Sunday, October 30, 2016

Review of This Adventure Ends by Emma Mills and US giveaway of the book by Left Bank Books!

Dear Readers:
I'm thrilled to get to introduce this book as I loved meeting Emma at the Fierce Reads tour earlier this year!
This Adventure Ends
Goodreads description: Sloane isn't expecting to fall in with a group of friends when she moves from New York to Florida—especially not a group of friends so intense, so in love, so all-consuming. Yet that's exactly what happens.

Sloane becomes closest to Vera, a social-media star who lights up any room, and Gabe, Vera's twin brother and the most serious person Sloane's ever met. When a beloved painting by the twins' late mother goes missing, Sloane takes on the responsibility of tracking it down, a journey that takes her across state lines—and ever deeper into the twins' lives.

Filled with intense and important friendships, a wonderful warts-and-all family, shiveringly good romantic developments, and sharp, witty dialogue, this story is about finding the people you never knew you needed.

Rating: 4 couches

Review: After reading First and Then by Emma Mills earlier this year, I knew I wanted to pick up This Adventure Ends as well. I'm glad I did because I liked it even more than First and Then!

This book stars Sloane, the daughter of a famous romance novelist, who moves from New York to Florida, and falls in with the popular crowd, in particular the glowing twins, Gabe and Vera. Sloane is a fun character-- she makes jokes to cover the fact that she actually cares. She doesn't like to get too close to people because it's scary. So it was fun to follow her for a book.

I loved the characters. I wasn't quite sure why all of the popular characters like Sloane so much, maybe because she's so different. She's definitely likeable, but the others work to bring her into the fold. I loved Vera, she was amazing, as well as some of the secondary characters. Gabe seems to honestly fade into the background in comparison. I loved the witty dialogue. I really liked the back story of following the twins' missing painting and the journey Sloane takes with Remy and her father. It was definitely a feel good novel.

That said, my biggest beef with this novel and the reason it's not 5 stars, is because even though I really enjoyed Sloane as a character, she doesn't change as much as I would hope. She doesn't come out of her shell to reach out. Even at the end she admits this, that she's just not that person to reach out and say sorry. I was super disappointed by this fact. I wanted to see a bigger character arc.

Overall, a worthy contemporary YA read with an entertaining and witty main character but not as much of a character arc as I would have liked.

Now thanks to Left Bank Books, who makes a priority to promote authors, this awesome bookstore is donating a signed book to one of my fortunate readers! Go forth and enter!

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Monday, October 17, 2016

Interview with SJ Kincaid, author of THE DIABOLIC and US giveaway of her book!

Hey gang!
I'm so thrilled to have SJ Kincaid back on my blog. I loved her first trilogy INSIGNIA, which I describe as Harry Potter meets Ender's Game. The trilogy just got better and better with every book. So when I heard she was coming out with a new book, The DIABOLIC, I knew I had to get my hands on it immediately. And boy, was I glad I did! It's terrific, and she'll answer some of your burning questions about the book and her writing process, and you'll have a chance to win her book!

Goodreads Description: Red Queen meets The Hunger Games in this epic novel about what happens when the galaxy’s most deadly weapon masquerades as a senator’s daughter and a hostage of the galactic court.

A Diabolic is ruthless. A Diabolic is powerful. A Diabolic has a single task: Kill in order to protect the person you’ve been created for.

Nemesis is a Diabolic, a humanoid teenager created to protect a galactic senator’s daughter, Sidonia. The two have grown up side by side, but are in no way sisters. Nemesis is expected to give her life for Sidonia, and she would do so gladly. She would also take as many lives as necessary to keep Sidonia safe.

When the power-mad Emperor learns Sidonia’s father is participating in a rebellion, he summons Sidonia to the Galactic court. She is to serve as a hostage. Now, there is only one way for Nemesis to protect Sidonia. She must become her. Nemesis travels to the court disguised as Sidonia—a killing machine masquerading in a world of corrupt politicians and two-faced senators’ children. It’s a nest of vipers with threats on every side, but Nemesis must keep her true abilities a secret or risk everything.

As the Empire begins to fracture and rebellion looms closer, Nemesis learns there is something more to her than just deadly force. She finds a humanity truer than what she encounters from most humans. Amidst all the danger, action, and intrigue, her humanity just might be the thing that saves her life—and the empire.

Blurb about SJ Kincaid:
I’m the author of the INSIGNIA trilogy, and the November book, THE DIABOLIC. It took me seven books to sell my first novel, but it came at a fortuitous time—one week before graduating from nursing school. I was shaping up to be a terrible nurse, so I can genuinely say my writing has saved the world from countless tragedies. I’ve loved science fiction all my life and always wanted to be an astronaut. Instead, I’ve become a YA sci-fi writer who hopes to inspire interest in space, thus nurturing future scientists who will figure out ways to make space travel affordable and easy—therefore enabling me to go to space without being an astronaut. It’s a diabolical scheme but I hope for success.

Social Media:
Instagram/Tumblr/Twitter/Facebook: sjkincaidbooks

Interview Questions
1. You've now written a fantastic trilogy (INSIGNIA, VORTEX, CATALYST), and a standalone (DIABOLIC). Can you talk about how the experience writing a trilogy versus a standalone and how it was similar and different? Pros/cons of both?
            I originally wrote INSIGNIA just as I wrote THE DIABOLIC-- as a book that stood alone. I hoped with INSIGNIA that I'd sell the book and then write more in a series, whereas I really wanted THE DIABOLIC to complete a huge narrative by itself. Before getting published, I believed the more books in my contract, the better! I actually wanted a five-book-series for INSIGNIA! My agent pitched it as four, and Harper bought it as three.
            Thank God for that. There is so much pressure when it comes to meeting a contract’s requirements. Four books would’ve been too much and five would have killed me. As it was, I combined my plots for books three and four into CATALYST and loved the results.
Selling THE DIABOLIC involved a lot less terror. Anything I write from here is entirely up to me and it isn't set in stone. With INSIGNIA, as soon as the giddy amazement of selling a book subsided, I was faced with two more books to write. This caused me to give a great deal of thought to the viability of my current good guys and bad guys. The big bad of INSIGNIA was originally just going to be Dalton, but he was such a weak character, he couldn't sustain three books of villainy. So I added in Joseph Vengerov and made Dalton his lackey.
            As soon as I conceived of Vengerov, his personality and mannerisms overlapped far too much with the secondary villain of INSIGNIA, the programming instructor/soldier who controlled Tom's neural processor. I had to reimagine that character, and from that reimagining, I came up with James Blackburn.
            I really loved the movie PLATOON about a young soldier observing a battle between two older mentor/rival soldiers, one good and one evil in Vietnam. Because I loved that dynamic, I set up Blackburn and Vengerov to be arch rivals, both deathly dangerous to Tom in their own ways, and that really became the spine of the entire trilogy.
            So... Yeah. A long answer for you! Writing a trilogy meant a great deal more thought, and a lot of reevaluating of what was already there to make sure three books could be crafted out of the conflicts set up, whereas with THE DIABOLIC, I felt free to blow up everything I wanted in the first book.
            Of course, I'm a much more experienced writer than I was four years ago! That is a big help, as well.
2. Your books so far have been Science Fiction YA (which I am so grateful for because there is definitely so few in this genre!). Is there a reason you gravitate towards SciFi? Do you think you'll venture into different genres, why or why not?
            The first five manuscripts I wrote were contemporary (2) and paranormal (3). Number six was a mixture of paranormal and sci-fi. I always watched sci-fi growing up. I loved Star Trek, Babylon 5, Farscape, and so many others, so it felt really natural slipping into sci-fi. The truth is, as soon as I settled in sci-fi, I couldn't really write anything fantastical anymore. I love having to ground the ideas I'm writing in at least some semblance of reality, rather than having outline an arbitrary magic system. Yeah, most of the physics of stuff like Star Trek is so advanced, it's basically magic... But I kind of like the idea that maybe it's not. In fact, that's why I loved Star Trek more than, say, Star Wars. I could hold out hope Star Trek might happen, but Star Wars has the force, which is essentially magic-- and that can never happen.
            Well... In this universe, at least.

3. Being inside the mind of a DIABOLIC while writing must be intense, because it certainly was as a reader. Can you describe what it was like to write from Nemesis' perspective?
            It was so intensely refreshing for me. She is hard and cold and pitiless, and I just enjoyed immensely existing through her from this mindset. So many times, you write villains, and you then have to put your own characters through such frustration because your characters have ethical things they will not do. When writing Tom Raines in INSIGNIA, for instance, I was very aware of the violence whenever I had the kids doing anything. Simulation or VR violence? Fine. And I’ll make it sometimes disgustingly gory just like a proper Mortal Kombat game.
But I was very careful when it came to any infliction of real world violence (well, story real world) because there’s actual responsibility there. It's fun to watch stuff like Vampire Diaries where people die left and right, often at the hands of the current or future protagonists, and the Superman movie where the collateral damage racks up, but that requires turning off some ethical judgments. When writing violence myself through the eyes of Tom Raines, I really wanted to maintain not only his humanity, but that of everyone who exists in the world. Even if it means getting the big bad, I am not going to have Tom or anyone else blow up a building with ten-thousand of that guy's innocent employees inside. I feel like a lot of popular entertainment just brushes over such consequences, but it’s really twisted if you think about it.
            Nemesis changes things. She does not have that ethical pause in her thoughts. She has both by nature and nurture been shaped to lack consideration for anyone beyond the small number of individuals she cares about. It really liberates me as a writer to wreak terrible damage and depict great massacres, etc. but it also lends me room for her to begin moving more towards the humanity from which she is so removed. I don’t have to worry as much about whatever message I’m sending with her actions, because she is not a normal depiction of a person. She is very much unlike us in so many ways. And even she can grow.

4. So I have my own predictions, but can you tell me what houses you, Nemesis, Tyrus, and Sidonia would be sorted into at Hogwarts?
            This will sound bizarre, but I'd say Nemesis is Hufflepuff. Not for kindness, obviously, but she is totally loyal to those she loves.
            Tyrus: Slytherin. Maybe Ravenclaw. He's a smart guy.
            Sidonia: hmm. Maybe another Hufflepuff? Or some unexpected Gryffindor? A character I sort of had in mind was Melanie Wilkes, someone who seems fragile, meek, but in actually is immensely strong and determined beneath the outward delicacy… Actually, forget that. She loves learning and theories. She's a Ravenclaw.
            As for me, that's hard to say. I'd probably be Slytherin, to be honest. I am a very laid back and mellow person who is secretly very ambitious.

5. Do you use an outline or do you just free write and go back later? Why do you use the strategy you use?
            Oh, I never, never free write without a plan! I can't do it. One I tried a NaNoWriMo approach, and the manuscript I produced was a catastrophe because I hadn't built up to an ending, so I just pulled one out of nowhere. I had the guy kill himself, which made for a dramatic but absolutely stupid, stupid ending. I wasn't pubbed yet, so I sent this around, trying to find an agent. One contacted me midway through that she was really loving it so far! And then she read the end and sent me a form rejection. ;-)
            I learned from that. I can pants it, but I should not.
            It scares me to write without knowing the ending I'm writing towards. I usually have big scenes planned in advance. When I sit down to write for the day, I know exactly what scenes I'm going to write. They're developed in my head. Then I do it. I always write by scene, not by word count, and usually I exceed the word count I would have hoped for anyway.
            That's basically my process. I love first drafting because thinking of the plot is the greatest. After that, anything that feels wrong or clumsy to me, I rethink, usually making it more complicated, or twisty, or (ideally) excising it altogether. I always go for cutting if I can rather than adding. The flaw of the INSIGNIA books was really that it took a while for each story to get going and many lost patience... It doesn't matter if you get a freight train moving and really have some payoff if people don't stick around long enough to see it happen! So with THE DIABOLIC, I focused on pace. Just keeping that pace up, and keeping it up from the very start. Hopefully it worked.

6. What is the last read you fangirled about and why?
            I am constantly coming up with ideas, writing down a bit, then just leaving a file on my computer. So very often, I end up seeing a PM deal with an idea so similar to that, I have to delete the idea because it's been done. This was one of them. I wanted to write a story about an outcast stranded out at sea with popular kids, and then the kids start dying one-by-one. I started and stopped, because I couldn't get it going. I compromised by putting my stranded-at-sea, eaten by sharks, and cannibalism thing into INSIGNIA. I was still really interested in seeing how mean-girls-on-a-life raft written by someone else would turn out.
            I read it in one sitting. Such an awesome book, and a fantastic main character who discovers just how kickass she truly is. There aren't many books I read in one sitting anymore, so really, I must totally fangirl.
            Also-- big Rae Carson fangirl, and love the RANDOMS series by David Liss. Anyone who enjoyed INSIGNIA or any sci-fi geek will love it, too.

7. If you were allowed to be stuck in a room with one person living or dead, real or fictional, for one hour to ask them as many questions as you'd like, who would it be and why? And what would be your most burning question?
            God, I've thought about this a lot. There are so many candidates, but I'm going to go with my old choice: Henry VIII.
            Because I was hugely obsessed with Tudor England back in the day. I loved Elizabeth I. I always imagined how Henry VIII would react if he realized his daughter - his least favorite - by Anne Boleyn would be the greatest monarch in England's history and far overshadow him. He scorned Elizabeth for being a girl rather than a boy, and came to hate her mother, but I wonder how much he noticed of her cleverness, her potential for leadership. Anyway, yeah, I'd really just like to see that reaction when I told him how awesome his daughter ended up.

8. What are you working on next? Can we hope for a sequel to DIABOLIC?
            I have another project I am poking at-- a humorous middle grade sci-fi. I actually wrote the very first draft of it the month after finishing the first draft of THE DIABOLIC. INSIGNIA was such a mixture of humor and darkness, and THE DIABOLIC is the darkness from the POV of a girl who has absolutely no sense of humor. Nemesis could only be the straight man in a joke, which was a fun change, but I needed to do the silly stuff. So... There is that.
            As for THE DIABOLIC... I might have said 'no' a while back, since I thought I'd exhausted the ideas I had, but then new inspiration struck, and I think it might be very cool to write more. I will wait, though. The story stands entirely alone, and it ends in a satisfactory manner that I'm reluctant to demolish by expanding upon. I'd like to see how the story is received by readers.
            But if there is demand? I know what I'd do, and it will be awesome.

Well, there you have it, guys. Demand a sequel from her, and it sounds like it'll be worth the wait! I know I'll be clamoring for one! Now you have a chance to enter and win this amazing book! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

In addition, she is running an amazing pre-order giveaway! 

E-mail a screenshot of your preorder along with a USA mailing address to to receive a bookplate and a swag pack!
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