Month: April 2016

“My Intimidating TBR” Tag & A New YA Release I’m Dying to Read

My new friend, Sean @ KingdomBookBlog, gave me a fabulous reason to think about books by tapping me for this “My Intimidating TBR” book tag. If you would like to join in the fun, please consider yourself tagged!

1.) What book have you been unable to finish?

I’m sorry to say my only DNF of the past year was a book many people adore, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han.

2.) What book have you yet to read because you just haven’t had the time?

So many books fall into this category! I’ll go with Legend by Marie Lu because I really want to read it! In fact, it’s been sitting in a TBR stack right here on my desk beside where I’m typing at this very moment, but poor Legend hasn’t made it to the top yet.

Legend (Legend, #1)

3.) What book have you yet to read because it’s a sequel?

I don’t think my blog would be my blog if I didn’t mention V.E. Schwab in at least every other post so, yes, the book I read because it was a sequel was A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab. 🙂

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4.) What book have you yet to read because it’s a new release?

If I positively can’t wait to read a new release, I do this silly thing called BUY THE BOOK. However, there is a new book I’m dying to read but can’t since it’s not scheduled for release until September 2016–The Reader by Traci Chee. Protagonist Sefia vows to save her kidnapped relative, but rescue means learning to read in a world where literacy is forbidden.  A sample chapter is available here–you’ll need to scroll past several other sample chapters to get to it.

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5.) What book have you yet to read because you read a book by the same author and didn’t like it?

I can’t remember a specific book I went out of my way to avoid because it was written by an author whose writing I didn’t care for.

6.) What book have you yet to read because you aren’t in the mood?

Hmm, good question. Probably The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster by Scott Wilbanks. It’s the kind of whimsical, fantastical, well-written story I would enjoy, but something about the dense typeface gives me pause.

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7.) What book have you yet to read because it’s humongous?

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness. At 579 pages it isn’t ridiculously long, but I’m a little on the fence about reading it–if it were shorter I would fall off the fence on the side of reading it. 🙂

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8.) What book have you yet to read because it was a cover buy with bad reviews?

I adore pretty book covers but don’t buy books purely based on them.

9.) Which book on your TBR is the most intimidating to you?

Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson.

Mistborn: The Final Empire (Mistborn, #1)

–Eve Messenger

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Happy & Confused April Reading #amreading

April 2016 Reads

This month I got to go all over the place in books. Just looking at the graphic of the ten books I read in April makes happy and maybe just a bit confused. While there was definitely a YA fantasy slant to my reading selections (no big surprise there), I think this month each book ended up being from a different genre.

Consider by Kristy Acevedo-I kicked off April with a bit of YA sci-fi. Intriguing concept, shocker ending.

What We Need to Survive by Elena Johansen – My writer-blogger friend Elena published an adult post-apocalyptic romance that I just had to read. Her writing is flawless.

The First Time She Drowned by Kerry Kletter – This YA contemporary blew me away with its beautiful writing and All. Of. The. Feels. I posted a review of it here.

Captain Marvel Further, Faster, More vol. 1-6 Higher by DeConnick & Lopez-Another recommendation from Carolyn @ A Hundred Thousand Stories that I adored, this (graphic novel? comic book?) series predominantly features females in the lead roles, including of course Carol Danvers as Captain Marvel. Excellent writing by DeConnick and beautiful artwork by David Lopez. Now I’m off to read Ms. Marvel. . .

The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou-At last I sat down and read a collection of poetry by the modern goddess of poetry herself, Maya Angelou. She wrote deep, musical, personal poetry that does what poetry should–makes us see the world as very big and very small all at the same time and makes us think.

Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor-An outstanding YA urban fantasy. I liked the dark, imaginative story and the atmospheric Prague setting. From all the things I’d heard about it,  I expected the writing to be transcendent, which finally started happening on page 174. This story went to a place that, well–no spoilers–but what an ending.

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld – I finally got around to reading this hugely famous book and had a fun time. Mixing things up with a bit of  YA dystopia every once in a while is a good thing.

The Uninvited by Cat Winters – YA paranormal. I’m always up for a story about ghosts, and I liked the historical setting of WW-I , flu-epidemic era small-town America, but this turned into a romance right away, which is not my favorite genre.

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman – Adult urban fantasy. I read this as an audio book and, as someone who swore long ago never, ever to commute to work again, listening to it during my short ride to work and during errands took an excruciatingly long time. Five weeks, to be exact. I finally broke down, found a PDF of Neverwhere online, read the last 30 pages (with my eyes, not my ears), and enjoyed the book so much more. Also, an interesting thing happens when I read Neil Gaiman’s writing–it almost instantly makes me a better writer. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? But it’s really true!

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi- Yay, this highly anticipated YA Indian fantasy finally arrived! Thanks to Amazon, I received it on the release date, April 26, and read it in two days.Gorgeous imagery, poetic prose.

Happy reading! Did you have a crazy, mixed-up genre of a reading month, too?

–Eve Messenger

Delightful Interview with Roshani Chokshi, Author of The Star-Touched Queen

In honor of this week’s release of the gorgeous new YA novel, The Star-Touched Queen, I am re-Roshani at ALA Midwinter Conferencerunning a delightful interview I did with author Roshani Chokshi back in February.

 

Why The Star-Touched Queen is a Must-Read:

The Star-Touched Queen is one of the most talked-about YA debut novels of 2016 for good reason. Sarah J. Maas calls Rokshani Chokshi’s writing “flawless.” Then there’s Indian mythology, great world-building (trees that bear memories instead of fruit!?), a unique protagonist you want to root for, plus a cover so beautiful it makes you feel like you’re stepping into a dream.

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Interview with Rokshani Chokshi

Eve:   Roshani, YA fans are already talking about your gorgeous Pinterest page. Where did you find such beautiful pictures to represent The Star-Touched Queen?

RC: Thank you! I guess I got ridiculously lucky on Pinterest. But I also typed in strange things in the search box, like, “gothic jeweled fruit” and “bloody hands.” You’ll get some interesting stuff…

Eve:  What made you fall in love with your novel?

RC: I love this question! I fell in love with it because of its ease. It’s not a new story. It’s threaded with a thousand and one familiar tales, from fairytales to folklore all across the world. But what made me so excited about writing it was tweaking little things and pushing the worldbuilding farther.

Eve:  Are you planning a book tour? If so, what is a question you hope someone asks?

RC: Not sure yet! I know we’re doing a blog tour, and I’m very excited for that. I hope someone asks me what my job would be in the wizarding (and witches!) world of Harry Potter.

Eve:  Now I have to ask. . . What would your job be in the wizarding world of Harry Potter?

RC: I would love to be MINISTER OF MAGIC!!!  Thank you for asking. 🙂

EveThe publishing industry is a notoriously slow-moving machine. From writing to publication, how long was the “birthing” process of your book? What have some of the highlights been?

RC: From writing to sale…about two years. The highlights have been working with my agent and editor who have been incredible champions throughout all my doubts, rewrites and crazy revision ideas.

Eve:  Many YA writers also seem to be music lovers. Did you create a playlist for your novel and, if so, what are some of the songs on it?

RC: Yes! “Satellite” by Guster, “Nagada Sang Dhol” from the Bollywood film Ram-Leela and, don’t laugh, “679” by Fetty Wap. My brain is a many-fangled beast…
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EveYour eclectic song choices make me want to read the book even more! Speaking of music, YA authors Libba Bray, Natalie Standiford, Barnabas Miller, and Daniel Ehrenhaft have been known to perform at publishing industry events with their band, Tiger Beat. If you were in an authors band, what instrument would you play?

RC: Glass harmonica. It’s just so strange. I must possess it.


Eve:  I LOVE the glass harmonica. Great pick. . .  What are some books you recently read that you loved?

RC: UPROOTED by Naomi Novik recently ate my soul (in the best way possible) and I also loved RADIANCE by Catherynne Valente.

Eve:  Having an online presence is a big deal for writers. How do you balance writing and social media?

RC: I think putting my phone on Do Not Disturb has been the most helpful. Maybe it’s just me, but I  can get anxious on social media. So, if I’m not careful, it can take up way more hours of my day than it should.

EveIn the early days of crafting your novel, were you shy about sharing what you’d written with others?

RC: Very much!!! But that’s part of the beauty of writing. We want it to be read, seen and felt. So taking that first step with beta readers and critique partners is a wonderful and terrifying moment.

Eve:  Do you have a critique group and, if so, how did you find them?

RC: Yes. I found them on sites like Ladies Who Critique or Twitter!

Eve:  Your novel has such an evocative title. Who came up with the title, The Star-Touched Queen? Was this the same title you used when querying agents?

RC: When I queried agents, I used the title “THE GLASS GARDEN.” After signing with my agent, we sold the book when it was titled THE BRIDE OF DUSK AND GLASS. AFTER selling, we changed it to THE STAR-TOUCHED QUEEN thanks to the geniuses over at MacMillan.

Eve:  What’s your typical writing schedule? Do you reward yourself for meeting writing goals?

RC: I try to get most of my writing done in the morning-early afternoon. The light in myRoshani Chokshi fave reward cadbury bar favorite room is at its softest, and it makes me feel deliciously inspired. I do reward myself! Every 1k gets me half a Cadbury bar. I do, however, frequently break these rules…what are rules for after all…

Eve:  Many writers have dark moments while working on their novels, times when they’re not sure they’ll ever finish. If you encountered hurdles like this, how did you overcome them?

RC: When I get this way (and it does happen), I read my favorite books. I return to the worlds of Neil Gaiman, Laini Taylor and Catherynne Valente. I let them guide me back to why I love writing.

Eve:  Was there any particular epiphany you had while writing your novel when you said to yourself, “Hey, I can do this. I’m going to publish this thing.”

RC: No, actually! And I WISH I DID! When I finished TSTQ, there was a great surge of “wow. I did the thing!” But that was what I was celebrating. Not the idea that I could actually find it on bookshelves one day.

Eve:  Lately, YA book lovers seem to be saying there is an overemphasis on romance in YA fiction. What are your thoughts on this?

RC: I love reading romance in YA. But I don’t think it’s critical to a plot. There are some books, like SIX OF CROWS by Leigh Bardugo, which deftly handle characterization and takes the focus away from the characters’ romantic entanglements. Other beautiful books, like ALL OUR PRETTY SONGS by Sarah McCarry, have romance but focus on the friendship and the experience of growing. I have no problem with romance, but I personally prefer books where romance is not the ONLY motivation for the character.

Eve:  Who are some of your favorite fictional characters and why?

RC: Howl, from HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE because he was vain and wonderful and my first serious book boyfriend.    Howl from Howl's Moving Castle

Kaye, from Holly Black’s TITHE because she was fierce and gritty.      Kaye from Tithe

Razgut, from Laini Taylor’s DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE trilogy because he was pitiful and deranged and wildly funny.

Eve:  What’s something you really hope people say after they read your novel?

RC: I hope they forget they were reading. I hope they think they’ve tasted fairy fruit and fallen in love and spent time wandering through Otherworldly palaces.

Eve: Best of luck to you, Roshani. Ever since I read your short story, The Star Maiden, in Shimmer magazine, I knew you’d be a great success. Thank you for all your fantastic answers to my questions.

RC: Thank you for giving me the opportunity to talk about writing. I deeply appreciate it.

Eve: Where can your fans reach you?

RC: Pretty much everywhere!

 

 

Poor, neglected blog. Time to check in.

I wish I were hoverboarding right now above the river, the wilderness, and the Rusty Ruins just like Tally, the protagonist in Uglies, which I am currently reading (my first Scott Westerfeld novel).

Sometimes life gets so crazy busy that even things that are important to me, like blogging, have to get shoved to the side for a while. There are so many things I want to do in life. Unfortunately, a day job is one of them. I like being a teacher, but I’m in a place right now where I truly, honestly feel that writing full-time is what I need to be doing. But tell that to my bank account. 

The good news is I continue to grow and learn as a writer. I’m still mastering the art of completing a polished novel, but with every novel I write I get better and closer to proving to myself (and hopefully to the world) that I have what it takes to make it as a professional writer. I’ve made friends in the writing community, people so far removed from my daily life it’s kind of funny, like I have an alternate life. Which I guess I kind of do. To the rest of the world I’m mom, wife, teacher, friend, errand runner, whatever. But then there’s this inner world apart from all that in which I’m the chick who’s busting her tail to become a successful published author. There are lots of dues to pay.

I try to squeeze in writing 500-100 words however I can each weekday and then several thousand more on Saturdays and Sundays. A full-time teaching schedule, then a part-time job after school (teaching at a private school and Southern California’s cost of living do not see eye to eye), then tending to family and home doesn’t leave time for hobbies, except for reading, which of course is like calling breathing a hobby.

TV? What’s TV?

One of the only TV shows I have time for is Broad City, which is an effing hilarious show. Genuinely funny women being bawdy and crude makes me happy.

My husband also recently turned me on to a show on Netflix called River, which is pretty great.

All the characters in the series look like real people–a television trend I adore, and it has an intriguing paranormal theme, too. Detective River talks to ghosts who help him solve crimes, kind of like a darker, much more British (it’s set in London, yay!) Medium (remember that show with Patricia Arquette?) The acting is excellent. The writing is, too. In fact, one scene brought tears to my eyes, when River, the downtrodden, ghost-seeing, expert detective says:

“I’m a good officer. But, in this world, that’s not enough. In this world you have to be able to nod and smile and drink a pint, and say, “How was your day?” In this world, no one can be different or strange.  Or damaged. Or they lock you up.” [River (2015), season 1, episode 2]

What was it about this line that got me so choked up? Of course, there was something about what he said that I related to, as in we have things about ourselves that we know are smart or clever or special, but people don’t always see them. The charming people who walk with the most confidence seem to get a lot. People like me who bust our tails don’t necessarily get recognition unless we also know how to play politics. That exhausts me.

Give me writing, reading, and talking to people who love those things, too. And a hoverboard.

–Eve Messenger

Devastating & Beautiful – The First Time She Drowned

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The First Time She Drowned is the first book I’ve read in a long time that kept me up until the wee hours of the morning. I couldn’t put it down. It drew me in with some of the most beautiful prose of any YA book I’ve ever read, and the plot is structured in such  a way that it keeps you guessing all the way through. Pretty clear clues are given early on as to a pivotal event in Cassie’s life, so the revelation isn’t a big surprise and it doesn’t need to be.

Written by former Hollywood actress Kerry Kletter, The First time She Drowned is a brilliant YA contemporary debut novel, but be warned that the protagonist Cassie endures genuine cruelty, the kind of cruelty that may be devastatingly familiar to you, the kind that may cause you to have to process the feelings it evokes. Too often, books exploit traumatic experiences for the sake of compelling plot lines. This book doesn’t do that. The First Time She Drowned doesn’t exist to aggravate old wounds; it gets blood flowing to emotional injuries so we can heal.

Rating: 5 stars

–Eve Messenger

The Bookish Academy Awards of the Past 12 Months

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Cue the spotlights, it’s time for the Bookish Academy Awards. Out of all the books I’ve read in the past 12 months, these are the winners. Thanks to Brittany @ The Grisha Lieutenant for tagging me and for having such spectacular taste in books.

Best Male Protagonist

Kell from V.E. Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic because he’s sympathetic and unique, with a mysterious past that I want to learn more about. (Note: Will and Jem from Infernal Devices were close runners-up in this category.)

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Kell by Victoria Ying

Best Female Protagonist

For her curiosity, bravery, fierce talent for magic, and strong moral compass, I choose Celia Bowen from The Night Circus. Even as a little orphaned girl of six, Celia refused to allow the fearsome magician to intimidate her and speak badly about her mother.

Celia Bowen by mockingbird465

Best Plot Twist

Everything about The Knife of Never Letting Go is twisted, especially the plot.

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Best Book Cover

I haven’t read The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson yet, but for some reason I am really drawn to the cover.

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Best Supporting Character

Kenji Kishimoto in Unravel Me. He’s an accomplished fighter with a sympathetic history, and what I love about him most is his sense of humor and fun-loving nature.

Kenji Kishimoto: “You are moody. It’s always ‘Shut up, Kenji.’ ‘Go to sleep, Kenji.’ ‘No one wants to see you naked, Kenji.’ When I know for a fact that there are thousands of people who would love to see me naked—“

Juliette and Kenji by Ice Ridden

Most Unique World

Magonia features a world unlike anything I’ve ever read before.

Best Screenplay Adaptation

Room with Brie Larson. Watching this movie was honestly like seeing the book come to life. I’ve been a huge fan of Brie Larson’s for a while now, and I’m excited to see her getting starring roles. What a great actress.

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A Book You Would Love to See Animated

The Night Circus, except what I’d be most interested in is an animated version of a prequel featuring the story of Tsukiko and Hinata.

Best Author

V.E. Schwab. I love her writing and everything about her.

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Best Collection of Short Stories

Firebirds: An Anthology of Original Fantasy and Science Fiction (2003). I don’t read a lot of short fiction, but I picked up this anthology on a whim at the library and really enjoyed it. There are stories by lots of famous fantasy and sci-fi YA writers. My favorite was “Hope Chest” by Garth Nix.

Best Historical or Historical Fiction

I don’t read much historical fiction, but I’m liking it more and more. Not sure if this book counts, but I’ll go with Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier.

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Best Book of the Year

Applause, please, for the big winner of the night, A Darker Shade of Magic. The characters, the story, the unique and magical world, I loved everything about this book.

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 Tag, you’re it:

Carolyn @ A Hundred Thousand Stories

Beth @ Betwixt These Pages

Jesalin @ Blogging Everything Beautiful

Lila @ The Bookkeeper’s Secrets

Rae @ BookmarkChronicles

Morgan @ Hopeless Book Addict

Jocelyn @ 52 Letters in the Alphabet

Amanda @ Cover2Cover Mom

 

Bon Voyage, Book Junkies and Writers #amwriting

I’m packed and ready to head out for a four-day, three-night writing retreat. My first one, all by myself. I booked a deal for three FREE nights at a hotel and, starting today at about 1pm, I will hunker down in a hotel room and work hard on my novel–a dark, modern YA fantasy I mentioned a few weeks back. Distraction-free for four days, I’m hoping to write enough to put a big dent in my CampNaNoWriMo  goal of 60,000 words for the month.

After writing all day, I’ll reward myself with a show,  dinner, and/or chatting and high-fiving with interesting people from all over the world at the blackjack tables. That’s right. I will be in. . .

Since I’ll be so immersed in writing my new book you probably won’t see me around for a while.

Just kidding.

Of course I’ll pop in and check  on you, my wonderful writer and book junkie friends (hotel WIFI permitting).

Speaking of book junkies. . . my Kindle Paperwhite is brimming with books to be read during the trip. Not that I’ll be able to get to them all , but it’s nice to have a choice, right? What We Need to Survive by Elena Johansen (writer and blogger friend extraordinaire) will definitely be the first book I read,  but after that what do you think I should try next?

Kindle TBR for the Vegas Trip:
What We Need to Survive by Elena Johansen
The Uninvited by Cat Winters Thanks for the recommendation Beth @ Betwixt-the-pages!
Sapphire Blue (Red Ruby Trilogy #2) by Kerstin Gier 
The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh 
The Last Orphans by N.W. Harris (Thanks to Amanda @ cover2covermom for finding this great deal.)
The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski
The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma  ( I was disappointed in 17 & Gone, but Suma is a good writer, so I’d like to give her another try.)
Gambit by C.L. Denault (Melanie Noelle Bernard, this book is on this list because of you
The Day We Are Born by Philippa Cameron

Viva Las Vegas!

–Eve Messenger