Exclusive Interview with Eliot Sappingfield, MG Sci-fi Author of A Problematic Paradox

Hi guys! We have an amazing lineup of 2018 debut authors in store for you this year, and we’re kicking off all the #2018debuts with Eliot Sappingfield, author of A Problematic Paradox! I loved this book so much because it gave me so many laughs and hilarious moments, and I am glad I have the opportunity to interview the author about it! Hope you enjoy!


About the BookA Problematic Paradox

Guardians of the Galaxy meets The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in this wild, warm-hearted, and hilarious sci-fi debut about a brainy young girl who is recruited for a very special boarding school.

Nikola Kross has given up on living in harmony with classmates and exasperated teachers: she prefers dabbling in experimental chemistry to fitting in. But when her life is axially inverted by a gang of extraterrestrials who kidnap her dad and attempt to recruit her into their service, she discovers he’s been keeping a world of secrets from her–including the school for geniuses where she’s sent for refuge, a place where classes like Practical Quantum Mechanics are the norm and where students use wormholes to commute to class. For Nikola, the hard part isn’t school, it’s making friends, especially when the student body isn’t (entirely) human. But the most puzzling paradox of all is Nikola herself, who has certain abilities that no one understands–abilities that put her whole school in greater danger than she could have imagined.

A Problematic Paradox releases tomorrow January 23rd from G. P. Putnam’s and Son’s!

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Eliot Sappingfield Interview

 

1. Your debut MG sci-fi novel A Problematic Paradox is releasing on January 23rd from G. P. Putnam and Son’s, and it follows Nikola as she is sent to the School, concealed from the outside world and filled with extraterrestrial creatures and futuristic technology, after her father is kidnapped by a group of aliens called “the Old Ones.” If you had the opportunity to become enrolled in the School, would you go? What classes would you want to take, and what would you be most looking forward to as a student?

Absolutely! Practical Quantum Mechanics sounds like a lot of fun to me, even if I might not be able to keep up with the actual geniuses there.

There’s also the fact that since I wrote the place, I’d be kind of like a god, and could control reality and bend others to my every whim. I’d be cool about it, though.

2. Nikola struggles to both fit in as a genius in her old school and as a human in her new school mostly comprised of parahumans, extraterrestrial creatures with extraordinary capabilities. How do you want A Problematic Paradox to impact young readers, especially regarding the themes of bullying and fitting in?

I wanted it to be realistic. A lot of times, especially in those middle school years, kids find themselves in impossible situations and are given terrible advice for dealing with it. It’s not that adults want to give bad advice; it’s just that every situation is different and what works for one kid doesn’t always work for others.

Since that’s just a fact of life for some, what I really wanted to do was to focus not on overcoming bullies, but on not letting them make your whole world as ugly as they are. It can feel safer to close yourself off, and avoid people altogether, but that stops you from connecting with the wonderful people that are all around us, sometimes dealing with the same issues.

I had a tough time in school myself, but was lucky enough to make friends that made it all worthwhile. Today, looking back, I can’t recall the face of a single bully, because they’re ultimately forgettable (which might be why they’re bullies in the first place) but I still speak to some of the friends I made back then.

3. Since Nikola’s primary passion is science, why do you believe it is important to portray more empowering girls pursuing STEM-related careers as protagonists and deuteragonists in Middle Grade fiction?A Problematic Paradox

That was actually where the idea for the book came from initially. I wanted to write a science fiction story with a female hero, but one that wasn’t a “girl book”. My daughters complained that there weren’t enough science books with girl heroes, and challenged me to come up with one. I’ve heard the middle grade years are when a lot of young women turn away from the sciences and start embracing what they think are gender-normative goals, so I really loved the idea of creating a world where a girl being brilliant and deeply interested in science isn’t just possible, it’s the norm.

Continue reading “Exclusive Interview with Eliot Sappingfield, MG Sci-fi Author of A Problematic Paradox”

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Celebrating MLK Day with an Exclusive Interview with Alice Faye Duncan, Author of Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop

Hi guys! Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day! Today we are remembering one of the greatest figures in American history who has inspired millions of people across the nation both in his lifetime and after his death to strive for greater racial unity and equality. To celebrate his birthday, I’m interviewing Alice Faye Duncan about her newest children’s picture book Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop, which revolves around the Memphis Sanitation Strike of 1968 and Dr. King’s role in it. Honestly, I had never heard of the Strike until I was first introduced to this book by my author friend Linda Williams Jackson, and I’m very surprised I haven’t heard about this since this took place 50 years ago in my home state! I hope you enjoy this interview, and please go check out and pre-order this book for you or any children you know!


About the BookMemphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop

This historical fiction picture book for children ages 9-12 presents the story of nine-year-old Lorraine Jackson, who in 1968 witnessed the Memphis sanitation strike–Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s final stand for justice before his assassination–when her father, a sanitation worker, participated in the protest.

In February 1968, two African American sanitation workers were killed by unsafe equipment in Memphis, Tennessee. Outraged at the city’s refusal to recognize a labor union that would fight for higher pay and safer working conditions, sanitation workers went on strike. The strike lasted two months, during which Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was called to help with the protests. While his presence was greatly inspiring to the community, this unfortunately would be his last stand for justice. He was assassinated in his Memphis hotel the day after delivering his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” sermon in Mason Temple Church. Inspired by the memories of a teacher who participated in the strike as a child, author Alice Faye Duncan reveals the story of the Memphis sanitation strike from the perspective of a young girl with a riveting combination of poetry and prose.

Goodreads


Alice Faye Duncan Interview

1. Your picture book, Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop—is set to release in September (2018) and it has already become a #1 Amazon early release. This historical fiction tells the story of the Memphis Sanitation Strike through the eyes of a nine-year-old girl, Lorraine Jackson. What is the strike’s historical significance?

The Memphis Strike of 1968 was a non-violent protest where black sanitation workers left their garbage barrels on the curb in order to defend their dignity and demand economic justice in a city that abused their labor. White sanitation supervisors spoke to the men like children, called them buzzards and when it rained, they sent the black men home early without a full day’s pay.

It is important to know that Memphis sanitation workers initiated and organized the strike. This was not an idea conceived by Dr. King.  However, Dr. King chose to help the men in their struggle for justice. Also, children like my main character, Lorraine Jackson, missed school and black parents sacrificed time to march in the strike over 65 days.  Ultimately, it is Dr. King, who made the greatest sacrifice.  While helping the striking workers in Memphis, he was murdered on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel.

2. What do you want young readers to learn from your character, Lorraine Jackson and Dr. King?

Freedom is not free.  And to gain freedom and keep it, children and adults must be vigilant, courageous and ready to sacrifice their comfort.

3. Why did it take 10 years to write a story that is only 3,000 words?

It took 10 years to write MEMPHIS, MARTIN, AND THE MOUNTAINTOP because my proper entrance into the story, the right characters and organization for the plot, did not show up when I received the initial idea to write it. I wrote more than seven drafts for the story until I finally landed the perfect combination of poetry and prose.

4. What did the creative process for birthing this book teach you?

After writing for two decades, there is one thing that I clearly understand. The story that I am looking for is also looking for me.  It is also my opinion that the writer serves as a vessel or instrument, who carries the story until it is ready to emerge.  Writing is not easy. But, when the real germ of the story appears, there is clarity and the soul of the writer knows that she is on the train that will carry her and the reader to an ending that satisfies.

5. What makes this new book different from the other children’s books you have written?

Alice Faye DuncanI wrote my first non-fiction book in 1995.  It was titled THE NATIONAL CIVIL RIGHTS MUSEUM CELEBRATES EVERYDAY PEOPLE. That book was a chronology of the American Civil Rights Movement from 1954 – 1968.

MEMPHIS, MARTIN, AND THE MOUNTAINTOP is a historical-fiction that was inspired by the life of a Memphis preacher, Reverend Henry Logan Starks and his young daughter, Almella Yvonne. Almella marched in the sanitation strike with her mother and father.  She sang freedom songs at the strike rallies and she also heard Dr. King deliver his last sermon, “The Mountaintop Speech.”

Continue reading “Celebrating MLK Day with an Exclusive Interview with Alice Faye Duncan, Author of Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop”

Review: The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

Hi guys! Today is my second day to go back to school, and I know this semester is going to be even crazier than the first! Now I have AP exams and club competitions to worry about in the next few months! It’s going to be a long ride, but I’m hoping that I’ll still be able to read many great books and blog for you all! By now, I should have all my January posts scheduled, which is a great reliever for me. Today, I am reviewing a book I received many many months ago, but I finally had the chance to read it a few weeks ago and review it! Here’s my review of The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman for you!


About the BookThe Invisible Library

Collecting books can be a dangerous prospect in this fun, time-traveling, fantasy adventure from a spectacular debut author.
 
One thing any Librarian will tell you: the truth is much stranger than fiction…

Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, a shadowy organization that collects important works of fiction from all of the different realities. Most recently, she and her enigmatic assistant Kai have been sent to an alternative London. Their mission: Retrieve a particularly dangerous book. The problem: By the time they arrive, it’s already been stolen.

London’s underground factions are prepared to fight to the death to find the tome before Irene and Kai do, a problem compounded by the fact that this world is chaos-infested—the laws of nature bent to allow supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic to run rampant. To make matters worse, Kai is hiding something—secrets that could be just as volatile as the chaos-filled world itself.

Now Irene is caught in a puzzling web of deadly danger, conflicting clues, and sinister secret societies. And failure is not an option—because it isn’t just Irene’s reputation at stake, it’s the nature of reality itself…

FEATURING BONUS MATERIAL: including an interview with the author, a legend from the Library, and more!

Goodreads


4 Stars

Disclaimer: I received a free finished paperback of this novel from the publisher via Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

I was really looking forward to reading this novel because the premise intrigued me and a reviewer likened it to Thursday Next, who is one of my favorite literary characters of all time. I devoured half of it in an entire day, not just because I had three hours to wait out in a college commencement, but mainly from the novel transporting me into its thrilling plot. The Invisible Library is full of fascinating world-building with eccentric characters and an entertaining and slightly satirical writing style that will put you on the edge of your seat. And I agree with that reviewer–it definitely did remind me a lot of Thursday Next. (You need to read that series, by the way. It’s hilarious and set in a world where all books are interconnected!)

Continue reading “Review: The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman”

Review: Lucky Few by Kathryn Ormsbee

Hi guys! Back in March, I had the lovely opportunity to meet Kathryn Ormsbee at the SE-YA Book Festival, and she is also a local Tennessee author living in Nashville (one of my favorite cities in the world). I was able to interview her here on the blog (which you can find here), and today I have the chance to review her debut YA novel Lucky Few! I hope you enjoy!


About the Book-2

Stevie, Max, and Sanger: keeping Austin weird.

Stevie Hart is homeschooled, but don’t hold that against her. Sure, she and her best (okay, only) friend, Sanger, will never be prom queens, but that’s just because the Central Austin Homeschool Cooperative doesn’t believe in proms. Or dancing. Still, Stevie and Sanger know how to create their own brand of fun.

Enter Max Garza, the new boy next door. After a near-fatal accident, Max is determined to defy mortality with a checklist: 23 Ways to Fake My Death Without Dying. Dead set on carrying out fabricated demises ranging from impalement to spontaneous combustion, Max charms Stevie and Sanger into helping him with this two-month macabre mission. But as Stevie finds herself falling for Max, it becomes increasingly difficult to draw a line between his make-believe deaths and her real life.

Goodreads


4 Stars

Disclaimer: I received a free signed copy of this book and some swag from the author. This will not affect my review.

I was really excited when Kathryn sent me signed copies of both her YA contemporaries Lucky Few and Tash Hearts Tolstoy! Lucky Few has been on my to-be-read list for a long time, partly because she was a SE-YA 2017 author and the cover is so cute. This book did not disappoint! I had such a fun, exciting adventure with Stevie, Sanger, and Max. Lucky Few is one of those novels that you could laugh and cry in one sitting. Just like your closest friendships (it definitely reminds me of mine), you don’t want this book to end–you just want it to go on and let the good times continue!

One of my favorite aspects of this book was Stevie’s narration. Kathryn Ormsbee has an amazing gift for making first-person narrators so unique and entertaining. She conveyed the homeschooled experience very authentically, and I really enjoyed reading about how the homeschooling process works. Stevie also is one of the most memorable narrators I’ve ever read–her voice stands out from the other first-person accounts I have read in past books. From page one, I fell in love with Stevie’s character and how she told her story, and that’s an uncommon thing you see in stories. However, Ormsbee managed to accomplish for me a love of the main character at first sight.

I also loved the friendship between Stevie, Sanger, and Max! The author transported me so much into the story that I both laughed and cried (internally for the latter) as if I was part of their group. Their escapades were so fun and entertaining, yet you could feel the bonds of their friendship really strongly on a different level. Each character was also so unique yet likeable too. From Sanger’s eccentric personality to Max’s desire to fake his own death 23 times, you’ll just fall in love with them. The evolution of their relationships (both friendly and romantic) definitely drove the story really well, showing both their good times and bad times. I wish I was actually able to meet them in person!

Lucky Few is one of the most entertaining and huggable YA contemporary novels I have ever read! You will definitely fall in love with it from page one! From the author’s mastering of making the narrator’s voice unique (which Ormsbee also does in her newest book Tash Hearts Tolstoy) to the main characters’ fun friendship, Lucky Few infuses both the light and dark moments all friendships go through as Stevie, Sanger, and Max not only get closer to each other but also discover more about their identities. I will definitely be looking forward to more of Kathryn Ormsbee’s works! Her writing style is entertaining, unique, and amazing–which also describes her books.


About the Author17757389_1897609900518878_42671521515359918_n

Kathryn Ormsbee writes books & songs in Nashville, TN. Her debut YA, LUCKY FEW, published June 2016 with Simon & Schuster. Her next YA, TASH HEARTS TOLSTOY, comes out June 6, 2017.

Kathryn also writes Middle Grade fantasy novels as K.E. Ormsbee. She is the author of THE WATER AND THE WILD series and the upcoming standalone THE HOUSE IN POPLAR WOOD (Chronicle Books, 2018).

In her wild, early years, Kathryn taught English as a Foreign Language, interned with a film society, and did a lot of irresponsible road tripping. Nowadays, she teaches piano lessons, records a weekly true crime podcast with her sister, and runs races she never wins. She likes clothes from the 60s, music from the 70s, and movies from the 80s. She is from the 90s. You can visit her online at keormsbee.com or follow her on Twitter & Instagram @kathsby.

WebsiteTwitter | Instagram | Goodreads


Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

Have you read Lucky Few or any of Kathryn’s books? Do you love YA contemporary?

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

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Hunting Prince Dracula Blog Tour: Top Ten Quotes from Stalking Jack the Ripper + Giveaway

Hi guys! Today I am on a 5-day weekend because of parent-teacher conferences and Labor Day, so it’s going to be a break full of catching up on a bunch of stuff including studying, extarcurriculars, and reading! Today I am so glad to be a part of the Hunting Prince Dracula Blog Tour, and I have a physical ARC (yes, I have an actual physical ARC!) at home I’m so excited to dig in soon! To help you convince you to get both Stalking Jack the Ripper and Hunting Prince Dracula, I am doing my Top 10 Favorite Quotes from Stalking Jack the Ripper!

Tour Banner2


Title: Hunting Prince Dracula 33784373(Stalking Jack the Ripper #2)

Author: Kerri Maniscalco

Pub. Date: September 19th, 2017

Publisher: Little, Brown & Company

Format: Hardcover, eBook, Audiobook

Pages: 448

Synopsis: In this hotly anticipated sequel to the haunting #1 bestseller Stalking Jack the Ripper, bizarre murders are discovered in the castle of Prince Vlad the Impaler, otherwise known as Dracula. Could it be a copycat killer…or has the depraved prince been brought back to life?

Following the grief and horror of her discovery of Jack the Ripper’s true identity, Audrey Rose Wadsworth has no choice but to flee London and its memories. Together with the arrogant yet charming Thomas Cresswell, she journeys to the dark heart of Romania, home to one of Europe’s best schools of forensic medicine…and to another notorious killer, Vlad the Impaler, whose thirst for blood became legend.

But her life’s dream is soon tainted by blood-soaked discoveries in the halls of the school’s forbidding castle, and Audrey Rose is compelled to investigate the strangely familiar murders. What she finds brings all her terrifying fears to life once again.

Goodreads
Pre-Order Hunting Prince Dracula here!

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-A-Million

Also, Kerri is hosting a pre-order giveaway where if you send her proof of purchase, you can get a Stalking Jack the Ripper novella that is set in Thomas’s point of view! You do not want to miss Meeting Thomas Cresswell! Check out the details here!

Continue reading “Hunting Prince Dracula Blog Tour: Top Ten Quotes from Stalking Jack the Ripper + Giveaway”

Exclusive Interview with Sci-Fi Author Mary Fan on Her Newest Book Starswept!

Hi guys! Earlier this Summer, I had the wonderful opportunity to review Starswept by Mary Fan, which releases TOMORROW! I loved it so much, and you can see my review of it here! Today I have the amazing opportunity to interview Mary Fan on the blog here, and I’m so excited to share it with you. I hope you enjoy!


About Starswepta0258-starswept-8002bcover2breveal2band2bpromotional

Some melodies reach across the stars.

In 2157, the Adryil—an advanced race of telepathic humanoids—contacted Earth. A century later, 15-year-old violist Iris Lei considers herself lucky to attend Papilio, a prestigious performing arts school powered by their technology. Born penniless, Iris’s one shot at a better life is to attract an Adryil patron. But only the best get hired, and competition is fierce.

A sudden encounter with an Adryil boy upends her world. Iris longs to learn about him and his faraway realm, but after the authorities arrest him for trespassing, the only evidence she has of his existence is the mysterious alien device he slipped to her.

When she starts hearing his voice in her head, she wonders if her world of backstabbing artists and pressure for perfection is driving her insane. Then, she discovers that her visions of him are real—by way of telepathy—and soon finds herself lost in the kind of impossible love she depicts in her music.

But even as their bond deepens, Iris realizes that he’s hiding something from her—and it’s dangerous. Her quest for answers leads her past her sheltered world to a strange planet lightyears away, where she uncovers secrets about Earth’s alien allies that shatter everything she knows.

Goodreads


Mary Fan

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

Quite simply, I love writing because I love stories, and writing is my vehicle for bringing them to life. I’ve always been a huge reader, and even in elementary school, I was always making up my own stories and creating my own books out of construction paper and glue. It was around seventh grade that I started trying to write full-length books. It started out as being just for fun, but the more I wrote, the more I wanted to get good at it. Every kid has their after-school hobbies, and mine was writing stories.

Sometime around junior year, though, I stopped. I think it was for a variety of reasons… partly because I was feeling discouraged (I’d been rejected from a bunch of writing programs), and partly because I was discovering my love of music theory and composition (I’d been an instrumentalist since I was a toddler, but never really appreciated composition until then). So I set aside the writing for several years while I studied music in college. Then after college, I picked it up again… and I’ve been going ever since!

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

Oof, this is always a tough one! Asking me to name my favorite books is like asking me to name my friends… I never want to list them all because I’m afraid I’ll leave one out and feel bad later! I will say, though, that my favorite genres have always been sci-fi and fantasy. I just love out-of-this-world tales. I tend to lean a bit more toward sci-fi, and I think that’s because I’m just more partial toward the aesthetics of futuristic technology and outer space (though I do love castles and magic as well!). I can trace my love of sci-fi back to Jack Williamson’s Legion of Space, which I discovered around seventh grade. I then fell down a rabbit hole of classic sci-fi—Asimov, Bova, Bradbury, Pohl, etc. Come to think of it, I think my tween obsession with reading old-school sci-fi led to my writing habit… the first manuscript I completed (a silly story about Star Trek-style space explorers battling evil aliens) was a space opera. So I think it’s safe to say those had a huge impact on my writing.

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

I currently work a full-time day job in financial marketing, and I treat writing as my second job. I give myself a schedule and deadlines and everything—I’m my own tough boss haha. Of course, one can’t be working all the time—even when that work is also fun. I also love traveling—both around the world and within the United States. There are so, so many places I want to go! And, of course, I love going to live performances—operas, ballets, Broadway shows, rock concerts, circuses…

Continue reading “Exclusive Interview with Sci-Fi Author Mary Fan on Her Newest Book Starswept!”

The Alchemists of Loom Read Along Bonus Content!: Timeline of Events Leading up to and in TAoL

Hello guys! I am currently a part of my first EVER read along, and we are reading Elise Kova’s The Alchemists of Loom, which is pretty good so far! In our read-along group, we are reading a couple of chapters a day, discussing the book, and winning some giveaways (well I haven’t yet, but I hope to)! If you want to check out our group, then click here for the Facebook group!

May taol Read Along.jpg


If you are part of the read-along, here is today’s bonus content! I have today the timeline of the events that led up to and are in The Alchemists of Loom! History, woo hoo! If you’re a history buff like me, especially about historical, dystopian, or fantastic worlds, then you’ll like this!

Continue reading “The Alchemists of Loom Read Along Bonus Content!: Timeline of Events Leading up to and in TAoL”

Review: A Time to Speak by Nadine Brandes – Never Wanted the Book to End!

Hi guys! The end of school is nigh, and these last few weeks have been very hectic. I’m also very behind on reviews, so I’m trying my best to catch up! I need to adopt a better policy… How do you guys juggle reading and reviewing? I probably should review right after I read since I have a few books that it’s been over a month or two since I’ve finished it. Anyways, here’s another review of a new favorite book that I hope you will consider reading!


About A Time to Speak (Out of Time #2)24466484

What happens when you live longer than you wanted to?

Parvin Blackwater wanted to die, but now she’s being called to be a leader. The only problem is, no one wants to follow.

The Council is using Jude’s Clock-matching invention to force “new-and-improved” Clocks on the public. Those who can’t afford one are packed into boxcars like cattle and used for the Council’s purposes. Parvin and Solomon team up to rescue the people. Instead, they find themselves on a cargo ship of Radicals headed out to sea. What will the Council do to them? And why are people suddenly dying before their Clocks have zeroed-out?


A 5 Star

Disclaimer: I received a free electronic copy of this book from the author in exchange for a review. I have also received swag, and I am a part of the author’s street team. These will not affect my review.

Overall Thoughts: Just to start things off, I did not like the first book in the Out of Time series, A Time to Die. I was trying to rush the book since it was so long and it made me dislike the author’s writing style. I became very confused on what was going on, so this made me a bit hesitant about reading this. But let me say this, I am amazed by this book. Now I know why the Street Team geeks out about the series: this book right here. Let me tell you, it exceeded its predecessor in so many ways that I didn’t mind it was over 8000 on MOBI! You know that C. S. Lewis quote “There’s never a cup of tea or a book too big for me” or something like that? This is the first time I have read a book that I didn’t want to end. 

Story Development: This may seem like a long book, but it’s the right length for it because there’s so much that goes on. The author develops that plot so well that you can see ever clearly the progression of many of the characters, from Parvin becoming more brave an dependent on God to some unlikely people supporting her. I could not get enough of this book. Seriously, I loved how it panned out! I did not mind Parvin traveled all around the Western Hemisphere on her mission; in fact, I loved it. Nothing felt out of place. A Time to Speak was like a huge, soft blanket that has no holes and you just want to snuggle in it for a long time. There’s literally nothing wrong with this book plotwise!

Characters: Oh my goodness, I love this cast of characters so much! Now I want some of those character magnetic bookmarks because they are amazing! I love Parvin’s POV, and her relationship with Solomon. I really want Angelique (or Frenchie) to go home to France, and I still like Madame, too! Even characters that you would want to hate- like the Milkman (whose real name is Caprine), Dusten, and Kaphtor- you might end up rooting for at the end. The characters are so different yet they soon unite over a common cause and it’s so great!

Just Perfect! and Concluding Thoughts: I have nothing against this book at all. It’s really now one of my favorite books now because it was that amazing! I can finally fanboy over the series because I loved this novel a lot. I am so looking forward to finishing the series with A Time to Rise! Oh, I need to know what happens next! As a proud Ninja, I definitely recommend this book to you! You will not regret it! It definitely helped me shape my thinking, that I should live each day to the fullest, for I do not know when my last one will come.

On of My Favorite Quotes: “The promise of uncertainty changes how I live. It urges me to live . . . more, as if the very seconds prior to every sunset will be my last. That‘s the way it’s supposed to be.”


So I hoped you enjoyed that review! Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

Exclusive Interview + Giveaway with Kym Brunner!

To all you Star Wars fans, May the Fourth be with you! Today is also National Bird Day, which brings us to today’s special guest: Kym Brunner! Kym wrote a book called Flip the Bird (yes, there is a secret pun… please see question 5 for that answer… the bird is named Flip), and to celebrate the upcoming “Be Kind to Animals” week and International Bird Migratory Day on May 14th, she is giving away a copy of Flip the Bird! Woo hoo! Here’s a special interview I conducted with her after I saw her at SE-YA (I’ve made a lot of author friends there).


Kym Brunner

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

I’ve always loved reading, but it wasn’t until my thirties that I thought, “Hmm…maybe I could write a book.” I bought a book called “How to Write a Book For Dummies,” and that was all the permission I needed to go ahead and try writing a book too. Found out I absolutely loved it and an obsession was born.

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

I love reading––PB through adult novels––but mostly I read YA and New York Times bestsellers. Growing up I was really into Stephen King because there wasn’t a true young adult category. I suppose that’s why I love suspenseful books so much. As far as writing style, I can only say that I write the way I think and talk, so I don’t model myself after any particular author. But when I first started writing, I was reading a lot of Meg Cabot, Carolyn Mackler, Laurie Halse Anderson, and John Green. Fingers crossed that I picked up a few tips vicariously through reading their books.

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

I always tell my husband that I have two full-time jobs… teaching 7th graders and writing novels. When I’m not teaching or grading papers, I’m writing or thinking about writing. I get up early and write before school, and then work for several hours after school on my novels. On weekends, I still get up early and write, sometimes all the way until dinner. Writing consumes me and I don’t even notice the time.

4. Your latest book Flip the Bird is targeted especially for middle grade to teenage boys. Why did you choose to write for this audience, and how would you respond to that “teenage boys don’t read”?

I didn’t choose the audience; the book chose me, so to speak. I took a falconry class at a raptor rehabilitation center after attending the Medieval Times dinner show, and the sport captivated me. I could easily have made the story a female apprentice, but having brothers myself, I could easily picture this being a dad-son sort of activity. As far as teen boys not reading, I can only shrug. I do think there are a lot of teen boys reading out there, but as a group, their interests might stray toward video games, girls, and sports for awhile. But I’m hoping they eventually come back to reading, and that they continue to make time to read when given a chance to relax. Reading novels not only expands your mind and gets you to consider other aspects of issues, but it’s very relaxing. Everyone needs down time without the noise and violence of a video game to collect their thoughts and think about what kind of person they want to be. Reading gives you lots of opportunities to explore who you are and who you will become as an adult.

5. What was the inspiration for the title of Flip the Bird? Is there a reason why Mercer chose to name his hawk “Flip”? (Is there a secret pun in the title?)

Definitely a secret pun in the title! The original title was (get ready to cringe)  “A Falcon’s Feather.” Yeah, so that is what we call “a working title,” something to put down at the top as a placeholder, but you can see it didn’t work at all. One day, we were laughing about someone flipping the bird to me in traffic, and I was like, “Bam! That’s it! He’ll name his hawk Flip!” Thus, it should probably be titled, “Flip, the Bird” with a comma. 🙂

6. Would you want to be a master falconer? Would you like to have a bird as a pet, and if so which one?

Maybe one day I’ll pursue being a falconer myself, but it is a huge time commitment and can be somewhat of a big expense if you do it correctly. I have had birds as pets before (cockatiels, umbrella cockatoo, green cheeked conure) and have loved them all. I also have several bird feeders right outside the window where I sit and write.WANTED - DEAD OR IN LOVE cover(3)

7. In one of your previous novels Wanted: Dead or In Love, the souls of the infamous Bonnie and Clyde start to take over the bodies of high school students Monroe and Jack. Did you have to do any research on the deadly duo to write this book? If so, what are some of the most interesting or surprising things you learned?

Boy, did I ever have to do research! Hours upon hours of reading books and watching documentaries. The thing that surprised me the most was that Clyde Barrow lived in the poorest part of Dallas during the Depression, so much of the stealing he did in the beginning was to survive and to help his family. I think his first arrest was for stealing a turkey, and another was for failing to return a rental car on time, both in his teens. Not making any excuses for him, but his first murder was a prison guard who had raped him daily during his year incarceration when he was only 17. After Clyde was released from prison, he followed the guard home and killed him.

8. You are currently serving as a 7th grade teacher along with your writing career. How would you instill a new love for books in a student who does not like reading at all?

I talk about how much I love books and have librarians come in and book talk the newest books a couple of times a year. No one likes to be told what to do, so I hope that my enthusiasm for certain books makes them curious enough to want to read it too.

9. Could you tell me some of the reasons why you think that Chicago is the “best city in the world”? If I were to go there (which I already have!), what are some activities or attractions you would recommend to a visitor?

Chicago is beautiful and filled with diverse, smart, talented people. It’s got every type of food you can imagine with a ton of pro sports teams and there’s just a cool vibe when you walk along the lakefront. I’d recommend trying foods from around the world at all of the ethnic restaurants we have, take a bike ride through Grant Park and Buckingham Fountain, visit the Art Institute, and catch a free symphony on Wednesday afternoons in the summer near the Bean! Of course you should go have a snack and a drink on the Signature Room on the 95th and 96th floors in the John Hancock (and you don’t have to pay to go to the 98th floor observation deck).

10. I am so glad I got to see you at the Southeastern Young Adult Book Festival in Murfreesboro, TN! What do you like most about being an author at book festivals? How was your experience at SE-YA?

SE-YA Fest was amaaaazing! I loved how many teens were bussed in for the day to attend the event! So fun to talk to a room full of eager readers that had the most hilarious questions for the authors. It was so well run and the campus where it was held was stunning. What I like most is being able to talk with teens about books, and especially happy when they’ve read my book and want to take a picture with me. Makes me feel so happy and proud.

11. Have you written any other works? What can we expect from you in the future?SmartCookie_Cover(1)

Always writing, always hoping the next book is picked up by an editor who loves it too. I’ve written a humorous MG sci-fi novel that my agent will be sending out to editors soon. My “WIP” (work-in-progress) has some “eco-fiction” elements in it the way Flip the Bird did, but this one also has a futuristic world and a suspense plot filled with lots of twists. Fingers crossed that all my books eventually land in the hands of readers.

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

Read, read, read…and write, write, write. Everything takes practice so you’ll have to write for awhile before you can critically read your own work. Join a critique group and have others read your stories and tell you what is working and what isn’t is the most valuable tip I can give you. Writing a book is hard work, but anyone can do it if they dedicate the time to making the pages sing. Best of luck and thanks for interviewing


About Flip the BirdFlipTheBirdCover

Mercer Buddie wants two things in this world: a girlfriend and the chance to prove to his master falconer father that he’s not a flake. With hunting season fast approaching, fourteen-year-old Mercer has only a short time to work with Flip, a red-tailed hawk he irreverently named to show his dad that falconers don’t have to be so serious all the time.


When Mercer meets Lucy, he falls hard for her gorgeous looks and bubbly personality. He thinks his love life is about to take flight, until he discovers that Lucy and her family belong to a fanatical animal-rights organization called HALT—a group that believes imposing any sort of restrictions on animals is a form of cruelty. Mercer soon realizes that if he wants to keep seeing Lucy, he’ll need to keep his love of falconry and his family’s raptor rehabilitation center a secret from her, and Lucy’s involvement with HALT from his family.


With humor and honesty, Mercer’s story shows how growing up means making diff
icult choices…and sometimes, being rewarded in unexpected ways.


About the Author

Kym Brunner dreams entire novels in her head, but needs about a year to write it all down.  She wishes there was an app for this. She’s addicted to chai tea, going to the movies, and reality TV. When she’s not reading or writing, Kym teaches 7th grade full time. Her article, Cracking Down on Multiple POVs:  Surrender and Nobody Gets Hurt, appeared in Writer’s Digest online (July, 2014). She is the author of the three YA novels listed below. She lives in the Chicago area with her family and her two trusty writing companions, a pair of Shih Tzus named Sophie and Kahlua. Keep in touch by following her on Facebook (Author Kym Brunner), Twitter (@KymBrunner), or at her website, http://www.kymbrunner.com.

Wanted: Dead or in Love, Merit Press, June, 2014
One Smart Cookie, Omnific Publishing, July, 2014
Flip the Bird, HMH Books for Young Readers (coming Nov. 1, 2016)

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Hope you enjoyed this interview! Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.
~ Kester

ARC Review: Configured by Jenetta Penner – Danger and Death in Every Corner

Hi guys! It’s the first day of May! I am really behind on reviews, so that’s why I’m popping quite a few out in such a short time! I know… I’m going to have some nice discussions, tags, and memes in the future! But for now, I hope you enjoy this latest review on Configured by Jenetta Penner!


Goodreads Synopsis: In the future love will make you a traitor.32065903

120 years after a virus decimated earth’s population the survivors thrive in safety, away from the death and destruction of the Outerbounds. Divided into three levels of intellect, Citizens focus solely on duty.

Due to her advanced intelligence, seventeen-year-old Avlyn Lark is separated from her twin brother at birth and raised by adoptive parents. She gains privilege, the ideal future. He dies. Avlyn barely knows him yet remains linked to his memory.

But following a string of rebel intrusions on the city, Avlyn receives a cryptic message and begins seeing visions of her dead twin. The mysterious radical who urges Avlyn to join their fight becomes her link to answers. Freedom.

Opportunity awaits, but if she says yes will she lose it all?

Configured is the first novel in a trilogy YA dystopian/light romance that poses the question: does humanity need love for survival? Fans of Divergent, Matched, and the Maze Runner will love this world of dark secrets, intrigue and desire for a better tomorrow.


A 4 StarDisclaimer: I received a free e-ARC copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This will not affect my review in anyway. All thoughts are mine and mine alone, and they are my honest thoughts.

Overall Thoughts: I’ve definitely heard a lot of great things about Configured, so I decided to take a shot at this YA Dystopian novel. Let me tell you, it did not disappoint. The more I got into it, the more I wanted to continue it! When I first saw this book, I was intrigued by the premise- a world where the government controls everything about you, where love is forbidden. I think I’d prefer this indie book to Divergent anyday!

Action-Packed Plot: There were many times when I just wanted to continue reading it. The action-packed, suspenseful plot will keep you on the edge of your seat! With the possibility of danger and death lurking around the corner, you’ll never know what will happen next! I know I didn’t! It surprised me in so many ways yet it fueled my fire to continue!

World-Building: I definitely was intrigued by the society of Elore, where Avlyn lives. Definitely, the author crafted the dystopian city very well. A government that doesn’t care for its lower citizens? Ooh… Citizens are classed by their intelligence levels, but there’s many secrets to the system? My interest is even more piqued. There’s rebels, and more than you think. Yes!

Details: Just like most books, I did get a tiny bit confused regarding technology, setting, etc. With the new VR technology that Avlyn and the rebels use, it wasn’t clear to me at times whether the characters were in a simulation or in reality. Sometimes I get mistaken and think they’re in a virtual meeting place when they’re actually in a real life room. But it’s nothing really major- so it won’t greatly affect your perception of the story. I think that regardless it is a great book to read!

Concluding Thoughts: Will I be on the lookout for book 2? Definitely! Usually with dystopian trilogies, I don’t plan on completing them (I am not going to continue to Catching Fire or finish the first book in Divergent… I got bored after Gathering Blue in The Giver Quartet), but I’m considering doing it with this one! I don’t normally continue series (I’m a big standalone fan… we can talk about this later) but this might be an exception!

Favorite Quote: “Avlyn, this world is both beautiful and broken. Make more beautiful moments than broken ones.”


Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester