JUNE ATE ME FOR LUNCH (My Month – Recapped)

I might as well just post this title and go home. But even though it tells you what my month was like, it doesn’t tell you what my month was like.

Here are some gifs to help explain that:

Getting the idea?

I did write ONE June Post – the required Beautiful People, featuring the doctor from my WIP. So I will still consider this a valid entry for the Wrap-Up Round-Up Monthly link-up with Nicole from Feed Your Fiction Addiction.

ANYHOW, there were a lot of reasons I wasn’t on the blog – and the biggest one was a forced relocation to my parents’ upper room. (See May Rewind). So my sister and I couldn’t find a place fast enough, and my parents were kind enough to take us back. The problem is, there are already a lot of people crowded into my parents’ small space, and it’s double the distance from both of my jobs. The perks? I love my family, and they have internet. *Proceeded to binge watch Tokyo Ghoul *

So it’s a little like living in The Burrow – only without magic.

That was the worst news of June (best news soon) – but I have also been extremely busy at both jobs. June – August is always a crazy period at the Book Nook, with Harry Potter Camp and two music festivals in that short period. June has the West Michigan Wine and Jazz Festival, which brings in jazz musicians and singers from all over the country. It’s a lot of fun (and great music), but rather exhausting.

And while I’m talking about music (which I do a lot, I realize), my sister and I had a break from the moving stress and went to see Fitz & The Tantrums at Meijer Gardens. They. Were. Awesome. The Meijer Garden’s Amphitheater is a huge outdoor venue (and it was packed), with rental seating, or you can bring low-backed chairs and sit/stand on the grass. Grace and I managed to get on the second step up, so about 10-15 feet from the stage, which was perfect. The evening started out with indie California rock band Finish Ticket. I’d never heard of them, but they were fantastic, with stellar musicians and an extremely powerful vocalist. They came out the gate with music and vocals that were completely on point and effortless. Needless to say, I bought their mini album/LP, and I’ve really been enjoying it.

But of course, I was there for F & T. I’ve never seen them live, but I’ve been a follower/fan since 2013 (when they released their second LP), so three years of loving their music made me anticipate the live show. I WAS SO EXCITED.

And guys – they were AWESOME.

Vocals, to energy, to crowd interaction, to general quality – it was in the top 5 performances I’ve ever seen on every level. Added to this, the sound quality, lights, and atmosphere were perfect.

And it was so much fun – Fitz ” (with his co-vocalist Noelle Scaggs – who is a phenomenal soul/pop singer, and a handful of extraordinary musicians) wouldn’t let us sit still and be stodgy, complacent listeners (which my sister and I usually are). He got everyone on their feet in seconds, and Noelle’s dancing (and urging of the crowd to dance) was contagious enough for my sister and I to at least bob our heads and tap our feet.

Zion T. is an accurate representation of our public dancing 😛

*Hey, they got us to ‘handclap’ for Handclap, so they need an award here. I think it would take me about twenty years to learn the actual Handclap dance . . .*

 

So in short – if you like dance-y soul pop you should check out Fitz & The Tantrums!

(Start with Fools Gold, Out of My League, Dear Mr. President, Tricky, Walking Target . . .)

And speaking of dancing – this crazy video also happened in June.

Every time I watch EXO dance, I am somewhere between awe and despair. HOW EVEN GUYS?? How can you move (or not move) like that? Cordinationally-challenged individuals like myself can only dream.

And on the subject of dreaming AND concerts – BIGBANG keep spamming innocent international fans with all of the cool stuff they’re doing for their 10th Anniversary in Korea, China, and Japan – and it all looks miserably awesome. And far away. Thanks guys

ANYHOW – in non-music related stuff- I was in one of my best friend’s wedding the first week of June.

A lovely shot of the bride and groom that I creepily pilfered from someone's Facebook
A lovely shot of the bride and groom that I creepily pilfered from someone’s Facebook

It was beautiful and everything went well, so that was an answer to many prayers. And no one fainted, though I actually locked my knees for the first time in my life 😛

 

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This picture is actually mine – but the poor quality is my phone 🙁

 

 

I am still waiting to see all the pictures . . . I was too busy to take many myself. But the most important thing is that it all went off without a hitch, and that she is now happily married and relocated with her groom to Indiana (and now I have another person to visit on my spontaneous roadtrips!!)

 

 

BUT THE BEST JUNE NEWS OF ALL?????

I HAVE A CUTE NEPHEW. And thus, one of my lifelong dreams is realized: I now have a nephew AND a niece. William Charles was born on June 30th, and he’s absolutely precious. It is a great testimony to my willpower that i didn’t ditch work, jump in my car, and speed down south at once. Instead, I am consoling myself in many, many cute baby pictures. I will now commence buying adorable little boy clothes and biding my time until I can dart off to see him.

What’s Next?:

Well, Lord-willing, Knight of the Blue Surcoat is still set for an August release (though the publisher contacted me to tell me there might be a small delay . . .?), and when I know more, I’ll tell you.

And July – there’s Harry Potter Camp (prepping like a wizard studying for O.W.L.S right now), and a new Beautiful People (which I’ll use another one of the Seven Sisters for), and maybe, maybe, a cute nephew to go see?? (If I can pull time off out of my ears, maybe). And I’m almost done with my readthrough of TLCS, so I’ll enter the actual editing phase next (June didn’t happen). OH – AND BOOKS TO READ. I basically read a pile of manga in June. It was the only thing I had time/attention span for. But I’m hopeful for July (Blood for Blood – just started it!). And I’m still plugging along at my Korean studies and research (more about that eventually), despite having the attention span of a two-year-old and no time. I’m sort of hoping that I’ll just absorb it from the unhealthy amounts of music I listen to . . .

Despite my busy schedule, my parents’ internet means you’ll probably see a little more of me (though what state I’ll be in – that’s uncertain).

Happy July! Keep Reading and Writing!

Soooo – any summer/fall concerts planned for you? What are you reading or writing? Have you made it to the beach yet (sadly, I haven’t)? Any new bands or songs you’re liking? (Summer is the perfect time for windows down and speakers UP)

 

 

6 Reasons You Need to Read Memories of Ash by Intisar Khanani

First off – A huge thank you to Intisar Khanani for allowing me to read an advance copy of Memories of Ash! This was a free copy provided in exchange for an honest review – which in no way affected my review 🙂

 

Memories of Ash, the sequel to Sunbolt came out a couple days ago- have you ordered your copy yet? If you haven’t read Sunbolt, don’t worry – it’s quite short, and very good – so fix that first 🙂 You can also click through above to read my review of Sunbolt, and to get an idea of the story.

Memories of Ash picks up immediately where Sunbolt left off – so some minor spoilers for Sunbolt follow in the synopsis (pinched from Goodreads):

In the year since she cast her sunbolt, Hitomi has recovered only a handful of memories. But the truths of the past have a tendency to come calling, and an isolated mountain fastness can offer only so much shelter. When the High Council of Mages summons Brigit Stormwind to stand trial for treason, Hitomi knows her mentor won’t return—not with Arch Mage Blackflame behind the charges.

Armed only with her magic and her wits, Hitomi vows to free her mentor from unjust imprisonment. She must traverse spell-cursed lands and barren deserts, facing powerful ancient enchantments and navigating bitter enmities, as she races to reach the High Council. There, she reunites with old friends, planning a rescue equal parts magic and trickery.

If she succeeds, Hitomi will be hunted the rest of her life. If she fails, she’ll face the ultimate punishment: enslavement to the High Council, her magic slowly drained until she dies.

Since I don’t want to spoil the book for anyone I’ll follow the same format as I did with reviewing Sunbolt, and give you 6 reasons why you need to read Memories of Ash, ASAP.

6 Reasons to Read Memories of Ash

  1. The World and Characters.

    If you love fantasy, you know that a fascinating world and colorful characters are extremely important. In the Eleven Kingdoms of Sunbolt and Memories of Ash, Khanani has created a world so vivid and interesting that you won’t want to leave. Her worldbuilding is fabulous, with so many (effortlessly) diverse and multifaceted cultures and places. In Memories of Ash, the Mage School and the magical wastelands (both mentioned in Sunbolt) are the primary new locations explored, and there are a handful of new characters introduced as well. As with Sunbolt, the characters are varied and well-developed, with Hitomi always at center stage (as she should be). Val isn’t forgotten either, and the ramifications of their alliance (friendship) are further explored and complicate the story.*

    2. Hitomi. 

    I know I used her as one of my reasons for reading Sunbolt, but I’ll shamelessly repeat myself: Hitomi is just the sort of strong heroine that we need more of. She isn’t fearless or invincible, but she’ll go to (believably crazy) lengths to save the people she cares about. In spite of this, she won’t trample people or intentionally cause harm (which creates a few moral quandaries to spice up the plot). She’s moral herself, but she isn’t judgemental, and she is both a likable and relatable young woman. And of course, Memories of Ash just made me love her more.

    3. Consistency rules. 

    When I started Memories of Ash (hereafter known as MoA), I was immediately plunged back into the world of Sunbolt. Khanani’s characters, facts, magic systems, locations, and details are so seamless that you don’t feel disconnected at all. With fantasy, this is pivotal to the reader’s experience of the book.  Characters from Sunbolt mixed with new characters, and at the center, Arch Mage Blackflame seems to have an even more complicated scheme than we all realized

    4. The Writing. 

    This is another point I’ve brought up – but Intisar Khanani’s prose is fluid and beautiful to read. She blends humor, intrigue, and just the perfect amount of description. Her plotting and pace are wonderful, with a good mixture of adventure, action, and a few twists. I could immediately visualize all of the different locations, though the descriptions were never long.

    5. Thorny Morality Questions: Met head-on.

    Have you ever watched an adventure film or read a book and thought “where are the consequences?,” or, “do they even care about collateral damage?” Well, morality (interestingly enough) comes up rather often through the course of Memories of Ash. Hitomi is confronted with several pivotal decisions that make her put her own freedom/safety/happiness up against the lives and livelihood of others. And she doesn’t just make these decisions by flipping a coin or shrugging it off with a “ends justify the means” mentality. It’s refreshing to see a character dealing with the real fallout of their decisions, and Hitomi’s struggles just made me more invested in her.

6. It’s BOOK SIZED.

Did you love Sunbolt, but wish it was longer (I did!)? Memories of Ash is book-length, which takes away my only complaint from Sunbolt. A longer novel was definitely worth the wait, as it allowed Khanani to further develop and enrich the fascinating world and characters.

Did I convince you yet? Then what are you waiting for?! Go purchase a copy (you can download it through Kobo, Nook, or Amazon, or ask your local bookstore to order you a physical copy!**)

Have you read/do you plan to read Memories of Ash and/or Sunbolt? Scroll down for more info and a GIVEAWAY!

Footnotes:

*Don’t you just love complicated relationships (in fiction)? And Hitomi and Val’s whole connection is so interesting to me. I can’t wait to read more about Breathers (yeah, I’ll keep bringing this up . . .)

**I’ll be ordering physical copies for the store I work at!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Book Info:

Title: Memories of Ash

Series: The Sunbolt Chronicles, Book Two

Author: Intisar Khanani (http://booksbyintisar.com)

Cover Designer: Jenny Zemanek (http://www.seedlingsonline.com/index2.php#!/HOME)

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Release Date: May 30, 2016

Publisher: Purple Monkey Press

Price: US $3.99 (eBook), US $TBD (paperback)

Author Bio:

Intisar Khanani grew up a nomad and world traveler. She has lived in five different states as well as in Jeddah on the coast of the Red Sea. Until recently, Intisar wrote grants and developed projects to address community health with the Cincinnati Health Department, which was as close as she could get to saving the world. Now she focuses her time on her two passions: raising her family and writing fantasy. Intisar’s current projects include a companion trilogy to Thorn, featuring the heroine introduced in her free short story The Bone Knife, and The Sunbolt Chronicles.

 

 

ALL the Books – Book Expo, ARCS, and More

So if you follow me here or on various social media, you probably know that I was just at Book Expo America 2016, in Chicago, Illinois. If not, now you do.

What is Book Expo? It’s basically an annual 3-day convention that brings bloggers, press, booksellers, librarians, teachers, publishers, agents, sales reps, printers, AND SO MANY MORE BOOK PEOPLE together in a giant venue. There are educational sessions, author panels, vendors, autographing events, and a lot more. It’s crazy, busy, and a little overwhelming. But it’s also a lot of fun, and I’ve been fortunate enough to go twice now for work.

For those of you who didn’t get to go, I thought it would be fun to give you a taste of BEA16 through the eyes of a scattered bookseller/author/blogger.

DAY 1 (Wednesday, May 11)

I was in Nashville at my brother’s house (long story that I may or may not tell some other time), and he kindly got up with me at 4 am to take me to the airport for my flight. AAAAAND – my flight was cancelled . . .

We went to the airport anyhow, and I waited in a line of around 100 people only to find out the next flight was at 8 PM! I needed to be in Chicago by 10 AM to make the sessions I wanted to go to.  According to the ticket agent, they always call when your flight is cancelled – but I didn’t know I was called because my phone crashed/died/imploded randomly the previous Friday (another long story I may tell later). I explained this to the ticket agent, and he managed to get me a refund (which was very nice of him, but it didn’t solve my flight problem).

Fortunately, I had purchased a Go Phone with my emergency cash, so I just logged onto a different airline site and snagged one of the last available tickets for Chicago. I had to wait an hour in the security line (for real), and my new flight didn’t make it there till 11am, but that was a lot better than missing the whole day!!

So I made it to O’Hare, which was a zoo. I quickly jogged downstairs and bought a Ventra card, hopped on the “L” train, and finally made it into Chicago. It was an easy ride to the McCormick Place stop (where BEA was), and I jogged a block, and arrived just before the exhibit hall opened at 1pm.

They don’t have napping rooms at these things, sadly

Instead of joining the crowd (stampede) rushing for the ARC drops and autographing lines, I took a few minutes to familiarize myself with the floor map and the show schedule. Next, I actually walked the building, to get the 3D version of the map in my head (hey, I’m actually a methodical person). And it’s just under 500,000 square feet of exhibit space, and that isn’t counting all the rooms for sessions and functions!

West Building Level 3
See – not kidding about the size

Once I had my bearings, I explored the many rows of shiny books and exciting, glittery things. It’s a bit like the booksellers’ equivalent of the fairy market, and it’s a really good thing that I bring home catalogs instead of buying things on the spot . . .

Photo Taken from the BEA Facebook Page

I am kind of bad about taking pictures, so I added one from BEA itself to give you a taste. It’s lines and lines of vendors from all over the world. I spent an inordinate amount of time in the Chinese publishing delegation’s section.

Day 1 for me was mostly spent in chatting with sales reps, publishers, and in snagging a few ARCs. I tend to be more adventurous, and get books from publishers and/or authors that I am less familiar with. In addition to books, there are always tote bags, bookish vendors (such as Out of Print Clothing Co.), and other exciting things to look at, so I usually reach sensory overload by the end.

Once I was thoroughly tired of hauling my overnight bag and books around, I headed back to the L, and from there to the commuter train. Riding the train is always fun for me – and besides, you can read! It was only about a 45 minute ride to the station, where my second cousin picked me up. We went to dinner, and then caught up over cups of tea back at her house. Tea is always amazing, but it’s even better after a long day!

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I love trains – and a commuter train is a wonderful thing
DAY 2: (Thursday, May 12)

We were off bright and early – her to work, and me to the train again. I continued to read one of my ARCS (more about this later), and the ride seemed pretty brief. I popped on my headphones, jogged to the Clinton St L stop, and made it to McCormick’s about a half hour early.

I looked over the day’s programming, marked up what I wanted to see and who I needed to meet up with, and then I waited with the crowds until the hall opened at 9am. My first stop was the ABA lounge, where those wonderful human beings had coffee for ABA members the whole time.

I spent the earlier part of the day doing more networking, meeting up with some of the people I met at Winter Institute (including my awesome scholarship sponsors, Lerner). I went to a few panels – covering what was new/upcoming in Adult, Children, and YA lit, and then one on nonfiction. I also attended on on what editors were excited to see at BEA. I grabbed a few of the ARCs that I heard about (including a heist novel called Thieving Weasels that looks hilarious!)

After being a good, studious little note-taking bookseller, I finally stood in a few signing lines. My first one was for MG/YA author Brandon Mull! (FablehavenA World Without Heroes, Five Kingdoms, etc). It was really cool to meet him and to tell him (personally) what success the store has had with his novels, and how so many young boys read them. He signed a book for my sister Charlotte (a fan!), which was awesome of him.

Debut author Kerri Maniscalco signed her novel Stalking Jack the Ripper (about a forensics student who, guess what, is trying to solve the Ripper murders), and she was very sweet and demure, and I’m pretty excited to read it.

Next, I stood in line for Min Jin Lee’s novel Pachinko, a story about a Korean family in Japan, starting in the early 1900’s. I hadn’t read anything of Lee’s, but I was sold by the premise. Since the line wasn’t super long, I actually got to chat with her for a few minutes, and she was lovely. We got to talking about my lifelong love of Asian pachinkohistory and culture (from India to lower Russian, to all of East Asia), and my travel-bug, which made her laugh and ask if I was actually Asian and didn’t know it – and then she signed my book like this —>

Needless to say, it’s one of my favorite ARCs I picked up, and I can’t wait to start it!

But the day’s excitement didn’t end there – because I found the Disney booth . . .

AND GUYS, GUYS – THEN I MET EOIN COLFER AND ACTUALLY MANAGED TO TALK. I don’t know if YOU read Artemis Fowl as a teenager, but I did, and it was a big deal to meet this guy. Not to mention, I have shared his books with my younger siblings, and he signed the book for my brother Elijah. It’s a novel about Iron Man (yeah, that Iron Man), and this is doubly cool because Elijah was a very reluctant reader at first, and superheroes are what really got him reading.

Also, he has beautiful, piercing blue eyes, which is irrelevant, but there you go

Anyhow, Eoin Colfer was nice and funny, and so gracious to listen to me tell him what his books meant to me, even with a whole line behind me. Also, since this was Disney (and they pull out all the stops), there was a guy standing in for Tony Stark. He was handing out chargers and directing us to the line for mocktails (served in light-up glasses, no less), which were quite refreshing after the (very warm!) walk around the exhibit hall.

A few more ARCs and conversations later, and I was ready to quit the hall for the city. Hauling books all over a city is no joke, so I decided it was high time for some Chicago pizza.

Ahhh, pizza. And now I'm hungry again
Ahhh, pizza. And now I’m hungry again

Gino’s East was my destination, and though it was busy, a lone person can always grab a chair at the bar, so I did. I got an artichoke and spinach pizza with honey goat cheese (since I’m lactose intolerant), and it was so good. My mouth’s watering just thinking about it! I also tried some Chicago craft beer, which was good, but not as good as the pizza!

After the food, I walked all over, dragging my books behind me. My ultimate destination was Chicago 360 (I’d never been there before), and the Sourcebooks party! (Thanks again to the wonderful team at Sourcebooks!!)

Chicago 360 is on the 94th floor of the John Hancock building, and it offers exactly what the name says: a breathtaking view of the city from all around. There were hor d’oeuvres and drinks, which I didn’t try until later (see^pizza). But I eventually tried some wonderful chilled noodle dishes (since walking all over Chicago had made me hungry again), and a cocktail with green tea syrup. Next, I tried the Tilt (where you tilt at a 30 degree angle over the city), took pictures, and met a fabulous and interesting Columbian bookseller named Yolanda. We talked books and bookselling in US vs Columbia for around and hour, and I had so much fun hearing about Columbia!

This was all as amazing as it sounds, but the highlight was KRISTI YAMAGUCHI. Yes – that one. She was at the party promoting a children’s book, and I missed the sample signing. However, I spotted her before she left, and managed to work up the courage to approach. (She’s one of my childhood heroes, and I followed her skating journey with the fervor of any fan, so I was truly nervous). Everyone after asked why I didn’t ask for a picture, and I’ve had trouble explaining that meeting her, shaking her hand, thanking her, and telling her how she inspired me – that was more valuable to me personally. It’s something I will never forget.

When I finally made it back to the suburbs, I was giddy and way overtired, and I didn’t make it to bed until 1am. But no regrets here!

DAY 3: (Friday, May 13)

By now, I was thoroughly tired, but still excited about several galleys and speakers/sessions on Friday. Most importantly, there was a galley drop of Blood for Blood (sequel to Wolf by Wolf) right off, and I wanted that more than pretty much anything. I braved a swarm of people and managed to get a copy, and it was all that I could do to not sit and read it on the spot.

But there were more books to get and people to talk to, so I resisted!

I went to two panels that were really fun, one on YA with Veronica Roth as the moderator, and one on African American authors and fiction.

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Roth first sorted everyone into their Hogwarts houses 🙂
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Center is Kwame Alexander, who has quickly become one of my favorite speakers ever

 

The YA panel was extremely entertaining (and I really want to read Veronica Roth’s new book now), but the second panel was spectacular. They talked about the importance of African-American lit written by/for African-American authors, and how the issue of an author’s race shouldn’t be an issue. A book is a good book, and we all want good books. Kwame Alexander is one of the most gracious, eloquent speakers I’ve ever had the pleasure of hearing, and he’s really funny too!

Late afternoon brought the Children/YA Author and Illustrator Tea. This was the heaven it sounds: booksellers, educators, and librarians sat at a table with an author or illustrator and listened to them talk about their books. And we had tea and scones. I had to pay extra, but it was 100% worth it.

My three author/illustrators were Jeffrey Brown (*DARTH VADER AND SON, PEOPLE), Duncan Tonatiuh (incredibly talented Mexican-American illustrator), and MARISSA MEYER.  It was awesome to sip tea and enjoy scones with these three diverse authors. And of course, we got copies of each book!

The art in this book is gorgeous!

It’s hard to pick a favorite experience, but the tea was wonderful, and I’m so grateful to the ABA for providing the opportunity.

I had a huge pile of books by now, but my long-suffering sister (yes, Grace), was going to pick me up (driving my car down from Michigan), and I had time to kill. So naturally, I hopped on the L and did some exploring. Despite the books I was hauling, it was wet and rainy and I was pretty soaked by the time I’d walked around Chinatown. This was the only day I hadn’t worn my much-loved Timelord hoodie (uh, it had been all over the L, and BEA, and the train . . .), and the only day I’d dressed for warm weather. I’m smart like that. So I did the only logical thing – I went to K-Pop of Chinatown and bought a giant Bigbang hoodie that was like wearing a fuzzy blanket (and solved everything).

Needless to say, I now walked everywhere in the rain, and ended up at the Disney Store. Naturally.

Dear Grace eventually managed to find me, but she had to play taxi since it was so busy, and I quickly hopped in and drove us back to the suburbs.

 

Day 4: (Saturday, May 14)

Book Expo might have been over, but that didn’t stop us from spending a fun day in the suburbs with family.

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Grace’s new beau

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We explored downtown Geneva, and went to the mall (why not?) and found an Anime store that delighted us far more than it should have. They were playing 1Am by Taeyang (never mind that he’s Korean and had nothing to do with anything), so we happily sang along and geeked out over plastic junk from Japan. As you do. But then we found these:

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Naruto Blind Box Figures!
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I GOT ITACHI!! (Center)

I got Itachi, which was awesome – but Grace got Sasuke, who was adorable (and Itachi’s little brother, so it was kind of perfect). They’re so tiny and cute!

We also went to a really cool store called Ragstock. They had vintage kimonos. We bought some vintage kimonos, and now felt perfectly fulfilled.

Back in Winfield, we went to bed to late, and packed up all of our stuff to leave in the morning.

Day 5: (Sunday, May 15)

We went to church, then came back to hang out for a bit before we headed home. We were pretty exhausted, but it was worth it.

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ALL the books, and totes, and stuff
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The two books I’m most excited to read!

And that was pretty much it. It was back to work (and Eastern Time) again early the next morning. I haven’t started in on any of my new books yet (I’ve been trying to finish the ones I was already reading), but I’m super excited about them!

So do you think you’d like to go to BEA? Have you been to Chicago (and what’s your favorite part)? Did you read all the way down to here? (If so, you deserve some cookies or something)

Monthly Rewind: April-pocalypse

And here I was, thinking April wouldn’t be crazy . . .

Nice to know I can still be naive, I guess?

April made my crazy March look -well- calm.

Have some more 10

So now it’s May, much too soon, and high time for the month in review link-up hosted by Nicole over at Feed Your Fiction Addiction. Click the links to look at what participants have been up to, and/or to join up.

On the Blog:

While I was hardly online in April, I did get a few things up, in spite of myself.

  1. I posted what happened in March – including a (slightly horrifying) pile of imported cds and dvds that . . . err, grew even larger in April. And everyone laughed at a rude waiter with me. That was fun.
  2. I continued working on Red as Blood, and posted a rather long introductory piece about The Seven Sisters of Henpecked Bar and Grill
  3. I made a really exciting announcement about my debut novel, Knight of the Blue Surcoat.
  4. I counted down (just) 10 of the books that make me laugh to the point of tears for Top Ten Tuesday. It was basically just an excuse for me to use silly gifs.
  5. And just when we thought (*I thought) that I’d disappeared from the internet and you would never read anything writerly from me, I decided to post a thoroughly involved post/essay/article on the differences between Villains, Antagonists, and Antiheroes.
  6. Bonus* There was no Beautiful People for April, so I snatched an old one and featured Sull, the protagonist from Red as Blood. (I actually posted this in May, but I typed it up in April, so don’t tell anyone).

Off the Blog:

This is where things got busy . . .

I have been working away at my two jobs, which is a bit like juggling, but with all of yourself. I have been on bartending training shifts, which aren’t hard (since I have the experience), but they do involve longer hours. On the upside, I’m just living the life of my characters in Red as Blood (albeit with less space, and sadly, no aliens. Yet.)

I helped host a bridal shower for one of my best friends (cheers!), which made the imminent wedding seem, well, imminent . . . And my sister and I made many fruitless searches for bridesmaids’ dresses, as we’re both in the wedding.

My sister (the oft-mentioned Grace) made Hotteok (호떡) – or Korean sweet dessert pancakes/street food – which were amazing, but we ended up using them to make egg sandwiches because of the end of this video (if you don’t click through, it’s an interview with Bigbang, with a “cooking competition” at the end.) They aren’t exactly the same thing, but, whatever.

2016-04-30 14.18.37 2016-04-30 14.25.22

They were really good- by the way.

And while we’re on the subject of reality tv (sort-of), there is this new Korean show called “Fantastic Duos” and the concept is really fun (we should adopt it over here). A recognized artist records their part of a song, and then invites anyone and everyone to participate by recording the other part(s) as a duet on their smartphone. Some of the participants are chosen to perform later on the live show (with the artist looking on), and then one is selected to actually perform a live duet with the aforementioned artist. It’s a ton of fun to watch, and they’ve already gotten an incredible performance like this out of it:

I already knew Taeyang (from Bigbang) was a great vocalist, but this girl is crazy good, and it will be a surprise if she doesn’t land herself a record deal. Anyhow, you should watch this, as it’s beautiful. 😛

But I digress – when we weren’t cooking (how we spend the majority of our “free time”, for whatever reason) or watching snippets of reality shows,  I was cram-reading to get ready for book club in May, and a local tv appearance (more on that some other time), and getting ready for Book Expo in May.

To be honest – most of April is a blur – but I actually remember the end of it, because that’s when my sisters and I went to Chicago for the weekend. We actually helped at my friend’s bridal shower, and then got in the car and drove straight to Naperville to check into our hotel. This went faster than expected, giving us plenty of time to stop at the H Mart that was (almost) next door. I mainly just ended up buying vegetables (because that’s what I usually end up buying, regardless). The most exciting one was a radish that was larger than the upper part of my arm . . . Naturally, we stowed the vegetables and things at the hotel before we went over to the Rosemont Theatre for our BAP CONCERT!!!

(for a few pics, you can look at my Instagram feed)

At the Rosemont, we somehow ended up with pretty good seats. We were in the top section (there’s only a balcony and a floor section – it’s pretty small – about 5K seats), and we were in the direct center, so we could see really well (even without the screens). The crowd was far more diverse (especially in age) than any other concert I’ve been to – ranging from little kids to couples my grandparents’ age. And it was a great crowd – minus the extremely annoying and immature girls behind us. They screamed for the point of screaming (and so loudly/high-pitched that they could have broken glass), and talked about the band members like they weren’t even human. I’m an old-fashioned grouch though – I go to concerts because I love the music and want to see the performers live – so I might have overreacted, but still . . .

Other than those girls – everything was awesome. B.A.P are energetic, incredible performers, from their dancing to their impressive vocal talent. Despite the (moderate) language barrier, all of the guys have great stage presence and senses of humor, and they were so much fun to listen to/watch.

To give you an idea, here’s a video from one of the girls in the front row (from Youtube.com)

This is one of B.A.P’s older songs (1004 Angel – released 2014), so most of the crowd knew the (mostly Korean) lyrics, and sang along. When you have thousands of people who don’t all speak a language singing along anyway, that’s pretty cool. Naturally, if you were there you could actually hear B.A.P a lot better, but off a cell-phone camera, not so much!

At any rate, we got back WAY too late at night, but managed to beat the traffic :). The next morning, we found the closest PCA church (which turned out to be a church plant – Restoration Community Church), and they were so welcoming and friendly. After church, we decided to go to Chinatown instead of driving straight home (because I’ve actually never been there . . .). We mainly walked around, as the weather was glorious. We did stop at the Kpop store there, to buy something for my sister Lydia (who had been bummed that she couldn’t go). A cute snapback with the logo of one of her favorite bands did the trick ;P

After that, we continued wandering around and people watching (there were a ton of families out in their Sunday clothes – so so many cute babies). I thought about going to the Disney store (one of my other favorite things), but then I decided it was too hard, and we made the trek back to my car. Walking all afternoon is a little fatiguing after going to bed in the wee hours of the morning.

We finally headed back to Michigan, tired but still amped up (partially thanks to my too-loud music and the nice weather). And then it was back to work as usual!

And now, as it’s May 9th, I’m sitting in a beach house in Gulf Shores, Alabama, and finally having time to write an update. Why Alabama? I flew down for Mother’s Day weekend (as the rest of my family was down here vacationing). And then – most of my siblings got sick, and my phone crashed so bad that it might never be fixed – so I borrowed my brother’s laptop, and here we are. I had all kinds of pictures for this post, but they are on my phone – which is too bad!

On the upside – I am stranded at the beach – so I really can’t complain. Also, I have an eARC of Memories of Ash by Intisar Khanani (sequel to Sunbolt).

I have to be in Chicago (again) for Book Expo on Wednesday, so we’ll see how things go. In the meantime, I might head back out to the water. The weather in Alabama is lovely, warm and breezy, and the swimming has been even better (though I did spot two stingrays while I was in the water). Or I’ll pull out The Last Coffee Shop and continue my read through. But here’s to hoping that everyone feels better soon, that I don’t end up with the virus, and I make it to Book Expo in one piece!!

Happy May! If you’re a Mom, belated Happy Mother’s Day!

How was your April? Do you have any big plans for May? What was the last concert you went to?

 

A Brief Update on Knight of the Blue Surcoat

“Houston – we have a release date”(partially) . . .

Most of you probably know that I have a novel coming out this summer (screams inside every time she writes that)

Okay – maybe it’s not quite like winning an Oscar – BUT IT FEELS LIKE IT
Anyhow, I finally have a month – Knight of the Blue Surcoat is scheduled for release in AUGUST 2016. I’m still waiting to hear back on the exact date, but we are closer. Excuse me while I go off to do an excited dance . . .
B.A.P, everyone

There – now that I’m back – a few details:

  1. Any Advance Reader Copies should be available as soon as the layout is done. If you are a blogger/reviewer and are interested in reading a YA King Arthur retelling in exchange for an honest review, get in touch with me through the comments form. If I’ve already talked to you about this, I’ll contact you with details as soon as I have them. Savvy?
  2. PDF Advance copies are my publisher’s preferred format – just so you know. If this is a problem, make sure to tell me 🙂
  3. If this sounds interesting to you, but you have no idea what I’m talking about – Knight of the Blue Surcoat is a historical adventure fantasy about King Arthur’s daughter.

Here’s the synopsis (again, for some of you):

Being King Arthur’s daughter isn’t easy, but being his only heir is a nightmare. Sixteen-year old Melora has struggled with her role ever since her older brother was trampled to death in a hunting accident. Her father raised her to be a warrior queen, but Melora is too valuable to be allowed to test herself beyond the castle walls. She is trapped, surrounded by suitors who want her kingdom, and suffocated by her parents’ love. She wants to escape, but how can she leave when even the sight of a horse makes her paralyzed with fear?

Prince Orlando is expendable. His arrogant brothers and distant father were thrilled for him (and his prize stallion) to leave tiny Thessaly. Orlando heard tales of Arthur’s court, where men are measured by their worth. He came to prove himself; he didn’t plan on Melora. Her fear of horses is a challenge Orlando is willing to take, but befriending the princess earns him powerful enemies, including the wizard Merlin and Melora’s many suitors.

When Merlin curses Orlando to eternal imprisonment in the Celtic Otherworld, only Melora can save him and break the curse. But first, she’ll have to get on a horse. Melora travels from British shores to the coast of India on a madcap quest to find the keys to unlocking Orlando’s prison. Melora must overcome warriors, outsmart kings, and face her deepest fears if she wants to get Orlando out alive. Even if she can break the curse, will there be anything of Orlando left to save?

Sound like something you’d be interested in? See above ^^

This is a long shot, but I am planning to hold a launch party at the story I work at (in West Michigan), so if anyone reading this is nearby, be advised. For the rest of you, I plan on doing a blog count down and other fun activities as I have time, so stay tuned!!
Just when you thought you’d escape without a Bigbang gif . . .

I couldn’t be more excited, and thanks to everyone who has already shown so much interest and given so much support!!!

Give yourself a hand

 

Meet The Seven Sisters of Henpecked Bar & Grill (Character Profiles from my WIP)

You may (or may not?) have noticed that I have been rather absent. The end of March and April (so far) have had me running around like a headless chicken.

Both jobs are getting busier as we careen toward summer traffic, and it leaves little time for blogging, much less thinking. Still, I’ve been plugging away at a read-through/preliminary edit of The Last Coffee Shop, and I still love it, so that’s good. Also, I’ve been getting some more words down and groundwork for my current WIP, Red as Blood.

Red as Blood was also the book I used for the March Beautiful People link-up. In that post (read it here), I introduced the main character and narrator of the story, Sull. He’s a runaway teenage (former)model who ends up in the alley behind the only place to get real fried chicken in the galaxy: The Henpecked Bar & Grill. The Henpecked is run by seven (former) warrior women who decide to give Sull a job in the kitchens, and the rest is, well, the story of Red as Blood. It’s comic space opera meets slice of life diner story meets my generally ridiculous fairy tale retellings saga.

Anyhow, seven important supporting characters = a lot to juggle, so I thought some character profiles could help me hammer out more of their seven distinct personalities. I won’t bore you with lots of facts, but I will give you some basic bits on each “sister” and a picture that suggests what they might look like.

Introducing: The Seven Sisters of Henpecked Bar & Grill

Sister #1: Marjorie Pierce (Doctor Pierce)

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Dame Judi Dench – a major Doc inspiration – taken from this article

Nickname: The Doctor.

Yes, otherwise known as Doc, or just Boss. While she isn’t a Timelord (sadly, a trademark), Doc is indeed, a medical practitioner. Despite her healing tendencies, she’s a vicious warrior in her own right. And you’d have to be a strong personality to have all of the following women submit to your rule (a loving dictatorship). She’s a motherly figure, though she never had any children of her own (though there are rumors of a scandalous, tragic love affair in her youth . . .)

Age: A lady never tells – but she’s north of 40 and south of 60

Occupation: Manager/Owner of Henpecked Bar & Grill

Birthplace: She never talks about it

Height: 127 cm            Weight: You’re joking, right?     Race: Human

Weakness: Orphans of any species

Weapon of Choice: Bola

Likes: Feeding People, Sharpening weapons. Being Needed.

Dislikes: Whining and Complaining. Inefficiency.

Favorite Food: Fried Chicken and Biscuits with Gravy and Strong, Black Coffee – and Chocolate Cake. She’s not a health nut . . .

Marjorie is the first person to meet Sull in the narrative, and she (presumably) takes a shine to the battered, skinny boy with haunted eyes and too pretty of a face. He needs food.

Sister #2: Jian (she has no family name that she speaks of)

This beautiful Yi woman is a lot like what I picture.

Nickname: Dumpling

Jian’s people were shunned and persecuted for hundreds of years after they left their home planet and countries. Most of them barely scraped out livings as cooks and servants for richer survivors. They were known as “dumplings,” a derogatory term that is frowned upon in modern galactic society. Nevertheless, Jian’s wicked sense of humor, beauty, skill with numerous weapons, and excellent cooking skills found her a place as a highly sought after assassin. Of course, that was in her younger days. Now she rules the kitchens of Henpecked, and in a nod to all of the fools people who underestimated her and her people, she calls herself Dumpling.

Age:  46

Occupation: Head Chef, Prime Cook at Henpecked Bar and Grill

Birthplace: The mining colonies of Lai’ren

Height: 140 cm               Weight: 53 kg (ish)                   Race: Human

Weakness: Shiny pots and cooking utensils. Cooking stores.

Weapon of Choice: Her fists for contact. Poison otherwise.

Likes: Cooking. Polishing Silver. Fishing. Filleting . . . things

Dislikes: Sloppy housekeeping. Bullies.

Favorite Food: Spicy Hot Pot. Cinnamon rolls (hers are divine)

Dumpling is the kindest to Sull when they take him in. After all, he needs food, and her cooking is addictive. And while she runs a tight ship of a kitchen, she doesn’t mind helping hands. She’s also the most open of the sisters, easily sharing her skills with a scrappy boy.

Sister #3: General Ayan Stonefist (a last name given to her-not her actual surname)

Afambo afar girl Ethiopia

Photo Credit: Eric Lafforgue

(The General looks a lot like the girl above, just older, and she refuses to wear bright colors)

Nickname: The General.

Don’t be fooled by her small stature. If you refer to her by her real name, she will take you to the alley for your cheekiness. You’ll be lucky if you can walk out again. Due to her past, she never actually introduces herself by her name anyhow, but it’s a fair warning! Other than that she has one of the best tactical minds of the last century, and it’s a mystery why she’s working at an out-of-the-way food joint. Actually, most everything about her is a mystery, and she’d prefer it stay that way.

Age:  early forties (or so the Sisters guess)

Occupation: Assistant Manager of Henpecked Bar & Grill. But that’s just what it says on paper.

Height: 135 cm                  Weight: Unknown                        Race: Human

Weakness: *whispers* Don’t even tell her we asked.

Weapon of Choice: Throwing knives or a good spear

Likes: Order, cleanliness, and quiet. Sharp blades. Maps. Dogs.

Dislikes: Bad manners. Insubordinate people. Disorder. Cats.

Favorite Food: Strawberries (she has a surprising sweet tooth)

Of all of the sisters, Ayan is the most reserved and forbidding. However, she exudes calm and excels at managing diverse and difficult personalities. Sull tries to avoid her as much as possible, yet he admires the way she carries herself – as if she’s twenty feet tall and all corded muscle – anyone in her way will be ten feet under . . .

SISTER #4:Leila-May

I pictured mid-thirties Olivia Newton John from the start. Just look at that charming, innocent (?) grin

Nickname: Shortcake

Leila-May has a sunny personality to go with her bouncy golden curls and big blue eyes. But she seldom talks about her past, and no one ever remembers what happened to her last boyfriend(s) or pets. Despite her talkative, vivacious nature, she’s hard to get to know and she can get away without telling you anything about herself. Still, you can’t help being charmed by her good looks and great smile. Whether this is a good thing or not . . . that’s a chance you’ll have to take.

Age: 38, but she looks around 10 years younger

Occupation: Head Waitress and Hostess

Height: 144.7 cm       Weight: 40.83 kg          Race: Human

Weakness: Good looks, in general. Anything cute.

Weapon of Choice: Charm – and failing that, a garrote vil

Likes: Anything cute, pretty, or attractive. Romantic vacations.

Dislikes: Complainers, demanding people, boring days. 

Favorite Food: If it’s tiny and artfully prepared, she’ll eat anything. She’s particularly partial to gizzards, which surprises almost everyone.

Shortcake loves Sull instantly – she thinks he’s absolutely “precious.” But considering her bad history with pets (she brings them home if they’re cute, and then forgets them . . .), she quickly forgets his existence. However, if you remind her, she’ll gush about how adorable he is. “And such a diligent child, always busy working.”

SISTER #5:Eliza Batbayar

from badassoftheweek.com
Give her a cyborg eye and right arm, make her older,  and yessss, perfect

Nickname: Lizard (or Deadeyed Lizzy)

With a nickname partially derived from her name, and partially derived from the fact that she always looks asleep, Lizard is the watchful bartender of Henpecked. She has robotic parts from a horrific incident in her past, but she’s turned this to her advantage. She still holds the record for the most live bounties taken in Sector 3. Like the rest of the sisters, she rarely talks about her past. However, she makes no secret of her identity as Deadeyed Lizzy (given partly because she has a cyborg eye, and partly because she’s never been known to miss a shot).

Age: 35

Occupation: Bartender, Waitress

Height: 152.4 cm                  Weight: 46.2 kg   Race: Human/Cyborg

Weakness: She’s actually pretty nice, and she’d rather avoid conflict.

Weapon of Choice: Alongside a weaponized arm that can fire various projectiles, she also has a trusty set of pistols that no one is allowed to touch. And she can hit anything with them.

Likes: Mixing drinks, talking to patrons, exchanging capture stories.

Dislikes: Baking. Small talk. False fronts and dishonesty.

Favorite Food: She’ll eat anything, but she’s partial to anything with a lot of vegetables, and she prefers salty to sweet.

Despite her formidable reputation, Lizard is the most open to teaching Sull some self-defense know-how. She’s a hard but fair teacher, and she doesn’t ask questions. Still, Sull never allows himself to forget how dangerous Lizard, or any of the sisters, really are.

SISTER #6: Teral of Min

copyright – DajaBeeSensei – deviantart.com

Imagine something like above ^^, but with long pointed ears, yellow eyes, and navy skin. And redder hair. Also, she has a respirator.

Nickname: Red

Standing just above 4ft tall, Red is the shortest of the sisters. But that doesn’t make her the safest. Red is one of the last of the Minuerans, a race of small, humanoid aliens that are known to be masters of stealth and assassination. Despite her unusually red hair, Red would have lived up to all of that. Unfortunately, she is also allergic to almost everything that grows outside of her homeworld. Red wears a respirator at all times to help her breath the unfamiliar air and avoid reactions. This doesn’t stop her from sneezing constantly. But no one dares to call her sneezy, and for good reason . . .

Age:  Around 30 in human years

Occupation: Waitress, Host, Busser

Height: 124.5 cm     Weight: 31.7 kg  Race: Minueran

Weakness: The environment

Weapon of Choice: Though her sneezing and respirator always herald her arrival, her small size, brute strength, and light feet make her a different kind of danger. She likes to trip her opponents, and then finish them off with the infamous Minueran spiked club.

Likes: Human food, which she is highly allergic to

Dislikes: Flowers, as she is highly allergic to them.

Favorite Food: Biscuits and gravy, which, you guessed it, she’s allergic to.

Red is mostly indifferent to Sull. As far as she’s concerned, he’ll have to earn his keep before he becomes worth noticing. Still, if he wants tips on how to take on a much bigger opponent, she’s a real pro and she likes to talk about it.

SISTER #7: Mollie

I picture her as looking a lot like Morena Baccarin in The Red Tent ^^

Nickname: Mollie IS her nickname

Mollie is the unplanned child of a human and an alien. She was taken in by warrior priests, friends of her father. However, she is artistic and dreams of opening a shop or gallery in a big, fashionable city. Though she is a passable fighter, her heart isn’t in it, and she ran away from her army-school-temple as a teenager. She fell in with The Doctor soon after, and she has followed the older woman ever since. Mollie’s real name- Machlah – was hard for her superiors to pronounce. Mollie stuck, but she’s sore about it (why doesn’t she get a fun nickname)

Age:  23

Occupation: Girl of All Work

Height: 157.5 cm           Weight:  52.6 kg          Race: Half human/half alien

Weakness: Daydreams too much to focus

Weapon of Choice: She prefers to make art, not war, but don’t be fooled: she’s skilled in several martial arts, and those elegant hatchets in her hair . . . they’re fully operational.

Likes: Fashionable clothes and accessories. Art.

Dislikes: Rough culture, bad manners, hard living.

Favorite Food: Pastries

As the youngest, the tallest, and a half-blooded outcast, Mollie immediately sympathizes with Sull. However, he isn’t looking for an annoying surrogate older sister. Still, she’s enamored with the life he left, or what little hints he drops, and she is determined to be his friend. And what Mollie wants, Mollie usually gets.

WHEW – that was a lot of characters. Hopefully you didn’t get lost (if you made it this far!).

What are your impressions of “The Sisters”? Any one that stood out to you? Do you think you’d like to work with them, or is Sull in big trouble?

 

6 Reasons Why You Need to Read Sunbolt by Intisar Khanani

Copyright Disney

If you have read anything I posted in the last month, there is a good chance that I referenced  Sunbolt. If you haven’t heard of it, Sunbolt is a fantasy novella by indie author Intisar Khanani (who also wrote Thorn, which I loved).

There was one complication: I loved Sunbolt so much that I couldn’t write anything coherent about it . . .

So I let the dust settle a bit, and here’s my take on Sunbolt:


Sunbolt by Intisar Khanani

A review copy of Sunbolt was graciously provided by Netgalley.com in return for a fair and honest review.
Summary from Goodreads.com:

“The winding streets and narrow alleys of Karolene hide many secrets, and Hitomi is one of them. Orphaned at a young age, Hitomi has learned to hide her magical aptitude and who her parents really were. Most of all, she must conceal her role in the Shadow League, an underground movement working to undermine the powerful and corrupt Arch Mage Wilhelm Blackflame.
When the League gets word that Blackflame intends to detain—and execute—a leading political family, Hitomi volunteers to help the family escape. But there are more secrets at play than Hitomi’s, and much worse fates than execution. When Hitomi finds herself captured along with her charges, it will take everything she can summon to escape with her life.”

And that’s just what happens in the first few pages. What follows is a dip into a fascinating, effortlessly diverse world with colorful characters, an intriguing magical hierarchy, and an intricate history. And in less than 200 pages.

Han and I salute you

Here are 6 reasons you should read Sunbolt:

1. Hitomi. She is everything I love best in a hero. She’s brave, smart, and quick on her feet, but she’s not perfect. She is survivor, afraid to stand out or call attention to herself, and yet she holds deep convictions that go against the grain of popular opinion. And she’s an outsider with untrained (read: illegal) magical powers. Sunbolt is her story, but the supporting characters are interesting too, especially Val, which leads me to #2.

2. Breathers.* And fangs, and mages, and . . . you get the idea. All of the usual suspects, from vampires to wizards, are part of Sunbolt‘s fantasy landscape. But they’re interesting! Like the many races and cultures of human characters, they have longstanding feuds, histories, and racial tension/prejudices. I want to know more (especially about the Breathers)!

3. The relationships. Like with Thorn, none of the characters fall into predictable YA relationship patterns. There’s no romance, for instance, and even the friendships are full of tension. I will resist writing more about my favorite developments because, spoilers!

4. The Shadow League. First off, they’re a rebel/resistance outfit called The Shadow League, led by the enigmatic young man known only as Ghost. It’s like the Scarlet Pimpernel took up with the barricade boys from Les Mis (despite how totally counter intuitive that sounds) and all started fighting for freedom from the shadows. Hitomi and her friend Kenta (a Tanuki!**) are part of the league, though they’re not very high up on the ladder, and I loved how they all interacted.

5. The plot/story/world. These are as intertwined as a celtic love knot. Though Sunbolt is basically an origin story, introducing us to Hitomi, her hidden powers, and her world, is also includes a lot of plot elements/threads that I’m hoping to see explored in later installments. There is a lot here for such a small book, and none of it was too much.

6. The writing. I’ll say it again, Intisar Khanani can write. Her prose is elegant, effortless, and never artificial. Her pacing is great, and she has a knack for narrative. In short, the only complain I have about Sunbolt is that it ended. It needs to be the size of The Lord of the Rings. (Not that the story felt incomplete or anything, her writing is too good for that!)

Overall: 5 out of 5 stars. A brilliant fantasy adventure with a strong heroine and an interesting world.

Footnotes: *You’ll have to read the book to find out about Breathers.
**Tanuki: Japanese Raccoon Dog, and a legendary shapeshifter in Japanese mythology
FURTHER READING: If you liked Sunbolt try:
Sabriel by Garth Nix
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
The Westmark Trilogy by Lloyd Alexander
The Blue Sword (or most of her other books) by Robin McKinley

Top 10 Fictional Worlds I’d Like to Visit (Top 10 Tuesday) (with reasons, gifs, footnotes, and theories as to why I’d leave)

It’s Tuesday, which means it’s time for Top 10 Tuesday with The Broke and The Bookish. For instructions on how to participate, click here.

Usually there is a theme for the list, but this week is a freebie, which means that we have all picked our own topic. My topic: The Top 10 Fictional Worlds I’d Like to Visit (with reasons, gifs, footnotes, and theories as to why I’d leave)

1. Middle Earth (from The Silmarillion, The Hobbit, and LOTR)

Image Credit

As soon as my feet touched that fantastical grass, I’d be off.
The Shire, Mirkwood, Rivendell, Lorien, and Rohan would be top of my must-see list.
Elves, dwarves, hobbits, food, the clothes, roughing it Fellowship style . . . why would you ever leave?

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I have a theory: Basically, it would be like high school, where everyone in Middle Earth would be the “cool kids table,” and I’d be that person who everyone felt kind of bad for, but still didn’t let sit with them (you know the one, the one trying so hard to be all elvish and awesome, and failing miserably).

That, or I’d get eaten by a spider when I was in Mirkwood.

2. The Enchanted Forest (from the Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia Wrede)

Artist: Peetasokka Image Credit

If I survived Mirkwood, I think a kindlier, more whimsical magic forest might be in order. Dealing with Dragons was (still is) one of my favorite fantasy novels, and it still cracks me up. Cimorene is a kindred spirit, and I would love to help her make buckets of cherries jubilee for the dragons. After that, I would do some exploring, and hopefully not run into any annoying wizards. I’d be sure to carry spray bottles of soapy water with lemon though, as a precaution . . .
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Being polite, sensible, and not prone to eating random plants, I would probably get along just fine in this world. In the end, I’d probably leave because I’d want to see my family.

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3. The alternate 1914 of Leviathan (Scott Westerfeld)

It’s Clankers (they use machines) versus Darwinists (genetic manipulation) on the brink of World War I. Though there were parts of these books I didn’t enjoy so much, I did love the crazy alternate world. It would be fascinating to explore! I would like to travel the world and compare it to actual 1914. I would probably end up leaving because I’d miss my writing and my books. As much as I like writing by hand, I’ll take my laptop back, thank you very much.

4. Camelot (Gerald Morris edition)

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Knights, picking flowers?* I am a King Arthur devotee, in all seriousness. I write retellings, I will read almost anything Arthurian, and I have a passionate love/hate relationship with the stories themselves. That being said, Le Morte d’Arthur is incredibly depressing.** Gerald Morris took all that pathos and ran over it, with scissors and a crazy grin (metaphorically). His knights go on pointless quests, take vows of silence where all they do is talk, and stumble in and out of the Otherworld at random. It is hilarious, and yet it somehow manages to stay true to the spirit of the beloved stories. Also, his version is a little kinder to the ladies. I would probably stick it out here until I was cursed by wandering Fair Folk, or swallowed by an enchanted castle, or something. If I survived that, I’d probably head somewhere a little more “modern” next.

5. Early 1800’s England-a la Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (Susanna Clarke)

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I sat here in a crisis of indecision over including this or Jane Austen’s 19th century, only to realize that they were basically the same. But JS & MN has magic. As an American of average looks who is too fond of books and lacks sufficient funds, I doubt I’d have much chance at society (unless my book hopping came with magical powers?). Maybe I would just try to get a job as a servant? Perhaps I could pretend to be an heiress . . .

I would love to snoop on Strange and Norrell (though they’d probably discover me, non-magical person that I am). Assuming I didn’t get tired of the mud or my inferior social status (or someone found out I was a fraud), I would explore this version of England until I felt too restricted (or until I got on the fairies’ bad side, whatever happened first).

6. New Pacifica (Diana Peterfreund’s Across a Star-Swept Sea***)

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The islands of New Pacifica, Albion and Galatea, are stand-ins for London and Paris during the French Revolution. Across a Star-Swept Sea is a retelling of/tribute to one of my favorite novels, The Scarlet Pimpernel. Throw in crazy futuristic elements (the sea minks, the fashion, the tech), class unrest (they have good reasons), and a fascinating future world, and it is definitely a place I’d like to visit. The main thing I didn’t like about the novel was the teen romance,**** but if I was exploring the islands, that would be a non-issue. And I really want to see all those lushly described island locations . . . (Pimpernel is a far superior novel, but I don’t fancy visiting the actual French Revolution!).

 I’d fully intend on turning smuggler and helping to spirit people away from certain death. Which is how I’d end up leaving (what does happen if you die in a fantasy world?)

7. The Unwelcome Stranger (which is actually a ship in 1712 [seventeen twelvety] alternate timeline Earth)

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Which brings me to piracy. Long before I understood the moral implications, I really wanted to be a pirate. It was one of my favorite things to play/pretend as a kid (after wood elves!). When I was a teenager, I discovered Tanith Lee’s wonderfully strange pirate fantasy, Piratica. The pirates drink coffee (instead of rum), some of them are actually traveling players, and they really only rob other pirates (and follow silly treasure maps). In other words, it’s all the fun of Treasure Island with none of the serious danger (or scurvy, which is more of a deterrent). I would happily take up with Art and her (mostly) daring crew of ne’er do wells. Always a restless wanderer myself, I’d sail their way until I remembered how badly I wanted an awesome horse.

8. That obscure Caribbean Island from Walter Farley’s Island Stallion

I read everything with horses on the cover when I was younger. I always wanted a horse like the Black Stallion, or Black Beauty, or even the Chincoteague ponies. I would visit the Island and camp out until I got a really awesome horse (which I would somehow manage to smuggle back). If I couldn’t keep the horse, I’d leave, heartbroken.

9. Discworld from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld Series

They made a play in Chicago!

I confess that I haven’t read every one, but if I had to pick, I’d join up with the Monstrous Regiment ladies, disguised as a man, naturally. Or I would try to have coffee with Death. Or maybe I would just explore the glorious, ridiculous world and talk to its inhabitants. Regardless, Discworld is full of adventure, satire, looniness, and general chaos. I think I would end up leaving because it made me exhausted (or overstimulated)!

10. Harry Potter’s England

I’d want a job at Flourish and Blotts, or failing that, Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes. I am not above sneaking into Hogwarts. My top priority would be the library! If I had the great good fortune to arrive and find I had wizardly gifts, I would be transported with delight. If not, I’m sure I could still have plenty of fun. One of the best parts of HP is the fabulous alternate world, existing right under Muggle noses. Diagon Alley almost holds more appeal than Hogwarts, if I’m honest, and I’d love to catch a professional Quidditch match. I think I would leave eventually, and maybe start back at Middle Earth?

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Honorable Mentions: Narnia! (Chronicles of Narnia), New Beijing (Lunar Chronicles), Namid (Others Series), London Below (Neverwhere), The Well of Lost Plots (Thursday Next Series), I could go on forever. There were so many places that I’d want to go that I just went for variety in the end. 

It was hard to pick 10. However, I noticed that a lot of my favorite books weren’t represented (I wouldn’t really like to live in most of them, I suppose). As much as I love books like Rot & Ruin, The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray, or The Count of Monte Cristo, I am not ashamed to admit that I’d far rather read about a lot of things than live them!

What about you? Are there any fictional worlds you’d love to visit? Do you think you’d actually give up the real one for them (if you could)? How do you think you’d fit into your world choice? Tell me in the comments 🙂

Footnotes: 
*Actually from the soul-destroying (but hilarious) musical Camelot. Lancelot’s disbelief seemed to fit here.
**I prefer the Celtic tales-less drama
***The companion novel, For Darkness Shows the Stars, is a retelling of Persuasion! I read these despite my dislike (loathing) for the author’s other series. ‘Nuff said, I’ll keep it to myself.
****Despite the fact that it’s in essence, a drippy (but not unbelievable) teen romance. I knew that going into it. It says a lot for the book that I liked it anyway.