Blog Tour: Freeks by Amanda Hocking

freeksPublisher: Pan Australia
Release date: January 31, 2017
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Pages: 336
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The Carnival is all she’s ever known – but an old terror could tear it down.

In the spring of 1982, the carnival comes to small-town Cauldry, Louisiana. Then events take a dangerous turn. For Mara Besnick, the carnival is home. It’s also a place of secrets, hidden powers and a buried past – making it hard to connect with outsiders. However, sparks fly when she meets local boy Gabe Alvarado. As they become inseparable, Mara realises Gabe is hiding his own secrets. And his family legacy could destroy Mara’s world.

They find the word ‘freeks’ sprayed on trailers, as carnival employees start disappearing. Then workers wind up dead, killed in disturbing ways by someone or something. Mara is determined to unlock the mystery, with Gabe’s help. But can they really halt this campaign of fear?

MY THOUGHTS

35 stars

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour! Let’s start with my thoughts on the novel before jumping into a brief Q&A with the author!

Thank you to Pan Macmillan Australia for providing a review copy of the book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

I’m not the biggest reader of the paranormal fantasy genre but I really enjoyed reading Freeks by Amanda Hocking. It was a fast-paced and slightly eerie standalone novel and I especially loved the carnival setting

The novel begins with Mara and the carnival travelling to a small town in Louisiana. They are desperately low on money and were offered a large sum of money to set up in Cauldry. However, as soon as they set up camp, strange things begin to happen. Carnival employees are attacked every night by a mysterious creature and there’s a sinister energy in the area that’s causing their supernatural abilities to be weakened. As it gets more and more dangerous and carnival members begin to gradually leave, it’s up to Mara to try to figure out what’s happening. I really liked the concept of the book and thought that it had a really great build up to the climax. However, I was a bit disappointed with the last section of the book. I felt that everything happened very quickly and was revealed very quickly. There was a lot of build up and it all ended a bit too quickly for my liking. I also found that it was slightly predictable and the ending was just a bit lacklustre for me. However, I really liked the first three-quarters of the book and enjoyed how fast-paced it was.

I also enjoyed most of the characters, though I did find Mara to be a bit frustrating at times. She ignored or dismissed her instincts about a hundred times throughout the book and I wanted to yell at her from annoyance because it was so blatantly clear what was going on. Other than that, I thought she was a good main character. I didn’t find her to be extremely interesting but she wasn’t too frustrating to read about and I enjoyed her moments of courage and bravery. I also enjoyed some of the other characters from the carnival, especially Roxie, who I found to be sassy and snarky but also had a softer side to her. I loved Gideon, who was the head of the carnival and I also really loved Luka because of his self-healing powers. I also liked Gabe, the love interest, but I didn’t find him to be a standout character. There is a bit of diversity in this book – Mara has Egyptian ancestry but I can’t comment on the accuracy of the representation. There was also an LGBTQ+ relationship in the book.

When it came to the romance between Mara and Gabe, I wasn’t a huge fan. There was a little bit of insta-love and the relationship definitely moved very quickly. At times, I felt like the romance overtook the whole plot of the book and I wished there was less focus on it and more time spent developing the plot. I liked Mara and Gabe together but their romance definitely felt a bit tropey and generic at times.

Overall, I enjoyed the reading experience and thought that Freeks was a really easy read. It was fast-paced and engaging but I wished the ending hadn’t been so rushed. The romance was nice but overshadowed the story and the plot a little so ultimately, Freeks left me feeling like it hadn’t reached its full potential.


Q&A with Amanda Hocking

How did you decide on the travelling carnival premise? Are you a fan of carnivals?

I was actually watching an old X-Files episode where Mulder and Scully investigate a carnival, which features real life sideshow performers from the Jim Rose Circus. I thought it seemed really cool and interesting, and I did some research about Jim Rose and his performers, and that’s where the idea for the carnival started.

What do you love most about being a writer?

Escaping into a new world. The freedom to just go and hide away with made up friends on exciting adventures is definitely the best part.

Can you give us a glimpse into what we can expect from you next?

I have a duology coming out sometime next year, I believe. I’m still working on the second book, and I haven’t come up with a good description for it yet. It’s YA and paranormal and gritty, and I’m very excited about it.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

amanda-hockingAmanda Hocking is twenty-six years old, lives in Minnesota and had never sold a single book before 15 April 2010. She will shortly sell her millionth. Her books have been a self-publishing phenomenon – according to the Observer, Amanda is “the most spectacular example of an author striking gold through ebooks”. In her own words, Amanda is an Obsessive Tweeter. John Hughes mourner. Unicorn enthusiast. Red Bull addict. Muppets activist. Fraggin Aardvarks guitarist. Author of the USA Today bestselling books the Trylle Trilogy.

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Blog Tour & Aus Giveaway: A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard

a-quiet-kind-of-thunderPublisher: Macmillan Children’s Books
Release date: January 10, 2017
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Pages: 320
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Steffi doesn’t talk, but she has so much to say.
Rhys can’t hear, but he can listen.
Their love isn’t a lightning strike, it’s the rumbling roll of thunder.

Steffi has been a selective mute for most of her life – she’s been silent for so long that she feels completely invisible. But Rhys, the new boy at school, sees her. He’s deaf, and her knowledge of basic sign language means that she’s assigned to look after him. To Rhys, it doesn’t matter that Steffi doesn’t talk, and as they find ways to communicate, Steffi finds that she does have a voice, and that she’s falling in love with the one person who makes her feel brave enough to use it.

From the bestselling author of Beautiful Broken Things comes a love story about the times when a whisper is as good as a shout.

MY THOUGHTS

4 stars

Welcome to my stop on the A Quiet Kind of Thunder blog tour! I’ll be doing a short review of the book and including some questions that Sara Barnard was kind enough to answer, before ending with a giveaway for a finished copy of the book.

Thanks to Pan Macmillan Australia for providing a review copy of the book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

I have to admit that I wasn’t a fan of Sara Barnard’s debut novel, Beautiful Broken Things. But I felt the exact opposite about A Quiet Kind of Thunder. It was a beautifully diverse novel that explored selective mutism and deafness really well.

The novel follows Steffi who suffers from severe anxiety that causes her to be selectively mute. She has a hard time making friends at school and it’s been especially tough now that her best friend has left to go to college. But she’s introduced to Rhys, who is deaf and new to the school and the two form a strong friendship that later blossoms into a romantic relationship. I’ve only read one other book about selective mutism, which was The Things I Didn’t Say by Kylie Fornasier, but this one takes it to the next level with a non-hearing male protagonist. It was interesting seeing the two main characters interact with each other in their own special mix of British Sign Language, lip reading and instant messaging. I thought the book gave me really good insight into what selective mutism was through plot points and Steffi’s explanations to Rhys. I did feel that there were some sections that were a bit info-dumpy and I would’ve liked it to have been incorporated in a more sophisticated way. Having said that, I thought it was done well and I got a good sense of the difficulties that come with being selectively mute. My only other slight bit of criticism was that we were told what the difficulties were and we didn’t really get to see them in the story. It was like seeing her struggle without really seeing her struggle.

I also enjoyed Rhys in the novel a lot and got a really great sense of the difficulties that he faces everyday. It was extremely interesting to see what he goes through and to see his insecurities even though he’s such a confident and easy-going character. The novel included a lot of great information about being deaf and special education and I felt that my awareness definitely increased after reading this novel.

I really loved the themes in this book. It had strong friendship and family elements, as well as a fantastic relationship between Steffi and Rhys. I really enjoyed the slow development of Steffi and Rhys’s relationship and how they were able to find support from each other. It was really great to see how comfortable Steffi felt around Rhys and how she found her own special language and way of communication that worked for her. I thought the family dynamics in the book were really interesting and I appreciated that there were differences between the families and how they handled Steffi and Rhys’s conditions.

Overall, I thought A Quiet Kind of Thunder beautifully explores selective mutism and deafness and does a great job of increasing awareness and knowledge of these conditions.


Q&A with Sara Barnard

Do you have any rituals or requirements that you need to do/have before writing?

To be honest, no – I just have to sit down and do it. That’s hard enough without adding rituals!

What do you believe were the most important moments in A Quiet Kind of Thunder?

I think Steffi meeting Rhys’s family was a turning point for her and their relationship, and also when she goes to the Halloween party with Tem and actually manages to enjoy herself. And of course the Thing That Happens near the end is very important!

About the author

sara-barnard

Sara Barnard lives in Brighton and does all her best writing on trains. She loves books, book people and book things. She has been writing ever since she was too small to reach the ‘on’ switch on the family Amstrad computer. She gets her love of words from her dad, who made sure she always had books to read and introduced her to the wonders of second-hand book shops at a young age.

Sara is trying to visit every country in Europe, and has managed to reach thirteen with her best friend. She has also lived in Canada and worked in India.

Website || Goodreads || Twitter || Instagram


GIVEAWAY!

Thanks to Pan Macmillan Australia, I am giving away a copy of A Quiet Kind of Thunder. The giveaway is open to Australians only.

Rules:
  • This giveaway is only open to Australian residents
  • Giveaway will end on Sunday 22nd January 2017 at 11:59pm. One winner will be randomly drawn and contacted through email. If I don’t receive a reply within 48 hours, I will choose a new winner.
  • You will be required to provide me with a shipping address. If you are under 18, please make sure you have parental permission to share your address.
  • I will be checking all entries so no cheating please.
To enter, click here or the image below to enter through Rafflecopter! 

a-quiet-kind-of-thunder-giveaway

Blog Tour: Moon Chosen by P.C. Cast

moon-chosen Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia
Release date: October 25, 2016
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Pages: 600
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Mari is an Earth Walker, heir to the unique healing powers of her Clan; but she has cast her duties aside, until she is chosen by a special animal ally, altering her destiny forever. When a deadly attack tears her world apart, Mari reveals the strength of her powers and the forbidden secret of her dual nature as she embarks on a mission to save her people. It is not until Nik, the son of the leader from a rival, dominating clan strays across her path, that Mari experiences something she has never felt before…

Now, darkness is coming, and with it, a force, more terrible and destructive than the world has ever seen, leaving Mari to cast the shadows from the earth. By forming a tumultuous alliance with Nik, she must make herself ready. Ready to save her people. Ready to save herself and Nik. Ready to embrace her true destiny…and obliterate the forces that threaten to destroy them all.

MY THOUGHTS

35 stars

Thank you to Pan Macmillan Australia for providing a review copy of the book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Welcome to my stop on the Moon Chosen blog tour! I will be sharing my thoughts and opinions on this first book in P.C. Cast’s new series. Moon Chosen isn’t really my typical read but I found it quite enjoyable to read. Even though it was a giant book with 600 pages, I read it all in just two days!

Moon Chosen follows our heroine, Mari. She belongs to a clan of Earth Walkers, where her mother is a Moon Woman, who is the most important person of the clan because of her healing abilities. Mari has inherited these abilities but has spent most of her life hiding in secrecy because her father belonged to a rival group. Unsure of what her identity means for her existence in her Earth Walker clan, she has never shown her true self. However, when her clan is attacked by the rival group and things start getting out of control, Mari learns the extent of her powers and begin to embrace who she is.

It’s a little bit difficult explaining the plot of this book because the novel is quite slow-paced and there isn’t really a lot of action. Most of the book is spent setting up the world and getting the reader comfortable with all of the different clans and customs of each clan. I did find the world to be very confusing at the start of the book. It took me over 100 pages to have everything sorted in my mind. There were a lot of characters introduced and I had a hard time putting everything together and figuring out how they all fit into the story. However, I got used to it pretty quickly after that and had no trouble following the story. I found the world to be quite interesting and not like many other worlds that I’ve read before (though admittedly, I am no expert in fantasy worlds). The world felt like a early history kind of world, with clans and tribes and lots of nature and biology. But what I found most interesting was that this was a post-apocalyptic world where all things man-made and technological had been wiped out. Whether it’s post-apocalyptic or not doesn’t really factor into the story but I just thought that that was unexpected and interesting.

While the plot and the story was slow-paced and dragged out, it didn’t bother me too much because the  characters were engaging and I couldn’t help but care about them. I was right with them throughout the book and I loved watching the friendships form and seeing how they interacted with each other. Mari was a character who I wasn’t a big fan of at the start but she grew on me throughout the book and I enjoyed her development into a slightly whiny girl into a caring and independent woman. I loved her kind personality and the lengths she goes to to help others who are not probably not so deserving of her help. I also loved her friendship with Sora, who also grew on me extremely quickly in the novel. I also really liked Nik, the male from Mari’s rival tribe. I wasn’t sure of his intentions at the start and was highly suspicious of him, but he proved to be a character who was also quite easy to love. But of course, one of my favourite characters was Jenna. Yes, simply because she shares my name.

Perhaps my favourite aspect of this novel was the concept of the Companions. Certain tribes in this book have animal allies that are bonded with tribe members. This bond is extremely strong and those who are bonded are tied together for life. If you love reading about animal companions, like Manchee in The Knife of Never Letting Go, you will love Moon Chosen because this series takes it to a whole new level.

Despite really enjoying most aspects of the book, there were a few things that I didn’t like so much. I was not a big fan of the dialogue in this book. At times, it felt very forced and I couldn’t really imagine people talking that way. There were also a lot of instances where characters spoke aloud to themselves and that just seemed a bit strange to me. I also had a bit of a problem with the pacing. While I didn’t mind that the book was very long, I did think that there wasn’t really a climax to this book, so it never really got intense and exciting for me. It just wasn’t as epic as I wanted it to be and I just wanted it to be paced a little bit better. But overall, I enjoyed the book and thought that it was a great read despite some of my problems with it.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

pccast PC was born in the Midwest, and grew up being shuttled back-and-forth between Illinois and Oklahoma, which is where she fell in love with Quarter Horses and mythology (at about the same time). After high school, she joined the United States Air Force and began public speaking and writing. After her tour in the USAF, she taught high school for 15 years before retiring to write full time. PC is a New York Times Best-Selling author and a member of the Oklahoma Writers Hall of Fame. Her novels have been awarded the prestigious: Oklahoma Book Award, YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers, Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award, the Prism, Holt Medallion, Daphne du Maurier, Booksellers’ Best, and the Laurel Wreath. PC is an experienced teacher and talented speaker. Ms. Cast lives in Oregon near her fabulous daughter, her adorable pack of dogs, her crazy Maine Coon, and a bunch of horses.

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Blog Tour & Mini Review: The Boundless Sublime by Lili Wilkinson

the-boundless-sublime

Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Release date: July 27, 2016
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Pages: 352
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Ruby Jane Galbraith is empty. Her family has been torn apart and it’s all her fault.

The only thing that makes sense to her is Fox – a gentle new friend who is wise, soulful and clever, yet oddly naive about the ways of the world. He understands what she’s going through and he offers her a chance to feel peace. Fox belongs to a group called the Institute of the Boundless Sublime – and Ruby can’t stay away from him. So she is also drawn in to what she too late discovers is a terrifying secretive community that is far from the ideal world she expected.

Can Ruby find the courage to escape? Is there any way she can save Fox too? And is there ever really an escape from the far-reaching influence of the Institute of the Sublime?

A gripping YA novel about an ordinary girl who is unsuspectingly inducted into a secretive modern-day cult.

Welcome to my stop on The Boundless Sublime blog tour! I’ll be giving some brief thoughts on the book before letting the author of The Boundless Sublime, Lili Wilkinson, talk about her struggles with coming up with title names and how The Boundless Sublime got its title.

REVIEW

Thank you to Allen and Unwin for providing a review copy of the book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

The Boundless Sublime is a thrilling and dark exploration of modern day cults and what it means to be part of one.

Ruby has had a rough 6 months. Her younger brother was killed in a car accident and she feels like it’s all her fault. Her family has been torn apart and Ruby and her mother are tiptoeing around each other and pretending that everything is okay, even though her mother is too depressed to get out of bed and Ruby has been partying every night in order to forget. But when she meets the mysterious and alluring Fox one day, she becomes enamoured and falls quickly in love with him and his ideologies. When he takes her home to meet his ‘family’, she’s intrigued by their lifestyle and decides to join them. And that’s when things get a bit dark and dangerous.

I’ve always been intrigued by cults but have always been kind of too terrified of them to find out more. I’m the kind of person who doesn’t do well with thrillers and mystery novels so you can imagine what I’d be like if I ever did research on cults. But I felt like The Boundless Sublime gave some really good insight on how all-consuming it can be and how wonderful it would feel to be around people who believe in the same things that you do. Also, what this novel does really well is convey the feelings of belonging that might not be possible in the ‘real world’, outside of a cult. I could understand Ruby’s wanting to be part of The Institute of the Boundless Sublime because she feels like she doesn’t fit in anywhere else in the world. But it was quite scary how quickly things escalated and how quickly a person can become drawn into all the dark and scary things that are going on without knowing it.

I did have a little bit of a rough time with the characters though. I didn’t find them to be realistic and I had to really suspend my disbelief a lot of the time. It got better in the second half of the book but I definitely found it hard to connect with Ruby and with most of the characters in the book. I did like Fox a lot but he was a bit of a Manic Pixie Dream Boy and that was a little bit off-putting to me. Ruby falls in love with him at first sight and this insta-love made it hard for me to enjoy Fox as a character. Having said that, there was much less focus on the romance and on Fox in the second half of the book and I enjoyed it a lot more at that point.

LILI WILKINSON ON WRITING CHALLENGES AND BOOK TITLES

The Boundless Sublime is much, much darker than the books I’ve written before. I expected that would be a challenge, but actually I loved writing dark. I’d just had a baby when I was writing the first draft, and days with babies are so full of forced cheer – you’re trying to be upbeat and positive when you are often exhausted and overwhelmed. It was such a relief for me, when Banjo went down for a nap, to pull out my laptop and pour all my withheld darkness out into the story.

The biggest challenge for me in writing The Boundless Sublime, was getting the title right. Titles are THE ACTUAL WORST and I don’t think I’ve ever written a book where the title came easily – usually the title changes three or four times, and I often have to change the content of the book itself to fit the final title.

I knew the title of the book would be the name of the cult, and I nearly went crazy trying to find the right one. Here are a few that I tried on for size and then rejected:

Panacea
The Divine Quintessence
The Flowers of Antimony
The True Family
Sanctify
The Ministry of Truth
The Atomic Family
The Children of Zosimon
The Congregation
The Conjunction
Eternal Prime
ALUM

After much discussion with my wonderfully patient editors, we settled on The Institute of the Boundless Sublime for the cult name. The characters in the book refer to it as “The Institute”, which I really like because it reflects the kind of pseudoscience often found in cults and new religious movements.

The title really needs the cover to work – on its own it could sound like a romance, or a dreamy coming-of-age story. But the contrast between the positivity of “The Boundless Sublime” and the darkness of the cover really works magic – warns the reader that something that seems perfect and beautiful on the outside can often be rotten to the core on the inside. Big props to Astred Hicks at Design Cherry for her fabulous cover design.

Let’s Talk About Sects webseries about Lili’s cult research: http://www.liliwilkinson.com.au/lets-talk-about-sects/

More information about The Boundless Sublime: https://www.allenandunwin.com/browse/books/childrens/young-adult-fiction/The-Boundless-Sublime-Lili-Wilkinson-9781760113360

The Boundless Sublime by Lili Wilkinson is published by Allen & Unwin, RRP $19.99, available now at all Australian retailers.

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