Book Review: We Own The Night, Kristen Strassel

Whoa, you guys. Whoa.

Which is literally what I said out loud when I finished reading this book. But I think I’m getting ahead of myself a tad. Let me begin at the beginning.

WOTNThe Book:

Callie Chabot would stop at nothing to save her ex-boyfriend Blade Bennett from the clutches of vampire clan leader Talis de Rancourt, even if means becoming immortal herself. What she doesn’t know is that Blade has already defeated Talis, and he’s waiting for Callie in the afterlife.

Now Callie only has her creator, Tristan Trevosier, to turn to for guidance. But he’s too wrapped up in the debauchery of the Las Vegas rock scene to give a damn about the particulars of being undead. That’s enough to drive Callie crazy on its own, but female vampires are automatic clan leaders.

Not only does Callie have no idea how to wrangle a vampire clan, but her would-be followers have more to gain from her failure. They instead choose to follow Blade—and he’s hell-bent on making Callie pay for her bad decisions. Since he took out the existing clan leader, that automatically puts him at the helm of what should be Callie’s new clan.

That’s when seasoned rogue vampire, Cash Logan, shows up, shrouded in magic and mystery. No one is sure which side Cash is on, but Callie needs to take a chance on the one vampire who is willing to give her the answers she needs, no matter how dark and frightening they may be. Callie must trust her instincts and form alliances that may backfire. Cash shows Callie that playing nice is no longer an option, and that fixing her wrongs won’t always make everything right.

To take control of her clan, Callie must look to her rival to discover exactly what makes her a leader.

My Review:

Like I said, whoa. Okay, so to start off with, this is the third book in a series, and the awesome thing is that I read this one without having read the ones before it, and I didn’t feel lost at all. That said, once you read this, you’re going to want to buy the rest because…well, because of all the things I’m about to share. First of all, the characters are extraordinary. This is a vampire book, and vampire books have been much maligned by pretty much everyone in the universe, usually accused of having boring/lame plots and boring/lame characters. But the characters in WOTN have incredible depth and take the strange and impossible struggles of reconciling a vampire world with a human one to very real places. Thought the book flies from scene to scene and has plenty of action, it raises intriguing questions about what it means to be human, and where responsibility for decisions begins and ends. Are we helpless products of our circumstances? Does being wronged, and finding yourself in a situation you never asked for, become a license to do as you please despite everyone else? WOTN addresses these questions in a way completely relevant to the (presumably) human readers while not sacrificing one ounce of excitement and drama. I will toss in the warning I share when appropriate that WOTN has some decidedly adult scenes that some readers may prefer to skip over, and there is some language in it. However, these scenes aren’t the main focus of the book and there is so much more to the story than that that I encourage you to read even if those particular elements aren’t your thing. I definitely recommend this if you love a rollicking supernatural romance, struggles and clashes of power, and some really thrilling storytelling!

KristenThe Beautiful Author:

Kristen shares a birthday with Steven Tyler and Diana Ross. She spends each day striving to be half as fabulous as they are. She’s worn many hats, none as flattering as her cowboy hat: banker, retail manager, fledgling web designer, world’s worst cocktail waitress, panty slinger, now makeup artist and author. She loves sunshine, live music, the middle of nowhere, and finding new things to put in her house.

WE OWN THE NIGHT releases September 1st!! You can get your copy here or on Barnes and Noble.

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Author Interview: Rebecca Paula, Everly After

Good morning my lovely friends! I am so super excited for today’s post, in which we will chat with my amazing friend and talented author hero Becka! Below you can find out all about her writing style and catch a glimpse of her forthcoming novel EVERLY AFTER!
Becka1) Describe your writing process in three sentences.
Every book is different, but generally it starts with that plot bunny that won’t be quiet. Then I write a quick draft. Then rewrite, rewrite, rewrite, until it’s polished.
2) What’s the best and worst writing advice you’ve ever received?
I had an elementary teacher tell me once that I could never be a writer because I wasn’t a strong speller. It took another teacher a few years later to tell me otherwise and to keep writing. Thank goodness for that.
The best writing advice I received was at my first writing conference. I sat in on a master class with Julia Quinn and she told the class that writing rules could be broken if done well. That was a lightbulb moment for me. Until then, no one had ever said that was okay, so I was always writing in this box, listening and writing only to those rules. I think there’s a lot of truth in writing rules and for the most part, they’re rules for a reason, but never let them cage you in from writing how or what you want to write. Write your way, the best way you know how, and don’t let writing advice become more noise that interferes with you getting words on the page. Nora Roberts has said you can’t edit a blank page, and that’s so incredibly important to remember. At the end of the day, you need to write.
3) What’s one thing you hope to accomplish in your writing career?
I hope to write a book that truly connects with a reader. My characters aren’t perfect and can be polarizing, but I think it’s important to share honest stories about the messier part of ourselves. We all deserve love, despite our flaws and mistakes.
4) What has surprised you most about your book or writing in general?

This book surprised me in that I didn’t think I’d ever wrangle this story into a bookshaped thing. Ever. I wrote it when I was 16 and have since rewrote a few times over the years. So when I sat down this past January to rewrite it again, I wasn’t expecting everything to fall in place and become the book I’ve always wanted it to be. I think that goes the same with writing in general. I didn’t think I could write a book for a very long time for a lot of different reasons. So whenever I finish another manuscript now, I’m always surprised that I did it again in the best way possible.

5) What was the hardest scene to write and why?
Everly After pushed me to have the courage to write scenes that were uncomfortable and tough. It was necessary to keep the characters authentic and as a writer, it taught me to trust me gut and go there. Without giving too much away, there’s a scene where Beckett returns to find Everly high and drunk in her apartment in Paris. It’s in her POV and it was utterly heartbreaking to write. The scene is such a cry for help from her that every time I read it, I just want to hug them both and tell them everything is going to be okay.
6) What’s your favorite part of the book?
Everly and Beckett are both a bit broken, but they also fit together in an adorable way. They’re chemistry is great and I love the quieter moments between them. I think my favorite is when they steal away from Paris for an afternoon to a french lake.
7) What’s one thing you hope readers take away?
I think this book is very polarizing, people are either going to love or hate these characters. I’m a little biased and love them both, faults included. That aside, I hope readers take away that this is a story about healing and finding your place in the world. It’s not always going to be a pretty path, but both of these characters reach a hopeful end.
Fast and fun:
What’s your-

Favorite candy – Twizzlers
Favorite musical – Phantom of the Opera
Favorite dance step – The shopping cart
Favorite breakfast food – Coffee and a croissant
Favorite book – The Great Gatsby
Life phrase – Rome wasn’t built in a day
Isn’t Becka awesome, you guys?! You can learn more about her at her website, and be sure to add EVERLY AFTER to your Goodreads!

Author Interview: Kate Brauning, How We Fall

You guys, I am so incredibly excited for this interview! Kate is one of the loveliest, wisest, and most fabulous writers I know, and I am giddy about sharing her with you guys today! Below you can read an interview with Kate about her writing and about her upcoming book HOW WE FALL which (spoiler alert) I absolutely adored and will be reviewing here in a month or so.

Behold, Kate!:

Q1) Describe your writing process in three sentences.

I spend a long time concepting the story–living in the story mentally, churning scenes around, and figuring out the focus– before I actually start drafting it. Once I start drafting, I try to fast-draft the first act so I can see how things work out when I write them into the situation and the environment, and then I go back and heavily revise that first third to get all the layers in place and make any changes to the plot/characters that I thought of along the way. After I have the first act solidly drafted and revised, then I finish drafting the rest of the book.

Q2) What’s the best and worst writing advice you’ve ever received?

Worst advice? Just keep writing– practice makes perfect. I really don’t believe that, because you can keep practicing the same problems forever and not get rid of them. We can definitely teach ourselves, but making more words come out of our fingertips is not always the best way to do that. We need to focus our writing practice to learn specific skills and break down what works and why.

Best advice? Don’t hesitate to cut what needs to be cut. If you write a great line, trust yourself to write another. If you came up with a great idea or moment, trust yourself to be able to create another.

Q3) what’s one thing you hope to accomplish in your writing career?

The books I get most excited about are the ones that challenge me and make me see something differently or make me experience something. I tell my friends, I tell strangers, I give that book away for gifts, because that story gave me something I loved so much I wanted other people to know about it. I want to write a book that does that for someone else.

Q4) What has surprised you most about your book or writing in general?

How much I love it. Yes, it’s work, and it’s a lot of frustrating, intentional, put-in-the-hours work, but it’s also just a crazy wonderful thing that gives so much back to me that there’s nothing else I’d rather be doing.

Q5) What was the hardest scene to write and why?

The ending sequence was the most difficult, because Jackie has to have changed to make the choices she does. She wouldn’t have made those choices in the beginning of the story, and several of them change her life, so showing the difference between who she was and who she is now was really important to me.

Q6) What’s your favorite part of the book?

The scene at night on the couch, because of how vulnerable they both are. Readers will probably know it when they see it. 🙂

Q7) What’s one thing you hope readers take away?

Anything. That’s the thing. To me, the story is about bravery and boundaries and obsession. Maybe that’s what the reader engages with, or maybe it’s something else. Either way, if a reader came away from the book with something they didn’t have before, that’s wonderful to me. To have someone who engaged on a level where they participated in the story and got an experience or a thought or enjoyment from it, then I am thrilled. 🙂

Fast and fun: What’s your-
Favorite candy:

Dark chocolate, in any form. Milk chocolate is a substitute at best and white chocolate is just a trick. 🙂

Favorite musical:

I grew up on musicals! (You’d need to meet my mother.) Footloose, maybe. I love that one.

Favorite dance step:

I’ve always wanted to learn to dance, but I’ve never put in the time. Too busy writing!

Favorite breakfast food:

Fresh fruit smoothies.

Favorite book:

How can you ask?! Um. Top 5? Harry Potter (if the series can count as 1!), Gone Girl, Pride and Prejudice, TFiOS (of course) and The 5th Wave.

Life phrase:

It’s one from The Deathly Hallows and the great J.K. Rowling, courtesy of Kingsley Shacklebolt:

“We’re all human, aren’t we? Every human life is worth the same, and worth saving.”

Thanks so much for having me, Jamie, and great questions!

🙂
Kate

Isn’t she super awesome and lovely? Yes, she is. Here’s a little more about her, and don’t forget to preorder HOW WE FALL because it will rock your world!! Also, keep an eye out for my review 😉

Kate headshot AKate is the author of HOW WE FALL, a YA contemporary suspense coming this fall from Merit Press at F+W Media, and she’s represented by Carlie Webber at CK Webber Associates. She’s a compulsive traveler, cake-baker, and music lover, and she loves bright colors, fall leaves, unusual people, and all kinds of music. She’s written novels since she was a teen, but it wasn’t until she studied literature in college that she fell in love with young adult books. Kate now works in publishing and pursues her lifelong dream of telling stories she’d want to read. Visit her online on Twitter, Goodreads, and Facebook.

Book Review: Athena’s Ashes, Jamie Grey

Good morning friends! Today’s review features the second book in one of my favorite series ever from author Jamie Grey! You can refresh your memory of my review for the first book here, and then dive into the goodness below:

The Book:

athenaIt’s Renna’s biggest job yet – convincing MYTH leadership that she’s put away her lock picks and is ready to save the galaxy, despite the dangerous implant in her brain. But with the Athena on the run, she’s working solo and facing her most ruthless enemy, the traitor Pallas, who’ll go to any lengths to destroy the MYTH organization. Including framing Renna for a devastating assault on MYTH HQ that leaves their defenses crippled and hundreds dead.

Now that MYTH believes she’s a dangerous double-agent, Renna escapes their firing squad before they put more holes in her than a pair of fishnet stockings. But the ticking time-bomb in her head is the one thing Pallas needs to complete his master plan and he’s not about to let her get away. Even worse, he’s discovered the only thing that will bring Renna to her knees – threatening Captain Nick Finn.

Out of time and options, Renna’s got one shot to take down the traitor before he annihilates everything she loves, even though winning this battle may cost her everything.

My Review:

My goodness, you guys. You may or may not remember back when I reviewed the first book in this series I said I was amazed at how much I loved it, because a) I don’t love reading on my ipad as much as I love reading paper copies and b) I’ve never been so much of a sci-fi/space opera type person but if the first one was amazing this is something out of this world! (see what I did there?) Here’s why: I really enjoy Renna as a main character. She’s a fascinating mix of stubborness, determination to be hard, and fragility. She’s terrified to trust, sometimes makes terrible choices about independence versus working with others, and not the least bit afraid of aggression, but also owns up to her mistakes and tries to make things right. She’s willing to go the distance for those she loves, and so very human in her perceptions, and misperceptions, about those people. I think she’s a very honest and well-developed character and because she’s so easy to relate to, she grounds the whole fantastic adventure. I think she captures New Adult as it should be, rife with imperfections but all the more triumphant because of it.
The fact that I love Renna so much doesn’t mean I don’t adore the world-building in these books too. Everything from the technology to the peoples and cultures to the planets is so well developed and neatly inserted into the story that nothing seems unbelievable and the reader doesn’t get lost in all the new things. No info dumping drags the story down, so the pacing is excellent, and with a cast of wonderful supporting characters and a villain I wanted to both strangle and stab, ATHENA’S ASHES is definitely on my Top Summer Reads list.

About the Author:

greyJamie Grey spent most of her childhood writing stories about princesses who saved the day and pretending to be a daring explorer. It wasn’t until much later that she realized she should combine the two. Now, as a tech-obsessed gamer geek, her novels mix amazing scientific developments, future worlds, and the remarkable characters that live in them.

Jamie lives in Michigan with her boyfriend and their pets, who luckily tolerate her overspending on tea, books, and video games. You can learn more about her at http://www.jamiegreybooks.com, or follow her on twitter via @jamie_grey.

Celebrating: The Gateway Through Which They Came, Heather Marie

gatewayHi friends!

Welcome to week two of Back To School Month! Today I am so, so super excited to share a book with you which I absolutely loved, and an author who I admire and enjoy very much – here’s Heather Marie and The Gateway Through Which They Came, which is out today!

First, I got a chance to sit down and chat with Aiden, the main character from Gateway 😉 I asked him some questions I think you’ll want to hear the answers to!

1) What is your life quote?
“Never trust a Bleeder.” You never know what they’re capable of.
2) What’s your first or earliest memory?
The color gray, like the side of a rocky mountainside. A color so cold, but on the inside it’s hard as rock. I’ll never forget that moment—that last time I ever saw my father—as I witnessed the sadness in his haunting gray eyes the day he left us behind.
3) If you were an animal what would you be and why?
Can I be a T-Rex? I really just want to be a T-Rex.
4) What would be the perfect first date?
I suppose if I could make it through a night without a Bleeder crashing the party, I’d say dinner and a movie sound pretty damn good right about now.
5) What is your secret talent or ability?
Okay. If we’re putting aside the whole Gateway-for-the-dead thing, I’d have to say my ability to pop my shoulders out of my sockets makes for a party favorite. Seeing people cringe at the sound is the best part.
6) What’s your dream career and why?
Hell, if my life could be at all normal, I’d be up for anything at this point. But really I’d love to design video games. Trev and I spend so much time playing them. It only makes sense that we learn the mechanics of our obsession. Of course, our other friend Evan would be there to provide the beer.
7) What’s the top item on your bucket list?
Reuniting with my father, protecting my mother, and finding Koren. Those are the only things that matter.
Coffee or tea?
Coffee. Black, no sugar.
Ocean or mountains?
Mountains.
Morning or night?
Since I have to choose, I’d say morning. But only because I can see the Bleeders coming for the most part.
Sweet or sour?
Sweet, like Koren’s lips.
Winter or summer?
Winter. Bleeders reek in the heat.
Thanks Aiden! – especially for that last image.
Now for a bit about Gateway: I was lucky enough to get to read an early copy of it as part of doing of the blog tour, and IT IS AMAZING. GATEWAY handles some really challenging questions about death and purpose with great grace and poise. The narrative is tight and compelling, and I stayed up late to finish. If you’ve read some of my other reviews, you know that one of the things I love most in a book is when I can’t predict what happens. I’ve read so much in my life that I tend to have a sense about where a story is going, even when it’s told with excellence, so when a book can still surprise me, it automatically jumps up to my favorites. Another thing I loved about GATEWAY is that it didn’t try to provide answers and solve all the issues and questions it brings up. I love a book that challenges the reader to seek answers on their own and, by telling the story of something that could be, challenges assumption of what is and what we want it to be.
I recommend GATEWAY for anyone who enjoys a thrilling story, supernatural elements, and a brilliantly imagined tale!
And finally, a little bit about GATEWAY’s fabulous author!

Heather-AuthorPhotos-3-WEBSIZE (2)Heather Marie lives in Northern California with her husband, and spends the majority of her time at home reading. Before she followed her dreams of becoming a writer, Heather worked as a hairstylist and makeup artist for several years. Although she enjoyed the artistic aspect of it all, nothing quite quenched her creative side like the telling of a good story. When the day had come for her to make a choice, she left behind her promising career to start another, and never looked back.

Purchase on Barnes and Noble here or via Amazon.

 

Back To School Flash Fiction Contest: Round One

It’s here friends!! Today we’re going to start the first round of Back To School month’s Flash Fiction Contest!

The way it works is this: I’ll give you a prompt, and do an example, and then you will have one week to post your own flash fiction piece in response to the prompt in the comments section. I’ll choose a favorite, and you’ll be featured in next week’s flash fiction post, AND I will critique your query or the first page of your book (does not have to be finished, and if you don’t want anything critiqued that’s okay too :)). Note: I’m not super great at writing flash fiction, so take my example as more of a cautionary tale than anything else!

HERE is your first prompt:

In 250 words or less, write about a first day of school

Example: If Mallory’s legs were any heavier, she would sink through the crust of the earth straight into the molten lava center. She coughed exhaust as the bus pulled up and trudged to the door. Maybe she would faint. Maybe she would combust.
Mallory climbed the steps and tried not to look at anyone as she sank into the first seat.
“Hello.”
Mallory jumped. She’d hadn’t noticed the little kindergarten boy on the seat next to her.
“Hi.”
The boy squinted through his Harry Potter glasses. “What grade are you in?”
“Third. Is this your first time at school?” Mallory hoped no one would see her talking to a little kid.
“Yep. But I’m actually a superhero. Shh, no one can know.”
“If no one should know why did you tell me?”
The superhero grabbed the torn leather seat as they lurched forward. “You look like a good sidekick. I need one.”
“I’m taller and stronger than you.” Mallory kept her voice low. “Plus, I’ve gone to this school before.”
“But you’re still scared today. And I’m not. I’m fearless!” Superhero Boy crowed.
Mallory glanced back at the other kids, laughing and talking. Maybe Superhero Boy was right. They could be a team. Then she wouldn’t be afraid.
“Fine, but it’s top secret. No telling anyone else.”
The kindergartener put a finger to his lips, kicking his legs happily against his seat. Mallory leaned back in hers and glanced out the window. A superhero. She could get used to that idea.

I can’t wait to see what you come up with! You can post your stories in the comments until August 27 at 5 pm Central.

Back To School: A Writer’s Care Package

You know how in college sometimes there’s lots of those little care packages that people can send you? Some of them are awesome, like when your mom picks out cute things for you and sends them right before finals when you’re on the edge of a caffeine and studying induced panic attack 24/7, and some of them are weird like where someone hands someone else twenty dollars without even knowing what might be in the box that’s being sent to the student.

Well, for today’s Back To School post, we’re going to chat about what a writer’s care package might look like.

Imagine yourself sitting down in an empty room. You want to write a book. But you have nothing. What could someone send you to make this pit of despair a happy place in which to create marvelous things?

Let’s begin with the basics – what would you like to write with? Most of us use a laptop, some a desktop, a few like a typewriter or ipad, and some go for the old-fashioned pen and pencil, but some even use alternatives such as dictation. In your care package, make sure and leave room for a few of these options. You never know when a pencil will yield the words the keyboard wouldn’t, or when a computer will be the only thing that can keep up with your lightning fast ideas.

And on that note, your care package needs some supplies for the long haul – do you outline? Do you have a list of your characters? What about plot points, or twists, or subplots? Every writer is different this way too – some make book bibles with pages of details, outlines the length of senior thesis papers, and everything they’ve ever imagined or pictured about their characters. Other writers launch into their creations without a single structure in place. Make sure, though, that you choose your care package options carefully. Don’t assume that you’ll blast through the finals week of writing a book without a few hiccups and questions along the way. If you’ve always known every detail ahead of time, maybe it’s time to stop studying and have a wild night of fun just writing whatever pops into your head. If you’re a partier of pantsing fame, maybe you should take a shot at a brief outline, or at least a logline to guide your studies 😉 Explore all your options, and don’t expect your needs and style to be the same from one book to the next.

Finally, the candy of your care package – the beef jerky, the cheese and crackers, the butter soaked popcorn…the SOUR PATCH KIDS!! What do you want to put into your book? Are you more of a character person, who focuses on the people and lets the story unfold through them? Are you a plot person, swept up in exhilarating events and letting the characters discover themselves along the way? Maybe you’re more about the theme, and you know you have something to say about an issue but you’ll have to find the way to do it as you go. Whichever items you go full out out on in your care package, don’t forget that the best ones have some of everything. Because even if you love some character candy, you need to protein of the plot and the caffeine of theme to keep your story strong and make it through finals week to the end of your first draft. You don’t know what you might need most from one day to the next, but you know that the way to ace your book is including some of everything, in all the best flavors and styles.

So tell me – what does your writing care package look like?