Debut '19 Interview: Margaret Owen & The Merciful Crow!

In 2019 our goal is to work with as many debut authors as possible and spread the word about their debut novels. Follow us this year as we pick the mind of the 2019 debuts and chat with them. Also stay tuned for news of giveaways, Twitter chats and more!

Last year, we Tweeted about wanting to discover more debut authors and their books. We ended up learning about THE MERCIFUL CROW, and we have been interested in it ever since. We are so excited to have Margaret on the blog today to answer some of our questions! 

Hi! I got an ARC of The Merciful Crow and I loved it an I can't wait for it to be in the world so I can shriek with everyone else! 
- Amber

About Margaret! 

Born and raised at the end of the Oregon Trail, Margaret Owen first encountered an author in the wild in fourth grade. Roughly twenty seconds later, she decided she too would be an author, the first of many well-thought-out life decisions. The career plan shifted frequently as Margaret spent her childhood haunting the halls of Powell’s Books. After earning her degree in Japanese, her love of espresso called her north to Seattle, where she worked in everything from thrift stores to presidential campaigns. The common thread between every job can be summed up as: lessons were learned. Fortunately, it turned out that fourth-grade Margaret was onto something. She now spends her days wrestling disgruntled characters onto the page, and negotiating a long-term hostage situation with her two monstrous cats. (There is surprisingly little difference between the two.) In her free time, she enjoys exploring ill-advised travel destinations, and raising money for social justice nonprofits through her illustrations.
Keep up with Margaret: Website / Twitter / Goodreads / Tumblr 


The Book Bratz: How does it feel that THE MERCIFUL CROW is debuting this year?
Margaret: They say debut year is a roller coaster, and that has definitely been true! Right now it feels like we’re climbing towards the wildest set of loops yet. The funny thing about your dream coming true is it’s amazing but still absolutely nothing like what you’d expect.
The Book Bratz: In the length of a tweet (280 characters!) describe THE MERCIFUL CROW?
Margaret: Fie, a chief-in-training from the persecuted Crow caste of mercy-killers, is drawn into a scheme to rescue Crown Prince Jasimir from the murderous new queen. But Fie's help comes with a price: the prince's binding oath to address the abuse of the Crows once he's on the throne.
The Book Bratz: Where did your inspiration for the castes and birthrights come from?
Margaret: When I knew magic would be part of the world, it made sense to me that different types of magic would be considered more valuable than others. Humans have a tendency to form communities around shared traits and values (look no further than Sorting Hat quizzes for a prime example), so the next natural step was that a caste structure would form based on whose magic was seen as most valuable.

The Book Bratz: What was your reaction when you first saw the cover to THE MERCIFUL CROW?
Margaret: “OH THANK GOD.” It was exactly the kind of cover I was hoping for!
The Book Bratz: Where did your inspiration for THE MERCIFUL CROW come from?
Margaret: I’d wanted to write something atmospheric and spooky for a while, and I’d always thought plague doctors were interesting. Then I came across an article about the lives of medieval European executioners, and how they were effectively exiles of the communities they were supposed to serve. It all clicked together from there!

The Book Bratz: If Fie could create social media handles for Tavin, Jasimir and herself what would they be?
Margaret:  Fie would be a total grandma on social media, so she’d just have their handles be their names (and hers would be something like @ChiefFie.) Tavin, on the other hand, would assign Jasimir @EagleOne and himself @EagleTwo.

The Book Bratz: When you began writing THE MERCIFUL CROW did you know how you want Fie, Tavin and Jasmir's story to end, or did that come after you had finished book 1?
Margaret: I can’t write a story without knowing where it will wind up—it’s like trying to throw a dart without a target. So I’ve always known how the overarching story ends (and here’s a hint: a lot like how it begins!) 

Title: The Merciful Crow (The Merciful Crow #1)
Author: Margaret Owen
Publisher: Henry Holt (BYR)
Publication Date: July 30th 2019
Summary: A future chieftain. Fie abides by one rule: look after your own. Her Crow caste of undertakers and mercy-killers takes more abuse than coin, but when they’re called to collect royal dead, she’s hoping they’ll find the payout of a lifetime. A fugitive prince. When Crown Prince Jasimir turns out to have faked his death, Fie’s ready to cut her losses—and perhaps his throat. But he offers a wager that she can’t refuse: protect him from a ruthless queen, and he’ll protect the Crows when he reigns. A too-cunning bodyguard. Hawk warrior Tavin has always put Jas’s life before his, magically assuming the prince’s appearance and shadowing his every step. But what happens when Tavin begins to want something to call his own?

Thank you so much to Margaret for stopping by and answering our questions! We loved THE MERCIFUL CROW and can't wait for it to be out in the world on July 30th!  

ARC Review: The Sound of Drowning by Katherine Fleet

Title: The Sound of Drowning
Author: Katherine Fleet
Publisher: Page Street Kids
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Hardcover, 384 Pages
Published April 2019

Summary: Meredith Hall has a secret. Every night she takes the ferry to meet Ben, her best friend and first love. Though their relationship must remain a secret, they’ve been given a second chance, and Mer's determined to make it work. She lost Ben once before and discovered the awful reality: she doesn't know how to be happy without him…Until Wyatt washes ashore―a brash new guy with a Texas twang and a personality bigger than his home state. He makes her feel reckless, excited, and alive in ways that cut through her perpetual gloom. The deeper they delve into each other’s pasts, the more Wyatt’s charms become impossible to ignore. But a storm is brewing in the Outer Banks. When it hits, Mer finds her heart tearing in half and her carefully constructed reality slipping back into the surf. As she discovers that even the most deeply buried secrets have a way of surfacing, she’ll have to learn that nothing is forever―especially second chances.

I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an early review, which I was disappointed not to get a chance to read until I came home for the summer, since things were really chaotic at school. However, in May, I finally got a chance to sit down and read this book while I was recovering from dental surgery, and I'm really glad that I did, because I got sucked into the story and really enjoyed every minute of it. So without further ado, let's get into my review!

As the summary explains, Mer is secretly taking the ferry every night over to a neighboring island to see her boyfriend, Ben. They used to be together out in the open, but then something really bad happened, and they know their families wouldn't approve if they remained together. But then she meets Wyatt, a handsome, flirty, confident boy that is making her feel in ways that she doesn't usually experience with Ben. But Ben is supposed to be her forever...but how can they make their relationship work if it always has to be done in secret? It's a lot for Mer to figure out and unpack, among the constant stirring up of her feelings.

I really enjoyed reading this book. At first I wasn't sure how I felt about Mer because she seemed really combative and very closed off, even to the reader, and a lot of secrets are teased that you don't get the full story about until later on, so it was a bit frustrating in the beginning because so much was being alluded to that I had no idea about yet. However, that quickly started to change, and I found myself being more and more sucked into Mer's story, always wanting to read the next chapter to find out what else was going to happen. I'm a sucker for stories set in sleepy beach towns, and this one was the perfect fit, especially since I was reading it during a series of rainy, cold, gray days that matched the weather in the book perfectly.

My favorite character in this story was definitely Wyatt. Even though he was really cocky and overconfident sometimes, he was really charming, and I found myself swooning over him pretty easily, just like Mer did. He was always there for her and her companion through things, even when she was really closed off and still didn't want to talk to him about a lot of stuff. He just seemed really loyal and sweet, and he was even battling some demons of his own, but he still managed to be there for her in the process, which made him grow on me pretty quickly!

(MAJOR spoilers in this paragraph, so please skip to the next paragraph to avoid them!) Okay, I need to talk about that plot twist for a second, because it completely caught me by surprise, but in the best kind of way. The way where I'm so shocked and think that it came out of nowhere, but then I look back and realize that the clues were planted there all along, without me realizing. I thought it was a bit suspicious when the book hinted so much about Mer's fear of the ocean but then once the abortion secret comes to light, that had nothing to do with the sea, so I had a nagging suspicion that there was another secret that we weren't being told yet. However, never in a million years did I expect it to be the fact that Ben had died, Mer was seeing his ghost, AND the fact that almost the entirety of the book didn't actually take place at all -- wow. I mean, I haven't been this genuinely shocked by a plot twist in the longest time, but it's safe to say that Katherine Fleet really got me good with this one. Excellent, excellent writing. I loved that part.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading The Sound of Drowning. This emotional, gripping book took me on an adventure that both squeezed and also healed my heart, and the journey it took me on was one that I really appreciate. If you're looking for a book to settle in with during a rainy weekend and you'd like a few shocking surprises along the way, then I'd definitely recommend this one!

Teaser Review: How To Build a Heart by Maria Padian

Title: How to Build a Heart
Author: Maria Padian
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Hardcover, 352 Pages
Publication Date: January 28th, 2020

Summary: All sixteen-year-old Izzy Crawford wants is to feel like she really belongs somewhere. Her father, a marine, died in Iraq six years ago, and Izzy’s moved to a new town nearly every year since, far from the help of her extended family in North Carolina and Puerto Rico. When Izzy’s hardworking mom moves their small family to Virginia, all her dreams start clicking into place. She likes her new school—even if Izzy is careful to keep her scholarship-student status hidden from her well-to-do classmates and her new athletic and popular boyfriend. And best of all: Izzy’s family has been selected by Habitat for Humanity to build and move into a brand-new house. Izzy is this close to the community and permanence she’s been searching for, until all the secret pieces of her life begin to collide.

I received an ARC of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review, after a conversation got sparked on Twitter and we found out that we actually have a mutual connection based on the college I attend! I thought that was pretty cool, and then when I found out Maria was a YA author, I knew that I definitely wanted to read some of her work. When she sent me How To Build a Heart, I was elated, because the story sounded like just the kind of YA contemporary that I really enjoyed. Thankfully, my hunch was right!

As the summary explains, Izzy is finally getting settled after her family's recent move, always bouncing from town to town with her mother and brother, still reeling after the tragic death of her father in the Marines. Izzy starts to feel like her life is really coming together -- she has a crush, some good friends, a spot in her school's super competitive a cappella group....but she manages to keep her scholarship student status a secret, and her best from the trailer park is nowhere near her preppy school friends. And then her family is chosen for Habitat for Humanity, which is a major win for them, but that also involves her community knowing about her family's struggles. The balancing act doesn't last for long, and when Izzy's lives threaten to cross over into each other, she isn't sure how she's going to handle it. And what ensues is definitely interesting, that's for sure! 

I really enjoyed reading this book! Maria Padian is an excellent writer, so I found myself being sucked into the story immediately. This book is almost 350 pages, and I managed to finish the entire thing in just two days, because I found myself picking it up every chance I get. I even walked around campus with this book in front of my face while I was heading to class and the library and places to pick up dinner, and it's a miracle I didn't trip and fall flat on my face. I was so just so invested in the story and I loved it!

Overall, I really enjoyed reading How To Build a Heart. I think it was a super heartwarming, emotional tale of moving on after loss, settling into a new life, and finding a way to bridge your past and your future in ways that you may not have thought were possible before. Maria Padian is an excellent writer, and it took no time at all for me to fall into her story. I'm super glad that I was given this ARC in exchange for an honest review, and it's safe to say that I'll definitely be reading more of her work in the future!

Stay tuned for my full, more in-depth review, coming in November 2019!

ARC Review: The Grace Year by Kim Liggett

Title: The Grace Year 
Author: Kim Liggett
Genre: Dystopia 
Source: St. Martins Press via NetGalley 
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Publication Date: September 17th 2019

No one speaks of the grace year. It’s forbidden. Girls are told they have the power to lure grown men from their beds, drive women mad with jealousy. They believe their very skin emits a powerful aphrodisiac, the potent essence of youth, of a girl on the edge of womanhood. That’s why they’re banished for their sixteenth year, to release their magic into the wild so they can return purified and ready for marriage. But not all of them will make it home alive. Sixteen-year-old Tierney James dreams of a better life—a society that doesn’t pit friend against friend or woman against woman, but as her own grace year draws near, she quickly realizes that it’s not just the brutal elements they must fear. It’s not even the poachers in the woods, men who are waiting for their chance to grab one of the girls in order to make their fortune on the black market. Their greatest threat may very well be each other. With sharp prose and gritty realism, The Grace Year examines the complex and sometimes twisted relationships between girls, the women they eventually become, and the difficult decisions they make in-between.

I am a huge fan of The Handmaid's Tale from when I had to read it for me English Lit class in college. I am a huge fan of dystopian novels and The Handmaid's Tales was right up my alley. The moment I learned about The Grace Year and that it was pitched for fans of The Handmaid's Tale, I knew it was going to be a must read for me. I've read Kim's previous novels and loved them so I knew this one was going to be for me. I want to say that loved The Grace Year, but I sadly didn't. The Grace Year wasn't a horrible book, it has The Handmaid Tales vibes and a strong feminist message that I did enjoy, but other then that there really wasn't much more that I loved.

My English professor once said that if a novel doesn't make you angry for the injustices it serves, then it didn't accomplish what it was written to do. The Grace Year made me angry for the injustices that woman face. Not even just in this novel but in real life. Tierney's story is of a girl who dreams of a better life where society isn't the way it is. That woman have their freedom and they aren't just used to produce children and serve their husbands. She dreams of a world where woman aren't stripped of their rights and aren't pitted against each other in the wilderness for a year when they turn 16. 

I did enjoy the mystery surrounding The Grace Year until the girls go on their Grace Year. I wasn't sure what to expect because the biggest rule in The Grace Year is that, no one can talk about it. So, Tierney isn't sure what to expect. The girls chosen to be married and sent on their Grace Year are sent away to loose their "magic" and powers that are used to seduce men and cloud their judgment.  

The ending of The Grace Year left the book a little open ended in my opinion. I came to two different interpretations for how The Grace Year ended. I'm curious to see how other reads are going to take to the ending the and twists that happen in that last half of the novel. Overall, there were bits of The Grace Year that enjoyed and others that I didn't. I think this book wasn't my cup of tea because I as expecting something different. But I can see the appeal and how other readers are going to love this one. 

Waiting On Wednesday: Twice in a Blue Moon by Christina Lauren

"Waiting On Wednesday" is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking The Spine where we highlight some of the upcoming books we can't wait to read! 

Title: Twice in a Blue Moon
Author: Christina Lauren
Publisher: Gallery Books 
Paperback, 368 Pages
Publication Date: October 22nd, 2019

Summary: As an adventurous send-off to her childhood, eighteen-year-old Tate Jones travels with her grandmother from their small town in Northern California to London. But the vacation of a lifetime is wonderfully derailed by the appearance of two charming Vermont farmers: grandfather Luther and his handsome grandson Sam. Sam and Tate fall hard and fast. For two glorious weeks, the couple share their hopes, dreams, and secrets. Sam admits he suspects his grandfather is dying and that this could be the last trip they take together, and Tate reveals that she is the hidden daughter of one of the biggest film stars in the world—a secret she’s never told anyone before. But when Tate is exposed by a crush of cameras and reporters, she knows she's been betrayed by the one person she thought she could trust. She is forced to decide whether she will return to her quiet life or embrace being in the public eye. So when Sam reappears in her world more than a decade later, can Tate forgive the past and rekindle the passion they shared on their magical trip abroad? And does she even want to?

I recently read The Unhoneymooners and loved it so much, and I realized that Christina Lauren (a duo!) have so many different romance books out there, which means I'm excited to get my hands on them all and start reading. So when I found out about this one, I knew that I immediately wanted to read it, which means I got to the Javits Center super early on the last day of BookExpo in order to sprint over to the ARC drop as soon as the show floor opened. Luckily, I was successful, and I can't wait to pick up this book and fall into the incredible story, which I already know I'm going to love!! *swoony heart eyes*

What are you waiting on this week? Leave your links so we can stop back! 

Top Ten Tuesday: Books On My Summer 2019 TBR!

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl in which we create bookish lists about everything from our favorite characters to love triangles and everything in between!

This week's theme: Books On My Summer 2019 TBR! 


Are any of these books on your TBR for this summer? Make sure to leave the links for your TTT so we can stop back! 

2019 Summer Bundle Giveaway!

Hi everyone! We have some exciting news for you today here at The Book Bratz -- we're launching our 2019 Summer Bundle Giveaway! We have three (3!) sets of bundles to give away, across three of our platforms -- Twitter, Instagram, and the blog! Each bundle contains a copy of two recent YA releases -- NO PLACE LIKE HERE by Christina June, and WE WERE BEAUTIFUL by Heather Hepler, courtesy of the lovely team over at Blink YA! We have some more information about each of the books down below, as well as information on how to enter the giveaway from here on the blog, as well as our other social platforms! So without further ado, let's get into it. (Also, this giveaway is unfortunately US only, but stay tuned for future INT giveaways!) All three giveaways end on 7/1 @ 12am EST! #sweepstakesentry #sponsored


To enter the giveaway from here on the blog, use the Rafflecopter link below and complete as many of those tasks as you wish to gain more entry points!


You also have two more chances to enter this giveaway! Check them out below:

Enter on our Twitter (Check out the pinned Tweet!)

Enter on our Instagram (Check out our most recent post!)



Title: No Place Like Here
Author: Christina June
Publisher: Blink YA
Paperback, 288 Pages
Published May 2019

Summary: Ashlyn Zanotti has big plans for the summer. She's just spent a year at boarding school and can't wait to get home. But when Ashlyn's father is arrested for tax evasion and her mother enters a rehab facility for "exhaustion," a.k.a. depression, her life is turned upside down. The cherry on top? Ashlyn's father sends her to work with a cousin she doesn't even know at a rustic team-building retreat center in the middle of nowhere. A self-proclaimed "indoor girl," not even Ash's habit of leaving breadcrumb quotes—inspirational sayings she scribbles everywhere—can help her cope. With a dangerously careless camp manager doling out grunt work, an overbearing father trying to control her even from prison, and more than a little boy drama to struggle with, the summer is full of challenges. And Ashlyn must make the toughest decision of her life: keep quiet and follow her dad's marching orders, or find the courage to finally stand up to her father to have any hope of finding her way back home.


Title: We Were Beautiful
Author: Heather Hepler
Publisher: Blink YA
Paperback, 299 Pages
Published April 2019

Summary: It's been a year since fifteen-year-old Mia Hopkins was in the car crash that killed her older sister and left her terribly scarred. The doctors tell her she was lucky to survive. Her therapist says it will take time to heal. The police reports claim there were trace amounts of alcohol in her bloodstream. But no matter how much she tries to reconstruct the events of that fateful night, Mia's memory is spotty at best. She's left with accusations, rumors, and guilt so powerful it could consume her. As the rest of Mia's family struggles with their own grief, Mia is sent to New York City to spend the summer with a grandmother she's never met. All Mia wants to do is hide from the world, but instead she's stuck with a summer job in the bustling kitchens of the cafe down the street. There she meets Fig--blue-haired, friendly, and vivacious--who takes Mia under her wing. As Mia gets to know Fig and her friends--including Cooper, the artistic boy who is always on Mia's mind--she realizes that she's not the only one with a painful past. Over the summer, Mia begins to learn that redemption isn't as impossible as she once thought, but her scars inside run deep and aren't nearly so simple to heal ... especially when Mia finally pieces together her memories of the night Rachel died.

Have any more questions? Feel free to comment down below or email us at and we'll get back to you ASAP. Now, go ahead and enter the giveaway on Twitter and Instagram as well to increase your chances! Best of luck! We'd also like to thank the incredible team over at Blink YA for sending us these books to read and then give away! <3

#sweepstakesentry #sponsored

Review: Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

Title: Red, White & Royal Blue
Author: Casey McQuiston
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Paperback, 423 Pages
Published May 2019

Summary: First Son Alex Claremont-Diaz is the closest thing to a prince this side of the Atlantic. With his intrepid sister and the Veep’s genius granddaughter, they’re the White House Trio, a beautiful millennial marketing strategy for his mother, President Ellen Claremont. International socialite duties do have downsides—namely, when photos of a confrontation with his longtime nemesis Prince Henry at a royal wedding leak to the tabloids and threaten American/British relations. The plan for damage control: staging a fake friendship between the First Son and the Prince. Alex is busy enough handling his mother’s bloodthirsty opponents and his own political ambitions without an uptight royal slowing him down. But beneath Henry’s Prince Charming veneer, there’s a soft-hearted eccentric with a dry sense of humor and more than one ghost haunting him. As President Claremont kicks off her reelection bid, Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret relationship with Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations. And Henry throws everything into question for Alex, an impulsive, charming guy who thought he knew everything: What is worth the sacrifice? How do you do all the good you can do? And, most importantly, how will history remember you?

After hearing so much about this book for so long, I knew that Casey McQuiston's Red, White & Royal Blue was the kind of book that I'd be interested in, so at this year's BookExpo, I made sure to buy a copy over at the Macmillan booth. And I'm super glad that I did, because I ended up really enjoying this story! Without further ado, let's get into my review:

As the summary explains, Alex is the First Son of the United States, and his sworn enemy is Prince Henry of England. They are nothing short of rivals every time they are in the same room with one another, not able to stand one another and sometimes not even able to be civil. So when the press catches wind of their rift (thanks to a certain wedding disaster which you'll find out about), they're forced by the press to stage a series of public engagements that make them look like they've been best friends all along, as a way of saving face. But it works better than anyone anticipated -- before long, Alex and Henry realize that they have feelings for each other. Serious feelings. But those kinds of things can turn both of their respective governmental organizations upside down...or can they? Read the book to find out!

I really enjoyed reading this book! It was so funny, with so many sarcastic little quips and hilarious lines that there were several times that I found myself actually laughing out loud. The story itself was also really funny and interesting, seeing the way that Alex and Henry had to try to sell their friendship to the press, and all of the complicated things that involved behind the scenes. I really loved how there was such a wide array of characters in this book, each with their own quirks and personalities and purposes, and it all blended together to create a really rich, funny, heartwarming story that left me feeling all tingly and happy inside.

My favorite characters in this book were definitely, to nobody's surprise, Alex and Henry. I feel like they were perfect balances of one another, with Alex being sarcastic and more "daring", so to speak, while Henry always seemed a bit more withdrawn, softer, and quieter. However, they worked so well together, and even the moments where they were going at each other with insults and "fighting" were really hilarious -- the banter felt really natural and not forced at all, which I really appreciated as a reader. Zahara was also freaking hilarious and I loved her every time she was on the page, with her sarcastic quips and threats and language!

Overall, I really loved Red, White & Royal Blue. I definitely can see why there's so much hype surrounding it, that's for sure! Casey McQuiston's writing is inviting, sarcastic, and hilarious -- three things that help you fall into a story and tear through over 100 pages in a single sitting just because you don't want to put the book down. If you're looking for a read that grabs you and keeps you on the page (and also keeps you laughing!) this summer, then I'd absolutely say look no further than Red, White & Royal Blue!