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

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

 

 

 

 

 

Interview + GIVEAWAY with Bryan Pentelow

‘Ello gov’na! (I just love British accents!!!) Today’s special guest hails all the way across the Atlantic and lives in the United Kingdom! We are so glad to have Bryan Pentelow with us today! He is giving out TWO e-copies of his newest book Sprocket and the Heart of the North this week, and we want you to win them! Go check out the interview below and be sure to enter the giveaway below!

Bryan Pentelow

1. In your own words, what is your book Sprocket and the Heart of the North about? 51CtZm7Rp2L._AC_US160_

As with all the Sprocket Sagas, this one is a fight between good and evil. Which wins? Read it and find out. 

The North of England was a centre of glass making in the past and in my history, the furnaces were fired by dragons. Then a desperate sorcerer needing powerful magic to save his own land steals the Heart of the North, kills its maker and casts an evil spell to cover his dark deeds. A counter spell is conjured to contain the evil but how long can it last. Can dogs, dragons and humans find the lost Heart of the North before the Creeping Dark destroys the Great Northern Forest and lays waste to their homes? What is Dragon Glass and what makes it so special? Is the young glass blower from Manchester a descendant of the maker of the Heart of the North? What is hidden on a dusty top shelf in the store room of the Glass Museum in Malaga Spain? There is so much to learn, so many questions to answer and so little time for our heroes to unravel the clues and twists of history and legend. Join the hunt for the Heart and follow the trail where ever it leads, but don’t linger on the way or you may be consumed by the CREEPING DARK.

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

I have a life long fight with the English language, having very wobbly spelling and a tenuous grasp on grammar. As a result of this, I wrote as little as possible till the advent of word processing packages then at least I could correct some of my shortcomings. I have been a copywriter for mail order catalogues which broadened my vocabulary when trying to find yet another different way to describe several almost identical products. As part of my sales and marketing career, I had to make presentations and give them. This disciplined me to write logical timelines and produce impact at beginning and end. Try Public speaking some time, it’s a great way to improve your writing and bring an understanding of the difference between written and spoken language. At some time I would love to give poetry a serious try but I find the restriction of very few and precise words beyond me most of the time.

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

The list is endless and it is very hard to pull out my favourite authors, but I will do my best not to write a book and bore you to death. Terry Pratchett and his Disc World books have given me immense joy over the years and great sorrow at his recent death. The vast imagination and joyous humour of his stories are beyond compare. My second choice is Neal Asher. He writes science fiction which explores the relationship between humans and artificial intelligence which could be hard work if his storylines and action packed plots didn’t drag the reader along at a breakneck pace. Steve McHugh is my third choice with his masterly interweaving of history, legend and the present day. Mix together magic, gods of every pantheon and a thrilling fast paced story line and you are in for a fast ride. Recently I have come across to new, independent authors who have gripped my reading. E.M. Swift-Hook who is currently producing the second trilogy in her fascinating story of the clash of medieval and sci-fi societies is a writer well worth getting to know. Her books are full of strong characters with plots that have more twists than a coil spring. The second is Robert Lee Beers. His books centre on a hard-bitten private eye whose cases cross the boundaries of time and the supernatural to give a fascinating insight into the ways of crime and evil. As all these writers have a number of books to their names, whichever one you pick you will have plenty to go at. 

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

I have a fairly catholic taste in reading material. My only must have is a good story line. I cannot bear are the sort of classic novels filled with dithering characters with too much money and time who fritter away their time on pointless trivia. I love Science fiction and fantasy both to read and write for the freedom to follow ideas to logical or illogical conclusions usually without getting locked up or causing wars or riots. I like military history as long as it’s not too packed with statistics and facts that they slow down the story. I read this, I don’t write it as I’m much too lazy to do the copious amounts of research necessary to get the facts straight. I have listed above some of my favourites but here I would include ant of Bernard Cornwell’s books particularly the Lords of the North series and the Sharpe series. Staying in the Napoleonic era I would also recommend any of Alexander Kent’s Bolitho books about the Royal Navy of that period. He can write a sea battle like no other and leave you wondering how any sailor survived the shot, shell and flying splinters. Just to show that I do read books by authors who are not British, I would include most of David Baldacci’s fiction books all of which are real page turners.

5. What do you do when you’re not writing? Is writing a part-time or full-time job?10391697_105921086085058_4141656_n

I read. I am lucky enough to be retired so can usually find time to keep my, to read list, from getting too long. I have always loved reading as a method of learning and visiting new places and ideas. As a child, I went through many torch batteries while reading under the bed covers after official lights out time. Since I became a writer and discovered how much a review means to an author I also try to write a review of the books I read and would encourage everyone to do the same. It doesn’t have to be lengthy or erudite, just a few lines to say what you liked or what could be improved are of real value. My other great pleasure is listening to the radio. I know its old fashioned but the special effects have always been much better than television and the scenery always coincides with my ideas of what things look like. 

6. Who is your favourite character from your Sprocket Sagas?

It has to be Mrs. Mumbly. She is an English Bull Terrier and is the toughest dog you could imagine. If you are unfamiliar with the breed then look them up on Google. They are short haired, bullet-headed with pointed ears and whippy tails. They look very fierce but if you offer a hard dog biscuit and a scratch between the ears you will have a friend for life. These dogs are totally loyal to their friends and will defend their loved ones to the death. If you meet one, be a friend. Never cross the dog world’s answer to an armoured vehicle. 

7. How is it like living in Britain? What are some things you love about the United Kingdom? Do you guys drink a lot of tea there? (I had to ask!)

I love and hate the weather. In the same day, we can experience at least three seasons and need to change outfits to suit. I love the fact that the English, in particular, are not uptight about who we are. It makes me smile when our Celtic neighbours get wound up about the ‘Old Enemy’. Clinging to the past can have a very negative effect on a nation. 

Yes we do drink a lot of tea and are very choosy about what tea we drink and how we brew it. What most of Europe and most of America forget is that tea needs boiling water and that coffee machines do not get the water hot enough to make a good cup of tea. 

My other delight is the BBC. From an early age their Children’ Hours on the radio (now sadly no longer broadcast) fired my imagination and being able to watch a whole program without being interrupted by the banal drivel of adverts is a blessing afforded to very few.  51bgt51b3gL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_

8. Your books feature dragons and take place in Dragon World! Would you like one as a pet, and why or why not?

Yes, I would like a dragon but not as a pet. My dragons are sentient beings, so keeping one as a pet would be like keeping a slave. I would love a dragon friend but most of them are too big for houses and their appearance would tend to terrify people. Also, they must be kept away from liquorice as it gives them hiccoughs and that combined with the ability to breathe fire or ice can lead to disaster. Having a Seeker Dragon as a friend would save a fortune in petrol and air fares as I could use portals as a means of getting about. One of my aims in life is to give dragons a better press. They have mostly played the villain in stories but that was because of humans being frightened of the unusual and our tendency to try to wipe out that which we find threatening.

9. What is a regular day of writing to you?

There isn’t a regular writing day for me. I am completely undisciplined and come and go to and from my laptop as the ideas hit me. I am something of a believer in Terry Pratchett’s theory that Ideas sleet through the multiverse till they collide with a mind and if you don’t write them down quickly they will move on to someone more receptive. In this way I drift from project to project sometimes working for long periods while the story line flows and at others, bumbling about in my shed or garden as ideas sleet past. Being retired and a self-published author I don’t have editors or publishers setting deadlines for me. What a marvellously unstructured existence I lead, at least till my grandchildren put the pressure on.

10. How do you combat writer’s block?

I’m lucky. It hasn’t been much of a problem for me but on the odd occasion when a story line gets stuck up a dead end, I go and do something else till bits drop into place then go back to where things started to go wrong and re-write from there. I am waiting for a breakthrough in the second Sci-Fi book to see if it will be one or two books but if I wait much longer then it is likely to be more fact than fiction.

11. Have you written any other works? What are your current plans for your writing career?P1020353

There are now six stories in the Sprocket sagas and my eldest granddaughter is putting the pressure on for another full-length book, a longer one as it only took her about a week to read the last one. 

I have also written a short Science Fiction book ‘Sea Change’ and am writing a much longer sequel. There is also a short story, ’A waste of Skin’ which I have yet to publish. As I am a member of a speaker’s club I will be writing a number of pieces for verbal presentation. Some of my past speeches have been put up on Niume and can be read there. Anything which is on that site with the exception of the serialisation of the first Sprocket book is free to download. Find me on Amazon to see all my books.

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

There is only one main tip and that is to write. Until you have written down your ideas you have nothing to work on. In this day and age it is easy to cut and paste a piece of work to put in additional material or to alter an idea which has run into a brick wall but until you have a basic story on the screen or page there is nothing to improve. So don’t waste time trying to come up with the perfect novel in your head, get on and write. 

Thank you so much, Bryan, for coming onto our blog!

Check out Bryan’s social media pages here!

Website | Amazon | Facebook | Goodreads

Here is the giveaway! We are giving away two Kindle e-copies of Sprocket and the Heart of the North! Enter the giveaway below! The rules are in the Terms & Conditions (make sure you read them!).

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Hope you have a wonderful week! And make sure you share! 🙂

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

Eden’s Escape, by M. Tara Crowl

Hi guys! I am so stockpiled with reviews… this is number 1 out of 5! So March will definitely be crazy full of reviews. I will do my best in the month of March to do as many reviews as I can since I’m so far behind! This one is about a book I read over a month ago! So I hope you enjoy this review on Eden’s Escape by M. Tara Crowl!

Important Kester Note: On my review and little promotion for Jennifer M. Eaton’s Fire in the Woods when it was free last week, I forgot to include the legal disclaimer. The post has been updated, and I am sorry about that. Don’t let that affect you reading the book!

Goodreads Summary of Eden’s Escape (Eden of the Lamp #2): edens-escape_finalEden’s new life on earth begins in New York City under the guidance of her new guardian: Pepper, a petite, bubbly genie alum who’s also a Broadway actress. Before she has a chance to settle in, though, Eden is whisked away for a granting–only to find herself trapped in a laboratory. David Brightly, owner of the world’s leading tech company, cares more about tapping into the lamp’s power than making a wish and starts performing tests on Eden. With Brightly’s plasma shield around the lamp, Eden has no way home. Left without a choice, she escapes the lab and goes on the run. After her daring exit, Eden finds herself on the streets of Paris–home to Electra’s headquarters. Left in a strange city with a price on her head (courtesy of scheming Brightly), Eden has to keep her wits about her. She dons a chic disguise and flits around Paris incognito, investigating Brightly Tech. Assisted by Pepper and her old adversary Bola, as well as some new friends, Eden embarks on a quest to retrieve the lamp and protect the secrets of the genie legacy.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in a giveaway. This will not affect my review.

Rating: 8/10 Stars

I liked this book! It was a fun and easy read that grabbed my attention at times! As I’m thinking about how the target audience will react to this book, I do think that middle-grade readers will enjoy running around Paris with Eden in her latest escapades. Although I loved the first book Eden’s Wish better than the sequel, Eden’s Escape is definitely a middle-grade book I would recommend to younger children!

Eden is one of the most relatable characters I have read in a middle-grade book. Crowl has portrayed her just like a 12-year old would, even though I sometimes forgot she was 12! I really connected with her: I could relate with her struggles and emotions. She was going through a short time where no one listened to her or understood her, and I know how that feels! The author definitely made Eden’s experiences similar to what middle schoolers would have gone through.

The plot is very interesting! As she’s trying to escape and defeat the Brightly forces, there is quite a bit of action and adventure! There’s also a few plot twists that had me go “Oh my goodness!” If you have read my past review, you know I love plot twists! The story definitely got me going. The beginning was really sweet while the end was full of surprises! The plot definitely resolved well, and I liked the ending.

I honestly didn’t love the sequel as I liked the original one. I wasn’t as hooked into this one because it felt a bit scattered to me at times. I was going “Why is the plot doing that?” occasionally since certain events didn’t mesh together as much as I wanted them to. But does that mean the book wasn’t great? Definitely not! I really liked it! It was cute and fun!

Eden’s Escape is great for young readers and even older ones! Although the target audience is for middle-grade readers, there’s a good possibility that older people will like it! I would recommend Eden’s Wish more, but if you want to continue the story when Eden is living outside of the lamp, then you should read this book!

Recommendation: Go for it!

Have you read this book? Are you interested in reading this? What do you like about books with magic in the real world? Comment below with your thoughts and let’s chat!

Exclusive Interview + GIVEAWAY with Elle Cosimano

 

Hi guys! So I just finished a really good book called Holding Smoke, and I am so glad to be hosting Elle Cosimano today in an exclusive interview with her! Also, she is giving away a hardcover copy of Holding Smoke in the Rafflecopter link at the bottom of this page, so I urge you to check it out! Enough said, let’s get on with the interview and giveaway!

elle-cosimanoElle Cosimano grew up in the Washington, DC suburbs, the daughter of a maximum security prison warden and an elementary school teacher who rode a Harley. She spent summers working on a fishing boat in the Chesapeake Bay, baiting hooks, scrubbing decks, and lugging buckets of chum. A failed student of the hard sciences, she discovered her true calling in social and behavioral studies while majoring in psychology at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. Fifteen years later, Elle set aside a successful real-estate career to pursue writing. She lives with her husband and two sons in Northern Virginia and Mexico.

Elle’s debut, Nearly Gone, was a 2015 Edgar Award finalist and winner of the International Thriller Award. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, Horror Writers Association, and Sisters In Crime. She was selected for the 2012 Nevada SCBWI Agented & Published Authors’ Mentorship Program, where she worked under the guidance of Ellen Hopkins. She attended the Writers’ Police Academy at Guilford Technical Community College, Department of Public Safety, to conduct hands-on research for her books.

holding-smokeJohn “Smoke” Conlan is serving time for two murders-but he wasn’t the one who murdered his English teacher, and he never intended to kill the only other witness to the crime. A dangerous juvenile rehabilitation center in Denver, Colorado, known as the Y, is Smoke’s new home and the only one he believes he deserves.

But, unlike his fellow inmates, Smoke is not in constant imprisonment. After a near death experience leaves him with the ability to shed his physical body at will, Smoke is able to travel freely outside the concrete walls of the Y, gathering information for himself and his fellow inmates while they’re asleep in their beds. Convinced his future is only as bright as the fluorescent lights in his cell, Smoke doesn’t care that the “threads” that bind his soul to his body are wearing thin-that one day he may not make it back in time. That is, until he meets Pink, a tough, resourceful girl who is sees him for who he truly is and wants to help him clear his name.

Now Smoke is on a journey to redemption he never thought possible. With Pink’s help, Smoke may be able to reveal the true killer, but the closer they get to the truth, the more deadly their search becomes. The web of lies, deceit, and corruption that put Smoke behind bars is more tangled than they could have ever imagined. With both of their lives on the line, Smoke will have to decide how much he’s willing to risk, and if he can envision a future worth fighting for.

2017 Nominee for the Bram Stoker Award for superior achievement in dark fantasy and horror writing

My Mini-Review (Full to Come Later!)

Disclaimer: I received a free copy from the author in exchange for a review. I also got some free signed swag- this is outside of the trade agreement. None of these factors will affect my review.

Rating: 9/10 stars

Overall Thoughts: I really liked this book! It was very well-written, and it definitely does leave an impact on you. I was creeped out at times because it was very haunting and chilling. This is one of those books that you’ll just go “Wow” at the end. I know, because that happened to me!

Pros

  • That ending. I never saw it coming! You’ll never predict it!
  • It will make an impact on you! There’s an article by the author at the end that have the potential to change your outlook on the world. I know I was just amazed by it- it links well with the ending!
  • Hooks you in emotionally, especially with the flashbacks and vivid imagery

Cons

  • I started to lose interest in the middle, but the ending hooked me back it.
  • Some details were a bit off to me. Sometimes I didn’t know if Smoke was in his body or not, and other times I wondered how these events stringed together.

Recommendation: Definitely!

elle

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

I love storytelling in all forms. I love reading stories, watching them, listening to them, and I enjoy creating stories of my own. I think it goes beyond the escapism. For me, the fascination is in the discovery process, both of the characters within the tale but also of my self. When I was a kid, I had an uncle who would read fables and fairy tales aloud to me when I came to visit. We would talk about the characters and their struggles–why they made the choices they made and how they felt about those choices. These were formative moments for me, and in hindsight, I can see how strongly they’ve influenced the kinds of stories I write today.

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

The first book I really, deeply connected with was The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. I read her books over and over again. Her characters were so real to me, so alive and layered, each one unique. It was amazing to me, that she could achieve that kind of depth of character and richness of setting in such a short book, or that she could make me feel so much within so few pages. To this day, I still gravitate toward books that make me care the way this book did–stories and characters that make me laugh or cry or shout out in public places. When I write, my goal is to make a reader feel.

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

I love thrillers and suspense of all kinds, and I appreciate a touch of mystery in anything I read. In adult fiction, I enjoy crime thrillers and psychological suspense. When it comes to YA, I also gravitate toward books with a touch of magic, paranormal, or fantasy in them. And I love a good atmospheric ghost story for any age! When mystery, thrills, and speculative elements are combined, that’s often the perfect combination for me.  

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

I’m Mom to two very busy boys, ages 11 and 14, so my time is divided between writing and Mom-ing. I retired from a long career in real estate to write books, and writing has been my career every since. As for what I do when I’m not writing? I live on a beautiful stretch of beach, and it’s a great place to plot murder. . .  errr. . .  I mean to relax and enjoy the sunshine.

5. Would you want to have a power like Smoke’s, even with all the risks? Why or why not?

Smoke’s ability (astral projection) came at a pretty steep price–a near-death experience at the hands of someone who was supposed to care for him. I don’t envy any of the experiences Smoke endured in order to possess the ability to separate his spirit from his body. I can’t imagine anything more painful than suffering that, or feeling so broken you might never be whole again. So no, I don’t think I would ever want an ability like Smoke’s. 

6. How much research did you have to put into Holding Smoke since it takes place in a prison in Denver? What did you learn?

When I was growing up, my father was a warden of a maximum security prison just outside of Washington, DC. Over the years, he managed institutions which housed some of our nation’s most violent offenders, so I had a great resource for a lot of my questions, and have visited him at the prison, and also at a detention center (jail) before. I attended a special police academy for writers where I was able to take classes on cell searches and talk with corrections officers about their experiences, as well as do a ride-along with a deputy sheriff who answered a lot of questions about arrest procedures and responding to domestic violence calls for me. I interviewed EMS responders and ER physicians for answers to several medical questions. I interviewed a lawyer regarding some of my legal questions. And as for the setting, I lived in Denver for two years, so I was already familiar with the region. As for what I learned? Well, I wrote about that in the Author’s Note at the end of the book. But you can read it here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/elle-cosimano/the-good-the-bad-and-the-_9_b_5922654.html

7. How does it feel like living in a tree house on a Caribbean island? I bet the view must be beautiful and breath-taking there!

I don’t live on an island, though that might be nice! I live in Mexico, on a stretch of the eastern coast called the Riviera Maya. My community is tucked between the Caribbean Sea and the jungle (but I can see the island of Cozumel on a very clear day from the beach across the street.) My house is mostly open-air, and the living spaces are under a palapa, a thatch roof made from dried grass or dried palm leaves. The support poles are made from trunks of very hard wood trees called zapote, giving it the look and feel of a tree house. It’s very peaceful. We live simply here, mostly outside, and it’s a great place to raise the kids. I also get very interesting critters in my kitchen sometimes. . .  scorpions, snakes, pumas, and spiders the size of my face. I post a lot of pics of my home on my Instagram. You can see a pic of me in my treehouse here: http://www.instagram.com/p/x4jF9rJnaz/

8. The title of your book Holding Smoke is a play on Smoke’s nickname. Why did you choose Smoke as the name of your protagonist, and how you did come up with the title?

Honestly, I can’t remember when his name came to me. I was doing a lot of research and reading about Near-Death Experiences (NDEs). Lots of people described their experiences very similarly . . . seeing themselves from outside themselves, almost as if they were in ghost form looking down on their own bodies. Several reported that their NDEs left them with the ability to project their souls at will. So in my mind, Smoke’s astral form was very wispy and ghostlike. But word choice is important. It reflects the narrator’s voice and the lens through which they see their world. A “hardened” kid in a dangerous world probably wouldn’t call himself “Wispy”. But he might just be okay calling himself Smoke. It felt like a fit, both to his voice as well as within his setting.

9. What is your favorite quote from this book, and is there a message you want your readers to get from Holding Smoke?

“The way you look when you project yourself, the places you can go, the things you haven’t figured out how to do yet. . . it’s all in your head.” — Pink, Holding Smoke

This is my favorite quote from the book, and perfectly encapsulates the message I wanted readers to take away from Smoke’s story.

10.  Do you have any tips for any aspiring authors or writers?

Read, read, read. Write, write, write. Everything you need to become a writer? It’s all in your head.
Now onto the giveaway!!!
Click below to win a hardcover edition of Holding Smoke by Elle Cosimano!
Just a few quick notes:
1) This is a US Only giveaway (sorry Int’l).
2) You must be 18 years or older or have a parent or guardian’s permission to enter.
3) No PO Boxes. You must have an address to have the book sent.
4) Be truthful! All entries that do not do what the instructions are will not be counted!

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I wish you the best, and happy reading!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

Exclusive Interview with Erin Beaty!

Hello! Last week on the #BBTC Twitter Chat (hosted by the lovely Brittany’s Book Rambles!), I got to meet a wonderful author whose debut book is probably one of my most anticipated reads of 2017! The Traitor’s Kiss sounded so amazing that I wanted to interview Erin Beaty so much, and I’m so happy that I’m able to host her on our blog! It was so fun last week, and to those that were there with me last week (or to those who were not), here is my exclusive interview! Go pre-order it today! TTK comes out May 9, 2017!

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1. In your own words, how would you describe The Traitor’s Kiss?

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Kester Note: By the way, look at that pretty cover!
When I was pitching the story to agents and later to publishers, I called it “Jane Eyre meets Mulan.” It’s about a girl who lives in a society where the vast majority of marriages are made through a system of matchmakers. Sage is completely unsuited for marriage herself, but she gets hired as the matchmaker’s apprentice, and a big part of the job is spying on people. They’re headed to a national marriage conference with a group of specially selected brides when Sage gets romantically involved with one of the soldiers from their ceremonial escort. The problem is, she has to lie about who she is, but so does he. In the middle of all this secret-keeping from each other, they uncover a treasonous plot that threatens to plunge the whole kingdom into civil war.

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

Until very recently, writing was something I only did on the side. Growing up, I loved to read, but I was all about science and math, and writing was just another skill to master. My dad was pretty insistent on communicating clearly, and I would often go 15 rounds with him on various history and English papers- and this was back before Microsoft Word! I studied engineering in college, but I did so well in my humanities classes, a few professors suggested I change majors. And somehow I always roped into doing the write-ups in our group projects. Did I like writing? Sort of. Mostly I was just glad our lab results were presented clearly.

Years later I had a blog, but it was mainly to keep family in the loop about our lives as we moved around the country. People who read it were always telling me I should write a book. I thought that was just weird until one day I got hit with an idea so hard I actually sat down and started typing. Now I’m like, why did it take me so long to realize writing is awesome?

Really, though, I look back over years of blog entries, and I see a lot of improvement in my story-telling. I wasn’t ready until now, so I don’t feel too bad about waiting this long to start.

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

I really do love Jane Austen, because she has this dry, observational wit and her heroines don’t compromise what’s important. I love the precision of Michael Crichton and Robert Heinlein (and their science) and the historical narratives of Michael and Jeff Shaara. As a teen, I was all about Tamora Pierce, but her influence was more in living rather than writing. I’ve been pretty eclectic in my reading, though, and I don’t know if I can really nail down where my style comes from. Even now when I read books I feel like I’m learning something craft-wise. I think I will always be evolving.

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

I read whatever sounds interesting, and generally contemporary is lower on the list- I guess I never felt like I fit in my own time. You can be pretty certain I will never write a contemporary novel. I like sci-fi and fantasy, but I can be picky about it, especially if I think it’s going to take a lot of effort to understand the world. I adore historical fiction, but it has to be accurate.

My all-time favorite book is Michael Crichton’s Timeline, because quantum physics and medieval history make my nerd heart beat fast, and this has both. Other books I’ve read over and over are everything by Jane Austen, Steinbeck’s Cannery Row and Sweet Thursday, Michael Shaara’s The Killer Angels, Robin McKinley’s The Hero and the Crown and The Blue Sword, and Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, and his short story anthology The Past Through Tomorrow. All those had huge influence on me in my teens and twenties, and I go back to them like comfort food.

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

Oh lordy. I have five kids and am married to a Navy man, so my life revolves mostly around running a household and moving every two years. The only reason I have time to write is because I’m anti-social. I’d say it’s part-time, but I don’t have any other real paying job, though I teach at the local writing center. Until we move again, that is.

6. Would you want to be a spy? If so, what would be your code name? What would also be your dream mission?

erin-beaty
Photo by Devon Shanor
I think I’d be a terrible spy- even calling people on the phone makes me hyperventilate, but I might be able to handle the type of spying Sage does. She kind of studies people like a naturalist studies ants. My code name would be Mama Bear, and the best mission I could handle would be where I’ve got a background job, but I’m really looking for signs of human trafficking or abuse.

7. Before you started your writing career, you worked in the U.S. Navy as a weapons officer. How was being in the Navy like? How did your experiences help you write this book?

There were so many good things and bad things, but I honestly don’t think most of the bad things were that unique to the military. Jerks and incompetence exist everywhere. There was sexism, yes, but also incredible support and empowerment. I learned so much about myself- what I was capable of, what my weaknesses were, and what was ultimately important to me in life. I learned how to prioritize and how to get stuff done. There were miserable times, but I dealt with them and came out stronger. I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

There’s nothing specific in THE TRAITOR’S KISS that relates to lessons I learned, but there’s an underlying theme of what it means to be a leader, especially a military one.

8. Your novel is “Jane Austen meets an espionage twist!” Which Jane Austen character can you relate with the most? Which character relates to Sage Fowler, the protagonist of The Traitor’s Kiss, the most?

Is it vain to say Lizzie Bennet for myself? She sees the absurdity in everything and so distances herself from the world a bit. Sage is actually more like Jane Eyre than any other literary character – she starts with bitterness and loss, and she’s probably rougher around the edges than any of Austen’s characters. Definitely doesn’t have any of their refined manners.

9. In your own opinion, what is your favorite quote from your novel?

The one that always makes me smile is when Sage goes to apologize to the matchmaker and says, “You see, the way this works is, I say I’m sorry for the horrible things I said, and then you say you’re sorry for the horrible things you said. Then we smile and pretend we believe each other.”

10. If your book was turned into a movie, who would you want as the director and cast?

I love Kenneth Branaugh as a director (and an actor, but I don’t see a part for him). I’d always envisioned Duke D’Amiran looking like Richard Armitage, which is interesting because I think he’s kind of hot, and the character is the main bad guy. Majel Barrett would have been a great matchmaker, but that’s not possible. There’s an actress named McKenna Knipe who kind of has Sage’s looks, but I have no idea if her acting is any good. All the guys I can think of are too old. Wouldn’t mind sitting around looking at candidates all day, though.

11. Could you describe your reaction when you found out you were going to be published?

When my agent called to say I was going to an acquisition board at Macmillan, I was ironing a bunch of shirts for an upcoming wedding. I very carefully set the iron to the side and sat down on the couch behind me and said, “What?” Then I started shaking all over. For the rest of the evening, I was bumping into things left and right.

A week later I was lying on a bed at my in-laws’ house, staring at the ceiling and waiting for the results of said board. When my agent called to say I had an official offer, I just closed my eyes and shook my head for about ten minutes. Then I got up and got all the kids dressed for the wedding’s rehearsal dinner, where I imbibed heavily.

12. What is your go-to cure when you get a case of writer’s block?

I break out old fashioned notebooks. Writing things out by hand unlocks the creative part of my mind. But if my brain is just tired or stressed, I’ll watch a movie or read a favorite book. The book or movie has to be something I’m already familiar with, though, so there’s no real effort to understand what’s going on.

13. Do you have a favorite snack, drink, or song you like to listen to when you write?

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Photo by Devon Shanor

It’s hard to eat and type or write, so I often have chai or lattes on hand. I’ll snack while I edit sometimes. I have a few mood playlists, but interestingly, I can’t listen to anything with words if I’m editing, only writing.

14. As a debut author, what is one thing you wish someone told you before you started writing and publishing?

I’m kind of glad I didn’t know how much work it would be or I might have chickened out. There were many things I heard over and over – that each level of success only brings a new (and often worse) kind of stress, that I would experience horrible jealousies over other writers’ successes, and that I would leave some of my early writing friends behind – so I expected them, but I was unprepared for how they felt.

15. What are your current plans with your writing career?

I guess I’ll just keep writing books as long as it’s fun and people want to read them. I have several stories I want to develop, but right now life (moving) is getting in the way, and the priority in writing is finishing what has now become a trilogy. I let the writing genie out of the bottle, though, and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to put it back.

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

Critique other people’s work (in a partnership), and learn how to do it well (it’s not easy). That was the best thing for finding the problems in my own writing. And write what you would want to read. Believe it or not, there’s lots of people out there who will like it, too. 

Thank you so much, Erin, for coming onto our blog! I loved your answers! I’m so excited to get The Traitor’s Kiss in May!

If you want to get some more of Erin Beaty through her social media accounts, or if you want to pre-order her book, check out the links below!

Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Pinterest  |  Instagram

Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble

I’ll try to be at #BBTC tonight for anyone who wants to join me!

Do you like the classics like Jane Austen’s books? Do you like books infused with espionage? Will you pre-order this book, or is your interest piqued? What’s your most anticipated 2017 read? Comment below with your thoughts!

Til Next Time! ~ Kester