported. In front of me, on the other side of a very shallow but rapidly moving stream, was the mouth of a cave. The cave I hoped was the home of the Kalanoro, but I was waiting to see one for official confirmation.

Sweat slid down my temples, and a large dragonfly flew overhead. The trees around me were a cacophony of sounds—monkeys and frogs and birds and insects of all kinds, talking to one another, warning of danger, and shouting out mating calls.

Back in the city, beings and creatures of all kinds lived among each other, but there were rules. The jungle was not bound by any laws. I was not welcome, and I was not safe here.

I heard the crunch of a branch—too loud and too close to be another insect. I turned my head slowly toward the sound, and I saw movement in the bushes right beside me. Tall dark quills, poking out above the leaves, and I tried to remember if the Kalanoro had any quill-like fur.

I didn’t have to wonder for very long because a head poked out of the bushes, appearing to grin at me through a mouthful of jagged fangs and a face like an alien hyena. The leathery green skin, mottled with darker speckles, blended in perfectly with the surroundings, with a mohawk-like row of sharp quills running down its back.

It wasn’t a Kalanoro—it was something much worse. I found myself face-to-face with a Chupacabra.

TWO

The Chupacabra—much like dolphins, dogs, and quokkas—had the uncanny ability to appear to be smiling. Unlike those contemporaries, there was nothing adorable or friendly about this Chupacabra’s smile. It was all serrated teeth, with bits of rotten meat stuck between them, and a black tongue lolling around his mouth.

“You don’t want do this,” I told the beast softly, even though he probably didn’t understand English.

I kept my gaze locked on the Chupacabra, but my hand was at my hip, slowly unsheathing my sword Sigrún. The name came from my ancestors, as had the blade itself. It had been passed down from Valkyrie to daughter for centuries.

Sigrún was a thick blade made of dark purple crystal, so dark it appeared black, but it would glow bright brilliant purple when I was working. It was short and angled, like it had been broken off in battle. Maybe it had—the full history of my blade was unknown to me.

But the handle was a black utilitarian replacement. It had been my mother’s gift to me on my eighteenth birthday. Her final gift to me, well over a year ago.

The Chupacabra stared at me with oversized teardrop-shaped eyes and took a step closer to me, letting out a soft rumble of a growl.

Valkyries weren’t supposed to kill anyone or anything they were not specifically ordered to kill. The one exception was self-defense. Since I was on an unsanctioned mission into territory I had no business being in, this would all get very messy if I had to kill a Chupacabra.

But the hard truth was that I was beyond worrying about my career as a Valkyrie. I would do whatever I needed to do.

When the Chupacabra lunged at me, I drew my sword without hesitation. Since this wasn’t an official “job,” my blade didn’t glow purple, but it sliced through the leathery hide as easily as I knew it would.

I didn’t want to kill the creature if I didn’t have to—after all, he was merely going about his life in the jungle. So my first blow was only a warning that left him with a painful but shallow cut across his shoulder.

He let out an enraged howl, causing birds to take flight and all sorts of smaller animals to go rushing deeper into the underbrush. From the corner of my eye, I spotted several Kalanoro darting across the stream back toward their cave. They had been watching me.

The Chupacabra had stepped back from me, but by the determined grin on his face I didn’t think he was ready to give up yet. He circled around me, and I turned with him, stepping carefully to keep from slipping in the mud.

“This is stupid,” I said, reasoning with the animal. “We should both go our separate ways, and you can go back to eating … well, I think you mostly eat the Kalanoro and birds.”

Apparently growing tired of my attempts at talking, the Chupacabra snarled and jumped at me again. I dodged out of the way, but he kicked off of the tree behind and instantly dove at me. I didn’t move quick enough this time, and he knocked me to the ground.

Fortunately, I fell on my back, with one of his feet pinning me and his claws digging into my shoulder. I put one hand around his long, slender throat, barely managing to hold him back as he gnashed his teeth.

With one of my arms pinned, he was too strong for me, and I wouldn’t be able to throw him off. As his thick saliva dripped down onto me, I knew there was only one thing I could do if I wanted to survive.

I drove my sword up through his breastbone, using all my might. He howled in pain, but only for a second, before falling silent and slumping forward onto me. I crawled out from underneath him, now covered in mud and his thick green blood, along with my own fresh red blood springing from the wounds on my bare arms and shoulder.

In the mouth of the cave across from me, two dozen or so beady little green eyes glowed. The Kalanoro were crouched down, watching me. So much for the element of surprise.

My hair had come free from the braid I’d been wearing, and it stuck to my forehead. I reached up to brush it back, and the Kalanoro let out a squawk of surprise, and one darted off into the woods.

That’s when I realized the Kalanoro were afraid of me. I glanced over at the Chupacabra—the Kalanoro’s number-one predator, and I had left it dead and bleeding into the stream. They were right to fear me.

I tested my new hypothesis and stepped closer to the mouth of the cave, and the Kalanoro screeched and scattered. Most of them ran into the woods, but a few went deeper into the cave. My fight with the Chupacabra had left them far more skittish than I had anticipated, and I doubted that I would need my sword for them, so I sheathed Sigrún.

I unhooked my asp baton from my hip and pulled my flashlight out from my gear bag. I took a deep breath and walked toward the cave, hoping that this wasn’t a trap where they would all pounce and devour me the second I stepped inside.

As I walked into the cave, I heard them chittering and scurrying, but it reminded me more of a rat infestation than man-eating primates. Once my eyes had adjusted to the darkness, I shone the flashlight around the narrow cavern. The beam of light flashed on a few pairs of eyes, but they quickly disappeared into the darkness.

The entrance of the cave stood well over eight feet, but as I walked, the ceiling height dropped considerably. Very soon I had to crouch down to venture farther.

The ground was slick with Kalanoro droppings and bat guano, and it smelled like a musty cellar that doubled as a litter box. Tiny bones of partially digested meals crunched underneath the heavy soles of my boots.

My flashlight glinted on something, and I crouched down to inspect it. It was an old pocket watch, the face broken and the gears rusted, but it had once definitely belonged to a human. Near the watch was another trinket—an old walkie-talkie.

That’s when I realized it was a trail of treasures, piling up more as I went deeper into the cave. Old car parts, a titanium hip replacement, and even what appeared to be a wedding band. The Kalanoro apparently loved hoarding shiny things.

On the ground a few feet ahead of me, I spotted something particularly sparkly. It looked like stars, shimmering and glowing from a puddle on the floor. By now I had to crawl on my knees, since the ceiling was so low.

As I reached for those stars, a Kalanoro leapt out from the darkness. Its rows of teeth dug painfully into my right arm, and I beat it back with my asp baton. It took three hits before it finally let go and ran off screaming.

I grabbed at the stars, picking up a satiny fabric. The way it glimmered, it looked exactly like the night sky, and I now understood what Odin meant by looking “like the heavens.” This had to be the Valhallan cloak. I hurriedly shoved it into my gear bag. The Kalanoro couldn’t be happy about me stealing their treasure, so I had to get out fast.

I raced out of the cave and gulped down the fresh air. Around me, the trees had changed their tune, from the normal song of the jungle to something far more shrill and angry. I could hear the Kalanoro growling and screeching at each other, sounding like high-pitched howler monkeys. They were enraged, and they were chasing after me.

It was a ten-kilometer hike downhill, through thick forests, to the nearest village. There I would be able to clean up and catch the hyperbus back to Caana City. Back to meet Odin. The Kalanoro were now alerting the entire jungle to my presence, and even as I hurried ahead, deftly moving through the trees, I could hear them following me.

I ran down the hill, skittering through the mud and branches, swatting back giant bugs and the occasional surprised snake. My legs ached and my lungs burned but I pressed on, running as fast as I could. I had to make it to the town before dark, because I doubted the Kalanoro would let me out alive.

Copyright © 2018 by Amanda Hocking in From the Earth to the Shadows and reprinted with permission from Wednesday Books.

 

AUTHOR BIO:

Amanda Hocking NEW--credit Mariah Paaverud with Chimera Photography

Amanda Hocking is the author of over twenty young adult novels, including the New York Times bestselling Trylle Trilogy and Kanin Chronicles. Her love of pop culture and all things paranormal influence her writing. She spends her time in Minnesota, taking care of her menagerie of pets and working on her next book.

 

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Buy Links:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Books-a-Million

IndieBound

Powells

 

Social Links:

Author Website: http://www.worldofamandahocking.com/

Twitter: @Amanda_Hocking

Facebook: @AmandaHockingFans

Author Blog

 

Preorder this book. Shake down your local bookstore clerk. Wait patiently for it outside of your library on April 24. Basically do whatever you can to make sure that you read this book. You won’t regret it. But you will want more, and that’s where you can head over to Amanda Hocking’s social media to find more of her titles {spoiler alert: they’re all good. Just so so good.}.

If that’s not enough for you, head over to my Twitter where I’ll be running a giveaway where you could win a finished copy of From the Earth to the Shadows!

Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney

Note to future self: never move. Ever. It really digs into your reading time. Good news: I had a few books lined up before I moved, and I manged to finish them all. Bad news: I’m just getting around to putting up reviews.

But after I read Sometimes I Lie, I knew I had to write something about it.

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Title: Sometimes I Lie {258 pgs}

Genre: Thriller/Mystery

Publication Date: March 13, 2018

Summary:

My name is Amber Reynolds. There are three things you should know about me:
1. I’m in a coma.
2. My husband doesn’t love me anymore.
3. Sometimes I lie.

Amber wakes up in a hospital. She can’t move. She can’t speak. She can’t open her eyes. She can hear everyone around her, but they have no idea. Amber doesn’t remember what happened, but she has a suspicion her husband had something to do with it. Alternating between her paralyzed present, the week before her accident, and a series of childhood diaries from twenty years ago, this brilliant psychological thriller asks: Is something really a lie if you believe it’s the truth?

Review:

This book messed with my head bit. Okay, a lot. I read the first couple of chapters, completely confident that I could figure out the mystery before I was even halfway through, and while I’m proud to say that I was sort of right {I mean…kind of, a little…}, the rest of it came as a shock. I even tried to write my own little summary, like I do, and I couldn’t, because I realized how much I’d have to give away just to explain certain things.

This is told from different times: at Amber’s time in the hospital, the time before her accident, and glimpses from her childhood told through diary entries. In each chapter, we learn a little more about Amber and the life she leads. We learn that her husband has practically moved out of the house into the cottage outside where he can write. We learn about her job as a radio co-presenter and the boss that makes her life a living hell, until Amber decides to fight back. We learn about the kind of childhood she had, about the friends she made, about the decisions that haunt her. The threads seem different at first, but then they weave together to tell the kind of story that makes you question absolutely everything that you read.

Seriously. I had to read it twice, and I’m thinking about diving into it a third time.

Alice Feeney gives Amber the kind of voice that makes me simultaneously want to trust her and also to slap her because I know she’s lying through her teeth. But Amber is so believable while she’s laid up in the hospital. Who am I to question the story of a woman in a coma? But somewhere in the middle of the book, I got it. Amber might tell lies, but to her, their truths. Compared to others, she’s lived a charmed life. Her parents loved her, her husband Paul is a good man, and she has an adorable niece and nephew that adore her. But the bad things in her life are really bad. Like an old boyfriend who suddenly shows back up in her life, an old boyfriend who really should have been laid to rest years ago. Like a perfect sister who is wiling to do anything to maintain her perfect lifestyle. Like a few dark secrets of her own, secrets that could eat up her insides and take down those she cares about most.

This is a pretty quick read, and thank goodness for that, because you’re going to want to read it again and again. There are always new hints that you pick up, new threads that seem like nothing the first time around. Alice Feeney is impressive – her writing, her voice, her innocent way of wrecking you for life – and she’s going to be on my list of authors that I’m always going to pick up.

Quick sidenote: Now that I’m back, I’m back for good. I’m going to post at least once a week, if not twice. I have a ton of books on my NetGalley shelf, and I’ve walked into a couple of surprises when I visit Barnes and Noble. {My new job is within walking distance…which means I go there pretty much everyday. Someone save my wallet.} I’m getting back into the routine, so bear with me here, okay?

Thank you. You’re all the best.

The Beauty That Remains by Ashley Woodfolk

Happy Monday, right? Right?? If not, I’m here to make it better with The Beauty That Remains.

 

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Title: The Beauty That Remains {352 pgs.}

Genre: YA

Publication Date: March 6, 2018

Summary:

Music brought Autumn, Shay, and Logan together. Death wants to tear them apart.

Autumn always knew exactly who she was—a talented artist and a loyal friend. Shay was defined by two things: her bond with her twin sister, Sasha, and her love of music. And Logan always turned to writing love songs when his love life was a little less than perfect.

But when tragedy strikes each of them, somehow music is no longer enough. Now Logan can’t stop watching vlogs of his dead ex-boyfriend. Shay is a music blogger struggling to keep it together. And Autumn sends messages that she knows can never be answered.

Despite the odds, one band’s music will reunite them and prove that after grief, beauty thrives in the people left behind.

Review:

First, that cover. That. Cover. It’s so ridiculously beautiful and perfect for this story.  Since I was lucky enough to receive my ARC from NetGalley, I haven’t yet held this gorgeousness in my hands, so I’m imagining that it’s going to make me gasp.

Second, this is one of those intricately delicate stories with many characters that are all somehow connected. I honestly had to make a chart to keep everyone straight, and by the end of the novel, my notebook page was a mess of lines and descriptions, but I loved seeing how everyone was related. Yes, it is all through music, but it’s also through tragedy and what remains after that.

Autumn and Tavia were best friends until the end, the kind of friends where one could say opposites definitely attract. Autumn seemed content being in Tavia’s shadow, because Tavia seemed to make sure that Autumn never stayed there for long. But after Tavia dies unexpectedly, Autumn has to deal with the guilt that weighs her down, the guilt that takes over her life and derails a budding relationship with Dante, Tavia’s brother.

Shay lost her best friend and her twin sister, Sasha. Shay had to watch her sister deteroriate and know that there was nothing she could do about it. After her sister’s death, Shay picks up her life and tries to move on…but she doesn’t try very hard. She’s stuck in a life that she doesn’t understand, and she doesn’t seem to want to understand it.

Logan is still dealing with the loss of his ex-boyfriend Bram, and it’s affecting the way he writes music and also with the way he deals with his guilt. Bram was a vlogger, so Logan can watch him any time he wants, even though he knows it’s not helping. When Yara, the girl that Bram left Logan for, steps into Logan’s life, Logan is the last person to believe that he could become friends with his ex-boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend.

Like I said, there’s a lot of characters. There’s even more that I didn’t name in this review, but they’re just as important. They all bring their own flavor to Autumn, Shay, and Logan’s stories. They make everything more real, creating a 3D world within the pages. Not only are these characters there for the three narrators, but they also have their own problems and trials that they’re going through, because a tragedy is like a ripple in a pond: no one in the water is left unaffected.

The Beauty That Remains is exactly as the title promises: there is beauty in living life after tragedy. The three narrators travel their own paths to find this out, and it’s interesting to watch them slowly meander their way toward each other. They are hurt, they are angry, and they don’t know how to deal with these feelings that pound in their chest day after day. But they know that they want to feel something else, that they need to because life cannot be like this.

You’re going to cry. You’re going to cry A LOT. I was beginning to blubber in the first chapter, so take that for what it’s worth. But you’re also going to laugh. You’re going to smile. A LOT A LOT. Ashley Woodfolk wrote a beautifully sweet story about young people going through the kind of tragedy that many of us go through in our lives, but the way they deal with their respective tragedies is brave and wonderful. I can’t imagine being as strong as these characters at my age, let alone at sixteen or seventeen.

The Beauty That Remains is perfect. Just literally perfect. Be like me and grab it before work, even though you’re not supposed to buy any more books because you’re moving and you don’t have any bookshelves set up and you’ll have nowhere to put new books.

It’s never stopped me before.

By the Book by Julia Sonneborn

Wow, it’s been quiet from this part of the internet, right? Sorry about that. Starting a new job {!!!!} and finding a new home {not so !!!!}, my life has been…messy. It hasn’t been fun. But I’ve managed to make it through a couple of books, so the posts here shouldn’t dry up again. Better planning and working on weekends wouldn’t be too bad, either.

So I decided that today might be a good day to review a book about a character who might have a messier life than me. Also, it’s a retelling of Persuasion, and Jane Austen always makes me feel better.

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Title: By The Book {384 pgs.}

Genre: General Fiction

Publication Date: February 6, 2018

Summary:

Anne Corey is about to get schooled.

An English professor in California, she’s determined to score a position on the coveted tenure track at her college. All she’s got to do is get a book deal, snag a promotion, and boom! She’s in. But then Adam Martinez—her first love and ex-fiancé—shows up as the college’s new president.

Anne should be able to keep herself distracted. After all, she’s got a book to write, an aging father to take care of, and a new romance developing with the college’s insanely hot writer-in-residence. But no matter where she turns, there’s Adam, as smart and sexy as ever. As the school year advances and her long-buried feelings begin to resurface, Anne begins to wonder whether she just might get a second chance at love.

Persuasion had always been that one Jane Austen book that I could never remember liking. When I went through her books, I would always shake my head at Persuasion, but I never knew why. When I found out about this book, I reread Persuasion and realized that I love it. But now there was a problem: I loved the original so much, and that meant that I probably wouldn’t like any imitators.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I found that I adored By the Book.

Poor Anne. She had to go to college with her heart in the right place, and that means she decided to get an English degree rather than something that might be worth something some day {oh, how I have heard this before}. But now, she scored a professor position at small Southern California school that might be better situated in a lovely hamlet in England {seriously, I went to college where this fictional college is supposed to be, and…let’s just say that we didn’t have the same experience}. Anne is determined not to let anything distract her from getting the tenured position of her dreams…not even Adam Martinez, the college’s new president and her former soon-to-be betrothed.

But that’s not all that she has on her plate. Anne has to deal with her overbearing sister who thinks that Anne is wasting her time on her dream. Then there’s her father, on the brink of death and still ornery over everything. Anne thinks that maybe Richard Chasen, New York Times bestselling author and the writer-in-residence at her college, will take her mind off of the stress of her daily life.

If you’ve ever read any Jane Austen, then you know that maybe putting your trust in a handsome, charming newcomer is not the best idea.

I feel like I’ve been reading some pretty heavy books, where everyone is plunging into a dark and terrible situation, even if they don’t know it. So this was a welcome reprieve! Anne is sweet, smart, determined, and sometimes horribly naïve, so she makes the perfect Austen heroine. You cheer for her at the same moment you’re yelling at her to see through certain people’s very thin lies. But even more Austen than Anne is her best friend, fellow professor Larry. He gives his advice freely, trying to direct Anne’s life the best he can, but he, like many of the Lady Russell’s and Bennet sisters, is not one to offer advice. Larry is in his own dangerous relationship with a married movie star.

Anne is in so much trouble.

By the Book is one of those quick, wonderful reads that you’ll want to curl up with on a rainy day. Preferably with a cup of tea. And, if the people around you are as cool as the people around me, trying your hand at a British accent. Even though this is set in California, but that doesn’t matter. Just don’t try the accent outside of the house. No matter how good you think it is…it’s not. Really.

But definitely give this book a try, because Julia Sonneborn has taken Persuasion and updated it into a lovely story that will have you laughing, cringing, and begging for Anne to just get something good in her life. She has so many setbacks in her year of chasing what she wants, and by the end of the book, you want to give her whatever you can. Maybe you’ll see a little of yourself in Anne, because she is completely relatable. If so, I’ll leave you with this: read this book, chase your dreams, and beware the handsome, charming newcomer that will undoubtedly come into your life.

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

Oh my. Oh my oh my oh my. To say that this book has been one of my most anticipated reads for 2018 would be an understatement. To say that I’m SO EXCITED to review this book today would be a VAST UNDERSTATEMENT. But here it is, my gushing ranting to add to everyone else’s gushing ranting.

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Title: The Belles (The Belles #1) {448 pgs.}

Genre: YA Fantasy

Publication Date: February 6, 2018

Summary:

Camellia Beauregard is a Belle. In the opulent world of Orléans, Belles are revered, for they control Beauty, and Beauty is a commodity coveted above all else. In Orléans, the people are born gray, they are born damned, and only with the help of a Belle and her talents can they transform and be made beautiful.

But it’s not enough for Camellia to be just a Belle. She wants to be the favorite—the Belle chosen by the Queen of Orléans to live in the royal palace, to tend to the royal family and their court, to be recognized as the most talented Belle in the land. But once Camellia and her Belle sisters arrive at court, it becomes clear that being the favorite is not everything she always dreamed it would be. Behind the gilded palace walls live dark secrets, and Camellia soon learns that the very essence of her existence is a lie—that her powers are far greater, and could be more dangerous, than she ever imagined. And when the queen asks Camellia to risk her own life and help the ailing princess by using Belle powers in unintended ways, Camellia now faces an impossible decision.

With the future of Orléans and its people at stake, Camellia must decide—save herself and her sisters and the way of the Belles—or resuscitate the princess, risk her own life, and change the ways of her world forever.

Review:

Camellia Beauregard is a Belle, the only kind of human that is born full of color and the only kind of human that can give the people Orléans the kind of beauty only money can buy. Not content only being a Belle, Camellia wants to be the favorite of the queen and the impetuous Princess Sophia. After a false start, Camellia is sent to the palace in order to fulfill the whims of the rich, and those darker wishes of the princess. Inside the palace isn’t all beauty and happiness, and Camellia comes to find that the Belles might not be who she thought they were. Camellia must dodge persistent suitors {oh, dear Auguste}, dangerous rumors, and secrets that could destroy all she knows, all in order to do her job. Risking her own life, as well as the lives of her sisters, she takes on the daunting task of helping the queen bring back to life the oldest princess, a woman in a deep sleep and with no cure in sight.

First off, let’s scream over that cover some more. My GOD, I couldn’t keep my eyes off that cover when I first received the book in the mail. It’s even more gorgeous that the pictures I’ve seen all over the internet. It’s soft and pastel and the model is absolutely stunning {I don’t know who she is, and that might be better for both me and her} and it wraps you in warm thoughts before you dive into the dark world that waits for you inside the pages. You’ll want to frame it, trust me.

Second, the writing. Oh my god, the writing. It was luxurious and sumptuous, like slipping on a silk robe after taking a bath in rose petals. It made me simultaneously so jealous and so motivated, and I wanted to write a book while reading. There was so much world building, and by the end of the book, I got why Dhonielle Clayton took all that time to lay out the land. There’s also a handy-dandy map of Orléans, and I did refer back to it a time or two or four hundred. Dhonielle Clayton also made me really hungry with all of the food-related descriptions of the Belles and the people and the way the Belles create their beauty. Everything and everyone was “brown sugar” or “honey peach” or “marshmallow crème.” They were the perfect descriptions, but reading The Belles also made me want to eat s’mores wrapped in sugar and honey and dunked in milk, and really, I was here for it.

Third, the plot. Honestly, I thought that the plot would be about a young girl in a palace, giving people the beauty they wanted, and then everyone learning a very valuable lesson about beauty not being everything. I’m an idiot {and terribly clichéd, it seems}. I mean, yes, the whole book is telling the reader that beauty comes at a price and that being happy with who you are is a wonderful thing, but it also shows the dark side to wanting a certain kind of beauty. We see it everyday: how far people will go to be “perfect,” to attain the kind of beauty that they see in movies and makeup ads and magazine pages. But we are not born without color, we are not cursed by gods. The people of Orléans need beauty, or so they think, and if they don’t get exactly what they want, then someone has to suffer.

Princess Sophia is a prime example of this. Her older sister had always been the “naturally” beautiful one, but now it’s Sophia’s time to shine. She wants something new, something amazing, and she’ll do anything to get the kind of look that will make people talk for years. Sophia might also be a little unhinged. Just a smidge. But she’ll be the next queen, unless her sister makes a miraculous recovery, and so she can be as unhinged as she wants.

I want to stand on my roof and scream about this book. The Belles is one of the most talked about books of 2018, and there is definitely a reason for that. It’s wonderfully different and new and bright and shiny, and I can’t wait until I can read it again. It’s one of those books where I NEED to know what happens next {I read it in a weekend because I refused to go anywhere until it was done}, and it’s killing me inside.

If you haven’t already pre-ordered The Belles, what are you still doing here? Go pre-order it now! You do not want to miss out on this one.

You Will Be Mine by Natasha Preston

You know those days when life just springs {HUGE} things on you? Yeah, that was my day yesterday, but I still managed to get some reading done {and that’s an exciting post in the near future!} and not lose my head completely, so I call it a win. That’s why I figured You Will Be Mine would be the perfect book to showcase someone having a really, really, REALLY bad time.

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Title: You Will Be Mine {304 pgs.}

Genre: YA Thriller

Publication Date: February 6, 2018

Summary:

ROSES ARE RED
VIOLETS ARE BLUE
WATCH YOUR BACK
I’M COMING FOR YOU

Lylah and her friends can’t wait to spend a night out together. Partying is the perfect way to let loose from the stress of life and school, and Lylah hopes that hitting the dance floor with Chace, her best friend, will bring them closer together. She’s been crushing on him since they met. If only he thought of her the same way…

The girls are touching up their makeup and the guys are sliding on their coats when the doorbell rings. No one is there. An envelope sits on the doormat. It’s an anonymous note addressed to their friend Sonny. A secret admirer? Maybe. They all laugh it off.

Except Sonny never comes home. And a new note arrives:

YOUR TURN

Review

College students Lylah, Sienna, Charlotte, Sonny, Isaac, and Chace only want to break loose and have a fun night at the beginning of the Valentine’s season {oh yes, that’s a thing around here}. Before leaving their house, Sonny, the lothario, receives a sinister note, and they toss it over their shoulders, because trying to figure out which scorned girl wrote it would take them all night.

But when Sonny doesn’t come home the next day, Lylah worries. And the notes don’t stop once they find do finally find Sonny. Having lost her parents only a few years earlier, Lylah is the most adamant in wanting to find the anonymous note leaver and move on her with her life. But life isn’t as simple as that, and a killer is on the loose, hunting Lylah and her friends in a twisted game of cat and mouse.

Lylah really only wanted to worry about her massive crush on Chace and the fact that her overbearing brother Riley is pressuring her to come home for the anniversary of her parents’ death. She wants to be a normal college student, not someone having to constantly look over her shoulder for someone with a large knife.

I’ve read a couple of other books by Natasha Preston, and it’s clear that she really likes to keep her readers on their toes. Her books remind me a lot of R.L. Stine’s Fear Street books, with a scrappy heroine and her friends trying to evade a crazed killer whose motive is strange, at best. In You Will Be Mine, the entire group of friends points to former roommate Jake, a boy who left school a few months after being rejected by Lylah. That apparently equates to becoming a vindictive serial killer in their minds {how Lylah doesn’t have a huge head after all this, I don’t know}. It’s honestly a little troubling how quickly Lylah’s friends fall into the cobbled together idea that the killer is Jake. Then his family comes to clear his name – even though Jake is missing and has been a little weird the last few months – and things get even more muddied.

You Will Be Mine is a fun thriller that keeps you hurtling toward the end to figure out who the killer really is. But that doesn’t mean it’s not without faults. Some parts feel rushed, and Lylah is kind of a big worrier. Obviously, she should be, but she does a lot of yelling and crying and freaking out. It’s not helpful, Lylah, let me tell you. Her friends are trying not to freak out that people are dying around them, that they have police tailing their every move, that their entire school is talking about them, and Lylah running around playing detective is not what they need. I spent most of the book sighing and asking her why she is determined to make this harder for the detectives.

But then I guess it wouldn’t be a very interesting story if the main character sat on her bed patiently and waited for the detectives to solve the case, would it?

If you’re looking for a quick YA thriller and are also a fan of R.L. Stine and Cyn Balog, I’d pick You Will Be Mine. Valentine’s is coming up, and if you’re not into that holiday {really, though, we’re not all Kirsten Cohen}, this is definitely the book that you want to grab.

#tbt Scythe by Neal Shusterman

Oh my gosh, is anyone else very, very excited that it’s Thursday? Once we get through today, then it’s Friday and then it’s the weekend! I’d really like one of those, thanks.

Until then, this #tbt post features one of my absolute favorite books of 2017, Scythe. I really just want to gush about it since the second book in this series, Thunderhead, should be on my doorstep in a matter of hours.

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Title: Scythe {435 pgs.}

Publication Date: November 22, 2016

Genre: YA Fantasy

Summary:

A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery. Humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control.

Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe—a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own.

Review:

So, this book fell into my lap when one of my favorite authors, Maggie Stiefvater, tweeted about it. She can really do no wrong when suggesting new reads, so I jumped on Scythe. I’m so glad that I did.

Citra Terranova and Rowan Damisch live in the kind of utopian society that most people believe they want: a community free of all diseases, wars, misery, anything that could make life difficult. You want to jump off a building? No worries, because this society has a cure for that. “The Thunderhead,” a combination of nanites and medical measures, takes care of all the people it silently lords over.

But this means the population runs free, ballooning into incredible numbers since death isn’t on the table anymore. That’s where the Scythes come in, people tasked with the huge assignment of killing certain people in order to keep the population in check. The Scythes are not mere killing machines, however: they follow a strict code of commandments, have a quota that they must fill each year, cannot have families, cannot own any possessions, and they cannot glean {kill} any other Scythe. That doesn’t mean that a Scythe can’t self-glean, though.

They also take on apprentices, like Scythe Faraday, a special sort of Scythe who does things his own way. He is kind and compassionate, a very different breed than the politically ruthless scythes that Citra and Rowan come into contact with throughout the story.

The two main narrators are beautifully written, meant to compliment each other even when they’re being forced to compete against one another. While Citra is an overachiever, the kind of girl who is constantly proving herself, Rowan is as compassionate as he is ignored by his own family. They both have their own reasons for wanting a job that neither of them signed up for, but the real reason for adoring these two is that neither of them are willing to bend their morals for the Scythedom. While there is an undercurrent of romance, Rowan and Citra are intent on becoming the best they can be, while changing the world that they’ve always known. They understand the bigger picture here, and the electricity between them isn’t going to stop them.

If we’re being honest here, the YA dystopian genre has gotten really…old. I felt like I’ve read so much of it that I was wishing myself into these dystopian societies so I could escape the story. But Scythe was different, and I can’t put my finger on why exactly. Each character had their own voice, and that voice was shaped by the society they had grown up in. I guess it all felt real, well, as real as something like this can feel. Citra and Rowan could be any kid that I went to school with, and their struggles, while on a larger scale than most, were relatable. Striving for perfection? Wanting to be noticed by someone, anyone?

Well, I think we all understand those things.

Like I said before, this was one of my favorite books of the last year. I look over at it on my bookshelf and get these butterflies in my tummy, the kind of book hangover that lasts for months. Let’s just say that I’m going to try not to attack the delivery person later today, but I make no promises.

The English Wife by Lauren Willig

Oh, Tuesday. You’re not Monday, but you’re almost as bad because sometimes I think you’re Monday. That’s why I’ve decided to bring some sunshine into everyone’s lives {literally right now} with The English Wife.

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Title: The English Wife {384 pgs.}

Publication Date: January 9, 2018

Genre: Historical fiction/Mystery

Summary:

Annabelle and Bayard Van Duyvil live a charmed life: he’s the scion of an old Knickerbocker family, she grew up in a Tudor manor in England, they had a whirlwind romance in London, they have three year old twins on whom they dote, and he’s recreated her family home on the banks of the Hudson and renamed it Illyria. Yes, there are rumors that she’s having an affair with the architect, but rumors are rumors and people will gossip. But then Bayard is found dead with a knife in his chest on the night of their Twelfth Night Ball, Annabelle goes missing, presumed drowned, and the papers go mad. Bay’s sister, Janie, forms an unlikely alliance with a reporter to uncover the truth, convinced that Bay would never have killed his wife, that it must be a third party, but the more she learns about her brother and his wife, the more everything she thought she knew about them starts to unravel. Who were her brother and his wife, really? And why did her brother die with the name George on his lips?

Review:

If we’re being honest here, this book took a little while getting into. I kept putting my Kindle down and doing other things, even cleaning, before I would pick it back up again, because I knew I had to finish it. The first couple of chapters are introductions, and I absolutely hated Anne, the main character’s cousin, so it took me forever to power through her to get to the real meat of the story. Once I did, though, everything took off {I literally read the last half in a night because I needed to know what the heck was going on with this family} and I’m really glad that I didn’t abandon this book.

The English Wife is told in both the present and the past, with Janie and Annabelle as narrators. In Annabelle’s time, she tells us the story of her past life and how she met Bay, as well as their lives after their marriage and the secrets surrounding her husband that are revealed at rather inopportune times. When Janie takes over, the grand ball is over, Bay is dead, Annabelle is missing, and Janie knows that she must find the truth of what happened or else her niece and nephew will have their mother branded a murderess. She joins up with a newspaper reporter, a one Mr. Burke, in order to find justice for Bay, but not everyone is as they seem, not even Janie.

Look, I’m a sucker for Edith Wharton-era novels. I’ve read them all – most of them several thousand times – and I’ve always been on the lookout for the kind of novel that would transport me back to that time, with a certain kind of character, with a certain kind of atmosphere {not specific at all, right?}. The English Wife has it all: rich people who need a good slap, a spunky girl who defies societal standards, and secrets that need to be laid bare in order for everyone to begin living again. While some secrets were more obvious that others, Lauren Willig did a fantastic job at leading you down one path only to shove you off it once you thought you had your footing. I love these kinds of mysteries, the ones where I get cockier the more I read and then I’m slapped right down because I’m wrong, just so so wrong. In this case, being wrong was so much fun, since Bay constantly surprised me and Annabelle’s reactions were not what I expected IN THE LEAST, even though they really shouldn’t have.

If you’re looking for historical fiction that is also a mystery and a love story, then The English Wife is definitely for you. Don’t worry if you’re struggling with the introductions, because it gets infinitely better. But Anne isn’t cast out of the family and forced to live on an ice floe in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, sorry. That’s the only complaint I have.

Between the Blade and the Heart by Amanda Hocking

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Happy New Year to all you wonderful book people out there! It’s been a long time away from this blog, and I’m so glad that I’m back today with a book that refuses to get out of my head {as if I wanted it out anyway}.

 

Cover Between the Blade and the Heart

Title: Between the Blade and the Heart {Valkyrie #1} {319 pgs.}

Genre: YA fantasy

Publication Date: January 2, 2018

Summary:

When the fate of the world is at stake
Loyalties will be tested

Game of Thrones meets Blade Runner in this commanding new YA fantasy inspired by Norse Mythology from New York Times bestselling author Amanda Hocking.

As one of Odin’s Valkyries, Malin’s greatest responsibility is to slay immortals and return them to the underworld. But when she unearths a secret that could unravel the balance of all she knows, Malin along with her best friend and her ex-girlfriend must decide where their loyalties lie. And if helping the blue-eyed boy Asher enact his revenge is worth the risk—to the world and her heart.

 

AUTHOR BIO:

Amanda Hocking NEW--credit Mariah Paaverud with Chimera Photography

Amanda Hocking is the author of over twenty young adult novels, including the New York Times bestselling Trylle Trilogy and Kanin Chronicles. Her love of pop culture and all things paranormal influence her writing. She spends her time in Minnesota, taking care of her menagerie of pets and working on her next book.

 

Buy Links:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Books-a-Million

IndieBound

Powells

 

Social Links:

Author Website: http://www.worldofamandahocking.com/

Twitter: @Amanda_Hocking

Facebook: @AmandaHockingFans

Author Blog

I feel that I read a lot of book in 2017 that dealt with some kind of mythology, but Between the Blade and the Heart was different. The people that populated this strange new world were somehow more real than most characters set in the here and now. Malin may be a Valkyrie, but she’s also a young woman trying to figure out her life. She juggles an ex-girlfriend who still loves her, a mysterious young man with revenge in his heart, a best friend who only wants Malin to be happy, and a mother who seems to be better equipped dealing with only herself. To top it all off, Malin also has her Valkyrie duties, returning certain creatures to the underworld. Now she has to deal with a rogue immortal, hell-bent on wreaking havoc and destroying as many lives as possible.

Not only was the writing beautiful, but each character felt so full and real. Even the ones that maybe could have been thrown in a dumpster for awhile {cough, Sloane, cough} felt like someone you’ve come across in your life.

The excitement also kept building and building until I felt like I was going to scream. Malin and her friends have stumbled into something messy, to say the least, and the strange creatures that they come across in almost every chapter leads to more pressure and mystery. It’s wonderfully crafted and keeps you reading until the very end, and then it just leaves you wanting more.

Don’t believe me? Let the book speak for itself:

 

ONE

The air reeked of fermented fish and rotten fruit, thanks to the overflowing dumpster from the restaurant behind us. The polluted alley felt narrow and claustrophobic, sandwiched between skyscrapers.

In the city, it was never quiet or peaceful, even at three in the morning. There were more than thirty million humans and supernatural beings coexisting, living on top of each other. It was the only life I’d ever really known, but the noise of the congestion grated on me tonight.

My eyes were locked on the flickering neon lights of the gambling parlor across the street. The u in Shibuya had gone out, so the sign flashed SHIB YA at me.

The sword sheathed at my side felt heavy, and my body felt restless and electric. I couldn’t keep from fidgeting and cracked my knuckles.

“He’ll be here soon,” my mother, Marlow, assured me. She leaned back against the brick wall beside me, casually eating large jackfruit seeds from a brown paper sack. Always bring a snack on a stakeout was one of her first lessons, but I was far too nervous and excited to eat.

The thick cowl of her frayed black sweater had been pulled up like a hood, covering her cropped blond hair from the icy mist that fell on us. Her tall leather boots only went to her calf, thanks to her long legs. Her style tended to be monochromatic—black on black on black—aside from the shock of dark red lipstick.

My mother was only a few years shy of her fiftieth birthday, with almost thirty years of experience working as a Valkyrie, and she was still as strong and vital as ever. On her hip, her sword Mördare glowed a dull red through its sheath.

The sword of the Valkyries was one that appeared as if it had been broken in half—its blade only a foot long before stopping at a sharp angle. Mördare’s blade was several thousand years old, forged in fires to look like red glass that would glow when the time was nigh.

My sword was called Sigrún, a present on my eighteenth birthday from Marlow. It was a bit shorter than Mördare, with a thicker blade, so it appeared stubby and fat. The handle was black utilitarian, a replacement that my mom had had custom-­made from an army supply store, to match her own.

The ancient blade appeared almost black, but as it grew closer to its target, it would glow a vibrant purple. For the past hour that we’d been waiting on our stakeout, Sigrún had been glowing dully on my hip.

The mist grew heavier, soaking my long black hair. I kept the left side of my head shaved, parting my hair over to the right, and my scalp should’ve been freezing from the cold, but I didn’t feel it. I didn’t feel anything.

It had begun—the instinct of the Valkyrie, pushing aside my humanity to become a weapon. When the Valkyrie in me took over, I was little more than a scythe for the Grim Reaper of the gods.

“He’s coming,” Marlow said behind me, but I already knew.

The world fell into hyperfocus, and I could see every droplet of rain as it splashed toward the ground. Every sound echoed through me, from the bird flapping its wings a block away, to the club door as it groaned open.

Eleazar Bélanger stumbled out, his heavy feet clomping in the puddles. He was chubby and short, barely over four feet tall, and he would’ve appeared to be an average middle-­aged man if it wasn’t for the two knobby horns that stuck out on either side of his forehead. Graying tufts of black hair stuck out from under a bright red cap, and as he walked ahead, he had a noticeable limp favoring his right leg.

He was a Trasgu, a troublemaking goblin, and his appearance belied the strength and cunning that lurked within him. He was over three hundred years old, and today would be the day he died.

I waited in the shadows of the alley for him to cross the street. A coughing fit caused him to double over, and he braced himself against the brick wall.

I approached him quietly—this all went easier when they didn’t have time to prepare. He took off his hat to use it to wipe the snot from his nose, and when he looked up at me, his green eyes flashed with understanding.

“It’s you,” Eleazar said in a weak, craggy voice. We’d never met, and I doubt he’d ever seen me before, but he recognized me, the way they all did when their time was up.

“Eleazar Bélanger, you have been chosen to die,” I said, reciting my script, the words automatic and cold on my lips. “It is my duty to return you to the darkness from whence you came.”

“No, wait!” He held up his pudgy hands at me. “I have money. I can pay you. We can work this out.”

“This is not my decision to make,” I said as I pulled the sword from my sheath.

His eyes widened as he realized I couldn’t be bargained with. For a moment I thought he might just accept his fate, but they rarely did. He bowed his head and ran at me like a goat. He was stronger than he looked and caused me to stumble back a step, but he didn’t have anywhere to go.

My mother stood blocking the mouth of the alley, in case I needed her. Eleazar tried to run toward the other end, but his leg slowed him, and I easily overtook him. Using the handle of my sword, I cracked him on the back of the skull, and he fell to the ground on his knees.

Sigrún glowed brightly, with light shining out from it and causing the air to glow purple around us. Eleazar mumbled a prayer to the Vanir gods. I held the sword with both hands, and I struck it across his neck, decapitating him.

And then, finally, the electricity that had filled my body, making my muscles quiver and my bones ache, left me, and I breathed in deeply. The corpse of an immortal goblin lay in a puddle at my feet, and I felt nothing but relief.

“It was a good return,” my mother said, and put her hand on my shoulder. “You did well, Malin.”

I mean, come on. The first chapter caught my interest and I spent most of the night furiously reading to the last chapter so I could figure out what happened to everyone. Best sleepless night ever.

I’ve reviewed other books by Amanda Hocking, and that’s not only because she writes compelling and beautiful stories, but also because she’s pretty awesome. She took some time to answer some fan questions {always a plus in my book}.

 

Q&A with Amanda Hocking

Q: What or who was the inspiration behind Between the Blade and the Heart?

A: I have already written several books inspired by Scandinavian folklore, and I was always fascinated by Valkyries. But because I had already done in Scandinavian fantasy, I wanted to come at this one from a different angle. I imagined the Valkyries helping to police a gritty, diverse, cyberpunk metropolis, in a world filled with not just Norse figures but from many mythologies.

 

Q: What are the life lessons that you want readers to glean from your book?

A: That love is a strength, not a weakness.

 

Q: If you were given the chance to go on a date with one of your characters, who would you choose and what would you do together?

A: Oona. She doesn’t swing that way, but since I’m married anyway, it would be a friendship date. I think it would be fun to go to an apothecary with her and have her show me around the magic. Or maybe just veg out and watch bad movies.

 

Q: Would the essence of your novel change if the main protagonist were male?

A: Yes, it would be changed dramatically. For one, Valkyries are women. But I also think the book explores the relationships between mothers and daughters, and friendships between young women.

 

Q: What is your definition of true love in YA literature?

A: There has to be passion and desire – not necessarily anything physical, but so much of young love is about yearning. But I also think that true love is based on mutual respect and selflessness.

 

Q: What advice would you give to someone who wanted to be an author/start writing?

A: My biggest piece of advice is to just write. It’s so easy to get caught up in self-doubt or procrastination. There are lot of great books and blogs about the art of writing, but the most important thing is really to just do it. The best way to get better at writing is by doing it.

 

Q: What’s one book you would have no trouble rereading for the rest of your life?

A: It would be a toss up between Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli and Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut. I’ve read both of those books a dozen times already, at least, and I never get sick of them.

 

Q: How did you name your characters? Are they based on people you know in real life?

A: It’s combination of names I like and taking inspiration from the world itself. With Between the Blade and the Heart, the names were inspired both by the mythology they come from – many Valkyries have Norse names like Malin, Teodora, and Freya, for example – and the futuristic setting of the book, so I wanted names that seemed a bit cooler and just slightly different than the ones we use now.

 

Q: Alright, Amanda, I know you’re a movie buff. What are some movies your characters would pick as their all-time favorites?

A: That’s a tough one. Malin – The Crow, Oona – Pan’s Labyrinth, Quinn – Wonder Woman, Asher – Inception, and Marlow – Twelve Monkeys.

 

Q: Which mythological character is the most like you?

A: Demeter, because she’s pretty dramatic – she basically kills all the plants in the world when her daughter goes missing – but she’s also determined, and will stop at nothing to protect those she cares about.

 

Q: Who is your favorite character in this book and why?

A: Oona or Bowie. Oona because she’s so practical, supportive, and determined, and Bowie because he’s adorable.

 

Q: What is your favorite scene and why?

A: I don’t know if there is one particular scene that I loved more than the others, but I really enjoyed writing about the city that Malin lives in and all the creatures that inhabit it.

 

Q: What cities inspired the urban haven where the Valkyries live?

A: I was really obsessed with this idea of an overpopulated metropolis, and so I took a lot of inspiration from some of the biggest cities in the world, particularly Tokyo, Mexico City, Mumbai, and Manila. The city itself is actually a sort of futuristic, alternate reality of Chicago (one of my favorite cities in the world), and I wanted to incorporate that into it as well.

 

Q: What came first: The world, the mythology, or the characters?

A: I usually say the characters come first, and the world builds around it. But for this one, it really was the world that drew me into it. I knew I was writing about a young woman who was a Valkyrie, but that about all when I began building up the world and the mythology.

 

Q: I love that these characters are in college. What inspired this choice?

A: Because of the complex relationship Malin has with her mother, I knew I wanted some distance between them, so I thought putting her in college, living away from her mom, was a good way to do it. Plus, I thought it would be fun to explore the all the supernatural training that would be needed to do these specialized jobs that come up in a world where every mythological creature exists.

 

Q: What songs would you include if you were to make a soundtrack for the book?

A: This is my favorite question! I love creating soundtracks that I listen to while writing a book, and here are some of my favorite tracks from my Between the Blade and the Heart playlist: Annie Lennox – “I Put a Spell on You,” Daniel Johns – “Preach,” Halsey – “Trouble (stripped),” Meg Myers – “Sorry (EthniKids Remix),” and MYYRA – “Human Nature.”

 

Q: Was this book always planned as a series or did that develop afterwards?

A: It was always planned as a duology. I don’t want to go into too much or risk spoiling the second book, but I had this idea that one book would be above, and the other below.

 

Q: Your novels and characters are so layered. How do you stay organized while plotting/writing? Do you outline, use post-it notes, make charts, or something else?

A: All of the above! This one was the most intensive as far as research and note taking goes, and I also had maps, glossaries, and extensive lists of various mythologies. I think I ended up with thirteen pages of just Places and Things. I do a lot of typed notes, but I also do handwritten scribbles (which can sometimes be confusing to me later on when I try to figure out what they mean. I once left myself a note that just said “What are jelly beans?”) For this one, I really did have to have lots of print outs on hand that I could look to when writing.

 

Q: You’ve said that pop culture and the paranormal both influence your writing. How do these things intersect for you?

A: In a way, I think they’re both about how humans choose to interpret and define the world that surrounds us. So many mythologies come from humans trying to make sense of the seasons and the chaos of existence, and even though we’ve moved past a lot of the scientific questions, pop culture is still tackling our existence. Even when looking at shows made for kids, like Pixar, they handle a lot of difficult concepts, like what it means to love someone else, how to be a good friend, facing your fears, and overcoming loss. These are things that mythologies and stories have been going over for centuries.

 

Q: Did you choose the title first, or write the book then choose the title?

A: It depends on the book, but I will say with this one that it took a very, very long time to come up with a title. It was already written and edited, and we were still bouncing around different names.

 

A: How many more books can we expect in “Between the Blade and the Heart” series?

A: One more! From the Earth to the Shadows will be out in April 2018.

 

Q: What scene from the book are you most proud of (because of how you handled the atmosphere, characters, dialogue, etc)?

A: I don’t want to say too much or risk spoiling it, but there’s a scene near the end of the book where a confrontation leaves Malin reeling. I wrote it in an almost present tense, stream-of-consciousness way because I thought that was the best way to capture the raw intensity of her emotions.



So, as always, run out right now and grab this book. At work? Tell them you’re sick. {Don’t really do this.} But get your hands on this book as fast as possible. Really. And the fun doesn’t stop there. Go on over to my Twitter {@breemariegarcia} where you could win a paperback copy of Between the Blade and the Heart!

2017 Wrap Up

Happy December everyone! In case you forgot, I’m Bree and this is my blog dealing with all things books.

I know, the silence is my fault.

November was dedicated to NaNoWriMo, and I got a little caught up in it. November is usually my busiest month, at least, at the beginning, because of sprint cars and trying to get down 10,000 words to make sure that the story I’ve come up with is…something. This year, I was working on my second draft of a story I wrote a few years ago, and it was kind of stressful. Then, as soon as November was over {hallelujah!}, I did the most Bree thing ever: I sprained my ankle. Like, urgent care and not moving {or trying not to} for the last week sprained.

So. That’s been fun.

Now it’s almost the end of 2017 {thank god, am I right?}, and I’m trying to get everything in order for a more organized 2018. I’m lucky because in about two weeks, I get two weeks vacation, so I’m going to be using that time to work on the blog, bake cookies, make sure the cat doesn’t hate me, and taking care of my boyfriend’s sister’s dog. I also have about a thousand other things written down on my to-do list.

It’s going to be an interesting two weeks.

The blog work isn’t going to be extreme. I’m going to change some things, maybe add some things, but I’m going to try for two posts a week, and not all of the books I review are going to be new. I started in on my TBR shelf last month and this one, and there are some books that I’ve read that I’m bursting at the seams to talk about. Basically, this blog is going to get back on track by me talking about books. I started this blog for two reasons: I wanted to help myself remember the books I had read {because I really have a terrible memory once a sequel comes along} and to share my love of books with a truly terrific community of readers.

I don’t think I did really great at either of those, so 2018 is going to be different. I’ve slowly been more active on social media, I’ve been broadening my book options, and I’m trying more than ever to not be so scatter-brained and unorganized. I’ve heard bullet journals are amazing, but I get so frustrated when mine isn’t as cute as the ones I’ve seen. I’m not artistic. I’m just not. But I might try it this year. Just to see what works for me and what doesn’t.

Don’t worry, though, everyone: I’m still going to make mistakes. I’ll probably skip a blog or two here and there. I’m going to be working on a manuscript of mine on vacation, and it’s going to go well into 2018, so I’m sure that might mess with my head a little. But I’m more determined than ever to make this year great, maybe because the last year wasn’t so great {I mean, I had a swell time sometimes, but there’s always this great, big, orange death cloud hanging over my head…I wonder what it could be?}.

So, for whatever you do for the rest of this month, have a great December. Eat some cookies. Be with loved ones. Hug a cat, even if it’s not yours {just be careful}. I’ll be back here on January 2 with a fantastic book that I think everyone will love.

Happy holidays, and have a great {and safe!} New Year’s!