The Burning Son Tour – Review, Author Interview, & Character Interview

Author: TH Leatherman

Narrator: Russell Archey

Length: 7 hours 59 minutes

Series: The Burning Son, Book 1

Publisher: Fivefold Publishing LLC

Released: Aug. 12, 2020

Genre: Science Fiction; Space Opera

Continue reading “The Burning Son Tour – Review, Author Interview, & Character Interview”

The Invincible Summer of Juniper Jones Tour – Review, Author Q&A, & Giveaway

Click the image to see my booksta post!

About the Book

The Invincible Summer of Juniper Jones
by Daven McQueen
Publisher: Wattpad Books
Release Date: June 16, 2020
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction

It’s the summer of 1955. For Ethan Harper, a biracial kid raised mostly by his white father, race has always been a distant conversation. When he’s sent to spend the summer with his aunt and uncle in small-town Alabama, his Blackness is suddenly front and center, and no one is shy about making it known he’s not welcome there. Except for Juniper Jones. The town’s resident oddball and free spirit, she’s everything the townspeople aren’t―open, kind, and full of acceptance.

Armed with two bikes and an unlimited supply of root beer floats, Ethan and Juniper set out to find their place in a town that’s bent on rejecting them. As Ethan is confronted for the first time by what it means to be Black in America, Juniper tries to help him see the beauty in even the ugliest reality, and that even the darkest days can give rise to an invincible summer.

Daven McQueen’s Juniper Jones is a character for all ages in this sweet coming of age story set in 1950s Alabama.

Review

Ah the 50s, a time of great fashion but perhaps not the prettiest time for society. I mean, women were meant to be housewives, racism was at the forefront, and it just overall was a time run solely by men. So, a great time period to learn about given everything going on right now. The Invincible Summer of Juniper Jones was such a sweet and heart-wrenching read for right now.

I can’t say it enough that this book is coming out at the perfect time. Not only are the societal issues in the book scarily matching up to today’s climate, but the book also has a lighthearted side in having the best summer of your life. And I think we all need that right now. I mean, personally my summer has turned into mush already but now I’m ready to get up and get moving and have some fun and not feel guilty about relaxing a bit.

I think that a lot of us are burnt out right now and this book is the perfect balance between being a beautiful story as well as taking the time to forefront difficult topics. Truly just a delightful read for right now.

About the Author

Daven McQueen grew up outside of Los Angeles, California. She graduated from Brown University, where she earned a B.A. in literary arts and economics. When she’s not writing, Daven can be found tap dancing, embroidering, cooking, and eating dessert. She lives in Boston, Massachusetts and works in education.

Author Q&A

Daven McQueen, Author of The Invincible Summer of Juniper Jones on:

ACCEPTANCE, IDENTITY, AND TRUE FRIENDSHIP

Question: What inspired you to write The Invincible Summer of Juniper Jones?

Daven McQueen: The Invincible Summer of Juniper Jones started as a summer lakeside story – I knew I wanted to write about friends in a small town by the water, but that idea alone wasn’t actually compelling to me. This was in my senior year of high school, as I was beginning to read more books by authors of color and realizing how much those narratives had been excluded from the stories I’d read growing up. As a biracial person, I decided I wanted to write a character who looked like me in a story that would allow him (and me) to grapple with racism, allyship, and identity, and the novel grew from there.

Q: Why did you choose to set this story in the 1950’s? How would the story be different if it took place in 2020?

DM: I feel that setting this story in the 1950s allowed me to more clearly articulate the racism Ethan faces. By having it take place before high-speed communication and the 24-hour news cycle, I had space to make Ethan’s reckoning with race more internal, focused primarily on his own lived experiences. In 2020, it would be impossible for Ethan’s naivete to be so pronounced, and he would likely be dealing with racism in the form of insidious microaggressions that he and the people close to him would have to process and work through differently. I wanted to write a story that could focus on its main characters and their immediate situation without too much interference from the greater world around them, and that felt most possible with a historical setting.

Q: How did you create the character Juniper? And how did you create her relationship with Ethan?

DM: Juniper was definitely inspired by some of my favorite childhood characters – Pippi Longstocking, Anne Shirley, Stargirl, Jo from Little Women – but her character felt like she came to the story mostly complete. I’d chosen the name Juniper from a street near my parents’ house (one my my favorite ways to collect character names), and it was such a bubbly, summery name that her personality came naturally. In creating her relationship with Ethan, I was really focused on building a strong and believable friendship. I imagined her first as a character who supported Ethan through everything – then, building on that, I thought about the ways that, even if she cared for Ethan unconditionally, she would make mistakes and even hurt him because of her limited understanding of racism. I felt that allowing moments for Juniper to mess up and Ethan to call her out on it made their friendship stronger, because it could stand through difficult conversations.

Q: In the story, Ethan grapples with understanding his identity. What do you hope your readers take away from Ethan’s struggle to accept himself while rejection is all around him?

DM: I hope that Ethan’s story makes clear the importance of a community, no matter how small. Ethan’s friendship with Juniper and their community of two is what helps carry him through his summer in Ellison. And moments of community with people who understand your lived experiences, as Ethan has with his mother, are invaluable to processing pain and healing together.

Q: What was the biggest challenge you faced while writing The Invincible Summer of Juniper Jones?

DM: I found it especially difficult to write about forgiveness in Invincible Summer. It was hard to balance wanting better relationships between Ethan and the people close to him while also honoring the pain they caused him that apologies and even growth can’t make up for. In the end, I think the challenge was acknowledging that maybe forgiveness wasn’t and didn’t need to be possible, but still allowing the characters to start rebuilding their relationships.

Q: Do you have any advice for readers who identify with Ethan and face the same struggles that he does in the book?

DM: To readers of color who struggle or have struggled with their identity, whether because of racism, being the only one, or any other reason: I see you, I get you. Your feelings are valid; you’re allowed to be sad, angry, confused – and sitting with and processing how you feel is a huge first step to stepping into your power and loving who you are.

About the Author

Daven McQueen grew up outside of Los Angeles, California, and graduated from Brown University, where she earned a BA in literary arts and economics. Her works on Wattpad include December, Beautiful Dreamer, and Superior, which received a Watty Award for Science Fiction. When she’s not writing, Daven can be found tap dancing, embroidering, cooking, and eating dessert. She currently lives in Boston, Massachusetts, with her cat, and works in education.

About Wattpad Books

Wattpad Books, a division of Wattpad, is the leader in data-backed publishing. Leveraging billions of daily insights from Wattpad’s global community of 80 million book lovers, Wattpad Books combines the best of art and science, using human expertise and Story DNA Machine Learning technology to identify the trends, voices, and stories that are the future of publishing. By elevating the stories of diverse communities around the world, Wattpad Books is creating new space for writers and fans of every genre.

Visit books.wattpad.com for more information.

Tour Schedule

June 10th

My Bookish Banter– Review
Kait Plus Books– Guest Post
dinipandareads– Review & Favorite Quotes

June 11th

Books and Zebras @jypsylynn- Review
Willow Writes And Reads– Review & Playlist
Adventurous Bookworm– Review & Favorite Quotes

June 12th

L.M.Durand– Promo
Ya It’s Lit– Review
Indie and Diverse– Creative Post
The Reading Life– Promo

June 13th

Bookstacksandliterature– Interview
Playita Reads– Review
BiblioJoJo– Review
The Urban Reader– Review/Interview
Nox the Reader– Review

June 14th

A Million Stitches of Life– Review
Sometimes Leelynn Reads– Review & Playlist

June 15th

Fazila Reads– Promo
@elena.luo– Review

June 16th

J Long Books– Review
@book_bound_– Review
A Book Addict’s Bookshelves– Interview
Vee Reading– Review

Giveaway

  • 1 copy of THE INVINCIBLE SUMMER OF JUNIPER JONES by Daven McQueen
  • US Only
  • Please be aware that delays due to COVID-19 may occur on the shipping of the prizes.
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*I received a copy in exchange for an honest review*

George Frei’s Monster Series Review, Interview, and Sneak Peak

About the Book

George Frei’s Monster Series is a collection of short stories, Illustrations, and sketches where every corner and every turn will be met with the possibilities of wonder, amazement, and fear. George Frei’s Monster Series is filled with sections such as Frankenstein’s Failures, Mythology, Sketchbook, and short stories such as Pumpkin King, ShadoCasters, and The Tree Monster and Me. Frankenstein’s Failures takes a glimpse into the lost pages of Dr. Frankenstein’s journal and his tragic spiral into madness as his failures fuel his passion to perfect the human condition. The Pumpkin King is an urban legend story of Anton Gabor and his tragic connection to the Pumpkin King on All Hallows Eve in 1930’s Chicago. ShadoCasters takes you on an adventure with were hyena’s and were lions clash in a medieval world filled with savagery and magic. The Tree Monster and Me is a mysterious adventure story about a boy who must come to terms with the ways of the world and realize his destiny in a desperate struggle of man vs nature.

Review

Wow, what can I say but, where was George Frei’s Monster Series when I was a kid? This book would have called out to my young and dark self. I can just imagine myself rereading it over and over and bringing it in to school to share with all of my classmates. Why do I say this? Because I want to do the same thing now. This is a book that will resonate with all of the monster lovers out there, young and old. The stories each have moral undercurrents that everyone can take a piece of advice from.

This book seriously has it all. While it’s not an overly heft tome it still packs A LOT into it! And at the turn of each page you are finding something new and fantastical to explore. I really enjoyed the stories, they were all very unique but there were also elements that draw upon familiar myths, fairy tales, and fables. This added depth for me, because as I was reading the stories I was relating memories from other stories while also being in the midst of something new.

Meanwhile, the illustrations were just: wow. I’m very fond of dark and twisted and slightly off kilter art, so these illustrations spoke to my soul! Every illustration was something new and the stylistic approach to each illustration morphed to match the story it was a part of. And then, to make it even better, Frei added a mythology section and sketchbook at the end of the book. This little taste of his other works shows off just how talented of an artist he is. And while I can’t say I have any specific favorite piece (they’re all amazing), I do really love the “Love Bites” piece in the sketchbook.

The stories themselves include: Frankenstein’s Failures, The Pumpkin King, ShadoKasters, and The Tree Monster & Me. I absolutely loved the design of Frankenstein’s Failures. This piece is truly a flowing and intertwined work of art across multiple pages. The Pumpkin King was such a fun innovative story and now I really need to go watch The Nightmare Before Christmas for the millionth time. I might be partial to ShadoKasters because I’m partial to furry monsters. I mean, monsters need love and cuddles too! And The Tree Monster & Me is such a unique and intricate story that I look forward to reading more of in (hopefully the near) future.

On a final note, I could really see this artwork being really popular amongst tattoo artists and lovers. There were so many times that I stopped and thought, “dang, that’d make such a cool tattoo!”

About the Author

With a career spanning 24 years, George is best known for his dynamic visual storytelling, imaginative characters, intense color pallet, and fantastic world building. George’s versatile skill set allowed him work for some of the highest profile clients in the industry. His work includes Toy design, Consumer Products for Theme park’s and Restaurants, Branding, Set Design, Character Design, & Conceptual Development.

George Frei’s credit list as follows:

• Lucasfilm • Marvel • Disney Entertainment • Disney Design Group • Marvel • Universal Studios • SeaWorld • Busch Gardens • Gentle Giant Studios • Fasen Arts • Senor Frogs • Carlos n Charlie’s • Vamanos • El Shrimp Bucket • Scholastic • Pixar • ILM • Carter and Holmes • Personal Creations • NASCAR • Hooters • Arabian Nights • Wacky World Studios • Give Kids the World • ESPN X Games • Art-Flo • Quantified Marketing • POST • Hard Rock Park • Rainforest Café • Agave Azul • Captain’s Table • Gatorland • Florida State Distributors

Publications:

• George Frei’s Monster Series • Scholastic (Cover Artist) • Flesh & Blood (guest artist) • Tommy Castillo’s Coloring book of the dead (guest artist) • Tommy Castillo’s Dark Side of OZ (typesetting) • Far Away Bird by Douglas A. Burton (Cover Artist)

Awards:

• Art Direction/Show (UP A great bird Adventure) Disney Entertainment
• IPPY Award (Orlando City Lions Ad Campain)
• Best Art Direction (ESPN X Games)

George is currently working with his company Treehouse Machine Studios producing his IP’s and book projects.

Interview

How long did it take you to plan out and develop this series?

Let’s start from the beginning. I was laid off from a teaching job and had just been recruited to be a concept artist for a local company in Orlando. After I accepted the position my contract stated that they owned my ideas as soon as I started working for them and that any side projects I do had to go through them first and if they rejected the idea it would go back to me. This did not sit well with me since I had already started working on George Frei’s Monster Series. When you’re a professional artist working in the entertainment industry it can get tricky with intellectual property and ownership of ideas. Creative companies like to own ALL your creative ideas even if you’re at home on a Saturday in the shower and something pops in your head. I didn’t want to stop working on the book but I needed money to pay the bills. I wouldn’t sign the contract that would pretty much give away my book and ideas to this company. So I cashed in my 401k savings took a hit on the taxes to pay the bills and proceeded to work on George Frei’s Monster Series. That’s why the book is a compilation of short stories because I wanted to get my 3 best ideas published so no other company could stake claim to my work.

When you’re a professional artist working in the entertainment industry it can get tricky with intellectual property and ownership of ideas. Creative companies like to own ALL your creative ideas even if you’re at home on a Saturday in the shower and something pops in your head.

George Frei

Some of the ideas in George Frei’s Monster Series have been in my head for about 10 years or so. The Tree Monster and Me was an idea that started in 2009 and I have plans to make that story into a 3 book series. When I actually decided to do the book it took about 1 year in total working on it between jobs and weekends around my professional career as an Artist.

Where did you draw your inspiration(s) for in creating the Monster Series?

Because George Frei’s Monster Series is a compilation book of short Stories Illustrations and sketches it pulls from my love of cautionary tales, mythology, and world building. My inspirations come from childhood curiosities of playing in the woods, building forts with my friends, Playing Dungeons & Dragons, and making up characters that I wanted to act out as a kid. I also love nature, animals, ancient cultures, mythology and so on.

Because the stories in George Frei’s Monster Series are cautionary tales I’m fascinated with the human condition and I think it’s a big pool to get inspired from. What makes the good guy turn evil? What makes bad characters redeemable? I want people to feel what my characters are going through, that raw emotion through story and image. So I take the monsters in my stories and humanize them and I think it adds an interesting twist to creating these stories and worlds.

Who are three artists that creatively inspire you?

The masters of course! If we were talking more contemporary artists I’d say Frank Frazzetta, Bernie Wrightson, and Al Williamson. I also love the writings of Robert E. Howard, H.P. Lovecraft, and Ernest Hemingway.

Which of the monsters is your favorite and why?

That’s a hard question because I love each of the Monsters I create in a different way. It’s like having kids you can’t really pick a favorite.

I see that you grew up watching old monster movies, which ones were the most influential in guiding your career?

The classic Universal Monsters of course, but my favorite was Frankenstein. Universals depiction of Frankenstein was very different than Mary Shelly’s original story. When I read Mary Shelly’s book it scared me and invigorated me as a creative. The real Monster in her story was Dr. Frankenstein and that was such an interesting twist when I read it as a kid. It made me look at the so-called “monsters” in a different way. Why was the creature Dr. Frankenstein created evil? He didn’t ask to be born into a world that hated and shunned him because of how he looked. He was created disfigured and not taught how to live, to love, and have compassion. He was lonely and isolated and in the end all he wanted was a companion to make it all the hate around him bearable. I think this is why I like the idea of the sympathetic monster. A monster that has power and capacity for evil but chooses good instead is an interesting twist.

Why was the creature Dr. Frankenstein created evil? He didn’t ask to be born into a world that hated and shunned him because of how he looked.

George Frei

How do you determine when and where you immerse the images with the text?

When I write I’m visualizing my story in my mind, playing it back like a movie so the visuals auto populates like sequential storyboards. I pick a significant scene that I think will compliment the storytelling and Illustrate that scene. It’s nice to be the writer and illustrator in my work because there is never a disconnect between the writing and artwork.

When putting this book together did you know which stories were going to be told or did your art guide you in writing the stories?

In terms of the stories I always knew which ones I was going to write and put in George Frei’s Monster Series.  The one story where the art actually guided the development of the story was The Tree Monster and Me. I actually drew the image you see in the book of the Kid holding up the crystal to The Tree Monster and that stuck with me and slowly developed into the story you read in the book.

How would you describe then endings to your stories?

I would definitely say they have a moral undertone to them. I like the idea that among the twists and turns of storytelling you may have some obscure character whom you thought would never go a certain direction does and becomes the hero. In the end you learn a lesson and in my stories the lessons are taught by the least likely characters…the Monsters.

A lot of your stories have an undercurrent of morals to the theme; how do you entwine these with the dark setting of your stories?

They are definitely cautionary tales for sure and I think those types of stories resonate the most with the audience. Allot of times the “Monster” is depicted as the bad guy running around killing and doing evil things. I like the idea of “The Helpful Monster” in the stories I like to tell. I want people to dig a bit deeper into my characters struggles and feel what they are feeling when reading my stories. I think it’s a wonderful thing when you can get people to sympathize with the so-called “Monster”.

I want people to dig a bit deeper into my characters struggles and feel what they are feeling when reading my stories.

George Frei

Who is the Monster Series for?

I’d say young adult as they are at the beginning of their own hero’s journey and my stories may resonate with some struggles they have been through.

How do you encourage everyone to maintain and develop his or her imagination?

Don’t take yourself too seriously, get out there and play, explore, travel, see new places, experience as much as possible so you have a vast library of things to draw from when creating.

*I received a copy in exchange for an honest review*