Monday, March 27, 2017

First We Were IV Blog Tour: Excerpt + Giveaway!

Publication Date: July 25th, 2017
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers 
A group of friends start a secret society in this out-of-control thriller from the author of The Telling and The Creeping that examines the all-consuming love of lifelong friendship—and what someone is capable of when they’re afraid of losing it.

Izzie loves nothing more than her three best friends, Viv, Graham, and Harry, and the bond the four of them share. And she’s terrified of their friendship falling apart next year when they go off to college. To bind them together, she decides to create that will belong only to them, a special thing that they’ll always share between the four of them. And so they dream up the Order of IV, a secret society devoted to mischief that rights wrongs and pays back debts. At first, it works like a charm—but when the Order of IV’s escapades getrecognition beyond their wildest expectations, other people start wanting in. And soon, what started as a game of friendship is spiraling into something dangerous and beyond their control—and before it’s over, they’ll pay the ultimate sacrifice.
Alexandra Sirowy is the author of the young adult thrillers THE CREEPING, the Bram Stoker Award® Nominated THE TELLING, and the upcoming FIRST WE WERE IV. Alexandra attended a women's college as an undergrad and received her graduate degree in International Studies. When she isn't writing, she loves to travel, read, eat, and get into mischief. She lives with her husband in Northern California.
Connect with Alexandra: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest
Disclaimer: All content directly from First We Were IV (such as quotes and excerpts) is taken directly from an advanced reader's copy of the book. Therefore, it is not to be separately quoted from due to the fact that it is not in its final publication form.
     By the time the police arrived, there were three of us left. Three originals. Three best friends. Architects of what was once a secret society.
     The difference between leaders and initiates was evident. We designed it that way, dictated
that initiates wore the white of sacrificial lambs and us bloody red. No confusion over who appeared to be in charge.

     There was a chaotic minute under the star-choked sky. Volleying accusations and bodily threats. I tried to kick out of the arms of an officer because I still hadn’t had my fill of revenge,. Never would I. And you know, the dagger tipped in blood didn’t exactly help our case for looking faultless.

     They herded the initiates into a line, ordered them to keep their mouths shut. Still, those kids, those snakes, whispered stories and secrets in the way the dying confess, anticipating forgiveness. Good little boys and girls, eyes innocent saucers, except they’d terrorized a whole town.

     Our dagger lay a little outside the ring of fire. There was the truth serum, a few muddy, crimson sips they’d dredge up from the bottle to test. And the idol on a pile of rocks, her smile calling out from on top of her burial mound. No sense would be made of her origins.

     Police circled the meteorite, probing the scene, coming up short in front of us three, searching faces for clues. Accident or murder.

     They would ask the wrong questions later on, after the ambulance left without its sirens wailing, when the three architects and our six recruits were in the police station.

     There was lots of hand-wringing and Make me understand. Parents arrived. Our initiates had been shaking their fists and snarling at authority just an hour before. The rebellion had drained out of them and they buckled with relief at the sight of their moms and dads. I didn’t acknowledge mine. All the adults needed help understanding how the night happened. 
     "October happened because September did.

     An officer warned me to stop being snarky. 

     "I’m not," 
I whispered, voice all cried out. 
     "Then answer,
he demanded.
     "Because August. Because July. Because June. I can keep going if you need me to."

     That was the only answer they’d get from me. Afterward, I stopped talking. For a few weeks. I sat in my room, on the top of my desk, watching the Pacific battle the shore. I sketched the four of us. Together. Hardly needing to watch the progress of my pencil. There was something unnerving in our eyes when the pictures were done. A glimmer of foreshadow that I hadn’t noticed was present before. Had it been? My best friends. The loves of my life. Strangers. Reeling. Ferocious.

     I held my tongue and the lesson sunk in.
     No matter how much you see, there are bottomless seas you don’t.

     What I am certain of is the heart of it.

     First we were four.

     Now we are three. 
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Week 1
March 27: Brittany's Book Rambles - Intro Post + Excerpt
March 28: YA and Wine - Most Mischievous YA Characters
March 29: Rattle the Pages - Nail Art
March 30: Book Nerd Addict - Inventing A Secret Society
March 31: Fables Library - YA Books with Secret Societies

Week 2
April 3: Emily Reads Everything - Fancast
April 4: The Eater of Books - History of Secret Societies
April 5: It Starts At Midnight - Author Guest Post!
April 6: BookCatPin - Mystery YA List
April 7: A Book and a Cup of Coffee - Moodboard

Week 3
April 10: The Book Buzz - YA Thrillers You Need to Know About
April 11: The Candid Cover - Bookworm Initiation Quiz
April 12: Girl in the Pages - Book Recs for First We Were IV Characters
April 13: Stories and Sweeties - Author Guest Post - Story Behind the Title
April 14: Little Lillie Reads - Playlist

Week 4
April 17: Literary Legionnaire - Favorite Quotes
April 18: Chapter by Chapter - Author Guest Post: Secret Society Initiation Rituals
April 19: Tales of the Ravenous Reader - Secret Societies You Never Knew Existed
April 20: YA Book Central - Author Guest Post: 3 Favorite Books About Secret Societies
April 21: The Bookish Feels - Author's March Favorites

Week 5
April 24: Waiting For Wentworth - Author Guest Post: Secret Society Rules
April 25: The Reader and the Chef - Book Inspired-Recipe
April 26: Forever Lost in Literature - Author Guest Post: What We Do For Friendship
April 27: Flying Through Fiction - Favorite YA Friendships
April 28: One Way or an Author - Phone Wallpapers

Saturday, March 25, 2017

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon ARC Review

Format: Paperback ARC, 380 Pages
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Pub. Date: May 30th, 2017
Buy it: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
A laugh-out-loud, heartfelt YA romantic comedy, told in alternating perspectives, about two Indian-American teens whose parents have arranged for them to be married.

Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?

Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.

The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?

Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.

Before picking up When Dimple Met Rishi, I had heard nothing but praise. I do my best to go in with as much of a blind eye as possible when reading and reviewing books. However, other reviewers and friends who typically have similar taste in books were raving about it, so I couldn't help having extremely high expectations. Thankfully, I am so thrilled to report that everything positive that people have said about this book is true!

When Dimple Met Rishi is one of the cutest books I have ever encountered. It's incredibly fun, quirky, and truly heartfelt. I really loved watching Dimple and Rishi fall for one another. This book actually reminded me of some of my favorite teen romantic comedies—with an Indian spin. The cultural aspects of the story were effortlessly and organically woven into the plot, and I enjoyed learning more about Indian family life, music, and traditions. Overall I was incredibly impressed with this novel, and I look forward to reading more books by Sandhya Menon in the future!

1) First of all, Dimple and Rishi are so freaking cute. Each of their interactions, conversations—literally everything about them together—left me with a huge smile on my face. I loved those two from their very first meeting; They were quite literally made for one another, and they made me so happy!

2) The dialogue, you guys! Oh my gosh, it is so hilarious, adorable, and witty! I was thoroughly dazzled ;) Dialogue—to me—is often the best part of books, and it was definitely one of my favorite aspects of this one!

3) I love how culturally rich the story is! Thanks to this book, I looked up many different Indian dishes, listened to new music, and I even looked up several Bollywood movies! At the same time, Sandhya Menon highlights certain biases and negative stereotypes that many Indian people face, which I appreciate as well. This novel is not only fun, adorable, and interesting—it's also enlightening.

4) I love how Rishi struggles with pursuing his passion for art versus a more "practical career." This was something I truly identified with, so I'm sure that many people in the book and art community will feel the same. It was really moving, and it made me reflect on my own struggles in this area. At the same time, the book has a very positive and hopeful feel about it, so it made me feel better about some things at the same time.

5) Dimple and Celia's friendship was both delightful and complicated. Not only are they friendship goals, but their relationship accentuates different molds and pressures that are put on females. I loved watching their bond grow and be tested. I found it to be very realistic and gratifying.

1) The main reason I'm not giving this book the full five matryoshkas is because of the last third of the book.

*slight spoilers ahead* 
Suddenly, the plot is rushed forward so quickly that I almost got whiplash. Dimple and Rishi had been insanely cute and sweet until this point, and then out of nowhere, Dimple randomly starts to second-guess her relationship with Rishi. I didn't feel like there was any build-up to this part of the book. It was like everything is adorable, my heart is singing, and then BAM—heartbreak, angst, and the sound of my dreams dying. Granted, there is a happy ending, but I just wish we could cut out a little bit of the extra drama before we get there.
*end spoilers*

2) I wish that Rishi and Dimple had more equal character arcs. We see more of how Rishi changes and deals with his family's expectations, and I would have loved to see more of that with Dimple.

Dimple loved vintage things. She followed a bunch of vintage photography accounts on Instagram, and old apothecary bottles were a favorite subject. So it was a kind of magic, being here in this antiques store with a boy whose eyes were just the right shade of honey. 
Rishi kissed her with purpose, with meaning, like he believed this was exactly where they were supposed to be in this moment. He kissed her till she believed it too. 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Geekerella Blog Tour: Ashley Poston's Favorite Kick-Ass Heroines!

Publisher: Quirk Books
Pub Date: April 4th 2017
Buy it: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Geek girl Elle Wittimer lives and breathes Starfield, the classic sci-fi series she grew up watching with her late father. So when she sees a cosplay contest for a new Starfield movie, she has to enter. The prize? An invitation to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball, and a meet-and-greet with the actor slated to play Federation Prince Carmindor in the reboot. With savings from her gig at the Magic Pumpkin food truck (and her dad’s old costume), Elle’s determined to win…unless her stepsisters get there first.

Teen actor Darien Freeman used to live for cons—before he was famous. Now they’re nothing but autographs and awkward meet-and-greets. Playing Carmindor is all he’s ever wanted, but Starfield fandom has written him off as just another dumb heartthrob. As ExcelsiCon draws near, Darien feels more and more like a fake—until he meets a girl who shows him otherwise. But when she disappears at midnight, will he ever be able to find her again?

Part romance, part love letter to nerd culture, and all totally adorbs, Geekerella is a fairy tale for anyone who believes in the magic of fandom.

Ashley Poston's fangirl heart has taken her everywhere from the houses of Hollywood screenwriters to the stages of music festivals to geeky conventions (in cosplay, of course). She lives in South Carolina, where she hangs around the internet tweeting at @AshPoston. 
Follow Ashley: Website | Twitter | FB | Instagram | Pinterest | Tumblr | YouTube
Sometimes, the kick-ass heroine isn’t the one holding the smoking pistol. Don’t get me wrong—pistol-wielding gals get stuff done. But if Hermione taught me anything, it’s that you can kick ass with brains as well as brawn.

In Geekerella, I wanted Elle to look up to one of those kick-ass heroines, so took the parts of kick-ass heroines I adore and crumbled them up to make a heroine who is a little good, a little bad, and one-hundred and ten percent can kick your ass.

So here are my top ten inspirations for Starfield’s Princess Amara—

1. Fem!Sheppard from Mass Effect. She’s a gosh darn war hero, who rises up out of the literal grave to come back and kick some serious Reaper butt. And that is what a hero does. They never give up.

2. Zoe Washburn from Firefly. Basically favorite space cowboy—ever. She’s a true leader without needing intimidation to win her arguments. She’s comfortable in her skin, and she’s in love with her husband (LEAF ON THE WIND) without it being her defining characteristic.

3. Sophie Hatter from Howl’s Moving Castle. Sophie has a special place in my heart. She’s resourceful, witty, and has a gift for elevating other people when she, herself, doesn’t realize how important her own self-worth is to everyone around her.

4. Nyx from Rosamund Hodge’s Cruel Beauty. I can write sonnets about how much I love Hodge’s reinvention of Beauty from Beauty and the Beast. Where Disney made Belle a witty bookworm, Hodge crafted Nyx as daring and stalwart—and dare I say it: unlikeable—with a single thread of curiosity that shines brighter than the darkness that traps her. Basically, Nyx is A+ material.

5. Hermione from Harry Potter. After all, she’s the brightest witch of her age, and without her, Harry would’ve been dead since book one. Voldemort should’ve never underestimated the power of a mudblood.

6. Artemis from Greek Mythology. She kills a man for spying on her in the bath, ‘nuff said.

7. Uhura from Star Trek. Without Uhura, Captain Kirk—in both the original and the reboot—would be so, so dead. Uhura showed me that you can be great at your job, and demand the respect you deserve.

8. Nimona from Nimona. I’m not sure if I’m in love with Nimona, or if I want to be Nimona. The jury’s still out.

9. Ahsoka Tano from Star Wars. I was a little late jumping into the Star Wars universe (Trekkie for life, here), but once in I lost myself in the badassery of one Togruta female.

10. Lila Bard from Darker Shade. I am also in love with Lila, but I’d also never be caught in the same room with her because she’d rob me blind.

What are some of your favorite kick-ass heroines?

Brittany: Thank you so much for this awesome and fun guest post, Ashley! :D

The Novel HermitMarch 21 — US
The Mile Long Bookshelf — March 22 — UK
Brittany’s Book Rambles — March 23 — US (You are here!)
Holly, Quills, and Ivy — March 24 — UK
The Book Bratz — March 27 — US
Paper Trail YA — March 28 — UK
Owl Always Be Reading — March 29 — US
The Bibliophile Chronicles— March 30 — UK
Mary Had a Little Book Blog — March 31 — US
Tea Party PrincessApril 3 — UK
LilyBloomBooks — April 4 — US

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday: The Hearts We Sold & Foolish Hearts

My TBR list is always growing and I thought it would be fun to share my anticipation for those books with all of you. This is not my own original meme; it belongs to Breaking the Spine. It specifically spotlights upcoming releases. As it implies in the title, I'll be posting this meme on Wednesdays. Please feel free to comment and let me know what books you guys are waiting on as well!

Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Pub. Date: December 26th 2017
Buy it: Amazon | Book Depository 
A contemporary novel about a girl whose high school production of A Midsummer Night's Dream leads her to new friends—and maybe even new love.

The day of the last party of the summer, Claudia overhears a conversation she wasn't supposed to. Now on the wrong side of one of the meanest girls in school, Claudia doesn't know what to expect when the two are paired up to write a paper—let alone when they're both forced to try out for the school production of A Midsummer Night's Dream.

But mandatory participation has its upsides—namely, an unexpected friendship, a boy band obsession, and a guy with the best dimpled smile Claudia's ever seen. As Claudia's world starts to expand, she finds that maybe there are some things worth sticking her neck out for.

I'm extremely picky when it comes to contemporary books because I generally prefer fantasy. However after reading Emma's last book, This Adventure Ends (which I reviewed here), I wouldn't miss out on Foolish Hearts for the world! 

Plus, I absolutely adore anything Shakespeare-related, so this sounds like the perfect cute contemporary read for me :D

Emma Mills is an author better known to her subscribers as vlogger Elmify. She is also cocreator and cohost of the "life skills" channel How to Adult, which ended in 2016.
Connect with Emma: Twitter | YouTube

Publisher: Little, Brown BFYR/Hachette Book Group 
Pub. Date: August 8th, 2017
Pre-Order it: Amazon | B&N | Book Depository 
When Dee Moreno makes a deal with a demon—her heart in exchange for an escape from a disastrous home life—she finds the trade may have been more than she bargained for. And becoming “heartless” is only the beginning. What lies ahead is a nightmare far bigger, far more monstrous than anything she could have ever imagined.

With reality turned on its head, Dee has only a group of other deal-making teens to keep her grounded, including the charming but secretive James Lancer. And as something grows between them amid an otherworldy ordeal, Dee begins to wonder: Can she give someone her heart when it’s no longer hers to give?

The Hearts We Sold first grabbed my attention because the lovely cover reminds me soooo much of Tim Burton's work!

I'm really intrigued by this heartless concept and by the "charming but secretive James Lancer." I have no shame when it comes to book boyfriends ;D

Emily Lloyd-Jones grew up on a vineyard in rural Oregon, where she played in evergreen forests and learned to fear sheep. After graduating from Western Oregon University with an English degree, she enrolled in the publishing program at Rosemont College just outside of Philadelphia. She currently resides in Northern California, working in a bookstore by day and writing by night. Illusive is her debut novel.
Connect with Emily: Website | Twitter | Instagram

Are these books on your TBR? Is this the first time you're hearing about them? Let me know! 

Monday, March 20, 2017

Penguin Teen Spring Tour 2017: My Interview with Renée Ahdieh!

Hey guys! I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to hang out with Renée Ahdieh one-on-one for Penguin Teen On Tour and to chat with her about her new upcoming book, Flame in the Mist! Below is a transcript of our interview, so I hope you guys enjoy it! Personally, I had a blast :D

Flame in the Mist by Renée Ahdieh
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
Publication Date: May 2nd, 2017
Pre-Order: Amazon | B&N | Book Depository
From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Wrath and the Dawn, comes a sweeping, action-packed YA adventure set against the backdrop of Feudal Japan where Mulan meets Tamora Pierce.

The daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has long known her place—she may be an accomplished alchemist, whose cunning rivals that of her brother Kenshin, but because she is not a boy, her future has always been out of her hands. At just seventeen years old, Mariko is promised to Minamoto Raiden, the son of the emperor's favorite consort—a political marriage that will elevate her family's standing. But en route to the imperial city of Inako, Mariko narrowly escapes a bloody ambush by a dangerous gang of bandits known as the Black Clan, who she learns has been hired to kill her before she reaches the palace.

Dressed as a peasant boy, Mariko sets out to infiltrate the ranks of the Black Clan, determined to track down the person responsible for the target on her back. But she's quickly captured and taken to the Black Clan’s secret hideout, where she meets their leader, the rebel ronin Takeda Ranmaru, and his second-in-command, his best friend Okami. Still believing her to be a boy, Ranmaru and Okami eventually warm to Mariko, impressed by her intellect and ingenuity. As Mariko gets closer to the Black Clan, she uncovers a dark history of secrets, of betrayal and murder, which will force her to question everything she's ever known.

I live in North Carolina (Go Heels!) with my husband Victor and our dog Mushu. My YA fantasy novel, THE WRATH AND THE DAWN, is available wherever books are sold. Its sequel, THE ROSE AND THE DAGGER, will be published on April 26, 2016. In my spare time, I like to cook, dance salsa, and wreak havoc on the lives of my characters.
Connect with Renée: Website | Twitter | Instagram | FB | Pinterest

Brittany: Let's talk about the differences between writing [Flame in the Mist] versus writing The Wrath and the Dawn. Was there anything different about your process?

Renée: When you read The Wrath and the Dawn and The Rose and The Dagger, they're mired in this notion of the power of story because Shazi is literally telling stories to stay alive. So I'd say that the tension, while it's really built into the situation . . . there's not a lot of action happening on the page, especially in the beginning of The Wrath and the Dawn. You can feel how tense it is and how afraid you are for her, cause her life is being threatened, and she's trying to tell stories to understand what's going on and . . . conceal who she is and what her wants are. Khalid is also trying to control who he is and he doesn't want anyone to know; so there's a lot going on with tension.

With the Flame in the Mist, there's a lot more [physical] action going on, so it's kind of creating a different sort of tension and I had a really good time doing that because Mariko, she's a girl . . . dressed as a boy-warrior, and she's infiltrating a clan of ninja, so it was super fun writing these scenes! Because Shazi is one of these characters who has a lot of spirit, but a lot of her action and a lot of her drive is almost . . . cerebral, so it's word-play. Mariko is a scientist who's also trying to overcome her very analytical nature and to take action. She's trying to learn how you take action of these situations, and I loved being able to write that kind of character and understanding their motivations.

Brittany: Well, I definitely appreciate it.

Renée: Thank you, thank you!

Brittany: Now, you write a lot of very strong leading ladies and now you're on tour with four very strong female voices. How do you feel about that? And is that really important to you when you're writing a book to have this strong female narrator who's breaking these [societal boundaries] that are set out for her?

Renée: I think it's very important to break molds that are set out, but I also . . . have this knee-jerk reaction when people talk about "strong female characters."

Brittany:: So do I! This is why I wanted to ask you about it.

Renée: It's always sort of annoyed me because there are different kinds of strength.

Brittany: I feel like it's just another mold.

Renée: Exactly.

Brittany: All of our stories should be out there. There's not just "strong" [males] either.

Renée: Exactly! You don't see people saying a "strong male character."

Brittany: Nope, definitely not.

Renée: And how are they qualifying and quantifying strength? Usually, it's under the guise of what a man would perceive to be strong. Like physicality and the ability to work well with weapons. And I love that . . . but again, there are so many different kinds of strength. There's strength of the mind, strength of the heart, and we need to give these things equal weight 'cause it isn't good to put these strengths below physicality, because often, in my opinion, it's a very gut reaction. Anyone can swing a sword, anybody can throw a spear, or something like that. But to truly be able to understand nuance of emotion and make a difference, that involves far more than just punching something.

Brittany: I totally agree. Now . . . do you think Mariko and Shazi would be friends?

Renée: Absolutely. Absolutely, but I think they'd get on each other's nerves, though.

Brittany: I could see that.

Renée: I love both of these characters so much because, again, Shazi is incredibly impetuous, and she's a little bit reckless. She acts before she thinks. She has this very gut feeling, [like] "okay, this is what I'm going to do in these situations," you know? And then she makes it happen, and she doesn't really care what's going on around her.

Mariko is much more hesitant, she analyzes everything from all different angles and then tries to come up with the best way to respond to a situation. But it's often to her [own] detriment because she spent so much time thinking about it, but she hasn't taken the actions necessary. This is why she's in very these very terrible predicaments [in Flame in the Mist]. I think Shazi would be exasperated by Mariko's need to think so much, and Mariko would be exasperated by the fact that Shazi never has plans.

Brittany: That would be fun though!

Renée: I think they would be friends though, because the best of friends, in my opinion, we all enhance what's good about each other and challenge each other to work on the things we need to work on.

Brittany: That's definitely true.

Renée: Yeah, and I would like to think they would be terrific friends, but I think they would yell at each other a lot. It'd be like me and my sister, because I'm more like Shazi and Mariko is much more like my sister, so yeah . . .

Brittany: That's interesting!

Renée: Yeah.

Brittany: So,  I know you love your research.

Renée: Yes!

Brittany: How much research did you have to do for Flame in the Mist? I imagine a lot. And I remember when I saw you last time, you were talking about going to Oregon and learning the process of forging a katana.

Renée: Mhm, yes!

Brittany: Did you do that?

Renée: Actually, I am going to be going with Sabaa Tahir, who is one of my dear friends.

Brittany: Yes, I remember you saying that you were going to convince her to go, too!

Renée: Actually this time, she is the one who put it together! We were going to be taking a sword forging course and we're both going to be making katanas!

Brittany: That's amazing!

Renée: I'm very, very excited about it. Again, we're both the sort of writers who are very dedicated to our research.

Brittany: I mean, any reason to go get katanas made.

Renée: Right?! Exactly! I love how we're making this "for research" -laughs- when we would do this anyway.

Brittany: So besides the katanas, did you have to do a lot of other research? What was your favorite part?

Renée: I love all kinds of research, I think the things I enjoy most are food. And it's not just that I like to try food, I also like to learn how to make it. Because I feel like you can really understand the flavors and . . . so much about the culture by the way they prepare [their] food. You can see so many commonalities between cultures. I was just having this great discussion with a good friend whose family is very traditional; They live here in the U.S., but they are not necessarily trying food outside their [own] heritage. They have like, German-Polish heritage, and she thinks it's such an unfortunate situation because when I took her to have Middle Eastern food, she said, "this is the same food, it's just different spices and if they would just try it..." It's variety, you know, spice of life sort of stuff, right?

Brittany: Right, yes.

Renée: It's the best thing. You see many commonalities cross culturally when you try people's food. It's a language that doesn't need to be spoken and you can understand so much [about] people by the way they eat. So, I love that and I love clothing, jewelry, and I love, as you can guess from earlier, weaponry. 

Brittany: That would explain why they are all so well-described in your books.

Renée: Oh, thank you!

Brittany: Was there anything while you were researching for Flame in the Mist, that you would be scared that it has you on a watch-list?

Renée: Oh gosh, I mean, that's a question that [all writers] joke about! Because we're asking questions like, how long does it take to die if you cut off someone's head . . .  and that kind of stuff.

Brittany: I know what you mean, because I research things like, how bad does blood smell in X temperature? Does it even smell, or is just dried? Stuff like that.

Renée: Exactly! And for this book, and you see that I have more than one "H" in my last name, so it's probably not a good idea for me. But anyway, I was learning too, because Mariko is a scientist, and she's creating a lot of the traditional things you would associate with ninjas, [such as] smoke-shields, and that kind of stuff. And the science behind this was really neat and I got to . . . bother my sister for help because my sister is a scientist. So, learning how to make what amounts to early napalm during the research process definitely has me on some watch list . . . -laughs-

Brittany: Okay, so I have one final question and it's actually from my good friend Stefani Sloma, who says that she misses you.

Renée: Oh my gosh, I adore her!

Brittany: She saw on Twitter that your Patronus is a rat and she wants to know why.

Renée: Oh my god! Okay, so this is hilarious. So as soon as all of that stuff for all the houses came out for Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them and you could go onto Pottermore and get your Patronus. And of course like years ago, I took the test . . . and I was Slytherin, but I was really disappointed because I wanted to be in Gryffindor! So I did an incredibly Slytherin thing, and I lied to people and told people that I was Gryffindor. And whenever they did the changes for the test, I was like, "Oh, retake it!" And every single time, without fail, I was in Slytherin. And so, I thought that this must be a way to redeem myself, though since that time, I've totally embraced being a Slytherin. I think there is so much to love about being Slytherin too. Because . . . like with every house, there are negatives and positives.

So, my husband took the test for his Patronus, and he got this really cool one—he got an adder—which is a really neat poisonous snake. And I was like, "I'm going to do this!" So, I take the test, and I'm a rat. And initially, I'm like, god this entire situation is just trying to screw me over. First, I'm a Slytherin and now, I'm a rat! And then my husband says to me, "Well, think about it. You love the movie Ratatouille. You love Remy from Ratatouille. And rats are resourceful and they will eat anything. So that is you!"

Brittany: And they have been around forever, they have survived everything! -laughs-

Renée: Exactly! So, rats are resourceful, they will eat anything, and he's like, "that is you!" and I'm like, "That's true!" -laughs-

Brittany: Thank you so much, Renée! I'm really excited for Flame in the Mist!

Renée: Thank you so much, Brittany!
Just in case you guys are interested in the other books on the tour, I've included their information below! You should definitely check them all out :D

Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Pub Date: March 7th, 2017
Buy it: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Guest Post with Alwyn
The sizzling, un-put-downable sequel to the bestselling Rebel of the Sands!

Mere months ago, gunslinger Amani al'Hiza fled her dead-end hometown on the back of a mythical horse with the mysterious foreigner Jin, seeking only her own freedom. Now she's fighting to liberate the entire desert nation of Miraji from a bloodthirsty sultan who slew his own father to capture the throne.

When Amani finds herself thrust into the epicenter of the regime—the Sultan's palace—she's determined to bring the tyrant down. Desperate to uncover the Sultan's secrets by spying on his court, she tries to forget that Jin disappeared just as she was getting closest to him, and that she's a prisoner of the enemy. But the longer she remains, the more she questions whether the Sultan is really the villain she's been told he is, and who’s the real traitor to her sun-bleached, magic-filled homeland.

Forget everything you thought you knew about Miraji, about the rebellion, about djinni and Jin and the Blue-Eyed Bandit. In Traitor to the Throne, the only certainty is that everything will change.

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin Random House
Pub. Date: February 14th, 2017
Lost to history, the story of the female gladiator has never been told. Until now.

Fallon is the daughter of a proud Celtic king and the younger sister of the legendary warrior Sorcha. When Fallon was just a child, Sorcha was killed while defending their home from the armies of Julius Caesar.

On the eve of her seventeenth birthday, Fallon is excited to follow in her sister's footsteps and earn her place in her father's war band. She never gets the chance.
Fallon is captured by ruthless brigands who sell her to an elite training school for female gladiators owned by none other than Julius Caesar himself. In a cruel twist of fate, the man who destroyed Fallon s family might be her only hope of survival.

Now, Fallon must overcome vicious rivalries, deadly fights in and out of the arena, and perhaps the most dangerous threat of all: her irresistible feelings for Cai, a young Roman soldier and her sworn enemy.

A richly imagined fantasy for fans of Sarah J. Maas and Cinda Williams Chima, "The Valiant" recounts Fallon s gripping journey from fierce Celtic princess to legendary gladiator and darling of the Roman empire."

Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
Pub. Date: January 24th, 2017
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo meets Gone Girl in this enthralling YA murder mystery set in Kenya.

In the shadows of Sangui City, there lives a girl who doesn't exist. After fleeing the Congo as refugees, Tina and her mother arrived in Kenya looking for the chance to build a new life and home. Her mother quickly found work as a maid for a prominent family, headed by Roland Greyhill, one of the city’s most respected business leaders. But Tina soon learns that the Greyhill fortune was made from a life of corruption and crime. So when her mother is found shot to death in Mr. Greyhill's personal study, she knows exactly who’s behind it.

With revenge always on her mind, Tina spends the next four years surviving on the streets alone, working as a master thief for the Goondas, Sangui City’s local gang. It’s a job for the Goondas that finally brings Tina back to the Greyhill estate, giving her the chance for vengeance she’s been waiting for. But as soon as she steps inside the lavish home, she’s overtaken by the pain of old wounds and the pull of past friendships, setting into motion a dangerous cascade of events that could, at any moment, cost Tina her life. But finally uncovering the incredible truth about who killed her mother—and why—keeps her holding on in this fast-paced nail-biting thriller.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Nevernight by Jay Kristoff Audiobook Review

Format: Audiobook
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Pub. Date: August 9th, 2016
In a land where three suns almost never set, a fledgling killer joins a school of assassins, seeking vengeance against the powers who destroyed her family.

Daughter of an executed traitor, Mia Corvere is barely able to escape her father’s failed rebellion with her life. Alone and friendless, she hides in a city built from the bones of a dead god, hunted by the Senate and her father’s former comrades. But her gift for speaking with the shadows leads her to the door of a retired killer, and a future she never imagined.

Now, Mia is apprenticed to the deadliest flock of assassins in the entire Republic—the Red Church. If she bests her fellow students in contests of steel, poison and the subtle arts, she’ll be inducted among the Blades of the Lady of Blessed Murder, and one step closer to the vengeance she desires. But a killer is loose within the Church’s halls, the bloody secrets of Mia’s past return to haunt her, and a plot to bring down the entire congregation is unfolding in the shadows she so loves.

Will she even survive to initiation, let alone have her revenge?

Having not read his Lotus War Trilogy (though I really need to), I can still say with the utmost confidence that Nevernight is Jay Kristoff's chef d'oeuvre. I normally avoid stories with tons of blood, death, and angst—but this was Jay Kristoff—so how could I resist? Although this book might not be for everyone (though if you're fine with Game of Thrones, then you're good), I absolutely adored this one. However, I would recommend to not be listening to or reading this book in a public space with tons of people around because I did, and at some sections . . . I was as red as a tomato.

Nevernight is unpredictable, heart-pounding and utterly oozes with passion and vengeance. Have you ever read a book where you found yourself literally screaming, "KILL HIM! KILL HIM NOW!" at the book, and then . . . the main character just allows that person to live? Are you like me, and that absolutely infuriates you? Well then congratulations, this book is for you—and it is so satisfying! #StabStabStab

It has been weeks since I finished this book now, and the words still haunt me. I haven't wanted to reread a book so badly in years. YEARSNevernight will make you question your morals. It will make you sob. It will quite literally make you want to stab things, and it is freaking amazing. 

Gentle friends, this book is undeniably Jay Kristoff's masterpiece, and I could not be more excited to read the sequel already!

The audiobook was narrated by Holter Graham, and he made me love this book so much. He was the perfect choice as a narrator. I loved his character voices—especially Mister Kindly's. It's absolutely crazy how much he can mold and alter his voice so seamlessly and naturally. He also made the world-building descriptions and anecdotes sound even more interesting. I will definitely be thrilled to listen to more audiobooks narrated by him!

1) Mia is the queen of badass. All other characters that I have ever called a badass in the past are nothing compared to her. Her path was harder, bloodier, and indescribably tragic. My god, I am in awe of her. I loved her voice, her story—everything. She reminded me of Wednesday Adams . . . if Wednesday had been trained to be a killer, haha.

2) The way that this story is told is fantastic. There is a narrator who remains a mystery for the entire book (though I have my suspicions) and I loved his view of everything that was happening, his humor, and his darkness. The narrator's perspective was very broad and at the same time, he still hid important tidbits from the reader in way that brilliantly enhanced what was happening. It was artfully done, and I can't wait to hear more from this narrator in the next book.

3) I'm running out of creative ways of saying this, but it deserves to be said: Nevernight is Jay Kristoff's piece de resistance. The setting is unlike any I've seen before. It's vividly detailed and well-developed, and each character's voice is distinctive and prominent. As much as I try, there are no words that can fully describe how brilliant this book is, so you'll just have to read it and see!

I believe Jay has a similar dream, seeing as his bio says he "doesn't believe in happy endings" . . .

4) This is the first time in a book where I've seen a male character care about a female's pleasure during sex. I know that Jay Kristoff got a lot of slack for how graphic these scenes were, but I think they are actually immensely significant. How is it that teenagers can watch shows like The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones, but they can't read a scene that exhibits healthy, consensual sexual acts between two people that care for each other? I am very happy that this wasn't cut from this book, because I know for a fact that other books I have read previously had similar scenes that were removed prior to publication.

5) The characters are amazing and unique. Besides Mia, I love Mister Kindly, Spiderkiller, Aalea, Cassius, Mouser, and if I keep going, I'll literally just be naming all the characters in the book. Even the villain intrigued me (of course I wanted them dead anyway) because they were complicated in a way that made you question your morals. Then again, this entire book does that, and it's brilliant. I can't wait to read more about these characters!

1) Some of the characters I wanted killed are still alive, while some of the characters I wanted to live . . . did not. 

Hopefully, this will be amended in Godsgrave! ;D

I have many other favorites, but some are spoilerly or too licentious for all my gentlest of friends, so you'll have to settle for these ;)
"What you look like doesn't change who you are inside. They can give you a new face, but they can't give you a new heart. No matter what they take from you, they can't take that away unless you let them. That's real strength Tric. That's real power."
"You want a break, Corvere?"

"My thanks, love. Your jaw would do nicely."
All the pearls and jewels, the silk and glitter, the opulence on display. These pretty dons and donas all dipped in gold. And still, he only looked at her.