Tuesday, January 10, 2012

ARC Book Review: Jessica Rules the Dark Side + Interview with Beth Fantaskey!

Hi guys! So awhile back, I read Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side, and pretty much loved it-- and of course I was totally psyched when I found out that there would be a sequel coming out in January 2012! I wrote to author Beth Fantaskey, and she was so awesome that she not only sent me an ARC of the sequel Jessica Rules the Dark Side-- she also let me interview her! So here is my review of this fun sequel featuring Jessica "Antanasia" Packwood and her vampire love Lucius Vladescu, followed by an amazing and exclusive interview with Beth-- hope you guys enjoy!

*****
~Review~

Author: Beth Fantaskey
Publisher: Harcourt Children's Books
Series: Jessica #2
Release Date: January 10, 2012
Pages: 320
Read it in: 3 days (would have been sooner if I wasn't watching my new puppy lol)
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Summary: It’s one thing to find out you’re a vampire princess. It’s a whole other thing to actually rule. Newly married Jessica Packwood is having a hard enough time feeling regal with her husband, Lucius, at her side. But when evidence in the murder of a powerful elder points to Lucius, sending him into solitary confinement, Jessica is suddenly on her own. Determined to clear her husband’s name, Jessica launches into a full-scale investigation, but hallucinations and nightmares of betrayal keep getting in her way. Jessica knows that with no blood to drink, Lucius’s time is running out. Can she figure out who the real killer is—and whom she can trust—before it’s too late?

LC's Take:

Jessica Rules the Dark Side is the continuing story of Jessica Packwood-- normal high school teenager-- and Lucius Vladescu-- heir to a vampire kingdom-- after they tie the knot and take vows to love each other for all eternity. From the cliff-hanger chapter endings that kept you reading in suspense the entire way through, to the colorful cast of characters who each had a part of the story to tell, this really was a great sequel to Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side!

After moving to Romania and getting married to Lucius, 18-year old Jessica has a lot to get used to. Not only is she now a vampire-- she's also a vampire princess who must learn to rule as future queen to a huge vampire realm. Slow to adjust, Jessica starts out scared and unsure of herself in her new home-- a dark, cold castle filled with ruthless vampires and corrupt politics. Things don't get any easier when a vampire Elder is mysteriously murdered in the castle-- and her husband Lucius is imprisoned for being the prime suspect. Now Jessica must really take on her Romanian birth name-- "Antanasia"-- and become the queen she is so reluctant to embrace, in order to save her husband from a fate worse than death and prove herself worthy of a throne.

I really liked the dark setting of this book because it was so different from the first book-- all of the dark, Gothic descriptions of the castle, the cemetery and the Carpathian mountains gave the whole story an awesome Dracula-esque backdrop! Based on this huge change in scenery, it was understandable why Jessica was so lost and depressed in her new home at first, but about two-thirds of the way through the story she really comes into her own and transforms into a kick-butt vampire princess.

I also liked how the story was told from four different points of view-- Jessica, her best friend Mindy, Lucius, and Lucius' best friend and cousin Ranerio. All of their voices were really well done and it was never confusing to the plot. This is thanks to the fact that the different perspectives were all written in such a way that they had their own unique voice, which I really appreciated because sometimes when you read books from multiple POVs, you can't even tell them apart! I was especially glad that Jessica's best friend Mindy was in this book and had her own parts of the story to tell. Even though she was ditzy and slightly annoying at times, she was still genuine and loyal to Jessica, so I thought that Mindy was a great addition to this book-- she provided a lot of the comic relief in an otherwise dark and cold vampire world. Also, the side story between Mindy and Raniero added another great piece to the main plot.

Overall, this was a wonderful story of Jessica's growing up and maturing from awkward teenager to powerful and self-confident queen. Whereas a lot of love stories end with the wedding and living happily-ever-after, Jessica Rules was an awesome continuation of Jessica and Lucius' story after they say "I do." I was rooting for Jessica the entire time, and was so happy to see her overcome her insecurities to take on her new role as Princess Antanasia Dragomir Vladescu. If you loved Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side, with all it's fun quirkiness and romantic drama, you will definitely love this sequel! I would also recommend these two books to any YA vampire fan out there, because I think they both give a fresh new twist to the vampire genre.

~Cover Talk~

I absolutely LOVE the cover for this sequel! The colors, the romantic pic of Jessica and Lucius, and did you notice how Jess is holding a stake in her hand? I didn't see that until after I was about half-way through the book! Once you've read the story, you will definitely think that it's a great addition. Also the colors are so pretty, I really like how the purple light plays off of the dark purple of Jessica's dress. I only wish that we could see Lucius' whole face because I want to know what he looks like! :)

LC's Rating:
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Such an awesome sequel! Jessica Rules continues with the same fun and quirky writing style from the first book, but goes much farther to develop the characters and plot. I loved reading more about Jessica and Lucius-- and Mindy and Raniero-- and definitely enjoyed all of the drama, comedy and intrigue in between!

~Interview with Beth Fantaskey~

 WooHoo!! Here you'll find out what Beth thinks about the covers for her books, her main character Jessica, what it's like to be a published author, and more-- so keep on reading!!!

Me: I'm always interested in book covers. What do you think of the covers for Jessica's Guide and Jessica Rules? (Do you have a favorite? Did you have any say in how they would look? Do you think the cover models look anything like Jessica and Lucius?)

Beth: Okay, this is a wonderful multi-part question that I’m going to answer in a jumble, if that’s all right.

Ultimately, I really love the covers of both books, but I will admit that – while the Jessica on the first cover looks almost exactly as I picture her (aside from being too thin) – Lucius is nothing like... Lucius, to me. Meanwhile, on the cover of the sequel, Jessica strays from my image of her – while Lucius looks more like I picture him. However, I think the mood of both covers is perfect. On the first, Jessica seems intrigued but uncertain, and even my young children sense that Lucius is “tricky.” And on the sequel cover, Jess seems protected by Lucius, but powerful in her own right. I really like that.

And to answer the last part, I really have no say in the covers. I asked for some slight alterations to Lucius on the first cover, and my editor and I had the stake placed in Jess’s hand on the sequel, but other than that, it’s out of my hands.

Me: So Jessica Rules takes place in Lucious' home country of Romania. Have you ever been to Romania? If yes, can you tell us a little about it? If no, do you ever plan on visiting, since you love to travel so much?

Beth: I’ve never been to Romania, but I’ve traveled to Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and a few other parts of Eastern Europe, so I drew a lot on my impressions of those places when trying to conjure Romania. There’s a beautiful, sort of Gothic/romantic, captured-in-time atmosphere that seems very particular to that part of the world, and that was what I wanted to convey, even more than describe specific sites. I hope I did justice to Romania, itself, which is definitely on my list of most wanted places to visit now.

Me: Of course, Jessica's story is a great one in and of itself-- but is there any message you'd like your readers to take away with them after reading these books?

Beth: Thanks so much for the compliment! I really wanted to write about a powerful female protagonist who is confident in spite of not being part of the “popular crowd,” and who accepts her body and her hair, even if they aren’t “model perfect.” I have daughters, and those messages are important to me. The sequel centers on how Jess starts to doubt herself and has to regain her power, which I think is important, too. Sometimes we falter, but it’s how we come back that determines our character.

Me: I absolutely love Jessica as the female lead character-- she's just so different from other female protags in YA books! What trait do you love most about her? What was the most fun to write about?

Beth: Thanks for that, too. My favorite traits are Jess’s strength and her sense of humor. Lucius is witty and “superior,” but Jess gives it right back to him. It was fun to write the scenes in which she really stands up to him, knocking him down a few pegs. Sometimes I would laugh out loud – like when she rams a pitchfork into his foot!

Me: Are there any "requirements" or qualifications to becoming a successful author? Or is writing an awesome YA book and getting the attention of publishers something that anyone can do if they put in the time and effort?

Beth: That’s a tough question. I wrote (as a speech writer and journalist) for about twenty years before trying fiction, so there’s definitely something to be said for honing your craft. I learned a lot about turning in clean copy, writing dialogue, word choice, how to develop a story... But at the end of the day, I suppose if you are lucky enough to be born with natural talent and have a great story to tell, that could prevail, too. For me, it was more a matter of building my career, one painstaking step at a time. And I’ve heard from other authors that patience is key. You do have to be willing to not give up at the first – or fiftieth – rejection.

Me: I've heard you advise aspiring authors to write every day. Do you ever have to force yourself to write? Do you ever take a break from a book-in-progress to write other things (poetry, in a journal, etc.)?

Beth: Although I love to write, I also feel like I’m constantly forcing myself to do it. Right now, I’m facing a deadline, so even if I’m not feeling that writing vibe, I have to sit down and work. And I have to admit that I don’t really write anything extra. I don’t keep a journal or write poetry. My hands are pretty full just writing what I have to write.

Me: Some readers can be really skeptical because there are just SO many books out there about vampires. What do you think makes Jessica's story stand out from all the others and sort of "reinvent" the genre? (Note: I already think that these books DO stand out, but please feel free to brag a little here :)

Beth: If there’s anything that makes my take on vampires stand out, it’s my complete ignorance of the genre! When I came up with Jess and Lucius’s story, I hadn’t read a vampire book since “Dracula” in high school, and I honestly didn’t even know how popular vampire fiction was again, so I really felt free to do anything I wanted. I was shocked when some readers got upset with how I “twisted” the rules. But I’m glad I did my own thing. In the sequel, I build even more on the world I created. In my opinion, it’s fantasy and should be open to all sorts of interpretations.

Me: I've heard one reader/reviewer describe Lucius as being "sophisticated, sarcastic, arrogant, and amusingly uptight." Do you think that this adequately describes him? Is there anything else we should know about Jessica's vampire man?

Beth: Oh, gosh, that’s great. I’ve never really thought of Lucius as “uptight,” but he is! He’s really bound by his code of honor and the royal rules of propriety that dictate most of his actions. To me, though, what defines Lucius is his struggle to balance his acceptance of violence as a way of life with his need to protect Jess – and his new understanding, thanks to living with the Packwood family, that compassion is not a bad thing. That’s the root of his continued challenges in the sequel: to look out for his new wife in a dangerous place, yet let her rise to the occasion, and to be a prince worthy of becoming a vampire king without losing the softer side he gained by falling in love.

Me: So we know that you love vampires! Are there any other paranormal creatures that you are especially fond of?

Beth: I love all the beings that inhabit the world Tolkien created, from Hobbits to elves to trees that talk and move. I fell in love with those stories years ago, and to read them today is still like going home.

Me: I always love getting new author and book recommendations-- what YA authors/books are you really loving right now?


Beth: You won’t believe this, but I don’t really read any fiction right now. I’m working on my Ph.D. in journalism history, so when I sit down with a book, it’s about female crime reporters of the 1920s. I don’t have time for anything else until my dissertation is done. I wish I had a better answer for you!

Me: I read that your favorite hobby is traveling the world-- what is your favorite place that you've ever visited and why?

Beth: I am most amazed by India. It’s like a swirl of colors and sound and smells that kind of dazzles you, even in the smallest towns. But I also have a particular fondness for China. My husband and I spent a summer there, and we made some wonderful friends. In addition, my three children were born there, so I have that connection, too. It’s a really special place to me.


Thanks so much to Beth Fantaskey for taking the time to answer all my questions! I hope you've enjoyed reading more about this awesome writer and her books-- Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side and Jessica Rules the Dark Side-- now make sure that they are on your TBR list! ;)

Happy reading everyone!!

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9 comments:

  1. Ah such an awesome interview!! I love Beth she is great, also awesome review! I LOVE Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side, I will have to get this one soon! (:

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  2. YAY!! I know she is too sweet :) I was so psyched to get the chance to ask her questions about her books, and the Jessica series is so much fun to read!

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  3. I really enjoyed Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark side. I haven't read Jessica Rules the Dark side yet. I hope to read it soon. Thanks for the interview. I enjoyed it.

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    1. So glad you found it interesting! I hope you enjoy the sequel as much as the first book! :D

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  4. I just got this one on my Kindle today and am going to be starting it soon hopefully! I loved the first one, and had a LOT of laugh out loud moments while reading it. Great review and loved the interview!

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  5. Wow! You are so lucky! ...or I should say smart; I hadn't thought to write to an author and simply ask.... I love, love, love book 1 and can't wait to read book 2. The author writes so beautifully. Thanks for a great review and awesome interview!

    Danielle
    http://knowntoread.blogspot.com/

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  6. I loved Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side and I really look forward to reading the sequel. Btw I am also highly obsessed with book covers and I thought Jessica rules the dark side cover is really pretty! Great interview, btw! Loved this review as well!

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  7. I LOVE the cover art for these books but I must say that the 2nd one might out-trump the first :)

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  8. I read the first book a WHILE back when it first came out and adored it. I really want to re-read it and then read the wedding filler on her website and then read this sequel. I love the covers! I can't figure out which one is my favorite.

    Great review and thanks for sharing this interview! They were both fun to read. I love Beth, she's such a fantastic author!

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