BLOG TOUR: “Between the Blade and the Heart” by Amanda Hocking

Between the Blade and the Heart by Amanda Hocking

SUMMARY

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.

AUTHOR BIO

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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Q&A with Amanda Hocking

Q: What or who was the inspiration behind Between the Blade and the Heart

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 mythologies.

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 male?

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 writing?

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 life?

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 a 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’re 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 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 to put 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 book?

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 afterward?

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 printouts 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.

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Review: “Indexing (Indexing #1)” by Seanan McGuire

A review by Amanda.

Special Agent Henrietta Marchen, or Henry as she prefers, works for an agency that doesn’t officially exist, called ATI Management Bureau. Her job, and that of her team, is to prevent fairy tales from gaining a foothold in the real world. The fairy tale narrative is almost a living being, and all it wants is to bring those classic stories to life, with disastrous results. The narrative seeks people who fit the circumstances of certain fairy tales and then manipulates events to get the story to play out, only no one gets a happy ending. Dispatchers at the Bureau monitor events for signs of incursions. Henry’s team is responsible for verifying and averting whichever tale is playing out, using the valuable company Index as a resource. The team is made up of people who are aware of the narrative and what it can do, either because of a brush with it on the periphery or because they managed to avert or pause their own story.

This book is a page-turner, especially for fans of twisted fairy tales and urban fantasy. Fans of Seanan McGuire’s other works, such as the October Daye series, will recognize her quick wit and clever twists. Henry is stubborn, intelligent, and thinks outside the box. Having a personal connection to more than one narrative, she is willing to do whatever it takes to keep fairy tales out of the real world. The supporting characters are diverse people with very distinct personalities. Plotwise, the twists and turns are well thought out and unexpected. The story does continue past what was assumed to be a natural ending, and gets a bit convoluted. Hopefully that will clear up in future books. There are several character dynamics that will be exciting to explore, both romantically and otherwise. Indexing not only turns classic stories on their heads, but also skims the surface of fate vs free will, and if good and evil are really so black and white.

The first two books have been released in both paperback and ebook format.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

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Review: “The Trouble With Twelfth Grave (Charley Davidson #12)” by Darynda Jones

The Trouble With Twelfth Grave by Darynda Jones

A review by Amanda.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

This review may contain spoilers for the previous books.

Charley is in a bit of trouble, yet again. Her handsome husband Reyes has re-discovered his godhood, thanks to the godglass – an almost inescapable hell dimension in which two dangerous beings and countless innocents have been trapped. When we last saw Charley and Reyes in Eleventh Grave in Moonlight (read our review here!), Reyes had just escaped from the hell dimension, after being accidentally trapped there by Charley. Whoops! Not only has Reyes forgotten a chunk of his life on Earth, he is supremely angry at his heavenly Brother and has gone feral, bent on destroying Jehovah’s treasured creation. A series of murders has Charley afraid that Reyes has crossed permanently over to the Dark Side. In between trying to track down her wayward husband, she must also secretly investigate the murders, help a friend out of a legal jam, and act as a consultant for Amber and Quentin with their amateur P.I. business. Thank goodness for her trusty assistant Cookie, and, of course, for coffee.

The latest installment in the Charley Davidson series does not disappoint. Charley is still clever, loyal, and quick with the witty comebacks. The stress and worry of the situation with Reyes is balanced by her never-ending optimism. She still makes time, no matter what, to help her loved ones, even when that means going without sleep. Charley continues to grow as a character, as she learns more about her origins and purpose. Readers will enjoy seeing more of their favorite supporting characters and learning new information about old standbys, much more than the last book.

Plotwise, parts of the story did seem to drag a little, but the excitement leading up to the cliffhanger ending definitely made up for it. The relationship between Charley and Reyes went in an entirely new direction, hopefully for the better. The author managed to skillfully sneak in some sexy scenes, as hot as ever, and nostalgically reminiscent of the first book. With only one more book left in the series after this one, it is absolutely worth pushing past the slower scenes.

This book will (fittingly) be released on October 31, 2017.

My rating: 4.5/5 stars.

We may receive a commission if you purchase through links in this post. Read our full disclosure here.

Review of “The Hunt (Devil’s Isle #3)” by Chloe Neill

A review by Amanda.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.

This book may contain spoilers from the previous books.

Claire is on the run from Containment, since she revealed her magic ability during the fight against Ezekiel and his followers. Along with her Para friend, Moses, she does what she can to help Paras and Sensitives while remaining hidden and working with Delta. Her heart is still broken from having to leave the Royal Mercantile in the hands of her best friend Tadji, as well as Liam running away after the battle. Liam took his grandmother, Eleanor, and escaped after being hit with both Claire’s and Ezekiel’s magic. He’s been off the grid and out of contact for weeks, leaving Claire to worry about his safety and the state of their relationship. When Liam’s brother shows up unexpectedly with bad news, Claire has to decide if she should respect Liam’s apparent wishes and stay away, or go with Gavin and Malachi to warn him.

An agent of Containment with a well-known beef against Liam is murdered, signs point to Liam as the culprit. He’s definitely being set up, but by whom, and why? The team’s investigation to clear Liam’s name gets complicated with the addition of an ex-lover, a deadly illness, and new information about Claire’s past.

The third Devil’s Isle book is the best yet, having finally found its footing. The plot digs deeper, and the focus on fewer characters leads to more depth for each. Claire shines in this story, overcoming several obstacles with her trademark reckless bravery. She shows a great amount of heart and feels more like a real, fleshed out person. The plot takes several unexpected turns and keeps readers intrigued until the last page. Several questions are answered, while more arise, leaving readers wanting more. There is still plenty of room for growth and development in both characters and plot. I am excited to find out what happens next!

The Hunt will be released on September 26th, 2017.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

We may receive a commission if you purchase through links in this post. Read our full disclosure here.

Review: “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

A review by Emily.

The Handmaid’s Tale, written by Margaret Atwood in 1985, is a story that eerily parallels events in our world today… but goes a step further to describe our worst nightmares turned reality. In the tale, the United States is at war with Islamic Radicals who have laid out chemical attacks leaving 25 percent of the population sterile. The new regime of the U.S. ironically decides to oppress its women in order to propagate the human race by making it illegal for them to read and hold jobs or property. The fertile women called “Handmaids” are ordered to be clad head to toe in red puritan robes and bonnets and are assigned households to serve a master. They are abused and submitted to servitude by putting the fear of God in all of them. It is a dystopian society where the women are forced to be suspicious of each other so they can never unite against their oppressors. Their identities are anonymous, being named after their household’s master and are renamed when their ownership is exchanged.

The tale is written as a stream of consciousness that jumps back and forth between story plot and its main character Offred’s ruminations. This makes the main character relatable and underscores her loneliness and isolation but leads to a storyline with no real momentum. The story lacks backstory which would have helped to explain the main character’s motives and emotions. A more in-depth backstory also would help us feel perhaps a little less disappointed in a character that is less than a heroine and at times seems pathetic; character development that would have added tremendous value to it as a way to contrast and highlight the main character’s present suffering.  Also, character development of the people she interacts with would have added another layer to the story and may have led us to feel the true depth of Offred’s helplessness as those close to her disappoint and betray her.

Atwater’s work lays the foundation for the abysmal and intriguing new world order which MGM/Hulu’s TV series The Handmaid’s Tale adapts. It satisfies the character building and backstory that the book lacks and casts Offred in a more heroine-like role that we can admire. The MGM series takes us on a more fulfilling journey into her world and moves us beyond the stage that Atwater has set.

My Rating: 3/5 stars

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Review: “The Sight (Devil’s Isle #2)” by Chloe Neill

A review by Amanda.

This review may contain spoilers for book one, The Veil. I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Book two picks up a few weeks after the events of book one. Claire has been dividing her time between running the Royal Mercantile, learning the bounty hunter trade with Liam, and getting lessons in using her magic from Malachi. The tension between Liam and Claire is heavy since Liam has made it clear that his honor won’t allow him to be with her romantically; if she is discovered as a Sensitive he would be the one to turn her in to live on Devil’s Isle, which would break both of their hearts. Claire’s single-minded goal of staying busy to keep her mind off of her non-existent love life gets a boost when someone starts murdering Paras without care for human casualties.

A magic-hating human has developed a following. Calling themselves Reveillon, this cultish group blames magic, Paras, and Sensitives for the Zone’s troubles. Their leader has convinced them that the answer to all of their problems is to eradicate all traces of magic by any means necessary. The violence escalates even further and Claire, alongside her friends and allies, must act quickly to save those who have been targeted by Reveillon.
The Sight moves at a slightly faster pace than the previous book and makes for a quick read. The plot is a bit predictable, but it still manages to be interesting. While Claire still does not stand out amongst all of the urban fantasy heroines (see my review of The Veil), the supporting characters gain more depth. The romantic tension kicks up a notch and things get nice and steamy. Claire continues to hold her own against whatever life throws at her, with one or two exceptions. I imagine book three, The Hunt, will challenge her ability to roll with the punches. This series is great for those readers looking for a fun, quick read, with a classic urban fantasy feel. Fans of Patricia Briggs’ Alpha and Omega series, Kim Harrison’s Peri Reed books, and Charlaine Harris’s Aurora Teagarden series will likely enjoy these books. Make sure to pick up book one, The Veil, and look for book three, The Hunt, to be released on September 26th.

My rating: 3.5/5 stars.

We may receive a commission if you purchase through links in this post. Read our full disclosure here.

BOOK TOUR Review: “The Brightest Fell (October Daye #11)” by Seanan McGuire

BOOK TOUR Review:

A review by Amanda.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.

This review may contain spoilers from previous books in the series.

October’s night started with happiness and fun. Her Fetch sister May insisted on throwing a bachelorette party to celebrate Toby’s upcoming wedding to Tybalt, King of Cats. Many of Toby’s friends, including some unexpected guests, have come to drink, celebrate, and sing karaoke in her honor. It isn’t long after they arrive back home in the wee hours of the morning that things take a turn for the worse. Toby’s reclusive mother, known to other fae as Amandine the Liar, shows up on her doorstep with insults and a request; she wants to hire Toby to find her older daughter, August, who has been missing for more than 100 years. In a horrific act of magic, Amandine ensures Toby’s cooperation by capturing Tybalt and Jazz, May’s Raven-maid girlfriend, trapping them in their animal forms and taking them away with her. Now October has no choice but to do as her mother commands. To make matters more complicated, she must enlist the help of someone who knew August well; she must wake Simon Torquill, the man who turned her into a fish and left her that way for fourteen years, and trust that his love for his daughter is stronger than his hatred of Toby. Their search will lead them in unexpected directions and may bring them more questions than answers.

The Brightest Fell is the eleventh book in the October Daye series and it is the strongest yet, both in plot and in character development. Emotionally, Toby and friends are put through the ringer. The writing is beautifully done and captures the emotions so clearly that readers can’t help but empathize. The plot takes several strides forward in this book, heading determinedly towards the presumed end goal. A few long-standing questions are finally answered, but more arise to keep the reader guessing. There is also a strong sense of adventure throughout Toby’s quest to find August, with several exciting and harrowing moments. Overall, this is another fantastic book in the October Daye series, and each book seems to be better than the last. If that trend continues, I cannot wait to see where the next one leads!

My rating: 5/5 stars.

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Brightest Fell Blog Tour banner

THE BRIGHTEST FELL

October Daye #11

Seanan McGuire

IBSN:9780756413316 | DAW Hardcover| $26.00


Contains an original bonus novella, Of Things Unknown!

Things are slow, and October “Toby” Daye couldn’t be happier about that.  The elf-shot cure has been approved, Arden Windermere is settling into her position as Queen in the Mists, and Toby doesn’t have anything demanding her attention except for wedding planning and spending time with her family.

Maybe she should have realized that it was too good to last.
                
When Toby’s mother, Amandine, appears on her doorstep with a demand for help, refusing her seems like the right thing to do…until Amandine starts taking hostages, and everything changes.  Now Toby doesn’t have a choice about whether or not she does as her mother asks.  Not with Jazz and Tybalt’s lives hanging in the balance.  But who could possibly help her find a pureblood she’s never met, one who’s been missing for over a hundred years?
                
Enter Simon Torquill, elf-shot enemy turned awakened, uneasy ally.  Together, the two of them must try to solve one of the greatest mysteries in the Mists: what happened to Amandine’s oldest daughter, August, who disappeared in 1906.
                
This is one missing person case Toby can’t afford to get wrong.

Seanan McGuire lives and works in Washington State, where she shares her somewhat idiosyncratic home with her collection of books, creepy dolls, and enormous blue cats.  When not writing–which is fairly rare–she enjoys travel, and can regularly be found any place where there are cornfields, haunted houses, or frogs.  A Campbell, Hugo, and Nebula Award-winning author, Seanan’s first book (Rosemary and Rue, the beginning of the October Daye series) was released in 2009, with more than twenty books across various series following since.  Seanan doesn’t sleep much.  

You can visit her at seananmcguire.com.

BLOG TOUR EXCERPT:

October 9th, 2013

Angels are bright still, though the brightest fell. — William Shakespeare, Macbeth.

THE FETCH IS ONE of the most feared and least understood figures in Faerie. Their appearance heralds the approach of inescapable death: once the Fetch shows up, there’s nothing that can be done. The mechanism that summons them has never been found, and they’ve always been rare, with only five conclusively identified in the last century. They appear for the supposedly significant—kings and queens, heroes and villains—and they wear the faces of the people they have come to escort into whatever awaits the fae beyond the borders of death. They are temporary, transitory, and terrifying.

My Fetch, who voluntarily goes by “May Daye,” because nothing says “I am a serious and terrible death omen” like having a pun for a name, showed up more than three years ago. She was supposed to foretell my impending doom. Instead, all she managed to foretell was me getting a new roommate. Life can be funny that way.

At the moment, doom might have been a nice change. May was standing on the stage of The Mint, San Francisco’s finest karaoke bar, enthusiastically bellowing her way through an off- key rendition of Melissa Etheridge’s “Come to My Window.” Her live-in girlfriend, Jazz, was sitting at one of the tables closest to the stage, chin propped in her hands, gazing at May with love and adoration all out of proportion to the quality of my Fetch’s singing.

May has the face I wore when she appeared. We don’t look much alike anymore, but when she first showed up at my apartment door to tell me I was going to die, we were identical. She has my memories up to the point of her creation: years upon years of parental issues, crushing insecurity, abandonment, and criminal activities. And right now, none of that mattered half as much as the fact that she also had my absolute inability to carry a tune.

“Why are we having my bachelorette party at a karaoke bar again?” I asked, speaking around the mouth of the beer bottle I was trying to keep constantly against my lips. If I was drinking, I wasn’t singing. If I wasn’t singing, all these people might still be my friends in the morning.

Of course, with as much as most of them had already had to drink, they probably wouldn’t notice if I did sing. Or if I decided to sneak out of the bar, go home, change into my sweatpants, and watch old movies on the couch until I passed out. Which would have been my preference for how my bachelorette party was going to go, if I absolutely had to have one. I didn’t think they were required. May had disagreed with me. Vehemently. And okay, that had sort of been expected.

What I hadn’t expected was for most of my traitorous, backstabbing friends to take her side. Stacy—one of my closest friends since childhood—had actually laughed in my face when I demanded to know why she was doing this to me.

“Being your friend is like trying to get up close and personal with a natural disaster,” she’d said. “Sure, we have some good times, but we spend half of them covered in blood. We just want to spend an evening making you as uncomfortable as you keep making the rest of us.”

Not to be outdone, her eldest daughter, Cassandra, had blithely added, “Besides, we don’t think even you can turn a karaoke party into a bloodbath.”

All of my friends are evil.

As my Fetch and hence the closest thing I had to a sister, May had declared herself to be in charge of the whole affair. That was how we’d wound up reserving most of the tables at The Mint for an all-night celebration of the fact that I was getting married. Even though we didn’t have a date, a plan, or a seating chart, we were having a bachelorette party. Lucky, lucky me.

My name is October Daye. I am a changeling; I am a knight; I am a hero of the realm; and if I never have to hear Stacy sing Journey songs again, it will be too soon.

We may receive a commission if you purchase through links in this post. Read our full disclosure here.