Blog Tour: AVALON by Mindee Arnett (Book Review)

avalon banner

Good morning, readers 🙂 Today I’m participating in the blog tour of AVALON by Mindee Arnett, a book I’ve been wanting to read practically since was announced. Enjoy (my review is below & there’s a giveaway)!

avalon cover

Title: AVALON
Author: Mindee Arnett
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Pages: 432
Pub. Date: January 21, 2014
Find it: GoodreadsAmazonBarnes & NobleIndieBound

Book Blurb:

A ragtag group of teenage mercenaries who crew the spaceship Avalon stumble upon a conspiracy that could threaten the entire galaxy in this fascinating and fast-paced sci-fi adventure from author Mindee Arnett.
Of the various star systems that make up the Confederation, most lie thousands of light-years from First Earth-and out here, no one is free. The agencies that govern the Confederation are as corrupt as the crime bosses who patrol it, and power is held by anyone with enough greed and ruthlessness to claim it. That power is derived from one thing: metatech, the devices that allow people to travel great distances faster than the speed of light.

Jeth Seagrave and his crew of teenage mercenaries have survived in this world by stealing unsecured metatech, and they’re damn good at it. Jeth doesn’t care about the politics or the law; all he cares about is earning enough money to buy back his parents’ ship, Avalon, from his crime-boss employer and getting himself and his sister, Lizzie, the heck out of Dodge. But when Jeth finds himself in possession of information that both the crime bosses and the government are willing to kill for, he is going to have to ask himself how far he’ll go to get the freedom he’s wanted for so long.

Avalon is the perfect fit for teens new to sci-fi as well as seasoned sci-fi readers looking for more books in the YA space-and a great match for fans of Joss Whedon’s cult hit show Firefly.

My Review:

Owl Rating

I’d never seen Firefly when I first started reading AVALON. I know, I know, it’s my dad’s favorite show, I thing Joss Whedon is brilliant (& definitely on to some gov’t conspiracies…Dollhouse anyone? *(too real)). But, I’ve never had time to properly indulge & I hate shows canceling early (Dollhouse, Lie to Me…every one of my favorite shows). But, after reading AVALON now I have to.

The more I write, the better writer I become I start to study the books I read more. Every book becomes a mini-lesson. If I love it, I want to know what it did well. In AVALON’s case other than the ah-mazing brother/sister relationship (I’m a big sibling and I’m a sucker for those in books), it was the characterization of every person in it that won me over and made me give it 5 owls (also the world building & evil corporations…love that stuff). Every book I’ve loved has not only had great main character but secondary characters. While reading AVALON I wanted to get to know everyone, especially Celeste more because she seemed like a boss. I wanted to know the man on the bench, Hammer, his guard’s…I did a lot of acting and when I’m reading sometimes I see things being staged, from the moment each character in AVALON “stepped on stage,” they played their part well.

I will admit, I didn’t like the book at first. I’m a Sci-Fi person and the first ten pages were very I’ve seen this before, too much backstory, not grabbing me. But, give it time. Have faith. Yes, Jeth is bit of a…bootyhead (as my ten-year-old sister likes to say), but seeing him care for his sister gave me a reason to root for him. Also, like Harry Potter, who is one of the most unlikable protagonists (especially in later books), he’s an orphan and he “belongs” to a disgusting man. Like wait until you get to the part where Arnett describes Hammer *shudder* (that was good). You HAVE to root for Jeth and his crew, you’d be cruel not to.

Oh, and the twists. Oh, they’re there. I guessed half of it, but that didn’t make it any less enjoyable. There’s also romance which I liked, but didn’t think was necessary not that it was bad but the book was amazing already without it. This was my first time reading anything by Arnett (I’m buying The Nightmare Affair today though because I’m hooked), and huge kudos for straddling the line well between world building overload and not enough. I know it’s hard with Sci-Fi, info dumps are annoying, but if you don’t paint a good enough picture, people are clueless. It’s for this reason that I’d recommend AVALON for fans of Sci-Fi (depending on how big of a fan you are you might find it too light) as well as those who have never read it before, especially those who have never read it before as it’s a great first.

I hear this is the first in a series 😀 I’ve been waiting for the “rise of YA Sci-Fi,” and this was my first recent foyer into it. I’m looking forward to reading more. I’m so pleased that I loved every book I’ve picked up this year (5 so far?). I’ve always had good taste in books, haha, *hair flip* but even I’m surprised.

You can find AVALON at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and IndieBound.

**This is a 100% honest review. I received a copy of the book from the publisher to read & review.**

About the Author:

mindee arnett

Mindee Arnett lives on a horse farm in Ohio with her husband, two kids, a couple of dogs, and an inappropriate number of cats. She’s addicted to jumping horses and telling tales of magic, the macabre, and outer space. She has far more dreams than nightmares.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway!

Giveaway Details:

2 Signed copies of AVALON (International)

Tour Schedule:

Week One:

1/13/2014- IceyBooks– Interview

1/14/2014- Word Spelunking– Guest Post

1/15/2014- Fantasy Book Addict- Interview

1/16/2014- Falling For YA- Review

1/17/2014- Whimsically Yours- Review

Week Two:

1/20/2014- Such a Novel Idea- Review

1/21/2014- The Eater of Books!- Interview

1/22/2014- Bewitched Bookworms- Guest Post

1/23/2014- NerdophilesReview

1/24/2014- The Irish Banana Review– Guest Post

Many thanks to Rockstar Book Tours for having me as a host, Happy Friday everyone!!!

Whimsically Yours,

PnC

Interview with Author Catherine Stine (RUBY’S FIRE Blog Tour)

Good Morning!

As a part of the Ruby’s Fire Blog Tour I’m pleased to bring you my interview with the author of YA Sci-Fi Ruby’s Fire, Catherine Stine (& some info about the book)!

About the Book:
Title: Ruby’s Fire by Catherine Stine
Series: Fireseed, #2 (however, can be read as a stand-alone)
Publication date:  June 26, 2013
Genre: YA Sci-Fi

If everything about you changes, what remains?

Seventeen year-old Ruby, long-pledged to the much older Stiles from the Fireseed desert cult, escapes with only a change of clothes, a pouch of Oblivion Powder and her mute little brother, Thorn. Arriving at The Greening, a boarding school for orphaned teens, she can finally stop running. Or can she? The Greening is not what it seems. Students are rampaging out of control and as she cares for the secret Fireseed crop, she experiences frightening physical changes. She’s ashamed of her attraction to burly, hard-talking Blane, the resident bodyguard, and wonders why she can’t be happy with the gentler Armonk. She’s long considered her great beauty a liability, a thing she’s misused in order to survive. And how is she to stop her dependence on Oblivion to find a real beauty within, using her talent as a maker of salves, when she has nightmares of Stiles without it?

When George Axiom, wealthy mogul of Vegas-by-the-Sea offers a huge cash prize for the winner of a student contest, Ruby is hopeful she might collect the prize to rescue her family and friends from what she now knows is a dangerous cult. But when Stiles comes to reclaim her, and Thorn sickens after creating the most astonishing contest project of all, the world Ruby knows is changed forever. This romantic fantasy set in 2099 on earth has a crafty heroine in Ruby, and a swoonworthy cast, which will surely appeal to the YA and new adult audience.

Book Links:
About the Author

Catherine Stine writes YA, New Adult and middle grade fiction. Her YA futuristic thriller, Fireseed One, illustrated by the author won finalist spots in both YA and Science Fiction in the 2013 USA Book News International Book Awards. It was also granted a 2013 Bronze Wishing Shelf Book Award and a 2013 Indie Reader Approved notable stamp. Her YA Refugees, earned a New York Public Library Best Book. Middle grade novels include A Girl’s Best Friend.

Fireseed One sequel, Ruby’s Fire is earning advance praise from reviewers and authors:
“Ruby’s Fire, returns to the sun-scorched earth of Fireseed One. In this long-awaited sequel, Stine delivers a thrilling adventure led by a new and exciting cast of characters. Ruby, Armonk, Thorn and Blane are memorable, and the romance is really well handled. Favorite quote: ” It feels wrong to lean on Armonk right now with Blane staring at me, a hungry, lonely look in his eye. It’s as if he’s never been hugged, never been fed, never been loved…” ”  -YAs the Word

More and more, Catherine enjoys writing speculative tales where her imagination has wild and free reign. She has taught creative writing workshops at the Philadelphia Writing Conference, Missouri University Summer Abroad, The New School and in her own ongoing NYC writing workshop. She loves her readers, and enjoys blogging.

Author Links:
Interview with Author

Hi Catherine!  Welcome to my whimsical (hehe) blog.  Can you introduce yourself & your novel?

I write young adult and new adult fiction, and often it’s speculative, because I love to ask myself “What if” questions about the world. My new novel, Ruby’s Fire, deals with subjects young women angst over: how to negotiate one’s sexuality and power, how to escape from an inappropriate and dangerous relationship, why people become addicted to drugs and what kinds of things help them to kick, and how to find true interior beauty. Ruby has trouble with men in the cult she grew up in because she is so beautiful. She is forced to flee, and run to a very unusual boarding school for nomadic teens in a place called Skull’s Wrath. Once there, she goes through major transformations in body and soul.

 What is your favorite place to write?

I have a tiny studio in NYC that I call The Rabbit Hole. It’s cozy and the walls are absolutely plastered with my drawings and photos of people that I’ve chosen who look like my characters. –This sounds awesome (& similar to my Pinterest boards).

What is the first story you remember writing?

In fourth grade I wrote a cute little mystery series and drew ornate book covers for them all. I was very proud of myself.

Haha, oh elementary school.  The first I remember writing was in 3rd grade 🙂  

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

In sixth grade, when my teacher Xeroxed a 25-page jungle fantasy story I wrote called A Better World and passed it out to all of my classmates. The attention he paid to me and my writing made me realize that writing was a special craft and I actually had some talent. I think it’s so very crucial to find a mentor who does this for you. Over the years as you grow and change, you may have two or three of them.

If you could be any character from a book, movie, play, or musical who would it be?

I’d choose Ruby, from my novel Ruby’s Fire because she’s such a strong heroine even though she’s flawed. She’s beautiful and sensitive and knows how to make all kinds of elixirs out of Dragon Lizard venom that do dangerous and wondrous things. And she gets the hottest guy. –Now that’s my kind of heroine!

What is the best piece of constructive criticism you ever received?

Don’t over-explain your characters or themes. Don’t state emotions or intentions directly in a story. Your readers are smart—trust them to “read between the lines”.

How do you overcome “writer’s block”? 

I don’t believe in writer’s block! It is important to just sit down in my chair and force myself to write for a certain amount of time. This leads to inspiration, not always the other way around. Also, sometimes it’s good to outline in more detail if you are hazy on a character or plot.  –You make a great point here.  Often it’s just better to not believe and keep focused on your writing.

Are you a full time writer?

I write and teach. I also teach creative writing workshops and courses in writing teen fiction. These two disciplines feed into each other. I love them both.

Coffee or tea?

Three cups of black coffee in the morning and then tea, tea, tea!

Hmm… What’s a fun fact about you that most people don’t know?

I love rock, jazz and R&B, and I’ve seen over 60 concerts. Let’s see, I’ve seen James Brown four times, Jonny Lang three times, John McLaughlin five times, and so, so many others. I’ve hung out with McLaughlin in his dressing room with the crew, and I’ve chatted with Mark Anthony. A bit of a groupie? Yup.

What was the publishing process like for you?

I was first published with Random House (My YA, Refugees). It was exciting and scary, because the first draft was revision on spec. They liked my revision because they offered me a contract afterward. (Wow, that’s amazing…no easy feat, congrats!) I’ve also done work for American Girl, as well as indie publishing my latest YA sci-fi novels, Fireseed One and Ruby’s Fire. I loved putting together my own dream team for them, including my amazing editor, Elizabeth Law, who worked for Egmont Press, and Jay Montgomery, my awesome cover artist who teaches digital illustration at Savannah College of Art and Design. Each way of publishing has its own strengths.

What is some advice you would impart to writers who wish to be published?

Get the novel right first! Don’t even think about sending anything out before it’s a darn good tale with vivid characters and unexpected plot twists. Lots of people are too impatient to publish. Also, don’t give up even if it takes a while.

If you could have breakfast with anyone dead or alive, who’d it be and what would you eat?

Chekhov. We’d eat chocolate cake and drink black coffee, but mostly we’d talk about writing.

What are your favorite movies?

Eastern Promises, Taxi Driver, Laurel Canyon, Eight Mile—movies that hit my heart

If you had an animal spirit or Patronus which animal would it be?

A bear? They are tall and noble and can be quite quick when they need to be. They protect their own with ferocity, yet they’re normally peaceful.

What are your favorite childhood books?

In sixth grade, I discovered sci-fi and I fell totally in love with Ray Bradbury, George Orwell, and before that The Narnia Chronicles. I have a very active imagination, and there’s nothing more exciting than to craft new worlds, settings, inventions. –These are some of my favorites as well!

 What is the next book you want to write?

I’m revising a YA contemporary psychological horror that pays homage to Dorian Gray, but with a female lead. I hope to have it out in December. –I love the tale of Dorian Gray…what an interesting twist, looking forward to it 🙂

Imagine you are writing your memoir…what is its title?

That’s a hard one. Girl with Goat, or Fire Witch. Try to figure those out, I dare you!

Last words?

Entertain your readers! That’s the main job of a writer.

Thanks for interviewing me, it was fun!

Catherine Stine

Thank you, Catherine for the wonderful interview!  Entertaining your readers should always be top priority.  Readers, be sure to check out the full tour schedule for excerpts, reviews, and other interviews!  Also don’t forget to enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway 😉  (I know, you can’t view it but you should definitely click the link…it’s a big one!

Whimsically Yours,

PnC

Ruby’s Fire Launch Celebration!!!

Happy Wednesday!!!  Today (in addition to the usual What’s Up Wednesday post) I bring you Ruby’s Fire 🙂

by the wonderful, Catherine Stine

Book Blurb:
If everything about you changes, what remains?Seventeen year-old Ruby, long-pledged to the much older Stiles from the Fireseed desert cult, escapes with only a change of clothes, a pouch of Oblivion Powder and her mute little brother, Thorn. Arriving at The Greening, a boarding school for orphaned teens, she can finally stop running. Or can she?
The Greening is not what it seems. Students are rampaging out of control and as she cares for the secret Fireseed crop, she experiences frightening physical changes. She’s ashamed of her attraction to burly, hard-talking Blane, the resident bodyguard, and wonders why she can’t be happy with the gentler Armonk. She’s long considered her great beauty a liability, a thing she’s misused in order to survive. And how is she to stop her dependence on Oblivion to find a real beauty within, using her talent as a maker of salves, when she has nightmares of Stiles without it?
When George Axiom, wealthy mogul of Vegas-by-the-Sea offers a huge cash prize for the winner of a student contest, Ruby is hopeful she might collect the prize to rescue her family and friends from what she now knows is a dangerous cult. But when Stiles comes to reclaim her, and Thorn sickens after creating the most astonishing contest project of all, the world Ruby knows is changed forever. This romantic fantasy set in 2099 on earth has a crafty heroine in Ruby, and a swoonworthy cast, which will surely appeal to the YA and new adult audience.
Ruby’s Fire by Catherine Stine
Series: Fireseed, #2 (however, can be read as a stand-alone)
Publication date:  June 26, 2013
Genre: YA Sci-Fi

Visit my Giveaway site to enter the Rafflecopter for a chance to win various prizes including a $40 Amazon giftcard & a signed paperback  of Ruby’s Fire!

 About the Author 
Catherine Stine writes YA, New Adult and middle grade fiction. Her YA futuristic thriller, Fireseed One, illustrated by the author won finalist spots in both YA and Science Fiction in the 2013 USA Book News International Book Awards. It was also granted a 2013 Bronze Wishing Shelf Book Award and a 2013 Indie Reader Approved notable stamp. Her YA Refugees, earned a New York Public Library Best Book. Middle grade novels include A Girl’s Best Friend.
Fireseed One sequel, Ruby’s Fire is earning advance praise from reviewers and authors:
“Ruby’s Fire, returns to the sun-scorched earth of Fireseed One. In this long-awaited sequel, Stine delivers a thrilling adventure led by a new and exciting cast of characters. Ruby, Armonk, Thorn and Blane are memorable, and the romance is really well handled. Favorite quote: ” It feels wrong to lean on Armonk right now with Blane staring at me, a hungry, lonely look in his eye. It’s as if he’s never been hugged, never been fed, never been loved…” ”  -YAs the Word
More and more, Catherine enjoys writing speculative tales where her imagination has wild and free reign. She has taught creative writing workshops at the Philadelphia Writing Conference, Missouri University Summer Abroad, The New School and in her own ongoing NYC writing workshop. She loves her readers, and enjoys blogging.
Author Links:

Website | Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter

Book Excerpt
Seventeen year-old Ruby and her classmate, Armonk have a talk in an abandoned house they find half buried in the sand on their way to the food depot:

 I tell Armonk about my hope to win the prize money in order to rescue my friends and mother from the cult—that’s how I think of it now. “I’ll buy a shiny blue house in Vegas-by-the-Sea and move them all in. We’ll get blue dishes and blue tablecloths and eat blue crabs. Ha! What would you do with the money?”

“Help my sector dig wells. Black Hills has no more drinking water, and most can’t afford enough water pellets. My mom said that George Axiom used to be in the oil business before the border wars. He knows drilling. George Axiom could drill incredibly deep wells that may still actually hit water.” Armonk sighs wearily. “I’d also pay for my mother to get better medical help. She has bad breathing problems, we’re not even sure what it is.”

“That’s terrible,” I say.

“I hope Dr. Varik comes soon.” Armonk adjusts his leg. “So many people need him here.”

I’d like to ask the doctor about the humming in my head, whether it means I’m going insane. And about the strange greenish tint on my bite wound, plus my eating problem, or should I say non-eating problem? I examine the scar. Whatever it was, it’s healed normally. “I should ask him a few things myself,” I say.

Armonk looks over at me. “You’re getting awfully skinny. You could use a check up.”

I hug myself, embarrassed. “I hoped no one would notice. I’m never hungry,” I admit.

“Really? Nevada has such good food at The Greening.”

“Have you spoken to Dr. Varik recently?”

“Sorry to say, I’ve lost touch.”

My gut sinks, and then rises, with an idea. “Let’s ask if anyone’s heard of Dr. Varik at Skull’s Wrath Depot. They’d know of any news, any new residents.”

“Quick thinking, you’re—”

Just then, we hear the whirring of a low-lying hovercraft, as if it’s landing on the roof of this cockeyed house. In a panic, I run toward the door. As I do, I catch my pants leg on a broken doorframe, and go flying, headfirst. My forearm cuts against a sharp edge of a metal scrap, buried in the sand. I brush myself off and spit out a mouthful of grit.

Outside, whatever hovercraft was overhead has zipped away. How is that possible, when it was so incredibly loud only a few seconds ago?

As Armonk and I exchange mystified glances, Blane’s words when he told me about the time he saw that pearl blue hovercraft flit through my mind: when I didn’t answer the guy’s question, his ship disappeared into thin air.

My arm is smarting. I turn it over gingerly to survey the damage, and gasp. It’s not bleeding red—rather some thin, greenish liquid. My insides freeze. “Armonk, I need to find that doctor now.”

He rushes over. His pale, frightened expression tells me he agrees.

Whimsically Yours,
PnC