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 + 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)

Website
Facebook
Twitter
Goodreads 


Now onto the giveaway!
Please check out the rules and make sure you FOLLOW them!

Hope you enjoyed this interview! Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.
~ Kester

Review: Sad Perfect by Stephanie Elliot – Changed My Perception on EDs and People with Eating Disorders

Hi guys! Welcome back! Today is the first day of May! Oh my goodness! May is my favorite month because a) school’s almost out and b) it’s my birth month! Yay! That means a birthday book haul! Yes! Right now, I have my newest review on Stephanie Elliot’s Sad Perfect, which is an amazing book! Amid all the controversy surrounding it, I personally think it is a great novel that sheds light on eating disorders and ARFID, which is Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder. Now onwards!


About Sad PerfectSadPerfect_09e

The story of a teen girl’s struggle with Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder and how love helps her on the road to recovery.

Sixteen-year-old Pea looks normal, but she has a secret: she has Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID). It is like having a monster inside of her, one that not only dictates what she can eat, but also causes anxiety, depression, and thoughts that she doesn’t want to have. When she falls crazy-mad in love with Ben, she hides her disorder from him, pretending that she’s fine. At first, everything really does feel like it’s getting better with him around, so she stops taking her anxiety and depression medication. And that’s when the monster really takes over her life. Just as everything seems lost and hopeless, Pea finds in her family, and in Ben, the support and strength she needs to learn that her eating disorder doesn’t have to control her.


A 5 StarDisclaimer: I received a free physical copy of this book from the author and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I also received some book swag. This will not affect my review in anyway. All thoughts are mine and mine alone, and they are my honest thoughts.

Overall Thoughts: I honestly went into this book a little scared. The reason is is that there have been many bad reviews surfacing the Internet and Goodreads that have not only degraded the book and bashed the author. Let me tell you one thing about those reviews, please do not just base your opinion on only them. And please do not bring in the author along. A fictional book does not reflect the author’s personality. Some of my blogger friends raved about this book, so I’ve wanted to read it a lot. I admit I was a bit hesitant but I gave it a shot.

This book exceeded my expectations by a mile. Let me tell you, I am super impressed with the author’s writing style and the storyline. I devoured 2/3 of this book in a day because I could not put it down. During school, all I just wanted to do is just sit down and finish this book. I didn’t care about watching the movie Chicken Run; my only desire was to finish Sad Perfect. This book is probably one of my favorite reads of 2017! I mean I am mind blown at everything! Woo! Time to get onto why I love it so much! It definitely changed my perception on people with eating disorders and EDs!

Thrust into the Story: The fascinating thing about this book is that it was told in second-person, which definitely made the message and story much more effective and amplified. I was Pea, and I could feel all her physical and emotional pain. If she hated a character, I had similar feelings, too. If she loved something, I would love it, too. I knew exactly how she felt and why she felt that way, and I went through times where I felt all the characters didn’t know what I (remember, this is in second person) was going through. Second-person is something that is very hard to master in a fictional book, but the author conquered that challenge. She made me think more about everything that is going on, and that’s one reason why I couldn’t stop reading and reading!

Awareness about ARFID and EDs: What I love about books is that they have the potential to change your perception about the world. 2017 has been full of those kinds of novels: Salt to the Sea, Strong Inside, Be Light Like a Bird, A Time to SpeakI am so glad to add Sad Perfect to that list. I believe that it vividly and accurately portrays what a person with an eating disorder (or ED)- especially those with ARFID, or Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder- has to go through. So many times victims think that there is an actual monster who “controls” all their thoughts and emotions. With second-person POV, it helps you understand these struggles all the more. I am so glad that I got to read this book because I am even more enlightened about this problem.

A Tiny Warning: As much as I loved this book, I have to give a little warning to more sensitive readers. There are some scenes in this book (a few not all) that are very vivid and could trigger some people. I do in fact recommend this book to all people, even to those with eating disorders, but I just want you to be a bit cautious. The author is an amazing writer, and I do not want this warning to make you not want to read this book. I definitely want you to pick this book up and read it! This is nothing against the author or the book- this is just a heads-up for those who are more sensitive with these topics.

Concluding Thoughts: I think that this book has changed my perception of the world even more. I’m so glad that I was able to read and review this book! This is probably one of my favorite books I’ve ever read… and I mean it! I know I’ve encountered so many new faves, but this has got to be on that list. Why can’t top 10 include more? Please, I urge you to pick this book up. The author definitely accomplished her mission with this book: to spread awareness about ARFID, which is a recently discovered eating disorder. She has done a great job portraying it accurately to where I am now more aware about about not only AFRID but all eating disorders in general. Knowing how people with EDs feel makes me a better person regarding how I view others, and that is why I love books like this one!

One of My Favorite Quotes: You think about this. Everyone in your life wants you in his or her life. Your mom, your dad, even your brother. … They all want you around. You’ve got so much to be happy about.


About the AuthorDSC00461

Stephanie Elliot is the author of the young adult novel Sad Perfect (Margaret Ferguson Books/FSG, Winter, 2017), which was inspired by her own daughter’s journey with ARFID, Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder. She has written for a variety of websites and magazines and has been a passionate advocate of other authors by promoting their books on the Internet for years. She has been, or still is, all of the following: a book reviewer, an anonymous parenting columnist, a mommy blogger, an editor, a professional napper, a reformed Diet Coke drinker, a gecko breeder and the author of three self-published novels.

A Florida native, Stephanie has lived near Chicago and Philadelphia and currently calls Scottsdale, Arizona home. She graduated from Northern Illinois University, where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Journalism. Stephanie and her husband Scott have three children: AJ, McKaelen and Luke. They are all her favorites.


Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? Leave a comment below, and let’s chat!

Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

Guest Post with Kristin Smith: Is Dystopian Dead?

Hi guys! The school year is wrapping up, and last week, I got done with an entire EOC, an ACT practice test, and an orchestra concert. Whew! This year has gone by so fast, and I am feeling a bit sad that it’s almost over since I’ve made so many great memories and a ton of new friends (All Northwest and All State Honor Choirs, heck yeah!), but this summer is going to be filled with a lot of reading, blogging, and music, so woo hoo! Today, I have an amazing author on our blog today, and her post is fabulous! You’ll definitely enjoy it! Here’s Kristin Smith!

A Kristin
Guest Post by Kristin Smith:
Is Dystopia Dead?
 
In the wake of some bestselling series such as HUNGER GAMES, DIVERGENT, and THE MAZE RUNNER, some may claim that dystopia is dead—dried up and overused. Any author who writes dystopia nowadays knows that in publishing, dystopian is kind of considered a “dirty word”. Most literary agents and some publishers (especially the Big Five) are very hesitant to acquire new dystopian series because they feel the market is oversaturated. They believe the dystopian ship has sailed, and they’ve now moved on to the next trend.
But does this mean that readers want to read these books any less? Has the dystopian genre dried up? Or is there still a market for these books?
Let’s first take a look at the history of some well-known dystopian novels.
1945- Animal Farm by George Orwell

1949- Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

1993- The Giver by Lois Lowry
2005- Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
2008- Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
2009- The Maze Runner by James Dashner
2010- Matched by Allie Condie
2011- Divergent by Veronica Roth
2011- Delirium by Lauren Oliver
2011- Across the Universe by Beth Revis
2011- Legend by Marie Lu
2012- The Selection by Kiera Cass
As you can see from the timeline above, dystopian novels have been around (and been popular) for decades. Sure, their popularity may come and go in waves, but if you’re a lover of speculative fiction, that love doesn’t waver, does it?

I personally have a great love for speculative fiction novels. I like that they depict a futuristic or post-apocalyptic world that is different from what we know now. Some of the novels written in this genre have been ground-breaking in their plot development and world building. Take HUNGER GAMES for example. Suzanne Collins broke the mold and set the bar pretty high when she wrote this novel, creating a world in which children have to battle to the death in the annual Games. It has become a bestselling series AND an incredible movie.

 

As a reader, I would be disenchanted if I found out that dystopian novels were no longer being picked up by publishers because of this idea that the market is “too saturated” with them. Granted, I want to read well-written novels with incredible world building, but I certainly wouldn’t want authors discouraged from writing a dystopian novel simply because “that trend is over”. Mostly because I STILL WANT TO READ THEM!
So if you’re a spec fic lover, would you want a limit placed on the number of dystopian books you have access to? Or should a reader’s voice be more important than current market trends?
Given the timeline I showed you before, I strongly believe that dystopia is NOT dead. It may be taking a hiatus, but it will be back full force in the coming years. In the meantime, there are many authors who are still writing and publishing thrilling and innovative dystopian novels. You just have to find them!

Here are some great dystopian novels published in 2016.

1) On the Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyvis 

2) Genesis Girl (Blank Slate #1) by Jennifer Bardsley

3) The Road to Winter by Mark Smith

4) Black River Falls by Jeff Hirsch

5) Vicarious (Vicarious #1) by Paula Stokes

6) Catalyst (The Deception Game #1) by Kristin Smith

That’s right, you read that correctly. My own debut novel is a YA dystopian. So perhaps I’m a little biased…

Anyway, if you’re looking for a thrilling YA dystopian that has danger, deception, and swoony romance, CATALYST and FORGOTTEN are now available. (And here’s a little plug—To celebrate the release of FORGOTTEN, CATALYST is on sale this week only for $.99!) You can find them at the links below. 🙂

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Apple iBooks

NOOK

Kobo

Smashwords

Thanks for stopping by! What do you think? Is dystopia dead?

 

Author Bio:



Kristin Smith writes young adult contemporary and science fiction novels. When she’s not writing, you can find her dreaming about the beach, beating her boys at Just Dance, or belting out karaoke (from the comfort of her own home). Kristin currently resides in the middle-of-nowhere North Carolina with her husband and five incredibly loud but extremely cute boys. To read more about her obsession with YA novels or her addiction to chocolate, you can visit her at kristinsmithbooks.com.
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Blog | Goodreads | Amazon Author Page

 


Thank you so much, Kristin, for coming onto our blog! This was a great post!

Here’s today’s quote of the day!

“Life isn’t one big holiday right now. I know it’s going to be rough, and I wonder if I’ll make it, but that’s when I get support from God.” – Perry Wallace in Strong Inside by Andrew Maraniss.


Happy Reading! Have a great week! 🙂

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

Guest Post + GIVEAWAY with Shaila Patel: Avoiding the Traps in Writing Romance

Hello! I am so glad Spring Break is here! Woot woot! I am currently a little under the weather right now, but I am so glad I have a wonderful author here on our blog today. I met Shaila Patel a couple of weeks ago at the Southeastern Young Adult Book Festival, and it was so awesome to meet her! She is one of the nicest author I’ve ever talked with, and I’ve loved our little chats. I loved her debut book Soulmated, and she is giving away an e-copy of her book along with some swag. The swag is great; I have some at home and I love them! Hope you enjoy!

Two souls. One Fate. soulmated_shailapatel_1600x2400_seriestitle

Eighteen-year-old Liam Whelan, an Irish royal empath, has been searching for his elusive soulmate. The rare union will cement his family’s standing in empath politics and afford the couple legendary powers, while also making them targets of those seeking to oust them.

Laxshmi Kapadia, an Indian-American high school student from a traditional family, faces her mother’s ultimatum: Graduate early and go to medical school, or commit to an arranged marriage.

When Liam moves next door to Laxshmi, he’s immediately and inexplicably drawn to her. In Liam, Laxshmi envisions a future with the freedom to follow her heart.

Liam’s father isn’t convinced Laxshmi is “The One” and Laxshmi’s mother won’t even let her talk to their handsome new neighbor. Will Liam and Laxshmi defy expectations and embrace a shared destiny? Or is the risk of choosing one’s own fate too great a price for the soulmated?

 

a-shailaAbout the Author

As an unabashed lover of all things happily-ever-after, Shaila Patel’s younger self would finish reading her copy of Cinderella and fling it across the room because it didn’t mention what happened next. Now she writes from her home in the Carolinas and dreams up all sorts of stories with epilogues. A member of the Romance Writers of America, she’s a pharmacist by training, a medical office manager by day, and a writer by night. Soulmated is her debut novel and the winner of the 2015 Chanticleer Book Reviews Paranormal Awards for Young Adult. She loves books, craft beer, tea, and cozy window seats—but she’ll read anywhere. You might find her sneaking in a few paragraphs at a red light or online gushing about her favorite books.

Publisher Information:Month 9 Books

Represented by: Agent Amanda Leuck of Spencerhill Associates


A Shaila

Avoiding the Traps in Writing Romance

Hi Kester! Thank you for having me here today to talk about avoiding clichés and stereotypes in writing romance.

As a romance writer and a huge fan of romance novels, I can say with certainty that there are no original tropes. A trope is a scenario or plot device, and in love stories they form the foundation on which the romance is built. Examples include the girl falling in love with her brother’s best friend (or vice versa), or the rich, spoiled hero who falls for the one girl who hates him, or even the classic love triangle where a heroine has to choose between two boyfriends.

All romances are based on a trope, yet despite the predictability, we fall in love with a particularly romance novel because it doesn’t feel like the same old story. And that’s probably because it avoided using clichés and stereotypes that usually leave us uninspired and bored. Imagine eating steamed broccoli, or steamed carrots, or steamed cauliflower every night at dinner. Sure, they’re different vegetables, but having them prepared the same way doesn’t get you excited about sitting down to dinner. The same thing can happen in writing.

So how do you avoid the blahs in writing a romance?

Start by subverting the reader’s expectations. Let’s take the example of Beauty and the Beast. Why not make the beast the heroine instead of the hero? Why not move the story into the present day? Or what about making the beast a Hollywood A-list celebrity instead of a recluse? Now you’d have a story that would spark the imagination and make you forget that you already know what it’s all about.

Once you’ve subverted the reader’s expectations of the trope being used, create characters that can’t be contained on the pages of your book. It’s inevitable that you’ll use a few clichés and stereotypes, but don’t rely on them. Instead, captivate your readers with images and characterizations that force them to spin their expectations until they’re dizzy.

Here are three ways you can do that.

First, create fresh character descriptions. By their very nature, clichés and stereotypes don’t inspire us to think. They’re like shortcuts that are overused and instantly tell us what thought, description, or idea is being conveyed. If I were to describe a character’s hair as “golden locks,” you’d know I was describing blond hair. But does it paint a picture in your mind? Not really. How about this: “hair like garlands of pale yellow primroses.” Paints a different picture, doesn’t it?

Second, develop your characters by adding depth. Create an interesting backstory and personality flaws that—again—subvert the reader’s expectations. Taking the trope I mentioned above (the rich, spoiled boy who falls for the girl who hates him), maybe his backstory is that he was poor as a child. Or maybe he’s struggling with turning his parents in for their illegal activities. Why not make him insecure to counter his confidence? Or even embarrassed by a learning disability? There’s nothing more ho-hum than a one-dimensional, perfect character. It leads writers to fall back on expected character-types that you’d find for specific romance tropes, but worse, it makes the story predictable.

Third, have the expected character-type change and grow. If the hero or heroine doesn’t, you run the risk of having flat characters that do nothing to jazz up your trope. Do you have a brooding male hero? Give him a quirky hobby like doing magic tricks. With an interesting backstory, the reader would know why the hero loves the sleight of hand involved with card tricks, and by the end of the story, it could be part of the reason he grows and changes. Do you have a shy heroine? Give her an unexpected cause to champion and allow it to be one of the reasons she transforms by the end of the story. Parallel the hero and heroine’s growth, and intersect them when you need to advance the romantic plot. The goal is to have readers cheering for the hero and heroine, both as individuals and as a couple—all so that they won’t be thinking how predictable the trope is.

Using a romance trope in the same way that it’s always been used is like an uninspiring cliché. It doesn’t create a fresh image in our minds. It isn’t engaging. And if you can’t engage a reader, they’ll likely forget what they read.

And who would want to read a book like that?


Thank you so much, Shaila, for coming onto our blog! I’m so glad to have you guest post for us!

If you want to check out Shaila’s social media pages or buy Soulmated, check out the links below!

Contact Links:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest | Goodreads

Buy Links for Soulmated:

Amazon | B&N | Book Depository | Books-a-Million| Google Play | Indiebound | Kobo


Now onto the giveaway! Woo hoo! I think you should enter this giveaway because I loved Soulmated A LOT! I mean A LOT! It was amazing! You’ll really enjoy it!

Just a few quick rules:

1) This is open to ALL International residents. For US Residents, you will get more swag than Int’l residents because of postage.

2) You must be truthful when entering!

3) You must be 18 years or older or have parental permission.

4) Winner must respond within 48 hours of me notifying him or her.

Here’s the Giveaway Link!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I wish you the best! Hope you have fun! 🙂

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

 

 

 

 

 

Soulmated by Shaila Patel

Hello! Last Saturday, I finally got to meet one of the nicest and best authors at the Southeastern Young Adult Book Festival (post to come soon)! Her name is Shaila Patel, and she is an amazing romance writer! I am so glad I got to meet her, and her debut book Soulmated just released in January! Go buy it and check it out!

Goodreads Summary: **Winner of the 2015 Chanticleer Book Reviews Paranormal Awards in YA**soulmated_shailapatel_1600x2400_seriestitle

Two souls. One Fate.

Eighteen-year-old Liam Whelan, an Irish royal empath, has been searching for his elusive soulmate. The rare union will cement his family’s standing in empath politics and afford the couple legendary powers, while also making them targets of those seeking to oust them.

Laxshmi Kapadia, an Indian-American high school student from a traditional family, faces her mother’s ultimatum: Graduate early and go to medical school, or commit to an arranged marriage.

When Liam moves next door to Laxshmi, he’s immediately and inexplicably drawn to her. In Liam, Laxshmi envisions a future with the freedom to follow her heart.

Liam’s father isn’t convinced Laxshmi is “The One” and Laxshmi’s mother won’t even let her talk to their handsome new neighbor. Will Liam and Laxshmi defy expectations and embrace a shared destiny? Or is the risk of choosing one’s own fate too great a price for the soulmated?

DISCLAIMER: I received a free electronic ARC copy of this book from the author in exchange for a review. I have also received swag from the author. These will not affect my review in any way.

Rating: 10/10 stars

Overall Thoughts: Soulmated was actually one of my most anticipated releases of 2017, and I was so excited when I got an e-ARC of it from the author! This book was really impressive for a debut author; it definitely exceeded my expectations and grabbed my attention! It’s not just a normal lovey-dovey romance, but instead, it infuses a unique relationship with an air of tension, mystery, questioning, and suspicion. This is not your average young adult romance. It is one of the best I have ever read!

Humor and Relatability: I have not laughed in a book more than this one! There is a lot of humor in what the characters do or say that both teens and adults will laugh at! I know because I’ve chuckled quite a few times. The ethnic diversity of the characters are so authentic that at times it’s funny! I could hear Liam’s Irish accent, and I loved it when Laxshmi corrected her mom’s grammar. I was going “Same!!!” Even the Irish and Indian terminology in the book is great; I had the urge to go “What’s craic?” (which is Irish for “What’s up?”) to some of my peers!

Romance: There are many reasons why the romance between the two protagonists is so unique and amazing!

1) Diversity. The author embraces each of the character’s ethnic backgrounds and portrays it so well in the book. The interracial romance breaks boundaries, yet it uses Laxshmi’s Indian heritage as an important element of this story. You just have to read to find out how it is both helped and harmed their connection.

2) Ups and Downs. The two went through many trials (not spoiling the ending). Both questioned whether it was right to pursue a relationship with the other, yet the still harbored feelings for each other. The dual-POV definitely added a layer of internal conflict that really works with this storyline. 3) Fantasy. Liam being an empath prince adds a ton of tension on the relationship. He is forced to find his “soulmate,” yet he questions whether Lucky (his nickname for Laxshmi) is the one. He at times feels dead-set that she is “the one” but at other times he doesn’t. The empath politics that surround this romance also adds a new sub-plot to it. There are some twists and surprises in store! Read it to find out what they are!

Some Details: There were, like many books I have already read, some parts where I had to think or read about what happened. I had to re-read the ending to grasp the events that were unfolding, but once I realized what was going on, I was shocked. There is a weird time-jump in the middle of the book that actually made me think the Liam at the time was an impostor (it was Liam for real by the way), but other than that, I don’t have a problem with anything!

My Review in a Nutshell: The ending definitely shocked me. I was like “What???” and “I need to read the next book!” I literally want to know what happens next! Overall, I enjoyed this book! I love it so much! Patel did not disappoint in her debut book, and I am so glad I was able to read it!

Recommendation: 100% Yes! I think you will be “soulmated” to this book! (Ha! Get it? No. Tough crowd.)

+ J.M.J.

Til next time!

~ Kester

Secrets of a Reluctant Princess Blog Tour: Guest Post by Casey Griffin –

Hello! Welcome to my tour stop for the Secrets of a Reluctant Princess Blog Tour! I know this little intro isn’t as long or personal as the others, but I’m a little bit crunched for time at the moment, but I hope you enjoy it!

soarptour

 

Secrets of a Reluctant Princess by Casey GriffinSecrets

Publication Date: March 7, 2017

Publisher:  Entangled Teen

At Beverly Hills High, you have to be ruthless to survive…

Adrianna Bottom always wanted to be liked. But this wasn’t exactly what she had in mind. Now, she’s in the spotlight…and out of her geeky comfort zone. She’ll do whatever it takes to turn the rumor mill in her favor—even if it means keeping secrets. So far, it’s working.

Wear the right clothes. Say the right things. Be seen with the right people.

Kevin, the adorable sketch artist who shares her love of all things nerd, isn’t exactly the right people. But that doesn’t stop Adrianna from crushing on him. The only way she can spend time with him is in disguise, as Princess Andy, the masked girl he’s been LARPing with. If he found out who she really was, though, he’d hate her.

The rules have been set. The teams have their players. Game on.

Link to Goodreads

Purchase Links:

Google Play | BAM | Chapters | Indies | Amazon | B&N| Kobo | TBD | iBooks

 

Link to Tour Schedule

 

Now onto the guest post!

Casey Griffin

Speaking to Teens

Maybe it’s because I never matured past high school, or because I read a lot of YA, but I’ve never had much trouble putting myself in a young adult’s shoes to write a story from their perspective. In fact, it’s fun, refreshing even, to try to see the world through the eyes of a teenager. All that youthful optimism, the world at their feet, the rest of their lives ahead of them (yet, ironically, they can’t imagine ever being as old as I am). So what do I keep in mind while writing from a young adult’s point of view?

I’ve been there

  • I was once a teenager. I won’t tell you how long ago that was, but it wasn’t too long ago that I can’t remember how monumental some things seemed, how exciting, how scary, how frustrating. And if for a moment I take away some of the boring grown up things that occupy my brain space as an adult like bills, mortgages, and my career, it’s easy to still feel some of those same things. Heck, when it comes to romance, it doesn’t matter how old you get. When you fall in love, it still feels just as exciting and important as your first crush.

For teens, everything is new

  • I’ve had years of experiences that helped me develop the social and emotional tools to deal with a variety of situations (translation: I’ve made a ton of mistakes). For a teenager, a lot of those same experiences are new. They’re discovering their own achievements (and mistakes) for the first time. Add a dash of homework, a good dousing of hormones, trap them all in the same ugly building day after day, and OMG the world is ending! But it’s also fresh and exciting. Where an adult might feel skepticism or suspicion, a teen would have a fresh take on it.

It’s not easy being a teen

  • Many adults (read “all”) think they know everything and that teens should be learning from our past mistakes and limitless wisdom. But adults forget that teens can be pretty resourceful, and we can learn a lot from them too. Young adults deal with a lot these days. Not just in their own lives, but almost on a wider scale—as in globally, thanks to social media and the Internet. After becoming a step mom to a teen myself recently, and with three nephews all around that age, it feels like being a teen is tougher now than when I was one. Maybe there are more issues to face, maybe more pressure—or maybe that’s just all the years playing with my memory.

Put yourself in their shoes

  • While the vast majority of YA authors are not YAs themselves, I think it’s important to stay in touch with the age group you’re trying to write for. If an author has teens in their extended family, it’s as easy as connecting, asking questions, finding out what they’re up to, and what’s important to them. Of course there’s always excellent YA books, TV shows, and movies. It’s all about stepping out of your adult shoes and into theirs—you guys are still wearing platforms, right? 🙂

 

Thank you so much, Casey, for your wonderful guest post! Great to have you on our blog!

 

Now onto the giveaway!

Giveaway Information: 

  • One (1) winner will receive a signed copy of Secrets of a Reluctant Princess + a Tiara!

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

About the AuthorCasey

 

Casey Griffin can often be found at comic conventions on her days off from her day job, driving 400 ton dump trucks in Northern Alberta, Canada. As a jack of all trades with a resume boasting registered nurse, English teacher, and photographer, books are her true passion. Casey is a 2012 Amazon Breakthrough Novel finalist, and is currently busy writing every moment she can.

 

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

 

Hope you enjoyed it!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

 

 

Romeo & What’s Her Name Book Blitz

Romeo and What’s Her Name
Shani Petroff
Published by: Swoon Reads
Publication date: February 7th 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult

Understudies never get to perform

. . . which is why being Juliet’s understudy in the school’s yearly “Evening with Shakespeare” is the perfect role for Emily. She can earn some much-needed extra credit while pursuing her main goal of spending time with Wes, aka Romeo, aka the hottest, nicest guy in school (in her completely unbiased opinion). And she meant to learn her lines, really, it’s just:

a) Shakespeare is HARD,

b) Amanda, aka the “real” Juliet, makes her run errands instead of lines, and

c) there’s no point because Amanda would never miss the chance to be the star of the show.

Then, Amanda ends up in the hospital and Emily, as the (completely unprepared!) understudy, has to star opposite the guy of her dreams. Oops?

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Kobo / iBooks

EXCERPT:

I stood there like a lump, waiting for my line. Finally, I turned toward Kayla and repeated, “I said, LOUDER-ETH.”

She fed me the line again. Supercrazy loud this time. “I would not for the world.”

It was so loud, the crowd heard it and started to laugh. Not the snickers from before, but those evil, full belly laughs people get when watching home videos of someone getting kicked in the groin. Wes was going to hate me for putting him through this. This torture needed to end.

“Methinks,” I said, “I could use-eth a book-eth.” Come on, Kayla. Take the hint. “You know-eth. A BOOK-ETH where-est I can recite-eth beauteous words to thee . . . thou . . . whatever. I NEED THE BOOK-ETH.”

As I was shouting that last book-eth, I got my wish. The script came sailing from off stage left and hit me in the back of the head. “Ow,” I unintentionally yelled, to the delight of the crowd. It weighed a ton.

“Sorry,” Kayla whispered. “My bad.”

I didn’t care. I’d get over the pain faster than the embarrassment I was suffering. I was just happy to have the script. At least I was until I realized Kayla hadn’t bookmarked the page I needed. It was the complete works of Shakespeare. There was no way I would find the right page. Not to mention that since the book was with me, Kayla couldn’t even feed me lines anymore. R&J wasn’t a tragedy. My life was.

I was so flunking English.

“Would thou like some help, my sweet Juliet?”

Did Wes just call me sweet? I swung around to face him, but I wasn’t paying attention to where I was stepping and my foot went right off the balcony. Wes lunged forward to catch me, but why would anything go right for me? So instead of Wes stopping me from hitting the floor, I took him down with me.

I was lying on top of Wes Rosenthal. Only, this was not like any of my daydreams. This was mortifying. I rolled off him and jumped up. “Are you okay?” I was visibly shaking.

Wes stood up, too. “Don’t worry-eth, Juliet,” he said without any anger in his voice. He even smiled at me. For a second I thought that meant he didn’t hate me for the craziness I was causing. But then I remembered he was acting. He actually took what he was doing seriously, and right now his part called for him to be in love with Juliet.

Wes said some line I assumed was to get us back on track. But I had no response. I couldn’t take it anymore. The laughter of the audience. The panic coursing through my body. The thought of making Wes suffer more. It needed to end.

So I did the only thing I could think of—something super Elizabethan. I put the back of my and to my forehead, pretended to swoon, and let my whole body fall back to the ground with a loud thump.

“I am so sorry-eth, Romeo.”

“It’s okay.” He sat down on the ground next to me and took my hand. I felt little sparks fly through me.

I shook my head. I couldn’t let him go through this anymore. “No, I know how-eth this play end-eth. I think I shall stab-eth myself now to save-eth us both.”

“Finally,” someone in the audience yelled out.

I picked up an imaginary dagger and began to plunge it into my heart.

“No,” Wes said, stopping me before I committed imaginary suicide. “Our story is not over yet. So let’s just say, ‘Parting is such sweet sorrow, that I shall say good night ‘til it be morrow.’”

I was pretty sure that was supposed to be my line. But I decided I probably shouldn’t point that out. Then he stood up and walked off the stage.

After a moment, someone finally took mercy on me and brought the stage lights down.

The scene was over. But I knew all too well that my embarrassment was just beginning.

Author Bio:

Shani Petroff is a writer living in New York City. She’s the author of the “Bedeviled” series, which includes Daddy’s Little Angel, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Dress, Careful What You Wish For, and Love Struck, and is the co-author of the “Destined” series which includes Ash and Ultraviolet. She also writes for television news programs and several other venues. When she’s not locked in her apartment typing away, she spends a whole lot of time on books, boys, TV, daydreaming, and shopping online.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter

GIVEAWAY!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

XBTBanner1

Made for Me, by Pamela Schloesser Canepa

Hi guys! Man, I need to really catch up on reviews! I’m reading more than I could write! I have two more to write after this, so I got to do some more writing! Do you think this book was “made for me?” Ha. Get it? No laughs? Tough crowd.

DISCLAIMER: I have received a free electronic copy of this book from the author herself in exchange for an honest review. In no way will this affect my review.

Made for Me outlines the unique love story of Abrielle, a woman in looking of the perfect guy, and Sampson, a guy looking for love. After being paired with each other on a dating website, they instantly fall in love, but Sampson holds a secret that he has been concealing for many years. Concealing this secret for Abrielle means that they will have to go against society’s norms and rules, but she asks herself if it’s all worth it for the love of her life.

Rating: 8/10 stars

This review is going to be written a little differently than a normal review because I have two different feelings for the beginning half of this book and the ending half of this book. As I started this book, there were some things that bugged me as I read on, but once it reached the midpoint, I started to love it! That’s why this review is different from all the others. It’s still going to have 2-4 paragraphs depending on how much I want to write, but in a different order!

Continue reading “Made for Me, by Pamela Schloesser Canepa”

Damaged Goods Blog Tour: Interview with Jennifer Bardsley

Hi guys! If you’re here on the Damaged Goods blog tour, welcome to my tour stop! What a great way to end the tour, huh? This series is actually one of my most anticipated reads of 2016! I can’t wait to start it! And today, I have the honor to interview the lovely Jennifer Bardsley, also known as the YA Gal! (*internally screaming insider because I’m so happy I got to interview her*). Let’s get on with the tour!

damaged-goods

 

damagedgoods_1800x2700

Title: DAMAGED GOODS (Blank Slate #2)

Author: Jennifer Bardsley

Pub. Date: January 17, 2017

Publisher: Month9Books

Format: Hardcover, Paperback, eBook

Pages: 300

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

Synopsis:

Blanca has everything she ever wanted, a hot boyfriend named Seth and the loving support of her foster father, Cal. She’s finally escaped the abusive control of her birth father, Barbelo Nemo, and her tortured childhood at Tabula Rasa School.

But the scars of Blanca’s Vestal upbringing run deep, especially when the FBI start asking questions. Blanca feels abandoned by Seth who is hunting for Lilith, Blanca’s only blood relative. The Defectos, a support group of Vestal-Rejects, offer Blanca comfort instead.

While the Vestal order crumbles, Chinese rivals called the Guardians rise to power and wrest control of important Tabula Rasa contacts. Now Blanca’s life is in peril once more, and this time, Blanca struggles to recognize friend from foe.

 

genesisgirl_1800x2700

Title: GENESIS GIRL (Blank Slate #1)

Author: Jennifer Bardsley

Pub. Date: June 14, 2016

Publisher: Month9Books

Format: Hardcover, Paperback, eBook

Pages: 280

Find it: Goodreads | Amazon |  B&N | iBooks | Kobo | Books A Million | Google Play | IndieBound

Synopsis:

Eighteen-year-old Blanca has lived a sheltered life. Her entire childhood has been spent at Tabula Rasa School where she’s been protected from the Internet. 

Blanca has never been online and doesn’t even know how to text. Her lack of a virtual footprint makes her extremely valuable, and upon graduation, Blanca and those like her are sold to the highest bidders.

Blanca is purchased by Cal McNeal, who uses her to achieve personal gain. But the McNeals are soon horrified by just how obedient and non-defiant Blanca is. All those mind-numbing years locked away from society have made her mind almost impenetrable. 

By the time Blanca is ready to think for herself, she is trapped. Her only chance of escape is to go online. 

 

About Jennifer: jennifer-bardsley

Jennifer Bardsley writes the parenting column “I Brake for Moms” for the Sunday edition of The Everett Daily HeraldShe also blogs at Teaching My Baby to Read with the mission of sparking a national debate on the important roll parents play in education. Jennifer is a graduate of Stanford University and a member of SCBWI. She lives with her husband and two children in Edmonds, WA.

GENESIS GIRL will release in 2016 and is about an 18 year-old girl whose lack of a virtual footprint makes her so valuable that she is auctioned off to the highest bidder, the sequel  will come out in 2017. Jennifer is represented by Liza Fleissig of the Liza Royce Literary Agency LLC.

Follow the Jennifer on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and Goodreads.

 

a-jen-bar

Interview with Jennifer Bardsley:

Kester: In your own words, what is your Blank Slate series about?

Jennifer: The Blank Slate series is about a teenager named Blanca who grew up in a quasi-religious cult called the Vestals, where she was shielded from the Internet for eighteen years. Blanca grew up with no online profile or digital footprint. All the Vestals were blank slates, and since that is so rare, it made them valuable. In GENESIS GIRL Blanca’s digital purity gets auctioned off to the highest bidder. In DAMAGED GOODS, Blanca struggles to overcome the brainwashing of her past.

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

Jennifer: I grew up keeping a diary. It’s really hard to commit to a diary, and I flaked out a whole bunch, but did manage to write a few times a month. Now I have diaries from when I was ten to fifteen that I treasure. If I was a teenager today though, I’d probably have an anonymous blog instead.

Continue reading “Damaged Goods Blog Tour: Interview with Jennifer Bardsley”