Exclusive Guest Post with Mon D. Rea, Author of Elemental Ninjas, on “Over-genre-lized! (or Why I Genre Hop)”

Hi guys! Last week, I was in Singapore and I had an amazing time! These next few weeks, I’m going to be really busy since my family and I are going to do a bunch of traveling, so I’ll be less online that usual. But I have a few posts for you, and I hope you enjoy them! (I am also desperately trying to catch up on 8 sets of interview/discussion questions and 6 reviews, but I’ll get them done!)


About Elemental NinjasElemental Ninjas

Fight for Love. Fight for Destiny.

Born into warring clans, wind ninja Sakura and fire ninja Temujin walk paths that couldn’t be farther apart. But their separate worlds are thrown into chaos by the theft of Belshazzar’s Scroll, an ancient relic that grants its possessor the divine right to rule over all the clans. To bring back peace to their lands, they must learn to fight together against a new breed of mystical half-human, half-demon warriors.

As though proof that a blade of love can grow even in the harshest places, Temujin can’t help falling for Sakura. A ninja from the ice clan, Sasha, becomes his rival and seems to be a more suitable match for the beautiful wind ninja. Now, Sakura, Temujin, and Sasha stand in the heart of a conflict that shall decide the future of all the ninja clans.

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Mon D. Rea Header.png

Over-genre-lized! (or Why I Genre Hop)

We can’t put books in boxes.

Well, actually, we can. But I mean, we can’t put a book into a pigeonhole. You know, the same way we can’t put people into a pigeonhole.

Take Star Wars for example. (I know it’s mainly a film series but bear with me.) There’s an argument for Star Wars actually being fantasy instead of sci-fi because it revolves around a hero’s quest. And George Lucas drew inspiration from Japanese director Akira Kurosawa’s samurai films. Just compare an image of Darth Vader’s helmet with the kabuto of samurai Date Masamune and you’ll see the resemblance:

Samurai

The samurais were medieval warriors in ancient Japan. They wielded single-edged curved swords called katanas. Does that make Star Wars part of the Sword and Sorcery subgenre of fantasy, the Force being a type of magic?

As the author of a series of ninja books, I’m tempted to say yes. But then there are all those gigantic space ships and you can basically turn the argument over on its head with a quote from Arthur C. Clarke:  “Magic’s just science that we don’t understand yet” and – boom! You’re completely flummoxed.

Authors face the same tough choice every time they publish a book. The whole process of creating something out of nothing and putting it into graceful words, bringing it into light, is nothing short of miraculous. But then the doctor – whether it’s Dr. Amazon, Dr. Wattpad or Dr. Publishing House – is going to announce: “It’s a fantasy!” or “It’s a sci-fi!” and your baby goes on to be lumped in a red ocean of other books where creativity and individuality go to die.

Now don’t get me wrong. Genre categorizations and BISAC codes are necessary. They’re like standardized exams in school. They’re not a perfect system but they’re the best we have. But when you’re the gazillionth Paranormal Romance between a human and a vampire or the umpteenth Post-Apocalyptic Dystopian YA Sci-fi, you start to wonder that maybe popular doesn’t really mean good.Soul City

I’ll give you a hint. The Post-Apocalyptic Dystopian YA Sci-fi category mentioned above, which includes heavyweights like The Hunger Games and The Maze Runner, didn’t use to be a category. But because of authors following their hearts and not getting bogged down by genres and labels, they created a niche all of their own.

At first, I thought my book (Soul City) was either Paranormal Romance or Urban Fantasy.

There was definitely something mushy going on between a supernatural character and a mortal. The thing was, he wasn’t a vampire; he was a reaper. Was he a shifter? Yeah, technically he had that power, but he’s more angelic than underworldly, you know.

Zombie ArcAnd then, upon closer look, I realized Soul City was too dark for the YA crowd that gravitate towards those genres. In fact, some parts were almost full-blown Stephen King Horror.

My second book was even trickier to classify.

The main character was a zombie but he wasn’t the grotesque and violent type always seen in Post-Apocalyptic fiction. Worse, he was a time-travelling zombie a la Dr. Who and he decided to time-jump to the Middle Ages. So there are all these themes just swirling there like animal parts in a witch’s cauldron. There’s Sci-fi, Humor, Fantasy, Adventure, Epic, a zombie, swords, magic etc. You get the idea.

My fifth book, the one after Elemental Ninjas, is Dreamscape Beta.Dreamscape Beta.jpg

It’s my foray into this mint-fresh genre called LitRPG. It’s Literature + Role Playing Games, if you still haven’t heard about it. My first impression of it is that majority of the readers are hard-core gamers who look for the same jargon, mechanics and gameplay they find in a Twitch stream. But Dreamscape Beta, as some non-gamers might infer from the title, has elements of lucid dreaming. So, again, my book fell right off the edge of certain readers’ expectations. And if there’s one thing you don’t want to do as a writer, it’s reaching the wrong readers and not meeting their expectations.

So, what do authors do in the face of total hybrid genre-hilation?

We genre-hop. Genre-hopping is, in my opinion, something natural and unavoidable for writers. The only thing that’s keeping us from genre-hopping right away is our complete devotion to one series or world but, given time, we’ll definitely hop.

Writers do what writers do best: We create. We imagine. We step out of the box and defy expectations. We build words to build worlds. We keep our readers in mind while following our hearts, and we let the BISEC codes sort out the mess.

I have a particularly pronounced case of genre-hopping because I write mostly Fantasy and Sci-fi and yet I have one Contemporary Romance novel or, as some people call it, Chick lit under my belt and I’m currently working on another. And did I mention I’m a guy?The Boyfriend App

In my mind, all 7 of my existing titles fall under the broad umbrella of Fantasy; even the Chick lit one, The Boyfriend App.

TLDR: I like to experiment and I’m not afraid of defying people’s expectations about what I can or can’t write. But most of all, I want my works to reach and affect as many readers as possible. Before I can do that, I need to find them and be willing to search for them in whichever cave or under whichever rock of labels and preconceptions they have.


About the AuthorMon D. Rea

Mon D Rea is an indie author who has written 7.5 books in a variety of genres but mostly YA Fantasy. He likes to write about ninjas, zombies and dragons. He’s currently working on a New Adult rom com titled “My Super Spy Girlfriend.” You can visit him on his website to get some free stuff: www.phenomenalpen.com

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Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

Have you read Elemental Ninjas? What are your thoughts on genre jumping?

Comment below, or find me in one of my social media pages, and let’s chat!

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Book Series Review: The Juniper Sawfeather Trilogy by D. G. Driver

Hi guys! A few months ago, I met online a wonderful local author from my home state of Tennessee, and I was so blessed to feature her on the May edition of our LILbooKtalks! D. G. Driver is the author of the amazing The Juniper Sawfeather Trilogy, which combines environmentalism with fantastical mythology! My review is going to be a bit different since I’m reviewing an entire series. I will start off with a brief overview followed by a short review of each book. Regardless, please try out all three!


About The Juniper Sawfeather TrilogyThe Juniper Sawfeather Trilogy

Mermaids are real.

In the aftermath of an oil spill in the Pacific Northwest, teen environmental activist Juniper Sawfeather discovers a new species–mermaids!

In the days that follow, she must defy all odds to protect these beautiful creatures from the corrupt oil company and the frenzied media.

But mermaids are only the beginning of Juniper’s increasingly dangerous adventures as she realizes she has a talent for finding mythological creatures. Or maybe the creatures are finding her…

The Juniper Sawfeather series is an urban fantasy based around Native American legends featuring a Native American bi-racial heroine.

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Overall Trilogy Rating

4 Stars

Disclaimer: I received free electronic copies of all three books in the trilogy from the author in exchange for an honest review. This will not affect my review in any way.

A series is very special if I have both the opportunity and the initiative to finish it and enjoy it. Reading three or more novels takes a huge amount of commitment, and to be able to do so displays how much love I have poured into a story and its characters. The Juniper Sawfeather Trilogy explores environmental conservation in a very unique and original way–combining Native American mythology, a blossoming romance, and teenage discovery with an urgent message for readers to heed. This series has certainly made me rethink and ponder over the current state of our environment, from our oceans and forests to pollution and poaching. It has inspired me to strive to be more green and to protect nature’s wonders and beauties.

Cry of the Sea

Cry of the Sea

5 Stars

Cry of the Sea is by far the best novel in the entire trilogy. The author places a very unique twist on the classic tale as she uses Pacific Northwest Native American legends to portray her own take on the beloved creature: a mermaid that is more like fish, ugly and hideous at first, than like man. Driver takes readers on a wild ride full of suspense, betrayal, romance, and magic as Juniper and her friends and family attempt to save the mermaids from an evil corporation. Cry of the Sea paints a stark image of how large corporations can in the interests of themselves–money and success–rather than the earth’s. I devoured it in just a couple of days, and the first time I picked it up, I just could not set it down, even though I did not mean to start it and get very far yet! It did everything from dazzling me with magic and mythology to leaving me hanging and wanting more. Cry of the Sea is urban fantasy at its finest!

Whisper of the Woods

Whisper of the Woods
4 StarsAlthough Whisper of the Woods may be stationary in terms of the setting, it has as much action, magic, and conflict as its predecessor! Cry to the Sea‘s dazzling sequel continues to explore Native American legends by introducing the existence of tree spirits, serving as a bridge between what’s happened book one and the events to come in book three. I certainly became entranced by the magic and mystery surrounding the tree that holds Juniper captive–it possesses an incredible amount of history and secrets that will shock readers. As Whisper of the Woods answers many questions about the characters and the local American Indian legends, its ending leaves readers wanting more to satisfy their love of fantasy and their curiosity. Fortunately, I did not feel a case of the Sagging Sequel Syndrome at all in this epic second installment.

Echo of the Cliffs

Echo of the Cliffs
4 Stars
Echo of the Cliffs is the stunning conclusion to The Juniper Sawfeather Trilogy as it examines the final part of the legend of the three warriors, a person turned into stone. The stakes have been raised even higher as some of the lives of Juniper’s loved ones are in danger. Without spoiling anything, I can say that Echo of the Cliffs will not disappoint fans of books one and two. The story truly does teach readers about the power of sacrifice, whether it be for love or for doing what is right. Echo of the Cliffs will make the hearts of readers pound and their eyes water with tears. I am very happy and satisfied with the ending, though I am sad to see it come to a close.

Conclusion

The Juniper Sawfeather Trilogy is certainly a series that I love, miss, and would hope to revisit again one day. It is the perfect series for readers who not only love fantasy and mythology but also novels that explore big issues such as environmentalism. I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about the mythology of the American Indians in the Pacific Northwest throughout the entire saga, and that is what makes this series unique and memorable for readers. While there may not be stone orcas, talking trees, or mermaids in our world, Juniper Sawfeather teaches us that nature possesses a special magic that must be preserved and cherished for future generations.


About the AuthorSAMSUNG

D. G. Driver is an optimist at heart, and that’s why she likes to write books about young people who strive to make a difference in the world. From her teen environmentalist in The Juniper Sawfeather Trilogy, a young girl teaching her friends autism acceptance and to stop bullying people with special needs in No One Needed to Know, a princess who desires to be more than a pampered prize for a prince in The Royal Deal, to a boy who learns that being genuine and chivalrous are the ways to win a girl’s heart in Passing Notes, Driver hopes to write characters that you’ll want to root for. When she’s not writing, she is a teacher in an inclusive child development center in Nashville, and she can often be found strutting the stage in a local musical theater production.

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Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

Do you like YA urban fantasy? Have you read The Juniper Sawfeather Trilogy?

Comment below, or find me in one of my social media pages, and let’s chat!

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Discussion: Reality Has So Much to Offer, Just Like Reading

Hi everybody! I usually don’t post many discussions, but because it is summer and I’ve had a bit more time to write, I’ve decided to write this little reflection about reading versus reality, especially since I’ve had so many great experiences this past school year and it’s been tough finding the will to read during my “emotional hangovers.” I hope you enjoy this post and maybe ponder over when it’s best to choose between reading and reality.


Sometimes We Need to Choose Reality Over Reading

Reading has always been my escape. When I feel lonely or dejected, burdened or stressed, I just pull out a book and become transported into another world. I want to become amazed by the magic in fantasies, moved by the raw truth of contemporaries, or enlightened by the real inspirations in historical fiction. Stories turn the ordinary of my life into the extraordinary, full of whizzing technologies, majestic creatures, and relatable characters that I would like to befriend in reality.

I have always been an emotional guy. I let my heart take control sometimes. And after undergoing through many amazing experiences in my junior year, it became hard to read at times. When the school year ended and my time in my high school elite choir the Madrigals came to a close, my heart swelled with so many feelings that I could not finish more than a couple of pages in my book. During my time at TN Boys State, I did not want to read since the time I could use to hang out with so many of the awesome delegates there was very limited and precious.

There was even a moment when I doubted myself as a reader. I did not want to read anymore. Thankfully, after my emotional hangovers had subsided a bit, my bibliophilia was restored. I admit, I can be a bit volatile at times—which is why I need to think with my head before I let my heart steer the reigns—but I have learned a valuable lesson from all of these events.

Now I am not trying to degrade reading at all. That is not the point of this essay. In fact, I commend people who can read hundreds, if not thousands, of books a year. I wish I could do that! And I want those who do that to keep on doing that.

But I have learned that sometimes you need to close your book, go out, and take on new experiences. While books are portals into new lives and new places, the real world can be just as exciting. My junior year of high school has been filled with events and memories that I will never forget. I have sung at venues that I would never imagine performing at (from Christmas caroling to All Northwest Honor Chori), toured our nation’s capital, made many friends at Boys State, attended two book festivals, and brought home the coveted DECA glass from SCDC. I have strengthened my current friendships, discovered a second family in my choir, and connected with people from all around the state. I have stood on the very steps where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., gave his “I Have a Dream” speech and witnessed the actual flag that flew at Fort McHenry during the War of 1812 that inspired “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Those were some of the best moments of my life, and I will cherish those memories forever.

Now not everyone has the same opportunities as I do, but every person’s life is equipped with all sorts of opportunities to fill it with love, with excitement, with awe, with gratitude. Whether it be a bustling city or a quaint small town, there is always something to do and somewhere to go.

However, there are times when we need to read to find consolation and refuge from the trials and darkness of the outside world. When life is tough for me, I often pull out a book to be transported to a new realm where I could feel accepted, or at least connect with characters that are going through troubles that could relate with what I am going through. I credit books with keeping me company when I feel alone in a crowd, calming me when I feel nervous and stressed, and boosting me with hope when I feel dejected. I have learned so many lessons from these stories, and they’ve aroused in me a kinder and more adventurous spirit.

But in order for these novels to truly change our lives, we need to go out and put these lessons and newfound feelings to the test. We need to go out into the world and make new encounters. It is great to read on the beach with the cool breeze in your hair, in the mountains full of peace and quiet, next to the fireplace with a blanket and a cup of cocoa. But don’t forget that those places can make new memories outside of stories, from swimming on the beach, hiking and marveling at God’s glorious creation, and bonding with friends and family on a cold winter’s night. Experience the world around you. There are lots of things to do, places to visit, people to meet, and events to attend. Traveling to a fictional world is an amazing experience that can teach so much about life, but the real world can be life-changing as well.

Yes, George R. R. Martin is right when he says, “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads only lives one.” But don’t forget that reality has so much to offer, so much to be explored, so much to be written, so much to be experienced.


Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

Comment below, or find me in one of my social media pages, and let’s chat!

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June Reading Recap!

Hi guys! Fortunately, because summer’s here, I’ve been able to read more and blog more over the past few weeks! I have managed to finish nine books (compared with May’s two/three) and I have finally completed a few reading goals! I’ve found two five-star books (yes, my four-star drought has ended!) and I’ve finished a classic outside of English! Jane Eyre took me a long time to read but it was so well worth it! I hope you can check out these amazing books!


5 Stars

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Jane Eyre

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Follow Me Back by A. V. Geiger

Follow Me Back

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4 Stars

One Night by Deanna Cabinian

One Night

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Forget Tomorrow by Pintip Dunn

Forget Tomorrow

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The Magnificent Glass Globe by N. R. Bergeson

The Magnificent Glass Globe

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Dragon Mount by Jennifer M. Eaton

Dragon Mount

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One Summer with Autumn by Julie A. Reece

One Summer with Autumn
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Hidden Pieces by Paula Stokes

Hidden Pieces


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Before Tomorrow by Pintip Dunn

Before Tomorrow


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In Case You Missed It

Author Interviews

Meg Eden, author of Post-High School Reality Quest

Mindee Arnett, author of Onyx & Ivory

Author Guest Posts

Monica Tesler, author of The Heroes Return, on “Building Fantastical Worlds in Middle Grade and Young Adult Fiction”

B. W. Morris, author of Six Pack: Emergence, on “The Journey to The Six Pack Series

LILbooKtalks

“Never Losing Hope in a Future of Uncertainty” with Dana Middleton and Alyssa Hollingsworth

Book Reviews

Ahimsa by Supriya Kelkar (5 stars)

Dragon Mount by Jennifer M. Eaton (4 stars)

The Island by J. L. Pattison (4 stars)

Blogoversary!

The Importance of Middle Grade Literature for Adult Readers

Kester’s Interview on MG Book Village

Reading Recaps

May Reading Recap


Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

Have you read any of these books? What are your thoughts?

Comment below, or find me in one of my social media pages, and let’s chat!

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ARC Review: Dragon Mount by Jennifer M. Eaton — Made Me Feel Like I Was Flying in the Air!

Hi guys! I am doing my best to catch up on reviews because I am so far behind! Today’s review is Dragon Mount by Jennifer M. Eaton, a great author friend of mine who is super nice in person and exceptional in writing. Her latest book Dragon Mount just released last week, and to celebrate, here is my review! I hope you enjoy!


About the BookDragon Mount

Things can’t get any worse than being snatched by a dragon, until Anna is dropped into a bloodthirsty battle for the Draconic crown.

On what’s supposed to be a fun trip to New Zealand to recover from a painful breakup, Anna is kidnapped and flown away by a mythical beast bent on making her his queen. Anna’s rare blood type makes her the only viable mate in the islands, and with scores of dragons looking for her, escape isn’t likely.

Joe is the youngest and smallest dragon in the competition to become king. Now that he’s found Anna, all he needs to overthrow their tyrannical monarch is to bring her back to Dragon Mount before anyone can challenge his claim. But Joe is injured and unable to fly, and each passing second increases the risk of discovery.

Challenging the king means certain death, but Anna is Joe’s to lose. If the king finds her, he will bathe Dragon Mount in her blood, condemning Joe’s people to seventeen more years of brutal subjugation. The fate of the Draconi rests in the talons of their smallest dragon, and the clock is ticking.

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4 Stars

Disclaimer: I received a free electronic ARC copy of this book from the author for an honest review consideration. This will not affect my review at all. 

I was a bit hesitant to start Dragon Mount–I was not a big fan of paranormal/urban fantasy romances featuring dragons, werewolves, vampires, and the like. But because I love Jennifer M. Eaton and her novels, especially her Fire in the Woods series, I decided to give this a shot! Surprisingly, I finished the entire story in less than two days and a few sittings. Dragon Mount made feel like I was flying in the air at times! Readers will find themselves swooning at the slow-burning romance and feeling a rush of adrenaline from the action. It definitely exceeded my expectations, and it left me wanting more from the world of Dragon Mount.

Continue reading “ARC Review: Dragon Mount by Jennifer M. Eaton — Made Me Feel Like I Was Flying in the Air!”

June LILbooKtalk: “Never Losing Hope in a Future of Uncertainty” with Dana Middleton and Alyssa Hollingsworth

Hi guys! I am really excited to share with y’all this month’s LILbooKtalk! The theme is “Never Losing Hope in a Future of Uncertainty,” a theme that is present is most Middle Grade novels. That is one of the biggest reasons why I love MG because they certainly boost my hope whenever I feel overwhelmed or sad. Today, I have two wonderful authors here to discuss this topic, Dana Middleton and Alyssa Hollingsworth, and they both provide some amazing insight into the worlds of MG and contemporary. I hope you enjoy!


About Open If You DareOpen If You Dare

Like Birdie Adams didn’t have enough problems this summer. But Birdie’s Birdie. And if a long-buried box has “Open if you dare” written on its lid, then Birdie and her best friends, Ally and Rose, are going to open it.

And now, along with everything else that’s going on–Ally’s pitching slump, Rose’s banishment to Britain, and Birdie’s annoying younger sister being, you know, annoying–the best friends are caught up in solving a mystery planted by a dead girl forty years ago.

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About The Eleventh TradeThe Eleventh Trade

From debut author Alyssa Hollingsworth comes a story about living with fear, being a friend, and finding a new place to call home.

They say you can’t get something for nothing, but nothing is all Sami has. When his grandfather’s most-prized possession―a traditional Afghan instrument called a rebab―is stolen, Sami resolves to get it back. He finds it at a music store, but it costs $700, and Sami doesn’t have even one penny. What he does have is a keychain that has caught the eye of his classmate. If he trades the keychain for something more valuable, could he keep trading until he has $700? Sami is about to find out.

The Eleventh Trade is both a classic middle school story and a story about being a refugee. Like Katherine Applegate, author of Wishtree, Alyssa Hollingsworth tackles a big issue with a light touch.

The Eleventh Trade releases from Roaring Brook Press on September 18th, 2018! Pre-order it today!

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LILbooKtalk August 2018

Questions are in bold

Kester: The first author we have today is Dana Middleton, MG author of Open If You Dare, which released last year. I was able to meet Dana at the SE-YA Book Festival back in March, also! Could you tell us a bit about your latest book and your background?

Dana: Hi Kester. So great to be here! My latest book is called Open If You Dare. It’s set in Atlanta (in the real neighborhood of my youth). It’s a mystery but it’s mostly about three friends during their last real summer together. I live in LA now but most of my MG fiction takes me back to my childhood in the South.Open If You Dare

Kester: Thank you for joining us today, Dana! I certainly loved Open If You Dare!Alongside Dana, we have Alyssa Hollingsworth, whose MG debut novel The Eleventh Trade is set to release in September of this year. Would you like to share with us a little about your book and yourself?

Alyssa: Sure! Thanks for having me. The Eleventh Trade is a contemporary story set in Boston about an Afghan boy who loses his last heirloom from home and goes on a quest of trades to get it back. I’ve been writing since I was 12 years old, got my master’s in Writing for Young People at Bath Spa University, and seem to have accidentally landed in the niche of MG books with fun plots and an underbelly of humanitarian themes.

The Eleventh TradeKester: I am really excited to read The Eleventh Trade! I’m glad that you’re here with us!

Both Birdie in Open If You Dare and Sami in The Eleventh Trade are faced with great challenges, such as dealing with one’s best friends moving away or trying to buy back a prized possession, that require a lot of hope and perseverance to overcome. What is the central message that you want young readers to take away from your novels? How do you want your book to help readers who are going through similar trials?

Alyssa: Great question! Boiled down to its very basic core, The Eleventh Trade is about how loss opens us up to community (friendship/belonging), and how community brings healing. I hope that readers will see the book as an opportunity to be aware of others’ struggle and actively jump in to give help and hope.

Dana: I agree with Alyssa. When a reader can identify and/or become aware of others’ struggles, the world becomes a smaller and kinder place. As an author, I feel like it’s my job to step into the skin of my protagonist. Birdie, in this case, is a lot like me and a lot different, too. She feels deeply about the impending loss of her friends (one is moving away and the other will go to a different school next year) but she also grows to understand that she can stand on her own and that the future can be different and good at the same time.

Alyssa: “Different and good” — I love that!

Dana: Right? I think I still struggle with that as an adult!

Kester: I definitely agree with the both of y’all. It’s very important to foster empathy in readers so they could make the world a better place.

Dana: In all fiction, but perhaps especially in middle grade fiction, it’s all about empathy and showing readers a variety of experiences. I’m excited to read The Eleventh Trade, partially for that reason. And also because it sound really good!

Alyssa: 🙂

Continue reading “June LILbooKtalk: “Never Losing Hope in a Future of Uncertainty” with Dana Middleton and Alyssa Hollingsworth”

Book Review: Ahimsa by Supriya Kelkar — A Masterpiece that Should Be in Every School Classroom and Library

Hi guys! I have a gigantic slew of MG novels that I need to review for y’all, so for the upcoming weeks, you will see a bunch of reviews of some amazing Middle Grade books! Spoiler alert: They’re all four or five star ratings! To start off, today’s review is on Ahimsa by Supriya Kelkar, which is set in 1940s India during the Freedom Movement. Sounds intriguing? Go read it! You will not regret it!


About the BookAhimsa

In 1942, when Mahatma Gandhi asks Indians to give one family member to the freedom movement, ten-year-old Anjali is devastated to think of her father risking his life for the freedom struggle.

But it turns out he isn’t the one joining. Anjali’s mother is. And with this change comes many more adjustments designed to improve their country and use “ahimsa”—non-violent resistance—to stand up to the British government. First the family must trade in their fine foreign-made clothes for homespun cotton, so Anjali has to give up her prettiest belongings. Then her mother decides to reach out to the Dalit community, the “untouchables” of society. Anjali is forced to get over her past prejudices as her family becomes increasingly involved in the movement.

When Anjali’s mother is jailed, Anjali must step out of her comfort zone to take over her mother’s work, ensuring that her little part of the independence movement is completed.

Inspired by her great-grandmother’s experience working with Gandhi, New Visions Award winner Supriya Kelkar shines a light on the Indian freedom movement in this poignant debut.

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5 Stars

Disclaimer: I received a free finished hardcover copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This will not affect my review in any way.

I rarely rate books five stars anymore. A book is awarded five stars for one of three reasons: it is a new all-time favorite, it resonates with me on such a deep basis, or it has the power to change lives including my own. Ahimsa is a novel that will influence the viewpoints of readers, regardless of age. It is such a thought-provoking and emotionally gripping story that will inspire readers to persevere in their battles. Although I was not very into the story at first since it was written in third-person, the deeper I progressed into Anjali’s fight for freedom, the more that I literally could not put the book down.

Continue reading “Book Review: Ahimsa by Supriya Kelkar — A Masterpiece that Should Be in Every School Classroom and Library”

Celebrating LILbooKlovers’s (Belated) 2 Year Blogoversary with My Research Paper on Middle Grade Literature!

Hi everybody!!! I had meant to post up a blogoversary post on May 28th–the day the first ever post went live on this site–but because of Boys State and last-minute activities, I was not able to schedule a post in time. But that is okay. It’s better to be late than never!

My opening remarks are going to be a bit short because I am way behind on posting (so my summer posts will be very erratic in the upcoming weeks) and because I want to get straight to my special gift for y’all. Thank you so much to everyone who has supported, helped, or contributed to the blog in any way. The blog has grown exponentially over the past year, and I have made so many connections with bloggers and authors all across the country. I appreciate all of the support and encouragement you have poured into my blogging and personal endeavors, and every kind word and cheer fills my heart up to the brim. To be able to make an impact on readers is what makes blogging worthwhile, and I am excited to see where this next year will take LILbooKlovers to.

For my AP English Language and Composition final research paper, I decided to use Middle Grade Literature as my topic. I wrote a total of 22 pages (along with 6 more pages full of cited sources) that explore why “The Importance of Middle Grade Literature for Adult Readers.” Yes, I wrote 22 pages. Yes, the page limit was supposed to be five to eight pages. Yes, I did get permission from my teacher. And yes, I did enjoy it. (Well, I liked the revising more than the drafting, which was really rough–pun not intended.)

Here is a little snippet from my essay if you would like a small taste of it:

By combining this experimentation of various genres, cultures, poetry and prose styles, and perspectives with the vast world of themes, issues, real-life inspirations and people, and conflicts, Middle Grade is an entire buffet of unique stories and qualitative writing that can be considered by many literary enthusiasts as modern classics. Alyssa Hollingsworth, author of The Eleventh Trade, reflects upon this high degree of excellence: “[I]t was just so amazing to me as I read Story Thieves that I was having the same metanarrative discussions on the same level that I did in an upper level English class at college” (Hollingsworth). Whether they possess subtle symbolism or majestic world-building or authentic realism, MG can be dissected for lesson plans in the classroom or discussed by readers of any age in book clubs and panels. It tackles a wide variety of issues in ways that more mature fiction cannot, and it has the power to promote unity and dialogue between children, adults, and their fellow peers, regardless of their backgrounds.

If you would like to read the entire essay and see the thoughts of many authors and professionals in the Middle Grade industry and community, please click the link below! I definitely hope you enjoy it!

The Importance of Middle Grade Literature for Adult Readers

In addition, I am being interviewed on MG Book Village (co-founded by the amazing Jarrett Lerner, author of EngiNerds), and it was really fun to be on the other side of the interview this time! Get to know a little more about me, my bookish life, and also my personal life as I approach my senior year of high school!

An Interview with Kester on MG Book Village

I hope you enjoyed my essay and interview, and thank you so much for celebrating our (albeit late) two-year blogoversary! It has been such an amazing journey to provide y’all with great recommendations and introduce many great author to you all, and I hope you’ll continue to stick with me and this blog.


Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

What are your thoughts on Middle Grade?

Comment below, or find me in one of my social media pages, and let’s chat!

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Exclusive Interview with Mindee Arnett, YA SFF Author of Onyx & Ivory

Hi guys! I am a HUGE fantasy fan now. I used to have a strong dislike for the genre, but I’ve magically been converted as I read more books full of magic. One of the street teams I have been really active in this year is the Relay Riders for Mindee Arnett’s latest book Onyx & Ivory, which is super epic. Check out my review here on why you should read it! Today I invited Mindee on the blog to talk about Onyx & Ivory, and I hope you enjoy this interview!


About the BookOnyx and Ivory

They call her Traitor Kate. It’s a title Kate Brighton inherited from her father after he tried to assassinate the high king of Rime. Cast out of the noble class, she now works for the royal courier service. Only those most skilled ride for the Relay and only the fastest survive, for when night falls, the nightdrakes—deadly flightless dragons—come out to hunt. Fortunately, Kate has a secret edge: she is a wilder, born with forbidden magic that allows her to influence the minds of animals.

And it’s this magic that leads her to a caravan mysteriously massacred by drakes in broad daylight—the only survivor Corwin Tormane, the son of the king. Her first love, the boy she swore to forget, after he condemned her father to death. With their paths once more entangled, Kate and Corwin uncover secrets, both past and present, to face this new threat of drakes who attack in the daylight and the darker menace behind them.

Acclaimed author Mindee Arnett’s stunning new novel thrusts readers into a beautiful, expansive, and dangerous new world—one where trust is rare, magic is commonplace, and little is as it seems.Goodreads

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Mindee Arnett Interview

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

My love for writing grew out of my love for reading and story in general. As a child, I started off telling myself elaborate stories with my toys, and when I hit the sixth grade my teacher gave me my first short story writing assignment. Once I figured out that “story” was an actual world I could get to just by putting my pen to paper, I knew I wanted to go there again and again. And that’s why I love it so much—it’s an escape into another world.

2. What are your favorite books, genres, and authors? Which ones have impacted you and your writing style the most?

Gosh, I have so many. Early on my biggest influence was adult fantasy writer Jennifer Roberson. Before her I loved Roald Dahl, Walter Farley, and C.S. Lewis. Nowadays one of my favorite writers is Maggie Stiefvater. I adored her Raven Cycle series as well as The Scorpio Races, and I find her writing very inspirational.

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

Writing is a full-time job for any writer that’s actively publishing. But for me, I do have to hold down a regular full-time job in addition to the books. That definitely keeps me very busy, but in my free time I’m either hanging out with my family or riding my horses.Onyx and Ivory

4. Your latest YA fantasy novel Onyx & Ivory, which released from Balzer and Bray back in mid-May, is set in two points of view: Kate, an outcasted Relay Rider who possesses an outlawed magic, and Corwin, a crown prince scarred by past failures and mistakes. What are some of the biggest challenges of writing in the points of view of two unique characters? Would you consider yourself to be more like Kate or Corwin, and why?

Going into the book, I honestly had no idea how hard it is to write two points of view. I learned a lot about that process through this book—although I’ve still got plenty to learn. One unique thing about the story is that Kate and Corwin both have complete story arcs that intersect with one another but also standalone. Of the two, I relate to Kate a little more than Corwin. If only because she is a perpetual outsider. She never feels like she belongs in any of the groups she inhabits, and that’s a feeling I know well. I suffer from imposter syndrome so much. I also relate to Kate in how she has a troubled history with her father.

Continue reading “Exclusive Interview with Mindee Arnett, YA SFF Author of Onyx & Ivory”

Celebrating the 1-Year Book Birthday of Post-High School Reality Quest with an Interview with Meg Eden + Special GIVEAWAY

Hi guys! Today is the 1-year book birthday of Post-High School Reality Quest by Meg Eden, probably one of the most unique books you will ever read if you decide to pick it up. Well, today you have the opportunity not only to learn more about the story but also to win a copy of the book PLUS a narwhal mug and infuser. And you can’t say no to narwhals, can you? Enjoy!


About the BookPost-High School Reality Quest

Buffy is playing a game. However, the game is her life, and there are no instructions or cheat codes on how to win.

After graduating high school, a voice called “the text parser” emerges in Buffy’s head, narrating her life as a classic text adventure game. Buffy figures this is just a manifestation of her shy, awkward, nerdy nature—until the voice doesn’t go away, and instead begins to dominate her thoughts, telling her how to life her life. Though Buffy tries to beat the game, crash it, and even restart it, it becomes clear that this game is not something she can simply “shut off” or beat without the text parser’s help.

While the text parser tries to give Buffy advice on how “to win the game,” Buffy decides to pursue her own game-plan: start over, make new friends, and win her long-time crush Tristan’s heart. But even when Buffy gets the guy of her dreams, the game doesn’t stop. In fact, it gets worse than she could’ve ever imagined: her crumbling group of friends fall apart, her roommate turns against her, and Buffy finds herself trying to survive in a game built off her greatest nightmares.

Goodreads

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Meg Eden Interview.png

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

I love writing because I’m compelled to do it, because it makes sense to me. It’s how I process, how I worship, how I communicate with the world around me.  I started “writing” in middle school when my friends wrote poems because they thought it was “cool.” But over time, I found writing as something that was my own and personal, and when a teacher told me I was a good writer, that encouraged me to become even more serious about it. As I began to discover my ASD in college, I realized that there are times that it’s very hard for me to be verbal. I became overwhelmed and overstimulated, and my first response was to write. It helped me calm down, as well as to find a way to improve how I communicated with others.

2. What are your favorite books, genres, and authors? Which ones have impacted you and your writing style the most?

I really love magical realism. Some of my biggest inspirations have been Japanese writers and writers of Japanese magic realism, like Haruki Murakami, Yasunari Kawabata, Shuntaro Tanikawa and Kelly Luce, as well as Studio Ghibli films. I add in Studio Ghibli because I think those films really taught me the power of silence, the power of slowing down the pace and taking a moment to pause. There are moments in Ghibli films, in the anime aesthetic at large, where there’s no music, no action, just a selah, a haiku moment between the audience and the environment. Maybe zooming into a flower or a bug, or a panoramic nature shot. As someone who writes both poetry and prose, this has definitely informed what I focus on in a scene, a moment, what details I care about and how I pace them.

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

I recently started working full time with the Association of Writers and Writing Programs, and teaching creative writing on the side. Before, I really just taught part-time, giving me more time to write. But I’m finding that right now, the full time job gives me a sense of urgency to want to make the time to write, while before I was procrastinating a bit…

4. Your YA debut novel Post-High School Reality Quest is not the average novel; in fact, it infuses the basics of the traditional storyline with the format of a text adventure game! What inspired you to write your book in the form of a text adventure? Could you describe to us both the benefits and the challenges of utilizing this idea?

Post-High School Reality QuestSo it started with a friend casually saying “you should write a novel in the form of a text adventure game.” I tried it on a whim one day and found out I actually really enjoyed doing it! The benefit is that it naturally created tension between two voices: the parser and Buffy (the player), so it was very fast and easy to draft. It allowed me to view the story from a different lens–so I had initially written a very crappy draft of a story about these nerdy friends who all played RPGs in Merrill’s basement and shenanigans ensued. But nothing really happened. So the text parser perspective allowed me to view everything in a new way, and give bones to the story. As for challenges, I think the biggest one was to convince people, “Hey–it’s in second person, but it’s OK!” Personally, I found it a blast to write, but it breaks one of the sacred writing classroom rules, so it can be hard to adjust to.

Continue reading “Celebrating the 1-Year Book Birthday of Post-High School Reality Quest with an Interview with Meg Eden + Special GIVEAWAY”