The Testing, The Grisha, and The End

girl with book rageTwo YA trilogies come to a conclusion today, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed. With the exception of Kiera Cass’s The One, book threes have been more than a little disappointing lately.

Graduation Day is the final installment of Joelle Charbonneau’s dystopian series that began with The Testing. Judging from the reviews it’s getting, Ms. Charbonneau has managed to make readers happy while avoiding a too-perfect ending.

Ruin and Rising, the final book in Leigh Bardugo’s fantasy trilogy, also hits bookstore shelves today. The Grisha trilogy began with Shadow and Bone, a book I thoroughly enjoyed. I can recommend it in good conscience because the advance reviews for Ruin and Rising point to a satisfying series conclusion, not one that will make you want to shred all three books when you’re done. Good thing, too, since I gave in to the urge to pre-order a special edition copy from Barnes & Noble. I’d rather not shred it.

Have you been disappointed with any series finales lately?

©2014 Kim Vandel

Mortis

cover image Mortis for websiteHannah Cobb takes us to a world of assassins and dark secrets in her YA fantasy Mortis.

THE FACTS: Hannah Cobb lives in Maryland, where she maintains a cover identity as a librarian by day and moonlights as a writer. When she isn’t writing, Hannah enjoys designing elaborate period costumes and collecting swords. Mortis is her first novel. You can find Hannah at http://hannahcobbauthor.weebly.com/

HannahCobb_5BWTHE FICTION: In an underground school rife with duels and deadly classes, Jane hides in the shadows to stay alive. She is the invisible assassin. But as she prepares to graduate from Mortis, Jane stumbles across secrets that reveal dark truths about her school. Will she embrace the darkness, or betray the school that raised her—and the boy she loves? Once Jane sets herself against her school, there is no turning back, because in Mortis failure always means death.

THE BIG QUESTION: If you could have a superpower, what would it be?

HANNAH’S BIG ANSWER: I would be telepathic, and either become an awesome CIA operative or use my mind-reading abilities to finally understand what motivates people to do both beautiful and terrible things.

Congratulations to Hannah! Mortis makes its official debut tomorrow, and you can get your copy from Amazon.

©2014 Kim Vandel and Hannah Cobb

Saving Yesterday

SavingYesterday_CVR_MEDOne of the best parts of being an aspiring author is getting to know other aspiring authors. When you’ve witnessed the ups and downs of someone’s journey to publication—all the work and all the waiting—you become invested, and you can’t help but celebrate when they succeed. It’s almost as good as having your own book published.

dsc_0097I met Jessica Keller online during the summer of 2012, and we were able to meet in person later that year. Her first novel, an inspirational romance titled Home for Good was published in 2013, but it’s her Young Adult novel that I’ve really been looking forward to. Today is the day, and it’s definitely one for celebrating as Jessica makes her YA debut with Saving Yesterday.

THE FACTS: A Starbucks drinker, avid reader, professional fangirl, and chocolate aficionado, Jessica Keller is multi-published in both Young Adult Fiction and Romance. When she’s not dancing in her car at a stoplight, you can find her at www.JessicaKellerBooks.com, on Twitter (@AuthorKeller), or on Facebook (Jessica Keller Author).

THE FICTION: Her blood holds secrets she never knew existed.

Despite the fact that she acts as a parent to her alcoholic father, Gabby Creed feels pretty normal. But her life is turned upside-down on her seventeenth birthday when a bracelet appears on her wrist and sucks her back through time.

Turns out she’s not even a little bit normal. She’s a Shifter—a protector of humans and of history itself. And she’s not alone. The other Shifters believe Gabby is special, even more special than the mysterious Michael Pace. Oh, and the Shades—seriously creepy creatures who feed off of human despair—are determined to capture her.

It’s all a lot to absorb. So Gabby’s grateful to have Michael as her Trainer—or she would be if she could get her rebellious heart under control. Then again, if the rumors about her blood are true, saving yesterday will be the least of her worries.

THE BIG QUESTION: If you could have a superpower, what would it be?

JESSICA’S BIG ANSWER: Excellent question! You know, I think at this point in my life I’m going to pull a Cyborg Superman and say I’d pick technopathy—the ability to manipulate technology with your mind. The whole “think and it’s automatically written on the computer” thing would be amazing. Yup, that would definitely make me hit my writing goals a million times faster!

Congratulations to Jessica! Be sure to join in the celebration and pick up your copy of Saving Yesterday from Amazon.

©2014 Kim Vandel and Jessica Keller

WayFarer

I’m excited to be part of the WayFarer Blog Tour today. WayFarer by Janalyn Voigt is the second installment in her Tales of Faeraven series, and it’s a story that fans of epic fantasy won’t want to miss.

1149038_592052150817291_372137437_nTHE FICTION: Elcon, an untried youth, assumes his duties as High King. But as trouble stirs between nations and rebellion threatens Faeraven, his position is far from secure. Can Elcon trust that the Elder youth accompanying Kai is the DawnKing, sent by the High One to deliver his people? Or has something gone horribly wrong?

Driven to prove himself, Elcon embarks on a peace-keeping campaign into the Elder lands, where he meets a beautiful Elder princess. But Aewen is betrothed to another, and Elcon has promised to court the princess, Arillia, upon his return. Declaring his love for Aewen would shame them both and tear apart the very fabric of Faeraven.

Elcon’s choices lead him into the Vale of Shadows, where he learns that to deliver his people, he must first find his own redemption.

Author and Speaker Janalyn Voigt (2)THE FACTS: Janalyn Voigt’s unique blend of adventure, romance, suspense, and fantasy creates worlds of beauty and danger for readers. Tales of Faeraven, her epic fantasy series beginning with DawnSinger, carries the reader into a land only imagined in dreams.

When she’s not writing, Janalyn loves to discover worlds of adventure in the great outdoors. You can visit her author website http://JanalynVoigt.com. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

THE BIG QUESTION: If you could have a superpower, what would it be?

JANALYN’S BIG ANSWER: My superpower would be so strong and concerned about me that I’d never have to fear anything or anyone. He could create worlds just by speaking them into being, heal with a touch, and even defeat death. He would be might, knowledgeable, and ever-present. All of those characteristics are amazing, but his greatest strength is the power of love. Yes, I’m speaking as a Christian of God.

WayFarer will appeal to both adult and young adult readers. It can be enjoyed as a standalone novel, but you’ll enjoy it even more if you read DawnSinger first. Congratulations to Janalyn on the release of WayFarer!

Be sure to visit the other stops on the blog tour and enter the giveaway for a $20 Starbucks card.

Saturday, Feb. 1: Novel Rocket 

Sunday, Feb. 2: Anne Elisabeth Stengl’s Tales of Goldstone Wood blog

Monday, Feb. 3: Linda Weaver Clarke’s A Family Friendly Blog (this site will not participate in the Starbucks card drawing but is giving away digital copies of both books to one winner.)

Wednesday, Feb. 5: 3 Questions Wednesday

Wednesday, Feb. 5: Kim Vandel

Thursday, Feb. 6: Lorilyn Roberts

Friday, Feb. 7: Christ Teen

Saturday, Feb. 8: Christian Fiction Historical Society and Q & A session at Goodreads

Click here to enter the Wayfarer Launch Celebration $20 Starbucks Card Giveaway. One person will win a $20 Starbucks card. One entry per person per day.

©2014 Kim Vandel and Janalyn Voigt

Winter Shadows

Winter Shadows JPEGIt’s release day for Winter Shadows, the debut novel of YA author Casey Bond. I’ll let Casey introduce herself and tell you about her book.

THE FACTS: Random facts about me: I am a native West Virginian. (Don’t be afraid!) I love the fall. I read. A lot. After my beautiful little girls go to bed! I love to write. Winter Shadows is my first novel and I have another one in the publishing works! It is a YA Fantasy/Paranormal read! I’ll update my Goodreads blog with more info soon. I am completely new to blogging and probably sound like I don’t know what I’m doing. (I don’t!) Just wait until I enter the tweeting world! 🙂

THE FICTION: Winter Shadows is a coming of age story following Claire, a young lady struggling to find her place in the world after losing her mother to cancer. After a corrupt American government declares a pandemic and forces residents into quarantine encampments, Claire and her father, along with other members of their church and community, go into hiding in a cave system in rural West Virginia. While coping with the losses of her mother, home, friends, sense of safety and normalcy, Claire begins to pick up the pieces of her past, finding a new normal despite the darkness surrounding her.

While adjusting to a new environment and the group of people she finds herself surrounded by, Claire is faced with several important decisions that will influence the path her life will take. Who can she trust? Who should she love? How can she survive? Forced to choose between Ethan’s steadfast, mature love and the love of mysterious and dangerous Colin, Claire learns the difference between infatuation and love. She becomes self-reliant and strong. Despite her newfound confidence, and the isolation in which she resides, evil is able to find her. While fighting against it, she reestablishes her faith in God and opens her heart to the possibility of love.

EN7A9338editb&wCongratulations to Casey on her debut! You can learn more about Casey at her website (caseybond.tateauthor.com). You can also follow her on Twitter (@AuthorCaseyBond) or Pinterest.

©2014 Kim Vandel and Casey Bond

Book Review: The Clockwork Scarab

17084242Mina is different from other seventeen-year-old girls, but that’s to be expected when your uncle is the legendary Sherlock Holmes. Her life is about logic and deduction, not dresses and afternoon tea.

Evaline Stoker, sister to Bram, comes from a long line of vampire hunters, but the family seems to have done their job too well. Supernatural strength and speed don’t do Evaline much good when vampires are all but extinct.

A mysterious invitation draws Mina and Evaline to the scene of a murder at the British Museum, but they soon learn that the young woman isn’t the first victim. Another girl was recently murdered and a third is missing. The only clue is a clockwork scarab.

Mina and Evaline become part of the investigation, but working together is easier said than done. Mina knows the value of research and forethought. Evaline understands that things don’t always go according to plan and you have to improvise.

Working together isn’t the only challenge they face. Dylan Eckhert’s arrival at the museum defies logic, and whenever Inspector Grayling is around, Mina’s reason seems to flee. Evaline, used to having the upper hand, discovers she isn’t the only one traveling through London’s shadows. A thief named Pix has an irritating habit of turning up when she least expects him.

Mina and Evaline will have to trust each other and combine their formidable skills if they want to solve the mystery of the clockwork scarab before the killer strikes again.

In The Clockwork Scarab, author Colleen Gleason creates a turn-of-the-century London where electricity is illegal and steam power rules Victorian England. Dracula author Bram Stoker is given a fictional vampire hunter background while the fictional character Sherlock Holmes is brought to life, and Gleason makes both believable.

The Clockwork Scarab is a clever blend of mystery, steampunk, and urban fantasy, and it’s a must-read for fans of The Friday Society or The Steampunk Chronicles.

©2013 Kim Vandel

Book Review: Aquifer

327836-xsmallSixteen-year-old Luca will one day take his father’s place as the Deliverer. He will make the annual descent into the depths of the earth, following the secret route that only the Deliverer knows. The burden will fall on Luca to negotiate with the “Rats” who guard the aquifer and ensure that water keeps flowing to the surface. He will be the difference between life and death for “Toppers” living in a world where rain is something read about in history books. For now, Luca’s responsibility is to commit the route to memory.

When Luca’s father, Massa, fails to return from his annual duty, Luca is the only one left who knows the route, but that knowledge puts him in danger. The Council of Nine has grown tired of negotiating with the Rats, and they resent their dependence on the Deliverer. They want control of the aquifer. Luca’s only choice is to run, to follow the route he’s memorized and find Massa.

In Aquifer, author Jonathan Friesen takes us on a journey of discovery. Luca struggles with the burden suddenly thrust on him, and we feel his longing to go back to the state of innocence he enjoyed before learning the truth about the aquifer and the Council of Nine. He starts off searching for Massa, expecting his father to fix everything, but being forced into a position of leadership is exactly what Luca needs. He slowly realizes just how capable he is.

There were a few story elements in Aquifer that didn’t make sense (at least not to me), but there were also some moments of great writing, and Friesen scores a few extra points for the Australian setting. Aquifer makes the perfect vacation read. It’ll hold your interest and keep you entertained, but you won’t get so sucked into it that you can’t put it down long enough to take a dip in the pool.

©2013 Kim Vandel

Book Review: Shadow and Bone

Dramatic skyThe Shadow Fold hovers over the desolate wasteland called the Unsea. It divides the country of Ravka, separating the capitol city of Os Alta from the True Sea. The only way to reach the seaports is to travel through the perpetual darkness of the Fold.

As a mapmaker in the First Army, Alina Starkov has no choice but to board the sandskiffs and hope her regiment can cross the Unsea without drawing the attention of the volcra living within the Fold. Her only comfort is that her childhood friend Mal is going too. She feels safer knowing he’ll be close by.

That feeling of safety disappears as soon as they enter the darkness. Alina can’t see anything—not even her own hand—but she can hear the flap of leathery wings just before the volcra arrive. Chaos erupts, and Mal is wounded when he tries to save Alina. In a moment of desperation, Alina awakens a dormant ability within herself that drives away the volcra.

Alina’s ability makes her Ravka’s greatest hope. It also makes her the target of assassins. She’s rushed off to the capitol without a chance to say goodbye to Mal, and when she reaches Os Alta, Alina quickly becomes the center of attention. She struggles with her sudden fame, her new ability, and the political intrigue revolving around her. It’s hard to know who the enemy really is, and Mal—the one person she can trust—isn’t responding to her letters.

Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone is entertaining and imaginative. She builds a vivid world with a delightful Russian flavor, and the element of magic is artfully woven in, making it the glittering icing on the cake. I’m looking forward to reading the next book in her Grisha series: Siege and Storm. Divergent author Veronica Roth gave it the thumbs up, so it has to be good, right?

For extra credit, read the Entertainment Weekly article featuring Veronica Roth and Leigh Bardugo. They talk about strong leading ladies, movie adaptations, and future books in their series.

©2013 Kim Vandel

Book Review: Sweet Shadows

Grace, Gretchen, and Greer—sisters separated at birth—have found each other and learned of their shared destiny. As descendants of the legendary gorgon Medusa, they’re charged with the task of protecting our world from creatures that escape from the abyss. (BTW, Medusa wasn’t the monster that legends make her out to be. She just got some really bad press thanks to Athena.)

In Sweet Shadows, the three sisters learn there’s more to the job than sending monsters back to the abyss. Prophecy says that Grace, Gretchen, and Greer are the Key Generation, fated to break the seal between worlds and restore an imbalance left by the gods. Unfortunately, being the Key Generation puts them right at the center of a war that’s brewing, and the line between good and evil isn’t as clear as it used to be. Even if the girls want to break the seal, they have no idea what the seal actually is or how to break it. With both sides amassing troops, they’re running out of time, and finding answers might just require a trip to the abyss.

Sweet Shadows by Tera Lynn Childs is the sequel to Sweet Venom. It’s possible to read it without reading Sweet Venom first, but it won’t be as much fun as starting from the beginning and watching the relationship between the sisters grow. Sweet Shadows has a good blend of action and humor with a touch of romance, and it’s a must-read for fans of Jennifer Estep’s Mythos Academy series.

©2012 Kim Vandel