Posts Tagged ‘Publisher- Strange Chemistry’

Cover Reveal: Hidden Huntress

Danielle L. Jensen‘s Stolen Songbird was one of my favourite debuts of 2014 (Click here to read my review and an interview with author, Danielle Jensen) therefore I am absolutely delighted to share the cover for its sequel, Hidden Huntress, with you. HiddenHuntress-300dpi
Sometimes, one must accomplish the impossible.
Beneath the mountain, the king’s reign of tyranny is absolute; the one troll with the capacity to challenge him is imprisoned for treason. Cécile has escaped the darkness of Trollus, but she learns all too quickly that she is not beyond the reach of the king’s power. Or his manipulation.
Recovered from her injuries, she now lives with her mother in Trianon and graces the opera stage every night. But by day she searches for the witch who has eluded the trolls for five hundred years. Whether she succeeds or fails, the costs to those she cares about will be high.
To find Anushka, she must delve into magic that is both dark and deadly. But the witch is a clever creature. And Cécile might not just be the hunter. She might also be the hunted…

I can’t wait to spend more time with Cecile and Tristan!

Posted by Caroline

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Cassandra Rose Clarke’s Favourite Flawed Queens

It is no secret that I am a huge fan of Cassandra Rose Clarke (see my reviews here), so you can imagine my excitement when Big Book Little Book was given the opportunity to host the latest stop on the blog tour for Cassandra’s latest book,The Wizard’s Promise.

One of the things I really admire about Cassandra’s writing is her ability to write strong but flawed female characters. I was delighted when Cassandra agreed to share her favourite flawed Queens with us.

the wizards promiseAll Hanna Euli wants is to become a proper witch – but unfortunately, she’s stuck as an apprentice to a grumpy fisherman. When their boat gets caught up in a mysterious storm and blown wildly off course, Hanna finds herself further away from home than she’s ever been before.
As she tries to get back, she learns there may be more to her apprentice master than she realized, especially when a mysterious, beautiful, and very non-human boy begins following her through the ocean, claiming that he needs Hanna’s help.

It’s become a trend lately to say one’s favorite female characters are flawless. Usually this descriptor is paired with queen, as in, “Ripley from Aliens is a flawless queen.” I’m certainly guilty of doing this myself, usually on Tumblr. But the truth is most of the characters I call “flawless queens” aren’t actually flawless at all—and that’s exactly why I love them so much.

Flawed characters are more interesting to me as a rule, regardless of gender. A perfect character is dull and inoffensive, a bit like a meal at Chili’s. Utterly forgettable. A flawed character, on the other hand, will grab your attention and won’t let go. Consider movies like Star Wars or Pirates of the Caribbean: in both you are presented with a bland hero, ostensibly the main character (Luke Skywalker and Will Turner, respectively). But who grabs our attention? Who do really remember when we talk about of the theater? That’s right—it’s Han Solo and Jack Sparrow. That’s the power of the flawed character.

Of course, Han and Jack are both men, a trait they share with a lot of the favorite flawed characters out there in the world. Today, I want to focus instead on flawed female characters, a rarer beast. So without further ado, I present you with my Top Eight Flawed Queens:

rosa_diazRosa Diaz, from Brooklyn 99: Rosa is such a classic anti-hero type in the vein of Han Solo and his male brethren, only she’s a lady. A fabulous, fabulous lady. Let’s see: She’s secretive and mysterious. She has a horrible temper and responds to IT problems Office Space style, with destruction. Her coworkers frequently refer to her as “scary,” and she can bring the meanness when she’s of a mind. But she’s also loyal to her friends, and although it will take some wheedling, willing to admit she’s made a mistake. Plus she wears a bad ass leather jacket.

Sansa Stark, from A Song of Ice and Fire: A lot of people reading these books tend to relate to Arya, but I was always much closer to Sansa when I was younger, and so she has a special place in my heart. I don’t consider femininity and politeness flaws (just the opposite, in fact), but Sansa can be incredibly naive at times, and she frequently makes poor decisions based on her ideas of how the world should be, rather than how it is, particularly at the beginning of the story. However, as her arc progresses, we see her learning from her mistakes, and coming to understand how her strengths—the aforementioned femininity and politeness—can help her thrive in a misogynistic, violent world.

harriet_welschHarriet M. Welsch, from Harriet the Spy: Harriet is the first flawed character I ever fell in love with—male or female. I read this book around the same time I was devouring The Babysitter’s Club and Sweet Valley High, and as delightful as those series are, they really don’t bring the flaws in their main characters. Harriet, though, is a piece of work. She’s nosy (I mean, c’mon, it’s right there in the title). She’s intractable. She cares more about the truth than she does tact. She yells when she doesn’t get her way. And yet all those qualities make her incredibly relatable, and at the end of the story, when she realizes just how important friendship is, what could have been a saccharine after-school-special type message becomes resonant and powerful.

Hermione Granger, from Harry Potter: She’s brilliant, yes, but she’s also a know-it-all and overly obsessed with her grades. One of her most famous of lines — “Try not to get killed, or worse, expelled”—sums up her general attitude fairly well. However, as a teenager fearful of authority, it was also basically my motto when I was in school, so I understand. Hermione would have been tedious if she had not been given those minor flaws and streaks of relatability. Was she a bit over the top? Sure, along with every other character in that series who didn’t have the initial H.P. But those flaws were what made her interesting, and let’s face it: she would have been a better protagonist than Harry.

Margot_TenebaumMargot Tenenbaum, from The Royal Tenenbaums: Margot is beautiful and talented, but she’s also secretive to a fault, and she lies to her family about her habits, simply, it seems, to prove that she can. She’s unfaithful to her husband and in love with her brother (she’s adopted). There’s a lot about Margot that should make her thoroughly despicable. And yet the film portrays her sympathetically, as someone whose flaws exist largely because of the difficulties of growing up with a father like Royal Tenenbaum. Margot is one of my favorite characters of all time. I love the beautiful complexity of her personality, and the way she slowly changes over the course of the film.

Mindy Lahiri, from The Mindy Project: Mindy is a great everygirl character. She’s a bit neurotic, a bit lazy when it comes to exercise, and a bit too focused on men. She’s also overly in love with romantic comedies, like, to a fault. However, she’s a fantastic, caring OB-GYN (and better still, we get to see her work: in the first episode, she delivers a baby with skill and aplomb). Mindy is a wonderful example of a character who is good at her job but perhaps a bit flawed in her personal life—except the show allows her to be much more than that, too.

Nancy-Botwin-CarNancy Botwin, from Weeds: Nancy is a suburban mom who starts selling marijuana after her husband dies so that she won’t have to give up her wealthy lifestyle—or uproot her kids more than she has to. In many ways Nancy is the quintessential female flawed character for me. She makes some pretty terrible decision throughout the run of the show, and she can be selfish, naive, and rash. But at the same time, her actions often come down to a desire to protect her family, and she learns and grows from her mistakes. As with so many of the ladies on this list, she’s a beautifully complex, fully-realized character.

Gloria Pritchett, from Modern Family: Gloria is the sexy, vivacious wife of an older man on a sitcom. This scenario doesn’t normally lend itself to complexity of character. And yet Gloria is given depth and flaws that round her personality beyond Stunning Eye Candy. She’s prideful and won’t back down from her opinions even when the evidence contradicts her, and she can be a bit grudgy (although not too much). She also has a terrible singing voice, although that doesn’t stop her from enjoying her karaoke machine.

Guest post by Cassandra Rose Clarke

cassandra rose clarkeCassandra Rose Clarke grew up in south Texas and currently lives in a suburb of Houston, where she writes and teaches composition at a local college. She graduated in 2006 from The University of St. Thomas with a B.A. in English, and two years later she completed her master’s degree in creative writing at The University of Texas at Austin. In 2010 she attended the Clarion West Writer’s Workshop in Seattle, where she was a recipient of the Susan C. Petrey Clarion Scholarship Fund.
Cassandra’s first adult novel, The Mad Scientist’s Daughter, was a finalist for the 2013 Philip K. Dick Award, and her YA novel, The Assassin’s Curse, was nominated for YALSA’s 2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults. Her short fiction has appeared in Strange Horizons and Daily Science Fiction.

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Interview With Danielle L. Jensen

If you follow Big Book Little Book you will already know that I loved Stolen Songbird ( read my review here), the debut novel by authorDanielle L. Jensen. You will therefore understand how excited I was to be given the opportunity to interview Danielle as part of her blog tour!

stolen songbirdFor five centuries, a witch’s curse has bound the trolls to their city beneath the ruins of Forsaken Mountain. Time enough for their dark and nefarious magic to fade from human memory and into myth. But a prophesy has been spoken of a union with the power to set the trolls free, and when Cécile de Troyes is kidnapped and taken beneath the mountain, she learns there is far more to the myth of the trolls than she could have imagined.
Cécile has only one thing on her mind after she is brought to Trollus: escape. Only the trolls are clever, fast, and inhumanly strong. She will have to bide her time, wait for the perfect opportunity.
But something unexpected happens while she’s waiting – she begins to fall for the enigmatic troll prince to whom she has been bonded and married. She begins to make friends. And she begins to see that she may be the only hope for the half-bloods – part troll, part human creatures who are slaves to the full-blooded trolls. There is a rebellion brewing. And her prince, Tristan, the future king, is its secret leader.
As Cécile becomes involved in the intricate political games of Trollus, she becomes more than a farmer’s daughter. She becomes a princess, the hope of a people, and a witch with magic powerful enough to change Trollus forever.

Congratulations on the publication of your debut novel, Stolen Songbird. I absolutely loved meeting Cecile and Co and I cannot wait to read the rest of the Malediction Trilogy. What have been the high and low points of your journey to publish author?
Thank you! I’m so glad you connected with the Trollus crew!!
High points of the journey have been signing with my agent, getting offered a book deal by Strange Chemistry, seeing my cover for the first time, and hearing positive reactions from readers. Low points were the many, many query/partial/full rejections I received over the years.

With her stunning singing voice and her unfortunate predicament of being kidnapped, Cecile is the aforementioned “stolen songbird”. Which animal best represents your personality?
Probably a donkey or a mule. I work hard, but I am known for occasionally being a stubborn a$$. Heehaw!!

During her incarceration in Trollus, Cecile empowers herself through the pursuit of knowledge, trying out many different activities in the process. Are there any activities that you have always wanted to try, but have yet to attempt?
I’ve always wanted to learn to play the piano. I have zero musical talent.

I really loved the detailed and absorbing world building- the aesthetics, the social structure, the mythology- you created in Stolen Songbird. Can you tell us about some of your inspirations for Trollus?
I pilfered quite a bit of it from 18th century French culture, although by no means should anyone try to hold me to the standards of accuracy expected of a historical novel, especially since I know I’ve plucked bits of inspiration from 19th century France for the second book, the Paris Opera being a big one. It would be fair to say that France is a huge inspiration: the excesses of the monarchy, the focus on fine arts, and the revolutionary spirit of the people – I don’t think anyone reading the novel could miss it. I’m slowly building a Pinterest board with images, but it’s not done yet.
As far as the setting goes, that is a strange and unexplainable product of my mind palace. Yes, I’ve been dying to use that phrase – it’s so gloriously pretentious.

I was really impressed with the attention you paid to the secondary characters, fleshing them out and explaining some of their motivations. I also felt as though the friendships were treated with as much importance as the romantic elements of the story. If you had to choose to befriend one of your own secondary characters, who would you pick and why?
Thank you! I adore Marc, but I’d probably choose to be friends with the twins because they’d be the most fun to hang out with.

I absolutely loved Tristan and Cecile’s chemistry and how the differences in their personalities complement each other. Tristan is a meticulous planner, and a bit of a control freak, while Cecile is much more impulsive. When it comes to your writing are you a plotter or a panther?
They are foils for each other, that is for certain!
I am a pantser at heart, but I had to provide synopses for book 2 and 3, which was very tough for me. I like to have certain key scenes outlined in my head and then to make up the rest on the fly.

Who are your favourite literary couples/friendships?
Tessa and Will from The Infernal Devices
Cole and Isabel from Shiver Trilogy (and the upcoming Sinner – so excited for that!!)
Gansey and Ronan in The Raven Cycle
Verity and Kittyhawk in Code Name Verity

I loved the pacing and tone of their relationship and was beyond delighted that Stolen Songbird didn’t contain even a hint of “insta love”. What is your least favourite romantic cliche?
Clichés don’t bother me if they are well executed, but obviously they can be a bit lame when done poorly. I have lots of pet-peeves, but almost all of them are related to crappy character development or lackluster world-building.

As I have already mentioned, I am already excitedly anticipating the 2015 release of book two in the trilogy. Are you able to give us any hints about what to expect?
I’m really excited to finish writing it – there will be champagne when I finally hand that one in. As it stands (pre-editorial), there are substantially more chapters from Tristan’s POV in the second book. You’ll also find out a lot more about the world outside of Trollus.

Thank you so much for popping by and answering my questions.
Thank you for having me!

Questions by Caroline

dannielle jensenDanielle was born and raised in Calgary, Canada. At the insistence of the left side of her brain, she graduated in 2003 from the University of Calgary with a bachelor’s degree in finance. But the right side of her brain has ever been mutinous; and in 2010, it sent her back to school to complete an entirely impractical English literature degree at Mount Royal University and to pursue publication. Much to her satisfaction, the right side shows no sign of relinquishing its domination.

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Stolen Songbird

Danielle L. Jensen

stolen songbirdFor five centuries, a witch’s curse has bound the trolls to their city beneath the ruins of Forsaken Mountain. Time enough for their dark and nefarious magic to fade from human memory and into myth. But a prophesy has been spoken of a union with the power to set the trolls free, and when Cécile de Troyes is kidnapped and taken beneath the mountain, she learns there is far more to the myth of the trolls than she could have imagined.
Cécile has only one thing on her mind after she is brought to Trollus: escape. Only the trolls are clever, fast, and inhumanly strong. She will have to bide her time, wait for the perfect opportunity.
But something unexpected happens while she’s waiting – she begins to fall for the enigmatic troll prince to whom she has been bonded and married. She begins to make friends. And she begins to see that she may be the only hope for the half-bloods – part troll, part human creatures who are slaves to the full-blooded trolls. There is a rebellion brewing. And her prince, Tristan, the future king, is its secret leader.
As Cécile becomes involved in the intricate political games of Trollus, she becomes more than a farmer’s daughter. She becomes a princess, the hope of a people, and a witch with magic powerful enough to change Trollus forever.

What is it that first attracts you to a book? For me it can be an eye catching cover, a favorite authors latest release, or the recommendation of bloggers I trust, and at other times, as was the case with Stolen Songbird, it is a synopsis which promises something unique, which sparks my curiosity and heightens my anticipation, causing me to re arrange my TBR pile, abandon my plans for a goodnights sleep and dive straight in.

Even better when that attention is not just caught, but is wrestled in to submission and then, meeting my expectations, holds me captive for the duration of the book. Before I had reached the end of the first chapter of Stolen Songbird, I knew that I had found something special and, despite the rather precarious situation our heroine had found herself in, I couldn’t help a big goofy grin.

Cecile was a fantastic protagonist. Yes, she was a talented singer who had been foretold as the breaker of a centuries old curse (wait until you read how well that turns out!) and yet there is something quintessentially normal about her. She is prideful, strong headed and inquisitive- but with good reason- She empowers herself through the acquisition of knowledge. She recognized that things must change, and that she has a role to play, but doesn’t jump in without some trepidation and consideration.

Cecile’s first person account was peppered with Tristan’s ( the aforementioned troll prince) observations and thoughts. Tristan with his complicated, contradictory behavior, has his meticulous eye on the long game, the question is, which Tristan- the sarcastic, bored, egotistical prince or the garden stalking, peacekeeper, revolutionary- is the real Tristan?

I really enjoyed how Cecile and Tristan’s personalities collided and complemented each other. I loved that there wasn’t a single hint of insta love and that each increment of trust, of friendship, of affection was hard, if not amusingly, won.

While I adored our protagonists Cecile and Tristan, I was most impressed with the amount of time the author dedicated to fleshing our secondary characters. Each was allowed to express their personalities, to exist independent of our main protagonists- a very likeable male character with a tragic backstory a heart of gold who offers the hand of friendship without a hint of love triangle, a admirable female rival, a despicable villain with questionable but clear motivations. I am as excited to learn the fates of the supporting cast as I am that of the main protagonists.

I really loved the world building in Stolen Songbird. From the stunning aesthetics, the political intrigue, and complex social structure, through to how Trollus was grounded in familiar but uniquely interpreted history and mythology. All of which combined to make a really absorbing world.

I found it particularly interesting to experience the juxtaposition of the ugly cruelty and maliciousness of the Trollus society in contrast to those elements that were beautiful and commendable.

I started the book with the expectation that I would read a few chapters before bed, unfortunately the story had other ideas. I was held ransom by the beautiful story telling, the wonderful world building, the likeable, flawed characters and a slow burning relationship, which kept me on my toes.

I was unable to put the book down until I had reached the final page. Even then, despite the late (or should I say very early) hour and after more than 400 pages, the book felt far too short.

Thankfully Stolen Songbird is the first book in the Malediction trilogy, and so I know that there is plenty more to come. Has the author made it easy for me to wait out the next installment? What do you think?! Stolen Songbird is a book that ends on the kind of cliffhanger that has you madly searching for more pages. Just like that I found my self fully invested in another trilogy.

Verdict: Trolls, magic, rebellion, a hidden kingdom, a complicated Prince and an inquisitive heroine – this gorgeous grownup fairytale ticked all of my boxes.

Reviewed by Caroline

Publisher: Strange Chemistry
Publication Date: April 2014
Format: eARC
Pages: 324
Genre: Fantasy
Age: YA
Reviewer: Caroline
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: Debut author
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When The World Was Flat (And we were in love)

Ingrid Jonach
when the world was flatLooking back, I wonder if I had an inkling that my life was about to go from ordinary to extraordinary.
When sixteen-year-old Lillie Hart meets the gorgeous and mysterious Tom Windsor-Smith for the first time, it’s like fireworks — for her, anyway. Tom looks as if he would be more interested in watching paint dry; as if he is bored by her and by her small Nebraskan town in general.
But as Lillie begins to break down the walls of his seemingly impenetrable exterior, she starts to suspect that he holds the answers to her reoccurring nightmares and to the impossible memories which keep bubbling to the surface of her mind — memories of the two of them, together and in love.
When she at last learns the truth about their connection, Lillie discovers that Tom has been hiding an earth-shattering secret; a secret that is bigger — and much more terrifying and beautiful — than the both of them. She also discovers that once you finally understand that the world is round, there is no way to make it flat again.

I can’t quite put my finger on what initially grabbed my attention with Ingrid’s novel but I think it may have been the title. The play on words about the world being flat and there being love whilst now the world is round and bigger and far more complicated seemed to promise a whole dimension of intricacies.

And indeed so it was, but not in the way I’d expected.

To be completely honest with you although Ingrid Jonach’s love story was lovely it was rather simple and straightforward in itself. That said I take nothing away from it. But what truly made me appreciate this book was the symbolism that was woven into it and the concept behind it.

In this story initially Tom and Lillie’s love is like the world Lillie thinks they live in. As the title implies to Lillie the world is (metaphorically speaking) flat. It’s uncomplicated and three dimensional, what you see is what you get and is beautiful in its simplicity. But Tom knows better, and this world is not flat, in fact it’s not even round. To use his words as he teases Lillie “the world is hexagonal” and it is about to challenge Lillie’s beliefs and herself as an individual.

Ingrid chose to narrate this story from Lillie’s point of view but written in retrospect. The Lillie who tells us the story is the one at the end of it and although she attempts to keep in mind the thoughts of the Lillie at the time of the story occasionally she does slip up, and admits that what she thought back then when the world was flat was very mistaken and blissfully naïve. The recounting of her story was done in an almost clinical manner, and although she says how she felt the feelings felt delivered in a distant manner. Although this style of writing felt detached to the present day characters and limited my ability to bond with them, it allowed to underline the symbolisms, themes and bigger meaning of the tale.

For me the true beauty of this book did not lie in the characters themselves or their story but the world around them and how it affected them and their love. The way Lillie always repeats key words three times like a mantra, almost as though she needs the reassurance that everything is true, almost as though she already knows that something in this reality is off kilter. The way in which she turns sounds into words because her reality is speaking to her and warning her. How a love that transcends time and life is beautifully simple, because love in itself as a concept is not complicated. It’s the people and the world around them that taint it and twist it. So when the world is flat everything is smooth and straightforward, like it’s surface. But when you make it round, give it three dimensions….. everything is possible, and love becomes complicated.

Verdict: Reading this novel brought me back to my time at school in English literature where I learnt to appreciate the beauty and the intricacies of themes and subtleties left behind by the author to make us wonder and reflect.
Reviewed by Pruedence

Publisher: Strange Chemistry
Publication Date: August 2013
Format: eARC
Pages: 272
Genre: Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Romance
Age: YA
Reviewer: Pruedence
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: Debut Author
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A Pirates Wish

Cassandra Rose Clarke

a pirates wishAfter setting out to break the curse that binds them together, the pirate Ananna and the assassin Naji find themselves stranded on an enchanted island in the north with nothing but a sword, their wits, and the secret to breaking the curse: complete three impossible tasks. With the help of their friend Marjani and a rather unusual ally, Ananna and Naji make their way south again, seeking what seems to be beyond their reach.
Unfortunately, Naji has enemies from the shadowy world known as the Mists, and Ananna must still face the repercussions of going up against the Pirate Confederation. Together, Naji and Ananna must break the curse, escape their enemies — and come to terms with their growing romantic attraction.

The Pirates Wish is book two in the Assassins Curse duology and as such this review may contain unintentional spoilers for book one.

It’s no secret that I loved The Assassins Curse (read my review here), and that I began agonizing over the wait for The Pirates Wish from the moment I turned the final page of the first book. As one of my most anticipated releases for 2013, you can imagine my delight at getting my hands on an advanced readers copy, and shortening that wait by a few weeks.

I was immediately transported back to the creepy and disorientating Isles of Sky. Weeks after the events of Assassins Curse, barely tolerating the cold, rain and monotony, Naji and Anna are no nearer to finding the cure to the curse and their misery was palpable.

Into this environment of listlessness Cassandra introduces a new character, a manticore (with an unpronounceable name), who’s uniqueness and humorous partnership with Ananna is a sparkling light in the gloom.

The introduction of new friends doesn’t detract from our reunion with our beloved characters. We learn more about Marjani and the circumstances which led to her life on the high seas. While I appreciated the friendship and support she provided to Ananna in the first book, in The Pirates Wish her mentorship of Ananna is more than just instructive. Naji is still very much strong, silent and brooding. But like Ananna, through better acquaintance, we learn to read Naji’s non-verbal cues more clearly.

After all of her experiences, I was not at all surprised to find that Annana is not quite the bolshie, over confident, firecracker we met in book one. While she retains her distinctive voice, quick witted snark, and fierce loyalty, she is at times winey and self serving, and I found her naive attempts to catch Naji’s attention and make him jealous, squirming uncomfortable. Ananna’s flaws, however, make her more believable as character, marked her growing up, and actually endeared her to me even more.

At one point, as Cassandra’s imagination conjured up an unexpected twist in the quest to break Naji’s curse, I found it difficult to suspend my disbelief. Although the twist was firmly grounded in Cassandra’s excellent world building, It was just a tad too “Disney” for me.

While the ending may not have been the traditional HEA ( I have an increasing respect for Clarkes unique perspective of love and romance. Read my review of Clarke’s The Mad Scientists Daughter here) that romance fans like myself crave, it was absolutely perfect for the characters and so beautifully written that I have already re-read the final chapter twice.

After bemoaning the trilogy formula, and the agony of committing to a series for two years or more, the current spate of duologys (that’s a sequel to you and I) have come as a welcome relief. However, I am one who is never satisfied and I can’t help wishing that we could spend more time in Ananna and Naji’s lives (yes I want to have my cake and eat it!).

However, I am happy to be consoled with the news that although The Assassin/Pirates story is complete, Cassandra will be revisiting the world in The Wizards Promise, another duology for Strange Chemistry (expected publication 2014).

Verdict: For me Cassandra Rose Clarke is an author who’s work is synonymous with one click preorder.

Reviewed by Caroline

Publisher: Strange Chemistry
Publication Date: June 2013
Format: eARC
Pages: 336
Genre: Adventure, Fantasy, Magic
Age: YA
Reviewer: Caroline
Source: Netgalley
Challenge: None
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The Assassins Curse

Cassandra Rose Clarke
Ananna of the Tanarau abandons ship when her parents try to marry her off to an allying pirate clan: she wants to captain her own boat, not serve as second-in-command to her handsome yet clueless fiance. But her escape has dire consequences when she learns the scorned clan has sent an assassin after her.
And when the assassin, Naji, finally catches up with her, things get even worse. Ananna inadvertently triggers a nasty curse — with a life-altering result. Now Ananna and Naji are forced to become uneasy allies as they work together to break the curse and return their lives back to normal. Or at least as normal as the lives of a pirate and an assassin can be.

The daughter of high ranking pirate clan leader, Ananna is no Disney princess waiting for a handsome prince to come and sweep her off of her feet and in to a hasty teen marriage.

Born and raised with deck underfoot, the wind in her hair and salt spray on her skin, Ananna’s plans for the future are filled with adventure, freedom and the dream of commanding her own ship of cut-throats and thieves.

Betrayed by her parents, who bargained her freedom for strategic advantage, facing a life of control and restriction with a man she doesn’t trust or respect and with her hopes slipping like sand through her fingers, Ananna utilizes her skills as a pirate princess and makes her bid for freedom on the back of a bedraggled camel!

I was first attracted by the uniqueness of the cover. Conjuring images straight out of One Thousand and One Arabian Nights and hinting at the swashbuckling adventure within. A peruse at the synopsis (Pirates and Assassins! Who could resist?) placed the book firmly at the top of my wish list!

The Assassins Curse certainly lived up to its promise. On the one hand you are flung at break neck speed in to a world of magic, dominated by an organized hierarchy of pirates and a shadowy brother hood of hired assassins. Racing from one heart pounding action scene to another, fighting for survival and personal freedom.

Simultaneously Clarke hands the reader a gorgeous meandering, and at times deliciously awkward, story of loyalty, trust and growing friendship between two outwardly strong characters whose spiky shells mask cores of vulnerability.

So ensconced in Clarke’s world building and accepting of Ananna’s voice I didn’t question Ananna’s worldview and her pride in her ethically challenging heritage. I enjoyed the juxtaposition of cut-throat pirate with honest narrator, compassionate human being and loyal protective friend.

I adore Ananna. A free spirited, feisty and independent heroine with a sharp knife and even sharper tongue, she didn’t wait around in her ivory tower for a prince charming to rescue her, and she used all of her experiences and resourcefulness to save herself and her unlikely companion, Naji.

Ahhhh, Naji! Who can resist a bad boy, and I doubt you could choose much worse than a black magic wielding, tattooed assassin, who’s been hired to kill you!!

I have a soft spot, for the bad boy with a troubled past, a dark secret and a hidden soft center. The YA genre is liberally sprinkled with these brooding, over protective, and at times almost chauvinistic male protagonists.

The enjoyment of these characters, for me is a guilty pleasure. The guilty element comes from the uneasily feeling I get as I wonder what the behavior of these “romantic” leads is teaching our daughters about relationships, dependence and acceptable behavior. I loved how Clarke took the archetype of possessive protector and turned it on its head.

I am very glad that a blogging friend fore warned me that The Assassins Curse was in fact a part of a series and not a stand-alone. While the book doesn’t conclude with a traditional cliffhanger it has certainly left me desperate for more.

Verdict: Marooned in the middle of Ananna’s story and desperate to read the conclusion, I wish I could fashion a raft and paddle until the 2013 release of A Pirate’s Wish is in sight.

Reviewed by Caroline

Publisher: Strange Chemistry
Publication Date: October 2012
Format: eARC
Pages: 350
Genre: Fantasy
Age: YA
Reviewer: Caroline
Source: Netgalley
Challenge: Debut Author
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Poltergeeks Blog Tour: Interview with Sean Cummings

Today on Big Book Little Book we are delighted to welcome Sean Cummings as he celebrates the upcoming release of Poltergeeks.

15-year-old Julie Richardson is about to learn that being the daughter of a witch isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. When she and her best friend, Marcus, witness an elderly lady jettisoned out the front door of her home, it’s pretty obvious to Julie there’s a supernatural connection.
In fact, there’s a whisper of menace behind increasing levels of poltergeist activity all over town. After a large-scale paranormal assault on Julie’s high school, her mother falls victim to the spell Endless Night. Now it’s a race against time to find out who is responsible or Julie won’t just lose her mother’s soul, she’ll lose her mother’s life.

What was your inspiration for Poltergeeks?
I’m not sure if I had a specific inspiration for the book other than waking up one Sunday morning and thinking that POLTERGEEKS would be a cool title for a young adult project. Being the huge urban fantasy fan that I am, I thought about it for a while and considered how I would write something that might be attractive to young people – immediately ideas started rushing to my word processor as I started plugging away at a few paragraphs. The overall concept of a teen witch and her dorky best friend sort of spawned as a result.

What is it that attracted you to writing urban fantasy?
What attracts me? Very simply, urban fantasy is just plain old unbelievably cool. There’s no boundaries with the genre – we’ve got everything from demons vs. angels to wizards working for the Chicago PD to soul collectors for hell. It’s just a genre that offers up wild adventures where good vs. evil is played out in the back alleys of your home town. I just love UF.

Why did you choose to set Poltergeeks in Calgary, Canada?
Calgary is the city where I grew up so I’m writing about a place that I know like the back of my hand. As well, there’s not a great deal in the way of UF that takes place in Canada and all of my books with the exception of UNSEEN WORLD take place in Calgary.

How is work progressing on Student Bodies?
It’s done. My agent loved my revisions and I sent the full manuscript off to my editor Amanda Rutter at the end of August. I expect there will be more revisions, but it’s a tremendous story. It’s very dark where POLTERGEEKS is a wild ride.

As a Published author of three adult novels, what motivated you to write a YA series?
The challenge. I love the challenge of trying out something I’ve never done before. POLTERGEEKS is the book that landed me an agent and got me a book deal with Strange Chemistry Books. I’m really lucky that I woke one Sunday morning and thought it might be cool to write a YA book called POLTERGEEKS.

From “home-schooled” Julie’s training in witchcraft to the numerous nods to Star Wars, the Apprenticeship-master relationship was a reoccurring theme in Poltergeeks. What is the most important lesson you have learnt in your apprenticeship as a writer?
That the apprenticeship never ends. You’re always looking for ways to become a better writer. There’s always room to tighten up your dialogue or explore different directions. It’s a craft – it truly is a craft.

Who are your personal masters of story telling? Which Storytellers have most inspired you as a reader and writer?
Stephen King, obviously. But also John Saul who writes scary books that almost always involved children or teenagers. His earlier books are sort of milestones for my life in terms of what I read. I remember exactly where I was when I bought a paperback copy of WHEN THE WIND BLOWS – I was in Junior High and I bought a copy at a 7-11 on my way to school. But even now, at 45 years of age, I’m still inspired by the quality of a good book. Chris F. Holm’s THE COLLECTOR series is bloody well brilliant. Chuck Wendig’s Miriam Black is one of the most messed up and darkly fascinating characters that I’ve read in a long time. I love the whimsy of Simon R. Green and of course, Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden always entertains.

I understand from yourwebsite that you still maintain a “day job”. How do you manage to fit your writing around your work and family life?
Every writer dreams of writing full time and I’m one of them. But to make that dream a reality you need to sacrifice a lot. For me, I’m up early at around 3 or 4 AM and I write until I go to work. I write during long weekends. I write during vacation time. It’s hard to maintain the balance, but I’ve got a lot of support from my spouse and family, so I’m really very lucky that way.

Do you use anything to sustain you during the writing process? Coffee? Chocolate? Music?
Does spell check count? You know, I actually envy those authors who can write a book with music playing in the background. For me, I need silence because I sort of zone out into the story and I can’t stand being distracted. Coffee helps. A good chocolate chip cookie goes a long way 🙂

If Poltergeeks came with a soundtrack which artists would feature on it?
That’s a darned good question. I think there would be a lot of RUSH. A smattering of Iron Maiden. A bit of John Williams thrown in for good measure and probably a lot of kettle drums strings.

One of my favorite things about Poltergeeks was the realistic portrayal of the mother-daughter relationship. The way you captured the Juxtaposition of a daughters continuing dependence upon her mother and her need to express her independence and identity, really struck a cord with my memories of my adolescent relationship with my mother. As someone who is neither a mother nor a daughter, how did you go about creating such a realistic relationship?
Ha! I got batted in the head by my editor Amanda Rutter who reminded me that mothers and daughters have that love/hate thing going on. I think every teenager wants to be independent. I think every parent (myself included) fears for their children and wants to step in to shield them from the realities of life. I drew on my own fears as a parent and I think the friction between Julie and her mother is genuine.

In Poltergeeks Julie learns that the most powerful form of magic is that which is inspired by strong emotions. What inspires strong emotions in you?
Fear of one’s own mortality. I’m officially middle aged – I feel like I have so much to write and so much to say, I suspect that’s one of the reasons I write so much because becoming a successful author is pretty much my sole focus in life at this stage of the game.

When it comes to learning the truth from a protector spirit the skill appear to be in asking the right questions. If you could ask anyone, living or dead, one question and receive a completely truthfully answer, who would you question and what would you ask?
Where did they bury Jimmy Hoffa? No, actually I think I’d ask whether or not something comes next – you know, once we’ve lived out a full life. I’d want to know whether this is it or there’s something else out there. I’d like to believe there is – it’s one of the reasons I write UF.

Sean Cummings is a comic book geek, superhero junkie, zombie fan and a total nerd. (He’s also a gold mine of completely useless information about films made prior to 1960. Don’t get him started on “Arsenic and Old Lace” because he won’t shut up about it.) He’s been writing since his Grade Five teacher Ms. Flowers said that he might possibly have some talent and that he should continue writing…
…which he did and still does every single day.
His interests include Doctor Who and really, all Time Lords wherever they may be. He’s an English Premier League fan with a soft spot for Blackburn (Gah! Relegated!!), Norwich City FC and Tottenham Hotspur. (Although Spurs consistently break his heart more often than not.) When he’s not geeking out online or watching football (soccer) on the dish, he can be found in his home office, writing away like a man possessed.
Sean’s published works include Shade Fright (Snowbooks 2010) Funeral Pallor (Snowbooks 2010) and Unseen World (Snowbooks 2011). He is currently working on the follow up to Poltergeeks, STUDENT BODIES.

A huge thank you to Sean for taking the time to stop by Big Book Little Book and providing such deep and honest answers to our questions.

Poltergeeks will be published in the UK on the 4th of October 2012 and is available to preorder now via Amazon.

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