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Friday, January 20, 2017

#ReadWayfarer {Phone Interview With Alexandra Bracken}

By Becca...

Earlier this month, I had the immense pleasure of joining a conference phone interview with Alexandra Bracken to discuss her newest novel, Wayfarer, which continues Etta and Nicholas' adventures through time. Huge thanks to Alex and Disney Hyperion for having Reading Teen be apart of it!

This was the first time I have ever done something like this, and let me tell you I was a nervous wreck. It was like going to BEA all over again and meeting authors, with sweaty hands and an anxiety filled belly, trying to figure out what in the world I should ask Alex! I had so much I wanted to ask, but I had to narrow my results down to two questions so everyone would have time to ask their own questions. I'm a nervous wreck when it comes to ordering pizza, so imagine how nerved up I was dialing into a conference call with a bunch of other people and one of my favorite authors. I was sleep deprived from staying up the previous night and devouring Wayfarer in it's entirety, which probably didn't help the nerves, but with shaking hands, I dialed in, got connected, and what do you know? Guess who gets to go first? Yup, little ol' Becca. 

Alex started the call by thanking us for calling in, and oh my goodness. I forgot how adorable and sweet she is. You might be wondering how I know this, but I got to meet here 2 years ago at BEA, which you would think would've calmed my nerves a bit, but no. Haha. 

ALEX: To give you a pretty brief summary, it kicks off two weeks or three weeks after Passenger ends.  Nicholas and Etta are trying to figure out how to get back to each other at the same time that they're trying to track down the astrolabe, and they're dealing with alternate timelines and wars and all that crazy stuff. I had the best time brainstorming an alternate timeline, even though the alternate timeline is truly kind of tragic and nefarious and awful.  So, like I said, I'm so excited that you guys could join.

And then, I was up next to bat (forgive me if my questions don't make much sense....remember, I was nerved up quite a bit)

ReadingTeen:  As you were writing Wayfarer, I know that there is an alternate timeline that as you said was pretty nefarious.  Did you prefer writing the actual real history timeline or exploring the alternate one?

ALEX: It’s funny because in the series, our timeline is technically Ironwoods' timeline, so it's technically an alternate timeline too and in some ways, it requires just as much research.  When I was trying to figure out the alternate timeline, there's a lot of butterfly effects that happen with very small decisions and certain lynchpin people and moments. I sort of wrote myself in a corner and I was so mad at myself. For example, I gave Sophia's birth year in Passenger, and then I realized the original alternate timeline I came up with would have meant that Sophia would have been orphaned at the end of Passenger too.  So, I had to go back and completely in a panic brainstorm an entirely new alternate timeline. My friend Victoria Aveyard was up until three o'clock in the morning brainstorming this new timeline with me.  I did have fun writing it just because Victoria was there, and we were constantly bouncing ideas back and forth to each other.  The alternate timeline is just so sad, so I feel weird saying that I preferred writing it. It was exciting to explore that different timeline overall.

Honestly, I had the most fun reading the alternate timeline parts. It was just so imaginative, scary, page-turning, and crazy. I couldn't get enough of looking inside Alex's imagination into what our history could have been like. I couldn't even begin to imagine how much time, research, and dedication went into figuring everything out. Just thinking about it gives me a headache! However, Alex did a fantastic job with Wayfarer, and I truly think I enjoyed it much more than Passenger.

ReadingTeen:  When I'm reading, I'm pretty notorious for finding a ship that I really love.  Who was your favorite ship out of the series?

ALEX: I had so much fun writing Sophia and Li Min and their interactions with each other. It was like they were either going to kiss or kill each other at any moment, which is always a really fun dynamic. Sorry if you guys haven't read, this is a spoiler.  One of the sad things about this book for me is that in order to tell Nicholas and Etta's story, I had to keep them apart for a good portion of the story.  In an earlier draft, they reunited earlier, and it just didn't work from a conflict point of view or for the story structure, which is one of the many problems of my problem child.I really did miss writing them and I’m glad I got a little bit in at the end.  Li Min and Sophia were definitely my favorite duo, but I also had fun writing the dynamic between Etta and Julian even though it's not romantic. Just how they were constantly clashing, and he really thought he could get in there and she would shut it down from the beginning. I really like writing group dynamics, and that was one of the challenges of Passenger, that there wasn't a big group.  It was only Etta and Nicholas for most of the book.  And so with this one, I had a blast writing different groups and managing everyone's personalities.

I SHIPPED SO MANY SHIPS IN WAYFARER, GUYS, which is kind of weird since our main ship isn't together for pretty much the entire novel. I was sad about it at first, but honestly I had so much fun seeing new characters and watching them interact (and flirt) with each other that it became hard to even remember that Nicholas and Etta weren't really together that much. No doubt I still ship the crap out of them, but Sophia and Li Min are shipping goals. If you're going to read this series, read it for their ship in itself. Trust me, it's worth it. I definitely think all the new group dynamics helped improve the entire series with Wayfarer in comparison to just Etta and Nicholas in Passenger.



I’ve been orphaned by my time.
The timeline has changed.
My future is gone.

Etta Spencer didn’t know she was a traveler until the day she emerged both miles and years from her home. Now, robbed of the powerful object that was her only hope of saving her mother, Etta finds herself stranded once more, cut off from Nicholas—the eighteenth century privateer she loves—and her natural time. 

When Etta inadvertently stumbles into the heart of the Thorns, the renegade travelers who stole the astrolabe from her, she vows to finish what she started and destroy the astrolabe once and for all. Instead, she’s blindsided by a bombshell revelation from their leader, Henry Hemlock: he is her father. Suddenly questioning everything she’s been fighting for, Etta must choose a path, one that could transform her future. 

Still devastated by Etta’s disappearance, Nicholas has enlisted the unlikely help of Sophia Ironwood and a cheeky mercenary-for-hire to track both her and the missing astrolabe down. But as the tremors of change to the timeline grow stronger and the stakes for recovering the astrolabe mount, they discover an ancient power far more frightening than the rival travelers currently locked in a battle for control. . . a power that threatens to eradicate the timeline altogether.

From colonial Nassau to New York City, San Francisco to Roman Carthage, imperial Russia to the Vatican catacombs, New York Times #1 best-selling author Alexandra Bracken charts a gorgeously detailed, thrilling course through time in this stunning conclusion to the Passenger series.

Author Bio:

Alexandra Bracken is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Passenger series and The Darkest Minds series. Born and raised in Arizona, she moved East to study history and English at the College of William & Mary in Virginia. After working in publishing for several years, Alex now writes full-time and can be found hard at work on her next novel in a charming little apartment that's perpetually overflowing with books.

Huge thanks to Alex and Disney-Hyperion again for such a fabulous time! It was an experience I will truly never forget! Have ya'll read Wayfarer yet? What did you think? If you got to interview Alex, what would you ask her?

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Blood Red, Snow White by Marcus Sedgwick \\ DNF

by Jackie

by Marcus Sedgwick
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press (October 25, 2016)
Publication Date: October 25, 2016
Sold by: Macmillan
Goodreads | Amazon

Russia wakes from a long sleep and marches to St Petersburg to claim her birthright. Her awakening will mark the end for the Romanovs, and the dawn of a new era that changed the world. Arthur Ransome, a journalist and writer, was part of it all. He left his family in England and fell in love with Russia and a Russian woman. This is his story. 
Oh how the mighty fall. Blood Red, Snow White seemed like something that I could fall head over heels in love with. I mean HISTORY. Russian Revolution. Like, the use of real history. All of this fantastically intertwined with allusions and metaphors out into the next world. Like, what is there NOT to love? Right? RIGHT?

This is where I went wrong, because, although it seems to check all of the boxes…I just really struggled. I couldn’t get into it. I just really could not get into the writing, the style. It felt over-descriptive without really saying anything at all. This was my issue, and this is why I couldn’t finish the book.

Overall, I don’t really have much to say because I really didn’t read through much of the book. Blood Red, Snow White was not my cup of tea. Not even close.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

CARAVAL by Stephanie Garber \\ A miss...

Review by Kaitlin

by Stephanie Garber
Hardcover: 416 pages
Publisher: Flatiron Books (January 31, 2017)
Language: English
Goodreads | Amazon

Welcome, welcome to Caraval―Stephanie Garber’s sweeping tale of two sisters who escape their ruthless father when they enter the dangerous intrigue of a legendary game.

Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the far-away, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever.
Have you ever read a book that felt like something you had already read even though it was set in a newer-to-you scenario and had a somewhat creative ending? Yeah. That's Caraval. I haven't read a lot of books with a carnival/circus vibe or with a magical game--much less a combination of both-- but Caraval still managed to feel like something I've already read. So. Many. Times. I went into this book expecting mesmerizing writing, a lush setting, a complicated game, and delicious twists and turns, but instead I got . . . standard YA elements. Or maybe they just paled in comparison to my previous read (The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi, which was gorgeous and swoonworthy and so, so worth reading) and missed the parts that proved Caraval to be a spectacular stand-out in YA fantasy. It got better in the last 100 pages, but that didn't make me see the book in a much better light.

This book is partially about a bond between sisters, yet one of them didn't have much page-time. Instead, Julian took up second-biggest spotlight and filled that role of the mysterious, possibly bad, smirking love interest that banters with the heroine. Considering that he was one of the most interesting characters to me, I didn't always mind his presence, but at the same time, I really wished there was more focus on Tella. (I have a feeling she'll have a larger presence in the sequel.) Tella was definitely my favorite character because she had a personality that leapt off the page. Most of the other characters were unremarkable, including Scarlett. I actually spent a good chunk of the book thinking her name was Crimson because that's what Julian called her. Julian was the only other character that I really liked, but I did find him unremarkable at many moments.

I was a bit frustrated with this book because the entire time I was reading, I kept wanting MORE--as in, more creative ideas, more surprises, more pretty sentences. I occasionally glimpsed what I was wanting from the book, but then it would go back to being lackluster and expected. I feel like an elaborate, magical game with a carnival/circus vibe could've been pushed to many new and wondrous places. It could've been more imaginative, mind-twisty, wicked, and extraordinary. This book shouldn't be one I describe as "ordinary," but . . . man, so much of the book felt pretty ordinary to me. The last night of the game and the events afterward came the closest to what I wanted, though by the time I reached that point, I already felt so over the story that I barely reacted to what was going on. Also, that was was only a chunk that was impressive and that didn't suddenly make the rest of the book seem better in hindsight. It just felt like a decent end to a disappointing read.

Overall, Caraval was a miss for me. It's a quick read, though. I was surprised that I was able to move through it so quickly as I was reading (though I still took forever to finish it because I took a big break from it). It was still an engaging story, despite all the negative things I said about it. I know it's been a hit for many early readers, but for me, it didn't feel as creative, substantial, or lush as I was hoping it to be.
Now A Mismatched Reader

Thursday, December 29, 2016

CHASING TRUTH by Julie Cross \\ Love, love, love!

Review by Natalie

by Julie Cross
Age Range: 12 and up
Grade Level: 8 - 12
Series: Eleanor Ames Series (Book 1)
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Entangled: Teen (September 27, 2016)
Goodreads | Amazon
At Holden Prep, the rich and powerful rule the school―and they’ll do just about anything to keep their dirty little secrets hidden.

When former con artist Eleanor Ames’ homecoming date commits suicide, she’s positive there’s something more going on. The more questions she asks, though, the more she crosses paths with Miles Beckett. He’s sexy, mysterious, arrogant…and he’s asking all the same questions.

Eleanor might not trust him―she doesn’t even like him―but they can’t keep their hands off of each other. Fighting the infuriating attraction is almost as hard as ignoring the fact that Miles isn’t telling her the truth…and that there’s a good chance he thinks she’s the killer.
The cast the cast the cast THE CAST! I want to either be Eleanor's best friend. Or BE her. She was wonderfully sarcastic and manipulative, I loved her development. I also liked that Ellie was a bit of an unreliable narrator. She didn't see how she truly affected people because she had such a harsh view of herself from her conning past. She's a reformed con artist and is on the hunt to discover who murdered her best friend...which some people think she did. Some of the cons and shows she put on were so amazing that I'm pretty sure she coined the Bend and Snap.


And then in comes wannabe Aquaman who seems to be mirroring Eleanor's investigation while still maintaining his goody-two-shoes persona (it's kinda adorable and refreshing on the subject of YA boyfriends, kinda annoying on the subject I just wanted him to break some rules). Miles is a wonderful human being who has strong inclinations to rule books, tuna casserole, and, well, Ellie (INSERT AN ARMY OF THE WINKY FACES).


The rest of the characters are all unique and interesting to get to know. I especially love Ellie's living situation and the roomies that come with it.

Maybe my Nancy Drew sleuthing skills need some severe brushing up (highly unlikely), but the mystery that Julie Cross weaved was full of many twists and confusing characters that had me unsure of the culprit until the end of the book.

There's everything you need in a modern mystery involving senator's sons. Car takeovers, an obscene amount of listening devices, picking locks, flushing drugs, almost drowning...the usual.

It's also a solid length of a novel, which was perfect because I didn't want it to end!

Happy Reading!!

Friday, December 9, 2016

IRON CAST by Destiny Soria \\ Behold this beautiful, bold, and diverse book!

Review by Jackie

Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: Harry N. Abrams (October 11, 2016)
Language: English
Goodreads | Amazon
In 1919, Ada Navarra—the intrepid daughter of immigrants—and Corinne Wells—a spunky, devil-may-care heiress—make an unlikely pair. But at the Cast Iron nightclub in Boston, anything and everything is possible. At night, on stage together, the two best friends, whose “afflicted” blood gives them the ability to create illusions through art, weave magic under the employ of Johnny Dervish, the club’s owner and a notorious gangster. By day, Ada and Corinne use these same skills to con the city’s elite in an attempt to keep the club afloat.

When a “job” goes awry and Ada is imprisoned, she realizes they’re on the precipice of danger. Only Corinne—her partner in crime—can break her out of Haversham Asylum. But once Ada is out, they face betrayal at every turn.
It’s the early 1900s and hemopaths are subjected to being ostracized from their fellow Bostonians. Two of these afflicted are Ada Navarra—a songsmith who can play a man to the depths of his sorrow in a few notes—and Corinne Wells. Miss Wells is an heiress, a wordsmith, and fiercely loyal to the few she bequeaths such an emotion on. They’re an unlikely duo. They’re also inseparable, and have the kind of friendship most can only dream of. They’d choose each other before everyone else. Together, they face the streets of Boston and those who want people like them locked away, and betrayals of the more incessant kind.


The base of this book was the friendship between these two stellar, unique, and completely complicated darlings. Soria combines social issues with the fantastical nature of blood disease, making the book seemingly fly off the pages. I felt transported to 1919. I felt curiosity. Yes, I did look up the complications with Russia from the time. Yes, I did look up hemopaths.

Books should make you want to learn more, broaden your horizons, and allow you to behold a different perspective than the one that you constantly see the world from. IRON CAST is that and more.

Let’s do a brief re-cap for those who skimmed the first few paragraphs: the BEST kind of friendship, history being thrown in the air, magical realism (can I call it that? People who sway minds in an otherwise ordinary 1919 Boston? Hmm.) like OMG so great woop woop, and bravery, and betrayal.

If that list doesn’t have you running to your local independent bookshop and begging them to grab some copies to stock their shelves, I don’t know what will.

Do yourself a favor and run to that bookstore.