Beautiful People Part II (August): Introducing Phaidra Callas-Yu (Red as Blood)

10928109_595959117172101_1450331761_nWhen I saw August’s theme, and Cait’s awesome gifs to go with it, I just knew that I had to drop the Seven Sisters in favor of another extremely important character in Red as Blood: Sull’s stepmother, the formidable model, dancer, and actress “Calla Fay.”

No Snow White retelling would be complete without it’s “evil queen,” and since this BP was all about appearances, it’s too perfect.

But first, a little bio:
Name: Phaidra Yu, nee Callas          Nickname: Calla Fay

Age: 25     Height: 1.82 meters       Weight: Really?

Phaidra Callas burst onto the modelling scene at the young age of fourteen. From the beginning, her startling beauty, poise, and charming sweetness made her a star, and agencies were practically fighting to sign her. Nevertheless, she kept her current manager (her mother) until her mother's tragic passing in a freak accident when Phaidra was sixteen. 
Phaidra disappeared (presumably in mourning) for a month, and then came back as "Calla Fay" the female face of SnøFall - the groundbreaking fashion line by young designer Yu Hayato  (유 하야토). This was the first time she met Yu, and his motherless son, who was the other face of SnøFall. Phaidra's star continued to rise, and she made further news by marrying Yu four years later. The "King and Queen of Galactic Fashion" were unstoppable - or so everyone thought.
  1. Give a brief overview of their looks. (Include a photo if you want!)

I imagine that Phaidra looks quite a bit like this photo of classic actress and beauty, Gene Tierney
I imagine that Phaidra looks quite a bit like this photo of classic actress and beauty, Gene Tierney
Hair: Natural black      Eyes: Lavender-grey
Skin: Flawless ivory

2. Share a snippet that involves description of their appearance.

Well – I don’t actually have a snipped that describes Phaidra right now (since I’m playing around with first person), but I will share one of the random snippets I wrote about her as a practice exercise/character development tool. Note that it probably won’t be part of the book and it’s completely unedited, but it gives you a little taste –

The woman was undeniably beautiful, with her doe-eyed expression and milky white limbs curving through the swaths of silver and gold, but it was the child who stole your breath away. It was hard to look at the woman with him there, this creature of nearly indeterminate gender, whose dark eyes held more sorrow than any child’s should. It was then, after looking close, that you might notice the woman again. You might see how her hand rested on the child’s shoulder, a little too heavy for comfort. You might note how her long, silky black hair draped onto the child, mixing with his own locks in a tangle of confusion. Then you would notice how even the extra fabric from her dress somehow shrouded the child, framing his small body and miring his feet in a swamp of exquisite silk. Last of all, you would look back into her eyes, so clear and crystalline that they might have been liquid, and you might feel uncomfortable when you saw how empty they were. And you would turn away, and try to forget their expressions – but you couldn’t get their frozen stares out of your mind. It’s just an ad, you would think to yourself, it doesn’t mean anything.

3. What is the first thing people might notice about them?

Phaidra’s eyes. They are piercing, crystalline lavender grey, with extra long lashes and an extraordinary sparkle to them. Though she has been (quietly) accused of enhancing them, no records exist to prove it.

4. What are their unique features? (Ex: freckles, big ears, birthmark, scars, etc.)

Phaidra’s only “imperfection” is a tiny, heart-shaped mole under her left eye. Otherwise, her skin seems poreless, and her features are suspiciously symmetrical.

5. How tall are they? What is their build (Ex: stocky, slender, petite, etc.)

Phaidra is around 5 ft, 10 inches tall (just a couple of inches shorter than her husband).

Delicate bone structure, immaculate features, and a perfectly proportioned, long-limbed, graceful body made Phaidra one of the most galactically popular models of all time. She has been voted the “Most Beautiful Woman in the Galaxy” for the past six years.

6. What is their posture like? How do they usually carry themselves?

Phaidra carries herself like royalty. She is the queen of a fashion empire, after all. Her posture is perfect, and she moves with an unhurried grace that has been compared to large, predatory cats.

7. Your character has been seen on a “lazy day” (free from usual routine/expectations): what are they wearing and how do they look?

Minimal makeup and exclusive designer loungewear that cost more than some average citizen’s house. One of the perks of being married to a designer is that Phaidra is never wearing the same thing as anyone else.

8. Do they wear glasses, accessories, or jewelry on a regular basis? Do they have any article of clothing or accessory that could be considered their trademark?

Phaidra’s trademark is a pair of silver crown shaped earrings that she never removes. They were rumored to be a gift from her mother, but she has never explained their origin. However, she refuses to take them off, so designers and stylists have had to work around them. Other than these, Phaidra wears whatever accessories are dictated by her current job.

9. Have they ever been bullied or shamed because of their looks? Explain!

Phaidra’s “perfect” looks have been under scrutiny ever since she debuted at fourteen as the face of a popular perfume. There has been a debate over everything from plastic-surgery to rumors that she was forced into modelling by her mother. However, ultimately it all comes down to how she looks. Despite the criticism and harsh accusations she’s received over the years, Phaidra seems to glow brightest when she’s being attacked, almost as if she welcomes any attention at all . . .

10. Are they happy with how they look? If they could change anything about their appearance, what would it be?

Yes. Phaidra has said that she would rather die than be ugly, and that her looks are really all she has. The only thing she would change is her age – though she’s only twenty-five, she lives in constant terror of her looks fading and wilting with age. There is an entire lab (funded by Phaidra herself) devoted to finding products and routines that will hold back her aging process as long as possible.

So that’s Phaidra, folks. Since this was all about looks, I feel like we only just scraped the darkness and complexity of her character – but that’s just too fitting. Most people (okay, characters in my world) have evaluated/judged Phaidra by looks alone. As you all know, this can lead to misconceptions, misjudgments, and be a terrible mistake.

So what did you think? How important are appearances to your current characters? Red as Blood is the first project of mine to have appearances be pivotal to the plot!

 Did you all do this month’s BP? If so, leave a link so I can check yours out!

 

 

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)

 

 

May Rewind (Yes, I’m Still Here)

While I didn’t fall off the face of the earth (exactly), I have been pretty noticeably absent from the internet. Not on purpose. I just had such a busy month that it made April (see Aprilpocalypse) look, bland.

An accurate representation of me and May

Not only was I traveling up and down the country in the first week, I have a lot going on. And no internet at home (I’ve mentioned this), which makes blogging tricky if you also have extremely limited spare time. For the record, I had all kinds of ideas for posts – which I didn’t write – and planned to do some tags – which I didn’t finish (does starting count?) – and you’re getting the picture.

So while I wasn’t online, I actually have a lot of things to recap in the Monthly Wrap-Up Round-Up, hosted and originated by Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction. Click through to check out her lovely book blog and join the link-up/read some more monthly wrap-ups.

May started off with a bang – as I had to go on TV. I’m not a TV person. But hey, what can you do *shrugs*. But here it is, if you’re interested 😛

The books I picked/discussed were Jakob’s Colors, The Residence, Thorn, Haymaker, and Finding Winnie. I thought it was a nice, diverse little group – and I didn’t forget what any of them were about!! (I was seriously worried about this – it’s a bookseller’s nightmare)

After I survived the TV – I immediately flew down to Pensacola, FL. Enroute (okay, at O’Hare Airport), my phone crashed and died and was no more (no idea why). So I had no way to contact my family, who had planned on picking me up later in Pensacola, to then drive us to Gulf Shores, Alabama, to meet up with the rest of my mom’s family. This was annoying, but providentially, my sister was just pulling a loop around the Pensacola airport (in my parent’s 15 passenger van, which is unmistakable due to the Oatmeal Savage bumper sticker – see below).

Before we made the 45 min drive to Gulf Shores, we stopped at a magical place – Joe Patti’s World Famous Seafood Market (I’d never heard of it . . .).

Not that kind of magical place!

It’s full of fresh fish, but you can hardly even smell them, which means it’s incredibly clean. Fyi, if I lived within an hour or two of this place, I would shop there at least twice a week. The fish was gorgeous, fresh, and profuse. They also have a sushi bar and a bunch of cool and/or local ingredients. My sister and I purchased everything we needed for sushi (including a beautiful pound of tuna). We packed it on ice, and headed to the gulf.

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I don’t know about you, but the sight/smell of the ocean immediately relaxes me. It’s the real vacation part (Having a dead phone and being <1,000 mi from work/home helps too).

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Of course, there was a “dangerous sea creatures advisory” the whole time I was there (one guy saw a seven-foot shark – thankfully, I just saw a large stingray. Well. Two.) But this didn’t stop me from swimming. Fortunately, I never saw a shark. I’d love to see a shark – as long as I was nowhere near the water. But not in the water with me. No thank you.

At any rate, I ate my fill of fresh fish. And I made sushi! That tuna was so good, guys – velvety smooth and with the lightest taste and texture you can imagine. And now I’m hungry . . .

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SUSHI

Other than my phone debacle (I wasted a couple of hours trying to fix it), everything was pretty good – until my ENTIRE family got really sick. My grandma and I were the only ones who didn’t get it, even though we were exposed to everyone. Because of the sick people, we were put behind schedule, and I ended up driving most of my family to Tennessee. They were all sickly and weak, but we made it. A good music playlist helped 🙂 (And it was hilarious to hear my littlest sister singing along to Bigbang’s If You – which is almost completely in Korean – and I had no idea she knew the song . . .). But my younger sisters’ favorite non-Disney song to listen to is the catchy, feel-good Just Right by GOT7:

Err, yes . . . anyhow – we survived the trip and made it to Nashville. I got to see my precious niece for a couple of hours (but she was sick too), and my brother and sister-in-law. It was still worth it, though. After this, I had my airport—->BEA 2016/Chicago Adventure, which I actually wrote a post about:

After I got back, it was an immediate plunge back into work – with a few too many 12-15 hr work days (if you combine both job shifts) and far too little sleep.

In the meantime, I cram-read some books – here are a few thoughts on them:

Just My Luck by Cammie McGovern – 4.5 stars (MG fiction)

Synopsis: “Fourth grade is not going at all how Benny Barrows hoped. He hasn’t found a new best friend. He’s still not a great bike rider—even though his brother George, who’s autistic, can do tricks. And worst of all, he worries his dad’s recent accident might be all his fault. Benny tries to take his mom’s advice and focus on helping others, and to take things one step at a time. But when his dad ends up in the hospital again, Benny doesn’t know how he and his family will overcome all the bad luck that life has thrown their way.”

Thoughts: Just My Luck was a sweet, touching, and relatable little novel. The tone and writing were fabulous, and Benny’s voice was pitch-perfect. To be honest, I related more to him than I do to most YA/Adult protagonists! It made me laugh aloud, and I really was rooting for the Barrows family to overcome all their “bad luck.”As a bookseller, this is one of my favorite summer picks for MG readers (and their parents).
The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi – 3.75/4 stars

Synopsis: “Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of death and destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father’s kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: As Akaran’s queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar’s wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire…

But Akaran has its own secrets—thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger. Yet who, besides her husband, can she trust? With the fate of the human and Otherworldly realms hanging in the balance, Maya must unravel an ancient mystery that spans reincarnated lives to save those she loves the most…including herself.”

Thoughts: I loved the setting and the lush descriptions, but I’ve read so many Cupid & Psyche/Hades & Persephone/Bluebeard type novels that I have trouble keeping them straight. I was far more invested in the mythology and world than the story or romance, but that was to be expected. So I’m not sure if it was the book, or just me. Maya was a wonderful, strong heroine though!!
In Defense of the Princess by Jerramy Fine – 4-ish stars (adult nonfiction/memoir/essay)

Synopsis-It’s no secret that most girls, at some point, love all things princess: the poofy dresses, the plastic tiaras, the color pink. Even grown-up women can’t get enough of royal weddings and royal gossip. Yet critics claim the princess dream sets little girls up to be weak and submissive, and allows grown women to indulge in fantasies of rescue rather than hard work and self-reliance.
Enter Jerramy Fine – an unabashed feminist who is proud of her life-long princess obsession and more than happy to defend it. Through her amusing life story and in-depth research, Fine makes it clear that feminine doesn’t mean weak, pink doesn’t mean inferior, and girliness is not incompatible with ambition. From 9th century Cinderella to modern-day Frozen, from Princess Diana to Kate Middleton, from Wonder Woman to Princess Leia, Fine valiantly assures us that princesses have always been about power, not passivity. And those who love them can still be confident, intelligent women.

Thoughts: While I never really disagreed with Fine in the essentials, I thought her take on things would be interesting. Regardless, this was a really fun read, and it was so hilarious that I kept stopping to read lines to my sister. I had definite ambitions to be a princess (specifically Princess Jasmine) when I was little too, and I completely understand the “longing to find the place where you belong, or your ‘people,’ so to speak” that Fine describes so authentically. The most interesting part was her bio list (at the end) of real world princesses. These women don’t sit around on their hands and look pretty!! In other words, this is my pick for a beach read 😛
A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavalaero – 2.75/3 stars (YA Contemporary/Mystery)

Synopsis: The last thing Jamie Watson wants is a rugby scholarship to Sherringford, a Connecticut prep school just an hour away from his estranged father. But that’s not the only complication: Sherringford is also home to Charlotte Holmes, the famous detective’s great-great-great-granddaughter, who has inherited not only Sherlock’s genius but also his volatile temperament. From everything Jamie has heard about Charlotte, it seems safer to admire her from afar.

From the moment they meet, there’s a tense energy between them, and they seem more destined to be rivals than anything else. But when a Sherringford student dies under suspicious circumstances, ripped straight from the most terrifying of the Sherlock Holmes stories, Jamie can no longer afford to keep his distance. Jamie and Charlotte are being framed for murder, and only Charlotte can clear their names. But danger is mounting and nowhere is safe—and the only people they can trust are each other.

Thoughts: I really wanted to like this book. And to be honest, the mystery and setting were kind of interesting, so I finished it. But it didn’t work for me on any other level. Jamie was ok, but I found his admiration of Charlotte to be a bit more slavish than sympathetic . . . Granted, I love the original stories (and the show Sherlock), so I’m a tough customer. To be honest, just read Cait @ Paper Fury‘s review here. She’s 100% right about this book.
Memories of Ash (Sunbolt #2) by Intisar Khanani – 5 stars (YA Fantasy)

SynopsisIn 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.

Thoughts: You can read my full review here – but I loved it! If you haven’t read these books, you need to. Memories of Ash was basically everything I was wanting (only it wasn’t about 600 pages longer). And I’m not complaining about length here, because it was already novel sized, which fulfilled my wish from Sunbolt.
Noragami, Stray God Volume #1 – Manga – 3-ish stars

Synopsis: Yato is a stray god. He doesn’t even have a shrine, not to mention worshipers! Hoping he’ll eventually raise enough money to build himself the lavish temple of his dreams, Yato accepts all kinds of jobs. Of course, he can’t afford to be picky; from finding lost kittens to helping a student overcome bullies, no job is too small for Yato, the god-for-hire! An eccentric story with a charming cast of characters!

Thoughts: Meh. It was funny and the art was good, but I just didn’t care. But that seems to be the case with a lot of first volumes in manga. I might read the second one, but I won’t go out of my way to try . . .

The Decent Proposal by Kemper Donovan – DNF

Urgh. Cutesy, kitschy, trite, twee, tepid – I could go on with the adjectives, but there’s a reason I didn’t finish this one. Adult Contemporary is the new YA – unrelatable characters, randomness, and everyone is stupidly attractive. And we’re supposed to swallow all of this with heaping tables of sugar. No. Thank. You.

Currently Reading:

The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye – I’m finally getting into it after several misfires. Once I got over the angsting and being-beautifulness of the first few chapters (and the magical duels started), the story really took off.

Your Lie in April, Volume #1 by Naoshi Arakawa – I got this for free, so I’m reading it. I don’t know how I feel about it yet. The art is cute though. And I’m extremely confused by the title.

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee – I just started this, so I don’t have any opinions. The first chapter is good! Regardless, I’m extremely excited about this one.

My novels:

I’ve been tapping away (a bit) at Red as Blood, and I featured secondary protagonist Mollie in May’s Beautiful People. I plan on using another one of the Seven Sisters for June’s BP, so I’m looking forward to that.

I’ve been reading through The Last Coffee Shop, and been pleasantly surprised – for a NaNoWriMo project, it isn’t nearly as terrible as I thought it would be!! That’s always awesome. At any rate, if I can get my act together, I might be ready for a few betas sooner than I thought – maybe this fall :0 I still love the world, story, and characters, and I want other people to make me more rational about it . . .

Other than that, I haven’t had much time to write (as my lack of blog posts will attest to).

Movies, Music, and More:

I saw Captain America: Civil War twice, and loved it both times. I think it did a great job of incorporating all the characters, the previous movies, and paying tribute to the comics. The acting was spot-on, Black Panther was epic, Bucky and Falcon as rivals/friends/enemies, and I love how the Russos write Black Widow. Now if we could just get that Black Widow movie . . .

I also saw X-Men: Apocalypse, which was a lot better than I was expecting. It wasn’t as good as the animated comic arc from the 90’s, but it was entertaining. And I loved Storm. Professor X and Magneto’s bromance was good as usual, and Cyclops was probably the least annoying he’s ever been, and Quicksilver was the best part of the movie. Period.

At the end of May, my sister and I went to see the touring production of The Phantom of the Opera. I’ve loved the musical since I was little, but I’ve never had the chance to see it live. It was incredible!! The staging and effects, in particular, blew my mind. There wasn’t a weak link in the cast, and everyone did a great job putting their own spin on these familiar songs and characters. FIVE STARS.

As usual, I’ve listened to a bunch of music, and while I didn’t discover much new stuff, I remembered why I loved 90’s Celine Dion so much (on that long car ride). OH, THE DRAMA!

But in all seriousness, her slower songs are so perfectly crafted for her voice. She’s a master of emotion, that is for sure.

I’ve been on the nostalgia train a lot lately, with mid 2000’s pop/rock and a lot of 80’s stuff on my current playlists. Here’s one of my favorite songs as a kid (my dad had a cassette tape with it that I would always request)

It’s still a favorite of mine <3

But because I am a complete and utter goofball, I will leave you with another frequent song on my playlists – Look at me, Gwisun by Daesung (a.k.a D-Lite) from Bigbang. It’s in Japanese, but if you look at a translation, you’ll see that the (hilarious) MV is basically interpreting the lyrics – literally. And be warned, this video is really, really, goofy (don’t blame me if it scars you for life, lol).

This is basically something you watch if you’re having a really bad day. (And what’s with the X-Men suit? Okay, not really X-Men, but that’s what it looks like . . . And GD’s cameo is my favorite thing)

I’ll stop with the videos so you can actually load this post, but there are lots more where those came from. They’re much better than cat videos, trust me.

Looking Ahead:

I’m probably going to be a sporadic poster for the near future. I found out that my sister and I have to move out of our rental by the end of June, and we aren’t sure where we are going. So this has definitely upped my distraction and stress levels. Also, the summer tourist season is upon us at both jobs, so I have no idea how much blogging or blog reading I can do. We’ll have to see.

In the meantime, thanks to everyone who reads these wandering posts and tolerates my erratic attention! I love you guys and hope you are having a wonderful and productive June so far!

<3 R

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!

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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)

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

 

TTT: Top 10 Books I Love but I Just Haven’t Talked About As Much (with quotes!)

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Copyright : The Broke and the Bookish

I know for myself (and probably most of you) that there are tons of books I’ve read that I absolutely loved – I just don’t talk about them as much. So naturally, I had to participate in this week’s Top Ten Tuesday (if you don’t know what that is, click here) hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. So let’s get started.

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Mulan = one of the best movies ever.

Top 10 Books I Love (I Just Don’t Talk About Them Much)

  1. The Two Princesses of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine (first read in 2001)

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This is the cover I have

I love Ella Enchanted, but I actually prefer The Two Princesses of Bamarre. I discovered it in a tiny Northern Michigan bookstore when we were on vacation (15 years ago, *cough, cough*). At the age of twelve, I was obsessed with fantasy and still high off of reading through The Lord of the Rings by myself a couple of times (my dad read it to us when we were little). I was also at that stage when you’ve fallen in love with something (in my case, the feeling that LOTR gave me), and you read ravenously, just trying to find that feeling. This is also around when I discovered Robin McKinley and Patricia Wrede, who have remained lifelong favorites as well. Anyhow, this is a story about the bond between two sisters – one who starts out as the classic “hero,” and the other, who becomes a hero. And it was way before Frozen. ;P

“I put my fingers around the unmarked ring of the spyglass and twisted. The scene became clear. 
Oh no! A hairy brown spider clung to a vine! I couldn't go there!
I'd go to the desert to find a dragon. I began to reset the spyglass, but then I stopped myself. A spider was worse than a dragon?
No.
My first monsters would be spiders, then.” 

2. Dragon’s Milk (The Dragon Chronicles) by Susan Fletcher

“The wild creatures of the earth are as milk for the human spirit; to destroy them is to starve our souls.”

I love these covers <3

While Susan Fletcher is better known for Shadow Spinner (another one of my all time favorites), her Dragon Chronicles were some of the books I reread repeatedly growing up. It’s somewhere between MG and YA, as  I recall. The heroine, Kaeldra, is a gawky, awkward girl who gets thrust into a difficult situation – she basically becomes orphaned Draclings (baby dragons) nanny, in a world where dragons are misunderstood and hated. There are two sequels that take place in the same world, and I remember liking them just as much.

3. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

“We have our clothes, some more splendid than others,—this is our credit; but when a man dies he has only his skin;”

Over a thousand gripping pages (really!), The Count of Monte Cristo is an epic adventure and revenge drama with complex characters and intricate morality. Edmond Dantes is wrongfully imprisoned, and he swears to get the ultimate revenge on the man who put him there. Will Edmond follow his path to the end, or will his convictions and his fear of Heaven stop him before it’s too late? You’ll have to read it to find out. And if you saw that movie, it left out, well, almost the entire book. Another one of my all-time favorite novels, and a definite influence on my writing. On an interesting side note, the nonfiction book The Black Count (about Dumas’ father-an inspiration for a lot of the Count’s adventures) is also well worth the read.

“There are men who have suffered and who have not only gone on living, but even built a new fortune on the ruins of their former happiness. From the depths into which their enemies have plunged them, they have risen again with such vigor and glory that they have dominated their former conquerors and cast them down in their turn.”

4. The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia A. McKillip

One of the most beautifully written, lyrical fantasies I have ever read. It’s my favorite one of McKillip’s novels, and the one that made me track down her other novels. Sixteen year-old Sybel is given a baby to raise, even though her only companions up to that point were a fantastical menagerie of creatures. This book is gorgeous, magical, and if you haven’t read it, you should. A strong female lead, enduring themes, and amazing prose – this is one of those “so close to perfect it hurts” novels.

“What do you think love is- a thing to startle from the heart like a bird at every shout or blow? You can fly from me, high as you choose into your darkness, but you will see me always beneath you, no matter how far away, with my face turned to you. My heart is in your heart. I gave it to you with my name that night and you are its guardian, to treasure it, or let it whither and die. I do not understand you. I am angry with you. I am hurt and helpless, but nothing will fill the ache of the hollowness in me where your name would echo if I lost you.”

5. Till We Have Faces by C. S. Lewis

“Holy places are dark places. It is life and strength, not knowledge and words, that we get in them. Holy wisdom is not clear and thin like water, but thick and dark like blood.”

“I saw well why the gods do not speak to us openly, nor let us answer. Till that word can be dug out of us, why should they hear the babble that we think we mean? How can they meet us face to face till we have faces?”

I might have mentioned this book in passing, but I haven’t sung its praises enough. This was the last work Lewis completed, but it started out as one of his earliest projects. Most people know how C. S. Lewis loved Greek Myths and classic literature. Till We Have Faces is the story of Cupid and Psyche told from Psyche’s sister Orual’s perspective. But it isn’t a simple retelling – it’s a complex, dense, thought-provoking, and deeply philosophical novel that thoroughly explores the nature of love itself. Till We Have Faces is nothing you would expect if you’re only familiar with The Chronicles of Narnia – it’s more akin to The Four Loves, or C.S. Lewis’s essays on the power of myths and legends. If I could just take a handful of books to a deserted island, this would be one of them.

“Oh, I can see it happening, age after age, and growing worse the more you reveal your beauty: the son turning his back on the mother and the bride on her groom, stolen away by this everlasting calling, calling, calling of the gods. Taken where we can't follow. It would be far better for us if you were foul and ravening. We'd rather you drank their blood than stole their hearts. We'd rather they were ours and dead than yours and made immortal.” 

6. Artemis Fowl Series by Eoin Colfer

“Confidence is ignorance. If you’re feeling cocky, it’s because there’s something you don’t know.”

Twelve. Millionaire. Genius. Criminal. Artemis Fowl is all of those things. And Eoin Colfer sells it with the writing equivalent of a cheeky grin and a magician’s sleight of hand. One of my favorite middle grade series ever, Artemis Fowl is laugh out loud funny. The characters are hilarious, the plots are crazy, and at the center are the epic odd couple of Artemis and his loyal butler, Butler. Yes – Butler. Butler is the other best thing about these books.

“That was horrible. Horrible. That poor little guy."
Pex was unrepentant. "Yeah, well, he asked for it. Calling us ... all those things."
But---buried alive! That's like in that horror movie. Y'know -- the one with all the horror."
I think I saw that one. With all the words going up on the screen at the end?"
Yeah, that was it. Tell you the truth, those words kinda ruined it for me.”

7. The Savage Damsel and the Dwarf (The Squire’s Tales #3) by Gerald Morris

“I said you lie, knave!” shouted Beaumains, drawing his sword. “And for telling such craven falsehoods, you must die!”
The knight looked plaintively at Roger. “What’s wrong with this fellow?”
He was dropped on his head when he was a baby,” answered Roger.”

This book is hysterical – even if you haven’t read the Arthurian original that it reinterprets (The Kitchen Knight). I loved every book in this series, but this one is a definite stand out. It takes Arthurian story constructs and constants, and turns them completely on their heads, all while keeping the basic story intact. With its witty, sharp-tongued heroine, a dash of faeries, crazy characters, and of course, the aforementioned sense of humor, this is another book I’ve read repeatedly.

8Sorcery & Cecelia: or the Enchanted Chocolate Pot by Patricia C. Wrede & Caroline Stevermer

“I am determined to have the headache Thursday, if I have to hit myself with a rock to do it.”

Manners, Magic, and Mayhem

The concept behind this book is positively brilliant: two writers decided to write letters to each other, assuming the characters of Regency girls with magical aptitude. Their letters became this delightful light fantasy novel that mixes Jane Austen with Diana Wynne Jones’ style magic and hilarity. The sequel, The Grand Tour is equally funny, and highly recommended.

“She probably enjoys cutting up everyone's happiness. Not to mention cutting up other parts of people; given her penchant for poisoning people and turning them into beech trees, I fail to see how she has reached thirty without leaving a trail of bodies behind her.” 

9. The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl

While I’ve mentioned my affection for Pearl’s writing, I doubt I’ve praised this book enough. Dante’s Inferno is a favorite of mine, and this historical novel surrounds the translation of the Inferno made by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Oh, and there’s murder most foul, as well.* But who doesn’t like to watch a group of middle-aged writers solve a murder, all while being terribly literary?

“The force of Dante's poetry resonated most in those who did not confess the Catholic faith, for believers would inevitably have quibbles with Dante's theology. But for those most distant theologically, Dante's faith was so perfect, so unyielding, that a reader found himself compelled by the poetry to take it all to heart.”

10. The Kestrel (Westmark Trilogy #2) by Lloyd Alexander

The dedication in this book: “To those who know they are only human, but strive to be nothing less.”

Lloyd Alexander is another author I’ve touched on at times – with his excellent Prydain Chronicles being one of my favorite MG fantasy series ever. I’ve also named off Westmark in passing. But The Kestrel is one of the first, and best YA novels (that I have read) to deal with the trauma of war and fighting (especially for causes you believe in). Theo, the young printer’s devil from the first book, convincingly transforms into the Kestrel, a fearsome warrior and bogeyman to haunt the enemies dreams. Humanity, hatred, fear, rage- this book covers it all, in a surprisingly slim package. There are touches of Les Miserables and A Tale of Two Cities (two more of my all-time favorite novels), but it’s an easier read. Not convinced? Read this excellent review and see if it changes your mind.

Well, if nothing else, I’ve learned that I need a shelf just for silly fantasy novels (I hadn’t realized what a great favorite they were of mine until I started working on this list!)

Have you read any of these books, or do you intend to?

What are some favorite books that you don’t mention enough?

Memories of Ash by Intisar Khanani – COVER REVEAL!!! (+ Release Date, Preorder Info, and More!)

If you’ve followed me (or even just stopped by my blog), you might have noticed how much I loved the fantasy novella Sunbolt, by indie author Intisar Khanani. You can read my review of Sunbolt here. So, naturally, when I heard there was going to be a sequel soon, I was super excited. I have the distinct privilege of participating in a cover reveal today for Memories of Ash, and keep reading for an interview with Intisar Khanani and info on pre-ordering the book!

I’m excited to have Intisar Khanani on the blog today, revealing the cover for her newest novel Memories of Ash. This cover was designed by the amazing Jenny of Seedlings Design Studio. There’s also a Kindle Fire giveaway, so make sure to scroll down to the end of the post to enter.

Describe Memories of Ash in 3 words.

IK: Walk with courage.

What compelled you to write your first book?

IK: I always wanted to write a novel, so my senior year of university I decided I’d better buckle down and try. I chose a fairy tale (The Goose Girl) to give me an over-arching plot and narrative structure, and then went to town with it. I really wrote it as an exercise to test myself, not intending to do anything with it when I finished. But, by the time I finished, I loved my characters so much that I ended up working through over a dozen revisions to take it from “writing exercise” to my debut novel, Thorn.

If you could live in one of your books, which one would you choose?

IK: Definitely the world of the Sunbolt Chronicles. Sunbolt follows Hitomi, a street thief with a propensity to play hero when people need saving, and her nemesis, the dark mage who killed her father. Although there is a lot of darkness in Sunbolt, there’s also a lot of light. It’s a real world, in its way, and I love the diversity and vibrancy of the cultures and creatures that populate it. I’d have my choice of living in a tropical island sultanate reminiscent of historic Zanzibar, or among the nomadic desert tribes that eke out an existence alongside the cursed Burnt Lands, to name my two favorite options. Then again, in Memories of Ash, there’s the decaying grandeur of the capitol of a fallen empire that feels a lot like an Istanbul of old, right at the heart of the Eleven Kingdoms. Plus, I wouldn’t mind having shape-shifting friends and charms to keep my bread from burning.

What authors, or books, have influenced you?

IK: As a young duckling, I imprinted on Tamora Pierce and Robin McKinley’s earlier works. I read pretty widely, but those are the authors I kept coming back to, especially McKinley’s Damar books. I am also an incorrigible Jane Austen fan, but my books don’t reflect that very much!

What are you reading now?

IK: I just finished “Kingdom of Ruses” by Kate Stradling. In a kingdom where the eternal prince who rules is just a ruse kept up by the prime minister’s family (and most recently, Viola, our heroine), keeping the peace is a delicate thing. Enter a stranger who manages to take the place of the doppelgänger the family uses, and Viola has her hands full.

Your first reaction to the cover in GIF format.

 

And here it is…

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“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.”

Kobo Pre-order | Apple Store Pre-orderAmazon Pre-order | Barnes & Noble Pre-order | Add it to GoodReads

A Special Treat For Those Who Pre-order…

Not only is the pre-order of Memories of Ash on sale for only 99 cents, but anyone who buys the pre-order will receive a free digital art print of Hitomi by artist Grace Fong. Just email your proof of purchase to moapreorder@gmail.com!

Haven’t read Sunbolt (Book 1) yet? It’s been knocked down to just 99 cents to celebrate the release and is available at most major e-retailers. That’s two fantastic books for less than your morning coffee. And don’t forget to check with your local, independent bookstore to see if they can order Sunbolt for you. (I have a physical copy and it’s beautiful!)

MoA_PreOrder Special

About Intisar Khanani

Khanani_Author_PhotoIntisar 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.

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TTT: Top Ten Books On My Spring TBR

 

Top 10 Tuesday is a fun weekly meme hosted/created by the ladies over at The Broke and the Bookish. For instructions on how to participate, click here.

I couldn’t pass this one up, as it’s nice and easy. My TBR stretches from here to Jupiter (and fills up half of my rental house), but picking out a few to focus on might help me get to more of them in the end

1. Memories of Ash by Intisar Khanani

I'm not posting the cover today (even though it's gorgeous) because I'll be participating in the cover reveal tomorrow! Be sure to check out my blog for the cover, info on preorders, and other fun stuff! More importantly, Memories of Ash is diverse, layered fantasy and the sequel to Sunbolt, and I couldn't be more excited about it. Read my review of Sunbolt (or better yet, read the book), and get all excited with me.

2. The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

I actually just started this as a buddy read with blogger-friend Sara Letourneau . It was a little hard to get back into the swing of things (it's been over a year since I read The Name of the Wind), but it's good so far. I've decided that reading my favorite genre (epic fantasy) is like a mini vacation - not because it's easy, per se, but because it's a welcome respite from the business/stress of everyday life. So thank you, Patrick.

3. The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye

SO PRETTY
I heard about this one through Cait over at Paper Fury (she's part of the blog tour). Russia, dueling magicians, historical fantasy - this book sounds right up my alley!

4. Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

MORE PRETTY COVERS
Persian-inspired fantasy? YES. Deserts, djinn, gunslingers and rakish foreigners? Please and thank you.

5. A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab

I'm actually kind of embarrassed that I haven't read this :) I  mean, it's about magic and multiple Londons. Anyhow, I decided to fix this problem by buying a shiny paperback edition and putting it on my desk. Now I just have to read it.

6. Risuko: A Kunoichi Tale by David Kudler

I wanted to read this one as soon as I saw the title ( a kunoichi is the simplified/modernized term for a female ninja). It's a historical adventure novel set in 16th century Japan - and thanks to the author and NetGalley, I have an eARC of this one that I can start ASAP!

7. The Moon in the Palace by Weina Dei Randel

Now we have the Tang Dynasty of China. Mei, the young woman who became the most infamous empress in Chinese history, is the narrator of this debut novel. Naturally, I'm also fascinated by Chinese history, and this book looks really good. (Thanks for the eARC Sourcebooks!)

8. Masque by W. R. Gingell

And the prettiest cover yet
I literally read about this book ten minutes ago - and now I really want to read it. It's a murder mystery retelling of Beauty and the Beast by an indie author. The reviews compare it to Jane Austen, and say that the romance takes a backseat to the mystery. After reading just a few blurbs, I'm sold.

9. The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig

Another one that I actually have a copy of. It's about time travel, and there's a ship on the cover. And I heard there was a Persian thief involved. That's really all it takes to make me want to read a book.

10. Ivory and Bone by Julie Eshbaugh

Prehistoric Pride and Prejudice? I'll read that in a heartbeat. Warring clans and survival stuff are just bonuses. Honestly, this premise is fabulous.

So, are any of these on your TBR? (Are they now?) Which one looks the best to you? What book are you looking forward to reading this spring?

Monthly Rewind: February (and Some Questions for You Bloggers)

NOTE: This post first appeared on my former blog, Wordsmithing and Worldbuilding

I almost don’t know where to start on my Monthly Rewind – February was . . . Intense.

At any rate, it’s March (the month of appropriately mad weather for Michigan), which means it’s time for the monthly link-up with Nicole at Feed Your Fiction Addiction. Instructions on how to join are here.

 

You may or may not have noticed that I was pretty absent for most of February. There are a few reasons –
First, I picked up a second part-time job a couple weeks into the month, and both my time and internet access have become even more limited than normal. That being said, I’m still here!
Working two jobs has also upped my caffeine intake, and made me seek out coffee from less savory places (like the gas station). I’m normally pretty spoiled because the coffee at the bookstore is amazing. Not so amazing at the gas station. But hey, it’s coffee. I think.
Secondly, I’ve been having an endless amount of annoying problems with Blogger and Google+. They are currently refusing to let me comment on anyone’s comments, or even read them when I’m logged into my blog.

I didn’t realize what a goldmine TOP* gifs were . . . until now ^^

Ugh.

Anyhow, after much deliberation, I’m considering moving my blog to a different platform, or possibly my own domain.

Which leads me to these important questions:
1. Is it worth buying an actual domain name?
2. What blogging platform do you use, and why? Do you like it? Is one better than the others?

Any advice/feedback would be really appreciated! (Oh, and since I can’t read your comments – note the contact form on the top right-hand side of the blog- thanks!)
And now that I have that out of the way – February in Review!
On the Blog and Reading fronts, my hectic schedule made hash of things – and I only managed 5 posts 🙁

-Current mood-

 

My reading count for this month was even worse – I started about 15 books, and finished only two of them!
The first was Stars Above, and the second was The Guest by
Hwang Sok-yong. I’m not sure if I’ll review it or not. It’s about the 52 day massacre in the Hwanghae Province of North Korea during the Korean War. It was moving, disturbing, horrifying, and profoundly important if you’re looking to understand a little more of the North/South Korean relations, the relationship of Korea with the West (especially the U.S.), and the two huge “foreign guests” of Christianity and Communism. It wasn’t light reading, but I was glad I read it. I’m just not sure how to explain it in a review! (A funny place for a writer to be in, let me tell you).
I am also reading through a manuscript for a friend, so that’s taken plenty of time and attention.
And if you’re interested, here are some of the books I’m currently reading:
 
 
Without You, There is No Us by Suki Kim
Passenger by Alexandra Bracken
The Star-Touched Queen (ARC) by Roshani Chokshi
Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
H is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald
Small Data by Martin Lindstrom
Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard

Also in reading, Intisar Khanani’s (novel-length!) follow up to Sunbolt, Memories of Ash, has a release date!! This is easily one of my most anticipated books of 2016. It’s out May 30th – so just 3 months to wait!! In the meantime, there will be a cover reveal on March 16th, and it will be up for preorder on that day as well.

Off the Blog:

  • I started the second job (at a new local brewery)
  • I started yet another novel (I have very bad habits.) More about this in a minute.
  • I turned 27
  • I made lots of kimchi and discovered kimchi stew (soooo good. And kimchi fried rice is almost better!!)
  • I basically did a lot of cooking, now that I think about it . . .
  • One of my best friends got engaged and I get to be a bridesmaid (my second time)!
  • The only movie I watched was Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (Because Matt Smith – Eleventh Doctor as MR. COLLINS)***, I watched none of the Oscars, and watched an unhealthy amount of YouTube videos when I should have been sleeping after 12-16 hour work days.
  • And to be honest, if anything else happened in February – I don’t remember it. I was probably sleeping. My ability to fall asleep anywhere on anything at anytime just turned into a superpower.

Looking Ahead:

Hopefully I’ll finish a few of those books this time around, and have some time for reviews! I’m also thinking of doing a series of editing posts on The Last Coffee Shop – to help me actually edit it, and because it would be fun. Thoughts? My major goal for March is to do at least one edit through.
Oh, and that book idea I mentioned above) – it won’t go away. So I started writing it. It’s basically a vintage sci-fi + western + Hallyu wave + high fashion novel in the world of TLCS (though not a sequel). The MC’s voice is stuck in my head – he’s an angry teenage model (yes, that’s he) on the run from a truly freaky family situation. He takes refuge at a greasy spoon space diner, which is run by a posse of (former) warrior women who specialize in fried chicken. Because I just can’t write anything normal. If you’d like to see a glimpse into it, here’s the link to my Pinterest board.
Also, I plan on plugging away at The Butler Did It, and reading everyone else’s wonderful posts (I did a lot of reading posts in Feb, but rarely had the energy to comment, lol)

So that’s it for me folks. How was your February? Do you have any big plans for March? What are you reading? And please tell me your thoughts on the blog move idea/domain name 🙂 I’ll give you all the virtual cake if you do!

Footnotes:
*From BIGBANG. SO MANY GIFSSSS
**Yes, I know he’s fake. No, I will not get over it.
***Not as bad as I thought it would be, and Matt Smith was hilarious.

Tale as Old as Time

The timeless appeal of an enchanted dude with an awesome library . . .

It’s a truth to be universally acknowledged- we love Beauty and the Beast – whether it’s the Disney movie or a retelling of the Cupid & Psyche myth. 

Even at its most subversive, the story is still powerful. And it really is a “tale as old as time,” with hundreds of similar stories found in cultures all over the world.* Sometimes, the story is even found in the real world (it’s certainly more common than Cinderella!)

I was thinking about this as I finished my latest read, the (excellent) Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodges. I had finished numerous novels in the past three months, and [at least] four of them were basically retellings of Beauty and the Beast. 
I decided to look at my Goodreads page and see just how many distinct retellings I had read, and came up with over thirty. There were the straight up retellings, and the ones that were too close to leave out. There were also stories that were basically the same thing, just hidden under other plot threads (i.e. Jane Eyre).** If you think about it, Pride and Prejudice could even fall into this category (“beastly” guy, spirited and intelligent heroine who has to make personal sacrifices/lose everything before she wins his hand, etc.)

In its most basic form, the “Beauty and the Beast” story is this: 

1. We have a girl who is smart and principled (but not always physically beautiful or moral, per se. The ‘Beauty’ can refer to her mind or strength of spirit).
2. And whether she is naturally so (or forced by circumstances), she sacrifices herself for a lapse in judgement (hers, her parents, etc), and gives herself as a “bride” or a “gift/sacrifice” to a Beast.
3. The Beast is often a prince in animal form, but he might be a god or minor deity. The reason for his “Beast” form is one of two: either he was “beastly” in nature and offended a powerful woman, or he (or someone close to him) is testing his bride.
4. How it pans out here is always a little different, but either the girl fails the test and gets to go through trials to reclaim the beast (that she has grown to love), or she leaves and comes back at some personal loss (there always has to be a sacrifice) and her love restores his human form/proves she’s worthy to be his wife.

Somehow the story never gets boring.

So here are a few standouts:

Favorite Retelling: This is hard! Probably Till We Have Faces, by C. S. Lewis, with Robin McKinley’s Beauty as a very close second.

Worst Retelling: Beastly, by Alex Flinn

With Scottish Highlands and a Werewolf: By These Ten Bones by Claire Dunkle

When the Beast Doesn’t Get the Girl: The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux

More Like Tam Lin (basically the same story): The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope

Where the Girl is the One Under a Curse, and the Guy is Beastly Anyway: Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

Needless to say, there are a bunch of retellings that I’ve never read. And I will probably never get sick of them (and I’ve written a few of my own!). If you’re interested in the more scholarly look at Cupid and Psyche, there are some good essays here.

So do you have a favorite Beauty and the Beast/Cupid & Psyche retelling? Do you think the library scene (in Disney’s B & B) is basically the best Disney scene ever? Sound off in the comments, and brownie points for retellings that I’ve never heard of.

Footnotes:
*SurLaLune Fairy Tale Blog has a nice list of variations here.
**There is a huge list of B & B retellings on Goodreads.