Nadine Brandes Talks about Faith and Fiction in Her Out of Time Trilogy and Unveils the Cover and Title of Her Newest YA Historical Fantasy!

Hi guys! One of my favorite Street Teams that I am a part of is Nadine Brandes’s Ninjas! Nadine’s Out of Time trilogy is one of the most inspiring, life-changing series I have ever read, and I am so glad that I get to have my Ninja leader here on the blog for a few questions. But today is also a HUGE day for her: she is unveiling the cover and title of her upcoming book, which is a YA historical fantasy!!! If you know how much I love historical fiction and fantasy, you know that I am EXCITED about this book. I just read A Time to Rise, which is her trilogy’s conclusion, and I enjoyed it so much (I am reviewing it later this week!) that I hope my excitement for Nadine’s upcoming book is going to rub off on you. Let me tell you, the cover and the blurb already has me pumped. I hope you enjoy my exclusive interview and cover reveal!


About A Time to DieA Time to Die

How would you live if you knew the day you’d die?

Parvin Blackwater has wasted her life. At only seventeen, she has one year left according to the Clock by her bedside.

In a last-ditch effort to make a difference, she tries to rescue Radicals from the crooked justice system. But when the authorities find out about her illegal activity, they cast her through the Wall — her people’s death sentence.

What she finds on the other side about the world, about eternity, and about herself changes Parvin forever and might just save her people. But her Clock is running out.

Goodreads


Nadine Brandes

1. I am such a big fan of your Out of Time trilogy, which follows Parvin Blackwater as she discovers God’s calling for her to challenge her country’s use of Clocks that determine when a person dies and the Wall in which Radicals (those without Clocks) are thrust onto the other side. What inspired you to incorporate your Christian faith into your fiction work? How has the series pushed you to pursue further shalom in your life?

A Time to DieIncorporating my faith into my work was never a choice—it’s who I am. Writing is a very personal thing—I think it’s that way for every author. Every book I write has a piece of me—a piece of my personal journey or question or recent enlightenment. It would actually be much harder for me to try and keep my faith out of my stories because that would be making the stories a lesser part of myself—less personal and real. (Does that make any sense?)

2. Would you want to have a Clock and know the day you’d die? If so, what would you do differently in your life? If not, how would you live day by day (something Parvin learns later in the series)?

No! I never want a Clock! LOL. I strive to live day by day already—content in the time that God has given me and living fully present each day.

3. Did you surprise yourself as you continued to write and revise the series? Without giving away any major spoilers, were there any events or character deaths that weren’t originally in your plans?

Ahem. Yes, I was surprised by a LOT. A certain injury, to note. Unfortunately every character death was planned far in advance because they were crucial to the plot. But there were a couple characters who lived that I’d originally intended to kill off. 😉 No, I’m not going to tell you.

4. Why do you love writing? When did you first have a love for writing, and how was it formed?24466484

Oh my. Do we really have time for me to list all my reasons? Probably not. One reason I love writing is because I get to create. I think that’s a huge part of being made in God’s image—being a fellow creator. And I connect with Him on such an intimate level. 🙂 I’ve always been a storyteller, but didn’t really try writing for publication until I was in college.

The Out of Time Series forced me to think about the question, “How would you live if you knew the day you’d die?” And I really had to examine if I was living a life the way it was intended to be lived. Writing that series really pushed me to a new level of intentionality.

5. What are some the craziest things you’ve done for book research? Why do you believe it’s important for authors to correctly portray certain experiences by doing them themselves?

I don’t know that every author needs to do the way I do book research. But it’s just what works for me. I’m an adventurer and I get all my best descriptions from doing things first hand. (In fact, I’m traveling to England in four days to do some more research!) What are some crazy things I’ve done? I’ve waded through a cattail marsh, rock climbed down a cliff (but with a harness), eaten raw potatoes, sailed through the Panama canal, chased a boxcar train, gone dogsledding….there’s really not much I haven’t done for the sake of book research. Ha!

6. You consider yourself as an adventurer! What are some of your favorite places that you’ve traveled to? Have you been to the cities and countries featured in your books (i.e. Unity Village, France, Russia, Panama, Antarctica, etc.)?

Well, Unity Village is a name I stole from a sign, but it’s certainly not a place that inspired my story. But other than that, I’ve drawn research from Russia, France, Panama, California…I really wanted to go to Antarctica, but that was a bit too big to swing. So instead I interviewed my grandparents who have been there!

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

Fantasy!! Harry Potter, Narnia, Lord of the Rings…those have all inspired me. I think Harry Potter probably inspired me the most to write in the speculative genres. And then Jill Williamson’s series—The Blood of Kings—really showed me how powerful fiction can be from a Christian worldview. 🙂

8. Your bookstagram photos are so gorgeous, and it has over 6,000 well-deserved followers! What’s your secret to creating such beautiful pictures?A Time to Rise

Aww, you’re so sweet! I love bookstagramming! It’s one way I relax after a long writing day. My “secret” is seriously just…practice. I’ve been bookstagramming for years and only just figured out how to fix the lighting for photos or how to edit them to look sharper and clearer. I finally settled into a theme I adore. But I had to be willing to experiment to find what I liked and didn’t like. My best advice would be…experiment! Try new things! Observe accounts you like and learn from them. 🙂

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

Writing is a full-time job. But it hardly ever feels like work! I love it so much that I’m never dreading Mondays or afraid of having to “work” all day. But there are times I need breaks and I’ll usually read or spend time with Mister Ninja (hubby).

10. So Ninja Master, how did you decide upon calling your street team the Ninjas?

Honestly, because “Ninja” started with N and so did “Nadine”. Ha! But “Nadine’s Ninjas” sounded so fun and cool and I totally see my readers as these stealthy brilliant warriors who go out and spread the word and save the world.Nadine

11. What can we expect from you in the future? Could you share any secrets about your upcoming works?

MORE BOOKS! [wink] My next two books will be historical fantasy—a new genre for me. And then I have some ideas for after that, but those are too secret for now. 😉 I plan to continue adventuring and digging into my relationship with Jesus because He’s the one who brings me on the best adventures!

12. Would you like to share any tips to any aspiring authors or writers?

WRITE THE THING. If you want to write, then do it. Write the book. Don’t worry about the first draft, it always has room to grow. Instead, write as though no one is watching. Write freely and enjoy the process. Every part of it is beautiful.

Also, my biggest piece of advice is to pray over your work. I know some people may not be the praying sort, but I’d just say…time to learn. 😉 God will change and grow your story in beautiful ways beyond even your fantastic imagination!! ❤

Thanks so much for having me!

Thank you so much, Nadine, for coming! I’m so honored to have you on my blog!


Now onto the cover reveal!

Let me tell you that this cover is one of the most GORGEOUS ones I have ever seen. I definitely need a copy once it’s printed to display at home. I cannot take my eyes off it because it is breathtaking. I’m going to give a few hints of what event the book covers before you read the blurb–the first one is that I’ve never seen any fictional book about this event so it’s intriguing me so much!

Scroll down to see the cover!

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Here’s a tiny hint:

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It’s set in England.

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That was very broad.

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It’s set a few years after the start of the 17th century.

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Do you have a guess?

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I’ll give you one last hint!

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I hope you remember, remember that certain date!

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Well, the book revolves around…

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The Gunpowder Plot of 1605!

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And here is the cover!

Fawkes

About Fawkes

Thomas Fawkes is turning to stone, and the only cure to the Stone Plague is to join his father’s plot to assassinate the king of England.

Silent wars leave the most carnage. The wars that are never declared, but are carried out in dark alleys with masks and hidden knives. Wars where color power alters the natural rhythm of 17th century London. And when the king calls for peace, no one listens until he finally calls for death.

But what if death finds him first?

Keepers think the Igniters caused the plague. Igniters think the Keepers did it. But all Thomas knows is that the Stone Plague infecting his eye is spreading. And if he doesn’t do something soon, he’ll be a lifeless statue. So when his Keeper father, Guy Fawkes, invites him to join the Gunpowder Plot—claiming it will put an end to the plague—Thomas is in.

The plan: use 36 barrels of gunpowder to blow up the Igniter King James.

The problem: Doing so will destroy the family of the girl Thomas loves. But backing out of the plot will send his father and the other plotters to the gallows. To save one, Thomas will lose the other.

No matter Thomas’s choice, one thing is clear: once the decision is made and the color masks have been put on, there’s no turning back.

Fawkes by Nadine Brandes will release on July 10th, 2018 from Thomas Nelson (Harper Collins)

Here is the link for the cover reveal announcement:

http://bit.ly/FawkesBook

Add Fawkes on Goodreads, and pre-order it from Amazon here!

Goodreads  |  Amazon


About Nadine BrandesNadine

I am an adventurer, fusing authentic faith with bold imagination. I never received my Hogwarts letter, but rest assured I’m no Muggle (and would have been in Ravenclaw House, thank you very much.) This Harry Potter super-nerd has been known to eat an entire package of Oreos (family-size) by herself, and watches Fiddler on the Roof at least once a year. I write about brave living, finding purpose, and other worlds soaked in imagination. My dystopian trilogy (The Out of Time Series) challenged me to pursue shalom, which is now my favorite word (followed closely by bumbershoot.) When I’m not taste-testing a new chai or editing fantasy novels, me and my knight-in-shining armor (nickname: “hubby”) are out pursuing adventures.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads | Pinterest


Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

Have you read the Out of Time series? What do you think about Nadine’s new book?

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

Email | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram | Bloglovin

 

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My October Reading Re-Cap!

Hi guys! Happy End of Daylight’s Savings Time! I hope you got a nice extra hour of sleep! So this month, I managed to finish nine books (woo hoo!), which is really surprising considering my schedule is really busy regarding school and other activities at the moment. However, many of these books were really short novellas, and one of them was my English required reading. But does it really matter? They all still count towards my reading goal! And if you missed some of my October posts, you can find links to them below.

October


5 Stars

The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

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Goodreads Continue reading “My October Reading Re-Cap!”

Review: Not Every Girl by Jane McGarry

Hi guys! Today I am reviewing Not Every Girl by Jane McGarry, which I read back in the Summer (when I somehow read 14 books in June alone) but I haven’t been able to post my review about it until now. Not Every Girl is a historical adventure novel published by Clean Reads Publishing, which I am a rep for! I hope you enjoy this review.


About the Book25442314

Olivia Davenport’s plan is destined to fail.

She is going through with it anyway, of course. After all, it is the chance of a lifetime. The unreasonable rules of others should not stand in her way.

In her small kingdom of Stewartsland, Olivia trains with the squires and harbors a secret dream. She longs to become a knight under the command of the Master-of–Arms, who just happens to be her father. He has indulged her passion so far, but they both know a simple fact – girls may not attain knighthood. Dismayed by the constant discouragement of her ambitions, she makes an impetuous decision to disguise herself as a boy in order to sneak on a mission. The consequences are not at all what she anticipated.

When her deception is revealed, she is sent home in disgrace; however, an unexpected turn of events puts her at the center of a dangerous plot against the King. The ensuing adventure finds her grappling with mercenaries and outlaws, yet these pale in comparison to her newly awakened emotions. She finds not only her life at risk, but also her heart, when the aloof Prince Liam begins to affect her in ways she never thought possible. In the end, it is her courage and unique spirit which must guide her through the challenges she encounters both physical and emotional.

Goodreads


3 Stars

Disclaimer: I received a free electronic copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

This was a light, quick read, and I finished it in just two days! I liked how there was a ton of action, adventure, and excitement doused in with the romance. And this was set in a medieval kingdom!!! Now, this wasn’t the best book I’ve read. It felt too fast and too little developed in many parts, and it’s not one that will exactly stick out in my mind. I did see some places that could have been improved, but overall, it was a nice read. Although it did not click for me fully, it might be a nice match for you!

Continue reading “Review: Not Every Girl by Jane McGarry”

Exclusive Interview with YA Historical Fiction Author Gwen C. Katz on Among the Red Stars

Hi guys! Today’s interview is the first one I have done is a while, but don’t worry- we’ll have some more amazing authors and fellow book lovers talk about their novels and other literature-related topics! Earlier in September, I had the wonderful opportunity to ask YA historical fiction author Gwen C. Katz a few questions about her debut Among the Red Stars, which I want to read so much because it’s set in World War II! I wasn’t able to get it posted last month, but I’m so glad I have the opportunity now to do so. I hope you enjoy!


About Among the Red Stars30122938

World War Two has shattered Valka’s homeland of Russia, and Valka is determined to help the effort. She knows her skills as a pilot rival the best of the men, so when an all-female aviation group forms, Valka is the first to sign up.

Flying has always meant freedom and exhilaration for Valka, but dropping bombs on German soldiers from a fragile canvas biplane is no joyride. The war is taking its toll on everyone, including the boy Valka grew up with, who is fighting for his life on the front lines.

As the war intensifies and those around her fall, Valka must decide how much she is willing to risk to defend the skies she once called home.

Inspired by the true story of the airwomen the Nazis called Night Witches, Gwen C. Katz weaves a tale of strength and sacrifice, learning to fight for yourself, and the perils of a world at war.


Gwen C. Katz

1. Your debut YA historical fiction novel Among the Red Stars, which released last week on October 3rd from HarperTeen, follows the story of Valka as she joins the Night Witches, one of the Soviet Union’s all-female aviation groups. How much research did you have to do to make your book as historically accurate as possible? What are some of the most surprising facts that you have stumbled upon?

I think what surprised me the most was just getting a full sense of how narrow our traditional view of World War II is. The vast majority of American media is about white men from either America or Britain. We saw that this summer in Dunkirk. They ignored Britain’s South Asian soldiers; they ignored the nurses, both of whom were present in large numbers. But the war was much bigger than that. China, for instance, lost 20 million people, but when are we going to get a movie about heroic Chinese soldiers?

IMG_45302. World War II historical fiction is one of my favorite genres! What inspired you to set your book in that time period? How did you find out about the Night Witches?

I found out about the Night Witches from my father-in-law. He’s a big World War I aviation buff and one time when we were playing Wings of War, I asked him if any female pilots had flown in World War I and he told me that Russia had female pilots. Naturally I had to go look them up, and I learned about their much more famous WWII counterparts. The rest, as they say, is history.

3. What was your character-building process for creating the three main protagonists—Valka, Iskra, and Pasha? Did you reflect any of their personality traits off you or anyone you know?

Valka’s attitude is definitely based on me! A lot of pilot/navigator pairs had this “odd couple” dynamic where the pilot was the daring one and the navigator was the sensible one. So that’s where Valka and Iskra came from. As for Pasha, I think YA really needs more boys who are quiet and gentle and not traditionally masculine. I’m very interested in all the men and boys who went to war who weren’t badass action heroes. What happened to them?

Continue reading “Exclusive Interview with YA Historical Fiction Author Gwen C. Katz on Among the Red Stars”

Middle Grade Author Nancy J. Cavanaugh Talks About the Process of Writing Her Latest Book – Elsie Mae Has Something to Say + GIVEAWAY!

Hi guys! Happy Labor Day everybody! Today I am finishing up my 5-day weekend from school, and (hopefully) I got a lot of things done. September is going to be a crazy month for me- it usually is one of the busiest throughout the year- but I am so glad to have an amazing lineup of authors this month! Please give a warm welcome to Nancy J. Cavanaugh, author of Elsie Mae Has Something to Say, which I reviewed a few weeks ago as an ARC! She’s also giving away a signed copy of her book, so please don’t miss that!


About Elsie Mae Has Something to Say34006756

Elsie Mae is pretty sure this’ll be the best summer ever. She gets to explore the cool, quiet waters of the Okefenokee Swamp around her grandparents’ house with her new dog, Huck, and she’s written a letter to President Roosevelt that she’s confident will save the swamp from a shipping company and make her a major hometown hero. Then, news reaches Elsie Mae of some hog bandits stealing from swamper families, and she sees another opportunity to make her family proud while waiting to hear back from the White House.

But when her cousin Henry James, who dreams of one day becoming a traveling preacher like his daddy, shows up and just about ruins her investigation with his “Hallelujahs,” Elsie Mae will learn the hard way what it really means to be a hero.

Goodreads


Nancy J. Cavanaugh

My Writing Process for Elsie Mae Has Something to Say

So excited to be stopping by to do a guest post on Lilbooklovers!  I’m thankful for the opportunity to share a bit about my process in writing my most recent book, Elsie Mae Has Something to Say.

My basic formula for writing this particular book was to take one cup of inspiration, combine it with many cups of research, fold in a couple of cups of personal experience, then simmer and stir into a pot of creative imagination for about twenty years to yield one middle grade historical novel.

Continue reading “Middle Grade Author Nancy J. Cavanaugh Talks About the Process of Writing Her Latest Book – Elsie Mae Has Something to Say + GIVEAWAY!”

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”

ARC Review: Elsie Mae Has Something to Say by Nancy J. Cavanaugh

Hi guys! As you know, my junior year started last week, and I’m hoping for a great year ahead! Hopefully it won’t be as hard as everyone says it is, but I’m hoping it would be full of fun, books, music, and many great opportunities! Today I have another ARC review for you, and I’m so glad to be able to review Nancy J. Cavanaugh’s newest book Elsie Mae Has Something to Say! Last year, I reviewed her Just Like Me, which I loved, and I was able to interview her here! In a few weeks, I’ll have her back in an exclusive guest post, so don’t miss that! I hope you enjoy this review!


About the Book34006756

Elsie Mae is pretty sure this’ll be the best summer ever. She gets to explore the cool, quiet waters of the Okefenokee Swamp around her grandparents’ house with her new dog, Huck, and she’s written a letter to President Roosevelt that she’s confident will save the swamp from a shipping company and make her a major hometown hero. Then, news reaches Elsie Mae of some hog bandits stealing from swamper families, and she sees another opportunity to make her family proud while waiting to hear back from the White House.

But when her cousin Henry James, who dreams of one day becoming a traveling preacher like his daddy, shows up and just about ruins her investigation with his “Hallelujahs,” Elsie Mae will learn the hard way what it really means to be a hero.

Goodreads


A 4 Star

Disclaimer: I received a free signed ARC of this book and some swag from the author in exchange for an honest review. This will not affect my review.

I tweeted out while I was reading this that I couldn’t stop grinning, and I couldn’t throughout the first half of the book. Cavanaugh has once again impressed me with her latest novel Elsie Mae Has Something to Say! I’m really going to reiterate and repeat this many times: This book will make you feel as if you’re transported into the Okefenokee Swamp and actually hanging out with the main cast of characters. It’s one that you don’t want to put down!

Continue reading “ARC Review: Elsie Mae Has Something to Say by Nancy J. Cavanaugh”

Review: Blood Rose Rebellion by Rosalyn Eves – A Compelling Combination of Fantasy and History

Hi guys! Yesterday was my last day of school, so I’m officially free! Sweet, sweet freedom! To celebrate the start of my summer vacation, I have here my newest review for Blood Rose Rebellion by Rosalyn Eves. Let me tell you why I wanted to read it: Magic + 1847 Hungary. I mean, this is basically trying to get me to like the fantasy genre even more since it takes place in Austria-Hungary! Now here’s my review!


About Blood Rose Rebellion31020402

The thrilling first book in a YA fantasy trilogy for fans of Red Queen. In a world where social prestige derives from a trifecta of blood, money, and magic, one girl has the ability to break the spell that holds the social order in place.

Sixteen-year-old Anna Arden is barred from society by a defect of blood. Though her family is part of the Luminate, powerful users of magic, she is Barren, unable to perform the simplest spells. Anna would do anything to belong. But her fate takes another course when, after inadvertently breaking her sister’s debutante spell—an important chance for a highborn young woman to show her prowess with magic—Anna finds herself exiled to her family’s once powerful but now crumbling native Hungary.

Her life might well be over.

In Hungary, Anna discovers that nothing is quite as it seems. Not the people around her, from her aloof cousin Noémi to the fierce and handsome Romani Gábor. Not the society she’s known all her life, for discontent with the Luminate is sweeping the land. And not her lack of magic. Isolated from the only world she cares about, Anna still can’t seem to stop herself from breaking spells.

As rebellion spreads across the region, Anna’s unique ability becomes the catalyst everyone is seeking. In the company of nobles, revolutionaries, and Romanies, Anna must choose: deny her unique power and cling to the life she’s always wanted, or embrace her ability and change that world forever.


A 4 Star

Disclaimer: I received a free hardcover copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review. I have also received swag from the author in a separate giveaway. These will not affect my review.

Overall Thoughts: Blood Rose Rebellion has been one of my most anticipated reads of 2017! When I saw that they were giving away free copies of this book in exchange for a review on Blogging for Books, I immediately jumped onto the offer. Let me say, this book did not disappoint! I loved how it infused both 1847 Hungary (which now has a special place in my heart because I loved the culture in the book) and fantastic magic! I definitely enjoyed reading it, and I couldn’t put it down at times! The strongest aspect of this book is the world-building, which is fascinating to think about! It definitely is a compelling combination of fantasy and history.

Continue reading “Review: Blood Rose Rebellion by Rosalyn Eves – A Compelling Combination of Fantasy and History”

Blood Road Blog Tour: Exclusive Interview with Amanda McCrina

Hi guys! In my hometown of Paris, TN, today we are holding the parade for the World’s Biggest Fish Fry! If you don’t know what that is, it’s a week-long festival where we eat a bunch of catfish, go to the carnival, and watch the two to three hour-long parade! Fun fact: some of our Grand Marshals include Verne Troyer, the actor who played Mini Me in the Austin Powers movies, and Hannah Robinson, a local who was Miss Tennessee a year or two ago and made it to the top 7 in the Miss America pageant! Small town represent! Today, we have a blog tour for Amanda McCrina’s newest book Blood Road! Hope you enjoy!

BLOOD ROAD


Title: BLOOD ROADA blood road

Author: Amanda McCrina

Pub. Date: April 25, 2017

Publisher: Month9Books

Format: Paperback, eBook

Pages: 329

Find it: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | TBD

Synopsis: Nineteen-year-old Torien Risto has seen dissidents dealt with before. He knows the young local girl who just knifed him will hang for assaulting an Imperial officer, unless he can stop it.

Someone inside the provincial government is kidnapping Imperial citizens and selling them across the desert to the salt mines, silencing anyone who tries to intervene. The girl’s brother is one of those who has been taken. Rejected by the corrupt courts, she’s waging a personal war against the Empire.

Determined to save her life, Torien sets out in search of answers on the Salt Road, the ancient trade route running deep into the heart of a desert—territory claimed by the hostile Mayaso tribe.

Now, Torien is no longer sure where his own loyalty lies, or how far he will go to break the cycle of tyranny, political bullying, and social injustice in an empire that seals its borders in blood.


About Amanda:Amanda (1)

Amanda McCrina has studied in Italy, taught English in Japan, and currently tutors Latin in Atlanta, Georgia. She received her BA in History from the University of West Georgia, and is now pursuing her MA. She writes stories that incorporate her love of history, languages, and world travel. She drinks far too much coffee and dreams of one day having a winning fantasy-hockey season.

Website | Twitter | Pinterest | Goodreads


A Amanda

1. What is your book Blood Road about?

Blood Road is a political fantasy about a young Imperial army officer who sets out to solve a kidnapping and uncovers a vast trafficking plot whose roots go much deeper than he originally thought.

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

I love writing because it makes me see my own world in a new light. I’ve been making up stories for just about as long as I can remember (really embarrassing stuff, some of it)—probably because I’ve been reading for just about as long as I can remember. I think the key to developing as a writer is to read.

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

Three long-time favorites are Ernest Hemingway, Rosemary Sutcliff, and George Orwell. I deliberately tried to imitate Hemingway when I first started writing seriously, and it’s taken me a long time to unlearn that and develop my own voice. But I still appreciate Hemingway’s minimalistic, dialogue-driven prose—and, equally, Rosemary Sutcliff’s beautiful descriptions.

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

I read a lot of historical fiction and nonfiction. I enjoy (and owe a lot to) fantasy, but at this point it takes a really fresh spin to get me interested. I love a good mystery, too, but I’ve never tried writing one.

From the three authors I already mentioned, my favorite books are, respectively, A Farewell to Arms, The Lantern Bearers, and Homage to Catalonia. Other all-time-favorites include Elizabeth Wein’s Code Name Verity (the voice is incredible), Megan Whalen Turner’s Queen’s Thief series, and Ursula Le Guin’s Lavinia.

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

Writing is currently a part-time job. My full-time job is teaching middle- and high-school English at an international school in Madrid. Between those two things, I don’t have a lot of free time!

6. Is your book based off or inspired by the Roman Empire? If so, how much research did you have to put into it, and are there any parallels between the Roman and Vareno Empires?

There are definitely parallels between the Vareno Empire in Blood Road and Ancient Rome. I note in the book that it’s not an analogy that should be taken too far, since the Vareno Empire doesn’t perfectly resemble Rome at any one point in time. It’s most similar to the Christianized Rome of the 300s and 400s CE, but even that starts falling apart if you look at it very closely. (For example: the people of the Vareno Empire practice a religion that resembles Christianity, but the military also practices decimation as a punishment. In real life, the Roman army hadn’t really used decimation for several centuries by the time of Christianization.)

A lot of the research I did for Blood Road overlapped with research I’d done for my undergraduate thesis, so I was able to kill two birds with one stone.

7. What was your process for world-building your fictional empire’s geography, social structure, characters, etc.? There’s so much depth put into the social and governmental structures of the Vareno Empire, which can be found on your website!

I did incorporate some specific elements from real Roman history—for instance, my Imperial Guard is pretty blatantly based on the Praetorian Guard. I also turned to other time periods for some things. The signi, criminals sentenced to military service, were inspired by the penal battalions of the Wehrmacht and the Red Army in WWII.

It’s always potentially problematic to pick through real-world history and recycle it into a fantasy world; you have to be aware of the ramifications of detaching history from its context. But I do think studying real-world history is one good way to enrich fictional worldbuilding. (Also, food. Start with food. I mentioned this in another interview: knowing what your fictional people are cooking and eating is often key to understanding their world.)

8. If you had to choose, would you rather read and write historical fiction or fantasy for the rest of your life, and why?

If I had to choose, I’d pick historical fiction. Blood Road is fantasy in that it takes place in a secondary world, but there’s no magic, so really it reads like historical fiction. I’m terrible at writing magic systems.

9. How is it like living in Madrid, Spain? What are some of your favorite things about the city?

Madrid is a great city—eclectic, very walkable, with perfect weather and a good mix of cultural sites, shopping and dining destinations, and green spaces (plus a random Ancient Egyptian temple). I sound like a travel brochure, but really I am thankful for the opportunity to be here!

10. Your main interest of research is the Christianization of the imperial Roman Army. Could you share with us any fascinating facts you have stumbled across in your research? Why do you like studying and writing about this topic?

I think it’s fascinating that an essentially religious institution, the Roman army, could adapt so quickly to a drastically different belief system. The Roman army camp was an inviolable sacred space, and ritual was (and always had been) an integral part of camp life—so what does it mean that the army adopted Christianity so quickly when Constantine converted?

There’s so much I find fascinating, but one thing that surprised me when I first started researching was that by 400 CE or so pagans were actually prohibited from joining the army—you had to be a professing Christian. (Of course, how strictly that prohibition was enforced is a matter for debate.)

11. If you could take three things along with one book with you on a deserted island, what would you bring?

I’m going to assume the three things can’t include a boat or a satellite phone, so I’ll say: 1) Ryan North’s Time Traveler Essentials cheat sheet. The situation isn’t exactly the same, but most of the information still applies. 2) Seed potatoes. It worked for Mark Watney. 3) A volleyball.

My book would be War and Peace. I still probably won’t have finished it by the time rescue arrives.

12. Whenever you encounter writer’s block, what is your go-to cure?

Either a bike ride or a hot shower, or both, in that order.

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

I’ve finished the first draft of a sequel to Blood Road. I’m also currently working on a YA WWII novel set in Poland/Western Ukraine, about a Red Army sniper.

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

At the risk of repeating myself—reading is so important. Also, because I wish somebody had told me this a long time ago: don’t beat yourself up over making a certain word count each day. It’s OK to have days where you only write two sentences. (If it isn’t, I’m sunk.)

Thanks so much, Amanda, for coming onto our blog! Glad to have you!


Giveaway Details:

1 winner will receive a 1 month subscription to Owl Crate, US Only.

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a Rafflecopter giveaway


Tour Schedule:

Week 1:

4/24/2017- Rockin’ Book Reviews– Review

4/24/2017- Month9Books– Excerpt

4/25/2017- Two Chicks on Books– Interview

4/25/2017- Doodle’s Book Reviews– Review

4/26/2017- Don’t Judge, Read– Interview

4/26/2017- Book-Keeping– Review

4/27/2017- A Backwards Story– Review

4/27/2017- Hazel West’s Character Purgatory– Excerpt

4/28/2017- LILbooKlovers– Interview

4/28/2017- Wishful Endings– Review

Week 2:

5/1/2017- Exploring the Inner Universe– Review

5/1/2017- So Few Books– Interview

5/2/2017- Book Review Becca– Review

5/2/2017- Bibliobibuli YA– Interview

5/3/2017- Reading for the Stars and Moon– Review

5/3/2017- I am not a bookworm!– Review

5/4/2017- YA and Wine– Guest Post

5/4/2017- Mundie Moms– Review

5/5/2017- Never Too Many To Read– Review


I hope you enjoyed today’s interview/blog post/giveaway! Certainly check out Amanda’s book!

Happy Fish Fry!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

#1 Favorite (Tie): Salt to the Sea, by Ruta Sepetys

Hi guys! I know what you’re thinking. “Kester hasn’t posted a review in forever! What has taken him so long?” Well, if you’d like to know, I’ve been busy with homework. As I write this (I’m writing this Friday night) I’m planning to write an essay on Animal Farm and do a video for FBLA. Now, the wait is finally over, and with a 4-day weekend, I’ll be catching up on some necessary reading, blogging, and reviewing! Enough talking, let’s get onto the review! And I love love love love love this book! It has changed my life!!!

Synopsis: Winter, 1945. Four teenagers. Four secrets.

Each one born of a different homeland; each one hunted, and haunted, by tragedy, lies…and war.

As thousands of desperate refugees flock to the coast in the midst of a Soviet advance, four paths converge, vying for passage aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship that promises safety and freedom.

Yet not all promises can be kept.

Inspired by the single greatest tragedy in maritime history, bestselling and award-winning author Ruta Sepetys (Between Shades of Gray) lifts the veil on a shockingly little-known casualty of World War II. An illuminating and life-affirming tale of heart and hope.

Overall Thoughts: I didn’t think I’d find a book that would rival The United Continuums, but I did. This book is now tied with TUC as my favorite book of all time because it changed my life. This was the first book that has actually changed how I view the world, and that means that this book is special. Ruta Sepetys is such an amazing author! How do I love thee? By writing this review! (Did you get that reference?)

Continue reading “#1 Favorite (Tie): Salt to the Sea, by Ruta Sepetys”