SST Blog Tour: Mask of Shadows

Mask of Shadows

 

Hi Readers & Writers,

In case you couldn’t tell by the banner above, I am a part of the Sunday Street Team Mask of Shadows Blog Tour! If you haven’t read or heard of Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller, it’s time to change that. I was lucky to win an ARC and was immediately entranced by Sal, the darkness of The Left Hand, and some other secrets I won’t reveal here.

Synopsis:

Perfect for fantasy fans of Sarah J. Maas and Leigh Bardugo, the first book in this new duology features a compelling genderfluid main character, impressive worldbuilding, and fast-paced action.

Sallot Leon is a thief, and a good one at that. But genderfluid Sal wants nothing more than to escape the drudgery of life as a highway robber and get closer to the upper-class―and the nobles who destroyed their home.

When Sal steals a flyer for an audition to become a member of The Left Hand―the Queen’s personal assassins, named after the rings she wears―Sal jumps at the chance to infiltrate the court and get revenge.

But the audition is a fight to the death filled with clever circus acrobats, lethal apothecaries, and vicious ex-soldiers. A childhood as a common criminal hardly prepared Sal for the trials. And as Sal succeeds in the competition, and wins the heart of Elise, an intriguing scribe at court, they start to dream of a new life and a different future, but one that Sal can have only if they survive.

Now if that doesn’t intrigue you, maybe this will:

Tips on How to Survive The Left Hand Auditions (from Linsey’s unqualified perspective)

  1. Don’t Audition

I know it’s probably not the thing you won’t to hear but look: it’s a fight to the death with a bunch of killers and fighters and alchemist, and depending on how many people audition, your chances aren’t high. Unless you’re secretly like my mentor Jessie Devine and could probably fight your way out of Igna.

  1. No, really, there are tons of other cool jobs you could do that don’t involve a 99% chance of getting murdered.

While very few people auditioned for the earlier spots in the Left Hand, the quartet has gained a romantic reputation now that the war and recovery is barely a memory to some of the younger teens of Igna. That’s twenty people out to kill you.

Which is probably about twenty more people out to kill you than usual. I hope. I don’t know you’re life.

  1. Ok, we’re really doing this. Let’s go.

So there are two ways to go about the audition: let everyone kill everyone else off in order to survive to the end; throw yourself into the fray and try to kill everyone; or a mix of both (sort of what Sal did). It’s sort of like Skyrim where you start off as either sneaky, punchy, or magic-y (poison in this case), but unlike Skyrim, you don’t have to end up as a sneaky archer.

You can do whatever you’re best at to survive. Surviving, no matter how, is the key.

  1. Follow the rules.

The downside of survival is that sometimes you have to break the rules to survive. That doesn’t fly at auditions. A large part of what the Left Hand looks for is how you react to rules, orders, morality, and hard choices. The rules are there for a reason, and you can’t be caught breaking them if you want to

So either be a rule-obeying murderer or don’t get caught breaking the rules.

  1. Be nice.

Though it seems counter-intuitive, the Left Hand doesn’t want to work with jerks. As they explain to Sal, they have to like their newest colleague, and Our Queen wants trustworthy guards and assassins. The Left Hand aren’t calculating or cold murderers with no morals. They’re empathetic and kind, and they also happen to murder people on occasion when the safety of their people depends upon it. They have all mentally made a choice that killing a few will protect the many.

  1. Be prepared to murder people.

This may seem obvious, but the auditions is a fight to the death. It’s not something to be undertaken lightly. I’ve kept a flippant tone; however, the Left Hand and the auditioners kill people, and there are very real mental, physical, and emotional ramifications. Auditions should not be undertaken lightly.

  1. Or be prepared to split.

Just get out of there. Surviving auditions—even if you aren’t named a Left Hand member—is still a pretty huge accomplishment. Eat some good food, get some cool, new black clothes, and duck out of auditions with your life intact.

  1. Play to your strengths.

Look at you! You’ve got angles that work! Use them. If you’re the punchiest person this side of the Caracol, punch your way through auditions. If you’re the sneakiest, sneak your way through auditions. Own your strengths!

The auditions are a fight to the death filled with the best, and if you’re in them, it means you’re the best. Use that. Everyone has a strength. Everyone has the potential to survive. You can and you will.

Everything else you need to know about the author, where to buy Mask of Shadows, how to win a copy of the book, and to read other posts from those on the tour can be found below!

About the Author:

A wayward biology student from Arkansas, Linsey has previously worked as a crime lab intern, lab assistant, and pharmacy technician. Her debut novel MASK OF SHADOWS is the first in a fantasy duology coming in August 2017 from Sourcebooks Fire. She can be found writing about science and magic anywhere there is coffee.

Goodreads Link:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/29960675-mask-of-shadows

Preorder Links:

The Book Depository || Barnes and Noble || IndieBound || Amazon

Social Media:

Website: www.linseymiller.com
Tumblr: www.linseymiller.tumblr.com
Twitter: www.twitter.com/LinseyMiller
Instagram: www.instagram.com/linsey.miller/
Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/AuthorLinseyM/

 

 

GIVEAWAY DETAILS:

The Prize: 1 Copy of Mask Of Shadows by Linsey Miller

Open to US Residents Only


Here is the Rafflecopter Giveaway:

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/4197540e138
 

Tour Stops

9/3 Tour Stops

 

Interview – Emily Reads Everything

Unique Post  – Roecker Reviews

Review – Bayy In Wonderland

Review – Bookishly Thinking

9/10  Tour Stops

Interview – Tween 2 Teen Books

Review –Charmingly Simple

Review – Pondering The Prose

Interview  – When Curiosity Killed The Cat

9/17  Tour Stops

Interview – YA and Wine

Style Boards – Here’s To Happy Endings

Review – Areli Reads

Review – The Hermit Librarian

Interview – Sarcasm and Lemons

9/24 Tour Stops

Interview – Flyleaf Chronicles

Review –  Books N Calm

Review – A Thousand Words A Million Books

Guest Post – Written Infinities

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Forest of a Thousand Lanterns: A Review

Hello Readers & Writers,

I got the amazing chance to not only obtain an ARC of Forest of Thousand Lanterns at Book Expo, but meet the author Julie C. Dao. I didn’t know I would read her book first out of my TBR pile, but I’m so glad I did because it’s one of the best I’ve read this year, if not in the recent years.

There will be no major spoilers in this review, so feel free to keep reading.

The plot follows Xifeng, a girl who is stuck under her aunt’s harsh rules and cruelty. She believes, as well as her aunt, that she is destined for a greater life than being a common girl. She has beauty which others are envious of and a dark calling within her chest. When an opportunity arises to run away, Xifeng is swept up with one goal: to become the empress.

Capture

This lovely image, which I think captures the book so well, belongs to Christine Herman. You can find her on twitter: @christineexists

For those of you who don’t know, FOTL follows The Evil Queen from Snow White. But what we get as readers is an East Asian retelling with a wonderful cast of characters, poetry, and culture. I was taken with the world Julie created, not only for its beauty, but for every story she wove into the tale. There were lines in the text that were both haunting and well written. They created an eerie, alluring mood that made me unable to put the book down. If I could highlight each one that stuck with me, most of the book would be in bright yellow highlighter.

Then we have the characters. Xifeng is an anti-hero. I think that is the best way to put it. Julie C. Dao breaks the mold of using a likeable main character. Xifeng is vain, narcissist, and has the potential to bring people to her feet. All of these traits harbor themselves in a young girl who has to choose between light and dark, forces that both rage inside of her. You understand her motivations. You want to know what she is going to do next and which side will ultimately win. Xifeng is a character, that despite her not being the traditional notion of good, you want her to win. I don’t often sympathize with characters as such, but I did here.

The other main characters are equally as alluring. You have Wei who wants Xifeng to choose the goodness in her and is ultimately a huge contrast to her character. You have her aunt, Guma, who has a history she has not yet told Xifeng, but plays on the hungry, ambitious traits of her niece. You have her friends Hideki and Shiro who openly show Xifeng what the right examples of love and affection are, but examples she cannot find within herself. You have the royal cast like Lady Sun and Empress Lihua who bring out different sides of Xifeng that show how well she is playing a game to reach her goal. There is just so much going on with the plot and the characters. It is very much like a game of chess, with constant moves being made. Who will win? The royal family? Xifeng? Or someone else? You’re not quite sure from the beginning nor are you sure until the pieces start to unravel.

When I finished the last chapter, my first thought was when is the second book coming out? My second thought was damn, because that was the only word I could find that encapsulated how much this book brought to the world and how strong this story was.

If anyone is undecided on preordering this book, or picking it up once it hits stores in October 2017, toss your doubts away. This book will capture your attention and stay with you as you read its final words.

It receives 5/5 hearts from me. You’ll understand this reference once you read.

Xx

Megan

Daughter of the Burning City: A Review

Hello Readers & Writers,

It has been a while since I posted a review so here I am, reviewing an ARC of Daughter of the Burning City by Amanda Foody. I won this book in a contest hosted by the editor and I am so happy I did.

Note: There will be no major spoilers in this review so feel free to keep reading past this point. 

The cover was a huge hook. It is a lovely shade of purple with circus tents on the bottom and smoke rising into an ominous sky.

What made me want this book was the buzz it received on twitter. The description was right up my alley – a dark YA fantasy book.

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I liked this book a lot. It follows sixteen year old Sorina, an illusion worker who leads an act like the “freak shows” we have in our world. Each of her illusions possess an odd feature or power. She considers them her family and it was interesting how these bonds were explored as well as how Sorina’s powers work. The descriptions of her powers were absolutely lovely. I pictured them in my head with ease. What I also loved was the Gomorrah Festival and how it had a life of its own. The author did an excellent job of creating a setting that was, at the same time, a character. It gave me vibes of a grittier The Night Circus which I loved.

The main plot is one of Sorina’s illusions, who she believed could not die, is murdered. From there, she launches an investigation while facing obstacles like betrayal, dead ends, false leads, grief and identity. Sorina is not the most active narrator and is easily conflicted, causing a portion of the investigation to be muddled up in her own thoughts and uncertainty. She has to come to terms with who she can trust and if some aspects of the investigation hold merit.

The reason I wouldn’t give this book a five is because it had a few slow chapters, that inch towards the resolution but can act a bit like filler. Once I moved past these however, the journey to the end was a wild ride. I was shocked by the twists and I needed to know who killed Sorina’s illusion and why they would do such a thing by the last few chapters. The ending was worth the parts that dragged.

I think this is a great fantasy story and will draw in those who prefer a bit of dark magic. The main characters are not typical and that is a huge strength of the novel for Amanda creates them as they should be: people. Not freaks or devil spawns as the stereotypes placed on them suggest.

Overall, this gets 4/5 moths from me. You’ll understand this reference once you give it a read.

Xx
Megan

Normalcy Doesn’t Work

Hey Guys!

It’s been a while since I’ve had publication news to share, but I’m back to say my short story Kaleidoscope was published in Shift the Zine! I couldn’t have been happier to receive their email saying they accepted my work.

I’m not sure what I was expecting to come from this piece when I wrote it. It was done in one sitting, but as I reread it, I felt like it wasn’t quite right. This story was originally double in length and jumped around a lot. Before I chopped at it in the editing process, it was definitely a realistic fiction/contemporary piece.

I’ve written contemporary pieces before and I love reading them, but something about this story begged for a new genre. There was a little inkling in my brain that slowly turned into: “hey, why don’t you make Jared’s painting come to life?”

I promise you’ll understand that question once you read my story.

pexels-photo-94736Once I decided to go through with the plan, the story read easier. I cut most of the original draft and settled on an odder, more emotionally charged piece. For the main character Jared, who I’ve written before, but never in a story I submitted, he’s an artistic guy. He heals through what he creates. He takes his emotions and shoves them onto a canvas. My desire to alter the story came from the needed exploration of what Jared’s art can do for him especially after suffering from heartbreak.

This story couldn’t have been possible without the help of one of my dear friends Kristie, who created the character of Ash and through her, I have been inspired to create so many things.

If you’d like to give Kaleidoscope a read, click here, and be sure to share your thoughts with me (if you’d like), in the comments.

Xx

Megan

Blood Rose Rebellion: A Review

Hello Readers & Writers,

I was lucky to receive an advanced copy of Blood Rose Rebellion by Rosalyn Eves. This young adult book is due out March 28th, 2017. This review will be mostly spoiler free so you don’t have to click away.

I was a bit wary when I first began reading because it is set in an old fashioned England –
think ball gowns, suitors, and noble families. These books do not always grasp me, but I kept reading because I was interested in the fantastical elements Rosalyn Eves added to the historical background of her story.

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Taken from my instagram: Written-Infinities

I will say there are a few things that bothered me about the book, mainly the instant inkling that the boys in Anna’s life would be love interests and the trope of one person having abilities not seen in hundreds of years. I wish that Anna experienced the world without romantic interests guiding some of her decisions, but I can also understand her desire to connect with people after having guidelines constantly pressed down on her.

Needless to say, I was swept up in Anna’s narrative, a teenage girl who is deemed barren of magic. This is a sentence that has hung over her head in a variety of ways: through her mother’s less than parental treatment of her, her sister being favored for the grace of her magic, and judgment from society. It is at the beginning of the story, when Anna disrupts her sister’s charm ceremony in order to find a husband, that all of this anger Anna harbors sets itself free.

In order to let the chaos die down, though Anna knows it is a way to get rid of her until she conforms to the expectations of a proper woman, Anna is sent to live with her Grandmama in Hungary. It is there that Anna learns a lot about the world, breaking the teachings that have circulated around her since her youth. She is also forced to grapple with questions of identity, family, and revolution. My favorite question that Anna tackles: what is one willing to sacrifice for change? Can an individual commit to a cause if it means potentially losing those they love and having people come after them?

Anna feels like a teenager, wanting to find her place in the world despite so many people telling her otherwise. She wants love. She wants change, but she also possesses fear of discovering who she might be and what she can do. She can be a bit clumsy at times, naïve at others, but these reactions never feel out of place. It is hard to have an entire world unravel, especially at a young age.

It is not just Anna that makes the story likeable. The other characters do the same. Their personalities are alive on the page and they do not all share the same views as Anna. They challenge where she came from and society as a whole. Gabor is my favorite character, hands down.

There is also the inclusion of Slavic Mythology and a history belonging to 19th century Hungary. I seriously recommend reading the acknowledgements page at the end of the book if you don’t normally. Rosalyn goes into a discussion of history and provides some sources for further reading. She blends history with magic, creating a world that does suck you in. I would say that is what makes Blood Rose Rebellion stand out from the expected and common fantasy novel.

Overall, I would give this book 4/5 charms.

Xx

Megan

Writer Chat With Amber Mitchell

Hello Readers & Writers,

I had the pleasure of interviewing Amber Mitchell, debut author of the novel Garden of Thorns, published by Entangled Teen.  I will have a review of this book up soon, but man, it hooks your attention from the opening scene and I was lucky enough to dive into Amber’s head on the project.

Before I get to the interview, here is the synopsis of Garden of Thorns which is out today! Make sure you grab your copy.

After seven grueling years of captivity in the Garden—a burlesque troupe of slave girls—sixteen-year-old Rose finds an opportunity to escape during a performance for the emperor. But the hostage she randomly chose from the crowd to aid her isn’t one of the emperor’s men—not anymore. He’s the former heir to the throne, who is now leading a rebellion against it.

Rayce is a wanted man and dangerously charismatic, the worst person for Rose to get involved with, no matter what his smile promises. But he assumes Rose’s attempt to take him hostage is part of a plot to crush the rebellion, so he takes her as his hostage. Now Rose must prove where her loyalties lie, and she offers Rayce a deal—if he helps her rescue the other girls, she’ll tell him all the Garden’s secrets.

Except the one secret she’s kept for seven years that she’ll take to her grave if she must.
 

Q1: Did you always like to write or was it something you grew into?

Amber: The first time I knew I wanted to be a writer was in 3rd grade. We had to do this presentation on space and I wrote up an entire play for the class to perform. I loved the joy creation brought and I’ve been writing ever since. However, I wasn’t actually serious about writing until my junior year of high school.

Q2: What is your favorite thing about writing?

Amber: The feeling of having written. I always complain when I’m writing, but I love the feeling I get afterwards, of knowing that I put the time in and created something. This is followed closely by the editing process. I’m not a big fan on first drafts but I love getting my hands dirty and improving books during the editing process!

Q3: Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Amber: Strict plotter. I think there is a lot of fun in pantsing something, but I’ve found that if I don’t write out paragraph synopsizes for every chapter, I’ll use the excuse “I don’t know what is going to happen next” to not write for the day.

Q4: From what I’ve read so far, Garden of Thorns is one crazy ride. The opening scene alone is intense – let alone sucked me in as a reader. What inspired the story?

Amber: Every time I’d see a movie and there would be a ballroom scene, I’d watch the girls dancing in their big dresses and think about how they looked like flowers as the twirled around the dance floor. I’d always thought that a fantasy novel about a girl who was forced to dance would be a cool idea and the image of flowers kept popping up in my head. I ended up writing Garden of Thorns on accident though. I was editing another book and kept hearing Rose’s voice in my head. I opened up a new word document and wrote what would become the first five pages of the book in less than an hour. The concept of the Flowers and the Garden seemed to jump from the page and I had to figure out where it was going to take me.

Q5: What reactions are you hoping for as readers dive into your book? Are there moments you want them to scream or rave about?

Amber: Of course, I want readers to love it. I guess the biggest thing for me is that the world feels real and the book feels authentic. My biggest pet peeve when reading a book or watching a movie is when I feel like the author or creator is holding their punches. I never like “fake deaths” where you think a character died only to have them come back completely unscathed later. I’ve been getting a lot of comments that Garden of Thorns is brutal and I love it!

Q6: Who’s your favorite character from Garden of Thorns?

Amber: This question isn’t fair! Of course I love Rose and Rayce since they are my two main characters. I’m also really fond of Arlo and Marin. They’re two secondary characters in the rebellion and I love them dearly. I think Arlo adds a good bit of humor to the book and is a great contrast to Rayce and Marin is the breath of fresh air. She’s a girl who knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to fight for it.

Q7: How does it feel to say you have a book out there in the world? I can imagine it’s a bit nerve-wracking.

Amber: It’s definitely an overwhelming feeling. I fluctuate from not believing it’s real to being so excited I could burst. There are also a fair amount of nerves involved. What’s really strange is having people talk to me about my own characters. They’ve been real to me for so long and it’s strange now that other people know them too!

Q8: If you’re not writing, what are some things you love doing?

Amber: My husband and I run a paper-cut shadowbox business that allows us to travel the US. I enjoy crafting things out of paper. I’m also big into escape rooms, I like to read and sometimes I like to pretend I’m a baker. I say pretend because the last three cakes I’ve attempted have turned out lopsided!

Q9: What’s your favorite book and genre to read?

Amber: This question should be illegal! I love so many books! One of the series that will always be a favorite for me though is Harry Potter by JK Rowling. I can read it anytime! In general, I read a lot of YA. I used to stick to YA fantasy and historical, and while they are still my favorite, I read pretty much everything YA now!

Q10: Describe Garden of Thorns in three words.

Amber: Intense. Romantic. Brutal.

Biography:

Amber Mitchell graduated from the University of South Florida with a BA in Creative author-picWriting. She likes crazy hair styles, reading, D&D, k-dramas, good puns and great food.

When she isn’t putting words on paper, she is using cardstock to craft 3D artwork or exploring new places with her husband Brian. They live a small town in Florida with their four cats where she is still waiting for a madman in a blue box to show up on her doorstep.

Garden of Thorns is her debut novel from Entangled Teen.

If this book sounds like something you would read, and if you’d like to keep up with what Amber is doing, follow her here.

If you’d like to see my review of this book, check back soon.
Xx
Megan

Caraval: A Review

Hello Readers & Writers,

Caraval by Stephanie Garber was one of the most anticipated and talked about books of 2017. I remember it circulating around Twitter and how it was on nearly every list of upcoming books to read. Having just finished it, I wanted to discuss it in a mostly spoiler free review.

The book follows Scarlett, a woman whose arranged marriage is closely approaching. She
has been confined to the Isle of Trisda with her sister Tella at the hands of an abusive and controlling father. A letter arriving from Legend, the leader of this well known fantastical event called Caraval, invites Scarlett, her fiance and her sister to where they will be holding their next performance. It is all Scarlett has dreamed about as a girl, having written letters to Legend for most of her childhood. Now that she has given up on the dream and is on the verge of adulthood, the letters disrupt her perfectly laid out plan.

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Taken from my instagram, Written-Infinities

It is because of her impulsive sister and an unknown sailor that Scarlett is brought to Caraval. Not everything is what it seems in Caraval despite it promising magic, fun, and something that will never be forgotten. Once admitted, a guest can either choose to be a player or a watcher. Those who play have a chance at winning a prize from Legend himself. The decision to play is one that Scarlett does not make lightly and its from there the thick of the plot takes place.

I’m going to briefly mention my only negative of the book and that is Scarlett prior to her growth in the story. She is a character who is afraid of taking risks and constantly tries to uphold all the rules that made her a prisoner in her life. It can be a bit excessive and it made me not like Scarlett at first. I wanted her, as a reader, to push past her fears and do something instead of her internal thoughts being filled with the same worries over and over again. She does break away from this, which makes her narration a pleasant read, but I kept wanting to shake her. I wanted her to listen to those around her who were trying to help her do what she needed to do.

Moving past that, I was entranced by Caraval. I can’t say with a hundred percent certainty I would want to be a guest at the show, but I definitely loved reading about it. Stephanie Garber did a great job of heightening sensual perceptions in order to create the magic of Caraval. Characters feel in colors, take in people by their scents, see things with a sense of wonder. Her descriptions made me smile and I think she not only captured Caraval for the story, but she made sure her readers could picture everything too. I’m a sucker for descriptions and there was a balance between too much and not enough.

As much as this is a Fantasy story, it is also a mystery. Scarlett has to decipher a series of clues in order to get her sister back. She was stolen from her upon arriving at Caraval. You are as much of a reader as you are a detective trying to figure out what happened to Tella. Through this journey, Scarlett discovers a lot about herself and how the views she once held weren’t the best.

I enjoyed the twists that were thrown into the story, how I wasn’t sure who to trust and who Legend really was. Every time something appeared to be figured out, Stephanie Garber went, “Nope, here is a new twist.” This uncertainty is only added onto by the secondary characters who promise and offer help to Scarlett in exchange for payment. Only once is payment in this story money.

This story gave me similar feelings of awe as The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern did. I was taken to a world very different from my own and nearly everything was given a splash of magic and life. By the last two sections of the book – it is split up based on which night it is in Caraval – I couldn’t put the book down. I needed to know what happened.

Overall, I felt as if Caraval lived up to its expectations and if you haven’t picked up a copy, I suggest doing so.

It gets 4.5/5 top hats from me.

Xx

Megan