Two Dark Reigns Blog Tour: Author Interview with #1 New York Times Bestselling Author Kendare Blake

Hi guys! I have a really special guest on the blog with me today. I actually met Kendare Blake at the Southeastern Young Adult Book Festival back in March, and it is my pleasure to be hosting such an amazing and epic author today as part of the blog tour for the third book in her Three Dark Crowns trilogy, Two Dark Reigns. I am very excited to share with you this special interview, and I hope you all enjoy!

Two Dark Reigns Blog Tour


About the BookTwo Dark Reigns

#1 New York Times bestselling author Kendare Blake returns with the highly anticipated third book in the Three Dark Crowns series! And while Arsinoe, Mirabella, and Katharine all have their own scores to settle, they aren’t the only queens stirring things up on Fennbirn Island.

Queen Katharine has waited her entire life to wear the crown. But now that she finally has it, the murmurs of dissent grow louder by the day. There’s also the alarming issue of whether or not her sisters are actually dead—or if they’re waiting in the wings to usurp the throne.

Mirabella and Arsinoe are alive, but in hiding on the minland and dealing with a nightmare of their own: being visited repeatedly by a specter they think might be the fabled Blue Queen. Though she says nothing, her rotting, bony finger pointing out to sea is clear enough: return to Fennbirn.

Jules, too, is in a strange place—in disguise. And her only confidants, a war-gifted girl named Emilia and her oracle friend Mathilde, are urging her to take on a role she can’t imagine filling: a legion-cursed queen who will lead a rebel army to Katharine’s doorstep.

This is an uprising that the mysterious Blue Queen may have more to do with than anyone could have guessed—or expected.

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Two Dark Reigns continues the Three Dark Crowns saga as Katharine sits on the throne of Fennbirn, Mirabella and Arsinoe stay alive in hiding but are visited by the Blue Queen, and a disguised Jules considers leading a rebel army against Queen Katharine. After writing two novels and two prequel novellas, how does it feel like continuing your series with Two Dark Reigns? What are your thoughts and emotions seeing all of the excitement for book three’s release?

Hello again, Kester! Thank you for having me on the blog! 🙂 To answer your question, it’s wonderful to see the excitement! And as a side effect of being so late finishing Book Four, the excitement is all I’ve had time for. I haven’t had time to worry! I’m really thrilled, and grateful, to have the opportunity to continue the queens’ stories. As I near the end of the last book, I’m happy to say that I’m still not really ready to leave. I love these girls.

You’ve stated before that Three Dark Crowns was inspired by bees and their matriarchy revolving around the queen bee. Could you describe to us more about how did this idea first come about? Were there any real-life matriarchal societies that you also drew inspiration from, too?

Queen bees lay several queen eggs, and the new queen babies hatch out and kill each other to see who gets to take over. I learned that when I was at a book event in Oregon and a ball of bees was stuck to a nearby tree. Thankfully, there was a beekeeper also there to put us all at ease. The bees were only concerned with protecting their queen, you see, in the middle of the ball. Anyway, after I learned all this stuff about bees, I had to find a way to do it to people. And on the drive home, the three queens were born. Aside from the original inspiration though, the culture of Fennbirn went on to become its own thing. That was one of the best parts: learning about the naturalists and the poisoners, the elementals. I’m particularly happy to be writing the third and fourth books, because they let me go to Bastian City, home of the war gifted, and to Sunpool, the city of the seers.

As the author, did you ever root for a specific queen to succeed (like you wanted one of them to take the crown)? Or did you remain impartial and instead let the characters duke it out themselves without your intervention?

I definitely tried to remain impartial. The decision to write it in third person, and in relatively dispassionate, removed prose, went toward that purpose. I mean, these girls are in a bad enough situation already without me taking sides. Truthfully, I didn’t know who was going to win the crown until the midway point in One Dark Throne. And even so close to finishing the last book, I don’t know everyone who’s going to die.

Was Three Dark Crowns originally intended as a duology or a quartet? What is the hardest part about writing and continuing a series, considering you’ve written two other series before this one?

It was intended as a duo, and nothing really changed about the end of One Dark Throne when the series was extended. Those books are the arc of the Ascension. These next two are the arc of the reign. I think the hardest part about continuing is knowing how it ends. Now I know. Before, at the close of One Dark Throne, I just had hopes. I hoped that the survivors would make the best of it. But now I know, for better or worse.

Did you or your characters ever surprise yourself as you progressed through the series? Would you consider yourself to be a plotter or a pantser?

My characters constantly surprise me. Elizabeth surprised me by turning a walk-on role into a recurring supporting one. Pietyr surprised me by chucking Kat down that hole. Natalia surprised me by dying. Arsinoe surprises me about every five minutes. It’s not uncommon for me to have no idea what they’re doing, or for me to actually say out loud, “What are you doing?!” So I’m firmly a pantser.

Thank you so much for coming onto the blog today, Kendare! I’m so happy to have you and help share the love for Two Dark Reigns!


Book Trailer

Watch the official book trailer for Two Dark Reigns here!


About the AuthorKendare Blake

Kendare Blake is the author of several novels and short stories, most of which you can find information about via the links above. Her work is sort of dark, always violent, and features passages describing food from when she writes while hungry. She was born in July (for those of you doing book reports) in Seoul, South Korea, but doesn’t speak a lick of Korean, as she was packed off at a very early age to her adoptive parents in the United States. That might be just an excuse, though, as she is pretty bad at learning foreign languages. She enjoys the work of Milan Kundera, Caitlin R Kiernan, Bret Easton Ellis, Richard Linklater, and the late, great Michael Jackson, I mean, come on, he gave us Thriller.

She lives and writes in Kent, Washington, with her husband, their cat son Tyrion Cattister, red Doberman dog son Obi-Dog Kenobi, rottie mix dog daughter Agent Scully, and naked sphynx cat son Armpit McGee.

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Did Someone Say… Giveaway?Two Dark Reigns Giveaway

2 Winners will receive a Copy of Two Dark Reigns by Kendare Blake

1 Winner will receive a $25.00 Amazon/PayPal Gift Card

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Follow the Rest of the Tour Here!

Tour Schedule


Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

Are you excited for Two Dark Reigns? Do you like YA fantasy?

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

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Fawkes by Nadine Brandes Blog Tour: Excerpts from the Book and Audiobook

Hi guys! If you hadn’t known, Nadine Brandes is one of my favorite authors. EVER. I am a part of her street team (go Ninjas!) and her Out of Time trilogy has such a special place in my heart. I love and miss every single of one her characters so much. So when she announced that she was writing a YA historical fantasy based off the Gunpowder Plot, I was so excited! A few weeks ago, a kind person on Twitter granted one of my #bookishwish’s and gave me an ARC of Fawkes, which I loved and devoured. I am so happy to be sharing with you a short excerpt from the novel plus a snippet from the audiobook! Enjoy!

Fawkes Blog Tour


About the BookFawkes

Title: Fawkes

Author: Nadine Brandes

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Release Date: July 10, 2018

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Historical Fiction

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

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

But what if death finds him first?

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

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

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

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

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Excerpts of Fawkes!

Click the link below to read an exclusive excerpt of Fawkes from the beginning chapters! It will hook you right in!

Book Excerpt

Click the link below to listen to an exclusive extended sound clip from the Fawkes audiobook! It sounds so cool!

Audiobook Clip


Did Someone Say… Giveaway?

Prize: One winner will receive 1 copy of FAWKES by Nadine Brandes

Open Internationally

Ends on the 6th of September

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About the AuthorNadine

I once spent four days as a sea cook in the name of book research. I’m also the author of the award-winning The Out of Time Series and my inner fangirl perks up at the mention of soul-talk, Quidditch, bookstagram, and Oreos. When I’m not busy writing novels about bold living, I’m adventuring through Middle Earth or taste-testing a new chai. I and my Auror husband are building a Tiny House on wheels. Current mission: paint the world in shalom.

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Check out the rest of the blog tour here!

Tour Schedule


Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

Have you read Fawkes? Do you like YA historical fantasy?

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

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Exclusive Guest Post with Mon D. Rea, Author of Elemental Ninjas, on “Over-genre-lized! (or Why I Genre Hop)”

Hi guys! Last week, I was in Singapore and I had an amazing time! These next few weeks, I’m going to be really busy since my family and I are going to do a bunch of traveling, so I’ll be less online that usual. But I have a few posts for you, and I hope you enjoy them! (I am also desperately trying to catch up on 8 sets of interview/discussion questions and 6 reviews, but I’ll get them done!)


About Elemental NinjasElemental Ninjas

Fight for Love. Fight for Destiny.

Born into warring clans, wind ninja Sakura and fire ninja Temujin walk paths that couldn’t be farther apart. But their separate worlds are thrown into chaos by the theft of Belshazzar’s Scroll, an ancient relic that grants its possessor the divine right to rule over all the clans. To bring back peace to their lands, they must learn to fight together against a new breed of mystical half-human, half-demon warriors.

As though proof that a blade of love can grow even in the harshest places, Temujin can’t help falling for Sakura. A ninja from the ice clan, Sasha, becomes his rival and seems to be a more suitable match for the beautiful wind ninja. Now, Sakura, Temujin, and Sasha stand in the heart of a conflict that shall decide the future of all the ninja clans.

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Over-genre-lized! (or Why I Genre Hop)

We can’t put books in boxes.

Well, actually, we can. But I mean, we can’t put a book into a pigeonhole. You know, the same way we can’t put people into a pigeonhole.

Take Star Wars for example. (I know it’s mainly a film series but bear with me.) There’s an argument for Star Wars actually being fantasy instead of sci-fi because it revolves around a hero’s quest. And George Lucas drew inspiration from Japanese director Akira Kurosawa’s samurai films. Just compare an image of Darth Vader’s helmet with the kabuto of samurai Date Masamune and you’ll see the resemblance:

Samurai

The samurais were medieval warriors in ancient Japan. They wielded single-edged curved swords called katanas. Does that make Star Wars part of the Sword and Sorcery subgenre of fantasy, the Force being a type of magic?

As the author of a series of ninja books, I’m tempted to say yes. But then there are all those gigantic space ships and you can basically turn the argument over on its head with a quote from Arthur C. Clarke:  “Magic’s just science that we don’t understand yet” and – boom! You’re completely flummoxed.

Authors face the same tough choice every time they publish a book. The whole process of creating something out of nothing and putting it into graceful words, bringing it into light, is nothing short of miraculous. But then the doctor – whether it’s Dr. Amazon, Dr. Wattpad or Dr. Publishing House – is going to announce: “It’s a fantasy!” or “It’s a sci-fi!” and your baby goes on to be lumped in a red ocean of other books where creativity and individuality go to die.

Now don’t get me wrong. Genre categorizations and BISAC codes are necessary. They’re like standardized exams in school. They’re not a perfect system but they’re the best we have. But when you’re the gazillionth Paranormal Romance between a human and a vampire or the umpteenth Post-Apocalyptic Dystopian YA Sci-fi, you start to wonder that maybe popular doesn’t really mean good.Soul City

I’ll give you a hint. The Post-Apocalyptic Dystopian YA Sci-fi category mentioned above, which includes heavyweights like The Hunger Games and The Maze Runner, didn’t use to be a category. But because of authors following their hearts and not getting bogged down by genres and labels, they created a niche all of their own.

At first, I thought my book (Soul City) was either Paranormal Romance or Urban Fantasy.

There was definitely something mushy going on between a supernatural character and a mortal. The thing was, he wasn’t a vampire; he was a reaper. Was he a shifter? Yeah, technically he had that power, but he’s more angelic than underworldly, you know.

Zombie ArcAnd then, upon closer look, I realized Soul City was too dark for the YA crowd that gravitate towards those genres. In fact, some parts were almost full-blown Stephen King Horror.

My second book was even trickier to classify.

The main character was a zombie but he wasn’t the grotesque and violent type always seen in Post-Apocalyptic fiction. Worse, he was a time-travelling zombie a la Dr. Who and he decided to time-jump to the Middle Ages. So there are all these themes just swirling there like animal parts in a witch’s cauldron. There’s Sci-fi, Humor, Fantasy, Adventure, Epic, a zombie, swords, magic etc. You get the idea.

My fifth book, the one after Elemental Ninjas, is Dreamscape Beta.Dreamscape Beta.jpg

It’s my foray into this mint-fresh genre called LitRPG. It’s Literature + Role Playing Games, if you still haven’t heard about it. My first impression of it is that majority of the readers are hard-core gamers who look for the same jargon, mechanics and gameplay they find in a Twitch stream. But Dreamscape Beta, as some non-gamers might infer from the title, has elements of lucid dreaming. So, again, my book fell right off the edge of certain readers’ expectations. And if there’s one thing you don’t want to do as a writer, it’s reaching the wrong readers and not meeting their expectations.

So, what do authors do in the face of total hybrid genre-hilation?

We genre-hop. Genre-hopping is, in my opinion, something natural and unavoidable for writers. The only thing that’s keeping us from genre-hopping right away is our complete devotion to one series or world but, given time, we’ll definitely hop.

Writers do what writers do best: We create. We imagine. We step out of the box and defy expectations. We build words to build worlds. We keep our readers in mind while following our hearts, and we let the BISEC codes sort out the mess.

I have a particularly pronounced case of genre-hopping because I write mostly Fantasy and Sci-fi and yet I have one Contemporary Romance novel or, as some people call it, Chick lit under my belt and I’m currently working on another. And did I mention I’m a guy?The Boyfriend App

In my mind, all 7 of my existing titles fall under the broad umbrella of Fantasy; even the Chick lit one, The Boyfriend App.

TLDR: I like to experiment and I’m not afraid of defying people’s expectations about what I can or can’t write. But most of all, I want my works to reach and affect as many readers as possible. Before I can do that, I need to find them and be willing to search for them in whichever cave or under whichever rock of labels and preconceptions they have.


About the AuthorMon D. Rea

Mon D Rea is an indie author who has written 7.5 books in a variety of genres but mostly YA Fantasy. He likes to write about ninjas, zombies and dragons. He’s currently working on a New Adult rom com titled “My Super Spy Girlfriend.” You can visit him on his website to get some free stuff: www.phenomenalpen.com

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Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

Have you read Elemental Ninjas? What are your thoughts on genre jumping?

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

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Book Series Review: The Juniper Sawfeather Trilogy by D. G. Driver

Hi guys! A few months ago, I met online a wonderful local author from my home state of Tennessee, and I was so blessed to feature her on the May edition of our LILbooKtalks! D. G. Driver is the author of the amazing The Juniper Sawfeather Trilogy, which combines environmentalism with fantastical mythology! My review is going to be a bit different since I’m reviewing an entire series. I will start off with a brief overview followed by a short review of each book. Regardless, please try out all three!


About The Juniper Sawfeather TrilogyThe Juniper Sawfeather Trilogy

Mermaids are real.

In the aftermath of an oil spill in the Pacific Northwest, teen environmental activist Juniper Sawfeather discovers a new species–mermaids!

In the days that follow, she must defy all odds to protect these beautiful creatures from the corrupt oil company and the frenzied media.

But mermaids are only the beginning of Juniper’s increasingly dangerous adventures as she realizes she has a talent for finding mythological creatures. Or maybe the creatures are finding her…

The Juniper Sawfeather series is an urban fantasy based around Native American legends featuring a Native American bi-racial heroine.

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Overall Trilogy Rating

4 Stars

Disclaimer: I received free electronic copies of all three books in the trilogy from the author in exchange for an honest review. This will not affect my review in any way.

A series is very special if I have both the opportunity and the initiative to finish it and enjoy it. Reading three or more novels takes a huge amount of commitment, and to be able to do so displays how much love I have poured into a story and its characters. The Juniper Sawfeather Trilogy explores environmental conservation in a very unique and original way–combining Native American mythology, a blossoming romance, and teenage discovery with an urgent message for readers to heed. This series has certainly made me rethink and ponder over the current state of our environment, from our oceans and forests to pollution and poaching. It has inspired me to strive to be more green and to protect nature’s wonders and beauties.

Cry of the Sea

Cry of the Sea

5 Stars

Cry of the Sea is by far the best novel in the entire trilogy. The author places a very unique twist on the classic tale as she uses Pacific Northwest Native American legends to portray her own take on the beloved creature: a mermaid that is more like fish, ugly and hideous at first, than like man. Driver takes readers on a wild ride full of suspense, betrayal, romance, and magic as Juniper and her friends and family attempt to save the mermaids from an evil corporation. Cry of the Sea paints a stark image of how large corporations can in the interests of themselves–money and success–rather than the earth’s. I devoured it in just a couple of days, and the first time I picked it up, I just could not set it down, even though I did not mean to start it and get very far yet! It did everything from dazzling me with magic and mythology to leaving me hanging and wanting more. Cry of the Sea is urban fantasy at its finest!

Whisper of the Woods

Whisper of the Woods
4 StarsAlthough Whisper of the Woods may be stationary in terms of the setting, it has as much action, magic, and conflict as its predecessor! Cry to the Sea‘s dazzling sequel continues to explore Native American legends by introducing the existence of tree spirits, serving as a bridge between what’s happened book one and the events to come in book three. I certainly became entranced by the magic and mystery surrounding the tree that holds Juniper captive–it possesses an incredible amount of history and secrets that will shock readers. As Whisper of the Woods answers many questions about the characters and the local American Indian legends, its ending leaves readers wanting more to satisfy their love of fantasy and their curiosity. Fortunately, I did not feel a case of the Sagging Sequel Syndrome at all in this epic second installment.

Echo of the Cliffs

Echo of the Cliffs
4 Stars
Echo of the Cliffs is the stunning conclusion to The Juniper Sawfeather Trilogy as it examines the final part of the legend of the three warriors, a person turned into stone. The stakes have been raised even higher as some of the lives of Juniper’s loved ones are in danger. Without spoiling anything, I can say that Echo of the Cliffs will not disappoint fans of books one and two. The story truly does teach readers about the power of sacrifice, whether it be for love or for doing what is right. Echo of the Cliffs will make the hearts of readers pound and their eyes water with tears. I am very happy and satisfied with the ending, though I am sad to see it come to a close.

Conclusion

The Juniper Sawfeather Trilogy is certainly a series that I love, miss, and would hope to revisit again one day. It is the perfect series for readers who not only love fantasy and mythology but also novels that explore big issues such as environmentalism. I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about the mythology of the American Indians in the Pacific Northwest throughout the entire saga, and that is what makes this series unique and memorable for readers. While there may not be stone orcas, talking trees, or mermaids in our world, Juniper Sawfeather teaches us that nature possesses a special magic that must be preserved and cherished for future generations.


About the AuthorSAMSUNG

D. G. Driver is an optimist at heart, and that’s why she likes to write books about young people who strive to make a difference in the world. From her teen environmentalist in The Juniper Sawfeather Trilogy, a young girl teaching her friends autism acceptance and to stop bullying people with special needs in No One Needed to Know, a princess who desires to be more than a pampered prize for a prince in The Royal Deal, to a boy who learns that being genuine and chivalrous are the ways to win a girl’s heart in Passing Notes, Driver hopes to write characters that you’ll want to root for. When she’s not writing, she is a teacher in an inclusive child development center in Nashville, and she can often be found strutting the stage in a local musical theater production.

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Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

Do you like YA urban fantasy? Have you read The Juniper Sawfeather Trilogy?

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

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ARC Review: Dragon Mount by Jennifer M. Eaton — Made Me Feel Like I Was Flying in the Air!

Hi guys! I am doing my best to catch up on reviews because I am so far behind! Today’s review is Dragon Mount by Jennifer M. Eaton, a great author friend of mine who is super nice in person and exceptional in writing. Her latest book Dragon Mount just released last week, and to celebrate, here is my review! I hope you enjoy!


About the BookDragon Mount

Things can’t get any worse than being snatched by a dragon, until Anna is dropped into a bloodthirsty battle for the Draconic crown.

On what’s supposed to be a fun trip to New Zealand to recover from a painful breakup, Anna is kidnapped and flown away by a mythical beast bent on making her his queen. Anna’s rare blood type makes her the only viable mate in the islands, and with scores of dragons looking for her, escape isn’t likely.

Joe is the youngest and smallest dragon in the competition to become king. Now that he’s found Anna, all he needs to overthrow their tyrannical monarch is to bring her back to Dragon Mount before anyone can challenge his claim. But Joe is injured and unable to fly, and each passing second increases the risk of discovery.

Challenging the king means certain death, but Anna is Joe’s to lose. If the king finds her, he will bathe Dragon Mount in her blood, condemning Joe’s people to seventeen more years of brutal subjugation. The fate of the Draconi rests in the talons of their smallest dragon, and the clock is ticking.

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4 Stars

Disclaimer: I received a free electronic ARC copy of this book from the author for an honest review consideration. This will not affect my review at all. 

I was a bit hesitant to start Dragon Mount–I was not a big fan of paranormal/urban fantasy romances featuring dragons, werewolves, vampires, and the like. But because I love Jennifer M. Eaton and her novels, especially her Fire in the Woods series, I decided to give this a shot! Surprisingly, I finished the entire story in less than two days and a few sittings. Dragon Mount made feel like I was flying in the air at times! Readers will find themselves swooning at the slow-burning romance and feeling a rush of adrenaline from the action. It definitely exceeded my expectations, and it left me wanting more from the world of Dragon Mount.

Continue reading “ARC Review: Dragon Mount by Jennifer M. Eaton — Made Me Feel Like I Was Flying in the Air!”

Exclusive Interview with Mindee Arnett, YA SFF Author of Onyx & Ivory

Hi guys! I am a HUGE fantasy fan now. I used to have a strong dislike for the genre, but I’ve magically been converted as I read more books full of magic. One of the street teams I have been really active in this year is the Relay Riders for Mindee Arnett’s latest book Onyx & Ivory, which is super epic. Check out my review here on why you should read it! Today I invited Mindee on the blog to talk about Onyx & Ivory, and I hope you enjoy this interview!


About the BookOnyx and Ivory

They call her Traitor Kate. It’s a title Kate Brighton inherited from her father after he tried to assassinate the high king of Rime. Cast out of the noble class, she now works for the royal courier service. Only those most skilled ride for the Relay and only the fastest survive, for when night falls, the nightdrakes—deadly flightless dragons—come out to hunt. Fortunately, Kate has a secret edge: she is a wilder, born with forbidden magic that allows her to influence the minds of animals.

And it’s this magic that leads her to a caravan mysteriously massacred by drakes in broad daylight—the only survivor Corwin Tormane, the son of the king. Her first love, the boy she swore to forget, after he condemned her father to death. With their paths once more entangled, Kate and Corwin uncover secrets, both past and present, to face this new threat of drakes who attack in the daylight and the darker menace behind them.

Acclaimed author Mindee Arnett’s stunning new novel thrusts readers into a beautiful, expansive, and dangerous new world—one where trust is rare, magic is commonplace, and little is as it seems.Goodreads

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Mindee Arnett Interview

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

My love for writing grew out of my love for reading and story in general. As a child, I started off telling myself elaborate stories with my toys, and when I hit the sixth grade my teacher gave me my first short story writing assignment. Once I figured out that “story” was an actual world I could get to just by putting my pen to paper, I knew I wanted to go there again and again. And that’s why I love it so much—it’s an escape into another world.

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

Gosh, I have so many. Early on my biggest influence was adult fantasy writer Jennifer Roberson. Before her I loved Roald Dahl, Walter Farley, and C.S. Lewis. Nowadays one of my favorite writers is Maggie Stiefvater. I adored her Raven Cycle series as well as The Scorpio Races, and I find her writing very inspirational.

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

Writing is a full-time job for any writer that’s actively publishing. But for me, I do have to hold down a regular full-time job in addition to the books. That definitely keeps me very busy, but in my free time I’m either hanging out with my family or riding my horses.Onyx and Ivory

4. Your latest YA fantasy novel Onyx & Ivory, which released from Balzer and Bray back in mid-May, is set in two points of view: Kate, an outcasted Relay Rider who possesses an outlawed magic, and Corwin, a crown prince scarred by past failures and mistakes. What are some of the biggest challenges of writing in the points of view of two unique characters? Would you consider yourself to be more like Kate or Corwin, and why?

Going into the book, I honestly had no idea how hard it is to write two points of view. I learned a lot about that process through this book—although I’ve still got plenty to learn. One unique thing about the story is that Kate and Corwin both have complete story arcs that intersect with one another but also standalone. Of the two, I relate to Kate a little more than Corwin. If only because she is a perpetual outsider. She never feels like she belongs in any of the groups she inhabits, and that’s a feeling I know well. I suffer from imposter syndrome so much. I also relate to Kate in how she has a troubled history with her father.

Continue reading “Exclusive Interview with Mindee Arnett, YA SFF Author of Onyx & Ivory”

A Special Mer-May LILbooKtalk Edition: “Mermaid Tales and Fairy Tales” with D. G. Driver and Tobie Easton

Hi guys! Today I am taking the third of my AP exams, AP Biology, and I am ready for them to be over! Also, I am having the end-of-school blues, especially since many of the seniors — who I’ve gotten acquainted to over this past year — are going to leave. I’m very sad about that. On the bright side, next week I am off to the TN Boys’ State, which is going to be tiring but worthwhile. During that time, I will be offline for the whole week, but in the meantime, here is the LILbooKtalk for the month of Mer-May: “Mermaid Tales and Fairy Tales” with D. G. Driver and Tobie Easton!


About Cry of the SeaCry of the Sea

Juniper Sawfeather is choosing which college to attend after graduation from West Olympia High School next year. She wants to go to San Diego to be far away from her environmental activist parents. They expect her to think the way they do, but having to be constantly fighting causes makes it difficult to be an average 17-year-old high school student. Why do her parents have to be so out there?

Everything changes when she and her father rush to the beach after a reported oil spill. As they document the damage, June discovers three humans washed up on the beach, struggling to breathe through the oil coating their skin. At first she thinks they must be surfers, but as she gets closer, she realizes these aren’t human at all. They’re mermaids!

Now begins a complex story of intrigue, conspiracy and manipulation as June, her parents, a marine biologist and his handsome young intern, her best friend, the popular clique at school and the oil company fight over the fate of the mermaids.

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About EmergeEmerge

Lia Nautilus may be a Mermaid but she’s never lived in the ocean. Ever since the infamous Little Mermaid unleashed a curse that stripped Mer of their immortality, war has ravaged the Seven Seas. Now Lia lives in a secret community of land-dwelling Mer hidden among Malibu’s seaside mansions and attends high school with humans. To protect everyone around her, she must limit her contact with non-Mer. No exceptions. But when the new girl sets her sights on Lia’s crush, she will risk exposing her deadly secret to stop Clay from falling in love with the wrong girl.

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LILbooKtalk May 2018

Questions are in bold

Kester: The first author we have today is the wonderful Tobie Easton, who I met last year at the SE-YA Book Fest! I loved the first two books in The Mer Chronicles and I cannot wait for the third installment in the series! Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your novels?Emerge

Tobie: Hi! It was so wonderful meeting you, too, Kester!  Your enthusiasm for the series has really meant a lot to me.  The Mer Chronicles series follows the descendants of the Little Mermaid and offers a peek into a world where Mermaids aren’t just real but live among us on land.

As for me, I like to think I write modern fairy tales.  I like books that feel magical whether that means they actually feature magic or just really immersive world- building. And, I’m a sucker for romance. 😉

Kester: That’s so awesome, Tobie!!! Thanks so much!

Today we also have the amazing D.G. Driver, who is a local Tennessee author living in Nashville! I devoured her Juniper Sawfeather series and loved the books! Would you like to share with us a bit about yourself and your books?

Cry of the SeaD. G.: Hi, Thank you for inviting me to be part of this chat. My series The Juniper Sawfeather Trilogy is about a teen environmentalist who discovers mythical creatures tied to her American Indian heritage. In book one, Cry of the Sea, she finds real mermaids caught up in an oil spill. I mostly write young adult and middle grade. I tend to favor contemporary fantasy stories.

Tobie: That sounds so cool, Donna!

D. G.: Thanks. Yours sound great too.

Kester: Here’s my first question for both of y’all: The Mer Chronicles and the Juniper Sawfeather series paint two very different images of mermaids, along with their characteristics and their culture. What inspired you to display mermaids the way you presented them in your book? Could you describe your process as you created your own “spin” on a beloved mythical creature?

D. G.: In Cry of the Sea, I wanted to make the mermaids come across as real creatures that would exist in the ocean today. They are more like fish than the fairy tale creatures in other mermaid stories. It was important to the story, because June and her family feel like people would help their fight against oil pollution if they found out mermaids lived in the ocean.

Tobie: I used the original Hans Christian Andersen version of the Little Mermaid as a jumping off point, but was also very influenced by the Malibu, California setting I chose for the story.

D. G.: I used to live in L.A. Very familiar with Malibu.

Tobie: So, my series has a sparkling, sunlit, ocean mansion-y feel but also addresses some of the darker, more haunting aspects of the original story.  With a healthy dose of siren mythology.  ‘Cause you gotta have mythology.

D. G.: Mythology is key. My books take place in Washington State, and they use American Indian mythology from the Pacific Northwest.

Kester: I loved the mythology in yours, D. G.. It was all so mesmerizing!

Tobie: That sounds really fascinating!

D. G.: Thanks. The mythology becomes more involved in books 2 and 3. No mermaids in book two, though.Whisper of the Woods

Tobie: Can you share which creatures will be in book 2, or is that hush-hush for now?

D. G.: No secret. The books are out. There’s and ancient tree spirit in book 2 that traps Juniper 170 feet up in an old growth tree. In book 3 the mermaids are back, along with shapeshifting orcas, and a monster made of stone.

Tobie: I love the idea of a tree spirit! So cool!

Continue reading “A Special Mer-May LILbooKtalk Edition: “Mermaid Tales and Fairy Tales” with D. G. Driver and Tobie Easton”

ARC Review: Onyx and Ivory by Mindee Arnett — A Masterfully Crafted Tale and World that I Never Wanted to Leave

Hi guys! May the 4th be with you! Next week, my AP exams are going to start, so I will be offline a lot this week because I am preparing really hard for them. It’s crazy when you have 5 to juggle with, and the pressure is slowly building up, haha. I am really sad that my junior year is about to end, and with that many great experiences are coming to a close. It’s very heartbreaking, especially considering that I am off to college in a little more than a year! It’s so crazy! Today I have for you a review, and it’s on Onyx and Ivory by the wonderful Mindee Arnett, whose Street Team I am on! I hope you enjoy!


About the BookOnyx and Ivory

They call her Traitor Kate. It’s a title Kate Brighton inherited from her father after he tried to assassinate the high king of Rime. Cast out of the noble class, she now works for the royal courier service. Only those most skilled ride for the Relay and only the fastest survive, for when night falls, the nightdrakes—deadly flightless dragons—come out to hunt. Fortunately, Kate has a secret edge: she is a wilder, born with forbidden magic that allows her to influence the minds of animals.

And it’s this magic that leads her to a caravan mysteriously massacred by drakes in broad daylight—the only survivor Corwin Tormane, the son of the king. Her first love, the boy she swore to forget, after he condemned her father to death. With their paths once more entangled, Kate and Corwin uncover secrets, both past and present, to face this new threat of drakes who attack in the daylight and the darker menace behind them.

Acclaimed author Mindee Arnett’s stunning new novel thrusts readers into a beautiful, expansive, and dangerous new world—one where trust is rare, magic is commonplace, and little is as it seems.

Onyx and Ivory releases from Balzer and Bray on May 15th!

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5 Stars

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

Onyx & Ivory is one of those novels that you do not want to finish because you just want to savor every single word. From page one, I fell in love with Mindee Arnett’s beautiful storytelling as she weaves a masterfully crafted tale of love, magic, action, and intrigue. This book is a prime example of why I love fantasy novels: They create worlds that you never want to leave, characters you want to become acquainted with, and adventures that take you on the wildest rides. Onyx & Ivory exceeded all of my expectations, and I could not put it down at all. The deeper I went into the story, the more emotionally attached I became. Seriously, I will fanboy about this book, and I want to have an Onyx & Ivory collection because it is that epic.

The biggest thing that I look for in fantasy stories is the world-building. As a high school teen who is dealing with so much going on right now (actually AP exams are literally right around the corner), I need an escape from the outside world. I need a book that I can nestle in and forget about my troubles, stresses, and worries. The magic system in Onyx & Ivory was truly fascinating. From the Magists’ runestones to the Wilders’ control over the world around them, my imagination swirled with enchantment. I did not want to rush the story at all. I saw the drakes attack from all sides. I could feel the mystery and tension slowly build. I watched as the romance between Kate and Corwin slowly burned (go slow-burn romances!). My heart wrenched when Kate was humiliated or Corwin was verbally attacked. I felt such a great connection between me and the story that I loved every single second of my experience.

I love the characters so much! They are truly complex yet understandable. They hold secrets that once revealed will shock you (or maybe they are never revealed). My two favorites are Kate and Corwin. After her father’s death, Kate has been labeled as a Traitor to the kingdom even though she has committed no crime. She is ostracized and misunderstood by even those who she once loved and who loved her. Corwin (her ex-boyfriend) cannot forgive her father, and she is treated as an Untouchable in society. I am very sure we’ve all felt ostracized and misunderstood in many ways, where we’ve been blamed and taunted and bullied for no reason. Truly, you instantly relate with Kate and become sympathetic to her struggles from the first chapter. Corwin, on the other hand, has to deal with the deaths of his mother and his friends, and he constantly blames himself for them. He does not want to become king, but he truly knows the struggles of the lowly and destitute. While he does have his errors, he is a good guy, and he treats his people as humans rather than subjects or numbers. Both Kate and Corwin are inspirational characters that will move us to become better people, to understand the plights of those who are suffering, and to continue to fight for what is right. I wish I could actually meet them in real life — that would be epic.

Onyx & Ivory takes you on the adventure of a lifetime. As readers travel into the world of Rime, they are faced with danger from all sides, whether it be inside the castle or outside of the kingdom. Betrayal, secrets, and evil plague the characters as they fight against multiple conflicts, from surprise challenges to an underlying rebellion. Mindee Arnett is a talented storyteller and world-crafter, and I will look forward to reading more of her novels. I just want more from this world! Onyx & Ivory is the spectacular start of an epic fantasy series that you do not want to miss.

Please note that this is a review of an unfinished Advance Reader’s Copy. There may have been major and minor changes between this version of the book versus the finalized novel that will be released to the public.


About the AuthorMindee Arnett

Mindee Arnett is the author of the critically acclaimed sci-fi thriller Avalon as well as the Arkwell Academy series and the upcoming Onyx and Ivory. An avid eventer, she lives on a farm near Dayton, Ohio with her husband, two kids, and assorted animals. When not telling tales of magic, the supernatural, or outer space, she can be found on a horse, trying to jump anything that will stand still.

A literacy advocate, Mindee is available for school and library visits, both in person and online, as well as writing workshops for both teens and adults. For more information on available presentations, click here.

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Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

Have you read Onyx and Ivory? Do you like YA fantasy?

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

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ARC Review: Fighting Fate by Shaila Patel — Full of Heartbreak, Betrayal, Love, and Secrets!

Hi guys! Man, April has flown by so fast. When testing season is almost here and there’s so much end-of-the-year stuff going on, time literally is thrown out the window. I am currently in Washington, D.C., right now with my choir, and we are going to be singing and having the time of our lives (pun not intended, haha). Because of this (and since exams are literally just a couple of weeks away) I will be less active, but please do contact me if you need anything and I will do my best to get to you. Today I have for you a review of Fighting Fate by Shaila Patel, who is a very great author friend of mine. I hope you enjoy.


About Fighting FateFighting Fate

Empath Liam Whelan is determined to protect Laxshmi “Lucky” Kapadia, the girl he loves, at all costs–even if it means breaking her heart to keep her alive. Stopping the joining cold means Liam’s life is in danger from the Soul Seekers and the ruthless Minister Gagliardi who now has designs on Lucky. Liam has no choice but to find the strength to fight his desires, fight the joining, and fight fate.

After the unthinkable happened, Lucky’s “hallucinations” have been working double-time. Heartbroken and plagued by doubts, she meets a man who gives her a mind-blowing explanation for her predicament. Her apparent savior provides her with an escape from her hell: run away with him or return to her drab existence and watch Liam move on with her heart in his hands. All Lucky ever craved was to be in control of her own fate, but when her only choices fight against her heart, can she find the strength to battle for what she wants?

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3 Stars

Disclaimer: Thanks so much to the author for providing me a free electronic ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. This will not affect my review in any way.

Soulmated was one of my favorite romantic reads last year, and I was very eagerly awaiting the sequel these past few weeks. I was very ecstatic to have the opportunity to finally read Fighting Fate after that crazy cliffhanger the author left me at in her debut. Fighting Fate takes readers to the next level from Soulmated, adding more heartbreak, betrayal, revelations, and shocking secrets that will get readers hooked. Unfortunately for me, this sequel disappointed me a bit in the sense that it just did not suck me as much as I had wished to. With such high expectations from Soulmated, I was hoping for a stunning sequel, but it fell short.

I have got to say that all the action and conflict was upped in book two. There was so much more tension between basically everybody! You could literally feel it as you stepped through the story. I fell in love with Lucky and the Whelans so much that I just kept on rooting for them (along with Lucky and Liam’s relationship–just get together already, haha) no matter what happened. The Empath world and system was also very fascinating, too. As Lucky learns more about what being an Empath is like, readers see not only more Empath abilities but also escalated action and tension throughout the plot. There are Empaths fighting each other mentally! It’s very awesome, and I kind of wish I had that power. It was a very interesting mix of fantasy and romance in a contemporary setting.

However, I just did not get into Fighting Fate as much as I did with Soulmated. I really tried to become immersed in the book, but it did not happen. I did have to set it down for a bit because I had to finish other books and things, but I expected myself to be immersed in the writing. While the first half was really well-written, and there were so many times where I just wanted Lucky and Liam to finally get together again, by the halfway point my interest waned. I didn’t like all the deeply romantic sections very much (since I prefer reading clean novels without a lot of profanity or obscenities), and they dominated the middle chunk of the book. By then, I didn’t feel very connected to the story and the plot didn’t move too much for me (as a reader who likes faster-paced plots). The ending (after the 80% marker) did pick up and had many surprises that I did not expect, but overall, my reading experience was not at where I had hoped to be.

Even though I did not like Fighting Fate as much as I had wanted, I will still be on the lookout for book three. Liam and Lucky’s story is not done in this installment, and once you get to the end, you will know why I really want to complete the series. Soulmated and Fighting Fate are perfect for readers whose hearts get warmed from YA romance, whose imaginations soar from magic and fantasy, and whose sense of thrill craves action and intrigue. Certainly do pick up both books! Lucky and Liam is a couple that you do not want to miss.

Please note that this is a review of an unfinished Advance Reader’s Copy. There may have been major and minor changes between this version of the book versus the finalized novel that will be released to the public.


About the Authora-shaila

As an unabashed lover of all things happily-ever-after, Shaila Patel’s younger self would finish reading her copy of Cinderella and chuck 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 and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, she’s a pharmacist by training, a medical office manager by day, and a writer by night. SOULMATED, her debut novel and the first book in the Joining of Souls Series, was the winner of the 2015 Chanticleer Book Reviews Paranormal Awards for Young Adult. Book 2, FIGHTING FATE releases April 2018. She loves craft beer, tea, and reading in cozy window seats—but she’ll read anywhere. You might find her sneaking in a few paragraphs at a red light or gushing about her favorite books online.

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Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

Have you read Fighting Fate or Soulmated? Do you like YA contemporary romance?

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

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Isle of Blood and Stone Blog Tour: Top 10 Favorite Quotes & ARC Review — A Dazzling Historical Fantasy that Fuels the Adventurer Inside You

Hi guys! I hope you are having a marvelous first week of April! Today I am on the blog tour for one of my most anticipated YA releases of the Spring, Isle of Blood and Stone by Makiia Lucier, and it did not disappoint! This book releases this Tuesday, April 10th, and you do NOT want to miss this epic fantasy adventure!

Isle of Blood and Stone Blog Tour


About the BookIsle of Blood and Stone

Title: Isle of Blood and Stone

Author: Makiia Lucier

Publisher: HMH

Release Date: April 10th, 2018

Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy

Synopsis: Ulises asked, “How can I look at these maps, see this riddle, and do nothing? They are my brothers.”

Elias reached across the table and flicked aside two shells with a fingertip. The map curled into itself. “It’s bound to be a goose chase. You know that?”

“Or a treasure hunt,” Ulises countered, “and you’ve always been good at those.”

Nineteen-year-old Elias is a royal explorer, a skilled mapmaker, and the new king of del Mar’s oldest friend. Soon he will embark on the adventure of a lifetime, an expedition past the Strait of Cain and into uncharted waters. Nothing stands in his way…until a long-ago tragedy creeps back into the light, threatening all he holds dear.

The people of St. John del Mar have never recovered from the loss of their boy princes, kidnapped eighteen years ago, both presumed dead. But when two maps surface, each bearing the same hidden riddle, troubling questions arise. What really happened to the young heirs? And why do the maps appear to be drawn by Lord Antoni, Elias’s father, who vanished on that same fateful day? With the king’s beautiful cousin by his side—whether he wants her there or not—Elias will race to solve the riddle of the princes. He will have to use his wits and guard his back. Because some truths are better left buried…and an unknown enemy stalks his every turn.

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4 Stars

Disclaimer: Thanks so much to HMH for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review. This will not affect my review in any way.

I love adventure novels. They take you on wild quests into some of the most dangerous places as the protagonists search for something they long for, only to face evil along the way. A great adventure novel sucks you into the heart of the story, making you forget about your surroundings and feel danger and death lurking around the corner, all while you are on the edge of your seat. Isle of Blood and Stone can be placed into that group. Lucier’s latest novel combines the thrill of exploration with a fantasy world that is full of magic, betrayal, love, and mapmaking. As Elias, Ulises, and Mercedes solve the mystery of what happened to his father and two half-brothers, readers are left guessing until the last page.

Continue reading “Isle of Blood and Stone Blog Tour: Top 10 Favorite Quotes & ARC Review — A Dazzling Historical Fantasy that Fuels the Adventurer Inside You”