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

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

Relative Strangers: A Review

I was super fortunate to receive a copy of Relative Strangers from Candlewick Press in exchange for an honest review. This book is due out April 10th, 2018 and I highly recommend picking up your copy or doing the author a favor and preordering it.

No spoilers below!

Paula Garner left an impact on me after I read her debut, Phantom Limbs. She had a unique way of tugging at my heart strings. I devoured her book in one sitting and had to not cry in a car ride. It was a fun time. Relative Strangers had this same kind of emotional tug.

1This book is vastly different than Phantom Limbs as it explores a relationship between Jules, her mother, and a life she had never known about – particularly that she was in foster care for some time as a toddler. The plot not only centers around finding out what happened to her, but delves into her connection to her foster family, a complicated bond between mother and daughter, and how this shapes Jules as a person.

What I liked about Jules is the conflict within her, how things didn’t just settle into place, but was something she needed to explore in order to move on and craft a bridge between her past, present, and future. She makes some horrible decisions, but this demonstrates her conflict, her humanity, and her youth. I thought Garner did a great job with drawing on how emotionally taxing the revelation was to Jules and the people involved. Though this book may be short, it packs quite a punch to the heart. 

Also, I want to give a shout out to one of the secondary characters, Eli, because we need to protect him forever and his cuteness. When you read this book, you’ll understand what I mean.

Overall, this was a great read and Garner is definitely on my list of authors to watch.

Xx

Megan

History and Vikings with Adrienne Young

Hello Readers & Writers,

Joining me on the blog today is Adrienne Young, author of Sky in the Deep which comes out April 24th, 2018 from Wednesday Books. This is Adrienne’s debut novel and I couldn’t be more than excited for it as I’ve heard it’s a brutal and enticing story. Also, it has vikings which is cool!

Before I kick off the interview, here is a synopsis of Sky in the Deep.

9781250168450_FC

Seventeen-year-old Eelyn’s world is war. Raised to fight alongside her Aska clansmen in a generations-old blood feud against the Riki, her life is brutal but simple: fight and survive. Until the day she sees the impossible on the battlefield—her brother, fighting with the enemy—the brother she watched die five years ago.

Faced with her brother’s betrayal, she must survive the winter in the mountains with the Riki if she wants to make it back to the fjord after the thaw. But when she begins to see herself in the people she’s been taught to hate, the world Eelyn once knew begins to crumble. And after the village is raided by a ruthless clan many believe to be a myth, Eelyn is given no choice but to trust Fiske, her brother’s friend who has tried more than once to kill her. Together, they must end the blood feud between their clans or watch their people be slaughtered.

A lush, Viking-age inspired fantasy about loyalty, forgiveness, and the definition of family.

Where to Buy: 

Amazon // Barnes & Noble // Audible // Indiebound // Powells

Book Depository // Books-A-Million

Q1: Before we start off, I want to give a huge thank you to you, Adrienne, for joining me on the blog! It’s great to have you. To kick things off, your bio mentions you have a love for history. If you could travel to any point in time, what would it be?

Adrienne: Oh geez, this is an impossible question… so I’ll pick three. The African “rebirth” period during Europe’s Dark Ages when the great kingdoms of Africa reigned, the Pacific Northwest before North America was colonized, and the French Revolution.

Q2: How did the idea of Sky in the Deep develop? Was it something that happened over time or an idea that kept nagging at you or something else?

Adrienne: The idea for this story literally hit me like a train. I was driving in the rain and the image of Eelyn on the battlefield, seeing the brother she thought was dead just appeared to me. It was all-consuming. I didn’t know what was going to happen in the story, but I knew how it began and I just started writing and didn’t stop.

Q3: What was the biggest challenge you faced writing Sky in the Deep?

Adrienne: It was a challenge capturing Eelyn’s internal process dealing with her brother’s betrayal because it was complicated and it’s not black and white. She had to go through a lot of emotions and even in the end, it’s not necessarily resolved. That was a hard decision to make as a writer to not button that up completely, but it was true to the character.

Q4: What’s a major theme of Sky in The Deep?

Adrienne: So, when I wrote this book, I was going through some major life stuff that really inspired me to change the way I saw the world and to let go of some things that had defined me for a long time. I think that is totally reflected in this story. It’s a really terrifying process to confront your own beliefs and worldviews and realize that you don’t want to hold onto them anymore. That’s exactly what Eelyn does. And she’s brave enough to change her life and the way she lives.

Q5: What do you want readers to take away from your book?

Adrienne: Pretty much what I said above, that just because you were taught something or you picked up a way to see the world somewhere along the way, that doesn’t mean you can’t change and grow. You aren’t letting go of yourself by letting go of things that keep you from love and freedom.

Q6: Describe Sky in the Deep in three words.

Adrienne: Brutal. Beautiful. Brave.

Q7: Is there another time period of history you would love to explore in an upcoming story?

Adrienne: I’d love to write something inspired by the Transnationalism Movement in the 1800’s in New England.

Q8: Favorite drink?

Adrienne: Cold brew coffee with a little cream.

Q9: Tell us a fun fact!

Adrienne: I love pie. All kinds. There are few things in life that make me happier than pie.

About the Author

 

Author-PicAdrienne Young is a born and bred Texan turned California girl. She is a foodie with a deep love of history and travel and a shameless addiction to coffee. When she’s not writing, you can find her on her yoga mat, scouring antique fairs for old books, sipping wine over long dinners, or disappearing into her favorite art museums. She lives with her documentary filmmaker husband and their four little wildlings beneath the West Coast sun.

 

Website: https://www.adrienneyoungbooks.com
Twitter: @adriennebooks
Instagram: @adrienneyoungbooks

So if you haven’t heard of Sky in the Deep, now you have and if you haven’t pre-ordered it yet, what are you doing?? This book is going to blow your socks off. (Is this cheesy? Probably, but I’m so excited for this.)

And once again, a huge thank you to Adrienne for joining me on the blog!

Till Next Time,

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.

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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

Chainbreaker: A Review

Hello Readers & Writers,

Today I will be reviewing Chainbreaker by Tara Sim which is due out January 2nd, 2018 from Sky Pony Press. I was sent a galley in exchange for an honest review.

CaptureThe first thing I noticed about Chainbreaker was it had a very different feel than Timekeeper and I don’t mean this in a bad way. Timekeeper focused strictly on Danny as a main character and we got to follow his journey as he learned about what was happening with the clock towers, as he fell in love, as he fought to save his home town and his father. Chainbreaker expands the world that Tara built in the first installment. Not only do we get several more POVs, but we are taken to India, learn more about time, the clock towers, and their existence in the world. We’re even given a chunk of history.  While for some books, expanding the world this sharply could be a problem, Tara handled it flawlessly. To put my enthusiasm into perspective, I read two-thirds of the book in one sitting. Why did I stop? I had to be an adult. Gross, I know.

The main premise of Chainbreaker is clock towers are being destroyed in India, but time isn’t stopping as it’s prone to do. Danny and Daphne are sent from England to India in order to investigate the strange occurrences, but get way more than they bargained for.

There were tons of things that stood out to me about Chainbreaker. Getting Colton’s POV was a delight as we were able to see how he thought and snippets into his past. (No spoilers, I promise. You just have to read the book.) We got another round of Danny who was once again, a great character to follow, with strong morals and a fighting spirit. Then, perhaps my favorite of the bunch, was Daphne. Like Daphne, I’m biracial. Though I don’t share an Indian heritage with her, I have struggled with similar thoughts of what culture I belong to and what it means to not look like where you come from.  Daphne’s journey and thoughts resonated with me in a way I wasn’t expecting, but welcomed all the same.

This cast of characters and the world building create an engaging read in the Steampunk genre. You root for them. You get to know them and by the end, you want to solve the mystery as much as they do.

Though I’m still freaking out about the ending, (Tara, how could you?), I am beyond excited for book three. I need to know where these characters wind up and hopefully, I won’t have my heart broken.

This book gets 5/5 cogs from me.

Xx

Megan