Black Wings Beating: A Review

Hello Readers & Writers,

I was beyond fortunate to receive an ARC of Black Wings Beating by Alex London due to publish in September 2018 from Farrar Straus Giroux in exchange for an honest review. If you’ve never read anything by Alex London, I say finish this review and immediately pick up his stellar young adult sci-fi duology titles, Proxy and Guardian. I read them a few years ago and I still think about those books/offer them as recommendations.

When I found out Alex London was publishing another YA book, I squealed, and after having finished it, I can say it’s SO, SO, SOO, good. Before we dive into the review, which will be spoiler free, here’s a brief summary of the book.

BlackWingsBeatingFalconers are a group of people who call, train, and raise birds – a highly praised talent in Uztar. Brysen and Kylee are twins, Brysen who has trained for years to be a Falconer and Kylee who has a gift she doesn’t want and is ashamed of using. The book starts after the loss of their father, who was a terrible person, and a lot of the twin’s behaviors ties into their relationship with their parents.

A war, unknown but whispered about between the Uztar people, is on the rise and it’s in that environment the twins set out to capture a Ghost Eagle. For Brysen, he goes to save the boy he loves. For Kylee, she goes to protect her brother and come face to face with the mistakes of her past.

What I enjoyed about Black Wings Beating the most was the complex duality between Brysen and Kylee. While themes of this novel are power, one’s upbringing, and hard decisions, the plot centers around the relationship between the twins. Brysen and Kylee are constantly on edge with one another because they each have a trait the other is lacking. Kylee is everything Brysen wants to be and Brysen has this vulnerability and simplicity that Kylee wants. These differences have placed them in a relationship that snaps and bends more than it works together, but when it does, it tugs at your heart strings. At the end of the day, Kylee and Brysen do love each other. It merely takes time and a lot of struggle to realize it. These are not your ordinary siblings and their complexity makes them memorable.

Another aspect I loved about this book was the writing. Alex London crafts an extraordinary world that enhances the fantasy genre and brings the reader into the action early on. You get beautiful writing, a great depth of character expression, and small snapshots at the end of each section that set up for what’s to come.

You also get vivid descriptions of birds – so much so they become characters of their own. They’re also epic and monstrous and terrifying. You can see how much effort and research was put into not only building this world, but every other detail to make it as real as possible.

This book is a must read and you should not be sleeping on Alex London’s work.

Black Wings Beating gets a solid 5/5 feathers from me.

Xx

Megan

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Book Expo 2018: The Day Megan Told Her Anxiety to Shove It

Hello Readers & Writers,

I had the wonderful opportunity of attending Book Expo 2018 and wanted to share some of the fun with all of you. Upon attending, there were three goals I set for myself:

  1. Meet some bookish people and authors.
  2. Get books and swag.
  3. Network – aka me spending an hour making my business cards as perfect as they can be.

Prior to every convention, I make a schedule of things I want to do. This year, I had written it on post it notes and tucked them into a pouch where I had my Book Expo pass, business cards, a pen, and my phone. Yes, this was a very big pouch that hung from my neck, but it had everything I needed.

2Day one of Book Expo was me dressed in gothic af attire, scoping out where all the publishers were, and meeting so many bloggers. The perk about waiting in lines is talking to people not only helps pass the time, but you get to chat about books, work, favorite reads, and everything in between. You also find yourself running into these people throughout the day and they become your conference buddies. (Shout out to @CarolinaBookB on twitter for being an awesome friend.)

I also got to meet Kelly Barina – someone I had spoken to on twitter many times and just so happened to find on the same line as me for the Wildcard ARC drop. On top of that I chatted with Claribel Ortega – who is beyond approachable and sweet – about her debut (Ghost Squad coming 2019), how she was handling the crowds, and how pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and reaching out really helps you network in publishing. After that, I spoke with Meg LaTorre, another person I frequently interacted with on twitter and she was beyond wonderful in person. Seeing twitter people at events like this really reinforces the book community and those bonds you’ve already formulated online.

3Aside from being the first person on line for Wildcard by Marie Lu (still shocked tbh), going around to every publisher and passing out my business cards was a highlight for me. I’m a pretty shy person and I urged myself to push past my social anxiety to ask questions and make connections. Thankfully, everyone was beyond nice and willing to answer my questions as well as pass on my business cards to the right departments.

In case you didn’t know, I review Young Adult books, provide sensitivity reads, comp research, as well as freelance edit for YA and MG titles. I know – sometimes I wonder how I sleep too.

Bless the people who work for books and love them.

Also, bless the people who were okay with me going “Hi, I’m awkward, but I’m so happy to meet you.”

1Day two of Book Expo was equally as exciting. I was dressed less goth, but donned a gold crown in order to rep King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo – the amount of compliments on the crown were beyond entertaining. I also got to meet Joan He whose book, Descendant of the Crane, is coming out in 2019 and Caitlin LaRue – another twitter friend. I spent a lot of time with Amanda Foody (author of Daughter of the Burning City and Ace of Shades) and Christine Herman (author of The Devouring Gray coming out 2019), authors who I beyond admire and am excited for any and all books they write. They’re my selfie buddies in the above photo :D.

Onto the giddy part of me. Here’s a list of amazing books I was able to get:

What If It’s Us by Adam Silvera and Becky Albertalli

City of Ghosts by V.E. Schwab

The Wicked King by Holly Black

Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor

The Priori of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

Overall, Book Expo was a wonderful success and I hope to attend next year and have an even better time. To those considering the convention, I recommend going if you’re able to (note: there are a handful of volunteer opportunities prior to the event that give you free access to the show) and meeting some of your book buddies along the way.

Xx

Megan

Time Travel Confirmed: Q&A with Naomi Hughes

Hello Readers & Writers,

Joining me on the blog today is Naomi Hughes, author of Afterimage which comes out September 18th, 2018 from Page Street Publishing. This is Naomi’s debut novel and it involves ghosts, conspiracy theories, and a race against time.

Before I kick off the interview, here is a synopsis of Afterimage.

37941939.jpgA horrific explosion levels part of the city and Camryn Kingfisher is the sole survivor.

Amidst controversy, conspiracy theories, and threats from government officials, Camryn longs for the truth. But the only person who she can turn to is a transparent boy in a lab coat named Quint. Unsure whether he’s a hallucination or a ghost, Camryn has no choice but to trust him as they become embroiled in a plot that is bigger than either of them realize.

In a race where the fabric of time and space is at stake, they must figure out who caused the explosion before the culprit comes back to finish Camryn―and her city―off for good.

Amazon / Barnes and Noble / IndieBound 

 

1. Before we start off, I want to say thank you so much for joining me on the blog today! First question: does being an editor impact your writing process? As an editor too, I find that I often have to shut off my editor brain in order to get words on the page.

Naomi: Hey! Thanks so much for having me. I’m excited to get to chat with you about Afterimage. These look like some really fun questions, so let’s dive in!

Being an editor has, for the most part, been hugely beneficial for my writing. I have a lot of amazing clients and by pinpointing areas of underdeveloped potential for them, I also help form more ideas about how to better develop my own work too.

On the downside, it can absolutely be difficult to shut off my editor brain. It sometimes helps to write early in the morning when my brain is coherent enough to write but not yet critical enough to stop me before I’ve started. It also helps when I can keep a light editorial workload during the periods when I’m drafting a new story, so my brain doesn’t have to switch between writer-Naomi and editor-Naomi too frequently.

2. How did the idea for Afterimage form? Did it come in pieces, hit you all at once, or something else?

Naomi: Afterimage started off as a tiny amoeba of inspiration and very, verrrry slowly evolved into what it is today. It took multiple forms in between, each of which looked like a completely different story, and I cut maybe around five times as much material (actual drafted scenes as well as random notebook brainstorming) as I ended up including.

3. Which of your characters do you relate to the most and why?

Naomi: I definitely relate most to Camryn. She and I both have Panic Disorder, annoying but ultimately loveable brothers (don’t tell mine I called him loveable), and a strong desire to do the right thing.

4. I saw this challenge going around twitter and I found it hilarious so, describe the plot of your book badly.

Naomi: A girl hop-scotches through alternate timelines with her see-through maybe-boyfriend. They do physics, eat pie, and occasionally jump off cliffs.

5. Did you have to do research for Afterimage and if so, what’s a cool fact you learned?

Naomi: I did do research, and it was SO interesting. The two main areas I looked into were Panic Disorder and time travel. One of the most interesting things I learned but didn’t get to include was that time travel is possible, and in fact has already happened—but only travel to the future, not the past.

Speed and gravity both slow time, so if you were able to travel at close to the speed of light, or hang out near a black hole (which I don’t recommend), minutes would pass for you while years pass for everyone else. Astronauts are all time travelers; they travel so quickly while in orbit that they come back home having aged microseconds less than their friends on the ground.

6. Are there any shows, media, or books that influenced the creation of Afterimage?

Naomi: Absolutely. Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Cosmos show and StarTalk podcast gave me quite a lot of science-y inspiration, and there were many shows and movies that contributed to the tone and general geekery of Afterimage. Among them were Doctor Who, BBC’s Sherlock, Avatar: The Last Airbender, the Marvel superhero movies, and plenty of others that I Easter-egged throughout the book.

7. I saw you’re a fan of time traveling doctors so I have to ask – who’s your favorite Doctor?

Naomi: In my acknowledgements I mention Matt Smith as my favorite Doctor (I even got one of his lines—“We’re all stories”—tattooed on my arm to celebrate my book deal). Lately, though, I have to admit that season 9-10 Capaldi is pretty dang amazing. And now Jodie Whittaker is about to start her reign and I don’t know, can I just have three favorites? *clutches doctors*

8. Huge lover of Marvel here too so – favorite Marvel comic, show, or movie? (Or all three).

Naomi: Thor: Ragnarok forever!!! Also if I can pick a favorite character: Loki. Or maybe Valkyrie. No, Doctor Strange! Or Ruffalo’s Hulk??

9. What’s something you hope readers take away from your book?

Naomi: That bravery is not the absence of fear, but action in the face of it.


About the Author

Naomi Hughes author pic

Naomi Hughes grew up all over the U.S. before finally settling in the Midwest, a place she loves even though it tries to murder her with tornadoes every spring. She writes quirky young adult fiction full-time and works as a freelance editor. In her free time she likes to read, travel with her husband and daughter, and geek out over British TV and Marvel superheroes.

Twitter: twitter.com/naomihughesYA
Website: naomihughes.net

 

 


So after all of this talk about time travel,  A+ inspirations, and a really cool plot, I am urging you to put Afterimage on your radar. It won’t disappoint! And once again, a huge thank you to Naomi for joining me.

Until next time,

Megan

Book Conventions: A How To Guide

Hi Readers & Writers,

With book convention season upon us, I thought I’d compile some tips and tricks to navigating conventions. I’ve both attended and worked behind the booth so hopefully this list will be able to help you out whether you’re a first time attendee or a frequent show goer.

stock-photo-memories-keys-trinkets-lanyard-ignition-iphone-8e5fd4fa-5961-41db-935d-16b09fa76151

Source: Twenty20.com 

1. Dress Comfortably. There are going to be a lot of people around and the last thing you want is to overheat in the first hour. I always opt for good ole quality cotton and dresses (with pockets) because bless pockets.

2. WATER IS YOUR BEST FRIEND. This circles back to point one, but aside from overheating, you’re going to do a lot of running around. You’d be surprised how quickly dehydration sets in.

3. Try to Arrive Early. For conventions like Book Con, there’s going to be a line alongside a bag check. Take the time you need to eat, park if you’re driving, and prepare yourself for the day.

4. Plan What You Want to See in Advance!! Trust me – this will save you so much time. I would also recommend highlighting what you absolutely don’t want to miss. Chances of doing everything on your list are low between crowds and wait time.

5. Learn the Layout. Spend a few minutes locating all the booths and author signings you’re interested in. This will ground you and save time later.

6. Budget, Budget, Budget. Food and drinks are always overpriced in convention halls. Be prepared for that. But also, be prepared for all of the glorious things you’re going to want to buy.

7. Be Prepared to Wait, A Lot. Between panels and ARC drops, sometimes you’ll need to line up an hour, maybe two in advance. Factor that into your schedule and what you need to either be standing or sitting for long periods.

8. Pack Light Initially. This will save your shoulders and back as you continue to collect swag and books.

Warning: grabbing everything you can may and likely will happen.

9. TAKE BREAKS. Make sure you take time to sit, recharge, and mentally/physically recompose yourself. You’re going to get tired quicker than you normally would.

At book con day two last year, I had a migraine. You can imagine how that went.

10. Make Friends! You’re going to be surrounded by book people. Most of them are super friendly and it’ll be easy to strike up conversations while waiting in line.

11. Respect Boundaries. This applies to convention goers, authors, and booth workers. Ask before taking photos or engaging in any physical contact (hand shakes, hugs, etc.). Every person has a different comfort level.

12. Have Your Badge Visible At All times! You’ll need this to enter the convention hall, but also for book drops and events. In Book Con specifically, they scan your badge before giving you whatever it is you’re lined up for.

13. Pushing Gets You Nowhere. I know there are a lot of cool things at conventions, but you don’t want to be that person.

14. Thank the Workers! It gets hectic and they’re working several days in a row to keep the show together.

Last year there was a wonderful Harper Collins woman who cleared a very crowded aisle and I thanked her once I got to the front of the line. Her smile was heartwarming.

15. If You Want to Network, I Highly Recommend Business Cards. They’re an easy way to have all your important information in one place and pass on after talking with someone.

Protip: Keep some business cards tucked behind your name tag if you’re wearing a lanyard.

16. Know the Rules. Author signings require a separate ticket from general admission (at least for Book Con). You will register for these before the con itself and they will not cost you anything – unless it’s a special entertainment guest. Every person, I believe, gets two signings per day.

17. Check Twitter. A lot of pub houses will tweet about contests, book drops, and author signings during shows. Turn on notifications so you can stay up to date.

18. Have fun! Get those books and swag and take tons of pictures.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to leave them below.

Xx

Megan

Blog Bound 2018

Hello Readers and Writers,

I have a super exciting announcement and that is: I’m going to be a panelist at Blog Bound!!!! For those of you who don’t know what Blog Bound is, it’s a free event in New York City created by bloggers for the blogging/writing community. From 5:00pm – 8:00pm at the Jefferson Market Library, you can chat with others in the industry as well as attend a few awesome panels that will be happening during these hours. For more details on the event, click here

blogbound 2018 twitter with link

So what panel will I be on at Blog Bound? Well, me, along with several others, will be discussing how to get past reading and creative slumps from 5:15pm – 6:00pm. Seeing as this is my first ever panel, I am both terrified and excited to dive in and speak about my experiences and tactics to overcome such a frustrating aspect of the creative world. I am crossing my fingers and toes it goes well, though I expect good things with such supportive people around me.

If you happen to be in New York City at that time, I’d love to see you there!

Xx

Megan

Bruja Born: A Review

Hi Readers & Writers,

I was beyond fortunate to receive an ARC of Bruja Born by Zoraida Cordova due to publish June 2018 from Sourcebooks Fire in exchange for an honest review. After reading and falling in love with Labyrinth Lost, you couldn’t imagine how excited I was to follow another one of the Mortiz sisters.

Note: There will be no spoilers so no need to click away. 

1.PNGWhereas Labyrinth Lost followed Alex Mortiz, Bruja Born follows her eldest sister Lula who is still adjusting to the fact her sister is an Encantrix and sent her along with the rest of her family to another world. Lula’s relationship with her sister is a complicated one and often met with tension. She prefers to dive into any other part of her life including school and her boyfriend Maks. When their relationship goes south, Lula is devastated, but has little time to process it when their school bus crashes leaving all of her classmates, including Maks, dead. Given the power to heal, Lula believes she can fix the damage she’s done – unprepared for the consequences.

If anyone knows my reading preferences, they’ll know I love a dark novel and Bruja Born was crafted out of shadows and darkness. I mean, it’s kind of about death (you’ve been warned in advance). Not only did it have fantastic prose, but you were able to see the desperation of Lula as she tried to save her boyfriend, the complexity between her and her family, the strength of her magic, but most importantly, her humanity. Love is a powerful emotion and when you combine that with the ability to heal, you can see where lines cross. Lula doesn’t always make the best choices, but you understand where she’s coming from.

I felt as if Bruja Born had an entirely different atmosphere than Labyrinth Lost, but it makes sense because so much has happened to this family since the first book. Though not exactly a sequel, it happens after the events of Los Lagos. You see the trauma of what Alex did ripple through the family, but also problems the family had yet to resolve in the beginning. These come out as Lula creates an even bigger conflict that throws her family, the magical community, and the world in danger.

I found Bruja Born tugging at my heart strings more often than once and it put Lula in front of beyond difficult situations. How do you fix what you’ve broken? How do you get over someone you love? How do you get past what hurt you? The world is never black and white and Zoraida does an amazing job crafting that for the reader. I devoured this book and was thrown on a roller-coaster of twists, turns, and emotions I hadn’t expected. You even get to revisit some old characters like Nova, but also learn a lot about other characters like Rose.

If you were hesitant about picking up this book, put that fear aside. You’re going to dive into a whole new story, but one that is well crafted and heartfelt.

Xx
Megan

When To Put A Book To Rest

No one’s writing journey is the same. Sometimes, a writer will land an agent after a few tries, while others will take a handful of manuscripts and false steps. Time doesn’t invalidate success and each writer will have a different story about how they reached their goal. Publishing weighs heavily on luck, the market, and what agents and editors have in their inboxes. A rejection does not always mean your story isn’t where it needs to be.

Seriously, I highly encourage writers to read blog posts by agents. They can help your mindset beyond words.

Bearing this in mind, writers can reach a crossroads where after so many unsuccessful attempts, a question arises – does this story need work or is it time to shelve it? The answer depends upon so many factors, but it’s an important thing to discuss. The story of one’s heart is not always the one that gets an agent or a book deal. Maybe it’s the second book of your heart or the fifth. Maybe it’s one you didn’t expect.

The bottom line is you need to do what’s best for you, your story, and what you want to achieve.

books-bookstore-book-reading-159711

If you plan to shelve a story, here are some things you should consider:

  1. Where are you in the revision process? Have you gone through multiple revisions from a variety of reliable people (critique partners, editors, agents) and it still hasn’t gotten requests or offers of representation?
  2. What’s the market like? What’s desired fluctuates. Maybe your story falls into a bracket that is no longer being asked for by the publishing industry. This doesn’t mean your story isn’t good. It just means the interest isn’t as current as it once was. Interests tend to come back around so your book may be relevant later as opposed to now.
  3. Are you wearing emotional blinders? Writing is and always will be personal. Has being attached to a story clouded your judgment? Separating yourself from the story could allow you to see what may or may not be working.
  4. Are you burnt out? Now, this isn’t always a factor that ties into shelving a story. Life could be stressful. A personal issue could prevent you from getting words down. You’re jumping between projects. What I’m referring to here is more specific. Has writing a story left you feeling more exhausted than happy? If you find you’re struggling with your love for a story or it seems to be draining you, leaving it alone may be what you need. What may have started off as a positive experience might have tipped into something you didn’t anticipate.
  5. Have your ambitions or goals changed? Another issue could be the story you began with isn’t the one you want to succeed or your views on it have shifted. Maybe you’ve decided to pursue a different genre or audience altogether. Maybe this story wasn’t what you hoped it would be. Shelving it to work on something you’re more excited/hopeful for could bring muse back and a newfound drive for the publishing process.

Of course, shelving a book will always be an intense and personal decision that is never easy. For some, it may hurt. For others, it may be a relief, but this is up to the writer and the writer alone.

Feel free to share your experiences if you’ve shelved a project. What made you decide this? How did you get through it? What are you working on now? No author has the same writing experience and it’s important to see the variety of paths.

Xx

Megan