Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Carve the Mark

On a planet where violence and vengeance rule, in a galaxy where some are favored by fate, everyone develops a currentgift, a unique power meant to shape the future. While most benefit from their currentgifts, Akos and Cyra do not—their gifts make them vulnerable to others’ control. Can they reclaim their gifts, their fates, and their lives, and reset the balance of power in this world?

Cyra is the sister of the brutal tyrant who rules the Shotet people. Cyra’s currentgift gives her pain and power—something her brother exploits, using her to torture his enemies. But Cyra is much more than just a blade in her brother’s hand: she is resilient, quick on her feet, and smarter than he knows.

Akos is from the peace-loving nation of Thuvhe, and his loyalty to his family is limitless. Though protected by his unusual currentgift, once Akos and his brother are captured by enemy Shotet soldiers, Akos is desperate to get his brother out alive—no matter what the cost. When Akos is thrust into Cyra’s world, the enmity between their countries and families seems insurmountable. They must decide to help each other to survive—or to destroy one another. 

Disclaimer. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Star-crossed lovers? Check. Nature versus nurture? Check? Space? Wars? Intergalactic power struggles? Check, check, check! Then why was this book not half as exciting as it should have been? All the ingredients were there, this one just didn't come together for me the way it should have based on what it contained. You know when you're really excited to read a book? You expect it to be great. Your imagination is already spinning all the ways the story could possibly go. You lock the front door, put your phone on silent and start reading. and it quickly becomes clear that the book is not going to live up to your expectations.

I read and enjoyed most of Veronica Roth's Divergant series (as in, I liked the first two, and I don't want to talk about the third one). I wasn't blown away by them, but they were enjoyable enough that I would have picked up another book by the author. In terms of writing style, story ambition and storytelling, Carve the Mark is a definite step up from Divergant. That's not to say that Divergant wasn't good, it just feels like Veronia Roth's writing has matured. The switching povs - from first person for Cyra, the third person for Akos - was a bit jarring at first, but ended up being a nice twist on the usual switching third person or standard first person pov that I'm used to reading in most other books.

That said, despite the first person perspective, I couldn't connect with Cyra as a character, mainly because she was written so inconsistently. It felt like the author wanted her to be too many things, so she came across as more of a charactature than a character. She's supposed to be in constant pain from her currentgift (or drugged up on a nauseatingly strong painkiller), yet no one bests her in a fight. She's supposed to be strong and resilient, yet she's a complete slave to her brother's whims, immediately backtracking every time she stand up for herself and refuses to do as she's told. He tells her to torture and hurt people and, despite showing on one occasion that she can easily turn this "gift" on her brother if he pisses her off, and she just does it. Even if she doesn't believe the victim deserves it, and to the point where the lingering pain she causes leads them to kill themselves. Roth wants her to be a badass with an armful of kills, but seems afraid of going all in and following through on what that would mean, perhaps for fear of making Cyra unlikable. She wants Cyra to be vulnerable and suffering, but doesn't want to get too deep into the harsh reality of what it means to live with a truly debilitating condition. And it's that level of calculated cynicism when writing a character that stops me from reading them as a real person.

Akos fairs better in the story. His hate to love relationship with Cyra was a little by the numbers, but he was a much more believable character because he didn't suffer from the same "woe is me" backstory that Cyra was hobbled by. I liked that he wasn't a flawless, alpha-male, sweep-in-and-show-the-protagonist-that-all-she-really-need-is-a-man-to-sort-out-her-life, type of character. Instead, what we get it two flawed individuals who ultimately believe that they can be better than they are, and support each other to get there. No one is picking anyone up off the floor here, they're helping each other to stand up, and that element of the story, I was down with. I've never been a fan of stories where the supposedly strong female lead character is, despite what the author tries to tell you, ultimately rescued by the love interest, or simply swaps one guy for another as a means of clumsily demonstrating character development.
I think my main issue with this story however, was just that it never felt like the galaxy-spanning space adventure that it sold itself to be. This should have been YA Star Wars, but everything feels so oddly contained. At one point, Cyra says "this is a war" to Akos. But the problem is, it never feels like it is. The stakes never feel that high. The world - spanning entire planets - never feels that vast. Ryzek - the big bad of the story, never feels like a credible threat. It's all very well humanising your villains, but Ryzek comes across as a weasely coward, with no presence or charisma to speak of. I just couldn't believe that this man was the leader of such a fearsome people, much less that he had the Svengali-esque influence needed to rally support and overthrough governments.
There's been a lot of talk online about the racial undertones of this book, and whether it perpetuates the lazy and incredibly damaging stereotype of the dark-skinned aggressors. This is always a thorny subject, especially in a genre that's literally crying out for diversity (check out the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign). When you read the first few chapters of this book with that in your mind, the peaceful, light-skinned Thuve people being constantly hounded and harassed by the decidedly darker-skinned Shotet does read a little awkwardly to say the least. Add in the Shotet's brutal nature - right there in the book blurb - grass skirts, face painting and tribal "kill" tattoos, and you find yourself wondering how this issue wasn't picked up by somebody, anybody, involved in bringing this book to publication.

However, I still accepted a review copy of this book, wanting to make up my own mind rather than dismissing it entirely based on other people's opinions. Did I see where people who suggested this were coming from? Yes. Would I have read it in the story had I not seen it suggested before? Probably not. There's certainly a vein of cultural supremacy at the beginning of the book that plays the more "western" culture/people/character as the good guy - something that's depressingly common in YA - but I have to admit, I wasn't absorbed enough in the book to read it this way as the story went on. I just wasn't envisioning the characters and the world the way I do when I'm really swept away by a story. Had I been, I may well have seen this as more problematic. The thing is, I do genuinely believe that the stereotyping here was unintentional, and, frustratingly, is something that could have easily been identified and remedied before this book made it to the shelves.

Ultimately, this was one of those reads for me where the sum of its parts was greater than it's total. All my "must read" boxes were ticked, but Carve the Mark just didn't grab me and the ending annoyed me more than it intrigued me. The story was wrapping up, and then there is quite literally a single sentence ending the book which dumps a completely random plot twist in out of absolutely nowhere, and further undermines an already pretty weak villain. All that said, I get why some people are raving about this book, just as I get why some people are ripping it to shreds. It has all the elements of a YA fantasy must read, and perhaps that's why it wasn't for me. I prefer stories that cover a few bases and cover them well to stories than try and cover all the bases and stretch themselves too thin.

Friday, 13 January 2017

The Fate of the Tearling

In less than a year, Kelsea Glynn has grown from an awkward teenager into a powerful monarch and a visionary leader. And as she has come into her own as the Queen of the Tearling, she has transformed her realm. But in her quest to end corruption and restore justice, she has made many enemies - chief among them the evil and feared Red Queen, who ordered the armies of Mortmesne to march against the Tear and crush them.

To protect her people from such a devastating invasion, Kelsea did the unthinkable - naming the Mace, the trusted head of her personal guards, Regent in her place, she surrendered herself and her magical sapphires to her enemy. But the Mace will not rest until he and his men rescue their sovereign from her prison in Mortmesne. So, the endgame has begun and the fate of Queen Kelsea - and the Tearling itself - will be revealed...

The Fate of the Tearling closes with the author acknowledgements, as most books do. What makes this one different is that it's the first I've seen that contains an almost-apology to the readers. It's unusual, to say the least! But contains a warning that not all answers are given in this series. And the author is not kidding. There are so many unanswered questions, so many dangling or unresolved (at least satisfactorily) plot threads and things that made absolutely no sense!

After the pure fantasy of The Queen of the Tearling, I was a bit surprised when The Invasion of the Tearling started to veer towards sci-fi, something that continued at pace in Fate. There's still an element of fantasy here, even if the magic powers that are wielded by some characters remain frustratingly vague and unexplained, but with religion getting a poke in the ribs and time travel thrown in, Fate seems to be more sci-fi dystopia than anything else. It's a strange mix that sits uneasily at times, leaving the story muddled and confused in places. As with Invasion, we get dual timelines, this time with a new character from the past. These parts - from the pov of character Katie - were my favourite parts of the book. The fall of the Tearling's perfect utopia to fear, suspicion and the rise of religion is fantastic.

Unfortunately, the present day story doesn't fare quite so well. There are so many disparate characters, including new ones who seem to bring nothing to the stroy (Jeval anyone?) that the central characters from the last two books get lost in the mire. What happened to my beloved Pen?! He's mentioned about twice, once drunking and crying over Kelsea, and once more telling her that he can't be around her anymore (their "relationship" is one of the many plot threads that feels like it's been short-changed), and that's it! Poor guy gets about two pages of book time! Things get a little better in the second half of the book when the ranks are thinned a bit, but it still feels like the main plot from Queen has faded rather than being enhanced. After two books of teasing, the reveal of who Kelsea's father is was indeed the damp squib I was expecting. It's revealed in a throwaway sentence and has no bearing on the rest of the story.

There's some nice humanisation of the mysterious Red Queen, who was the antagonist for book one and much of book two, but I do prefer my big bads to remain just that. Back stories and tragic childhoods do go some way to watering down a really good villain. The creepy Brenna makes a return too, but her presence feels unnecessary, and her quick departure feels totally wasted. Sure, she instigates a plot point with the Red Queen, but it's nothing that justifies the characters presence.

I absolutely loved Kelsea Glynn in Queen. She kicked ass and took names, not afraid to stand up for her beliefs and her people. The scene where she gets coronated with a knife in her back was an act of utter badassery! After becoming a pale shadow of her former self in Invasion, I was happy to see her snap out of her funk and be a bit more like the old Kelsea. Unfortunately, she doesn't get many opportunities to show off here, what with being imprisoned for most of the story, but it did remind me why I fell so in love with the first book.

The ending could be a redeemer for you, depending on how you like your twists, but for me, I just found that it came out of nowhere and was confusing as hell! I had to read the final three chapters about three times to work out what happened - not to mention how, and I'm still not 100% sure I got it right! Time travel is a tricky beast to get right, often leaving more questions than it answers, and, unfortunately, that's what happened here for me. It also meant the the big showdown that I was expecting between Kelsea and the mysterious Orphan is completely glossed over and robs the book of the dramatic showdown ending I was looking forward to.

Taking away my issues with the story, I still love Erika Johansen's writing. She's without a doubt a fantastic storyteller, and paints a vivid picture with just a few words. I really think that if the story was tighter, I'd have rated this book much higher on the strength of the writing alone. It's not utterly flawless though. There were two appallingly written sex scenes. They were just . . . weird. They came out of nowhere, were confusing as hell to read (I had to read them a few times to confirm that sex had actually occured) and were about sexy as being rubbed down with a raw chicken. I'm not sure what tone the author was going for, but it did not work. And, I'm sorry, but if you've never had sex before and someone abruptly "shoves" themselves inside you with no warm up, you don't immediately orgasm, you have to be prised down from the ceiling!

If you'd asked me when I'd finished Queen (which I loved) whether the conclusion to this series was a disappointment, I'd have said hell yes! If you'd asked me when I'd finished Invasion (which I hated for the most part but ended up liking overall by the end), I'd have said probably. But if you'd asked me part way through Fate, I'd have said no. This series started so strong, but I felt that it tried to be too many things and ended up losing sight of the heart of its story and characters. Maybe I wouldn't have been so hard on this book if the first in the series hadn't been so fantastic. As it is, this is a disappointing end to a steadily declining trilogy.

Sunday, 8 January 2017


A hero has fallen, and darkness threatens a splintered Camelot. In the midst of turmoil, the last hope for the kingdom is Morgan le Fay. Morgan is both feared and revered . . . and currently in prison for treason.

In the wake of King Uther’s tragic death, the wicked Mordred is closing in on young King Arthur, and the boy king turns to Morgan for help. Freed from her imprisonment through his order, Morgan searches for a way to protect him. But she is still an outcast, and no one believes her suspicions about Mordred.

To save King Arthur, Morgan must reach the greatest Royal Relic in the world—the Grail—before Mordred does. It’s a journey that will challenge her in ways she’s never been challenged before. Traveling deep into a land of darkness, she will need to overcome the ghosts of her past to find her true power.

Disclaimer; I was provided with a free copy of this book by Realm Lovejoy in exchange for an honest review.

I loved the first book in the Le Fay series, Henge. The mix of Arthurian legend, modern-world technology and magic was a winning combination for me! I wasn't as keen on the second book, Sword, which suffered from some pacing issues, but I couldn't wait to see where Morgan's journey went in book three.

Book two in the series may have been a bit slow, but Grail has no such problems! The pace zips along at a rate of knots and it kept me hooked right the way through. With the story following Morgan as she spends the first half of the book in various stages of imprisonment and the second half on a quest to beat the villainous Mordred to the mythical grail, I should have had the same issue with this book that I did with Sword. But for some reason, the "story of two halves" approach seemed to work here. It just felt more connected and engaging.

It was good to see Morgan getting back to be the badass that she was in Henge. She's a little more subdued - both by her own doubts and the ban on her using her fire magic - but this darker, more introveted Morgan makes sense after everything she's been through. Her will they/won't they relationship with Merlin continues to be one of my favourite parts of the book. Over three books, they've flitted between friends, to alternately loving and hating each other, and there's no resolution here, but it's a lovely, bittersweet relationship that changes them both. I'm still not a fan of Lancelot. I know he's not supposed to be much older than Morgan, but the fact that he's the head of the king's guards means that I automatically think of him as being much older than the teenage protagonists. As a result, I've always found him a little sleazy. I felt so sorry for Arthur though! He may be the king, but he's a borderline suicidal teenager who's hopelessly out of his depth and completely at the whims of those around him. I hope he gets himself together later in the series. I'm thinking an ass-kicking, Clive Owen in the movie King Arthur-type of character!

After Arthur is kidnapped by the rebellious Luminaries, Morgan and Merlin are sent on a quest to beat Mordred to the mythical grail, which was easily my favourite part of the book! All mysterious islands, abandoned villages and bloodthirsty creatures. I love that stuff! And the final showdown between Morgan and Mordred - magic a-blazing! - was spectacular!

I did have some issues with the story The constant plot contrivances to keep Morgan around Arthur did get on my nerves a little. I mean, this is someone who's been sentenced to death for killing of the king and conspiring to overthrow his family as far as people believe, and not only is she not executed, she's assigned to work as a sort of janitor in the new king Arhtur's castle, with the only caveat being that she must stay away from him. Again, this is someone who, as far as most people are concerned, is guilty of regicide. And she's put to work in the castle. Unsupervised on occasion. And then she's upgraded to train as a knight! Expecting me to believe that Camelot would allow their most despised criminal to be trained as a knight while roaming freely around the castle requires a huge suspension of disbelief, and I'd like to have seen a more satisfying explanation for it.

Grail ends on another cliffhanger - although this one wasn't as frustrating as the one in Sword - but manages to wrap up the story nicely while still laying the foundations for the next book.

Thursday, 29 December 2016

British Books Challenge 2017

New year, new reading challenge! After what can only be described as an epic fail with my 2016 Goodreads reading challenge (reading 100 books in a year sounded perfectly doable back in January), I'm going to have a go at the British Books Challenge. Hosted this year by Chelle Toy over at Tales of Yesterday, the challenge aims to get more people supporting and reading books by British authors. Hopefully I'll do better at this one than I did my 2016 challenge!

I'm pretty rubbish at planning my reading ahead and I have to confess that I'm not particularly savvy when it comes to sussing an author's nationality, so I'll be on the look out for recommendations. As for the books I'm planning on reading in 2017 . . . well, the list is pretty sparse to be honest, British authors or otherwise, just because I'm so underorganised, but these are a few that spring to mind. I'll be adding to the list here and on Goodreads so it's a work in progress.

The Scarecrow Queen - Melinda Salisbury 

I loved The Sin Eater's Daughter and The Sleeping Prince, books #1 and #2 in this series, so I've had this book on pre-order for what feels like forever. I'm still hoping for a happy ending, I'm ever the optimist!

Heartland - Lucy Hounsom

I read Starborn last year, purely because I loved the cover! I've been confused about the release date for the next book in the series because Amazon seems to move the date every time I check. But Lucy Hounsom assures me that it's out late next year (August from memory), so I continue to wait with bated breath!

Paper Butterflies - Lisa Heathfield

I read Seed by Lisa Heathfield for Ally at Reading in the Rain's online book club. I loved it, and Paper Butterflies immediately went on my tbr list. Unfortunately I never got round to reading it, so it can count towards my British Books challenge in 2017.

A Monster Calls - Patrick Ness

I read The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness for Ally's book club (we've read some great books!) and this one ended up on my list too. But, like Paper Butterflies, I just never got to it in 2016.

The Lie Tree - Frances Hardinge

A near miss in my monthly book group. I voted for this one, but most of the guys picked A Year of Living Danishly instead. Still, The Lie Tree immediately went on my ever expanding TBR.

Monday, 21 November 2016

Songs of Everealm #3 - Song of Sorrow

Nothing has gone according to Princess Sarita's plan. From near drowning to almost plummeting off the side of a mountain, she has had to face many obstacles that have dared to come between her and her quest for magic. Unfortunately, the challenge she must face now is the desires of her own heart.

A crazy scheme could be the answer to everyone's dreams or the end of them...

Two disclaimers to get out the way before I start this review.

First up, I was given a free copy of Song of Sorrow by author J D Wright in exchange for an honest review.

Second, I recently started watching Atlanta on FX, reawakening my obsession with Donald Glover that I thought I'd got over when I stopped binge-watching Community. But now it's back with a venegeance, so this review's GIFs are all Donald Glover, all the time. Enjoy!

It's no secret that I love the Everealm series (you can check out my various reviews of the seven books in the series here).

After a failed expedition to gain magic, Princess Sarita has returned home to Junacave, resigned to the idea that she will never have magic. It's not all bad though. Because in Everealm people with magic can't be a king or queen, Sarita's now free to pursue her relationship with King Cassidy without having to consciously abandon her dream. Except it isn't that simple. Cassidy's still determined to make her follow through on her plan, even if it costs him the girl he loves. It's a plot that could be resolved with a five minute conversation. But it isn't. And that's not a bad thing, because it means we get another Everealm book.

That said, the characters need their heads banging together! Honestly, it's a little infuriating to read another book of aguing between Sarita and Cassidy (and to a lesser extent, Gabby and Oliver), when it's not entirely clear what they're fighting about. Everyone's acknowledged their feelings to themselves, but they're still holding out. And just when you think the characters are on the verge of confronting their emotions and having a conversation, they immediately begin arguing again. Why aren't these guys coupled up? What's the problem?

Song of Sorrow is one of those journey books, where the purpose of the trip takes a backseat to the trip itself, and that's totally fine with me. Bickering aside, I really do enjoy reading road trips, where the plot sees characters out exploring their world rather than confined to a castle, and this book has plenty. Granted, there's more than a hint of repetition from earlier books in the series (this is now the third magical stone that Princess Sarita has gone on a quest for in as many books), but J D Wright mixes it up a bit this time out and I was glad to get the first sea voyage of the series and start moving into new kingdoms and realms rather than revisiting old ones. Not a bad thing necessarily, but at book #3 (or #8 if you count the 5 Everealm books), some new blood is definitely needed. I love the sense of boundless possibility in this series, even if realism - if there is such a thing in realm of magic and fantasy - takes a backseat at times. I mean, Cassidy is supposed to be a king, but yet frequently disappears out of his kingdom for weeks on end, usually without so much as a single personal guard with apparently no consequence. You think he'd be busy doing ... I don't know ... royal stuff.

I got on board with the new couplings in this book. Yes I saw them coming a mile off, but yes I still really liked these ones. Despite a sprawling cast of characters, there are none whose chapters/paragraphs I skim read, and there's only one I actively dislike. I said in my last review about my issue with the character of Calista, and these are still very much present and correct in Sorrow. I've come around to the pairing of her and Jake, even if the two people who hate each other are forced together and fall in love cliche isn't my cup of tea, but she's just such an ungrateful moaner. After running away from Jake and being rejected by her mother, Calista - somehow - finds a man to take her in, letting her stay at his house for free while he feeds and clothes her, and rather than showing any gratitude, she buggers off with Jake at the first opportunity without so much as a thank you to the guy, then makes all sorts of spiteful comments about how boring and dull the man was. I'm sure you weren't exactly a picnic to live with either, sweetheart!

It would be nice to see Calista embrace her magic and discover some sort of inner strength and independance, but alas this doesn't happen here. Luckily, there's relatively new - at least to the narrative - character Jo around to up the independent women quota. Her sort of relationship with Gabby's ex-fiance Garrison was incredibly sweet. It even managed to win me over after a few early eye rolls and pursed lips. The contrarian in me finds the tidy pairings in this series a little bit too convenient at times, but these guys were cute.

It was great to see the story starting to expand out into new parts of Everealm, with new kingdoms and families and creatures starting to make an appearance - although I wish most of them hadn't appeared so near the end of the book! The story ends so abruptly that I thought my copy was missing a chapter or two. Come on J D Wright, you can't leave me hanging like this until book #4/#9!

I really enjoyed this book, much like Song of Sovereign and Sparrows, it's a fantastically enjoyable read. After a spate of violent and somewhat mean-spirited fantasy reads recently, it's nice to read a lighthearted story that doesn't wallow in tragic backstory or pile misery onto the protagonist. But there is an undeniable feeling of deja vu in this book from the previous ones. The quest, the arguing, the pairings, I loved reading them the first time around and I certainly don't object to reading them again, but it does feel a bit like the story's going around in circles rather than moving forward. I'm hoping for a bit of backlash to the events at the end. Without giving too much away, a relatively small and seemingly sweet event could have huge implications for the relations between kingdoms and the potential for new enemies and obstacles to come into play (I've said it before and I'll say it again, no one's come close to matching Silas for menace and epic villainy!), so bring on Song of Shadows!


It's a thumbs up from me and Donald Glover!

Friday, 23 September 2016

Feature & Follow #12

I've been neglecting my blog a bit lately thanks to being up to my eyes in work and studying. But I'm hoping to get back into the swing of it - and actually read a book again since I haven't picked one up for weeks - with Feature & Follow Friday!

The Feature & Follow is hosted by TWO hosts, Parajunkee of Parajunkee's View and Alison of Alison Can Read. It's a really cool way to find out what people are reading and connect with other bloggers. Added bonus, the aim of a blog hop is to follow others. You follow me, I follow you. Wins all round! I'm happy for followers on GFC, Twitter, Bloglovin', Goodreads, whatever works for you. I guess I'd prefer Bloglovin' follows if I had to pick one. Make sure you leave me a comment so I know you're a new followers, I'm kind of scatty with keeping track of new followers!

The post prompt:
What's Your Book Betrayal Story? (Someone borrowed a book and destroyed it? Waited for a book for forever and it was terrible?)

Hmmm, a tricky one this week! 

In terms of a destroyed book, most people know better than to touch my books, much less destroy them. But I did once lend a copy of A Man Called Ove to someone in my book club and they returned it with dog-earred pages, highlights and annotations, much to my annoyance. 

There have been a few books that I was super excited for, only to find them to be a colossal letdown. Assassin's Heart by Sarah Ahiers is the most recent one I can think of. Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch (hmmm, maybe I should just stay away from authors called Sara!) was another. I didn't hate either of them as such, I just had really high hopes and they both turned out to be sort of ... meh. 

But my biggest book betrayal is probably Allegiant by Veronica Roth. I try to refrain from bitching about books, even if I didn't really enjoy them, but I HATED THIS BOOK SO MUCH! From the terrible pacing, the lack of story, the personality transplants the characters seemed to have undergoing and THAT ending, that book was the closest I've come to actually feeling betrayed by an inanimate object. And after I enjoyed Divergent and Insurgent so much, it seemed like an extra kick in the teeth.

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Into The Light - Blog Tour

A big thank you to author Caroline T.Patti for answering my Q&A as part of the Into The Light blog tour!

1. What inspired you to write Into The Light?
Into the Light is the follow-up to Into the Dark. I wanted Mercy’s story to come to a satisfying end because I knew this would be the last in the “series.” I’m not sure if you can consider two books an entire series, but for lack of a better word, that’s what I’ll call it. At the close of Into the Dark Mercy made a pact with Isadora, aka the villain, in an effort to protect her family and friends. Into the Light certainly had to address this conflict, but I also wanted a great deal of the story to be about Nathaniel. To me, he became the most interesting and complex character. He’s certain not very likable in Into the Dark, though he is quite delicious at times. I wanted the readers to be able to fully understand his motivation, to know the reasons for why he is the way he is. I focused on that while writing Into the Light and Mercy’s story came together and, in a way, overlapped with Nathaniel’s.

2. Have any elements of your life made it in to the story?
I don’t include huge aspects of my life into my writing. What I do like to include are Easter eggs, if you will, for those who know me personally. Lyla’s last name is McCrimons, which is the same last name of one of my closest friends. When I was a kid and my dad made pancakes, he always cut it into little squares and then ate the middle piece himself. I included this in Into the Dark when Jay and Mercy in Lyla’s body make pancakes. When picturing Mercy’s high school, I did picture my own, which I’ve never done before, so the layout is exactly the same.

3. If you could go back in time and give yourself one bit of advice before you started writing Into The Light, what would it be?
There is so much pressure for sequels. Way more pressure than a first book! Readers are engaged, they have expectations, and the idea that I could somehow fall short of those expectations is really scary. What happens, though, when I let those thoughts into my head is I start thinking too much about the reader and I question every single word. I made things way too difficult for myself in the early stages of writing. At some point I had to resign myself to the fact that it’s impossible to make everyone happy. Readers of Into the Dark will end up #TeamGage or #TeamNathaniel, and they might never be okay with the choice Mercy makes in Into the Light. I have to be okay with that. When an author publishes a book there’s this odd change of ownership and the characters belong to the readers and therefore they feel they should control the outcome. Of course their outcome might not match up with mine, and for that they may end up disappointed. And while I feel for them, I have to remember that this is my story with my characters and so long as I’m proud of my craft, that’s all that really matters.

4. Which books/authors inspired you to start writing?
I wanted to be a writer before I truly understood what an author is. I knew I wanted to write books, to tell stories from the time I was five, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t quite grasp the concept of authors just yet. Once I did, however, Lois Duncan had a huge influence on me. I gobbled up her books when I was young, and when I set out to be a “real writer” I sent her an email. She was so kind to reply and to wish me well on my journey.

5. Who's in the fantasy movie cast for Into The Light?
I hope you don’t hate my answer. The truth is, I’ve given it no thought. This is not to say that I don’t want my books turned into film. I would be honored. But I’ve never thought of who might play the characters because right now they only exist in my imagination and no one is going to resemble them enough. I’d much rather have someone else’s vision when it comes to casting because I think their argument could persuade me. I’d love to know who readers would want to cast, and then I’m sure I
could get behind their choice.

6. Sum Into The Light up in five words.
The real enemy is revealed.

7. Do you have any writing rituals?
I’m kind of a neat freak, so I try to make sure my house is clean first. Of course, if I’m on deadline, I have to forgo this ritual because I simply don’t have time. But for the most part, I like to know things are taken care of around the house so that I can devote all of my attention to the story. I will listen to the same two or three CDs on repeat until I’m finished with a book. It’s amazing that I don’t get sick of the music, but I honestly don’t. As soon as I’m plugged in, and the notes are playing, I’m transported right into the story and the rest of the world melts away. When I’m in the thick of it, I write every day, and I try to get out at least 1700 words. I do not write every day. I’m a wife and a mom to teenage daughters—there’s just no way to write every day. While editing Into the Light I watched a lot of That 70s Show. I don’t know why; it sort of became like a soundtrack. It was awesome.

8. Who was your favourite character to write?
Nathaniel. By far. I love a good complex character. I love the idea that it’s possible to love someone and hate someone at the same time. He’s tortured and he’s very hardened when we first meet him in Into the Dark. Originally, he was going to be the villain, but then his story unfolded and my heart went out to him. All he wanted was to be in love, and when he was denied that opportunity because loving a human was against the rules, he changed completely. I wanted to give him the chance to change back. I can’t promise that he does, but I at least wanted him to make the effort. And I wanted him to think of someone else besides himself.

9. How different is this version to the one you sat down to write?
Night and day. Seriously. The first version only moderately resembles the completed version. This happens to me a lot. I tend to dump a first draft knowing that I’m going to go back and revise. Maybe some writers think of this as a waste of time, but it’s part of my process. I get it all out, sort of verbal vomit style, and then I hone and tighten the story until it’s the way I want it. In early drafts I tend to make things too complicated. So during revisions I try to find the simplest, most direct way to tell the story. And I always keep Quentin Tarantino with me when I’m revising. I like to follow his format of jumping right into the action, and going back and explaining later. This means that during the revision process I might flip the entire book if necessary. I’m better at the back half then I am the start, so sometimes I’ll make the back part the beginning part and go back in time if necessary. Now that I’ve typed this all out, I realize it sounds a bit nuts, but what can I do? It is what it is.

10. How did Into The Light make the journey from your head to print?
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I had an agent. And I pitched that agent the idea of Into the Dark, which was then called Seven Days. She loved the idea, but my writing wasn’t where it needed to be. We ended up going round and round for years. YEARS. And then I “met” Georgia McBride through Twitter. She ran #yalitchat, and she did freelance editing. I begged her to please help me pull Seven Days out of the depths of despair. And she did. But not without listening to a lot of whining from me about how I should just give up the whole thing and write something else first. Eventually, my agent dropped me, as happens to lots of folks and Georgia founded Month9Books. I remember being so nervous to ask her if she might consider publishing what was now called Into the Dark. She gave me the green light to submit, and Into the Dark went through the same process as any other submission. Into the Dark was published in August 2015, and I finished writing Into the Light by December 2015.

Into The Light
Mercy’s family is back together and the threat of danger appears to have passed. But any relief she feels is short lived as she is ripped from her body and thrown in jail. Gage and Nathaniel’s plans to break Mercy out won’t exactly be easy. Stuffed full of a chemical binding agent, Mercy is trapped inside the body of a convict without the ability to breach and set herself free. Unfortunately for Mercy, being trapped in jail becomes the least of her problems when she meets her evil twin, Justice.

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