Saturday, June 15, 2019

Blog Tour + Top Ten + Giveaway - Stronger Than a Bronze Dragon by Mary Fan

Find the tour schedule here.

Stronger Than a Bronze Dragon by Mary Fan
Publisher: Page Street Kids
Release Date: June 11th 2019
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy


When a powerful viceroy arrives with a fleet of mechanical dragons and stops an attack on Anlei’s village, the villagers see him as a godsend. They agree to give him their sacred, enchanted River Pearl in exchange for permanent protection—if he’ll marry one of the village girls to solidify the alliance. Anlei is appalled when the viceroy selects her as a bride, but with the fate of her people at stake, she sees no choice but to consent. Anlei’s noble plans are sent into a tailspin, however, when a young thief steals the River Pearl for himself.

Knowing the viceroy won’t protect her village without the jewel, she takes matters into her own hands. But once she catches the thief, she discovers he needs the pearl just as much as she does. The two embark on an epic quest across the land and into the Courts of Hell, taking Anlei on a journey that reveals more is at stake than she could have ever imagined.

With incredibly vivid world building and fast-paced storytelling, Stronger Than a Bronze Dragon is great for readers who are looking for something fresh in epic fantasy.

 Book Links:

Top Ten Tips for Becoming a Better Writer

10. Take care of yourself.

There’s an ugly myth out there that suffering leads to creativity. While many creative types have drawn upon past suffering to make art, it’s not a requirement by any means. Not to mention, health issues (whether of the physical or mental sort) can hinder your ability to be productive. After all, how are you supposed to write if you can barely make it out of bed? 

9. Do things. Meet people. Yes, online counts.

The wider your range of experiences, the more you can draw upon for writing. Sometimes, they tie together in unexpected ways – I once drew upon my car troubles to add tension to a space chase scene. Of course, time and resources may present challenges. Many may disagree with me, but I say that online experiences count – especially when it comes to human interactions. Communicating with different people and personalities can inspire new ideas for characters, plot points, etc. in ways you can’t predict.

8. Let “good enough” be enough.

Especially in the first draft. No one’s first draft is good. Some of mine have been eye-clawing-ly awful. The one I’m currently working on required a complete rewrite because the voice was all wrong (which I didn’t figure out until after I’d written the whole thing, sent it to my critique group, and then reread it with fresh eyes a few weeks later). A first draft’s job is simply to exist. This is where you let your ideas gush out, where let yourself experiment. Not everything will work. Maybe none of it will work. But at least you’ll know.

And even when dealing with later drafts (or even the close-to-final proof), there might still be things that don’t feel 100% perfect. That’s okay – chances are, the reader won’t even notice. No piece of writing is ever completely, totally, unassailably good. 

7. Remember there’s no such thing as wasted words.

Trashing large quantities of writings – entire drafts, even – is hard. Sometimes, all you can think about is the number of hours and the sheer toil of getting all those words down. So the idea of throwing it away (or “trunking” it) seems like a waste.

But, to borrow an old cliché, it’s the journey that counts. Really. Because all writing is practice, whether you end up using the words or not. And writing is a skill, just like every other skill. Consider the dancers who spend hours in a studio perfecting a 3-minute piece for a single showcase. Were all those hours of dancing with no audience a waste? Of course not. Performance art is ephemeral, and so it’s easy to accept that a lot of labor will be put into practicing without an audience. Writing is more permanent – you’re creating something that could last for ages – so it can feel like not using the words produced is a waste. But really, it’s the experience that counts.

So don’t be afraid to slash, burn, and destroy in the revisions process.

6. Be efficient with your words – in your own way.

One thing I notice a lot when working with newer writers is how many unnecessary filler words they’ll have in there – that they don’t even realize they’re doing. For instance: She lifted her head up and down with eagerness and then said, “I agree.” Really, all you need to write there is: She nodded eagerly. “I agree.”

The more draconian purveyors of writing advice will put down rules like “delete all your adverbs” or “no dialogue tags, ever.” I disagree. Everyone has their own writing style – and their own inefficient habits (I, for one, tend to over describe and become repetitive in the process). It’s okay to write inefficiently during the first draft (my first drafts often get bloated to such an extend, I cut out 10% of the words on the first pass revision). But keep an eye out for ways to reduce the number of words you’re using to get to a particular point – without sacrificing the voice, of course.

5. Bring out your story’s sensory and emotional experiences.

Writing isn’t just about what happens – it’s also about how it makes the reader feel. It’s not just sunny outside – the rays are warming your skin and glinting off the water. Whether through the lens of your protagonist (when writing in first person or close third) or from a more distant POV, the more you can evoke the feeling of being someplace or doing something, rather than just stating the facts, the more your reader can feel like they’re part of the story, experiencing it from the inside.

4. Don’t feel beholden to someone else’s method.

A lot of people write posts about how their method, which works amazingly for them, is THE method. For some, it’s write every day, come hell or high water. For others, it’s build an extensive outline before you get started. Whatever the case, they’re all wrong – there is no single method for writing. While it’s worth trying on someone else’s method in case it works for you, there’s nothing wrong with saying “forget that” and doing things your own way. I, for one, have changed methods between books. Once, I was an avowed outliner, with pages and pages of notes before I started writing (one outline was 10,000 words long). Meanwhile, for Stronger than a Bronze Dragon, I basically made it up as I went.

3. Read. Read a lot. Read widely.

A lot of writing habits are absorbed, not just developed. Rather like speech – while taking lessons and memorizing rules does shape the way we communicate, what ultimately comes out is what feels natural to each of us. And that’s how we develop our own unique voices, both in speech and writing. When it comes to the latter, reading more can open you to new possibilities on how to use language and help you cultivate an ear for writing styles that could help you improve your own.

2. Take breaks.

The world is full of writers who claim to sit down at 6am and write nonstop until 6pm, with maybe a bathroom break and a quick run to the kitchen to grab a sandwich or something. Or the ones who say they write every single day no matter what. Good for them. For a lot of people, though, that kind of expectation just isn’t realistic. I, for one, am a “feast or famine” writer. Either I’m pumping out thousands upon thousands of words in a single sitting (my record is 10,000 in one evening after work, though I stayed up till 3am for that) or I’m doing absolutely nothing (sometimes for weeks). It’s easy to feel guilty during those “famine” times, especially when social media is crawling with productivity posts by other writers (good for you, Person-Who-Wrote-A-Novel-In-3-Weeks! I’ve spent the past 3 weeks binge-watching pointless shows on Netflix!). But ultimately, breaks are part of the process (for many of us). It’s a chance for our creative brains to recharge and reset and come back stronger. And hey, studies have shown that creative solutions come when your mind is wandering, not when you’re focusing on the task and trying to force it out.

1. Just keep writing.

You know that old cliché – the only way to fail is to quit? Well, it’s true. And by “quit,” I mean “stop writing forever and with no intention of ever trying again.” As mentioned above, breaks are fine, whether they’re for days, weeks, months, or even years (hey, it’s been 8 years since George RR Martin put out a Song of Ice and Fire book, and you know he hasn’t been actively writing that manuscript this whole time – he’s been up to other things). But anyway, the important thing is that whatever happens with your publishing journey, just keep writing as long as it’s something you enjoy.

About the Author

Mary Fan is a hopeless dreamer, whose mind insists on spinning tales of “what if.” As a music major in college, she told those stories through compositions. Now, she tells them through books—a habit she began as soon as she could pick up a pencil.

Mary lives in New Jersey and has a B.A. from Princeton University. When she’s not scheming to create new worlds, she enjoys kickboxing, opera singing, and blogging about everything having to do with books.

 Author Links:

 Tour-wide giveaway

US only

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Review - Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Title: Summer Bird Blue
Author: Akemi Dawn Bowman
Pages: 384
Publisher: Ink Road
Release Date: 11th April 2019

Blurb from Goodreads:
Rumi Seto spends a lot of time worrying. What to eat, where to go, who to love. But one thing she is sure of – she wants to spend her life writing music with her younger sister, Lea.

Then Lea dies in a car accident, and Rumi is sent to live with her aunt in Hawaii. Now, miles from home, Rumi struggles to navigate the loss of her sister, feeling abandoned by her mother, and the aching absence of music.

With the help of the "boys next door" – teenage surfer Kai, who doesn't take anything too seriously, and old George Watanabe, who succumbed to grief years ago – Rumi seeks her way back to music, to write the song she and Lea never had the chance to finish.

With unflinching honesty, Summer Bird Blue explores big truths about insurmountable grief, unconditional love, and how to forgive even when it feels impossible.

My Review:

 *I received an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to Black & White Publishing and NetGalley*

When Rumi's sister dies in a car accident and her mother sends her to Hawaii to stay with her aunt, Rumi is left feeling abandoned and unwanted.
Rumi's sister, Lea, was her best friend, her song co-writer, and her entire world. Surrounded by strangers and struggling with her grief and guilt, will Rumi be able to make friends and move on?
Can Rumi forgive her mother and herself?

Summer Bird Blue is an emotional, heart-wrenching read.
I thought Rumi was a good protagonist. I liked that she wasn't perfect - she could be rude and fought with Lea, but she loved her with all her heart. I felt so sorry for Rumi for all she had been through.
I liked a lot of the characters in this book and at times I wished that I could be at Hawaii with them, even if just to give Rumi a hug.
My favourite part of the book has to be Rumi's relationship with her aunt's neighbour, Mr. Watanabe. But I also loved Rumi's characterisation and how well the author explained Rumi's thoughts and how grief affected her.
The plot was interesting and held my attention. I liked that there was asexual representation.
This was an emotional, heart-felt read that had me in tears at times.

Overall this was an enjoyable read that I would recommend.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Can't-Wait Wednesday - Under a Dancing Star

Can't-Wait Wednesday is a feature hosted at Wishful Endings where people showcase an upcoming book they are looking forward to.

This week my pick is . . . 

Title: Under a Dancing Star
Author: Laura Wood
Pages: 356
Publisher: Scholastic
Release Date: 4th July

In grey, 1930s England, Bea has grown up kicking against the conventions of the time, all the while knowing that she will one day have to marry someone her parents choose - someone rich enough to keep the family estate alive. But she longs for so much more - for adventure, excitement, travel, and maybe even romance. When she gets the chance to spend the summer in Italy with her bohemian uncle and his fiancee, a whole world is opened up to Bea - a world that includes Ben, a cocky young artist who just happens to be infuriatingly handsome too. Sparks fly between the quick-witted pair until one night, under the stars, a challenge is set: can Bea and Ben put aside their teasing and have the perfect summer romance? With their new friends gleefully setting the rules for their fling, Bea and Ben can agree on one thing at least: they absolutely, positively will not, cannot fall in love... A long, hot summer of kisses and mischief unfolds - but storm clouds are gathering across Europe, and home is calling. Every summer has to end - but for Bea, this might be just the beginning. 

Why I'm Anticipating This Book:

 I loved Laura's other YA book, A Sky Painted Gold, and this one sounds amazing - a Much Ado About Nothing prequel?! Yes, please!
Plus how gorgeous is that cover?!


Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Review - The Beholder (The Beholder, #1) by Anna Bright

Title: The Beholder (The Beholder, #1)
Author: Anna Bright
Pages: 448 pages
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: 4th June 2019

Blurb from Goodreads:

Selah has waited her whole life for a happily ever after. As the only daughter of the leader of Potomac, she knows her duty is to find the perfect match, a partner who will help secure the future of her people. Now that day has finally come.

But after an excruciatingly public rejection from her closest childhood friend, Selah’s stepmother suggests an unthinkable solution: Selah must set sail across the Atlantic, where a series of potential suitors awaits—and if she doesn’t come home engaged, she shouldn’t come home at all.

From English castle gardens to the fjords of Norge, and under the eye of the dreaded Imperiya Yotne, Selah’s quest will be the journey of a lifetime. But her stepmother’s schemes aren’t the only secrets hiding belowdecks…and the stakes of her voyage may be higher than any happy ending.

My Review:

*I received an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to FFBC and HarperTeen*


Selah is the only child of the leader of Potomac. She must find a partner to ensure the future of Potomac is secure.

When Selah is rejected in public by her closest friend, Selah’s stepmother gives her a chance to find a fiancé abroad. So Selah finds herself on the Beholder, crossing the Atlantic and on her way to meet several potential suitors. However, Selah’s stepmother has made it clear that Selah should only come back home if she is engaged.

Determined to return home to her ill father and her people, Selah must choose her future husband from her stepmother’s list. But her stepmother hasn’t made things easy for Selah.

Can Selah beat her stepmother at her own game?

Will she fall in love?

The premise for The Beholder really intrigued me, especially as it’s inspired by The Odyssey.

The cover is gorgeous, but, unfortunately, I don’t feel the same about the rest of the book.

I had mixed feelings about Selah. There were times when I liked her and felt sorry for her, but there were others when she annoyed me.

None of the characters particularly stood out for me.

The mix of fairytales, myths/legends and the real world (albeit a historical one with little technology) was interesting but there were times when I found it a bit jarring.

The plot was okay. Given the length of the novel not much happened, and I found what did happen pretty predictable. I know that Selah was under time constraints, but I would have liked her to have met more of her suitors.

I wasn’t a big fan of the romance.

The writing style wasn’t one of my favourites, and I found some of the conversations odd. There were also some actions that were repeated a lot, like running hands through hair.

I feel like The Beholder had a lot of potential, but, for me, it didn’t quite hit the mark.

I am disappointed that I didn’t enjoy this more.

Overall this was an okay, but disappointing read.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Review - Evermore (Everless, #2) by Sara Holland

Title: Evermore (Everless, #2)
Author: Sara Holland
Pages: 352
Publisher: Orchard Books
Release Date: 31st December 2018

Blurb from Goodreads:
Return to the intoxicating land of Sempera, where the rich live for centuries and the poor bleed time to pay for a loaf of bread. At the end of Everless, Jules Ember discovers the truth behind her ability to manipulate time - and her link to the ancient myth that defines the kingdom and its violent history. Can the Alchemist overcome the Sorceress once and for all?

My Review:

*I received an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to Hachette Children's Group and NetGalley*

- Contains spoilers for Everless (Book 1) -

After discovering the shocking truth about herself and her powers, Jules must evade the evil Sorceress and find a way to stop her once and for all.
Is there any truth to the rumour of a weapon able to kill the Sorceress?
Will the returning memories of Jules' past lives provide any clues?

It isn't often that I enjoy a sequel more than the first book in a series, and I definitely didn't enjoy Evermore as much as Everless.
I liked Jules as a character. She had been through a lot and being on the run would be so stressful.
The romance wasn't one of my favourites that I've ever read, but I didn't dislike it.
The concept of blood-iron coins is one of my favourite things about the duology.
I enjoyed finding out Jules' past lives and her origins as the Alchemist, but it did become a bit repetitive after a while. The memories took up a lot of the plot and I feel like a lot more could have happened in-between them, and that Evermore didn't quite reach its potential.
The writing was easy to follow most of the time, but some of the sentences could have done with being reworked so that they flowed easier - however, these might have been changed for the finished, published book. There were also a couple of times where I missed something and had to go back.
Unfortunately, Evermore was a bit of a disappointing read for me, but I would be interested in returning to the world of Sempera.

Overall this was a mostly enjoyable, but slightly disappointing read.


Thursday, June 6, 2019

Review - Proud Anthology compiled by Juno Dawson

Title: Proud
Author: Juno Dawson (compiled by)
Pages: 352
Publisher: Stripes
Release Date: 7th March 2019

Blurb from Goodreads: 

A stirring, bold and moving anthology of stories and poetry by top LGBTQ+ YA authors and new talent, giving their unique responses to the broad theme of pride. Each story has an illustration by an artist identifying as part of the LGBTQ+ community. Compiled by Juno Dawson, author of THIS BOOK IS GAY and CLEAN.

A celebration of LGBTQ+ talent, PROUD is a thought-provoking, funny, emotional read.

Contributors: Steve Antony, Dean Atta, Kate Alizadeh, Fox Benwell, Alex Bertie, Caroline Bird, Fatti Burke, Tanya Byrne, Moïra Fowley-Doyle, Frank Duffy, Simon James Green, Leo Greenfield, Saffa Khan, Karen Lawler, David Levithan, Priyanka Meenakshi, Alice Oseman, Michael Lee Richardson, David Roberts, Cynthia So, Kay Staples, Jessica Vallance, Kristen Van Dam and Kameron White.


My Review:
*I received an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to Stripes and NetGalley*

Proud is an anthology made up of short stories, poetry and artwork.
The contributors are LGBTQ+ authors/illustrators, some of them new talent, and others established.
Proud was compiled by Juno Dawson.

I really liked the idea of an anthology featuring LGBTQ+ stories/poems from LGBTQ+ creators.
There was a good variety of stories - some of which I enjoyed more than others, but there were none that I didn't like.
There was artwork after each story/piece of poetry featuring a scene from the story/poem, which I thought was a nice idea.
I found this anthology to be refreshing, thought-provoking and unique. I'm glad that I read it and I would recommend it to anyone looking to read more LGBTQ+ content.

Overall this was an enjoyable read.