Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Belles and Brujas Tour Recap

Although this event recap for the Boston stop for the Belles and Brujas Tour is super late, I finally have this out for all of my readers! Thank you to the Brookline Public Library and Brookline Booksmith for making this amazing event happen. The Boston tour stop occurred on Tuesday, June 5th. The Belles and Brujas tour is celebrating Dhonielle Clayton’s The Belles and Zoraida Córdova’s Bruja Born, both books that were released earlier this year. Also joining the duo include special guests Julie C. Dao, author of Forest of a Thousand Lanterns, and Sasha Alsberg, co-author of Zenith.

Magic and mayhem are part of the cross-section of books. Dhonielle asks the panelists, what drew them to magic and fantasy? Zoraida mentioned how she is looking for magic to transport into books. If you’re a teen at the age of 14 and you read about a character of the same age doing these incredible things, you have the sense that you can overcome what the character overcomes. Zoraida fell in love with Amelia Atwater’s vampire books when she was a teen. Julie mentions how “fantasy is freedom.” She first fell in love with The Mists of Avalon. Sasha talked about how she always wanted to be an astronomer but she sucks at math. She fell in love with sci-fi and is a big Star Trekkie. Dhonielle said that her dad is a big nerd and loves space opera, comics and that they always went to the bookstore every Saturday. She always loved to read and she escaped reality and things that happened at school through reading. Dhonielle claims, “fantasy is an escape and it’s a place for me find strong women.”

Dhonielle asked the panelists about the strength of their characters. Zoraida describes the Brooklyn Brujas as “Charmed but brown.” Each sister has her own book. The sisters are average girls but they have powers that they don’t know what to do with. Magic comes from them. The magic doesn’t come from romantic love or from others. Magic is inward and it climbs outwards. Dhonielle claims she likes villains more than heroes. Julie always loved fairytales. She rooted for the go-getters for what they want. Julie always wanted to write a story about a woman who has ambition and has a driving force of life. She wanted to write about a woman with agency instead of the pure and the innocent. Sasha and co-author Lindsay Cummings wanted to write about how girls should be in real life. They wanted to break stereotypes of the catty fighting. They both wanted to hone in on close and healthy friendships between females and to turn around the stigma.

In terms of world building, Dhonielle asks, how do you build your world? Sasha wrote three years ago and used a lot of spreadsheets about anything space related. She based it on what is real or what was a theory. Sasha made magic out of them and manipulated concepts. It was a hands on experience creating worlds and she had fun creating a map to figure out how the world will look like. Zoraida made a map in visualize where everything is going to be and worked from there. When Julie was writing book two, Kingdom of a Blazing Phoenix, there is a canon you have to stick to and the world building has to be similar. Dhonielle mentioned that her second book in the Belles series is called Everlasting Rose. Both Dhonielle and Julie agreed world building helps to write the second book. Dhonielle and Sasha often forget something that happened previously in the story during drafting like the spelling of characters' names. Sasha also said that she has dyslexia and spells characters names wrong all the time.

Dhonielle aks the very important question, “do we have the responsibility to tell teens the truth?” Zoraida writes about certain subjects and bridges lines. We should be telling the truth to kids and teens. The difference with kids reading YA compared to adults reading is huge. The teens want to belong to what they read. They want a sense of identity about who they are. Julie agrees with Zoraida and said that teens are going to inherit the world. She doesn’t like how Disney sanitizes fairy tales. Julie wants to show women who are ambitious and power hungry and not wanting a man to save them. Sasha learned a lot from YA and what she read from books when she was in her teens. She wants teens to learn a lot from what she writes as well. Dhonielle wants to “write about teens how they are and not what they should be.” She claims we need to get better telling the truth and not cleaning everything up. Don't give into the pressure and lens to a certain way.

When a question was brought up about whether the authors would want to be a hero or a villain, Sasha and Dhonielle both said villain and Zoraida and Julie answered with hero. There was also a conversation about a Hufflepuff exterior but a Slytherin interior. Sasha asks everyone “would you want your book to be adapted into a play or a musical?” In unison, Julie and Zoraida said musical! They talked about dance numbers and combusting into song. Dhonielle said her books will be dark if it was a musical and opted for the play. Sasha talked about dancing space pirates with a possible Captain Jack Sparrow for her’s. Zoraida then chimes in “ballet?” to Sasha. Another question that was asked was would you be on the always be on the run for seven years or be in jail for years. Julie said jail because she is such a Hufflepuff. Sasha, Dhonielle and Zoraida said on the run. Each author was asked if they would want their book be misspelled or have the cover changed. For some odd reason the conversation shifted to alpacas smiling to corgis. Zoraida even mentioned how Eric Smith is a corgi king!

Back to more serious questions, what has added to help grow the genre in regarding how adults gravitate toward YA. Zoraida writes about death a lot because when you are older, you think more about mortality. Teens often feel immortal. Dhonielle mentioned how lately YA caters to the nostalgic teen experience and that is why we need to write more about the truth. She would like to see more teens at book events and in signing lines. One of the issues is the structure of books. We need to change that. She says that we need to change the structure for teens to get books. Dhonielle hopes YA books will find a way to make it into school and class syllabi. We need fresh voices. Teens want books about drama, kisses, witches and more. She believes that there should be new classics read in school and no more Mice and Men type of books. Julie writes for herself but she writes for teens. She writes about destiny vs. choice. Sasha a in-between. She is not a teen but not quite an adult. At age 18, she was writing for herself. She believes that literature is universal.

In terms of reading, Dhonielle described how Holly Black’s books “creates new experiences.” She loved “following into the woods.” Zoraida hated reading until she was 13. Librarians and teachers always told her to read The House on Mango Street or How the Garcias Lost Their Accents. Zoraida claims, “I love reading myths and I wanted to create my own myths.” A question was asked regarding the research for world building. Dhonielle said she did research on the beauty industry for months before creating a loose outline for The Belles. Zoraida talks about her Brooklyn Brujas series and how there is no handbook for what she is writing about. However, there are superstitions which she researched. She also looked up the Day of the Dead and made sure she doesn’t replicate certain things. She claims, “I figured out what I wanted to avoid when researching in order to create my own world.” Julie is a plotter. When she has enough research to create a book bible, then she writes the book. She read and watched a lot about the Silk Road for Forest of a Thousand Lanterns. Sasha used a spreadsheet and did a lot of research on current Celtic mythology that isn’t quite mainstream. She also did a lot of fact checking. Sasha mentioned how she loves watching documentaries and that “it’s so fascinating and so different.”

I had a great time and the turn out was pretty decent. It was nice to see a variety of different authors and different genres. A lot of book swag was handed out and there were a couple of raffles at the event. I love how the event was taken place in the teen room at the library. There was plenty of time to meet the authors and to chat with them and of course to get books signed.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Top Ten Books on my Summer TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish and the meme moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. This week's Top Ten Tuesday asks bloggers to list their top ten books on their summer TBR or their top ten poolside or beach reads. I don't frequent the pool or beach that much so summer TBR it is! I have a lot of books I want to read but I had to limit myself to only ten books. I figured I would have a variety of different genres showcased for this week's TTT. The following books are in no particular order. 

1. Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix by Julie A. Dao is the sequel to Forest of a Thousand Lanterns. This installment is a retelling Snow White instead of the Evil Queen focusing on Jade instead of Xifeng. Even though Jade doesn't want the crown of Feng Lu, she knows she must do the right thing and she is the only one that can defeat Xifeng. This is one of my most anticipated books coming out the second half of the year!

2. Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman is Bowman's second book. Rumi Seto is very close to her sister Lea until a tragic accident happens and Lea passes. This novel delves in how Rumi deals with grief while her mother sends her away to live with her aunt. I am interested to see how Bowman incorporates music within the novel. I was fortunate enough to be granted an e-ARC to read in exchange for an honest review.

3. The Silver Mask by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare is the 4th book in the Magisterium series. I have been behind in this MG fantasy series but I am ready to read this installment before the last book comes out in the fall. If you enjoy reading books about boarding schools with characters welding magic powers, this is a series for you.

4. The Unfortunates by Kim Liggett is a book that I am reading now. If you love thrillers, definitely check this novel out. The novel is about a senator's son who lives a privileged life. Because of Grant's status, he always has someone puling strings for him. However, what if Grant doesn't want people to help him and what if he wants to deal with the consequences? A caving expedition is suppose to be a rite of passage for the men in his family but Grant ends up being something more.

5. Escaping from Houdini by Kerri Maniscalco is the third installment in the Stalking Jack the Ripper series and this time Audrey Rose Wadsworth and Thomas Cresswell venture off to the Americas on the RMS Etruria. Little did they know that people start going missing and that there is a killer on the loose. Will everyone meet their destination or will the perish amongst the Atlantic Ocean? I love Maniscalo's writing and this series is one of my favorites. Of course Wadsworth and Cresswell is one of my favorite OTPs.

6. Bruja Born by Zoraida Córdova is the second novel in the Brooklyn Brujas series. This novel is centered around sister Lula who feels like an outcast since she has a more passive power of healing compared to her sister's Enchantrix powers. It will be interesting to read all the books in the Brooklyn Brujas series since Córdova is showcasing each sister in a book in the series.

7. The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes is pitched as a YA thriller with Scandal meets Veronica Mars. My friend Rachel recommended this book and said I MUST read it. The novel is about a 16-year-old girl who attends an academy who becomes a fixer of high school students' problems. However, things get interesting with secrets being dug up and are is floating on the surface.

8. The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan is about Leigh and how she travels to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents after her mom dies by suicide. I heard great things about this novel. It's is a contemporary with magical realism woven into it. With hope and despair, the novel is about finding oneself through family history, art, grief and love.

9. If You Leave Me by Crystal Hana Kim is an emotionally riveting debut novel about war, family and forbidden love. The novel is about two ill-fated lovers in Korea. Haemi and Kyunghwan have been childhood friends for a long time. But when Heami finishes finishing school, Kyunghwan's cousin is determined to marry Haemi.

10. True Letters From a Fictional Life by Kenneth Logan is about James Liddell who is a star athlete, a decent student a kind of boyfriend to Theresa. However, he likes to write letters—letters he never intends to send—which spills the truth about who he really is. This is reminiscent of Lara Jean from To All the Boys I've Loved Before and how Lara Jean write letters to her crushes but never intends to send them. I found this book on a whim at Harvard Book Store with Rachel on Independent Bookstore day and it looks like my kind of read.

What books are on your summer TBR? Do you normally stick with one genre during the warmer months or do you mix it up?

Friday, June 8, 2018

Looking Ahead: Two Can Keep a Secret

Who's excited about Karen McManus's upcoming book, Two Can Keep a Secret? For more information about the novel, please see below for the following release by Penguin Random House.


TWO CAN KEEP A SECRET to be released on January 8, 2019, with 250,000-copy first printing

New York, NY (June 7, 2018)—A new stand-alone novel from Karen M. McManus, author of the breakout teen thriller of 2017 and New York Times bestseller One of Us Is Lying, will be published on January 8, 2019, with a first printing of 250,000 copies, it was announced today by Beverly Horowitz, Senior Vice President, Publisher, Delacorte Press.

McManus’s debut novel, One of Us Is Lying, has spent 46 weeks and counting on the New York Times bestseller list, has been sold in 37 foreign territories, and is currently being developed into a TV series by E! Network.

With TWO CAN KEEP A SECRET, McManus has penned a murder mystery set in Echo Ridge, a small New England town that’s hiding secrets. Seventeen-year-old Ellery’s aunt went missing there as a teenager, and recently, a popular homecoming queen was killed in a widely publicized murder. When Ellery and her twin brother, Ezra, move to Echo Ridge to live with a grandmother they barely know, things quickly take a dark turn. Another girl goes missing, and it becomes clear that mysterious threats are deadly serious. Ellery soon learns that everyone in Echo Ridge is hiding something, and some secrets have dangerous consequences.

One of Us Is Lying was named one of the best YA books of 2017 by BuzzFeed, Entertainment Weekly, and PopCrush, and was a New York Public Library Stuff for the Teen Age selection, a CBC Teen Choice Book Award nominee, a Goodreads Best Young Adult Book of the Year nominee, an ALA-YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults nominee, and an ALA-YALSA Quick Pick.

“We were so excited about the success of One of Us Is Lying and to see how that book resonated with readers,” says Senior Executive Editor Krista Marino. “TWO CAN KEEP A SECRET further showcases Karen’s incredible talent for crafting thrilling mysteries with unexpected twists and compelling and relatable teen characters.”

Marino acquired North American rights from Rosemary Stimola with Allison Remcheck at Stimola Literary Studio. McManus is represented by Jason Dravis at the Dravis Agency for the TV series.

Karen M. McManus earned her BA in English from the College of the Holy Cross and her MA in journalism from Northeastern University. When she isn’t working or writing in Cambridge, Massachusetts, McManus loves to travel with her son. To learn more about her, visit, or follow @writerkmc on Twitter or Instagram.

Join the conversation via #OneOfUsIsLying and #TwoCanKeepASecretBook

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Legendary Tour with Stephanie Garber in Conversation with Mackenzi Lee

On a cloudy and rainy Monday on June 4th, I was fortunate enough to finally meet Stephanie Garber who recently released Legendary, the second book in the Caraval series. I meet up with my friend Rachel prior to the event before heading to Brookline Booksmith. Thank you to Brookline Booksmith for hosting this captivating event! Rachel and I bumped into Stephanie who was with her publicist and one other person who works at Flatiron Books.

Can I say that was my favorite part of the day? Rachel and I had the opportunity to talk to Stephanie about The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw. Stephanie had the book in her hand to purchase and of course it was signed! Swan season is in the air and everyone is buying and/or reading The Wicked Deep this month! Go check it out if you haven't heard of it. We also talked about Gita Trelease's upcoming book, Enchantéewhich Rachel and I hope to buddy read with our other friend Marci. Stephanie loves Enchantée and encouraged us to read it ASAP.

When Stephanie and crew went to get ready for the event, Rachel purchased a copy of Caraval and Legendary before we ventured downstairs to get good seats. We bumped into Ellie, Lyndsay and Andi. Stephanie's and Mackenzi's conversation was perfect. Everything flowed well and they had wonderful questions and answers.

The event started off with Stephanie reading a page from Legendary. Andi called out page 29 and that's the page Stephanie read. This is Stephanie's first time reading Legendary out loud. Mackenzi mentioned that when she reads The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, she likes to read out loud in a British accent when her roommate isn’t home.

The first question Mackenzi asked Stephanie was how did Stephanie come up with book 1, 2 and 3 of the series. Stephanie said the idea came to her when she was reading Code Name Verity. Mackenzi was very excited about this fact and literally said, “No, Really?” Mackenzi loves Code Name Verity for those who don’t know already. Code Name Verity is historical fiction and Stephanie was grabbled with the thought of what if people are playing games? What if there are two possible truths and you don’t know which one is real? She also was inspired by The Great Gatsby’s party scene in the movie where Leo holds the champagne. Stephanie mentioned, “I want to write a book like this scene.”

“Centuries” by Fall Out Boy was on repeat when Stephanie was plotting and writing. The following verse sparked an idea of how she wanted to shape her second book:

Some legends are told
Some turn to dust or to gold
But you will remember me
Remember me for centuries

Stephanie wanted to write a book about a man in charge named Legend. “Who calls themselves Legend?” In fact, she originally thought Legend by Marie Lu is about a character named Legend. She was very disappointed when that wasn’t the case.

Caraval and Legendary are both visual, sensory and over the top novels. Mackenzi asked Stephanie how did Stephanie know what to pull from our world and what to invent. Stephanie sets the foundation of the novel first before she adds the visuals. She often uses Pinterest for idea inspiration. One of her inspirations is fashion by Alexander McQueen. The Deck of Destiny’s Fates are Greek Gods meet tarot cards. When Stephanie saw a pin of a woman with a cage of pearls, she knew this lady would become one of the Fates. Sometimes she sees an image and can get carried away.

With drafting Stephanie likes to layer and layer based off something real and she adds her own unique flair to it. When Stacey Lee was writing her novel, The Secret of a Heart Note, Stephanie wanted Stacey to name the book Rosemary Lily and Jack of Hearts after a Bob Dylan song. However, Stacey and Stacey’s editor were not feeling it. Hence, the Prince of Hearts was formalized for one of the Fates in Legendary. Stephanie actually wrote Caraval as a standalone originally but her editor wanted a sequel.

Mackenzi was talking about how the core of Caraval is about the sister relationship and if Caraval was always going to be a sister book. How did this book evolve? Stephanie mentioned she started outlining the book with Scarlett having five brothers but she couldn’t get past writing chapter two. She revisited the manuscript after talking to Stacey about a story about two sisters and Stacey encouraged Stephanie to write the sister book. The book took around three months after Stephanie committed to writing a sister book. The sister relationship is the heartbeat and is the center of the book.

Mackenzi asked Stephanie what has been the best of the crazy and wild ride. Before Caraval sold, she wrote six manuscripts. Stephanie was living at home with her parents and was an adjunct professor for creative writing but she was doing what she loves. Her agent left the business and there was one point when her mother said “you might have to accept you won’t be a writer.” That hurt Stephanie a lot but she persisted and kept on writing because that’s her passion.

Eventually Stephanie signed with another agent and when she received a rejection, she was excited because someone looked at her manuscript and was reading it. One morning after she went out all night long, her agent texted her “OMG, OMG, OMG! Are you awake?” It was 6:00 in the morning and her agent even texted her “This is your agent,” before telling her about the great news. Her agent texted Stephanie a screenshot from an editor who was reading the manuscript. Stephanie promptly knocked on her parents’ door in her pajamas telling them that someone read her book and loved it. Stephanie told the audience that there was “no offer but it was so validating. I wrote a book someone loves. That was my heart.”

Mackenzi talked about writing and if Stephanie wrote when she was child or was she late to the writing game. Stephanie wrote a lot when she was a kid and wanted to publish a book one day. When she went to college, she found out she likes working with college students during her senior year. She was a Students Director of Orientation aka “Director of Fun.” However, the job wasn’t good for her mental health and a counselor said that she needs an outlet. Stephanie likes to write and writing is her outlet. She mentioned that she is afraid of many things and that she didn’t know how to write but she learned as much as could about writing. Prior to Caraval, Stephanie wrote a space opera, a sci-fi-thriller and a trilogy about two sisters (not about Scarlett and Tella). The books had all of her favorite tropes.

Caraval and Legendary are written in third person POV. Mackenzi asked about how was the voice shaping Caraval. Scarlett and Tella are distinct sisters. While Scarlett has some of Stephanie’s qualities like being cautious and one who calculates things, Tella is the girl Stephanie wants to be. Stephanie absolutely adores Tella. Scarlett is fearful and deliberate. On the other hand, when Tella wants something, she will go out and do it. Tella doesn’t weigh out pros and cons. She hits the ground running. At first it was hard to write Tella but then it got easier. In Finale, both sisters POVs will be showcased compared to Scarlett’s POV in Caraval and Tella’s POV in Legendary. Each sister knows want they want and knows what drives them.

Mackenzi asked Stephanie a non-book related question and centered it around how Caravel sounds like Carvel ice cream and how would a Caraval inspired dessert or cake look like. Stephanie was very excited about answering this particular question. Caraval would be a cake with multiple layers. The cake will be covered in edible glitter but one layer of glitter is inedible. There will be hidden stars and glowing magical lights and an angel. This is when Mackenzi chimes in, “there are lightbulbs in it?” Stephanie mentioned about a layer of red velvet checkerboard filled with stardust with the occasional star in it. The last layer is black like nighttime with a layer of fortunes at the bottom where one must bite the fortune in order to receive their fortune. Also, this cake disappears while you are eating it. The last bite chooses the person who shall consume it. Mackenzi then asks, “Is this the wand that chooses the wizard?”

Mackenzi wanted to know what is something that is making Stephanie happy now. Stephanie responds with AJR's The Click album but she likes listening to "Sober Up". She loves this album because it’s upbeat, fun and has interesting lyrics. Stephanie also likes "I Wish I was Sober" by Frightened Rabbit. Stephanie then turns the table around and asks Mackenzi what makes Mackenzi happy. Mackenzi says, “Um, every dog on Instagram." She is particular fond of St. Bernards since she used to have one named Zoey as a child. “We always need some happy.” Mackenzi loves watching a dog grow up on Instagram and she actually follows a mother who writes a picture journal on Instagram about the dog’s life. Mackenzi is finally going to have a St. Bernard in The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy. She also loves Doodles but not so much Poodles. She tells the audience, “you may be a Poodle but you can grow up as a Doodle.”

Someone in the audience mentioned how Scarlett reminds them of the movie Speed. And how when you meet someone, how much do you really know them? How much does Scarlett know Julian. They just met and he’s a performer. Stephanie mentions that Legendary has more information about Scarlett's and Julian’s relationship. Someone else asked what is the easiest part to write and what is the most fun. Stephanie said chapter 5 of Caraval is the easiest because it’s about Legend’s backstory. Chapter 13 in Legendary was the most fun to write.

Another person asked how Stephanie would do in a game of Caraval. Stephanie said it depends what group of people she is with. If she is partnered with her sister, she would be able to win. Stephanie said she is much like Scarlett and is very vigilant. She joked around that if she has to win, she would take a selfie with Legend. At the Legendary launch party, Stephanie’s mother wore a top hat and was telling readers to go to Stephanie saying, “Legend sent me.”

Another question was “did you always aim to write YA?” Stephanie said yes. She always wanted to write YA. She mentioned that she didn’t have a lot of YA to read back in the 90’s. She loves exploring YA and connecting with readers.

The last question was asking Stephanie what books got her into YA. When she was working in Student Development and she was one of the very first to read Twilight and got a good amount of people hooked onto Twilight. She always loved vampires. Other books she mentioned include Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr and Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor, who influenced Stephanie’s love for third person POV. Melina Marchetta's Froi of the Exiles, Mary Pearson’s Remnant Chronicles and Holly Black’s Coldest Girl in Coldtown are also other books she recommended.

I hung back chatting with some friends before jumping in Stephanie's signing line. Stephanie enjoyed last week at BookExpo and BookCon and is having a blast on her book tour so far. If you have a chance to attend a book event with Stephanie, do it! You won't regret it because she is amazing and is super thoughtful. She is very enthusiastic and she is super excited to be on this tour. She really loves her fans and it shows! If you haven't read Caraval and/or Legendary, go read these books ASAP.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Ten Books I Decided to DNF

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish and the meme moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. This week's Top Ten Tuesday asks bloggers to list their ten books they decided to DNF (Did Not Finish). I usually am pretty spot on whether I will like a book based on the synopsis but unfortunately there are times when I start reading a book and find out it's not for me. This usually happens because I can't get into the plot or because the writing doesn't capture my attention. I may be a black sheep on some of the very popular books or authors but it's a personal preference. The following books are in no particular order. 

1.  The Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker 

2. Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

3. Graceling by Kristin Cashore

4. The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord

5. The Last Boy and Girl in the World by Siobhan Vivian 

6. Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

7. Carve The Mark by Veronica Roth

9. Even if the Sky Falls by Mia Garcia

10. Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater