Meet the Newbies- Heidi Heilig Author of The Girl From Everywhere+ Giveaway

Meet the Newbies

Meet the Newbies is hosted by Rachel from A Perfection Called Books and is a way to get to know the latest debut authors and get a glimpse of their books. Check out all the authors and blog on the tour here.

Today I’m featuring the wonderfully talented and kind Heidi Heilig. I was blown away with her original take on time travel and how beautifully she wove mythology into her story.

Author Most Likely to Lose Her Voice/Mind at a Book Conference

Nickname: Maddog (this is true.)

First Day of School: February 16, 2016

Homeroom: Greenwillow/HarperCollins

Grade: Historical Fantasy

Extracurricular Activities: Cheerleader for The Sweet Sixteens, Captain of the Internet Debate Team

Favorite Class: Alternate History

Favorite Quote/Motto: The world will be better for this/That one man, scorned and covered with scars/Still strove, with his last ounce of courage/To reach the unreachable stars.

About the Author

8167946Heidi grew up in Hawaii where she rode horses and raised peacocks, and then she moved to New York City and grew up even more, as one tends to do. Her favorite thing, outside of writing, is travel, and she has haggled for rugs in Morocco, hiked the trails of the Ko’olau Valley, and huddled in a tent in Africa while lions roared in the dark.

She holds an MFA from New York University in Musical Theatre Writing, of all things, and she’s written books and lyrics for shows including The Time Travelers Convention, Under Construction, and The Hole. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and their pet snake, whose wings will likely grow in any day now.

Social Media Links: Website | Blog | Twitter | FB | Instagram | Pinterest | GR

The  Book

21979832Nix has spent her entire life aboard her father’s ship, sailing across the centuries, across the world, across myth and imagination.

As long as her father has a map for it, he can sail to any time, any place, real or imagined: nineteenth-century China, the land from One Thousand and One Nights, a mythic version of Africa. Along the way they have found crewmates and friends, and even a disarming thief who could come to mean much more to Nix.

But the end to it all looms closer every day.

Her father is obsessed with obtaining the one map, 1868 Honolulu, that could take him back to his lost love, Nix’s mother. Even though getting it—and going there—could erase Nix’s very existence.

For the first time, Nix is entering unknown waters.

She could find herself, find her family, find her own fantastical ability, her own epic love.

Or she could disappear.

Book Buy Links: Amazon | B&N | iBooks | Goodreads

The Interview

Your debut novel, The Girl From Everywhere, was beautifully executed, written and so original. It was obvious to me while reading that you dedicated a good amount of time researching mythological creatures, settings, and time periods. What were some of your favorite things you stumbled upon while gaining knowledge for this book?
Research is truly one of my favorite things, and as is always the case, so much of what I learned didn’t make it into the final draft. I spent a lot of time actually setting up hypothetical trade routes between eras and maps–things like going to Lerna to collect hydra’s blood, which is a deadly poison, as well as the blood of Pontus ducks which is a mythical antidote to poison, and selling both in 17th century France where there was a rash of political poisonings.

Something else I got to really dive into was sailor and pirate lore, especially surrounding women. I loved learning that while women were sometimes considered bad luck aboard, they were also often thought of as being the greatest navigators. And I got to read a lot about famous female pirates like Ching Shih and Grace O’Malley.

I’ve read my fair share of novels that included time travel but never have I read one with a similar method as you’ve created. How did the idea of your travelers only being able to use original maps to venture through time (and only once) come to you?
I’ve always loved old maps, both because the edges are populated with sea monsters, and because I’m obsessed with the idea that an incautious sailor could go too far and sail off the edge of the world. That was what prompted the idea of travel via map–the idea that the world ended at the neatlines. The limitation of only being able to use a map once both prevents potential paradoxes and also imposes an additional challenge on the characters, which makes for better drama.

Obvious question but I have to ask- if you could-where and when would you time travel?
Oh there are so many placed I’d go! My answer changes almost every time i’m asked, but recently I’ve become fascinated by the colonial era China, with the high stakes political and social issues of the opium wars. Plus I love old photographs of Chinese people in Victorian era outfits.

I really felt that one of the strongest features in this book was the character relationships especially between Nix and her father. When writing do you tend to have a favorite character yourself? If so, does it make that character harder or easier to write?
The relationship between Nix and her father, Slate, was definitely the most familiar relationship to me, because it’s reminiscent of my own internal struggle with regrets and bipolar and self-destruction. The fact that it was so close to heart did make it tougher to write. By contrast, Kashmir is my absolute favorite character, and he came fairly easily to the page.

Can you give us any hints as to what’s coming in the follow-up and conclusion to the series?
The second (and final) book of this duology is currently in my editor’s hands, and while I don’t want to spoil anything, I can tell you that it concerns a dire fortune for Nix, an infamous liar from history, and a mythical kingdom doomed to sink into the sea.

IMG_8241

Giveaway

1 Pre-Order or Finished Copy of Any Debut Novel Featured on Meet the Newbies
International (as long as The Book Depository ships to your country)
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Review of Passenger by Alexandra Bracken

PassengercoverPassenger
By: Alexandra Bracken
Release Date: January 5th 2016
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Format: Print arc
Source: Big Honcho Media

A copy of this book was given to me in consideration for review.

My Rating:
star

Summary:
passage, n.
i. A brief section of music composed of a series of notes and flourishes.
ii. A journey by water; a voyage.
iii. The transition from one place to another, across space and time.

In one devastating night, violin prodigy Etta Spencer loses everything she knows and loves. Thrust into an unfamiliar world by a stranger with a dangerous agenda, Etta is certain of only one thing: she has traveled not just miles but years from home. And she’s inherited a legacy she knows nothing about from a family whose existence she’s never heard of. Until now.

Nicholas Carter is content with his life at sea, free from the Ironwoods—a powerful family in the colonies—and the servitude he’s known at their hands. But with the arrival of an unusual passenger on his ship comes the insistent pull of the past that he can’t escape and the family that won’t let him go so easily. Now the Ironwoods are searching for a stolen object of untold value, one they believe only Etta, Nicholas’ passenger, can find. In order to protect her, he must ensure she brings it back to them— whether she wants to or not.

Together, Etta and Nicholas embark on a perilous journey across centuries and continents, piecing together clues left behind by the traveler who will do anything to keep the object out of the Ironwoods’ grasp. But as they get closer to the truth of their search, and the deadly game the Ironwoods are play­ing, treacherous forces threaten to sep­arate Etta not only from Nicholas but from her path home . . . forever

My Thoughts:
There has been a lot of excitement surrounding this book and there were aspects I really appreciated but overall, I wasn’t 100% in love with this one. I was lucky enough to get ahold of the corrected arc so this review will be for that version. I’m not sure if things will change or not for the final copy.

First let’s talk about what I really did enjoy about this book. First, the writing was well done and I think that Bracken did a great job in describing her setting, time periods and characters. I could easily visualize all the various locations which was really impressive. This was a time travel novel and the way that Bracken approached this aspect was really brilliant. I loved the passages to time periods she created. I thought that the rules she associated with travel made a lot of sense and didn’t bog down the story at all.

Though I was sad about it, I did like that the color of Nicholas’ skin was a factor in how comfortable or not he felt in different time periods and how he was treated. Reminders like this need to continue and I felt it was a very important message to readers.

One character in particular, Alice, Etta’s musical mentor and life long friend, was such an amazing character and she was really my favorite piece of the story. I felt she was well developed and added a lot of heart to the book.

Where things went a bit astray for me was at the beginning to middle of the book. I felt it was rather slow paced and I wasn’t able to connect. I think because there was a lot of world building to explain things were slower paced than I’d prefer. I never was able to really form an attachment to any of the characters (except Alice) or really feel much chemistry between them. This was a rather important element to the story and since I wasn’t fully invested it did negatively impact my reading experience.

Why didn’t I form an attachment? I’m really not sure. I wanted to, but it just wasn’t happening. The secondary characters, minus Alice, were fairly weak and I really didn’t get much of a lasting impression of them. I never feared for Etta’s mother which took away a sense of urgency that would have helped the pacing for me.

As for the main character’s romantic relationship it didn’t move me like I wanted it to. I never really felt much between them and it felt a tad insta-love? I never got a sense for why they felt the way they did. Maybe, things were rushed between them? I’m not sure but it didn’t work for me (even though I really, really wanted it to). I was starting to appreciate them a tad more towards the end of the book and I’m hoping that if I read the next in the series I’ll form a deeper attachment.

Final Thoughts:
I think for Passenger, the hype I created,  the eagerness, and longing I had to read this book might have set up an unfair disadvantage for the story. I had so many expectations (so not fair, I know) about how much I’d love every moment I did feel a bit disappointed that I couldn’t really form a connection in the first half of the book.

I ended up setting it aside for a week or so midway. When I picked it back up I did enjoy it more and felt that the ending really left things open and (cliff hanger!) made me more eager to read the next book.

I’m curious have you read Passenger yet? If so what did you think.

Also, if you are really eager to read this book I do have a giveaway running for a finished copy.

Highlighting Passenger-Alexandra Bracken’s Upcoming Time Travel Novel + Giveaway

Today I’m so excited to give one of my readers a chance to win the upcoming novel by Alexandra Bracken, Passenger. I’m reading it now and I’m really liking how she’s handled the details of time travel.

About the Book

PassengercoverIn one devastating night, violin prodigy Etta Spencer loses everything she knows and loves. Thrust into an unfamiliar world by a stranger with a dangerous agenda, Etta is certain of only one thing: she has traveled not just miles, but years from home. And she’s inherited a legacy she knows nothing about from a family whose existence she’s never heard of. Until now.

Nicholas Carter is content with his life at sea, free from the Ironwoods–a powerful family in the Colonies–and the servitude he’s known at their hands. But with the arrival of an unusual passenger on his ship comes the insistent pull of the past that he can’t escape and the family that won’t let him go so easily. Now the Ironwoods are searching for a stolen object of untold value, one they believe only Etta, his passenger, can find. In order to protect her, Nick must ensure she brings it back to them–whether she wants to or not.

Together, Etta and Nicholas embark on a perilous journey across centuries and continents, piecing together clues left behind by the traveler who will do anything to keep the object out of the Ironwoods’ grasp. But as they get closer to the truth of their search, and the deadly game the Ironwoods are playing, treacherous forces threaten to separate Etta not only from Nicholas but from her path home… forever.
In stores January 5
DOWNLOAD THE E-BOOK SAMPLER
AMAZON
NOOK
iBooks

About the Author

AlexBrackenAlexandra Bracken is the New York Times bestsellingauthor of The Darkest Minds and Never Fade. Born and raised in Arizona, she moved east to study history and English at the College of William&Mary in Virginia. Alex now lives in New York City, where you can find her hard at work on her next novel in a charming little apartment that’s perpetually overflowing with books. Visit her online at www.alexandrabracken.com and on Twitter @alexbracken.

Giveaway

One (1) winner receives: a copy of PASSENGER
Giveaway open to US addresses only.
Prizing and samples provided by Disney-Hyperion.
Please note prizing will ship early January following release of the book.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

More About the Book and Pre-Order Info

Learn more at un-requiredreading.com
Visit AlexandraBracken.com
Follow Disney-Hyperion on Twitter and Instagram
Follow Alex Bracken on Twitter and Instagram
#Passenger
You can pre-order Passenger at these locations:
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Books-a-Million
Indiebound
Indigo
iBooks
 

Review of Blackout by Meredith McCardle

blackoutcoverBlackout (Annum Guard #2)
By: Meredith McCardle
Release Date: January 13th 2015
Publisher: Skyscape
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher

A copy of this book was provided in exchange for an honest review.

My Rating:
star

Summary:
Seventeen-year-old Amanda Obermann (code name: Iris) has more on her mind than usual. As a member of a covert government organization called the Annum Guard, which travels through time to keep history on track, Iris has been getting some particularly stressful assignments. Plus, Jane Bonner, the Guard’s iron-fisted new leader, seems determined to make life as hard as possible. Thankfully, Iris has Abe (code name: Blue), her boyfriend and fellow Guardian, who listens to her vent—and helps her cope with her mentally ill mother’s increasingly erratic behavior.

When Guardians start to disappear on their assignments, Iris makes a terrifying discovery: a “blackout” squad is targeting anyone who gets in the way of a corrupt force that’s selling out both the Annum Guard’s missions and Guardian lives. Together, Iris and Blue must go undercover to untangle the Guard’s elaborate web of secrets and lies. But when Iris discovers that the terrible truth may involve her own father, a former Guardian undone by his own greed, she must decide how much she’s willing to risk to rescue her friends…and how dangerous the consequences will be for all of humanity.

My Thoughts:
Blackout is the sequel to The Eighth Guardian and was highly enjoyable continuation of the story. The overall feel of the book was slightly different than the first since it focused on the mystery behind the Annum Guard and why certain members were disappearing. Time travel was obviously a large part of the story though it wasn’t as detailed as in the first book. The time periods that Amanda (code name-Iris) visited weren’t described as vividly as in the first book. She wasn’t looking to change the past in this one as much as witness events take place to help her solve a mystery.

The same cast of characters were present in this installment and we get to see more of Abe since he’s joined the guard. The relationship between Amanda and Abe had some adjusting to do so we see a bit of a rocky patch between the two. I’m still not shipping them as much as I’d like though I do enjoy both of the characters. I have really grown fond of Red and was happy to see many more scenes with him. I’m so curious to learn more about his background and I’m hoping McCardle delves into that in the next book.

The first part of Blackout moved slower to me but I was still interested in learning about the characters and the scenes focused on Amanda’s mother’s mental disorder. I appreciated getting insights into her home life as sad as it was.

The action picked up midway and moved at a break-neck pace and be aware…this one ends on a killer cliff-hanger. I couldn’t believe it left me hanging like it did. There isn’t any info for the third book on Goodreads and I’m somewhat distraught being left hanging for I don’t know how long. I hope that the next book will release soon and some info is updated soon.

Final Thoughts:
Blackout was a strong follow up to the first book though it was a tad slower paced in the beginning. I enjoyed the slower sections for the character growth and look inside of Amanda’s home life. Once things get going the pace quickens to an ending with a great twist that left me crying since it was such a cliff hanger. I need the third book immediately and look forward to the ride McCardle with put me through.

Review of The Eighth Guardian by Meredith McCardle

8thGuardianCoverThe Eighth Guardian
By: Meredith McCardle
Release Date: May 6th 2014
Publisher: Amazon Children’s
Format: E-book and Paperback
Source: Kaye Publicity and giveaway

A copy of this book was provided by Kaye Publicity in exchange for an honest review.

My Rating:
star

Summary:
Amanda Obermann. Code name Iris.

It’s Testing Day. The day that comes without warning, the day when all juniors and seniors at The Peel Academy undergo a series of intense physical and psychological tests to see if they’re ready to graduate and become government operatives. Amanda and her boyfriend Abe are top students, and they’ve just endured thirty-six hours of testing. But they’re juniors and don’t expect to graduate. That’ll happen next year, when they plan to join the CIA—together.

But when the graduates are announced, the results are shocking. Amanda has been chosen—the first junior in decades. And she receives the opportunity of a lifetime: to join a secret government organization called the Annum Guard and travel through time to change the course of history. But in order to become the Eighth Guardian in this exclusive group, Amanda must say good-bye to everything—her name, her family, and even Abe—forever.

Who is really behind the Annum Guard? And can she trust them with her life?

My Thoughts:
When I was offered a copy Blackout I couldn’t resist saying yes to it and the first book, The Eighth Guardian–the covers are beautiful and they are about a secret government agency focused on time travel.

I was easily drawn into this book because of the fast pacing and ease of which time travel was approached. We are introduced to the main character, Amanda, on her testing day. Testing Day puts the students in hard-core situations for an undetermined length of time to test their physical prowess as well as mental fortitude. I found it to be remarkably easy to disband disbelief to imagine an elite school training teens for specialized work. A tad like X-Men minus the super powers.

The story progressed seamlessly from Amanda’s life at Peel Academy to her life in the Annum Guard. I loved McCardle’s approach to time travel and the mechanics of how it worked. It wasn’t overly sci-fi heavy…this book focused more on the action and mystery of what the Annum Guard’s role is.

There was a touch of romance between Amanda and her long time boyfriend Abe. It was sweet though I never was able to fully get behind them together. I wanted to, but since we’re dropped into them being a couple already I didn’t  have that attachment that I get when I read about how a couple begins. The story also doesn’t have all that many scenes between the two so it’s easy to not feel  much for Abe. There wasn’t a love triangle in this but I could see one developing later on (I tend to be able to see the possibility in most series). I couldn’t say if anything will develop or not.

The secondary cast of characters mostly focused on the other members of the Annum Guard. There was never a lot of backstory or time spend on any one character though the author did give a nice taste to some of their backgrounds. I think we’ll see more development in future books.

Final Thoughts:
I found The Eighth Guardian to be a successful action book with time travel thrown in. The characters are fun, pacing fast and generally a great read. The side characters were slightly ignored and I never could get fully invested in the romantic aspect but neither detracted from my overall enjoyment.