Blog Tour and Series Cast: Quintana of Charyn by Melina Marchetta

I’m delighted to be participating for the Quintana of Charyn blog tour. As we all eagerly await the US release of the last in Melina Marchetta’s stunning Lumatere Chronicles series, I couldn’t help but ruminate a bit on all of the characters that we’ve come to know and love in Finnikin of the Rock and Froi of the Exiles.

I can’t help but cast characters in my head when I’m reading. Here’s how I imagine the characters in the Lumatere Chronicles series. (Warning: The pictures in my head often don’t match up to character descriptions. But it’s my vision, so change it if you don’t like it).








Check out the rest of the stops on the blog tour here.


Freaks Like Us by Susan Vaught Blog Tour

Today I’d like to welcome Susan Vaught, author of the recently released Freaks Like Us. When I read Freaks earlier this year, it immediately vaulted to the top of the Books for 2012. I’m so pleased to be part of her blog tour to celebrate the release of this fantastic novel.

Now, I turn things over to Susan to learn a bit about the writing process that went into Freaks.

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I have two primary types of writing experiences:  ouch and aaahhh.

Ouch is rather like a dental procedure where I dread, avoid, act like I’m in pain the entire time I struggle with the story, and usually hate what comes out for a good long time. Aaahhh feels natural and easy, with a lot of flow and even more obsessiveness, where I sit for hours and hours, writing so quickly I get my fingers tangled in the keys. I get irritable if interrupted, my family avoids me, my pets forget what I look like, and everyone at my day job is sure I’m mad at them about something because I keep a faraway, distracted look most of the time.

Freaks Like Uswas one of the natural, obsessive, wonderful, synergistic experiences.

Freaks Like Us by Susan Vaught

Definitely aaahhh! I knew I wanted to write a story with a main character who had Schizophrenia, but it took several years for the right character, situation, and voice to come to me. I struggled a bit with the first chapter, trying to be sure everyone could related to Jason (Freak) as much as I could. People with Jason’s illness sometimes don’t make good connections with other people, even though they very much want to. Jason has that problem in the story. I just didn’t want readers to experience it, too. I also worked to find a way to let readers really feel and understand the impact of Jason’s hallucinations and internal distractions, which wasn’t easy to do given that I was working with print and not audiovisual media. From the moment Sunshine disappeared, everything got easier—and I didn’t know she was going to disappear until I wrote that sentence at the end of the first chapter.

Sometimes stories do that—take their own twists and turns. All I can say about that is, aaahhh!

The whole time I worked with Freaks, I could see all the people and events in my mind, clear as photographs, like I was watching a movie. The people and events felt—and still feel—very, very real to me. Readers always ask me if I based a character or a series events on real people, or things that have really happened to the patients I see. To that I have to say yes, and no. Jason and his friends aren’t copies of any one patient I’ve treated in my years of being a psychologist, but I have seen their symptoms in a lot of different folks, in a lot of different situations. I have always respected the struggle people with Schizophrenia have, day to day, just to take care of themselves and relate to other people, and I have always wanted to honor it. I believe Jason and the thousands of readers who have Jason’s issues, have a lot of strength and courage that people might not appreciate if they don’t look closely enough.

I hope readers enjoy Freaks Like Us as much as I enjoyed writing it!

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To learn more about Freaks Like Us, check out the Bloomsbury Teens Facebook page here.

Blog Tour and Series Cast: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

I can’t help but cast characters in my head when I’m reading. Here’s how I imagine the characters in Sarah J. Maas’ Throne of Glass series. (Warning: The pictures in my head often don’t match up to character descriptions. But it’s my vision, so change it if you don’t like it).

Celaena Sardothien

“At a passing glance, one might think her eyes blue or gray, perhaps even green, depending on the color of her clothing. Up close, though, these warring hues were offset by the brilliant ring of gold around her pupils. But it was her golden hair that caught the attention of most, hair that still maintained a glimmer in its glory.”

Dorian DeHavilliard

“Yet there was something in his eyes, strikingly blue- the color of the waters of the southern countries- and the way they contrasted with his raven-black hair that made her pause. He was achingly handsome, and couldn’t have been older than twenty.”

Chaol Westfall

“He straightened from a low bow and removed his hood, revealing close-cropped chestnut hair…Captain Westfall was not excessively handsome, but she couldn’t help finding the ruggedness of his face and the clarity of his golden-brown eyes rather appealing.”

Nehemia Ytger

“She was stunning, long and lean, each of her features perfectly formed and smooth. Her loose white dress contrasted with her creamy brown skin, and a three-plated gold torque covered much of her chest and neck.”

Blog Tour and Review: On the Island by Tracey Garvis Graves

This week I’m excited to be taking part in the On the Island Blog Tour. For the full schedule of tour events, click here.

I read Hatchet ten times in the fifth grade. That might be an exaggeration, but the sentiment remains; I couldn’t get enough of Gary Paulsen’s tale of a young boy fighting the odds against survival.

I’m not ashamed to say that, when I saw the description of On the Island on NetGalley, I was hoping for an adult version of one of my favorite childhood novels. On the Islandfeatures one of the lesser-utilized romance tropes, that of a (considerably) younger man and an older woman. T.J. is only sixteen when he and Anna first arrive on the island, while Anna is thirty. Compound that with the fact that T.J. is in remission for Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and Anna has been hired as his tutor to help him catch up with school, and On the Island could easily have succumbed to a coercive ickiness that would have cast a pall over their relationship, no matter how sweet that relationship wound up being. For this

On the Island by Tracey Garvis Graves

reason, I applaud Garvis Graves for her portrayal of the progression of Anna’s and T.J.’s feelings. Though the book is quite short, Garvis Graves successfully conveyed the gradual evolution of the couple’s notions regarding themselves and the possibilities for a more intimate relationship to grow. Though Anna counsels herself repeatedly against acknowledging any desire on her part early on in the novel, her eventual decision to embrace their relationship did not feel like a renunciation of her better judgment. To be more blunt, she never gave off cougar vibes, which I sorely feared going into this story. T.J. was a perfect foil for Anna, displaying a mature temperament even before he and Anna were stranded. I particularly loved how Garvis Graves slowly shifted the power dynamics between T.J. and Anna to reflect their respective maturities. Anna might have experienced more years than T.J., but in the context of their new environment, a surfeit of years means very little compared to the common sense, ingenuity, and fortitude necessary to survive.

With that being said, On the Island displays numerous weaknesses that betray its inital publication as an independent release. The novel is quite short, and though Anna and T.J. are the sole characters for over half the novel, I nonetheless would have appreciated a little more depth of analysis regarding their respective emotions. I felt that T.J., in particular, should have devoted much more of his narration to reflection on the health battles he had faced, yet we are given only short glimpses into his life prior to the story’s beginning. In contrast, Anna spends countless pages lamenting the state of her relationship with her quasi-ex-boyfriend and the issues they faced. While those issues and their role in ending her previous relationship are integral to cementing her relationship with T.J., there’s no reason why Garvis Graves couldn’t have expanded the story to allow for that same level of reflection between the two main characters.

I am no survival expert, yet I can’t help but feel that Garvis Graves made things a little too easy on her two protagonists. I appreciate that this is a romance novel and, as such, readers probably don’t want to read about characters’ intimate encounters despite years without hygiene products. In this regard, I commend Garvis Graves for at least recognizing the issue and giving an explanation, even if that explanation seemed a tad too expedient. Likewise, her recognition and explanation of issues surrounding birth control was a welcome addition to the narrative, as too many authors conveniently tend to forget that these problems exist. However, I would have liked more attention to detail regarding the day-to-day factors that allowed Anna and T.J. to exist in relative comfort (or at least, without the extreme discomfort that would be expected in these circumstances).

Going into the novel, I fully expected Garvis Graves to present a seemingly insurmountable obstacle, see our characters rescued anyway, and leave any practical consequences of their relationship for resolution in the reader’s mind only. So when Anna and T.J. leave the island with nearly a third of the story to go, I was excited to see how and to what extent Garvis Graves actually explored the implications of two people in their circumstances having formed a relationship. I’d love to say that, given their extraordinary odds against survival, Anna and T.J.’s relationship would have been spared too much scrutiny after the initial journalistic intrigue died down, but unfortunately I believe that Garvis Graves’s portrayal of the fallout was fairly realistic. Still, I am a romantic purist at heart (translate to “I abhor adultery sublines”) and so one particular development, while perhaps realistic, nevertheless dampened my love for the story somewhat. Still, overall, I enjoyed On the Island for offering an interesting perspective on an atypical romance.

Thank you for participating in the ON THE ISLAND Event! This week in addition to reviews and posts, select blogs are hosting a word from the author’s favorite quotes in the book as a Scavenger Hunt! There is one quote from Anna and one from T.J. Visit each stop this week to find the hidden words (they will be numbered for order) and after July 22nd, submit your answer to the quotes here! Random winners for books and swag will be chosen and notified by July 29th.

Also, next week July 23-27, there will be even more events and chances to win the book and swag!

  • Monday, July 23 at 8:00 pm CST – Chat with the author Tracey Garvis Graves! We will be chatting with the author on Savor Chat: Come join us! (You can sign in with twitter or facebook)
  • Each day look at #ontheisland on twitter for random shout outs to win books and swag! @Tale_of_Reviews
  • ON THE ISLAND released in bookstores Tuesday, July 10th! If you see the book in stores or ‘in the wild’ take a picture. Please tweet it and use hashtag #ontheisland. Or you can post it to facebook! Please submit twitter and facebook links of your post/tweet here!  All entries need to be submitted by July 29th.