Thursday, September 22, 2016

Serpentine by Cindy Pon

Title: Serpentine
Author: Cindy Pon
Publisher: Month9Books
Publication date: September 8, 2015
Pages: 300
Source/format: Library//Paperback 

Rating: ☆☆☆

Synopsis (from goodreads.com):

SERPENTINE is a sweeping fantasy set in the ancient Kingdom of Xia and inspired by the rich history of Chinese mythology.

Lush with details from Chinese folklore, SERPENTINE tells the coming of age story of Skybright, a young girl who worries about her growing otherness. As she turns sixteen, Skybright notices troubling changes. By day, she is a companion and handmaid to the youngest daughter of a very wealthy family. But nighttime brings with it a darkness that not even daybreak can quell.

When her plight can no longer be denied, Skybright learns that despite a dark destiny, she must struggle to retain her sense of self – even as she falls in love for the first time.

M Y  T H O U G H T S

Skybright is the handmaiden to the Yuan's youngest daughter, Zhen Li. Although their companionship is one that is very sisterly, Skybright cannot tell Zhen Li everything since she hides a secret that can threaten her life.

Cindy Pon does a wonderful job with female relationships. Friendships and bonding are super important no matter what the status the characters are. Serpentine is inspired by Chinese folklore with a twist. Pon's description of the food is fantastic! I was constantly craving all the wonderful Chinese delicacies mentioned in the book. It's refreshing to see a f/f relationship in an Asian setting. It's something that is always kept under the wraps so seeing it while reading this historical fantasy helps understand the motives of Zhen Li.

Although I enjoyed reading about Chinese traditions, customs and the culture, I found it unrealistic that the Yuan family didn't check on Skybright's disappearances and how she didn't get reprimanded. The romance in the novel was very insta-love with Skybright and Kai Sen; there was no time for love to grow and blossom. I was surprised how Zhen Li ran off to see her lover but no one was able to find her besides Skybright.

I also wasn't found of the Skybright fighting off the dead. It became increasingly boring and I wanted to learn more about Skybright as a serpent demon. There wasn't too much information about Skybright and her family's history but I hope to find out in the Sacrifice, the next installment in the series.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Boston Teen Author Book Festival: 5th Anniversary

Autumn is my favorite time of year not only because of the cooler temperatures, the crisp air and the foliage but I enjoy all of the wonderful festivities such as the Boston Teen Author Festival (BTAF). This year marks five years of the festival's existence! The festival has been well attended and this year the festival will be expanding from one building to two buildings. BTAF is located at the Cambridge Public Library and at the Cambridge Rindge and Latin School on Saturday, September 24th. This will be my 3rd time attending BTAF.

Co-founder and director, Renee Combs, has been fantastic over the years to create such an amazing festival for people of all ages to enjoy YA! This year's line up of authors is absolutely fantastic! Some of my favorite authors will be attending and I cannot wait to meet them and hear all the authors speak at the panels. Some of the authors I am looking forward to meeting include Melissa Landers, Eric Smith and Emery Lord. Of course I can't wait to see Roshani Chokshi, Zoraida Córdova, Lori Goldstein and Marie Rutkoski again. If you are curious about the authors attending, check out the author list.

What's great about the festival are the panels that are offered and the fact that you get to meet so many people interested in same thing as you. I have met so many people who enjoy reading the same books and who love the same authors I do. It's definitely an event to attend if you are around the Boston and Cambridge area. What I love seeing the most is when teens get to enjoy a safe and welcoming environment to celebrate their love for books. I wish I had something like this when I was younger.


If you plan to attend BTAF, come and say hi if you see me! I promise, I don't bite. 


Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Roald Dahl's 100th Birthday Tour: The Missing Golden Ticket and Other Splendiferous Secrets


Thank you so much to Hannah from Irish Banana and Brianna from Wunderkind PR for hosting this wonderful Roald Dahl Birthday celebration blog tour! Not only is Roald Dahl one of my favorite children's book authors since I was a child but I have the pleasure to showcase The Missing Golden Ticket and Other Splendiferous Secrets on Roald Dahl's actual birthday nevertheless.

I have not read this book prior being selected for the blog tour but I was so excited I was selected to feature this title. The top-secret missing chapter from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is included within the book. Don't forget to check out the giveaway at the bottom of the post.

Banner from khalsaread.wordpress.com


Title: The Missing Golden Ticket and Other Splendiferous Secrets
Author: Roald Dahl
Publisher: Puffin
Publication date: June 2013
Pages: 118
Source/format: Finished copy from Publisher
Find it:

Rating: ☆☆☆

Synopsis (from goodreads.com):

Secrets and surprises from Roald Dahl!

Feast your eyes on a secret! Between these covers is a long-lost chapter—and the original ending—from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and other delicious never-before-seen tidbits from Mr. Wonka’s factory. Then slip into some tasty tales from Roald Dahl’s life to discover more about the world’s No. 1 storyteller. No Roald Dahl collection is complete without this splendiferous treat!

M Y  T H O U G H T S

When I first started to read The Missing Golden Ticket and Other Splendiferous Secrets, Roald Dahl lets readers know some secrets from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. He includes a did you know section about some trivia facts about Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and how there were originally ten lucky kids who uncovered a golden ticket. Oompa-Loompas were going to be called Whipple-Scrumpets. I think I like the Oompa-Loompas better. The fact that Dahl rewrote Charlie and the Chocolate Factory several times shows how ideas can morph into an incredible and unforgettable classic that we know today.

If you think that's neat, Mr. Dahl even included recipes from Mr. Wonka's Chocolate Factory! You can make your very own Strawberry-flavored Chocolate-covered fudge and Butterscotch. Mr. Dahl also tells his readers some of his favorite things such as things on his table and how he likes to write in a shed in his garden. He loves nature and would take notes about the habits of butterflies and frogs, colors and songs of birds and notes about different flowers, plants and berries. Did you know Walt Disney called Mr. Dahl Stalky?

The secret chapter is delightful about Spotty Powder and a girl named Miranda Mary Piker. If you are a huge fan of Roald Dahl, definitely check out The Missing Golden Ticket and Other Splendiferous Secrets.

Wise words from Mr. Dahl

"I have a passion for teaching kids to become readers, to become comfortable with a book, not daunted. Books shouldn't be daunting, they should be funny, exciting and wonderful; and learning to be a reader gives terrific advantage."

About ROALD DAHL

Roald Dahl (1916–1990) was one of the world’s most imaginative, successful and beloved storytellers. He was born in Wales of Norwegian parents and spent much of his childhood in England. After establishing himself as a writer for adults with short story collections such as Kiss Kiss and Tales of the Unexpected, Roald Dahl began writing children's stories in 1960 while living with his family in both the U.S. and in England. His first stories were written as entertainment for his own children, to whom many of his books are dedicated.

Roald Dahl’s first children’s story, The Gremlins, was a story about little creatures that were responsible for the various mechanical failures on airplanes. The Gremlins came to the attention of both First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who loved to read the story to her grandchildren, and Walt Disney, with whom Roald Dahl had discussions about the production of a movie.

Roald Dahl was inspired by American culture and by many of the most quintessential American landmarks to write some of his most memorable passages, such as the thrilling final scenes in James and the Giant Peach - when the peach lands on the Empire State Building! Upon the publication of James and the Giant Peach, Roald Dahl began work on the story that would later be published as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and today, Roald Dahl’s stories are available in 58 languages and, by a conservative estimate, have sold more than 200 million copies.

Roald Dahl also enjoyed great success for the screenplays he wrote for both the James Bond film You Only Live Twice in 1967 and for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, released one year later, which went on to become a beloved family film. Roald Dahl’s popularity continues to increase as his fantastic novels, including James and the Giant Peach, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Matilda, The BFG, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, delight an ever-growing legion of fans.

Two charities have been founded in Roald Dahl’s memory: the first charity, Roald Dahl’s Marvellous Children’s Charity, created in 1991, focuses on making life better for seriously ill children through the funding of specialist nurses, innovative medical training, hospitals, and individual families across the UK.

The second charity, The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre – a unique cultural, literary and education hub – opened in June 2005 in Great Missenden where Roald Dahl lived and wrote many of his best-loved works. 10% of income from Roald Dahl books and adaptations are donated to the two Roald Dahl charities.

On September 13, 2006, the first national Roald Dahl Day was celebrated, on what would have been the author’s 90thbirthday. The event proved such a success that Roald Dahl Day is now marked annually all over the world. September 13, 2016 is Roald Dahl 100, marking 100 years since the birth of the world’s number one storyteller. There will be celebrations for Roald Dahl 100 throughout 2016, delivering a year packed with gloriumptious treats and surprises for everyone.


GIVEAWAY

1 winner can pick 5 books from the Roald Dahl collection! US Only.



Monday, September 12, 2016

Labyrinth Lost Spotlight + Giveaway

Thank you Sourcebooks for this wonderful opportunity to showcase Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova. Not only is Labyrinth Lost a magical novel about family and coming-of-age but it’s a book like no other. You can check out my review here. Don’t forget to check out the rafflecopter giveaway at the bottom of the post.


Title: Labyrinth Lost
Author: Zoraida Córdova
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Publication date: September 6, 2016
Pages: 336
Find it: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | BAM
Labyrinth Lost Coloring Page

Synopsis:

Nothing says Happy Birthday like summoning the spirits of your dead relatives.

Alex is a bruja, the most powerful witch in a generation…and she hates magic. At her Deathday celebration, Alex performs a spell to rid herself of her power. But it backfires. Her whole family vanishes into thin air, leaving her alone with Nova, a brujo boy she can’t trust. A boy whose intentions are as dark as the strange marks on his skin.

The only way to get her family back is to travel with Nova to Los Lagos, a land in-between, as dark as Limbo and as strange as Wonderland…


PRAISE FOR LABYRINTH LOST

“This work is a magical journey from start to finish... A compelling must-have for teens
School Library Journal, STARRED review

Córdova’s (the Vicious Deep series) magic-infused, delightfully dark story introduces readers to an engrossing, Latin American–inspired fantasy setting and an irresistible heroine” 
Publishers Weekly

A brilliant brown-girl-in-Brooklyn update on Alice in Wonderland and Dante’s InfernoVery creepy, very magical, very necessary.”
Daniel José Older, New York Times bestselling author of Shadowshaper

“Labyrinth Lost is more like reading Paradise FoundZoraida Córdova brings us a new generation of witches, enchanting and complex. And every page is filled with magic.” 
Danielle Page, New York Times bestselling author of Dorothy Must Die

Córdova’s world will leave you breathless, and her magic will ignite an envy so green you’ll wish you were born a bruja. Delightfully dark and enchanting. An un-putdownable book.”  
-Dhonielle Clayton, author of The Belles and Shiny Broken Pieces

“Córdova’s rich exploration of Latin American culture, her healthy portrayal of bisexuality and her unique voice allow this novel to stand out among its many peers.”
–RT Book Reviews

“Cordova draws inspiration from Ecuadorian, Spanish, African, Mexican, and Caribbean folklore and mythology to craft a page-turning tale about a young bruja unsure of her place in the world.”
 “Córdova pulls elements from Greek mythology and Spanish and Latin American legends to craft a memorable world in Los Lagos, a supernatural realm that is as fascinating as it is threatening. The history and customs of Alex’s family’s type of witchery are also carefully constructed, giving readers a complete world to sink into with satisfaction and wonder.”
-Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

“This succeeds with its lush use of Latin American mythologies, an unexpected love story, and, above all, in Alex’s complicated relationship with her family. Alex is a necessary heroine, and this dark fantasy nicely”
-Booklist

LABYRINTH LOST BOOK TRAILER



LABYRINTH LOST EXCERPT
1
Follow our voices, sister.
Tell us the secret of your death.
—-Resurrection Canto,
Book of Cantos
T
he second time I saw my dead aunt Rosaria, she was dancing.
Earlier that day, my mom had warned me, pressing a long, red fingernail on the tip of my nose, “Alejandra, don’t go downstairs when the Circle arrives.”
But I was seven and asked too many questions. Every Sunday, cars piled up in our driveway, down the street, and around the corner of our old, narrow house in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Mom’s Circle usually brought cellophane--wrapped dishes and jars of dirt and tubs of brackish water that made the Hudson River look clean. This time, they carried something more.
When my sisters started snoring, I threw off my covers and crept down the stairs. The floorboards were uneven and creaky, but I was good at not being seen. Fuzzy, yellow streetlight shone through our attic window and followed me down every flight until I reached the basement.
A soft hum made its way through the thin walls. I remember thinking I should listen to my mom’s warning and go back upstairs. But our house had been restless all week, and Lula, Rose, and I were shoved into the attic, out of the way while the grown--ups prepared the funeral. I wanted out. I wanted to see.
The night was moonless and cold one week after the Witch’s New Year, when Aunt Rosaria died of a sickness that made her skin yellow like hundred--year--old paper and her nails turn black as coal. We tried to make her beautiful again. My sisters and I spent all day weaving good luck charms from peonies, corn husks, and string—-one loop over, under, two loops over, under. Not even the morticians, the Magos de Muerte, could fix her once--lovely face.
Aunt Rosaria was dead. I was there when we mourned her. I was there when we buried her. Then, I watched my father and two others shoulder a dirty cloth bundle into the house, and I knew I couldn’t stay in bed, no matter what my mother said.
So I opened the basement door.
Red light bathed the steep stairs. I leaned my head toward the light, toward the beating sound of drums and sharp plucks of fat, nylon guitar strings.
A soft mew followed by whiskers against my arm made my heart jump to the back of my rib cage. I bit my tongue to stop the scream. It was just my cat, Miluna. She stared at me with her white, glowing eyes and hissed a warning, as if telling me to turn back. But Aunt Rosaria was my godmother, my family, my friend. And I wanted to see her again.
“Sh!” I brushed the cat’s head back.
Miluna nudged my leg, then ran away as the singing started.
I took my first step down, into the warm, red light. Raspy voices called out to our gods, the Deos, asking for blessings beyond the veil of our worlds. Their melody pulled me step by step until I was crouched at the bottom of the landing.
They were dancing.
Brujas and brujos were dressed in mourning white, their faces painted in the aspects of the dead, white clay and black coal to trace the bones. They danced in two circles—-the outer ring going clockwise, the inner counterclockwise—hands clasped tight, voices vibrating to the pulsing drums.
And in the middle was Aunt Rosaria.
Her body jerked upward. Her black hair pooled in the air like she was suspended in water. There was still dirt on her skin. The white skirt we buried her in billowed around her slender legs. Black smoke slithered out of her open mouth. It weaved in and out of the circle—-one loop over, under, two loops over, under. It tugged Aunt Rosaria higher and higher, matching the rhythm of the canto.
Then, the black smoke perked up and changed its target. It could smell me. I tried to backpedal, but the tiles were slick, and I slid toward the circle. My head smacked the tiles. Pain splintered my skull, and a broken scream lodged in my throat.
The music stopped. Heavy, tired breaths filled the silence of the pulsing red dark. The enchantment was broken. Aunt Rosaria’s reanimated corpse turned to me. Her body purged black smoke, lowering her back to the ground. Her ankles cracked where the bone was brittle, but still she took a step. Her dead eyes gaped at me. Her wrinkled mouth growled my name: Alejandra.
She took another step. Her ankle turned and broke at the joint, sending her flying forward. She landed on top of me. The rot of her skin filled my nose, and grave dirt fell into my eyes.
Tongues clucked against crooked teeth. The voices of the circle hissed, “What’s the girl doing out of bed?”
There was the scent of extinguished candles and melting wax. Decay and perfume oil smothered me until they pulled the body away.
My mother jerked me up by the ear, pulling me up two flights of stairs until I was back in my bed, the scream stuck in my throat like a stone.
Never,” she said. “You hear me, Alejandra? Never break a Circle.”
I lay still. So still that after a while, she brushed my hair, thinking I had fallen asleep.
I wasn’t. How could I ever sleep again? Blood and rot and smoke and whispers filled my head.
“One day you’ll learn,” she whispered.
Then she went back down the street--lit stairs, down into the warm red light and to Aunt Rosaria’s body. My mother clapped her hands, drums beat, strings plucked, and she said, “Again.”


About Zoraida Córdova

Zoraida Córdova was born in Ecuador and raised in Queens, New York. She is the author of the Vicious Deep trilogy, the On the Verge series, and the Brooklyn Brujas series. She loves black coffee, snark, and still believes in magic. Send her a tweet @Zlikeinzorro or visit her at zoraidacordova.com.

For more information about Zoraida Córdova, check out her social media platforms.

Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Tumblr


GIVEAWAY

Giveaway for 2 Copies of Labyrinth Lost with signed Labyrinth Lost Bookmarks. Giveaway runs September 6th - September 19th (US & Canada only). Giveaway provided by Sourcebooks.


Friday, September 9, 2016

The Storybook Knight Blog Tour: Review + Giveaway

I am so happy to be participating in The Storybook Knight Blog Tour! Thank you to Sourcebooks for this amazing opportunity to showcase a wonderful book. The Storybook Knight is full of adventure, magical creatures and gorgeous illustrations.

THE STORYBOOK KNIGHT (#storybookknight)

Allows you and your readers to join Leo’s Storybook Knights, pledge your allegiance and receive a certificate of membership, and download and share Twitter, Facebook and blog images.


Title: The Storybook Knight
Author: Helen Docherty and Thomas Docherty
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Publication date: September 6, 2016
Pages: 32
Source/format: Finished copy from Publisher
Find it:

Rating: ☆☆☆

Synopsis (from goodreads.com):

Even dragons can’t resist a good story…

Even though Leo would rather sit at home and read, his parents send him out into the world in the hopes that Leo will become a famous knight. But when Leo comes up against the land’s most fearsome beasts, he soon discovers that scary monsters enjoy a good book as much as anyone…

M Y  T H O U G H T S

The Storybook Knight is about a mouse named Leo whose family wants him to be a famous knight. However, Leo loved reading books. Instead of violence he likes to solve things without confrontation. Throughout the story book, Leo goes on a journey to find a dragon to tame it. On the way he meets up with a griffin and a troll. The monsters try to attack him but he gives them books. Books with pictures of the griffin. Books with pictures of the troll. Both monsters accepts the book graciously. At last Leo encounters the mighty dragon but instead of fighting it, he is able to get the dragon help clean up the town and they both share books.

This children's picture book is a wonderful way to teach children that violence shouldn't be used. Being able to work things out with words is a much better way to deal with tough situations. Helen The Storybook Knight teaches children that reading is okay and it's a good thing. Books aren't bad. You can be brave and smart at the same time. You can be active and you can be a bookworm. Helen Docherty also teaches children that if they make a mess, they need to clean up after themselves. It was nice to show Leo sharing books with others. Sharing is caring after all.

This entertaining book has a wonderful rhyming scheme which makes this a quick picture book read. Thomas Docherty did an amazing job with the illustrations. I enjoyed the vivid watercolor characters and landscapes. Some of the pages also have an artistic theme of using circles and ovals which I thought was great in order to create a focal point. The cover art is matte except for the spot glossing for the title, the dragon and Leo the mouse. The gold foiling accents create a nice touch.

The Storybook Knight is a charming book for readers who are looking for adventure, creatures and those who just love books.


ABOUT HELEN DOCHERTY AND THOMAS DOCHERTY

Helen Docherty was born and grew up in a small town called Weymouth, on the south coast of England. Her family was from Wales, and she inherited from them a love of stories. As a child, she spent most of her time either reading or writing. From an early age she started making books with her own stories and pictures in them. Helen took this very seriously, and was quite determined that she would be a writer when she grew up (She knew she was never going to make it as a ballet dancer, athlete or pop star).

WebsiteTwitter

Thomas Docherty was born in New Zealand but has spent most of his life in England. He studied metalwork and sculpture and now has a collection of acclaimed picture books. Thomas has been short-listed for a variety of awards, including the Kate Greenaway Medal in 2009 for Little Boat.


GIVEAWAY

Enter for a chance to win an original sketch of Leo and Ned by illustrator, Thomas Docherty! Giveaway is provided by Sourcebooks.



Thursday, September 8, 2016

Max at Night Blog Tour: Review + Giveaway

Thank you Sourcebooks for this fantastic opportunity to showcase Max at Night via the Max at Night Blog Tour. I have had the pleasure to read Max the Brave in the past and I was ecstatic when I was asked to review Max at Night. Max is such an adorable cat and I know he will make many children and adults very happy with his curiosity and innocence.

MAX AT NIGHT (#maxatnight)

Title: Max at Night
Author: Ed Vere
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Publication date: September 1, 2016
Pages: 32
Source/format: Finished copy from Publisher
Find it:

Rating: ☆☆☆

Synopsis (from goodreads.com):

This is Max. Max is very sleepy. It's way past Max's bedtime. Max has drunk his milk. Max has brushed his teeth. Max has cleaned behind his ears. Now Max just needs to say goodnight...
 
Max is tired and all ready for bed, but when he can't find the moon to say goodnight to, he sets out to find it. But that's not as easy as Max had hoped... Witty and heart-warming, this stylish and beautifully illustrated book is the perfect bedtime read.
 
M Y  T H O U G H T S

Max at Night is an adorable book about a cat named Max. This little black kitten is very sleepy and likes to say goodnight to everyone before he goes to bed. However, he cannot find the moon. Max searches high and low for the moon and can't find it. He needs to say goodnight to the moon before he goes to sleep.

This is a good bedtime book for young children who are getting into the bedtime routine. Not only does it teach children things like brushing their teeth and saying goodnight before they go to bed, it also shows them that if they want to achieve something, they will find it if they work hard. Max the wide-eyed cat is very curious and determined. He didn't give up when he wanted to find the moon.

With Max at Night, the illustrations are simple and easy to distinguish. The colors are vivid. Max's yellow eyes contrast well with his black body. Clever usage of white space is present in the picture book and I like the text placement. The matte book with the spot glossing for the title and Max is a nice touch.

Max at Night is a hybrid of Goodnight Moon and Max the Brave. If you're looking for a charming book about a cat saying goodnight or if you're just looking for a good bedtime picture book, definitely check out Max at Night! However, Max the Brave is still my favorite out of the two in the companion series.

ABOUT ED VERE

Ed Vere has been writing and illustrating children’s books since 1999. He is also a fine art painter and is represented by galleries in London and Los Angeles. He lives in London.

For more information about Ed Vere, check out his social media platforms.

Website | Twitter | Instagram

GIVEAWAY

Enter for a chance to win an original sketch by author and illustrator Ed Vere and a copy of Max at Night! Giveaway is provided by Sourcebooks


Wednesday, September 7, 2016

As I Descended Blog Tour + Giveaway


Thank you to Hannah from Irish Banana and HarperCollins for this opportunity to be on the As I Descended blog tour. I have the pleasure to showcase a guest post regarding the writing process of As I Descended by Robin Talley. As I Descended is contemporary Macbeth retelling and is Robin's third book. Definitely check out the novel when you have a chance. You can read my review here. Make sure to check out the wonderful giveaway and the other tour blogs at the bottom of the post.

Thank you Robin for the wonderful post about plotting and how a manuscript ends up turning into a final finished novel. Also, congrats on the publication of As I Descended!

WHAT IS YOUR WRITING PROCESS FROM MANUSCRIPT TO NOVEL FOR AS I DESCENDED?

A lot of writers call themselves “plotters” or “pantsers.” I have mixed feelings about those terms ― for me, at least, both pants and plot are required to complete the grueling process that transforms an idea into a book ― but if I had to pick one, I’m definitely a plotter. I’m a hardcore outliner, and the day someone tries to take my spreadsheets away from me will be the day I develop psychic powers of revenge.

With my newest book, As I Descended, the initial idea came quickly. Macbeth is my favorite Shakespeare play, and as soon as I realized there wasn’t already a YA f/f retelling of it out in the world, I immediately threw myself into plotting out my characters and story.

In the early days of a new project, I usually go back and forth between experimenting with the narrative voice and charting out my plot. My earliest drafts usually look nothing like my final versions. With As I Descended, the first few pages I wrote were in first person, from just one point of view. By the time I’d finished the book, it was in third person, with five rotating points of view (some of whom get more screen time than others).

To get to that point, though, I had to spend more time developing my major characters, beyond the two lead girls who’d been with me from the beginning. Normally, I devise my cast of characters mainly through brainstorming, but since this was a retelling I dove back into my source material for inspiration. First, I started playing with names ― I wanted my cast to have names that started with the same first letter as their Shakespearean counterparts, so my Macbeth character is named Maria, Lady Macbeth is Lily, Duncan (who’s a girl in my version) is Delilah, Macduff is Mateo, etc. I also decided to combine some characters, so I melded Shakespeare’s Banquo and Lady Macduff into Brandon, who is now both Mateo’s boyfriend and Maria’s best friend.

Then I started building out my spreadsheet in Excel. I have a spreadsheet for every project I work on, and many of the tabs are the same from book to book. One tab is my list of characters, including important data about them ― name, age, notes about their appearance and activities, and, in the case of As I Descended, I also included a column for each character’s parallel in Macbeth. I also have a tab for setting, where I keep track of the names of key elements like schools, towns, and local landmarks. But the most important tab is the outline itself. Here I break down, chapter by chapter, the key events in the story, the point of view each scene is told from, the day it takes place, the word count, and other important details.

Once I had my outline in relatively solid form I started writing my first draft in earnest. Like most of my books, there were some gaps in my outline when I started ― I had no idea how As I Descended would end until I was more than halfway through the first draft, for example ― and I wound up making changes to what I’d already outlined along the way, too.

But I made progress, day by day ― and once I had a complete first draft, then came revision. Lots of revision. I got notes from beta readers, from my amazing agent, and later from my editor, which I used to make changes ranging from big ones ― I added new sequences, made major structural changes, and turned two previously unrelated characters into siblings (surprise, kid, you have a new sister!) ― to smaller ones, like changing the setting of scenes or adjusting pop-culture references. By the end of the process, I’d revised As I Descended so much I’d gone through at least 12 drafts.

But every single stage of the process was fun. Sure, sometimes I wanted to tear my hair out and/or drown in a glass of wine when I tried to tackle a particularly difficult edit, but, well, the thing is, I love this book. I love the characters, even when they’re doing terrible things. I love their world, even though I would never want to set foot in it (I’m terrified of ghosts). And I loved getting to do a deep-dive into one of Shakespeare’s darkest works and translate it into something new.

Looking at my finished copy of As I Descended now, with its gorgeous cover and interior artwork, the words I wrote all laid out and book-shaped ― it’s the end of a process for me, but the start of a whole new one: letting this book out into the world.

ABOUT ROBIN TALLEY

I live in Washington, D.C., with my wife, our baby daughter, an antisocial cat and a goofy hound dog. Whenever the baby's sleeping, I'm probably busy writing young adult fiction about queer characters, reading books, and having in-depth conversations with friends and family about things like whether Jasmine's character motivation was sufficiently established in Aladdin.

More information about me: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Tumblr

Title: As I Descended
Author: Robin Talley
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication date: September 6, 2016
Pages: 384
Find it: Amazon | B&N | Indiebound | iBooks | The Book Depository

Synopsis (from goodreads.com):

Maria Lyon and Lily Boiten are their school’s ultimate power couple—even if no one knows it but them.

Only one thing stands between them and their perfect future: campus superstar Delilah Dufrey.

Golden child Delilah is a legend at the exclusive Acheron Academy, and the presumptive winner of the distinguished Cawdor Kingsley Prize. She runs the school, and if she chose, she could blow up Maria and Lily’s whole world with a pointed look, or a carefully placed word.

But what Delilah doesn’t know is that Lily and Maria are willing to do anything—absolutely anything—to make their dreams come true. And the first step is unseating Delilah for the Kingsley Prize. The full scholarship, awarded to Maria, will lock in her attendance at Stanford―and four more years in a shared dorm room with Lily.

Maria and Lily will stop at nothing to ensure their victory—including harnessing the dark power long rumored to be present on the former plantation that houses their school.

But when feuds turn to fatalities, and madness begins to blur the distinction between what’s real and what is imagined, the girls must decide where they draw the line.

From acclaimed author Robin Talley comes a Shakespeare-inspired story of revenge and redemption, where fair is foul, and foul is fair.


GIVEAWAY

3 Finished Copies of AS I DESCENDED (US Only). Giveaway provided by HarperCollins.


TOUR SCHEDULE

Week 1:

8/29: Fiction Fare - Review
8/30: Bookish Antics - Guest Post
8/31: Sorcery In the Bookshelves - Review
9/1: Such A Novel Idea - Q&A
9/2: Don't Fold the Page - Review

Week 2:
9/5: Lost In Lit - Bookish Inspirations
9/6: A Glass of Wine - Review
9/7: Nicole's Novel Reads - Guest Post
9/8: Rants and Raves of a Bibliophile - Review
9/9: The Irish Banana Review - Top 10