Interview with Sarah Beth Durst

I am thrilled to have the opportunity to ask one of my all-time favorite authors questions about her recently released book, Chasing Power. If you haven't had a chance to read it, you can check out my review HERE

The delightful Sarah Beth Durst was kind enough to answer some of my questions about her book (and a few random thoughts I had as well).


The book

I LOVE how each of your books is so unique. I never feel like I’m reading the same book twice.
How does writing a YA novel differ from writing an adult novel?


Thanks so much!

Some things are the same: You flail around for a little while until you find the character's voice, and then you try to tell the story through that voice as faithfully as you can.

The difference is entirely in what that voice is.  The difference between your characters -- their experience, how they see the world, how they see themselves -- is what shapes the stories.  Every time you write through a different person's eyes, you see the world differently and so you tell a different story.  Write through the eyes of a sixteen-year-old, and the result is a YA novel.  Write through the eyes of a twenty-eight-year-old, and you have a novel for adults.

What kind of novel is CHASING POWER?

I always write fantasy.  (I blame my childhood for this.  Hours spent pretending I had a magic wand,
searching for an entrance to Narnia, and exploring the woods in search of elves.)  But within that genre, I like to hop around a lot and play with all the subgenres.  CHASING POWER is an Indiana-Jones-style adventure about Kayla, girl with the power to move things with her mind, and Daniel, a boy who can teleport -- and who lies as easily as he travels.

Above all else, I wanted this novel to be a fun ride.  I want the reader to hop in the roller coaster car
next to Kayla and ride with her up, down, and around the curves.

The Process

What is one thing you wished you knew about the writing process when you started writing your very first novel?

I wish I knew that you don't need to wait for inspiration.  If you sit at your desk, day after day, and string together sentences... the muse will come find you.

I also wish I knew that you don't need to wait until you have time.  Life is always busy.  There are always interruptions and distractions.  It's rare to find those lovely stretches of free time -- in fact, I'd argue that consistent free time is a myth.  You need to steal bits of time.  It is possible to write in only ten minutes with the TV blaring in the background.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

Write every day.  (Note: this advice doesn't work for everyone.)  If you write every day, even if it's only for five minutes, then writing ceases to become this daunting task.  Make writing as much a part of your daily life as brushing your teeth.

The Fun Stuff

Would you rather live in a world where people could breathe underwater or where animals could
speak?


Breathe underwater, because then no one would ever drown again.

(But talking animals are indeed AWESOME.  Especially if they're smart and aren't just saying, "Food! Food!  Food!" all day long.)

What’s your favorite fairy tale character and why?

Ooh, good question.  Favorite fairy tale is Beauty and the Beast (because they become friends before

they fall in love -- also, because in BEAUTY by Robin McKinley and in the Disney version, Beast gives her a library).  But favorite character?  I'd have to go with the fairy godmother.  She has such potential for changing the world, for good or ill.  Unlike the heroes and heroines, things don't just happen to the fairy godmother; she makes things happen.

Thanks so much for interviewing me!



I really hope you all enjoyed getting some insight into the brilliant mind behind Chasing Power (and my other favorites: Drink, Slay, Love;  Vessel; and Into the Wild). I can't wait to see what she has in store for us with her newest novels Fire and Heist and The Girl Who Could Not Dream.


Review: For Darkness Shows the Stars (Diana Peterfreund)

The Deets:

Audience: anyone
Pages: 407
Publisher: June 12th 2012 by Balzer + Bray
ISBN: 9780062006141
Genre: retelling, sci-fi, romance
Source: library copy


For Darkness Shows the Stars (For Darkness Shows the Stars, #1)It's been several generations since a genetic experiment gone wrong caused the Reduction, decimating humanity and giving rise to a Luddite nobility who outlawed most technology.

Elliot North has always known her place in this world. Four years ago Elliot refused to run away with her childhood sweetheart, the servant Kai, choosing duty to her family's estate over love. Since then the world has changed: a new class of Post-Reductionists is jumpstarting the wheel of progress, and Elliot's estate is foundering, forcing her to rent land to the mysterious Cloud Fleet, a group of shipbuilders that includes renowned explorer Captain Malakai Wentforth--an almost unrecognizable Kai. And while Elliot wonders if this could be their second chance, Kai seems determined to show Elliot exactly what she gave up when she let him go.

But Elliot soon discovers her old friend carries a secret--one that could change their society . . . or bring it to its knees. And again, she's faced with a choice: cling to what she's been raised to believe, or cast her lot with the only boy she's ever loved, even if she's lost him forever.

Inspired by Jane Austen's Persuasion, For Darkness Shows the Stars is a breathtaking romance about opening your mind to the future and your heart to the one person you know can break it.


This book.

 Sigh.

I am such a fan of retellings. Especially modern retellings of my old favorites. I just absolutely adored this book. It was one part Persuasion and one part sci-fi romance. (and I do NOT like sci-fi books.)

For fans of Persuasion (that won't nitpick every detail), you'll be pleased with what the author has done. The main characters are loyal to their original Austen roles. The trade mark misunderstandings are also in place. There are a few differences that really make this book its own, and not just a copy cat.

For instance, the idea of this man-made plague type disease that destroyed humanity is obviously not Austen. Elliot is a bit more outspoken than her Austen character would be as well. And Kai? Well, Kai is Wentworth. Period.

There isn't much I could say because the plot really does follow the plot of Persuasion. The setting is uniquely its own, which really won me over. It wasn't over the top sci-fi (thank goodness), but it did have a few elements that would appease sci-fi fans. My only gripe is how quickly the ending wrapped up. The psycho father was ushered out of the picture with only a mild fight, and things became all rosy for Elliot in the matter of pages. That felt a bit rushed given the circumstances. I also got a bit annoyed by the letters from a younger Elliot and Kai that kept popping up. I eventually just stopped reading them because I didn't feel like they added much to the story.

 I really want to check out the remaining books in the series, but they don't seem to feature the same characters which is a big disappointment for me too. I really want to know what happens for Elliot and Kai.


Mini-review: Killer Instinct (The Naturals #2) by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

The Deets: 

Audience: YA
Pages: 386
Publisher: November 4th 2014 by Disney-Hyperion
ISBN: 9781423168324
Genre: mystery, forensic thriller
Source: eARC from Netgalley




Killer Instinct (The Naturals, #2)Seventeen-year-old Cassie Hobbes has a gift for profiling people. Her talent has landed her a spot in an elite FBI program for teens with innate crime-solving abilities, and into some harrowing situations. After barely escaping a confrontation with an unbalanced killer obsessed with her mother’s murder, Cassie hopes she and the rest of the team can stick to solving cold cases from a distance.

But when victims of a brutal new serial killer start turning up, the Naturals are pulled into an active case that strikes too close to home: the killer is a perfect copycat of Dean’s incarcerated father—a man he’d do anything to forget. Forced deeper into a murderer’s psyche than ever before, will the Naturals be able to outsmart the enigmatic killer’s brutal mind games before this copycat twists them into his web for good?

With her trademark wit, brilliant plotting, and twists that no one will see coming, Jennifer Lynn Barnes will keep readers on the edge of their seats (and looking over their shoulders) as they race through the pages of this thrilling novel.

























I'm not going to pretend and say this is the type of book I like to read. I'm a big baby with a very active imagination. It does not take much to work me up into a gigantic ball of crazy. Sleepless nights aside, I love this series!

The Naturals had me on the edge of my seat with every turn of the page. The twist at the end left me speechless. When I saw that book two was on its way, I knew I had to read it. I had very high hopes for Killer Instinct, and I was not disappointed (much).

If you're looking for a twist, you'll find it. This one had a bit more complications along the way than its predecessor. Although, I figured out the grand mystery before the big reveal. (To be honest, I was led astray once THEN figured it out.)

You'll also find a good sprinkling of gore. It's not over the top, but it made me read a bit quicker at times. (Super wuss, I am) My only complaint with this book is the on and off romance triangle. Jennifer Lynn Barnes did such a fantastic job of making both love interests so darn likeable that I just couldn't choose. I'm still conflicted. To be honest, I want an alternate ending so I can have both-- just in case I change my mind later on. I wasn't completely satisfied with the end result because it felt like one of those "not an option, option". Kind of like how Katniss ends up with Peeta because there is no one else for Peeta and Gale turned into a creep. Not really an option there.

The romance factor didn't distract from the book much, luckily. Cassie can be a bit wishy washy, but her role in the book still focuses on solving mysteries before she gets killed. It makes for a very fast-paced read!






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Review: Chasing Power (Sarah Beth Durst)

The Deets: 

Audience: YA
Pages: 368
Publisher: October 14th 2014 by Bloomsbury
ISBN: 9780802737564
Genre: fantasy, mystery, adventure
Source: eARC from NetGalley



Chasing PowerLies, secrets, and magic — three things that define Kayla's life.

Sixteen-year-old Kayla plans to spend her summer hanging out on the beach in Santa Barbara and stealing whatever she wants, whenever she wants it. Born with the ability to move things with her mind — things like credit cards, diamond rings, and buttons on cash registers — she has become a master shoplifter. She steals to build up a safety net, enough money for her and her mom to be able to flee if her dad finds them again. Well, that, and the thrill of using her secret talents.

But her summer plans change when she's caught stealing by a boy named Daniel — a boy who needs her help and is willing to blackmail her to get it. Daniel has a talent of his own. He can teleport, appearing anywhere in the world in an instant, but he lies as easily as he travels. Together, they embark on a quest to find and steal an ancient incantation, written on three indestructible stones and hidden millennia ago, all to rescue Daniel's kidnapped mother. But Kayla has no idea that this rescue mission will lead back to her own family — and to betrayals that she may not be able to forgive... or survive.



























One of life's greatest mysteries is how an author like Sarah Beth Durst can write a plethora of books, and yet, each one is unique and vastly different from the others. This woman never ceases to amaze me. 

Let me just begin by saying one of the things I LOVE about Sarah Beth Durst's books is the protagonists. They are always clever, strong-willed young women. This is a writer that empowers girls. It's wonderful. Kayla in Chasing Power was another strong female lead in a long list of kick-butt heroines. 

Chasing Power reminded me of the old X-Men cartoons I would watch as a kid on Saturday mornings. At first, I figured that was what I would get with the characters, too; I was wrong. Yes, Kayla and Daniel have super human abilities, but their adventures are more than just exploits of their power. There was a deep rooted family connection for both characters that influenced their actions. It's hard to explain much without giving things away, but you really want to root for both characters to get their happy endings. 

Aside from the characters and witty dialogue (one of the things I love the most about Sarah Beth Durst's books), I was really captivated by the Mayan mystery aspect. I do not know anything about the Mayans. Nada. Zilch. But the locations described and unique artifacts that were being sought after sure makes me want to learn more! Kayla's first visit to an ancient Mayan temple made me realize I was in for a very surprising read. 

The pacing in Chasing Power is pretty quick. The adventures are non-stop. The romance between Kayla and Daniel is slow building and believable (thank you!). All-in-all, this is a fun read that you should definitely check out.
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Review: The Iron Trial (Magisterium #1) by Cassandra Clare and Holly Black

The Deets: 
Audience: Middle grades
Pages: 299
Publisher:  September 9th 2014 by Scholastic Press
ISBN: 9780545522250
Genre: magic, fantasy
Source: eARC from Netgalley


The Iron Trial (Magisterium, #1)Most kids would do anything to pass the Iron Trial.

Not Callum Hunt. He wants to fail.

All his life, Call has been warned by his father to stay away from magic. If he succeeds at the Iron Trial and is admitted into the Magisterium, he is sure it can only mean bad things for him.

So he tries his best to do his worst - and fails at failing.

Now the Magisterium awaits him. It's a place that's both sensational and sinister, with dark ties to his past and a twisty path to his future.

The Iron Trial is just the beginning, for the biggest test is still to come . . .





















Move over Harry and Percy, Callum is in the house! 

This series is going to be the next big thing. I guarantee it. How could it not with Holly Block and Cassandra Clare as the authors? 

I'm almost scared to admit that I almost gave up on this one. Eek. I know. I came so close to putting it aside, but I'm glad I did not. If you feel like this one starts slow, you're not alone. But don't give up. The ending is worth it all. 

I can't say much without giving away everything, but the setting of this book is awesome. Okay, I'm a bit biased since I know where the setting gets its inspiration from. I visited the Luray Caverns last summer. So when I read that the Magisterium is in Luray, VA I knew what I was reading! I was able to visualize everything, which sold me on this book. The Luray Caverns are spectacular; they fit perfectly with the mystery and vastness of the Magisterium. (Go ahead and look it up. You'll want a visual.) 

For a middle grades book, The Iron Trial is packing a serious punch on the deep themes. Callum has issues. He's not hero material. He's weak, disfigured, and not at all what you would imagine a hero should be. He doesn't even think he's a hero. In fact, he has some major baggage to sort through. This book is certainly setting the stage for a kick butt series that is going to poke around at the meaning of nature vs nurture. 

I will definitely be on the look out for book 2! 

Review: Frozen: Heart of Dread #1 (Melissa de la Cruz)

The Deets: 

Audience: YA
Pages: 336
Publisher: September 17th 2013 by Putnam Juvenile
Genre: fantasy, dystopian-ish, magic
Source: eARC from Netgalley


Frozen (Heart of Dread, #1)Welcome to New Vegas, a city once covered in bling, now blanketed in ice. Like much of the destroyed planet, the place knows only one temperature—freezing. But some things never change. The diamond in the ice desert is still a 24-hour hedonistic playground and nothing keeps the crowds away from the casino floors, never mind the rumors about sinister sorcery in its shadows.

At the heart of this city is Natasha Kestal, a young blackjack dealer looking for a way out. Like many, she's heard of a mythical land simply called “the Blue.” They say it’s a paradise, where the sun still shines and the waters are turquoise. More importantly, it’s a place where Nat won’t be persecuted, even if her darkest secret comes to light.

But passage to the Blue is treacherous, if not impossible, and her only shot is to bet on a ragtag crew of mercenaries led by a cocky runner named Ryan Wesson to take her there. Danger and deceit await on every corner, even as Nat and Wes find themselves inexorably drawn to each other. But can true love survive the lies? Fiery hearts collide in this fantastic tale of the evil men do and the awesome power within us all.



























I'll be honest, the name "Melissa De La Cruz" and the golden dragon grabbed my attention. I thought the cover was pretty stunning, and I'm a complete cover snob. I do judge a book by its cover.  

Frozen is a bit tricky to categorize. It has sci-fi elements, but magic is certainly at the heart of this story. Nat has magic, and she lives in a world with mysterious magical creatures. They may not be out in the open, but they are there.  I thought there was great potential in this story, but it fell flat for me. 

A lot of time went in to developing the setting. It was different, but it never clicked with me. It was obvious that this new world is not kind to those with magic, but I never got a clear sense of the danger they were in until the end. Even then it was a little cloudy. 

Nat and Wes are okay. Honestly, the way they are written and the way they interact with one another (and others) made me think they were much older. I was shocked to discover (towards the end) how young they were. That really messed this book up for me. All the talk about love and whatever crap you can throw into a book to make teenage girls get all swoony really lost its value when I discovered these characters are barely legal driving age. 

Then there is the ending. Bah. That's all I'm going to say. I know it will be a series; the ending left that wide open. But I can promise you I won't be reading it.

Review: Stitching Snow (R.C. Lewis)

Deets:

Audience: YA
Pages: 338
Publisher: October 14th 2014 by Disney-Hyperion

Genre: fairytale retelling, sci-fi
Source: eARC from Netgalley



Stitching SnowPrincess Snow is missing.

Her home planet is filled with violence and corruption at the hands of King Matthias and his wife as they attempt to punish her captors. The king will stop at nothing to get his beloved daughter back—but that’s assuming she wants to return at all.

Essie has grown used to being cold. Temperatures on the planet Thanda are always sub-zero, and she fills her days with coding and repairs for the seven loyal drones that run the local mines.

When a mysterious young man named Dane crash-lands near her home, Essie agrees to help the pilot repair his ship. But soon she realizes that Dane’s arrival was far from accidental, and she’s pulled into the heart of a war she’s risked everything to avoid. With the galaxy’s future—and her own—in jeopardy, Essie must choose who to trust in a fiery fight for survival.






















I love a good retelling of a fairytale. In fact, this is one of my genres of choice. I wasn't overly thrilled with the idea of a sci-fi twist on a fairytale, but I figured I would give it a try. After all, I loved A Long, Long Sleep and Cinder is super popular.  

Unfortunately, that's where my excitement ends. I really couldn't get into Stitching Snow. It was just lacking something, and I can't put my finger on it. The book starts with Essie (Snow) kicking some major butt in a cage fight. It's obvious she is a strong female character. She's clever, hard working, tough as nails, and completely self-sufficient. That should have been enough for me to like her, but we never connected. Dane wasn't much better. I had a few more surprises and glimpses into his complicated past, but not enough for me to grab a t-shirt and declare "Team Dane". I didn't think the interactions between these two were much better. There were clever moments of witty dialogue that kept me reading, but I never bought the slowly building romance. 

I guess the biggest plus for Stitching Snow is that the setting is unique; it takes place on several planets in a new solar system. That's pretty cool if you like that sort of thing. I don't. It was also a pleasant twist that Snow's father is a tyrant. Not your typical dead father that was worth his weight in gold story. 

To be very honest, I stopped reading this book at about 70%. It just wasn't for me. I do love the cover though. I think it was perfect for the type of character Snow/Essie is, and the title clicked once I figured out what stitching was. 

Picture Book Saturday: Edie's Ensembles


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 Edie is known for her great outfits and stylish flair. She and her best friend Andrew spend a lot of time playing dress-up. The school hall is their runway. Edie loves the compliments and whispers of admiration, so much so that she begins dressing in increasingly outrageous outfits to get even more attention. No outfit is too bizarre, no costume too flamboyant for Edie.









Edie's Ensembles was cute. I really enjoyed the illustrations, but I'm not completely sold on the message. The book is aiming at expressing uniqueness and acceptance, but yet Edie goes a bit overboard. She's an attention hog that takes being different to a whole new level. In the end, she tones it down and finds her way back to her friend. But that bothered me. In the middle of her struggles, even her dearest friend abandoned her. I doubt that was the message intended, but it certainly made my mom feathers prickle.

Author Visit with James Ponti

I always complain that there are not enough bookish events where I live in Florida. We never have anything!

I happened to be in Barnes and Noble looking for a specific book for the youngest reader in my house when I came across an advertisement for James Ponti. I nearly caused a massive pileup as I pointed and screeched about how awesome this was. I made sure anyone within hearing distance knew, I can assure you.

Of course, I had to take a picture (so I wouldn't forget) and grab up a few copies of Dead City to be signed when I returned. Now, if you are not familiar with Dead City, you need to check it out on Goodreads. It is a Sunshine State Reader for Florida this year. But most importantly, it's a book that my tween son could not put down.

Actually, he would not put it down. We drove from Florida to Virginia this summer while he read this book. It was the most peaceful car ride in history. There was no fighting between the 12 year-old and 7 year-old. I was able to read a book and finish it along the way too! Win-win for everyone.

While he read Dead City, I could hear him laughing. I just knew we had a hit by the speed in which he devoured this quirky teenage zombie fighter novel. He finished the book just outside of our destination, and I knew I had to find the sequel for the way home!

So imagine my excitement when I saw that the author of a book that got my son to voluntarily READ over SUMMER VACATION was coming to my town. I could hardly contain myself. I always talk about taking my kids to book events when they are older (they keep begging for ComicCon tickets). I've even contemplated arranging vacations around certain regional book festivals (Decatur Book Festival, YALLFest, etc). But this opportunity was divine intervention. A sign... A gift!

And it was more than I could have ever hoped for.

His inner geek shined for all to see. I was one proud mama at that moment.


James Ponti was amazing. We might have been slightly overzealous (we were there way before the start time), but the author was patient. It was a small turn out (my town stinks at advertising amazing book events but will broadcast a losing football team for months in advance) that allowed for a cozy setting. The author read from his book for us, and took the time to talk--actually carry on conversations-- with his fans. There was one point where he stopped and asked the kids, "What do you want to know?" Of course I had to speak up and tell my child to speak at this "once in a life time opportunity".

And he did take advantage! He was engaged in speaking with an author. Proud mama moment #2.

His question actually spawned a great conversation about the sister's role in future books. We learned so much from listening to James Ponti. I appreciated his attention to his fans, and my son was fascinated by his story telling. It was simply amazing to see the connections being made and the love of reading that is developing.



As a Facebook friend said on my status update: "You are raising that kid right!" Yes, yes I am. I will turn him into a reader. The force is strong with this one.


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Picture Book Saturday: An Armadillo in Paris

20691399A winsome armadillo from Brazil takes a trip to Paris in this delightful new picture book from Julie Kraulis. Arlo is an armadillo who is always up for adventure. His grandfather, Augustin, loved adventure too. When Arlo was born, Augustin wrote travel journals about his favorite places for Arlo to use when he was hold enough to go exploring on his own. When Arlo reads about Paris and the one the French call La Dame de Fer, or Iron Lady, he decides it's time to strike out on his first adventure. He travels to France and, guided by Augustin's journal, discovers the joys of Paris: eating a flakey croissant at a café, visiting the Louvre, walking along the Seine and, of course, meeting the Iron Lady... But who is she? Each spread has a clue about her identity, and kids will see hints of her scattered throughout the book. This book is like a gorgeous stroll through Paris with an adorable new friend--a stroll you'll want to take again and again.



Minute review: The illustrations are superb. They were so detailed and had an airy quality that I loved. The formatting for the Kindle left something to be desired, however. I would not recommend this one as an e-book until the kinks are fixed. The writing is a bit wordy and challenging for younger readers, but it would make a fun read-aloud.Young readers will also learn a lot about Paris, and parents will appreciate the culture kids will be exposed to.



Enter to win a copy on Goodreads until December 1, 2014. 

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