Consequences in YA Lit

I've been pondering a post like this for a while but wasn't sure exactly how to go about it. Then the other day I finished reading Panic by Lauren Oliver. Now, this post is not going to be a dump on that book, nor am I trying to attack Lauren Oliver or make her look bad. Not in the slightest. I respect Oliver and actually quite enjoyed Panic. My rather positive review will go up soon. No, here I am going to focus on an event from the book (in the ARC, anyway) that inspired me to come back to this post idea. The idea of actions in books having consequences. 

Funny enough, the action I'm concerned with in Panic is not one of the many dangerous (and mostly illegal) challenges. No, I found those were given the weight they deserved. The action I want to discuss is this: 

A main character in the novel, Heather, allows her friend Nat to drive them home despite smelling alcohol on her breath. Now, readers are not shown how much she drinks because at the time Heather is quite out of it and is drinking herself. We have no concrete idea of how much time is spent at this place, which also has an impact because it's fair to believe that the longer they stayed, the more they drank. So it's entirely possible that Nat only had a few sips of a beer. However, it is equally possible that she drank more than that, and the book does indicate that, at least according to Heather's perception, Nat drank right before leaving.

Now, I don't know what the laws are like anywhere else, but in Ontario all drivers under a certain age (21 I think, which these girls most definitely are) are not allowed to drive with ANY alcohol in their systems, no matter their license level. It is clearly implied in the novel that Nat, a high school senior and the driver of the car, has had something to drink, even though it isn't clear how much. And because of the reactions, there is no real weight placed on the fact that that this is wrong. That it is illegal and, most of all, dangerous not only to Nat and Heather, but also to whoever else they may encounter on the road.

Don't get me wrong. I understand that this happens in real life. This is totally a realistic situation. That's not where my problem lies. I don't think it'd be bad at all to show this situation because teens and young adults do it. My issue is that there is almost no indication that what they're doing is wrong. Heather basically thinks "I shouldn't let Nat do this but oh well" (Not an actual quote but close enough. The actual quote from the ARC: "... normally Heather would have been annoyed that she [Nat] was drinking right before they were going to drive. But she didn't have the strength to argue, or even to care."). So, no argument from Heather despite the fact that Nat is about to carelessly put their lives at risk. Then they leave and there is no consequence. So not only do they not really consider how bad an idea this is, nothing happens that would show them that it is indeed a very bad idea. Would this not then enforce the idea that it's no big deal? That they made it out safe so, see, nothing bad actually happens? Again, I know that not every incident of impaired driving ends in an accident, but so many do. It is perfectly realistic that they could end up fine. But so many people don't. And with a young adult audience, I think it's irresponsible to encourage the belief that it won't happen to them. 

What first got me thinking about this topic was actually from last May when I was in NYC for BEA. One of the evening events I went to while I was there was Teen Author Carnival. There was a panel that night called "Reality Bites" with a bunch of contemporary YA authors like Leila Sales, David Levithan, etc. Suzanne Young was also there and I remember her specifically talking about needing consequences for characters in her work because young readers are influenced by the books they read. Now, you can disagree with that all you want but I've seen young readers directly influenced by fiction, so I believe it. Teens are influenced by what they read. I'm not suggesting that authors shouldn't be allowed to do what they want in their books. I'm simply suggesting that they should be aware of the actions their characters are doing and not pretend that there aren't any consequences for these actions. Because real teens will see that and if they don't know better -- because many teens truly aren't taught any better -- they might just believe that the world works the way it does in the book. That things happen to other people, but not to them. That teens may die from drunk driving on the news but no, this teen won't. And I just think that authors not recognizing that and not being aware of the ideas they're putting out is irresponsible.

Now, drunk driving is not the only action dealt with in YA that deserves to hold some weight and have some consequences. There are plenty of others, unprotected sex being just one of them. But if I were to talk about all kinds of these actions, we'd be here all day. I'm certainly not saying that these aren't true to life. These are things teens do, without a doubt. I just don't know if it's a good thing that the representation of these actions play into the mindset many teens have -- often subconsciously -- that they're invincible. Actions like this belong in YA, without a doubt. But in my opinion, so do the consequences.

But I want to know your opinions. Do you think authors should be aware of the way they portray these actions or do you think it's up to the readers to know better? Is this something that authors shouldn't have to be bothered with, or do you think that because of the audience they write for they need to take care? Are there other actions you think authors need to give a certain weight to in their YA novels?


Waiting on Wednesday #57: A Death-Struck Year by Makiia Lucier

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature created by Jill at Breaking the Spine. This is where you showcase an upcoming release you're anxiously awaiting!

This week, I'm waiting on:
A Death-Struck Year by Makiia Lucier.

Expected Publication: March 4, 2014.
by: HMH Books for Young Readers.

Goodreads Synopsis:
A deadly pandemic, a budding romance, and the heartache of loss make for a stunning coming-of-age teen debut about the struggle to survive during the 1918 flu.

For Cleo Berry, the people dying of the Spanish Influenza in cities like New York and Philadelphia may as well be in another country--that's how far away they feel from the safety of Portland, Oregon. And then cases start being reported in the Pacific Northwest. Schools, churches, and theaters shut down. The entire city is thrust into survival mode--and into a panic. Headstrong and foolish, seventeen-year-old Cleo is determined to ride out the pandemic in the comfort of her own home, rather than in her quarantined boarding school dorms. But when the Red Cross pleads for volunteers, she can't ignore the call. As Cleo struggles to navigate the world around her, she is surprised by how much she finds herself caring about near-strangers. Strangers like Edmund, a handsome medical student and war vet. Strangers who could be gone tomorrow. And as the bodies begin to pile up, Cleo can't help but wonder: when will her own luck run out?
Riveting and well-researched, A Death-Struck Year is based on the real-life pandemic considered the most devastating in recorded world history. Readers will be captured by the suspenseful storytelling and the lingering questions of: what would I do for a neighbor? At what risk to myself?
An afterword explains the Spanish flu phenomenon, placing it within the historical context of the early 20th century. Source notes are extensive and interesting.

Why I'm excited:
This one just comes out next week, so hooray for something so soon! I love my historical fiction, so that's an automatic point in its favour, but after reading and loving Cat Winters' In the Shadow of Blackbirds, I'm really curious about the 1918 Spanish Influenza so I'm excited to get another perspective on it!

What are you waiting on this week?


Review: Tin Star by Cecil Castellucci

Tin Star by Cecil Castellucci.

Published: February 25, 2014.
Published by: Roaring Brook Press.
Source: Requested an ARC from the Canadian distributor in exchange for a fair and honest review. Thank you, Raincoast!

Goodreads Synopsis:
On their way to start a new life, Tula and her family travel on the Prairie Rose, a colony ship headed to a planet in the outer reaches of the galaxy. All is going well until the ship makes a stop at a remote space station, the Yertina Feray, and the colonist's leader, Brother Blue, beats Tula within an inch of her life. An alien, Heckleck, saves her and teaches her the ways of life on the space station.

When three humans crash land onto the station, Tula's desire for escape becomes irresistible, and her desire for companionship becomes unavoidable. But just as Tula begins to concoct a plan to get off the space station and kill Brother Blue, everything goes awry, and suddenly romance is the farthest thing from her mind. 

My Review:

Tin Star is a very interesting take on a topic that has recently begun experiencing a boom: YA lit set in space. It has some truly unique side characters and an intelligent, resilient main character, all of whom I found compelling to read about. However, I think it suffered a bit from a lack of action and excitement due to the way the story was set up.

One element that seems to make Tin Star unique from other space YA is the aliens. In this story, humans are not even the dominant species in the universe, let alone the only intelligent life. There are many established species of aliens that are far more populous and hold far more control than humans do and this becomes very clear through Tula's experience as the only human on the station. I really enjoyed that this perspective was explored. It's not often that there's a story in which humans are not on top. The prejudice and distrust that Tula has to fight simply because she's human seem rather indicative of the way we humans treat one another based on other kinds of differences. The way Castellucci presented that situation was, I think, an intelligent social commentary that also worked very well for her story and her characters.

I thought the inclusion of the romance was an interesting choice. I think some people will find it distracts from the novel, but I actually appreciated its role. It certainly doesn't overwhelm in any way; it remains rather understated plot-wise. Where it really makes its impact is in Tula herself. She is the sole human on this isolated station for years. Her only real friend is the alien Heckleck and while he is a good companion for her, he is simply not human, and does not act like a human. No wonder Tula finds comfort in human companionship and even craves it. I felt like her emotions regarding the romance were very fitting with her circumstances and I appreciated that the romance was an element worked into the story but also that it didn't take over the whole story.

My only real issue with this novel is that, while Tula's day-to-day was interesting, I felt like there wasn't much progress made in the plot. There was an end-goal that Tula wanted to accomplish but it always seemed like there was very little going on to actually work towards it. The goal itself was specific, but any indication of how Tula hoped to accomplish it was very vague. I felt her conviction to accomplish it in her emotions, but her actions didn't seem to perform. At times the pace plodded and I wondered if anything was actually going to get resolved. As I said, for the most part I enjoyed the daily life on the station. I suppose I just hoped for more direction in where the novel was going.

All in all, I did enjoy the story crafted in Tin Star and think it's a good mix of aliens, politics and social commentary in a daily life type plot and a romance subplot. I really just wished it worked more towards the goal that was set out by the main character. Certainly still an interesting and enjoyable read, though.


Blog Tour Guest Post: Ask Again Later by Liz Czukas

I'm excited today to welcome the wonderful Liz Czukas to the blog for her blog tour for Ask Again Later, her debut novel. Big thanks to Liz and to Merp Squad for including me in the tour!

First, a bit about the book:

Ask Again Later by Liz Czukas.

Published: March 11, 2014.
Published by: HarperTeen.

Goodreads Synopsis:
Despite what her name might suggest, Heart has zero interest in complicated romance. So when her brilliant plan to go to prom with a group of friends is disrupted by two surprise invites, Heart knows there's only one drama-free solution: flip a coin.

Heads: The jock. He might spend all night staring at his ex or throw up in the limo, but how bad can her brother's best friend really be?

Tails: The theater geek...with a secret. What could be better than a guy who shares all Heart's interests--even if he wants to share all his feelings?

Heart's simple coin flip has somehow given her the chance to live out both dates. But where her prom night ends up might be the most surprising thing of all... 

Buy the book: Amazon / B&N / The Book Depository

Now here's Liz, sharing some hints to help you figure out if you might just be a YA writer. With her blessing, I then spruced it up with some gifs. So basically all awesome indicators are Liz's and all terrible gif choices are on me.

There are a lot of cool things about getting a book published.  But one of the best parts for me so far has been meeting so many other readers, writers, and bloggers who love YA as much as I do!  It's just so great to meet people who are geeky in all the same ways as you are.  After careful observation, I've noticed a few trends among authors of YA books, so today I'm here to share.

You Might Be a YA Writer If...

You still dress like you're in college.

Instead of being annoyed when a loud group of teenagers sits down near you in the movie theater, you think, "Yes! Research!"

Normal people:


You've ever felt like a creeper for staring at a teenager too long in public.  It's not your fault though! He/she looks just like your character!

At conferences, you're with the people giggling in the back of the workshop.

You prefer kissing scenes to love scenes.

You  might not have read any of the books on the New York Times Bestseller list for adults, but you can debate the merits of Gale vs. Peeta all day.

Your hair has been purple, blue, pink, green...any color of the rainbow.

Exclamation points are your best friends!!  Who can write a professional email without exclamation points?!

You can find your way to the kids section in any book store blindfolded, but you're not sure where they keep the grown-up books.

A trend piece in the paper about too much darkness/swearing/sex in YA makes you Hulk out.

Thanks, Liz! Those are some pretty fun indicators... if I exhibit some, am I doomed to have teenagers in my head forever?!

About Liz:

Liz Czukas is a freelance writer who lives outside Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Ask Again Later is her first novel. She collects college degrees she doesn't use, types too loud, and always has a song stuck in her head. In high school, Liz did go to two proms but not at the same time.

Find Liz: Facebook / Twitter / Website / Goodreads

Don't forget to enter the blog tour giveaway: 
US only.
-One annotated ARC of Ask Again Later + Swag
-One finished copy of Ask Again Later + Swag

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Waiting on Wednesday #56: Elusion by Claudia Gabel & Cheryl Klam

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature created by Jill at Breaking the Spine. This is where you showcase an upcoming release you're anxiously awaiting!

This week, I'm waiting on:
Elusion by Claudia Gabel & Cheryl Klam.

Expected Publication: March 18, 2014.
by: Katherine Tegen Books.

Goodreads Synopsis:
Soon, Elusion® will change the world and life as we know it.

A new technology called Elusion is sweeping the country. An app, visor and wristband will virtually transport you to an exotic destination where adventure can be pursued without the complications—or consequences—of real life.

Regan is an Elusion insider. Or at least she used to be. Her father invented the program, and her best friend, Patrick, heir to the tech giant Orexis, is about to release it nationwide. But ever since her father’s unexpected death, Regan can’t bear to Escape, especially since waking up from the dream means crashing back to her grim reality.

Still, when there are rumors of trouble in Elusion—accusations that it’s addictive and dangerous— Regan is determined to defend it. But the critics of Elusion come from surprising sources, including Josh, the handsome skeptic with his own personal stakes. As Regan investigates the claims, she discovers a disturbing web of secrets. She will soon have to choose between love and loyalty…a decision that will affect the lives of millions.

Suspense, thrills, and romance fuel this near-future story about the seductive nature of a perfect virtual world, and how far one girl will go to uncover the truth behind the illusions.

Why I'm excited:
This one sounds pretty unique and I'm intrigued by the idea of a virtual reality world going wrong and its implications on someone so close to it. I've also heard that there's no sign of a love triangle, at least in this first one, so bonus points for that!

What are you waiting on this week?


Sophomore Spotlight: Tiffany Schmidt

I'm very happy today to have the lovely Tiffany Schmidt here for Sophomore Spotlight! She's here to chat about her sophomore novel, Bright Before Sunrise.

First, a bit about the book:
Bright Before Sunrise by Tiffany Schmidt.

Published: February 18, 2014.
Published by: Walker Childrens.

Goodreads Synopsis:
When Jonah is forced to move from Hamilton to Cross Pointe for the second half of his senior year, "miserable" doesn't even begin to cover it. He feels like the doggy-bag from his mother's first marriage and everything else about her new life—with a new husband, new home and a new baby—is an upgrade. The people at Cross Pointe High School are pretentious and privileged—and worst of all is Brighton Waterford, the embodiment of all things superficial and popular. Jonah’s girlfriend, Carly, is his last tie to what feels real... until she breaks up with him. 

For Brighton, every day is a gauntlet of demands and expectations. Since her father died, she’s relied on one coping method: smile big and pretend to be fine. It may have kept her family together, but she has no clue how to handle how she's really feeling. Today is the anniversary of his death and cracks are beginning to show. The last thing she needs is the new kid telling her how much he dislikes her for no reason she can understand. She's determined to change his mind, and when they're stuck together for the night, she finally gets her chance. 

Jonah hates her at 3p.m., but how will he feel at 3 a.m.? 

One night can change how you see the world. One night can change how you see yourself.

Sounds great, right? Here's Tiffany with more to get you excited!

Jess: Thanks for joining me, Tiffany! First off, describe your sophomore novel, Bright Before Sunrise, in 5 words or less.
Tiffany: One night changes everything.

J: What, to you, are the most endearing qualities about your main characters, Jonah and Brighton?
T: Brighton is the most empathetic character I've written. She truly wants everyone around her to be happy.
Jonah is loyal and adores his baby sister. Despite the fact that she's the reason his life has been turned upside down, he doesn't ever resent her and he sings her sweet rock lullabies.

J: Those are definitely fantastic qualities. Jonah sounds like he'd be pretty adorable around his baby sister. 
If you could introduce one of your characters from Bright Before Sunrise to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
T: I'd love to introduce Brighton to Mackenzie Bishop from Victoria Schwab's THE ARCHIVED. The two girls are very different, but Mac has also experienced loss and knows what it's like to hide truths from her family. Mac is such a strong, resilient character, I think she'd be a great friend and influence on Brighton.

J: Oh, I adore Mac! I think Mac can teach a lot of us about staying strong, but hopefully Brighton would help teach Mac to take better care of herself! 
How did the journey for this book differ from that for your debut, Send Me a Sign?
T: I stayed with the same publishing house and editor, so that aspect of the process was much easier and smoother. The other big difference was this time around I had to balance promotions and events for Send Me a Sign with the revisions and all the things that went into making Bright Before Sunrise a finished book.

J: What is the best part of already having a book out in the world?
T: I get giddy and giggly whenever I meet readers. I'm still so tempted to respond "really?" whenever I hear that someone has read Send Me a Sign or is looking forward to Bright Before Sunrise. I treasure all the emails and letters I've received from readers, especially those who related to or said they received courage or encouragement from Mia's story.

J: That's wonderful! As a reader, it's so nice to hear that the authors do love those emails we send. :) 
Both of your books so far have been contemporary (which is undoubtedly a well loved genre by many). Are you interested in writing a different genre in the future?
T: After Bright Before Sunrise, my next book is the start of a non-contemp series. Hold Me Like a Breath (Once Upon a Crime Family Book 1) will be out winter 2015 and is a crime family retelling of The Princess and The Pea, in which the crime families traffic human organs. While the book definitely has a contemporary feel, it's also got elements of a thriller.

J: Oh, interesting! I love the sound of that and it certainly does seem like a bit of a departure for you. I'm definitely looking forward to hearing more about it! 
Do you listen to music while you write/edit? If so, can you share one song you listened to a lot while working on Bright Before Sunrise?
T: I need silence while editing, but I crave music while writing! Some of the songs from the Bright Before Sunrise playlist are:
"These Streets" - Bastille
"You Will Leave a Mark" - A Silent Film
"It's Time" - Imagine Dragons
"Enchanted" - Taylor Swift

J: You have great taste! I'm definitely a Bastille fan as well. 
Can you share a favourite quote from Bright Before Sunrise?
T: "Maybe loneliness is an acquired taste, or maybe it's like plunging your hand in ice water--it hurts like hell in the beginning, and then you go numb."

J: In keeping with our theme here, are there any other sophomore releases you've either loved recently or are looking forward to?
T: Well, I mentioned The Archived above, which is Victoria's sophomore book and one of my all time favorites. A.C. Gaughen's Lady Thief, and Jessica's Spotswood's Star Cursed are both brilliant. I'm also really excited for Elisa Ludwig's Pretty Sly, and Cristin Terrill's next book.

J: More proof that you have excellent taste! :)
Can you share anything more about your next project?
T: HOLD ME LIKE A BREATH, which will be the first book in my Once Upon a Crime Family series comes out Winter 2015. It's a retelling of the fairy tale The Princess and The Pea that centers around crime families. And the crime families are involved in the trafficking of human organs. You can find out more or get updates here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18584521-hold-me-like-a-breath 

J: Sounds great! Thank you so much, Tiffany, for taking the time to answer my questions! 

Are you excited for Bright Before Sunrise? What interests you most about it?


Valentine's Day with the YA Valentines

Happy Valentine's Day, lovely readers!

I know not everyone is a fan of Valentine's Day, but this year I wanted to give you a reason to enjoy it a little more. So I've enlisted some friends.

The wonderful YA Valentines are here on the blog today to brighten up your Valentine's Day with a little love from the main characters of their debuts. Each author has written a Valentine's message from their mc to you, the reader. Enjoy their sweet and quirky messages of love.


Jen McConnel's Darlena in DAUGHTER OF CHAOS:
Hey, Valentine, you make sparks fly!

Bethany Crandell's Cricket Montgomery in SUMMER ON THE SHORT BUS:
The way to a girl’s heart is inside a little blue box.

Lindsay Cumming's Meadow in THE MURDER COMPLEX:
Happy Valentine's Day.
The Murder Complex will spare you.


Paula Stokes' Lainey in THE ART OF LAINEY:
A warning for my Valentine:
I will not quit until I make you mine
I'm a girl who plays to win
And I will steal your heart again <333

Kristi Helvig's Tora in BURN OUT:
I’d ask you to be my Valentine
but I’m sweating my ass off under the sun
so though I hope you live to enjoy the day
my only date will be with my gun

Jaye Robin Brown's Amber in NO PLACE TO FALL:
Your fingers on the banjo,
My heart in a whirl
I sing while you play
and wish I was your girl.

Lynne Matson's Thad in NIL:
If we make it back
I promise you this
You’ll be the only girl I’ll ever kiss
For you I’d run
For you I’d die
C’mon Nil—just one more try
Give me a gate to make or miss.

Bethany Hagen's Madeline in LANDRY PARK
Happy Valentine's Day,
I'll put on my best gown,
but no kissing,
until my father is overthrown.

A. Lynden Rolland's Chase in OF BREAKABLE THINGS:
This ghost town reeks of ashes
and the bitter salt of the tide.
But when hope rides the tails of the breeze
know that it's me by your side.
Look for a dent near your pillow.
I'll whisper some peace in your ear.
Hang on just a little bit longer.
Your death. I feel it. It's near.

Anne Blankman's Gretchen in PRISONER OF NIGHT AND FOG
I was taught to hate you,
And yet I can't look away.
I catch myself wondering
If we can be together someday.

Kristen Lippert-Martin's Sarah in TABULA RASA:
Deep in my heart, believe it or not,
My love is so strong, it's like I've been shot.
Oh, wait. That's a bullet and this blood is all mine,
Assuming I live, will you be my Valentine?

Roses Are Red:

Sara B. Larson's Alexa Hollen in DEFY
Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
Don't attack the prince,
and I won't be forced to kill you

Sara Raasch's Meira in SNOW LIKE ASHES:
Roses are red,
The blood of my enemies is too.
Dating isn't a priority when your kingdom is enslaved
But I'll make an exception for you.

Philip Siegel's Becca from THE BREAK-UP ARTIST
Gashes are red.
Bruises are (black and) blue.
What we're doing is wrong
And you know it, too.

I hope that helped to give today a little extra shine. These lovely characters are happy to be your dates today (even if some do seem a little preoccupied). Think about it this way, though: you can always count on some love on Valentine's Day because fictional characters will always be there for you.

Happy Valentine's Day from me, these characters, and the YA Valentines!


Waiting on Wednesday #55: The Young World by Chris Weitz

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature created by Jill at Breaking the Spine. This is where you showcase an upcoming release you're anxiously awaiting!

This week, I'm waiting on:
The Young World by Chris Weitz.

Expected Publication: July 29, 2014.
by: Little, Brown and Company.

Goodreads Synopsis:
New York City is now run by tribes of teenagers, survivors of a
mysterious Sickness that wiped out all adults and little kids. But
they’re only survivors to a point—as soon as they get too old, the
Sickness kills them, too. The teens who remain are left in possession of the bones of a modern world that doesn’t work. With
resources scarce, conflict is inevitable, and the teens make sure
they are armed to the hilt.
The Young World follows Jefferson, the reluctant leader of the
Washington Square tribe, and Donna, his secret crush, as they rally teens around them in an effort to find the cure to the Sickness, and change the world forever.

Why I'm excited:
As soon as I read the synopsis I was reminded of a book I absolutely loved when I was growing up, The Girl Who Owned a City by O.T. Nelson. I'm really looking forward to reading this and seeing if it has some of the same elements of that and also seeing what it does differently.

What are you waiting on this week?


Sophomore Spotlight: The Glass Casket by McCormick Templeman

I'm very excited today to welcome McCormick Templeman to the Sophomore Spotlight for her new novel, The Glass Casket.

First, a bit about the book:
The Glass Casket by McCormick Templeman.

Published: Febraury 11, 2014.
Published by: Delacorte Press.

Goodreads Synopsis:
Death hasn't visited Rowan Rose since it took her mother when Rowan was only a little girl. But that changes one bleak morning, when five horses and their riders thunder into her village and through the forest, disappearing into the hills. Days later, the riders' bodies are found, and though no one can say for certain what happened in their final hours, their remains prove that whatever it was must have been brutal.

Rowan's village was once a tranquil place, but now things have changed. Something has followed the path those riders made and has come down from the hills, through the forest, and into the village. Beast or man, it has brought death to Rowan's door once again.

Only this time, its appetite is insatiable.

And now, welcome McCormick!

Jess: Describe your sophomore novel, The Glass Casket, in 5 words or less.
McCormick: After dark, the evil comes.

J: Ooh. That's rather menacing. I'm intrigued already! 
Which of the characters from the novel (besides Rowan) are you most excited for readers to meet?
M: Definitely Fiona. Fiona is a trip.

J: Say I wake up in the middle of Rowan's village. What do I experience when I first awaken?
M: You’re warm inside a cozy stone cottage with a thatched roof. Outside, a gentle snow is falling, adding to the blanket of white that covers the ground. If you step out into the crisp morning air, the scent of pine hangs heavy, and as you look up at the mountains, and at the surrounding forest, you feel at peace. But you totally shouldn’t. Something really scary is about to happen.

J: Ah, lulling me into a false sense of security, are you? That does sound very peaceful but I'll have to keep an eye out. How did the journey for The Glass Casket differ from that for your debut, The Little Woods?
M: I didn’t write The Little Woods with publication in mind really. I was just kind of messing around for fun, so I toyed with it over many years and it lived through many incarnations. But The Glass Casket came to me in a flash one day. I waited a few months and let it sink in, and then when I sat down to draft it, it came out in a deluge in only three weeks. It was like I couldn’t stop. Then I worked with my amazing editor, Krista Marino, for almost a year of revisions to really tease out and polish the story that was hidden inside my crazy three-week binge of drafting.

J: Both of your novels so far seem to have dark elements at play. What draws you to telling stories with that darkness?
M: That’s what I’m drawn to as a reader. I love scary books and movies, and anything with an element of mystery to it. When I sit down to write, the impetus is really to tell myself a story I haven’t heard yet. The impulse always comes from a place of being a reader. I have a stirring in my psyche and I want to follow it, and if I can easily find a book that fits the bill, then I’ll be a happy camper, but if I can’t, then I sit down and write.

J: I would think that would be hugely important as a writer, to write something that you'd want to read. You'd be spending so much time with it that you'd have to enjoy what you're writing to some extent! 
Do you listen to music while you write/edit? If so, can you share one song you listened to a lot while working on this novel?
M: I do. It’s a fairly recent development for me, one that originally stemmed from necessity, but now I love writing to music. It helps me lose myself in the story and keeps me from self-censoring as I draft. The song I listened to the most during The Glass Casket is “It’s A Fine Day” by Opus III. Even now if I listen to that song, I’m instantly back in Nag’s End. I kind of love it.

J: Can you share a favourite quote from The Glass Casket?
M: I don’t think I have a favorite one, but here’s one that gives kind of a fun description of the different kinds of witches in the book:
There were Redwitches, who drew their power from passion, and Woodwitches, who lived like sprites in small forest colonies, and of course, Greenwitches were the healers. The Greenwitches often lived in the forest just outside a village, limning the space between the tame and the wild, always a short trip from the birthing women and the quietly dying but far enough from prying eyes. Bluewitches were diviners, and water was their natural medium. Like water, they tended to ramble, wandering as the water beneath the ground did, ever flowing, ever moving.”

J: In keeping with our theme here, are there any other sophomore releases you've either loved recently or are looking forward to?
M: I’ve recently loved Jay Kristoff’s gorgeous Kinslayer. I absolutely adore that series. Camille DeAngelis’s Petty Magic is another favorite. It’s about witches and spies and WWII and is beautifully written. If I could steal her prose, I would. Nova Ren Suma’s 17&Gone was absolutely brilliant. Right now I’m reading Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries, which is fantastic, and so different from her debut. As far as what I’m looking forward to, I can’t wait for Stephanie Kuehn’s Complicit – I think she’s a genius, and April Tucholke’s Between the Spark and the Burn. I have no idea what’s going to happen in that book, and I’m pretty scared and excited to return to that world. And then in the middle grade realm, I got to read some early draft stuff of Kristen Kittscher’s forthcoming book, The Tiara on the Terrace, and it’s just crazy awesome and totally hilarious. I can’t wait to read it in its final form.

J: So many amazing choices! I haven't heard of Petty Magic, but after that description you can bet I'll be checking it out! I'm also really interesting in what Complicit will be like because Charm & Strange really blew me away. 
Can you share anything about your next project?
M: Just that it’ll be fun and scary. 

J: Sounds great! I'm looking forward to hearing more! Thank you very much, McCormick, for stopping by!

McCormick and her publicist have graciously offered up a copy of The Glass Casket for a giveaway.

Some Rules (aka the not so fun but important part):
~ This giveaway is open to US residents only.
~ Must be 13 or older to enter.
~ Winners will be chosen randomly and contacted via email. The winners have 48 hours to respond to my email, otherwise they forfeit their prize and I will choose another winner, who must abide by the same rules.
~ Neither Mindee nor I are responsible for lost or damaged packages.
No cheating! I have the right to disqualify entries as I see fit.
~ By entering the giveaway, you are agreeing to these rules.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Review: Her Dark Curiosity by Megan Shepherd

Her Dark Curiosity by Megan Shepherd.

The Madman's Daughter #2.
Published: January 28, 2014.
Published by: Balzer + Bray.
Source: Requested an ARC from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. Thank you, HarperCollins Canada!

Goodreads Synopsis:
To defeat the darkness, she must first embrace it.

Months have passed since Juliet Moreau returned to civilization after escaping her father's island—and the secrets she left behind. Now, back in London once more, she is rebuilding the life she once knew and trying to forget Dr. Moreau’s horrific legacy—though someone, or something, hasn’t forgotten her.

As people close to Juliet fall victim one by one to a murderer who leaves a macabre calling card of three clawlike slashes, Juliet fears one of her father’s creations may have also escaped the island. She is determined to find the killer before Scotland Yard does, though it means awakening sides of herself she had thought long banished, and facing loves from her past she never expected to see again.

As Juliet strives to stop a killer while searching for a serum to cure her own worsening illness, she finds herself once more in the midst of a world of scandal and danger. Her heart torn in two, past bubbling to the surface, life threatened by an obsessive killer—Juliet will be lucky to escape alive.

With inspiration from Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, this is a tantalizing mystery about the hidden natures of those we love and how far we’ll go to save them from themselves.

My Review:

Her Dark Curiosity, sequel to The Madman's Daughter, is a novel I found interesting both as a follow up and as an "inspired by" piece on its own. While I wasn't completely won over and do think that this novel was a little less impressive than its predecessor, I still enjoyed it for the most part. Fair warning, there will be *minor* spoilers in the review, though I'd say what I'm revealing is fairly obvious and nothing from too late in the book. 

To begin with the plot, I'll say that much of it worked for me, but when it didn't, it REALLY didn't. Most of that came with Juliet and her terrible choices, but more on that later. In regards to the Jekyll and Hyde inspiration, while I knew coming in who it would be about, I did rather enjoy the way it played out. It was fairly predictable for a while, but a combination of bad decisions by Juliet and interesting decisions by Shepherd helped keep it from being dull. There is definitely an element of "not all is as it first appears," which pulls the plot out of totally predictable territory. 

One thing I really enjoyed about Her Dark Curiosity is the evocative imagery. I actually think Shepherd improved upon this from the last novel. In that one, I found it often hard to picture the creatures and whatnot but I think giving this one a setting and characters more grounded in reality helped with the imagery. The fact that there were more strictly human characters helped as well. I found it very easy to picture the many sides of London that Shepherd describes and I very much enjoyed my imaginary tour of the city throughout the novel. 

I think the thing that bothered me most about the novel was Juliet herself. She makes some absolutely terrible decisions and does things that I think are incredibly stupid. I spent much of the story in a state of sheer frustration because of her decisions as well as her inability to stick to the (bad) decisions she does make. After finishing the book and distancing myself from my exasperation with her, I can say that, to Shepherd's credit, Juliet was quite consistently in character. Despite often hating her choices, I do think they fit well with the character of Juliet that we know. Her flip-flopping as well rang true to character because Juliet has a kind of internal battle going on between her "normal" side and the madness she feels she inherited from her father, which she both despises and is intrigued by. So despite my dislike for where her character is taken in this sequel, I will say that at least it didn't feel untrue to the Juliet from the first novel.

I feel that I should bring up the love triangle as well because it does shift and develop in some ways but it also feels like it remains utterly stagnant in another. At the end of The Madman's Daughter, Montgomery has essentially rejected Juliet by staying on the island while sending her off and she is broken hearted. A lot of this novel is her trying to recover from this betrayal as well as dealing with her feelings about Edward, which, spoiler, reemerge as he does. While I like that I can see the draw for Juliet to both options, I also don't think either is really a true fit for her, so I hope to see a resolution in the final book that either reflects that or shows me why one truly does understand her as she is. There is also, in this novel, the addition of and extra element to the triangle (a square, now?), which complicates things a bit, plus an action at the end that leaves a couple possibilities for book 3. I'm actually very interested in these additions because they keep the triangle from feeling like a simple repetition of what happened in the first book. 

With a few different mysteries and possibilities for the final installment, that is definitely a novel that I'll be checking out. While parts of Her Dark Curiosity left me a little disappointed (and more than a little frustrated on occasion), I found that between the strong setting, the inclusion of a beloved character (which I can't talk about because spoiler), and a couple twists to an otherwise average love triangle, there's enough to have kept my attention and kept me intrigued. 


Blog Tour Guest Post: Manor of Secrets by Katherine Longshore

I'm very excited today to be on the blog tour for a book I very much enjoyed by an author I absolutely adore. Thank you to Katherine Longshore and Rockstar Book Tours for including me in the Manor of Secrets Blog Tour!

Here's a bit about the book:
Manor of Secrets by Katherine Longshore.

Page Count: 320.
Published: January 28, 2014.
Published by: Point (Scholastic).
Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble

Goodreads Synopsis:
The year is 1911. And at The Manor, nothing is as it seems . . .

Lady Charlotte Edmonds: Beautiful, wealthy, and sheltered, Charlotte feels suffocated by the strictures of upper-crust society. She longs to see the world beyond The Manor, to seek out high adventure. And most of all, romance. 

Janie Seward: Fiery, hardworking, and clever, Janie knows she can be more than just a kitchen maid. But she isn't sure she possesses the courage -- or the means -- to break free and follow her passions.

Both Charlotte and Janie are ready for change. As their paths overlap in the gilded hallways and dark corridors of The Manor, rules are broken and secrets are revealed. Secrets that will alter the course of their lives. . . forever.

To chat about the "darlings" she had to cut from this story, here's Katherine!

Hello. My name is Katherine Longshore, and I’m an overwriter.

There. I’ve admitted it. For every book I’ve written, I’ve had to cut what adds up to about fifty percent of the final word count. So for MANOR OF SECRETS, which clocks in at just over sixty thousand words, I’ve had to kill about thirty thousand darlings.

Many of these disposable words are just that—disposable. Extraneous buts and ands and accidentally-repeated phrases (I think I had to cut several lines that read, “live up to expectations” and “want more out of life than…”) But, like many writers (at least those of us who overwrite), I also had to kill some bigger darlings.

In the first draft, Lady Beatrice showed up with a daughter—a girl who bore a striking resemblance to the daughter of Lady Catherine de Bourgh in Pride and Prejudice—mousy and milquetoast and pledged to marry the eldest son who will inherit The Manor. Not my most brilliant character portrayal—cut! The little miss no longer exists.

Another character who got airtime in an early draft was the eldest son himself. David. He was a bit full of himself, quite rakish, and ignored his (much younger) sister. He pulled a few stunts that earned him enough of my ire that I eventually decided he should be in the army—with World War I in the near future. Cut! David still exists—along with four other older brothers—but doesn’t get any of the spotlight.

Both Charlotte and Janie have a lot of backstory, as all characters should. But it takes a lot of effort merely to imply the backstory rather than have it all in there at once. I tend to throw everything at a first draft and cut judiciously after that. For instance, I spent a good half a day figuring out how Janie would be able to travel by train from her aunt’s house in Romney Marsh to The Manor—or at least to Penshurst station. She must have done this at about the age of eleven or twelve, the age when compulsory schooling terminated. This journey is not in the book (but it’s still in my head!). Sadly, some of the rail lines no longer operate, either.
An absolute treasury of historical detail had to fall by the wayside, as well. Nijinsky’s performance at the Ballets Russes. Eating at the Savoy. A picnic at the cricket ground, with Charlotte trying not very successfully to understand the terminology. The name of the horrible-sounding cocktail Lord Andrew refused to imbibe before dinner (it’s called a Bosom Caresser, a name that never fails to make me smirk, but wasn’t really appropriate for Lord Andrew to mention at the time). How the birds are “ripened” and dressed at a shooting party. How calling cards are used—and how they can be used as weapons.

The historical details were the hardest to cut. They really are my darlings. Historical details make the world more real, more visceral. They give us a place to be grounded, like the soil of The Manor itself.
But when the details take over, and the story doesn’t progress, they have to be cut. Every writer of historical fiction (or any genre—science fiction, fantasy, dystopian, paranormal) has to believe that just knowing these details can imbue the story world with the richness it deserves. Obviously, characters living at the time aren’t going to comment on what they find utterly commonplace. For instance, the lack of a telephone or the servants’ daily prayers led by the master of the house. Not to mention the sheer extravagance of running a house with forty indoor servants and dressing in gowns and white tie for a three or seven course dinner every single night (I consider myself lucky if I dress up for dinner twice in one year). But hopefully good characters will live those things without comment, and that will come across in actions and attitudes.

It’s part of what makes writing historical fiction so much fun. Doing an abundance of research and playing with lots of scenarios so you can decide what to keep and what to cut. Loving all of it, but being willing to sacrifice for the sake of a good story.

Wow. Even just the sheer number of darlings cut has me surprised! Nobody can ever say that authors don't work very, very hard on their books! As a history lover myself, I would love to see all that detail that had to be cut! But having read the book, I think it flows very well and so as much as it hurt Katherine (and as much as I wish I could see it all), I agree that it was probably for the best.
Thank you, Katherine!

About the Author:
Katherine Longshore grew up on the northern California coast. At university, she created her own major in Cross-Cultural Studies and Communications, planning to travel and write. Forever. Four years, six continents and countless pairs of shoes later, she went to England for two weeks, stayed five years and discovered history. She now lives in California with her husband, two children and a sun-worshiping dog.

Website / Blog / Twitter / Facebook / Goodreads

To go along with the blog tour, there is a US-only giveaway of 5 finished copies of the novel. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Follow the rest of the tour:
Week One:
1/27/2014- Fiktshun- Guest Post
1/28/2014- Two Chicks on Books- Guest Post
1/29/2014- Good Books and Good Wine- Review
1/30/2014- Hobbitsies- Review
1/31/2014- Magical Urban Fantasy Reads- Interview

Week Two:
2/3/2014- A Glass Of Wine- Guest Post
2/4/2014- Mundie Moms- Interview & Review
2/5/2014- Read My Breath Away- Guest Post
2/6/2014- Page Turners- Review
2/7/2014- Tales of a Ravenous Reader- Guest Post