Thursday, August 28, 2014

Review: E By Kate Wrath

A poignant tale of love and friendship in a world beyond hope…

Outpost Three: a huddle of crumbling buildings choked by a concrete wall. Cracked pavement, rusted metal, splintering boards. Huge robotic Sentries police the streets, but the Ten Laws are broken every time one turns its back.

Eden is determined, smart, and a born survivor. Stripped of her memories and dumped on the streets of the Outpost, slavers and starvation are only the beginning of her problems. A devastating conflict is coming that threatens to consume her world and tear her newfound family apart.

Life is harsh. It makes no exceptions. Not even for the innocent.
My Rating
My Review
E will grasp onto readers from the very beginning and hold onto them throughout the entire ride. It was hard to stop reading at all, with the fast pacing and engaging plot. A must-read YA, E is dark, exciting, heart breaking, and thoroughly enjoyable.

There is a lot more than meets the eye with this novel. When Eden first awakes, remembering absolutely nothing of her past, readers are thrown right alongside her into this new world, with Wrath crafted and developed gorgeously. It is a dark kind of future in which the dangers of criminal gambling, extreme poverty, and human trafficking seem a lot more like our past. You know, aside from the robot law enforcers.

Not only does Eden have to worry about figuring out who she used to be, but she has to survive sickness, starvation, and being sold to slavery. One little mishap could have her facing deadly consequences at the hands of Matt, the sector's criminal mastermind and resident mob boss type, or losing herself all over again to the unstoppable Sentries. If this weren't already bad enough, a criminal powerhouse from sector two wants to invade and engage in a full out war - and, supposedly, he makes Matt looks like a ball of sunshine. There's definitely no shortage of plot, stakes and pace in this novel. However, all of the major conflicts did have the whole "identity wipe" thing seem pretty forgotten. Eden didn't spend time at all really trying to figure out who she used to be, which is understandable, but I still would have liked to see more consistency in that. However, this is only the first book and the next installment of the series may very well bring this back to light and answer all my questions.

But if E has a strong plot, it has even stronger characters. Eden is a great POV to read from, as she always felt true to her character and held admirable qualities. I enjoyed Matt as a character, as he is so incredibly complex, as well as Miranda. Both of those characters have juicy layers under hard exteriors, and that's always fun. But what really stole my heart was the relationship between characters.

If you know me, you know that I love a good, swoony, romantic couple. Well, one of my all-time favorite relationships is from this novel. And it's not a romantic one. Yes, it still both comfortably warmed and achingly burned my heart, but the relationship between Eden and Oscar is platonic. Although they aren't related, they really feel like a brother and sister. I loved every scene they had together, as well as the lighter tone Eden had only with Oscar around.

All in all, I loved E. and I definitely recommend it. In fact, I have half a mind to break the law and have a Sentry wipe my mind, just so I could read this book again for the first time.


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Waiting On Wednesday: Vision by Lisa Amowitz

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 Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill from Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases we are eagerly awaiting!

(So, technically, I already read and reviewed this, but you should be waiting on it, because it's awesome.)

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Title: Vision
Author: Lisa Amowitz
Publisher: Spencer Hill Press
Expected Publication Date: September 9, 2014

The light is darker than you think… 

High school student Bobby Pendell already has his hands full—he works almost every night to support his disabled-vet father and gifted little brother. Then he meets the beautiful new girl in town, who just happens to be his boss’s daughter. Bobby has rules about that kind of thing. Nothing matters more than keeping his job.

When Bobby starts to get blinding migraines that come with scary, violent hallucinations, his livelihood is on the line. Soon, he must face the stunning possibility that the visions of murder are actually real. With his world going dark, Bobby is set on the trail of the serial killer terrorizing his small town. With everyone else convinced he’s the prime suspect, Bobby realizes that he, or the girl he loves, might be killer's next victim.

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My young adult novel BREAKING GLASS is available now 

AmazonBNOblong Books 

The light is darker than you think.

Visit me on the web at:

Breaking Glass on GOODREADS 

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Lisa Amowitz was born in Queens and raised in the wilds of Long Island, New York where she climbed trees, thought small creatures lived under rocks and studied ant hills. And drew. A lot.
Lisa has been a professor of graphic design at  Bronx Community College where she has been tormenting and cajoling students for nearly eighteen years. She started writing eight years ago because she wanted something to illustrate, but somehow, instead ended up writing YA. Probably because her mind is too dark and twisted for small children.
BREAKING GLASS which was released July 9, 2013 from Spencer Hill Press, is her first published work. VISION, the first of the Finder series will be released in 2014 along with an unnamed sequel in the following year. LIFE AND BETH will also be released in the near future. So stay tuned because Lisa is very hyper and has to create stuff to stay alive.
Facebook Author page

Monday, August 25, 2014

Review: Queen of Someday by Sherry D. Ficklin


Before she can become the greatest empress in history, fifteen-year-old Sophie will have to survive her social-climbing mother’s quest to put her on the throne of Russia—at any cost.

Imperial Court holds dangers like nothing Sophie has ever faced before. In the heart of St. Petersburg, surviving means navigating the political, romantic, and religious demands of the bitter Empress Elizabeth and her handsome, but sadistic nephew, Peter. Determined to save her impoverished family—and herself—Sophie vows to do whatever is necessary to thrive in her new surroundings. But an attempt on her life and an unexpected attraction threatens to derail her plans.

Alone in a new and dangerous world, learning who to trust and who to charm may mean the difference between becoming queen and being sent home in shame to marry her lecherous uncle. With traitors and murderers lurking around every corner, her very life hangs in the balance. Betrothed to one man but falling in love with another, Sophie will need to decide how much she’s willing to sacrifice in order to become the empress she is destined to be.

In a battle for the soul of a nation, will love or destiny reign supreme?
My Rating
My Review
Fans of historical fiction, look no further, as Queen of Someday is a wonderful YA read that has just about everything readers could ask for. It's impossible to put down, and I loved just about every minute.

Characters are always important in stories with a basis in history, especially if they actually existed in real life. I loved how the characters were really brought to life in the novel with believable personalities. It's hard to imagine one of Russia's greatest rulers as a teenage girl, but Ficklin crafted Sophie incredibly well. As I reader, I really felt I saw her grow as a character, and begin to shape into the woman she is sure to become. It's exciting not only to have such a strong female protagonist, but a strong female protagonist based greatly on a real woman in history. Plus, we don't have enough politically ambitious protagonists in YA. Whether you'd get along with a power-hungry lead or not, it sure makes them interesting.

Being as the novel does have a historical basis, it seems a bit odd to rave about the plot, as the plot is...well, history. However, a large part of the novel still is fictional, and even if it weren't, I'd talk about the plot anyway because I enjoy it that much. There wasn't a dull moment, and I was fully invested with every new twist. And I can't even remember the last time I loved an ending so much. (Because I really, really loved the ending.)

If there's anything I enjoyed almost as much as the ending, it's the relationship between characters. The interwoven dealings and changes were fantastic to read about, and I couldn't get enough. All of the characters really brought something to the story. For example, Sergei gives readers a real reason to swoon. (Among other things, of course.)

Although some of the dialogue felt a bit forced, especially in the "love interest" scenes, it never really got in the way of my reading experience. Plus, that was more so a rare occurrence.

Queen of Someday really has a little bit of everything. Action, betrayal, forbidden romance, twists...and a bunch of other lovely things I'm forgetting to mention. I highly recommend, and cannot wait to get my hands on the second book of the series.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Review: The Threshing Circle by Neil Grimmett

A young couple arrive on the Greek island of Crete and begin prying into the execution of a beautiful English woman during the German occupation sixty years before. They enter a labyrinth of forbidden love, betrayals, murder, greed and vendettas, old and new. 

Then they disappear.

A feisty Scottish woman and an irascible, Zorba-like Greek form a reluctant allegiance in a desperate attempt to find and rescue them. They both have very different motives for their involvement. Their search will take them to hidden rituals, ceremonies, remote gatherings, famous monasteries and villages abandoned after decades of vendettas. To the remote island of Gavdos and finally back to a place that, “Even God does not know exists”.

They will encounter characters good and evil; some modern and pragmatic, others ancient and magical.
All the time they are being stalked by the sons of man who seeks to complete the crimes of his father and sate his own greed and insane desire for vengeance. These men are more animal than human and have been raised in the remote mountains for the sole purpose of carrying out the brutal will of their father. 

The mystery of the real, hidden Crete runs deep, and THE THRESHING CIRCLE explores some of the myths and romance while not shying away from its often violent nature. 

By the end choices will have to be made. If such actions are really possible on an island where many Cretans still believe that: “The Cycle of Blood”, can never stop flowing.

My Rating


My Review

The Threshing Circle is a very compelling mystery/thriller that will resonate with readers long after finishing that final page. Although, toward the beginning, I found it a bit hard to get into, I couldn't have enjoyed it much more once I did. I loved the different layers involved in the story. It isn't the expected liner plot in one dimension, but a story that needs to be unraveled - something that readers are sure to enjoy doing.

If there's one thing I love, it's settings that take me far away from home, and this definitely was the case in The Threshing Circle. Taking place on the island of Crete, the setting was such a wonderful influence on the novel, at times, it was like I was really there. Through breathtaking description and behavior, not only are we able to get a better sense of a different culture, but we're able to smell the saltwater of the Mediterranean sea and take in the rocky cliffs and gorgeous terrain. The presence of island life made for an interesting setting - and the strong setting in both the present and the past made for an unforgettable read.

Most of the characters were very well developed and entirely believable. I didn't always agree with Kirsty's decisions, but I found them to be in character for her, which is what really matters to me. Barba Yigoros was very enjoyable, and the banter between the two of them was both realistic and entertaining. Even the supporting characters were able to make an impact - although, with the amount of them introduced, it was sometimes hard to keep track of them.

The sense of mystery throughout the novel is fantastic - definitely enough to keep readers dedicated and desperate to know more. Grimmett does a great job of in incorporating both suspense and intrigue. I found myself trying to find answers along with Kirsty. Not to mention, the pacing only got better as the book went on. The more I read, the more I didn't want to stop. It really did get better and better throughout the experience.

I can easily recommended The Threshing Circle to fans of mystery, thriller, suspense, and even history. It truly is a well-written book that takes readers along for a ride. A great novel to pick up.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Review: Obsessed by Jo Gibson

From master of suspense Jo Gibson comes two heart-stopping novels of romantic obsession--where the love never dies. It kills. . .
The Crush
Michael Barton is smart, sweet, gorgeous--the total package. Which is why some of the girls have decided to have a little contest. Whoever hooks up with Michael first will be the winner. There's just one problem. One of the girls has been harboring a secret crush on Michael for years. She'll do anything to be his girlfriend. She'll play the game. She'll win his heart. She'll beat the competition. . .to death.

The Crush II 
Michael Barton has experienced the dark side of love. He has survived the advances of a psychotic stalker. He has endured her deadly game of obsession. And now he is free from her web of lust and lies. But Michael has a surprise waiting for him. His secret admirer is still out there. Watching. Waiting. Plotting her next move. And if Michael thinks he can escape her this time, he's wrong. . .dead wrong.

My Rating


My Review

Obsessed had a lot of things going for it. The premise is awesome, and as a lover of thriller and suspense, really appealed to me. The idea of romantic obsession is always a winner, because it can happen to anyone, without them realizing it, and is pretty creepy to read about in novels. Gibson also has a nice description in her writing, and a voice that really keeps the pages turning. There are some interesting characters too - Michael and Carla show promise and I absolutely love Judy's character.

The biggest problem for me is that it simply wasn't believable. And I don't mean it wasn't believable in little details, or in a fantastical way. I'm normally able to accept things pretty well. But there comes a point as a reader where you want to groan come on and punch half of the characters in the face, and this point came pretty early.

It felt a little bit like Groundhog's Day, only the name of girl getting killed slightly changed. I thought the killings were great, I really did. But everything afterward was a bit of a 'WTF' reaction. First of all, people seem to move on really quickly from these deaths. I mean, I live near a relatively big city, and you hear some gruesome stories on the news, but I'd like to think that if some coworkers of mine were gruesomely murdered by a serial killer, I'd be affected. Even if I wasn't close to the person, I'd definitely be more scared and cautious.

And I get that Michael is sexy and has a great voice, but if his girlfriends are getting picked off like sitting ducks why would you completely forget all about that and still try to hook up with him, then go off by yourself when there is a killer on the loose and you now fit ALL of the descriptions? Yeah, Michael is great, but he ain't that great. Plus, he has a little too much of a Romeo complex. This boy falls in love faster than I finish books, and after the girl that he 'loved' croaks, it's barely five minutes before he's at it again with a new coworker. Half the time, I found myself rooting for the killer.

However, if that kind of thing doesn't bother you, than I would suggest giving Obsession a chance. Even if scenes felt a bit repetitive, many of them still had excellent uses of suspense. Although some of the dialogue seemed a bit forced, plenty of the characters were still enjoyable. Plus, I actually really liked the ending, so it might be worth the repetition to power through and finish - even if the novel isn't quite your cup of tea. But, Obsessed was an interesting read, regardless of it's believability, and I didn't really have any trouble finishing it. Am I going to buy multiple copies to hand out to my friends? Probably not. Would it make a pretty excellent Lifetime movie adaptation that I would watch entirely? Probably. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Review: Tear You Apart by Sarah Cross

An edgy fairy tale retelling of "Snow White" set in the world of Kill Me Softly for fans of Once Upon a Time and Grimm.

Viv knows there's no escaping her fairy tale curse. One day her beautiful stepmother will feed her a poisoned apple or shove a poisoned comb into her scalp or hire her on-again-off-again boyfriend, Henley, to hunt her down and rip out her heart before she breaks his. In the city of Beau Rivage, no matter how much you fight it, your marchen mark is your destiny.

Yet, when Viv receives an invitation to the swank underground club where the Twelve Princesses escape to dance each night, she thinks she might have found a loophole to her date with death. There she meets Jasper, the thirteenth prince.Her prince. The prince that is destined to save her when her curse comes to call.

But constant nights of partying get old fast. The royal family is ruled with an iron fist by their patriarch, who gloats over the fact that no one can challenge him without his name. And Viv doesn't love Jasper (in fact, she kind of loathes him) and she doesn't want to be an underworld queen--it's a living death.

So when Henley finds his entry into the underworld as a champion set to solve the secret of the Twelve Dancing Princesses in order to save her, Viv takes the rules of fairy tales into her own hands. No matter her curse, no matter her fate, she can't lose the only boy who's ever had her heart.

Sarah Cross rewrites the fate of Snow White in her smart, edgy follow-up to her acclaimed Kill Me Softly.
Publication Date: January 27th, 2015
My Rating
My Review
Lately, I've been unable to get enough of fairy tale retellings, which is why I jumped at the chance to get my hands on Tear You Apart. I absolutely loved the magic and darkness involved in the story, and immediately felt grasped by the world of Beau Rivage. Fans of fantasy will immediately devour this novel, as shows the fairy tales in an entirely new light. After all, it isn't every retelling where the characters know they're in a retelling.

But Viv does. Because the "Snow White" life she's living in might be her destiny, but that doesn't make it any less of a curse. The parallels between the beloved fairy tales and this darkly intelligent YA were very enjoyable to read about. There were hardly any slow moments throughout the entire novel. The plot kept me at the edge of my seat, desperate to read more.

There were so many characters that I enjoyed reading about. Henley has a lot of interesting qualities that make him more than the usual bad boy love interest. Regina is a wonderful villain - being beautifully wicked while also receiving what might be the most empathy from me as a reader. Even Jasper has a lot of layers to him that had me wanting to know more. Although I loved Vivian's voice and her personality at times, I just couldn't bring myself to like her. For a large amount of the novel, I'd hope she'd forget both boys and decide that she's going to give up her fate to rekindle with Regina. At least being 'evil' would be a strong decision. Despite this, I really did enjoy the characterization of the novel. There were plenty of characters introduced, which made it a bit harder to care about many of the supporting characters, but really added to the world.
That being said, I was a fan of the romance in the novel. It wasn't overbearing, but still powerful. Equally impressive was the sense of friendship and family also brushed upon. Viv's relationship with her friends felt very authentic and interesting. Her relationship with Regina was probably the most intriguing, as it really isn't seen in other novels, and was brilliantly complex.

Tear You Apart is a well-written, edgy fairy tale retelling that will have readers tearing through pages. I enjoyed the reading experience and the strong emotions that come with it, and recommend that fans of YA fantasy get their hands on this one as soon as possible.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Review: Frostbitten by Heather Beck

Great beauty hides dark secrets...

Seventeen-year-old Anastasia Lockhart has never led an easy life, but when she starts getting into serious trouble, she’s sent to live with her grandparents in Cedar Falls. The small, picturesque town hasn’t changed since she visited four years ago, with one exception – the presence of a handsome, mysterious boy named Frost. Despite warnings from her grandparents and friends to stay away from Frost, Anastasia can’t deny their attraction, and the more time they spend together, the deeper in love they fall. Unfortunately, Frost has a secret that is beyond Anastasia’s wildest imagination, and she soon finds herself in the midst of a supernatural legend that has haunted Cedar Falls for years.

Can Anastasia and Frost’s love really overcome anything, or are their fates much darker?
My Rating
My Review
I'm almost always a fan of supernatural lore, and I definitely love it in my fiction. When it comes to a good story with a paranormal twist, Frostbitten doesn't disappoint. It has action, romance, suspense, and a pacing that allows readers to power through the novel in a couple of sittings. I enjoyed the reading experience.
Werewolves aren't exactly new to paranormal fiction. They've been done before in novels and they will likely be done again. But Beck had slightly different twists on the werewolves that still made the read fresh and enjoyable, without completely changing everything originally included in popular lore. Although - being a fangirl of myths and lore - it would've been nice to learn a bit more about the back story, I definitely respected the paced delivery of information. Whenever giving a history, there's a fine line between enriching the story and dulling it, and I thought Beck gave all the necessary information without losing the interest of the reader.

Anastasia is an interesting character. It's quite easy to root for her and be on her side, because readers can relate to how increasingly infuriating it is that hardly anyone seems to listen to her. Although I enjoyed her as a character, I never really saw too much of the whole "bad girl" image she was supposed to have grown. On one hand, that's sort of the point, but on the other, it felt like she was telling me "yep, I got into a lot of trouble and was bad" when I never actually saw it. Any trouble she found herself in seemed pretty ridiculous and completely out of her control.

Frost was absolutely compelling. (The name seems so obvious, yet I love it). He had layers to him. Although he could be dangerous when he lost himself, I loved how shy and unsure of himself he was at points. It wasn't the kind of whiny insecurities that some teen characters seem to have, but a very realistic attitude that would pop up in between humor, intensity, and confidence. He had so much going for him, and I enjoyed reading more about this character. (And when have I refused a swoony love interest?)
Almost as much as I adored Frost as a character, I liked the relationship between him and Anastasia. Their attraction happened rather quickly, but I didn't mind. (It seems that a lot of reviews shout "insta-love" way too quickly. It's realistic that sometimes, people feel a connection and really hit it off. But that's for another day.) I just wish I saw more of a progression in their relationship. It felt a little static. Still, I absolutely loved what I did see, and I thought they worked so well together.
Frostbitten is an excellent start to a series, and I'm eager to read more. There were a lot of things I enjoyed about the book (besides Frost) and absolutely loved the tone and resulting mood. If you're a fan of paranormal, romance, good writing, action, and/or swoony boys, it's definitely worth a look.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

My PitchWars Mentee Bio

If you're into this kind of thing, I thought I'd take a break from all of this "writing" and "reading" and "reviewing" and "pretending to be working when I'm really just jamming out to the Wish I Was Here soundtrack" and put together a little mentee bio for PitchWars. A few other fabulous mentees were doing so, and I thought I'd jump onto that bandwagon.

Because, you know, submission day is less than two weeks away.

In case you don't know what PitchWars is, you can find out here

Now, let's talk about me. Using only GIFs and images from the movie Airplane! Because if you don't like Airplane!, we can't be friends.

I am serious, and don't call me Shirley.

Anyway, I guess I will go through the basics to begin with. My name is Justine Winans, and I am a seventeen year old writer in the grand state of Ohio. Unfortunately, my lack of age and worldly experience means that I'm a little bit behind when it comes to knowing about the publishing side of everything. However, it also means that I'm pretty in tune with my genre (which is YA) considering that I am a...YA.

I also do reviews for Young Adult (mostly) novels on this here blog, which is a whole lot of fun. I love Young Adult Fiction to the point of obsession, and that really helps me as a writer. Not so much on the monetary stance. (Recently reached 100 books according to my Goodreads count. *toasts*)

This is my first year getting involved in PitchWars, and I'm very excited, if not also a bit terrified.

But, let me talk a little bit about my writing.

I love YA Contemporary. I'm sure that one day I'll try to write something that isn't YA Contemporary, but I've written two already, and my WIP is a third. (The second, WHERE YOU FOUND ME, is the project that I'm querying for.)

Although I love my fair share of light and funny romances and contemporary novels, that's not quite what I'm writing. Don't get me wrong, I always try to have some humor in my novels, but I'd be lying if I said they were only happy and fun the entire way through.

There's nothing wrong with having that. You lovely light and swoony writers can go on sugarcoating stories, but-

I don't have a bunch of writing credentials, although I do try to immerse myself in the writing, as well as reading, community online. Hopefully, my writing can show who I am as a writer a lot better than I can tell you.

The idea of having a mentor is pretty awesome, and not just because it would make me feel a little more like a Jedi. No, it's because it'd be nice to have someone there for you, when so many times, the whole "aspiring writer" thing has you feeling like you're on your own.

Can my manuscript use a lot of work? Yes. Yes, it can. But I'm more than willing to put my heart and soul and K-Cup coffee maker into it, especially if I'm given a push in the right direction. I love brutally honest critiques. Only giving compliments is like letting me walk off to an audition or date with spinach on my teeth. I'd much rather have the truth. That way I can fix it before I make a fool of myself. (Which, I am very prone to doing. I blame the whole "teenager" thing.)

Plus, it's nice to have a fresh set of eyes on your work. Let's be real, we can all be a little blind when it comes to our own work sometimes.

From personal revising experience, I know that sometimes, you just need a bit of a wake-up call.

Anyway, I'll finish this off by talking a bit about myself myself. (I can always use more writer friends, fellow mentees.) Some interesting facts.

  • I can be a bit long-winded. Haha. Ha.
  •  I'm actually a theatre kid. Not musical theatre, because I'm a god-awful dancer. (Although I do love Jersey Boys like it's my job, and will belt out songs from Chicago with anyone.) I'm currently in a performing arts academy, along with my regular AP classes, where I learn all about acting and perform monologues from my guy, William Shakespeare. (I love Twelfth Night, and know Viola's monologue by heart.) I also act in some local films.
  •  I love movies. I'm constantly quoting movies. Some of my favorites include Airplane!, The Usual Suspects, Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Silence of the Lambs, and basically all the Marvel movies. (Like, Guardians of the Galaxy was awesome.) I also dig television shows like Community, Supernatural, Hannibal and It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
  • I also write screenplays and stageplays. Have you heard of any of them? No. Maybe someday...
  •  I have a drinking problem.

    •  I actually just love that joke.
  • I have a love of classic rock and indie rock. I will forever love Red Hot Chili Peppers, but I also will jam out to Foreigner, AC/DC, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Scorpians, Queen and The Rolling Stones. My latest album obsession is Vampire Weekend's Modern Vampires of the City. (Recommend.)
Well, I loved reading the posts of all the mentors, and I'm very excited to meet all of you fellow mentees!
If you ever want to chat, I'm often on my twitter.

Anyway, I need to write, revise, and rewatch Airplane! for the seven hundredth time. So, I'm out.


Review: Engines of Empathy by Paul Mannering

Until this morning, Charlotte Pudding was almost happy with her life. Apart from her homicidal toaster, dead parents, and general ennui.

Well, maybe not that happy.

Either way, now that she’s on the run from a shadowy corporation, seeking the secrets of her own family history and tolerating the inanities of a retired god, things are looking a bit more interesting. 
My Rating
My Review
Although I did look at the cover and read the available summaries, I still had no idea what to expect when beginning Engines of Empathy. However, I sort of enjoyed that. For no matter what expectations I could've conjured up, none of them would've even been close to the truth - and wouldn't have been nearly as enjoyable. Engines of Empathy is the kind of novel that reminds me how much I love science fiction.
The concept of "empathetic engines" is incredibly intriguing - and I haven't seen anything quite like it before. This clean source of power, running off positive emotions and energy, is interesting to read about. This opened up a new world for readers to get sucked into - with toasters that gobble up all your bread and refrigerators that sassily remind you to buy more milk. The world-building is fantastic enough, and is also completely believable, which isn't always seen in science fiction and fantasy.
From the very first line, I was captivated by the writing. Throughout the entire novel, Mannering writes with a strong voice and a beautiful amount of sarcasm - expertly balanced with strong visuals and engaging writing. The personalities of both Charlotte Pudding and Vole Drakeforth are wonderful. They are the kind of authentic characters that can ground readers in more fantastical situations, as well as the kind of characters I'd love to have coffee with. The banter between the two of them is reason enough to give this novel a chance. I loved the build between their relationship and the dialogue both of them had - always true to character and always enjoyable.
The pacing of the novel is excellent. It's likely that readers will not be able to put it down. Sometimes, especially toward the end, it felt like conflicts were resolved a tad quickly, but they were still resolved in such a perfect way otherwise, I can hardly complain. There weren't any slow points of the novel that I can recall, which is definitely a bonus in science fiction.
From dealing with religious fanatics to battling an insane and power-thirsty corporation leader to an entire conspiracy behind this "utopian" way of living, Engines of Empathy really does have something for everyone. Fans of science fiction, you've come to the right place. Not a fan of science fiction? Well, I'd give the book a try anyway. It might have you becoming one.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Interview with Kay Honeyman: Summer Author Promo Blitz

Jade Moon is a Fire Horse — the worst sign in the Chinese zodiac for girls, said to make them stubborn, reckless, and far too headstrong. While her family despairs of marrying her off, she dreams of traveling far beyond her tiny village, living out a story as big as her imagination.

Then a young man named Sterling Promise offers Jade Moon and her father an incredible opportunity:  the chance to go to America. As they travel, Sterling Promise’s smooth manners and Jade Moon’s impulsive nature strike sparks again and again. But America in 1923 doesn’t welcome Chinese immigrants, and when they are detained at Angel Island — the so-called “Ellis Island of the West” — Jade Moon uncovers a betrayal that destroys all her dreams. To get into America, much less survive there, she will have to use every bit of her stubbornness and strength to break a new path . . . one so brave and dangerous that only a Fire Horse girl could imagine it.    

Purchase Links:
First off, can you tell us about your novel, The Fire Horse Girl?
KH: Absolutely! Born in the year of the Fire Horse, Jade Moon is destined to be stubborn and strong-willed. This puts her at odds with her father, her town, and her society. The Fire Horse Girl follows Jade Moon on her journey from China through the immigration station at Angel Island and onto the streets of San Francisco’s Chinatown. The stubbornness and fight that have gotten her in so much trouble might be the only thing that can save her.
Where did you initially get the idea to write about a young girl's immigration from China to America? Did you have to do a lot of research on the immigration process and Angel Island to build the historical setting accurately?

KH: I started to think about immigration when my husband and I were in the process of adopting our first child from China. I thought a lot about what the journey to a new country would be like for my son. But I think I really fell in love with the story when I discovered the Fire Horse sign. There is something appealing about traits like strength and stubbornness. They can block us from our dreams or give us the boldness we need to chase them against all odds. 
I had to do a ton of research on immigration, Angel Island, and the immigrant experience after arrival. I desperately wanted that to ring true because while this book contains Jade Moon’s story, her story has ties to the men and women who landed on Angel Island, who went through the interrogations, the long waits, the rejection, the blackened hopes and busted dreams. One of my favorite books was Island: Poetry and History of Chinese Immigration on Angel Island (1910-1940) by him Mark Lai, Genny Lim, and Judy Yung. Not only were the poems that immigrants wrote and carved into the walls revealing, but the interviews in this book brought the experience to life.  

What is your favorite scene from The Fire Horse Girl?

KH: I have a couple of favorites. I love the scenes where Neil teaches Jade Moon how to fight. It was fun to put the two of them in the same scene and watch their personalities interact. In a related scene, I love when Jade Moon punches Sterling Promise. I mean he had that coming. And just for something different, I love the story telling scenes. They aren’t the most dramatic, but it is one of the ways that Jade Moon and I are connected. We both love a good story.  

I recently discovered that I was born in the year of the Fire Rat (doesn't have the same ring to it...) What Chinese astrological sign to you have?

KH: First of all, being a Fire Rat is awesome! They are charming, witty, and energetic. Rats always find a way to come out on top. I am a Water Ox. There is a great story about how the order of the Chinese animal signs was decided by a race. In the race the rat knew that it was up against some much faster animals so he made a deal with the ox. He promised to sing to the ox as he raced if the ox let him ride on his back. The ox was at the finish line, ready to be the first animal sign when the rat jumped off and ran ahead to place first. That’s a creative problem solver.   

Who are some authors that have inspired you?

KH: I love authors who can make me feel anything deeply. I have always love Jane Austen and Elizabeth Gaskell novels because they seem to penetrate below the surface of society. For the same reason I love Justina Chen’s novels. She knows how to make the most of her character’s experiences and it allows her to create these rich experiences inside her novels. I admire Laurie Halse Andersong because she seems to be able to push and stretch her stories to mine everything they have to say. Honestly, I admire anyone who has the guts and the tenacity to write a book and put it out in the world.

Do you have any projects you're working on now that readers can get excited for?

KH: My second novel is scheduled for Fall of 2016. It is a contemporary YA set in West Texas called Interference. It is full of high school politics, actual politics, football, and water towers. 

Since this is for the Summer Author Promo Blitz, I'll ask a few questions that relate to this great season. What are your favorite and least favorite parts of summer?

KH: I love so much about summer. I love snow cones and the way tomato plants smell. I love spending a couple of hours on a lounge chair by the pool, beach balls, slow mornings, and long days. I love summer rains and limeade and the way summer makes me lose track of the days. 
I can only think of two things I don’t like about summer - mosquitoes and sunburns. A little sunblock and insect repellant, and I’m all set.  

Do you have any recommendations for summer reads?

KH: Uh, yeah…Fire Horse Girl J. But I know, people can read dozens of books over the summer, so I’d also recommend. I just finished The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion and loved it. Justina Chen’s Blind Spot for Boys would be a great summer vacation read. It’s the kind of book that is fun to digest in as few sittings as possible to really escape into it.  

If you could vacation anywhere in the entire world, without having to worry about expenses or any other pesky details, where would you choose to go?

KH: I think I would go to Belize. I just heard a travel writer talking about how great it is, and it does combine some of my favorite elements of travel – good food, beautiful beaches, laid-back culture.

Lastly, if you could go back in time to when you were still writing The Fire Horse Girl (assuming there are no problems relating to the butterfly effect or the space-time continuum or anything like that), what advice would you give yourself on the publishing process?

KH: Ha! And assuming that if I can go back in time I might place a few bets instead of seeking myself out for a chat.
I think I would tell myself to enjoy my time with my story and the process more. It is like every other process, it goes a lot at it’s pace and there is very little you can do to push it forward or hold it back. People gave me that advice, so I guess this time I would listen. The writing does come to an end, and the book goes into the world and there are no more late nights wrestling with scenes or trying to make your character be someone she’s just not. I am trying to learn to enjoy that process more. It is a little magical when you think about all it takes for a story to take shape on the page. It would be a quick chat before I go make a few smart investments.

  Kay Honeyman grew up in Fort Worth, Texas and attended Baylor University, graduating with a Bachelors and Masters in English Language and Literature. The Fire Horse Girl (Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic) is her first novel. She currently teaches middle school and lives in Dallas, Texas. You can visit her online at