Saturday, May 26, 2018

Author Chat With Megan Bannen (THE BIRD AND THE BLADE)

Today, I'm happy to host debut author Megan Bannen! Her new novel, The Bird and the Blade, looks pretty amazing and hits shelves in just a couple of weeks. Keep reading to learn about her coffee addiction, musical tastes, favorite character, and  more.

"Megan Bannen is a librarian and the author of The Bird and the Blade. In her spare time, she collects graduate degrees from Kansas colleges and universities. While most of her professional career has been spent in public libraries, she has also sold luggage, written grants, and taught English at home and abroad. She lives in the Kansas City area with her husband, their two sons, and a few too many pets with literary names."

(text taken from Megan's
, photo provided by Megan)
What inspired you to write a young adult novel instead of an adult novel?  

When I was finishing up a master's degree in English many years ago, I needed to find my first adult job to support myself as I studied for my comprehensive exams. The only job I could find was as a youth services associate for a nearby public library. At the time, I never would have imagined myself working with kids or teens, but I quickly realized that kids and teens are way more fun to work with than adults. And I discovered, too, that there were all these fantastic books being written for teens that just weren't around when I was that age. The teen section at any bookstore back in the late 1980s was comprised of Nancy Drew and Sweet Valley High, I kid you not. Now, suddenly, there was no end to the great, edgy, genre-bending, literary, yet magnificently unpretentious books for teens coming out, and I became a YA convert. So, when I got the idea to write THE BIRD AND THE BLADE, there was never any question in my mind: This was going to be a YA novel.

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

When I first started out, I preferred silence, but my current work in progress was inspired by a piece of music (Ralph Vaughn Williams's "The Lark Ascending"), and it's really changed how I write. Now, I use music to help set the emotional tone of a scene. The playlist for my current project has a wide array of styles, everything from medieval Scandinavian polyphony to Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan to Aloe Blacc. Bonus: it's so much easier to ignore my children and strange men at Panera when I'm listening to tunes as I draft!

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

Coffee. All the coffee. I do not function without coffee. I preset my coffeemaker the night before so that I have a freshly brewed pot ready to go for my 
5:00 writing sessions. (I get up at 0-dark-hundred to write before heading out the door to my day job.)

Who is your favorite character in The Bird and the Blade

Timur, hands down. He's the overthrown khan of the Kipchak Khanate and the poster child for the word "i
rascible." I knew him cold from the first day I started writing this book, and his gruff, salty self has never failed me. I particularly love his relationship with the book's narrator-protagonist, Jinghua. He's so good at needling her.

Did you have a writing schedule while you worked on this novel? What did your average day of writing look like?  

When I first started writing this book six years ago, I didn't intend to publish. I had this story I wanted to tell, and I wanted to write a novel just to prove to myself I could do it. (Kind of like deciding to run a marathon. You're not trying to win the race, just finish it.) At the time, I was at home with my kids all day--they were two and four then--and I worked nights and weekends at the library, so I had to cram writing into any nook and cranny I could carve out for myself. As the kids got older and I transitioned to full-time, I started keeping a more regular schedule. Now, I get up around 
5:00 to write before work. I also write during my 
lunch hour. I write on Saturday and Sunday mornings, too, unless I'm scheduled to work or one of my sons has a soccer or basketball game. 

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

Ooh, tough one! I'm going to go with a middle grade title: Megan Shepherd's THE SECRET HORSES OF BRIAR HILL. It's a book full of longing and magic and hope and despair and, I tell you, it haunts me to this day. 
Gorgeous writing, to

Release Date: June 5, 2018

As a slave in the Kipchak Khanate, Jinghua has lost everything: her home, her family, her freedom … until she finds herself an unlikely conspirator in the escape of Prince Khalaf and his irascible father as they flee from their enemies across the vast Mongol Empire. On the run, with adversaries on all sides and an endless journey ahead, Jinghua hatches a scheme to use the Kipchaks’ exile to return home, a plan that becomes increasingly fraught as her feelings for Khalaf evolve into a hopeless love.

Jinghua’s already dicey prospects take a downward turn when Khalaf seeks to restore his kingdom by forging a marriage alliance with Turandokht, the daughter of the Great Khan. As beautiful as she is cunning, Turandokht requires all potential suitors to solve three impossible riddles to win her hand—and if they fail, they die.

Jinghua has kept her own counsel well, but with Khalaf’s kingdom—and his very life—on the line, she must reconcile the hard truth of her past with her love for a boy who has no idea what she’s capable of ... even if it means losing him to the girl who’d sooner take his life than his heart. (taken from

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Waiting on Wednesday: Listen to Your Heart

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! Here's mine for the week.

Title: Listen to Your Heart
AuthorKasie West
Release Date: May 29, 2018

Talking to other people isn't Kate Bailey's favorite activity. She'd much rather be out on the lake, soaking up the solitude and sunshine. So when her best friend, Alana, convinces Kate to join their high school's podcast, Kate is not expecting to be chosen as the host. Now she'll have to answer calls and give advice on the air? Impossible.

But to Kate's surprise, she turns out to be pretty good at the hosting gig. Then the podcast gets in a call from an anonymous guy, asking for advice about his unnamed crush. Kate is pretty sure that the caller is gorgeous Diego Martinez, and even surer that the girl in question is Alana. Kate is excited for her friend ... until Kate herself starts to develop feelings for Diego. Suddenly, Kate finds that while doling out wisdom to others may be easy, asking for help is tougher than it looks, and following your own advice is even harder.

Kasie West's adorable story of secrets, love, and friendship is sure to win over hearts everywhere. (taken from

Why I Need It: 

This one comes out just as summer begins, and it couldn't be more perfect! Sunshine on the lake and podcasts? Plus some romance? It's like this book was written just for me.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Review: A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J. Maas

Title: A Court of Frost and Starlight 
Author: Sarah J. Maas 
Series: A Court of Thorns and Roses #3.1 
Publisher: Bloomsbury YA  
Publication Date: May 1, 2018
Format: Hardback

Page Count: 272


Feyre, Rhys, and their close-knit circle of friends are still busy rebuilding the Night Court and the vastly-changed world beyond. But Winter Solstice is finally near, and with it, a hard-earned reprieve. Yet even the festive atmosphere can't keep the shadows of the past from looming.

As Feyre navigates her first Winter Solstice as High Lady, she finds that those dearest to her have more wounds than she anticipated--scars that will have far-reaching impact on the future of their Court. (taken from

"Deep inside me, rising with every swirling flake, a sparkling, crisp power stirred. 
I was High Lady of the Night Court. "  

Basically, this review is going to contain two central themes that define how I feel about this book:

1) I ardently adore the characters in this series and will read anything set in this world.

2) This book was not totally necessary or relevant.

So, having read that, you probably understand my main thoughts on A Court of Frost and Starlight, but if you'd like to find out more, by all means keep reading.

This book is told in alternating points of view between pretty much all of the big characters. What's strange is that only Rhysand and Feyre have first-person POV chapters while everyone else is in third-person. Not sure why Maas made that creative decision, but I did find it a little odd. However, I like getting to know all of my babies better. Yes, they are my babies, don't fight me on this.

Winter solstice is approaching, and let's be honest: it's really just a Christmas story. This is a novel about buying gifts, celebrating the holiday with decorations, and being thankful. Cute, but definitely a play on a mini-Christmas story like those specials you see on TV.

The characters are what make this book worth reading. Want to read about how Azriel and Cassian celebrate the holiday? Dying to know what step comes next in Rhysand and Feyre's relationship? How's Amren faring, you ask? Then give it a shot, but don't expect it to hold the drama and excellent storytelling that were present in A Court of Wings and Ruin. This book is a small peek into the "after," nothing more.

So, overall, I love it, but I also kind of feel like this book was a bit random. There was really no plot, and with it being so short, it feels like a tiny taste of Maas' true glory. Read it if you're a fan of the series but don't expect too much plot development or anything. 

My love for these characters is undying.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Waiting on Wednesday: Summer of Salt by Katrina Leno

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! Here's mine for the week.

Title: Summer of Salt
AuthorKatrina Leno
Release Date: June 5 2018

A magic passed down through generations . . .

Georgina Fernweh waits with growing impatience for the tingle of magic in her fingers—magic that has been passed down through every woman in her family. Her twin sister, Mary, already shows an ability to defy gravity. But with their eighteenth birthday looming at the end of this summer, Georgina fears her gift will never come.

An island where strange things happen...

No one on the island of By-the-Sea would ever call the Fernwehs what they really are, but if you need the odd bit of help—say, a sleeping aid concocted by moonlight—they are the ones to ask.

No one questions the weather, as moody and erratic as a summer storm.

No one questions the (allegedly) three-hundred-year-old bird who comes to roost on the island every year.

A summer that will become legend...

When tragedy strikes, what made the Fernweh women special suddenly casts them in suspicion. Over the course of her last summer on the island—a summer of storms, of love, of salt—Georgina will learn the truth about magic, in all its many forms. (taken from

Why I Need It: 

I love everything about the sound of this one. The cover is to die-for, the synopsis is totally intriguing, and it comes out in just a few weeks. Definitely pumped to get my hands on a copy ASAP.