Book Review: Love is the Drug by Alaya Dawn Johnson

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A political thriller full of social commentary about race and class are the focus of Alaya Dawn Johnson’s newest YA novel, Love is the Drug.

love is the drugFrom the author of THE SUMMER PRINCE, a novel that’s John Grisham’s THE PELICAN BRIEF meets Michael Crichton’s THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN set at an elite Washington D.C. prep school.

Emily Bird was raised not to ask questions. She has perfect hair, the perfect boyfriend, and a perfect Ivy-League future. But a chance meeting with Roosevelt David, a homeland security agent, at a party for Washington DC’s elite leads to Bird waking up in a hospital, days later, with no memory of the end of the night.

Meanwhile, the world has fallen apart: A deadly flu virus is sweeping the nation, forcing quarantines, curfews, even martial law. And Roosevelt is certain that Bird knows something. Something about the virus–something about her parents’ top secret scientific work–something she shouldn’t know.

The only one Bird can trust is Coffee, a quiet, outsider genius who deals drugs to their classmates and is a firm believer in conspiracy theories. And he believes in Bird. But as Bird and Coffee dig deeper into what really happened that night, Bird finds that she might know more than she remembers. And what she knows could unleash the biggest government scandal in US history.

The mystery behind what is truly going on in Love is the Drug is compelling, and is a driving force behind moving the plot forward. But sometimes a book tries to be too much, and tries to address too many subjects — and I think that is ultimately the downfall of Love is the Drug, which often became bogged down by too many elements.

Johnson clearly has a lot to say about race and class — but with a political and medical thriller unfolding alongside these issues, Love is the Drug felt like a book with split personalities. Johnson’s decision to tackle so much within this one book is admirable, but ultimately I think it was a mistake that made the book difficult to read.

I wanted to know what happened, and was compelled to keep reading — but at the same time, I felt frustrated that the mystery did not unfold more smoothly. It felt like the medical/political thriller aspect of the plot was repeatedly put on hold for the social/race aspect of the plot — and the latter was definitely more about social commentary than it was about moving the story forward.

The issues Johnson bring up in Love is the Drug are certainly worth discussing, and worth writing about — especially in YA lit. I just don’t think the combination works in this case, given how much the quality of the book itself suffers for it.

Love is the Drug is in stores September 30th.

Salt & Storm by Kendall Kulper: Classroom Ideas

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Salt & Storm by Kendall Kulper hit store shelves yesterday (yay!!!) and as part of our Book of the Month feature, today we want to offer some ideas for using the book in the classroom. Here are some discussion & essay topic ideas to get you started:

  • JonahspermStudy the impact whaling had as an industry on the islands and coast of new England during the 18th and 19th centuries. Explore how the rise and fall of the whaling industry impacted those communities.
  • Research different types of superstitions that sailors believed in during the 18th and 19th centuries. What sort of talismans or spells would a sailor likely buy into? Compare your findings to the spells mentioned in Salt & Storm.
  • Look into the types of tattoos sailors would have gotten during the 18th and 19th centuries. What were the purposes of these tattoos? Compare your research to what the characters believed about tattoos in Salt & Storm.
  • Kulper_Salt&Storm_HCResearch how and why whaling was such an important industry during its prime, and what lead to its downfall. Use your findings to discuss signs of the industry’s demise in Salt & Storm.
  • Look into the lives of the women and children left behind when whalers went to sea. What kind of life did they face, while their husbands and fathers were away for years at a time, and facing the possibility of death?
  • Research the lives of whalers during the 18th and 19th century. Look into how they were hired and paid for their work, the dangers of whaling, and the details of their day-to-day lives at sea.

For the comments: What other ideas do you have for using Salt & Storm in the classroom?

Book Review: Brutal Youth by Anthony Breznican

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An “un-coming of age” story told with gruesome honesty, Brutal Youth by Anthony Breznican is a dismal but truthful look at the worst parts of adolescence.

brutal youthThree freshmen must join forces to survive at a troubled, working-class Catholic high school with a student body full of bullies and zealots, and a faculty that’s even worse in Anthony Breznican’s Brutal Youth

With a plunging reputation and enrollment rate, Saint Michael’s has become a crumbling dumping ground for expelled delinquents and a haven for the stridently religious when incoming freshman Peter Davidek signs up. On his first day, tensions are clearly on the rise as a picked-upon upperclassmen finally snaps, unleashing a violent attack on both the students who tormented him for so long, and the corrupt, petty faculty that let it happen. But within this desperate place, Peter befriends fellow freshmen Noah Stein, a volatile classmate whose face bears the scars of a hard-fighting past, and the beautiful but lonely Lorelei Paskal —so eager to become popular, she makes only enemies.

To even stand a chance at surviving their freshmen year, the trio must join forces as they navigate a bullying culture dominated by administrators like the once popular Ms. Bromine, their embittered guidance counselor, and Father Mercedes, the parish priest who plans to scapegoat the students as he makes off with church finances. A coming-of-age tale reversed, Brutal Youth follows these students as they discover that instead of growing older and wiser, going bad may be the only way to survive.

Though written for adults, Brutal Youth ‘s main characters are all teenagers — and their journey is not what most YA readers would come to expect. They are all optimistic, hopeful individuals — who, through the course of one torturous freshmen year of high school, come undone in the worst ways possible. It’s a blessing that Breznican has injected his story with so much dark humor; I can’t imagine getting through such horrific events without each little dose of laughter.

It’s sad that Breznican’s story is so honest. After all, the lesson these kids learn is one most of us have learned: that honesty and goodness is rarely rewarded; that deceitfulness and lies are often necessary to survive and to get ahead. Brutal Youth is not an uplifting story, but instead a raw reflection of society today. The optimistic side of me hopes it can serve as a wake-up call to the world that we have to do better; the pessimistic side wonders if that’s even possible.

Called “a Rebel Without a Cause for the twenty-first century” by Stephen King, Brutal Youth is in stores now.

Firebug by Lish McBride Blog Tour Guest Post & Contest: Why Write Paranormal

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Today, I am pleased to be hosting a stop on the official blog tour for Firebug by Lish McBride — which is in stores TODAY, and is one of my favorite books of the year.

Today, we have an exclusive guest blog from Lish, as well as your chance to win a copy of Firebug. So check out Lish’s post below, then keep reading for more on the contest!

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Why Write Paranormal
By Lish McBride

firebugMy thesis advisor asked me a similar question when I was in graduate school. Oh, it was phrased differently and her question was laced with concern, but it was there. She couldn’t understand why I wanted to write fantasy and horror and whatever and not literary fiction. Why else would I be in such a program? Why wouldn’t I see that anything less than literary fiction would be a waste of my time and talent? She was—and is—a wonderful teacher, and very straight forward, which I appreciated. To her the literary novel was the pinnacle, the brass ring, that thing that we should all grasp for. She loves it, and she couldn’t quite understand why I didn’t.

I think, and this is purely speculation, that genre fiction is all the same to her. It doesn’t fire her passion like literary fiction does. What she didn’t get was that was how I felt about literary fiction. I’m not saying it’s terrible or anything. I have no problems with it, just that when I sit down to write, those aren’t the kinds of stories I want to tell. Often, when I read, it’s the same thing. If you give me two stories, and one has a sea monster or a cyborg in it and the other is a coming of age tale with no magic whatsoever, guess which one I’m going to pick? I didn’t read Jane Austen until after I read Pride & Prejudice & Zombies and Sense & Sensibility & Sea Monsters. Usually I need the lure of magic to spark my interest. Only when I read those stories did the source material intrigue me. Regular fiction just doesn’t interest me. So when I wrote “serious” stories in class, I often wrote them as straight and kept the paranormal elements to myself. “This story appears to be about three women who killed an abusive husband, but they’re all secretly witches.”

I write paranormal because those are the stories that come out when I reach for my laptop and when I reach inside my mind for characters. Those are the stories my brain likes to create. Those are also the stories I like to read. I have always loved mythology and fairy tales. Why wouldn’t my writing reflect that? Stories are often sparked by our interests and what we absorb of the outside world. What we read, see, eat, smell—the people we meet, the relationships we have, all of this blends together and becomes fodder for the worlds we create.

I love the way magical worlds can interweave with the everyday, how sometimes it takes seeing something through the eyes of a monster to really understand it, to process it. Frankenstein is an excellent example of this. Mary Shelley used the monster to reveal truth and beauty, to expose certain unsavory things about humanity. Good writing—paranormal or literary or whatever the flavor may be—can do this. I just seem to like my truth with a little bit of magic.

This is not to say that I don’t ever read anything that isn’t paranormal. I read all kinds of things. Fantasy is just the most common genre I read. I have written stories without any magical elements in them. So I know it’s possible for me to do so, but to be honest, they don’t feel finished to me. They don’t feel full. I guess magic, or the paranormal, is the catalyst I need to bring a story to life. And I’m okay with that. There are a lot of writers out there to handle all the other kinds of books. People who really like literary fiction. People who are great at writing it. More power to them. They will spin their tales while I spend my time with gnomes, werewolves, faeries and other beasties. Nothing would make me happier.

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More Firebug Goodies:

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Want to win a copy of Firebug? Just tell us in the comments below why you want to read it, and then fill out the Rafflecopter form here.

Contest is open to mailing addresses in the U.S. or Canada only. Contest ends at midnight (PT) on Tuesday, September 30th.

New YA Releases: September 23, 2014

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Here’s a look at some of today’s new YA releases:

Kulper_Salt&Storm_HCSalt & Storm by Kendall Kulper

A sweeping historical romance about a witch who foresees her own murder–and the one boy who can help change her future.

Sixteen-year-old Avery Roe wants only to take her rightful place as the witch of Prince Island, making the charms that keep the island’s whalers safe at sea, but her mother has forced her into a magic-free world of proper manners and respectability. When Avery dreams she’s to be murdered, she knows time is running out to unlock her magic and save herself.

Avery finds an unexpected ally in a tattooed harpoon boy named Tane–a sailor with magic of his own, who moves Avery in ways she never expected. Becoming a witch might stop her murder and save her island from ruin, but Avery discovers her magic requires a sacrifice she never prepared for.

bodies we wearThe Bodies We Wear by Jeyn Roberts

A streetwise girl trains to take on a gang of drug dealers and avenge her best friend’s death in this thriller for fans of Scott Westerfeld and Robin Wasserman.

People say when you take Heam, your body momentarily dies and you catch a glimpse of heaven. Faye was only eleven when dealers forced Heam on her and her best friend, Christian. But Faye didn’t glimpse heaven—she saw hell. And Christian died.

Now Faye spends her days hiding her secret from the kids at school, and her nights training to take revenge on the men who destroyed her life and murdered her best friend. But life never goes the way we think it will. When a mysterious young man named Chael appears, Faye’s plan suddenly gets a lot more complicated. Chael seems to know everything about her, including her past. But too many secrets start tearing her world apart: trouble at school, with the police, and with the people she thought might be her friends. Even Gazer, her guardian, fears she’s become too obsessed with vengeance. Love and death. Will Faye overcome her desires, or will her quest for revenge consume her?

lark risingLark Rising by Sandra Waugh

Full of romance and nature magic, this debut fantasy is perfect for fans of Shannon Hale, Juliet Marillier, and Kristin Cashore.
 
Lark has foreseen two things—she will fall for a young man with sage green eyes,and he will kill her.

Sixteen-year-old Lark Carew is happiest close to home, tending her garden and gathering herbs for medicines. But when her Sight warns her that monsters called Troths will soon invade her village, Lark is summoned on a journey to seek help from the legendary Riders of Tarnec. Little does she suspect that one of the Riders, Gharain, is the very man who has haunted her visions. Or that the people of Tarnec have called her there for another reason: Lark is the Guardian of Life, the first of four Guardians who must awaken their powers to recover four stolen amulets. Together, the amulets—Life, Death, Dark, and Light—keep the world in Balance. To take back the Life amulet, Lark will have to discover her true inner strength and give in to a love that she swears will be her downfall.

On a Clear DayOn a Clear Day by Walter Dean Myers

 Young heroes decide that they are not too young or too powerless to change their world in this gripping, futuristic young adult novel by the New York Times bestselling author of the Printz Award–winning Monster.

It is 2035. Teens, armed only with their ideals, must wage war on the power elite.

Dahlia is a Low Gater: a sheep in a storm, struggling to survive completely on her own. The Gaters live in closed safe communities, protected from the Sturmers, mercenary thugs. And the C-8, a consortium of giant companies, control global access to finance, media, food, water, and energy resources—and they are only getting bigger and even more cutthroat. Dahlia, a computer whiz, joins forces with an ex-rocker, an ex-con, a chess prodigy, an ex-athlete, and a soldier wannabe. Their goal: to sabotage the C-8. But how will Sayeed, warlord and terrorist, fit into the equation?

Walter Dean Myers was a prolific author for young people, writing over one hundred books and receiving every major award in the field of children’s literature during his lifetime. He was the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature during 2012 and 2013.

Skink--No SurrenderSkink – No Surrender by Carl Hiaasen

The #1 New York Times bestselling author Carl Hiaasen serves up his unique brand of swamp-justice in Skink—No Surrender.

Classic Malley—to avoid being shipped off to boarding school, she takes off with some guy she met online. Poor Richard—he knows his cousin’s in trouble before she does. Wild Skink—he’s a ragged, one-eyed ex-governor of Florida, and enough of a renegade to think he can track Malley down. With Richard riding shotgun, the unlikely pair scour the state, undaunted by blinding storms, crazed pigs, flying bullets, and giant gators.

Carl Hiaasen first introduced readers to Skink more than twenty-five years ago in Double Whammy, and he quickly became Hiaasen’s most iconic and beloved character, appearing in six novels to date. Both teens and adults will be thrilled to catch sight of the elusive “captain” as he finds hilariously satisfying ways to stop internet predators, turtle-egg poachers, and lowlife litterbugs in their tracks. With Skink at the wheel, the search for a missing girl is both nail-bitingly tense and laugh-out-loud funny.

unmadeUnmade by Sarah Rees Brennan

Powerful love comes with a price. Who will be the sacrifice?

Kami has lost the boy she loves, is tied to a boy she does not, and faces an enemy more powerful than ever before. With Jared missing for months and presumed dead, Kami must rely on her new magical link with Ash for the strength to face the evil spreading through her town.

Rob Lynburn is now the master of Sorry-in-the-Vale, and he demands a death. Kami will use every tool at her disposal to stop him. Together with Rusty, Angela, and Holly, she uncovers a secret that might be the key to saving the town. But with knowledge comes responsibility—and a painful choice. A choice that will risk not only Kami’s life, but also the lives of those she loves most.

This final book in the Lynburn Legacy is a wild, entertaining ride from beginning to shocking end.

Messenger of FearMessenger of Fear by Michael Grant

I remembered my name – Mara. But, standing in that ghostly place, faced with the solemn young man in the black coat with silver skulls for buttons, I could recall nothing else about myself.

And then the games began.

The Messenger sees the darkness in young hearts, and the damage it inflicts upon the world. If they go unpunished, he offers the wicked a game. Win, and they can go free. Lose, and they will live out their greatest fear.

But what does any of this have to do with Mara? She is about to find out . . .

In a Handful of DustIn a Handful of Dust by Mindy McGinnis

The only thing bigger than the world is fear.

Lucy’s life by the pond has always been full. She has water and friends, laughter and the love of her adoptive mother, Lynn, who has made sure that Lucy’s childhood was very different from her own. Yet it seems Lucy’s future is settled already—a house, a man, children, and a water source—and anything beyond their life by the pond is beyond reach.

When disease burns through their community, the once life-saving water of the pond might be the source of what’s killing them now. Rumors of desalinization plants in California have lingered in Lynn’s mind, and the prospect of a “normal” life for Lucy sets the two of them on an epic journey west to face new dangers: hunger, mountains, deserts, betrayal, and the perils of a world so vast that Lucy fears she could be lost forever, only to disappear in a handful of dust.

In this companion to Not a Drop to Drink, Mindy McGinnis thrillingly combines the heart-swelling hope of a journey, the challenges of establishing your own place in the world, and the gripping physical danger of nature in a futuristic frontier.

Remember MeRemember Me by Romily Bernard

In the sequel to Find Me, Wick Tate, sarcastic teen hacker, is back and once again dealing with criminals and corrupt cops…and a brooding new love interest. Will Wick persevere when some secrets refuse to stay hidden?

Wick had thought her troubles were over.

But she should’ve known better.

Not only is she embroiled in a new murder case, which starts with a body with “Remember Me” carved into it and doesn’t stop there, but she also discovers new evidence surrounding her mother’s suicide…which leads her right back to her imprisoned deadbeat dad. And she has to deal with her flirty new hacker friend, Milo, sniffing around—which her boyfriend, Griff, isn’t too happy about.

The pressure might be too much as secrets—including Wick’s own—climb to the surface.

Remember Me is an edge-of-your-seat thrilling read that’ll have readers turning the pages at lightning speed! The paperback of Find Me is on sale simultaneously, and a digital original novella from Romily, featuring Griff, is on sale just a few weeks before!

afterworldsAfterworlds by Scott Westerfeld

Darcy Patel has put college and everything else on hold to publish her teen novel, Afterworlds. Arriving in New York with no apartment or friends she wonders whether she’s made the right decision until she falls in with a crowd of other seasoned and fledgling writers who take her under their wings…

Told in alternating chapters is Darcy’s novel, a suspenseful thriller about Lizzie, a teen who slips into the ‘Afterworld’ to survive a terrorist attack. But the Afterworld is a place between the living and the dead and as Lizzie drifts between our world and that of the Afterworld, she discovers that many unsolved – and terrifying – stories need to be reconciled. And when a new threat resurfaces, Lizzie learns her special gifts may not be enough to protect those she loves and cares about most.

survival colony 9Survival Colony 9 by Joshua David Bellin

In a future world of dust and ruin, fourteen-year-old Querry Genn struggles to recover the lost memory that might save the human race.

Querry is a member of Survival Colony Nine, one of the small, roving groups of people who outlived the wars and environmental catastrophes that destroyed the old world. The commander of Survival Colony Nine is his father, Laman Genn, who runs the camp with an iron will. He has to–because heat, dust, and starvation aren’t the only threats in this ruined world.

There are also the Skaldi.

Monsters with the ability to infect and mimic human hosts, the Skaldi appeared on the planet shortly after the wars of destruction. No one knows where they came from or what they are. But if they’re not stopped, it might mean the end of humanity.

Six months ago, Querry had an encounter with the Skaldi–and now he can’t remember anything that happened before then. If he can recall his past, he might be able to find the key to defeat the Skaldi.

If he can’t, he’s their next victim.

tabula rasaTabula Rasa by Kristen Lippert-Martin

The Bourne Identity meets Divergent in this heart-pounding debut.

Sixteen-year-old Sarah has a rare chance at a new life. Or so the doctors tell her. She’s been undergoing a cutting-edge procedure that will render her a tabula rasa—a blank slate. Memory by memory her troubled past is being taken away.

But when her final surgery is interrupted and a team of elite soldiers invades the isolated hospital under cover of a massive blizzard, her fresh start could be her end.

Navigating familiar halls that have become a dangerous maze with the help of a teen computer hacker who’s trying to bring the hospital down for his own reasons, Sarah starts to piece together who she is and why someone would want her erased. And she won’t be silenced again.

A high-stakes thriller featuring a non-stop race for survival and a smart heroine who will risk everything, Tabula Rasa is, in short, unforgettable.

adrenaline crushAdrenaline Crush by Laurie Boyle Crompton

When a daredevil teen pushes herself too far, she must choose between two boys: the one who wants to keep her safe, and the one who dares her to return to her old self.

Seventeen-year-old Dyna comes from a family of risk takers and is an avid thrill-seeker herself, until the day she splinters her ankle in a terrible fall. Her whole life goes from mountain biking and rock climbing to sitting at home and attending group sessions at the bizarre alternative healing center that her hippie mother found. The boy who witnessed Dyna’s accident believes her injury is a wakeup call and he encourages her mild new lifestyle, but a young Afghanistan War veteran she meets at the healing center pushes her to start taking chances again. Forced to face the consequences of her daredevil impulses, Dyna finds herself in danger of risking the one thing she’s always treated with caution—her heart.

firebugFirebug by Lish McBride

Ava can start fires with her mind . . . but is it a blessing or a curse?

Ava is a firebug—she can start fires with her mind. Which would all be well and good if she weren’t caught in a deadly contract with the Coterie, a magical mafia. She’s one of their main hit men . . . and she doesn’t like it one bit. Not least because her mother’s death was ordered by Venus—who is now her boss.

When Venus asks Ava to kill a family friend, Ava rebels. She knows very well that you can’t say no to the Coterie and expect to get away with it, though, so she and her friends hit the road, trying desperately to think of a way out of the mess they find themselves in. Preferably keeping the murder to a minimum.

For the comments: Which of today’s new releases are you most excited about?

Book Review: Hook’s Revenge by Heidi Schulz

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Peter Pan is kind of a jerk, and there’s no one better to let you know why than Jocelyn Hook, the daring (and, let’s admit it, much more kind-hearted) daughter of none other can Captain Hook. Her saga of surviving (and escaping) finishing school, and her quest to avenge her father’s death against the Neverland’s tick-tocking crocodile make up the rollicking adventure, Hook’s Revenge by Heidi Schulz.

hook's revengeTwelve-year-old Jocelyn dreams of becoming every bit as daring as her infamous father, Captain James Hook. Her grandfather, on the other hand, intends to see her starched and pressed into a fine society lady. When she’s sent to Miss Eliza Crumb-Biddlecomb’s Finishing School for Young Ladies, Jocelyn’s hopes of following in her father’s fearsome footsteps are lost in a heap of dance lessons, white gloves, and way too much pink.

So when Jocelyn receives a letter from her father challenging her to avenge his untimely demise at the jaws of the Neverland crocodile, she doesn’t hesitate-here at last is the adventure she has been waiting for. But Jocelyn finds that being a pirate is a bit more difficult than she’d bargained for. As if attempting to defeat the Neverland’s most fearsome beast isn’t enough to deal with, she’s tasked with captaining a crew of woefully untrained pirates, outwitting cannibals wild for English cuisine, and rescuing her best friend from a certain pack of lost children, not to mention that pesky Peter Pan who keeps barging in uninvited.

The crocodile’s clock is always ticking in Heidi Schulz’s debut novel, a story told by an irascible narrator who is both dazzlingly witty and sharp as a sword. Will Jocelyn find the courage to beat the incessant monster before time runs out?

Schulz has captured all the joy and magic of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan story, and reconfigured Neverland for an all new set of adventures through Jocelyn. Schulz writes with a witty tone, her cantankerous narrator imbuing the story periodically with even more color and humor — as Jocelyn navigates the trials and tribulations of finishing school, pirating, and revenge.

There is much to say about Hook’s Revenge, but I’ll start with this: it’s a delightful story, filled with charm and wit, endearing characters, imaginative plot twists, and plenty of humor. Schulz’s charming storm is lovingly enhanced by John Hendrix’s wonderful illustrations — each one filled with action, emotions, life, and all the tiny details that bring moments from the text to life.

Hook’s Revenge is simply a delight to read. Funny and charming and magical — everything a book should be. It is in stores now.

Salt & Storm by Kendall Kulper: Foreign Covers

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I love the beauty and simplicity of the U.S. cover of Salt & Storm by Kendall Kulper — the Celtic Heart knot, the watery background, and the beautiful typeface for the title. But some of the book’s foreign covers are equally gorgeous, though quite different.

Here’s a look at the international editions of Salt & Storm:

From the U.K.:

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From Germany:

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And for comparison, here is the U.S. version:

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For the comments: Which cover of Salt & Storm do you like best? Why?

Blog Tour & Contest: The Clockwork Dagger by Beth Cato

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Today, we’re excited to be hosting a stop on the official blog tour for The Clockwork Dagger by Beth Cato. Keep reading to learn more & your chance to enter a pretty awesome contest!

clockwork daggerAbout The Clockwork Dagger:

An extremely fun and very commercial fantasy debut, in the bestselling vein of Trudi Canavan and Gail Carriger. THE CLOCKWORK DAGGER is an enchanting fantasy debut about a young healer with incredible powers setting off on her first mission, when a series of strange occurrences (including murder) rock the airship she is traveling on. But the dashingly attractive steward may be one of the infamous Clockwork Dagger assassins, her cabin-mate hides secrets, and the conspiracy may reach the crown itself.

Published by: Harper Voyager
Released on: September 16th, 2014
Add it to Goodreads
Get it From: Amazon | B&N

Praise for The Clockwork Dagger:

“The Clockwork Dagger was just what I needed: A steampunk adventure with an uncommon heroine, a fascinating magic system, and a young gremlin! I’m hooked and can’t wait for more Octavia and Leaf!”
—New York Times bestselling author Kevin Hearne

About the Author:

beth catoBeth Cato resides in the outskirts of Phoenix, AZ. Her husband Jason, son Nicholas, and crazy cat keep her busy, but she still manages to squeeze in time for writing and other activities that help preserve her sanity. She is originally from Hanford, CA, a lovely city often pungent with cow manure.

clockwork dagger parasolGiveaway:

Enter to win a copy of The Clockwork Dager, complete with a gorgeous black-and-gold paper parasol, for your very own steampunk adventures and cosplays!

Enter by filling out the Rafflecopter form HERE!

Q&A with Salt & Storm Character Tane

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Today, we have another character interview from Salt & Storm by Kendall Kulper — this time with our leading male character, Tane. (Pronounced Taah-neh.) Check out our interview with character & narrator Avery here, and our Q&A with author Kendall here.

Kulper_Salt&Storm_HCThanks for joining us today, Tane. Can you tell us a bit about what brought you to Prince Island?

I’m a harpooner on the whale ship Modena. I’ve been whaling for years, and I suppose it was only a matter of time before I took on with a ship that brought me to this island.

 What is the most amazing thing you’ve seen during your travels?

There are small bays in the waters below the equators where, at night, the whole surface of the ocean is lit up with tiny lights, like a sky full of stars flipped upside down. I first saw one of these bays when I was small, just a child starting out, and I was certain it was some kind of magic, but truly, it’s not. I think about those lights all the time: that something so beautiful could exist without magic.

1024px-Walfang_zwischen_1856_und_1907When did you get your first tattoo? What was it?

On my island, children receive small tattoos at birth. They are barely more than pinpricks—on the palms of the hands for girls, on the soles of the feet for boys. They have two purposes: to protect the child from illness and to bind the child to the rest of his family. You almost can’t see my baby tattoos now, but whenever I’m barefoot in the water I always lift one of my feet to look at them.

Sailors have lots of stories and superstitions. What is one you adhere to, no matter what?

I believe my tattoos will protect me. I believe the Roe witches, for one, can fashion charms that will work. But in my years of traveling, I’ve seen too many swindles and heard too many lies to believe much else.

Do you see yourself always being a sailor? If you were to settle down, where would it be & what would you like to do when you get there?

I left my island because I wanted to see the world, and the more I see, the more I would like to keep traveling. Someday, far away, I can imagine a place I’d like to stop, a place like my old home—but no more islands. I’ve spent too much time surrounded on all sides by water.

Book Review: Firebug by Lish McBride

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Dear Lish McBride,

firebugThank you. Thank for hearing my repeated pleas for more magical mafia stories in YA literature.

Thank you for writing Ava, a strong female character who breaks the mold of what a “strong female character” has come to represent. For writing a character who has weaknesses as much as she has strength. Who possesses a power she’d rather not. Who loves deeply and truthfully, despite being scared and uncertain of her place in the world.

Thank you for writing Ava’s friends and loved ones, characters who I can rally behind as a reader. Who I can fall in love with. Who I wish I could hang out with.

Thank you for writing a wickedly delicious villain.

Thank you for writing the first book in a series that wraps up the main plot by the last page, while still leaving agonizing loose threads open for the next installation. (But seriously, can I have that next book now?????)

Thank you for weaving together a plot that is clever and twisty and engaging. Thank you for writing a smart, thoughtful storyline that never lags. Thank you for writing a book that I simply could not put down.

Thank you for writing a book that gave me a major book hangover, and made reading anything else after it incredibly difficult.

Thank you for Firebug. It’s amazing and is everything I ever look for in a YA novel.

Love,
Sara

Firebug is in stores September 23rd. Here is the official synopsis:

Ava can start fires with her mind . . . but is it a blessing or a curse?

Ava is a firebug—she can start fires with her mind. Which would all be well and good if she weren’t caught in a deadly contract with the Coterie, a magical mafia. She’s one of their main hit men . . . and she doesn’t like it one bit. Not least because her mother’s death was ordered by Venus—who is now her boss.

When Venus asks Ava to kill a family friend, Ava rebels. She knows very well that you can’t say no to the Coterie and expect to get away with it, though, so she and her friends hit the road, trying desperately to think of a way out of the mess they find themselves in. Preferably keeping the murder to a minimum.