Blog Tour- Empress of a Thousand Skies Guest Post + Giveaway

EmpressBlogTour

I recently read Empress of a Thousand Skies and really loved it- it had a really vivid world and the characters were so likeable. I can’t wait to read more from Rhoda Belleza. Today I am honored to have her here to talk about her writing method and writing multiple point of views.

About the Book
EmpressofaThousandSkiesEmpress of a Thousand Skies
By: Rhoda Belleza
Release Date: February 7th
Publisher: Razorbill

Summary
Empress
Rhee, also known as Crown Princess Rhiannon Ta’an, is the sole surviving heir to a powerful dynasty. She’ll stop at nothing to avenge her family and claim her throne.

Fugitive
Aly has risen above his war refugee origins to find fame as the dashing star of a DroneVision show. But when he’s falsely accused of killing Rhee, he’s forced to prove his innocence to save his reputation – and his life.

Madman
With planets on the brink of war, Rhee and Aly are thrown together to confront a ruthless evil that threatens the fate of the entire galaxy.

A saga of vengeance, warfare, and the true meaning of legacy.

Guest Post

I’m somewhere in between a plotter and a pantser. I wrote the beginning of EMPRESS in a flurry just to get a sense of the character and voice, then I paused to outline the rest of the book. Once I got that in decent shape I dove back into writing, but I’d diverge from the outline and change the story as I went. Having that structure was important, but plenty of times I’d run astray as the characters pulled me in different directions. It was about trusting whether to stay on outline or experiment without that safety net; I wanted the movement and choices to feel organic, but I wanted to keep the plot as tight as possible.

The two POVs are Rhee and Aly, the empress presumed dead and the boy who supposedly killed her. Both are hiding, constantly moving, pursuing different goals that eventually converge. I usually nail down the choreography and plotting before I revise for the emotional components. I’m not just talking about the fight scenes, but the placement of characters in the galaxy and in relation to each other. It’s like I don’t even know how they feel until they have a setting and a context to physically exist in. My friend called it an analog to method acting, which may or may not be true. I’m not sure because I’m not an actor.

Rhee is royalty; she may be hardened by the loss of her family but she’s pampered too, and she has a sense of righteousness that felt so natural to write. I could get in a pretty heady space with her; she’s obsessed with revenge and pleasing her ancestors, and that tension just felt really right. That said, Rhee’s wound pretty tightly, so I was tapping into some stuff that could feel intense at times.

Aly comes from a different planet and an entirely different class. He’s a little bit of a smart ass and he tries to keep everything funny and casual, but underneath he’s struggling to keep it together—as a refugee he’s skating the line and trying to play a bit of identity politics. It doesn’t work out for him, and when he’s on the run he comes to some ugly realizations about the world that he needs to work through. Still, I didn’t want him to lose the optimism and humor that makes him him. His voice felt really natural in a different way from Rhee’s, and the writing of his chapters flowed easier—but going back in revision and digging into the emotion ended up being more challenging for his character.

Tour Schedule

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Week One:
2/6 – Brittany’s Book Rambles – Guest Post
2/6 – Bibliophile Gathering – Review
2/6 – Seeing Double in Neverland – Mood Board
2/7 – Tales of a Ravenous Reader – Excerpt
2/7 – In Wonderland – Review
2/8 – Across the Words – Character Fan Casting
2/8 – Novel Ink – Review
2/8 – Bookling Critics – Review
2/9 – The Young Folks – Interview
2/9 – Here’s to Happy Endings – Review
2/10 – Butter My Books – Book Look
2/10 – Ex Libris – Review
2/10 – My Friends Are Fiction – Guest Post
Week Two:
2/13 – Stories & Sweeties – Empress Cupcakes
2/13 – What Sarah Read – Guest Post
2/13 – MundieMoms – Review
2/14 – YA Wednesdays – Character Fashion
2/14 – Fiction Fare – Review
2/15 – Once Upon a Twilight – Favorite Quotes
2/15 – The Books Buzz – Review
2/15 – Take Me Away to a Great Read – Review
2/16 – The YA Book Traveler – Empress Trailer
2/16 – Bookworm Everlasting – Review
2/17 – The Forest of Words and Pages – Like/Try/Why
2/17 – The Paige Turner – Interview
2/17 – Fangirlish – Review

Giveaway

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Enter for a chance to win one (1) of three (3) signed copies of Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza (ARV: $17.99 each).
NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Enter between 12:00 AM Eastern Time on February 6, 2017 and 12:00 AM on February 20, 2017.  Open to residents of the fifty United States and the District of Columbia who are 13 and older. Winners will be selected at random on or about February 22, 2017. Odds of winning depend on number of eligible entries received. Void where prohibited or restricted by law.

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Review of Starfall by Melissa Landers

StarfallStarfall (Starflight #2)
By: Melissa Landers
Release Date: February 7th
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher

My Rating:
star

Summary:
When Princess Cassia Rose fled her home world of Eturia to escape an arranged marriage, she had no idea her sudden departure would spark a war. Now after two years hiding as a ship hand, she is finally returning to her beloved home, but not in the way she imagined. Shackled by bounty hunters, she is violently dragged back to account for her crimes. Her only solace is that the Banshee crew managed to evade capture, including Kane Arric, her best friend…with occasional benefits.

Meanwhile, Kane and the rest of the crew of the Banshee plan a desperate rescue mission. But when they arrive on Eturia, Cassia isn’t exactly in need of heroics—she’s claimed her birthright as Eturia’s queen, but has inherited a war-torn planet simmering with rebellion. Cassia must make alliances, and Kane, the bastard son of a merchant, isn’t a choice that will earn her any friends. Kane knows he will never find someone to replace Cassia—and is certain she returns his feelings—but how can he throw away his own promising future waiting on a queen?

When the outer realm is threatened by the dangerous Zhang mafia, Cassia, Kane and the rest of the Banshee crew uncover a horrifying conspiracy that endangers the entire universe. In the face of unspeakable evil, Cassia must confront her own family’s complicated legacy on Eturia and decide once and for all who her real family is.

My Thoughts:
I really enjoyed the first book, Starflight, so I was so excited to see that Landers was writing a companion book. All the same characters are in this story but this time we are reading from the point of views of Kane and Cassia. The events of this novel take place after what happened in Starflight and I loved seeing some of the after effects woven into this new storyline.

I always found the relationship between Kane and Cassia to be intriguing and knew there was much more to them than what we saw (with them as side characters) in the first book. I was so happy to see them as the center of this story. Cassia is an exiled princess and this book sets her back on her home planet. I loved that with this princess angle the story sort of felt like a sci fi/fantasy because her and Kane come from different social classes (star-crossed love), and an evil king set out to do anything to seek revenge.

Landers has a way with character chemistry and tension. She builds up the feelings between characters it’s tangible for the reader. That’s my favorite aspect of her writing and she didn’t let me down in Starfall. Not only does this book have romance but a great rebellion story. I wasn’t exactly sure how Landers would get these characters out of some of the situations they found themselves in so this was a page turner. I couldn’t stop reading because I was so eager to find out what would happen next.

StarfallIG

Final Thoughts:
I recommend these books to anyone that loves science fiction and quirky casts of characters. You could pick up and read either book first but I think publishing order (Starflight then Starfall) so that you don’t come across character spoilers.

Review of Flashfall by Jenny Moyer

flashfallFlashfall
By: Jenny Moyer
Release Date: November 15th 2016
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Format: Print ARC
Source: Publisher

My Rating:
star

Summary:
Orion is a Subpar, expected to mine the tunnels of Outpost Five, near the deadly flash curtain. For generations, her people have chased cirium—the only element that can shield humanity from the curtain’s radioactive particles. She and her caving partner, Dram work the most treacherous tunnel, fighting past flash bats and tunnel gulls, in hopes of mining enough cirium to earn their way into the protected city.

But when newcomers arrive at Outpost Five, Orion uncovers disturbing revelations that make her question everything she thought she knew about life on both sides of the cirium shield. As conditions at the outpost grow increasingly dangerous, it’s up to Orion to forge a way past the flashfall, beyond all boundaries, beyond the world as she knows it.

My Thoughts:
Gah this book! I picked it up one evening thinking I’d just start it to get a feel for it and I was sucked in and read 3/4ths of the book. It was addicting and so fast paced. I immediately connected with the main character, Orion. Her relationship with Dram was so well done and I was addicted to their chemistry.

This book was a mix of science fiction and dystopian. I thought I was tired of the dystopian genre in general but this book has reignited my love for it. It had a very distinct science fiction feel as well so I’m not entirely sure what classification it would fit under. Regardless, I want more and soon. I’ve seen comparisons to Red Rising and I can see them because of the class system and the caving for elements the higher class needs. This book had a very different feel and the pacing was much faster. I felt that it was a really unique young adult novel and I really loved the caves and how terrifying they were.

Orion was one strong main character. I adored her determination and survival instincts. Nothing was getting in her way. I loved that she cared for her Outpost. I was really impressed with how well the action scenes were done and I loved how though it was very much driven by this the characters did not suffer in the slightest. We still got growth and wonderful dialog. The secondary characters really set themselves apart and I was attached to them. Everything about this book hit me right.

I really liked that we weren’t always constricted to Outpost 5- we go with Orion to several different outposts and see more of the world and the destruction that has occurred to the human race. The world was very unique and the idea behind the Flashfall was really intriguing.

flashfallig

Final Thoughts:
Anyone that enjoys science fiction or dystopian should read Flashfall. It was really unique, well done and captivating. This novel didn’t have a cliff hanger and could be potentially a stand alone but I really hope not. I felt that there was a lot more to explore about the world and the characters.

Review for The Diabolic by S.J. Kincaid

thediabolicThe Diabolic
By: S.J. Kincaid
Release Date: November 1st 2016
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young
Format: Print ARC
Source: Publisher

My Rating
star

Summary:
A Diabolic is ruthless. A Diabolic is powerful. A Diabolic has a single task: Kill in order to protect the person you’ve been created for.

Nemesis is a Diabolic, a humanoid teenager created to protect a galactic senator’s daughter, Sidonia. The two have grown up side by side, but are in no way sisters. Nemesis is expected to give her life for Sidonia, and she would do so gladly. She would also take as many lives as necessary to keep Sidonia safe.

When the power-mad Emperor learns Sidonia’s father is participating in a rebellion, he summons Sidonia to the Galactic court. She is to serve as a hostage. Now, there is only one way for Nemesis to protect Sidonia. She must become her. Nemesis travels to the court disguised as Sidonia—a killing machine masquerading in a world of corrupt politicians and two-faced senators’ children. It’s a nest of vipers with threats on every side, but Nemesis must keep her true abilities a secret or risk everything.

As the Empire begins to fracture and rebellion looms closer, Nemesis learns there is something more to her than just deadly force. She finds a humanity truer than what she encounters from most humans. Amidst all the danger, action, and intrigue, her humanity just might be the thing that saves her life—and the empire.

My Thoughts
I think that The Diabolic will be a great hit with many readers. It’s an action packed story with intrigue, a touch of romance and wonderful setting. For me, I really enjoyed this book but at the same time I felt that some of the pacing was rushed and I wished I’d had a deeper connection to the main character, Nemesis.

There were aspects of this book that I felt were incredibly strong and well done. The world building was really interesting and I loved the descriptions and the issues that Kincaid drew out with the Diabolics, Excess and Royals. Because of there being such extensive unrest in this world there was real tension in this book and it made the reading experience exciting.

The characters were a mixed bag for me- I really loved Tyrus the nephew of the Emperor. His character was the most interesting to me and I would have liked to have read more about him. I loved how he interacted with the main character, Nemesis. I honestly liked her the most when she was interacting with him.

Speaking of Nemesis- I enjoyed her character on a whole but there were times her decision making really aggravated me. I could understand her motives but it didn’t take away from my frustration while reading. I do think she was well developed and her history as a Diabolic was horrifying to read about. I appreciated that Kincaid chose to tell this story from a Diabolic’s perspective but I do wish I could have connected a bit deeper to her.

The side characters were less thrilling to me. Many, like Nemesis’ charge, Sidonia was sadly not all that well developed to me. I never was able to connect to her and at times I feel her storyline was there for the sole point of advancing the plot or being an inconvenience to it.

diabolicig

Final Thoughts:
I found The Diabolic to be an exciting read and well worth the time though I couldn’t connect deeply with the main character. I found the world and story to be well done though and I would read a follow-up if there was one. I’d especially love to read more about Tyrus.

Review of Starflight by Melissa Landers

StarflightStarflight
By: Melissa Landers
Release Date: February 2nd 2016
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher

A copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

My Rating:
star

Summary:
Life in the outer realm is a lawless, dirty, hard existence, and Solara Brooks is hungry for it. Just out of the orphanage, she needs a fresh start in a place where nobody cares about the engine grease beneath her fingernails or the felony tattoos across her knuckles. She’s so desperate to reach the realm that she’s willing to indenture herself to Doran Spaulding, the rich and popular quarterback who made her life miserable all through high school, in exchange for passage aboard the spaceliner Zenith.

When a twist of fate lands them instead on the Banshee, a vessel of dubious repute, Doran learns he’s been framed on Earth for conspiracy. As he pursues a set of mysterious coordinates rumored to hold the key to clearing his name, he and Solara must get past their enmity to work together and evade those out for their arrest. Life on the Banshee may be tumultuous, but as Solara and Doran are forced to question everything they once believed about their world—and each other—the ship becomes home, and the eccentric crew family. But what Solara and Doran discover on the mysterious Planet X has the power to not only alter their lives, but the existence of everyone in the universe…

My Thoughts:
Starflight was so much fun to read-  it had all the things that I love in a science-fiction novel- rag tag ship crew, hate to love relationship, space-pirates, lots of action with a dash of romance. This was more in line with the Firefly type of science fiction… no heavy science talk or theories to digest. The pacing was fast with equal amounts of action and witty dialog between the characters.

This story starts with the main character, Solara, needing to escape Earth and try to make it out to the outer realms to establish a new life for herself. Of course, as these things go, the only way for Solara to get out of her current situation was to rely on the one person she dislikes the most- Doran. It’s all fairly predictable how these two will slowly grow to respect each other but it’s still so much fun to watch them warm up to one another. Landers’ does an amazing job creating character chemistry through their dialog and actions. As the reader, you feel their attitudes mutate and grow into something more.

Though I fully felt the chemistry between the leads I did struggle a small amount with Doran’s character arc. He was such a jerk to Solara in the beginning and in their past it was a tiny bit hard to believe he’d change his general attitude that easily. Overall, I think that Landers did a decent job of presenting him in a manner that was believable. But, I would have liked a tiny bit more time taken to develop his transformation and to have seen him push back a bit more at the situation he found himself in. Regardless of this teeny tiny complaint I still fell easily in love with the relationship and story.

The side characters were really fun as well and added a lot to the story. You’ve got to have the rag-tag crew in this type of book and Landers provides. Each crew member has a story to tell and though we only get bits about their past it’s enough to create empathy and compassion for their character. I was fully invested in each crew member on the Banshee.

In this type of sci-fi there is something so right about space lawlessness and a bunch of  criminal types creating their own law and order. I loved how Landers incorporated that with the outer realm as well as the pirate ship Solara finds herself on. These bits were so well done and fun to read. Though you could sort of see where the story was headed it never felt overly predictable and easily kept my interest. I wanted nothing more to be reading this book start to finish.

Final Thoughts:
Starflight was the type of book you want to completely lose yourself in and read start to finish in a sitting. With the fast pacing, character chemistry and witty dialog it was easy to love and left me wanting a follow up book. I’d love to read many more adventures with this cast of characters.