In My Mailbox-- Post Birthday & Summer

Time for another IMM! I haven't done one in months! Here's the video version, the picture version, and the text version. All the versions you could need! Enjoy!

There were a few times I leaned over and showed part of my face, which is why there are random blurry bits.


Birthday Gifts:

For Review:

All review content © Enna Isilee, Squeaky Books 2007-2012

Matched & Crossed Read-Along!

The read-along has already begun! 

Do you know what's coming November 13? Do you?! DO YOU!? I hope you do, it's Reached! The final book in the Matched series. It's going to be beyond epic.

BUT, if you're like me, then it's been a while since you read Matched and Crossed. Chances are you only have vague memories of what happened.

OR, maybe you haven't read the series at all!

Either way, we have a solution for you!

Introducing the Matched & Crossed read-along! The concept is simple, a whole bunch of us are going to read (or re-read) Matched and Crossed together at the same time. We'll discuss once a week at the host blogs (here and The Non Reluctant Reader), and there will be many chances for the participants to earn prizes. Here's the schedule:

  • 10/2 Starting line! Begin reading Matched
  • 10/9 Read to Chapter 12
  • 10/16 Read to Chapter 22
  • 10/22 Finish Matched, Start Crossed!
  • 10/29 Read to Chapter 14
  • 11/5 Read to Chapter 35
  • 11/12 Finish Crossed, buy Reached!

Want to join us? Sign up using the form below! And below that is where you can enter to win a set of Ally's books! Three winners will get both a paperback copy of Matched, a hardcover copy of Crossed, and some awesome swag! You totally want to to do this. It's gonna be a blast! If you want some more in-depth details, check out Benji's blog.

Please note: anyone can participate in the read-along, but giveaways will only be open to US residents.

Add the read-along button:

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Blog about the read-along:
(Feel free to resize!)
<div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"><a href="" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><img border="0" src="" /></a></div><br /><div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"></div>I'm participating in the Matched & <i>Crossed </i>read-along! The last book in the series, <i>Reached,</i> comes out November 13th, and I want to make sure I'm totally ready for it. Luckily there's a big read-along happening just for that purpose!<br /><br />This is a great chance to get caught up on the first two books, and win some awesome prizes! You can even enter to win just by signing up! Check out the host blogs (<a href="">Squeaky Books</a> and <a href="">The Non Reluctant Reader</a>) to find out more!<br /><br />Come read with me!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

**Fury of the Phoenix-- Cindy Pon

Release Date: April 28th, 2009
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Pages: 362
Amazon Link*: Click here
Goodreads Page: Click here
Series: Kingdom of Xia #2
Summary (Spoilers, highlight to view):
The Gods have abandoned Ai Ling.

Her mysterious power haunts her day and night, and she leaves home--with just the moon as her guide--overwhelmed by her memories and visions and an unbearable sense of dread. For Ai Ling knows that Chen Yong is vulnerable to corrupt enchantments from the under-world. How can she do nothing when she has the skill and power to fight at his side? A dream has told her where he is, the name of the ship he is traveling on, his destination. So she steals off and stows away on board.

The ocean voyage brings with it brutal danger, haunting revelations, and new friendships, but also the premonition of a very real and terrifying threat. Zhong Ye--the powerful sorcerer whom Ai Ling believed she had vanquished in the Palace of Fragrant Dreams--is trapped in Hell, neither alive nor dead. Can he reach from beyond the grave to reunite with Silver Phoenix and destroy Chen Yong? And destroy whatever chance Ai Ling has at happiness, at love?
Blurb: Best. Villain. Ever.

Review: I loved this book even more than the first. It's a parallel story line one taking place in the present, the other many years in the past. When you break down the two parallel stories into their parts very little happens; but when you put this book together with the first it is an amazing ride.

I think this book is best read right after Silver Phoenix. My only complaint with SP was that it went too fast and didn't focus enough on the details. My only complaint with this one was that it didn't have as much adventure as the first. Put them together, and you have the perfect book.

Although less fantastical and "epic," Fury of the Phoenix is the epitome of masterful character creation. I think I will now dub Cindy Pon the master of creating the sympathetic villain. By the end of this book I WAS IN LOVE WITH THE VILLAIN! When does THAT ever happen?!

Seriously. So good.

Other Reviews (most contain spoilers!):

All review content © Enna Isilee, Squeaky Books 2007-2012
*I am an amazon affiliate. If you purchase this book using my link, I will get a tiny fraction of the purchase, which goes toward contests.

**Silver Phoenix-- Cindy Pon

Release Date: April 28th, 2009
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Pages: 338
Amazon Link*: Click here
Goodreads Page: Click here
Series: Kingdom of Xia #1
No one wanted Ai Ling. And deep down she is relieved—despite the dishonor she has brought upon her family—to be unbetrothed and free, not some stranger's subservient bride banished to the inner quarters.

But now, something is after her. Something terrifying—a force she cannot comprehend. And as pieces of the puzzle start to fit together, Ai Ling begins to understand that her journey to the Palace of Fragrant Dreams isn't only a quest to find her beloved father but a venture with stakes larger than she could have imagined.

Bravery, intelligence, the will to fight and fight hard . . . she will need all of these things. Just as she will need the new and mysterious power growing within her. She will also need help.

It is Chen Yong who finds her partly submerged and barely breathing at the edge of a deep lake. There is something of unspeakable evil trying to drag her under. On a quest of his own, Chen Yong offers that help . . . and perhaps more.
Blurb: LOVE! Beautiful setting, beautiful characters, beautiful book.

Review: I LOVED this book! Thanks so much to Megan for being such a big fan and getting me to read it.

First of all, what I ADORED was the setting. I loved how everything in Ai Ling's world balanced on the tip of "normal" and magical. She would only occasionally see creatures that we would think of as "fantastic" and sometimes she reacted calmly, and other times it was clearly a shock. It really made me want to dive into this world and discover its secrets. Is magic common? What kind of creatures roam the land? And a map! I need a map! You know I love a setting if I need a map. The only things I strugged with were names. They were all like Ai Ling, Li Rong, Wai Pen, etc. I actually can't tell you from memory what the love interest's name was because my brain just couldn't wrap itself around that kind of names. Doesn't mean I didn't like it; it just confused me.

Even though I couldn't grasp their names, the characters in this book were GREAT! I found the romantic and friendship relationships completely authentic. I really was invested in these characters. When bad things happened to them my heart broke. When marvelous things happened, I felt my eyes widen in wonder. I loved them! It was them interacting with that wonderful setting that made this book truly amazing.

My ONLY complaint is that it seemed to go by really fast. Every time we're introduced to something fantastic we only see it for a few pages, then the characters move on! TAKE A MINUTE! Yes, I know that monster is trying to kill you, but can you just hold still a minute so I can examine it? There was one time where these "worm demons" attack and they were only there for like, two pages! The characters were like "oh, run away!" And then when they escaped they simply said "those were worm demons," and moved on. I WANT TO KNOW MORE! Seriously. If I could have had an illustrated encyclopedia of all things Xia I would be happy.

As a note: there is A LOT of sexual content in this book. At least, a lot for me. None of it is very graphic, but it is all VERY plainly stated.

Other Reviews:

All review content © Enna Isilee, Squeaky Books 2007-2012
*I am an amazon affiliate. If you purchase this book using my link, I will get a tiny fraction of the purchase, which goes toward contests.

Birthday Bash Feedback!

If you all wouldn't mind, I'd LOVE some feedback on the birthday bash. Just fill in whatever you feel like telling me. Most of the questions are optional.

Thank you!

All review content © Enna Isilee, Squeaky Books 2007-2012

Winners announcement!

IT'S MY BIRTHDAY!!! Do you know what that means?! It means that it's time to see who won some books!! Here's the usual vlog announcing the winners. Below is the text list of the winners. Right now I'm going to the zoo to see real live *PENGINS!


*If you don't know how much I love pengins (and no, that's not a typo) please check the right sidebar.

Winners were e-mailed at 4pm MST on 9/23/12, they have 48 hours to respond before new winners are chosen.


  • Blood Red Road, Jenn H.
  • Incarnate, Amber L.
  • Palace of Stone, Heather C.
  • Under the Never Sky, Kayla B.
  • Shadowcry, Molly F.
  • Nevermore, Kassandra F.
  • Everneath, Bookish in a Box
  • Cinder, Holly H.
  • For Darkness Shows, Lexi E.
  • Monument 14, Pam M.
  • Earrings, Gabrielle Carolina
  • Shadow and Bone, Kyra M.
  • Sweet Shadows, Erin
  • Between Shades of Gray, Kassandra F.
  • Hardcover Set, Ricki M-C-D
  • Single HC, Liana C.
  • Paperback, Erin
  • Vessel, Mel B.
  • The Girl of Fire and Thorns, Emily (Ems Crammed Bookshelf)
  • Legend by Marie Lu, Kitty
  • Matched, Texas Book Lover

All review content © Enna Isilee, Squeaky Books 2007-2012

Five more extra entries!

Now the bash only has TWO DAYS LEFT! Can you believe it?! And, as promised, here's a chance to earn five extra entries in the second half of the giveaways.

So how do you get those five extra entries? It's easy! Just copy and paste the post I have written for you that's in the box below. You can change the wording if you'd like, just leave the general meaning, links, and images intact. Cool?

After you do that, go to whichever contest you want to get the extra entries for and put your link into the new form that has appeared at the bottom of the rafflecopter. This chance for 5 extra entires is only good for the last 8 giveaways. And your post must be up by NOON MST on Friday, September 21st.

Go forth and post! Please?

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For nearly a month, Enna Isilee has been celebrating her birthday by interviewing a TON of authors, and having a TON of giveaways. You can <a href="">click here</a> for all there is to know about the birthday bash. But here's the sad news: it's almost over!! You only have until 10:01pm MST on 9/21/12 to enter to win all of these amazing books. What are you waiting for?!

Click on the the book you want to win to be taken to an interview with the author where you can enter to win that book! While you're there, stop by and say hi to the author and wish Enna Isilee a happy birthday.

It's the party of the year! And it's almost over. Don't miss out!

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All review content © Enna Isilee, Squeaky Books 2007-2012

Author Interview & Giveaway-- Ally Condie

Connect with Ally:
Goodreads | Website | Twitter

It is only once in a lifetime that you meet an author like Ally Condie. Seriously, people. This is the coolest lady in the atmosphere. She's sweet, easy to talk to, and writes DANG good books! I was so happy when she agreed to be part of the bash. Read the sweetness that is her interview, then enter to win Matched! (Even though you all own Matched already, right? RIGHT?!)

What was the biggest thing you felt when you finished Reached? Was it hard to say “goodbye” to the trilogy? I know you recently said on your blog that you were writing something new, but did you have things in mind even before you finished the Matched books?

*The biggest thing I felt was bittersweet. It's hard to say goodbye, but at the same time it feels like the story continues beyond the pages. It was my job to take the characters to a certain point...and then let them go. And that was a bit sad and exciting all at once. And yes, I did have ideas in mind for new stories even before I finished this trilogy. I am always getting new ideas. But I didn't let myself really explore anything until I was done with REACHED--I'd take notes and write bits of a scene here and there, etc., but that was all.

Can you write while someone is watching TV in the next room? Or do you need total silence?

*I need total silence sometimes, and other times nothing bugs me. So I've splurged and purchased a set of noise-canceling headphones for those times when I'm too easily distracted. They have been awesome!

Matched has been published in so many languages! Congrats! Do you own any of the international editions? Do you speak any foreign languages?

*I own most of the international editions (we've sold in thirty countries and counting, which is fun)! The publishers are usually sweet enough to send me a few copies. It's incredibly crazy to see the book in different languages--I love it. I don't speak any languages, which is embarrassing (i took German in high school and college, but am by no means fluent). But, my daughter was adopted from China, and my husband speaks fluent Portuguese, so those editions were extra special to me even though I don't speak the languages myself. :)

What the strangest thing a fan has asked you since being published? (Either since publishing Yearbook or Matched)

*One time this really nice kid asked me to sign his arm. That isn't that strange or weird, but I felt uncomfortable doing it. What if his mom got mad? So I got him a piece of paper and signed it instead. Honestly, I have the nicest fans. I must be lucky!

And lastly, a mad-lib! Please provide: 3 nouns, 3 verbs, and 3 adjectives
pizza, ferret, shinguards
warble, fret, sashay
pompous, decadent, salacious
I have sad news, friends! I actually don't have a copy of Matched nearby to fill in this mad-lib. BUT I will by the end of today. So check back!!

!!Giveaway Time!!

You can win a SIGNED copy of Matched! Today's giveaway is hosted by The Shangri La of Books. Head on over to win. This giveaway is open TO US ONLY.

All review content © Enna Isilee, Squeaky Books 2007-2012

Guest Post & Giveaway-- Legend

Today I have a great post! Last year I interviewed Marie Lu, you can see that interview here, but I still wanted to feature the book this year! Introducing Nicole from The Reader's Antidote, and her amazing guest post! Read it, then enter to win a signed copy of Legend!

Why Teens Love YA Dystopian Novels and Marie Lu's Brilliance

I saw the headline of an article like this somewhere a while ago and thought it was a great idea. I didn't read the article, but I could make guesses about what they were going to say. So here's what I think about why teens love dystopians, and how Legend by Marie Lu fits into all this.

When I read Legend, I felt like I was just getting into dystopians, but all of a sudden people weren't interested in them anymore. I was wrong. So very wrong. Dystopians were starting to all be the same and people were getting annoyed. But Legend kind of threw that out the window. The first thing is the multiple point of views, one from June and one from Day. The way the book is formatted, June's words are in the normal font and the usual black color. But Day's words are in a computer-like font and a gold color. That was one of the first things that originally annoyed me about this book, but I grew to love it. It made it very easy to tell who's head we were in, and I think that really speaks to teens (no pun intended). I know as a teenager that keeping up with one person's thoughts was sometimes hard for me (especially since sometimes I was skimming... *turns away shamefully*), and this really gives the reader two very separate voices. Teens always feel the need to be unique, which is what Legend did for its characters. This was also one of the first dystopians where it was actually in two points of view. And somehow, even with being in Day's head (who's the love interest), he remained somewhat of a mystery, as did June. You never really knew what either of them was going to do next.

A big reason that teens love dystopians is that teens' lives are like soap operas. There's really no getting around that, whether you're one of the popular people, a geek, a jock, or a recluse. Someone is always thinking they're better than someone else or are having self-esteem issues. And the drama! Well, dystopians take drama to the extreme and it literally is the end of the world. Teens like taking things to the extremes, so when they read about this world that has fallen apart, they feel they can relate because at one point or another their own world has felt like it's ended. The romance is also often very real in dystopians, and there was no exception with Day and June. Day is a street rat (AKA a geek, nerd or loner by high school standards) and he has to do everything he can just to feed himself and his friend. He has no family, and believe me, there was many a time where I wish I had no family. June, on the other hand, is in a position of power. She's lost her parents too, but she still has her brother and she's certainly not feeding off scraps. She's like the popular girl that everyone fauns over but secretly sort of hates because she has it all. And when these two are put together by circumstances, it's like Breakfast Club all over again. The characters themselves are relatable, and despite the fact that they're in a post-apocalyptic dystopian world, they're still teens and have the same basic problems and interact socially the same way.

Prodigy, which is the sequel to Legend, brings up even more issues that teens can relate to. There's always something teens think is better, like the iPhone 5 or the next Call of Duty. It's something they don't have, and something they'll do anything to get. Well, anything in a teenager's head never goes as far as death. But it's taken to that level in Prodigy, just as it was in Legend. Again, it's the life-or-death feelings that teenagers align themselves with. The characters are in search of something they once thought never existed, but they know that if it does exist, they will be safe. It's that mixture of danger with the promise of finally being safe that teens connect with. Marie also brings up the issue of sexual orientation, and it involves someone close to her. I'm so glad this issue was faced, because it's not mentioned enough in YA. Dealing with someone close to you being gay is a shock at first. Someone you've known for so long, and you thought you knew them, and then you find out through someone else that they were gay, is hard to digest. It's especially hard on teens because they trust so completely, so this was a really relatable element that was brilliantly added to this already epic tale.

So why should you jump on the dystopian bandwagon? Because of books like Legend. It's a world so separate--so different--from our own, and yet the human element is still the same. The problems don't change much. Sometimes they become more deadly, or less important. But teens can relate to dystopians because they feel like they're living one every day. They go through challenges that people out of high school laugh at now, but for them it really does feel like one decision is the difference between living and dying. And that's why teens love dystopians; because they find themselves in a world where your decisions and your choices really do matter, and to more than just you. In dystopians, the teens make the difference, not the adults.

!!Giveaway Time!!

You can win a copy of Legend! Today's giveaway is hosted by The Reader's Antidote. Head on over to win. This giveaway is open TO US ONLY.

All review content © Enna Isilee, Squeaky Books 2007-2012

Author Interview & Giveaway--Rae Carson

Connect with Rae:
Goodreads | Website | Twitter

It's been over a year since I read The Girl of Fire and Thorns and I still think about it all the time! I absolutely cannot wait for the sequel, which comes out TOMORROW! You can win the first book here, but you should buy the second book ASAP!

Some of the things I love about Girl of Fire and Thorns are the YA "barriers" that you break down. When writing did you write these with the intention of being different? Have there been any unforeseen consequences?
Thank you! Yes, my intention was to be different. I love epic quest fantasy with the fire of thousand suns. But there are things about the genre that bug the crap out of me. One of them is the paucity of normal women. In high fantasy, women tend to be either improbably beautiful or improbably repulsive. I know so many young women in real life who are extraordinary, but not one whose singular defining quality is beauty--or ugliness. I decided I wanted to write a quest fantasy featuring a young woman who becomes extraordinary through her personal choices, just like so many of my real-life girlfriends.
This was the ARC cover that caused a ton of buzz because it followed the same stereotypes that the book tried to break down.

Your own life story is so interesting! I especially love how you knew you wanted to be a novelist, but tried to find something more "practical." What advice would you give to people in the same boat? People who want to be writers, but are afraid it won't make ends meet.

My number one piece of advice is this: Don't punish yourself for not being able to pursue your dream every day. These are tough times for a lot of people, and practical considerations have to win out. It's a hard, cold reality. So don't feel guilty, don't get down on yourself; just do what you can.

Having said that, it takes a lot of hard work to become a published author no matter what your circumstances. So my number two piece of advice is this: Do take every reasonable opportunity to practice your craft. When I got serious, I hung out with a group of about 10 or so aspiring authors. We wrote, we critiqued, we revised--for years. A few gave up. Of those who didn't, every single one is now published.

Would you want to live in the world of The Girl of Fire and Thorns as yourself (not as a character)? Why or why not?

I'm a wimp. I wouldn't last a week in that hot desert. But there are a couple of gorgeous tropical islands introduced in book 2, The Crown of Embers. Palm trees! White sand beaches! Bioluminescing bay! Who wouldn't want to live in paradise? Do you think The Rules would allow me to bring my own Mai-Tais from this world?

There are a TON of different covers for The Girl of Fire and Thorns because it's been published in so many countries (congrats!). Do you have a favorite cover? (I personally can't decide between UK and German, though I love them all)

I love the German with all my heart. I think it does the best job of capturing the mood and tone of the book, and its bright colors will make it stand out on shelves. In the U.S., though, that cover would be considered too "young" for its intended audience, so it will be interesting to see how it fares in a different cultural market.

Do you have something you regularly overuse when you write? (Parenthetical statements, commas, etc. [those are mine, can you tell?]) Or any other writing ticks? Things that get edited out before the book goes to print?

Oh, dear, should I confess? I suppose I must… But yes. My characters tend to speak "softly" to each other. Sooo much soft speaking. With softness. Once, I did an edit/replace and changed "softly" to "big green boogers" just so they'd stand out in my manuscript. It forced me to evaluate each one in a new context, and I ended up deleting most of them!

And just for fun: what's your opinion on arachnids?

I used to live in a house infested with black widows. I kept a kill count on my blog. I even posted pictures. (Behind a cut, don't worry. You're welcome.) The one good thing to come of that harrowing experience is I became desensitized to spiders. And while arachnids and I will never be bff's, I no longer scream in terror to see them. By the way, there are lots of arachnids in book 3.

Mad lib time! Credit for this idea goes to Everead!
The jock strap slopes upward as we furry deeper into the sandstorm. Here the tiara stretch higher with viscous lines, slothful curtains. Occasionally, pony flashes against real hadron collider. With the change in slime mold, I expect my new home to be swollen and shimmering.

!!Giveaway Time!!

You can win a copy of The Girl of Fire and Thorns! Today's giveaway is hosted by Clean Teen Fiction. Head on over to win. This giveaway is open INTERNATIONAL

All review content © Enna Isilee, Squeaky Books 2007-2012

My Birthday Wish lists

This is for my family and friends who have been asking me about this. Here are my wish lists:

All review content © Enna Isilee, Squeaky Books 2007-2012

Author Interview & Giveaway--Sarah Beth Durst

Connect with Sarah:
Goodreads | Website | Twitter

Sarah is one of the very first authors that I associate with blogging. I've been a fan of her since her debut middle grade novel, Into the Wild and I'm so excited to feature her today to support her new novel, Vessel. Enjoy!

This is the third year in a row you’ve been part of the birthday bash. It seems like you’re always coming out with a book each fall! How long does it take you to write a book (from first word to the moment you send it to your editor)?

Happy birthday, Enna Isilee!

Yes, I've had a book out every fall since my debut novel, INTO THE WILD. And soon, I'll be doing two books a year. I'm really, really excited about this!

To my (happy) surprise, I've become a faster writer. In the beginning, it took me about two years to write a book. Now, it takes about six months. I think there are two reasons for this:

(1) I've learned more about my writing process. If my muse decides not to show up, I know how to hunt her down, coax her to my writing desk, and trick her into staying. (Hint: It involves Raisinets.)

(2) I've let go of the myth of free time. You can't wait until you have vast stretches of empty time with zero interruptions or distractions. Those lovely stretches don't exist, at least not on a regular basis. So I try to write in whatever time is available, even if it's only in fifteen minute chunks.

What’s one thing that’s gotten easier now that you’ve published a few books? Has anything gotten harder?

When you're starting out, one of the hardest things to do is fight that voice inside that says "you can't do it." After you've written a book or two... that voice begins to lose credibility. So I always recommend to new writers: finish the book. Even if you hate it, even if you plan to never show it to anyone ever, finish it! Then you'll know you can do it, and the next one will be easier (and better!).

If you HAD to choose (and I’m making you choose), which of your book covers is your favorite? And which do you think is the most accurate reflection of what’s in the book?

Oh, no, don't make me choose!

If I must choose... I think VESSEL is my favorite. It's simply so beautiful! I am in awe of the photographer Jaime Ibarra and the S&S art department. I also think it's an accurate reflection of the book. You can see Liyana's strength, and you can see the harsh beauty of her world.

Vessel takes place in a desert setting. Did you have to do much research in order to create an authentic world, or did you just go for it?

Yes, I researched and meshed together a variety of deserts (primarily the Gobi and Sahara, but also several deserts in the Southwest US). I love doing research, and I am fascinated by the intersection of reality and fantasy. Plus from a purely technical standpoint... I think the best way to create a believable fantasy world is to fill it with reality before injecting it with magic.

You publish under the name “Sarah Beth Durst.” Why all three names?

I'd love to give you a deep, psychological reason bolstered by amusing anecdotes, but honestly I just like my middle name. I think it sounds nice with the Sarah.

What’s one thing that’s happened to you since being published that you weren’t expecting?

I wasn't expecting to love book events as much as I do. Growing up, I was shy, and the thought of public speaking made me want to hide under my bed. But it turns out that I simply never tried talking about something that I really care about, i.e. writing. Give me a microphone and ask me to talk about books, and I'm as happy as a clam.

Mad lib time!
She contineud to lie lovely on the roof, running to control her breathing and to resist the urge to ride off all the skies and toss them in a massive temper tantrum. The desert felt lovely on her wolf. In fact, the longer she hid on the roof, the more merciful she felt. It was almost as brave as drinking blood.

Thanks so much for interviewing me!

!!Giveaway Time!!

You can win a copy of Vessel! Today's giveaway is hosted by Young Readers. Head on over to win. This giveaway is open TO US ONLY

All review content © Enna Isilee, Squeaky Books 2007-2012

Author Interview & Giveaway-- Cindy Pon

Connect with Cindy:

I started Cindy Pon's Silver Phoenix after the bash was already going. But it was SO AMAZING that I knew there was no way I could let this bash go by without featuring Cindy. So here she is! Not only did Cindy provide awesome interview answers, Megan (owner of Braun Books bookstore and the one who recommended Cindy's books to me) has donated a kaboodle of prizes for a giveaway! So read the interview, then enter to win!

Now, except for my experience playing “Age of Empires: Asian Dynasties” (and I know that totally doesn’t count) I’m a complete ignoramus when it comes to Asian culture. One of the things I was really curious about in the books were the names of the characters. Some characters had one-part names, some had two, and some had three! Is there any meaning to how many names there are? And do you have to do extra research to create these names (more than someone who makes up random European-sounding names, I mean)? I’m specifically curious about Li Rong And Silver Phoenix. Because wasn’t his family name Li? So is he Li Li Rong? And why does Silver Phoenix have a name that seems more like a title?

Yes! Chen Yong and Li Rong's family (last name) name is "Li". The family name always goes first for the Chinese. So if I were to write my name, I would write Pon Cindy instead of Cindy Pon. Usually, it is more common to have two characters for a given name: Ai Ling and Chen Yong. But sometimes, only one character is given like for Li Rong. (His given name would just be "Rong".) Then it wouldn't be uncommon to attach his surname when referring to him. Creating Chinese names was definitely a challenge for me. I wanted names that non-Chinese speaking readers could pronounce. Chen means the passing on of great traditions and Yong means courage. Ai means love and Ling means forest. Rong means glory or honor. Silver Phoenix is a name given in English because it had meaning in the book (since it was the title). It was necessary or the reader wouldn't know the significance of the title. It is the other way around, the book was named after Silver Phoenix--which is the character's name. =)

You said in your interview at Tu books, and at the end of Fury of the Phoenix that the mythology in the book is primarily from your imagination. But surely to create such intricate culture and mythology you must have some favorite stories that already exist, right? What are some of your favorite historical/mythological stories?

I did research and used a really ancient text to help inspire for creatures and worlds in Silver Phoenix and Fury of the Phoenix. The serpent demon is part of common Chinese folklore and the book I read spoke of a Land of One-Armed tribe, Land of Women, etc, that I incorporated into my stories. As a child, I grew up on Greek and Roman mythology and loved reading them a lot.

Your brush paintings are beautiful. Is Chinese brush the only kind of art you dabble in? Is it very different from oil painting or acrylic? (I’m an art ignoramus too)

I have been a student of Chinese brush painting for eleven years now. It is similar to western watercolor but also different in strokes, history, subject matter and aesthetics. I have no background in oil or acrylic painting but from what I understand they are a more forgiving medium--as in you can go back and cover up or work over mistakes. In Chinese brush painting, this is usually impossible. If you do something wrong, you have to start over.

Did anything about how the first book was received by readers influence what happened in the second book?

Honestly, no. I write for myself and it's most important to me that I stay true to the characters and my story. I know some readers [SPOILER] were upset by how things ended between Ai Ling and Chen Yong in Silver Phoenix. But I felt it was true to the characters and where they were at the time.

Would you like there to be more books in the Phoenix series? If you did write something else, do you think you’d continue to write Asian-inspired fantasy, or do you have other genres that you’d like to try?

Ai Ling's story is finished. But yes, I have written another book in the same world (Kingdom of Xia) with new characters. This one (which I'm hoping to sell) stars a heroine that is a shape shifting serpent demon (similar to the one that Li Rong had "an exchange" with, ha!) and features a strong female friendship.

If you had to step into the world of the Phoenix books, take the place of one character and live out their entire life, which would you choose and why?

I would have to say Zhong Ye. He is not a good character but he's complex and he goes through a lot in my books. Also, as bad as it is, I can't help but wonder what it's like to feel almost immortal. I think life is too short and much of that comes through in what I write.

Mad-lib time!
The game continued on for some rounds. Peng hollered a sea ditty for the crew, Loa Lu juggled three teapots, and Yen crawled a mochi about the Moon Goddess, surprising Ai Ling with the pristine tenor of his voice. Fuzzy clouds gathered, and the night deepened. The crew’s damp teasing faded into the distance. Ai Ling licked her ankle.

!!Giveaway Time!!

Are you ready for the awesome that is this giveaway? Megan has donated THREE prizes:
  • A Paperback Silver Phoenix
  • Your choice of a hardcover Silver Phoenix or Fury of the Phoenix
  • A hardcover set of both Silver Phoenix and Fury of the Phoenix!
Enter to win using the rafflecopter! Open to US only.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

All review content © Enna Isilee, Squeaky Books 2007-2012

Author Interview & Giveaway-- Ruta Sepetys

Connect with Ruta:
Goodreads | Website | Twitter

Today I get to feature the AWESOME author, Ruta Sepetys. Her book Between Shades of Gray (NOT to be confused with a certain book that is sweeping the nation in awful) brought me to tears. I loved it so much. Today I have a really short interview with her. She's answering my favorite question to ask historical fiction authors, and she's telling us about her new book! Enjoy!

We all know that history is an important subject. "Learn from the past," and all that good stuff. But what I want to know, is why do you think historical fiction is important? How does it compare to just historical textbooks or nonfiction? And why did you choose to write your story as fiction instead of nonfiction?

Sometimes history can be a bit dry. But through characters and fictional stories, statistics become human. We cheer and cry for people we've never met. Suddenly, their history matters. That's the power of books and the power of historical fiction. As we read a historical novel, we're not only enjoying a story, we're learning about a piece of history. And sometimes, wrapping fictional characters around historical events allows writers to present the history to a larger audience.

Tell us about Out of the Easy in comparison to Between Shades of Gray. How is it similar/different? Did it require as much research? Is it meant for the same audience, etc.

Yes, Out of the Easy required just as much research, but the setting of post-war America vs. Siberia was of course very different. When writing Between Shades of Gray, I wasn't able to physically explore Siberia and had to interview those who were in exile to get the details. For Out of the Easy, I spent quite a bit of time exploring New Orleans and the French Quarter on my own. Although the settings are extremely different, both books have themes of hope, courage and love, and will hopefully appeal to both young adults and adults.

!!Giveaway Time!!

You can win a SIGNED copy of Between Shades of Gray! Today's giveaway is hosted by Kami's Library Thoughts. Head on over to win. This giveaway is open TO US ONLY.

All review content © Enna Isilee, Squeaky Books 2007-2012

Author Interview & Giveaway-- Tera Lynn Childs

Connect with Tera:
Goodreads | Website | Twitter

Today I have a very special treat! When I contacted Tera (Author of the SUPER-AWESOME Sweet Venom series) about doing an interview, she opted to write a guest post! So here we have Tera Lynn childs on researching and mythology!

TLC on Researching Mythology:

As a writer, I love drawing on the great resource of Greek mythology. In it I can find the universal characters and stories that still resonate with readers today. One of my favorite things about Greek mythology is how little there actually is. The tales of gods and monsters have been elaborated and expanded over the centuries, growing into bigger stories than we have in writing. Some of those things have no actual basis in the surviving texts.

For example, when I went to look for information about Medusa, for example, I found that there are very few actually references to her, her sisters, and her fate. This is great, because it means that as a writer I can make my own interpretations based on the written record.

This is a double-edged sword, though, because that means I have to be aware of the actual original mythology. I have to know what was written—that Medusa was a maiden turned into a monster, that she could turn men to stone with her gaze, and that Perseus killed her at Athena’s request—so that I can use it for my own purposes.

Each time I start a new mythology-related project, I scan the ancient texts that discuss the characters or stories I’m going to write about. I don’t necessary stay perfectly true to the original story—like in my fictional world, Medusa was a guardian, not a monster, and she was killed as part of a big, bad plan—but I make sure I know what the original stories are so I can twist them as I see fit. I think this is why Greek mythology has remained so popular. It gives authors the basic building blocks, and then they can construct them into stories of their own.

Mad lib time! Credit for this idea goes to Everead!
Acting like I'm walking away, in case housekeepers are watching through that truck, I head around the corner. The puppy behind Greer's on the sidestreet has a big, six-foot-high frosty wall around the property. As soon as I'm clear from fireman I break into a run. Circling around the block, I head into the tulip park across from her hair. It's scattered with dense gloves and shaded by lush trees. A perfect hiding spot.

!!Giveaway Time!!

You can win a copy of Sweet Shadows! Today's giveaway is hosted by Young at Heart. Head on over to win. This giveaway is open TO US ONLY

All review content © Enna Isilee, Squeaky Books 2007-2012

Author Interview & Giveaway--Leigh Bardugo

Connect with Leigh:
Goodreads | Website | Twitter

You know I love a book when I spend over a week embroidering a shirt based on what was in the book. Seriously, peeps, Shadow and Bone is definitely one of my favorite books of the year. I ADORED IT! And after meeting Leigh, I adore her too! Check out my interview with her, then enter to win!

So which came first: writing or costume makeup? Do you have a favorite makeup design?

Writing. I was an only child, so my characters were company. I got into makeup and special effects when my dad passed away. I was working as a copywriter and I knew I needed a change or I was just going to fall into the well and stay there. As for a favorite makeup artist, keep an eye on Lottie Star. She's always doing incredible work, and I think she'll be one of the big players in runway and editorial in a few years time.

In the UK Shadow and Bone is published as The Gathering Dark. Have you had much involvement with your UK publisher? Do you know why the two countries decided to have different titles?

We did a separate set of edits for the UK version so I've had some contact with Orion/Indigo. (There are actually some very minor differences between the UK and US versions. Just a few sentences, but they're there!) Also, my UK publicist (Nina Douglas) is way too much fun, so we chat on twitter all of the time. But I had very little involvement with the way the book was packaged in the UK. I think they chose The Gathering Dark because they felt it would stand out in the UK market.

Aside from edits, what did you do after your book was picked up by Henry Holt? Do you have much input in the cover? Trailer? Etc?

Revisions and edits were definitely the big thing. I gave input on the map (and contributed the hilariously bad sketch I'd done while working on the book). I didn't have a lot of involvement with the cover and trailer, but I will say that when I gave feedback, I always felt listened to. Also, I was blown away by the end product for both the cover and the trailer, so I have zero complaints. Can you tell I love my publishing house?

Books two and three already have titles! Did you already have those titles in mind when you wrote Shadow and Bone? Do you know what the UK titles will be?

I had titles in mind for all three books and they all changed. I wrote a post about the evolution of the title of Shadow and Bone here. Luckily, the titles for book 2 (Siege and Storm) and book 3 (Ruin and Rising) clicked right away. In the UK, Book 2 will be The Shadow Fold. I haven't yet heard the title of Book 3.

Russian culture was clearly an influence on Shadow and Bone. Are there any other cultures you love? Perhaps some that might influence a future book…?

Some of the action of Siege and Storm takes place in Novyi Zem, which was loosely inspired by colonial America, Australia, and to a lesser extent, Brazil. I'm thinking about setting my next series in Ketterdam, the capital of Kerch, and that would have some Dutch and German influence. We'll see. Research is always a point of departure for me. I'm never sure where I'll end up.

Mad lib time! Credit for this idea goes to Everead!

It was so strange to hear the Darkling called “boots” that it took me a moment to understand her meaning. But when I did, joy and befuddlement rushed through me. A
pudding! Why hadn’t I thought of it before? Why hadn’t they thought of it before? …why not a pudding of my own like Ivan’s thief or the sigh I’d seen hanging around Marie’s kneecap?

!!Giveaway Time!!

You can win a copy of Shadow and Bone! Today's giveaway is hosted by Cornucopia of Reviews. Head on over to win. This giveaway is open INTERNATIONAL

All review content © Enna Isilee, Squeaky Books 2007-2012
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