Blog Tour: Eyes of E'veria

One of my favorite things about the book blogging world is all the connections you make -- like today's blog tour. Thanks to Lisa Bergren's totally awesome "Waterfall Wednesdays" blog event, not only did I get hooked on a medieval Italian story like no other, but since we both participated in that, Serena reached out to me to let me know about her new fantasy series The Eyes of E'veria. Voila! Just like that, I've got a new fantasy adventure, and have discovered a woman who might as well be my long-lost sister ... Sit back, and enjoy the blog tour offerings I've got on deck: a review, Q&A with Serena, and a chance to enter the big giveaway!
The Ryn
Serena Chase
Once upon a time, in a faraway land, a curse stole a Queen and sent a Princess into hiding. The Cobeld's curse - long feared - now destroyed the very hope of one day being freed from this evil. Or did it?
As the years pass, young Rose grows up - free and happy, if uncertain about her true identity - raised first by her uncle and then by a kind noble family in the remote province of Veetri. Here she is able to find a family, to find love and form bonds that help make the mystery of her separation more bearable. Once she is forced into a more active state of hiding, Rose starts to wonder: who is her father? Why does he not want her? Why is her red hair a threat? And why would the Cobelds want to harm her, of all people? Then one wintry night, a Bear Knight comes to the lodge, and all things become clear. Or, most of them. Rose is not merely Rose, the ward-daughter of a Veetri lord. She is the Ryn - the Princess, the heir to the throne that everyone thought dead. She is the Hope and Promise to beat the Cobelds' curse. With this stunning revelation comes the unlocking of her inherited Andoven powers, dormant for years as a safeguard.
As Rose - Princess Rynnaia - begins to balance the reality of her identity with all that entails, she sets off on a journey to the 'secret' isle of the Andovens, to begin the training necessary to harness and utilize her newfound powers. All of this is in preparation for the Quest she must soon take to seek the Remedy. As well as the practical aspects of learning to use her gifts, Rose finds herself struggling to make sense of truths within herself - fighting fear and doubt, wrestling with the ideas of Truth and Love. She has an amazing encounter with The First, and everything begins to fall in place.
This story ... it's so simple, on the surface. But it's masterfully wrought. Rose is a girl after my own heart. She's opinionated and outspoken, she's still getting to know herself, and trying to find out the whos and whys of her identity. And the encounter with The First ... oh ... It spoke to something deep within my heart, and I knew the Truth. After a beginning like this, introducing the characters and setting the stage for what I know must be an epic quest, I cannot wait to read the rest of the series, to see Rynnaia continue to grow in strength, grace, beauty and truth. To watch as the whole cast of characters develop more - to see how Rynnaia and her Father's relationship grows; to see if the Cobelds can be defeated; to see if Rynnaia's outspoken sense of fairness can change a kingdom; to see how The First will continue to move in His people. (And, on a lighter note, to get more Sir Julien!)
Inspired by "Snow White and Rose Red," which is a favorite fairy tale, there's a sense of what I call "light fantasy" to The Ryn. It's a world different from my own, with traditions, languages and religions (if I may) far removed from those I know - but not so very different. I just ... words fail me. I was swept away in this tale, and it touched my heart on many planes. Beautiful. Simply beautiful.
eBook provided by author.
Serena was kind enough to let me send a huge list of random questions, that she answered, and I'm now sharing with you guys. Can I just say that I'd love to hang out with this lady? I have a feeling we'd get along great ... see for yourself why ...

What was your inspiration, your spark, for this series?
I had just re-read Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine and was reminded of what an original take it was on a fairy tale. I wondered, “Could I do that?” So I chose one of my favorite tales from the worn out pink book I’d had as a child, Snow White & Rose Red, and got to work! Needless to say, it became a bit more involved than I planned and . . . 7 years later, The Ryn and The Remedy are now published!

Are you a plot person or a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants person?
I’m definitely most comfortable as a pantser. I have several completed novels that were totally fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants as well as another few works-in-progress that are still waiting for my pants to kick back in gear. But do you want to know what’s crazy? I actually have a working plan for Eyes of E’veria books 3 & 4—it’s rough, but it’s the closest thing to an outline (beyond the original fairy tale!) that I’ve ever had. This is new territory for me. But once I decided upon which fairy tale best fit the characters, the story just sort of started unfolding in my head and I started jotting down a rough outline. The outline has gotten rather detailed since and I’m really excited to be “writing with a plan” for once!

How do you write: listening to music? complete silence? snacking?
There is altogether too much snacking, as my jeans can attest, when I write! But I also listen to music. I bathe in it. I have playlists for the car that are songs (with words) that somehow feed scenes of the story or seem to represent the characters at specific times in the story, or the emotion I want to convey. For the original writing of The Ryn (first drafts, many years ago) I obsessively listened to Chris Tomlin’s Arriving album and I think a lot of imagery in that book was born from some of those very moving lyrics.  But generally, when I’m actually in the nitty-gritty of writing, I listen to instrumental movie soundtracks. I need to get some new ones, but for re-writing THE RYN and THE REMEDY, I listened to Pirates of the Caribbean, The Last Samurai, Eragon, and Thor.

What are your top 5 books you've read in 2013 so far?
Oh, wow. That’s tough. I’ve read so many good ones in so many genres! In no particular order, I’d have to say my top 5 faves would be, Soul’s Gate by James L. Rubart, the Fractured Light series by Rachel McClellen, The Redeeming by Tamara Leigh, Wishing on Willows by Katie Ganshert, and  Aire by Lena Goldfinch. Quite a varied list, but that’s how I roll!

Do you have a favorite spot to read?
Not really. I read pretty much anywhere and everywhere. I actually do quite a bit of reading behind the steering wheel of my car while I’m waiting on my kids to come out of school or piano lessons, that sort of thing (not while driving, of course!)… In my head, my favorite place to read is from the deck of my beach house on the Gulf Coast of Florida, but . . . since I don’t actually have a beach house and I rarely even get to a Motel 6 on the Gulf Coast, that spot remains in my head!

While writing, do you avoid reading books in your genre, or keep reading what's available and out there? 
I get paid to read (Best. Job. Ever.) And working at USA Today’s Happy Ever After blog gives me the freedom to pick the sort of books I want to recommend to others (at HEA we do “recommendations” rather than reviews.)  I’ve been doing a lot of heavier reading lately for a contest I was asked to be a judge for, so right now I’m looking forward to summer and a list full of “fluffier” type, “beach read” books. I’m excited to see chick-lit coming back and I have several of those I’m looking forward to, but YA Fantasy will always be my favorite and, whether I’m writing fantasy at the moment or not (I do write other things, too!), oh yeah, I’m totally going to be reading it!

Favorite color?
Pink. It’s just happy. I don’t care for “baby pink” or “Pepto pink” so much, but I love the deep, rich almost-red shades and the bright berry-pinks the best.

Cats or dogs (or some other animal)?
Dogs. I love cats, too. I’m pretty much an all-around animal lover. But I’m a dog person. Big dogs. The bigger, the better. I have a white goldendoodle (1/4 Golden Retriever, ¾ Standard Poodle, and 100% hypoallergenic!) right now and, due to my allergies, I can’t imagine having anything but a “doodle” in the future. I would love a Pyredoodle someday. (part Great Pyrenees, part Standard Poodle) they are giant, and I mean GIANT, teddy bears—but still hypoallergenic. Non-shedding is much appreciated when writing—less clean up!

All-time favorite cookie? Girl Scouts Samoas (Just discovered a Wal-mart knock off that’s a near-perfect imitation: Great Value  brand Caramel, Coconut, & Fudge cookies. And they’re only $1.86 a package! Woot!)

Salty or sweet snacks? Sweet. But when you combine both, as in CHOCOLATE COVERED PRETZELS, I’m a goner.

Favorite/go-to/comfort movie?
Lost in Austen (a BBC miniseries I have on DVD. Amanda Price is a modern girl who loves Pride & Prejudice. One night she is magically transported to Elizabeth Bennet’s house, right about the time Netherfield Park is let—but Elizabeth isn’t there—because she is in modern London!-- and Amanda must somehow find a way to get Bingley and Jane together, but keeps messing things up, and then… Darcy. And, excuse me while I go fire up the DVD player...).

If you had any super power, what would it be?
The ability to eat anything I want and be thin without exercise! Oh, that’s not a superpower? Hmm. Then I guess I would say. . . teleportation (aka: Apparition, thank you Harry Potter) . . .  but the sort that accommodates guests, because I love to travel but I hate how long it takes to “get there” and back. I’d love to just grab a couple of my friends’ hands and say, “New Zealand!” and arrive on the coast. That would be awesome.

If you could go anywhere in the world (or out of it), where would you go?

Eachan Isle, the fictional monarchy of Captain Cazien de Pollis. It’s a tropical paradise, not too hot, and very laid back—which certainly fits, being that its monarch comes from a long line of pirates! As a matter of fact, I plan to spend a bit of time there this summer while writing Books 3 & 4! But in reality? Ireland tops my list of travel destinations. I’d love to spend a whole summer there, soaking up the culture, the scenery, and, of course, the stories.

Seriously, while I was reading this interview, I became convinced Serena's my long-lost sister. Gulf Coast of Florida? Pretty sure half my heart is there. Girl Scout Samoas? Yum! (Also, totally went to WalMart and found their store brand version, as well as snapping up a pack of their store brand "Thin Mints". Dangerous, people. Dangerous.) Lost in Austen?! That. Darcy! Smolder-swoon-and-stand-in-a-pond. Ahem. Yeah. We're sisters, I've decided.

And now, because I know you're getting antsy, here's the official blog tour Rafflecopter. Follow the directions, and good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway



Annie Laurie Cechini
Rhemalda, 2013

Dix is a girl with a secret. A big secret. We're talking huge secret. A secret that could cost not only her life, but the lives of all those near to her. She's been hiding it for years, keeping it tucked close, letting only a precious few know the truth. But all that careful planning and dodging and hoping has come to an abrupt end, and Dix finds herself on a desperate race for survival. And, strangely, forced to rely on others - to trust them, to let them into the inner sanctum - even though the stakes are higher than they've ever been.

Liberty is a humdinger of a sci-fi adventure. I loved it, devoured it! Dix is a character with spunk, stubborn and willful defiance - but the very best kind. She's fiercely protective of those around her, her rag-tag "family," and is willing to sacrifice her own freedom - even life - to keep them safe and alive, if that's what it takes. You see, Dix has a vial - the only remaining vial - of Eternigen, the drug that will allow people to travel into Deep Space. This is the secret she's been hiding, and why people are hunting her down. This is what cost her family, and a growing number of people she's come in contact with, their lives. But her best friend is *thisclose* to replicating the formula, which would allow Dix and her motley crew freedom. Only, things are not going as planned. And while Dix can maybe manage to fight their way out of the grasp of Eira Ninge and her cruel tactics, she can't prevent herself from forming more attachments. Strong, powerful attachments.

Well-written and fast-paced, I was drawn into the space-hopping world of Dix and company. Their struggles, especially Dix's, are real. And my imagination was beyond captured by the space-travel concepts. Hoping there's more to come!

eBook provided by publisher for review.


Blog Tour: Claude in the City

Whew, it's been a whirlwind spring! And today is, once more, a Peachtree blog tour! These are so fun, and Emily has been one busy lady organizing all the goodness. After checking out my review of Claude in the City, swing by the schedule and see what others have to offer.

Claude in the City
Alex T Smith
Peachtree, 2013

Okay. I'm smitten with Claude, and so very glad Peachtree picked up this adorable early reader series (it came out in the UK several years ago). Claude is, as you may have guessed, a small dog (rather plump), who wears a dashing beret. His best friend is Sir Bobblysock (yes, he really is a bobbly sock), and together they have some wonderful times. Like when they decide to venture into the City.

Claude in the City is actually two stories about two eventful days (presented as "chapters" for that grown-up early-reading feel) in the City. In the first, Claude and Sir Bobblysock take a casual meander through the City, having a fun mix of first time adventures. And then, when you least expect it, they save the day! The next City venture is less fun, but no less heroic: Sir Bobblysock is strangely ill, so Claude takes him to the hospital. There, while doctors are taking care of Sir Bobblysock, Claude takes care of the waiting patients in the emergency room. With dazzling results, of course.

Simple illustrations, but so expressive. I love looking at the facial expressions on the people in the City, as Claude and Sir Bobblysock go about their adventures, blissfully unaware. Claude is such a fun character, I look forward to his future adventures.

Book provided by publisher for review.