Book Review: Carve the Mark

Unknown-2Title: Carve the Mark

Author: Veronica Roth


On a planet where violence and vengeance rule, in a galaxy where some are favored by fate, everyone develops a currentgift, a unique power meant to shape the future. While most benefit from their currentgifts, Akos and Cyra do not—their gifts make them vulnerable to others’ control. Can they reclaim their gifts, their fates, and their lives, and reset the balance of power in this world?

Cyra is the sister of the brutal tyrant who rules the Shotet people. Cyra’s currentgift gives her pain and power—something her brother exploits, using her to torture his enemies. But Cyra is much more than just a blade in her brother’s hand: she is resilient, quick on her feet, and smarter than he knows.

Akos is from the peace-loving nation of Thuvhe, and his loyalty to his family is limitless. Though protected by his unusual currentgift, once Akos and his brother are captured by enemy Shotet soldiers, Akos is desperate to get his brother out alive—no matter what the cost. When Akos is thrust into Cyra’s world, the enmity between their countries and families seems insurmountable. They must decide to help each other to survive—or to destroy one another.


Four reasons I think people picked up this book: Promises of Star Wars undertones. Romeo and Juliet vibes. Descriptions of planets similar to those in Interstellar. Anticipation of Roth’s new book.

There was a lot of controversy surrounding this book, and I will not get into that at all. I will only review the story as a writer and a reader. First, Roth’s world building was well done, (although I was confused as to why they used modern English swear words. Huh?) Her development of the current gifts and their uses were interesting, both in moments when Akos would touch Cyra (So much relief!) or when Akos touched the bad guy (ouch!) or when Cyra was used in a way she didn’t want to be used (hard life). Her world and their gifts created more tension and conflict in both relationships and plot, which was great. Needless to say, these gifts created fodder for thought.

This story wasn’t as pacey as I thought it might be. It was a slow and steady read, but it never lost my interest. The depth of intense family dynamics between brother and sister, people groups and nations, resistance and loyalty, and love were easy to sympathize with and Roth upped the stakes with hard choices.

The ending was good, but a bit unexpected and not planted as well as it could have been. However, the twist allowed the possibility of a sequel, so I’m sure many readers will be thrilled.

*I was surprised by the controversy surrounding this fictional book. I never felt it all while reading, nor have I felt it from the author herself who seems to be as accepting and as empathetic as they come.

Review By:

Ira, signing off.

Book Review: Rebel Sands

24934065Title: Rebel Sands

Author: Alwyn Hamiltion

Book blurb:

She’s more gunpowder than girl—and the fate of the desert lies in her hands.

Mortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mystical beasts still roam the wild and barren wastes, and rumor has it that somewhere, djinni still practice their magic. But there’s nothing mystical or magical about Dustwalk, the dead-end town that Amani can’t wait to escape from.

Destined to wind up “wed or dead,” Amani’s counting on her sharpshooting skills to get her out of Dustwalk. When she meets Jin, a mysterious and devastatingly handsome foreigner, in a shooting contest, she figures he’s the perfect escape route. But in all her years spent dreaming of leaving home, she never imagined she’d gallop away on a mythical horse, fleeing the murderous Sultan’s army, with a fugitive who’s wanted for treason. And she’d never have predicted she’d fall in love with him… or that he’d help her unlock the powerful truth of who she really is.


Alwyn Hamilton did amazing job with the voice in this book. Her heroine, Amani, captured me right away.  She was unique and relatable. She was tough for sure, but she did not fall into the trap of unrealistic YA tough-girl protagonists who can slay any boy down in her path. Amani had her flaws, her uncertainties, and her insecurities. But what made her toughness real is what she used it for–her freedom. This made sense to me, and I rooted for her all the more for it.

I refuse to give any spoilers but the discovery of her later gifts and identity fall perfectly into place. Hamilton has us asking questions and discovering things at just the right time. I love a story that unfolds in such a way that we later look back and realize it was already laid out before us! *Kudos.

Another major thing I loved about Hamilton’s writing were her prose. There was nothing cliche about it! Her use of language, metaphors, and description were so fresh it kept me reading just for that. I’d recommend it to writers just to study how she used new ways of showing and not telling.

As for the plot, it was unpredictable and kept crescendoing until the end. She did not commit the YA sins that I despise, mainly insa-love. The love story was so organic, built on friendship and true appreciation of each other, I loved it. *That said, there was a bit of drama later 🙂

Her setting was super enthralling. It was exotic and rich. Her mythlogy and mixture of religions made her world believable and interesting. As for the way she wrote it, she left a lot explained–it left the reader thinking about and exploring the country and culture like a real tourist. I appreciated the thought I needed to use to put her world together.

Totally recommend this book, and I look forward to reading the sequel, Traitor to the Throne. 

author-nova-mcbeeNova, signing off.


Author Interview: Sarena and Sasha Nanua

Pen Friends ~ We couldn’t be more excited to introduce to you two young twin authors, Sarena and Sasha Nanua, who have been wildly successful in their pursuit of writing, book blogging, publishing, and much more. (See below!)



SP: Hi Sarena and Sasha! Thanks for being with us. Can you start out by telling us a bit of who you are and when you started writing?

Sure! First off—thanks for having us! We’re super excited to be here! To start, we’re Sarena and Sasha Nanua, twin authors, book bloggers, and, of course, voracious readers. We began writing when we were nine years old, when we were super bored on an airplane and thought, Hey, why don’t we write a book? We finished the first book the following year and began writing in lots of journals, but never really finished another book until we were fourteen. We decided to self-publish our book, The Gemstone, when we were fifteen, and the subsequent novels in the series came out when we were sixteen and seventeen. Since then, we’ve written and revised two novels and are very excited to see where they head in the future!

SP: Ok, you two are amazing book bloggers and social media gurus! You’ve seriously got a gift! So tell us, how have books and talking about them changed you?eugenio-mazzone-190204

Haha, thank you! Social media has played a huge role in our lives over the past few years. When we were young we never thought we’d get Facebook or Twitter; then we wrote The Gemstone and were readying it to be published, and realized—social media is important! Especially for YA authors trying to reach their audience. It started out as a marketing tool and turned into something so much more—we became book reviewers, a part of the blogging community, and bookstagrammers. It’s all so much fun and has seriously changed the way we view the book world! We can’t imagine not talking to fellow book lovers online, who have turned into real-life friends we’ve met in-person!

SP: You started young. How did your parents view your writing? Were they supportive? 

Definitely. Our mom helped us out a lot when it came to self-pubbing, since we were so young. We’ve learned a lot about the industry over the past few years and have gotten much more involved, so our parents see how much writing means to us and how we want to make a career out of it.

SP: What is your biggest distraction while writing and how do you combat it?

Hmmm … social media? As much as we love it, it’s so strange how being on Twitter and blogging can sometimes be a big time-suck. Sometimes we need to turn all that off and just write for the night. Preferably with music (sometimes without) or with the Food Network on in the background, muted.

0PVGm_YPSP: You both are big supporters of “We Need Diverse Books,” right? So what does this mean to you and how has it influenced you?

We love WNDB. We actually started thinking about writing our first book with an Indian main character right around when WNDB was starting, and we hadn’t known about it back then. Then, around the time we were writing the book, and then querying and pitching it, the community surrounding diverse books exploded, and hashtags like #ownvoices became so integral. We love organizations like We Need Diverse Books and want to support them as much as possible. It’s so important that kids, whether teens or younger, see themselves in books. We were teens not too long ago ourselves!

SP: Favorite snack or drink while writing? And one more fact about yourself that we wouldn’t know by looking at you?

Sarena: If it’s cold outside, a nice hot chocolate. Otherwise, I need water to keep me hydrated! As for a fun fact, purple is my favourite colour because the main character in my fave book series as a kid (Amazing Days of Abby Hayes) loves purple.

Sasha: I love Goldfish. If I’m writing, I can eat a whole bag. They’re so good! A fun fact about me is that I have a pacemaker. I’ve lived with a heart condition my whole life, and because of it, my family and I started an online charity auction called Shop @ Your Own Pace on Facebook!

SP: So, let’s talk about The Pendant Trilogy. How did this idea come about? How was your journey publishing it?

The Pendant Trilogy first came about when we were thirteen. Sarena had just recently started reading The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong. On the cover, there’s a girl holding a ruby; Sarena began to think about what it’d be like if a gemstone held magical powers. And voila, the idea for The Gemstone was born! We wrote it from 2010-2011, and published it in May 2012. We decided to self-publish as teens, and have learned so much from the writing community and blogging community ever since! Publishing got the ball rolling for our Twitter and blog, and eventually, our bookstagram and all the books we’ve written since self-pubbing. The most exciting thing about having books is definitely talking to other kids about them when we do school visits or workshops!

SP: Any secrets on writing tips or habits, editing and publishing with our teen and adults writers?  

I don’t think we have any secret tips—just write! You don’t have to write every day (in fact, you might burn yourself out if you do!) but we find working in bursts of time, like during writing sprints with friends, helps us up our word count. So find your people, write, write, write, and you’ll get there! We promise!

SP: You are twin writers now. Do you always see yourselves writing together? Or will you one day write separately?

We always write our books together; it’s just something we’ve done since we co-wrote our first novel. Separately, we write short stories (for class or outside contests), a few of which we’ve gotten published in anthologies. But yes—we see ourselves continuing to write books together!

SP: Can you tell us one thing you learned from winning Pitchwars 2016/or other contests?

 Being a part of PitchWars was a dream. The community of writers we found from it was the biggest thing we gained: friends. People who want to do writing sprints, chat with us, support our writing even if they’ve never met us in real life. Those people are so important. And everyone we’ve ever met from other contests, like #DVPit, PitchSlam, etc—they are like our writer family, too! We’ve learned a lot about pitching and editing and all that, but I think the most important thing we gained from every contest we’ve been in is the relationships we formed with fellow writers.

SP: A little bird told me there is very good news in the works… Where can we follow you to hear your announcement? And where can we learn more about you and your books? 

Our website: and our blog: And you can always tweet us @PendantTrilogy! We love to hear from readers and writers. ❤

SP: Thanks again, ladies! We’re excited to have you on the SP.  We wish you all the success with more books, publishing, and adventures!


Nova, signing off.


How To Win At Writing After A Conference


The writer’s conference: There’s little more exciting than the thought of surrounding yourself with a hundred or more people who love words and books as much as you do, and getting to spend anywhere from an afternoon to an entire week learning about the business and how to become better at your craft.

For me, anyway, there’s little more exciting than a good conference. What’s never so good is the re-entry afterward. The introverted side of my personality starts kicking back in, my brain is happy but also exhausted from all of the information I’ve squished into it, and I usually just want to sleep for a few days.

From what I’ve heard from many other writers, this isn’t uncommon. And while it’s enticing to curl up in a cave and hide, the time right after a conference is golden, and we should do what we can to use it well. So here are my best tips for re-entry. Continue reading

Tea, Stories and Writing

Tea photo 2.2

I recently gave a short presentation on tea.

That’s pretty much a joke, if you know tea at all. From one plant comes hundreds, if not thousands, of variations of flavors and aromas. Even when you’re just dealing with the pure leaf – no added flavors or other plants or herbs – there are many, MANY ways to create tea.

Which isn’t so different from creating stories. We all start from the same place. You have a protagonist. Whether girl, boy, animal, robot or alien, there has to be a “hero” for there to be a story. But once you have your hero figure, there’s no end to the directions you could take them.  Continue reading

Author Interview: Caroline George

Pen Friends ~ We are pleased to welcome Young Adult author, Caroline George to talk about her upcoming book, her writing journey, and her writing advice with SP readers and writers!

C-c3x8aUwAAp7SZSP: Welcome Caroline! Can you start out by telling us a bit of who you are and when you started writing?

Overview: I’m the author of “The Prime Way Trilogy” and “The Vestige.” I write for “Pursue Magazine,” lead startup company Local Publishing and work as a part-time publicist for recording artist Autrey. When I’m not attached to my laptop, I’m attending college classes at Belmont University, meeting with friends at Nashville coffeehouses or serving with ministry My Local. All that said, I’m a productivity junkie who believes in making the most of time and living life to the fullest.

Stories have been my passion since I was a toddler. Before I could hold a pencil, I told my mom stories, she’d write them down and let me illustrate the pages. In middle school, I started writing with fervor and made it a goal to be published by my sixteenth birthday.

Writing began as a therapeutic escape from my preteen troubles but morphed into a vision fueled by calling, determination and stubbornness.  

SP: Essential info next. Tea or Coffee? And one fact about yourself that we wouldn’t know by looking at you?

Coffee. Always. I’m convinced it’s a food group. Whenever I go out to eat, I usually end up at a coffeehouse.

Fun Fact: Unlike most authors, I’m a total extrovert. I love public speaking, meeting new people and stepping out of my comfort zone.

 SP: So, let’s talk about your new book, THE VESTIGE. How did this idea come about? unnamed.jpg

I was sitting in Starbucks when I realized my life was pretty. The people around me sipping their lattes were pretty. The shopping mall across the highway was filled with pretty things. But when I checked my news feed and saw disturbing headlines, I concluded that my life is nothing more than an illusion: The world isn’t a pretty place, yet it is unbelievably easy for people to go throughout their day without noticing the dirt.

“The Vestige” was born from the questions: What if the end of the world has already occurred? What if our final demise happened slowly, secretly . . . and we’ve been oblivious to it all?

If we live in a pretty bubble of shopping malls and Starbucks, could we miss the truth because we’re too comfortable to see it?

“The Vestige” is a book close to my heart. It began as a mashup of several story ideas but transformed into a call to action, a call to awareness.

 SP: Evernight Teen Publishing – How has your experience been with them?

The Evernight Teen staff have been professional, fast and kind. They’ve supported my over-the-top marketing plan and worked to provide the materials needed for a successful release. 

SP: Awesome to hear. We are very impressed that you started writing and publishing at such a young age! Can you share your secrets on writing habits, editing and publishing with our teen and adults writers?  

Successful writing, in my opinion, is the product of a tenacious attitude and purpose-driven mindset. Habits can help provide the atmosphere needed to write, but they can’t keep someone writing.

My advice:

1.    Write with purpose. If you don’t believe in your work’s message, you won’t be an effective writer and will most likely give up when the process gets tough. However, if you’re certain your words will make a difference, you’ll write with urgency and will remain steadfast in the trials.

2.    Write with an audience in mind. Answer the questions: Why am I writing? For who am I writing? What do I want readers to gain from my work? 

3.    Write to write, not to publish. If your main goal is to get your words on paper, you’ll be satisfied whether or not your work is published.

My habits include a certain layout—coffee mug on the right-hand side of my computer, notebook on the left-hand side, mood-setting music and public environment. I do my best work in coffeehouses or at my dining room table.

Author Isaac Marion said it best: “No, writers don’t write in coffee shops so people will see us writing. What kind of loser would do that? It’s because we’re incredibly lonely.”

Editing and publishing tips:

1.    Know the publishing industry. Do your research. 

2.    Hire an editor or recruit someone with knowledge of current market trends to review your work. Don’t exclusively rely on friends and family to edit your writing.

3.    Make sure everything you publish is high quality.

4.    Treat your writing as a business.

5.    Look for innovative ways to market yourself.

6.    Get on social media and build your platform! 

SP: Great advice. So, how was your road to finding an agent? Any advice on querying?

There are many ways to find and land an agent. I first went to New York City and pitched to agents at a writing conference. I queried hundreds of literary agencies but ended up signing with the agent of an author friend. She recommended my work to him, he read my proposal and signed me a few days later.

My advice: Do research, write a professional query and send it to agents who represent your genre. But also make connections. Relationships with professionals in the publishing industry will help you more than career opportunities. If you value people and their time, they will value you and your work.

 SP: Ok, you are into surfing. Give us the story. How did you learn and what is your favorite surfing story?Surfing.jpeg

A few years ago, my friend invited me to Florida to celebrate her birthday. Surfing was on her bucket list. We went to Daytona Beach as a hurricane swirled in the Atlantic, rented pink soft-tops and surf shirts, and followed our teenage instructor to the beach.

Waves pelted the shore in roaring surges. They towered over my head and smacked me down the moment I stepped foot in the water.

“This seems like a bad idea,” I said as the surfing instructor led my friend and me into the foamy deathtrap. 

What most people would consider a dumb decision ended up being one of my favorite memories. I learned to surf before the storm hit. I wiped out, bruised myself on the ocean floor and got slapped several times by my own board. It hurt, but I loved every moment of it.

Surfing is an experience that can’t be effectively described. I often tell people when I first stand on the beach and gaze out at the sea, I’m foreign—I don’t belong in the water. However, when a wave catches me, I melt into it, become a part of the ocean’s heartbeat. It accepts me.

Granted, I’m not the best surfer. I do it whenever I have the chance. Two months ago, I surfed in California for the first time and discovered how much I appreciate wetsuits. 

I can’t wait to get out on the waves when I go to Australia in a few weeks.

SP: Ooh, enjoy Oz! And, Vestige is not the only book you have written. Where can we learn more about you and your books? 

“The Prime Way Trilogy” is available to purchase from Amazon and Barnes & Noble. 

If you’d like to learn more about my work, visit my website I’m also active on all social media platforms.

Twitter: @CarolineGeorge_

Instagram: @authorcarolinegeorge

SnapChat: @authorcarolineg


SP: Thanks Caroline!


Nova, Signing off.




Book Review: Doon Series By Lorie Langdon and Carey Corp



Title:  Doon Series, (4 books.)  Doon; Destined for Doon; Shades of Doon; and Forever Doon.

Authors: Lorie Langdon & Carey Corp

Goodreads Blurb:

Veronica doesn’t think she’s going crazy. But why can’t anyone else see the mysterious blond boy who keeps popping up wherever she goes? When her best friend, Mackenna, invites her to spend the summer in Scotland, Veronica jumps at the opportunity to leave her complicated life behind for a few months.

But the Scottish countryside holds other plans.

Not only has the imaginary kilted boy followed her to Alloway, she and Mackenna uncover a strange set of rings and a very unnerving letter from Mackenna’s great aunt—and when the girls test the instructions Aunt Gracie left behind, they find themselves transported to a land that defies explanation. Doon seems like a real-life fairy tale, complete with one prince who has eyes for Mackenna and another who looks suspiciously like the boy from Veronica’s daydreams. But Doon has a dark underbelly as well. The two girls could have everything they’ve longed for…or they could end up breaking an enchantment and find themselves trapped in a world that has become a nightmare.

DOON is loosely based on the premise of the musical Brigadoon, with permission from the ALan Jay Lerner Estate and the Frederick Loewe Foundation.


I’ve got to be honest. I was hopelessly addicted to this series. So much love for these characters, and their story. It pulled on every string in my heart. The series brims with hope, innocence, adventure, faith, love, power, risk, dreams, truth, and power.

One of the coolest things in the book was the friendship between Veronica and Mackenna, the two protagonists. These best friends surprised me and quickly become my friends too. Lorie and Carey talk about these characters here in an interview I did with them.

Lorie and Carey co-authored the series, which gave them a unique advantage with their characters’ voice. Each MC was so different, so likable, so full of quirks and personality. I loved that the moment one of them spoke, I knew who was speaking. Best of all, Mackenna and Veronica were relatable in every way.

Through the book, and the series, I enjoyed the hilariousness. The musical obsessions. The Shakespeare. The references. The sense that we are made for more. The fantasy. The power of the love calling. And the desire to enter into other realms. I was drawn to Doon just as much as the girls!

And what of the two swoony, Scottish princes, you ask? Jaime and Duncan put on such a good show! They continued to impress or drive you crazy or melt your heart the entire series! **Kudos, ladies.

On world building. For someone who has lived in the UK, spent time in Scotland, and Italy, and around the world, I was smitten with the use of language and culture and setting, and even how in DOON it took on so many other cultures. Guys, it seriously made me want to hop on a plane…and I mean, searching internet prices. 🙂

Now here’s an confession.. the book cover gave me a different idea of what the story might be like. I almost didn’t read it! How silly is that? But we do judge books by their covers…Thank God I kept flipping!!! When I read the first chapter, I was enthralled with the voice of the book.

The plot was fast paced and not predictable. It held my interest the entire series.

In book one, I was drawn more to Veronica and Jaime’s story. When I started book two I didn’t think the plot or their love story could be as good or better…but wow. I was wrong!

Highly recommend this series 🙂


Book 2: Destined for Doon

Mini Review: LOVED this book.

The love story between Mackenna and Duncan was so different to Jaime and Veronica’s and the plot so vastly new, again, I was so impressed and sucked in. I finished so quickly, it was one of those moments you were happy that you didn’t know about this series until all of them were out so you didn’t have to wait!



Book 3: Shades of Doon.

Mini Review: Again, by this time, you are so invested in the characters that you love doing things with them. This book adventured, and dreamed, and did again, new things! It was one of those books you didn’t want to be over, and Lorie and Carey gave me that in this book.




Book 4: Forever Doon

Mini review: Finally, I knew this was the end. The last book. It had better go out with a bang.

Then of course, what we don’t want to happen, happens. But the book does something new yet again and it does not disappoint.

Final word? Read it!




Nova, signing off.

The Spinning Pen Girl & Boy’s Writing Tip of the Week

spin girl brick iii

This lovely depiction of the Spinning Pen Girl is done by Artist and Writer Sarah Kovin Synder. Check that talented girl out here.

As you know, the Spinning Pen Girl always searches for amazing writing resources and loves sharing them with you. Today she wants you to click here for Co-Creator of Author Mentor Match and Author Alexa Donne‘s long list of amazing articles on writing for writers.

Happy Writing!


SP writer, Nova signing off.



What I Learned from Writing Prompts & A Prompt: Brothers


Prompt: Brothers

When we were young, after Dad left and Mom checked out, my brother was my superhero. He wasn’t scared of anything. With his arm on my shoulder, night never felt dark; wind never howled; lightening never cracked–it sang to us. Just like adventure did. But now, seeing the look on my brother’s face, I know something’s wrong…
Complete this prompt in 250 words or less and send it to to be posted!

What I learned from Writing Prompts:

Pen Friends ~ Our understanding and experience is that many novels have come out of prompts. That is why we encourage writers to try it out! We asked a few other writers to share how writing prompts have helped them grow as writers and here are their responses.
“With each prompt I write, I gain more experience and explore new genres, age groups and topics. I love how it stretches me as a writer and opens up new possibilities. But my favorite part is the creative aspect: I get to explore a new world in each story I never considered before!”
Ruby Ma

“Initially, I was fearful that the motion of life would water-down my passion for writing, but I was, gladly, wrong! Away from the oppressive regime called an institution, I realized that I had the freedom to create in ways that I have never experienced, and Spinning Pen became a platform for my bursts of creativity.

I would read the prompts that are posted and be so excited at the countless possibilities of how stories could continue and end. These prompts took me on terrains and adventures that I only dreamed of. I was reminded that smaller writing projects did not have to compromise on well-constructed dialogues, tension between character relationships; establishing mood and tone; staging movements and setting. I love the process of creating a short story with a powerful punch.”

Krystal Keith

I haven’t always been a fan of writing prompts. They remind me of school when the teacher gave us “Writing Topics,” thus thwarting my creativity once again. But as I’ve developed my writing technique and matured as a writer, I see their value.

A prompt is a great way to push yourself into doing something that’s not necessarily “your thing.” It’s challenging. And it is in those moments I find inspiration or motivation. When I’ve attempted a prompt that isn’t my genre or has word limits (the flash fictions kill me!) I always come away with some sort of small victory. Whether I’ve completed and submitted something I’m proud of, or only got half way through before realizing this isn’t for me, I’ve still put words to page, I’ve still worked my creative muscles. Almost always I come away with an idea for a WIP or a new project later on. It is these things that I value.

So maybe a prompt isn’t your cup of tea but I encourage you to try. You never know what you might find at the bottom.

Hilary Bowen

Once I was challenged to write a dual POV prompt. What I didn’t know is that it helped me discover how to round out the worlds that I create. I was forced to see everything twice. I noticed—and thus, my characters noticed—more details, creating a more believable space for the reader to inhabit.

The dual P.O.V. prompt could have been my worst nightmare as a writer, or it could be the most fun I’ve ever had with a prompt: Think about exploring your world from two angles: a complete stranger, only just arrived; or as someone who has lived there, breathing the air their entire life. How would you see things?

Perhaps, as a visitor, you would see everything in great detail. Or maybe you would be so overwhelmed that everything was a blur. As a longtime resident, perhaps there are familiar details that you always notice, while other things, like the street you live on, or the color of the sky have faded to the background.

This prompt led to my very first completed manuscript, which I’m about to query. Sometimes, writers just need a bit of a kick start to get going!


Nova, signing off.