Catch the Sparks Within! by Alex Abaz: Chapters 21 and 22

I have received a free copy of this book in exchange for a honest review. 

Spring break, guys! So happy to have this week to work on everything. To be able to read and just have a week where I can just catch up on everything outside of school. It’s amazing!

I am here with the next two chapters of Abaz’s outstanding book. I encourage you to go check it out whenever you can. It’s an easy read, and it really opens up your mind.

Chapter 21: My Heart is Your Harbor and My Arms Your Shelter

I love the name for this chapter. I’m a sucker for metaphors.

In this week’s first chapter, Abaz starts to talk about Gypsies. Believe it not, their neglection is still happening today. In third-world countries, Gypsies are left poor and in shabby homes. I honestly never knew why exactly. I always thought they are a group people just did not like. I kind of knew that people thought they had magical powers or whatnot, but I never truly understood it all.

Abaz clears this up. People don’t like them because they are afraid of them? Because of that fear, people do not like to step out there and help these people. They are scared they will get pulled into something they cannot get out of.

But this is where the kindness of heart shows. With kindness, you go out of your way and you help those in need, no matter what their background is. No matter what they have done. No matter what other people think of them. It’s  picking up the books the bullies knocked out of nerdy kid’s arms. It’s also telling someone who has done something horrible that they can overcome it.

I’m going to quote another book real quick. This is a devotional guide that I do every week. All Things New by Kelly Minter. This is what she says…

“Kindness can mean moral goodness in action. While patience is reactive, kindness is proactive. It is often related to helpfulness, actions or words that benefit others, or having a generous spirit.”

I really love reading from authors like Abaz and Minter. They really express their thoughts on a subject. As for me, I like to soak it all in. I love to see what I connect to and what I need help on. Kindness? In some ways, yeah, I have kindness. I want to help everyone. The minute their life goes downhill, I forget everything and just want them to get better. But how far does my kindness go? I have no idea. To have kindness, I better not have lost my patience. If my patience is gone, my kindness is right on its heels.

Abaz actually mentions this in this chapter. When someone drops by to live in your house, you’re okay at first. Yay, I have people over. We’re going to have a great time. But then they are still over after a week or two. You just want your house back. You just want to be left alone. The patience and kindness are drifting away.

But you want to help. You desperately want to help. You want your arms to be their shelter. You want them to trust in your love for them. Abaz gets it. WIth kindness, you have to be willing to go all out. It’s honestly worth it in the end.

Chapter 22: “If One Day is Cummy, the Next has to be Better.” Is That Right?

This chapter actually a different turn than I thought it would. It was talking about mental illness.

When it comes to mental illness, it always makes me feel awful. Mental illness is a whole other branch in the medical field. It’s a branch that is still unsolved in most cases.

.Just like a physical disability, it affects your daily life. It makes it harder to live a normal life. You see a lot of people today, especially in my age group do I see this a lot, suffering from Anxiety or Depression. Some are not about to comprehend as easily as others. And it’s a medical part where doctors are always stumped.

So some people, they find the happiness in their daily lives even if the the last one was crummy. I’ve seen people do it. I’ve seen people making the best out of the worse and it is so inspiring.

Alex Abaz talks about the brain and how complex it is. And it really is.

“While it may be hardwired to the rest of us, it is elastic with a virtual capacity. It is known now that the brain can regenerate and if necessary can transfer a function to a different part of itself-real metamorphosis.”

It’s almost like there is no limit, not stopping the way the brain works. Constantly, our minds are reshaping ourselves to fit our experiences. These memories are forever inside of us. Abaz is correct when she says that if we lose our memories, we lose ourselves. It’s hitting that restart button. I could not imagine what it would be like for me personally to wake up one day and not know who I am, where I am.

The one show that pops in my head is Beyond, which I think comes on after my show Shadowhunters. I actually tried watching the first episode, and it’s actually pretty good. If I remember correctly, he doesn’t lose his memories, but he goes into his coma for most of his childhood, waking up when he’s like seventeen. And knows his parents and his brother, but then he doesn’t. Things have changed around him, and his mind is constantly trying to cope to things. (I really need to get caught up on that show, now that I think about it…) He’s disconnected from everyone because his mind is still progressing the lack of information.

Then you have all of these other stories that I can compare to. Like the book I am currently reading The Enemy Within by Scott Burns. He sees things no one else can. The girl Jamie can actually speak into his mind. I’d honestly be scared if the person beside me could read my mind. Like my mind is my mind, stay out of it. Anyways, he is obviously different from everyone. His mind is something that is unique from everyone else’s. A talent unlike any other.

Authors can literally do anything if given the writing prompt to use the mind. There are even more stories out there that involve the mind, how it works, what it is capable of. It’s so interesting to me.

And as Alex says in the end of this chapter….

There is magic and malice in the mind. It’s the source of our smiles and our sorrows.

 

 

 

 

 

Exclusive Interview with Andrew Maraniss!

Hi guys! Welcome to today’s special Friday interview! A few weeks ago, I went to the SE-YA Book Festival in Murfreesboro, TN, and I met some of the nicest and best authors there. I am so glad I have the chance to interview one of them today, and he is also a local author! Yay for TN authors! Andrew Maraniss is the author of Strong Inside, a biography about Perry Wallace which is in both the regular edition and the Young Readers’ Edition, which just came out this year. Go check them out!

Andrew Maraniss

1.     What is your book STRONG INSIDE about?Strong Inside

The easiest, shortest description is to say that it’s a biography of Perry Wallace, the first African American basketball player in the Southeastern Conference. But the book is about a lot more than just basketball. It’s about the civil rights movement, what it takes to be a pioneer, how a university struggled to become a more diverse and welcoming place, and how a teenager overcame tremendous obstacles to live a happy, successful life.

2.     Why do you love writing? When did you first have a love for writing, and how was it formed?

 I enjoy everything about writing – including the parts that aren’t actually writing! For my book, I spent four years doing research and interviews before I wrote the first word. I love digging through old newspaper articles and archives looking for little nuggets of information that add rich detail to the story. I have loved writing ever since I was a kid. I would create my own sports magazines when I was in middle school.

3.     Who are your favorite authors, and which ones have had an impact on you? Who has affected your writing style the most?

My father has been a journalist my whole life, and he has been writing books ever since the time I was in college, so he has had the biggest impact on me as a writer by far. He was writing for a great newspaper, The Washington Post, when I was growing up, so I had the good fortune of reading very good journalism since the time I was five years old. I enjoy narrative non-fiction the most, so authors such as Erik Larson, John Feinstein, Bob Woodward, David Halberstam, Bill Bryson, and James Swanson are my favorites. I really enjoy reading a book where I feel like I am existing right beside the characters; I’ve been placed directly in their world.

4.     What are your favorite genres to read and write? What are your favorite books?

My favorite genre to read and write is narrative non-fiction. Some of my favorite books are Son of the Morning Star, Devil in the White City, The Breaks of the Game, The Perfect Storm, and Manhunt. As far as my dad’s books go, I have loved all of them, but I will mention When Pride Still Mattered (a biography of Vince Lombardi), They Marched Into Sunlight (about Vietnam), and Rome 1960 (about the Summer Olympics). I don’t reach much fiction but I really enjoyed Stephen King’s time-travel book, 11/22/63.

5.     What do you do when you’re not writing? Is writing a part-time or full-time job?

Writing has become my full-time job. I wrote STRONG INSIDE as a side-project outside of my ‘real’ job at a public relations firm in Nashville. But now I am working on books or writing freelance articles for magazines and websites for a living. Also, because Vanderbilt University has selected the ‘adult’ version of STRONG INSIDE as the common read for their first-year students each of the last two years, I have worked on special projects for the university related to the book.

1974409_10153111065632743_6718783467156551887_o6.     How much research did you have to put into STRONG INSIDE? Have you ever had the chance to meet Perry Wallace?

I spent four years on the research for STRONG INSIDE. That included interviewing around 100 people and visiting numerous libraries and archives. I loved the research part! I interviewed Perry Wallace in person dozens of times, and also talked to him on the phone or emailed him questions. The first time I ever interviewed him was actually many, many years before I started writing the book. I actually wrote a paper about him for a history class when I was a sophomore at Vanderbilt in 1989. I didn’t start writing the book until 2006.

7.     What about Perry Wallace’s life speaks to you the most? Why did you choose him as the subject of your books?

I think Perry Wallace is the smartest, most interesting person I’ve ever come across, and his story of overcoming racism is extremely relevant today. I admire his courage tremendously. As I mentioned, his story is about a lot more than just basketball. It’s about concepts such as courage, love, hate, honesty, patience, isolation and loneliness, perseverance, reconciliation – things anyone can relate to.

8.     Why did you decide to write a Young Readers Edition along with the regular biography? What are some of their differences?

It wasn’t my idea initially to create the Young Readers version of STRONG INSIDE. I was encouraged to do it by two wonderful women – Ann Neely, who is a professor at Vanderbilt, and Ruta Sepetys, an amazing author who lives in Nashville. With their help and encouragement, I was able to present my book to Philomel (a young readers imprint at Penguin), and they really liked Perry’s story. The main difference is the length of the book. The Young Readers version is about one-fourth the length of the original, so it’s a much quicker read. I enjoyed working with the editors at Philomel to shorten the story, while also keeping the main storyline intact. This version of the book gets right to the heart of the action a lot quicker than the original, which builds up to the tension more slowly.

9.     If you could play any sport for any college or professional team, who would you choose and why? Do you play any sports as a hobby?

I grew up playing baseball, and my favorite team is the Milwaukee Brewers. So, if I could play for any team, I’d be a pitcher for the Brewers!

10. You graduated from Vanderbilt University and later worked there! Go Commodores! What are some of your favorite things or experiences from Vandy?

I was fortunate to earn a full-tuition sportswriting scholarship to Vanderbilt, which completely changed and shaped the direction of my life from that point forward. I lived in Austin, Texas in high school and had never really heard of Vanderbilt. There’s no way I would have gone to college there or moved to Nashville if not for the scholarship. My favorite building on earth is Memorial Gym, where the Commodores play basketball. It’s the same place Perry Wallace played. My wife and I got engaged the same day we saw Vanderbilt beat the No. 1 ranked team in the country there, and we also had our rehearsal dinner the night before our wedding at Memorial Gym!

11. As a biographer, what were some challenges you faced when you wrote both editions of STRONG INSIDE?Andrew Maraniss 1

I wanted my book to be taken seriously by sports fans, historians, civil rights experts, and book reviewers, but also be an entertaining read that anyone would enjoy, whether they are big sports fans or students or history buffs. So it was a challenge to balance all of that. It was also a challenge just sticking with a project for so long: eight years to create the original version, and then almost another year creating the young readers version.

12. How do you want your books to impact or change your readers? What message do you want both your younger and older audiences to get?

The biggest thing is probably empathy. I want people to put themselves in Perry Wallace’s shoes and experience what it was like to be a young, African American man encountering tremendous hatred and hostility just because of the color of his skin. He was the valedictorian of his high school. He practiced his trumpet four hours a day. He taught Sunday School. He never got in trouble. He spoke numerous foreign languages. He was a great athlete. He was kind to his sisters and parents. And yet when Vanderbilt announced they were recruiting him, people sent death threats to his home, said they would never go to another Vanderbilt game again, and harassed him on the basketball court. Every time he stepped out on the court, he was concerned he might get shot and killed. On campus, he felt very lonely and isolated. I want people to experience that, and see how wrong racism is. For those who have experienced racism themselves and had experiences similar to what Perry endured, I hope they will take some inspiration from his life, and how he overcame these challenges.

13. Have you ever had writer’s block, and if so, how do you get out of it?

My dad gave me great advice. He said he stops writing for the day already knowing what the next sentence or next paragraph will say, rather than stopping when he’s stumped. That way, the next time he gets started, he already knows what he’s going to say next. It helps keep momentum going and avoid writer’s block.

14. I am so glad I got to see you at the Southeastern Young Adult Book Festival in Murfreesboro, TN! It’s great meeting a local author! How did you like being an author there? Did you enjoy it? I know I did!

17212020_10155128500247743_5534080503796664787_oI loved the opportunity to participate in the SE-YA festival. I have spoken at numerous book festivals with adult version of my book, but this was the first time I had a chance to speak at a festival for students. It was awesome! I love meeting and speaking with young people. There is nothing better than seeing kids excited about reading and writing. I also really enjoyed the opportunity to hang out with so many amazing authors. I have found the young adult book world to be a really friendly scene full of helpful, kind, supportive people.

15. Have you written any other works? What are your current plans with your writing career?

STRONG INSIDE was my first book, but I hope to write many, many more. And I will continue to write for ESPN’s The Undefeated website. Here’s a link to the stories I have written for them so far.

16. Do you have any tips to any aspiring authors or writers?

Keep reading and writing! My parents told me whenever I was bored, read a book. And when you’re writing, don’t forget to spend time editing. Eliminate unnecessary words and clichés. Show rather than tell.

Thank you so much, Andrew, for coming onto our blog! It was fun writing your questions and reading your answers!

If you want to check out Andrew’s social media accounts, contact him, or buy his books, click the links below!

Website  |  Twitter  |  Facebook  |  Goodreads  |  YouTube  |  Bumpers

Strong Inside (Regular Edition)

Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble  |  Parnassus Books

Strong Inside Young Readers’ Edition

Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble  |  Parnassus Books

Thanks so much for reading this interview! Have a great weekend!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

 

 

Guest Post with Devorah Fox! Pros and Cons of Fantasy Writing

Hey, guys! Its Spring Break for the crew and I have had a fun couple of days. I tried to go to the our lake nearby and it started storming! I tried to get my friend to go a contemporary moment with me by standing in the middle of the park’s road and raise our hands to the blasting winds and stormy lightning, but she just ran to the car. Then I got to drive to Dairy Delight and get my a Hot Fudge Brownie Supreme. Yummm…. So today and tomorrow are my working days. Today I’m working on these posts and then later read as much as I can for reviews I will post as soon as I can. I’m excited to get my thoughts out there!

Remember my review on The Lost King by Devorah Fox ? Well, I’m so happy to post her own guest post on this very here blog!


About the Author

Devorah Fox has written for television, radio, magazines, newspapers, and the Internet. Publisher and editor of the BUMPERTOBUMPER books for commercial motor vehicle drivers, she has branched out into developing smartphone apps including the Easy CDL apps for the iPhone. Born in Brooklyn, New York, she now lives in the The Barefoot Palace in Port Aransas on the Texas Gulf Coast where she writes the “Dee-Scorveries” blog at http://devorahfox.com


The Lost King is an adventure filled story I’m sure any fantasy reader would appreciate the hard work put into it. I know I loved the story and really loved the aspects of her fantasy world.

The Lost King Summary: img_6090-1

When all you have owned, everyone you have loved and everything you have done are gone, who are you? King Robin Bewilliam awakens one morning to find himself mysteriously transformed from a beloved and respected ruler to a homeless vagabond. His quest to uncover and break the bewitching spell that plagues him and regain his kingdom sets him on a journey of adventure, romance, and self-discovery.

Devorah Fox.PNG

Fantasy Writing: Pros and Cons


Setting The Lost King, Book One of The Bewildering Adventures of KinBewilliam, in the Middle Ages was an example of heeding the Muse. Im not an avireader of stories set in that time period, although I do have a few all-time favorites such as Rebecca (Sir Walter Scott) and Stealing Heaven (Marion Meade). For the most part I read contemporary mysteries and thrillers. However, from my first imaginings, KinBewilliams story demanded to be told in a “once-upon-a-timefashion. I planned taddress traumatic life issues such as divorce and career displacement and felt that the reader would find them more accessible in a fairytale setting

History was never my best subject in school and I did not have years of study to call upon. At first I had no plans to research the Middle Ages. I was simply going tmake up a world set in a “time long ago.I was writing a scene in which King Bewilliaaka Robin takes something from his pocket and found myself wondering if they hapockets in those days. I did a little research and sure enough, they did not. They hacountless clever devices for waging war, for killing and maiming each other, but thehad yet to invent on-seam pockets. Instead, they carried their belongings in pouches and purses. I rewrote the scene

From that moment on, I couldnt write a syllable without researching it first. Did they have that? Did they say that? Did they eat that

The downside was that The Lost King and all the other King Bewilliam novels were National Novel Writing Month projects. National Novel Writing MonthNaNoWriMo, for short—is an organized marathon that challenges writers to writ50,000 words in 30 days. Thats about one-half to one-third a commercial length novel. Im not a speedy writer to begin with, and having to conduct research made it a reachallenge to meet the daily goal of 1667 written words. On occasion I would leavmyself a digital note to look this upand I would move on to the next scene. However, for the most part, I had to do the research before I could write. I couldnt just writaround it. I had days during the marathon when I didnt reach my word count goal until mid-afternoon, after which I still had hours of work to do for my day job.

The upside was that the research often inspired me. I did not know what I walooking for until I found it. That meant a lot of surfing the Internet and I washed up osome truly foreign shores where I found hidden treasures. For example, in Book Two, The Kings Ransom, I wrote myself into a corner. King Bewilliam had to find a way tescape an enemy fortress. I got him in with no plan for getting him out. Researchincastle construction turned up a solution and saved the day, not to mention the kingI have since found that the need to do research doesnt end even when Ive set stories in contemporary time. My Mystery/Thriller stories take place in the US in th1990s. I lived through those times but its long ago enough that I dont remember everdetail, especially with regard to technology. I had to look up when certain devices ansoftware first made their appearance. In some ways it was harder to research what didn’t happen than to investigate what did happen

Someday perhaps I will write a story that’s a complete invention. However my current works-in-progress that my planned stories all require research. My history teachers are probably having a good laugh.”


The Heart of Stone Guest Blog Post and Review! 

I have received a free copy of this book in exchange for a honest review. 

Logo 2014 Email

Hey, guys! I’m so excited to be bring to you The Heart of Stone by Ben Galley! He has come to me to read this very, very excellent story. I was very grateful to have the opportunity to be able to read it.

My rating? A nice 5 out of 5!

I’ll try my best to keep the spoilers out of this review, but just know there is so much that goes down in this book!

The Heart of Stone is a story of war and humanity, told from the perspective of a 400 year-old golem – Task. As a war-machine, he’s been purchased by the losing side of a civil war that has been raging in the far reaches of the Realm for almost a decade. He’s withdrawn, cold, and resentful of anything and everything human, until a waif of a stable-girl decides to prove him wrong.

Romance? Not much

Humor: I chuckled here and there

Action: EVERY SINGLE TIME YOU TURN THE PAGE

Characters? Diverse and hard not to love! (Except for Huff. Everyone should hate Huff.)

Easy to read? Eh. There are a lot of new words due to it being a new world, and there are some vocabulary that I didn’t understand. 

When I read a fantasy novel, I always find myself loving it. It’s so different because there is no room for cliques at lot of times.  You can expand so greatly, and I’ve read so many books that are so different from one another. Dystopians? They get pretty repetitve sometimes, I dare say. 

This is exactly what I got from Ben’s book The Heart of Stone. It was special in its own way. I persoanlly never read a book in a golem’s point of view.

The characters were my favorite part in all of this. I loved Task so much. He goes through so much change in this story, and it all starts with Lesky. Lesky is so adorable in my mind. She’s so strong and so full of spirit. And did I mention her heart shows Task a new light? 

Galley did so well in playing out the plot. There was never a dull moment. One minute you’d be talking to a guy, and the next thing you know he’s dead. 

I felt so many emotions. At first, I felt so angry at how people treat Task (like some animal). But then as the story progresses and you get to understand more characters, I began to change my thoughts about a lot of them. Like Alabast. At first I did not like him, but as the story went, he became one of my favorites because he was that comic relief. Yeah, he’s can be a messed up man sometimes, but he’s hilarious! (And also I kind of felt bad for him.)

I’m so happy to have this review up. I’m been so excited to tell people to read this book if they’re a hardcore fantasy fan. I was not disappointed. I can’t wait for its final release. Go check it out on March 30th! 


Guest Blog Post!


 

About the Author

Find his website here: Bengalley.com 

Ben Galley is an award-winning fantasy author from the UK. He is the author of the epic Emaneska Series, the weird-west Scarlet Star Trilogy and the brand new standalone The Heart of Stone. When he’s not dreaming up lies to tell his readers, Ben works as a self-publishing consultant, helping fellow authors to self-publish and sell their books at www.shelfhelp.info


So I asked him a question that I am honestly very curious to understand. I asked him about the diversity in characters. In a story, like I said above in my review, I look for good character development. If a story is mellow and cheap, I would probably blame it on how the characters looked at their own world. For the most part, we are retaining information through the eyes of the characters inside the book. Even in third person, in what way do the characters think that make them different from everyone else? I asked Ben how he makes his characters so diverse from one another and this was his response:

“In regards to diversity, I try to work out characters based on their desires, and that usually ends up creating different and overlapping intentions that define the character. I also use Myers Briggs personality matrix to work out traits. Other than that, it’s whatever feels right in the scene.”

Now I actually had no idea what the Myers Briggs personality matrix was, so obviously I looked it up. Quite interesting actually. I hope I will think of this in my own writing.

Basically, it’s to show your personality in the form of a four letter code. I will put the link down below so you can go check it out for yourself, because the Myers Briggs has a lot more to it than just a test.

Myers & Briggs Foundation

 

 

 

 

DOUBLE Cover Reveal: Crown of Ice & Scepter of Fire

Today I’m participating in a special double cover reveal for the first two books in the Mirror of Immortality Trilogy by Vicki L. Weavil. The all-new second edition of the first book, Crown of Ice, releases on May 9 from Snowy Wings Publishing, with the second book, Scepter of Fire, coming on May 23!

Let me tell you something: these covers are probably the prettiest ones I have seen in a while. When I first saw them, I pretty much swooned. I was like “Oh… so… pretty!” I love them a lot!

Here goes!

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What do you call…

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A fish with no eyes?

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Blind.

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Ha! Ha! Ha! I made that up!

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You’re probably not laughing…

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Fine, here is the cover!

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*Kester starts singing “Ah!!!!” like an opera singer*

Cover designed by Deranged Doctor Design

Title: Crown of Ice
Author: Vicki L. Weavil
Release Date: May 9, 2017
Publisher: Snowy Wings Publishing

Snow Queen Thyra Winther is immortal, but if she can’t reassemble a shattered enchanted mirror by her eighteenth birthday she’s doomed to spend eternity as a wraith.

Armed with magic granted by a ruthless wizard, Thyra schemes to survive with her mind and body intact. Unencumbered by kindness, she kidnaps local boy Kai Thorsen, whose mathematical skills rival her own. Two logical minds, Thyra calculates, are better than one. With time rapidly melting away she needs all the help she can steal.

A cruel lie ensnares Kai in her plan, but three missing mirror shards and Kai’s childhood friend, Gerda, present more formidable obstacles.

Thyra’s willing to do anything – venture into uncharted lands, outwit sorcerers, or battle enchanted beasts — to reconstruct the mirror, yet her most dangerous adversary lies within her. Touched by the warmth of a wolf pup’s devotion and the fire of a young man’s love, the thawing of Thyra’s frozen heart could prove her ultimate undoing.

Add Crown of Ice on Goodreads!

Cover designed by Deranged Doctor Design

Title: Scepter of Fire
Author: Vicki L. Weavil
Release Date: May 23, 2017
Publisher: Snowy Wings Publishing

She’s the ugly duckling in a family of swans. But Varna Lund is determined to live a life that matters.

Ridiculed by the young men of her village, Varna vows she’ll become the finest healer in the land. The skills she’s learned from her ancient mentor prove vital when she encounters Erik Stahl, a young soldier who deserted the battlefield to carry an injured friend to safety. Aided by her sister Gerda, she cares for the soldiers in secret.

When betrayal catapults the four young people into life on the run, Varna encounters her former mentor—now revealed as the sorcerer, Sten Rask. Seeking an enchanted mirror that offers unlimited power, Rask appears determined to seduce Varna to his side.

To protect their country, Varna and her companions form an alliance with a former Snow Queen, a scholar, and an enchantress. But when Rask tempts her with beauty and power, Varna’s heart becomes a battlefield. Caught between loyalty to her companions and a man whose kisses ignite a fire on her lips, Varna must choose—embrace her own desires, or fight for a society that’s always spurned her.

Add Scepter of Fire on Goodreads!

About the Author:

Vicki L. Weavil turned her early obsession with reading into a career as a librarian. After obtaining a B.A. in Theatre from the University of Virginia, she continued her education by receiving a Masters in Library Science and a M.A. in Liberal Studies. She is currently the Library Director for a performing and visual arts university.

An avid reader who appreciates good writing in all genres, Vicki has been known to read seven books in as many days. When not writing or reading, she likes to spend her time watching films, listening to music, gardening, or traveling. Vicki, who writes in other genres under the pennames V. E. Lemp and Victoria Gilbert, is represented by Frances Black of Literary Counsel, NY, NY. She lives in North Carolina with her husband and some very spoiled cats.

Visit Vicki online at vickilweavil.com, or on Twitter at @VickiLWeavil or Facebook at @VickiLWeavil.

The covers were so beautiful, weren’t they! Well, I got to go! See you later! 🙂

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

Revenants: The Odyssey Home by Scott Kauffman 

Hi everyone! This week is spring break so I’ll try to get a lot of reading done. In the meantime, here’s another book review. 

Disclaimer: I received a copy from the authors or an honest review. This will not effect my review. 

Goodreads summary: A grief-stricken candy-striper serving in a VA hospital following her brother’s death in Viet Nam struggles to return home an anonymous veteran of the Great War against the skullduggery of a congressman who not only controls the hospital as part of his small-town fiefdom but knows the name of her veteran. A name if revealed would end his political ambitions and his fifty-year marriage. In its retelling of Odysseus’ journey, Revenants casts a flickering candle upon the charon toll exacted not only from the families of those who fail to return home but of those who do. 

Rating: 8/10

Although I am not a big fan of Historical Fiction, I really enjoyed this book. The concept is wonderful yet heartbreaking. The character development of both Betsy and her family was well done. It was interesting to read about her working as a candy-stripper with veterans from the war and was very well written. The whole story was superb even if I had a hard time getting into the story on the first few chapters. Nevertheless, it didn’t destroy the story. Overall, I thought the plot and story were interesting and well written, the characters were well written and the book kept my attention. 

Recommend: Historical Fiction Readers

Guest Post + GIVEAWAY with Shaila Patel: Avoiding the Traps in Writing Romance

Hello! I am so glad Spring Break is here! Woot woot! I am currently a little under the weather right now, but I am so glad I have a wonderful author here on our blog today. I met Shaila Patel a couple of weeks ago at the Southeastern Young Adult Book Festival, and it was so awesome to meet her! She is one of the nicest author I’ve ever talked with, and I’ve loved our little chats. I loved her debut book Soulmated, and she is giving away an e-copy of her book along with some swag. The swag is great; I have some at home and I love them! Hope you enjoy!

Two souls. One Fate. soulmated_shailapatel_1600x2400_seriestitle

Eighteen-year-old Liam Whelan, an Irish royal empath, has been searching for his elusive soulmate. The rare union will cement his family’s standing in empath politics and afford the couple legendary powers, while also making them targets of those seeking to oust them.

Laxshmi Kapadia, an Indian-American high school student from a traditional family, faces her mother’s ultimatum: Graduate early and go to medical school, or commit to an arranged marriage.

When Liam moves next door to Laxshmi, he’s immediately and inexplicably drawn to her. In Liam, Laxshmi envisions a future with the freedom to follow her heart.

Liam’s father isn’t convinced Laxshmi is “The One” and Laxshmi’s mother won’t even let her talk to their handsome new neighbor. Will Liam and Laxshmi defy expectations and embrace a shared destiny? Or is the risk of choosing one’s own fate too great a price for the soulmated?

 

a-shailaAbout the Author

As an unabashed lover of all things happily-ever-after, Shaila Patel’s younger self would finish reading her copy of Cinderella and fling it across the room because it didn’t mention what happened next. Now she writes from her home in the Carolinas and dreams up all sorts of stories with epilogues. A member of the Romance Writers of America, she’s a pharmacist by training, a medical office manager by day, and a writer by night. Soulmated is her debut novel and the winner of the 2015 Chanticleer Book Reviews Paranormal Awards for Young Adult. She loves books, craft beer, tea, and cozy window seats—but she’ll read anywhere. You might find her sneaking in a few paragraphs at a red light or online gushing about her favorite books.

Publisher Information:Month 9 Books

Represented by: Agent Amanda Leuck of Spencerhill Associates


A Shaila

Avoiding the Traps in Writing Romance

Hi Kester! Thank you for having me here today to talk about avoiding clichés and stereotypes in writing romance.

As a romance writer and a huge fan of romance novels, I can say with certainty that there are no original tropes. A trope is a scenario or plot device, and in love stories they form the foundation on which the romance is built. Examples include the girl falling in love with her brother’s best friend (or vice versa), or the rich, spoiled hero who falls for the one girl who hates him, or even the classic love triangle where a heroine has to choose between two boyfriends.

All romances are based on a trope, yet despite the predictability, we fall in love with a particularly romance novel because it doesn’t feel like the same old story. And that’s probably because it avoided using clichés and stereotypes that usually leave us uninspired and bored. Imagine eating steamed broccoli, or steamed carrots, or steamed cauliflower every night at dinner. Sure, they’re different vegetables, but having them prepared the same way doesn’t get you excited about sitting down to dinner. The same thing can happen in writing.

So how do you avoid the blahs in writing a romance?

Start by subverting the reader’s expectations. Let’s take the example of Beauty and the Beast. Why not make the beast the heroine instead of the hero? Why not move the story into the present day? Or what about making the beast a Hollywood A-list celebrity instead of a recluse? Now you’d have a story that would spark the imagination and make you forget that you already know what it’s all about.

Once you’ve subverted the reader’s expectations of the trope being used, create characters that can’t be contained on the pages of your book. It’s inevitable that you’ll use a few clichés and stereotypes, but don’t rely on them. Instead, captivate your readers with images and characterizations that force them to spin their expectations until they’re dizzy.

Here are three ways you can do that.

First, create fresh character descriptions. By their very nature, clichés and stereotypes don’t inspire us to think. They’re like shortcuts that are overused and instantly tell us what thought, description, or idea is being conveyed. If I were to describe a character’s hair as “golden locks,” you’d know I was describing blond hair. But does it paint a picture in your mind? Not really. How about this: “hair like garlands of pale yellow primroses.” Paints a different picture, doesn’t it?

Second, develop your characters by adding depth. Create an interesting backstory and personality flaws that—again—subvert the reader’s expectations. Taking the trope I mentioned above (the rich, spoiled boy who falls for the girl who hates him), maybe his backstory is that he was poor as a child. Or maybe he’s struggling with turning his parents in for their illegal activities. Why not make him insecure to counter his confidence? Or even embarrassed by a learning disability? There’s nothing more ho-hum than a one-dimensional, perfect character. It leads writers to fall back on expected character-types that you’d find for specific romance tropes, but worse, it makes the story predictable.

Third, have the expected character-type change and grow. If the hero or heroine doesn’t, you run the risk of having flat characters that do nothing to jazz up your trope. Do you have a brooding male hero? Give him a quirky hobby like doing magic tricks. With an interesting backstory, the reader would know why the hero loves the sleight of hand involved with card tricks, and by the end of the story, it could be part of the reason he grows and changes. Do you have a shy heroine? Give her an unexpected cause to champion and allow it to be one of the reasons she transforms by the end of the story. Parallel the hero and heroine’s growth, and intersect them when you need to advance the romantic plot. The goal is to have readers cheering for the hero and heroine, both as individuals and as a couple—all so that they won’t be thinking how predictable the trope is.

Using a romance trope in the same way that it’s always been used is like an uninspiring cliché. It doesn’t create a fresh image in our minds. It isn’t engaging. And if you can’t engage a reader, they’ll likely forget what they read.

And who would want to read a book like that?


Thank you so much, Shaila, for coming onto our blog! I’m so glad to have you guest post for us!

If you want to check out Shaila’s social media pages or buy Soulmated, check out the links below!

Contact Links:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest | Goodreads

Buy Links for Soulmated:

Amazon | B&N | Book Depository | Books-a-Million| Google Play | Indiebound | Kobo


Now onto the giveaway! Woo hoo! I think you should enter this giveaway because I loved Soulmated A LOT! I mean A LOT! It was amazing! You’ll really enjoy it!

Just a few quick rules:

1) This is open to ALL International residents. For US Residents, you will get more swag than Int’l residents because of postage.

2) You must be truthful when entering!

3) You must be 18 years or older or have parental permission.

4) Winner must respond within 48 hours of me notifying him or her.

Here’s the Giveaway Link!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I wish you the best! Hope you have fun! 🙂

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

 

 

 

 

 

Soulmated by Shaila Patel

Hello! Last Saturday, I finally got to meet one of the nicest and best authors at the Southeastern Young Adult Book Festival (post to come soon)! Her name is Shaila Patel, and she is an amazing romance writer! I am so glad I got to meet her, and her debut book Soulmated just released in January! Go buy it and check it out!

Goodreads Summary: **Winner of the 2015 Chanticleer Book Reviews Paranormal Awards in YA**soulmated_shailapatel_1600x2400_seriestitle

Two souls. One Fate.

Eighteen-year-old Liam Whelan, an Irish royal empath, has been searching for his elusive soulmate. The rare union will cement his family’s standing in empath politics and afford the couple legendary powers, while also making them targets of those seeking to oust them.

Laxshmi Kapadia, an Indian-American high school student from a traditional family, faces her mother’s ultimatum: Graduate early and go to medical school, or commit to an arranged marriage.

When Liam moves next door to Laxshmi, he’s immediately and inexplicably drawn to her. In Liam, Laxshmi envisions a future with the freedom to follow her heart.

Liam’s father isn’t convinced Laxshmi is “The One” and Laxshmi’s mother won’t even let her talk to their handsome new neighbor. Will Liam and Laxshmi defy expectations and embrace a shared destiny? Or is the risk of choosing one’s own fate too great a price for the soulmated?

DISCLAIMER: I received a free electronic ARC copy of this book from the author in exchange for a review. I have also received swag from the author. These will not affect my review in any way.

Rating: 10/10 stars

Overall Thoughts: Soulmated was actually one of my most anticipated releases of 2017, and I was so excited when I got an e-ARC of it from the author! This book was really impressive for a debut author; it definitely exceeded my expectations and grabbed my attention! It’s not just a normal lovey-dovey romance, but instead, it infuses a unique relationship with an air of tension, mystery, questioning, and suspicion. This is not your average young adult romance. It is one of the best I have ever read!

Humor and Relatability: I have not laughed in a book more than this one! There is a lot of humor in what the characters do or say that both teens and adults will laugh at! I know because I’ve chuckled quite a few times. The ethnic diversity of the characters are so authentic that at times it’s funny! I could hear Liam’s Irish accent, and I loved it when Laxshmi corrected her mom’s grammar. I was going “Same!!!” Even the Irish and Indian terminology in the book is great; I had the urge to go “What’s craic?” (which is Irish for “What’s up?”) to some of my peers!

Romance: There are many reasons why the romance between the two protagonists is so unique and amazing!

1) Diversity. The author embraces each of the character’s ethnic backgrounds and portrays it so well in the book. The interracial romance breaks boundaries, yet it uses Laxshmi’s Indian heritage as an important element of this story. You just have to read to find out how it is both helped and harmed their connection.

2) Ups and Downs. The two went through many trials (not spoiling the ending). Both questioned whether it was right to pursue a relationship with the other, yet the still harbored feelings for each other. The dual-POV definitely added a layer of internal conflict that really works with this storyline. 3) Fantasy. Liam being an empath prince adds a ton of tension on the relationship. He is forced to find his “soulmate,” yet he questions whether Lucky (his nickname for Laxshmi) is the one. He at times feels dead-set that she is “the one” but at other times he doesn’t. The empath politics that surround this romance also adds a new sub-plot to it. There are some twists and surprises in store! Read it to find out what they are!

Some Details: There were, like many books I have already read, some parts where I had to think or read about what happened. I had to re-read the ending to grasp the events that were unfolding, but once I realized what was going on, I was shocked. There is a weird time-jump in the middle of the book that actually made me think the Liam at the time was an impostor (it was Liam for real by the way), but other than that, I don’t have a problem with anything!

My Review in a Nutshell: The ending definitely shocked me. I was like “What???” and “I need to read the next book!” I literally want to know what happens next! Overall, I enjoyed this book! I love it so much! Patel did not disappoint in her debut book, and I am so glad I was able to read it!

Recommendation: 100% Yes! I think you will be “soulmated” to this book! (Ha! Get it? No. Tough crowd.)

+ J.M.J.

Til next time!

~ Kester

Secrets of a Reluctant Princess Blog Tour: Guest Post by Casey Griffin –

Hello! Welcome to my tour stop for the Secrets of a Reluctant Princess Blog Tour! I know this little intro isn’t as long or personal as the others, but I’m a little bit crunched for time at the moment, but I hope you enjoy it!

soarptour

 

Secrets of a Reluctant Princess by Casey GriffinSecrets

Publication Date: March 7, 2017

Publisher:  Entangled Teen

At Beverly Hills High, you have to be ruthless to survive…

Adrianna Bottom always wanted to be liked. But this wasn’t exactly what she had in mind. Now, she’s in the spotlight…and out of her geeky comfort zone. She’ll do whatever it takes to turn the rumor mill in her favor—even if it means keeping secrets. So far, it’s working.

Wear the right clothes. Say the right things. Be seen with the right people.

Kevin, the adorable sketch artist who shares her love of all things nerd, isn’t exactly the right people. But that doesn’t stop Adrianna from crushing on him. The only way she can spend time with him is in disguise, as Princess Andy, the masked girl he’s been LARPing with. If he found out who she really was, though, he’d hate her.

The rules have been set. The teams have their players. Game on.

Link to Goodreads

Purchase Links:

Google Play | BAM | Chapters | Indies | Amazon | B&N| Kobo | TBD | iBooks

 

Link to Tour Schedule

 

Now onto the guest post!

Casey Griffin

Speaking to Teens

Maybe it’s because I never matured past high school, or because I read a lot of YA, but I’ve never had much trouble putting myself in a young adult’s shoes to write a story from their perspective. In fact, it’s fun, refreshing even, to try to see the world through the eyes of a teenager. All that youthful optimism, the world at their feet, the rest of their lives ahead of them (yet, ironically, they can’t imagine ever being as old as I am). So what do I keep in mind while writing from a young adult’s point of view?

I’ve been there

  • I was once a teenager. I won’t tell you how long ago that was, but it wasn’t too long ago that I can’t remember how monumental some things seemed, how exciting, how scary, how frustrating. And if for a moment I take away some of the boring grown up things that occupy my brain space as an adult like bills, mortgages, and my career, it’s easy to still feel some of those same things. Heck, when it comes to romance, it doesn’t matter how old you get. When you fall in love, it still feels just as exciting and important as your first crush.

For teens, everything is new

  • I’ve had years of experiences that helped me develop the social and emotional tools to deal with a variety of situations (translation: I’ve made a ton of mistakes). For a teenager, a lot of those same experiences are new. They’re discovering their own achievements (and mistakes) for the first time. Add a dash of homework, a good dousing of hormones, trap them all in the same ugly building day after day, and OMG the world is ending! But it’s also fresh and exciting. Where an adult might feel skepticism or suspicion, a teen would have a fresh take on it.

It’s not easy being a teen

  • Many adults (read “all”) think they know everything and that teens should be learning from our past mistakes and limitless wisdom. But adults forget that teens can be pretty resourceful, and we can learn a lot from them too. Young adults deal with a lot these days. Not just in their own lives, but almost on a wider scale—as in globally, thanks to social media and the Internet. After becoming a step mom to a teen myself recently, and with three nephews all around that age, it feels like being a teen is tougher now than when I was one. Maybe there are more issues to face, maybe more pressure—or maybe that’s just all the years playing with my memory.

Put yourself in their shoes

  • While the vast majority of YA authors are not YAs themselves, I think it’s important to stay in touch with the age group you’re trying to write for. If an author has teens in their extended family, it’s as easy as connecting, asking questions, finding out what they’re up to, and what’s important to them. Of course there’s always excellent YA books, TV shows, and movies. It’s all about stepping out of your adult shoes and into theirs—you guys are still wearing platforms, right? 🙂

 

Thank you so much, Casey, for your wonderful guest post! Great to have you on our blog!

 

Now onto the giveaway!

Giveaway Information: 

  • One (1) winner will receive a signed copy of Secrets of a Reluctant Princess + a Tiara!

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

About the AuthorCasey

 

Casey Griffin can often be found at comic conventions on her days off from her day job, driving 400 ton dump trucks in Northern Alberta, Canada. As a jack of all trades with a resume boasting registered nurse, English teacher, and photographer, books are her true passion. Casey is a 2012 Amazon Breakthrough Novel finalist, and is currently busy writing every moment she can.

 

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

 

Hope you enjoyed it!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

 

 

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

I read this book in three hours and I am still extremely emotional

Goodreads Summary:  The monster showed up after midnight. As they do. But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming…This monster is something different, though. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor. It wants the truth.

Rating: 11/10

I started reading this book and couldn’t put it down. It was absolutely heartbreaking. The artwork is BEAUTIFUL. The drawings are super powerful and dark and alongside the text, they give the book a sense of unease. I really loved the beautiful and poetic writing. The writing was gorgeous. However, The monster  had to be my favorite character. He is so intelligent and kind and powerful and beautiful and loving. But there is also Conor. I just wanted to hug him. I just wanted to let him know that I loved him. This was a SAD book. It deals with grief, loss, and anger in ways I’ve never read about before. This is a book that will stay with you long after you’ve read it. 

Recommend: EVERYONE NEEDS TO READ THIS BOOK.