ARC Review - The Shrunken Head

Title: The Shrunken Head
Author: Lauren Oliver & H. C. Chester
Publisher: Harper Collins Children's Books
Series: The Curiosity House #1
Published: September 29, 2015
Source: Sent for review
Add it on Goodreads
The book is about, among other things: the strongest boy in the world, a talking cockatoo, a faulty mind reader, a beautiful bearded lady and a nervous magician, an old museum, and a shrunken head.
Blessed with extraordinary abilities, orphans Philippa, Sam, and Thomas have grown up happily in Dumfrey's Dime Museum of Freaks, Oddities, and Wonders. Philippa is a powerful mentalist, Sam is the world's strongest boy, and Thomas can squeeze himself into a space no bigger than a bread box. The children live happily with museum owner Mr. Dumfrey, alongside other misfits. But when a fourth child, Max, a knife-thrower, joins the group, it sets off an unforgettable chain of events.
When the museum's Amazonian shrunken head is stolen, the four are determined to get it back. But their search leads them to a series of murders and an explosive secret about their pasts. 


Since reading Oliver's Delirium I've gladly collected all of her other novels so when I heard she was writing another middle grade one I was pretty excited because I really enjoyed her previous two.  This on in particular piqued my interest because I find life's little oddities completely fascinating so a novel set in a museum of them sounds right up my alley.

Despite being set in the 1930's, which is usually something I'm not overly fond of, I almost didn't seem to notice in this book, and thus didn't mind in the least.  Aside from the prices of things and the fact that no one is constantly glued to their cellphone it honestly seemed like the story could be taking place right now, and somehow that seeming ability to fit into both then and now worked quite well for this story.

The four main characters, Pippa, Sam, Max, and Thomas, all had POVs in the novel, and with an equal split of boys and girls (Max is short for Maxine) this novel can easily be enjoyed by both genders without kids worrying about that they'll be made fun of for reading a book targeted towards the opposite gender.  Each character had different talents and different strengths and weaknesses so it was really fun seeing inside all four of their heads when they were so completely opposite of each other.

The novel, being a middle grade, included some illustrations spattered throughout the book, along with little ones at the start of each chapter to denote whose POV it was from.  The whole-page illustrations weren't necessarilly essential to the story, just being drawings of various characters, but it was fun to look at them regardless because sometimes it's nice to see how someone else views the characters to help you see them better.  I think it's also important to note that while people outside of the museum see the kids and other human "attractions" as freaks that's not how the characters see themselves.  This message is continually repeated throughout the novel and I think it's something that's really important, because regardless of how the outside world may see them those who find a home in the museum are accepted there and find a family, enforcing the idea that no matter who you are you are never alone.

Honestly there was nothing about this book that I didn't enjoy.  The writing itself was absolutely spectacular despite the plot mainly revolving around several murders and a missing mummified shrunken head.  It didn't seem like it belonged in a middle grade novel with a creepy setting because it was just SO pretty.  There's a mystery element in the book related to the shrunken head and the murders I mentioned above and while I did figure it all out (well, all but one piece) before the big reveal I don't really mind just because the novel is intended for a slightly younger audience, meaning they too should be able to connect the dots. [Please note I'm not saying that middle grade readers are by any means stupid because I know they are not, but I do believe there is a curve in terms of difficulty for such things just to make sure most kids of the targeted age are able to figure it out should they take note of various things.]  I was a little surprised by the possible dark connotations of one of the plot points, but seeing as it wasn't explored in detail by any means it's not something of the utmost importance, at least right now.

Overall it was a super fun novel that should appeal to all genders and, regardless of being marketed towards a younger audience, is a book that can be enjoyed by all.  While I didn't absolutely adore it this novel held my attention and I connected with the characters because, although I don't have some strange magnificent ability, I've felt like an outsider (as I'm sure everyone has at one point or another), and this book deals excellently with the fact that it's okay, and even a good thing, to be different.  Fans of Oliver's previous middle grade novels are sure to enjoy this book, and regardless of your age if it sounds like something that might even remotely interest you I would highly suggest checking it out because you might find that you really like it.  I'll be sure to check out the next installment and I hope at least one of you decides to give this book a try. [And as a side note the hardcover copy of this book is SUPER cool, so you should at least go check it out because of that.]

*This book contains some possibly disturbing "images" what with descriptions of strange artifacts from around the world, and there are deaths that occur throughout the book.  Although none are committed on the page there are mentions of bodies and some blood along with some mild scenes of suspense.

2015 Fantasy Extravaganza - Rachel Hartman

The last author in the Fantasy Extravaganza is a pretty big one in the sense that she's a New York Times bestselling author AND her debut novel Seraphina got an unprecedented 8 starred reviews along with ending up on several "best of" lists.  I don't think there's actually a better way to end this new event, so without further ado here's Rachel Hartman!

The Interview;

Once Upon A Teen Reader: I don't think there's anything that screams "fantasy" more than dragons do.  What made you want to write a book with dragons in it?
Rachel Hartman: Well, the most straightforward answer is, I really like dragons! Dragons seem to encompass two opposing poles: on the one hand, they may be transcendently wise and intelligent, and on the other, they're the epitome of ferocious, greedy and bloodthirsty. How can one creature contain such a contradiction? They're an excellent metaphor for our own (also contradictory) natures, taken to extremes, and I've always been fascinated by that.

OUATR: Speaking of dragons, you didn't necessarily go the traditional route with them being dragons all the time.  Why did you decide to go with a character who could shift between dragon and human?

RH: Before I started writing YA novels, I used to write and illustrate comic books set in the same fantasy world. I had always intended there to be dragon characters, but I'm pretty bad at drawing dragons. One day it occurred to me that if dragons could take human form, I could draw humans instead. I really was just being lazy, but I soon discovered that this was a real treasure trove of ideas. If dragons can take human form, the implications of that echo out into everything - politics, religion, history, philosophy. It's a really fun scenario to delve into.

OUATR: Dragons aren't known to be particularly stupid creatures by any means, but your dragons are crazy smart and rational, kind of along the lines of say...Vulcans.  Where did that idea come from?

RH: There's a long tradition of dragons being super-intelligent, in fact, but I did deal more explicitly with their emotions (or lack thereof) than I've seen elsewhere. Basically, I was trying to work out what it would really be like to transform from one kind of body to another. It seemed to me that if dragons were becoming humans -- not as an illusion, but as close to real as they could manage -- then they were going to have different kinds of senses whilst in human form. Just the difference between scaly skin and human skin, for example. If your skin were suddenly much more sensitive than you were used to, wouldn't that be aggravating? Would your clothes itch all the time? There were lots of questions like that to be answered. Then I began to think about their brains. How would those be different? I think of emotions as a social bonding tool, largely, but most reptiles aren't very social. Would dragons even need emotions? There was going to be a lot more interesting tension if they didn't have them.

OUATR: Personally I think that every fantasy novel should have a map and yours doesn't disappoint but I'm always curious if authors (in this case you) have any real world geographical influences when creating the world.

RH: Well, I do draw upon what I know while writing, specific places I've been. The city of Lavondaville, for example, draws upon England, where I lived for a year, and the Goreddi countryside draws upon Kentucky, where I grew up, and British Columbia, where I live now. Similarly, the places she travels in SHADOW SCALE come from my own travels. Porphyry, for example, draws upon Greece for the physical feel of the buildings, and upon Japan for what it feels like to be a visible foreigner.

OUATR: In SHADOW SCALE we get more of the quest that fantasy novels are so famous for and, let's be honest, sometimes in fantasy books the place might as well be another character, did you have a favorite setting to write?  If so what was it?

RH: I enjoyed writing all the places! Setting is my favourite element of fiction, honestly, and I think that's part of what drew me to fantasy in the first place. I love making the world feel full of different kinds of people and places, in all their glorious variety. Porphyry is a sentimental favourite, but one place I was eager to write about was the Tanamoot, the dragon homeland. I drew upon a trip to Alaska, there, for the feel of hiking through the taiga.

OUATR: Seraphina's journey is over with SHADOW SCALE but you've expressed interest in returning to her world.  If you do come back in the future what are some of the things/areas you might revisit?

RH: Absolutely I'll revisit. This world has been with me since I was twelve, and I love it too much to leave it. I'm working on a second duology right now, featuring one of Seraphina's younger half-sisters (the appear briefly in SERAPHINA, just one scene). I'm having a particularly good time giving a sister's-eye view of Seraphina herself. Nobody sees your faults as clearly as a sister, or loves you harder in spite of them.

The Book;
Title: Seraphina
Author: Rachel Hartman
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Series: Seraphina #1
Published: July 1, 2014
Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty's anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high.
Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen's Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life.

Buy Shadow Scale from B&N | Indiebound | The Book Depository

The Author;
Rachel was born in Kentucky, but has lived a variety of places including Chicago, Philadelphia, St. Louis, England, and Japan. She has a BA in Comparative Literature, although she insists it should have been a BS because her undergraduate thesis was called “Paradox and Parody in Don Quixoteand the satires of Lucian.” She eschewed graduate school in favour of drawing comic books. She now lives in Vancouver, BC, with her family, their whippet, and a talking frog and salamander (who fight zombies)(really. There are a lot of zombies in the Pacific Northwest).

Find her on Her Website | Twitter | Facebook

The Giveaway;
Someone will win a copy of Seraphina and/or Shadow Scale, whichever they need to complete their Rachel Hartman collection!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

2015 Fantasy Extravaganza - Morgan Rhodes

The first to last author in the lineup is the amazingly talented New York Times bestselling author Morgan Rhodes.  Her two series are actually connected by the fantasy world and they are expertly staggered across the year so you should only have to wait 6 months between her books as opposed to a year like almost every other author out there.

The Interview;

Once Upon A Teen Reader: First, can you explain to us how A BOOK OF SPIRITS AND THIEVES is connected to the FALLING KINGDOMS series?  The magical world, Mytica, is the same, but what about the time period in that world?  Does this book fall before or after (or during?) the FALLING KINGDOMS series?
Morgan Rhodes: The parts of ABOSAT that are set in Mytica (which is about a third of the book, the other two-thirds take place in modern-day Toronto) take place a thousand years before the events in Falling Kingdoms. That might seem like a long time ago, but remember when all the prophesies and legends that are discussed in FK originated. Readers will get to see the truth behind those legends, including the battle between the goddesses, the fallout after the last sorceress was killed and the Sanctuary was closed off from Mytica, and loads of Easter Eggs that readers of FK will definitely appreciate. At the same time, readers who haven’t read FK yet will get to experience a whole new story that doesn’t need a strong prior knowledge of this world.

OUATR: The FALLING KINGDOMS series takes place exclusively in the magical world of Mytica yet A BOOK OF SPIRITS AND THIEVES switches back and forth between Mytica and modern-day Toronto.  What was it like writing a high-fantasy novel that had a partial setting in the real, modern world?

MR: I always loved what I can only describe as “porthole” books – a gateway between our world and a fantasy world. A few that immediately come to mind are The Chronicles of Narnia, The Wizard of Oz, and Alice in Wonderland. That said, I knew if I wanted to make the fantasy world in this trilogy that of Falling Kingdoms, I had to tread softly so I wouldn’t ruin the fantasy aspect in readers’ minds. I couldn’t have modern day characters easily traipsing through Mytica like it was no big deal. There had to be very strict rules in place to limit such things, which is why in book one modern-day Becca has to be affected by very specific magic and only her spirit makes the journey – and she interacts directly with only one Mytican character. As far as the writing – I originally thought that the contemporary parts would be much easier to write, since all of the books I wrote under my other pen name were contemporary, but those were the most challenging parts. I’m able to slip into high-fantasy mode very easily these days and very much enjoyed writing about Maddox’s adventures.

OUATR: What was it like returning to the world of Mytica with different characters while you are (I assume) still working on books in the FALLING KINGDOMS series?  Did you ever get confused?

MR: I wouldn’t say I get confused (mostly). But I do get a bit overwhelmed at times with so much world to absorb and keep organized. Also, I have to keep in mind that things that will happen in Spirits and Thieves will potentially effect things that happen in Falling Kingdoms. In that order. It’s a juggling act, for sure, but as long as I stay organized (ha!) all will work out in the end.

OUATR: All of these books have multiple POVs, both male and female, is there one that's easiest for you to write?  Hardest?

MR: When I’m writing a character’s chapter, I try to really become that character in my head. If that makes sense. So when I’m writing that chapter, it usually flows well as long as I understand that character’s motivations. However, I will readily admit that I always look forward to writing in Maddox and Cleo’s point of views in the original series the most!

OUATR: High fantasy story arcs generally span several books and as it stands the FALLING KINGDOMS series is set to be six while the SPIRITS AND THIEVES series is set to be three.  Could you see those numbers growing some time in the future? 

MR: If the reader interest is there after these series are complete, I certainly have plenty of ideas for more – but probably spin offs rather than direct extensions. We’ll see!

OUATR: How do you keep track of so many character and plot arcs throughout the books?

MR: I will admit, it’s becoming increasingly difficult! However, I have very detailed outlines that I write from and I try to keep my “series bible” up to date for quick reference. Also, I try very hard to reread previous books before the most recent one is finalized to make sure I’m not missing something big.

OUATR: I've found that in books such as these it's not unusual for characters to die.  What goes through your mind as you kill off characters?  Have there been any character deaths that you've cried while writing?

MR: I shed a tear for a character who died at the end of the first book. In book four, I cringed when I had to kill off another character. Other characters, I kind of enjoy offing. *evil smile* If it’s good for the plot, then it’s a necessary act. What I don’t totally enjoy is writing the other characters’ emotional reactions to learning about these deaths. That’s when I almost feel bad about what I’ve done. Almost.

OUATR: Last but not least, can you give us a teaser of FROZEN TIDES to tide (haha) us over until it releases this December?

“Why are you always so kind to me?” she asked. “No other servant cares how I feel.”

His expression grew thoughtful. “I suppose when I see someone in pain, I want to help them.”

“Some injured animals will bite the hand that tries to lend help.”

“Then I suppose it’s a good thing you’re not an animal, isn’t it?”

The Book;
Title: A Book of Spirits and Thieves
Author: Morgan Rhodes
Publisher: Razorbill
Series: Spirits and Thieves #1
Published: June 23, 2015
Crystal Hatcher, Modern-day Toronto: It’s a normal afternoon in her mother’s antique bookshop when Crys witnesses the unthinkable: her little sister Becca collapses into a coma after becoming mesmerized by a mysterious book written in an unrecognizable language.
Maddox Corso, Ancient Mytica: Maddox Corso doesn’t think much of it when he spots an unfamiliar girl in his small village. Until, that is, he realizes that she is a spirit, and he is the only one who can see or hear her. Her name is Becca Hatcher, and she needs Maddox to help get her home.
Farrell Grayson, Modern-day Toronto: Rich and aimless Farrell Grayson is thrilled when the mysterious leader of the ultra-secret Hawkspear Society invites him into the fold. But when he learns exactly what he has to do to prove himself, Farrell starts to question everything he thought he knew about family, loyalty, and himself….
Fate has brought these young people together, but ancient magic threatens to rip them apart.

Add the Falling Kingdoms series on Goodreads

The Author;
Morgan Rhodes lives in Ontario, Canada. As a child, she always wanted to be a princess—the kind that knows how to wield a sharp sword to help save both kingdoms and princes from fire-breathing dragons and dark wizards. Instead, she became a writer, which is just as good and much less dangerous. Along with writing, Morgan enjoys photography, travel, and reality TV, and is an extremely picky yet voracious reader of all kinds of books. Under another pen name, she's a nationally bestselling author of many paranormal novels. Falling Kingdoms is her first high fantasy.

The Giveaway;
Someone will win a a copy of one of Morgan's books, which means you can choose from her Falling Kingdoms series or A Book of Spirits and Thieves AND Morgan has generously donated a swag pack to go with it!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

2015 Fantasy Extravaganza - Mary Weber

There's just one week left of the fantasy extravaganza and today's author is actually in the middle of a trilogy right now.  MARY WEBER has a pretty cool concept for her books and her covers are super rocking so stick around to check out the interview I did with her below!

The Interview;

Once Upon A Teen Reader: Nym is a female Elemental, something that should not exist in her world, and she has the ability to control lightning and storms. Is there a reason you gave her this specific power as opposed to something else?  

Mary Weber: I’m absolutely in love with watching thunderstorms, specifically the lightning strikes over the ocean – it’s a thing of beauty and power all at once. And, random enough, this ability of Nym’s is where the idea for the Storm Siren Trilogy originated. Her power came to mind before the world or plot or characters, although eventually all those things ended up being built around it. :0)

OUATR: If you were born in Nym's world and turned out to be an Elemental, what power do you think you would have and why?  

MW: Ooh, probably the Luminescent ability, like Nym’s friend Rasha. It’d be fascinating to be able to read people’s intentions and decisions! Although, that could go really well or horrible, ha! Hmm, I wonder how often I’d get invited to parties...

OUATR: The world you created for this series is entirely your own but did you have any real-life inspiration for the geography?

MW: Ack! I’ve never been asked this question before! And yes, most definitely. I live in California a few hours from the desert and a few minutes from the Pacific Ocean, the latter of which is where the majority of all three books were plotted – thanks to night walks on the pier with my husband or sitting in a pub with my sister watching the fog roll in over the green hills.

OUATR: In SIREN'S FURY we move to another kingdom in the world you created and it seems to have more of a steampunk element to it, why did you decide to go that way for just that singular kingdom?

MW: Okay, so I’m not going to lie – I’m a little obsessed with steampunk. :0) The style and era and scientific ideas involved therein – it’s fascinating stuff! I’m also incredibly drawn to different cultures and artisans and the things they contribute to their societies. As well, my husband’s engineering family has taught me to see the unique ingenuity behind various structures and inventions depending on where in the world they’re located. So when it came to creating kingdoms of people with different powers and talents, I saw the Faelenians as more nature-embracing, the Cashlins as feelings/intuition-oriented, the Tullans as earthy-craftsmen, and the Bron as a people admiring mental and strategic / industrial prowess. Thus their focus, lifestyle, and creations would all reflect that – albeit I have it rather exaggerated in the book, yes. But when I look around at the vast differences between first world countries’ industrial systems and those of many third world nations, it didn’t seem that far-fetched to me.

OUATR: In fantasy novels a large part of the story is usually good vs evil but you also play with the idea of personal morals and how far you can go before you lose yourself.  Why do you think it's so important to include that in a story like this?

MW: Interesting question! To be honest, I think anytime we talk about power, we have to talk about personal responsibility and inner beliefs. Because whether it’s in a fantasy world or our real one, the power we each possess can be used to help or harm (and oftentimes it’s hard to tell which until a good bit of time has passed - good grief just look at history). I think that’s where having personal fortitude, good intentions, and the humility to listen to wisdom around us is so important. That and truly valuing human life no matter what a person looks like or where they’ve come from. :0)

OUATR: It seems you like to play with the idea of something being both a curse and a gift, do you believe that things can, in fact, be both at the same time or do you think it's more just how you look at something?

MW: Oh man, can I say both of those answers? I DO think it’s our perspective on things that allows us to see the good or bad in them. However, that’s not to minimize the fact that there are very wrong, very curse-like things that happen in life – and the damage they cause is inexcusable. But I also believe that we, as humans, have an incredible ability to overcome. That the areas we’re weakest in – those places in us that feel incredibly broken, or the things inside we despise, or maybe that even others despise – can quite often become our greatest strengths as we grow, and find healing, and embrace the love of others. :0)

OUATR: Next March the series will be coming to an end and (hopefully) all of our questions will be answered, can you give us a hint as to what we might expect to find inside book three?

MW: *laughs* I hope they’re answered too!! ;0) Hmm okay, let’s see… We will visit the kingdom of Cashlin (cuz Luminescents!), learn more about Nym’s birth and childhood (shh!), and find out which characters die and which ones get traumatized by the big bad horror Draewulf has created. Ahem.

The Book;
Title: Storm Siren
Author: Mary Weber
Publisher: Thomas Nelson/Harper Teen
Series: Storm Siren #1
Published: August 19, 2014
In a world at war, a slave girl’s lethal curse could become one kingdom’s weapon of salvation. If the curse—and the girl—can be controlled.
As a slave in the war-weary kingdom of Faelen, seventeen-year-old Nym isn’t merely devoid of rights, her Elemental kind are only born male and always killed at birth — meaning, she shouldn’t even exist.
Standing on the auction block beneath smoke-drenched mountains, Nym faces her fifteenth sell. But when her hood is removed and her storm-summoning killing curse revealed, Nym is snatched up by a court advisor and given a choice: be trained as the weapon Faelen needs to win the war, or be killed.
Choosing the former, Nym is unleashed into a world of politics, bizarre parties, and rumors of an evil more sinister than she’s being prepared to fight . . . not to mention the handsome trainer whose dark secrets lie behind a mysterious ability to calm every lightning strike she summons.
But what if she doesn’t want to be the weapon they’ve all been waiting for?

Find it on B&N | Amazon

Add Siren's Fury on Goodreads
Buy Siren's Fury from B&N | Indiebound | The Book Depository

The Author;
Mary Weber is a ridiculously uncoordinated girl plotting to take over make-believe worlds through books, handstands, and imaginary throwing knives. In her spare time, she feeds unicorns, sings 80’s hairband songs to her three muggle children, and ogles her husband who looks strikingly like Wolverine. They live in California, which is perfect for stalking L.A. bands, Joss Whedon, and the ocean.

Find her on Her Website | Twitter | Facebook

The Giveaway;
Mary has generously offered up a pair of her books (or just one if that's what you want) as part of the fantastic giveaway!  Make sure you enter the giveaway below and give her a HUGE thank you!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

2015 Fantasy Extravaganza - Livia Blackburne

Today's author although not a bestseller has still made some pretty impressive waves with her debut novel and just last month the sequel DAUGHTER OF DUSK, and end to the series, came out.  In fact the first book, MIDNIGHT THIEF, is on sale for .99 until the 13th on all e-book platforms!  I'm happy to introduce Livia Blackburne (who is also a diverse author, for those of you who are interested) and I hope you like the interview I did with her!

The Interview;

Once Upon A Teen Reader: You have a PhD in neuroscience; how does that translate into writing a novel?

Livia Blackburne: It resulted mostly because of procrastination I think.  I wrote a lot in high school but then I went to college and was busy doing science so I just didn't do much writing. One day when I was taking a class at Harvard medical school and waiting for the bus and went into a bookstore - it's cold in Boston in the winter - and they had a display of a popular series at the time, the one about a girl and her vampire boyfriend. So I picked it up and started reading and found it really addictive, read the whole series in a weekend, and it reminded me of how much I used to love writing so I went home and started thinking about a story.  It was a really nice escape from my PhD research and eventually my book sold around the time I was graduating and I just decided to go with writing as a career instead.

OUATR: So Midnight Thief was your first novel and in it you end up tackling both fantasy and multiple points of view, which are pretty impressive for any writer.  Was that always the plan or did it evolve into that?

LB: Yeah, I think it did always start out that way, with Kyra and Tristam.  There were several points when I wasn't sure if I wanted to keep Tristam or not but then I decided that his perspective does add a lot to the story.  It kind of became a medieval CSI a bit where he's kind of looking at the evidence and trying to find things out about Kyra so that was a lot of fun. And Tristam was definitely the more challenging to write because well, he's a guy, but yes, it did start out that way.

OUATR: First off, it's Kyra is pronounced "Kai-rah", like kai as in kite, right?

LB:  Yes.

OUATR:  So Kyra, she's a thief with some pretty impressive climbing skills.  Do you do any climbing or was that something you had to research entirely?

LB: I am actually really scared of heights so this is kind of my fantasy of how I wish I could be.  I've never actually done any climbing although after I wrote the book I ran across a climbing wall, like at a carnival, and was like "I can do this because I wrote this book" and I only got about four feet off the ground before I decided I couldn't get any further so I'll just stick with my imagination.

OUATR:  The names of your characters are pretty unique and I feel like they really fit into a fantasy world, how did you choose those names?

LB: It varied a lot.  Kyra was actually a character from a book that I wrote in high school for a special project and the other ones, some I just changed around.  Like with Tristam I changed the last letter of Tristan.  I also looked at baby name books.  One interesting story though is the character Malakel, hist name mostly came about because in a fantasy world you want names that sound like the come from the same language but back then I didn't really know that, I just liked this random name, so when I was in edits my editor said that maybe I should change this one name because it sounds different and we got to talking and she said "well it almost sounds like he's the one black character in the world" and I thought that was actually a really good idea.  Initially Malakel was white but after that instead of changing his name I changed his race and that actually gave me a lot of things to play with like social issues and race relations in the world.

OUATR:  One of the most important aspects of a fantasy novel, I think, is the creation of an entirely new world.  Did you base the world that you created on any real places?

LB: Typically I looked up a lot of pictures of castles and medieval type structures but no specific places.

OUATR: Daughter of Dusk just came out and it's actually the end of Kyra's story, so what are you working on next?

LB: I actually have two projects.  One is the story of Kyra's parents, which I eluded to in Daughter of Dusk, and I have a partial draft of that - although it's on the backburner right now.  I'm also working on an unrelated YA fantasy series that includes research on PTSD, the history of medicine and terminal illness, among other things.

The Book;
Title: Midnight Thief
Author: Livia Blackburne
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Series: Midnight Thief #1
Published July 8, 2014
Add it on Goodreads

Growing up on Forge’s streets has taught Kyra how to stretch a coin. And when that’s not enough, her uncanny ability to scale walls and bypass guards helps her take what she needs.
But when the leader of the Assassins Guild offers Kyra a lucrative job, she hesitates. She knows how to get by on her own, and she’s not sure she wants to play by his rules. But he’s persistent—and darkly attractive—and Kyra can’t quite resist his pull.
Tristam of Brancel is a young Palace knight on a mission. After his best friend is brutally murdered by Demon Riders, a clan of vicious warriors who ride bloodthirsty wildcats, Tristam vows to take them down. But as his investigation deepens, he finds his efforts thwarted by a talented thief, one who sneaks past Palace defenses with uncanny ease.
When a fateful raid throws Kyra and Tristam together, the two enemies realize that their best chance at survival—and vengeance—might be to join forces. And as their loyalties are tested to the breaking point, they learn a startling secret about Kyra’s past that threatens to reshape both their lives.

Find it on Amazon | B&N

Add Daughter of Dusk on Goodreads
Buy Daughter of Dusk from B&N | Indiebound | The Book Depository

The Author;
Livia Blackburne wrote her first novel while she was a PhD student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she conducted research on the neuroscience of reading acquisition in children. Upon graduation, she switched to writing full time. Livia still blogs about the intersection of literature and neuroscience.

Find her on Her Website | Twitter | Facebook

The Giveaway;
I purchased a paperback copy of MIDNIGHT THIEF that I decided I would just get signed to give away, along with a special bookplate for a copy of DAUGHTER OF DUSK.  One lucky person will win both of those, all you have to do is enter the giveaway below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Announcing the 2015 Spooktacular + Looking for your Help + a Giveaway

If you've been with me since I was back at my original blog you might know about the feature I held last year that was all about YA horror/thriller novels.  Being a fan of all this scary and nightmare-inducing I decided that I would continue the event this year with a few minor changes that you can check out below!  But first to introduce the event itself;

I love the horror/thriller genre.  I'm constantly in search of new books and movies that are supposed to scare the crap out of me, and since October is the month of Halloween what better time to spotlight YA novels that fall into that category?  The answer is there is no better time, so starting next month I'll run a series of interviews with authors who have books that fit into that category, but with a few differences, which I have posted below.

  • Only authors with novels published in 2015 will be asked to participate.  And that means initial releases, not re-releases in paperback. Last year I also asked authors with novels published the next year too.
  • There will not be an interview every week day.  That was just too many authors and it left no time for me to do anything else on the blog, like reviews.
  • You guys get to pick some of the authors! Or at least suggest which ones I reach out to, seeing as I can't guarantee they will say yes.

So there you have it.  Now onto the most important part of this post, which is having you guys choose some authors!  Below is a giveaway to entice you all to suggest/vote on authors!  Someone who suggests/vote on authors will win a copy of a YA horror/thriller novel that I've read and recently enjoyed.  Don't worry though, I'll make sure it's not one you've read before.  All you have to do is fill out the google-doc, you can either just use the poll or you can also suggest an author I may have missed.  The giveaway will be international and run for a week until the 21st.  Once it's finished I'll see which authors you guys are most interested in.  The top authors I will ask for interviews. 

I've already asked several authors for interviews but I'm not going to tell you who because I'm interested in who YOU guys are interested in seeing interviews from.  So have at it!

*Please note that the author(s) you suggest have to have books out THIS YEAR (2015) although if it's not out yet that's okay.

2015 Fantasy Extravaganza - Janet Lee Carey

Today we have a veteran fantasy author.  She's penned 6 YA fantasy novels, more than anyone else I've interviewed and I'm pretty sure that, at least here in Seattle, she's a pretty big deal in the YA world!  I'm so happy to introduce Janet Lee Carey!

The Interview;

Once Upon A Teen Reader: It's possible that the most iconic thing about fantasy novels are dragons, and while I know not all of your books include dragons you do have written some with them.  Why did you decide to go with dragons?

Janet Lee Carey: I read a lot of fairy tales in the winter and I got tired of reading about perfect princesses and cruel dragons.  I thought I’d mix it up so in Dragon's Keep I created a   princess with a dragon's claw and a complex dragon character for the reader to get to know. Dragons represent the wildness of nature and intelligence together. They’re amazing beings and once I started writing about them, I found it very addicting, so I kept coming back to them.

OUATR: The most recent novel you wrote, In the Time of Dragon Moon, is technically part of a series but you're able to read them independently.  Did you do that on purpose or was that just something that just came about on it's own?  Did you initially try to write a direct sequel?

JLC:  I didn’t intend to write more Wilde Island books at first but the world I created for Rosalind Pendragon’s story felt vivid. It was a place I knew more stories could grow. Rosalind’s story was completed in book one, so I immediately started to think about another character and what her story might be. I made it generational so the reader can get a sense of history. The first book sets up the second book and so on. Some of the characters you meet in Dragonswood come into In the Time of Dragon Moon. By that time they're already adults so you see their progression.  

OUATR:  You also have another series, the Noor books, which IS a direct sequel, right?

JLC:  That's correct.

OUATR: Did you prefer writing one over the other, a direct sequel vs a companion novel?

JLC:  I prefer the companion novel, or what I like to call "generational".  I like for a character arc to reach completeness in a single novel. Often when you have a series where a character is changing ever so slightly in each book it can get a little stale. I’ve found I like working with new central characters each time.  That said, I also enjoyed bringing characters from former books into newer books. If you read Dragonswood you find a hint about the murder mystery that takes place in In the Time of Dragon Moon.

OUATR: The Wild Island Chronicles take place in the real world with a secret fantasy world inside of it, right?

JLC:  Book one, Dragon’s Keep, was actually turned down a number of times because it was considered "too historical" but I was totally in love with the time period and the magic in it isn't heavy magic.  I did an enormous amount of research on the politics, beliefs and customs in the medieval world and added dragons and fairy folk to that historical landscape.

OUATR:  The third book in the series just came out, do you think you'll continue on in that world?

JLC:  I don't know yet. I have characters I'd love to continue exploring.  The character Augusta has a lot of dragon signatures on her face; her eyes are like dragon eyes and she has scales on her forehead.  She's an interesting character. Augusta ends up living with the dragons and the fairies instead of with the humans because the humans fear her and reject her.  She has her own arc that I think would be fun to develop, so I'm leaving it open.

OUATR: You wrote a contemporary novel, so why did you decide to switch to fantasy?

JLC:  Honestly I adore fantasy.  I read mostly fantasy growing up. I’d already written a few fantasy novels before I was published but the first book I sold was historical fiction. After that first book the editors advised me to stay with realistic fiction. They weren’t interested in seeing any fantasy. The trouble is I had to write fantasy, so I went ahead and wrote The Beast of Noor. I completed the whole novel without mentioning it to anyone but my close friends, family and the women in my critique group, Diviners. I was passionate about the story and simply had to tell it. Once I had the entire novel finished and showed it to my agent and editor, they were very happy with it. I knew I would focus mostly on YA fantasy novels from that point onward. Dragon’s Keep sold soon after that to Harcourt in the US and to Faber and Faber in the UK. The UK edition sold using the title Talon. 

OUATR:  I constantly hear from other fantasy writers when asked what books they would recommend their answer is one of yours so what fantasy novels would you recommend?

JLC:  I would highly recommend The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater. I also recommend books by Ursula K. LeGuin. I love her adult fantasy as well as her YA fantasy which is not as well known. She's just a masterful writer. I also like Juliet Marillier's Seven Waters series. Her fantasies are generational like my Wilde Island novels. 

The Book;
Title: In the Time of Dragon Moon
Author: Janet Lee Carey
Publisher: Kathy Dawson Books
Series: Wild Island Chronicles #3
Published: March 24, 2015Add it on Goodreads
On the southernmost tip of Wilde Island--far from the Dragonswood sanctuary and the Pendragon Castle--live the native Euit people. Uma, who is half Euit and half English, and not fully accepted by her tribe, wants to become a healer like her Euit father. But the mad English queen in the north, desperate for another child, kidnaps Uma and her father and demands that he cure her barrenness. After her father dies, Uma must ensure that the queen is with child by the time of the Dragon Moon, or be burned at the stake.Terrified and alone, Uma reaches out to her only possible ally: the king's nephew Jackrun, a fiery dragonrider with dragon, fairy, and human blood. Together, they must navigate through a sea of untold secrets, unveil a dark plot spawned long ago in Dragonswood, and find a way to accept all the elements--Euit, English, dragon, and fairy--that make them who they are.

The Author;
Janet Lee Carey is the award-winning author of nine Young Adult novels including her newest release, In the Time of Dragon Moon, book three of the Wilde Island Chronicles, ALA Best Books for Young Adults. Winner of the Mark Twain Award and finalist for the Washington State Book Award, her books highlight the courage of children and teens, and explore the challenges of staying true to your values while following your dreams. School Library Journal starred review calls her work, “fantasy at its best-original, beautiful, amazing, and deeply moving.” Statistics have shown that children who read are more compassionate. Janet links each new book with a charitable organization empowering youth to read and reach out. She tours the U.S. and abroad presenting at schools, book festivals and conferences for writers, teachers, and librarians. Janet and her family live near Seattle by a lake where rising morning mist forms into the shape of dragons.

Find her on Her Website | Twitter | Facebook

The Giveaway;
Janet has kindly donated a signed copy of her newest novel In the Time of Dragon Moon that she will send to one lucky winner, so make sure to enter the giveaway below for you chance to win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway