Author Interview: Lisa Maxwell

We had the chance to interview the fabulous Lisa Maxwell. She is the New York Times Best-Selling author of The Last Magician. If you haven’t read this series, we highly recommend it. This series is full of both magic and history. Thanks, Lisa! We can’t wait to read more of your books!

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

I came to it very late, actually. I’ve always been a reader—to the point that I went through a lot of grad school to study literature. But I wasn’t really ever brave enough to think about writing until I fell in love with romance and YA lit. 

2.) What inspired you to write The Last Magician series?

I had an idea for a thief who could see in bullet time, and it took about 4 years but I finally figured out her story.

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

I hope they just have fun reading it, honestly. I know when I write that I’m answering and playing with certain ideas for myself, but I don’t have any real agenda for what readers should get. Once the book is in their hands, it’s theirs. 

4.) What are your favorite YA books? 

I love Laini Taylor’s stuff— STRANGE THE DREAMER and MUSE OF NIGHTMARES was greet. I’m also a big fan of a lot of Maggie Stiefvater’s writing.

5.) What is the best piece of writing/publishing advice that you have received? Any advice for aspiring authors? 

Develop a thick skin and don’t read reviews 🙂  But advice I would give? I think aspiring authors have to just read everything. The more they read, the richer the well they have to draw from.

6.) What comes next for you as you wrap up the Last Magician series? 

A very long nap, lol. But seriously, after TLM is finished, I have a middle grade in the queue and then…I’m actually not sure. My brain has been so tied up with the twists and turns of this series, I really think I might need to take a few months off and just *be* so I can start fresh on something new.

Review: Loveboat, Taipei by Abigail Hing Win

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Loveboat, Taipei is marketed for “fans of Crazy Rich Asians or Jane Austen Comedy of Manners, with a hint of La La Land.” 

Eighteen-year old Ever Wong wants to dance. After being taken off the waitlist at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, Ever finally thinks this is her shot. Too bad her ultra-strict parents already have another plan in store for her: attend Northwestern University and become a doctor (never mind that Ever has an intense fear of blood). When her parents find her acceptance letter to Trisch, they ship Ever off to Taiwan to study Mandarin for the summer. While there, Ever finds herself thrown into a world full over-achieving kids— those exactly like her parents always hoped she would be. She meets Rick Woo, her childhood nemesis, and his enigmatic cousin Sophie, who shows Ever that life outside of Ohio is full of freedom and endless possibility. 

Ever’s parents think she is going away on a wholesome cultural experience before college. Little do they know that the program is actually dubbed the “Loveboat,” where teens run free with little supervision to party and hook up. Ever sets out to break all of the Wong Family Rules, starting with sneaking out. With her new friends in tow, Ever discovers what its like to be truly free for the first time…but at what cost?

Loveboat, Taipei surprised us— and in the best way possible! When we first read the description, we were drawn in by the Crazy Rich Asians marketing line. Little did we know that we would be getting so much more! The author does such a great job of showing the reader what it is like to grow up as an Asian American. The book also challenges Asian stereotypes and racism, and sheds light on the Taiwanese culture. We really appreciated these touches, as they added to the depth of the book. 

Ever was a well-developed character. She starts off as a straight-laced American teenager who is afraid to break out of her shell. As the book progresses, we slowly start to see Ever come into her own. She forms new friendships, takes risks, and learns more about her culture. The reader truly sees her blossom, and by the end of the book you see an entirely new Ever. 

Now, lets talk about the love triangle (yes, we know— the dreaded love triangle!). Most YA readers either love or hate the love triangle bit. We do not usually have a problem with them if they are done correctly. This love triangle was most definitely done correctly! The first love interest is Rick, the goody-too-shoes nemesis from Ever’s childhood. The other leading man in this triangle is Xavier, the brooding bad-boy type. Now, we love a bad-boy, don’t get us wrong. But, we really did like both of these men, and we saw how both challenged Ever in important ways. We won’t spoil the ending, but we liked the way this storyline ended and we hope (fingers crossed!) that the other guy gets his own love story in book 2. 

We were highly entertained by the teen’s shenanigans. From the clubbing scenes to drinking snake-blood sake, there was never a dull moment. 

If you’re looking for a fun read that touches on important themes, then definitely consider picking this one up! We thoroughly enjoyed it, and we can’t wait to see what the author has in store for us with book 2. 

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐/⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Review: Scythe by Neal Shusterman

Scythe (Arc of a Scythe, #1)

Thou Shalt Kill

Welcome to the future. At a certain point in time, everyone will be immortal. No more diseases or tragedies because everyone can be brought back. Sound perfect?

Except, over-population leads to the creation of the Scythedom. Scythes are in charge of “gleaning” a certain amount of people to keep the population size in check. 

Scythe Faraday believes that the best Scythes hate taking human life. It keeps them compassionate. When he comes across Citra and Rowan, he knows they’d make excellent apprentices because of their strong moral character.

Both of them will compete and at the end of one year, one will become a Scythe and the other can return to their normal life. Or so they think. But Scythe Goddard, who always needs the spotlight, and his associates don’t believe this is right. Scythe Goddard wants the winner to have to glean the loser…so it’s no longer a fight for prestige, it’s a fight for their lives.

The problem: Citra and Rowan don’t want to be Scythes or die. The two cannot work together or get attached to the other because the inevitable that awaits them at the end of the apprenticeship.  

Shusterman knows how to world build better than almost any other YA author! His Unwind series had us captivated the entire time. So, we had high expectations when beginning the Arc of Scythe series. It did not disappoint. 

Shusterman brings you into a seemingly perfect future where people no longer fear mortality. But, that comes with a price. The Scythes incite fear wherever they go. Some do only what must be done and feel remorse and others enjoy it. That’s where the political divide in the book comes in. The unrest and dispute in the Scythedom seem to grow at every conclave. 

Then, Citra and Rowan are brought into the middle of the political issues and are used as pawns by some of the higher members of the Scythedom. The two main characters felt well developed. They start as normal teenagers and grow throughout a year of training and being away from their families. The two had instant chemistry, but any romantic feelings were put on the back-burner because of their unique situation.

Shusterman’s books typically comment on human nature. With the power of the Scythedom comes corruption. However, he also describes that a world without conventional mortality leads to people lacking any creative desires. Everything in life has been accomplished. There is nothing really to strive for. Everyone goes to school or work without a desire to think outside the box. Everything in life has been determined by the Thunderhead, the all knowing computer system that houses all human knowledge.

This thought-provoking plot will keep you up all night. We’re already excited to read Thunderhead, book two in the Arc of Scythe series. If you consider yourself a fan of creative plots and dystopian societies, go to your nearest bookstore immediately!

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐/⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Review: One of Us is Next by Karen McManus

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One of Us is Next is the highly anticipated sequel to one of our fave YA murder mysteries, One of Us Is Lying. It’s eighteen months after Simon’s death and the students of Bayview High are finally getting back to normal. Students have tried and failed to re-create Simon’s gossip app, but none have had quite the same wow-factor as About That. That is, until students get texts from Unknown announcing a new game, Truth or Dare. 

One by one, the students of Bayview High are selected. First up? Phoebe, who learns the hard way that you always take the dare. Maeve thinks she has nothing to hide, but Unknown knew that what would hurt her most was going after her best friend. Before Knox can be tapped, tragedy strikes again at Bayview High. Can Phoebe, Knox, and Maeve (with some help from familiar faces!) defeat Unknown’s game before more people get hurt? 

In typical McManus style, this book had us on the edge of our seats! The first chapter summarizes what happened since we last saw the Bayview Four. We admit, it took about forty pages to pick up, but once it did we were hooked.  

McManus introduced us to two new players in the second installment, Knox and Phoebe. Both had distinct personalities and we enjoyed getting to know them. Maeve, Bronwyn’s sister, was as clever as ever in this book. Her romance with Luis was swoon-worthy, and we’re glad she made it to main character status. We appreciated that McManus made Phoebe and Knox’s relationship more of a slow burn. It felt more realistic that way! We also loved that our favorite Bayview Four made multiple appearances. We still get giddy over Nate and ship him with Bronwyn forever and ever! 

The plot felt fast-paced and McManus did an excellent job of weaving a very detailed story together. Seeing all the plot points come together over the course of the book was exciting. The ending left us *shocked*!!! We admit that we thought the mystery was over and McManus tied up every loose end…then we read the last chapter. We need another book— and fast! We’re not sure if McManus intentionally left the ending this way to set up another book, or if this really is the end for our favorite Bayview High students. 

Overall, this book does not disappoint! It was enjoyable, captivated our attention, and didn’t suffer from second-book-syndrome. Though we did not love it as much as the first book (it is incredibly hard to beat it in our hearts!) we did enjoy the second installment immensely and recommend it to all YA mystery/thriller fans. 

Let us know what you thought of the book in the comments below! Luckily, McManus has another book, The Cousins, hitting bookshelves on December 1, 2020! We can’t wait to pick it up. 

Also, if you see that McManus is coming to an event near you, please attend! We’ve met her and she’s incredibly nice and modest!

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐/⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Review: Meet Me at Midnight by Jessica Pennington

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*We received this book in exchange for an honest review*

Sidney and Asher only spend two months a year together so they have to make it memorable. Every summer both families rent lake houses, forcing Sidney and Asher to spend quality time together. The only problem is that they’ve been rivals since their first summer on the lake. 

At the beginning of the summer before college, their prank war resumes with Sidney and Asher causing more trouble than ever before…which leads to both families getting kicked out of their rentals. While they don’t get punished by their parents, the karma is much worse: the two must live in the same house for the rest of the summer.

With the new living situation, Asher proposes a truce, join together and prank the person who kicked them out of their old rentals. Sydney accepts reluctantly, but she’s still suspicious of Asher’s intentions. 

Sidney and Asher have to see if they can move past the animosity and be civil, because once the summer is over, they will be at the same college. But after spending more time alone, the two realize that maybe people aren’t what they seem. 

The best way to describe Meet Me at Midnight is adorable. Sidney and Asher have great chemistry through the entire book. Plus the dual POV gives insights to how both characters think.

Hate to love is one of the best tropes in YA romance. The pacing was done really well. In this scenario, you don’t want the romance to happen too quickly or slowly. It felt realistic how Sidney and Asher went from pranking each other, to finding a common enemy. 

While the story ended up being a tad predictable, we gushed over the slow-burn romance. We can forgive predictable in contemporaries if the story is convincing. However, the one problem we had occurred in the last few chapters. Some of what happened near the end felt unnecessary.

Still, we had fun reading this story. We enjoyed Pennington’s Love Songs and Other Lies and were excited to review one of her books. It did not disappoint! If you read YA contemporary romance and want MCs who are transitioning from high school to college, pick up this book when it releases on April 7, 2020. 

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐/⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Our Blogging and Reading Goals for 2020

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1. Read 50 YA books

While we wish we could read even more, 50 sounds like a realistic goal for us in 2020. We already have a list of books we plan to read in 2020, and we track our progress through Goodreads. If you have an account, be sure to send us a friend request or follow us!

2. Post at least twice a week

We want to get into the habit of posting to this blog twice every week. You’ll find a mix of book reviews, fun lists, author interviews and more. 

3. Get more active on Pinterest and Instagram

Many book bloggers say that both platforms help grow their following. On Instagram we want to start posting an image for every book club book! If you’re on Instagram, comment your bookish handle below and we will follow you 🙂 

4. Increase blog followers

We want to produce more engaging content that resonates with our ideal demographic: YA book lovers! If this translates into more followers– even better. We really want to increase our engagement with followers this year, and would love to hear your ideas on new ways we can engage with you all (any posts you’d be interested in us doing, etc.)

5. Interact with more book bloggers

It’s always fun to interact with fellow book nerds! We hope to engage more with book bloggers on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest to mutually support each other– particularly newer blogs. Everyone has to start somewhere! 

6. Gain a more active Twitter audience 

One of the best parts of blogging is interacting with people on Twitter. It’s a great platform for discussing mutual interests and discovering new books, trends, etc. We hope to earn more followers (and friends!) in 2020. 

7. Interact with more publishing houses and authors

The opportunity to interview Maggie Hall, one of our favorite authors, in 2019 was amazing! We’d love to reach out– and hopefully partner with– another 5 this year. We’d also love to branch out and interact more with publishing houses, including some of our favorites, to help us grow in 2020. 

Let us know your blogging goals in 2020 and how we can help!

January 2020 Book Club: One of Us is Next by Karen McManus

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The Book

One of Us is Next by Karen McManus will be released January 7, 2020.

Why did we pick this book?

We absolutely loved One of Us is Lying and can’t wait to get back to Bayview High School in California. 

What is the book about?

After One of Us is Lying, Bronwyn’s sister Maeve has a mystery to solve. Simon’s death meant the end of Baview High’s gossip app. But, copycats have tried to replace it. None of them did well…until a creative game appears that’s even worse. Ready to play truth or dare? Maeve, Phoebe and Knox weren’t. The three get thrown into a deadly game with no end in sight. 

Same school. New rules. Find who is behind this.

What other YA books has the author written?

McManus wrote One of Us is Lying and Two Can keep a Secret. We recommend reading both!