Blog Tour: Interview with Emily A. Duncan (Wicked Saints)

Sonntag, 7. April 2019


   Hi everyone!
   Welcome to my stop of the Wicked Saints blog tour! This book was one of my most anticipated/I'm most curious about for 2019, which doesn't really come as surprise to anyone at this point, does it, since you know I like dark and twisted stories. And, as Slav myself, I'm always interested in Slavic stories or ones inspired by Slavic cultures, folklore, mythology, and our beautiful countries. Thank you to Wednesday Books for giving me the opportunity of being part of this and sharing a small interview with Emily with you. But, before we get into that, let's check out the book first!

Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan
Published: April 2nd 2019 by Wednesday Books
Number of Pages: 385 Pages (Hardcover)
Series: Yes, #1 in the Something Dark and Holy Trilogy

“Prepare for a snow-frosted, blood-drenched fairy tale where the monsters steal your heart and love
ends up being the nightmare.” - Roshani Chokshi, New York Times bestselling author of The Star-Touched Queen
   A girl who can speak to gods must save her people without destroying herself.
   A prince in danger must decide who to trust.
   A boy with a monstrous secret waits in the wings. 
   Together, they must assassinate the king and stop the war.
   In a centuries-long war where beauty and brutality meet, their three paths entwine in a shadowy world of spilled blood and mysterious saints, where a forbidden romance threatens to tip the scales between dark and light.
   Wicked Saints is the thrilling start to Emily A. Duncan’s devastatingly Gothic Something Dark and Holy trilogy. (Goodreads.com)

Interview with Emily

   When developing the plot and world of Wicked Saints, why did you decide to create two
countries inspired by Poland and Russia, besides the obvious historical conflicts between them
in real life?
   It was because of the historical conflict between them in real life! I had a book about the Polish-Soviet War of 1919-20 and that was what seeded the idea in my brain. Obviously this book isn’t remotely Soviet, it’s far further back and more anachronistically medieval, but that was where it all started.

   What was the easiest and what the hardest part about writing Wicked Saints, and has the story changed over time or did the plot and arcs stay more or less the same from first idea to final manuscript?
   The hardest part of this book was just making it work. The first draft had no Tranavia, no Serefin, no Malachiasz, and no, uh, anything but Nadya, Rashid, and a handful of gods. Then there were drafts with Tranavia and Serefin, but no Malachiasz (these were particularly bad). It wasn’t until I had been toying with the book for a few years that I got a full draft out of it and once I figured out what was missing (it was Malachiasz) it all came together. It was never an easy book to write, by any means, but it’s always been fun.

   How excited and/or nervous are you that soon everyone will be able to walk into a bookstore (or visit the online retailer of their choice) and buy your book?
   It’s definitely both excited and nervous! I love this book, but moreover this cast of characters, a lot and I’ve poured many years of work into it and I’m really excited for it to be out in the world. And for everyone to meet my monster kids. They're weird, I'm a big fan.

About the Author

   EMILY A. DUNCAN works as a youth services librarian. She received a Master’s degree in library science from Kent State University, which mostly taught her how to find obscure Slavic folklore texts through interlibrary loan systems. When not reading or writing, she enjoys playing copious amounts of video games and dungeons and dragons. Wicked Saints is her first book. She lives in Ohio.


   Thank you so much for reading and don't forget to check out Emily and her book. If you decide to read it, let me know because I'm curious of your thoughts! 

What I read in January 2019

Sonntag, 31. März 2019

   Hi Everyone!
   Am I late to writing this by like 2 months? Yes. Am I writing this right now because I'm stalling on finishing my preparations for Camp NaNo? Maybe. But hey, better late than never, right? For the fact that I originally set 5 as my Goodreads goal for 2019 (I've changed in to 10 by now, but I think I'll raise it to 20), I'm doing an okay job so far. My reviews have also gotten much shorter so I thought I'll post monthly reviews up instead of separate ones. For some books I've also decided against assigning star ratings.
   ANWAY, enough talking lets jump into what I read in January!

Two Can Keep A Secret by Karen M. McManus
Published: January 10th 2019 by Penguin
Number of Pages: 327 Pages (Paperback)
Series: No

   Ellery's never been to Echo Ridge, but she's heard all about it. It's where her aunt went missing at age sixteen, never to return. Where a Homecoming Queen's murder five years ago made national news. And where Ellery now has to live with a grandmother she barely knows, after her failed-actress mother lands in rehab. No one knows what happened to either girl, and Ellery's family is still haunted by their loss.
   Malcolm grew up in the shadow of the Homecoming Queen's death. His older brother was the prime suspect and left Echo Ridge in disgrace. His mother's remarriage vaulted her and Malcolm into Echo Ridge's upper crust, but their new status grows shaky when mysterious threats around town hint that a killer plans to strike again. No one has forgotten Malcolm's brother-and nobody trusts him when he suddenly returns to town.
   Ellery and Malcolm both know it's hard to let go when you don't have closure. Then another girl disappears, and Ellery and Malcolm were the last people to see her alive. As they race to unravel what happened, they realize every secret has layers in Echo Ridge. The truth might be closer to home than either of them want to believe.
   And somebody would kill to keep it hidden. (goodreads.com)

   WOW. As much as I enjoyed One Of Us Is Lying, I absolutely LOVED this one. So many twists and turns, so many possible suspects, and the tension was through the roof the entire time. The characters were great and interesting, the sibling dynamic between Ellery and her twin Ezra was awesome, the writing really good, even better than in her debut, and just...WOW.
   TWO CAN KEEP A SECRET is an amazing (murder) mystery thriller that I just couldn't get enough of, so if you're in the mood for a twisty thriller, definitely check this one out.


The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo
Published: May 8th 2018 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux Byr
Number of Pages: 323 Pages (Paperback)
Series: No

   From the author of I Believe in a Thing Called Love, a laugh-out-loud story of love, new friendships, and one unique food truck.
Clara Shin lives for pranks and disruption. When she takes one joke too far, her dad sentences her to a summer working on his food truck, the KoBra, alongside her uptight classmate Rose Carver. Not the carefree summer Clara had imagined. But maybe Rose isn't so bad. Maybe the boy named Hamlet (yes, Hamlet) crushing on her is pretty cute. Maybe Clara actually feels invested in her dad's business. What if taking this summer seriously means that Clara has to leave her old self behind? With Maurene Goo's signature warmth and humor, The Way You Make Me Feel is a relatable story of falling in love and finding yourself in the places you'd never thought to look. (goodreads.com)

   The Way You Make Me Feel was exactly what I wanted it to be, cute, fun, and with a core I could relate to in ways I rarely can when it comes to families in YA. The characters were fun and interesting, the setting different (a Korean-Brazilian food truck) and something I haven't read about before, and the writing style fit Clara's voice really well. I finished it in less than 8h because I simply had to know what happens next and how it'll end. Maurene Goo is definitely an author I'll watch out for in the future, and also want to read the books she's already published in the past.


Five Feet Apart by Rachael Lippincott, Mikki Daughtry, Tobias Iaconis
Published: November 20th 2018 by Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
Number of Pages: 288 Pages (Hardcover)
Series: No

   Soon to be a major motion picture in March 2019!

   In this moving story that’s perfect for fans of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, two teens fall in love with just one minor complication—they can’t get within five feet of each other without risking their lives.
   Can you love someone you can never touch?
   Stella Grant likes to be in control—even though her totally out of control lungs have sent her in and out of the hospital most of her life. At this point, what Stella needs to control most is keeping herself away from anyone or anything that might pass along an infection and jeopardize the possibility of a lung transplant. Six feet apart. No exceptions.
   The only thing Will Newman wants to be in control of is getting out of this hospital. He couldn’t care less about his treatments, or a fancy new clinical drug trial. Soon, he’ll turn eighteen and then he’ll be able to unplug all these machines and actually go see the world, not just its hospitals.
   Will’s exactly what Stella needs to stay away from. If he so much as breathes on Stella she could lose her spot on the transplant list. Either one of them could die. The only way to stay alive is to stay apart. But suddenly six feet doesn’t feel like safety. It feels like punishment.
   What if they could steal back just a little bit of the space their broken lungs have stolen from them? Would five feet apart really be so dangerous if it stops their hearts from breaking too? (goodreads.com)

   Reviewing Five Feet Apart is hard for me simply because I know this book and movie mean a lot to actual patients with CF (Cystic Fibrosis) and for the cause of bringing awareness toward CF, which was an illness I didn't know of until I saw the trailer for the movie on Instagram, of all places.
   Going into the story I expected for it to be similar in feeling and emotionality to The Fault in Our Stars, but unfortunately that wasn't really what I got. For most of the book I felt like it stayed close to the surface, barely allowing for the characters to dig deeper into their feelings and what was happening around them. Because of that, I didn't feel particularly attached to any of them, or drawn in by the romance the way I hoped to be.
   There were a lot of good moments, pieces that even I could relate to as someone who doesn't have CF but also has an incurable illness, but there were also things I had an issue with. The last 80-60 pages felt wrong to me in many ways, because I felt like the events that happened across those pages were far too dramatic, even melodramatic, and could've easily been dealt with differently.
   All in all, this is certainly a book I would recommend, even if only to educate people on CF and what it means to have it and live with it. I learned a lot about the disease and, after finishing it, went on YouTube to learn more. If you're interested in doing the same, this is a channel I discovered that offers a great insight into CF (since he is a CF patient) and also just great content overall.

RATING WITHHELD 

   And that's it. Three (3) books read in January. As for the fact that I've been in a major reading slump for most of 2018, that's not a bad result. I know some people read like 20 books a month, but honestly, I have no idea how they do it. I wish I could do that as well, it would definitely help decrease my TBR, but alas.
   In the comments, tell me what books you've read in January, or what your favorite book has been so far in 2019!

   Thank you so much for reading! Have an awesome day!

Hello 2019!

Dienstag, 15. Januar 2019

Who's totally late to post something for the start of the new year? Me, of course. I'm sorry.

So, this is it, 2019, a new year with new possibilities, changes, opportunities, and lessons to be learned. I don't know about you, but I didn't do anything special for New Year's Eve, just watched a movie on Netflix (I finally got it after missing out on so much, took me long enough, huh?) and trying to calm down my dog. As for new years resolutions, I have a few, but I've decided against having big ones that count for the entire year--let's be real, most of them we'll abandon after two weeks anyway--and instead I split them into quarterly goals.

I don't think I'll tell you about them, well, maybe I will but only once I'll actually manage to meet them and have something fun to share. Otherwise, should I fail, it'll just make me feel worse and that's not a good self-care choice, is it?

But, 2019 is off to quite the exciting start for me. If you follow me on twitter and/or Instagram you might've already seen me talk about this, but if you haven't, Echoes became a #1 Best Seller on Amazon. I honestly didn't think I'd ever get to see that orange banner next to it and yet, there it was. I was excitedly texting all my friends feeling overwhelmed and just so happy. It actually remained #1 for over 24h which made it even more insane to me. My book above Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo? I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes. I was sure I'd wake up the next day and the banner would be gone, but it wasn't.

Thank you, to all of you, for your support and for giving my book a chance. I know it's a bit different, and not necessarily as straight forward as some would wish it'd be, but I love that story, and I'm beyond happy that so many of you do too, and I honestly cannot wait for you to read the sequel. You thought Echoes was wild? Just you wait and see. 

On a somewhat related note, I haven't read a single book in 2019 yet, and we're already two weeks into the year. Who even am I? But, I totally have a plan (reading all the books in February). For now my top priority is finishing up my draft of Fissures and making my deadline, and after that, I'll set my plan into motion. I'm looking forward to it so much!

I don't know what 2019 will have in store for me, but I'm curious to find out, write new stories, work on WIPs, explore new possibilities, listen to all the K-Pop I can find, and just hope it'll be a better year than 2018. I'm not complaining though, don't get me wrong, Echoes was released last year and that was amazing and I'm so grateful for all the support and love it received, but besides that, it was a hard year, draining both mentally and physically, so hopefully 2019 will be a bit easier. 

What about you? What are your plans, goals, hopes for 2019? Tell me in the comments below or on social media. I always try my best to respond to all the tweets and DMs I get. :)

Thank you so much for reading and cheers to a new year! 

Big News!

Samstag, 17. November 2018

Happy Saturday everyone!

   Today I'm coming to you with big news in regards to my writing. Ever since Echoes came out in August, and even before that, people have been asking me if I was planning on writing more. Will there be a sequel? Please write more. I saw it in kind messages sent to me personally, and was told about these requests and wishes being voices in reviews. 

   For weeks and weeks I didn’t have an answer, and even when I said something, it was just some vague, wishy-washy deflection along the line of ‘there’s potential but I don’t know’. The truth is, a sequel was in discussion for a while. Once Echoes came out, I started working on a synopsis and everything for what the sequel could potentially be. But things weren’t set in stone for a while, until they were.

   Three days ago the following announcement went live — 
   FISSURES, the sequel to ECHOES, is coming winter 2020!

   I know, 2020 is still a while away, but I hope the wait will be worth it. Thank you to each and every one of you kind readers who got interested in Echoes and decided to buy it, read it, and sometimes even review it. Thank you also to everyone who reached out to me on IG (@alicereedsbooks) or twitter (@Alice_Reeds) to let me know how much you enjoyed the story and fallen in love with Miles and Fiona. Your support means so much to me, and certainly helped to make the sequel happen. Thank you for giving my book a chance, and thank you to my amazing publisher, Entangled Teen, and brilliant editor, Lydia Sharp, for giving me the opportunity and support to write the sequel.

   I can't wait for you to read FISSURES, even if the wait seems long now. 

Thank you and have a lovely weekend!

BTS World Tour: Love Yourself - Berlin, 10.17.18

Freitag, 19. Oktober 2018


I've been a fan of K-pop for years now, thanks to Girl's Generation and SHINee (my forever bias among all Idols is Taemin, just saying). Right around the time when Blood, Sweat & Tears came out in 2016 I noticed everyone talking about the video and BTS in general. I didn't really pay attention to it at first, but at some point I wanted to know why everyone was so obsessed.

And that's when everything was over--or began, depending on who you ask.

For those of you who might not know them, BTS (Bangtan Sonyeondan/Bangtan Boys/Beyond the Stage) is a K-pop band made up of seven members, as you can see from the above picture, called J-Hope, V, RM, Jungkook, Jimin, Jin, and Suga. Since 2013 they've slowly but steadily taken over the world. They are the currently biggest boyband in the world, are on the TIME magazine cover as 'Next Generation Leaders' and have spoken before the UN as UNICEF Ambassadors. Not bad, right? 
Jimin during the introduction.
They are known for their sharp choreographies, lyrics dealing with real life issues that are rather uncommon in K-pop (for example depression), and their music incorporates several different styles, especially since four members are singers and three rappers which gives them a lot of space to play with. Fun fact: they are involved in the production of their songs and also in the lyrics, another rather uncommon thing in the K-pop industry.

So, when I heard that BTS were coming to Europe, and Berlin specifically, I knew this was my chance to finally see them on stage. I mean, how often do K-pop bands come to Europe, right? ...But then I saw the ticket prices and I felt discouraged. What kind of price? The cheapest tickets were 75€. And there was also the fact of both Berlin concerts selling out in nine minutes or less, which didn't help much either since it basically gave me no time to think about it.

J-Hope during one of the first songs.
I accepted my fate of having to rely on concert recordings on YouTube and fancams and livestreams that would happen during the concerts, which isn't too bad either, you know? Not as awesome, but better than nothing. But, because I am surrounded by the best people in the world (and have fast internet on my phone) I was lucky enough to buy a ticket (one of the two cheapest options) on the day of the second Berlin concert when last minute ones were put up on eventim. THANK YOU.

Hours later I arrived at the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Berlin with half an hour until the concert started. Luckily, as someone with a seated ticket, I didn't have to wait in line with everyone else, but could basically walk in immediately. I had no idea where exactly my seat was (since you couldn't choose) but turns out I got an amazing spot with a great view and no one directly in front of me. Perfect! Unlike during European or American artist's concerts, there was no opener, instead different BTS music videos were playing on the giant screens off to the right and left of the stage, until the arena suddenly went dark and the screaming turned basically deafening once the guys stepped on stage.
Jungkook during the introduction.

Just before the concert started an announcement was made that Jungkook was still dealing with his heel injury and thus had to sit out all the choreographies. I'm pretty sure everyone in the arena would agree with me when I say that I prefer him sitting on his stool, or just walking around, than pushing himself and only getting himself more injured. It was lovely to see though how the guys still incorporated him into everything, danced around him or stood next to him, so he wouldn't feel left out or even worse than he already was (he mentioned feeling embarrassed and guilty for letting ARMY (the name of their fans) down). 

To my surprise the setlist was different than the one for the previous day (which I only knew because of the aforementioned fancams) but nonetheless it was jam-packed with hits and lesser known songs, fast party tracks but also slow ballades, a perfect mix for the fans and the band themselves. The choreographies in their videos? Yeah they do those live as well and it's even more amazing and mind blowing. Especially when you consider the fact that they're on stage for 2.5h(!) and as former dancer I know how hard it is to just dance for that long, let alone dance and sing at the same time.

Jin during his solo song.
The structure of the concert was made up of a few opener songs, followed by an introduction (which included the band members attempting to greet the arena in German), group songs but also sections where each of the members performed a solo song (V's Singularity was my favorite from all the solos simply because of the sensuality of the song itself but also V's voice and way of performing it, simply gets me every time), and then finished off by the singers doing a song (The Truth Untold is one of my absolute favorite BTS songs ever) and then the rappers, before coming together for a 'final' song. They leave the stage and then come back for the encore dressed in jeans and casual black shirts goofing around, filming each other with a GoPro on a selfie stick, and having fun. At some point they all say a few words, thank the audience for coming, some doing it in English and others in Korean with a translator coming over the speakers. It's interesting how it's not just them saying a sentence and then letting the next person talk, but it's usually like a minute or two per member with each saying something different, relating it to themselves or the audience, the city they're at, or something that's on their mind. 

RM during his solo.
You know how Beyonce frequently changes her outfits throughout her concerts? BTS do that as well. The different group sections have different outfits, and all the solo performances, the stage and props are changing as well. All their outfits are amazing and harmonize with each other, be it gorgeous black and gold suits, all white, bedazzled shirts, or all black with leather harnesses. A funny moment was during RM's solo performance. He forgot to close his belt, which I at first thought was a planned move, but no, it was a honest mistake. OOPS. My favorite outfit, besides the one for the opening (the one you saw on the first picture of Jimin), was Jimin's (is it too obvious that he's somehow turned into my bias?) bedazzled shirt and loose red 'bow'. It's so pretty and sparkly! Unfortunately my picture doesn't do it any justice (I'm sorry). 

Jimin.
And then, before I knew what was going on, the concert was over. Never had 2.5h passed so quickly, but wow, some of the best hours I've ever had at a concert. It was completely different than any other concert I've been at before, the crowd louder than I imagined possible (at some point I saw a staff member close to me with a device that measured how many decibel it was, around 110 as far as I saw at one point), the space illuminated by so called ARMY Bombs (basically glowing snow globes on sticks synchronized via bluetooth and an app) creating different patters or, at some point, even the German flag. There were people of different ages, genders, heights, skin colors, and walks of life present, all brought together by their love for BTS, their music, and K-pop in general. A night they would never forget, many later said on twitter, the best one of their entire life, an experience they would still talk about during the weeks, months, and even years to come.
BTS backstage after the concert with the signs BTS ARMY Germany made.
A final thought: I love BTS, and I love the concert, BUT personally I think the ticket prices were a bit much considering
they have a young audience (and I don't mean just teen girls as the German press tried their very hardest to make it seem, many people in the crowd were early or mid twenties, something I count as relatively young as well) who might not have that much money because they still go to school, university, or don't have the best paying jobs in the world (which isn't to say that some of course can easily afford it, but you get the point), so paying 200€+ for GA (general admission) is a bit...much. Also, the merch prices? 50€ for a shirt? In comparison, my Placebo shirt was 20€ at the same venue a year prior. Then again, I get it, they're a huge act right now, come with a giant stage with different features, screens, backup dancers, a big wardrobe, all things that need to be paid for and I can't imagine any of the shipping and transportation costs being small, yet when you play two sold out shows to a combined 34.000 people, I'm sure tickets for half the price, or even just the merch, would do the job just fine as well.

Of course BTS themselves don't make any of these decisions, the management and organizers do, so I'm not saying this as 'hate', but rather as salty/sad fan who simply couldn't afford both tickets and merch. 


Overall, as you might've deduced from this post, I had an amazing time at the concert and loved every minute of it, spent the entire rest of the evening, and the following day, telling everyone about it and how great it was. BTS are amazing performers and entertainers, and what I got was definitely worth my money. It was an amazing feeling to be surrounded by an ocean of smiling happy faces of ARMYs singing along and just having the time of their lives. Lyrics in Korean? Easy! Fanchants? Even easier! Do I hope that BTS will return in the coming years (especially since they've just announced that they've extended their contracts by 7 years)? YES!

And that's it! Thank you so much for reading! In the comments, tell me if you like BTS, if you've ever been to any of their concerts or if you'd want to go?

Blog Tour: Interview with Lucia DiStefano

Montag, 10. September 2018

Borrowed by Lucia DiStefano
Expected Publication: November 1st 2018 by Elephant Rock Productions, Inc.
Number of Pages: 264 Pages (Paperback)
Series: No

  Love, mystery, and danger collide in this new literary thriller with the dark heart of a Gillian Flynn novel and the lyrical prose of Jandy Nelson's I'll Give You the Sun.
   An triumph of authenticity, grace, and nail-biting suspense, Lucia DiStefano's ingenious debut is an unflinching, genre-bending page-turner.
   As seventeen-year-old Linnea celebrates the first anniversary of her heart transplant, she can't escape the feeling that the wires have been crossed. After a series of unsettling dreams, inked messages mysteriously appear on her body, and she starts to wonder if this new heart belongs to her at all.
   In another Austin neighborhood, Maxine braces for a heartbreaking anniversary: her sister Harper's death. Between raising her brothers and parenting her grief-stricken mother, Max is unable to ignore her guilty crush on Harper's old flame or shake her lingering suspicion that her sister's drowning wasn't really an accident. With Harper as the sole connection, Linnea and Maxine are soon brought together in fantastic and terrifying ways as the shocking truth behind Harper's death comes to light. (goodreads.com)

   Today I'm really excited to bring you an interview I did with Lucia about Borrowed. Honestly, I loved this book (find my review here) and was really excited when I got to exchange a few emails with her and also do this interview. I'm always curious to find out more about the authors behind the books I enjoy, so I hope you'll enjoy this one as much as I did. Thank you also to Elephant Book for this opportunity and to Lucia for taking the time to answer my questions!

Interview with Lucia DiStefano

   1 – Describe Borrowed with a haiku (or twitter pitch).
   The heart she carries
   --not the heart she was born with--
   will carry her home

   2 – What sparked the idea for Borrowed?
   I've always been fascinated by the topic of personal identity and how malleable it may or may not be. When I heard about the phenomenon of cellular memory in heart transplant patients (how aspects of the donor's personality might make it into the recipient's psyche), I knew I wanted to work it into a story somehow.

   3 – What was the most challenging about writing this story and which scene was the most fun to write?
   The most fun was definitely the scene between Linnea and Daniel in the bakery. I loved how Linnea was both nervous and bold, and I loved how sweet Daniel was toward her (pun intended...there were cupcakes involved, after all). The most challenging was the cabin scene in the third act. I realize there are technically several scenes that take place in a cabin, but the one that was the hardest to write will always be "the" cabin scene to me.

   4 – What do you like most and least about your main characters, Linnea and Maxine?
   Linnea: I like her perseverance most, and how she doesn't let her medical history define her future. I think at times she can be self-absorbed, though (I can say the same about myself!), so I think that's what I like least.
   Maxine: What jumps out at me most about Max, and what I like best, is how fiercely she loves her family, and how responsibly she cares for her little brothers. What I like least is that she has a tendency to be less than forthcoming, and one of the secrets she kept before her sister's death comes back to haunt her afterwards.

   5 – In retrospective, is there anything that you’d change about the story or are you happy with the way it turned out in the end?
   As happy as I was to type "the end," I tend to be one of those perpetual revisers. I would love nothing more than an opportunity to revise annually (ha...I know publishing doesn't work that way). With that said, though, I am happy with the final product. I worked hard, and Jotham, my amazing editor, worked hard, and he prepared me for the time when we'd have to stop massaging the manuscript. So if I did have the chance to keep reworking, I think it would be small stuff. Sometimes a phrase or a detail will pop into my head and I'll think, "Dang, I wish I had included that in the novel!"

   6 – How much research did you have to do to write the story both in terms of all the wonderful sweet pastries mentioned throughout the story, but also about heart transplantation and cellular memory? Was it important to you to stay true to reality, or did you focus more on using it in a creative manner to tell this certain type of story?
   Because I wanted the look at cellular memory to be more "what if?" than hard science, I tried not to get bogged down in too much research. There is much anecdotal evidence of cellular memory, especially with heart transplant patients, but because it's difficult or impossible to confirm it or explain it within the current bounds of science, it's still hanging out in that nebulous gray area. So I started with the germ of cellular memory, but I used creative license (and suspension of disbelief) to think of a scenario even more dramatic than any I'd read about.
   Oh, and the sweets: I love to bake. And eat. So that part was pure, self-indulgent fun!

   7 - What are some of your favorite books?
   Ah, my favorite question, and yet one of the hardest to answer (unless I can stay here all week!). Because it feels impossible to narrow the list of my fave novels enough to respond succinctly, I'll instead limit my choices to books on the creative life. My favorites in that category: The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, and Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert.

   8 – Do you have a writing routine or do you write whenever creativity strikes?
   My day job is ghostwriter, so I'm always writing in some fashion (and I certainly can't wait for the muse to arrive before working on projects for my clients). I try to work on my own personal projects first thing in the morning, before I turn my attention to the work-for-hire assignments.

   9 – What advice could you give aspiring authors?
   Approach writing with the mindset of 'play,' and you just may surprise yourself (and you'll likely have much more fun, too).

   10 – If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?
   Ah... bionic hearing. Think of all the quirky snippets of dialogue I'd pick up that way!

Pre-order

Check out the rest of the blog tour for Borrowed:
August 1: Cover reveal at YA Interrobang
September 4: Review at Alice Reeds
September 10: Author interview at Alice Reeds
September 24: Cover reveal at BubblersRead
October 15: Review at BubblersRead
October 21: Author interview at YA Outside the Lines
November 5: Author interview at BubblersRead
November 12: Author guest post at BubblersRead
And more to come!

Review: Borrowed by Lucia DiStefano

Dienstag, 4. September 2018

Borrowed by Lucia DiStefano
Expected Publication: November 1st 2018 by Elephant Rock Productions, Inc.
Number of Pages: 264 Pages (Paperback)
Series: No

  Love, mystery, and danger collide in this new literary thriller with the dark heart of a Gillian Flynn novel and the lyrical prose of Jandy Nelson's I'll Give You the Sun.
   An triumph of authenticity, grace, and nail-biting suspense, Lucia DiStefano's ingenious debut is an unflinching, genre-bending page-turner.
   As seventeen-year-old Linnea celebrates the first anniversary of her heart transplant, she can't escape the feeling that the wires have been crossed. After a series of unsettling dreams, inked messages mysteriously appear on her body, and she starts to wonder if this new heart belongs to her at all.
   In another Austin neighborhood, Maxine braces for a heartbreaking anniversary: her sister Harper's death. Between raising her brothers and parenting her grief-stricken mother, Max is unable to ignore her guilty crush on Harper's old flame or shake her lingering suspicion that her sister's drowning wasn't really an accident. With Harper as the sole connection, Linnea and Maxine are soon brought together in fantastic and terrifying ways as the shocking truth behind Harper's death comes to light. (goodreads.com)

* Thank you to Elephant Rock Books for providing me with an 
eARC in exchange for my honest review *

   Borrowed was nothing like what I expected it to be, and I mean that in the best way possible. This is a tale of grief, life, bodily autonomy, toxic masculinity, and survival told through the eyes of fascinating protagonists in a story filled with thrill and plot twists.

   The story starts out innocent enough with a feeling of coming-of-age and a look into the lives of two girls one year after one lost her sister and the other got a second chance thanks to a heart transplant. But, soon the story begins to twist and turn, accompanied by a writing style that will capture you and won't let you go until you're done. I had a couple of guesses along the way for what would happen next or who did it, but I never got it quite right and there were many things I didn't see coming, which I always appreciate.

   Linnea and Max were great protagonists and I loved getting to know them better, see Max trying her best to keep her family alive, take care of her younger brothers and her mother, and Linnea wishing to become a proper pastry chef and go to school for it. Both had distinct voices, making it easy to differentiate between their chapters even if you forgot which name was at beginning, and sounded their age.
   Ezra, Daniel, and Chris were also very different and played varyingly big roles in the story leaving me wishing we could've gotten to know some more than others. Some were the types of guys you'd want to date, or see your sister date, and others the very type you'd never want to come across even in your worst nightmares. But, that's the reality of things, men like the monster in this story exist and they are even more horrifying in reality than a story can make them seem.

   I've read Borrowed in less than two days and I've absolutely loved it. Lucia's writing style and way with words was captivating and enchanting, simple at times yet more than enough overall without giving you multi-paragraph descriptions or on the nose explanations, instead making you see what's between the lines and putting the pieces together right along with the characters. The story also taught me something I didn't know before about heart transplantation and cellular memory, which was both incredibly interesting and creepy. 
   I'm really happy I got to read this book early and spread the word about it because it's amazing and I recommend it to everyone, though there are a few trigger warnings that probably should get mentioned for violence, and especially violence against women (psychological as well as physical), so if you're sensitive to that, please be careful or come back to it at a different time.
I give Borrowed by Lucia DiStefano 5 out of 5 stars.

Pre-order

Check out the rest of the blog tour for Borrowed:
August 1: Cover reveal at YA Interrobang
September 4: Review at Alice Reeds
September 10: Author interview at Alice Reeds
September 24: Cover reveal at BubblersRead
October 15: Review at BubblersRead
October 21: Author interview at YA Outside the Lines
November 5: Author interview at BubblersRead
November 12: Author guest post at BubblersRead
And more to come!

ECHOES IS OUT NOW

Dienstag, 7. August 2018

   On March 21st 2017 I announced that I signed with Entangled Teen and after more than a year of rewriting, outlining, brainstorming, and waiting, the day has finally come! My YA mystery Thriller, Echoes, is finally out today and you can get it online or in stores (if you're in the US or Berlin, Germany). All the links will me at the bottom of this post.

   For a very long time I've dreamed of seeing this very story on shelves and being read by people, receiving positive reviews and just pulling readers into its spell. I'm so happy I didn't shelf this manuscript and instead gave it another chance and that it's finally here. It took over 3 years, but it was more than worth all the hours of 'lost' sleep, anxiety, nerves, and creative elation. 

   Yesterday I actually went to Dussmann / The English Bookshop in Berlin, Germany, to sign the copies of Echoes they had in stock. It was a surreal experience that I can barely put into words properly. Seeing something you worked so hard on in a bookstore just waiting for someone to pick it up and buy it, it's amazing and mind blowing. I couldn't stop smiling while I signed book after book, though I was also worrying that I might spell my name wrong or my signature might turn out ugly haha. 

   This entire experience was simultaneously everything I wanted it to be, so exciting and fun, but also extremely scary and downright terrifying. Launching a book, waiting for the release day to come, it's something I still can't properly put into words. My feelings were torn, all over the place, a wild cocktail of simultaneously wanting for the day to just finally be there while also hoping to have just a little more time, to prepare some more. But then, the day is finally here, and it feels like I signed the contract just yesterday.

   But, at the end of the day, this book wouldn't be a book without a number of people helping me along the way and making this dream a reality, and this experience so much fun despite also being endlessly terrifying, so I think it would only be appropriate if I'd say thank you:

   Thank you to my brilliant team at Entangled Teen. Everyone did an amazing job at answering all my questions (no matter how silly or long my emails), setting up interviews and guest posts, blog tours and getting ARCs into people's hands. THANK YOU for everything you've done for me and I can't tell you just how happy I am that I got to work with all of you.

   I couldn't have done this without my mom and her endless support in form of words of encouragements, an infinite supply of coffee, brainstorming with me, or just letting me talk at her until I found whatever solution I was looking for. I love you so much!

   A big thank you also goes to my CP, Mia, for her marvelous feedback and help while I was trying to get Echoes up to speed, for all her encouragements and DMs. Thank you for being a wonderful friend and making me feel like I can do it even when I wasn't so sure. The same also goes to you, Judi. You're amazing and a kickass friend and mentor. Thank you for being there for me.

   And finally, my friends (y'all know who you are you amazing beings) who didn't give up on me despite how much time I spent writing and working instead of answering texts or getting with them. Y'all are amazing and I am grateful for everything you've done for me. Cheers to more years of friendship!

   They wake on a deserted island. Fiona and Miles, high school enemies now stranded together. No memory of how they got there. No plan to follow, no hope to hold on to.

   Each step forward reveals the mystery behind the forces that brought them here. And soon, the most chilling discovery: something else is on the island with them.

   Something that won't let them leave alive.

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Mini Reviews #1

Mittwoch, 13. Juni 2018

All of This Is True by Lygia Day Peñaflor
Published: May 15th 2018 by HarperTeen
Number of Pages: 432 Pages (Hardcover)
Series: No

   Miri Tan loved the book Undertow like it was a living being. So when she and her friends went to a book signing to meet the author, Fatima Ro, they concocted a plan to get close to her, even if her friends won’t admit it now. As for Jonah, well—Miri knows none of that was Fatima’s fault.
   Soleil Johnston wanted to be a writer herself one day. When she and her friends started hanging out with her favorite author, Fatima Ro, she couldn’t believe their luck—especially when Jonah Nicholls started hanging out with them, too. Now, looking back, Soleil can’t believe she let Fatima manipulate her and Jonah like that. She can’t believe that she got used for a book.
   Penny Panzarella was more than the materialistic party girl everyone at the Graham School thought she was. She desperately wanted Fatima Ro to see that, and she saw her chance when Fatima asked the girls to be transparent with her. If only she’d known what would happen when Fatima learned Jonah’s secret. If only she’d known that the line between fiction and truth was more complicated than any of them imagined. . . . (goodreads.com)

   This story was wild, there is no other way to put it. It was also highly addictive. I was certainly intrigued by the premise of four teens befriending their favorite author (I mean that's kind of the dream, isn't it?) and things turning out not quite how they expected or hoped it would in the end. I really enjoyed the way the story was told through both interviews and excerpts from Fatima's new book, and the way you could see all the pieces coming together. It was fascinating to see how Fatima manipulated herself into the heads of those teens and made herself appear like their best friend and so interested in what they had to say and what was going on in her lives while knowing the reason why, and also how it made all of them feel and how they looked on it later on.
   This was the first time I read anything by Lygia Day Peñaflor and I really loved it. Despite my reading slump this year, I just couldn't put it down and finished it in about a day or two. I highly recommend it.
I give All of This Is True by Lygia Day Peñaflor 5 out of 5 stars.

* * *

The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James
Published: September 7th 2017 by Walker Books
Number of Pages: 290 Pages (Paperback)
Series: No

   Can you fall in love with someone you’ve never met, never even spoken to – someone who is light years away?
   Romy Silvers is the only surviving crew-member of a spaceship travelling to a new planet, on a mission to establish a second home for humanity amongst the stars. Alone in space, she is the loneliest girl in the universe until she hears about a new ship which has launched from Earth – with a single passenger on board. A boy called J.
   Their only communication with each other is via email – and due to the distance between them, their messages take months to transmit across space. And yet Romy finds herself falling in love.
   But what does Romy really know about J? And what do the mysterious messages which have started arriving from Earth really mean?
   Sometimes, there’s something worse than being alone . . . (goodreads.com)

   This book was certainly not what I expected it to be based on the description, but I was blown away by the story and how it unfolded. It alternates between emails and Romy's narration and it builds slowly, things come together piece by piece, the tension rises at the perfect pace, and it's also mixed with a bit of space science and a study on the mind when you're literally the only person in a radius of years instead of miles.
   I liked the fact that Romy sounded her age, but that her mind and knowledge also showed that she really could be someone born in space and training to be fit for the mission she was born into. Seeing her get to know J and also her love for her favorite show and even the (slightly cringy) fan fics she wrote for them, it was so much fun. But it was also genuinely thrilling, creepy, and downright terrifying, especially in the second half, even more than just thinking about being alone day and night for years on a spaceship. 
   Absolutely amazing read full of twists and turns and mind games.
I give The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James 5 out of 5 stars.

* * *

Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia
Published: May 30th 2017 by Greenwillow Books
Number of Pages: 385 Pages (Hardcover)
Series: No

   Her story is a phenomenon. Her life is a disaster.
   In the real world, Eliza Mirk is shy, weird, and friendless. Online, she’s LadyConstellation, the anonymous creator of the wildly popular webcomic Monstrous Sea. Eliza can’t imagine enjoying the real world as much as she loves the online one, and she has no desire to try.
   Then Wallace Warland, Monstrous Sea’s biggest fanfiction writer, transfers to her school. Wallace thinks Eliza is just another fan, and as he draws her out of her shell, she begins to wonder if a life offline might be worthwhile.
   But when Eliza’s secret is accidentally shared with the world, everything she’s built—her story, her relationship with Wallace, and even her sanity—begins to fall apart. (goodreads.com)

   Francesca Zappia is one of my auto buy authors, though I'll admit that it took me way too long to actually pick this one up and read it. I absolutely loved her debut, Made You Up, and I loved this one just as much, though for different reasons.

“I made Monstrous Sea because it's the story I wanted. 
I wanted a story like it, and I couldn't find one, so I created it myself.”

   The idea of being someone whose art and story can spark such a vast interest, create a fandom and be something you can live off of, that's the dream of every author and artist, isn't it? So it was fascinating to actually read about a character like that, see how she sees her fame, how reluctant she is to claim it, show who she truly is, her doubts and worries, and how her friendship forms with someone who is an actual real life fan of her web comic. I loved Eliza and Wallace, how reluctant Eliza was at first to interact with him and what a beautiful thing became of it, how she didn't judge him for the fact that writing came easier to him than speaking, and all these other small things.
   The fact that the art in the book came from Francesca was even cooler so kudos to her for doing it. Both the main story, and the snippets we saw of Eliza's web comic, were absolutely fantastic and I can only recommend this book to everyone. Read it, you won't regret it.
I give Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia 5 out of 5 stars.