Review: Strong Inside (Young Readers Edition) by Andrew Maraniss – The Best Biography I Have Ever Read

Hi guys! In March, I met the wonderful Andrew Maraniss- a Nashville native (Nashville has such an AMAZING author community by the way)- and I had the opportunity to be able to interview him here and be able to review his newest book Strong Inside: Young Readers Edition. It is the Young Adult version of his New York Times bestselling book Strong Inside, which is a biography on the great Perry Wallace. Now let’s get onto the review!


About the BookStrong Inside

The inspirational true story of the first African American to play college basketball in the deeply segregated Southeastern Conference–a powerful moment in Black history.

Perry Wallace was born at an historic crossroads in U.S. history. He entered kindergarten the year that the Brown v. Board of Education decision led to integrated schools, allowing blacks and whites to learn side by side. A week after Martin Luther King Jr.’s -I Have a Dream- speech, Wallace enrolled in high school and his sensational jumping, dunking, and rebounding abilities quickly earned him the attention of college basketball recruiters from top schools across the nation. In his senior year his Pearl High School basketball team won Tennessee’s first racially-integrated state tournament.
The world seemed to be opening up at just the right time, and when Vanderbilt University recruited Wallace to play basketball, he courageously accepted the assignment to desegregate the Southeastern Conference. The hateful experiences he would endure on campus and in the hostile gymnasiums of the Deep South turned out to be the stuff of nightmares. Yet Wallace persisted, endured, and met this unthinkable challenge head on. This insightful biography digs deep beneath the surface to reveal a complicated, profound, and inspiring story of an athlete turned civil rights trailblazer.


A 5 Star

Disclaimer: I received a free signed physical copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This will not affect my review in anyway. All thoughts are mine and mine alone, and they are my honest thoughts.

Overall Thoughts: My whole review can be summarized in this one sentence: Strong Inside is by far the best biography I have ever read. At the beginning of 2016, I was in a what I call a “memoir fad” when all I read were memoirs and nonfiction… thankfully it lasted for only two months. Yes, I found Martin Short’s, Tina Fey’s, and Amy Poehler’s memoirs hilariously funny (redundant, I know!) but Strong Inside tops them. I’m being serious. This book was so amazing that I’ve page flagged like 15-20 different quotes and excerpts. I mean, I devoured this book. I read half of it in a day (I know it’s for younger readers but still…) and finished it in three days!

The Life of Perry Wallace: Perry Wallace isn’t a big household name, but after reading his story, he’s like a celebrity to me. His story is very interesting and heart-wrenching. As a Tennessean, a Southerner, and an Asian in the 21st century, it’s hard to imagine what is was like living in the South in the mid-1900s. To see all this hatred and racism that happened to Wallace whenever he visited places in Mississippi, Alabama, or even in his hometown Nashville definitely makes you stop and think. I’m so surprised events like the Fisk University riots occurred in my state’s capital. It’s shocking! Wallace is also super relatable, yet his life is very interesting. No wonder why the adult version of Strong Inside is one of the required reading for all freshmen at Vanderbilt University! It definitely will change your viewpoint on the world and how racism exists in so many ways, whether it is violent or more subtle. Knowing what people like Perry Wallace had to go through definitely inspires me to treat everyone more equally.

Prose: Maraniss definitely transported me from a bus, library, and bed into Perry Wallace’s life. I mean, it’s like I could hear the taunts and racial slurs or see the games that Wallace played in. I could feel his struggles so much, and I wanted to reach out to him. It’s so haunting and chilling how Maraniss portrayed Perry Wallace’s struggles to be a pioneer in SEC sports. This is definitely a book that will last with you for a while. The author definitely sucked me into the book that I couldn’t stop! There were times I was debating on reading this book or finishing a 20-slide power on copyright. Of course I did my powerpoint, but it was hard to resist that temptation. I kept on saying “Just a one chapter or five minute break” a lot.

Just Perfect! and Concluding Thoughts: I have nothing against this book. And I mean nothing. This book is one of the best books I have read this year, no doubt. I’m not the biggest nonfiction fan, but this certainly has defied that. I would give this to younger readers if I had the opportunity to get a crate because it’s something I believe should be read everywhere. Teachers, go get this book for your classroom! You will not be disappointed. You don’t have to be a sports fan to enjoy Perry Wallace’s conquest for “equalizing” and integrating the college sports industry. Reading Strong Inside will change your perception about the world and the racism that is unfolding everywhere, and it will inspire you to never give up in the face of oppression.

One of My Favorite Quotes: “I’ve got to adapt and look at things not as pressures but as challenges. Life has been a series of challenges for me. I’ve just tried to meet them as they come along. If I come through now, I’ll be a better man for it. It’s a hit or miss thing. Either I’ll make it or I won’t.” – Perry Wallace


About the AuthorAndrew Maraniss 1

Strong Inside is the first book by Andrew Maraniss. A partner at McNeely Pigott & Fox Public Relations in Nashville, Andrew studied history at Vanderbilt University as a recipient of the Fred Russell – Grantland Rice sportswriting scholarship, graduating in 1992. He then worked for five years in Vanderbilt’s athletic department as the associate director of media relations, dealing primarily with the men’s basketball team. In 1998, he served as the media relations manager for the Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays during the team’s inaugural season, and then returned to Nashville to join MP&F. Andrew was born in Madison, Wis., grew up in Washington, D.C. and Austin, Texas, and now lives in Brentwood, Tenn., with his wife, Alison, and their two young children. Follow him on Twitter @trublu24. 


Hope you enjoyed this review! Look out for upcoming reviews on Emerge by Tobie Easton, Embers in the Sea by Jennifer M. Eaton, Configured by Jenetta Penner, and many more. Plus, we’re going to interview some great authors soon and you don’t want to miss them!

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

The Sky Throne Blog Tour: Exclusive Interview with Chris Ledbetter

Hello! Today we have another blog tour stop for you today! Please welcome Chris Ledbetter in this interview talking about his newest book The Sky Throne! Hope you enjoy it!

THE SKY THRONE


Title: THE SKY THRONEThe Sky Throne

Author: Chris Ledbetter

Pub. Date: April 18, 2017

Publisher: Month9Books

Format: Paperback, eBook

Pages: 292

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

Goodreads Synopsis: Duality dwells at every turn, and an adolescent Zeus will learn that all too well when Hyperion attacks his family on Crete.

When the dust settles, his mother is unconscious and his best friend left for dead.

Stacking epic insult upon fatal injury, Zeus discovers the woman who raised him is not his biological mother. But to ensure her safety while she recovers, a heavy-hearted Zeus leaves her behind to seek answers at Mount Olympus Preparatory Academia.

Zeus embarks on a quest to discover who ordered the attack on his home, avenge the death of his friend, and find his birth mother. When some of his new schoolmates vanish, Zeus’s quest is turned upside down, and the only way to make things right is to access the power of The Sky Throne, confront a most dangerous enemy, and take his life back.

On his way to becoming king of the Greek gods, Zeus will learn to seize power, neutralize his enemies, and fall in love.

“Destined to have a sequel or two, young teens will appreciate the story, and teachers will appreciate that it instructs readers about the pantheon of gods.”–Kevin Beach, VOYA Magazine


About Chris: Chris

Chris Ledbetter grew up in Durham, NC before moving to Charlottesville, VA in 11th grade. After high school, he attended Hampton University where he promptly “walked-on” to the best drum line in the conference without any prior percussion experience. He carried the bass drum for four years, something his back is not very happy about now.

After a change of heart and major, he enrolled in Old Dominion University and earned his degree in Business Administration. He’s worked in various managerial and marketing capacities throughout his life. He taught high school for six years in Culpeper, VA, and also coached football.

He has walked the streets of Los Angeles and New York City, waded in the waters of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, and climbed Diamond Head crater on Hawaii and rang in the New Year in Tokyo, Japan. But he dreams of one day visiting Greece and Italy.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | YouTubeGoodreads


Now here’s the interview!

A Chris

1.  In 10 words or less, how would you describe THE SKY THRONE?The Sky Throne

Zeus origin story. Actually, Greek Olympian gods: Origins.

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

The first thing I love about writing is what we all love about reading, which is the ability to escape the real world and experience life as someone else. When I sit down to write, I am immediately transported. It’s very much like sliding a virtual reality headset down over my eyes. I began writing in 2006, almost as a dare to myself and fell in love with it ever since.

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

My favorite authors are James Dashner, Jennifer Donnelly, Dan Brown, Laini Taylor, Paulo Coelho, Heather Petty, Kim Harnes, Tracy Clark. They’ve all helped to inspire and shape my writing in one form or another.

Continue reading “The Sky Throne Blog Tour: Exclusive Interview with Chris Ledbetter”

Interview + GIVEAWAY with Stephanie Elliot

Hi guys! This past week has been crazy for me! I’ve been gone out of town for the All State Men’s Choir (which was super amazing by the way!) and catching up on a ton of homework… As I write this, I still got a 16-slide powerpoint, a one-page article reflection, and an essay on the US and USSR involvement in Latin America in the Cold War. But by the time this is posted I’m probably done with all that. I haven’t been able to blog that much recently, but I’m back! I’m not going to post as frequently as I was before because I am going to focus on many other things and activities, but I’ll still be active!

Also, Happy Easter!!! I did not post anything this weekend to honor the Triduum and the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ and the start of the Easter season, so here’s my latest post!


 

A Stephanie New

1. How would you describe Sad Perfect in your own words?SadPerfect_09e

A girl with a unique eating disorder falls in love and tries to hide her disorder from her boyfriend while trying to recover.

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

I love writing because when you write you get to create anything you want to. You can go anywhere you want to, you can dream up anything you want to. I think I loved reading first and then I loved writing.

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

I don’t know if my writing style has been affected by any particular writer but I admire so many writers. I love writers who can write in verse, or who can make a sentence sing off the page. Someone who makes colors look completely different than you ever imagined just by their word choice. Writers who do that are magical.

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

I love reading contemporary novels—young adult and women’s fiction. Psychological thrillers are fun too. Emotional reads that can get your heart racing and your mind thinking are what I gravitate toward.

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

Writing is very part-time and I would love to write more. I’m a mom to three teenagers, and I love that job too—it’s my most important one.

6. What is ARFID, and what is the message or impact you want your readers to get through your book?DSC00461

I want readers to know that ARFID (Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder) EXISTS. Many parents think that kids are just picky eaters and don’t do anything to help their children with this serious eating disorder, which is the actual fear of trying new foods. It’s a mental disorder that can also cause severe anxiety and depression and lead to more serious issues if not treated. I also want readers to know that there is hope for kids with ARFID, that if someone has ARFID, and if he or she wants to get better, if they work at it, they can get better.

Continue reading “Interview + GIVEAWAY with Stephanie Elliot”

Black Dawn Blog Tour: Guest Post with Mallory McCartney

Hello! So if you have been following our blog, you might have seen how I gushed over Black Dawn by Mallory McCartney in my review here. I am so excited to have Mallory on my blog in her blog tour for her debut book! It’s definitely a series that I am going to be checking on! I hope you enjoy!

Black Dawn tour banner


Black Dawn by Mallory McCartney A Black Dawn

Genre: YA/A Fantasy

Release Date: February 14th 2017

Publisher: Clean Reads Publishing

Summary from Goodreads: The end of an Empire, The rise of a Queen Emory Fae enjoys leading a quiet, normal life. That is until two mysterious, and handsome soldiers show up at her apartment, and the life she knew is instantly whisked away. Memphis Carter and Brokk Foster come from the magical and war ridden world of Kiero, and upon Emory’s arrival she will discover she is the long lost heir to the Royal Line and is thrown into the Black Dawn Rebellion with a dynamic role to ignite the rebels and reclaim her throne.  With both men being darkly woven in her past Emory uncovers hidden secrets, a power held long dormant, and will soon realize there are worse things than supernatural humans, love, loss, betrayal, and a Mad King. Some things are better left in the shadows.

Add to Goodreads

Buy Links:

Amazon.ca : https://www.amazon.ca/Black-Dawn-Mallory-McCartney-ebook/dp/B01N5QQLZL/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1490207632&sr=8-2&keywords=black+dawn

Amazon.com: https://www.amazon.com/Black-Dawn-Mallory-McCartney-ebook/dp/B01N5QQLZL/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1490207861&sr=8-4&keywords=black+dawn#customerReviews

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/black-dawn-mallory-mccartney/1125505912?ean=9781621356134

Indigo: https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/black-dawn/9781621356134-item.html?ikwid=black+dawn&ikwsec=Home&ikwidx=0


Mallory

Creating a Fantasy World and Its History

With Black Dawn, the history of how this world became so ravaged, I did write into the very first manuscript. Developing the backstory for Adair, and his parents really set the stage for Black Dawn. My process for this is knowing my characters and their reactions, The Stratton’s being a family of pride, and regimented traditions, and above all, the crave for power. From here this history is exploring the dynamics of the Academy and of the Fae’s and Stratton’s. How would one run a democratic government when their best friends are pushing for a monarchy? How would one achieve peace when violence is being praised? How would one achieve equality when there are different parties stating they don’t recognize the treaties for people’s rights?

These are just some of the questions answered that help me shape and build the world of Kiero. The event of how the Academy fell, I am writing that story right now, to be released in the fall. Renegade, covers a lot of the history of the characters we see in the series, as well as new ones. This book will rotate through the chapters with Memphis, Brokk and Adair, and explore not only the secrets within the Academy, but what happens when dark magic is withheld, and the consequences of secrets. Without giving to much away, I’m really excited to share this book, I feel it will answer a lot of the history questions readers may have, and set the stage very nicely for book two, Queen To Ashes.


About the Authormallory mccartney.jpg

Mallory McCartney currently lives in London, Ontario with her husband and their two dachshunds Link and Lola. Black Dawn is her debut novel, the first in a series. When she isn’t working on her next novel or reading, she can be found dog grooming, book shopping and hiking. Other favorite pastimes involve reorganizing perpetually overflowing bookshelves and seeking out new coffee and dessert shops.

Author Links:

GoodreadsTwitterFacebookInstagram


GIVEAWAY:

The chance to win three signed copies of Black Dawn

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Blog Tour Organized by:

YA Bound Book Tours

YA Bound Book Tours


Hope you enjoyed this! Have a great week!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

 

 

 

 

Cover Reveal: Fragments of Darkness (Anthology)

Hello! It’s Hump Day! (I know, that’s so old.) We have another cover reveal for you this Wednesday (I guess Wednesdays are the most popular days for cover reveals!), and this time it’s an anthology of short stories by some amazing authors who I’ve had the wonderful chance to be able to interview and chat with, including Melanie McFarlane, E. M. Fitch, and Dorothy Dreyer! Enjoy!

About Fragments of Darkness
Fragments of Darkness
An Anthology of Thrilling Stories
Release date: September 13, 2017
From between the cracks of imagination, among the splinters of the unknown, and upon the winds of mystery, lurk the Fragments of Darkness.
With legends of killer mermaids to tales of Civil War era ghosts, ten passionate story-tellers come together to bring you yarns of fantasy, paranormal, and chills and thrills that will entertain, intrigue, and enchant young adult and new adult readers.
Lisa M. Basso — Heart and Bone
C.L. Campbell — Reckoner
Dorothy Dreyer — Under the Surface
Pat Esden — Black as a Dark Moon, Scarlet as Sumac
E.M. Fitch — Between Shadows
R.A. Gates — The Collector
Jessica Gunn — The Ghost
Debra Jess — Blood & Armor
Melanie McFarlane — The Transgressions of Faithe Eileen
Daphne René — Story of the Unknown Soldier

Are you ready for the cover?

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Let me hear you!
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Are you sure?
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There will be some scary stories.
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But the cover is great!
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You wanna see it?
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Fine, it’s here!
Fragments Front Cover
Makes you wanna read it, doesn’t it?

I hope you liked the cover of Fragments of Darkness! Go check it out, and have a great week!

Happy Reading!
+ J.M.J.
~ Kester

Review: Black Dawn by Mallory McCartney

Hey guys! It’s the last day of March, and to end off this month, here is my review of Black Dawn by Mallory McCartney! Man, Summer is almost here! And what does that mean? More reading!

Goodreads Summary: The end of an Empire, The rise of a Queen.

Emory Fae enjoys leading a quiet, normal life. That is until two mysterious, and handsome soldiers show up at her apartment, and the life she knew is instantly whisked away. Memphis Carter and Brokk Foster come from the magical and war ridden world of Kiero, and upon Emory’s arrival she will discover she is the long lost heir to the Royal Line and is thrown into the Black Dawn Rebellion with a dynamic role to ignite the rebels and reclaim her throne.

With both men being darkly woven in her past Emory uncovers hidden secrets, a power held long dormant, and will soon realize there are worse things than supernatural humans, love, loss, betrayal, and a Mad King.

Some things are better left in the shadows.

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

Rating: 4 Stars

Overall Thoughts: Let me tell you about me and fantasy in general: I’m honestly not the biggest epic fantasy fan. It’s not a genre that I’m the biggest fan. I find there’s so many characters, places, and subplots to remember that I forget half of them! It’s just not my type of book. I’m usually all for contemporary and historical fiction, but I decided to pick up this book because it looked good. Black Dawn was definitely a pleasant surprise! I think for a person who does not like fantasy, I enjoyed reading it! (P.S. I did love the Chronicles of Narnia; now I don’t know who’ll not enjoy them!)

Continue reading “Review: Black Dawn by Mallory McCartney”

Exclusive Interview with Andrew Maraniss!

Hi guys! Welcome to today’s special Friday interview! A few weeks ago, I went to the SE-YA Book Festival in Murfreesboro, TN, and I met some of the nicest and best authors there. I am so glad I have the chance to interview one of them today, and he is also a local author! Yay for TN authors! Andrew Maraniss is the author of Strong Inside, a biography about Perry Wallace which is in both the regular edition and the Young Readers’ Edition, which just came out this year. Go check them out!

Andrew Maraniss

1.     What is your book STRONG INSIDE about?Strong Inside

The easiest, shortest description is to say that it’s a biography of Perry Wallace, the first African American basketball player in the Southeastern Conference. But the book is about a lot more than just basketball. It’s about the civil rights movement, what it takes to be a pioneer, how a university struggled to become a more diverse and welcoming place, and how a teenager overcame tremendous obstacles to live a happy, successful life.

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

 I enjoy everything about writing – including the parts that aren’t actually writing! For my book, I spent four years doing research and interviews before I wrote the first word. I love digging through old newspaper articles and archives looking for little nuggets of information that add rich detail to the story. I have loved writing ever since I was a kid. I would create my own sports magazines when I was in middle school.

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

My father has been a journalist my whole life, and he has been writing books ever since the time I was in college, so he has had the biggest impact on me as a writer by far. He was writing for a great newspaper, The Washington Post, when I was growing up, so I had the good fortune of reading very good journalism since the time I was five years old. I enjoy narrative non-fiction the most, so authors such as Erik Larson, John Feinstein, Bob Woodward, David Halberstam, Bill Bryson, and James Swanson are my favorites. I really enjoy reading a book where I feel like I am existing right beside the characters; I’ve been placed directly in their world.

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

My favorite genre to read and write is narrative non-fiction. Some of my favorite books are Son of the Morning Star, Devil in the White City, The Breaks of the Game, The Perfect Storm, and Manhunt. As far as my dad’s books go, I have loved all of them, but I will mention When Pride Still Mattered (a biography of Vince Lombardi), They Marched Into Sunlight (about Vietnam), and Rome 1960 (about the Summer Olympics). I don’t reach much fiction but I really enjoyed Stephen King’s time-travel book, 11/22/63.

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

Writing has become my full-time job. I wrote STRONG INSIDE as a side-project outside of my ‘real’ job at a public relations firm in Nashville. But now I am working on books or writing freelance articles for magazines and websites for a living. Also, because Vanderbilt University has selected the ‘adult’ version of STRONG INSIDE as the common read for their first-year students each of the last two years, I have worked on special projects for the university related to the book.

1974409_10153111065632743_6718783467156551887_o6.     How much research did you have to put into STRONG INSIDE? Have you ever had the chance to meet Perry Wallace?

I spent four years on the research for STRONG INSIDE. That included interviewing around 100 people and visiting numerous libraries and archives. I loved the research part! I interviewed Perry Wallace in person dozens of times, and also talked to him on the phone or emailed him questions. The first time I ever interviewed him was actually many, many years before I started writing the book. I actually wrote a paper about him for a history class when I was a sophomore at Vanderbilt in 1989. I didn’t start writing the book until 2006.

7.     What about Perry Wallace’s life speaks to you the most? Why did you choose him as the subject of your books?

I think Perry Wallace is the smartest, most interesting person I’ve ever come across, and his story of overcoming racism is extremely relevant today. I admire his courage tremendously. As I mentioned, his story is about a lot more than just basketball. It’s about concepts such as courage, love, hate, honesty, patience, isolation and loneliness, perseverance, reconciliation – things anyone can relate to.

8.     Why did you decide to write a Young Readers Edition along with the regular biography? What are some of their differences?

It wasn’t my idea initially to create the Young Readers version of STRONG INSIDE. I was encouraged to do it by two wonderful women – Ann Neely, who is a professor at Vanderbilt, and Ruta Sepetys, an amazing author who lives in Nashville. With their help and encouragement, I was able to present my book to Philomel (a young readers imprint at Penguin), and they really liked Perry’s story. The main difference is the length of the book. The Young Readers version is about one-fourth the length of the original, so it’s a much quicker read. I enjoyed working with the editors at Philomel to shorten the story, while also keeping the main storyline intact. This version of the book gets right to the heart of the action a lot quicker than the original, which builds up to the tension more slowly.

9.     If you could play any sport for any college or professional team, who would you choose and why? Do you play any sports as a hobby?

I grew up playing baseball, and my favorite team is the Milwaukee Brewers. So, if I could play for any team, I’d be a pitcher for the Brewers!

10. You graduated from Vanderbilt University and later worked there! Go Commodores! What are some of your favorite things or experiences from Vandy?

I was fortunate to earn a full-tuition sportswriting scholarship to Vanderbilt, which completely changed and shaped the direction of my life from that point forward. I lived in Austin, Texas in high school and had never really heard of Vanderbilt. There’s no way I would have gone to college there or moved to Nashville if not for the scholarship. My favorite building on earth is Memorial Gym, where the Commodores play basketball. It’s the same place Perry Wallace played. My wife and I got engaged the same day we saw Vanderbilt beat the No. 1 ranked team in the country there, and we also had our rehearsal dinner the night before our wedding at Memorial Gym!

11. As a biographer, what were some challenges you faced when you wrote both editions of STRONG INSIDE?Andrew Maraniss 1

I wanted my book to be taken seriously by sports fans, historians, civil rights experts, and book reviewers, but also be an entertaining read that anyone would enjoy, whether they are big sports fans or students or history buffs. So it was a challenge to balance all of that. It was also a challenge just sticking with a project for so long: eight years to create the original version, and then almost another year creating the young readers version.

12. How do you want your books to impact or change your readers? What message do you want both your younger and older audiences to get?

The biggest thing is probably empathy. I want people to put themselves in Perry Wallace’s shoes and experience what it was like to be a young, African American man encountering tremendous hatred and hostility just because of the color of his skin. He was the valedictorian of his high school. He practiced his trumpet four hours a day. He taught Sunday School. He never got in trouble. He spoke numerous foreign languages. He was a great athlete. He was kind to his sisters and parents. And yet when Vanderbilt announced they were recruiting him, people sent death threats to his home, said they would never go to another Vanderbilt game again, and harassed him on the basketball court. Every time he stepped out on the court, he was concerned he might get shot and killed. On campus, he felt very lonely and isolated. I want people to experience that, and see how wrong racism is. For those who have experienced racism themselves and had experiences similar to what Perry endured, I hope they will take some inspiration from his life, and how he overcame these challenges.

13. Have you ever had writer’s block, and if so, how do you get out of it?

My dad gave me great advice. He said he stops writing for the day already knowing what the next sentence or next paragraph will say, rather than stopping when he’s stumped. That way, the next time he gets started, he already knows what he’s going to say next. It helps keep momentum going and avoid writer’s block.

14. I am so glad I got to see you at the Southeastern Young Adult Book Festival in Murfreesboro, TN! It’s great meeting a local author! How did you like being an author there? Did you enjoy it? I know I did!

17212020_10155128500247743_5534080503796664787_oI loved the opportunity to participate in the SE-YA festival. I have spoken at numerous book festivals with adult version of my book, but this was the first time I had a chance to speak at a festival for students. It was awesome! I love meeting and speaking with young people. There is nothing better than seeing kids excited about reading and writing. I also really enjoyed the opportunity to hang out with so many amazing authors. I have found the young adult book world to be a really friendly scene full of helpful, kind, supportive people.

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

STRONG INSIDE was my first book, but I hope to write many, many more. And I will continue to write for ESPN’s The Undefeated website. Here’s a link to the stories I have written for them so far.

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

Keep reading and writing! My parents told me whenever I was bored, read a book. And when you’re writing, don’t forget to spend time editing. Eliminate unnecessary words and clichés. Show rather than tell.

Thank you so much, Andrew, for coming onto our blog! It was fun writing your questions and reading your answers!

If you want to check out Andrew’s social media accounts, contact him, or buy his books, click the links below!

Website  |  Twitter  |  Facebook  |  Goodreads  |  YouTube  |  Bumpers

Strong Inside (Regular Edition)

Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble  |  Parnassus Books

Strong Inside Young Readers’ Edition

Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble  |  Parnassus Books

Thanks so much for reading this interview! Have a great weekend!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

 

 

DOUBLE Cover Reveal: Crown of Ice & Scepter of Fire

Today I’m participating in a special double cover reveal for the first two books in the Mirror of Immortality Trilogy by Vicki L. Weavil. The all-new second edition of the first book, Crown of Ice, releases on May 9 from Snowy Wings Publishing, with the second book, Scepter of Fire, coming on May 23!

Let me tell you something: these covers are probably the prettiest ones I have seen in a while. When I first saw them, I pretty much swooned. I was like “Oh… so… pretty!” I love them a lot!

Here goes!

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What do you call…

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A fish with no eyes?

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Blind.

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Ha! Ha! Ha! I made that up!

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You’re probably not laughing…

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Fine, here is the cover!

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*Kester starts singing “Ah!!!!” like an opera singer*

Cover designed by Deranged Doctor Design

Title: Crown of Ice
Author: Vicki L. Weavil
Release Date: May 9, 2017
Publisher: Snowy Wings Publishing

Snow Queen Thyra Winther is immortal, but if she can’t reassemble a shattered enchanted mirror by her eighteenth birthday she’s doomed to spend eternity as a wraith.

Armed with magic granted by a ruthless wizard, Thyra schemes to survive with her mind and body intact. Unencumbered by kindness, she kidnaps local boy Kai Thorsen, whose mathematical skills rival her own. Two logical minds, Thyra calculates, are better than one. With time rapidly melting away she needs all the help she can steal.

A cruel lie ensnares Kai in her plan, but three missing mirror shards and Kai’s childhood friend, Gerda, present more formidable obstacles.

Thyra’s willing to do anything – venture into uncharted lands, outwit sorcerers, or battle enchanted beasts — to reconstruct the mirror, yet her most dangerous adversary lies within her. Touched by the warmth of a wolf pup’s devotion and the fire of a young man’s love, the thawing of Thyra’s frozen heart could prove her ultimate undoing.

Add Crown of Ice on Goodreads!

Cover designed by Deranged Doctor Design

Title: Scepter of Fire
Author: Vicki L. Weavil
Release Date: May 23, 2017
Publisher: Snowy Wings Publishing

She’s the ugly duckling in a family of swans. But Varna Lund is determined to live a life that matters.

Ridiculed by the young men of her village, Varna vows she’ll become the finest healer in the land. The skills she’s learned from her ancient mentor prove vital when she encounters Erik Stahl, a young soldier who deserted the battlefield to carry an injured friend to safety. Aided by her sister Gerda, she cares for the soldiers in secret.

When betrayal catapults the four young people into life on the run, Varna encounters her former mentor—now revealed as the sorcerer, Sten Rask. Seeking an enchanted mirror that offers unlimited power, Rask appears determined to seduce Varna to his side.

To protect their country, Varna and her companions form an alliance with a former Snow Queen, a scholar, and an enchantress. But when Rask tempts her with beauty and power, Varna’s heart becomes a battlefield. Caught between loyalty to her companions and a man whose kisses ignite a fire on her lips, Varna must choose—embrace her own desires, or fight for a society that’s always spurned her.

Add Scepter of Fire on Goodreads!

About the Author:

Vicki L. Weavil turned her early obsession with reading into a career as a librarian. After obtaining a B.A. in Theatre from the University of Virginia, she continued her education by receiving a Masters in Library Science and a M.A. in Liberal Studies. She is currently the Library Director for a performing and visual arts university.

An avid reader who appreciates good writing in all genres, Vicki has been known to read seven books in as many days. When not writing or reading, she likes to spend her time watching films, listening to music, gardening, or traveling. Vicki, who writes in other genres under the pennames V. E. Lemp and Victoria Gilbert, is represented by Frances Black of Literary Counsel, NY, NY. She lives in North Carolina with her husband and some very spoiled cats.

Visit Vicki online at vickilweavil.com, or on Twitter at @VickiLWeavil or Facebook at @VickiLWeavil.

The covers were so beautiful, weren’t they! Well, I got to go! See you later! 🙂

+ 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