2014 Debut Author Bash: Kiki Sullivan (Interview + Guest Post + Giveaway)

September 2, 2014 2014 Debut Author Bash, Author Guest Post, Blog Tour, Interview 3

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Hey everyone! Welcome to my stop on the 2014 Debut Author Bash! I’m so excited to be hosting Kiki Sullivan, author of The Dolls (September 2, 2014, Balzer + Bray). Today, I’m pleased to share with you an interview with Kiki, as well as a guest post from Kiki. First, here’s the epic cover and synopsis:

The Dolls Cover Eveny Cheval just moved back to Louisiana after spending her childhood in New York with her aunt Bea. Eveny hasn’t seen her hometown since her mother’s suicide fourteen years ago, and her memories couldn’t have prepared her for what she encounters. Because pristine, perfectly manicured Carrefour has a dark side full of intrigue, betrayal, and lies—and Eveny quickly finds herself at the center of it all.

Enter Peregrine Marceau, Chloe St. Pierre, and their group of rich, sexy friends known as the Dolls. From sipping champagne at lunch to hooking up with the hottest boys, Peregrine and Chloe have everything—including an explanation for what’s going on in Carrefour. And Eveny doesn’t trust them one bit.

But after murder strikes and Eveny discovers that everything she believes about herself, her family, and her life is a lie, she must turn to the Dolls for answers. Something’s wrong in paradise, and it’s up to Eveny, Chloe, and Peregrine to save Carrefour and make it right

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

And now here’s the interview!

Question: Describe your book, using no more than three adjectives. Go!
Answer: Steamy, suspenseful, Southern (Do I get extra credit for the alliteration? I could also say sexy and stylish!)

Question: Why Louisiana? In what ways does the setting aid the plot?
Answer: I’ve always been fascinated by the culture of rural Louisiana, and in particular the way voodoo traditions shape daily life in some parts. (Did you know, for example, that jazz music—long associated with Louisiana—is a legacy of voodoo?) In THE DOLLS, the main characters (Eveny, Peregrine and Chloe) come from a magical tradition called zandara, which is a spinoff of voodoo, created by their ancestors more than a hundred years ago. It made sense to me that their great-great-great-grandmothers would have begun as voodoo queens in New Orleans, and when they decided to create their own brand of magic, they moved – but they stayed close to where they’d come from, because they, too, were drawn to the magic of New Orleans.

Question: The Dolls cover is crazy gorgeous. Do you think it fits with the story? In what ways?
Answer: Oh my goodness, I am in LOVE with the cover. In LOVE. And yes, I think it’s absolutely perfect for this book. Peregrine and Chloe are style-obsessed (and use their magic to supplement their wardrobes, naturally), and the high-heeled shoe on the cover is exactly the kind of thing they’d conjure up! The snake on the heel (who in fact looks a lot like Peregrine’s pet snake, Audowido) is a great touch that hints at the creepiness underneath the surface in Carrefour, Louisiana. Basically, I think the cover screams stylish, sexy and a little dangerous, which is exactly what I hope readers will feel from this book.

Question: Craziest thing you’ve had to Google for a work in progress?
Answer: Ha! Good question. Probably all of the herb magic searches I’ve done. If someone didn’t know me, they could form a very incorrect opinion of my own love life thanks to my search history (i.e. “Herbs to make a boy love you,” and “Herbs to make everyone lust after you.”). Of course zandara is a fictional form of magic, but I wanted to keep the herbal uses true to real-life forms of voodoo, hoodoo and the like.

Question: What books would you recommend to a reader who loved yours, and wants to read something similar?
Answer: My publisher is promoting this as Pretty Little Liars meets Beautiful Creatures, and I think that’s pretty apt. So those two series are great fits for people who love The Dolls, as is Rachel Hawkins’s fabulous Hex Hall series. Of course I’d also recommend that readers pick up the sequel to The Dolls, which will be out next year. (I’m writing it now!)

Question: What book are you currently reading?
Answer: I’m reading Aprilynne Pike’s Wings series as well as The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler. On the non-YA side, I’m listening to Sarah Jio’s Morning Glory on CD. I love listening to audiobooks during long car rides!

Question: Which book was your favorite read of 2014 (so far)? Are you looking forward to any new releases in particular between now and 2015?
Answer: I’m just beginning Kevin Emerson’s The Far Dawn, which is great. And I’m excited to read three other books from HarperCollins, which are on my desk right now, waiting for me to dive in: Liz Czukas’s Top Ten Clues You’re Clueless, Jeff Hart’s Undead with Benefits and Gretchen McNeil’s Get Even. My problem is that when I start a good book, I find it really hard to focus on my own writing. I obsessively have to finish reading before I can do anything else! So because I’m on deadline, I’m on book restriction until the sequel to The Dolls is done. Otherwise, I’ll never finish!

Question: What’s your favorite part of the writing process?
Answer: I love outlining, because I get to go through the plot really quickly, but nothing is set in stone. I just get to keep asking myself, “And then what? What happens now?” Those are very exciting questions for me. My least favorite part of the process? Revising!

Question: Biggest writing quirk?
Answer: I write best in silence! Some writers like listening to music, but I find it impossible to have music on, even in the background, without singing along with – and thinking about – the lyrics! I’ve tried classical music without words, and that works a bit better, but I still write better without anything but the sounds of my characters in my head!

Question: As a debut author, do you have any advice for other debut authors?
Answer: Start connecting with readers ASAP! I wish I’d taken my own advice earlier in the process, but now I’m really enjoying getting to know readers and potential readers via Twitter and Facebook.

Question: Are you working on anything new?
Answer: Yep! The sequel to The Dolls, which will be out next year! I’m about halfway done. It’s so fun to be spending time with Eveny, Peregrine and Chloe again! Thanks for taking the time to find out about me and The Dolls!

In addition to this amazing interview, Kiki also wrote a guest post about the magic and voodoo of New Orleans! Hope you guys enjoy it!

I’ve always been fascinated by New Orleans and its history, mystery and magic. There are a few cities in the world that seem to throb with their own special energy, and I believe New Orleans is one of them. And while my novel, THE DOLLS, is set in a fictional town an hour outside the Big Easy, I was very drawn to the idea of writing about characters whose families hailed from the city and who brought with them some of its magical traditions.

In THE DOLLS, the main characters practice a form of magic called zandara, which is derived from voodoo. More than a century ago, the girls’ ancestors decided to leave their voodoo roots behind and start something new, based entirely on herb magic and communication with the spirits in the nether (the world between life and death, where spirits sometimes become trapped). Creating zandara allowed me to get a bit creative with some of the magic, something that is detailed much more in the sequel, due out next year. (I only had so much time in this book, because Eveny spends a portion of the book learning exactly what’s making the eerie town of Carrefour tick.) Inventing zandara also allowed me to write about magic with disrespecting voodoo, which is a very serious religion to some people. I’m fascinated by it, and the last thing I would want to do is inadvertently insult those who practice it.

But because the girls’ ancestors came from a voodoo tradition, I wanted to make sure that zandara was rooted in reality, so I took a fabulous fact-finding trip to New Orleans, where I had the chance to become immersed in the legends, practices and culture of the voodoo community. I spent time at the New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum (http://www.voodoomuseum.com/), right in the heart of the French Quarter; wandered through graveyards at night; and even visited with a real-life voodoo priestess, right in the midst of her endless jars of herbs and potions.

One of the fascinating things I learned – something that made it into the book indirectly – was that today, some voodoo practitioners in New Orleans allow themselves to be possessed or filled with spirits at dawn on the day of Mardi Gras. Later, as they sing and dance in the parades, you can hardly understand them because they’ve been taken over by spirits. But to an untrained observer, they simply appear drunk. Others go into the homes of the townspeople, and they hold bloody bones over the homes of their children to warn them against falling in with a bad crowd. So be sure to look for a Mardi Gras possession ceremony late in THE DOLLS. Although it’s not directly based on real voodoo practices, it’s inspired by the traditions of New Orleans.

Another thing I found interesting is that in New Orleans, the history of voodoo is intertwined with the history of the Catholic church in America. This isn’t something that comes into play in the book, but I was fascinated to learn that the city’s most famous voodoo queen, Marie Laveau (for whom Pointe Laveau Academy is named in THE DOLLS) is said to have attended Catholic mass seven days a week throughout her life! When Laveau was alive – through most of the 1800s – “voodoo hid in plain sight,” Jerry Gandolfo, the owner of the museum, told me. In fact, many voodoo practitioners still use statues of Catholic saints on their altars.

If you’re interested, the New Orleans Historic Voodoo Musuem has a great web site, where you can learn much more about the traditions of voodoo in the Big Easy. But again, in THE DOLLS, the girls practice zandara an hour outside of New Orleans, so what they’re doing is a bit different – less rooted in religion, more rooted in herb magic. It might be interesting to compare and contrast the forms of magic… and of course I’m always open to hearing about the things that YOU find the most interesting about magic, especially as I write the sequel to THE DOLLS. (You can reach me at kiki@kikisullivan.com, or you can tweet me at @sullivan_kiki.)

I’m not an expert in voodoo, but it fascinates and enchants me. I am, however, hopefully an expert in zandara, the fictional form or spirit-based magic that shapes the fate of Carrefour, Louisiana as well as that of Eveny Cheval and her new friends. As the Dolls would say… Mesi, zanset.

kikisullivan_authorAbout the Author:
Kiki Sullivan is the author of The Dolls series. Like the main character Eveny Cheval, Kiki used to live in New York and now calls the American South home. Unlike Eveny, she finds it impossible to keep her rose garden alive and has been singlehandedly responsible for the unfortunate demise of countless herbs. She may or may not have hung out with queens of the dark arts, strolled through creepy New Orleans cemeteries at night, or written the first book of this series with a red-headed Louisiana voodoo doll beside her computer.

Website | Twitter | Facebook


Finally, thanks to the lovely Kiki, we have an AMAZING giveaway for you guys! One lucky winner will receive a SIGNED, finished copy of The Dolls!

So, the rules:

-Giveaway is US Only

-Winner has 48 hours to respond. If winner does not respond, a new winner will be selected.

-You must be 13 or older to enter OR have your parents’ permission.

-I am not responsible for lost, stolen, or damaged items.

-I reserve the right to change any rules as I see fit for each individual giveaway

*The above giveaway rules were borrowed and modified from Jessica @ Just a Book Lover.

With that being said, I wish you luck! May the odds be ever in your favor!

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Review: Athena’s Ashes by Jamie Grey

September 1, 2014 Reviews 0 ★★★★

I received this book for free from the author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Athena’s Ashes by Jamie GreyAthena's Ashes by Jamie Grey
Series: Star Thief Chronicles #2
Published by Clever Crow Press on August 26, 2014
Pages: 350
Format: eARC
Source: the author
My rating: four-stars
It’s Renna’s biggest job yet – convincing MYTH leadership that she’s put away her lock picks and is ready to save the galaxy, despite the dangerous implant in her brain. But with the Athena on the run, she’s working solo and facing her most ruthless enemy, the traitor Pallas, who’ll go to any lengths to destroy the MYTH organization. Including framing Renna for a devastating assault on MYTH HQ that leaves their defenses crippled and hundreds dead.

Now that MYTH believes she’s a dangerous double-agent, Renna escapes their firing squad before they put more holes in her than a pair of fishnet stockings. But the ticking time-bomb in her head is the one thing Pallas needs to complete his master plan and he’s not about to let her get away. Even worse, he’s discovered the only thing that will bring Renna to her knees – threatening Captain Nick Finn.

Out of time and options, Renna’s got one shot to take down the traitor before he annihilates everything she loves, even though winning this battle may cost her everything.

Athena’s Ashes was an epic, action-packed sequel. As always, Jamie Grey has done an amazing job. The Star Thief Chronicles is the perfect example of an amazing world that feels realistic and a group of characters that feel real and relatable.

I adore Renna. I’ve adored Renna since the first book. Yes, she has her flaws – all characters do. But that’s what makes them feel real. She’s such a strong, brave character. She can hold her own and she doesn’t just sit around, letting people die to save her own skin or waiting to be saved. She has grown and changed in so many ways since The Star Thief – emotionally, mentally and physically. She went from working alone and wanting nothing to do with anyone, to having people in her life that she considered good friends, even family. In Athena’s Ashes, Renna takes a bit of a step back with all of this, though. But not for the reasons you’d think. Renna’s physical changes really start to take a toll on her, too, though she fights those changes with every ounce of willpower she has.

Finn.. Oh, Finn. I swooned HARD over Finn in The Star Thief. He’s swoony and adorable and amazing. As he is in the beginning of Athena’s Ashes. And then some things happen and things go down hill and… Well, I got VERY angry with him a few times. And I’m still kind of angry with him. I get why he did what he did. I understand. But I’m still SO mad at him… Grrrr, Finn!!

I really, really liked Dallas but I had a hard time trusting him. I was so nervous he was going to betray Renna, or that we were going to find out he was working with the bad guys. I also adored Blake. I kind of wanted him to be the third component of a love triangle – and I don’t usually WANT love triangles. I don’t mind them, but I don’t seek them out. But I really, really liked him. He was awesome and adorable and he made Finn soooooo jealous! Hehe. But then again… Viktis!!!! I said it in my review for The Star Thief and I’ll say it again: I really, really like Viktis and I’m not sure what this says about me…

I really liked Jayla, as well. Renna needs more girlfriends in her life – ones that don’t betray her. I kept hoping Jayla would be on her side, kept hoping that she wouldn’t turn out to be in league with Pallas. And…. Well, I’ll let you read the book to find out!

The whole Pallas storyline was… Shocking. Unexpected. Mind-blowing. Crazy. I just… There are no words for how surprised I was! Everything surrounding the Pallas storyline was hard-core, action-packed.. I just couldn’t believe what I was reading! And the thing is? Pallas is the scariest kind of villain because they believe what they’re doing is for the good of humanity and that what they’re doing is GOOD and RIGHT, that they are the good guy, not the bad guy. You can’t reason with a person who believes they are doing something for the greater good. And that makes them terrifying.

The story behind the book title becomes VERY obvious near the end of the book… And it was so, so sad! Like.. I almost cried, it was so upsetting! But it happened the way it was meant to and I’m so pleased with the ending. Everything was wrapped up nicely, leaving just enough open that there’s potential for a third book. And if there is? I really, really like the set-up for it!!

There were also some major twists and turns in the ending that I didn’t expect. For Renna, things came full circle. It really kept me on the edge of my seat! Especially the last 44% – I felt like my heart was in my throat the whole time. I got so angry and so scared on Renna’s behalf.

Overall, if you couldn’t tell already, I adored this book. I adore Jamie Grey. She will forever be on my “Auto-Buy Author” list. If you haven’t read her books, I highly recommend them! … So.. What are you waiting for…? Go buy them! Read them! Now, now! :)


Blog Tour: Scar of the Bamboo Leaf by Sieni A.M. (Interview + Giveaway)

September 1, 2014 Blog Tour 2

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Hey everyone! Welcome to my stop on the Scar of the Bamboo Leaf Blog Tour! Today, I’m pleased to share an interview and excerpt with you. First, here’s the cover and synopsis:

scar of the bamboo leaf cover“Her heart wept when she realized that the hardest part about loving him was the idea that his love was never meant for her.”

Walking with a pronounced limp all her life has never stopped fifteen-year-old Kiva Mau from doing what she loves. While most girls her age are playing sports and perfecting their traditional Samoan dance, Kiva finds serenity in her sketchbook and volunteering at the run-down art center her extended family owns.

When seventeen-year-old Ryler Cade steps into the art center for the first time, Kiva is drawn to the angry and misguided student sent from abroad to reform his violent ways. Scarred and tattooed, an unlikely friendship is formed when the gentle Kiva shows him kindness and beauty through art.
After a tragic accident leaves Kiva severely disfigured, she struggles to see the beauty she has been brought up to believe. Just when she thinks she’s found her place, Ryler begins to pull away, leaving her heartbroken and confused. The patriarch of the family then takes a turn for the worse and Kiva is forced to give up her dreams to help with familial obligations, until an old family secret surfaces that makes her question everything.

Immersed in the world of traditional art and culture, this is the story of self-sacrifice and discovery, of acceptance and forbearance, of overcoming adversity and finding one’s purpose. Spanning years, it is a story about an intuitive girl and a misunderstood boy and love that becomes real when tested.

Goodreads | Amazon

And now here’s the interview!

Question: Describe your book in ten words or less. Go
Answer: A heartbreaking romance spanning ten years, set in four different countries. (11 words! but what can I say? I love to write!)

Question: Your book deals with a lot of adversity, self-sacrifice and acceptance. In what ways are these important lessons for teens today?
Answer: I believe hardship is not only good for young people to undergo, but that it builds character, raises a moral consciousness about the world around them, and in some mysterious way molds them to become bigger, better people.

Question: What’s one thing you want readers to take away after reading your book?
Answer: That despite its diversity and its foreign setting, the messages are universally applicable.

Question: What scene do you most regret having to cut?
Answer: The only scene I cut out was one in which Ry gets bitten by a centipede while he and Kiva are trekking in the bush. It just didn’t flow with the rest of the story and so it went.

Question: On the flip side, what was your favorite scene that got added during edits?
Answer: A scene in which Kiva’s face is smudged by charcoal pencil (she’s a sketch artist) and Ry reaches over to smooth it away.

Question: Craziest thing you’ve had to Google for a work in progress?
Answer: “How many collar bones does a person have?”

Question: What books would you recommend to a reader who loved yours, and wants to read something similar?
Answer: Anything by Amy Harmon.

Question: Are you working on anything new?
Answer: Yes! I’m plotting and scheming on a new romance. The heroine is a florist, and the title of the book is “When Petals Fade”.

And now for an awesome excerpt!

The white van’s presence in the driveway made Kiva’s heart thud against her ribs, and a mysterious anticipation settled over her. Hobbling into the house, she carried out her chores with efficiency, hanging the laundry on the line and checking on Masi’s bowl while stealing curious glances at the art center.

After a long pause, she decided to enter it.

Poised along the far wall to avoid distraction, Kiva perused the students scattered around the room, heads and shoulders bent over their wood carvings, the clink and thud of the chisel and mallet competing over each other. Mau paced his time with each student evenly, making his way around, offering guidance when needed. Kiva couldn’t make out his words from where she sat, only a few low mutterings accompanied by the shake or nod of his head.

Her eyes strayed until they settled on the boy with the mysterious tattoo. Ryler. Her suspicions were correct about his work when she noticed the slab of wood with the sliced words in front of him. He hadn’t spoken a word to any of the other boys, didn’t acknowledge them, and they avoided him too, as if he’d erected an invisible wall and they were aware of it.

Her uncle had no problem stepping through it though. He was with him now, speaking in low tones and gesturing to his work. What was he saying? Kiva strained to hear, but nothing came to her over the cacophony of sounds in the room. A muscle in Ryler’s jaw ticked as he sat, head bent, listening to him. Mau remained with him for some time, talking and listening, acknowledging the need to spend more time. Finally, he gave him a tap on the shoulder and a satisfied nod before moving away.

Kiva noticed when Ryler picked up a carving knife, pausing in concentration, his face tentative and contemplative, before he met it with wood, the muscles in his broad back contorting and flexing from the grip and release of the tool. What had he decided to carve? Kiva wanted to inch her way forward to find out but kept herself firmly planted. An hour passed and still she sat riveted to her spot.

A couple sharp drops on the roof were the only warning to the torrential downpour that followed.

“Makiva!” Hana’s voice shouted from across the yard and made her jump. “It’s raining! Get the laundry!”

Kiva scrambled off the floor, the noise drawing attention, and limped as quickly as she could to the line. The knifelike raindrops hit her on the back, stinging, and soaked through her shirt. Ignoring the pricks, she rushed to unpeg each piece of clothing, throwing it in the bucket and returning for more. The rain came down harder and faster, blurring her eyesight, the sound of a thunderclap roaring in her ears. Tea towels, Mau’s shirt, Hana’s school skirt. Breathless, her quick movements had long ago uncoiled her hair, wild and swirling in the wind; the pencil slipped out, lost somewhere. She was nearing the end of the line, grappling with a sheet, when she glanced up and noticed the boys running from the center to the van, their lesson over.

Ryler appeared last through the door, his brown eyes trained on her, and descended the stairs with heavy, deliberate steps. Kiva stared wide eyed as he stepped into the rain and came toward her with unhurried, even strides. She watched as raindrops pelted his gray shirt, soaking through to his shoulders until the wet dots spread and connected.

When he was a foot away, he lifted his hand.

“You dropped this,” he said, his voice low and hoarse, as if he was just getting over a cold. He smelled of wood dust and sweat.

She glanced down at his hand and saw the pencil she used to pin up her hair. It must have fallen in the art center in her haste to get to the laundry. Reaching for it, she noticed the deep scars on his left wrist and paused. From this close they looked even worse.

“It’s not what you think,” he answered, interpreting her thoughts.

Kiva snapped her eyes to his face. His brown eyes penetrated hers, thick lashes dripping from the rain, a line formed between his eyebrows. She tried not to fidget under his gaze and glanced to the right of his face. She saw a scar near his eye, something she hadn’t noticed before.

She calmly returned her gaze to him. “And what do I think?”

Ryler took a step closer. “You think that I did this to myself on purpose.”

“Did you?” She breathed.

He shook his head. “It was from a fight. The other guy had a broken bottle and I tried to block him.”

Kiva hissed as if she had been the one cut open and bleeding. Her eyes found the scar again and her stomach plummeted at the thought of the pain it must have caused. She felt suddenly light-headed and blinked to clear the blur clouding her mind.

“Are you alright?” he asked, concern laced in his voice.

She took slow, even breaths and nodded her head.

The sound of the van’s horn blared from the drive way.

“Ryler! Hurry up, we’re going!” A superior impatiently gestured for him in the rain.

“You better go,” Kiva said hastily. “Thanks for returning this.” She took the pencil from his hand and curled her fingers around it.

Ryler remained unmoving. Why wasn’t he going? Did he want to get into trouble? He finally stepped away and turned, jogging over to the waiting van, his shirt now drenched through and stuck to his retreating back.

And, last but not least, we have an epic giveaway for you guys! To enter, fill out the Rafflectoper below!

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Sieni author photoAbout Sieni
Sieni A.M. is a coffee addict, Instagram enthusiast, world traveler, and avid reader turned writer. She graduated as an English and History high school teacher from the University of Canterbury and is currently living in Israel with her husband and two daughters. “Scar of the Bamboo Leaf” is her second novel.

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