Celebrating Debutantes · FEATURES · Giveaways · Interviews

Celebrating Debutantes 2017: Under Locker and Key by Allison K. Hymas (Author Interview and Giveaway)

Welcome to another feature for Celebrating Debutantes 2017. Today I’m joined on the blog by new author Allison K. Hymas to answer few questions about her debut middle grade novel, Under Locker and Key. This book is like mission impossible for middle grade readers.  It’s fun, clever and captivating story for everyone to enjoy.

Following the interview with Allison is her bio along with places where to find her online. Then there’s also the book description and where to buy copies of Under Locker and Key.

Also, don’t forget to check the giveaway at the bottom and enter the rafflecopter form for a chance to win fabulous prizes from Allison.

Here’s my interview with Allison. Enjoy reading!

Interview with Allison Hymas

Can you tell us a bit about your journey with Under Locker and Key? Did you know right away that this was your story, or did you discover it as you write? And how was the publication process goes for you?

Under Locker and Key had a strange process for me, since it was a book that I didn’t take seriously for a long time. I first started it as part of an assignment for a college class on writing for children and adolescents. I had to develop a middle grade character, and that’s when I first met Jeremy. I liked him so much I wrote a short story about him, and I liked that story so much (and other people did too) that I turned that short story into a novel.

I worked on Under Locker and Key in my spare time as a backburner project when my other writing projects got too hard or I just needed a break. It was fun and easy for me to write; it fit my voice and style well. But I didn’t think it would go anywhere. Then, one of my teachers encouraged me to workshop it in his class, and that’s when I started to think that maybe I could publish this silly, fun story I’d just worked on for fun.

So I entered the book into a state-wide writing contest. I lost. In response, I queried agents like crazy out of determination and a little bit of spite. A couple agents responded, I chose the one I liked best, and she helped me find a publisher. It’s still strange, but not unwelcome, that the silly book I wrote but didn’t expect to publish ended up becoming my debut novel.

Why middle-grade? Do you think it is easier to write for younger audience than YA and adults?

Under Locker and Key was the first MG novel I’ve even drafted. As for why middle grade, I’m still not sure why I enjoy writing it so much. I suppose I like the fun I can have with this age group. Middle schoolers are at the beginning of a transition; they’re not yet teens, but they’re not elementary school children either. They’re losing their childhood identity and gaining a new one, which means that some, like Jeremy, can try to invent themselves as whatever they want. That means I can write adventures with heroes and villains as the kids try to decide who they’re going to be but don’t yet have the self-consciousness of teens about how that’s all going to work for them.

I don’t know if it’s easier to write for a younger audience, but I know it works well for me. I like humor and adventure, and Jeremy’s, a middle grade voice, comes easily to me.

What was one of the most surprising things you’ve learned in writing Under Locker and Key? Are there any fun things you discover during your research?

I’ve learned a lot about how to break the law while writing about Jeremy’s adventures. I have not picked a real lock (yet) or cracked the combination on a locker (yet), but I know how to do all these things in theory. I learned is that it’s not much like the movies. Picking locks takes a long time, and figuring out a locker combination takes quite a bit of patience and luck. You can climb through an air duct but they’re cramped, dark, and dirty. I’ve also been learning a lot about real-life hacking for later books.

However, my favorite thing that I’ve learned is how to lie convincingly and how to recognize a liar. Too much eye contact or not enough eye contact, touching the nose and near the mouth…clues like those. I can actually use this research in my life!

Do you have a favourite scene to write? And what scene are you most proud of, and why?

My favorite scene to write was the climax. I won’t give spoilers here, but I loved the way the story came together at the end in a nice, dare-I-say-clever solution.

But the scene I’m proudest of is the scene in the band room, when Jeremy is hiding from Becca. Some writers have to push their characters into trouble. Not me—Jeremy gets himself in trouble and I go crazy trying to figure out how to haul him out of the fire yet again. This scene gave me so much grief because I couldn’t figure out how to realistically resolve it for the longest time, but in the end, it worked out and because it was tricky, it turned out better than I expected with more suspense.

If Jeremy could turn the tables on you and write a story based on your younger years, what would the title of that book be and what would be the first line?

Oh, my. That’s a scary thought. I was pretty energetic and got into some trouble as a young child, but by the time I was Jeremy’s age I had mellowed out and was the shy, quiet girl in class who liked to read and write. I suppose the title would be something like Born to Be Mild and the first line would be, “See that girl reading over there? She has some stories to tell, some of them true.”

Are you working on other stories as of the moment? Could you tell us about it?

I’m working on a couple other stories. One is a sequel to Under Locker and Key, and the other is a YA science fiction about a boy who goes into other people’s dreams and learns that a girl in his town is in danger.

Thank you!

Thanks so much Allison!


As a middle schooler, Allison K. Hymas was a law-abiding citizen (except for the occasional offense of reading under her desk when she should have been listening). She now holds an MFA from Brigham Young University and currently lives in Utah. Under Locker and Key is her first novel. Allison is hard at work writing Jeremy Wilderson’s further adventures.

Find Allison

Website | Blog |Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads



Book Details:

Title: Under Locker and Key
Author: Allison K. Hymas
Publisher: Alladin
Publication Date: April 18, 2017
Pages: 256
Format: Hardcover, Paperback, eBook

Eleven-year-old Jeremy Wilderson teams up with his rival crime fighter to stop the stealing spree that’s wreaking havoc on Scottsville Middle School.

Jeremy Wilderson is not a thief. In fact, he is his middle school’s one and only retrieval specialist. Confiscated cell phones, stolen lunch money—he’ll discretely retrieve it before the last bell rings. Business is good, and if it weren’t for the meddling of preteen private investigator Becca Mills, he’d be happier than a gym teacher on dodgeball day.

But a new job shatters his comfortable lifestyle. Now, thanks to Jeremy, the master key to the schools’ lockers is in the hands of an aspiring crime kingpin who doesn’t exactly have Jeremy’s strong moral character. Soon not even combination locks can protect the students’ textbooks and jackets. Retrieving the key is too big a job for one crime fighter, and only one person wants the key returned as much as Jeremy does: Becca Mills.

Lockers are being robbed, the teachers are looking for the culprit, and the only person Jeremy can turn to is the girl who most wants to see him in the principal’s office. Will Jeremy be able to trust Becca enough to get the key back in the right hands? Or could he end up in detention until the end of high school instead?

Book Links

Book Page | Amazon | B&N | BAM | IndieBound | Goodreads


What’s up for Grab?

  • Signed copy of Under Locker and Key by Allison K. Hymas
  • Under Locker and Key Bookmark
  • Retrieval Specialist” pair of sunglasses 

The Rules:

  • Open International
  • There will be one (1) winner
  • Winner will be chosen and announced through rafflecopter
  • Winner will be contacted thru email & should response within 48 hours
  • Ends July 12th, 2017
  • Prizes will be sent by the author

To enter fill out the rafflecopter form

Good Luck!!!

Treat yourself to a complete #CelebratingDebutantes2017 experience. Click the image below for the full list of schedule and links to each feature post or check out twitter and facebook using #CelebratingDebutantes2017.

Celebrating Debutantes · Giveaways · Interviews

Celebrating Debutantes 2017: Rules for Thieves by Alexandra Ott (Author Interview and Giveaway)

Happy Monday Everyone!

Today I’m so pleased to welcome new author Alexandra Ott to the blog as part of Celebrating Debutantes 2017 blog event. You guys know already how much I love reading adventure, fantasy and stories with thieves as main characters, so I couldn’t be more excited about Alexandra’s debut novel, Rules for Thieves. The book comes out tomorrow, June 6th, 2017 and I am really excited for everyone to get the chance to read it.

If you’d like to catch up with Author Alexandra Ott online or just know more about her, her bio and social links follow the interview. If you want to know more about Rules for Thieves, and where to pre-order copies, check out the book’s description and links below.

And if you’d like the chance to win a copy of this amazing book, enter in the Rafflecopter at the end.

A huge thank you to Alexandra for taking the time to answer my questions, I hope you guys enjoy!

Interview with Alexandra Ott

Rules of Thieves is out tomorrow and I’m sure you are more than excited. How was the experience writing the novel and going to publication process so far?

The experience has been so surreal. I started writing this book the summer after my freshman year of college, and I didn’t think anything was going to come of it at first. It’s taken five years to reach publication day, and I still can’t believe it’s really happening.

Most of the thieves characters in fiction that I have read, end up to my favorite list. There’s something in them that drew me in. What draws you to the characters in your novel, Rules for Thieves?

The characters are probably my favorite part about this book. The cast is full of smart, resourceful kids that I can’t help but root for, even when they don’t always make the best decisions. I had a ton of fun writing the witty banter between them, too—most of my thieves are prone to snark. 🙂

Could you tell us a bit about Alli? What is her origin? Who is she based on?

Alli is smart, funny, more than a little hot-tempered, and prone to get into trouble. When I first envisioned her character, I was thinking about young orphans and what happens to those who are considered “bad” kids. Alli is a girl who misbehaves, who isn’t well-adjusted, who can’t get adopted because she’s seen—and sees herself—as a “bad” kid. That was what drew me to her story: what happens to an orphaned girl that no one believes in?

What scene in Rules for Thieves are you most proud of, and why?

Ooh, tough question! If I had to pick one scene that I’m truly proudest of, I think it’s the climactic moment at the end. I don’t want to spoil anything, but it involves a lot of action, some tough character decisions, and some unexpected twists. It’s the most important moment in the book and one that was tough to get just right, but I’m proud of how it turned out.

If one of your characters could turn the tables on you and write a story based on your teenage years, what would the title of that book be? What would be the first line?

Hmm… my teenage years were pretty boring, so I doubt they’d make a very interesting story. If Alli were telling it, she’d definitely tease me for being nerdy and studious. She’d probably title it Nerd Girl, and the first line would be something like, “Alex spent a truly ridiculous amount of time reading books.” 🙂

Which authors, fantasy or otherwise, have inspired you?

So many! I have to mention J.K. Rowling, of course; Harry Potter was a huge part of my childhood. As for Rules for Thieves specifically, the biggest influences came from Cornelia Funke (especially The Thief Lord) and Megan Whalen Turner. And Eoin Colfer, naturally; I blame Artemis Fowl for making me fall in love with criminal characters in the first place. 🙂

Rules of Thieves is the first installment of a series. Are you working on the next book already? How many books are planned for this series?

I just finished another draft of the second book and turned it in to my editor. I should be able to reveal its title and cover soon! Right now, I’m planning to end the series with Book 2. But I might be tempted to return to Alli and her world someday, so I wouldn’t rule out more books in the future.

Do you think you’ll stick to middle-grade fantasy or branch out into something else?

Hopefully a little of both! I love middle grade fantasy, and I definitely plan to continue writing it. I’m working on a new middle grade fantasy idea right now that I think might become my next project. But I also plan to explore some new things; I have a secret young adult novel in the works as well. So we’ll see what the future holds!


Alexandra Ott holds a B.A. in English from the University of Tulsa. She currently lives in Oklahoma with her tiny canine overlord. Rules for Thieves is her debut novel. Visit her online at alexandraott.com and on Twitter @Alexandra_Ott.

Find Alexandra

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Tumblr | Goodreads


Book Details:

Title: Rules for Thieves
Author: Alexandra Ott
Publisher: Alladin
Publication Date: June 06, 2017
Pages: 320
Format: Hardcover, eBook

After twelve-year-old orphan Alli Rosco is cursed with a deadly spell, she must join the legendary Thieves Guild in order to try and save herself in this high-stakes debut.

Twelve-year-old Alli Rosco is smart, resourceful, and totally incapable of keeping her mouth shut. Some of these traits have served her well during her nine years in Azeland’s orphanage, and others have proved more troublesome…but now that she’s escaped to try her luck on the streets, she has bigger problems than extra chores to contend with. Surviving would be hard enough, but after a run-in with one of the city’s Protectors, she’s marked by a curse that’s slowly working its way to her heart. There is a cure, but the cost is astronomical—and seems well out of her reach.

Enter Beck, a boy with a gift for theft and a touch of magic, who seems almost too good to be true. He tells Alli that the legendary Thieves Guild, long thought to be a myth, is real. Even better, Beck is a member and thinks she could be, too. All she has to do is pass the trial that the King of Thieves will assign to her. Join the Guild, collect her yearly reward and  a cure. Plus, Alli hopes the Guild will be the home—the family—that Alli has always wanted. But when their trial goes wrong, innocent lives are put in danger, and Alli has to decide how much she can sacrifice in order to survive.

Book Links

Amazon | B&N | BAM | IndieBound | Goodreads | Publisher


What’s up for Grab?

  • Signed hardcover copy of Rules for Thieves by Alexandra Ott

The Rules:

  • Open to US residents only
  • There will be one (1) winner
  • Winner will be chosen and announced through rafflecopter
  • Winner will be contacted thru email & should response within 48 hours
  • Ends June 26th, 2017
  • Prize will be sent by the author

To enter fill out the rafflecopter form

Good Luck!!!

Treat yourself to a complete #CelebratingDebutantes2017 experience. Click the image below for the full list of schedule and links to each feature post, or check out twitter and facebook using #CelebratingDebutantes2017.


Avenged (Ruined #2) by Amy Tintera

“Just because you have the title of King doesn’t mean you have any power.”

In the sequel to Ruined, the romance of The Selection and the epic stakes of Red Queen come together in a story of revenge, adventure, and unexpected love.

Emelina Flores has come home to Ruina. After rescuing her sister Olivia from imprisonment in rival kingdom Lera, Em and Olivia together vow to rebuild Ruina to its former glory.

But their fight has only begun. Olivia is determined to destroy everyone who acts against Ruina, but Em isn’t as sure. Ever since Em posed as Prince Casimir’s betrothed in Lera, she’s started to see another side to this war. And now that Cas has taken the throne, Em believes a truce is within reach. But Olivia suspects that Em’s romantic feelings for Cas are just coloring her judgement.

Em is determined to bring peace to her home. But when winning the war could mean betraying her family, Em faces an impossible choice between loyalty and love. Em must stay one step ahead of her enemies—and her blood—before she’s the next victim in this battle for sovereignty.

Book Links: Amazon | B&N | Book Depository | Goodreads | Publisher

Personal Thoughts:

Avenged is a quick, easy read, and entertaining sequence to Amy Tintera’s young adult fantasy, Ruined.

In this installment, we are reacquainted with Emelina Flores and her sister Olivia. The two are now ruling side by side as Queens of Ruined. They plan to rebuild Ruina but soon they realized that it will take a while to restore their lands to its former glory. While Casimir, now the new King of Lera, is struggling to maintain his position as the new leader. His cousin, Jovita is a huge threat, and not everyone believe that he is fit to rule.

With the ending of the first book, Ruined, I was actually looking forward for Olivia in this second installment. She is the big sign that promised great battle and wars. Which makes me excited to read Avenged. Add the title, I’m positive that the book will be an action-pack read even before I start reading. And true to itself, Avenged is packed with battles and war. Olivia is portrayed as menacing, non-empathetic and cold-blooded, which makes her a terrifying villain. But Olivia doesn’t start as the villain in the story. Though readers will see her true side, for Emelina, Olivia is still her younger sister, her family – the very reason Emelina put herself in danger in Ruined.

But inspite of not seeing ahead what Olivia truly is, Emelina is actually smarter in this installment. Most of her decisions are thoughtful and clever. She don’t make drastic decisions, she ask opinions from others and most importantly she put her people first. She deserves her position as one of the leaders of the Ruined in-spite of her being powerless.

Casimir Gallegos on the other hand started weak. He was poisoned, lost his position as King, and almost give up his entire Kingdom just to be with Emelina. Soon, with the help of Em, he realized what a huge mistake it will be. He then start to claim his throne, and fight for land and his people.

“Maybe ‘coincidence’ is another word for fate.”

Emelina and Casimir are caugth in the middle of political war, revenged, and relationship issues. Which basically makes the plot flowing. With so many things that is happening around these two, there’s no time for boredom. The only mild complaint is that despite of all those things, I still feel like that the story doesn’t contribute much to the whole plot of the series. From book one, we already know that Lera and Ruina are at war with each other, which continue here in this second installment. It’s a never ending war and revenged that started from earlier generations. It’s like they haven’t learn after losing their parents and many of their people. Though we finally seen the land of warriors, Olso, and get glimpse of how their Kingdom operates, that lasted shortly and cramped near the end.

All in all, Avenged is a heart-pounding, addicting, and light-fasting read. Though it offers little resolutions being the middle book that it is, it is still satisfying and enjoyable overall. Followers of the first book, Ruined will surely relish additional time with Emelina and the rest of the characters, while eagerly waiting for the final installment.


* This review is based on an advance readers copy I received courtesy of the publisher, HarperCollins International in exchange of honest opinion.

Celebrating Debutantes · FEATURES · Giveaways · Interviews

Celebrating Debutantes 2016: The Adventurer’s Guide to Successful Escapes by Wade Albert White (Author Interview + Giveaway)

Celebrating Debutantes 2016 Second Wave

One of the perks of hosting a blog event like Celebrating Debutantes is the chance to work with talented authors. The chance to ask them questions and have a peek of their creative minds. Just like today, I got the chance to interview new author Wade Albert White about writing for middle grade readers and his upcoming book, The Adventurer’s Guide to Successful Escapes. This sci-fi, fantasy adventure will hit the shelves next week, September 13 and I am excited for every kids and kids at heart out there to experience an adventurous read.

I hope you guys enjoy the interview and be sure to check the bottom of the post for all the details about Wade Albert, The Adventurer’s Guide to Successful Escapes, and a fab giveaway!

Interview with Wade Albert White

Was The Adventurer’s Guide to Successful Escapes always for middle grade readers, or not? If so, why did you choose middle grade?

It was always intended for younger readers, yes, although in the first draft the main character was sixteen instead of thirteen, which would typically be considered more young adult than middle grade (going strictly by age, that is). As I revised the story and received feedback from various critique partners, however, I realized the overall voice and content were more middle grade in tone, and so adjusted accordingly.

I write for a younger audience because my kids are still young. I wanted to create something they could read and enjoy. Also, some of my favorite books have been middle grade books (Harry Potter anyone?). Plus, sometimes I tend towards the silly side, and that tends to be a good fit for middle grade as well.

Did you know right away that this was your story, or did you discover it as you wrote? How did the story evolve?

It started with the world. I knew I wanted to write a fantasy parody of sorts (although the book is definitely more than that), but I was also familiar with several such works and didn’t want to simply duplicate what was already out there. With that in mind, I thought it would be really interesting to write a story that mashed together fantasy with science fiction, and it took me a while to figure out how best to combine the two. In the end, I decided it would be fun to have a fantasy setting filled with magic and dragons and the like, but whose ancient history hinted at a society of science and technology (sort of the reverse of our world today).

Once I had those elements in place, I had to figure out what would be the most interesting story to tell in such a world. The answer, of course, was to send the characters on a hair-raising adventure that explored how their modern world of magic had evolved from an ancient world of science.

What is the best part of writing for middle grade readers?

I enjoy the enthusiasm of younger readers, whether it’s the jump up and down kind of excitement of some, or the quieter sit in the corner and smile of others. But when they love a thing, they tend to really, really love it.

I also enjoy the challenge of writing for that age group. They’re a sophisticated bunch, and can typically tell when they’re being pandered to, which keeps a writer on their toes. So you can be silly and playful, but the story still needs to mean something. The stakes need to be real for the characters, no matter how ridiculous the story gets.

What aspect of writing do you find most challenging, and why?

In terms of the process of writing, I have developed the ability to put myself in a chair and just write. I do sometimes, however, fall into the trap of spending too much time on smaller tasks that feel related to writing (such as organizing my bookshelf or cleaning my desk or checking out social media) but which are not the actual writing itself. These tasks make you feel like you’re getting stuff done, but the true work, the primary work, the writing, gets neglected. I think it happens most often when I’m feeling stuck, and by keeping busy with other things I trick myself into thinking I’m still moving forward. And don’t get me wrong: sometimes time away helps. No question. I do some of my best creative thinking while I’m washing the dishes or going for a run. But I’ve learned to see some of this other “busy work” for what it really is: a distraction. The writing should always come first.

In terms of actual content, I find my greatest challenge is conveying the emotions of characters—in my head I know what they’re feeling at any given moment, but as I write them it’s not always clear on the page. Of all the notes I receive from my editor, the item that recurs the most has to do with having the characters show a bit more emotion or reflect more on what’s happening to them.

Fantasy and science fiction are both exciting genres, you can create whole new worlds and defy common structures. For you, what’s the best part of writing in these genres?

I like both fantasy and science fiction because no matter what I think up, no matter what outlandish thought pops into my head, if I want to fit it into the story I can usually find a way to put it in there. So I can write a book that has robots fighting dragons and make it seem perfectly normal. Or I can include a wizard with a platypus for an arm. Or a holograph-like sparrow for a guide. As long as it all serves the needs of the story, I’m not constrained by any one particular view of reality.

Do you have a set of rules for your world? Is there a process you go through that helps define these?

There are rules, definitely, and I would argue that every story or world needs well defined ones. The primary rule for The Adventurer’s Guide series is that the world is run as a Bureaucracy. There are rules governing everything. That means paperwork or it didn’t happen. This sometimes (read: almost always) makes things more difficult, since often what should be a simple and straightforward task might be made infinitely more difficult because of some completely arbitrary rule. But the characters can use this to their advantage as well. It allows me to play with and even poke fun of a lot of common fantasy tropes.

Rules provide the parameters for the story and characters, and the parameters are what help the reader interpret the story in context (think of the rules as a container and the story the liquid you pour into it). That might at first blush seem contradictory to my answer in the previous question (that I like these genres because I can do whatever I want), but I think of it this way: I can make the rules whatever I want, but thereafter it’s important to make sure the story follows said rules.

What project are you working on or planning to write next?

I’m happy to say my next project is already well underway. I just finished the second draft of the sequel The Adventurer’s Guide to Dragons (And Why They Keep Biting Me), which is due out in the fall of 2017.

Thanks so much Wade for those wonderful answers. I had so much with this interview. Your answers are not just thoughtful but also a welcome reminders for beginners writer like me. I’m looking forward for the release of  The Adventurer’s Guide to Successful Escape in few days. And have fun writing the sequel, The Adventurer’s Guide to Dragons (And Why They Keep Biting Me).


Author Wade Albert WhiteWade hails from Nova Scotia, Canada, land of wild blueberries and Duck Tolling Retrievers. He teaches part-time, dabbles in animation, and spends the rest of his time as a stay-at-home dad. It is also possible he has set a new record as the slowest 10K runner. Ever. He owns one pretend cat and one real one, and they get along fabulously.

Find Wade

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Tumblr | Goodreads


Book Details:

The Adventurer's Guide to Successful EscapesTitle: The Adventurer’s Guide to Successful Escape
Author: Wade Albert White
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: September 13, 2016
Pages: 384
Format: Hardcover

A thrilling debut novel where fantasy and science fiction meet, dragons aren’t as innocent as they look (which is to say, not innocent at all), and nothing is quite what it seems.

Anne has spent most of her thirteen years dreaming of the day she and her best friend Penelope will finally leave Saint Lupin’s Institute for Perpetually Wicked and Hideously Unattractive Children. When the big day arrives, a series of very curious happenings lead to Anne being charged with an epic quest. Anne, Penelope, and new adventuring partner Hiro have only days to travel to strange new locales, solve myriad riddles, and triumph over monstrous foes–or face the horrible consequences.

Packed with action, humor, and endless heart, this debut novel marks the first volume in an irresistible and original fantasy series.

Book Links:

Amazon | B&N | BAM | BD | Goodreads | IndieBound | Powells


What’s up for Grab?

  • Personalized Signed Hardcover copy of The Adventurer’s Guide to Successful Escapes

The Rules:

  • Open to US/CA only
  • There will be one (1) winner
  • Winner will be chosen and announced by rafflecopter
  • Winner will be contacted thru email & should response within 48 hours
  • Ends September 27th, 2016
  • Prizes will be sent by the author

To enter fill out the rafflecopter form

Good Luck!!!

Treat yourself to a complete #CelebratingDebutantes2016 experience. Click the image below for the full list of schedule and links to each second wave feature post!

CD2016 Second Wave Collage

Sword and Verse by Kathy MacMillan

Sword and Verse

“What might happen if writing were a shared endeavor, meant to connect people instead of being hoarded as a tool of power and privilege.”

Raisa was only a child when she was kidnapped and enslaved in Qilara. Forced to serve in the palace of the King, she’s endured hunger, abuse, and the harrowing fear of discovery. Everyone knows that Raisa is Arnath, but not that she is a Learned One, a part of an Arnath group educated in higher order symbols. In Qilara, this language is so fiercely protected that only the King, the Prince, and Tutors are allowed to know it. So when the current Tutor-in-training is executed for sharing the guarded language with slaves and Raisa is chosen to replace her, Raisa knows that, although she may have a privileged position among slaves, any slipup could mean death.

That would be challenging enough, but training alongside Prince Mati could be her real undoing. And when a romance blossoms between them, she’s suddenly filled with a dangerous hope for something she never before thought possible: more. Then she’s approached by the Resistance—an underground army of slaves—to help liberate the Arnath people. Joining the Resistance could mean freeing her people…but she’d also be aiding in the war against her beloved, an honorable man she knows wants to help the slaves.

Working against the one she loves—and a palace full of deadly political renegades—has some heady consequences. As Raisa struggles with what’s right, she unwittingly uncovers a secret that the Qilarites have long since buried…one that, unlocked, could bring the current world order to its knees.

And Raisa is the one holding the key.

Personal Thoughts:

Being a lover of written words Kathy MacMillan’s debut novel instantly piqued my interest from the blurb alone. Imagine a world where literacy are reserved only for the most elite people. Where reading and writing are not easily accessible. I don’t think I want to live in a world like that but a story set in it has its intrigue.

Sword and Verse introduced us to Raisa and her world. Raisa belongs to the lower class of Qilara – a nation where literacy is for the higher class only. When the tutor-in-training to the Royal family is executed for treason, Raisa was chosen as a replacement. Together with Prince Mati, she got the privileged to learn not just to read and write but also know the very highest order of language and the language of the Gods.

But learning how to read and write nor having the chance to spend time with the Prince doesn’t changed her status as a slave. She still belong to the lower class and the Resistance wants her help to get their freedom back. But Raisa’s relationships with the Prince complicate her stance. Between her people and love, which side she will choose?

What I really love about Sword and Verse is the central theme of the book – how important knowledge is or in this case – literacy. For me, knowledge or information is one of the things that should be shared or given freely. No one should hold information in tight fist, especially the knowledge of learning such as reading and writing. Sharing knowledge can accomplish many things and it will benefit a lot more.

As for the the writing, Sword and Verse is a triumph for a debut novel. Kathy MacMillan clearly knows what she is doing in her first book. Her writing style is easily accessible, her characters are realistically drawn, and her world is uniquely setup and vividly sketch.

The mythology before each chapter is very intriguing. It reminds me so much of one of my favorite series The Thief by Megan Whalen-Turner. Though in here, the mythology started as own stories that eventually blended to Raisa and Mati’s world. The way Kathy MacMillan intertwined those two worlds is simply outstanding. She crafted the mythology with enough intrigue and details. At first, it so easy for readers to take the mythology as a different entity, giving only brief anecdotes at the beginning of each chapters, but as the story progress, readers will see how Kathy MacMillan mirrored the story of Gods and Goddess to Raisa and Mati’s world which eventually resulted to a more exciting and thrilling combination.

The intricate writing system is impressive. I’m sure lovers of language/words and writings will surely appreciate this part. The reader in me surely does. The way Kathy MacMillan described the scripts, symbols, languages of the Gods, and the written words in this tale is detailed, making the scenes so vivid. Sometimes I imagined Raisa and Mati in a calligraphy or lettering class doing all the symbols meticulously described by Kathy MacMillan. I almost see the letters and words in my mind like floating symbols.

All in all, Sword and Verse is a gorgeously drawn fantasy that will surely captivate readers from start to end. Kathy MacMillan blends fantasy, mythology, and romance beautifully creating an imaginative, exciting, and satisfying read.

Celebrating Debutantes · FEATURES · Giveaways · Guest Post

Celebrating Debutantes 2016: The Last Great Adventure of the PB&J Society by Janet Sumner Johnson (Movie Cast + Giveaway)

Celebrating Debutantes 2016

Hey everyone! The fourth week of CelebratingDebutantes2016 is almost done and today we are featuring the upcoming middle grade novel, The Last Great Adventure of the PB&J Society by Janet Sumner Johnson. I’m in charge for today stop, and I will be showing you my movie casting pick for Janet’s debut novel. This is actually my first time to pick actors for a book I have read so bear with me if my casting directing is non-existence. I’m sure Janet has a better idea of who’s the best choices to portray her characters but for now let me give you my choices.

Carissa Bazler

Carissa Bazler for Annie Jenkins

When I started reading Janet Johnson’s debut novel, I actually picture the ten year-old version of Mackenzie Brooke Smith for Annie Jenkins with her freckles and all. But since Mackenzie is already in her teenage year, my other choice for Annie would be Carissa Bazler. She doesn’t have much freckles but make up can do the trick and styling for the frizzy hair. I think Carissa is perfect to portray the eager and adventurous Annie Jenkins.

Christian Distefano

Christian Distefano for Jason Parker

For Jason Parker, Christian Distefano is the first that pop up in my mind. I think he is perfect for the role. I can imagine how cute he is doing all the quest and adventures with Annie.


Avery Phillips

Avery Phillips for Lila

Avery Phillips is perfect for Lila. She is blond, and can easily look like a rich girl with attitude.

The Flowers Twins

Carsen Flowers for Jessica, and Camden Flowers for Jenny

Obviously we need twins for Jessica and Jenny so Carsen and Camden are exactly what we need to portray those two.

Lily TomlinLily Tomlin for Mrs. Margaret Schuster

There are few older actress I’m thinking for the role but in the end, I think the best choice is Lily Tomlin. She can play both mean and nice.

Alyssa de Boisblanc

Alyssa de Boisblanc for Kate

For Kate, I pick Alyssa de Boisblanc because I think she will pass as Carissa’s older sister. They both have the same shade of hair, eyes, and also full cheeks. At least from these pictures. 🙂

I hope Janet agree with some if not all of my casting pick for her characters. And I hope you guys like the list. Also, don’t forget to check the Janet details below to know where to follow her, and check out the blurb of The Last Great Adventure of the PB&J Society as well as the giveaway!


Janet Johnson Author PicJanet Sumner Johnson lives in Oregon with her husband and three kids. She bakes a mean cinnamon twist and eats way more cookies than are good for her, which explains her running habit. Though her full-time occupation as evil tyrant/benevolent dictator (aka mom) takes most of her time, she sneaks in writing at night when her inner funny bone is fully unleashed.

Find Janet

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

The Last Great Adventure of the PB&JABOUT THE BOOK

Book Details:

Title: The Last Great Adventure of the PB&J Society
Author: Janet Sumner Johnson
Publisher: Capstone Young Readers
Publication Date: April 1, 2016
Pages: 256
Format: Hardcover, eBooks

Some things are better together. Like peanut butter and jelly. Or Annie and Jason. So when her best friend’s house is threatened with foreclosure, Annie Jenkins is bursting with ideas to save Jason’s home. She could sell her appendix on eBay. (Why not?) Win the lottery. (It’s worth a shot!). Face the evil bankers herself. (She’s one tough cookie, after all.) Or hunt down an elusive (and questionably real) pirate treasure. Whatever the plan, it has to work, or this is undoubtedly THE LAST GREAT ADVENTURE OF THE PB&J SOCIETY.

 Book Links:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | GoodreadsPublisher


What’s up for Grab?

  • The Last Great Adventure of the PB&J Society Swags

PB&J Swag

The Rules:

  • Open to International
  • There will be one (1) winner only
  • Winner will be chosen by rafflecopter
  • Winner will be contacted thru email & should response within 48 hours
  • Ends April 2, 2016
  • Prizes will be sent by the author

To enter fill out the rafflecopter form

Good Luck!!!

Treat yourself to a complete #CelebratingDebutantes2016 experience. Click the image below for the full list of schedule and links to each feature post!

celebrating debutantes 2016 collage

Night Study by Maria V. Snyder

Night Study

“…there will always be sharks in the water. Nothing you can do about it except be careful where you swim.”

Ever since being kidnapped from the Illiais Jungle as a child, Yelena Zaltana’s has been fraught with peril. But the recent loss of her Soulfinding abilities has endangered her more than ever before. As she desperately searches for a way to reclaim her magic, her enemies are closing in, and neither Ixia nor Sitia are safe for her anymore. Especially since the growing discord between the two countries and the possibility of a war threatens everything Yelena holds dear.

Valek is determined to protect Yelena, but he’s quickly running out of options. The Commander suspects that his loyalties are divided, and he’s been keeping secrets from Valek…secrets that put him, Yelena and all their friends in terrible danger. As they uncover the various layers of the Commander’s mysterious plans, they realize it’s far more sinister that they could have ever imagined.

Personal Thoughts:

As always, Maria V. Snyder deliver another outstanding novel in Night Study. Just like the other books of this series this new addition to Yelena and Valek’s story is a thrilling and riveting read.

While Study series is Yelena and Valek’s story, the previous installments are undeniably centered to Yelana. Valek character though strong and interesting remains mysterious in the previous books. Those little snippets from Valek’s time with Yeda or with the Commander are not enough. We don’t really know him as much as Yelena. Valek’s past, his family, and the reason for his immunity to magic remain untouched until now.

As Maria reveal more layers of Valek in this installment, Valek’s character becomes more reachable and maybe even relate-able. Maria open Valek to readers making him more human than the dark and dangerous assassin every followers know from the previous books.

It is no surprise that Valek has a soft side, after-all he managed to fall in love, but seeing him vulnerable and even powerless is a risky twist for this series. Much more when he started to sound less of the most dangerous assassin and become the caring heart mate of Yelena. I don’t mind it at first since reading a happy couple is always a treat but somewhere along the way I fear for Valek’s character. What if Maria push him too much on the soft side, will that still be realistic for an assassin? Specially since Valek is not just an just ordinary assassin, he is the King Killer, his name alone can make everyone feel fear both in Sitia and Ixia. Then I realized, there’s one valid reason for Valek to be more caring than usual (it’s not Yelena), but the reason is more than enough to make any one in his position to show his soft side.

As Maria focus on Valek and his journey it also means that Valek has to go through the wringer. There are lots of hard choices for him – between Yelena and the Commander, his work and personal life, Ixia and Sitia, his immunity and new-found power things are really tough for him. If I didn’t know he is the fearless assassin I would probably say enough to Maria and just give the guy some break. But as always Valek do what is best or at least try his best. When Yelena drop the bomb at then end of Shadow Study I expect Valek to have some major reactions or at least different reaction than what he shows in the first part of this book. But then I realized this is Valek we are talking, the fearless assassin who is always calm even in the most dangerous times. So why am I expecting him to be suddenly different because of a news that isn’t even confirmed yet?

“But that was the problem with grief. No one ever asked for it. It arrived with its bags packed for an extended stay. It settled into your best guest room and demanded to be waited on all day long, and which it finally shuffled out the door, it left behind permanent scratches on your furniture.”

Anyway, lots of things happened to Valek but that doesn’t mean the other characters are forgotten. In fact everyone is busy with a lot of things that are happening – Cartel group, disappearing magicians (and no! it is not just magic tricks), Yelena’s lost power and condition, the Commanders being indifferent, the looming war. With those things and more, everyone are either busy figuring things out, analyzing people and situations, saving the day, saving themselves, or just trying to survive. Dangerous time for everyone and times like this usually leave casualties. I won’t say anymore about that, you just have to read the book and find out yourself.

Overall, Knight Study is another fantastic addition to this fantasy series of Maria V. Snyder. With non-stop actions, more risk, and impressing character development, Night Study is a gripping and  completely engrossing read that will surely thrilled readers.

* This review is based on an eBook I received courtesy of the publisher, Mira Ink UK.

Check my interview with Yelena here.