Exclusive Interview with Melissa Ostrom, YA Debut Author of “The Beloved Wild”

Hi guys! Today on the blog, I am hosting one of the kindest and most supportive authors I have ever met, Melissa Ostrom. Melissa is the author of the YA historical fiction novel The Beloved Wild, which I loved and you can see why in my review here, and I am very honored to have her on my blog to talk to us about her debut novel! I hope you enjoy this interview, and please check out The Beloved Wild! (By the way, Ruta Sepetys blurbed it, in case you didn’t know.)


About the BookThe Beloved Wild

Harriet Winter is the eldest daughter in a farming family in New Hampshire, 1807. Her neighbor is Daniel Long, who runs his family’s farm on his own after the death of his parents. Harriet’s mother sees Daniel as a good match, but Harriet isn’t so sure she wants someone else to choose her path—in love and in life.

When her brother decides to strike out for the Genesee Valley in Western New York, Harriet decides to go with him—disguised as a boy. Their journey includes sickness, uninvited guests, and difficult emotional terrain as Harriet comes of age, realizes what she wants, and accepts who she’s loved all along.

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1. Your YA historical fiction debut The Beloved Wild, which released in March from Feiwel & Friends, follows Harriet Winter as she disguises herself as a boy to venture into the Genesee Valley as she overcomes prejudice, nature, and eventually love. As a local resident, what do you love most about living in that region? How did the valley allure you to use it as the setting of your debut?

I’m originally from Chautauqua County. The teaching position at Kendall High School brought me to this area, and I fell in love with its gentle landscape—the sweeping orchards, Lake Ontario, the cultivated fields that alternate with woodlands, and the historical features, like the Erie Canal and cobblestone houses. I felt like a pioneer, traveling to a new place and making it my home. The families of my students warmly welcomed me. Writing Harriet’s story (and recognizing the significant role the Genesee Valley played in our country’s initial wave of westward expansion) became a way for me to show my gratitude for that welcome and my appreciation for this location.

2. The Age of the American Frontier is a time period that is often overlooked in historical fiction. How did you first stumble upon the exodus of New Englanders flocking to the uncharted wilderness of New York? What are some of the most interesting things you learned from your research?

I’m fortunate to have some dear friends who happen to know a lot about our local history. Three in particular—Diane Palmer, Adrienne Kirby, and Sharon Root—shared significant stories about the early pioneers (to whom these women can trace their own ancestries!), and those tales definitely stirred my interest. My friends also shared family memorabilia, access to the archives of the Orleans County Chapter of the DAR, and powerful reading materials, like the settlers’ reminisces, compiled by Arad Thomas. These firsthand pioneer accounts proved quite useful and remarkable. Most of the early settlers were young—just teenagers with little money and few tools—but they possessed a great deal of gumption. They worked hard to eke clearings out of the wilderness and faced incredible trials while starting their farms. Their stories inspired me. I remember reading about one young man who had nothing but the clothes on his back and an axe in his hand when he broached the wilds of his purchased lot of land. He started with practically nothing and yet made something of himself. Amazing.

3. What would be your dream adventure? Where would you go and what would you do?

Oh, I’d like to travel around our country and visit other parts of the world. But lately I’ve been thinking about walking the length of the Erie Canal—simply packing a backpack and taking off for a while, breaking up the hike with stays in inns and visits to the waterway towns. I love going for long walks and usually cover around eight miles a day. It’d be fun to set out—and just keep going! My family (when my kids get a little older) would probably enjoy this adventure, too. The Beloved Wild

4. Before you wrote The Beloved Wild, you wrote many short stories for various journals. Could you describe to us the transition you made from writing short stories to writing a full-length novel? What are the specific benefits and challenges of creating a short story versus drafting a novel?

Actually, about nine years ago when I initially decided to try fiction writing, I started with a novel, not short fiction. The novel became the first in a series of four. I finished the entire quartet before shopping around the first book. When querying this piece didn’t win me an agent, I set aside all four and got to work on another novel (a standalone). Concurrently, I began to craft short fiction.

My initial reasoning behind the short-fiction enterprise was I need to beef up my credentials! I just held a couple of degrees in English lit and my teaching certification. I couldn’t mention publications, conferences, retreats, or even an MFA in a query letter because I hadn’t accomplished any of these things. Publishing short stories would rectify that, I figured. And I have managed to find homes in literary journals for many of my stories.

But something else (something more wonderful) happened as a result of this foray into short fiction: my writing skills improved. Perhaps due to their sparer frame, stories (those admirable ones written by others and the ones I endeavor to create) showcase precise language and an attention to detail. A word must earn its place—or out it goes.

Continue reading “Exclusive Interview with Melissa Ostrom, YA Debut Author of “The Beloved Wild””

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Exclusive Guest Post by Bridget Hodder, MG Author of The Rat Prince, on “Why Fairy Tales? A Theory of Magic”

Hi guys! For the next few months, most of the authors I am going to have on the blog are going to Middle Grade authors. Although I am still going to be very active in the YA community, my heart has lodged itself deeper in MG fiction. I have met so many wonderful MG authors since the New Year has started, and readers of all ages should pick up their books. Today, Bridget Hodder is here to answer the question, “Why are fairy tales so popular?” Her answer: magic.


About the BookThe Rat Prince

AN ILA CHILDREN’S CHOICE LIST STARRED SELECTION

So, you think you know the tale of Cinderella? Think again!

The dashing Prince of the Rats–who’s in love with Cinderella–is changed into her coachman on the night of the big ball. Together, they’re about to turn the legend (and the evening) upside down on their way to a most unexpected happy ending!

A sparkling debut full of magic and adventure, from a fresh new voice in fairytale fiction.

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Why Fairy Tales? A Theory of Magic

My debut novel, THE RAT PRINCE, is a re-imagining of the tale of Cinderella. When I appear at author festivals, give workshops, or visit schools, readers almost always ask me: Why are fairy tales still so popular?

It’s a great question!

What is the reason why people have loved this particular type of story for hundreds of years? Clearly, stories couldn’t stand the test of centuries unless they appealed to something universal inside us. So maybe the real question is: what’s universal about fairy tales?

Continue reading “Exclusive Guest Post by Bridget Hodder, MG Author of The Rat Prince, on “Why Fairy Tales? A Theory of Magic””

ARC Review: The Beloved Wild by Melissa Ostrom — A Novel about Overcoming Prejudices and Obstacles and Finding Adventure and Oneself

Hi guys! I hope you are having an awesome week! I know I am, especially since it’s Spring Break and Holy Week this week. Today I am at Ole Miss for a college visit (Hotty Toddy!), so I’m really looking forward to touring and visiting the campus. I usually do not post on Wednesdays, but since I have so many books to review that are releasing in the upcoming months, I’m going to post the occasional Wednesday post to get all my reviews in on time. Yesterday, The Beloved Wild by Melissa Ostrom just released, which is an amazing YA historical fiction debut that blew me away. Melissa is one of the most supportive and kind authors I’ve met online, so I’m super excited to be sharing my review of her debut to y’all today. Hope you enjoy!


About the BookThe Beloved Wild

Harriet Winter is the eldest daughter in a farming family in New Hampshire, 1807. Her neighbor is Daniel Long, who runs his family’s farm on his own after the death of his parents. Harriet’s mother sees Daniel as a good match, but Harriet isn’t so sure she wants someone else to choose her path—in love and in life.

When her brother decides to strike out for the Genesee Valley in Western New York, Harriet decides to go with him—disguised as a boy. Their journey includes sickness, uninvited guests, and difficult emotional terrain as Harriet comes of age, realizes what she wants, and accepts who she’s loved all along.

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4 Stars

Disclaimer: Thanks so much to Macmillan’s Children’s Publishing Group and my publicity contact there for sending me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. This will not affect my review in any way.

Before I begin this review, I have two things to point out. The first one is that Ruta Sepetys (yes, THE Ruta Sepetys, my favorite author in the entire world) blurbed this book, which is awesome and well-deserved. The second one is that Melissa is one of the kindest and most supportive authors I have ever met online, and she has said and done so many things for me that has warmed my heart greatly. But it was actually through Twitter where I began to rave about The Beloved Wild when we first began to communicate.

Now onto why I love The Beloved Wild so much!

The Beloved Wild is a stark yet gripping account of the prejudices women had to endure in the 19th century, a time before the Industrial Revolution prompted new reforms and changes. It is YA historical fiction and literature at its finest. A great novel is one that enlightens you and influences your viewpoint, and I am proud to consider Ostrom’s debut novel as one. The Beloved Wild teaches readers how to embrace who they are and find their inner strength when encountering the toughest of obstacles. It has the perfect combination of adventure, romance, family, and friendships that will appeal to many readers and give each of them a memorable experience.

Continue reading “ARC Review: The Beloved Wild by Melissa Ostrom — A Novel about Overcoming Prejudices and Obstacles and Finding Adventure and Oneself”

These Vengeful Souls Blog Tour: Book Review of These Ruthless Deeds

Hi guys! I have been really busy this past week, especially since I have been doing my best to catch up with everything after missing a few days last week for the DECA TN SCDC. I had such a great time there, but now it’s time for reality… that means more homework, studying, practicing, and blogging! Today I am a part of the blog tour of These Vengeful Souls by Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas. I read These Vicious Masks (the first book in the series) last year, and I am going to review for y’all its sequel These Ruthless Deeds. I hope you enjoy!

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These Vengeful Souls These Vengeful Souls
Kelly Zekas & Tarun Shanker
(These Vicious Masks #3)
Published by: Swoon Reads
Publication date: February 20th 2018
Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal, Young Adult

Summary: England, 1883. On the run with the grieving Sebastian Braddock, Evelyn wants two things: to be reunited with her friends, and to get revenge on the evil Captain Goode. Not only has he misused his and Sebastian’s powers to rack up a terrible death toll, but he’s also completely destroyed any hope of Evelyn or her friends regaining the life they once knew.

Evelyn is determined to make Captain Goode pay for what he’s done, but is her revenge worth risking the lives of Sebastian and her friends? Or is it better to flee the city and focus on staying alive? And with the Captain spreading lies about Sebastian in an attempt to flush them out of hiding and turn the populace against them, does she even have a choice at all?

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These Ruthless Deeds These Ruthless Deeds
Kelly Zekas, Tarun Shanker
(These Vicious Masks #2)
Published by: Swoon Reads
Publication date: March 14th 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal, Young Adult

Synopsis: England, 1883. Still recovering from a devastating loss, Evelyn is determined to use her powers to save other gifted people from those who would harm them. But when her rescue of a young telekinetic girl goes terribly wrong, Evelyn finds herself indebted to a secret society devoted to recruiting and protecting people like Evelyn and her friends.

As she follows the Society’s orders, healing the sick and embarking on perilous recruitment missions, Evelyn sees her problems disappear. Her reputation is repaired, her friends are provided for, and her parents are newly wealthy. She reunites with the dashing Mr. Kent and recovers the reclusive Mr. Braddock (who has much less to brood over now that the Society can help him to control his dangerous power). But Evelyn can’t help fearing the Society is more sinister than it appears…

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4 Stars

Disclaimer: I received a free electronic copy of this book from the publisher and Xpresso Book Tours in exchange for an honest review. This will not affect my review in any way.

I have been wanting to read These Ruthless Deeds for such a long time now, and I jumped at the opportunity to read it. Although it did not exactly live up to its predecessor since I had such high expectations after reading such an outstanding debut, I still really enjoyed it. Certainly, These Ruthless Deeds is the satisfying and attention-grabbing sequel to These Vicious Masks that will make you beg for more until you reach the last page. It was such a great continuation, introducing new plot twists and characters, that I had to read book three as soon as I put this book down!

These Ruthless Deeds had so much action and excitement seeping from its pages from the first one. There were so many plot twists and surprises that felt like they punched me in the gut. Seriously, that’s how much I hurt after I learned of these shocking revelations. My eyes became glued onto my Kindle as I literally flew through the pages, transporting me into the X-Men-esque Society of Aberrations. In addition, there was so much humor, snarkiness, sarcasm, and awkwardness that made me chuckle and smile throughout the entire book, even when things got tense. This novel was so entertaining yet heart-wrenching.

The best thing about both this book and this series is the characters. I loved the introduction of many new characters with unique and bizarre abilities, and I fell in love with people like Miss Chen and Emily. Before I go on, I have to say that my favorite character in the entire series is Mr. Kent. He is truly amazing, and he always has some sort of witty or sarcastic remark that makes me laugh. Plus, how he uses his power is so cunning and awesome — seriously, I wish we were friends, though he’d probably make me say things I wish I hadn’t said. This unique cast of characters will stick with you even after you have left this alternative London.

As expected with every sequel, this book fell a bit — just a bit — flat for me since I had such high expectations from These Vicious Masks. Although I found myself sucked into the plot, I didn’t feel as emotionally invested as I had wanted to. However, I do find These Ruthless Deeds a very satisfying sequel to its predecessor. I am so glad that I was able to continue it, and I hope that you’ll be able to pick up These Vicious Masks and These Ruthless Deeds sometime! 🙂


Author Bio:

Tarun and Kelly met in a freshman year writing class at NYU and started writing These Vicious Masks a few years later.

Tarun is a writer living in Los Angeles whose idea of paradise consists of kung-fu movies, David Bowie and chai tea. Since completing his first horrible screenplay in high school, he’s written everything from one-act plays and film criticism to humor pieces and strongly-worded emails. He’s also magnetized, crushed and burned the hard drive where that first screenplay can be found.

Kelly is a writer and actor living in NYC. YA is her absolute favorite thing on earth other than cupcakes and she has spent many hours crying over fictional deaths. She also started reading Harlequin romances at a possibly too early age (12?), and still loves a good paperback romance.

Links (Tarun):

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter

Links (Kelly):

Website / Goodreads / Twitter


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Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J

~ Kester

Have you read any of the These Vicious Masks trilogy?

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

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Review: Greetings from Witness Protection! by Jake Burt — A Heartwarming yet Thrilling Tale of Family and Fitting In

Hi guys! Right now, I am at the Tennessee DECA State Career Development Conference, otherwise known as SCDC! If you are reading this, then I am currently competing for a coveted spot in the top 5 in the state for my event Marketing Communications Series. I’ve learned to love marketing a lot this past year, and I hope that I could come home with a trophy! Also, tomorrow I’m going to be at the Southeastern Young Adult Book Festival, and I’m so stoked to attend it again! I have 20 books awaiting to be signed (yes, somehow I’ve accumulated 20 books this past year) and there’s so many authors I want to meet and connect with! Today, I am reviewing Greetings from Witness Protectionby Jake Burt, whose interview with me is being posted in just a couple of weeks! Hope you enjoy!


About the BookGreetings from Witness Protection!

Nicki Demere is an orphan and a pickpocket. She also happens to be the U.S. Marshals’ best bet to keep a family alive. . . .

The marshals are looking for the perfect girl to join a mother, father, and son on the run from the nation’s most notorious criminals. After all, the bad guys are searching for a family with one kid, not two, and adding a streetwise girl who knows a little something about hiding things may be just what the marshals need.

Nicki swears she can keep the Trevor family safe, but to do so she’ll have to dodge hitmen, cyberbullies, and the specter of standardized testing, all while maintaining her marshal-mandated B-minus average. As she barely balances the responsibilities of her new identity, Nicki learns that the biggest threats to her family’s security might not lurk on the road from New York to North Carolina, but rather in her own past.

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4 Stars

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

Greetings from Witness Protection! shows readers what it truly means to be a part of a family and to love them so much to be willing to sacrifice everything for their safety and protection. It’s the heartwarming story about a girl who tries to fit in with her foster family as they take on a new identity in a new town with a multitude of responsibility under the Witness Protection Program. This book both warmed my heart so much yet placed me on the edge of my seat wanting to know what happens next. My heart was pounding as I sympathized with Nicki and her struggles with kleptomania and being a part of a new family. It even made me laugh so many times, and the storyline had the perfect mix of light humor and deep issues. Greetings from Witness Protection! is an MG part-spy thriller and part-family contemporary novel that will have readers of all ages inspired to fight for their loved ones.

Continue reading “Review: Greetings from Witness Protection! by Jake Burt — A Heartwarming yet Thrilling Tale of Family and Fitting In”

Review: Legends of the Lost Causes by Brad McLellan and Louis Sylvester — An MG Western Fantasy Full of Adventure and Perseverance!

Hi guys! Happy President’s Day!! Today I am off from school (yay, thank goodness), so I’m getting some much needed rest and relaxation. School is getting so much busier, and Lent has started, so I will be off of social media a lot these upcoming weeks. I will, however, check all my emails, messages, and notifications on my accounts once in the morning and once at night, so I will not ignore any messages you send me. It will take me some time to respond because I did give up social media for Lent, but I will be sure to look at and reply whenever I have the time. Today’s review is for Legends of the Lost Causes by Brad McLellan and Louis Sylvester, a new and becoming MG Western Fantasy series that infuses elements of Native American culture and Western adventures! I hope you check out this book when you have the chance!


About the BookLegends of the Lost Causes

A band of orphan avengers. A cursed stone. A horde of zombie outlaws. This is Keech Blackwood’s new life after Bad Whiskey Nelson descends upon the Home for Lost Causes and burns it to the ground.

With his home destroyed and his family lost, Keech will have to use the lessons he learned from Pa Abner to hunt down the powerful Char Stone. Luckily, he has the help of a ragtag team of orphans. Together, they’ll travel through treacherous forests, fight off the risen dead, and discover that they share mysterious bonds as they try to track down the legendary stone. Now, it’s a race against the clock, because if Bad Whiskey finds the stone first. . . . all is lost.

Legends of the Lost Causes releases tomorrow February 20th from Henry Holt!

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Pre-Order Legends of the Lost Causes here today!

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4 Stars

Disclaimer: Thanks so much to the publisher for sending me a free finished copy of this book in exchange for an honest review! This will not affect my review in any way.

Legends of the Lost Causes is the MG adventure novel that I have been looking for ages. It was fun and gripping at the same time, and it had everything from zombies and gun fights to curses and mystery. It felt so refreshing to read a book that enraptured me from page one! I just could not put it down, and I found myself going “One chapter more. I need to know what happens next!” so many times. Legends of the Lost Causes places you in the midst of the fighting between the orphans and the outlaws as it takes you on a wild adventure in search of the elusive Char Stone. This story will not only make readers smile but also inspire readers, regardless of age, to continue to fight for what is right in the face of enemies and evil.

Continue reading “Review: Legends of the Lost Causes by Brad McLellan and Louis Sylvester — An MG Western Fantasy Full of Adventure and Perseverance!”

This Month’s LILbooKtalk: “Healing through Stories: Two Novels of Uniting Families” with Corabel Shofner and Leslie Hauser

Hi guys! I am super excited for this month’s LILbooKtalk! I had the amazing opportunity to read both of these excellent debuts, and they share so many similar themes and conflicts that I had to invite both of the authors in our February panel. Today, we have Corabel Shofner, author of Almost Paradise, and Leslie Hauser, author of Chasing Eveline, on the blog today to talk about “Healing through Stories: Two Novels of Uniting Families.” It was definitely a fun chat to moderate, and I hope you enjoy it!


About Almost ParadiseAlmost Paradise

Twelve-year-old Ruby Clyde Henderson’s life turns upside down the day her mother’s boyfriend holds up a convenience store, and her mother is wrongly imprisoned for assisting with the crime. Ruby and her pet pig, Bunny, find their way to her estranged Aunt Eleanor’s home. Aunt Eleanor is a nun who lives on a peach orchard called Paradise, and had turned away from their family long ago. With a little patience, she and Ruby begin to get along―but Eleanor has secrets of her own, secrets that might mean more hard times for Ruby.

Ruby believes that she’s the only one who can find a way to help heal her loved ones, save her mother, and bring her family back together again. But being in a family means that everyone has to work together to support each other, and being home doesn’t always mean going back to where you came from.

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About Chasing EvelineChasing Eveline

Sixteen-year-old Ivy Higgins is the only student at Carmel Heights High School who listens to cassettes. And her binder is the only one decorated with album artwork by 80s band Chasing Eveline. Despite being broken-up since 1989, this rock band out of Ireland means everything to Ivy. They’re a reminder of her mom, who abandoned Ivy and her dad two years ago. Now the music of her mom’s favorite band is the only connection she has left.

Even though Ivy wavers between anger and a yearning to reconnect, she’s one-hundred percent certain she’s not ready to lose her mom forever. But the only surefire way to locate her would be at a Chasing Eveline concert. So with help from her lone friend Matt—an equally abandoned soul and indie music enthusiast—Ivy hatches a plan to reunite the band.

The road to Ireland won’t be easy, though. And not just because there is no road. Along the way they’ll have to win over their Lady Gaga-loving peers, tangle with some frisky meerkats, and oh yeah, somehow find and persuade the four members to play a reunion gig. It’s a near-impossible task, but Ivy has to try. If she can’t let go of the past, she’ll never be able to find joy in the present.

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LILbooKtalk 3

Questions are in bold

Kester: The first author we have today is the wonderful Corabel Shofner, who I had the pleasure of meeting at the Southern Festival of Books last October. Her Middle Grade debut novel Almost Paradise released last summer, and I enjoyed it so much that I finished it in a day! Could you describe to us a bit about your book and yourself?Almost Paradise

Corabel: ALMOST PARADISE is a Middle Grade contemporary novel with lots of whimsy, humor and heartbreak. In some ways it is a reverse coming of age story, since Ruby Clyde had taken on the adult role in her family and needs to reclaim her childhood. I am a wife and mother who lives in Nashville, TN. I had a very colorful life before I settled in the suburbs and I love it out here. ALMOST PARADISE is my debut novel although I have written law, short stories, essays and such.

Kester: Thank you, Corabel! It’s so great to be having a local Tennessee author here on the blog! We also have the amazing Leslie Hauser, who I was able to interview on my blog last summer. I loved her Young Adult contemporary debut Chasing Eveline, which I also devoured in a single day! Would you also like to share with us a bit about your novel and your background?

Leslie: Hi! Thanks for having me here. CHASING EVELINE is about 16-year-old Ivy HIggins and her desire to reunite her mom’s favorite 80s band. She thinks it may be the only way to find her mom who left Ivy and her dad several years prior, but also the music is a way to keep her mom present in her life. It also has some humor and heartbreak–sounds like a good companion to ALMOST PARADISE! I am a middle school English and history teacher in California and CHASING EVELINE is my debut novel.

Kester: Chasing Eveline and Almost Paradise are definitely great companions! (And you provided the perfect segue for my next question, Leslie!) That’s why as I read both of your novels, I noticed that each of your main characters share the common goal of healing their broken families. How do you want readers to be impacted by Ivy’s attempts at finding her long-lost mother or Ruby Clyde’s actions to help her mother avoid being imprisoned? How do your characters learn what it means to love those around you?

Chasing EvelineLeslie: Losing someone is difficult. I realized after my aunt passed away that every year, the memories became dimmer. It’s to the point now where I can’t even see parts of these memories (like the picture in Back to the Future! If you’re familiar with that movie.) Ivy’s quest to reunite Chasing Eveline is her way of dealing with loss and trying to keep her mom present. I wanted to write a story that shows that there are productive outlets for grief. I would hope readers would see that as a takeaway.

Corabel: Hi Leslie, I haven’t written anything with music as an element but I love the way Ivy seeks her mother through her mother’s favorite 80’s band. Reminds me a bit of Guardians of the Galaxy where he’s stomping through puddles listening to his mother’s old music, on an old player. Ruby Clyde is a self possessed little thing. She willingly steps up to care for her fragile mother but when the Catfish (mother’s rascal boyfriend) launches off on a cross country trip and gets them both arrested, Ruby Clyde is consumed with a longing for home and a growing realization that she might not be able to single handedly save her mother from prison. I want my readers to feel brave. Bravery is contagious.

Leslie: Sounds like Ivy and Ruby both have to step up in their families. Ivy feels compelled to take care of her dad in her mother’s absence. Bravery is definitely important when dealing with these struggles.

Corabel: Everybody loves the precocious child, the ‘little mother’ or the one who takes care of everything because a parent is damaged. People should realized that these children pay a price by losing their childhood. My sister did that in our family and it did not end well. I’ve since seen other children try to play this role and it breaks my heart. But their old personalities in the miniature bodies is often hilarious.
Continue reading “This Month’s LILbooKtalk: “Healing through Stories: Two Novels of Uniting Families” with Corabel Shofner and Leslie Hauser”

Exclusive Interview with Maggie Ann Martin, Debut Author of The Big F!

Hi guys! Today on the blog, I am interviewing debut author Maggie Ann Martin about her book The Big F, which looks really cool and awesome! I’ve heard many great things about this book, and you don’t want to miss it! What’s really special is that it is releasing TOMORROW from Swoon Reads! So go pre-order or order it right now because you want to read this book!


About The Big F30046340

Danielle effed up. Big time.

Danielle’s plans for the future were pretty easy to figure out… until she failed senior English and her single college application was denied. Suddenly she’s in hot water with very few options, because honestly who applies to a safety school when their mom is a semi-famous “college psychic”?!

Determined to get her life back on track, Danielle enrolls in her hometown community college with a plan: pass her English class and get back into Ohio State and her mother’s good graces. Romance isn’t on her radar… until she reconnects with her childhood crush and golden-boy-next-door, Luke.

Between family drama, first love and finding her own way, Danielle can’t help but feel a little overwhelmed. Thankfully she has her friendship with the snarky and frustratingly attractive Porter, her coworker at the campus bookstore, to push her to experience new things and help keep her afloat.

One thing’s for sure: This time, failure’s not an option.


Maggie Ann Martin

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

I’ve loved writing since I was little! Growing up, there were these story ideas always bouncing around in my head, and when I couldn’t find a book that I wanted to read that focused on a topic that I was interested, I wrote it.

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

My first love was definitely fantasy because of my love for the Harry Potter books. I really got into contemporary books after I read Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins and have been hooked on the genre ever since. I love that in contemporary books, you get to see the real world that you inhabit through a new person’s perspective.

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

When I’m not writing, I’m a social media community manager at Sculpt. The short description of my job is that I get to Tweet, Facebook, Instagram, Snap (you name the social media channel, we’re probably on it) for my clients. It’s pretty rad. MaggieAnnMartin2

4. Your debut novel The Big F follows the story of Danielle who is denied acceptance into the only college that she applied, which her “college psychic” mom chose for her, and has to work to get back into Ohio State. What is your most memorable or most hilarious moment from high school that you would like to share with us?

I was such a rule follower in high school! I don’t think I have anything particularly outlandish or hilarious that happened to me, but I did value my friendships. I was a super proud band nerd (still am, band nerds unite), was involved with the school paper, and did all of the school plays that I could possibly be in. I think I was too overbooked for anything wild to happen to me! Ha!

Continue reading “Exclusive Interview with Maggie Ann Martin, Debut Author of The Big F!”

Review: Caraval by Stephanie Garber – A Magical Place I Didn’t Want to Leave

Hi guys! I do not have a Quote-flection of the Week because this week has been so busy for me. I had a few auditions and I have a concert and ceremony coming up soon, so it’s been crazy! The Quote-flection will be every week or so, so some weeks I will have one and others I won’t. But I decided to have a review today! In order to introduce you to my newest top favorite book, I have to give you this quote! Here it is:

“Welcome, welcome to Caraval! The grandest show on land or by sea. Inside you’ll experience more wonders than most people see in a lifetime. … But before you fully enter into our world, you must remember it’s all a game. So while we want you to get swept away, be careful of being swept too far away. Dreams that come true can be beautiful, but they can also turn into nightmares when people won’t wake up.”


About the Book:27883214

Remember, it’s only a game…

Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the far-away, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.
But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval . . . beware of getting swept too far away.


A 5 Star

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

Overall Thoughts: I’ve wanted to read Caraval for quite a while, and I was so excited while I was able to win this book in a giveaway! I was convinced to finally start it last week (as I write this) and it was the best decision ever. I mean, Caraval was a magical place I never wanted to leave! I can see why so many people are hyped about this book and want to buy every single version of it. I mean I amazed by it! This is probably one of the few books that I didn’t want to end! 

World-Building: The author creates such a magical and fantastic world! So much magic in the air makes my eyes glimmer with fascination! I want Legend to send me a ticket to Caraval! I don’t care if I win; I just want to roam around it! (I know I’m dropping so many exclamation points, but the world building is just amazing!) Garber certainly made Caraval one of the best fictional worlds and settings I have ever read. Could I please get a ticket? There’s also a gorgeous map of the setting in the book that definitey helps you, and it’s so pretty to just look at!

*I know this review is sounding so much like me fanboying, but these are literally my feelings right now. All I can type is excitement and joy. Gotta be more professional now.*

Plot: So I couldn’t put down this 400-page beauty. I finished it in two (or three) days! I mean this is almost record time! The plot sucks you in, like you’re actually in Caraval and you don’t want to get out. You encounter a lot and a lot of plot twists that make you want to keep going. I definitely found myself saying “Just one more chapter” so many times! Garber hooks you from the beginning all the way to the end. She throws at you so many unexpected twists and turns that you have to know what happens next!

Romance: I just have to cover the romance in the book. Scarlett and Julian is my favorite OTP ever! It’s such a great slow burn relationship that evolves from hate. But it’s so fun to watch Scarlett warming up to him. I won’t spoil what happens to their relationship at the story progresses, but it does go through a ton of different hurdles… I’ll just tell you that. But I love their relationship! I need some fan art and swag right now!

Concluding Thoughts: This book was perfect, and I mean perfect! I loved every single part of it 100%! And this book is the first in series? I have to read the next book. It was so good that I just don’t want to ever leave it! I think that Caraval has to be on my favorite books of all time! It’s the perfect escape and vacation from reality! I recommend it to everyone! Please read this book! You won’t regret it! I might re-read it, which is extremely rare for me!
Have you read Caraval? Did you like it? Comment below your thoughts, and let’s chat!

One of My Favorite Quotes (There’s Too Many!): “Hope is a powerful thing. Some say it’s a different breed of magic altogether. Elusive, difficult to hold on to. But not much is needed.”


Don’t forget to enter our giveaway for Kym Brunner’s book Flip the Bird! It’s a great MG Contemporary Romance you don’t want to miss! Check it out here!

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?

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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?

erin
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