Author Interview: Maggie Hall

Maggie Hall is the author of the Conspiracy of Us series. The Conspiracy of Us trilogy follows Avery West’s adventures as she goes from an average American teenager to pawn of a powerful secret society called the Circle of Twelve.  

If you’re interested in multiple European destinations, this series is for you. Avery first visits Paris, but later finds herself traipsing around European destinations like Istanbul, London, Venice, Cannes, and the Greek islands.  We rated all three books in the series ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐.

You can follow Maggie Hall’s updates here!

Image result for maggie hall

1. When did you first realize that you wanted to be a writer?

Unlike a lot of writers, I haven’t been on this path since childhood. Reading has always been pretty much my favorite thing, but it wasn’t until I worked at a bookstore doing author events that I thought about being on the other side. Until then I’d thought of authors as having special training, or special connections, or just being something that I wasn’t–but when I met authors as they came through the store, I realized they were just normal, everyday people, and I started to wonder whether I could write a book, too. Then I had an idea for a book (see the next question!) and the rest is history. 

2. What inspired you to write the Conspiracy of Us trilogy?

I had an idea for a book that I wanted to read but that didn’t exist! I loved YA, with its excitement, fast-paced nature, romance . . . 🙂 and I also loved adult international thrillers, with the fabulous locations and dangerous hijinks–but there wasn’t anything out there that really combined them in the way I wished I could read. So the idea for Conspiracy was born!

3. Which character do you relate to most in your series?

Probably Avery. There are a lot of ways in which she is not like me at all, but in a lot of the important ways–how she feels about things that happen to her, her insecurities, her fears–I put a lot of myself (or, I should say, my 16-year-old self) into her. Though I have to admit, sometimes when Elodie is making a snarky comment about something dumb someone is doing, it’s the kind of comment I make in my head, but usually manage not to say out loud. 🙂 

4. What are you hoping readers will take away from this series?

The dedication to Ends of the World reads: “To all the girls who are stronger at the end of the story than they were at the beginning.” Avery starts book 1 as a naive girl who tries her best–but doesn’t really know what she’s doing, and makes a lot of dumb mistakes. In short, she’s who I–or a lot of girls–would have been if they’d been thrown into something like this at sixteen. By the end of the series, though, she’s grown into a strong, smart, competent young woman who yes, still makes mistakes, but has learned a lot about herself and the world along the way. I think of Avery like my little sister or something, and I’m really proud of her for who she became despite everything that happened to her. I hope that readers can see themselves in her and know that it’s okay start out as something that’s not the strong, “perfect” YA heroine. 

5. What are Avery, Stellan, and Jack doing now, two years after the final book?

Ooh, I don’t know if I can tell you that! 🙂 I try not to say anything that’s not in the books, because I like to leave it up to reader interpretation. I will say that I see them going along the paths that they’d gotten on at the end of book 3, and that I think that now, two years later, they’re happy. 

6. Be honest, would you rather date Jack or Stellan?

Ha! I truly love qualities about both of them. It was so hard to see one of them (no spoilers!) get his heart broken. I think both of them were good for Avery at times, and that both of them are good people, and that both of them have some stuff to work out before they’re perfect boyfriends . . .  That doesn’t answer your question at all, but there it is. 🙂 

7. What are your favorite Young Adult Books?

Currently, I’m really into Leigh Bardugo. I loved the original Grisha trilogy, and I really loved the Six of Crows series–I think she’s so good at characterization, and at weaving together a complicated story, and at pacing…I just want to be her as a writer, pretty much. I love The Raven Boys series for a more real-world based magical series. Anything Laini Taylor for gorgeous and lyrical and lush stories that are nothing at all like what I write, and Jennifer Lynn Barnes or Ally Carter for fun, adventurous books in the vein of the Conspiracy trilogy. 

8. Which writers influence you the most?

Um…see above? 🙂 I think it also depends on the book, and the scene, and the character. I draw inspiration from different books or TV shows or movies depending on the mood and what I’m trying to achieve. So I don’t think I can say that there are certain writers who I really try to emulate–it’s more that I draw inspiration from lots of different bits and pieces here and there. 

9. What was the most difficult part of the publishing process for you?

Probably how little control the writer actually has. I am a person who really likes being in control, and in publishing, so much is out of the writer’s hands. From the cover to the taglines to how it’s marketed and how it’s received–you write the book (though it then gets edited, so even the story isn’t entirely just yours) but after that, it’s up to the publisher, the readers, the whims of the universe . . . And that’s hard! I had to learn to let go a lot more than I was comfortable with. 

10. What is the best advice that you have received? Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

My best advice for aspiring authors is twofold: 1. Finish things. It’s reallllllly easy as a new writer to start a book, decide that it’s bad, or the writing is too hard, and move on to something else. But here’s the thing: there will always be something else more shiny, something else that looks like it’ll be easier, etc etc. And once you get a few chapters into that, the same thing will happen. So finish what you’re working on! If nothing else, it’s a huge accomplishment to know you can get through writing a whole book. Most aspiring authors stay “aspiring” because they never get to that finishing point. And 2. Be able to let go. The other reason I see aspiring authors stall is that they write one book (which is a huge accomplishment–definitely be proud of that!) but they decide this book is their end-all be-all, and they keep a strangle-hold on it past when they should shelve it. So if you finish a book, and you’re getting nowhere with agents, or your readers feel like it’s just not right–sure, work on it for a while (writing IS revising–I guess that’s my #3 advice) but know that it’s okay to just let it go. Your next book will be way easier to write and way better, I promise. Just having written that first book levels you up so much. And you know what? Almost every published author has quite a few shelved manuscripts. This first one is not your only chance, by a long shot! (Also: I know of quite a few situations in which a writer couldn’t get their first book published, but after years of publishing came back to it and retooled it and published it! Just saying.)

11. What is your writing process like?  

It depends! I used to be less of an outliner than I am now, but I have really come to value having a road map before the writing starts. So I will get an idea and the first thing I’ll do is flesh it out as much as possible. I’ll try to figure out the main conflicts, the main characters, the ending if possible. Then I let myself play. I write little bits here and there, trash things, start over, try different POVs–just mess around. Hopefully that leads to something that feels right. Then I fill in my outline as much as I can. And when I feel like I have a good idea of the overall story, I start writing for real. At that point, I follow the outline to the extent that it makes sense, but I let myself go off of it if the story goes that way. An outline for me isn’t meant to be rigid, but just meant to keep me on a general trajectory so I don’t veer off and write a whole lot of unnecessary stuff. So that’s the general process–the specifics change a ton from book to book. Even within the Conspiracy trilogy, I was constantly tweaking my process–literally no two books are the same!

12.  Are you currently writing any new books? If so, will they be released soon?

I am! Unfortunately I don’t have anything releasing very soon, but I really hope to have some news to share with readers sooner than later. I will always share any news there is to share in my newsletter at www.maggiehall.com/newsletter (and if you sign up for the Fandom newsletter, there are occasionally juicy little bits like Conspiracy deleted scenes!).

Thank so much, Maggie! We’ve already signed up for the newsletter and can’t wait to see what’s next!

Advertisements

Review: American Royals by Katharine McGee

Image result for american royals

Imagine an alternate world in which the United States established a monarchy after the American Revolution, with King George Washington I at the helm. American Royals re-imagines U.S. history, telling the story of America’s royal (read: scandalous) family. 

Princess Beatrice Georgina Fredericka Louise of the House of Washington is slated to become the first Queen Regent of the United States of America. After 21 years of preparation, Beatrice has accepted that she will soon become the first female heir to throne….including the reality that she will have to marry (and likely not for love). The only issue? She never planned on falling for her hunky body guard, Connor, who also happens to be *gasp* a commoner. In an attempt at royal matchmaking, her parents, the King and Queen, arrange for Beatrice to meet a list of America’s most eligible bachelors. Throughout the novel, Beatrice struggles to come to terms with her destiny and whether she should marry for love or for the good of her country. 

The novel is told from alternating points of view, also telling the story of Beatrice’s twin siblings, Their Royal Heinesses Jefferson and Samantha, as well as Samantha’s best friend, Nina, and Jeff’s ex-girlfriend, Daphne. 

Samantha’s nickname among the palace security staff is the Sparrow. The spare heir to the American throne, Samantha is frequently overshadowed by her prim and proper older sister, Beatrice. Determined to make a name for herself, Samantha develops the reputation as the troublemaker of the royal family due to her outspoken nature and flashy fashion choices. After returning from a whirlwind post-graduation trip, Samantha meets Lord Theodore “Teddy” Eaton at a royal ball. Unbeknownst to Sam, Teddy has made the shortlist of her sister’s potential suitors. Will Sam play second fiddle to her sister yet again, or will she get her happily ever after? 

The third storyline in this novel centers around royal twin, Jeff, his ex-girlfriend Daphne, and Nina, Princess Samantha’s life-long best friend. Spoiler alert: this is most definitely a love triangle…but in the juiciest (and best) way possible. Nina and Jeff have been friends forever, and their feelings for each other come to a head at the twins’ graduation party. The only catch is that Jeff is very much dating Daphne at this time. Flash forward to when Jeff returns to America (single and ready to mingle), leaving Nina to wonder about the status of their relationship. Daphne, however, won’t give the prince up without a fight. After all, she’s been preparing for her role as the future Mrs. Jefferson Washington for her entire life—quite literally. Daphne’s family comes from a long line of social climbers, and marrying off their daughter to the Prince is the last piece of the puzzle. On a mission to win him back, Daphne must fight to win Jefferson’s heart before it is too late. 

Overall, this story is *highly* entertaining. We won’t lie and say the writing is fantastic, because it’s definitely not, but the story-lines are woven together well. Imagine Gossip Girl mixed with The Royals and you’ve got American Royals.

McGee does a fabulous job of engaging her readers, and we found ourselves tearing through the book to unlock the hidden secrets of the royal family. Plus, we always enjoy alternate history. It’s fun to imagine what current times would be like if the United States had a monarchy and how different the world would look. 

Not to mention that the romances were A+. We found ourselves rooting for all the budding romances, though Claire’s favorite was definitely Beatrice and her hottie bodyguard (yummy!). Christy’s favorite was Nina and Jeff. Nina was able to make him understand what normal life outside of the palace looks like.  

Our only complaint would be that we wished the book had better character development. McGee definitely went in depth with Beatrice’s character given her complexities and future status as Queen Regent, but the other characters felt lacking at times. Daphne was total crazy-town, dedicating her life to social climbing. Most of the time, she was very one-dimensional.  However, the scandalous plot line was more than entertaining and made up for this issue. 

Do yourself a favor and snag this book the next time you’re browsing your local bookstore! 

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐/⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Which Shadowhunter Chronicles Character Are You Based on Your Myers-Briggs?

Tell us your Myers-Briggs in the comments and if you relate to the character who matches you! We’re an ENTJ and an INFJ.

Image result for clockwork angel

ENFJ

Will Herondale

INFJ

Jem Carstairs

INTJ

Tessa Gray

INTP

Henry Branwell

ESFJ

Charlotte Fairchild

ESTP

Jessamine Lovelace

Image result for city of bones

ENTP

Jace Herondale

ENFP

Isabelle Lightwood

INFP

Simon Lewis and Alec Lightwood

ISFP

Clary Fairchild

ESFP

Magnus Bane

Image result for lady midnight

ENTJ

Emma Carstairs

ISFJ

Julian Blackthorn 

ESTJ

Helen Blackthorn

ISTJ

Catarina Loss and Cristina Rosales

ISTP

Ty Blackthorn

September 2019 Book Club: American Royals by Katharine McGee

Image result for american royals

The Book

Our September book club pick is American Royals by Katharine McGee. It was released yesterday, September 3, 2019.

Why did we pick this book?

Alternate history is such a fun genre. It basically asks how would the world be if something different happened in the past. In this case, McGee tell us what the United States would look like as a monarchy. For those who don’t know, Colonel Lewis Nicola suggested to George Washington that he become king. Washington didn’t consider this idea, wanting the United States to adopt a republican form of government instead. McGee asks what if Washington wanted to be a king and how the United States would look today. This story looks fun and like it is full of romance and glamour. 

What is this book about?

This story follows the American royal family, the House of Washington. Princess Beatrice will become Queen. So, her sister Samantha is the spare, the one over-looked unless she causes trouble. Then, there is Samantha’s twin Jefferson, who would have been king if succession rules had not changed. Two different girls are vying for the Prince’s heart. Told from multiple points of view, this story follows the life of the American royal family and the lives that they impact.

What other YA books has the author written?

She wrote the Thousandth Floor series and a short story for the book Meet Cute: Some People Are Destined to Meet

 

Back to School: College YA Edition

YA in college is becoming more popular, especially since NA didn’t really takeoff and— let’s be real— tends to be more erotica than anything. Let us know if we missed any great YA books set in college. We’re always looking to read more of them. Tell us in the comments which YA books set in college are your favorite! 

1. The Ivy series by Lauren Kunze

Image result for the ivy lauren kunze

Welcome to the Ivy league. Set at Harvard, this series has everything: from hot guys, to glamorous parties and a well-educated MC. Callie is from a modest family in California and everything changes when she’s thrown into the world of the Northeast elite. The cast of characters make this story unforgettable. 

2. Again, But Better by Christine Riccio  

Image result for again but better

Always wanted to study abroad? Learn all about second chances in this cute story set in London. If you could press a redo button for your life, would you? Because Shane did and the results were not what she thought they would be. 

3. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Image result for fangirl

Maybe you’re an introvert and do college a bit differently. If so, this is the book for you. Cath is a relatable MC who would rather write fan fiction over attending parties. After all, everyone does college differently. 

4. A Little Something Different by Sandy Hall

Image result for a little something different

This cute and quirky story about finding love in college is told through every perspective except the main characters. Seriously, their teacher, the Starbucks employee, and even their friends are invested in Gabe and Lea getting together. Everyone notices their blooming chemistry, but will they? 

5. Freshmen by Tom Ellen & Lucy Ivison

Image result for freshmen by tom ellen and lucy ivison

Phoebe feels like she can reinvent herself and get a fresh start. Luke never imagined how drastically things would change for him. The two never talked in high school, but are thrown together in a new environment. Set at a university in the UK, this story shows both the fun and hurdles in college. 

6. Frat Girl by Kelly Roache

Image result for frat girl kiley roache

Ever wonder what the inner workings of a fraternity are like? So did Cassie. She has one shot to get an elite scholarship. Her idea? Infiltrate a fraternity that’s on probation and get the inside scoop. But doing so is not as easy as she thought, especially when she develops feelings for one of the guys.

7. We’ll Always Have Summer by Jenny Han

Image result for we'll always have summer by jenny han

The third book in this trilogy has Belly finishing her freshman year of college with her boyfriend Jeremiah by her side. But, a lot of things have changed in the past few years and Belly has to come to terms with the fact that things can’t always stay the same. Her past with an old flame comes back and Belly quickly questions everything she planned. 

8. Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando

Image result for roomies by sara

Elizabeth and Lauren learn that they will be roommates at the University of California the summer before college begins. They start out by asking each other basic questions about their dorm set up. Quickly, the become friends and are there for each other through difficult moments during the summer. Despite never meeting, they start to go through these major life changes together. 

9. Love, Lucy by April Linder

Image result for love, lucy book

Lucy has a dream summer before college, backpacking through Europe. In Florence she meets Jesse, her sweet summer fling. When she returns home, she thought she had put her brief romance behind her and is ready to find someone new in college. Through the story, she struggles with whether first loves can last. At the same time, she is trying to find herself when the path she wants to peruse is so different from the one her parents have planned. 


Review: Enchantée by Gita Trelease

This is our book club pick for August 2019. If you’ve read it, let us know your thoughts in the comments!

Image result for enchantee

Enchantée tells the story of Camille Durbonne, an orphan living in Paris during the lead up to the French Revolution. In Trelease’s reimagining of the year 1789, la magie (magic) is real but outlawed by society’s aristocracy. 

After her parents die of smallpox and her older brother, Alain, gambles away their money, Camille works magic to care for her family, turning scraps of metal into coins. One night after a fight with her brother turns violent, Alain runs off with the family’s small fortune, leaving Camille and their ill sister, Sophie, to pick up the pieces of their already fragile life. 

Facing eviction from their apartment and the possibility of being sold to a brothel, Camille uses glamour and transforms herself into the Baroness de la Fontaine. Every evening, Camille goes to Versailles to gamble at the court of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. Soon, she starts winning— and winning big. 

While at court, Camille meets a cast of characters: Aurelie, the heiress with a heart of gold, Chandon, a fellow magician, and the Vicomte de Séguin, who is vying for the Baroness’ affections…but may not have the most chivalrous of intentions. To complicate matters, the balloonist Camille has fallen in love with, Lazare, arrives at court. Soon, Camille’s real and magical lives intertwine, threatening to reveal her secrets.

Camille’s newfound riches come with a cost: la magie is draining Camille and could be the downfall of the magical life she has conjured.   When her lies begin to unravel, Camille must decide if la magie is worth the cost of losing those she loves. 

The story is set against the backdrop of the French Revolution, and the author does an excellent job of world building. We could tell Trelease did her history homework and the book was very entertaining for this reason. This fact alone please two history nerds. We enjoyed following Camille and Sophie through Paris and Versailles. Unfortunately, the setting and world building were the two things we liked about this book. 

The characters, including Camille, were lackluster despite their potential. The book was roughly 430 pages, and we felt that instead of focusing on world building, the author could have dedicated more space to character development. Chandon was witty and charming, and for a character so important to the plot line, he should have had better development. Instead, it felt like he was used to connect Plot A to Plot B— nothing more. 

Also, the romance between Lazare and Camille did not seem believable for this reason. We could not connect with their characters, and their relationship was very surface level. 

Finally, the conflict between Camille and the Vicomte was anti-climactic and felt hastily thrown together. Since the author spent so much time on world building, the conflict really did not develop until the last half of the book. The resolution and explanations for the conflict also fell flat. We were left thinking, “that’s it?!” once the antagonist’s reasoning was explained.

Overall, we’d give this book three stars. It was super entertaining but had no wow-factor. There are definitely much better historical fiction-esque YA novels out there!

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐/⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Review: Escaping From Houdini by Kerri Maniscalco

Image result for escaping from houdini

Audrey Rose Wadsworth and Thomas Cresswell trade in the castles of Romania for a transatlantic voyage. Upon the request of Audrey Rose’s uncle, our favorite forensic scientists make their way to America to assist with a case. Little do they know that their ship, the RMS Etruria, would be the setting of their next murder mystery.  

While sitting at dinner on the first night, they watch the ship’s entertainment, the Moonlight Carnival. By the end of the performance, a young woman is dead. Quickly, Thomas and Audrey are thrown into an investigation to prevent future murders. However, every night, a new victim is found.

The head of the carnival, Mephistopheles, takes an interest in Audrey and requests a deal. She needs to play a part in the carnival’s final show and in exchange, he will help her with slight of hand for scientific purposes. There is only one catch: Thomas can’t know about their agreement. 

Audrey Rose’s close arrangement with Mephistopheles caused Cressworth to be at odds for most of the journey. Only in the end, when everything is revealed in the final show, do Thomas and Audrey understand what life would mean if the two parted ways.

Maniscalco knows how to create the perfect mystery, one that keeps you on the edge of your seat. However, Escaping From Houdini did not have as much charm as Stalking Jack the Ripper and Hunting Prince Dracula. We still enjoyed the story, but we did have some issues with it.

The fighting and pseudo-love-triangle between Audrey, Thomas and Mephistopheles felt unnecessary. If we’ve learned anything, it’s that Audrey and Thomas work best together in solving the cases. Their witty banter and adorable flirtations were minimal, which, in our opinion is a shame! Their chemistry is one of the draws of this series, and we wish they would’ve had less miscommunication and more cute moments together. 

We did enjoy the setting and the mystery surrounding the carnival. The tone felt much scarier knowing that the characters couldn’t leave the ship and that time was against them to stop the killer as they drew closer to shore. The carnival and its characters kept things interesting. The late 19th century’s fascination with magic made this story come to life. Not to mention that Harry Houdini made a few appearances throughout the book! We loved that the mystery included fortune tellers, tarot cards and escape tricks.

Overall, we had fun reading this book. Capturing the Devil will be released in September 2019. We can’t wait to read the final installment of this series, which will be set in Chicago. We hope Maniscalco includes many cute Cressworth scenes.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐/⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐