2/12/20

Author Interview + Review: The Ninth Sorceress by Bonnie Wynne

Lovely readers, do I have a treat for you today! Another amazing and thrilling YA fantasy novel is about to hit the shelves (February 13th) and I have the inside scoop on how it all came to be. I had the chance to interview Bonnie about her first book, The Ninth Sorceress, and she gives readers a look at her process of writing, how she tackled writing a fantasy series, and so much more! I also had the chance to snag an ARC of The Ninth Sorceress so you can read my thoughts on the novel as well. If you want to know more about Bonnie, The Ninth Sorceress, and my thoughts on the first book in the series then read on! 



Author: Bonnie Wynne
Genre:  YA Fantasy
Date Published: February 13, 2020
Page Number: 486

In the blackest dungeon of the Clockwork City, a prisoner lies bound in silver shackles. Who is she? And why are the wizards so afraid of her?

Seventeen-year-old Gwyn has no family and no past. Apprenticed to a half-mad herbalist, she travels the snow-blasted High Country, hawking potions in a peddler’s wagon. Her guardian hides her from the world like a dark secret, and she knows better than to push for answers.

But when she discovers she is hunted by the goddess Beheret, Gwyn is drawn into a deep and ancient tale: of chained gods and lost magic, of truths long buried and the rising of a war she never could have imagined.

Wizards and their magic-sniffing hounds pursue her – as does a stranger in a smiling mask, who calls her by an unfamiliar name…

But what really terrify her are the dangerous gifts she’s spent her life suppressing. Now, Gwyn must step out of the shadows and take charge of her destiny – even if the price is her own soul.


The Ninth Sorceress is the breathtaking first instalment of The Price of Magic, a sweeping fantasy saga full of rich storytelling and tangible magic. 



Review

The ninth sorceress was a welcome adventure. I haven’t picked up a fantasy novel in a while so I felt like I was reading a fantasy novel for the first time and I loved it. I really enjoyed the steady world building. Most would say that following a fantasy novel is hard because it is a whole new world to learn and discover, but Bonnie does an amazing job at letting readers experience the new world without having to explain so much.The story flowed well and I easily fell into the story, which is hard sometimes with a fantasy.

As far as the characters in the novel, they were realistic, and I felt a connection to them be it little or big. Gwyn was written so well in this first book because she reacted as a normal person would at finding out that they are special. She tried to deny it and was scared, but in the end, she embraced it because she couldn’t change anything. Often times in tropes like these, the heroine just easily accepts the cards she is dealt and while it does push the story forward faster, it is unrealistic. Just that little touch of human response made the story all the more real to me. The supporting characters were also intriguing as they all seemed to have an interesting background rather than the one-dimensional side characters readers often see and that made me want to know more about them. I look forward to seeing more of them in the next book!

Lastly, the plot of this story was very captivating. We start off knowing nothing about the world and Gwyn but we start getting clues that something is special about her and throughout the story we slowly uncover little bits and pieces until the truth is revealed in an explosive scene. Along the way there is no lack of action and adventure. There were zealous wizards with drakes (you all know how much I love dragons), a shapeshifting protector, a necromancer who thrives in the grey areas, and a girl who had more power then she imagined. All of this mixed with underground caves and cities, hidden castles, explosive magic, and a quest for answers made for a thrilling read. I cannot wait to see what book two has in store because that cliffhanger was brutal. 

Does that sound like a book you will love? Continue reading for a look into Bonnie's writing methods and secrets! Don't forget to add The Ninth Sorceress to your TBR on Goodreads or buy it on Amazon on February 13th!


Author Interview

Writing in and of itself is hard, but writing a fantasy novel is even harder because you have to create a whole new world that comes with its own issues and quirks as well as characters that may or may not have magic, which introduces a whole new set of possible problems with the plot. Given that you also work full time as a decipherer of ancient law tomes (which is so COOL by the way) I can imagine that writing a book that requires so much attention can be challenging. How did you make time to create the world of the Ninth Sorceress?

Bonnie: Considering it took me about 15 years to finish the book, I guess I wasn’t very good at making time, haha! But now that I’m working on Book 2 and Book 3 in the series, and have to worry about things like deadlines, I’ve figured out some techniques to keep things moving.

I’m not a ‘write every day’ writer, although I know a lot of great writers like Stephen King and Brandon Sanderson do exactly that. After a long day at work, I don’t have the mental juice to write at night, and in the morning I like to sleep as late as I possibly can. So I do my writing on weekends and holidays, and that works for me, because I can really get in my zone and concentrate. If I have a whole day without distractions, it’s easy to write 5,000 words or more. My favourite thing is to book a week off work and spend it in an isolated cabin with just my writing. You really get into a zen state where everything else just fades into the background.

An isolated cabin to yourself for a week just to write sounds like my kind of vacation! Speaking of world building, how did you tackle the hurdles that come with creating a whole new magical world? Did you try to break down every little part of the world (like laws of the cities, and limits of the magic, etc) or did Gwyn’s story just unfold as you wrote it? Did you have to research at all?

Bonnie: World-building can be a bit of a trap. It’s important, especially in fantasy, and it’s something that can really make the story come alive. At the same time, it’s easy to get so bogged down in world-building details that you don’t end up actually writing anything. I’ve seen aspiring writers who have whole folders full of world-building, but when it comes to the book itself, they’ve never gotten past Chapter 1! It’s tricky to find the balance.

For The Ninth Sorceress, there were a few things I needed to hash out before I started, like what the magic in my world can do. I didn’t want to have characters flying in Book 1 and then decide in Book 2 that magic can’t make you fly. I also like to build the overall scaffold of the world before I start – so I’ll identify the different countries, the politics, the climate; anything that’s going to impact what ends up on the page.

Otherwise, especially for the really granular stuff, I do my world-building as it comes along. So if I have characters eating a meal at a tavern, I’ll decide what kind of food they serve in this particular country and region. In Book 2, I introduce a character from the country of Shatse, and that was my opportunity to spend some time hashing out what Shatse is like, what their beliefs and cultural practices are, what values they might hold, and so on. I didn’t know any of that while I was writing The Ninth Sorceress, because I didn’t need it yet.

I do a lot of research while I’m writing. It’s crucial, especially when it comes to adding those crunchy details that make the world feel real. I read a lot of material on ancient/medieval cities, what kind of industries they had, what they might smell like, what you might see there. And I always find myself looking up architectural terms, because even if the reader doesn’t know what a gambrel roof looks like, at least it feels like something specific and not just a vague blob of ‘roof.’ I’m a big believer in the specific over the foggy and nebulous.

Its so interesting to see how authors work behind the scenes to come up with the books we know and love today. I can tell you enjoy your process! As an aspiring fantasy writer myself, I am always curious as to how other fantasy writers write their books. I struggle with starting from the beginning and getting stuck after the first few pages so I always like to ask authors this question: What is your writing process like and what advice would you give to writers who are struggling with where to start/ how to keep the momentum going?


Bonnie: Great timing, because I just wrote a blog post about this myself!

Unlike a lot of writers, I’m not a ‘plot out every scene in advance’ kind of girl. I find that the story tends to emerge by itself as I write. But I do spend some time doing a general outline before I start, so I have an idea where I’m heading. Basically:

I make a list, in no particular order, of all the important things that need to happen in the book.
I fiddle with them until they’re in some sort of chronological order that makes sense.
I write a few sentences about how to get from Point A to Point B to Point C.
I look for holes, so anything that seems boring or pointless or nonsensical.

A writer called Randy Ingermanson came up with something called the Snowflake Method. I don’t stick to it exactly, but I think it’s a great starting point. Without going into a huge amount of detail, you basically start with a single sentence describing what your book is about (‘A hobbit learns that his magic ring is the key to saving Middle Earth from the Dark Lord.’) Then you expand that sentence into a paragraph which sets up the major plot points, conflicts and stakes. Then you expand each sentence of that summary paragraph into a full paragraph of its own, adding more detail about the characters and story threads (by now you’ve written about 1 page). Then you expand that page again into a four page summary with a scene list. And so on and so on, until the story basically builds itself.

This kind of step-by-step approach won’t work for everyone. But if you find yourself getting stuck and don’t know where to go next, it might be worth a try!


I have never heard of that theory before, but I like it! On another note, The Ninth Sorceress is such an interesting start to a series. What inspired you to create this world? Similarly, what made you want to write a fantasy novel for young adults?

Bonnie: Fantasy has always been my favourite genre to read, so when I started writing my own story, it was always going to be fantasy!

When I was growing up in the 90s, aside from a handful of amazing female authors, fantasy was still a bit of a boy’s club – a lot of plucky orphan boys with magic swords saving princesses from dragons. I often found myself thinking how much cooler it would be if the princess was the wizard instead.

I like your way of thinking and I think you definitely joined made a place of your own, especially with a heroine like Gwyn who is strong and determined. When you were writing her were there any qualities of yourself that you gave her (knowingly or not)? What are they? Are there characteristics that she has (magic included) that you wish you had? Why?

Bonnie: Gwyn and I have some overlap, aside from both being green-eyed blondes! We’re both natural loners who love books and spend our time dreaming of other places. We even wear the same perfume fragrance.

Gwyn is tougher than me, though. She’s been through a lot, whereas my life is pretty cushy. I don’t think I’d do well if I had to deal with her problems! On the other hand, Gwyn has a lot of insecurities, especially socially, whereas I’m less worried about what people think of me. I think that’s something that just comes with age. 

I would absolutely like to have Gwyn’s magic! The megalomaniac in me would be thrilled to have phenomenal cosmic powers. She doesn’t tend to use magic for personal gain, but I definitely would😊

I completely agree that I would use magic for personal gain. Why get out of bed to get something when you can use magic to get it? Lastly, a fun question! If there were any fantasy world you could live in, what would it be and why?

Bonnie: The Wheel of Time world for sure! I hope I would be able to use magic, but if not, it seems like even the common folk have a pretty good quality of life. Maybe I would learn the harp and become a traveling bard. 

It would be great to live in Harry Potter world too, but with my luck I’d probably be a muggle. 

Check out Bonnie's links below!

Bonnie Wynne studied Writing and Cultural Studies at UTS, and completed her law degree at the University of Sydney. After a brief stint in legal publishing, she now works for the Australian government, deciphering ancient law tomes.

She lives in Sydney with her cocker spaniel, Percival Hector (Canine Inspector). When she's not reading or writing, she can be found playing video games, booking her next holiday, or elbow-deep in flour.

THE NINTH SORCERESS is her debut novel and the first book in her series, THE PRICE OF MAGIC.


1/27/20

Review: Wicked Cowboy Wolf (Seven Range Shifters 3) by Kait Ballenger


Author: Kait Ballenger
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Date Published: January 28th, 2020
PublisherSourcebooks Casablanca
Page Number: 352

To his enemies, he's known as the Rogue. To her, he's her only chance at survival...

Years ago, Grey Wolf Jared Black was cast from the pack for a crime he didn't commit. Now, he's the mysterious criminal wolf known only as the Rogue, a name his former packmates won't soon forget. But when a vampire threat endangers the lives of their entire species, Jared must confront his former packmates again, even if that means betraying the only woman he's ever loved...

Ever since Maeve Gray escaped the pack's bloodsucking enemies, she's been determined to save her species―and fast. Each passing day risks the lives of her friends and family. But when a wicked cowboy wolf shows up on the Grey Wolf ranch, offering everything Maeve's heart desires, her eyes are opened to a whole new world beyond the packlands. For this cowgirl, sleeping with the enemy could prove as desirable as it is deadly...


Review

     When it comes to paranormal romances, I am very picky and Wicked Cowboy Wolf satisfied all of my needs when it comes to that genre. I genuinely loved the main characters in this installment of the Seven Range Shifters series. Maeve is a true badass heroine who tames the big bad alpha, but also expresses her feelings when she is hurt or scared. She is tough and sweet at the same time. On the other hand, Rouge is a true hardened wolf who shies away form any sort of feeling and tries to push everyone including Mae away (with little results I might add). Though he tries hard to shut off his emotions, he feels deeply and loves with his whole heart. I love it when an alpha male tries hard to be this badass that no one wants to get close to but the heroine in the story just completely ignores that exterior and breaks down his walls. Mae was definitely his kryptonite and their dynamic on the page really made this story a thrill ride.

     The other thing that set this story apart from most is its plot full of twists and turns. In the beginning, the story seemed to be pretty clear cut as far as the plot, but as the story progressed, I began to realize there is more to the story then what we are getting. From that point on, I was on the edge of my seat waiting for the other shoe to drop and the huge reveal to come out because I knew it would be explosive. I enjoyed the ride of this novel and the writing really kept my attention.

     Though I missed the fight scene we almost got, I feel as though the story ended as it should have based on who the main characters were and what they realistically would have wanted. That is a hard action to take when it comes to writing as most authors want the most explosive ending possible to leave an impression, but this approach is equally as effective because it stayed true to the characters.

   Overall, this book was a great escape and a fun read and I would recommend it to anyone who is looking for an interesting read full of betrayal, love, action, and a little steam.

11/4/19

Review: Cowboy in Wolf's Clothing (Seven Range Shifters #2) by Kait Ballenger


Author: Kait Ballenger
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Date Published: June 25th, 2019
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Page Number: 352

Born a cowboy and bred a warrior...

High Commander Colt Cavanaugh has spent his life defending his pack and its sprawling ranchlands. But the hardened Grey Wolf soldier has a dark secret that could destroy his life forever.

Belle Beaumont is a wanted woman, on the run from the wolf pack that kidnapped her. When fate brings her face-to-face with the Grey Wolf High Commander himself, rivalry becomes passion, and suddenly more than just her freedom is at stake.

Colt will fight to the death for the healing Belle brings to his battle―worn heart―and for this cowboy wolf, all's fair in love and war... 

Review:

     Sometimes you just need a break from your stressful life and a good romance book is always a go-to for me when it comes to decompressing, and Cowboy in Wolf’s Clothing is just the book I needed. The synopsis immediately piqued my interest as it detailed everything I love in a romance book: an alpha male, a head strong female, and possible threat to cause tension between the two. I can never get enough of a damsel in distress situation with a powerful female that gets out of it herself but happens to have an alpha male right behind her, ready to kill anything that hurts her, and this book is just that. Not only is there action and mystery, but also tension and enough emotional scenes to keep you on your toes.

     Belle’s character was written so well, and I loved getting inside her head and experiencing her finally finding a place to call home. Everything about her character drew me in and the situations she had to endure and the pain she had to live through really resonated with me. Her character made this story come alive for me. In addition, Colt set this story on fire with his secrets and sexy demeanor. I love it when an alpha male like Colt tries to deny his feelings and remain resolute in his decision to keep away from a meaningful relationship only to fall for the charming heroine who defies him at every turn. The chemistry between Belle and Colt was enough to set the pages on fire and that combined with the intriguing plot was enough to have me hooked. 

     I finished this book in a few hours (three or four) and I was never bored. I really like the fact that this romance was just as much about Belle and Colt’s journey and relationship together as it was about a sinister plot about vampires trying to exterminate werewolves like Belle, Colt, and his pack. I love a romance that is mainly focused on the lives of the main couple and their troubles, but I also love it when a romance novel goes a little deeper and pays more attention to a bigger plot that is just enhanced by a steamy romance in the mix like this one. 

     I loved Kait’s style and her knack for creating a steamy couple as well as a captivating plot. I will definitely be checking out her other books and suggest you do the same if you are looking for a book that will take your mind off of real life and let you run on the wild side.
About the Author
Kait Ballenger is the award-winning and bestselling author of the Seven Range Shifter paranormal romance series, where she weaves captivating tales of dark, sexy heroes who are cowboys by day, wolf shifters by night.

When Kait’s not preoccupied writing “intense and riveting” paranormal plots or “high-voltage” love scenes that make even seasoned romance readers blush, she can usually be found spending time with her family or with her nose buried in a good book. She lives in Florida with her husband and two young sons.