Smoke and Iron

The Great Library #4
Rachel Caine

It’s hard to believe it’s already time for the fourth book of the Great Library series! Last year I freaked out when we realized that the series was going to be five books instead of three, and that cliffhanger… gah! But now the wait is over, and we finally get to know what happens next to our favorite book loving rebels. And unlike the other books, Smoke and Iron introduces multiple perspectives so we can follow everyone as they are split around the world. Spoilers for the first three books from here on out!

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The opening moves of a deadly game have begun. Jess Brightwell has put himself in direct peril, with only his wits and skill to aid him in a game of cat and mouse with the Archivist Magister of the Great Library. With the world catching fire, and words printed on paper the spark that lights rebellion, it falls to smugglers, thieves, and scholars to save a library thousands of years in the making…if they can stay alive long enough to outwit their enemies.

Musings

Right from page one, we’re thrown back into the action. Jess is in Alexandria, under the guise of his brother Brendan; Khalila is on Anit’s ship, waiting for the sword to drop; Wolfe is in the prisons, alone and losing his mind; and Morgan is back in the tower, trapped, but ready to fight. The Archivist will stop at nothing to kill them: already he doesn’t trust Jess/Brendan, who must play the role perfectly or risk meeting a terrible death. But to save his friends, and the world, Jess will do anything. New alliances need to be forged. Weapons built. Friends betrayed.

Smoke and Iron is incredibly exciting. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time, worrying about this crew, hoping they can make it out. At the same time, some of their plans were pretty… bad. That’s something I quite like about this series, as Jess is a YA hero who doesn’t have things miraculously work out for him every time. The stakes are real, and they’re high.

The writing is perfect in that it never impedes the plot. The world has been so strongly established and built now that Caine can take us on an adventure without having to stop and introduce us to new elements. Adding this to the already fast-paced story, I feel like I read this book in a blur: it feels shorter than the other books despite being just as long, if not longer. Everything fits together perfectly to bring us to the grand finale, the epic ending that leaves you breathless. How can I wait another year for book five?

While things went by so fast, a few plot points kinda fell to the side. Morgan’s storyline was fascinating, but I felt like there was quite a lot of deus-ex-machina on her end. She’s just so incredibly powerful. That, and her relationship with Jess seemed added a little like an afterthought? Maybe I’m just being nitpicky, or maybe I just missed them working together. But one thing’s for sure, the Iron tower needs to fall.

Thrilling and fast-paced, this book left me breathless. I cannot wait for the next one!

Expected publication: July 3rd 2018 by Berkley Books
I would like to thank Netgalley and the publisher, Berkley Books, for providing me with this ARC!

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The Perilous In-Between

The Chuzzlewit Chronicles #1

by Cortney Pearson

I have to admit: for all my love of science and invention, my addiction to Jules Verne and my need to take apart watches and play with the gears, I don’t read all that much Steampunk. So when I saw the blurb for The Perilous In-Between, I thought this might be a great chance to try a new genre. As a result? I had a great time, loved the book, and found a novel that will thrill both people new to the genre and long-time fans.

Summary

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Even the sky has secrets.

Victoria Digby’s life in Chuzzlewit is picturesque. Ideal. Born to a good family, she’s also the star pilot in the Aviatory’s Protection Program, one of five young ladies assigned to protect their town from the Kreak – a deadly mechanical creature residing in the nearby ocean.

Enter Graham Birkley, a peculiar boy claiming to be from a strange place Victoria has never heard of either. The more she gets to know Graham, the more she loses not only her heart, but also all senses of security about the life she thought she loved.

Graham knows secrets about people, things he couldn’t possibly know, including a secret about Victoria that she has yet to uncover. Mostly, Graham knows what the sky is hiding. And when he tells her the truth, getting rid of the Kreak is no longer Victoria’s biggest problem.

Getting out of her town is.

Fans of The Paper Magician and The Infernal Devices won’t want to miss this dazzling romp in a steampunk, fantastical Victorian world.

Musings

Victoria Digby has a problem: she’s having flashbacks to a life that isn’t hers. And at the worst possible time, no less: when she’s flying a plane, with a flamethrower, trying to defend her town from a deadly mechanical monster that rages on her small town every evening.

The premise itself was enough to get me hooked. The small town of Chuzzlewit has been suffering the attacks of the massive ‘Kreak’ for what seems to be forever, and there’s no end in sight. It’s all that they can do to keep it held back with flamethrowers and planes, but it still manages to kill innocent civilians from time to time – a heavy loss for the small town. From the first chapter, the reader is brought right into the heart of the action, wondering how and why this monster keeps attacking (and why people don’t just move a little more inland?)

The plot was fun and had quite a lot of surprises in store. The big twist early on is when a mysterious young man appears in town, and the revelation of where he’s from completely changes the direction you thought this book was going on. It’s fantastic, as at first I was having trouble getting into the author’s style, but a shift of perspective bring on a shift of vocabulary, and I was impressed how unique she made each character’s voice.

The characters are what drive this novel, even if the premise is fantastic in its own right. We don’t have a cheesy romance, we get multiple friendships that grow and twist and evolve in very natural ways (even in an unnatural world). I really enjoyed how every character interacted with the others, which made each of them more relatable and more human.

The worldbuilding, too, was rather brilliant. I loved the world of Chuzzlewit, the design of the Kreak, the fantastic planes and hovercars. It was a trip for my imagination, being in this semi-victorian setting, experiencing aviary battles and a great mystery.

The author kept bringing the twists, leaving you guessing and surprised. The climax was fantastic, a great adventure, that had my heart pounding through my chest.

All in all, a fun read. Really enjoyable, and I’m curious to see how the author continues the series!

Read it now!

The Navigator’s Touch

The Seafarer’s Kiss #2

Julia Ember 

Followers of this blog might remember me waxing poetic about the dazzling Seafarer’s Kiss (Review) last year when I first discovered it.  Exciting and brilliantly written, it somehow managed to combine The Littler Mermaid with Norse Mythology to create something completely new. So when the opportunity came from the author for me to read the latest installment, The Navigator’s Touch, I dropped everything to see what happens next!

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After invaders destroyed her village, murdered her family, and took her prisoner, shield-maiden Ragna is hungry for revenge. A trained warrior, she is ready to fight for her home, but with only a mermaid and a crew of disloyal mercenaries to aid her, Ragna knows she needs new allies. Guided by the magical maps on her skin, battling storms and mutiny, Ragna sets sail across the Northern Sea.

She petitions the Jarl in Skjordal for aid, but despite Ragna’s rank and fighting ability, the Jarl sees only a young girl, too inexperienced to lead, unworthy of help. To prove herself to the Jarl and win her crew’s respect, Ragna undertakes a dangerous expedition. But when forced to decide between her own freedom and the fate of her crew, what will she sacrifice to save what’s left of her home?

Inspired by Norse mythology and J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, this companion novel to The Seafarer’s Kiss is a tale of vengeance, valor, honor, and redemption.

Musings

Unlike in the first book, The Navigator’s Touch follows Ragna’s perspective, as she vows revenge upon the men who raided her village and killed her family. It can be read either as a sequel or a companion novel, and you don’t need to read the first book to understand it, but I highly recommend you do, since The Seafarer’s Kiss is such an outstanding read. Not to mention you’ll understand Ersel’s background in much more detail.

Ragna is a Shield-Maiden, fierce and fiery, with vengeance on her mind. She lost her hand and gained a hook since we first met her, and her relationship with Ersel (the shapeshifting mermaid) has deepened. She has also got a ship and a reluctant crew: is that going to be enough to retake her village and save what’s left of her family?

I was instantly drawn into the world of Vikings and Norse myths. Ragna’s ever-shifting tattoos (the navigator’s touch which gives the book its name) and Loki’s manipulations remain a great mystical element that brings this world to life. We also learn more about Ragna’s mother, a horse breeder, and warrior training, which is so absolutely fascinating. The reader is fully immersed in the world, and the subtle imagery keeps you sucked in.

The Navigator’s Touch has a completely different tone from the first book. Ragna’s perspective is different from Ersel’s, as their two personalities are so different. It’s also a vengeance-driven story, so it’s violent. There’s a torture scene near the end of the book that is particularly vicious.  However, a great touch from the author and her publisher is the official “content warnings” in the book that lists, chapter by chapter, what the trigger warnings are for the book. Most of these are for violence, as this is a vengeance narrative. So if you need to look away, you can.

I found the pacing to lag at times, but it wasn’t an issue. I was so caught up in the characters I didn’t want to put the book down. However, I wish we could have seen more of Ersel! At times I felt like she was just an afterthought to Ragna, though I have a feeling that’s what the author wanted us to see. Ragna’s relationship(s) suffer under the weight of her plans for revenge. So although I want to complain (give us more mermaid awesomeness!) it’s part of a bigger arc which I can’t wait to see. And I hope we get more Ersel in book 3!

Speaking of book 3, The Navigator’s Touch isn’t even out until September, and I already NEED to know what happens next. The author sets up the ending so fantastically that I’m dying to read it. Holy cow, it can’t end like this!

All in all, if you liked Sky in the Deep (but wanted more action), and if you devoured The Seafarer’s Kiss, then this is the book for you! Action packed, with a fierce heroine and sublime myths, The Navigator’s Touch is a masterpiece of Viking fiction. Bring on book 3!

Expected publication: September 13th 2018
Duet Books, the YA imprint of Interlude Press

Preorder now!

 

 

 

Ranger’s Oath

by Blake Arthur Peel
Arc of Radiance Book 1

I’ve been a slow reader of late, as exams are drawing to a close and revisions have stolen all my time. But I recently had the opportunity to pick up a new fantasy novel, so I thought, what the heck, let’s dive right into it. Ranger’s Oath is the first of a five-book series of a YA fantasy epic, and let me just start by saying, it’s a total blast.

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Owyn is a ranger’s apprentice. Zara is a mage’s ward. Both hold the fate of the world in their hands. 

The Arc of Radiance has stood for a thousand years, protecting what’s left of the world from an ancient evil. But when demons begin to break through the magical barrier, Owyn and Zara become involved in a war that has lasted millennia.

If they can convince their people that the threat is real, then perhaps they can survive. If not, then the Eleven Hells will be unleashed upon the world of men…

Musings

In the realm of Tarsynium, man lives beneath a massive dome of magic, which keeps demons and evil at bay. It has stood for thousands of years, stoked by the mages at the capital, unwavering. So when Owyn, an apprentice ranger out training with his master, Elias, stumbles upon what he thinks might be a demon, it throws everything he knows into chaos.

Zara is training to one day become a mage, and so far has shown prodigious talent. When the Arch-Magnus herself wishes for Zara to accompany her to visit the edge of the realm, she leaps at the opportunity to learn from the best and show her talent to the world’s most powerful mage.

Owyn and Zara are thrown together as their elders try to dissect the mysterious occurrences which have been plaguing the realm. But when two apprentices have a theory, who’s going to listen to them? They have to take matters into their own hands before it’s too late.

While the plot was a little slow to get into at first, it quickly picks up the pace as we explore this world through the eyes of Owyn and Zara. The two make quite a pair: forced to trust each other in order to uncover the truth, it doesn’t mean that they’re going to like it. Zara is strong-willed and a perfectionist, think Hermione born in the middle ages, while Owyn is searching to define himself and carve an identity outside of the shadow of his father. Both must learn to bend the rules in order to do what is right.

Though the story is mildly predictable, it’s nevertheless a fun and engaging read, mainly for the brilliant characters. They’re incredibly relatable and draw you right into the world. One thing the author writes particularly well is the threatening demonic hordes, which are incredibly creepy, and lead to some fantastic fight scenes. I’m excited to see where the series intends on going next!

Expected publication: June 1st 2018
Add it to your Goodreads shelf! 

The Final Six

By Alexandra Mornir

Last month I received the coolest book box ever from Beacon Book Box, and with it, their book of the month: THE FINAL SIX. Immediately I could tell it was right up my alley: it’s YA/SF, my favorite genre, and involved a trip to Europa, one of my favorite moons (I even have a poster of it on my wall!). It took me a while to sit down and read it, but when I did, I couldn’t put it down.

Summary

 

36491465When Leo, an Italian championship swimmer, and Naomi, a science genius from California, are two of the twenty-four teens drafted into the International Space Training Camp, their lives are forever altered. After erratic climate change has made Earth a dangerous place to live, the fate of the population rests on the shoulders of the final six who will be scouting a new planet. Intense training, global scrutiny, and cutthroat opponents are only a few of the hurdles the contestants must endure in this competition.

For Leo, the prospect of traveling to Europa—Jupiter’s moon—to help resettle humankind is just the sense of purpose he’s been yearning for since losing his entire family in the flooding of Rome. Naomi, after learning of a similar space mission that mysteriously failed, suspects the ISTC isn’t being upfront with them about what’s at risk.

As the race to the final six advances, the tests get more challenging—even deadly. With pressure mounting, Naomi finds an unexpected friend in Leo, and the two grow closer with each mind-boggling experience they encounter. But it’s only when the finalists become fewer and their destinies grow nearer that the two can fathom the full weight of everything at stake: the world, the stars, and their lives.

Musings

The world is at war with the environment. Every day, new reports of devastating Tsunamis and destructive earthquakes fill the news. Earth is no longer a loving world: it’s turned against us, and wants us gone.

When Leo and Naomi are drafted by the new International space committee, they are given a once in a lifetime shot of leaving our world and forging a new home for mankind. Leo is a swimmer, strong and athletic, who dives the flooded streets of Rome in search of treasures to scavenge just to stay alive. Naomi is an Iranian-American science prodigy, smart as a whip and stubborn to match. She’d rather stay on earth to protect her brother, who cannot get the medical care he needs as the world is focused on other things, but knows this is her only chance to see what is really going on with this mysterious trip to Europa.

I loved the characters here. They were instantly engaging, though sometimes annoyingly flawless. Then again, these are the best teenagers on the planet, they’re allowed to be geniuses. While being run through over the top simulations in order to test and train the candidates, Leo and Naomi form a strong bond and fight to find the answers to secrets being kept by them: what is this vaccine they’re being given? And why is the mission being pushed forward so rapidly?

The fantastic scientific realism, proof of the author’s formidable research, was a bit of a double-edged sword. Because of her attention to detail, it was hard for me to suspend my disbelief when things appeared unlikely. For example, how quickly events are moving forward, or the ‘training’ the teens are receiving. I suppose we’re not seeing everything they’re being put through, but I felt like they weren’t being properly prepared for their mission: however, the details about Europa really brings some awesome planetary science to the reader, even if they don’t think they’re into it before the read. The book manages to highlight science without being bogged down by it.

All in all, it’s a fantastically fun read. The last three chapters really had me hanging on the edge of my seat, and I can’t wait for the next book to come out. I really loved Leo and Naomi’s relationship, and I find myself hoping things work out between them. Let me know when I can get book 2!

Heart of Iron

By Ashley Poston

My expectations were insanely high for this book: I mean, Anastasia in Space! Robots! Rebels! Rogues! I’m a sucker for space stories and I need some good pirates in my life, so I was stoked beyond belief when I heard about this book. Instant preorder. So I would take this review with a grain of salt since I might be a little overly critical – even though I loved it to bits!

Summary

35181314Seventeen-year-old Ana is a scoundrel by nurture and an outlaw by nature. Found as a child drifting through space with a sentient android called D09, Ana was saved by a fearsome space captain and the grizzled crew she now calls family. But D09—one of the last remaining illegal Metals—has been glitching, and Ana will stop at nothing to find a way to fix him.

Ana’s desperate effort to save D09 leads her on a quest to steal the coordinates to a lost ship that could offer all the answers. But at the last moment, a spoiled Ironblood boy beats Ana to her prize. He has his own reasons for taking the coordinates, and he doesn’t care what he’ll sacrifice to keep them.

When everything goes wrong, she and the Ironblood end up as fugitives on the run. Now their entire kingdom is after them—and the coordinates—and not everyone wants them captured alive.

What they find in a lost corner of the universe will change all their lives—and unearth dangerous secrets. But when a darkness from Ana’s past returns, she must face an impossible choice: does she protect a kingdom that wants her dead or save the Metal boy she loves?

Musings

The worldbuilding in the book was phenomenal. I loved the solar system where the adventure takes place, the religion the author created, the political tension. I loved how the author took the familiar narrative of Anastasia’s story and wove it into the fabric of space. However, this worked also against the author, because some of the twists were seen miles, and I mean miles, ahead. Even in the blurb you can work some details out. It also means if you can figure out who the supporting characters represent, you can figure out the villains ahead of time, too.

Which is not to say that the author didn’t have any tricks up her sleeves! She still manages to surprise the reader throughout the book. The true strength was in the characters themselves: into Ana, the brilliant rebel, who I want more than anything to know IRL. Or Jax, my absolute favorite character, who I need to read more of right now. Everything about his race, the Solani, made my heart soar.

And the imagery used is stunning! Though perhaps a little overused – so much swearing on Iron and Stars, y’all – but it’s so gosh darn gorgeous. There are lines upon lines I want to highlight and remember forever, or even paint on my wall.

All in all, while the plot is mildly predictable, the characters are loveable and the ending will leave you gutted. I can’t wait to learn more about the metals and to see Ana fight for a cause. This is only the beginning of what’s going to be a formidable series!

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Paintbrush

By Hannah Bucchin

Some days things just end up falling into place, and you wonder if the universe is messing with you, because coincidences like this just don’t happen. For example, when you’re on a truffle tour in the south of France with your family, and on that same tour group of a dozen people, there’s another YA author, who’s part of the same groups as you are online. The fact that she’s awesome just happens to be bonus (thanks universe!) so the second I got home I ordered her book on Prime, and couldn’t wait to read it. Another reason to thank the universe? The book, author Hannah Buccin’s Debut novel, Paintbrush, is charming and adorable, and everything I needed right now. And I think you might need it too.

Summary

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Mitchell Morrison and Josie Sedgwick have spent their whole lives at the Indian Paintbrush Community Village, a commune full of colorful characters tucked in the mountains of North Carolina, and they aren’t particularly close–at least, not anymore. Josie wishes she could spend all of her time at Paintbrush planting tomatoes, hiking the trails, or throwing giant communal birthday parties, while Mitchell can’t wait to escape the bizarre spiritual sharing and noisy community dinners. Luckily for both of them, high school graduation is just around the corner.

But when Mitchell’s mother makes a scandalous announcement that rocks the close-knit Paintbrush community, and Josie’s younger sister starts to make some dangerously bad decisions, the two find themselves leaning on each other for support – and looking at each other in a whole new light. Their childhood friendship blossoms into something more as they deal with their insane families, but as graduation approaches, so does life in the real world, forcing Josie and Mitchell to figure out what, exactly, their relationship is – and if it can survive their very different plans for the future. 

Musings

Welcome to the Indian Paintbrush Community Village for Sustainable Living: a beautiful commune filled with colorful characters. Among them, two teens on the cusp of adulthood. One, Josie, is nature loving, loves the Paintbrush community, dresses in long skirts and wears a braid. The other, Mitchell, could be the polar opposite: he just wants to fit into his high school, he’s on the swim team, popular, and doesn’t want anything to do with these ‘hippies’.

Life on the commune is peaceful, until one day when Mitchell’s mother does something earth shattering and changes his world forever.

The book deals with the questions that every teen struggles with as they reach adulthood: what is your place in the world? How do you choose your path for your future? Is it better to blend in, or stay true to who you are? How do you forgive the unforgivable – and so on. And it’s handled oh-so beautifully.

While the plot focuses on the growing and evolving relationships between Mitchell and Josie – who have more in common than they expect – it’s also using their two points of views to examine these questions. It’s a story of first love, and coming of age. Setting it on a commune frames this exploration in just a warm and loving embrace that you constantly feel hugged while reading the book. The supporting characters are just that: so supportive. In the best possible way.

If you’re looking for a YA contemporary that will leave you with a smile and a warm feeling in your heart. then you’re going to love Paintbrush. It’s a sweet and beautiful book that deserves a place on your bookshelf.

No Vain Loss + Interview with M.C. Frank

Author of the No Ordinary Star series

Those of you who follow this blog know that I’m obsessed with this gorgeous YA scifi series called No Ordinary Star. Set in the year 2524, in a future where people have forgotten what it is to celebrate Christmas, enjoy food, or even kiss, a soldier and a rebel meet at the North Pole and discover secrets that will change the world they live in – forever. There is so much to love about this series, so it’s with a massive amount of excitement that today we get to interview the author of No Ordinary Star, M.C. Frank herself!

Please help me in celebrating the release of her long-awaited finale to the trilogy – NO VAIN LOSS, out today!

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A soldier is summoned to the North Pole, days before the year changes, told to fix the great Clock for a celebration. He has no idea what to do.
A girl, hunted for the crime of being born, almost dies out on the ice. She is rescued by the last polar bear left alive.
A library waits for them both, a library built over a span of a hundred years, forgotten in the basement of an ice shack.
The world hasn’t known hunger or sickness in hundreds of years. It has also forgotten love and beauty.
This is the One World.
The year is 2524.

In No Vain Loss, the world is on the brink of the greatest war humanity has ever known. Lives will be lost. New truths will be revealed.

See My Review Here.

From the very start of this series, you can tell it oozes with something magical. I once said that it reminds me a little of “The Northern Lights”, but combined with “The Giver”, along with a strong foundation of dystopia. But at the same time, it’s completely unique.

I’ve said it once, and I’ll keep saying it again and again – if you haven’t read this series, you’re seriously missing out. As a YA reader, or a scifi lover, or an admirer of beautiful prose, this series is meant for anyone who needs a reminder that human nature is the most wonderful gift of all.

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An interview with M.C. Frank, author of the No Ordinary Star series

91ksiatmcbl-_ux250_R: Thank you so much for joining us today, for the release of your new book, No Vain Loss. As the third and last book of your No Ordinary Star trilogy, fans are incredibly excited for the resolution. Did you feel pressure when writing this last installment?

MCF: Thank you for having me. I did not feel any pressure, as I had written all three books before beginning the publishing process for any of them.

R: What was the hardest part, for you, when writing No Vain Loss? The ending is so thrilling and beautiful – did you always see the trilogy ending that way? Did a lot change between your first draft and the book we see today?

MCF: Yes, a lot changed, especially concerning the ending. There were three possible endings and it was hard for me to choose. In the end, I picked one that combined all my favorite elements and I am pretty happy with how it turned out.

R: Is this the last we’ll see of Felix and Astra?

MCF: I don’t know, readers are already asking for a sequel series. Never say never.

R: Now, the No Ordinary Star trilogy has a massive following of dedicated and loyal fans. But for those who have never read the series before, what would you say is the main reason they should drop everything and read it right now?

MCF: Because it’s an amazing Christmas story about a world who has forgotten Christmas. And kissing.

R: You’ve said the books are inspired by the short stories of Ray Bradbury, and you even reference The Rocket Man on your dedication page. Can you tell us more about how exactly his work inspired you?

MCF: If you have read Bradbury, you can see his influence in my world-building, as well as in the philosophy behind the entire plot of the novel. My dad loved his books, and he was the one who introduced me to his stories. I first read The Illustrated Man when I was thirteen, and I understood little, but I understood that that was what I wanted to do when I grew up: blow people’s minds away with my stories.

R: Along those same lines, which other authors inspire you? Do you have a favorite writer?

MCF: That’s such a hard question to ask a reader or writer. I have tons, too many to name!

R: It’s a massive event, the trilogy coming to an end. Is it too soon to ask you: What’s next for M.C. Frank? Are you working on any projects right now?

MCF: I am currently writing my next book, a Robin Hood romance.

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R: Along with being an extraordinary author, you’re also a great fan of the classics. Not only have you written a Regency retelling of Jane Eyre – Ruined – you’ve also edited beautiful editions of beloved books, and even created a Jane Austen coloring book. Can you tell us more about how this all started? And what are you working on now?

MCF: It’s just something I did as a designer, mostly for myself and my friends, but people ended up loving these editions so much, that I decided to put them up for sale. You can find them at my website, mcfrankauthor.com. Another Austen might be up, I haven’t decided yet.

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R: I’ve also had the immense pleasure of reading your New Adult novel, Lose Me. [review] a contemporary romance which moved me to tears. What are the challenges with writing in this genre, compared to YA Science Fiction? Do you prefer one over the other?

MCF: I loved writing both, although there was more freedom with the world-building with the No Ordinary Star series, as I was the one creating the sci-fi world. And there was much less research, compared to what I had to learn about stunts for Lose Me.

 

R: Now to get a little more personal: when you’re not writing, what do you do with your free time?

MCF: Free time? What’s that?

R: Finally, before we go, I just want to say thank you for creating such a magnificent world for us to fall into. No Ordinary Star has to be one of my favorite Science Fiction series. But I digress! Are there any other last minute things you would like our readers to know about?

MCF: Thank you for your kind words, I’m thrilled by the response the series is getting. I never imagined so many people would read it and love it.

R: Thank you so much for taking the time to be interviewed! We can’t wait to see what’s next from the amazing M.C. Frank.

You can buy No Vain Loss HERE – out today! Only $0.99 per book – less than $3 for the entire trilogy!

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A Dangerous Game + AUTHOR INTERVIEW!

By Madeline Dyer
Prequel/Spin-Off to the Untamed series

If you’re not reading the Untamed series, you’re sorely missing out. It’s perfect YA dystopia, with amazing complex characters and thrilling adventure. And if you are reading the Untamed surprise, great news! Madeline Dyer has released a new standalone novel in the universe: A Dangerous Game, and it’s unputdownable.

Summary

LOVE WAS NEVER SUPPOSED TO BE EASY. 34035695

All her life, Keelie Lin-Sykes has known what she wants: to protect her brother and sisters by killing as many of the soulless Enhanced Ones as she can. Oh, and to have fun while she’s doing it. After all, hiding in a secret Untamed community, while the group’s Seer warns them of danger, shouldn’t mean that life can only be serious, right?

But, when a face from her past suddenly—and secretly—shows up, Keelie’s catapulted back into the very world she’s been trying to escape from for the last ten years: a world full of guilt, lies, and…love. And the deeper Keelie gets into this world, the bigger the risks become.

Now, Keelie must deceive those she values most in order to protect them, even though her actions will destroy everything she knows and haunt her family forever. But she can’t ignore her feelings–not again. And Keelie will do anything to be with the man she loves.

Musings

Strap yourselves in, because this is going to be a bumpy ride. Unlike the main Untamed series – which in itself is rather action packed – A Dangerous Game is more adrenaline-filled than ever. Unlike Untamed, here we follow a new character, Keelie, who’s very different to Seven. She’s dangerously addicted to action and adventure, constantly putting her own life in danger for the thrill of it. She acts without thinking, potentially putting others in harm’s way. She’s selfish and rude, and I love her. There’s just something about well written flawed characters that just hooks you in.

And, unlike Seven, Keelie has got an active love life. There’s more focus on romance in this standalone, and love (or maybe lust) is one of the key drivers of Keelie’s instincts. Once again, unlike Seven who is thoughtful and thinks ahead, Keelie makes decisions based on gut feelings and almost animal instinct. Which isn’t always the best for her – or anyone.

We also get a different view of the villagers at Nbutai before the events of Untamed, when they weren’t yet on the run. Though under constant threat from the Enhanced, they lead lives, they work together, they survive, maybe even thrive. This makes the beginning of Untamed suddenly so much more poignant because you begin to love characters you know won’t make it out alive.

A Dangerous Game also deals with mental health, as Keelie’s mental wellbeing isn’t exactly stable, and other characters fall on the autism spectrum, which is a breath of fresh air in the stacks of YA dystopian books.

If you loved Untamed, then you need this companion novel. If you haven’t yet read the Untamed series, then you need to. If you’re looking for an adrenaline-filled thrill ride from start to finish, where the only time you put down the book is to catch your breath, then you’ve come to the right place. Addicting, Thrilling, Amazing.

OUT TODAY! 


Interview with MADELINE DYER, author of the UNTAMED series

R: While set in the same world as Untamed, your new book has a different protagonist, and it’s set before the start of Untamed. What prompted you to want to write a book set before your series begins?

b1ai0zybk3s-_ux250_MD: So, back in 2013 when I was writing Untamed, book one of my series, I knew pretty much straight away that I really wanted to write Keelie’s story too—I just completely fell in love with her, and the more I worked on other books in the series, the more I found other characters referring to things she’d done. She was certainly an influential force on these characters! This really fueled my desire to explore Keelie more and see how she relates to the other characters in the Untamed world, and so I knew I’d have to write a book from her point of view. And, thus, A Dangerous Game was born!

Due to events that happen at the start of Untamed (and how the focus of the series is on Seven and her struggle to win the war), I knew that Keelie’s story would have to be set before the start of Untamed in order to give her the lime-light that she deserves—and where nothing huge would be going on at the same time that would detract from her story, because it’s very much about Keelie’s struggle with mental health, identity, and her relationships with others. I really wanted the emphasis to be on Keelie, so that Seven (the narrator of the series) can just be a minor character in the background as the juicy part of her story hasn’t begun yet. And so, A Dangerous Game, became a sort of prequel to the series. But it’s also very much a standalone book in its own right. You don’t need to read the series first.

It wasn’t until the spring of 2016 that I actually had time to really delve into Keelie’s story, and I was surprised at just how organically her story flowed—and how much it worked as a companion to the series. Writing a story set before my series has also been a lot of fun, as we get to see more of the daily life of the Nbutai villagers before they all go on the run from the Enhanced Ones.

R: In reading the book, we notice it’s very different to Untamed. What was the hardest challenge in writing this book, compared to the other novels in the Untamed series?51jqdwz0dul

MD: The hardest challenge in writing A Dangerous Game was making sure that there were no continuity errors in it or anything that jars with the first book of the series (particularly as there is a slight overlap in the timelines of the two books, though Seven and Keelie are in different places, dealing with different things, completely oblivious of each other). This also meant that I had to make sure that the end of A Dangerous Game didn’t repeat any information that the start of Untamed gives, as I don’t want to bore readers who’ve read both, and so I had to think of a way where the ending of Keelie’s story actually changes how the readers view and understand the start of Seven’s.

R: It’s so intriguing following the thoughts of a different character, who’s very different to Seven in many ways. Did you find that writing Keelie’s point of view was harder or easier than writing Seven’s? In what ways were they different?

MD: Keelie was actually a lot easier to write than Seven! Keelie’s impulsive, an adrenaline junkie, and confident (often dangerously over-confident), whereas Seven is quieter, very observant, and a lot more thoughtful. Seven is a planner, Keelie isn’t.

So, writing Keelie was definitely a breath of fresh air, as she does a lot of things that Seven would never have dreamed of doing in Untamed. But it was also really interesting seeing how these two characters view the world they live in so differently. Keelie often sees the war between the Untamed and Enhanced as almost game-like and something she can use to prove how strong she is, whereas Seven sees the horrors of it all for what it actually is and is determined to make sure her actions bring about an end for the war. Seeing Keelie and Seven interact with each other in A Dangerous Game was fun too—particularly as Seven hasn’t developed her Seer powers at this stage and is unaware of just how important she’ll be in the war, and so Keelie almost takes on the role of defender to the young woman who’ll later be the savior of their people.

R: The process of writing a book is never straightforward, is it! Did you have to make massive changes to your book, or did you know what the story was going to be since the very beginning?

MD: I knew the rough shape the story would take right from when I started writing it, but, wow, did it change a lot! The massive changes included ‘unkilling’ a character, introducing another sibling for Keelie (which completely changed the direction of the plot at several points), and increasing the level of romance A LOT.

R: One a more personal level, what would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

MD: Before I start a writing session, I generally make a cup of tea. Then, I invariably lose my cup of tea and make another one. At the end of my writing session, I either find the lost cup of tea or realize I’ve completely forgotten to drink the replacement one.

R: What’s your writing ritual, and what do you like to do when you’re not writing?

MD: I love writing outside, so I do that as often as I can. In general, I write first thing in the morning and keep going until lunchtime. Afternoons are for catching up on admin or editing—unless I’m at the beach, because then I’ll write at the beach.

When I’m not writing, I can be found out on our farm, with my herd of Shetland ponies, reading, or trying out new coffee shops.

Follow Madeline Dyer on Twitter, on Facebook, on Instagram, or her website!

Invictus

by Ryan Graudin

When you’re sick in the hospital and need a good book, you want one that’s going to take you far, far away from your bed and those four off-white walls. So a LOT was riding on Invictus. And it was… perfect. It’s everything you could possibly want in a novel; fun, time travel, paradoxes, the future, adorable red pandas, alternate reality, time pirates… the list just keeps on going. It’s a thrill ride you can’t put down, and I loved every second of it.

Summary33152795

Farway Gaius McCarthy was born outside of time. The son of a time-traveling Recorder from 2354 AD and a gladiator living in Rome in 95 AD, Far’s birth defies the laws of nature. Exploring history himself is all he’s ever wanted, and after failing his final time-traveling exam, Far takes a position commanding a ship with a crew of his friends as part of a black market operation to steal valuables from the past. 

But during a heist on the sinking Titanic, Far meets a mysterious girl who always seems to be one step ahead of him. Armed with knowledge that will bring Far’s very existence into question, she will lead Far and his team on a race through time to discover a frightening truth: History is not as steady as it seems.

Musings

Time travel can be a whole mess for authors to tackle, and easily lead to plot holes or inconsistencies. But Invictus quickly lays down the rules and sticks to them, which makes for a killer story and an addicting read. Time travel done right leads to something un-put-down-able. If it did break any of its own rules, I didn’t notice, and was kept sucked into the story.

The plot also never gets dull or feels to drag out. Every few chapters, it’s as if the novel shifts completely: it throws every expectation or prediction you have on its head. The twists are so massive they completely alter the way you relate to the book itself, and that right there means there’s never a dull moment. If this were a TV show, they would have enough cliffhangers to have you on the edge of your seat all season long.

As for the characters, they’re lovable and fun. They’re bursting with personality, and they’re a tight little loving family, the kind that sort of warms your heart to see. Just wholesome perfection, with fun quips and snappy dialogue, along with great use of talents. It was also refreshing to skip over the will they, won’t they of Far and Priya, jumping straight into their comfortable relationship. Which means certain scenes all the more heartbreaking.

And to top it off, the descriptions are just killer. I love the future, which is just so dang hopeful, despite all the things that supposedly happened between now and then. I love the time-traveling historians, and their respect for history. And every travel back in time makes you feel as if you’re really there: the author has such a way with words you’re completely engrossed.

All in all, this is a fantastic read. If you need a novel to pick you up, you’ve got it right here. Not to mention, it’s a standalone – a fully self contained story that will have you hooked from start to finish, and thinking about it for ages after.

P.S. If you love red pandas, well, you’re in for a treat!