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{Blog Tour} Vassa In The Night by Sarah

vassa-in-the-night-blog-evite-768x768I’m thrilled to be participating in the blog tour for Vassa In The Night by Sarah Porter. I first heard about Vassa In The Night at the Raincoast fall preview earlier this year, and I was immediately interested. It’s based on the classic Russian folktale Vassilissa The Beautiful. and sounded incredibly cool.

Here is a bit more about the book:

22065080In the enchanted kingdom of Brooklyn, the fashionable people put on cute shoes, go to parties in warehouses, drink on rooftops at sunset, and tell themselves they’ve arrived. A whole lot of Brooklyn is like that now—but not Vassa’s working-class neighborhood.

In Vassa’s neighborhood, where she lives with her stepmother and bickering stepsisters, one might stumble onto magic, but stumbling out again could become an issue. Babs Yagg, the owner of the local convenience store, has a policy of beheading shoplifters—and sometimes innocent shoppers as well. So when Vassa’s stepsister sends her out for light bulbs in the middle of night, she knows it could easily become a suicide mission.

But Vassa has a bit of luck hidden in her pocket, a gift from her dead mother. Erg is a tough-talking wooden doll with sticky fingers, a bottomless stomach, and a ferocious cunning. With Erg’s help, Vassa just might be able to break the witch’s curse and free her Brooklyn neighborhood. But Babs won’t be playing fair. . . .

The author, Sarah Porter, also teaches creative writing to students in New York. She lives in Brooklyn and has published several other novels in a similar magical realism style. When asked about her writing routine, she said the following:

What does your writing routine look like? Do you have a favorite location to write?

Hi Jessica! I write every day, unless there’s some pressing reason why I can’t. I usually deal with emails and such in the morning, when my focus isn’t great anyway, and really settle in to write around noon, for anywhere from three to twelve hours. I’m lucky enough to have a beautiful study, so I always write at home unless I’m traveling.


My Review-

You’ve heard all about what the book is about, and learned more about the author, so it only makes sense for me to share my opinion on VASSA IN THE NIGHT now.

So, what did I think?

To put it simply, VASSA IN THE NIGHT was spectacular. It would easily fall within the best dozen or so books I’ve read so far this year. I tend to enjoy magical realism novels to begin with, so I knew that VASSA IN THE NIGHT and I would get along well.

The world that VASSA IN THE NIGHT is set in was unlike anything I’d read before. At first, it appears just like modern-day Brooklyn, but then BYs is introduced. Baba Yaggs’ is the local 24/7 supermarket. At first, it seems just like any other shop, except for its unique habit of beheading the shoplifters. Vassa knows that BYs is to be avoided at all costs, until her sister dares her to go out there in the middle of the night.

What starts out as a simple shopping trip quickly turns into something so much more, and it’s up to Vassa to save her neighbourhood–and herself–from Baba Yaggs. With such a unique premise, it isn’t surprising that I felt drawn to it. The author’s writing is lyrical, and brings the world vividly to life. Although it was based on Vassilissa The Beautiful, VASSA IN THE NIGHT has the atmosphere and writing style of a fairy tale itself.

Although I really enjoyed the story world, I started out disliking Vassa. She seemed stubborn and brash, but her personality eventually grew on me and I started to root for her as the story developed.

If you’re looking for a dark, lyrical read and love fairy-tale retellings or magical realism, then you absolutely need to get your hands on VASSA IN THE NIGHT.

Get your copy at Amazon, Indigo, or Barnes & Noble now.

{Blog Tour} Hello, I Love You by Katie M Stout + Giveaway

From the minute I found out about Hello, I Love You, I knew I had to read it. I don’t know much about KPOP, but it sounds very interesting, and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it! Today, I’m happy to be sharing my review with you as part of the blog tour. Thank you so much to the publisher for organizing this!

About:

Goodreads | B&N | Amazon

A teen escapes to a boarding school abroad and falls for a Korean pop star in this fun and fresh romantic novel in the vein of Anna and the French Kiss.

Grace Wilde is running—from the multi-million dollar mansion her record producer father bought, the famous older brother who’s topped the country music charts five years in a row, and the mother who blames her for her brother’s breakdown. Grace escapes to the farthest place from home she can think of, a boarding school in Korea, hoping for a fresh start.

She wants nothing to do with music, but when her roommate Sophie’s twin brother Jason turns out to be the newest Korean pop music superstar, Grace is thrust back into the world of fame. She can’t stand Jason, whose celebrity status is only outmatched by his oversized ego, but they form a tenuous alliance for the sake of her friendship with Sophie. As the months go by and Grace adjusts to her new life in Korea, even she can’t deny the sparks flying between her and the KPOP idol.

Soon, Grace realizes that her feelings for Jason threaten her promise to herself that she’ll leave behind the music industry that destroyed her family. But can Grace ignore her attraction to Jason and her undeniable pull of the music she was born to write? Sweet, fun, and romantic, this young adult novel explores what it means to experience first love and discover who you really are in the process.

My Thoughts:

*Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for review for the blog tour*

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My rating: 4.5 stars

I don’t know much about KPOP, but I was still very excited to read Hello, I Love You, especially because I’ve been trying to read more contemporary novels. Plus, it was compared to books by Stephanie Perkins. What could go wrong? I was disappointed. I absolutely adored Katie’s debut novel. It was cute, swoon-worthy and an all-around fun read.

One of the remarkable things about Hello, I Love You is how happy it made me feel. I was grinning ear to ear by the time I finished it, and that’s a wonderful feeling. There were a few parts were I actually squealed out loud because this book is just gosh, so adorable.

I love boarding novels, so I was naturally very excited to read one set in South Korea! After her famous brother (a singer) suffers a breakdown, Grace wants to get as far away from Nashville as possible. A boarding school appears to be the perfect chance for her get a fresh start. I love the way that the author brought this country to life, both through her descriptions of the culture and people, and the incorporation of KPOP music.

I was a bit frustrated with Grace and her immediate hatred of Jason at the start, but I got over that quickly enough as the plot progressed. I was really happy with how Grace grew as a character. Her brother had a breakdown, and her father (a famous music producer) is absorbed in his work, among other problems. She flees to South Korea hoping to work through her family problems, and start over. She’s hurt, yes, but she’s also sweet and kind and honest.

EEK! I was really excited for the romance. At the boarding school, Grace is roomed with a girl named Sophie, whose obnoxious brother Jason is part of one of the current hottest bands in Korea. Their hate-to-love relationship was one of the cutest romances I have read about recently, and I loved reading about it. I was grinning the whole time, and I couldn’t wait to see how it would turn out!

Despite the focus on the romance, Hello I Love You is more than a romance novel. Grace and Jason both have their own problems, and they grow a lot throughout the course of this book. They have to go through a lot of healing, and Hello I Love You documents this. It doesn’t wander into the realm of clichés, of the standard Girl Meets Boy and All Problems Are Magically Solve trap. Hello, I Love You has a lot of depth, and I appreciated that.

Poignant and romantic, Hello I Love You is a fantastic debut about love, friendship, and growing up. It’s a book that just makes you grin, which is amazing. Hello, book. I love you.

Giveaway:

The publisher is kindly providing one finished copy of Hello, I Love You to luck winner! This giveaway is US only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

{Blog Tour} The Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker

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About The Witch Hunter:

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Author: Virginia Boecker

Pub. Date: June 2, 2015

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Pages: 368

Formats: Hardcover, eBook

The magic and suspense of Graceling meet the political intrigue and unrest of Game of Thrones in this riveting fantasy debut.

Your greatest enemy isn’t what you fight, but what you fear.

Elizabeth Grey is one of the king’s best witch hunters, devoted to rooting out witchcraft and doling out justice. But when she’s accused of being a witch herself, Elizabeth is arrested and sentenced to burn at the stake.

Salvation comes from a man she thought was her enemy. Nicholas Perevil, the most powerful and dangerous wizard in the kingdom, offers her a deal: he will save her from execution if she can break the deadly curse that’s been laid upon him.

But Nicholas and his followers know nothing of Elizabeth’s witch hunting past–if they find out, the stake will be the least of her worries. And as she’s thrust into the magical world of witches, ghosts, pirates, and one all-too-handsome healer, Elizabeth is forced to redefine her ideas of right and wrong, of friends and enemies, and of love and hate.

My Thoughts:

Amazon| Barnes & Noble| iBooks| Goodreads

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If you haven’t already heard my raving about The Witch Hunter, then you are certainly about to. I read The Witch Hunter back in early spring, and immediately fell in love. From brilliant characters, to a vividly imagined world, to a thrilling concept…The Witch Hunter is a perfect fantasy for me.

The Witch Hunter is set in a world similar to medieval England, where witchcraft is outlawed. Elizabeth works for the King as a witch hunter, alongside her best friend and crush Caleb, at least until she gets accused of witchcraft herself. With no option other than death, Elizabeth is forced to accept the aid of Nicholas Perevil, a wizard and outlaw.

The concept of The Witch Hunter was what originally attracted me to this book, since I adore witch stories. The execution was amazing. The book opens with a bang, and the action never ceases throughout. I was pleasantly surprised by the hilarious banter between the characters, which I hadn’t expected!

I LOVE the world that Virginia Boecker has created! In the Medieval like town called Anglia, witchcraft is illegal, and Elizabeth and a group of elite witch hunters are in charge of capturing witches to be burnt at the stake. I don’t know much about this time period so I can’t talk about that, but I definitely appreciated the amount of detail, and Virginia’s writing brought this world to life.

There are so many aspects I adored about The Witch Hunter, but I think the protagonist really made the book for me. Elizabeth is fierce, and determined to change her fate. She has been accused of witchcraft and knows that this accusation is false. Throughout the book, she struggles to figure out who she can trust, and to uncover all the lies she has been living with until now.  Elizabeth was easy to relate to, and even easier to root for! I loved how she developed throughout the course of The Witch Hunter, and I can’t wait to see what will happen in the sequel next year.

Besides Elizabeth, the author has also developed a fantastic cast all around. While I loathed the antagonist Lord Blackwell, I adored Elizabeth’s love-hate relationship with Fifer. I’m hoping their friendship will grow more in the next books! Also, can we take a moment to discuss the romance? I could spend this entire review talking about the relationship between Elizabeth and John, but I’ll just make this short and sweet: The romance was adorable, I need more and I SHIP IT!

There was never a dull moment in The Witch Hunter, and I am very excited to see how the story progresses in the sequel. I loved it, and I will definitely keep reading! The Witch Hunter is perfect for YA readers, especially for fans of Kristin Cashore and Rae Carson. Highly, highly recommended!

VIrginia-Boecker-Headshot-1About Virginia Boecker:

Website | TwitterGoodreads

Virginia Boecker recently spent four years in London obsessing over English medieval history, which formed the basis of The Witch Hunter. She now lives in the Bay Area, California with her husband and spends her days writing, reading, running, and chasing around her two children and a dog named George.

Giveaway:

10 winners will receive a finished copy of THE WITCH HUNTER. US Only, please!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

{Blog Tour} The Orphan Queen by Jodi Meadows + Guest Post

I’m thrilled to be participating in the Canadian blog tour for The Orphan Queen, by the lovely Jodi Meadows. I’m VERY excited for her book, and I’m sure that many of you are too. If you aren’t yet familiar with The Orphan Queen, then let me tell you what it’s about, and you can read a guest post from the author!

ORPAbout The Book:

Chapters | Amazon Goodreads |

Wilhelmina has a hundred identities.

She is a princess. When the Indigo Kingdom conquered her homeland, Wilhelmina and other orphaned children of nobility were taken to Skyvale, the Indigo Kingdom’s capital. Ten years later, they are the Ospreys, experts at stealth and theft. With them, Wilhelmina means to take back her throne.

She is a spy. Wil and her best friend, Melanie, infiltrate Skyvale Palace to study their foes. They assume the identities of nobles from a wraith-fallen kingdom, but enemies fill the palace, and Melanie’s behavior grows suspicious. With Osprey missions becoming increasingly dangerous and their leader more unstable, Wil can’t trust anyone.

She is a threat. Wraith is the toxic by-product of magic, and for a century using magic has been forbidden. Still the wraith pours across the continent, reshaping the land and animals into fresh horrors. Soon it will reach the Indigo Kingdom. Wilhelmina’s magic might be the key to stopping the wraith, but if the vigilante Black Knife discovers Wil’s magic, she will vanish like all the others

Jodi Meadows introduces a vivid new fantasy full of intrigue, romance, dangerous magic, and one girl’s battle to reclaim her place in the world.

Guest Post (by Jodi Meadows):

Q: Pick a few characters from The Orphan Queen. Which YA books would you recommend to each?

Wilhelmina: THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS by Rae Carson, because I think she’d learn a lot from Elisa’s thoughtfulness, and identify with the realities of being thrust into power too soon.

Melanie: GRAVE MERCY by Robin LaFevers, because she and Ismae have a lot in common.

Black Knife: DEFIANCE by C..J. Redwine, because he’d admire Rachel’s general awesomeness and Logan’s smarts, and both characters deal with some pretty awful things and I think BK would appreciate seeing characters overcome that.

jodiAbout Jodi:

Goodreads | Twitter | Website

Jodi Meadows lives and writes in the Shenandoah Valley, Virginia, with her husband, a Kippy*, and an alarming number of ferrets. She is a confessed book addict, and has wanted to be a writer ever since she decided against becoming an astronaut. She is the author of the INCARNATE Trilogy and the forthcoming ORPHAN QUEEN Duology (HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen). Visit her at http://www.jodimeadows.com

Thanks so much to Jodi for the guest post, and to HarperCollins Canada and Kathy for running the tour!

Interview With Sarah McGuire, author of Valiant (+ Giveaway)

I’m participating in the Egmont Last List hop hosted by Cuddlebuggery. Learn more about it here. I’m a huge fan of many of their books, and I’m so sad that Egmont is closing.

I am however, thrilled to bring you an interview with Sarah McGuire, author of Valiant, a retelling of The Brave Little Tailor. I’ve already read (and LOVED) this book, and it is definitely one to pre-order. Keep your eyes peeled for a review closer to the pub. date in April!

About Valiant:

valiantA debut fairy tale retelling featuring a strong female character and a daring quest just right for fans of Shannon Hale, Jessica Day George, and Gail Carson Levine.

Saville despises the bolts of velvet and silk that her father loves- he’s always prized them more than he’s ever loved her. Yet when he’s struck ill, she’ll do anything for him to survive, even donning boys’ clothes and begging a commission to sew for the king.

Piecing together a fine coat is far simpler than unknotting court gossip about an army of giants led by a man who cannot be defeated. And they’re marching toward Reggen to seize the throne. But Saville knows giants are just stories, and no man is immortal.

Then she meets them, two scouts as tall as trees. She tricks them into leaving, but tales of the daring tailor’s triumph quickly spin into impossible feats of giant-slaying. And mere stories won’t deter the Duke and his larger-than-life army. Now only a courageous and clever tailor girl can see beyond the rumors to save the kingdom again.

Valiant richly reimagines “The Brave Little Tailor,” transforming it into a story of understanding, identity, and fighting to protect those you love most.

About Sarah:

sarSarah McGuire lives within sight of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, where she teaches high school creative writing and math classes with interesting word problems. Her debut novel, Valiant, will release from Egmont USA in April 2015. Find her on Twitter, Goodreads, or on her website.

Interview:

  •  Valiant is a retelling of The Brave Little Tailor. What inspired you to retell this story, and write Valiant?

I was getting ready to start a new novel for a workshop, and I knew I wanted it to be a retelling. So I pulled Grimm’s from the bookshelf and started looking through it. I reread many tales that I liked, but kept thinking about the Brave Little Tailor (which I had skipped over) because it was one of my least favorite stories. I never liked how the tailor tricked the stupid giants. It seemed kind of cruel to me- like a calculus teacher taunting kindergarteners about not knowing all their math facts. Then, I started wondering what would happen if the tailor was a girl. Because suddenly I knew she’d be girl … and then I knew I had to write this story.

•Could you share a little bit about your path to publication?

I decided in 2006 that I wanted to take writing seriously. So I joined SCBWI, found a critique group, and got to work. I spent years working on a story- a retelling of Cinderella. Every time I learned some new aspect of writing– scenes, characterization, etc– I’d go back through the entire novel and revise. After a while, I felt confident that I could craft good individual chapters, but I was still struggling with how to structure a novel. So I applied to the Nevada SCBWI Mentor Program, and Harold Underdown chose me as one of his mentees! Over the next months, I learned a lot about how to fix the sagging middle. But after I’d done everything I could, I realized it was time to move on and apply everything I’d learned to something new. It wasn’t a traumatic decision– I was ready to move on. To keep my resolve to leave the old story behind, I joined a fantasy workshop with Patti Gauch in May 2012.

I wrote VALIANT over the summer, revised it based on Patti’s feedback, and sent it out to two wonderful agents on the deadline I’d given myself: Valentine’s Day 2013. In the end, both agents offered representation, and I signed with Tracey Adams at Adams Literary two months later. I did yet another round of revision on VALIANT, and then Tracey sent it out for submission. The lovely Alison Weiss (then at Egmont USA) bought VALIANT the first day of the school. (I might have been a slightly distracted teacher that day!)

If you only look at VALIANT, the road seems easy, but I’m absolutely convinced that all the work from the earlier novel made VALIANT possible. And this road isn’t finished! As you know, Egmont USA closed, so I’ll be finding a new home for my writing all over again- there is yet another bend in this road to publication.

• Saville is a great main character! How do you think you are similar to/ different from her? What would you do in her situation?

Oh, I’m so glad you liked Saville!

Saville typically says the things she wants to the first time around- which isn’t a bit like me! (I think that’s one reason I became a writer. It was a chance to “fix” all those conversations where I couldn’t figure out what to say until 3 hours later.) But one characteristic we DO share is that we take care of our own: our families and the people we love. I’m the oldest of four siblings, so maybe it’s the older sister issues on steroids. In fact, I loosely based one scene in the book on a time my siblings and I were outside playing baseball on the street in front of our house. I was fourteen, and I looked over and saw a seventeen year old raise a baseball bat over my six year old little brother. I still don’t remember charging across the road or what I said– I was that furious– but it never happened again.

What would I do in Saville’s situation? I’d definitely take care of Will, and I’d try to save the city, but I doubt I’d be half so witty or self-possessed. 🙂

• Do you have a specific place you like to write? What does your writing routine look like?

I’m a high school teacher with a busy schedule, so I write whenever I can. If there is any constant in it, it’s coffee. And that I try to draft new work over the summer when I have more time to immerse myself in the story. Much of VALIANT was written over the summer of 2012–I’d plant myself on my little sofa and just write. (There’s actually a dent in the sofa cushion.)

During the school year, I like to write at the local Barnes and Noble cafe. It’s a place where I can step away from everything else I need to do and just work. Besides, it’s a bit inspiring to write and wonder if your book will ever be on those shelves. When I have a deadline, I might take a nap when I get home from work, then take care of grading and lesson plans. After that, I write or revise– and I might work on that till well after midnight.

Giveaway:

If you want to win a signed ARC of Valiant, then you can enter the following giveaway. Thanks for much to Sarah for offering up the prize! It is open to all North American residents. Good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Thanks to Sarah for coming by, and to Cuddlebuggery for hosting this!

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