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Christina Reads YA

"A children's story which is enjoyed only by children is a bad children's story. The good ones last." --C.S. Lewis

Because You Love to Hate Me | Q&A with Ameriie

Hey everyone!

By now, you've probably heard me say a lot on Because You Love to Hate Me, a YA villain-themed anthology edited by Ameriie that pairs booktubers with authors (cc: pre-order promoback cover reveal & anthology pairingfront cover reveal, original book blog post announcing the anthologyoriginal EW cover reveal post (read Ameriie's introduction)).

So then you won't be surprised that today I have a Q&A with Ameriie, who is both the anthology editor and the author with whom I was paired. If you're curious at all about the anthology, check out what Ameriie has to say!

 
TRANSCRIPT:

TB: All right, our Hangout on Air is live. I am here with Ameriie tonight to have a Q&A about, uh, Because You Love to Hate Me. Hey, everyone! I'm --

A: Hi, everyone!

TB: -- Tina Burke, and there's Ameriie. [laughs]

A: This is our first Hangout. Neither of us have ever done a Google Hangout (on Air) before.

TB: All right, so maybe for our starter question, let's get Ameriie talking about what inspired her story from that blurb. How did she go through her process?

A: Oh, so you know, of course I have the sampler, woohoo! It's so crazy 'cause it --

TB: [holds up sampler to the camera]

A: -- aaahh, yeah! It's so beautiful. It's going to be so great. Just in case, just in case anyone is wondering, this is going to be velvet touch, so it's like soft touch - I believe that's the technical term for it. And the black blood is going to be shiny and also 3D. And this [points to the flower] is going to be foiled, it's going to be very shimmery. It's going to be very --

TB: Beautiful.

A: -- pretty.

TB: Right?

A: I'm really excited. It's going to be a lot thicker than this obviously, because this is just the samples, so make sure you guys all pre-order that baby. So yeah, so it was kind of cool, you gave me a lot of great prompts, 'cause you know a lot of people don't know that. But um, a lot of people don't know that uh, you know each, each contributor was giving each author a set of - I think it was four - four, was it? A set of four, four, at least four. Could've been more, but at least four. And you were prepared--

TB: --I broke the rules. [laughs]

A: It was awesome. It was like a list. That was awesome, though. Um, and so I chose, you know, "Jack and the Beanstalk" as well as a certain Evil Tyrant That Shall Remain Unnamed, because we don't want to let the cat out of the bag. We don't want people to google him yet. You'll know that it's a he. So I'm really excited about that. But there was another one, too, that was like I was very tempted to do, and it was really neck in neck, and that was, I forgot her name, but she's the, like the vampire. The uh--

TB: --Countess, but I can't remember her name right now either, [laughs], oh! [Note: this is who we were discussing].

A: --on her too. I just love villainous-- see, I always rooted for the villain. We've had so many conversations about this, it's always about the villain. Seeing the other side, and trying to understand what's going on with that person, and I think it's just, that's kind of, I've been obsessed with that. Like forever. Just 'cause I always, I have a lot of empathy for the villain, I think I always do. Ever since I was a kid. So a lot of those things that people would think are funny, like a lot of the Roald Dahl books in which the child is playing all these pranks on the teacher, I was just thinking, maybe the teacher is sad and lonely when they go home, there's no one there. There's so many reasons why they're this way. How about you? How easy was it, or how difficult was it to come up (not only) with so many prompts, but just getting into that head space in the first place?

TB: Oh, I love ideas. It's just like looking up research and then I'm not the one who actually has to write them. [laughs]

A: [laughs]

TB: You know, I mean anyone can daydream.

A: But you write, too. You do write, so you know, you know all about that side of things as well.

TB: I don't know. I think the, the stage of writing that's literally the easiest to do is coming up with the ideas. The ideas, right? 'Cause you can think of so many different things, you're like this would be so cool if I got read about it, but then like, actually exploring the details and making them come to life is what's really key and what's really fascinating whenever you're reading. Right? And that's what you do so well with, like, the little details in your story are excellent.

A: Oh, thank you! For those of you guys who don't know, Christina's also my critique partner. And she's awesome. She's really helped me a lot, um, she's, I think you've read everything. You've read everything. You've read everything, I believe.

TB: Not what's-its-name, Chloe, right? I don't think I've--

A: --Oh, no one's read The Chloes yet. It's now called The Chloes. No one has read that yet. Just me. I'm the only person who's read it, and yeah, it's got some freshening up to do. For those of you guys who don't know, Christina and I met on Maggie Stiefvater's critique partner find--

TB: Yeah.

A: --which is, if you're a writer, definitely check out Maggie Stiefvater's critique partner find. It's kind of a love match thing. It's really hilarious the way she sets that up. But we met that way, and we kind of exchanged some papers, and then we kind of just you know, it really just worked for us, we really trust each other's opinion. So then of course when we did this project, I was definitely like, I must have Christina give me my prompts. [laughs]

TB: [laughs]

A: I just, I knew that I would love any prompt that you would give me, so I was less, I wasn't as nervous. 'Cause the idea of getting a prompt from someone is really nerve-wracking--

TB: It is, but I have no doubt that you would've been able to succeed with any prompt that you were given.

A: Thank you. I actually broke into a little mini sweat when I just said it 'cause just thinking about it was like, what if you can't deliver? What if you don't know what to do? What if you don't know how to write the right short story? And then you're getting a prompt. It was really, really cool. I'm really happy that the two combined, because I was able to throw in my love for "Jack and the," well, it's not even a love for "Jack and the Beanstalk" 'cause I always really liked that story, but because I was always indignant about that story. About the giant--

TB: Really?

A: --Dying in the end, and how he was just like after his gold that Jack was stealing. I was like, well, hold up--

TB: Hold on, Jack--

A: --Jack is horrible! He's a thief.

TB: [laughs]

A: Why is the giant the bad guy? I didn't understand why the giant was the bad guy. I, I, for the life of me, could not understand that.

TB: Giants are always the bad person or the bad creature, and when they're not, it's just like the exception to the rule.

A: You wrote a great breakdown on giants and what they've always meant to people and how what they symbolize. Do you want to go into a little bit of that as far as what you wrote in there?

TB: Aw, I only have like two pages, you can't tease that. [laughs]

A: [laughs]

TB: Um, oh, there's something you said that, oh, I mean you're also the person who came up with the entire idea for the book. Do you want to walk us through that? 'Cause you're the one--

A: Yeah!

TB: --who gathered everyone, gathered the idea of Because You Love to Hate Me.

A: Oh, just combining the two worlds, 'cause you know we both have been very involved in the bookish side of things as far as bookish internet things, you know, definitely been through so many iterations of that. When, if we ever meet you guys in person, we will have stories. It's, people are so passionate about it on the internet and then I felt like it'd be a really good way to combine the two. My agent also really, really helped. You know, it's definitely like both of our brainchild. Brainchild? Our brainchild. It was our brainchild. And I've always loved villains, so it just made sense to combine you know, villains, and then bringing in youtube, doing something that hadn't been done before, not that there are always anthologies, but to have an anthology, a YA anthology with villains and adding in booktube was just such a cool element. And then you know, it was just trying to bring everything together. And that was kind of hard, because you know, I was trying to reach other people I didn't know, most of the people I didn't know, and I just kinda had to go out there and then ask. Asking the authors was really hard as well 'cause booktube, we kinda, you know, there's like one degree of separation really, and with authors, it can be like that, kinda sorta maybe. But it's just different because you don't want to be the crazy person on twitter like, hello, I've got this --

TB: [laughs]

A: --project, and I would love for you, you know what I mean? People ask them things like that all the time. I just did not want to add myself to that list. So, but, I was really happy, because I made some new friends, and I was able to pull together the project, and I did not do it by myself, because I mean, like, without everyone involved, every single contributor, without my agency, there's no way that it would've happened. There's just so many moving parts, 'cause I think there's like twenty-six of us, right? Yeah, I mean, usually I think an anthology, my agent was saying, is like thirteen 'cause you know you're dealing with the contributors. And you might have a little more if you have someone writing a foreword and that kind of thing, but to have like twenty-six, it's just, that's a lot. But actually it's gone pretty smoothly.

TB: Do you think that you would do something similar like this in the future?

A: Oh, yeah! Absolutely. Absolutely. It did kinda take over my life a little bit more than I thought it would--

TB: [laughs]

A: --'cause there was a lot of emailing, and like logistical things, and I was like hold on, what is going on? [laughs] But it was really cool. It was, it was a different, a different kind of exercise I guess, you know. But I definitely would do it again. I have some ideas. I've got some ideas. There are some cool pre-order options, pre-order swag by the way. We have notepad, an exclusive notepad and pencil, like a matching set, which is really cute, and a bookplate, which is going to be signed by me. I would love it if everyone could sign it, but logistically that would be really--

TB: --it'd be impossible. [laughs] Also, you're responsible--

A: [laughs]

TB: --you're the responsible one.

A: Yes, that would definitely be a little crazy.

TB: So I was thinking that maybe we could wrap it up with uh, just like if there was one thing that you wanted to tell everyone about the anthology, what would it be?

A: Oh, that's a really good question. Um, if there was one thing that I would say I would want everyone to know, it's that a lot of people put a lot of work into it. Like everyone really, really brought out their creative guns. The essays, the booktuber contributions, they're so different, um, people chose different formats, they, they each offer something, something different to say about villains. You could obviously say we love morally grey characters, and we love when things aren't so black and white, however, everyone has more. Everyone expands on that in a different way, in a different angle. And that, that was really difficult, because when you have thirteen people who are talking about villains, you are going to get, obviously everyone -- well, actually we did have one person who didn't really love villains, but you're going to hear things--

TB: what--

A: --the, yeah, one person usually does not root for the villain. And was like nope, the villain is never my favorite, that was one person. [laughs] So that was interesting. But for the most part, people were like, I like the morally ambiguous grey character, but then you went deeper, and from a different angle, and each essay, each writing contribution is so specific, which was amazing, and on the author side, we got to see some really, really, it's, there's a big diverse list of villains there. It goes from the really atrocious to some of the more empathetic, um, villains. There are different styles of the story as well. Um, we have some straightforward tales as well as there's a really cool texting story that's told all in text, so I think we really got to have fun, and I think just having the prompt parameters made everyone start thinking, what's a different way I can structure the story? Or my writing piece, which I thought that was really cool. My story's not like any text or writing backwards or anything like that, it's pretty much straight up story. [laughs]

TB: But don't be underselling your story. I love it and everyone else is going to love it, too, girl.

A: Thank you. I do really like my story as well. I do really like my story as well. I love it.

TB: Woohoo! All right, so Because You Love to Hate Me is being released on July 11th, and we hope that you all can pre-order between now and then. If you want to join us on twitter, from June 5th through July 24th, we're going to be talking about villains then, again, and you'll probably hear more from us in the future, soon, too, [laughs] about the anthology.

A: We're all on the internet. Make sure you guys pre-order! Support the anthology 'cause we want to also do this again.

TB: Woohoo! All right.

A: Bye!

---

If you want to pre-order, here are some links--

 
After all, there is a pre-order promotion!
 
Also feel free to add on Goodreads :D.

On Mondays, from June 5 - July 24, check out the Bloomsbury twitter feed, as we'll be discussing villains more generally. You'll also hear more about the anthology pretty soon from all of us!

The anthology releases July 11, 2017 from Bloomsbury. I hope you all are as excited about it as I am!

Because You Love to Hate Me Pre-order & Chatting about Villains

Hi, everyone!

Guess what? If you pre-order Because You Love to Hate Me, a YA villain-themed anthology that pairs booktubers/bloggers with authors (cc: initial announcement, cover reveal, back cover and author pairing reveal), you will get a notebook and pencil set, and a bookplate signed by Ameriie.

The pre-order is open to anyone in the US, Canada, UK, Ireland, Australia, or New Zealand, and applies to both print and ebook formats.


As the Bloomsbury post says:

"Submit your proof of preorder here by July 10th, 2017 in the USA and Canada, July 12 in the UK and ROI, and August 31st, 2017 in Australia and New Zealand."


Read the post for the full details if you're interested.

 

If you want to pre-order, here are some links--

 

 

Also feel free to add on Goodreads :D.

 

And on Mondays from June 5 - July 24, check out the Bloomsbury twitter feed, as we'll be discussing villains more generally. You'll also hear more about the anthology pretty soon from all of us!

Yay, I hope you're as excited as I am!

Eliza and her Monsters by Francesca Zappia | READ THIS NOW!

This past Tuesday, Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia was released into the world, and you all need to get a copy. Now.

I was an Eliza beta reader about a year and a half ago, and I finished reading my hardback yesterday. All the praise that I had already given the beta version? Oh, wow. Magnify that by a hundred. This book is fantastic. Here are my 5 reasons for why you need NEED to read it.

 


1) Fantastic Characters--

It's a well known fact that Chessie makes amazing, multi-layered characters, the type to delight fans of all ages (cc: Made You Up). Her characters feel flesh and blood. They make you want to cry and scream, and you get frustrated on their behalf. Chessie's attention to detail makes her characters come alive, with their own little habits and phrases. And with such fantastic characters, you're guaranteed to be engaged in the story, even if you don't always agree with what the characters do.

Eliza and Her Monsters - Francesca Zappia
2) Breaking Gender Norms--

The romantic interest in this book is a hulk, former football player and now fanfiction writer and a selective mute, with a soft voice. The main character is a girl with greasy hair and social anxiety, and she's this super popular creator of a webcomic. Society tends to portray female creators as being Nice, Polite Women - women need to comprise, to smile more often, etc. Here, we have another story to rival that. And many of the side characters also break gender norms. I don't know about you, but I'm very pleased to have a story where the characters aren't in these flat cardboard boxes of what we expect (e.g., alpha male). This also makes the characters feel more real to me.

3) The Unique Formatting--

You can look at several of the Goodreads reviews that mention the photos - here, for instance. Or just at look at the EpicReads post of the first two chapters. You can see the inclusion of the Monstrous Sea webcomic pages, and the prose transcription beneath. You can see private messages between the characters - the moderators of the webcomic and Eliza, the romantic interest and Eliza. You can see forum interactions and forum profiles. Most of the YA books out right now don't have this amount of layering within their stories. Horror YA sometimes includes pictures, and other fandom related books might have some stories, some fanfiction--not to this extent, not to this level of metaness. See point below.

4) Unlike Anything Else You've Read--

This book has been compared to Fangirl and Afterworlds and Nimona, because every book needs to be compared to something, so you have an idea of its marketing. It's a fact of life that you build on schemas that people already have of the world. But this book is unlike anything else that you've read. You only get Cath's fanfiction in Fangirl, some of the story from the main character in Afterworlds. Nimona started off as a comic. None of these is quite the same as Eliza and Her Monsters. Here, you get the main character's creation and see how she interacts with her fans, and you see how fanfic writers interact with the creator and the fandom. You also get to hear about a series of books that she loves, too. Chessie has posted this online - the Children of Hypnos story. The main character has a drive to create after the fandom that she loves no longer exists. You have access to that story too. There's this amazing level of metaness in this story that ties so well into the themes of creation, fandoms, etc. I repeat: unlike anything else you've read.

5) So Easy to Relate to--

If you're reading this book, there is a good likelihood that you will relate to SOMETHING in this book. Whether it's the main character's social anxiety, the need to create, the desire to interact with the fandom, or just loving how the fandom interacts-- there is something for everyone. And you know that Chessie has interacted with or been a part of fandoms, because it shows in her writing. It shows in how fandoms a portrayed. Marieke Nijkamp wrote the blurb, "A love letter to fandom, friendship, and the stories that shape us, Eliza and Her Monsters is absolutely magical." Yes, yes, yes. A love letter to fandom and friendship and stories. Yes. 100% true.

READ THIS BOOK!

PS - This wonderful novel got a starred review from Kirkus, Publisher's Weekly, Booklist, and School Library Journal.

PPS - Here is my original pre-review: I read a manuscript of this book about one year ago to date. If you like Made You Up, you will most certainly love Eliza! Chessie brings back her trademark endearing humor in another wonderful mix of adorable romance, quirky characters, and multilayered plotting (plus the cool formatting here, which is typically reserved for YA horror, but hey, Eliza is just that awesome). I would also recommend this book to fans of Fangirl and Afterworlds.

Big News: I'm Going to Be in a Book!


HUGE news! I am going to be in a book! Specifically, I’m participating in the YA villain-themed anthology, Because You Love to Hate Me curated by Ameriie, which is being published in July 2017 by Bloomsbury simultaneously in the US and UK, and as an audiobook in the US and UK. I’m not participating as an author but as a booktuber/blogger. More information below the cut! Aaaah!



You can check out Ameriie's announcement video here (and the others at their individual channels & spaces). Also theofficial Publisher's Weekly announcement here.

Add Because You Love to Hate Me to your Goodreads shelf here.

THE AUTHORS INVOLVED:

  • Sarah Enni: Sarah is the creator & host of the First Draft Podcast, and will be making her debut YA writing appearance in BYLTM. 
 
You’d think that might be all the contributors to the anthology, but Because You Love to Hate Me is different from most anthologies. The above authors will be writing short stories based on villain-themed prompts provided by booktubers!

THE BOOKTUBERS INVOLVED: 

All booktubers will be paired with one author. They will write an introduction to that author’s story, and we’ve all already provided prompts for our authors to use as inspiration. You'll find out later who is paired with whom, and which villains are being used :).

Let me rave about this anthology. Can I just say how much I love this sort of creative collaboration among readers and authors? We’ve seen it in the community for things like Litographs fanart T-shirts, extra content based on reader votes / input, paperback pages printed as appreciation for reviewers, etc., but this is first story collaboration that I know of, and I think that’s really neat.

So, not only is this anthology cool because of the creative collaboration, but it’s also cool because OF ALL THOSE AUTHORS. Renée Ahdieh? Gorgeous, sensual writing that can add really great layers to characters and here, to a villain we love to hate! Soman Chainani? The School for Good and Evil has a great atmospheric start, and Chainani has already switched up the moral good/evil sides—I’m sure his villain will be compelling. Susan Dennard? Everyone at the Truthwitch launch had mentioned how the villain was intriguing and complex, and Susan will create something equally, if not more, exciting for this anthology! Marissa Meyer has already written a book on the villain of the Lunar Chronicles (aka Fairest), so her villain will be equally compelling. Uh, did you not see me ramble on about my love for Serpentine? Cindy Pon creates wonderful, multi-layered characters, and I can’t wait to read the villain she will write! Victoria Schwab! Vicious! Blurring the lines between what’s right and wrong, and who’s the bad guy – sounds like a recipe for creating another great villain! Samantha Shannon’s Bone Season series is on my all-time favorites list, and of course I’m excited to read about her villain! Adam Silvera has already dealt with moral ambiguity in More Happy Than Not: how does a place like the Leteo Institute exist? With his character-centric focus, Adam will create a great villain too. Andrew Smith has been compared to Kurt Vonnegut, so duh, he’ll create an awesome work. April Genevieve Tucholke has gorgeous, atmospheric writing and River from Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea was a fascinating, multi-layered morally ambiguous character, so hello awesome villain-to-be! Nicola Yoon created multi-layered characters in Everything, Everything and I’m excited to see where she’ll go next after such a powerhouse debut! Sarah Enni is making her YA fiction debut with the anthology, and that's really exciting too!

BUT YOU KNOW WHO I’M MOST EXCITED FOR? Ameriie. I’ve been Ameriie’s critique partner for about three and a half years now, and all of her work is fantastic! Great writing and characterization, fast-paced, multi-layered plots, thematic works with story at the forefront, and I can heap on so, so much more praise. She's definitely an upcoming author to watch :), and I can't wait to see what see comes up with too.

ARE YOU AS EXCITED FOR BECAUSE YOU LOVE TO HATE ME AS I AM? I hope so!

Learning from Books as a Reader (Changing Reading Tastes)

A lot of y'all seemed to like my 5 Fantasy Authors I Fangirl Over post, so I thought that I'd go over more books that I've read and learned from as a reader about my own reading tastes. (And I don't mean learning facts - though I once did write about that as well).

As a reader, my reading tastes are always changing. And I realized that:

A.) I don't like when fantasy books start off with the main character as a kid (though the MC is an actual adult). I actually like middle grade novels; I like the voice, I like the characters, etc. But when fantasy books begin by showing us the main characters as a child - or even begin at age fourteen and then head to age seventeen - I start to wonder when the story will actually begin. Plus, the voice isn't the humorous, upbeat middle grade voice; it's the voice of an adult showing you how the character came to be where they are now. On a practical level, I can acknowledge that that's the way our lives work - if we're truly coming of age, there's no one "starting point." We learn many, many lessons along the way. At age fourteen, something guides you as you continue developing on through to seventeen and such. Yet I no longer have the patience to slog through those beginnings to see what kind of character I'm following (yeah, a younger version of you reflects the older version but not 100%; I'd like to think that I'm much more interesting now than I was at a younger age lol). Stories with an older, more "classic" writing style, also often considered a more "literary" style, tend to do this because pacing is of less importance. And I find myself skimming the beginnings when they do. Take, for instance, The Lies of Locke Lamora. I'm only on page 10 or so. I'm already bored not because it's badly written but because that's the kind of beginning I'm not a huge fan of. On a surface level, the writing is great. It's establishing the suspense of who Locke Lamora is and how he got to be the way he is and what exactly he is now, given his criminal start as a child. But for this reader, I'm ready for something else to happen.

B.) I've said before that I like when romance is a side plot, but what I really meant is that I like when it's tightly tied to the main plot. To me, that's a slight difference. Take for instance the Captive Prince trilogy. I hesitate to call it a fantasy romance, though in many ways that is exactly what the books are. And that's because the romantic aspect is tied very, very tightly to the political intrigue of two princes trying to reclaim their thrones. Every one of their conversations has this undercurrent of tension, even when they're discussing what they'll do next to thwart the Regent. I looove books with that kind of tension. I often dogear the conversations and scenes that I love best -- frequently, those are the romantic scenes, and if the book has tied the romance tightly to the other plot, that means almost every conversation is one that I'd like to dogear. And those are the books that I love best. Another great example? Summers at Castle Auburn. The romance there also involves other obstacles that the couple often discusses when they're together, and when you've read the book and know how both sides have grown and how they see things, you can go back through and read the scenes again, see how much is left unsaid. Definitely dog ear worthy.

B. Part II) I love romances where the main character thinks that he/she loves another person while the romantic interest waits for them to realize, hey, I'm better for you. YES. I love romances tied to the coming of age plot. The main character is innocent and naive. He/she has a crush on someone else. He/she doesn't see what's right in front of him/her. See, even though I recognize the practical elements of starting off as a kid, I feel like this right here is another good way of showing how the main character goes through a lot of change in a short period of time. Here's a lesson that the main character learns and grows from. Some people might consider this a love triangle - I don't. The tension is so perfect in these scenes, where you as a reader can tell that the real romantic interest is there; we have to wait until the main character realizes it as well. *Sigh*

C.) My favorite kind of openings give us a hint of who the main character is while setting up the major conflict. The Winner's Curse has one of my favorite openings. From the beginning, you know that Kestrel likes to gamble with sailors and frequently wins because she's more clever than people expect. She also disobeys her father in gambling; this is what she does on her own time, for herself. You already get a sense of her character within those first couple of pages, and then not long afterwards she's at the slave block... and buys Arin, which sets off the central conflict for the book and trilogy. I also just bought Riddle-Master. In the first chapter, the main character is ordering his family around - telling them to get to their individual duties. We see his responsibilities, we see his every day life, we see his love for his family. And yet we see his family recognize his lies (they have a specific dynamic with each other), and he has to admit to what he did when he was grieving for their parents. We get a sense of their backstory and how that loss has affected each of the family members but also how the backstory then sets off the central conflict (he set off on an adventure when his parents died, answered a riddle, won a prize-- but, oh, the prize meant more than he realized). It's such a brilliant beginning that I immediately bought the entire trilogy; I felt like my brain was getting bigger just by reading it.

Do you ever read books and think about how you've learned more about yourself and your reading habits? What kind of tropes do you avoid and what kind of openings do you like best?

 

Spring Book Haul 2016

Even though I'm moving in a couple of months, I seem to have a penchant for buying books. I mean, my bookshelf is teeming with books that I still haven't read and WHAT DO I DO? I BUY EVEN MORE BOOKS. Ugh, I dread when I'll have to lug these sluggers with me to the Post Office for shipping. BUT ANYWAY LET'S BE CHEERFUL. LET'S LOOK AT THE AWESOMENESS I BOUGHT AND HAVE READ!



The Books That I've Read:

1. The Winner's Kiss - Marie Rutkoski

I LOVE the Winner's trilogy. The Winner's Crime was on my Best Books of 2015 list, The Winner's Curse was onmy Best Books of 2014 list. I nominated The Winner's Crime in the Epic Reads Book Shimmy Awards and probably have mentioned these books at multiple points, in multiple posts in this blog (5 Fantasy Authors I Fangirl Over,Preview of 2015 Books, Review: The Winner's Curse, TBR: Releases to Watch Out For, Review: The Winner's Crime, My Reading Profile, & more). It should thus come as no surprise to you that I pre-ordered The Winner's Kiss and spent the 29th reading that book. Also spent the weekend and week before trying to sneak peeks at the book through Amazon excerpt, which is an obsessive habit I have when I reaaaaaally want to read a book (until I shake and distract myself by doing something else).

 

Ahem, anyways. This book surprised me in a lot of ways, all of them good. I also understand why they changed the covers -- the girl in the ball gown no longer fits the horrific scenes of war. If the first book set the grounds for the differences between the two countries and the romance, establishing our link with Arin and Kestrel; and if the second book delved deeper into strategy, games, political intrigue, alliances and quiet rebellion amid heartbreaking loss; then the third book was about all of that coming to head. War. Violence. The consequences of the politics between these three major countries. The differences in beliefs and how they've shaped our characters' attitudes and hopes but how there's still common ground to be had. The power of love and stories, forgiveness and new life amid an onslaught of death. As always, lots of character development, beautiful writing, romance, political intrigue, strategy, intriguing world-building, and more. Yes to these books.


The second book reminded me a little of Bitterblue (by Kristin Cashore). This book reminded me a little of the Queen's Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner and the His Fair Assassin trilogy by Robin LaFevers. Right now, I can't think of a good comp title for the first book, but I think that if you like any of the aforementioned books, you should definitely try The Winner's trilogy.

2. Summers at Castle Auburn - Sharon Shinn

Sharon Shinn is mentioned by a lot of fantasy authors, it seems. So I wanted to try one of her books, and Summers at Castle Auburn is the one that was recommended. If you read my Learning from Books as a Reader (Changing Reader Tastes) post, you know that I'm not a huge fan of books that begin with the main character as a child. Summers at Castle Auburn does that. But it also does something which I am a HUGE fan of -- twining the romance in with the main plot very heavily, and also making the main character's coming-of-age twined in with her realization that her initial crush sucks and that the real romantic interest is the one she loves. If you watched my booktube video, you saw how many dogeared pages there was. That's because when the romance is that way, I bookmark basically every page there's even the slightest encounter between the main character and the romantic interest. It makes no sense, but I love it, and I read Summers at Castle Auburn the day before I was presenting a poster at a research conference, and clearly I should've gotten sleep. Instead I read. And had a book hangover. *Sigh*

3. Serpentine - Cindy Pon

I read Serpentine a while ago. I reviewed Serpentine, nominated Serpentine in the Epic Reads Book Shimmy Awards, and included Serpentine in my Best Books of 2015 list as well as my Cinderella Book tag. I ordered Serpentine when I pre-ordered The Winner's Kiss, so the book didn't arrive until just now, but I'm happy to finally have my own shiny copy... and y'all should read the book too! Highly recommended from me (just check out any of those links!).

4. The Wrath and the Dawn - Renee Ahdieh

Like with Serpentine, The Wrath and the Dawn I had already read. I just wanted to own a copy. Persian culture is slightly different from Middle Eastern culture, I think, but as someone with Middle Eastern heritage, I can say that Renee Ahdieh capture the essence of Arab culture pretty well.

The Books That I Have Yet to Read:

5. A Fierce and Subtle Poison - Samantha Mabry

A Fierce and Subtle Poison was on my 2016 YA Debuts I Want to Read list. As I mentioned in my Best Books of 2015 list, I want to read more Young Adult Magical Realism novels-- so much so that I made a list of my current YA Magical Realism recommendations. When I was in the Strand, I read the first couple of chapters of A Fierce and Subtle Poison and really loved both the writing and the setting of Puerto Rico (though I think that I still needed to attach the main character). The book has been blurbed by both Nova Ren Suma and Laura Ruby, and I love their books too, so I'm looking forward to finishing this one later!

6. Feed - M.T. Anderson

Ameriie at Books Beauty Ameriie recommended Feed to me a while ago, particularly the audiobook. But my library doesn't have the audiobook, and when I saw that Feed was at the Strand for only a few dollars and that Feed was "out of print," I bought it anyways. When I'm in a more science fiction mood, I'll read this one. I'm pretty sure it's considered a classic of YA literature too.

7. The Riddle-Master trilogy - Patricia A. McKillip

The Riddle-Master trilogy has one of my favorite opening chapters ever. If you read my Learning from Books as a Reader (Changing Reader Tastes) post, you know that I was pretty entranced with this book. The first chapter introduces us to the main character, who is a land-owner. Traders are coming, so he tells his brother and sister to go about their duties. There are also childhood friends and others who are in the crowd when they find out about the traders. So, you get a clear sense of the immediate duties and setting for the MC's family and life (as well as a sense of the personalities of each of these side characters as they interact with each other). Then, you learn that the MC's parents disappeared a while ago, and that the siblings have all grieved in their own way, and his way was to go off on an adventure, solve a riddle, and a win a crown from a ghost. This backstory is revealed in a convincing way -- whereby we see his family recognizing that he's acting weird, and they confront him, and so we see what normal family dynamics are like, as well as when one of them is acting strangely. We get a sense of the main character's personality through his interactions with his family, his daily duties, and his backstory, and we get a sense of what the central conflict will be, since winning this crown clearly has consequences and implications that the main characters doesn't know yet. It's awesome. I felt like my brain got bigger reading that beginning, and so I immediately bought the entire trilogy. Can't wait to read the books!

SO, those were the books I bought this past spring. What are you planning on reading soon? What have you bought recently? Have you read any of these books? Let's discuss!
 

Afraid to Read (the Pressure of Hype & Your Own Expectations)

I am afraid to read The Raven King. I was one of the lucky few whose pre-order had shipped out early - who people were threatening (don't you dare release spoilers!) and begging (release spoilers! I can't wait). By this account, I should've already finished the book, especially because spoilers are out there and I don't want to be spoiled. I've mentioned my love for The Raven Cycle multiple times, and it was one of my most anticipated books of the year. Yet I have not finished the book. I am afraid.


Do you ever get like this? Where a book can be so hyped and your expectations so large that suddenly you don't even feel like reading the book anymore? I'm on page 84, I believe, and that was all good and I was still excited. But then I started to embrace the bad habits-- I started to skim ahead, I looked at the ending. That's not me saying "bad book" but rather a part of that fear. What will the book do? I love Maggie's writing and I had to slap myself out of that one because hey, skimming is not enjoying the writing in the same way. It's a strange situation. I don't want to not read the book - it'll sit on the shelves and god knows when I'll get to it later, if I don't get it to now. Yet reading now means some part of the experience might be ruined -- when you're not even sure you want to read at the time because you've built the book up, why read it?

So I turn to you my fellow readers. What can I do now? Do you have any tips to combat the pressure of hyped books and any tips to get back into the reading experience and the experience of The Raven Cycle? I don't think I'll have the time to reread the previous novels, and the recaps aren't the same, but...? Help!

 

Tina Makes the Bookish Rounds (101): Cover Reveals Part II

Tina Makes the Bookish Rounds is a feature that will let you know about recent MG/YA/NA book related news. I'll post about articles from the publishing industry, cover reveals, discussions from the book community, the latest tv/movie news, and giveaways that you're hosting. If you would like to follow along with cover reveals during the week, see my Pinterest. (If you're interested in how I make these posts, here's your guide.)

 
Er, I haven't posted a bookish rounds since January 27, I believe, and even this cover reveal round-up covers covers from March 2 until today, April 27. You could say that I'm a little bit behind. (Make sure you check out my cover reveals round-up (101) too. That post covers reveals from January 27 - March 2). I do still plan on making a bookish rounds post at some point, even if it's literally been 3 months since the last one. At least I'm caught up on cover reveals! ha ha. I really do miss being more involved and knowing more bookish news and such. At some point, maybe I'll be less behind...
 
young adult and middle grade cover reveals
young adult and middle grade cover reveals
young adult and middle grade cover reveals
Lament - Alexandra Adornetto, redesign (formerly titled Ghost House)
young adult and middle grade cover reveals
young adult and middle grade cover reveals
Grimm's Fairy Tales, audio version illustrated by Divya Srinivasan
Hotel for the Lost - Suzanne Young, redesign (formerly titled Hotel Ruby)
young adult and middle grade cover reveals
young adult and middle grade cover reveals
*not sure about this book
young adult and middle grade cover reveals
young adult and middle grade cover reveals
young adult and middle grade cover reveals
 
Which of these books are you looking forward to? Will be posting the next bookish rounds soon maybe... Which of the covers are your favorites?
 

Young Adult Adaptations That Will Become Successful

As the release dates for the adaptations of the final books in The Maze Runner series and the Divergent trilogy approach, people are hungry for the successor to the young adult franchise throne. After The 5th Wave movie adaptation yielded less than expected in the box office, some film analysts have written that no YA adaptation could truly follow in the footsteps of The Hunger Games, Twilight, and Harry Potter and that the young adult adaptation market was dead.

It's not.

(Will future films ever reach the level of success that those "Big 3" did? I don't know that anyone can make a prediction of that magnitude, but films like Divergent, Maze Runner, The Fault in Our Stars, If I Stay, Paper Towns, etc. were still considered successful even without becoming a "Big 3." And I do think that future films have, at least, the potential to reach that level of success.)

Most of the aforementioned articles, though intended to analyze the future success of the YA adaptation market, fail to take into account the perspective of its target audience, avid fans of young adult books. While they may not live up to the massive success of Harry Potter, these adaptations have the potential to do well and have even caught the attention of Hollywood studios.

Here's to hoping that they're greenlit soon.

 

 

1. The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater: Every November on the fictional island of Thisby, its inhabitants compete in a dangerous race riding legendary, deadly water horses.

Movies like War Horse (also an adaptation) and Seabiscuit prove that there are plenty of filmgoers who find stories focusing on horses compelling. Like Stiefvater's writing, the story premise has a cinematic quality, and may appeal to fans of The Hunger Games who don't necessarily want another dystopian tale but appreciate the danger inherent to The Scorpio Races. Stiefvater would appeal to Hollywood backers looking for an already established fandom; she has sold millions of copies of her books and maintains an active online presence. As for merchandise, which has typically been associated with several YA films, I can picture water horse stuffed animals and the ribbons that riders wear sold alongside the t-shirts and artwork that would accompany any film. Stiefvater has also posted a recipe for November cakes, a treat written into the culture of Thisby.

Status: In September 2015, Focus Features announced that Matt Sobel would direct The Scorpio Races based off the screenplay written by Jack Thorne.

2. The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani: Two best friends are kidnapped to attend the legendary School for Good and Evil, which trains its ordinary students to become fairy tale heroes and villains.

Technically, The School for Good and Evil is middle grade, not young adult, but it should still appeal to YA fans, especially given its premise. The success of series like Marissa Meyer's The Lunar Chronicles and Sarah Maas' A Court of Thorns and Roses prove that the young adult market remains interested in fresh spins on fairy tales while popular TV shows like ABC's Once Upon a Time (now in its sixth season) highlight the interest of a mainstream adult audience. The School for Good and Evil also has its own legion of fans: in a promotional article for the trilogy's conclusion, which was published in July 2015, Publisher's Weekly reported that over 500,000 copies had been sold worldwide. Soman Chainani hosts an online Youtube show, Ever Never TV, to promote the books and interact with his fans.

Status: Universal Studios optioned The School for Good and Evil, but as Chainani wrote on his website this past January, the script is currently being rewritten.

3. 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson: A girl follows travel instructions written in envelopes from her dead aunt, which she must open one by one, and backpacks through Europe without a cell phone or guidebook.

I was in eighth grade when the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants adaptation was released, and I can still remember my excitement. Capturing a similar adventurous summer feel, 13 Little Blue Envelopes is in the unique position as a YA contemporary novel of appealing to fans who don't want another teary If I Stay or The Fault in Our Stars but who liked the recent journey-focused story in Paper Towns. Fans of 13 Little Blue Envelopes will love watching the characters come to life onscreen while a wider audience, unfamiliar with the novel's contents, will be caught in the suspense of not knowing what instructions the next envelope would contain. All moviegoers can imagine what adventure they would plan or take with their own set of envelopes. As one of the early YA writers and a close friend of YA author celebrity John Green, Maureen Johnson has a significant fanbase that should also draw Hollywood's attention.

Status: In conjunction with New Line Cinema, Alloy Entertainment purchased the rights to develop 13 Little Blue Envelopes as a feature film in April 2015.

4. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart: A girl no longer remembers the tragedy that happened at her family's summer home but seeks to discover the truth behind all the lies.

The rich setting -- a private island off the coast of Massachusetts -- calls to mind the previously successful adaptation of Gossip Girl and the notoriety of the Hamptons and Martha's Vineyard. Slipping into the lives of the wealthy Sinclairs enables a kind of escapist fantasy even as the truth and the main character's confusion lend a heartbreaking edge to the suspense of what happened two summers ago. Random House came up with a catchy slogan to encompass the fanbase: if anyone asks you how the book ends, just LIE. Like Maureen Johnson, E. Lockhart is a well-established YA author and friends with John Green, whose blurb on the first edition proclaims that We Were Liars is "utterly unforgettable."

Status: Imperative Entertainment hired Stephanie Shannon to write the screenplay in April 2015.

Bonus: Nimona by Noelle Stevenson, The Fever by Megan Abbott, This Is Not a Test by Courtney Summers, Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard, The Young Elites by Marie Lu, Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas, Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi, Famous in Love by Rebecca Serle, and Just One Day/Year by Gayle Forman are also movie and tv adaptations widely held as promising.

(Ask me more about these, and I'll tell you why ;)).

Bonus (X2): Set for 2016 releases, the tearjerker A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, fan-favorite Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by J.K. Rowling, and star-studded Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs look like promising adaptations as well. And this year we can prove to all the naysayers of YA and YA films that no, they are not dead even if they don't reach the "Big 3" level of success.

Ah, but now you're asking, "So, Christina, what are you trying to do? Is this a call to action? Is this a letter to studios? Are you updating all of us on the status of these films?"

It sort of is a call to action. I wish studios were listening. Sometimes I think that what gets made into a film, or what's optioned, are things that I can't ever actually imagine playing out on the big screen - like whoever optioned the book wasn't actually envisioning the movie but just keeps hoping for the success of the Big 3.

But I'd like to hope that's not what all the options mean; I'd like to hope that the YA market stays alive and well. I'd like to hope that the movies above will eventually get greenlit, as I think that they particularly would be successful. And I am updating y'all on the status of those adaptations, so that we can all discuss the awesome potential of those adaptations and maybe our collective enthusiasm will push for those books to be made into their respective adaptations. Maybe a studio representative will see this post (ha ha ha), and push for those adaptations as well. Who knows? But above all, I do love to discuss YA books, so let's chat!

Do you think that those adaptations will be successful? What books would you add to the list?

Do Awards Matter Less to the YA Book Community?

There's no question that awards help a writer's career. Not only do they often boost sales, involve a money prize, and offer prestige and free promotion for a book, but the author also gets to mention winning that award for the rest of his/her career. What makes me curious about awards is whether there really is a sort of differential perception in adult, YA, and MG audiences.

 

 

 

For adult books, it seems like awards are universally acknowledged as a way of distinguishing literary merit. And for adult books, it's been shown repeatedly how winning them boosts sales. I remember returning from a MEG at NYU with a professor and discussing books with him; he said, well, of course you can't go wrong with a book that won the Man-Booker Prize (he'd mentioned how he loved The Luminaries or was going to read it soon--something along those lines). In the kidlit market, I wonder to what extent awards offer that same sort of prestige. Librarians seem to hold an even greater sway in kidlit, parents asking about books for their children, and one of the easiest things to do is to recommend an award winner. I'm not terribly familiar with the MG book blogosphere, but my impression is that it seems smaller than that of YA blogosphere. There are tons and tons of YA book bloggers and booktubers and so on--can we say then that booksellers and librarians might hold greater influence over MG sales than YA sales, given that bloggers are such a huge mass in the latter but not the former? Maybe that's an unproven, unfounded assumption. But I am curious about the perception of awards in the different communities.

It was reported that winning the Printz and Newbery greatly affected sales for Matt de la Peña’s Last Stop on Market Street, illustrated by Christian Robinson, and Laura Ruby's Bone Gap. Print sales of Last Stop went up by 677% and 264% for Bone Gap. My guess for part of that discrepancy in sales increase is that Last Stop was the second picture book ever to win the Newbery and Matt de la Peña was its first Hispanic author winner. Naturally that got people curious. Of course, maybe Bone Gap was already selling more than Last Stop, and its percentage increase was thus smaller. But I wonder whether part of the discrepancy is also because awards matter more for younger--and paradoxically older--readers; in the YA community, they still hold weight but maybe not as much. Is there a trend to value (value meaning a sales increase, I guess) more commercial than literary (okay, well, let's not get into the artifice of commercial/literary labels) books? I don't really know the answer, but what do you think?

Awards are undoubtedly a mark of respect and prestige regardless of the book's audience, but is it strange for me to think that the readership for YA seems to care less about them than the readership for MG or adult? Or do I have this biased opinion because we as bloggers don't tend to mention awards all that often--we're much more drawn in by the "hype" than anything else?

Loyalty to Authors, Not Books?

I've seen the concept of reader loyalty discussed quite a bit in the YA book blogosphere. Something that I wonder about with regard to reader loyalty is whether there's a differential loyalty depending on genre for author vs. a book series.

 

First off, what is the step to committing to author loyalty? You love one series so much that you deem an author an auto-buy author. You love an author's online presence and decide to get whatever they make because duh, they're awesome. But what of when an author says something you don't agree with? What if their personal opinions are counter--or anathema--to your own?

But even more interesting to me -- what is that step between becoming loyal to an author versus loyal to a series? I've been thinking about this a bunch because I think that in fantasy, you can get a lot more people loyal to finishing out the series whereas in contemporary, they very much emphasize being loyal to an author. Rainbow Rowell, Gayle Forman, John Green-- they've all built their names to be their own brands, and that's without a series; their contemporary work can be very different, but their voice, their writing has become what draws in your loyalty. For fantasy, or most SFF series, it seems like people are committed to the series itself, more so than the author. Undoubtedly there will be people who are interested in following Marissa Meyer's new books, for example, but how many people are loyal to her and her new projects compared to those who were excited for the Lunar Chronicles? Is there a big difference? I don't know. I also found myself thinking about the massive popularity of authors like Sarah J. Maas and Maggie Stiefvater, authors who have earned reader loyalty more than usual, loyalty to the author maybe more so or on par with loyalty to the series they write (or the fandoms are great at making everyone else think that?). And I started to wonder whether in SFF, the bridging ground between author loyalty and book loyalty are the characters. Something about characters and being able to write about them in fanfics or fanart makes fans more loyal to the creator, doesn't it?

Do you think that part of the difference in author vs. book loyalty has to do with the genre and the characters? What makes you transition from being loyal to finishing a book series to being loyal to the author?

Christina Makes the Bookish Rounds: Cover Reveals (101)

(This post covers cover reveals from January 27 - March 2nd)

 

Christina Makes the Bookish Rounds is a feature that will let you know about recent MG/YA/NA book related news. I'll post about articles from the publishing industry, cover reveals, discussions from the book community, the latest tv/movie news, and giveaways that you're hosting. If you would like to follow along with cover reveals during the week, see my Pinterest. (If you're interested in how I make these posts, here's your guide.)

 
Hey, so today's post will only be cover reveals! Since I haven't made a bookish rounds post in over a month, there was just too much to do in one day (aka to make a full post). It took me over three hours just to round up these covers -- not enough time for everything else! Undoubtedly, when I do post the bookish rounds (101), I will have more cover reveals that I missed since I'll be looking through publisher twitter feeds, but for now, check out the last month's cover reveals!
 
 
 
*actually a picture book - my bad
Frozen Charlotte - Alex Bell, new publisher design
 
The Gallagher Girls - Ally Carter, all six books redesigned -- I’m not sure if larger versions of the covers will be released, so until then I’ve linked to my pin of the image.
 

Which of these books are you looking forward to? Will be posting the next bookish rounds soon, hopefully! (not today, but soon). Which of the covers are your favorites?

Fall 2015 / Winter 2016 Recap

Wow, it's been a really long time since I did a recap post. In October, I wrote a book talk, but I didn't even mention my blog posts. The last time I did a recap, then, was in September! So much has happened here on the blog, I've read so many books and gone to some great book launches, and I've received and purchased quite a few books as well!

 

Ah, well. This post was supposed to go up two weeks ago, along with a video that I had recorded in the usual recap way. :/ But basically I'm still trying to catch up with the posts that were scheduled for my time off but didn't go up.

 

On the blog, I have been maintaining my bookish rounds posts, which are round-ups of the latest MG/YA/NA book news in terms of book deals, cover reveals, discussions in the book community, tv and movie adaptations, and new YA releases. Since September, you'll findedition 88, edition 89, edition 90, edition 91, edition 92, edition 93, edition 94, edition 95,edition 96, edition 97, edition 98, edition 99, and edition 100. And, in fact, in terms of the book news, I gathered half of last year's adaptation news for a round-up post, and I made a calendar with 2016 Adaptations relevant to the YA community, so we could keep track of them. I discussed Mockingjay Part II, my New Year's Bookolutions for 2016, 2016 YA Debuts on my TBR list, 2016 YA Books (Non Debuts) on my TBR list, blogging and booktubing, the effect of awards in the YA community, my reading profile, reader loyalty, and 5 fantasy authors who I fangirl over. I reviewed Dreamstrider by Lindsay Smith, the Eon duology by Alison Goodman, the Mapmaker's trilogy by S.E. Grove, Passenger by Alexandra Bracken, and The Mirror King by Jodi Meadows, and gushed about my Epic Reads Book Shimmy Award Nominations and the best books that I'd read in 2015. I also asked for read-along buddies, and answered 15 weird questions about myself so that y'all could get to know me better.

Fall 2015 & Winter 2016, I didn't blog or booktube more frequently because in the fall, I’d been applying to graduate schools, and then there were the holiday breaks (aka laziness at home), and throughout February, I had a bunch a few graduate school interviews to attend (aka why you didn't hear from me much on social media then either). Maybe one day soon, I'll have actual big news to celebrate on that account. (Pray for me! Cross your fingers! Whatever you do.). In January, I attended the book launches for Truthwitch by Susan Dennard/Passenger by Alex Bracken and This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp. I appreciated Marieke’s discussion on how the story was inspired, in part, by a yellow school bus, and the discussion of American gun culture vs. in the Netherlands. I appreciated the easy banter between Susan and Alex, and their personable approach to describing their writing styles and their experiences (e.g. researching ships in the eighteenth century). I loved how both events were moderated by other YA authors as well (Sona Charaipotra (Dhonielle Clayton was supposed to be there but I forget what happened) and Erin Bowman). And I ended up purchasing all three books for the book launches, as well as books by the author hosts. Here's to hoping grad school fares well too, so that I can say the season was an all around success :D.

 
In terms of what I've read this past fall and winter.... oh, what a varied list. I’m going to just list them out, and say a few things at the end!

Middle Grade:

1. The Golden Specific - S.E. Grove (review here).

Young Adult:

1. Passenger - Alexandra Bracken (review here)
2. Dreamstrider - Lindsay Smith (review here)
3. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children - Ransom Riggs
4. Eon - Alison Goodman (review here)
5. Eona - Alison Goodman
6. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them - Newt Scamander
7. All of Rosamund Hodge's listed short stories.
8. The Knife of Never Letting Go - Patrick Ness
9. Vengeance Road - Erin Bowman
10. Glory O'Brien's History of the Future - A.S. King, audio
11. A Creature of Moonlight - Rebecca Hahn
12. Wink Poppy Midnight - April Genevieve Tucholke (review to come!)
13. The Star-Touched Queen - Roshani Chokshi (review to come!)

Adult Romance:

1. Wallbanger - Alice Clayton
2. Rusty Nailed - Alice Clayton
3. Screwdrivered - Alice Clayton
4. Mai Tai'd Up - Alice Clayton
5. A Lady of Persuasion - Tessa Dare
6. Goddess of the Hunt - Tessa Dare
7. Surrender of a Siren - Tessa Dare
8. The Rogue Not Taken - Sarah MacLean
9. A Gentleman in the Street - Alisha Rai
10. Once Upon a Marquess - Courtney Milan

Adult Fantasy

1. Feverborn - Karen Marie Moning
2. Captive Prince - C.S. Pacat
3. Prince's Gambit - C.S. Pacat
4. Kings Rising - C.S. Pacat

Nonfiction:

1. The Silk Road: A Short Introduction - James A. Millward.
2. The Madame Curie Complex - Julie Des Jardins
3. Bossypants - Tina Fey, audio
4. Yes Please - Amy Poehler, audio

What’s the deal with all the romance novels? Well, I’ve mentioned this before, but I share my Kindle account with my mother. You’d think this means she’d be more willing to read YA novels—alas, those are all just mine. Anyway, she loves contemporary and historical romance. The majority of the romance novels I read this past fall/winter, I read when I was at home with her. Usually when we’re together I remember that oh shit, I’m supposed to buy more romance novels for her to read. But it doesn’t feel right to just buy her anything out there – in some ways, I get caught too because then I want to make sure I’ve gotten her books that she’ll like. Like Alice Clayton. I read Alice Clayton’s book because I’d posted her cover reveal sometime ago, and I remembered writing that this was a new NA series for her, or she was continuing on Wallbanger, and it was pretty popular. So I tried the books out – I liked them, and my mom loved them. My mom also loves Tessa Dare, and Sarah MacLean and Courtney Milan are automatic pre-orders for her as well.

The young adult and middle grade books went pretty well, and I looooooove the Captive Prince trilogy, so yaaaaaas. And hey, look, I read about 32 books from late November to the end of February. Not too shabby, eh? And now interviews are over… :D :D

In terms of the books I received:

1. The Voyage to the Magical North by Claire Fayers
2. The Treasure of Maria Mamoun by Michelle Chafoun
3. The Wrong Side of Magic by Jannette Rallison
4. Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke, which was in my 2016 YA Books on My TBR List (and which I now read -- expect a review soon!)

The Voyage to the Magical North is about a girl and her friend who join a pirate’s quest to find the Magical North, which sounds like a place of secrets and myths and lots of fun. The Treasure of Maria Mamoun is an island adventure about a girl from the Bronx on a journey of mystery and discovery. The Wrong Side of Magic is a modern-day retelling of The Phantom Tollbooth, and all three are Middle Grade titles. I haven’t requested many ARCs as of late, and well, I’ve been more in the mood to read MG, as if it’s easier to review MG because I’ve read so much YA at this point, I almost feel saturated. Have you ever gotten that feeling? Do you think that that’s just a part of a reading slump or something more lasting? I was excited for Wink Poppy Midnight, and it was great – the book was also my first ARC from Penguin Random House. I’m a kind of a passive blogger uninterested in emailing publishers for ARCs, but if I’m sent the request form, I do look through the catalog. It’s always unexpected for me when any of that turns out, and I was doubly excited for Wink Poppy Midnight since it was in my 2016 YA Books on My TBR List. Did not disappoint!

That’s what I read, received, and blogged about in fall 2015 / winter 2016. How were these past couple of months for you? Did you read a lot or find a lot of new favorites? Have you been on your blogging/booktubing game?

Personal: 15 Weird Questions Tag (Get to Know More about Me)

Hey, hey. Today I thought that I'd do the 15 Weird Questions Tag that I saw on Ameriie's channel. If you've ever wanted to know more about me, the blogger behind the blog, here's a little insider's chat.

 

1. A nickname that you get called.

Stinkle, Tinkle, Teenie, Tina, Xtina, Crystal, Kawthar, Hoots. Stinkle comes from a friend calling me Stinkleberry (I don't remember how we both got onto food nicknames), which she's then shortened to Stinkle. Tinkle is from that. Teenie, one of my friends said she just thought was cute and the other said that it fit me really well. Don't really know what that means but I like it anyway. Tina is what my family all calls me, plus my guy friends tended to do that too. Xtina is for all the people too lazy to write Christina but who don't like Tina. Crystal was what an Arabic professor called me, as if Crystal was an actual Arabic name lol. Kawthar was the name my actual Arabic professor called me. Hoots--my best friend was reading William S. Burroughs in high school and gave us Burroughs inspired nicknames.

2. A weird habit.

When you're alone, do you ever get the urge to dance? Not even really dance. It's almost like I'm performing for an audience but the audience is just me. And then when I realize what I just did -- like a slow gif montage -- I'm like wtf?

3. A weird phobia.

I feel like a lot of my phobias have been made mainstream (e.g. insects, sharks, crocodiles, the dark). As a kid, I used to run up the stairs, especially when it was dark, because I was afraid that an imaginary tiger was chasing me. In pools, I hated those bulging lights underwater because I was afraid they would metamorphize into sharks. Also that sharks would somehow come up out of those drains. My family loves to tell the story of when I was four-years-old, woke up crying, and kept saying that an alligator had bitten my finger off, waving my still very intact pinky in their faces.

4. A song you are ashamed to like so you blast it in private.

Here's a secret: I don't listen to a lot of music. I first started listening to music in eleventh grade, when I'd gotten fed up with not knowing what my friends were referring to. I went to a couple of concerts. Occasionally I look up music from tv shows and other pop culture, but do I actively pursue a lot of albums or artists? Nah. So I guess this means I'm not really ashamed to like anything because I'm not invested enough.

5. A pet peeve.

Just one??? And yet I can't remember any now. Hmmm. Smacking. When people don't hold the door open for others--and no, I don't mean "chivalry" from men. I mean everyone. It's just common courtesy. When multiple people are walking on the sidewalk and they don't move to make way for someone walking in the opposite direction. C'mon. You're really going to make me walk in the grass or snow because you can't be bothered to move for ONE moment? Common Courtesy, again.

6. A nervous habit.

I don't think this counts as a habit really, but when I get nervous, my hands get bone cold. It's like my body is saying, hey, send all the blood from the doofus's hands into her brain, she's going to need it. I guess I'm the typical nervous presenter where I say um a lot, fidget on my feet, etc.

7. What side of the bed do you sleep on?

I didn't realize this until now, but I have almost always slept on the left side. I don't think I'd care either way though.

8. The name of your first stuffed animal.

I don't know that this counts, but my brother had a white polar bear stuffed animal he called Marco Polo. And that's really the only stuffed animal I remember holding.

9. What do you buy at Starbucks?

Cafe mocha or the chilled, pre-packaged fraps. I'm all about the chocolate syrup to make coffee taste better.

10. Beauty rule.

Roll out of bed.

11. Which way do you face in the shower?

What does this mean? Is there a special way to face in the shower?

12. A weird body skill.

I don't know that I have any. I can roll my tongue. I think someone once got freaked out when she saw how I could push my thumb back. Something about double joints? I don't know. People get freaked out kind of easily.

13. Comfort food.

My mother's cooking mmmm. Garlic chicken sandwiches -- make garlic dip (garlic cloves, oil, some lemon juice), spread that dip all over a halved pita, add rotisserie chicken and diced tomatoes, fold the sandwich and place under a George Forman grill to make it somewhat panini like. Mmmm. Spicy chicken sandwiches from Stone Oven. Tabboule. Ice cream. Chocolate. Mmmm.

14. A word or phrase that you say all the time.

I used to say No Shit, Sherlock a lot because of my brother. Then it was coolio. Then rawr. I don't know what I say anymore.

15. What do you sleep in?

Giant T-shirt and basketball shorts.

If you want to do this tag as a sort of "let's get coffee, get to know me" post, go for it! Consider yourself tagged by me and come back and leave the post for me to read :). Do we share any weird habits? How would you answer these questions? Let me know!

Seeking Read-along Buddies!

Are you looking to tackle your TBR in 2016? So am I! And I really, really need to read a lot of books. By the end of July, I will probably be moving again. I will be starting graduate school in September, and having less than six months before all of that, I need to read the books that I've bought or obtained in the past two years-- at least to make the move easier on me when the time comes. Once I read these books, I can pass them onto friends, send them home, etc. The one thing I don't want to do is just let them sit there because I'm too much of a book hoarder or optimist to let them go, and then have to decide what to do at the last minute. So, I've turned to read-alongs. Read-alongs are awesome because a.) extended discussions of books b.) they keep you on track for tackling your TBR and c.) reader relationships! d.) duh, actually reading. Without further ado, let me know if you have any of these books and would like to read them with me at any of the dates I'll mention.

 
*Already read with Josephine at Word Revel
*This is the only nonfiction title that I've featured.
Normally not open to nonfiction read-alongs but would love to discuss this
*This isn't my book; I forgot to take it out of the picture
 
Some of these I may end up finishing on my own anyway - I was about 60 pages into Shadowshaper and 100 pages into More Happy Than Not, and they were good--just haven't gotten back to them yet. Doesn't mean, though, that a read-along would be unwelcome. Some I've kept for sentimental reasons (the ARCs...), but I would like to read and pass onto someone else or buy a different copy, etc. Here's a tentative schedule so far.
 
April 4 - April 10 (I will be gone sometime in those two weeks, ~ April 2 - 5, but I can catch up); April 11 - April 17; April 18 - April 24; April 25 - May 1 (I will be gone ~April 28 - 30 but again I will catch up).... Pick one of these weeks or multiple weeks, pick how you'd like to read (all within one week or spread out over days/weeks), pick a book or multiple books. I'd love to read a book with you! Please! Otherwise, perhaps you could share your way of tackling your TBR?

5 Fantasy Authors I Fangirl Over

 I’ve talked on and on before about how fantasy is my favorite genre. I’m more likely to be drawn into reading a fantasy novel than any other, and some fantasy novels have inspired me as a writer too. Yes, I like to write. I’m a writer and a reader and a blogger. For the five authors I fangirl over, some of the commonalities include: a.) character-oriented fantasy; b.) mostly third-person narratives; c.) plots that go beyond the ‘lost prince trying to reclaim throne’ type; d.) complicated characters, plots, everything. And of course, the fact that I feel like my mind is getting bigger while reading their books.


1. KRISTIN CASHORE:

I think that one of the most interesting things about Kristin Cashore’s Seven Kingdoms series is that they’re all so different in terms of plot, though they’re all high-concept works that go waaaaay beyond their simple description (“a young queen must help her country heal after the destructive reign of her psychotic father” could describe Bitterblue but doesn’t get at any of the novel’s complexities). Probably the simplest, most typical coming-of-age of her books is Graceling, but that was her debut novel, and I think that ever since then, she’s been working on adding more and more complexity into her works. For me, she was the first author I’d read in YA fantasy who was also very much writing character-oriented fantasy. After reading her work, I feel like I can’t go back. I can’t read much plot-based fantasy—they’ll never be my favorites compared to the ones that put character first. The ones where the questions and themes and symbols of the series are embedded into the characters—and yeah, plot-based fantasies can do this, but comparatively, it’s a lot harder to add in the same level of complexity into the characters compared to the actual events of the plot. Kristin Cashore is the YA fantasy author who also gets mentioned in almost every YA fantasy comparison (“Graceling meets XYZ”; “For fans of Kristin Cashore”), and that’s for good reason.

2. MEGAN WHALEN TURNER

I’ve basically already fangirled hard over The Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner. If you follow that link, you’ll get the full sphiel on why I loooooove that series and fangirl over MWT in full, but for now… If I learned how to write high-concept character-oriented high fantasy from Kristin Cashore, I would learn how to write a high fantasy centered on a character that’s like a living legend from Megan Whalen Turner. (If this sounds familiar, that’s because Sarah J. Maas, among many others, was inspired by the Queen’s Thief series). I also think that of all the authors here, MWT probably has the *most* layered into each scene of her books, particularly as you go further into the series. The most in the sense that no scene will ever be just what it is on the surface; you might have a scene where a guard is confronting his peer, but there’s a lot more meaning embedded into the narrative and particularly how that scene contributes to making the main character, Eugenides, even more of a living legend. Yet, for all that the series shows his change in fortune, it never once fails to humanize him. Many fantasies alternative PoVs within a book so that you can relate to different characters; the Queen’s Thief series shows that you don’t need to do that to give a character complexity, but the choice of PoV and what that perspective adds are definitely questions to ask. We don’t always get the main character’s point of view, and he’s not always the main character of the book in question, but there’s no doubt that each book is adding to his character arc and that is the major one tied to the series arc.

3. C.S. PACAT

C.S. Pacat is not a YA fantasy author as of this moment. The Captive Prince trilogy is very much meant for mature readers (but I listened to an interview with her and it sounds like she might be writing a YA fantasy right now—so maybe we’ll hear more from her in the future). I first learned about the Captive Prince trilogy from Emily May at the Book Geek; I was intrigued, but I wasn’t sure if I should add onto my TBR—especially given its heavy sexual violence. Then Sarah J. Maas recommended the books, and my feed was full of the books again. So I decided to read the beginning, and I got hooked by the promise of the characters. As this article on the Female Gaze explains, one of the crucial elements in her books is this shifting of the default to homonormative. In her world, people shudder so much at the idea of bastard children that most relationships are with the same sex. And it got me thinking about how most fantasy novels, and novels in general, fail “to realistically portray sexual dynamics that do not exist in response and relation to traditional heterosexual relationships.” (The article goes over much more than that). C.S. Pacat has written novels where the default has shifted and made me consider—well, hey, why don’t more novels do this? This is something to always keep in mind while world-building. Plus, she’s ALSO amazing at adding in many layers to each scene and creating complex, multi-layered characters; they have a certain vitality, to the point where despite not knowing what Laurent would plan next or what other comradery scenes would come next for the army, I can picture the characters.

4. MAGGIE STIEFVATER

Maggie is the most different of the authors on this list because I wouldn’t technically call her work high fantasy (though if The Scorpio Races is on a fictional island and the society is different from ours with its water horses, why can't it be called high fantasy? finally high fantasy that doesn't equate to medieval patriarchal times...). Regardless, if C.S. Pacat has taught me about the defaults in world-building and characterization, Kristin Cashore about high-concept character-oriented high fantasy, and Megan Whalen Turner about layered plotting centered around a living legend, Maggie taught me the importance of atmosphere, of mood and feeling within a scene, and how those can work to achieve characterization in conjunction with the other elements I've mentioned. Maggie has talked about how she likes to think about her writing as 'moving stuff around in a reader's brain',' which creates a specific effect for each scene (and also each image for her characters). And reading the Raven Cycle, I feel that magic is real. I feel like I'm with her characters, experiencing the wonder of the forest, the creepy delight of trees speaking in Latin. That's a rare gift to find in a lot of fantasies, which prize political intrigue over readers being in the moment with the character.

5. MARIE RUTKOSKI

Finally, Marie Rutkoksi is a mastermind when it comes to introducing symbols within each scene. In The Winner's Curse, Kestrel agrees to something her father says, and he pats her cheek with his dirty hand. That dirty handprint is a wonderful symbol -- for the characters and modern associations. We might think of a "devil's bargain" caked onto Kestrel's face. Her father working with dirt, with his weathered hands; Kestrel wandering around the house, so focused on finding Arin that she doesn't look to see if there's dirt on her face -- so much to be said about the characters. It's just such a strong image! It stayed with me for a long time. And feeling like you're trapped in, marked so strongly by something you agreed to -- I as a reader can really relate to that feeling. In The Winner's Crime, Kestrel is eating desert with a sugar spoon during her dinner with a certain character (maybe the first chapter?). A sugar spoon, specially made, speaks to the luxury of her dining companion and his staff, the amusement and terrible waste of making a spoon that you can only ever use *once*. It also brings to mind the modern phrase of 'eating out of a silver spoon' -- except that this token of privilege is made of sugar. Still, it characterizes Kestrel well, and sets a dark foreboding tone for the rest of novel, given its place at the beginning. The spoon tastes sweet at the beginning but then by the end of the meal, it has dissolved into nothing (which, btw, matches really well with what Kestrel says at the end, no?). And note: those were only 2 images! One for each book! There are so, so many more in The Winner's trilogy.

All of these authors do amazing things with their novels. If you're a writer, especially a fantasy writer, I'd suggest reading their works for yourself to see how they've manipulated these different elements. If you're a reader who doesn't like to write, well, I'd still suggest reading these authors's works because they're brilliant. Are any of these authors among your favorites? Who do you fangirl over, and whose work makes for good lesson material for writers?