Double Spooktacular Interview + Giveaway

Classes are in full swing and I have almost no time at all, so like almost everything else this year my Spooktacular is rather lacking.  I managed to get six authors to agree to participate but because my schedule is so insane I only got questions to two of them. But, they were the two authors of the six whose books I had actually gotten to read earlier in the year, so I guess that's good, right? Ugh, my track record this year has been kinda sucky, but I am super excited to feature both of these authors, and at the end of the post I've included a giveaway, so be sure to check that out too!

First up is the lovely debut author 
Kali Wallace
 whose book 
Shallow Graves
 was such a fun read.
It was like an episode of Supernatural from the monster's POV!

The Interview;

Once Upon A Teen Reader: How would you describe your book in 13 words or less?

Kali Wallace: Teen comes back from the dead, travels, meets people, kills some of them.

OUATR: Why did you choose to write horror/thrillers?

KW: As a reader I love scary stories and all they entail--dark secrets and shadows in the woods and things that go bump in the night, all of it wrapped up in exploring the dark, shadowy parts of life that we don't always feel comfortable thinking about.
But as a writer I also love the process of creating a spooky, creepy atmosphere for a story. I'm a very descriptive writer anyway, and when I'm writing there's nothing more fun than finding ways to pull a reader into a story in a way that gives them that nervous itch on the back of their neck.

OUATR: You have a plethora of supernatural creatures in the book, and most of them aren't as well known as your general vampire or werewolf, what kind of research did you do and how did you decide which ones to include?  Were there any you researched that you didn't use but really would have liked to?

KW: When I was looking around for monster ideas, I deliberately aimed for the ones that haven't gotten their chance at rehabilitation in most supernatural stories. The ones that are still considered gross rather than sexy, or are always cast as the ravenous bad guys, or give people an visceral negative reaction, because that seemed like the better way to go about asking questions about what makes a person a monster--and to frame that question not in terms of whatever supernatural bad hand they've been dealt, but in terms of what choices they make and how they choose to survive.
Most of my research involved reading around various stories and folk traditions until I found things that felt right, and sometimes making up a creature completely when nothing really fit. I would have loved to include some of the other great creatures I found. One favorite is the manananggal from Filipino mythology. But I couldn't find a way to fit her in that really gives that amazingly gruesome bit of monster lore its due--she deserves a starring role, not a brief appearance as a side character.

OUATR: Stories about monster hunters are fairly common, but it's more unusual to find one through the eyes of a monster. Why did you decide to go in that direction?

KW: I chose to tell the monster's story precisely because there are so many books and TV shows that tell the monster hunter's story, and if you read and watch a lot of them--and, oh, have I ever done that--you start to ask yourself if maybe the monster's aren't getting a bit of an unfair shake in this whole deal. Maybe they're just trying to live their ordinary monster lives, going about their monster days to their monster jobs with their monster friends, and suddenly everything is ruined when a teenage girl with a stake or a couple of dudes in a '67 Impala show up to ruin everything.
Once I started thinking about that, I was thinking about what life looks like from the point of view of somebody with monstrous tendencies but no real desire to be a monster, and I realized that rather than being a story about ridding the world of evil, it's a story about how evil grows from the choices people make, and how much harm can come from people absolutely convinced they are doing good.

OUATR: It's not uncommon for horror stories, especially those in the YA section, to include a romantic subplot, but aside from some brief flashes from Breezy's past it doesn't really come up in the book.  Was there a specific reason behind doing that?

KW: Well, yes, there is. This is a horror story, but like most horror stories, the fact that it is about death means it is also about life and how precious it is. I wanted it to be clear that Breezy's life is valuable and her death is tragic even if she isn't leaving a girlfriend or boyfriend behind, and I wanted it to be clear that whatever supernatural future she decides to find for herself, whatever she decides to do with her newly undead life as a monster, the value of her continuing existence has absolutely nothing to do with whether she finds a girlfriend or boyfriend.

OUATR: What are you working on now/next?

KW: Just last week I turned in the final revisions on my second novel, which is called THE MEMORY TREES. It's about a weirdly magical matriarchal family living on an apple orchard in the mountains of southern Vermont, and all the secrets and tragedies they've got buried in their past, and it will be out in Fall 2017.
I haven't started working on my next YA novel yet. I'm taking a bit of a break to write some short stories first.

OUATR: How scary is your book on a scale of 1 to 10?

KW: -2 for people who watch scary movies home alone with the lights off, maybe about a 7 for normal people who hide behind their cats for the jumpy bits. I think it's more creepy and atmospheric and moody than it is outright scary, but I'm probably the worst judge of anybody.

OUATR: What book would you recommend for Halloween reading?

KW: The most perfect book for this season is Adriana Mather's HOW TO HANG A WITCH, which is about Salem in autumn and witches and spooky ghostly boys, and is altogether delightful from beginning to end.

OUATR: What is your favorite movie/TV show to watch this time of year?

KW: Every time of year, but especially this time of year, I am a fan of gloomy bleak English crime shows, like Broadchurch, Happy Valley, Luther. The gloomier and bleaker the better. If everybody is British and miserable and lying about seventeen things I am watching it. 

OUATR: Do you have a go-to candy?

KW: Chocolate. I am a simple soul when it comes to candy. A good dark chocolate. A bit every day, please. 

The Book;

Title: Shallow Graves
Author: Kali Wallace
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Series: n/a
Published: January 26, 2016
Breezy remembers leaving the party: the warm, wet grass under her feet, her cheek still stinging from a slap to her face. But when she wakes up, scared and pulling dirt from her mouth, a year has passed and she can’t explain how.
Nor can she explain the man lying at her grave, dead from her touch, or why her heartbeat comes and goes. She doesn’t remember who killed her or why. All she knows is that she’s somehow conscious—and not only that, she’s able to sense who around her is hiding a murderous past.
Haunted by happy memories from her life, Breezy sets out to find answers in the gritty, threatening world to which she now belongs—where killers hide in plain sight, and a sinister cult is hunting for strange creatures like her. What she discovers is at once empowering, redemptive, and dangerous.
Buy it from B&N | AmazonIndiebound | The Book Depository

The Author;

 Kali Wallace, for most of her life, was going to be a scientist when she grew up. She studied geology in college, partly because she could get course credit for hiking and camping, and eventually earned a PhD in geophysics researching earthquakes in India and the Himalayas. Only after she had her shiny new doctorate in hand did she admit that she loved inventing imaginary worlds as much as she liked exploring the real one. She’s from Colorado but now lives in Southern California. 

Find her on Facebook | Twitter | Her Website

The second author is also a debut, but her book is quite a bit different
Sarah Jude
is the lovely author of 
The May Queen Murders
which is a deliciously dark read.
The atmosphere and the gore combined to make a vividly eerie story!

The Interview;

Once Upon A Teen Reader: How would you describe your book in 13 words or less?

Sarah Jude: It’s been described as “The Wicker Man (the original 1970s film) meets Winter’s Bone.” That works for me!

OUATR: Why did you choose to write horror/thrillers?

SJ: Horror and mystery are the natural places for my head to go when I write. I blame my mother because she raised me on a steady diet of Poe stories and Hitchcock films. She died twelve years ago, but her love of all things dark and eerie has carried on through me.

OUATR: Setting is such an important part of horror stories, were the Missouri Ozarks always where the story was going to take place, or did it evolve? Either way, how did you decided that's where you wanted to set it?

SJ: I live on the fringe of the Ozarks. You go a few miles and find yourself in the northeastern foothills of the Ozark Mountains. It’s an area I’m intimate with, one of rich folklore and superstition. It was ripe for a book’s setting. It’s also an overlooked place. People think Missouri is either farmland or violent urban areas. The reality is that it’s much more. The backwoods are winding and some areas are very much off the grid, and that was where I wanted to go with the eco-commune in THE MAY QUEEN MURDERS.

OUATR: There's a fair amount of blood and carnage in the book, were there any scenes you found particularly difficult to write, and what did you do to make them feel more authentic?

SJ: People are surprised by the blood in the book, which leaves me tilting my head. Maybe it’s because it’s YA that the bloodshed is unexpected, but considering the word “murders” is in the title, that bad things are afoot shouldn’t be surprising. It was no picnic to write some of those scenes either—particularly the ones with animals because I have a deep affection for animals and work with horses and dogs. However, one has to bear in mind that rural settings are inherently cruel to a degree. Farm equipment is dangerous. Seriously. My uncle farmed his land and kept dogs to protect his livestock, and he routinely lost them to highways, coyotes, and people. It’s not uncommon.
Another point, my background is in criminology, and every bit of the literature on serial killers will tell you there’s a common thread of harming animals before moving to people. The fact that these kills are deliberate in the book aren’t to torture the characters or readers but to show the depravity of what’s at work in Rowan’s Glen. 

OUATR: I think I huge part of the book is the culture you've created in Rowan's Glen, I'm curious what pieces of the real world you pulled from, along with what kind of research you did to pull everything together into this new place.

SJ: I spent a great deal of time in the Ozarks backwoods, talking to old-timers and reading up on books about the local folklore, but I also grew up with a very superstitious mother and spent a good bit of time in the rural Midwest. Much of it was innate to me. There are these off-the-grid eco-communes that spring up where, like the Glen, they have limited electricity and keep to themselves, and it’s true—they may power a house with solar panels and wiring but a washing machine takes way too much energy and so you wash your clothes in the river. The superstitious nature of Rowan’s Glen was rooted in the founders’ rejection of most of the modern world and how they stuck to their old ways.

OUATR: What are you working on now/next?

SJ: A lot of projects! I have a middle grade that I started writing with my daughter for fun but it turns out my agent loves it. I’m also working on a few horror YAs that I’m not quite ready to talk about yet, but suffice to say, they are dark and eerie.

OUATR: How scary is your book on a scale of 1 to 10?

SJ: I’m not a good judge of its fear factor because horror is so subjective. What scares me is not scary at all to another person. But I do get a lot of readers reporting that they had to keep the lights on at night!

OUATR: What book would you recommend for Halloween reading?

SJ: I will always suggest MARY: THE SUMMONING by Hillary Monahan because it is campy, creepy, and like a teen slasher film in book form. I’m currently reading AND THE TREES CREPT IN by Dawn Kurtagich and love it. Dawn’s work is very twisty and mind-bending, which is something I find really frightening.

OUATR: What is your favorite movie/TV show to watch this time of year?

SJ: I watch John Carpenter’s classic Halloween over and over again each year. I’m actually going to sit and watch it this afternoon!

OUATR:Do you have a go-to candy?

SJ: Peanut butter cups all the way! 

The Book;

Title: The May Queen Murders
Author: Sarah Jude
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Series: n/a
Published: May 3, 2016

Stay on the roads. Don’t enter the woods. Never go out at night.
Those are the rules in Rowan’s Glen, a remote farming community in the Missouri Ozarks where Ivy Templeton’s family has lived for centuries. It’s an old-fashioned way of life, full of superstition and traditions, and sixteen-year-old Ivy loves it. The other kids at school may think the Glen kids are weird, but Ivy doesn’t care—she has her cousin Heather as her best friend. The two girls share everything with each other—or so Ivy thinks. When Heather goes missing after a May Day celebration, Ivy discovers that both her best friend and her beloved hometown are as full of secrets as the woods that surround them.
 Buy it from B&N | Amazon | Indiebound | The Book Depository

The Author;

Sarah Jude lives by the woods and has an owl that lands on her chimney every night. She grew up believing you had to hold your breath when passing a graveyard. Now she writes about cemeteries, murder, and folklore. She resides in Missouri with her husband, three children, and two dogs. When she's not writing, she can be found volunteering at a stable for disabled riders.

Find her on Facebook | Twitter | Her Website

The Giveaway;

Kali and Sarah have graciously donated signed copies of their books, so those are up for grabs, along with a few other things I've added.  Check out the list below, with accompanying pictures!  Because the authors are participating I have to keep this giveaway to the US and perhaps Canada only, sorry about that my international buddies. There will be one for you soon, I promise.

What can you win?

A signed copy of Shallow Graves
A signed copy of The May Queen Murders
Your choice of the following four books; After the Woods, Bleeding Earth, Breaker, or The Killer in Me

Signed copies of both of these

and your choice of one of these

The last four books were the other authors I asked to be a part of the feature that I never got around to actually sending questions to, but I feel like they should also be featured at least somewhat. 

If enough people enter I might even add a few more books in, because honestly Halloween is my favorite holiday, and I love a good scary book. So be sure to enter the giveaway and share it everywhere!

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Release Day Interview - Jessica Cluess (A Shadow Bright and Burning) + Giveaway

Last year I did a rather large feature on the blog spotlighting a variety of YA fantasy novels, and while my intention was to do that again this year it didn't exactly pan out.  That being said while the feature itself isn't happening I do still have a few interviews I planned to use that I want to get out into the world because they deserve to be shared. One of the authors I asked to participate is the lovely Jessica Cluess, whose debut novel A SHADOW BRIGHT AND BURNING actually hits shelves today, which, honestly, is the best day for an interview.  I hadn't even started the book when I came up with these questions so they're all spoiler free, giving you the perfect opportunity to decide if this book is something you might want to pick up!  And the best part is that, should it sound interesting, you won't have to wait to get a copy, because it's already on shelves!  

The Interview;

Once Upon A Teen Reader: Where did the initial idea for this book/series come from?

Jessica Cluess: I got the initial idea after watching Nicholas Nickleby with Charlie Hunnam. In one scene, Nicholas has to physically stop an attack on an abused boy, and I wondered how a girl in the Victorian era might handle such a thing. Then I had this idea of the girl lighting herself on fire and roasting the attacker, and that image was where I got Henrietta. The rest of the world—Victorian England under siege, monsters, sorcerers—all came out of this one image of this young girl with crazy fire powers.

OUATR: As far as fantasy goes authors generally either create their own worlds or they use the real world, and you did the latter (which by no means is any less cool, btw).  I'm curious why you decided to go in that direction in the end?  

JC: From the moment I had that image of a girl in Victorian dress with the ability to light herself on fire, I knew the story had to be set in Victorian England. Most of my ideas come from a single image, and that image usually tells me a lot about the character, the world, the problems facing that world, etc. Plus, I know a lot about the era, just from having read novels written in or about that time period. I had to do more research, of course, but I had an idea of how people spoke, dressed, what the social system was like. If I’d set the book in pre-Revolutionary France, for example, the writing would have gone much slower simply because I wouldn’t have started with the same amount of knowledge.

OUATR: What year (or time period) is the book set in and can you tell us a little about how the London you ended up creating in your book is different from what London was like at that time in history?

JC: I don’t specifically state this, but the book starts in April 1839. The Victorian era was only two years old at that point, and the big reasons I chose that date were 1. Nicholas Nickleby was being serialized at that time, so I wanted to pay homage to my initial inspiration, and 2. Queen Victoria was still a young, unmarried woman. I wanted there to be a certain similarity between Henrietta and the queen—both young women in male-dominated fields—and there are only a few years in Victoria’s early reign where she doesn’t have Albert. As for how the book is different, I tried to make it as close to 1839 as I could, apart from the monsters and magic. Of course, if anyone mentions any historical inaccuracies, I can just say it’s because it’s an alternate version of Victorian England. I’m crafty like that. ;) 

OUATR:  Henrietta is a female sorcerer and she can burst into flames.  Spontaneous combustion seems a little more sci-fi to me, so what other kind of magic can we expect to see throughout the story that screams fantasy?

JC: Well, the sorcerers themselves use an elemental magic system, so earth, air, fire, and water. Because of that, they’re much more tied to the practical workings of the earth. However, there are other magical types in London, and they are much stranger. There are hobgoblins and faeries, who can brew potions and have clothes made in an hour, and there are also magicians. The magicians in particular have very out there, wild magic, but I don’t want to talk too much about that. It could give things away.

OUATR: This is your debut novel (congrats on that!), but was it the first book you wrote? Regardless, is there some reason you decided to write a fantasy novel instead of a different genre? 

JC: Thank you! A Shadow Bright and Burning was actually the sixth manuscript I completed. Before that, I trunked four books and queried one that didn’t go anywhere. As for fantasy, I almost always knew I wanted to write in that particular genre, but I hadn’t thought about writing for young adults until a few years ago. The novel I tried shopping around the first time was an adult urban fantasy, and the market was dead. I looked around to see what was selling, and noticed that young adult fantasy was in demand. I hadn’t really read that much, so I decided to look at a few examples to see if I wanted to try it, and I fell in love. This category is so rich and has such incredible imagination, and I knew I wanted to work in it.

OUATR:  Fantasy novels seem to use the "chosen one" idea pretty often, and while you do go in that direction you seem to have taken a slightly different approach to it.  What can you tell us about that and perhaps you could say a little something about how you decided to play with it.

JC:  Okay, originally I wanted the sorcerer world to have both men and women working in it. But when I looked at the story—young girl in war-torn country is found to have magical fire powers, and is brought to the capital to train with the monarch’s guard while tensions rise with her childhood friend—it just looked too much like the Grisha trilogy, at least on the surface. One way to avoid that, I thought, was to have only men be sorcerers, which would create a different kind of tension. I decided that in such a rigidly structured society, they’d need to have a chosen one of some kind, to get people used to the idea of a girl sorcerer. So I kind of fell backwards into the chosen one thing—I didn’t seek it out. I’m really glad it ended up being part of the story, because it lets me play with an idea that’s very dear to my heart: that you don’t have to be anointed or have the right pedigree to be important. All you need is to be hard working and bold.

OUATR: Are there any fantasy books you would recommend we read after we've finished A SHADOW BRIGHT AND BURNING?

JC: Well, if you want Victorian fantasy, These Vicious Masks by Kelly Zekas and Tarun Shanker is great. It’s X-Men meets Jane Austen. Timekeeper by Tara Sim is also a great alternate Victorian England fantasy, this time with an LGBT twist. Though it won’t be out until next year, Rosalyn Eves’ Blood Rose Rebellion has magical war in Victorian Europe. There are a lot of great historical fantasies coming out very soon.

OUATR: What are you working on now?

JC: The sequel to A Shadow Bright and Burning! I can’t tell the title yet, but I love it. Hopefully, it opens up the world and makes the journey even darker. I’m excited for people to read it.

The Book;

Title: A Shadow Bright and Burning
Author: Jessica Cluess
Publisher: Random House
Series: Kingdom on Fire #1
Published: September 20, 2016
I am Henrietta Howel.The first female sorcerer in hundreds of years.The prophesied one.Or am I?
Henrietta Howel can burst into flames.Forced to reveal her power to save a friend, she's shocked when instead of being executed, she's invited to train as one of Her Majesty's royal sorcerers.
Thrust into the glamour of Victorian London, Henrietta is declared the chosen one, the girl who will defeat the Ancients, bloodthirsty demons terrorizing humanity. She also meets her fellow sorcerer trainees, handsome young men eager to test her power and her heart. One will challenge her. One will fight for her. One will betray her.
But Henrietta Howel is not the chosen one. As she plays a dangerous game of deception, she discovers that the sorcerers have their own secrets to protect. With battle looming, what does it mean to not be the one? And how much will she risk to save the city—and the one she loves?
Exhilarating and gripping, Jessica Cluess's spellbinding fantasy introduces a powerful, unforgettably heroine, and a world filled with magic, romance, and betrayal. Hand to fans of Libba Bray, Sarah J. Maas, and Cassandra Clare.
Buy it from B&N | Indiebound | The Book Depository

The Author;

Jessica Cluess is a writer, a graduate of Northern University, and an unapologetic nerd. After college she moved to Los Angeles, where she served coffee to the rich and famous while working on her first novel.  When she's not writing books, she's an instructor at Writopia Lab, helping kids and teens tell their own stories.
Find her on Tumblr | Twitter | Her Website 

The Giveaway;

I've decided to give away a copy of A SHADOW BRIGHT AND BURNING to someone, and Jessica has generously donated some exclusive swag. The giveaway is will run until September 30th and is only available to people in the US and Canada due to shipping costs. 

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ARC Review - My Lady Jane

Title: My Lady Jane
Authors: Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows
Publisher: Harper Teen
Series: n/a
Published: June 7, 2016
Source: Sent for review
Add it on Goodreads

The comical, fantastical, romantical, (not) entirely true story of Lady Jane Grey. In My Lady Jane, coauthors Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows have created a one-of-a-kind fantasy in the tradition of The Princess Bride, featuring a reluctant king, an even more reluctant queen, a noble steed, and only a passing resemblance to actual history—because sometimes history needs a little help.
At sixteen, Lady Jane Grey is about to be married off to a stranger and caught up in a conspiracy to rob her cousin, King Edward, of his throne. But those trifling problems aren’t for Jane to worry about. Jane gets to be Queen of England. Like that could go wrong.


Honestly I'm not a huge history fan, while there are bits and pieces of it that I find interesting the majority of it just doesn't interest me, so it's not unusual for me to skip YA novels (or novels of any kind, really) that fall into the category of "historical fiction".  The one exception is probably a fantasy novel that has historical pieces of it, but magic (or some paranormal element) is a must, because otherwise I usually just can't do it.  So when I heard that Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows were writing a book together set back in the 1500's I was both excited and a little wary.  I had read two of Cynthia Hand's novels and had followed all three authors since around the time they published their first novels, so I was pretty familiar with them and how much fun they were, but still, historical fiction.  Along with that the book was compared to The Princess Bride, which is a movie I really love, so I decided to give the book a shot.

I'm happy I decided to do so.  The synopsis was rather vague (as you can see from above) so I honestly wasn't sure what I was going to get out of it, but right away the "narrators" of the book amused me so much I ended up reading about 100 pages. The story itself is mostly told from the points of view of the King, Edward, Lady Jane Grey (of course), and Jane's husband, Gifford.  As I said before I really don't know much about history (especially not English history from several centuries ago) but if the REAL Jane Grey was anything like the Jane Grey in the book I think she would have been an amazing person to know (which is probably why the three authors chose to write a book about her).  

As a whole I was pretty pleased with the book, it was oddly humorous, especially considering it was about a girl who ended up being queen for 9 days before she actually had her head chopped off, but the addition of the magic to the story is what I think helped make that possible.  And surprisingly the magic worked really well in the story.  Like, I still kind of have to remind myself that the book itself isn't actually what went down, and that all of these characters died MUCH earlier in their lives than what happened in the novel.  Jane was my favorite POV to read from (along with our trusty narrators), and even though it felt like the story really didn't start for well over 100 pages I didn't mind all that much because I wanted to keep reading regardless.  I also found all of the literary references quite amusing despite the fact that I'm quite sure I didn't catch all of them.

The only real problem I had with the book was the fact that things seemed to work out exactly when they needed to.  Now granted, I know that that's a rather dumb thing to find a problem with, seeing as it's, you know, fiction, but it was just a little TOO perfect, like, "of COURSE that's when that happened, because otherwise [inset bad thing that would happen here]."  But then again like I said it's fiction and of course they had to get around the whole 'all of the main characters should have died at some point during the novel' so I guess I can't find THAT much fault in it.  Also, I would have love more involvement from the narrators, but I supposed I can't fault the authors for not adding more of that in either, seeing as the book was about Edward, Jane, and the rest of them, as opposed to the narrators themselves.

In the end I was pleasantly surprised with how much I ended up enjoying this book. I would 100% recommend fans of the genre to check it out, but I would also just recommend it to people in general, because it's fun, and even though it takes place in the 1500's Jane (and all of the women in the book) are fierce and smart and independent, something that everyone could stand to see more of.  Fans of The Princess Bride should also be sure to check it out.  I'll for sure be on the lookout for whatever these three authors come up with next, mostly together, but separate as well.

It's Almost Summer YA Contemporary Giveaway

The school year is FINALLY coming to an end (or, at least it is here), and while I still have two tests and a project due in the next few weeks I've been to a few book signings in the past month or so and have bought and had an extra copy signed here and there, leaving me with a rather large stack of signed books to give away.  From those extra copies I've put together a small bundle of YA contemporary novels that I think will be perfect to read over the summer.  But I'm sure you're wondering what books you can actually win, so let me show you.

The Way Back to You by Michelle Andreani and Mindi Scott (Signed by BOTH authors)

The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson (Signed)

Summer of Sloane by Erin L Schneider (Signed)

A Variety of Swag from these (and other) authors

and if we hit 1,000 entries I will throw in one of the following

The Square Root of Summer by Harriet Reuter Hapgood (Signed)
You Know Me Weel by Nina LaCour and David Levithan (Signed by BOTH authors)
Your Pick of ANY 2016 Contemporary Novel (or one from an earlier year if you really want)

This particular prize is only for people who live in the US/CANADA
Since I know some of you live outside of the US/Canada and you are just as important as my "local" readers INTERNATIONAL ENTRIES ARE WELCOME but seeing as international shipping is SO expensive, should you win, you will have a choice between 
as many of the three signed books from the larger picture above I can ship to you for $25 
Up to $30 worth of 2016 Contemporary Novels from The Book Depository (or earlier year[s] should you wish)

I know it's not QUITE as good, but seeing as I have already purchased the three novels above and I'm assuming I'm going to a State University come Fall (which means like, triple the cost) I don't really have a ton of extra money to spend.  

So, now that all of that is out of the way let's get onto how you can enter to win these fabulous prizes.  All you have to do is fill out the rafflecopter below and you're all set.  The giveaway will run until the day I finish my classes (which also happens to be the day I graduate from community college and earn my Bachelor's of Science), which, for those of you who aren't me, is June 17th.  

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*Please note that entries from giveaway accounts are not allowed and that the winning entry will be verified

2016 Fantasy Extravaganza Author Selection

Hey guys, I know I've been kind of MIA for a while, school is rather nuts and actually having time to do anything other than work on homework is something of a miracle, but I have managed to squirrel away a few minutes here and there to think about some upcoming features on the blog I'm hoping to work on later this year.  If you were with me last year you probably remember a series of interviews I did with authors that I dubbed the Fantasy Extravaganza, and I decided that since it was so much fun and everyone seemed to really enjoy it that I would do the same thing again this year, but instead of flailing around last minute I decided I would 1) start early and 2) get your input on who you want to see me interview!  So to that effect I've put together a list of 2016 YA fantasy novels (and their authors) that I thought you all might be interested in.  All you have to do is fill out the form I've embedded into the post below and tell me who YOU want to see interviews (and probably giveaways) with.  Pretty simple, right?  I've also added a small space at the bottom of the form so you can write in any authors/titles that I may have missed, because with all of the awesome fantasy books out this year I'm positive I missed at least a few.

BLOG TOUR: ARC Review - The Darkest Corners

Title: The Darkest Corners
Author: Kara Thomas
Publisher: Delacorte 
Series: n/a
Published: April 19, 2016
Source: Sent for review
Add it on Goodreads
There are ghosts around every corner in Fayette, Pennsylvania. Tessa left when she was nine and has been trying ever since not to think about it after what happened there that last summer. Memories of things so dark will burn themselves into your mind if you let them.
Callie never left. She moved to another house, so she doesn’t have to walk those same halls, but then Callie always was the stronger one. She can handle staring into the faces of her demons—and if she parties hard enough, maybe one day they’ll disappear for good.
Tessa and Callie have never talked about what they saw that night. After the trial, Callie drifted and Tessa moved, and childhood friends just have a way of losing touch.
But ever since she left, Tessa has had questions. Things have never quite added up. And now she has to go back to Fayette—to Wyatt Stokes, sitting on death row; to Lori Cawley, Callie’s dead cousin; and to the one other person who may be hiding the truth.
Only the closer Tessa gets to the truth, the closer she gets to a killer—and this time, it won’t be so easy to run away.
The Darkest Corners is a psychological thriller about the lies little girls tell, and the deadly truths those lies become.


I'm a sucker for a good psychological thriller. I love trying to figure out the almost inevitable twist that will fall at the end of the book/movie before it's revealed to the main character and/or the reader, and I wasn't let down by the ending of this one.  I also wasn't let down by the little twists, turns, and mysteries that were peppered throughout the novel, which I really enjoyed.  It's not uncommon for the ending to pop out at me long before the big reveal happens where the "who-dun-it" part of the story is all laid out, and while I did guess one of the major plot points early on because it wasn't the only major plot point I wasn't overly upset by having figured it out before the main character.

The overall idea for this novel was a fascinating one, although from the synopsis I wasn't entirely sure what I was getting into.  Somehow the description of the book manages to tell you quite a few things without actually telling you much of anything, which is pretty impressive if you think about it.
There were a few things that I found to be slightly problematic with the book, although before I get into those I do want to say that despite them Thomas managed to write a novel that I both wanted to keep reading and that I found oddly insightful for a suspense novel.  Like, there were some quotes that could fit in perfectly with John Green and the like despite the book having a rather dark undertone to it.  That being said the two biggest problems I had with the novel were as follows.

Part of the story centers around the idea that what Tessa and her friend Callie said to help put away the Monster, as the killer was aptly named, might not have actually been what they saw.  They were kids, they wanted to make the police happy and help catch the man that killed their babysitter.  That's not what I had a problem with, that I understand and as unfortunate as it is it does happen, the thing that bugged me was that if the person that killed Tessa and Callie's babysitter was in fact the same person that killed their friend when the novel starts, what happened to him in the last eight years or so?  Generally speaking killers don't just stop killing because they CAN'T. But then you think in a town that small people would notice if someone disappeared after the supposed serial killer went to jail and came back when another killing happened.

The other thing that bugged me was actually the second mystery element of the novel.  Don't get me wrong, I do LOVE the fact that there was a secondary mystery in the novel but I feel like with the two elements to deal with in a book that wasn't all that long they both got a little squished, and the second element got shoved to the side ever so slightly.  There were elements of it that I felt were maybe just a LITTLE too far fetched to fully believe.

All of that being said I really enjoyed reading this book as a whole because despite those things that I didn't love it did SO MANY other things RIGHT!  First I want to applaud the fact that there is NO ROMANCE at all in the book.  Don't get me wrong, I love a good romance subplot, but so often in mystery/thriller novels they seem added in just because romance is a thing in YA, and the fact that Thomas didn't include it is HUGE.  Honestly I think it was a fantastic decision because the book isn't about romance, it's about darkness and coming to terms with your own secrets and the secrets of those around you.  Romance just don't fit into that idea.

The other thing I just adored was Tessa.  She saw some guy outside the window when she was 10. That's it. She didn't come face to face with a killer, she saw some guy that maybe was a killer or maybe was just some guy, or maybe wasn't even really there.  She didn't see the babysitter get killed, didn't hear it, didn't have to hide in a closet from a masked man trying to hunt her down, but despite that she was still affected by it.  So often characters see horrible things and come out the other end not much worse for the ware but this girl, she didn't even SEE anything and it affected her deeply.  That to me, is almost as good as the fact that there was no romance in the novel, because it's REAL.  She and the friend who maybe saw that guy, they were both affected by it, and even years later it was still there and still affected what they did, because that's what happens when you go through something like that, even if you weren't directly involved.  Being that close to something horrible, whether you actually experience it directly or not, will screw you up, and while I love strong characters I think I love real characters more.

So all in all, while this book wasn't perfect it was good.  Were there parts of it that were a little far fetched? Sure, but it's fiction.  You're allowed to take some liberties with it because while they do say sometimes truth is stranger than fiction it isn't always be that way, and I think what's most important is that you manage to keep the rest of the elements real, which Thomas was able to do expertly.  Overall I was pretty darn pleased with this book and I'm really excited to see what the author comes up with next.

Love YA Valentine's Feature - Day 4 + Giveaway

Today is the last day of this little feature and I might just have saved the best author for last. (Okay, that's a lie, all of the authors I featured are super amazing and I don't think I could pick a "best" one, but I do really love this author, and I've read every single one of her books.)  Aside from Stephanie Perkins (who is amazing, and if you haven't read her you need to immediately) this lovely author might be the queen of fuzzy YA contemporary novels.  Please help me welcome

Kasie West

author of the upcoming

P. S. I Like You

which you have NO IDEA how excited I am to get my hands on, because, well, Kasie wrote it.

The Interview;

Once Upon A Teen Reader: In your newest YA contemporary novel P.S. I LIKE YOU, you play with an idea kind of like pen-pals, where the main character writes something on her desk and someone else, a boy, writes back.  Why did you choose to go so old-school in terms of their communication while setting the novel in modern times?

Kasie West: Because there's something romantic in that old school notion, isn't there? With all the technology and ways to "instantly" get a response, there's something even more anticipatory of having to wait in this day and age. When we have to wait for a response, it makes it that much more exciting. I like the contrast of that notion in this we-want-it-now world.

OUATR: There are some basic tropes in romance stories that everyone seems to love (friends to lovers, secret admirers, etc), some of which you've used.  How do you go about spicing up those subplots to keep them fresh?

KW: I think fun and interesting characters spice up any plot. Because characters take those plots and their reactions change them just a bit. And those tropes are tropes for a reason too, they're fun and I love reading them, regardless of how many times I have before. :)

OUATR: What do you think it is about romance novels that people love so much, and why do you choose to write them?

KW: Falling in love is something that makes people happy. Even if you're reading about someone else falling in love it stirs up those same euphoric feelings, gets those happy-making endorphins flowing. Who doesn't want to feel that way? I do. And writing about it is just as fun too. I love writing about people falling in love.  

OUATR: On top of your contemporary novels you've also written two sci-fi novels (which also happen to have adorable romances), what caused the change in genre for you and do you think you'll ever write another sci-fi book?

KW: I write the ideas that come to me. Pivot Point was a story that came to me when thinking about a movie I liked and I thought, hey, I could take that basic concept and totally change that into a fun YA novel. But, as you pointed out, I still had to include a fun love story, because it's what makes me happy. It was in writing these books that I realized that I was really a closet contemporary writer. I had just been too scared to try it. Contemporary writing is based so much on the emotional arc. Unlike other books I had written contemporary didn't have this big, larger than life plot to fall back on. So, yeah, I was scared and wasn't sure I could do it. But once I wrote my first (The Distance Between Us) I knew I had found my home. I loved writing it so much. Does this mean I won't ever write a different genre again? No, like I said, if I come up with a good idea, I'm very open to writing outside of contemporary. But right now, I'm very happy in my space.  

OUATR: None of your contemporary novels have sequels but I know that in (at least) one of those novels there's a cameo of a character from a previous book. I'm curious if that means you think about your characters after their books end and what that might mean in terms of possible sequels or bonus scenes in the future? (And would you ever think about writing from the guy's POV if you did either of those?).

KW: Oh yes, I do think about my characters when I'm done writing the book. I wrote a few bonus scenes from past books when I revealed my latest cover (PS I LIKE  YOU). So yes, I might play with that more in the future. I recently opened a wattpad account and I'm thinking of posting fun things like that there. So stay tuned. As for a guy POV, I have done that in early (pre-published) books, but I don't necessarily have plans to do it in future books. Again (and not to sound like a broken record) if a guy's story comes to me, I'll write it. :)

Fast Five;

1. What is your favorite rom-com movie (or TV show)?  Oh my goodness, that's a hard question. I watch so many rom-coms. So many. And I love them. Notting Hill, Return to Me, The Proposal, Easy A, and on and on and on. 

2. Do you have a favorite candy to eat/receive around Valentine's day? My favorite candy to eat at all times is Junior Mints. Around Valentine's day they put out different kinds. I've had to try all the iterations over the years. They are all equally pleasing to me. 

3. If you sent Valentine's day cards this year what theme would the be or who/what would they have on them? Probably Star Wars. I love Rey.

4. What adorable YA contemporary would you recommend / are you excited to read? This is a hard question too. In recent reads though, I'd totally recommend, EMMY AND OLIVER and THE START OF YOU AND ME.

5. Do you have a favorite romance trope? (ie friends to lovers, opposites attract, strangers falling in love, etc. It doesn't have to be what you wrote either.) Can I say all of the above? Ha. I'd say my all time favorite is friends to lovers though. I just love those. Maybe because I think that's such a great basis to start a relationship on--friendship. And to be in love with your best friend for the rest of your life is the best. I know.

The Book;

Title: P. S. I Like You
Author: Kasie West
Publisher: Point
Series: n/a
Published July 26, 2015
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What if the person you were falling for was a total mystery?
While Lily is spacing out in Chemistry one day, she picks up her pencil and scribbles a line from one of her favorite songs on the desk. The next day, someone else has written back to her on the desk! Soon enough Lily and the mystery student are exchanging notes, and lyrics, and even sharing secrets. When Lily finds out that her anonymous pen pal is a guy, she's flustered -- and kind of feels like she's falling for him. She and her best friend set out to unravel the identity of the letter writer -- but when the truth is revealed, the guy is the LAST person Lily could have ever imagined it to be. Now that Lily knows the truth, can she untangle her feelings and gather the courage to listen to her heart?

The Author;

Kasie West is the author of several YA novels, including The Distance Between UsOn the Fence, and The Fill-in Boyfriend. Her books have been named as ALA Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers and as YALSA Best Books for Young Adults. Kasie lives in Fresno, California with her family.

Find her on Her Website | Twitter 

The Giveaway;

I've read every one of Kasie's book (except for her new one) and I actually got to meet her a while ago. She signed stock at the lovely indie I work at and after a little bit of debate I decided to buy a copy of my favorite of her books to give away.  My plan was to give it away last year, but I never did, but that's all for the best because now I can give it away now!  I have a signed copy of ON THE FENCE to give away and all you have to do is fill out the rafflecopter below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway