Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Review: Aimée Carter "PAWN"

When I first heard about this book, back in July during one of Aimée Carter's North Texas signings, I couldn't wait to read this.  It wasn't the interesting story linewhich it does have onenor the extremely hot guyswho are, trust me, muy caliente.  It was actually the heroine that sold the story for me.  During her Irving signing, Aimée explained to the audience that her heroine, Kitty, had earned a III (more about that in a minute) after having never being diagnosed with dyslexia.  For those who may or may not know, I have dyslexia.  However, I never knew because it wasn't until 20 that I was dyslexic.

When I learned I was dyslexic, I was so angry. Angry at the world, angry at my schools, angry at my teachers, but more importantly angry at myself.  Looking back, I could see the signs that went unseen.  In the 5th grade, I was move into a 4th grade reading class with five others. It was humiliating to be told I couldn't be with my friends all because I couldn't read like they did.  I never really picked up a book "worthy of my age" until I pretty much was half way through Middle School.  I hated being called on to read something out loud because I stuttered and read so slowly.  My entire life I felt like I was stupid, despite knowing the materials and making As and Bs most of my life.

And when I heard about how Kitty had dyslexic and never knew it, I knew before I even read PAWN that I could connect to her.  I was lucky enough that my good friend, Meredith over at Pandora's Books (seriously check her out, she is awesome,) sent me an Advance Reader's Copy after hearing how much I wanted to read this book.

For Kitty Doe, it seems like an easy choice. She can either spend her life as a III in misery, looked down upon by the higher ranks and forced to leave the people she loves, or she can become a VII and join the most powerful family in the country.
If she says yes, Kitty will be Masked—surgically transformed into Lila Hart, the Prime Minister's niece, who died under mysterious circumstances. As a member of the Hart family, she will be famous. She will be adored. And for the first time, she will matter.
There's only one catch. She must also stop the rebellion that Lila secretly fostered, the same one that got her killed…and one Kitty believes in. Faced with threats, conspiracies and a life that's not her own, she must decide which path to choose—and learn how to become more than a pawn in a twisted game she's only beginning to understand.
Let me tell you, this book is nothing like what you'll think it will be.  Aimée's writing in this novel is, personally, by far my favorite of all her works.  It really is the stuff of Best Selling authors.  I really can't stop praising this author and this book.  So here are the four things you need to know about this book.

Rating: 5 out of 5

1.) The social injustices

This book takes place in the United States, though not the one we grew up knowing.  The world that Kitty knows has a caste system of sorts.  And what "caste" you are put into depends on how well you do on a Test when you turn 17.  The higher the number you have, the better off you are.  The better job you will have, the better clothing and food.  Over all, a life that Kitty always dreamed off but knew she could never have.  But because of her reading disability, Kitty earns a III.  Kitty feels like she deserves that III because she is stupid enough that she can't read.  But in reality, like most dyslexics, they are some of the most brilliant people!  I mean Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci, Muhammad Ali, pediatric Neurosurgeon Dr. Fred Epstein, Hans Christian Andersen, Agatha Christie, Walt Disney are just to name a few.  Really would you call any of these people stupid?

In real life day and age, so much pressure is put on children to pass exams.  Here in Texas, you can't even graduate High School without passing an exam called STAR (don't ask me what it stands for, it was the TASS and then the TAKS when I was in school.)

There is also a population law, similar to what we know the Chinese have, of only one child per family.  If you have more than one, you have to pay a fee or leave your child basically an orphan called an Extra.  The high number you have, the more likely you can pay the fee.  And that is what happened to Kitty's family.  Kitty's parents couldn't afford to pay the fee and left her to be an Extra.  You can tell a person is an Extra because their last name is Doe.  A sad, but fitting way, because in hospital settings if a patient is a "John Doe" or "Jane Doe" you don't know anything about their basic background.  And as an Extra, Kitty doesn't know who or even where her family is.  As an Extra, you live in a group home that is over crowded like many of the foster homes we know of now.

And lastly there is this place called Elsewhere. No one knows what or even where it is.  Most parents use Elsewhere has an urban legend to scare their kids.  But is really just a legend?

2.) The characters

You already know a bit about Kitty, but there are other characters that are worth a note or two.  Kitty's boyfriend and fellow Extra, Benjamin "Benji" Doe is one of the sweetest guys I think ever written.  Made me a time or two wonder why more guys like Benji don't exists.  He's brilliant smart like Kitty, though his grades actually show it, and helps Kitty learn her material.  And while some might consider it cheating, he actually writes down the answers that Kitty provides to their homework so that she does have to write them herself.

The family that runs the country are the Harts.  There are a few that you will meet:

  • Daxton is the Prime Minster. He's evil.
  • Augusta is Daxton's mother. If you think Daxton was bad, she is more so than her son.
  • Greyson is the Daxton's son.  He is nothing like his father.
  • Celia is Daxton's sister. And she has no love for her brother and mother.
  • Lelia is Celia's daughter.  And you'll learn more about her with each and every page you turn.

There is one last major character, Knox. If you love mysterious bad boy type, he is so totally your guy. He had me fanning myself a few times with his intensity.  But beneath, like all the Harts, there is more to him.

3.) The twists

Aimée Carter is the queen of hearts in this book. I mean like Aimée was the evil queen Regina from Once Upon a Time, and she reached into my chest, withdrew my heart and give it a good squeeze. I sat in a corner and cried little eyes out at a few scenes. Aimée did a wonder job keeping the readers guessing without her entire novel.  As soon as you figured out where the story might be going, she pulls the rug from out from under you.  People aren't who they say they are.  The evil that is bleed through these pages turns the pages red with all deadly sins.  And I loved every damn minute she did.

4.) The ending

The last thirty or so pages were so hard to put down! And the ending of PAWN leaves readers wanting more of Kitty but cursing that they'll have to wait for book two, Captive. Which I'm sure will be a nail biting waiting and a nail biting book.  I mean just look at that title!  Anyone who knows Chess, knows no good could come from being captive.

I can't for everyone to read this book so we can talk!  You can purchase PAWN at B&N, Amazon or your preferred local book store.

Many hugs! And happy reading!
Nollie ♥

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Interview with Lauren Kate

This past summer I was given the chance to read in advance the newest release from the International Bestselling author Lauren Kate. You can catch my review, here. Afterwards, I had a million and a half questions when I was through reading Teardrop. So I asked Lauren—a dear friend, a sweetheart, and someone with a huge giving heart—if she didn't mind to do an interview with me just in time for the release of Teardrop, which is TODAY! And she was happy to do one. So without a further delay!

Lauren Kate and I on her Teardrop Southlake stop
@2013 NollieMarie
Nollie: I want to start with seven questions that allow your readers to get to know you better.

Lauren: Let’s do it.

Nollie: Five adjectives you would use to describe your personality.

Lauren: Stubborn, passionate, intense, dreamy, evolving.

Nollie: Last three songs you listened to.

Lauren: Young and Beautiful, Lana Del Ray; The Wire, Haim; Broken, Jake Bugg

Nollie: Truth or Dare?

Lauren: Dare

Nollie: Least favorite house chore?

Lauren: Dishes. I’ll cook until the cows come home, but I don’t want to clean up after them.

Nollie: Favorite Disney princess/movie.

Lauren:  Ariel. I have a thing for mermaids.

Nollie: First book you remember reading.

Lauren: Matilda!

Nollie: I remember how much of a sweet tooth you have and love ice cream, so what’s your favorite flavor?

Lauren: Pistachio

Nollie: Before you start writing, your husband who is a musician makes you a playlist.  Is there ever a time that you can’t find music that fits with your mood and/or with what you were writing about? 

Lauren: Music reaches us keenly when we find a song that syncs up with what we’re going through—a heartbreak song in the midst of a heartbreak guts me in just the right way. But I find also music really helpful for accessing a feeling I’m not currently experiencing but that my character needs to feel to get through a scene. When Luce arrived at Sword and Cross for example, and was in a really tough place, I had just gotten engaged and was sorta floating on a pink romantic cloud. But when I turned to some trusted gorgeous melancholy music, I was able to find her voice.

Nollie: There was this scene, at the end of chapter two, between the heroine and her love interest that was really sweet, romantic, and completely organic.  How did this scene come about and how did it help shape the rest of Teardrop?  And knowing the inspiration, how did it feel to see what happened between you and your husband written down on paper?

Lauren: When my husband caught my tear, I knew the moment could be magical transposed onto a page. But I of course already had an intimate relationship with my husband, so I knew his intentions in that moment were to reach me, to console me, to support me, to know me even better than he did. I wondered what the same scene would mean between two virtual strangers, and that’s what led me to writing it into Eureka’s tale.

Nollie: The mythology for Teardrop is very unique and I can’t think of any other novel that has anything similar to what Teardrop has.  With being this distinctive, what types of freedom did you have when writing Teardrop? Any disadvantages?  Also what type of research did you have to do to help develop the Teardrop legends?

Lauren: I was amazed by the breadth of flood narratives I found to plumb from. Every culture has one, and, while there are a lot distinctions from culture to culture, there are also a lot of similarities. I was thinking for a while about how emotions create real worlds—how a person can live in his or her own pain, sorrow, happiness, or surprise—and so I started thinking about writing a character whose emotions literally created a world. That’s where I found Eureka.

Nollie: For a love story, there are a lot of darker undertones that some might not expect.  How do you stay true to the essence of love, while having to tell a story of devastating heartache?  And how might some connect with the emotions that are depicted in the story you are telling?

Lauren: I can’t really account for my books’ darkness, other than I try not to shy away from my characters’ difficulties. In Teardrop, I have another character note that Eureka feels “more powerfully than anyone in the world” but I think this is the way all of us feel actually, when we’re really feeling something.

Nollie: In Fallen, many of your characters were named or had traits after people you knew or liked. For example, Luce after one of your favorite singer Lucinda Williams and Cam was built off your husband.  So for Teardrop, how did you come about naming the characters and learning their traits?  And knowing that Eureka means “I found it” in Greek, does this have any ties to the possibility of finding a lost continent?

Lauren: You’re right about Eureka—and Atlas, who becomes an important oppositional force to Eureka later in the series means (in Greek) “I endure.” Ander is named for Leander, the love interest in the myth (and poem) Hero and Leander, which I find incredibly romantic. And Cat—she’s inspired by a Cat I know and love.

Nollie: Eureka is incredibly imaginative. In chapter one, you write that “her mind fled to wild destinations she didn’t try to avoid.” By being this imaginative, what layer does it add to Eureka’s character and who she is?  And was there at any point that you could relate to what she was visioning or the need to escape reality?

Lauren: Eureka’s depression makes her inaccessible to many of the other characters in her story, but I never wanted her to feel inaccessible to the reader. Developing her imagination allowed me to fully explore her character—and it was nice to feel like I was giving the reader private access to her that most people don’t get. I strongly relate to the experience of feeling like you’re a different person than the rest of the world perceives you to be.

Nollie: In my review for Teardrop, I mentioned that there was something about the South that could be agreed upon that was purely magical.  And I have never know an author to describe a location the way you can.  In Fallen, I felt like I was seeing in a sepia tone filter the world of Sword and Cross.  Whereas in Teardrop, I was seeing Louisiana in Technicolor with dull edges.  In both though, the way you describe the settings, draws in readers into their world, set the mood for the rest of the story and can be perfectly pictured.  What exactly sets Louisiana apart that made it the prime location for what happens in Teardrop?

Lauren: That’s so nice of you to say. Like many authors I admire, I see setting as a character—it needs to have a dynamism in order to earn its place in the book. When I visited Savannah, the place stuck with and to me. I can only say I had a very similar experience when I visited New Iberia, Louisiana. Originally, I thought Eureka was going to be a Southern California girl. I actually wrote a few chapters with her set in LA. She didn’t become herself though until I found her in Louisiana.

Nollie: Unlike Fallen, which some might have suspected would deal with some religious undertones, some might not expect the amount of Catholicism Eureka mentions.  Knowing the region though that Eureka lives in, is this something that she truly believes in, or is it a matter of who, how and/or where she was raised?

Lauren: Faith is an important part of who Eureka is, and her faith is tested in this series, which I relate to and wanted to explore. Yes, part of her faith is decided by who she was born to and where, but the pull to explore that faith is deeply personal for Eureka (and for all of us, I think!)

Nollie: By the time that Teardrop is released, your daughter, little Matilda, for which you dedicate the book too, will be almost nine months old.  Parenthood changes every aspect of how you live, see and feel things.  Exactly how has Matilda changed the way you see, feel and enjoy the world? And how might it spill over into how you write?  And what is the one message or lesson that you hope your daughter will learn from you?

Lauren: Matilda has made me a stronger and a more vulnerable person. Actually, maternal love impacts me in much the same ways that romantic love impacts me. Seeing the world through her eyes is one of the most fascinating experiences of my life—it changes everything and it changes every day. More than anything else, I hope my daughter grows into a passionate (and compassionate) person.

Nollie: For those who might have just picked up Fallen, the book is being made into a movie.  A book and a movie are two different mediums to work with.  Exactly how has the process of turning Fallen into a movie any different, or maybe similar, to when you started working on the book years ago?  Also with all this excitement for the movie from those in the fandom, are there ever any fears that you might disappoint some with what choices have been made?

Lauren: Filming for the movie hasn’t started yet, but so far I can say that the choices made have been really thoughtful and true to the spirit of the books. I’m happy with the script. I adore the director, Scott Hicks, and I’ve loved what I’ve seen so far about the three principal actors. Its impossible to know how the finished product will turn out, but I am optimistic.

Nollie: The amount of support you have received over the years, I’m sure, has been overwhelming.  You have traveled, met and talked to thousands of your fans, and are still making new ones to date.   You have seen hundreds of fan work for Luce and Daniel, heard stories from fans about how they found their own love, and felt the love they have for you.  Is there anything you would like to say to those who have supported you?  And what do you look forward to in the future with fans?

Lauren: I want to say that the way you’ve phrased this question brought tears to my eyes. You described my experience experiencing my readers over the past few years so gorgeously. I feel unendingly grateful for the inspiration I’ve gleaned from my readers. What do I hope for the future? A deepening of my bond with them—and their support in my future writing endeavors.


Many thanks for Lauren for doing this interview. And for those fans who want to catch Lauren while on her Teardrop tour, should check the stops and dates here.  You will love every moment if you meet her!

Much love,
Nollie ♥