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Book Review: Watermark by Krissi Dallas (reviewed by Cuyler Creech)

Things on the White Island are anything but peaceful. Whitnee has just gained her memory back, and even though she’s surrounded by her friends, new information arises and she’s not sure who she can trust. The political circle of the island isn’t completely truthful, and the men who kidnapped Whitnee and brought her to the island have escaped, causing Whitnee to fear for her life at every turn and corner. Even Morgan’s sickness is revealed, causing Whitnee to do something so drastic it may cost her her own life. This trip to the island is tearing relationships at the seams, and friendships may never be the same as they once were. When a secret rebel force against the Guardian of the island reveals itself, Whitnee realizes that she and Gabriel are more involved than she may like, and leaving the island may not be her choice anymore. But one thing will keep Whitnee on the island, however long it takes her. To find the weapon that may bring the island back to the balance the tribes once enjoyed. 

To find her father.
Whitnee’s strengths, physically, emotionally, and, if the enemy would have it, elementally, will be tested if she and her friends want to survive what the beautiful White Island has become. 
 
MY OPINION: 

Krissi Dallas has captured my attention the moment I first opened Windchaser, the first book in the Phantom Island series. These books read so easily and smoothly that, as a normally slow reader, took me a matter of a week to read them all. She’s kind of that good, you guys.
One of the reasons I love Krissi’s writing is that she has absolutely no problem with her “teenage” voice. She clearly operates that minefield with ease and precision, really staying true to the age of her characters. I also love how her writing is a rich image into Krissi’s personality. She’s quirky, passionate about what she loves and is interested in, and definitely knows her drama. All of which is finessed to a “T” in conveying the dynamic personalities within all of her characters. Plus, Krissi’s got absolutely no problem really tossing her characters up and creating all kinds of problems and making them miserable. Bad for Whitnee. Completely awesome for us.
Watermark is the fourth and latest installment of the Phantom Island series, but certainly not the least by any means. Krissi picks us back up after she throws us off of Watercrossing’s cliffhanger, and pitches us right back into another tale of drama, mayhem, jealous love,  and, ohyes, elemental abilities. 
Watermark is the revealer of revealers in Krissi Dallas’s elemental bound saga, finally pulling strings together we’ve been dying for to be discovered since we dove into Windchaser. Who exactly were Whitnee’s kidnappers? Who’s behind the rebellion? Will the love triangle between Whitnee, Caleb, and Gabriel finally come to a head? And, probably the most anticipated, IS. WHITNEE’s. FATHER. REALLY.
ALIVE??? Yes, all of these things are revealed in Krissi Dallas’s latest. And, just like the others, it’ll totally knock your socks off. And yes, there’s a ton of drama. But hey, if you don’t appreciate teenage drama by now, I’m pretty sure you’re in the wrong section of the bookstore. Just saying.
For the fourth time, Krissi Dallas has done what she does best: creating a beautiful and dangerous world, tossing in some rocking characters, stirring up trouble in all forms (some a little “fishy), and making us fall in love with Whitnee and the White Island again. Thanks again to the Empress of Elements, author Krissi Dallas, for another thrill ride we won’t forget!
PS. Ahem…go Team Hydro.

Cover Reveal: Watermark, book 4 in the Phantom Island series by Krissi Dallas

Watermark, the fourth installment of the YA fantasy Phantom Island series by Krissi Dallas is finally releasing this fall! If you haven’t jumped on board this island adventure full of magic, mystery, and romance, now is your chance. Enter to win an autographed Phantom Island trilogy pack, an autographed copy of Watermark when it releases, a tribal t-shirt, or an autographed copy of The Collector by debut author Victoria Scott! The giveaway will be open for entries until Friday, June 14. See information below.

And now for Watermark… the dramatic conclusion to the first half of the Phantom Island series…

Excerpt:

I stared at her in frustration. “What is with you?!” I exploded. She was not acting like my best friend. Like my Morgan. “You’ve been so different this summer, and I don’t get it!”

“Well, you’ve been different too! People change, you know,” she snapped back.
“If I’ve changed, fine. But at least I’m still honest with you. You, however, have turned into a liar! If we don’t have trust between us, then what do we have, Morgan?”

Plot Synopsis:

Relationships on the White Island are volatile and Whitnee, Morgan, and Caleb aren’t sure who they can trust—even each other. Politicians are lying, history is being rewritten, and motives are questionable. Whitnee sets out with Gabriel and a band of rebel spies to take back the enemy’s biggest weapon—Whitnee’s father. However, a shocking turn of events proves once again that the Island’s secrets have the power to destroy more than just the truth. Separated from her friends, Whitnee battles her own fears in order to survive and protect the ones she loves. But when Morgan’s illness finally comes to light, Whitnee faces a decision that could alter her future—and Morgan’s—forever. And whether she ultimately stays on the Island or leaves might not be her choice, after all.
 “…[An] earnest tale of magic and romance that deals with the great distance between pain and recovery.” –Kirkus Reviews (Windchaser, Phantom Island Book 1)

Meet the Author:

Krissi Dallas loves pop music, mismatched socks, and fried chicken. She lives in Fort Worth, Texas with her youth minister husband, Sam, and their two wicked Yorkies, Elphie and Luna. Krissi enjoys hanging out with her quirky middle school students and building the dramatic, magical, and mysterious world that makes up the Phantom Island series. Be sure to check out Windchaser, Windfall, and Watercrossing. Krissi loves connecting with teens, as well as readers and writers of all ages! You can stalk her online at www.KrissiDallas.com.  You can also follow her on Twitter @KrissiDallas

It’s Krissi Dallas Day! Cuyler (no longer a teen so I can’t call him our teen reviewer) interviews YA author Kriss Dallas and geeks out



Cuyler Creech, who writes under the name Gale Ryan,  and Krissi Dallas

Before we begin, I’d like to take a minute to just give major props to the wonderfully amazing author-extraordinaire: Mrs. Krissi Dallas. I discovered Krissi when my aunt and I traveled to Montgomery County, Texas for the Montgomery County Book Festival 2013. We pulled into the parking lot, already overflowing with booknerdigans (thank you Lindsay Cummings for the perfectly appropriate name for book-salivating fanguys/fangirls), teen writers, and students headed for the literary bombshell extravaganza that was the Montgomery County Bookfest. Already bouncing out of my skin for the fun that awaited my eyeballs and writer glands (they’re real, they have to be), my aunt pulled the car into the parking lot, sliding into a spot right next to a woman (who may have been the coolest dressed person there) who was unloading a cart of books from her car. Now I’m going to be brutally honest. I had no idea who she was. Never seen her books before. Nothin’. But, despite that unfortunate fact, I was stoked anyway. We’d parked next to a WRITER. Someone who actually got published for making up stories (dream job, holla! *angel’s sing*).
But, being the twitchy fanguy introvert that I am, I just smiled and went on my way, cursing myself with each step I took towards Lonestar College that I didn’t take my chance to speak with a real published writer without anyone else standing in line behind me. But, that didn’t happen. So, I swallowed my self-induced brain punches, and had a *adjective that describes total awesomeness to the bagillionth factor* time, met awesome authors, got my books signed, even got one of my own works handed off to a NYT Bestseller (I nearly died from unrecognized-writer excitement several times on my way home. Still haven’t gotten over it).
But, even though I had some of the most fun I’ve ever had in my life (bookfest first-timer) something still nagged me in the back of my mind. That writer lady. I passed up the chance to talk to her, probably missing out on some invaluably writer-insight, and feeling like a doofus after the fact.
Thank the social network gods we have Twitter and Facebook.
After doing some searching and finding her on both, I hopped on Amazon and found her books. Ohmahgosh her books. Her books are, for lack of adjective-inducing brain activity, the BOMB, yo. I immediately fell in love with the premise. Elemental superpowers, a mysterious island, homegrown Texan characters? Um, heck to the yeah! Elemental powers have been my absolute favorite abilities ever. And to which, just so all the writers who read this know, is SERIOUSLY ignored, or as far as Google’s searching capabilities can attest. So, with the thought process about the length of a fruit-fly’s, I bought Krissi’s first book on Kindle. Few days later: book two. Couple more days: book three. With the ferocity of a starving dog with a prime-rib steak, I tore through those genius tomes in a matter of a week. And I’m a slow reader.
Krissi’s books are genius. I fell in complete and utter love with Windchaser, gripped Windfall till my knuckles turned white, and engrossed myself into Watercrossing until I believed I was right there beside Whitney and her friends on the mysterious White Island playing Coconut Launch. I LOVED them.
And so will you.
 
So, now that I’ve ranted your ear off, let’s get started.

WHO IS KRISSI DALLAS? *dramatic music*

So Krissi. First of all, hey! Second of all, thanks for being here, and listening to me rant about you like a crazy auctioneer.
Haha… I loved hearing your perspective! I do remember the car that pulled up next to me in the parking lot because I was like, “Oh, please don’t let this dress fly up as I’m pulling all these books out of the trunk!”
So when you’re not creating tornadoes with your palms and riding giant dragonflies, what do you do for fun?
For fun, I hang out with our teens at church, go see movies with my husband, travel as often as possible, read books written by my friends, and cruise around in our convertible blasting loud music. Writing and teaching are fun too; they just happen to be the fun parts of my life that form my career(s).
Has the “adult Krissi” changed much from the “teenage Krissi”?
Adult Krissi is somewhat still the same person as Teenage Krissi – just with more patience, perspective, and wisdom! But I am still dramatic, still a dreamer, still listening to teeny-bopper music, and still believing I can be anything I want to be. Haha. I used to pray that God would change my personality and make me a quieter, more gentle person… until one day I finally realized His answer was NO (probably followed by some booming laughter). He made me exactly as He wanted me—and He wasn’t about to change that strong personality! Instead, He refined me and made me learn to read situations that called for gentleness in contrast to situations that called for boldness and leadership. I like to think that life experience has smoothed out my rough, teenage edges, but… Maybe we should toss this question to my friends who’ve known me my whole life??
How long has writing been one of your passions?
MY. WHOLE. LIFE. As soon as I could write, I was creating songs and poems. By third grade, I had written my first complete novel—with illustrations! My GT teacher “published” it with laminating and binding machines. It was about a school girl who became a rock star… and then woke up to find it was just a beautiful dream. (Cheeeesy.) I wrote novels all through my teenage years and quit the habit cold turkey in college when academic studying and a roller coaster dating life picked up speed. But I found my way back once I was settled down and became a middle school teacher.
Where do you get most of your ideas?
Living life! There is no greater inspiration than being out there among real people, experiencing real places, and learning about the world. Out of the beauty and the darkness in our own world flow stories that need to be told. It’s my job to catch those ideas and bring them to life for others to experience!
So the question I ask the most, what is your take on writing outlines? Do you use them? Do you hate them? ’cause I loathe the suckers.
Dude, I’m with you! I do have generic outlines, but my characters are the ones who drive how I get to my major plot points. I am, however, going back and outlining my new spy novel in order to re-plot it and I think it’s making my writing stronger. (I know, I HATE admitting that!!) I recommend the screenplay writing book, MY STORY CAN BEAT UP YOUR STORY by Jeffrey Alan Schechter. This book is solving all my plot problems right now and it’s highly accessible for novelists even though it’s about screenplays!
What is your ideal writer “habitat”?
Me… in a dark room lit only by my laptop. And a hoodie. With some Junior Mints.
Night-writer or day-writer?
I started out a night-writer because I was working full-time… but now that I teach only on Tuesdays and Thursdays (and have summer break) I get to write all times of the day and night. And I get to meet up with cool people like you, Cuyler, for writing sprints at Panera Bread! Rock. On. (See you next week, right?)
Have a favorite book? Dumb question. WHAT is your favorite book?
Worst. Question. Ever. How do you pick one? For starters, any Harry Potter book! But the ones from my childhood that I really believe shaped my writerly affections are the Trixie Belden books, Nancy Drew books, Sweet Valley Twins/High series, R.L. Stine horror books, and Babysitter’s Club series. All full of mystery and teenage drama…and we know teenage [AND adult] Krissi loves that!
What is the square root of…oh wait that’s my math homework. Have you based any of your characters off any real people in your life? Any experiences of yours made it into your writing?
Yes! My three main characters are based on myself, my best friend, and my husband. For the 4-1-1 on how and why I did this, check out the FAQs page on my website! For the record, my hot island boy, Gabriel… totally not based on ANYONE I know. He’s a beautiful figment of my happy imagination. Haha.
How long did it take you to write Windchaser?
Windchaser and Windfall were written as one complete story arc and were originally self-published under one title: WIND. It took me four months of nonstop writing to get a first draft. Then I revised & edited for eight months after that (and then revised and edited with my commercial publisher all over again two years later when the series was picked up)! The real magic happens in the revision stages. SIDE NOTE: I have yet to write another novel that quickly. Seriously. How did I do that?
 
How many books do you plan to be in the Phantom Island series?
The 4 tribes from The Phantom Island series by Krissi Dallas
Eight total – two books for each element. So we have Windchaser and Windfallto make up the Wind volume. Watercrossingand Watermark complete the Water volume and after that, the themes and conflicts in the series take a different shift. So all we have left are the elements of Fire and Earth… although, nobody but ME knows what element comes next. BIG. SPARKLY. SECRET.
Were there any particular parts of the Phantom Island books that were especially hard to write?
The Water books had me in tears more often than not—mostly because one of my characters is very sick in these books and writing it forced my characters (and me) to really think through those issues. Furthermore, while I was writing Watermark, I had several loved ones diagnosed with [and lost the fight with] terminal illnesses and I, myself, was continuously sick through the whole year—swine flu (twice), pneumonia, etc. Strangely enough, that year of my life was miserable and beautiful at the same time. I was really able to tap into some heart issues and deal with them through the pages of a story. There are other aspects of Watermark that were scary hard for me to write, but instead of posting a spoiler here, I’ll just leave with a hint: FISH PHOBIA.
What’s/whats your/you’re biggest/most-big grammar pet peeve?
I’m an English teacher, son! Do you really want to get me started on this topic?
One of my favorite things about your books is that they’re very clean. No sex, drugs, and language. Do you think books need to have all that stuff to still be great, heart-moving books? 
Great question. I think writers have a duty to capture real life and truth in all its intricacies—the beautiful parts, the ugly parts, the light and the dark, the good and the evil. I would rather an author write something that conveys real truth than contrive something that doesn’t ring authentic. That being said, I happen to be capturing the stories of the kind of teens I’m often around—teens who are imperfect, but still morally driven and trying to do the right thing. I have to write what I know—and that is what I know. I was not a teen who was out there flouncing some kind of rebellion or anger, giving in to dangerous or hedonistic whims, and I wasn’t having premarital sex. I was just trying to survive my teenage years with as little baggage and regret as possible! So since that is the life I know, it’s my duty to capture that aspect of teenage world as well, because, NEWS FLASH, it doesexist. I also think that I feel a responsibility for the content of my books because I’m a teacher and a youth pastor’s wife—I gotta walk what I talk, you know? When I write, I keep the teens I know in mind. And I want whatever truth I’m conveying about the world in my story to point them in some kind of positive direction. I’m okay with letting others more knowledgeable than me write about the grittier aspects of life—that’s the beauty in diversity and unique perspectives. But these kinds of books are the perspective I have to offer the world and I’m proud of them… so, do “books need to have all that stuff to still be great, heart-moving books?” Your heart was moved without it, wasn’t it? Enough said.
Are you working on anything un-Phantom-Island related?

Yes, I am currently writing/living/breathing a slightly futuristic America that is making my head spin. Teenage spies. Terrorism. Bombings. School shootings. Wow, that sounds so heavy when I say all that… let’s try some more positive words: Adventure. Laughter. Romance. Friendship. Loyalty. Freedom. Redemption.
Last question, what advice would you give the seeking-to-be-published writers out there?
Write what you know because nobody can tell the story in your heart like you can. And as you write what you love, study your craft and always become better at it. Your first work is never your best—EVER. Oh, and the biggest thing… Don’t. Give. Up. There will be times when you want to, but a quitter never became successful! That quality of persistence is what will separate you from the ones who don’t make it. Hang in there, writer friend. And find me online. We writers love to commiserate, celebrate, and work together.
 
And that was Krissi in a nutshell. Albeit a big, sparkly, awesome nutshell, but a nutshell all the same. There is so much more to this fantastic author, much of it discoverable in her books as her personality is woven into them. Krissi is a great author and friend, and is very responsive with any fan of the White Island. Look her up. Read her books. You will not be disappointed.