Q&A and Giveaway with Amanda Hocking - Between the Blade and the Heart

Q: What or who was the inspiration behind Between the Blade and the
A: I have already written several books inspired by Scandinavian folklore, and
I was always fascinated by Valkyries. But because I had already done in
Scandinavian fantasy, I wanted to come at this one from a different angle. I
imagined the Valkyries helping to police a gritty, diverse, cyberpunk
metropolis, in a world filled with not just Norse figures but from many

Q: What are the life lessons that you want readers to glean from your book? 
A: That love is a strength, not a weakness.

Q: If you were given the chance to go on a date with one of your characters,
who would you choose and what would you do together? 
A: Oona. She doesn’t swing that way, but since I’m married anyway, it would
be a friendship date. I think it would be fun to go to an apothecary with her
and have her show me around the magic. Or maybe just veg out and watch
bad movies.

Q: Would the essence of your novel change if the main protagonist were
A: Yes, it would be changed dramatically. For one, Valkyries are women. But I
also think the book explores the relationships between mothers and
daughters, and friendships between young women.

Q: What is your definition of true love in YA literature? 
A: There has to be passion and desire – not necessarily anything physical,
but so much of young love is about yearning. But I also think that true love is
based on mutual respect and selflessness.

Q: What advice would you give to someone who wanted to be an author/start
A: My biggest piece of advice is to just write. It’s so easy to get caught up in
self-doubt or procrastination. There are lot of great books and blogs about the
art of writing, but the most important thing is really to just do it. The best way
to get better at writing is by doing it.

Q: What’s one book you would have no trouble rereading for the rest of your
A: It would be a toss up between Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli and Cat’s
Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut. I’ve read both of those books a dozen times
already, at least, and I never get sick of them.

Q: How did you name your characters? Are they based on people you know
in real life?
A: It’s combination of names I like and taking inspiration from the world itself.
With Between the Blade and the Heart, the names were inspired both by the
mythology they come from – many Valkyries have Norse names like Malin,
Teodora, and Freya, for example – and the futuristic setting of the book, so I
wanted names that seemed a bit cooler and just slightly different than the
ones we use now.

Q: Alright, Amanda, I know you& are a movie buff. What are some movies your
characters would pick as their all-time favorites?
A: That’s a tough one. Malin – The Crow, Oona – Pan’s Labyrinth, Quinn –
Wonder Woman, Asher – Inception, and Marlow – Twelve Monkeys.

Q: Which mythological character is the most like you?
A: Demeter, because she’s pretty dramatic – she basically kills all the plants
in the world when her daughter goes missing – but she’s also determined,
and will stop at nothing to protect those she cares about.

Q: Who is your favorite character in this book and why?
A: Oona or Bowie. Oona because she’s so practical, supportive, and
determined, and Bowie because he’s adorable.

Q: What is your favorite scene and why?
A: I don’t know if there is one particular scene that I loved more than the
others, but I really enjoyed writing about the city that Malin lives in and all the
creatures that inhabit it.

Q: What cities inspired the urban haven where the Valkyries live?
A: I was really obsessed with this idea of an overpopulated metropolis, and so
I took a lot of inspiration from some of the biggest cities in the world,
particularly Tokyo, Mexico City, Mumbai, and Manila. The city itself is actually
a sort of futuristic, alternate reality of Chicago (one of my favorite cities in the
world), and I wanted to incorporate that into it as well.

Q: What came first: The world, the mythology, or the characters?
A: I usually say the characters come first, and the world builds around it. But
for this one, it really was the world that drew me into it. I knew I was writing
about a young woman who was a Valkyrie, but that about all when I began
building up the world and the mythology.

Q: I love that these characters are in college. What inspired this choice?
A: Because of the complex relationship Malin has with her mother, I knew I
wanted some distance between them, so I thought putting her in college,
living away from her mom, was a good way to do it. Plus, I thought it would be
fun to explore the all the supernatural training that would be needed to do

these specialized jobs that come up in a world where every mythological
creature exists.

Q: What songs would you include if you were to make a soundtrack for the
A: This is my favorite question! I love creating soundtracks that I listen to
while writing a book, and here are some of my favorite tracks from my
Between the Blade and the Heart playlist: Annie Lennox – “I Put a Spell on
You,” Daniel Johns – “Preach,” Halsey – “Trouble (stripped),” Meg Myers –
“Sorry (EthniKids Remix),” and MYYRA – “Human Nature.”

Q: Was this book always planned as a series or did that develop afterwards?
A: It was always planned as a duology. I don’t want to go into too much or risk
spoiling the second book, but I had this idea that one book would be above,
and the other below.

Q: Your novels and characters are so layered. How do you stay organized
while plotting/writing? Do you outline, use post-it notes, make charts, or
something else?
A: All of the above! This one was the most intensive as far as research and
note taking goes, and I also had maps, glossaries, and extensive lists of
various mythologies. I think I ended up with thirteen pages of just Places and
Things. I do a lot of typed notes, but I also do handwritten scribbles (which
can sometimes be confusing to me later on when I try to figure out what they
mean. I once left myself a note that just said “What are jelly beans?”) For this
one, I really did have to have lots of print outs on hand that I could look to
when writing.

Q: You've said that pop culture and the paranormal both influence your
writing. How do these things intersect for you? 
A: In a way, I think they’re both about how humans choose to interpret and
define the world that surrounds us. So many mythologies come from humans
trying to make sense of the seasons and the chaos of existence, and even
though we’ve moved past a lot of the scientific questions, pop culture is still
tackling our existence. Even when looking at shows made for kids, like Pixar,
they handle a lot of difficult concepts, like what it means to love someone
else, how to be a good friend, facing your fears, and overcoming loss. These
are things that mythologies and stories have been going over for centuries.

Q: Did you choose the title first, or write the book then choose the title?
A: It depends on the book, but I will say with this one that it took a very, very
long time to come up with a title. It was already written and edited, and we
were still bouncing around different names.

Q: How many more books can we expect in “Between the Blade and the
Heart” series?
A: One more! From the Earth to the Shadows will be out in April 2018.

Q: What scene from the book are you most proud of (because of how you
handled the atmosphere, characters, dialogue, etc)?
A: I don’t want to say too much or risk spoiling it, but there’s a scene near the
end of the book where a confrontation leaves Malin reeling. I wrote it in an
almost present tense, stream-of-consciousness way because I thought that
was the best way to capture the raw intensity of her emotions.

When the fate of the world is at stake
Loyalties will be tested
Game of Thrones meets Blade Runner in this commanding new YA fantasy inspired by Norse Mythology from New York Times bestselling author Amanda Hocking.
As one of Odin's Valkyries, Malin's greatest responsibility is to slay immortals and return them to the underworld. But when she unearths a secret that could unravel the balance of all she knows, Malin along with her best friend and her ex-girlfriend must decide where their loyalties lie. And if helping the blue-eyed boy Asher enact his revenge is worth the risk—to the world and her heart.

Amanda Hocking is the author of over twenty young adult novels, including the New York Times bestselling Trylle Trilogy and Kanin Chronicles. Her love of pop culture and all things paranormal influence her writing. She spends her time in Minnesota, taking care of her menagerie of pets and working on her next book.

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Social Links:
Twitter: @Amanda_Hocking


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Review: The Sea King by C.L. Wilson

The Sea King by C.L. Wilson

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Winter King comes a breathtaking new tale of love and adventure set in the mystical land of Mystral...

He wasn't supposed to choose her...

Seafaring prince Dilys Merimydion has been invited to court the three magical princesses of Summerlea. To eradicate the pirates threatening Calberna and to secure the power of the Sea Throne, Dilys vows to return home with a fierce warrior-queen as his bride. But politics has nothing to do with unexpected temptation.

She didn't dare wed him...

A weathermage like her sisters, Gabriella Coruscate's gentleness exemplifies the qualities of her season name, Summer. Yet her quiet poise conceals dangerous powers she cannot begin to wield. Better to live without excitement, she reasons, than risk her heart and lose control— until an irresistible Sealord jolts her awake with a thunderclap of raw desire.

Until evil threatens everything they hold dear...

When pirates kidnap Summer and her sisters, Dilys is in a desperate quest to save the woman he loves. Only by combining his command of the seas with the unleashed fury of Summer's formidable gifts can they defeat their brutal enemies and claim the most priceless victory of all: true love. 

Review:  I waited three years for this release, The Sea King is the second book in the Weathermages of Mystral series. I loved The Winter King it was and still is one of my favorite  Fantasy reads to date, but sadly The Sea King could not compare to the first book in the series. Don't get me wrong I still liked it but there were a few things that happened and certain character traits that really took away my enjoyment of it.

First, the things I did like, C.L. Wilson is an incredible world builder, she knows how to pull a reader into a world where you feel as if you are there living and breathing every moment with the characters. I was thrilled to see Wynter and Storm again and it shows how strong of a character those two were because every single time they made an appearance Dilys and Summer became an afterthought. I did enjoy getting to know the other summer sisters, Autumn and Spring I have a feeling they will make for an interesting read. I also loved learning about Calberna, the place where Dilys is from it is definitely a wonderful addition to Mystral, their mating rituals were really interesting and I loved learning about the history of their people.

Now on to our two main characters Summer a.k.a. Gabriella and Dily's Prince of Calberna. I had a love-hate relationship with the two through the entire book, more so with Summer than Dily's. First off the romance was too much, WHAT! I know what the heck am I talking about it, this is a Fantasy/Romance read but just hear me out, The Wynter King had a perfect balance of action and romance while The Sea King spent too much time on Summer and Dilys and their repetitive inner monologues. Majority of the book was spent Dilys chasing Summer and Summer rejecting him in the rudest of ways and it became incredibly boring and made for a slower read than I liked. A part of me actually became very annoyed with Summer because Dilys is a great guy, he is loyal, sweet, caring but all he got from Summer was mistreatment. I understand Summer had her reasons for pushing him away but her actions still made it hard for me to really like her and she just gave off the vibe of a spoiled princess.

I was glad when the action finally kicked up, the Summer sisters get kidnapped by some incredibly horrible people. There should be a trigger warning for rape ( there was no actual sexual intercourse but there was penetration with the monster of a man using his fingers which falls under the definition of rape.) I felt the addition of rape was so unnecessary I'm still trying to figure out why even add that to an otherwise mostly lighthearted romance. Then something else happened that would normally devastate a character, hell it completely caught me off guard.
SPOILER HIGHLIGHT TO READ ( Summers sisters are killed, or so we are led to believe) END OF SPOILER
I was pretty much done with Summer after this, she should have been grief-stricken but to get over it in a matter of hours if even that and then jump in the bed with Dilys soon after made absolutely no sense. Nothing justified that and it was the most unrealistic response ever.

For a book I waited three years for The Sea King sadly did not live up to my expectations, but I am still invested in the series as long as the next book doesn't take as long to release. I did like Autumn and Spring and am excited to see where their story leads to especially after that cliffhanger at the end.

 But somehow Summer who should be so grief-stricken got over it in a matter of hours and then decided to have sex with Dily's and she was pretty much over it. I was so infuriated with her at that point and I went from tolerating her to just not liking her at all.


Review: The Empress by S.J. Kincaid

The Empress by S.J. Kincaid 

  • Pub. Date: October 31, 2017
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
  • Pages: 378
  • Series: The Diabolic #2
  • Rating:4.5/5
  • Goodreads/Amazon/ Book Depository

It’s a new day in the Empire. Tyrus has ascended to the throne with Nemesis by his side and now they can find a new way forward—one where they don’t have to hide or scheme or kill. One where creatures like Nemesis will be given worth and recognition, where science and information can be shared with everyone and not just the elite.

But having power isn’t the same thing as keeping it, and change isn’t always welcome. The ruling class, the Grandiloquy, has held control over planets and systems for centuries—and they are plotting to stop this teenage Emperor and Nemesis, who is considered nothing more than a creature and certainly not worthy of being Empress.

Nemesis will protect Tyrus at any cost. He is the love of her life, and they are partners in this new beginning. But she cannot protect him by being the killing machine she once was. She will have to prove the humanity that she’s found inside herself to the whole Empire—or she and Tyrus may lose more than just the throne. But if proving her humanity means that she and Tyrus must do inhuman things, is the fight worth the cost of winning it?

Review:  I'm a ball of emotions right now and I don't know what to do with any of it except for the fact I know I need the next book in my hands like yesterday. I am happy to announce The Empress did not in any way suffer the second book syndrome, nope none at all. S.J. Kincaid made sure of that as she ripped my heart in two and damn near gave me a heart attack a few times.

The book picks up a while after the last one ended. Tyrus is now emperor and Nemesis is the new empress to be. Of course, if you read The Diabolic you know many will have issues with a diabolic being their new empress and if you remember the chaos and betrayals and back-stabbing from the first book oh you can bet your last dollar this book does not fall short, in actuality, there was much more scheming and what the f*** moments in The Empress then there ever was in The Diabolic, and The Diabolic had plenty.

Funny thing is The Diabolic was originally a standalone and I was happy with that, I loved how it ended and when I saw The Empress was released and it was the second book in the series I was on the fence of whether I was going to pick it up, honestly I was leaning more towards not, because I was satisfied with The Diabolic and how it was wrapped up and I was afraid that this was just a money grab by the publishers so I was going to stay away, well the book gods had other plans evidently because The Empress showed up at my doorstep and I took it as a sign that I am meant to read it and so I did and I loved the hell out of it and I can't believe I almost passed up on this. Shame on me. So if you are like me and you read the first book but not sure about The Empress, just go now and grab yourself a copy it was pretty effin' epic. Although reader beware the ending will kill you and wanting more. Luckily there is another book which now I will desperately be waiting for, with nervous anticipation.


Review: And The Story Begins Book Subscription Box

I was asked by And The Story Begins to review their book box. It is a monthly subscription box which offers two brand new books for the price of  $16.95. You are able to choose what genre you would like from the following options:
Young Adult Fiction
Suprise box (where it can be any one of the genres stated above or a combination of the genres chosen by the curators)

The books I received were Bleed Like Me by C. Desir (Value - $17.99) and The Furies by Mark Alpert (Value - $25.99) So a combined value of the box was $43.98. I do have to say though And The Story Begins won't be everyone's cup of tea especially for all of you who only want the latest releases in your book boxes, for example, the books I received were both released in 2014. So for people who buy a ton of books every month and want to read the latest releases, this won't work for you. I think this book box will be perfect for people who don't have time to keep up with the latest and greatest happenings in the book community and just want a good book to read or maybe for those who want to explore a new genre from the ones they usually grab but are not sure where to start. 

One thing I loved about the company as a whole was their packaging it was beautifully done. They also are very environmentally friendly using 100% recycled materials. They offer three subscription options with their lowest being the one month for $16.95 which I stated above, the second option is their three month for $47.50 and their third option is for six months for $86.50.
To check out their subscription box for yourself click on the link below

Okay, so quick edit:

I didn't see this until after I posted my review but luckily as I grabbed the books to put them away I saw it. The books even though brand new did come with a small imperfection. If you are a book blogger or anyone who deals in the book community you probably already know what they mean. For those of you who don't it basically means the books were returned to the publisher by a bookstore or the likes due to excess in inventory, and the publisher marks them with those marks signifying it a bargain book and that the book can no longer be returned to them for credit. If you purchase from places like book outlet you may have seen them in your book as well. I was a little surprised to see the marks on these books, I didn't see it stated anywhere on their website that the books will come with these imperfections.  I have plenty of books with those marks since I purchase my books from all over but for those of you who want a "perfect" book, this might not be for you.

---I received this box from And The Story Begins for a fair and honest review.

For those of you who are curious about the books I received here are the blurbs for both books.

Bleed Like Me - From the author of Fault Line comes an edgy and heartbreaking novel about two self-destructive teens in a Sid and Nancy-like romance full of passion, chaos, and dyed hair.

Seventeen-year-old Amelia Gannon (just "Gannon" to her friends) is invisible to almost everyone in her life. To her parents, to her teachers-even her best friend, who is more interested in bumming cigarettes than bonding. Some days the only way Gannon knows she is real is by carving bloody lines into the flesh of her stomach.

Then she meets Michael Brooks, and for the first time, she feels like she is being seen to the core of her being. Obnoxious, controlling, damaged, and addictive, he inserts himself into her life until all her scars are exposed. Each moment together is a passionate, painful relief.

But as the relationship deepens, Gannon starts to feel as if she's standing at the foot of a dam about to burst. She's given up everything and everyone in her life for him, but somehow nothing is enough for Brooks-until he poses the ultimate test.

Bleed Like Me is a piercing, intimate portrayal of the danger of a love so obsessive it becomes its own biggest threat.

The FuriesFor centuries, the Furies have lived among us. Long ago they were called witches and massacred by the thousands. But they're human just like us, except for a rare genetic mutation that they've hidden from the rest of the world for hundreds of years.

Now, a chance encounter with a beautiful woman named Ariel has led John Rogers into the middle of a secret war among the Furies. Ariel needs John's help in the battle between a rebellious faction of the clan and their elders. The grand prize in this war is a chance to remake the human race.

Mark Alpert's The Furies weaves cutting-edge science into an ingenious thriller, showing how a simple genetic twist could have inspired tales of witchcraft and sorcery, and how the paranormal could indeed be possible.


Black Bird of the Gallows - Giveaway and Excerpt

Hello Readers! Welcome to the Release Week Blitz for
Black Bird of the Gallows by Meg Kassel
presented by Entangled Teen!
Grab your copy today!

Congratulations Meg!

A simple but forgotten truth: Where harbingers of death appear, the morgues will soon be full.
Angie Dovage can tell there’s more to Reece Fernandez than just the tall, brooding athlete who has her classmates swooning, but she can’t imagine his presence signals a tragedy that will devastate her small town. When something supernatural tries to attack her, Angie is thrown into a battle between good and evil she never saw coming. Right in the center of it is Reece—and he’s not human. What's more, she knows something most don't. That the secrets her town holds could kill them all. But that’s only half as dangerous as falling in love with a harbinger of death.
Black Bird of the Gallows by Meg Kassel Publisher: Entangled Teen Publication Date: September 5, 2017

His soft voice clashes with the intensity of his gaze. “You’re adorable when you’re trying to be mad at me. You needn’t work so hard at it, though. We aren’t meant to be adversaries.”
“I, um…” My thoughts disband, leaving nothing for communication purposes. I’m adorable? Adorable has many definitions. I think my dog is adorable, for example. “That…wasn’t what I was going to ask you.”
He inclines his head. “Okay, then. Ask.”
But that “adorable” echoes through me, clinking around like a penny down a well. “What are we meant to be, then?”
His lips curls up at the corners. “That wasn’t your question, either.”

Meg Kassel is an author of paranormal and speculative books for young adults. A New Jersey native, Meg graduated from Parson's School of Design and worked as a graphic designer before becoming a writer. She now lives in Maine with her husband and daughter and is busy at work on her next novel. She is the 2016 RWA Golden Heart© winner in YA.

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