Cover Reveal for Torn by Kate Sparkes

I am excited to share the release date and cover for Torn by Kate SparkesKate and I are friends in the twitterverse, and she's a great up and coming fantasy writer. Torn is the second in the Bound Trilogy. I sincerely enjoyed Bound and look forward to reading Torn. Torn releases on March 31, 2015 (the same day as I release The Evolution of Lillie Gable) . Great minds think alike! Check out the cover and more details on Torn below! Plus, you can pick up Bound on sale now!

Aren Tiernal knows that safety is an illusion, that his cruel and powerful brother Severn will never forgive his betrayal. Still, returning to Tyrea to challenge Severn for the throne would be suicide. It’s not until Severn himself comes to collect what’s owed to him that Aren decides to risk everything in an attempt to bring down the most powerful Sorcerer Tyrea has ever known. It’s a mission that seems doomed to fail, but it’s Aren’s only chance to save himself, his country, and the woman who thawed his heart.

Rowan Greenwood has troubles of her own. Though she has potential to become a great Sorceress, years of being closed off from her magic have left her unable to control her incredible power. When a pair of ominous letters arrive from her home country, Rowan has to choose between her new life and a chance at saving a family member’s life—and just maybe changing an entire country’s beliefs about the evils of magic.

Torn apart by separate quests, Rowan and Aren will have to discover untapped strengths and confront their darkest fears in order to overthrow a ruler determined to destroy them both.

Available for Pre-Order on Amazon. 

August 2014 Book Reviews

Before the pugs take over the blog for the rest of the week, here are my August book reviews. I have so much more to say about Words of Radiance, so expect a blog post about that book very soon. Until then, happy reading! Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson - The only disappointing part about Words of Radiance was knowing the next book in the series won't be out until Fall of 2015. Words of Radiance is the 2nd in the ten book epic fantasy series titled the Stormlight Archive. Words of Radiance is perhaps the best book I will read this year, and better than its predecessor. Whereas The Way of Kings focused almost entirely on world building and character development, the second book dives into story and action. The world building continues in breathtaking fashion, meanwhile more depth and layers are added to the main characters. Since I knew what I was getting myself into, I didn't mind the length at all, and the pacing of the story was great. I often had to force myself to shut off the kindle every night to get sleep. 7 out of 7 stars!

Frost by Kate Avery Ellison - Frost is the first in a YA fantasy/dystopian series. I picked the book up through a special promotion, so I didn't know much about the series or author beforehand. I enjoyed the book. The descriptions were great to put you into the setting, and the characters were likeable and relatable. I think the potential for the series is great with the setup created in this book, but this book was a little too simple and predictable for me. It is a YA title, but it reads more like a middle grade novel to me. The book was enjoyable; I just expected a little more which might come in book two. 4 out of 7 stars

The Necromancer's Betrayal by Becca Andre - The Necromancer's Betrayal is a novella set in between the second and third book in the series. We are introduced to a new character, Elysia, while learning more about James. Just like the novels, the story is fast-paced and fun. Normally, I'm not a huge novella fan, but I love how these novellas in the Final Formula series get us into the heads of other characters. I really enjoyed this book and look forward to book 3! 5 out of 7 stars

Paper Towns by John Green - I'm having a hard time nailing down how I feel about this book. I'll start with the positives. I love the voice of the book. Green has a knack for putting his readers inside the head of teenagers. The pacing is great–I wanted to keep reading and reading to find out what happened to Margo. I give credit to Green for not settling for stereotypical happy ending. Yet, I felt like I wasn't fulfilled by the ending, and I didn't like the character of Margo. The book did make me think about the lives we lead and our "paper towns." With all that in mind, I'm giving it 5 out of 7 stars.

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell - I'm sorry it took so long for me to read this book. It's been on my to-read list for awhile, and I finally got an audio book copy through overdrive. I don't do audiobooks often–I simply enjoy reading more than listening, but Eleanor & Park was a great audiobook. The narrators were fantastic. I loved the dueling point of views. It really added depth to this book. Eleanor and Park are adorable and their love story is much different than many of the YA books I've read. I don't want to give too much away, so just read the book. 6 out of 7 stars

Rating System Guide

7 stars = Phenomenal book – one of the  best books I’ve read

6 stars = Great book – worth your time to read

5 stars = Solid book, if you like the genre pick it up

4 stars = Okay book, maybe lacking something in the way of language, character development, story

3 stars = I probably should have stopped reading this book.

1 or 2 stars = Serious issues with plot, structure, language, or not a book for me.

Author Spotlight with Kate Sparkes

Today I am excited to feature author Kate Sparkes. Her debut novel, Boundreleased on June 23, 2014 and has been on the top of the young adult fantasy charts since it released. I read and reviewed Bound last month. It was a joy to read, and I am excited about her success.

Tell us a little about yourself and your novel Bound.

I’m a writer and a mom, wife to a Mountie, comfortable seating for three cats and regular walker for a Boxer named Jack. And actually… all of that pretty much sums up my daily life. I was born in Ontario, but I now live in Newfoundland, which I think is one of the most beautiful places on Earth. I’ve been writing stories since I was in Kindergarten, but only started working toward it as a career in 2010. That’s when I started writing Bound.

Bound is the first book in a YA Fantasy trilogy. It’s the story of two characters: Rowan, a young woman who comes from a country where magic is considered a sin (but who has always been fascinated with the fairy tales she’s not supposed to be reading), and Aren, an enemy Sorcerer whose life she accidentally saves. Secrets are revealed, loyalties tested, adventures had… it’s good fun.

What are your favorite and most challenging parts of writing a novel?

My favourite part is when things click into place, when a plot problem or character motivation issue that I’ve been struggling with finally yields, and everything seems like it was just meant to be. My least favourite part would be the struggles leading up to that. Also, trying to write sales/cover copy. I didn’t think I was going to survive that with my sanity intact.

I love reading fantasy because of the creative, immersive worlds of the genre, but as a writer, I am intimidated by that world building aspect. What was your process to create the fantasy world of Bound?

The world had been gradually forming in my mind for years before I came up with the story and characters that fit into it. I’ve always loved fairy tales and myths, so it seemed natural that mythical creatures from our world would find their way in there, but I try to put my own spin on them. The land itself is frequently based on Newfoundland. Its rugged beauty, worn-down mountains, and glacier-carved landscapes seem like they’re already full of magic, especially on foggy days. The hardest part of the world for me was creating the magic system, finding a balance between possibilities and limitations, setting the rules, and making sure it didn’t make things too easy for my characters. I was tweaking that right up to the last minute, and I’m glad my editor regularly works in Fantasy and was willing to give my hands a slap when I messed up.

The challenge now is pushing the boundaries that I’ve set, and also exploring other aspects of magic that were mentioned in Bound but that we haven’t really explored.

Bound is a bestseller on Amazon in the YA Fantasy Sword & Sorcery and Coming of Age categories with almost 50 reviews posted on Amazon since its June 23rd launch. Can you share your launch and release strategy?

I wish there was some huge secret I could share, but I think I’m as surprised as anyone. Pleasantly surprised, of course, and incredibly grateful to the readers who have made it happen. My launch strategy for publication involved releasing on multiple platforms so that my Nook and Kobo loving friends could get the book. Sales have been far better on Amazon than anywhere else, but I’m still glad it’s available to everyone. On Amazon, I got the book into as many appropriate sub-categories as I could, which meant it showed up in Best Seller lists and Hot New Release lists sooner than it would have in larger categories. I launched the book at an introductory sale price of $2.99 as a “thank you” to everyone who was already supporting me, and I hoped it would make it easier for people to decide to try the book.

In terms of publicity, there’s my blog, where I had been posting weekly teaser snippets as part of WIPpet Wednesday. I have a nice little community of writers I follow on Wordpress, and many of them helped spread the word on cover reveal and release day, and a few hosted interviews. I had a launch party on Facebook. That was really just for fun, but it did get people I already knew talking about the book. Some of them read it and loved it, and recommended it to their friends.

Most of the book’s success has been thanks to word of mouth promotion. People who read advance copies loved the story, and when they learned how important their enthusiasm was to the book’s success, they were more than happy to tell their friends. I put a few sentences in my note to readers about how they can help spread the word about books they love, and that encouraged people to leave reviews. Eventually the book started showing up on sub-category Best Seller lists, and Amazon’s recommendations took over.

I learned later that I had accidentally followed most of the advice in David Gaughran’s book “Let’s Get Visible,” which I have now read and recommend to everyone who asks. Fantastic advice on getting the word out on Amazon.

Finally, what is on the horizon for your fans? What books are next to be released?

The next book that I’ll be releasing is Torn, which is book two of the Bound trilogy. I think some people would be rather upset if I released anything unrelated before I did that! I have a short story in the works that’s a prequel to Bound, but it still needs editing and a cover, so that has to wait. After that we’ll see book three of the trilogy… and I do have a fun urban fantasy novella in the works that’s gotten excellent reviews from beta readers, but again, that has to wait for its turn.

And then, who knows? There are a ton of characters in the Bound trilogy who are begging to have their stories told. If readers want them, we might see a few spin-off stories, or even full-length novels.

Thanks for having me!

Thanks again to Kate for her thoughtful responses. You can purchase Kate's novel Bound using the links below. Also, I encourage you to follow her on social media. She's funny. :)



Barnes & Noble (Nook)




Disregard the Prologue (blog)

Sparrowcat Press

Author newsletter (releases, giveaways, news, and other fun stuff)

July 2014 Book Reviews

It was a great month for reading, especially during the last week of July. I was at the beach and spent many hours reading on the balcony or on the beach with my kindle. I'm currently tackling Brandon Sanderson's fantasy epic, Words of Radiance, so I look forward to sharing about that amazing book next month. But for now, I read five very different books in July. Check them out! The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil GaimanThe Ocean at the End of the Lane is my first Neil Gaiman book. It won't be my last! First, his writing is stunning. He is able to create beautiful pictures with his words without bogging the page down with big words and long sentences. I could read it over and over simply for this reason. With its 7 year-old protagonist and shorter length, the book reads more like a kids' or YA book. (Think Narnia or A Wrinkle in Time) But I loved the imagination of the story and how it addressed themes of sacrifice, loss, and good vs. evil. 6 out of 7 stars

Matt Archer: Redemption by Kendra C. Highley - With Redemption, Kendra Highley did something great–she finishes a young adult series well. The storyline is tied up by the last chapter. Even though you want to see more from the characters, you don't need it. The story is complete.

If you have read the previous Matt Archer novels, Redemption follows the same pattern. It has plenty of action, but humor laced in the dialogue to ease the tension. By book five, you are rooting for the characters so it's tough to lose any of them, but it's an epic battle of good vs. evil, and Highley isn't afraid of characters making the ultimate sacrifice.

I loved this series, and will reread the series again in the future! 7 out of 7 stars

The Memory Box by Eva Lesko NatielloThe Memory Box is a dark psychological thriller with many twists and turns. The author does a fantastic job transporting you into the suburban world of Caroline Thompson. Her writing style is clean and crisp, not bogged down with big words or long sentences, yet her descriptions and details put you into Caroline's World. I did wonder the whole time how Carolina could forget this past life of hers. The author addresses it in a final twist, but that detail was a stumbling block through the book for me. (I may need to reread to make sure I didn't miss something) Finally, even though the plot kept me reading, I didn't enjoy it because I'm not a big fan of dark and twisted stories. But that's a reading preference, not a flaw of the book. If you read and enjoyed Gone Girl, this would be a great book for you. 6 out of 7 stars

Bound by Kate Sparkes - Bound is a fun young adult fantasy debut. I loved the world building in this book–the different lands and especially people. The novel is at many times more like a journey or quest story with an emphasis on the romantic angle. Sparke's character building is very good, and I think this series will get better as it goes forward. 5 out of 7 stars

If I Stay by Gayle Forman - Mia is in a deadly car crash and her life is in shambles. If I Stay is the story of her decision whether to stay in this life or to pass on to the next life. It's an interesting read. I like how the author switched from the present in one chapter to memories of the past in the next. It created a great flow to the story. At times, the story felt a little cheesy, but I'm okay with that, especially in young adult literature. I've heard the second book is better, so I look forward to reading that in the near future. 5 out of 7 stars

Rating System Guide

7 stars = Phenomenal book – one of the  best books I’ve read

6 stars = Great book – worth your time to read

5 stars = Solid book, if you like the genre pick it up

4 stars = Okay book, maybe lacking something in the way of language, character development, story

3 stars = I probably should have stopped reading this book.

1 or 2 stars = Serious issues with plot, structure, language, or not a book for me.

How Many Pages is too Much for a Book?

I am currently reading A Storm of Swords, the third book in George R.R. Martin’s "A Song of Ice and Fire" series. Each book in his epic fantasy series is long. Goodreads tells me A Storm of Swords has 1,177 pages (I’m reading on my kindle and it didn’t give me page numbers for this book). That’s a ginormous book. I’ve been reading the book for over a week and I’m only halfway through the book.

As I read this book as an author, I keep thinking about the length of the book. How many pages is too much for a book?

I know the "Song of Ice and Fire" books are long. Even though I enjoy the series, I find it challenging for me to start the next in the series because of its length. Therefore, I usually start reading when I have an excess of free time–maybe I’m on vacation at the beach or the time off between Christmas and New Year’s. I didn’t do that with A Storm of Swords.

I am on a pretty regular schedule, maybe even a bit busier than normal with finishing up edits for my novel, picking up more hours at work, and setting up workshops. I don’t expect to finish A Storm of Swords until the end of April. Since I enjoy the series, I suppose it’s fine, albeit a bit disheartening to slowly watch the percentage read tick by on my kindle. In a way that bums me out, I like being able to read many books in a month, and I’m not sure if that makes me an odd or normal reader.

Because I read a good amount of young adult literature, most books I read are between 250-350 pages. I can bust through a book that size in 3-5 days. The page count jumps to 400 or 500 pages if I pick up adult genre fiction–crime, historical fiction, or literary fiction. I don’t mind a 500 page book if I am engaged in the book.

When the page count hits 700, I start to grow weary. A few months ago, I read The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. Once again, I read this book on my kindle and it didn’t have number of pages. (I can’t tell you why some kindle books do and don’t). When I picked it up, I had no idea it was 700 pages long. I think the book took a week and a half for me to read. I didn’t like the book either and I felt it could have been trimmed to a more reasonable page count. (Maybe 500 pages). When I finished, I was disappointed with the time invested in the book. In retrospect, I would rather have read two great YA books instead of one long book I didn’t enjoy.

For me, I think 700 pages is my magic number. When a book hits that size, the book better be worth the time invested. I’m less willing to take chances on a new author or series with a book length that size.

How many pages is too many for you?  What are some great books over 700 pages in length?

October 2013 Book Reviews

Sadly, I only read three books this month. The first book I read this month was a lengthy one and I struggled to get through it. The last two were fun reads.  I am also continuing to read through all the books on my kindle or that I have around and haven't read yet. I've learned most of the books I pick up are pretty good reads, even if it takes me a few months to get to them. It's funny how my to read list always grows; it never shrinks! The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver - This is a tough review for me to write because I didn't enjoy reading this book. However, I respect the author and the whole of this book. The Poisonwood Bible is the story of a family who moves to the Belgian Congo in 1959 led by the father, Nathan Price, who is an evangelical Baptist. I didn't enjoy the novel for a few reasons. The first half of the book was slow and I had a tough time with the portrayal of Nathan Price. I think he was a stereotype and gives readers a bad picture of Christianity. I did enjoy the last third or fourth of the book when the characters make it out of Africa and learning about how they deal with the rest of their lives. I also love how the authors' love for Africa shines throughout the book. Even though the book hit on some tough themes such post-colonialism and religion, it didn't make me turn the pages quickly. And because my interest wasn't completely there, I only give it 4 out of 7 stars.

The Homegoing by Michael Olin-Hitt - A friend of mine handed me a copy of this book a few months ago and I am glad I finally picked up the book and read it. The Homegoing is the story of a young woman named Ruthie who is returning home to Laurelville after a few semesters of college at Ohio State. She wants to figure out the mystery behind a death in her family, but along the way finds out more secrets than she ever imagined. I really enjoyed the characters, especially the dialogue. I also liked the faith aspect of the story. Great book! 6 out of 7 stars.

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas - Throne of Glass is another book that I bought on my kindle awhile ago and finally read. I really enjoyed reading this book especially since I love books with a strong female protagonist. The protagonist, Celeana is an assassin who is in a competition to win her way to freedom. Along the way, she encounters evil forces, makes a few friends, and falls in love. The book is predictable at times, but such fun to read. The competition and protagonist reminded me of hunger games, but in a fantasy world. I intend to pick up the sequel soon! 6 out of 7 stars.