Category: Guest Post

Review: Otherbound by Corinne Duyvis

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Amara is never alone. Not when she’s protecting the cursed princess she unwillingly serves. Not when they’re fleeing across dunes and islands and seas to stay alive. Not when she’s punished, ordered around, or neglected.

She can’t be alone, because a boy from another world experiences all that alongside her, looking through her eyes.

Nolan longs for a life uninterrupted. Every time he blinks, he’s yanked from his Arizona town into Amara’s mind, a world away, which makes even simple things like hobbies and homework impossible. He’s spent years as a powerless observer of Amara’s life. Amara has no idea . . . until he learns to control her, and they communicate for the first time. Amara is terrified. Then, she’s furious.

All Amara and Nolan want is to be free of each other. But Nolan’s breakthrough has dangerous consequences. Now, they’ll have to work together to survive–and discover the truth about their connection.

Sometimes a book just sneaks up quietly behind your back… and then slaps you on the head. Hard. That basically sums up my reading experience with Otherbound. I had been intrigued by it for some time. So, when I had the chance to read and review the story for free, I gladly grabbed the chance!

However, I never expected to be so immersed in Nolan and Amara’s story. The writing and settings were exquisite. And, at the end of Otherbound, I felt as if I had lost a friend. This book will stick with me for a long time, and will definitely make it onto my 2014 favorites list.

Let’s start with the two characters and two settings. Our two main characters are Nolan and Amara. Nolan is from our world. However, he is not your average boy. He is missing a good part of one of his legs, and he has “seizures” and “hallucinations”. Of course, the readers learn pretty quickly that Nolan doesn’t have either of these plights, despite what the doctors might say.

Every time Nolan closes his eyes, he finds himself in another world called the Dunelands. More specifically, he sees through the eyes of a girl called Amara. Amara is not only a mute servant from the Dunelands, she is also a healer protecting a cursed princess. This job is not nearly as glamorous as it sounds, as the healing process causes Amara to inflict terrible harm upon herself. Also, Jorn, her master, cruelly punishes Amara often. And, in turn, Nolan has to suffer through terrible pain as well.

Otherbound had a certain uniqueness that other books lack. Not only does the author evidently have a wildly creative mind, she also incorporates diversity into Otherbound. The characters are LGBT, Hispanic, disabled, mute etc. The character relationships were astounding. Whether it was the relationship between two love interests or between family, Otherbound made the interactions realistic, hopeful, and heartbreaking.

Also, I loved the unpredictability of this novel. I was never sure what would occur next. And two revelations in the novel caught me totally off guard, but, when I reread parts of the book, made total sense to me. Both of these new bits of knowledge were about magic and the two worlds! This brings me onto my next topic, the magic and worldbuilding! For fear of spoilers, I won’t say much except the author had her world, and the awesome magic within, down pat!

Speaking of resolutions, I loved Otherbound’s ending. Nothing is tied up in a nice red ribbon but the story ends at just the right place. Also, I was impacted tremendously by one of the sentences on the very last page. I may or may not have leaked a few tears.

Corrine has truly written a gem. The book has it all: a fantastic plot, a vivid setting, diverse characters, major feels, wonderful themes, and a stunning conclusion. Also, despite the length of this review, I feel as if I have barely touched upon all the amazing aspects of Otherbound! Overall, I cannot recommend Otherbound highly enough.

Reviewed by Emily Anne at Reader Rising, who was given this book from Novel Thoughts in exchange for an honest review. She rated it five stars.

Blog Tour: #FridayReads, The Books that Got Me Into Shakespeare

SWheaderIt is true. The Jedi Doth Return. In a series that has broken all kinds of barriers since the first book released, William Shakespeare’s Star Wars is one of those literary phenomenons that cannot be missed. With the third book in the series releasing in just a few days on July 1st, Quirk Books asked if we’d like to have the author, Ian Doescher, on the blog to talk about Shakespeare himself.

I’m so thrilled to not only be a part of this blog tour for such a fantastic series but to also live in a time where these books actually exist. Stick around after the post and you can enter for a chance to win the first book in the series! Take it away, Ian!

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When I was in eighth grade, my brother Erik (then a senior in high school) was studying Hamlet in his English class.  Like most younger brothers, I thought my older brother was pretty cool—though I never would have told him—so I bought a copy of Hamlet at a used bookstore on a family trip to the Oregon coast (shown here).  I think I found the “To be or not to be” speech and pretty quickly put the book aside.  But from that point forward I called myself a Shakespeare fan.

The next year, as a freshman, I read my first Shakespeare play when we studied Othello.  I did a lot of theater back then, and here was a play—meant to be performed!—that we were reading in English class.  When we had to memorize Othello’s “It is the cause” soliloquy from Act V, I was excited about the assignment and was the first to raise my hand to perform it in front of the class (yes, I was that guy).

My interest in Shakespeare snowballed from there.  Sophomore year we studied Julius Caesar, and I adapted it with the idea of performing it with some friends (it never happened).  That summer, Kenneth Branagh’s film version of Much Ado About Nothing came out, which I saw in the theater with my mom about ten times.  This tells you something about my interest in Shakespeare and my social life at the time.  Junior and senior years my interest in Shakespeare continued—I started seeing Shakespeare performed live in Portland, memorized some soliloquies just for fun, and started building my Shakespearean library.  After that first copy of Hamlet, the first three Shakespearean books I owned were The Friendly Shakespeare: A Thoroughly Painless Guide to the Best of the Bard by Norrie Epstein (still a personal favorite), Shakespeare A to Z: The Essential Reference to His Plays, His Poems, His Life and Times by Charles Boyce, and The Complete Works of Shakespeare.   (The summer after my junior year of high school, the movie Mr. Holland’s Opus was filmed at my high school, and I stalked Richard Dreyfuss to get him to sign my complete works.)  As a budding Shakespeare devotee, Kenneth Branagh’s book Beginning was significant—it’s not a book about Shakespeare, but about how he became an actor and, ultimately, how he made his debut with the Royal Shakespeare Company and his first film, Henry V.

In college, I would discover The Riverside Shakespeare—still the best complete works available—and the Arden Shakespeare series, which are the best individual versions of the plays.  (I’m proud to have Sir Patrick Stewart’s autograph on my copy of The Riverside Shakespeare.)  It was also while I was in college that Looking for Richard came out, Al Pacino’s performance of Richard III/documentary on the difficulties of the play itself.

Those were the books and films that led me to Shakespeare.  Today, I would add into that list Shakespeare: The Biography by Peter Ackroyd, Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human by Harold Bloom and Shakespeare: The World as Stage by Bill Bryson.  How about you?  What are your favorite editions of Shakespeare or books about the Bard?

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To keep up with the rest of the blog tour, CLICK HERE!

Saturday Soundtracks: Susane Colasanti + Giveaway

SS HeaderThis week, I have the pleasure of being the first to share the official playlist for Susane Colasanti’s Now and Forever, her latest release all about music. I’m so thrilled she wanted to be a part of this as she is one of my favorite people in the world. Now and Forever releases on May 20th meaning you should be adding a bookstore trip to your to-do list soon.

What if your boyfriend was the world’s biggest rockstar?

Sterling is crazy in love with Ethan. Not only is he the sweetest boy she’s ever met, but he’s an incredibly talented guitarist, singer, and songwriter. And since forever, he’s believed he has what it takes to be a star.

When Ethan becomes an overnight sensation, he’s thrown head-first into the glam world of celebrity-and so is Sterling. Before she knows it, she’s attending red-carpet premieres, getting free designer clothes, and flying around the country to attend Ethan’s monumental sold-out concerts.

It’s a dream come true…but whose dream is Sterling living? And what do you do when “forever” comes to an end?

The entire playlist is in the sidebar to the right so listen to each song as you read about them and find your muse through Now and Forever.

 

“Everything” by Lifehouse is the song Sterling sends to Ethan in the first chapter of Now and Forever. She’s been playing that song on repeat ever since the day Ethan first asked her out. To Sterling, “Everything” is Ethan’s theme song. It sounds like him. It feels like him. She loves losing herself in the sound of him. Sterling is so deep in the love haze she can’t remember what she used to think about before Ethan.

Ethan responds to “Everything” by playing “An Alright Start” for Sterling. Sigur Ros is an Icelandic group with an ambient, post-rock sound. Ethan tells Sterling that their music is beautiful, just like her. “I don’t have the words to tell you how I feel about you,” he says. “So I found a song in another language to do it for me.” “An Alright Start” is about two people falling in love. They spend the day together just walking around downtown and and enjoying being in their own world where they understand each other better than anyone ever has before.

Ethan Cross has the most hardcore fangirls in the world. They worship him as the god of their musical religion. The sound of “Bright Lights” captures the thrilling rush of musician worship. It speaks to every single one of us with big dreams that will never die. Ethan Cross always knew he was destined for insane fame. His laser focus burns brighter than ever.

We all know “Set Fire to the Rain” is the ultimate breakup song. When Sterling’s world is shattered, she questions everything Ethan ever told her. Every promise he made, every passionate whisper in the dark. No matter how many times Sterling hears these lyrics, they resonate so strongly she can barely breathe:

But there’s a side to you that I never knew, never knew
All the things you’d say, they were never true, never true
Even now when we’re already over, I can’t help myself from looking for you

susaneAbout Susane Colasanti:
Susane Colasanti is the bestselling author of When It Happens, Take Me There, Waiting for You, Something Like Fate, So Much Closer, Keep Holding On, All I Need, and Now and Forever. Susane has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania in Astrophysics/Earth and Space Science with a minor in psychology. She has a master’s degree from New York University in Science Education 7-12, Teachers of Physics. Before becoming a full-time author in 2007, Susane was a high school science teacher for ten years.

As a teenage Jersey girl, Susane felt like her true home was across the water in New York City. The Knowing began when she saw Late Night with David Letterman for the first time in junior high. The show always started by zooming in on the Twin Towers, friends she carries in her heart. She lives in downtown Manhattan.

You can connect with Susane at her website, susanecolasanti.com.

Thank you so much for sharing your playlist with us, Susane! Like most everyone here, I am so excited to read Now & Forever! And for fans, I’ve got an exciting giveaway now! Enter below for a chance to win a copy of Now and Forever from Susane!

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Blog Tour: Fault Line by C Desir

faultlines (1)Today we have the privilege of having Christa Desir, author of Fault Line, here on Novel Thoughts to talk about her book! We’re so excited to be able to share this story with you but you must also be aware that this book may not be suitable for everyone, especially younger teenage readers due to themes of rape and difficult situations. Otherwise, this is one raw contemporary that will blow you away! Stick around at the end of the post to learn more about Fault Line and the author!

I did not set out to write a rape book. Frankly, I didn’t think I ever would. I always thought it was too close, too personal, that I carried too many stories around from survivors to be able to do justice to one.

And then one day Ben crawled into my head and wouldn’t leave until I laid everything out on the page. When people ask if this is based on a true story, I always say, “This is no one’s story and everyone’s.” Because there is truth in that. It is a work of fiction. There’s no Ben or Ani in real life. There’s just every survivor I’ve ever met, every one I worked with in hospital ERs, every one who I’ve heard tell their stories.

And there is this deep in my bones knowledge that you never really shake rape. You heal, you move on, you survive, but there is never a time when you forget and there is never a time when this isn’t a part of who you are.

Ellen Hopkins asked me on a panel at ALA if I was prepared for the flack I was going to get about my open ending. It was such an interesting question because this ending had proven polarizing for agents and editors alike. As a matter of fact, I added more to the ending in the final version so the ARC isn’t exactly right (Take note people who read ARCs, things can change quite a bit still). Although I still leave the ending open. Leave it as this final moment where we teeter on the precipice of “I don’t know if it’s going to be okay.” I just make it more obvious I’m doing that intentionally.

I ended this book on that precipice because I think sometimes we forget that teenagers live in a constant state of it. Every day they stand on that edge. We as human beings are works in progress, there are no happy endings, just happy for nows. Why would we think it’s any different for teens? Why would we want it to be? This is the best time in their life to be a work in progress. Try new things, figure out who they are and what they want.

But specifically, in the case of Ani and Ben, I did want to say something with my open ending. I did want to add a question into the cannon of YA literature dealing with rape. I did want to add a wrinkle to the immediate assumption that survivors heal and the bad guys get it in the end.

That is not the reality of rape as I’ve seen it. Rape is largely unreported and largely underprosecuted. Bad guys getting it in the end happened less than a dozen times in the 100+ rape cases I saw in hospital ERs over a decade. But further, the assumption of rape survivors moving on and healing was one I wanted to explore. Not because I don’t believe it, it has been proven to me over and over again by the army of survivors standing beside me in this work. But I wanted to explore it because of a survivor I met named Sarah.

Sarah participated in a survivor testimonial writing workshop with me in 2011. She is an amazing woman with a harrowing story of being sexually assaulted on the Appalachian Trail with 3 other friends the summer of their junior year. During a break in the workshop, I asked her what had happened to her friends who were also raped. She told me that one is still one of her closest friends, one doesn’t really like to talk about it, and one disappeared. I asked about the one who disappeared and Sarah said, “I don’t know what happened. She could be dealing drugs, she could be homeless, she could be dead. We lost her.”

We lost her. Those words echoed through me and would not leave my head as I wrote Fault Line. Not because that’s the ending I wanted for Ani, or even expected, but because it could be. The reality is that we lose survivors sometimes. And sadly, this year with two sexual assault-related suicides prominently in the press, this has become achingly obvious to me.

So I left my ending open. I asked a question and didn’t give an answer. But I hope I started a conversation that will lead to every single person doing their absolute best to make sure that we never lose a survivor again.

FaultAbout Fault Line:
Ben could date anyone he wants, but he only has eyes for the new girl — sarcastic free-spirit, Ani. Luckily for Ben, Ani wants him too. She’s everything Ben could ever imagine. Everything he could ever want.
But that all changes after the party. The one Ben misses. The one Ani goes to alone.
Now Ani isn’t the girl she used to be, and Ben can’t sort out the truth from the lies. What really happened, and who is to blame?
Ben wants to help her, but she refuses to be helped. The more she pushes Ben away, the more he wonders if there’s anything he can do to save the girl he loves.

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About the author:C Desir
I’m a YA author who loves dark contemporary books. My debut novel FAULT LINE comes out from SimonPulse October 1, 2013. My second novel BLEED LIKE ME will be released from SimonPulse in Fall 2014.

I am also a feminist, rape victim activist, and romance novel editor. I live outside of Chicago with my awesome husband and our three small children.

C. Desir Website
C. Desir Facebook
C. Desir Twitter
Fault Line on Goodreads

Loki’s Wolves Blog Tour: Who is Thor, God of Thunder?

If I’m being honest, Norse mythology is my absolute favorite. I hate that it has yet to be well received like the
other mythologicals. Growing up, I loved the idea of such powerful gods and pranking brothers. On top of that, Marvel turned them into powerful superheroes, using their powers for good or evil.

Ever since reading Neil Gaiman’s Odd and the Frost Giants many years ago, I have loved them and it’s about time we get a middle grade series devoted to these amazing characters in mythos history.

Today, I’m fortunate enough to have K.L. Armstrong, co-author of Loki’s Wolves, on the blog to give a little history into Thor, god of thunder. So, without delaying any more, here goes!

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I remember being in New York, in a cab with Melissa and seeing an advertisement for Thor. I said I hoped the movie would be good. Now, of course I hoped it’d be good because I wanted to see it, but my real reason was a little more self-serving. Melissa and I were in New York because we’d just sold Loki’s Wolves…a middle-grade novel based on Norse mythology.

Thor came out and it was a hit, and my youngest said, “Great! Now kids will know who Thor is!” That was the crux of the matter—Norse mythology isn’t taught nearly as much as Greek and Roman. Without that movie (and the subsequent Avengers) Melissa and I would have spent a lot more time explaining what this book is about.

But let’s pretend we didn’t get that marketing godsend and we still need to answer the question: who is Thor? Let me pull on my mythology-geek hat and give you a quick profile of the Norse god of thunder.

Thor is the son of Odin, the all-father, and Jord, the personification of the earth itself. He’s a god of power, controlling thunder and lightning and the mighty hammer Mjölnir. While Odin was the “head” god in the Norse pantheon, he was considered the god of the nobles. Thor was the god of the common folk and his main job was protecting them, which meant a whole lot of fighting.

“The mosaics showed scenes of Thor. Fight scenes mostly—when it came to myths about Thor, that’s what you got. Thor fought this giant, and then this giant, and then this giant. Oh, yeah, and a few dwarves, but they were really mean dwarves.” – Loki’s Wolves, page 54

Yep, lots of fighting, which is what endeared him to the common man. He wasn’t the smartest god or the wittiest or the best looking. He was just a really strong guy who went around killing monsters so regular folks didn’t have to.

That’s what I kept in mind when I created the character of Matt Thorsen for Loki’s Wolves. He’s an average kid with one real talent—fighting. In some books, that might lead him to become a bully, but as strong as the Norse god was, he never used his power that way. His gift was used to help, not harm. Matt might love a fight, but only in the ring, against a willing opponent. Like Thor, he’s not a tough guy or a bad boy. He’s just a regular kid with a special gift…one he hopes he can use to help save the world.

For more information about the book, check out The Blackwell Pages website.
Be sure to check out the rest of the tour stops this week!
Tuesday, May 7 – Bookalicious featuring Ragnarök
Wednesday, May 8 – Mundie Kids featuring Odin
Thursday, May 9 – Novel Thoughts featuring Thor
Friday, May 10 – Charlotte’s Library featuring Freya
Saturday, May 11 – Bewitched Bookworms featuring Loki
Thanks to Little Brown for letting Novel Thoughts be a stop on such a cool tour! Be on the lookout for our review coming soon and don’t forget, you can enter for a chance to win a copy of Loki’s Wolves HERE.
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