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: “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.

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Review: “The Veil (Devil’s Isle #1)” by Chloe Neill

A review by Amanda.

Claire Connolly lives in New Orleans, but it is not the New Orleans that we are familiar with. Years ago, a veil between worlds was forced open and magic-using beings from a parallel world, called Paranormals or Paras, came through to conquer Earth. A nasty war was fought and humans won, barely. New Orleans is still recovering from the damage and military forces are in charge. There is very little contact with anyone outside of the containment areas. Paras that survived the battles have been sent to live in Devil’s Isle, a heavily guarded community, for the safety of humans. Some humans were affected by the magic that came through the veil, gaining paranormal abilities that they didn’t have before. Called Sensitives, these people are regarded with suspicion and are also sent to live in Devil’s Isle, whether they want to or not. This is partly due to prejudices against any magic users, but also because Sensitives eventually become wraiths – frightening, zombie-like creatures who attack humans without mercy.

Claire has managed to keep her family’s antique store running by turning it into a general store. She has no family left but has close friends and a tight knit community that she is very connected to. Her recent discovery that she is a Sensitive has taken her by surprise and now she has to keep a huge secret from those closest to her. An unexpected encounter with wraiths brings her to the attention of bounty hunter Liam Quinn, whose motives are unclear. Will he spill her secret, or help her keep it? Equally important, can Claire avoid the fate that befalls all Sensitives?

This is the first book in a new series from Chloe Neill, author of the Chicagoland Vampires series. Claire is a nice character, but fairly typical. As of this first book, there is little about her that stands out from other heroines in the same genre. She loves her friends, misses her father, and feels a sense of responsibility to her community. Her biggest fear is turning into a wraith, followed closely by being discovered as a Sensitive and relocated to Devil’s Isle. When Liam offers to help her, she has to decide if he can be trusted. Her attraction to him certainly complicates things, but that takes a backseat to the danger they quickly find themselves in.

The description of a post-war New Orleans is stark and wonderfully done. Prejudice is a prevalent theme, well explored and thought-provoking. The world-building and magical concepts are where the book stands out, and what makes it worth reading. There is a lovely cast of supporting characters, all of whom I hope to meet again. Claire and Liam both have room to develop, especially since this is the first book.  I will read the next book, The Sight, with a hope that they will continue to grow into their own.

My rating: 3.5/5 stars.

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Review: “Ride the Storm (Cassandra Palmer #8)” by Karen Chance

Review:

A review by Amanda.

This review contains spoilers from the previous books in this series.

Ride the Storm picks up right where the last book ended. Cassie is still chasing after Pritkin’s soul with Rosier, hoping to counter the deadly curse that has been cast on the rugged war mage. Cassie’s court had just been attacked, and losses and injuries are everywhere. Betrayal from those she has been trying to help has affected Cassie’s usual good spirits. Even vampire master Mircea is struggling to recover from the recent events. Cassie is yanked back and forth in time, shifting from Arthurian times, where they have tracked down a young Pritkin and are awaiting the arrival of his soul, to present day at Dante’s, where the attacks keep coming from all sides. Exhausting both the Pythia power and her personal energy takes its toll, with devastating consequences. An unexpected revelation from a trusted person in her small circle of allies has Cassie (and readers) questioning everything that has happened since the events set in motion in the very first book.

This book is an absolute whirlwind of action and exposition. The first half of the story is nonstop action, with a few too many back-and-forth shifts, making it difficult to follow. No rest for our protagonist means no rest for readers. It feels as though the author tried to fit two books’ worth of plot into one book. Thankfully, the story slows down a bit and the pace evens out by the second half. Long-awaited answers to burning questions come to light, and the romantic entanglement that Cassie has found herself in might finally be unraveling. While some long-standing issues get wrapped up, others, frustratingly, do not. Cassie heroically maintains her snarky and irreverent sense of humor despite the adversity. There are a couple of steamy sex scenes, although these are somewhat mild compared to previous books. I, for one, am looking forward to the next book with the great hope that we won’t be strung along for too much longer (at least in certain areas). While the convolution of the first half of this book did affect my overall rating, the second half still makes it worth reading.

If you would like to start this series from the beginning, book one is Touch the Dark. Karen Chance also has a crossover series, featuring characters we know and love (or hate), and exciting new ones. The first book is Midnight’s Daughter.

My rating: 3.5/5 stars.

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BOOK TOUR Review: “Freeks” by Amanda Hocking

A review by Amanda.

Mara has had an unusual upbringing. She and her mother travel the country as part of Gideon Davorin’s Traveling Sideshow. Mara’s mother, along with many of the other carnies, have special abilities that make the carnival life appealing, and even rewarding on occasion. Despite her heritage, Mara doesn’t have any supernatural powers. She helps out where she can and enjoys exploring whichever town or city they happen to be in, forming fleeting friendships that end as soon as the carnival moves on. When the sideshow receives an invitation from a former worker to set up in a small town called Caudry, promising an exorbitant payday, Mara and the rest of the carnival workers are happy to go.

Things in Caudry are odd from the start. Abilities falter, animal attacks ravage the camp, and people go missing. Local boy Gabe, who intrigues Mara immediately, is the only good thing about Caudry as far as she’s concerned. Mara and Gabe each have secrets that threaten their emerging feelings, and Mara will have to decide who to trust as she works to try and solve the mystery of who or what is plaguing the carnival.

Freeks is a new story by Amanda Hocking, author of the popular Trylle trilogies and the Watersong series. It is unclear at this time whether or not it is a standalone or the first in a new series. Mara is an interesting character with a lot of potential. She does things her own way, is loyal to her loved ones, and fights insecurities as much as any teenager does. Both her mother and learning their family history added layers to Mara’s character. The supporting characters, particularly the carnies like Roxie and Luka, were diverse, although I would have enjoyed seeing them developed more richly. The romance was predictable, an “instalove” situation that is so prevalent in YA novels. Gabe was a decent character, mysterious and protective, if a bit cliché. I had trouble feeling connected to any of the characters, even Mara. The mystery kept me intrigued and had me guessing until the end. The writing style is simplistic, which suits the plot. Fans of the Trylle books, Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series, and C.C. Hunter’s Shadow Falls series may enjoy this book.

My rating: 3/5 stars.

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BOOK TOUR Review: “Wear White to Your Funeral” by Lisa Acerbo

Wear White to Your Funeral by Lisa Acerbo

A review by Domoni.

Rory just moved to Trumbull, a tiny slice of hell. Her mom took a job in Japan and sent her to live with her aunt. Used to a full life in Atlanta, this town with one movie theater and a mall does little to make her excited about her senior year of high school. No friends, no volleyball, no job and no car; what is there to do but be miserable? The first day of school brings Bowen, an attractive boy who convinces their journalism teacher to pair them up for the big project. Rory and Bowen are going to write an article about the woman in white that haunts the local cemetery. Their first study date (or is it a real date?) has them sitting in the cemetery at night. When the woman in white appears, the teens fled. Unable to believe what they saw, Bowen convinces Rory to return on another night.  When Rory stumbles over a dead body before seeing the ghostly apparition again, things start to get complicated and terrifying.  Now the teens are trying to understand what they saw. Will they solve a murder mystery, a ghost story, or be victims themselves?

This was a great read for me. Well written and interesting, I liked that it wasn’t a classic ghost story. Rory is a rather typical 17-year-old girl and Bowen an average 18-year-old guy. They dig each other and romance develops. The romance aspect was not the central focus of the story and I liked that. The story mostly followed Rory’s story progression but occasionally we got the aspect of the mystery killer. I enjoyed the progression of the story and getting to know the inside thoughts of this character.  The story took interesting turns that kept things fresh and made the book an easy one-sitting read.

The author does a great job creating the scenes playing out in the story. The characters are fleshed out well and it is fairly easy to grasp who they are and their motivations. I liked the development of the recurring characters that kept this young couple living a normal life amid the unrealistic story that unfolds around them. Many times a book will focus so much on the mystery that you wonder how a couple of teenagers are able to just galavant around focused on being the Scooby Gang and not facing consequences; this story gave a more natural progression to the happenings experienced by Rory and Bowen. I enjoyed this book and would gladly read more by this author.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

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Wear White to Your Funeral by Lisa Acerbo tour banner

 

 

Wear White to Your Funeral
Lisa Acerbo
Publication date: October 28th, 2016
Genres: Mystery, Romance, Young Adult

Rory is your average high school senior. Or she was, until her mother banishes her to hell, also known as Trumbull, Connecticut. The small suburb with only a mall and movie theater, sure feels like the netherworld until Rory’s first day at her new school. That’s the day she meets Bowen, who begs her to join him on a class project. But when Bowen drags her to a graveyard after dark for research purposes, Rory wants to fly back home to Atlanta, or at least return to her aunt’s house unharmed and unmolested.

Nothing could go wrong, right? They talk, they laugh, and they wander among the tombstones looking for information on the local ghostly legend known as the White Lady. Then they have to run, but they cannot outrun a ghost. In addition to the ghostly woman, a half buried dead body leads Rory and Bowen into a deadly game of cat and mouse, but who is the killer? Is it human or something long dead and otherworldly?

The police are of little help, Rory’s aunt just wants her to remain safe, and Bowen, who she can’t stay away from, keeps finding ways to get her into more trouble than she has ever known. Whether breaking into a suspected killer’s house, being followed by a menacing ghost, or being stalked at school, Rory hopes finding the killer will put an end to the supernatural haunting. Before Rory can discover the identity of the killer, she is drawn into the mystery of the White Lady, which opens the door for some very real danger.

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Author Bio:

Lisa Acerbo is a high school teacher and holds an EdD in Educational Leadership. She lives in Connecticut with her husband, daughters, three cats, and horse. She is the author of Apocalipstick and has contributed to local newspapers, news and travel blogs including The Patch and Hollywood Scriptwriter.

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Review: “The Legendary Saga” by L.H. Nicole

Review:

A review by Domoni.

The Legendary Saga is an ongoing series by L. H. Nicole that brings King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table into the present time to finish their battle with Mordrid and Morgana.  I would like to thank the author for the opportunity to read the first three books in this series.

Legendary: Book One

Aliana is 18 years old and traveling the world for her photography and following her father’s interest in Arthurian Legend. In the two years since her parents died and Aliana discovered she was adopted, she has not stayed in one place for long. But a recurring dream has her seeking out the entrance to Avalon, even if it is just a fairy tale.  When she actually finds her dream image in reality, she stumbles into her destiny. She is The Destined One. Prophecy says she will be the one to awaken King Arthur, reunite the Knights of the Round Table, and help them find Excalibur and their lost relics in order to finally defeat Mordrid and Morgana and save the Realms.

Aliana meets the Lady of the Lake who starts her on her journey and within seven hours she is on her way home with Arthur and Galahad and her guardian, Lord Draggerhorne, her dragon protector. In the parking lot, Lancelot and Percival are waiting for them and fill them in on the reincarnation of most of the knights. The group sets off to find the rest of the knights together in London.

This was an interesting book though there were many things that annoyed me. Aliana was a rather privileged girl, raised with money and a rather pampered lifestyle; her constant victim role bothered me. One moment she was acting like a strong woman, annoyed by the men constantly thinking she was incapable because she was a woman, to acting like a princess who is incapable of anything but being the desired one. From the moment she saved Galahad, a spark of connection has Aliana falling hard for the knight, though she doesn’t realize he is falling for her as well. Nor does she notice how much the golden king admires her. She spends the majority of the first book pouting that the only thing anyone cares about is her fulfilling the prophesy and that she has no other worth. And when the group finally meets up with Mordrid, of course he wants her to be his queen as well.

I enjoyed Aliana learning to use her magic and learning more about her personal demons. Her friendly banter and interaction with Dragg and the knights as well as her best friend Lacy had depth and kept the story moving along.

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

Claiming Excalibur: Book Two

Claiming Excalibur by L.H. Nicole

As Aliana and the knights recover from their battle with Mordrid and Morgana, Aliana has another dream. She sees a book her father owned that could point to the location of Excalibur. So Aliana, Dragg, Lacy and the eight knights fly to North Carolina to the home Aliana grew up in to find her father’s book and continue the Destined One’s quest. Aliana fills her other best friend, Dawn, in on the truth about the group of men and Dawn joins the quest to defeat Mordrid and Morgana. Locating the book has the knights traveling to the Isle of the Blessed to locate the sword. Not only do they find Excalibur, but they locate the ruined Camelot.

In this story Aliana and Galahad’s relationship is in full swing. Lacy and Percival are also coupling and it appears Dawn and Wade, the reincarnated Gawain, are also falling for each other. So there is more romance in this book. The addition of another childhood friend does not really serve the story well though. The three girls together are flighty and superficial 18 year olds. Aside from the flirting, Lacy and Dawn’s main roles seem to be to say, you can’t stop me from coming.

Aliana continues to deny that Arthur is interested in her but the tension between the king and his knight mounts. Each appearance of Queen Titania escalates that tension. It seems when she created the spell that saved Arthur, she had plans for the Destined One. We learn that Aliana is a descendant of Titania and so she is half Fae. There also seems to be some sort of magic affecting Galahad that makes him go crazy when Aliana is threatened.

The group locates the sword and returns to the mortal realm. A confrontation between Aliana, Arthur, and Galahad has Aliana running and she ends up captured by Mordrid. He had captured two people she cares for and so to secure their release, she agrees to stay with him and even agrees to a kiss. The kiss adds further confusion to Aliana’s troubled relationship status. Queen Titania appears and saves Aliana from Mordrid and Morgana and sends her on to continue her quest to fulfill the prophecy by finding the lost relics.

I actually liked this story less than the first. There was a lot more superficial content that was rather boring. I was hoping for more depth of characters in the second book but was left wanting.

My rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Relics of Camelot: Book Three

Relics of Camelot by L.H. Nicole

Aliana has been missing for two weeks. The knights finally discover that Queen Titania sent her to the past and to Camelot. So Aliana is in Camelot with her knights, but they do not know her. She has to search out the way to find the Holy Grail and how to get home. The knights, left behind, devise a plan to find Aliana and continue on their quest. They split up, some going to Avalon, some to the Isle of the Blessed. Since Merlin and Lancelot are still banished from those realms, they will seek out Olympus and any further information on the grail.

This story fills in depth to the characters by showing us their past. I enjoyed Morgana’s story especially. Learning more about who the knights were before the spell that froze them was interesting. I still wasn’t thrilled with Aliana’s inability to chose between the men who loved her. Though I do feel as though Aliana is growing as a character, she is still young and entitled with a tendency to play the victim.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

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