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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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

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

Time Bomb: A Review

Hello Readers & Writers,

Today I will be reviewing Time Bomb by Joelle Charbonneau which is due out March 13th, 2018 from HMH Books for Young Readers. I was sent a galley in exchange for an honest review.

It is important for readers to know that this book contains mentions of: terrorism, Islamophobia, death, cancer, suicide along with suicide ideation, and blood.

This book has been circulating around my twitter for quite some time and I was immediately drawn in by the promise of a multi-faceted, thrilling young adult novel. After having devoured this in a day, I can say that Joelle does not disappoint. Time Bomb is fast paced and doesn’t leave you waiting long to launch into the story. We are given six points of views, each a different character who we wind up following as a bomb rips through their school. Joelle gives everyone a questionable motive to be at the school and while I figured out who caused the destruction early on, it is not an easy task. There are a lot of curve-balls and distractions that are meant to push the blame onto someone else and distract you from looking at the real culprit.

20180126_113920

However, this book is more than just a guessing game as to who set off a bomb. Time Bomb forces a reader to confront stereotypes, racism, and the political dialogue behind these kinds of attacks. For example, Rashid, despite having conflicts with his faith, is a practicing Muslim and a lot of his story arc is dealing with Islamophobia and how he wishes people would separate him from his religion. On the other hand, he also wishes more people would take the time to understand what his religion teaches. He pushes back against harmful accusations and ridicule and is one of the more compelling characters. We also have Diana, the daughter of a senator, who brutally points out that rescuers and the media will be talking about her and the group she’s with because of her relation to politics.

Joelle does her best to examine the framework of the media with these kinds of attacks and does not handle the material lightly. This is a book that will stick with you because of the honesty that is unraveled at your feet. She forces not only the reader, but her characters to confront what they may know about people and what comes from society’s expectation of people: what they should be like, how they should present themselves, and how we need to untangle our discourse from our prejudices and in some cases, blatant racism.

My only main critique of this book was I felt as if some of the points of view were not as developed as others and some motives may not have been as clear as they could have been, but overall, Time Bomb is a book that will stick with me. It could open up some important conversations that need to be had.

This gets 4/5 stars from me!

Till Next Time,

Xx

Megan

New Year, New Publication

Hello Readers & Writers,

Though I approach every new year with a bit of hesitation, this one has kicked off to a good start. A short story of mine has been published in an anthology and it is available for purchase on amazon! -insert confetti here-

The story in this anthology, Chaos of Hard Clay, was one I wrote a few years ago, taking a favorite character of mine I had written on the side and giving him his own story. With the help of my friend Erin, who created the second main character, Verity was born. It follows the protagonist Aleks, who has been living in exile after waking up to find his life for the past year was an illusion created by the government. He reunites with his best friend only to learn about what a disaster the world has turned into.

DSk2ApGW4AEtUCO

A graphic I put together in order to represent Verity 

This story is close to my heart and I hope to do more with the characters in the future. Anyone who has a writer’s brain knows that stories appear out of nowhere and you can’t forget the characters closest to you. They also tend to chat in your brain regardless of your opinion on the matter.

That being said, if science fiction excites you, then consider buying this anthology as it contains twenty story of post apocalyptic disasters, alternative worlds, insane experiments and plot twists. Also, me and the other authors will be super appreciative. The full synopsis is as follows:

51pP-2IwknL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_Imagine a world gone horribly wrong. Nuclear war. Climate Change. Zombies. Aliens. Science Gone Mad. Twenty authors present twenty horrific scenarios detailing the end of society. The good guys, the bad guys, and the murderers are all here, eking out a scant survival…or destroying all they come across. Who will live? Who will die? And will there be an Earth left when they do? Read these compelling, shocking stories to find out. Crystal Leflar: NO TEARS TO SPARE Daniel Willcocks: WHEN THE WORLD FLED EAST David Henderson: GAME OF TAG G. H. Finn: GRIM DIESAL Hákon Gunnarsson: WHAT’S BELOW THE SURFACE Han Adcock: A SHORT HISTORY OF THE FUTURE Jack Stone: AFTER Jessica Mizell: BEEN HERE BEFORE Jim O’Donnell: HANGING, JUST OUTSIDE THE WORLD Justin Bloch: THE BEGINNING, AGAIN Kamron Taylor: WHAT REMAINS Luke Kondor: DUST AND FINGERS Megan Manzano: VERITY N. J. Reynolds: BLACK WATER Ray Prew: HOW DO THEY LIKE IT Roxanne Dent: GHOST WOMAN Olin Wish: TAKE ME TO YOUR FUCKING LEADER Vonnie Winslow Crist: DEAD WRONG Steve Bissonnette: AND TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT! G. Allen Cook: ENDGAMES AND EPILOGUES

Purchase on [Amazon]

Read any of these stories, or even mine? Leave your thoughts below. I’d be happy to hear them. And as a final shout out, this anthology wouldn’t be possible without G. Allen Cook who put so much work into this project and believed in my story. I am still in awe of his drive and constant communication.

Till next time,

xx
Megan

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

Girl Made of Stars: A Review

Hello Readers & Writers,

I had the wonderful honor of receiving a copy of Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Blake from HMH Teen. This book is due out in May 2018.

Before I start this review, there are two things to note:

  • This review will contain minimal spoilers so no need to click away.
  • If you are triggered by sexual assault, please take caution reading this book. Sexual Assault is the plot and deals not only with this, but with consent, slut-shaming, victim blaming, and how sexual assault is handled by the criminal justice system.

With that being said, let’s dive in.

Girl Made of Stars is one of the most powerful, heartbreaking, and hopeful books I’ve ever read. I will not say it is an easy read, because the subject matter is heavy and an overwhelming problem in society, but this book puts it all on the table. Ashley Blake challenges the notion of choosing the easy way out, of being complacent, of what happens when trust is obliterated.

31351689The story opens up with a glimpse into Mara and Owen’s lives. They are twins and they are as close as expected, a pair that has always found comfort in storytelling and constellations. You immediately feel their genuine bond and their unwavering security in one another. You also get a glimpse into their family and social circles. For being teenagers, their lives have a solid foundation.

But all of this unravels quickly as Hannah, one of Mara’s closest friends, doesn’t show up to school and a phone call to her parents reveals Hannah’s family wants to sue for what Owen did to her. It doesn’t click in Mara’s head at first. Her brother wouldn’t rape anybody, let alone Hannah. On the opposite end, Hannah wouldn’t lie about being raped. Quickly, Mara is thrown into a whirlwind of not only deciphering what’s real and what’s not, but memories of her own past she hasn’t allowed herself to discuss. She is also dealing with breaking up with her girlfriend Charlie, as she doesn’t want their friendship ruined by dating.

Throughout the story, we see Mara break apart and the strings connecting her to her family and to her twin snap. We see her trying to deal with a past that has been weighing her down for so long. We see her trying to reconcile with Hannah, if there is anything she can say that will fix what her brother has done. We see her trying to figure out if she is immediately a bad person because of her brother’s actions and if there is any way to mend that relationship. We see her trying to understand love. Ashley Blake tosses us into a whirlwind as Mara breaks apart and it is up to her how she chooses to piece herself back together.  There is no easy way to deal with rape, to have the image of someone you’ve known all your life be destroyed. She is pulled in two directions: needing to be what her family wants her to be and doing what she knows is right.

This book made me angry for all the stories that get swept under the rug, for everyone this happens to without any justice.

This book made me sad because my heart broke for Mara and for Hannah and for anyone who has suffered this.

This book made me hope because Ashley Blake doesn’t leave her readers drowning in darkness and confusion and pain. She offers stepping stones, small bits of light to cling to, to pull yourself up.  She in no way makes it sound as if dealing with sexual assault is easy.

You will not forget this book. I know I won’t. It is thought provoking, emotionally challenging, and leaves you speechless. It takes a close look at sexual assault and how many people it truly affects.  It pulls at your heart strings and it is so well done.

When this book comes out – if you’re able to – pick it up and prepare yourself for a powerful narrative that needs to be read.

Xx

Megan