Week in Review: January 19

missprintweekreviewThis week on the blog you can check out:

January has flown by. I am feeling good about the tone I’ve set this month for the rest of the year. I’m taking some time off for my birthday and I’m excited for the mini break. A lot of review deadlines (for SLJ and WIRoB) stacked up this week and I’m sure I’ll get everything done in time but let’s just say I know what I’m reading for the next month. (As I write this I also realized I’m going to be at an all day training at a different branch on my last day of work before my time off so I don’t know how I’m going to get the books I need to read to my home . . . Oops.)

Here is my favorite post that I shared on Instagram this week:

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What is one sequel you are committed to reading in 2019? 📚 I am absolutely 100% making time to catch up on Kendare Blake’s Three Dark Crowns series. I read and loved the first one (and own this pretty signed paperback) and have the next two and the novella bindup to catch up on reading. 📚 I’m experimenting with ways to make my photos fun while also streamlining the process so I took a page from @ceceliareads’s book for this one and created a layout I could slot different books into. Except instead of flowers I used my old Disney Designer collection princess cards which I want to get framed one of these days. 📚 Hit me up with your most obvious but still life changing Instagram hack. 📚 #instabooks #currentlyreading #amreading #instareads #bookgram #bookworm #bookblogging #bookblogger #bookstagrammer #bibliophile #booklove #bookphotography #instabook #reading #reader #booktography #bookstagram #beautifulbooks #booksofinstagram #goodreads #bookaholic #bookish #bookishfeature #bookstafeatures #bookstagramfeature #readersofinstagram #unitedbookstagram #kendareblake #threedarkcrowns #disneydesignercollection

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How was your week? What are you reading?

Damsel: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

“For so it had been throughout his people’s memory, that a dragon and a damsel made a king.”

cover art for Damsel by Elana K. ArnoldWhen Ama awakens she has no clothes, no memories. She is wrapped in a blanket, being carried by a man she doesn’t recognize. Even her name will come later—a gift from the man who saved her.

Emory is quick to tell Ama about his bravery and cunning when he conquered the dragon. He is eager to describe her beauty and the way their destinies are now tied together. He cannot, or will not, help Ama understand her life before the dragon and her rescue.

Coming to the kingdom of Harding is supposed to be the end of the story. But as Ama begins to explore this new kingdom and poke at the old legends of the damsels and the dragons, she begins to realize that her rescue is only the beginning of this tale in Damsel (2018) by Elana K. Arnold.

Arnold’s latest standalone novel is part fantasy and part feminist manifesto. Most of the story plays out in the kingdom of Harding–a grim little world filled with casual violence and brutality including graphic hunting scenes as well as a rape scene that leaves nothing to the imagination. The sense of danger is only further amplified by Arnold’s carefully restrained prose.

Damsel‘s plot is not always subtle as Ama tries to understand her past as well as her future. Her agency is systematically stripped away throughout the novel until it feels to readers, and to Ama herself, as if there is nothing left to lose.

Ama’s limited point of view and flat world building reminiscent of a fairy tale create a stark backdrop for this exploration of female agency and toxic masculinity. Damsel is a sparse, character-driven story with a very firm focus on its heroine. Arnold’s prose is deliberate as the novel works toward a logical if abrupt conclusion.

Damsel is not for the faint of heart. Recommended for readers who sympathize more with the dragon than the knight.

Possible Pairings: The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli, Strange Grace by Tessa Gratton, The Smoke Thieves by Sally Green, Seraphina by Rachel Hartman, Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers, Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand

Stain: A Review

In the wake of a war that literally separated night from day, Lyra is born once upon a nightmare in the kingdom of Eldoria where it is perpetually day filled with beauty, warmth, and light. Night still reigns in Nerezeth, an underground kingdom filled with darkness, cold, and creatures drawn to both.

Painfully pale and too sensitive to light to ever step outside, Lyra is able to soothe or entrance with her voice although she is unable to form words. When her aunt, who is as ruthless as she is ambitious, moves to steal the throne a witch saves Lyra and secretly raises her disguised as a boy called Stain.

To save her kingdom and the prince of night, Lyra will have to reclaim her identity and make herself known without her voice in Stain (2019) by A. G. Howard.

In this standalone version of “The Princess and the Pea” instead of being too delicate to sleep on a pea under a tower of mattresses, Lyra must prove herself equal to the violence and brutality that the prince of night routinely faces.

Within the framework of “The Princess and the Pea” Howard adds myriad fairy tale elements including the aforementioned wicked aunt, evil cousins (Lustacia, Wrathalyne, and Avaricette), a stolen voice and impersonation plot reminiscent of “The Little Mermaid,” and more making for a unique if crowded cast of characters and a sometimes convoluted plot. Vivid writing and vibrant descriptions bring Lyra’s world, particularly Nerezeth, to life in all of its monstrous glory.

Stain is a sensuous retelling set in a distinctly gothic world perfect for fans of the author and readers seeking darker retellings.

Possible Pairings: Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust, A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer, Stealing Snow by Danielle Paige, Hold Me Like a Breath by Tiffany Schmidt, Realm of Ruins by Hannah West

*A more condensed version of this review was published in the Winter 2018 issue of School Library Journal*

Week in Review: January 12

missprintweekreviewThis week on the blog you can check out:

This week I finished up reading for the Mock Printz I moderate at work and looked forward to a three day weekend. I cannot bear the thought of getting sick again this winter so I’ve been trying to baby myself. My only weekend plans include laundry, getting in some writing time, and sorting a pile of books to potentially donate.

Here is my favorite post that I shared on Instagram this week:

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“Sometimes small and unspectacular things can be a universe.” ▪️ I started 2019 by reading Rayne and Delilah’s Midnite Matinee—@jeffzentner’s upcoming novel which releases in February. ▪️ This story follows high school seniors Josie and Delia as they try to figure out what comes next. ▪️ Josie is eager to pursue her dream of being on television with college but isn’t sure what to do when her dreams might be leading her away from her hometown and her best friend. ▪️ Delia, meanwhile, is desperate to find a way to help their public access television show Midnite Matinee grow beyond its current syndication so that Josie can pursue that dream without leaving her behind the way Delia’s father did. ▪️ This book is a story about big dreams, big chances, and the mediocre results we sometimes end up with as a result. Josie and Delia are hilarious, endearing, and some of my favorite characters to date. ▪️ Zentner has filled this book with Easter eggs from his earlier novels as well as some amazing jokes. I can’t reveal too much but let’s just say I’m still cracking up about the baby Basset Hounds. ▪️ Be sure to add this one to your to read list today and grab it from your local bookstore or library next month! ▪️ #instabooks #currentlyreading #amreading #instareads #bookgram #bookworm #bookblogging #bookblogger #bookstagrammer #bibliophile #booklove #bookphotography #instabook #reading #reader #booktography #bookstagram #beautifulbooks #booksofinstagram #goodreads #bookaholic #bookish #bookishfeature #bookstafeatures #bookstagramfeature #readersofinstagram #unitedbookstagram #rayneanddelilahsmidnitematinee #jeffzentner #funnybooks

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How was your week? What are you reading?

#BeatTheBacklist2019 Update: Books Read

This week I read The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo, When My Heart Joins the Thousand by A. J. Steiger, and Stop Staring at Screens by Tonya Goodin.

Decided to work on both the standard size card and the supersize card bingo cards but honestly not sure I’ll finish either before the year is out.

The Gilded Wolves: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

“When you are who they expect you to be, they never look too closely.”

cover art for The Gilded Wolves by Roshani ChokshiParis, 1889: SĂ©verin Montagnet-Alarie is well-known throughout Paris society as a wealthy hotelier–a persona that helps him acquire secrets and artifacts from the French faction of the Order—powerful houses who manage all Forged artifacts and guard the secrets of the Babel Fragments that make Forging both materials and minds possible.

Over the years SĂ©verin has created a loyal team to help with his acquisitions: Tristan, his brother in everything but blood; Enrique, his Filipino historian eager to champion his own cause; Zofia, a Polish engineer with obligations of her own; and Lailah, an Indian dancer with a secret that could be deadly.

The Order has taken everything from SĂ©verin but if he and his crew find an ancient artifact for a rival, he could get it all back. If they succeed, SĂ©verin will be able to change all of their fates. If the artifact doesn’t reshape the world first in The Gilded Wolves (2019) by Roshani Chokshi.

Chokshi’s new series starter is a sumptuous, fascinating historical fantasy that perfectly evokes the luxury and unrest of Belle Époque Paris alongside a carefully detailed world where Babel fragments allow Forgers to create wonders including portable recording devices, animated topiaries, and even control minds.

SĂ©verin and members of his crew alternate chapters in close third person introducing readers to their faceted backstories while the story itself unfolds in multiple directions. Chokshi has created an inclusive and authentic cast of characters (notably including a character on the autism spectrum as well as a character whose bisexuality is sensitively explored throughout the narrative). The entire team has obvious affection for each other along with the witty banter and twists fans of the author’s previous books will appreciate. Then there’s the chemistry between SĂ©verin and Lailah which is so strong that the pages practically sizzle.

The Gilded Wolves is part mystery, part fantasy, and all adventure as SĂ©verin and his team work to pull off a world-changing heist and make their own way in the world. In addition to solving ciphers and riddles while on the hunt for the artifact, SĂ©verin’s crew also interrogates the troubling history of European colonialism and cultural appropriation showing that not everything in Belle Epoque Paris is solid gold.

Chokshi’s expert pacing, intricate alternate history, and a complex and fully realized magic system are perfectly executed in this ambitious novel. The Gilded Wolves is a delectably intriguing adventure and guaranteed to be your next obsession.

You can also check out my exclusive interview with Rosh about this book!

Possible Pairings: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, The Cruel Prince by Holly Black, Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake, The Reader by Traci Chee, The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco, Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao, Truthwitch by Susan Dennard, For a Muse of Fire by Heidi Heilig, Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers, A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab, Enchantée by Gita Trelease

*A more condensed version of this review was published in the December 2018 issue of School Library Journal as a starred review*

Author Interview #3: Roshani Chokshi on The Gilded Wolves

Roshani Chokshi author photo, credit: Aman SharmaThe Gilded Wolves is a sweeping story set in a complex world filled with magic and intrigue. This historical fantasy is part mystery and all adventure as SĂ©verin and his team work to pull off a world-changing heist and make their own way in the world. Lush settings, vibrant characters, action, and a few hints of romance blend together perfectly. I was lucky enough to read The Gilded Wolves in August before reviewing it for School Library Journal. Since then, I have been completely obsessed. I’m so excited to have Rosh here today for an interview about this new series starter.

MP: What was the inspiration for The Gilded Wolves? Where did you start with this project?

Roshani Chokshi (RC): Silly as it might sound, The Gilded Wolves inspiration came from my intense (and slightly embarrassing) love for National Treasure and Tomb Raider. As I started writing the book, it took on a life of its own! I started writing this project in early 2016. It was just a wee seedling of a story, but it quickly expanded in scope.

MP: The Gilded Wolves is set in Paris in 1889. While the presence of Babel Fragments and the Order has altered quite a few things in this world, much of your setting is still filled with historical detail. What kind of research went into creating this world? What setting details were you most excited to develop?

RC: There was a lot of research. I could wax poetic about the fascinating history of ice manufacturing for…days. And yet, all that research went into ONE SENTENCE in the story that I eventually took out!!!! WHY GODS WHY. For me, the most exciting setting details were the parties…I love parties. I love a glamorous, well-thought out party with a fabulous theme. And I like to know what’s happening in the corners of the party. You know, where all the good gossip starts ;)

MP: The Gilded Wolves follows multiple characters as Séverin works with his team to pull off a seemingly impossible heist.  Which character was the most fun to write? Who was the hardest to write? Who are you especially excited for readers to meet?

RC: Hypnos was the most fun to write, and Zofia was the hardest to write. For Hypnos, I knew who he would be, but not how he would arrive at that point. For Zofia, I respected from the beginning that her thought process as someone on the spectrum followed a different set of guidelines. I am so appreciative of the help from my sensitivity readers for helping me not only get into her head, but also represent her thought process in a way that (hopefully) resonates with similar readers. I’m most excited for readers to meet Enrique, who is the kind of character my Filipina mother has been bugging me to write for the last five years. He’s that nerdy friend who would send you articles from The Guardian/The Economist and ask you over drinks what you thought about them because omgggghistorynewswowwhatislife. Lol.

MP: In your novel some people can channel power from Babel Fragments as Forgers with abilities that range from shaping plants into wondrous arrangements to building technological devices or even controlling minds. What kind of Forger would you want to be?

RC: I would loveeee to have a Forging affinity for matter, specifically silk. Enchanted dresses?! Yes please.

MP: The Gilded Wolves is the start of a series. How did you go about plotting a story that would take place over multiple books? How much did you know about the way you wanted the series to play out when you started writing this first part of the story?

RC: To be very honest, this story changed so much in the telling. I thought it would be LIGHT. It…it is not. I thought it would be the kind of fantasy you could consume in your sleep, and it’s not. In fact, it’s treacherous DNF material for the first 30% and, frankly, that’s the way the story needed to be told. It was (is) genuinely the best I could do at the skill-level I possessed at the time I finished…that’s many conditions, but, as a writer who sincerely believes in growing with each book, I know that’s a personal best. I hope that for readers who push through those first 50 pages, that they find something worth loving.

MP: I always love when you share updates on your writing and revision process on your Instagram. In addition to already working on the second book in this series, you are also working on the second book in your middle grade series which started with Aru Shah and the End of Time. How do you balance working on two projects so close together? What does a typical writing day look like for you?

RC: Oh, I’m so glad! Usually, I worry that I’m just a rambling fiend because balancing projects is…tough. To say the least. I think the only way that I can manage it is if both books are in different stages. As in, one is in draft and the other is in revision, but they can’t be one thing at the same time or I’d go bananas. O_O For me, a typical writing day is telling my computer it won’t get the best of me, entering fierce negotiations with my cat that the keyboard is not an avant garde bed, and dithering around aimlessly until I panic from looking at the time and word vomit into Scrivener. Very glamorous, I know. My best writing is in revisions, when I wake up super early, and pretend the world (and twitterverse) is asleep…and then I tinker with sentences. I dream up plot points that will never be in the story; flashbacks I’ll never include…just to understand the fictional person I’m dealing with. And that’s when I fall back in love with an idea.

MP: Can you tell me anything about your next project? (Or your ongoing ones!)

RC: If anyone takes a glance at my Instagram or Twitter, it’s no secret that I’m toying with a Santa Claus origin story. It sounds ridiculous, I know. But beyond the humor of tackling something like that, I’m someone who suffers from really bad seasonal affective disorder. I love how in most cultures, there’s a midwinter figure, someone who inspires joy and generosity and stories…someone mythical who necessitates warmth at a time when all is dark. I think that’s why I’m interested in their origins, beyond, of course, getting to write a totally scandalous title >:)

Thanks again to Rosh for taking the time to talk with me.

You can see more about Roshani and her books on her website.

You can also read my review of The Gilded Wolves here on the blog.