Thursday, July 14, 2016

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: Gifts of Good Foods Makes Cinda Williams Chima Happy

Tour rituals, midwest flavor and a new series makes for a trifecta of good times for fans of Cinda Williams Chima. What’s better than food recs from someone who knows the area? Chima, also, has received some amazing fan gifts. Her most memorable, of course, comes back to food.
Which frankly, made for a deliciously good chat.
Do you have a favorite restaurant in Ohio? Is there a specific place you go that you take out-of-towners to get that midwest flavor?
There are so many good restaurants in the Cleveland area. For midwestern fare, I like the Welshfield Inn in Geauga County; a great mingle of comfort food and culinary innovation. I’m also fond of Grove Hill in Chagrin Falls.
What is your favorite food and why?
Wow, I don’t even know how to choose. Popcorn is right up there, partly because my family had popcorn for dinner every Sunday night from the time I was little. It was an extra treat to look forward to top off the weekend. I still do that when I’m home.
Was it difficult to return to the Seven Realms since it sounds like things have not progressed kindly in that world? Or did you always have a vision for this new series?
I guess I could say I had a vision for it, because some of the scenes and events in the Shattered Realms happened in some earlier fiction I’d written set in that world. The Seven Realms was a kind of prequel to these stories. That said, the stories, characters and so on have changed dramatically.
If you were a mage, what do you think your skill set would include and why?
I love the notion of being able to shape magic through words, eg spells because, after all, I am a word person.
On tour, do you have any traditions? Anything you do to get yourself pumped up for going in front of crowds?
Before every tour, I have this ritual where I read four or five blogs on how to pack for a tour in a carryon. I get out my little carryon suitcase and make piles on my bed, counting things out and coordinating and then I just throw a whole bunch of other clothes in, because, anything can happen, and switch to a checked bag.
I’m fortunate in that I’ve done quite a bit of public speaking in my life, and I love to hang out with people who love books.
Can you tell us about some of your most memorable gifts from fans while on tour?
Once in Texas I mentioned that I am most fond of salsa, and a fan who owned a specialty foods company sent me a whole array of salsas and sauces from blistering hot to relatively mild.

SYNOPSIS: Alyssa ana'Raisa is the reluctant princess heir to the Gray Wolf throne of Fells, a queendom embroiled in a seemingly endless war. Hardened by too many losses, Lyss is more comfortable striking with a sword than maneuvering at court. After a brush with death, she goes on the offensive, meaning to end the war that has raged her whole life. If her gamble doesn't pay off, she could lose her queendom before she even ascends to the throne.

Across enemy lines in Arden, young rising star Captain Halston Matelon has been fighting for his king since he was a lýtling. Lately, though, he finds himself sent on ever more dangerous assignments. Between the terrifying rumors of witches and wolfish warriors to the north and his cruel king at home, Hal is caught in an impossible game of life and death.

Set in the world of the acclaimed Seven Realms series, this is a thrilling story of the unfathomable costs of war, the allure of dark magic, and two principled and conflicted characters, drawn together despite everything they stand to lose.

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Cinda Williams Chima grew up with talking animals and kick-butt Barbies. She began writing poetry and stories in third grade and novels in junior high school. These days she writes fantasy fiction for teens of all ages. Her Heir Chronicles contemporary fantasy series includes The Warrior Heir (2006), The Wizard Heir (2007), The Dragon Heir (2008), The Enchanter Heir (2013) and The Sorcerer Heir (2014).
Chima’s high fantasy Seven Realms series launched with The Demon King (2009), followed by The Exiled Queen (September, 2010) The Gray Wolf Throne (2011) and The Crimson Crown (2012).  Both series have been New York Times bestsellers.
Chima’s Shattered Realms high fantasy four-book series is forthcoming from HarperCollins. The series debut, Flamecaster, was published by HarperCollins in April 2016.  The sequel, Shadowcaster, is scheduled to release in April 4, 2017.
Chima’s books have received starred reviews in Kirkus and VOYA, among others. They have been named Booksense and IndieNext picks, an International Reading Association Young Adult Choice, a New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age, to the Kirkus Best YA list, and the VOYA Editors’ Choice, Best Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror, and Perfect Tens lists. Her books also appear on numerous state awards lists and won the Buckeye Teen Book Award in 2011.
Chima was a recipient of the 2008 Lit Award for Fiction from the Cleveland Lit and was named a Cleveland Magazine Interesting Person 2009. She lives in Ohio with her family, and is always working on her next novel.
Find Chima online at or She is on Facebook at and on Twitter @cindachima and her Instagram tag is cindachima.  

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

'Waiting On' Wednesday #24: The Midnight Star by Marie Lu

So many of my favorite series come to an end this year! The third book of the "Young Elites" series - The Midnight Star - though, it is definitely one of my most anticipated "the end" reads. When Marie Lu unveiled the cover, the sensation that coming was a definitive closing to this story and that it will be painful. Even she was surprised by how much changed from start to finish in her completion of The Midnight Star, her keen sense of saying goodbye felt momentous to her. (queue symphonic sad song)

Lu posted this quote, which… what?! Break my heart, why don’t you?! Oh God, there will be sobbing no doubt when I finally finish this book.

“Teren smiles at me. His voice echoes in the chamber, low and smoky. ‘Mi Adelinetta.’ ” —The Midnight Star

When Lu spoke to Mashable about the ending, she didn’t hesitate to talk about her style of writing off the cuff. I have also talked to her about this way of writing and how sometimes it even throws her off what she thought might be how the story would turn out. If anything, it does give an air of chaos and unpredictability to her plot. Which will kill us all this time around, right?!

“I am a pantser writer [a writer who works without a story outline], so I don’t always know where my stories are going to end up. The ending for The Midnight Star is quite different from the original ending that I had envisioned, which makes me a little nervous. I hope that readers will like it. I didn’t really see it coming until kind of recently. I am guessing that surprise will carry over to the reader as well.” – Marie Lu

Good news is that there will be more romance, sibling interaction and Adeline in full on bad-guy mode in The Midnight Star. As always, the line between good and evil becomes blurred and will not make it easy for readers picking sides. Of course, that said, Lu knows redemption needs a way to happen because Adeline is too much of a hero even if her heart’s been chained away by darkness.

  • Title: The Midnight Star
  • Publisher: G. P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
  • Publishing date: October 11, 2016
  • Author(s): Marie Lu
  • Series: Young Elites

There was once a time when darkness shrouded the world, and the darkness had a queen.

Adelina Amouteru is done suffering. She’s turned her back on those who have betrayed her and achieved the ultimate revenge: victory. Her reign as the White Wolf has been a triumphant one, but with each conquest her cruelty only grows. The darkness within her has begun to spiral out of control, threatening to destroy all that she’s achieved.

Adelina’s forced to revisit old wounds when a new danger appears, putting not only Adelina at risk, but every Elite and the very world they live in. In order to save herself and preserve her empire, Adelina and her Roses must join the Daggers on a perilous quest—though this uneasy alliance may prove to be the real danger.

Bestselling author Marie Lu concludes Adelina's story with this haunting and hypnotizing final installment to the Young Elites series.
As always thanks to Breaking the Spine for hosting.

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Tuesday, July 12, 2016

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: Melissa de la Cruz Has ‘Golden’ Touch in 2016 with Five Book Releases

I've received three books of five that Melissa de la Cruz will release in 2016. She and her husband, Michael Johnston, put out the last novel in the Heart of Dread series – Golden – and fans are calling it an “epic conclusion.” On the same day, Surviving High School, which de la Cruz penned along with social media mega-star Lele Pons found a spot on bookstore shelves. But there’s still more awesome to come!
May 24th, de la Cruz put out Return to the Isle of the Lost, the Descendants sequel finding its way to the public and already taking up space on my daughter's shelf. Her new YA contemporary novel, Something in Between, which launches a new Seventeen magazine imprint with HarlequinTEEN, comes out on September 27th, and Double Eclipse, the sequel to Triple Moon in the Summer on East End YA series, out November 8th.
If that were not enough to keep de la Cruz busy, she is an active planner in the YallWest Santa Monica Festival, which took place April 29th through May 1st.
So what do you ask someone that tied up in literary goodness? Oh you know, just the usual… like what’s your favorite color? Trust us, we were stumped too, which is why without any more further ado, let’s chat with Melissa de la Cruz.
Favorite color and why?
Fuchsia, mostly because I like that it’s hard to spell and pronounce. Also, who can say no to hot pink?
Do you write with music on or off?
Off. Silence is golden.
Speaking of music, what is your favorite earworm right now? What song can you not stop listening to…
Oy, so many but lately I have been singing Heart Attack by Demi Lovato especially the lines “When I don’t care, I can play them like a Ken doll, won’t wash my haaaiiirrr and make them BOUNCE LIKE A BASKETBALL!!” I love that song, especially how he makes her “wanna act like a girl, paint my nails and wear high heels.” I think it’s my philosophy of love really, how one can feel armored up and genderless (what is a ‘girl’ anyway) and then you fall in love and all of a sudden you feel softer and sweeter, and you realize that’s what love is all about and how awesome it is to be feminine. I guess I’m a bit old-fashioned maybe, but thank god only one guy makes me feel like that and I’m already married to him. You don’t get to be successful without being a little bit of a bulldozer and a battle-ax but with the right guy, I’m a mermaid. Ha!
If you could sit down and have tea or coffee with one of your characters, who would you choose and why? You’ve sort of already had the chance, right? How was it meeting Dove Cameron? Did she feel like Mal to you in some ways?
Definitely! Oh Dove and I had SO MUCH FUN promoting Isle of the Lost together, we really bonded on our love for villains. She’s such a strong role model for kids and I’m so proud of her. I think I’d like to hang out with Schuyler, Jack, Oliver, Mimi and the Blue Bloods crew. It would be cool to meet them, and we’d have cocktails at a fancy New York hotel.
By the way, have you seen the second Descendants film yet? Or had a chance to visit the set?
I just got the script! Production isn’t for a while yet, but I’m looking forward to visiting for sure!
How was planning YallWest? How is it different from a convention?
We are a festival, not a convention, as we wanted to keep entrance free, and it is a charity and way to give back to our community while celebrating our author community. Planning is going well and we have such a great slate and so much fun programming this year, including a Quidditch game and building robots and meeting awesome storymakers from Hollywood. We’re so excited!
Is there anything in particular you remember making you stand out in high school? How did you survive those years? Any advice from that time of your life that you treasure even today? 
I was class president and I was the smartest kid in my class, but I lost out on valedictorian because my French teacher finally realized I could not speak French and gave me a B+ my last semester instead of the usual A minus. I survived by reading a lot of books and escaping into fantasy worlds and also knowing without a doubt that things would get better for me. I just had to bide my time. All those things that matter in high school are so shallow – how rich your parents are, how fast you are with boys, drinking, partying, you can do all those things later. I knew that that one day I wouldn’t be stuck in a school full of debutantes and I would meet people who were intense, intellectual and compassionate just like me. The vapidity of those years is what I remember the most. I remember maybe one of my teachers telling me that high school sucks for smart people, but the rest of my life would be amazing, and he was right. He also said I was going to be a writer. High school honors English teachers are the best people in the world.

· SURVIVING HIGH SCHOOL, which de la Cruz wrote with social media mega-star Lele Pons (10.6m Vine followers, 4.6m Instagram followers, 2m Facebook fans, and 492K Twitter followers), was published by Gallery Books on April 5, 2016.  A fish-out-of-water story of a girl navigating the wilds of high school, the novel follows Lele as she goes from being bullied to the most popular girl in school, inspired by Lele’s real life experiences and popular Vine videos and handcrafted with Melissa’s literary skills.
FIND IT: Amazon | B&N | Goodreads

· GOLDEN, which de la Cruz wrote with her husband Michael Johnston, was published by Putnam also on April 5, 2016.  This is the action-packed finale to the couple’s Heart of Dread YA fantasy trilogy.  GOLDEN exemplifies de la Cruz’s knack for reinventing a familiar genre and transforming it into a highly original adventure filled with romance, mystery and magic.
FIND IT: Amazon | B&N | Goodreads
Melissa de la Cruz is the #1 New York TimesUSA Today, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times and Publishers Weekly internationally bestselling author of many critically acclaimed novels, including The Isle of the Lost: A Descendants Novel and Triple Moon: Summer on East End. Her Blue Bloods series has sold over three million copies, and her Witches of East End series became an hour-long television drama on the Lifetime network.
Michael Johnston is Melissa’s husband and co-creator of the Blue Bloods and Witches of East End series. The first book in his epic fantasy series will be published by Tor in 2017. Melissa and Michael live with their daughter in Los Angeles and Palm Springs, California.
Lele Pons was born in Caracas, Venezuela and moved with her family to Miami when she was five years old. She got her start when she created a page on the video-sharing app Vine in December 2013. Originally intended as a fun outlet to showcase her creativity, her vines evolved into comedic sketches and pulling practical jokes on family and friends. Her following grew from five thousand local followers to more than ten million by November 2015. 
Today she is one of the most recognizable names on social media, and has been featured in Vanity FairThe New York TimesTeen VogueTime, and more. Lele has been nominated for three Teen Choice Awards, a People’s Choice Award, and a Streamy Award. In 2015, she was invited to the White House by First Lady Michelle Obama to help launch her campaign for disadvantaged kids to go to college. Lele graduated from high school in 2015 and currently resides in Los Angeles, CA.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

AUTHOR(S) SPOTLIGHT: Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl ~ An Unstoppable Force of Two (Video Interview)

Margaret Stohl and Kami Garcia are burning up the best-seller lists with their Caster Chronicles and new spin-off Dangerous Creatures series, however, these two authors have standalone projects too. Don’t forget they have other projects where their name only features individually on those novels.
For a detailed interview and an inside look at their literary beginnings, check out Part I of this interview.
Now for the super fun part… live video interview:

Oh and a purple-streaked silver-haired foxy author appeared. Zac Brewer who lived in St. Louis, came out to chat and add another perspective to the interview. These three are amazing authors, but wait... there's another extra bonus! Sarah Jude, who also, lives in St. Louis, came out to fangirl with us.

Also, many thanks to the Daniel Boone Branch of the St. Louis Libraries for hosting the event and Ridley Pearson, the moderator of the night, for asking some great questions. Check out this cute video to see what he is up to right now.

AUTHOR(S) SPOTLIGHT: Kami Garcia & Margaret Stoh ~ An Unstoppable Force of Two (Part I)

After meeting Kamie Garcia and Margaret Stohl, it's hard to focus on anything but their immeasurable talent. Together they come across -- loud, brash, outspoken and opinionated. These two ladies skyrocketed to the top of charts, together and now separately. They earned their place in literary celebrity with hard work, time and energy well placed in others. Their social media lit up with  encouragement for others, inspirational go-get-'em sayings and personal tidbits of what gets their writing revved up. It's a beautiful sight to behold, and so are they! Do hope that my introduction to them, if this time is your first time meeting them, comes across as awesome as it was for me. Such amazing ladies deserve a grand entrance, which is what I tried giving them with this write-up.


You know what the beginning of a beautiful friendship is?
Advocacy… no really that’s what it is. Trust me. Because if you haven’t heard the whole story of how Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl became a match made in literary heaven, then you are missing out on one heck of a good story.
Now if Margaret (Margo, Marg… Margie… take your pick) is to be believed, her daughter was the seventh demon spawn of the seventh generation of the seventh… just joking, only apparently Margaret’s daughter was misunderstood at school and only Kami knew how to champion her. I say that’s what good teachers do, isn’t it? Find students who need an advocate, someone who understands the battle they’re facing every day and gets up and fights for them. So if I sound a little enamored of Kami’s badassery, it’s because I am and because Margaret totally sells her that way.
In return, Margaret not only discovered a good teacher (Kami taught for 17 years.) but a lively, outspoken fangirl who would humor her. A die-hard Susan Cooper – The Dark is Rising Sequence fan, Margaret yearned for someone who got her deep-rooted love of sci-fi/fantasy and her need to meet, discuss and prank call Harrison Ford. (Yes, yes, Margaret admits to prank-calling Harrison Ford’s home. She also nearly brought me to tears when she began reciting from memory the prophecy from the Dark is Rising because that was the second book I mary-sued myself into… of course after Sherlock – yes it’s always Sherlock with me!)
These ladies fostered 11 years of friendship before they came full bloom into the publishing powerhouse of two they are now! And the rest is history as they say.
Mostly developed from a dare on Margaret’s precocious but brilliant daughter, Beautiful Creatures turned into a family affair that would span four books and a movie before these two ladies really grasped the magnitude of the Caster’s Chronicles. Sitting on looooong international flights gives one time to think and chat… Kami spent her birthday the year of Beautiful Creatures [movie] release in Paris while Margaret would spend hers in Rome. These jet-setting ways gave them loads of time to gossip, and like every good writer knows, who best to talk about than the fictional characters you love. And so they did, again and again and made up more, newer stories and revisited characters who they suspected had so much more to tell and eventually… duh! It clicked and they realized while Beautiful Redemption was the ending to just one portion of the Chronicles, they had a whole bunch of other characters just begging for a voice.

And so, to the relief of fans everywhere, Dangerous Creatures was born into existence – transitioning with two e-novellas… Dream Dark and Dangerous Dream. A new, funnier dynamic, but still steeped in the Caster world, The Dangerous Creatures series will take place in different locations, the first in New York City and will feature all new supernatural creatures not known to readers before now.
This carefully constructed world – a supernatural existence – in the Caster Chronicles resides solely in the minds of Kami and Margaret. Together, they make up the rules that govern this world and try their hardest not to pull from familiar folklore or mythology. It gives their work the edge and originality they need so in the perfect balance of ‘them’ – a writing team so dynamic that they do not discuss much or worry about the deletions each other might make – they can be free to edit and create as they like. Margaret focused on the internal with Kami focused on the external. Ying and yang at its finest unless joking around and then Kami’s the murderer and Margaret is the feelings girl… but seriously… what book isn’t made of all the feels if it is good? And you cannot feel properly without the crap hitting the fan in some god-awful ways, yeah?!

These two partners-in-writing enjoy paying careful attention to character and plot. They choose to write commercial fiction, meaning they desire readers to want and fan their books whenever possible. The reactions secondary to the realization they’ve made their mark on someone – either it be hating or loving. Readers have felt something because of the words they have written. A dream each of them have long attained together.
So it shouldn’t come as a surprise, that these two authors pushed each other into fulfilling the dream of writing a novel. Yes, I said writing a novel, because as Margaret put it, they had not really written a novel… standalone. They’ve always written together and for some reason that didn’t count in her mind as actually writing a novel. It was too much fun and she had all the backup that an author doesn’t usually have when writing a novel on their own.
Kami wasn’t as sure of this endeavor, but as the two of them and friends are wont to do, Margaret demanded that if she had to write a standalone novel, that Kami should too. Not that they didn’t think either could do it; it was just a lot more added to their already busy schedules. However, mind made up, Margaret forged ahead and wrote Icons which has already been optioned for a film [same people who did Beautiful Creatures will be producing] and the second book, Idols, along with tackling Marvel's enigmatic Black Widow, all on her own. Kami followed along, more hesitant, but just as prolifically with UnBreakable (book 1 of the Legion Series) and the second, UnMarked, while getting to try her hand on her own with just as revered character from the silver screen. Agent Mulder from the X-Files gets a YA make-over from The Lovely Reckless author.
Together, I do believe these two ladies are UnStoppable (pardon the pun). But then again, friends… friends should advocate for each other and most people are lucky to have friendships around 10 years of age, much less the 20+ years these two have together. Even fewer, are the people who can say with certainty my life has been made all the better with you in it.
So yeah, do Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl have the best of both worlds… they do and then some… they have the best of worlds… of their own-making.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: Tell the Wind and Fire by Sarah Rees Brennan

  • Title: Tell the Wind and Fire
  • Publisher: Clarion Books
  • Publishing date: April 5, 2016
  • Author(s): Sarah Rees Brennan
  • Series: Standalone
  • Rating: Going Bananas! 

Quote Me: A romanticized, modern gothic tale of light versus dark that finds inspiration in a Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. Tell the Wind and Fire is masterfully told in multiple POVs. The magical mayhem stirred up requires no previous knowledge of the classic it is based upon, but needs readers to have a heart for the voiceless. This story offers a poignant look at what happens when people attempt being the change in the world without calling upon mercy, integrity and justice in tandem.
“Sarah Rees Brennan writes with fine control and wit, and I suspect that word of this magical thriller will pass through the populace with the energy of wind, of fire.” —Gregory Maguire, author of WickedIn a city divided between opulent luxury in the Light and fierce privations in the Dark, a determined young woman survives by guarding her secrets.

Lucie Manette was born in the Dark half of the city, but careful manipulations won her a home in the Light, celebrity status, and a rich, loving boyfriend. Now she just wants to keep her head down, but her boyfriend has a dark secret of his own—one involving an apparent stranger who is destitute and despised. Lucie alone knows the young men’s deadly connection, and even as the knowledge leads her to make a grave mistake, she can trust no one with the truth.

Blood and secrets alike spill out when revolution erupts. With both halves of the city burning, and mercy nowhere to be found, can Lucie save either boy—or herself?
DISCOVER IT: Tell the Wind and Fire | Amazon | B&N | Goodreads
What Stood Out: In appreciation of the spirit of Charles Dickens, Tell the Wind and Fire pulls out all the emotional stops. The have and have nots go at it, but the morality of who has the higher ground gets confused because humanity never sleeps. When humans strive to better themselves, without relying on the good to be found in the world, no one can make a difference. Instead they focus on revenge, hate and getting back at those who have held the keys to their imprisonment. Granted everyone probably in some time of their lives ends up on the victim end of things in this world, however, we must rise above it all, and find it in ourselves to fight back without hurting others in the process.
What I Liked: The fine line between who is right and who is wrong here cannot be demarcated. Such a hard concept to grasp when things seem so black and white. It is what stands out, but also, makes this story feel heartbreakingly realistic. The romance crippled by people being more or less than what they seem. And even if you haven’t read A Tale of Two Cities, Brennan gives a modern feel to the old world spirit imbibed by this gothic, modern thriller. Lucia deserves our attention, for us to root for her because she alone sees everyone for their potential to change and be changed for the better… well… until she doesn’t. Her learned lesson hauntingly stuck with me.
Would this book work as a movie? Do you need to even ask me?! The imagery of the two worlds, and the magical cages to torture and kill prisoners of war will stick with me. Vivid and larger than life, both Ethan and Carwyn, would make a stark contrast with Lucie’s golden self onscreen. And the societal warning to not be governed by your emotions when meting out social justice rings true and something that could do a world of good for those who take the time to listen.
What I Did Not Like: Omigosh, Brennan tries to ruin me for cupcakes! Not in all seriousness… because for real, who doesn’t like cupcakes even if they pull up memories of fictional characters sharing a cupcake as if it is their last moment in time to be happy?!
About Sarah Rees Brennan:
Born and raised in Ireland by the sea, where her teachers valiantly tried to make her fluent in Irish (she wants you to know it’s not called Gaelic) but she chose to read books under her desk in class instead. The books most often found under her desk were Jane Austen, Margaret Mahy, Anthony Trollope, Robin McKinley and Diana Wynne Jones, and she still loves them all today.
After college she lived briefly in New York and somehow survived in spite of her habit of hitching lifts in fire engines. She began working on The Demon’s Lexiconwhile doing a Creative Writing MA and library work in Surrey, England. Since then she has returned to Ireland to write and use as a home base for future adventures. Her Irish is still woeful, but she feels the books under the desk were worth it.