Saturday, April 22, 2017

Author Chat: Laurie Forest, Author of The Black Witch

Laurie Forest lives deep in the backwoods of Vermont where she sits in front of a wood stove drinking strong tea and dreaming up tales full of dryads, dragons and wands. The Black Witch (May 2017, HarlequinTEEN) is her first novel, and Wandfasted (The Black Witch prequel, Summer 2017, HarlequinTEEN) is her first e-book novella

(taken from Laurie's

Have you always wanted to write a young adult novel?

I had never read much of any fantasy until my pre-teen daughters pushed me to read Harry Potter (and I was instantly hooked!). I started devouring all the books they were in love with and more - Tamora Pierce's books, Robin Hobb's books, The Golden Compass, Cassandra Clare's books, Graceling, Wicked Lovely, and hundreds more. Over time, a story of my own started forming in my mind.

Do you listen to music while you write? If so, what do you listen to?

Yes! My main musical inspirations for The Black witch were Imogen Heap, Goo Goo Dolls, U2, Rage Against the Machine and many others. I'm on Spotify.

Are you more of a coffee or a tea person when writing?

Oh, I am a complete tea fanatic! Especially Irish Breakfast Tea. My books are completely fueled by the power of tea :) And there's quite a bit of tea drinking that pops up in my books. Watch for it!

What makes your protagonist stand out from other YA heroines?

My protagonist, Elloren Gardner, is growing up in an insular, fascist, isolated society (picture the dark side of LOTR or Harry Potter or The Naming (I could go on) winning and taking over the lands - that's loosely my starting point). Elloren happens to look just like her powerful grandmother, the legendary Black Witch, although she seems to be lacking magical power in a society that values magic and power above nearly all else. When Elloren ventures forth to attend Verpax University, she soon finds the wider world is a treacherous place for the granddaughter of the Black Witch, and that everything she's been taught might be cruelly unjust and dangerously wrong.

Did you have a writing schedule while you worked on The Black Witch? What did your average day of writing look like?

I get up at 5am pretty much every morning and write for about an hour. I also write pretty intensively on the weekends. That's been the schedule for a while now :)

What is one underrated book you would like to recommend to everyone?

The Bird of the River by Kage Baker is one of the most beautiful YA Fantasy novels I've ever read. Here's the description I found online.

"Two teenagers join the crew of a huge river barge after their addict mother is drowned. The girl and her younger brother try to make the barge their new home. As the great boat proceeds up the long river, we see a panorama of cities and cultures, and begin to perceive patterns in the pirate attacks that happen so frequently in the river cities. Eliss, the girl, becomes a sharp-eyed spotter of obstacles in the river for the barge, and more than that, one who perceives deeply."

Look for The Black Witch on May 2!

A Great Winged One will soon arise and cast his fearsome shadow upon the land. And just as Night slays Day, and Day slays Night, so also shall another Black Witch rise to meet him, her powers vast beyond imagining.

So foretells the greatest prophecy of the Gardnerian mages. Carnissa Gardner, the last prophesied Black Witch, drove back the enemy forces and saved her people during the Realm War. Now a new evil is on the horizon, and her granddaughter, Elloren, is believed to be Carnissa’s heir—but while she is the absolute image of her famous grandmother, Elloren is utterly devoid of power in a society that prizes magical ability above nearly all else.

When she is granted the opportunity to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming an apothecary, Elloren is eager to join her brothers at the prestigious Verpax University and finally embrace a destiny of her own, free from the shadow of her grandmother’s legacy. But she soon realizes that the University, which admits all manner of peoples—including the fire-wielding, winged Icarals, the sworn enemies of her people—is an even more treacherous place for the granddaughter of the Black Witch. (taken from

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday: Always and Forever, Lara Jean

Waiting On Wednesday was created by Jill over at Breaking The Spine. It's a weekly post for you to share what upcoming books you can't wait for!

Title: Always and Forever, Lara Jean 

Author: Jenny Han
Release Date: May 2, 2017

Lara Jean’s letter-writing days aren’t over in this surprise follow-up to the New York Times bestselling To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and P.S. I Still Love You.

Lara Jean is having the best senior year a girl could ever hope for. She is head over heels in love with her boyfriend, Peter; her dad’s finally getting remarried to their next door neighbor, Ms. Rothschild; and Margot’s coming home for the summer just in time for the wedding.

But change is looming on the horizon. And while Lara Jean is having fun and keeping busy helping plan her father’s wedding, she can’t ignore the big life decisions she has to make. Most pressingly, where she wants to go to college and what that means for her relationship with Peter. She watched her sister Margot go through these growing pains. Now Lara Jean’s the one who’ll be graduating high school and leaving for college and leaving her family—and possibly the boy she loves—behind.

When your heart and your head are saying two different things, which one should you listen to? (taken from

Why I Need It: 

Jenny Han has such a great writing style. Her characters are fun and realistic, and this series has won the hearts of so many readers. I can't wait to dive back into Lara Jean's love life. And can we look at that cover? It's gorgeous! 

Monday, April 17, 2017

Review: Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Title: Caraval
Series: Caraval #1
Author: Stephanie Garber
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Publication Date: January 31, 2017
Format: E-Book

Page Count: 407


Remember, it’s only a game…

Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny island where she and her sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval—the faraway, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show—are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt-of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. Nevertheless she becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic. And whether Caraval is real or not, Scarlett must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over or a dangerous domino effect of consequences will be set off, and her beloved sister will disappear forever.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval…beware of getting swept too far away. (taken from

"Whatever you've heard about Caraval, it doesn't compare to the reality. It's more than just a game or a performance. It's the closest you'll ever find to magic in this world."

Before even starting this book, I'd seen how many great reviews it had. Therefore, my expectations were 100% unfairly high. Maybe that's partially why I didn't fall in love with Caraval like so many others did. There were just too many things that bothered me, and honestly, I found it quite boring.

I wasn't a huge fan of Scarlett. "She was a pretty girl, though she often liked to hide it." Bleh. Also, she's a little meek for my taste. "Scarlett attempted to make a sound of disgust, but it came out more like a whimper." Although she didn't drive me crazy or anything (most of the time, anyway), I was really unimpressed with her development.

The romance was equally uninteresting. It was as if Scarlett was so deprived of romantic relationships and sexual attraction that when she finally faced it she was helpless. There was no real substance between her and Julian. It was the same old "I'm dark and mysterious" trope and Scarlett fell right into it like the idiot that she is.

Scarlett can see colors attached to her own emotions, as well as the feelings of others. It was a little odd, and I'm not sure if I liked hearing about "goldenrod delight" or "ashy shades of anxiety" or "periwinkle curiosity" or "ochre shades of uneasy." Seriously, it was such a random trait and the descriptions go on forever. It felt a little forced to me, like there was an unnecessary amount of description. In fact, I thought many aspects of Garber's writing were a little too over-the-top, almost like she was trying too hard. There is such as thing as too many colorful descriptions. Also, I found Garber's writing to be a little childish for my taste. She takes too long to explain things, and her sentences often remind me of ones found in chapter books for kids.

I've said before that I love books about strong sister relationships, and obviously this looked like it would be right up my alley. Having said that, the sisters in this book didn't really intrigue me that much. They both seemed more preoccupied with their selfish interests than helping one another. Over and over again, they claim that they are so important to each other, then dash off to chase their own dreams. For instance: "If not for Scarlett's determination to protect her sister at all costs, she might have given up long ago. She probably should have. What was that saying, No love ever goes unpunished? In many ways, loving Tella was a source of constant pain." Well, that certainly sounds like unconditional sibling love to me.

So, why did I even bother to give this book two stars if so many things bothered me? The answer: Caraval. It's a unique idea, and I loved the magical aspects of the carnival. I was so interested in Legend and his role in the story. There was potential for this book to be intriguing, but the drawn out mystery and Scarlett's character drove my interest away almost immediately.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Author Chat: Laura Silverman, Author of Girl Out of Water

Laura Silverman is a writer, editor, and publishing consultant. She suffers from chronic pain and currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia. Her first novel, Girl Out of Water, is coming out in May 2017 from Sourcebooks Fire. (taken from Huffington Post)  
Did you always know you wanted to publish a novel?
Yep! I’ve loved writing since I was a little kid, and I always had publishing dreams, but I definitely didn’t think it would happen this early in my life!

Besides writing or reading, what is your favorite hobby?

Before my chronic pain became really debilitating, I loved going to concerts. Live music is my everything, from the Atlanta Symphony to a jam band at giant outdoor stadium to a band I’ve never heard of playing a small bar. Since I’m stuck at home now almost 24/7 because of chronic pain, I’ve gotten really into sending letters. I love cute stationary and stickers, and people love getting snail mail. Sending and receiving letters also makes me feel more physically connected to the world; it helps a lot with how cut-off I feel because I can’t go out very much.

Are you more of a coffee or a tea person when writing?

Tea, tea, tea! Chai tea, peppermint tea, green tea, iced tea, all the tea!

How do you deal with critiques of your writing?

I’ve been taking creative writing classes since high school, so I really value critique and never take it personally at this point. People are critiquing my work, not me. I’m human, so of course it’s a little disheartening when I think I nailed something and obviously didn’t, but critique is awesome because I learn how to fix it and then write better in the future. Getting these early reviews of my first book has been a really interesting experience because there have been multiple times now where I’ve read a critique and thought, “Awesome point! Oh, wait – it’s a finished book – I can’t edit it any more.” But I’m taking those insightful critiques as good advice to use moving forward.

What did your daily writing process look like during the creation of Girl Out of Water?

I wrote the majority of the book while I was living in NYC and getting my MFA in Creative Writing. My chronic pain wasn’t close to as bad then, and since I was getting a degree in it, I had a lot of time to dedicate to writing. Sometimes I’d write for seven or eight hours in a single day. I made a writing chart with my classmate and roommate, and we set daily goals. The competition and we’re-in-this-together feeling was awesome motivation to keep at it whenever I started to slide into a writing slump. I definitely suggest writing charts, with friends if possible. You don’t have to write every day but a chart keeps you from suddenly realizing you didn’t write all month.

What is one underrated book you would recommend to everyone?

The most recent release that comes to mind is Under Rose-Tainted Skies. I don’t think it’s underrated exactly, but I wish everyone knew about it and would read it – it has the best mental illness / invisible disability representation I’ve ever seen, and the protagonist is so lovely and charming. Definitely pick up a copy!

About Laura's upcoming release, which will hit shelves on May 2:

Anise Sawyer plans to spend every minute of summer with her friends: surfing, chowing down on fish tacos drizzled with wasabi balsamic vinegar, and throwing bonfires that blaze until dawn. But when a serious car wreck leaves her aunt, a single mother of three, with two broken legs, it forces Anise to say goodbye for the first time to Santa Cruz, the waves, her friends, and even a kindling romance, and fly with her dad to Nebraska for the entire summer. Living in Nebraska isn’t easy. Anise spends her days caring for her three younger cousins in the childhood home of her runaway mom, a wild figure who’s been flickering in and out of her life since birth, appearing for weeks at a time and then disappearing again for months, or even years, without a word.

Complicating matters is Lincoln, a one-armed, charismatic skater who pushes Anise to trade her surfboard for a skateboard. As Anise draws closer to Lincoln and takes on the full burden and joy of her cousins, she loses touch with her friends back home – leading her to one terrifying question: will she turn out just like her mom and spend her life leaving behind the ones she loves (taken from