Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Boston Book Festival 2017

I was fortunate enough to attend the Boston Book Festival this year on Saturday, October 28, 2017. I always love attending this festival but this year I only attended one panel due to the overwhelming crowd this year. I feel like every year, the festival has been increasing in numbers and unfortunately some of the attendees can be super rude. The festival takes place in Copley Square at the Boston Public Library and at many of the beautiful churches on Bolyston  Street and on Newbury Street.

I ended up attending the The Biker, the Baker, and the Dumpling Maker panel at The Boston Public Library's Rabb Hall which was beyond fabulous! At the panel, Karen Akunowicz, Joanne Chang and Stella Parks spoke about their new cookbooks, chatted about some of their experiences and even shared about recipe testing and recommended some of their favorite cookbooks.

Joanne started Flour before she ventured into owning Myers+Chang with her husband, Christopher. Prior to cooking and baking, Joanne majored in Applied Mathematics and Economics at Harvard but soon figured out that it wasn't her calling. Her passion is baking! She only has Flour bakeries in locations she can bike to. I absolutely love Flour! I've been an avid follower since 2009 and I own all of Joanne's cookbooks.

Stella mentioned that her calling is to reconnect people with their childhood memories with pastries. High skilled and fancy pastries are not necessary. Her interpretation of American classic desserts connects people with friends and family. Stella's cookbook, BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts intrigues me because I love how she weaves in some storytelling with her fantastic desserts. It's sort of resembles a journal of her life and what baking means to her. She transposes some of her memories onto pages for her readers so they can also create meaningful memories.

Karen talked about how culinary school is very strict and it can create a toxic environment for females. You have to take the harassment at the culinary school. There is no crying or getting upset. If you do, it's pretty much "get out of the kitchen." However, you have to be strong in order in order to succeed. Joanne mentioned how she wants to make sure that everyone has benefits at her bakeries and  restaurant. She wants them to feel safe and that there is an HR person for people to go to. Karen and Joanne work well together at Myers+Chang and they coauthored a wonderful cookbook. Karen was elated to be asked to contribute to Myers+Chang at Home: Recipes from the Beloved Boston Eatery.



The three talented women talked about "why cookbooks now in the digital age?" When the audience was asked how many people use cookbooks still, almost everyone in the whole room raised their hand. Only a few prefer reading recipes off their tablets. There is something tangible about a cookbook that you can look and page through. It's okay if you get it a bit dirty. Also, they make wonderful gifts!

Stella mentioned that she didn't know that cookbooks were dying out. Actually, she was asked to write a cookbook and she decided to write it. Karen and Joanne used a Google document and worked on the book between their busy shifts. Karen said there was no romantic notions in Vermont or writing battleship style as she envisioned prior to writing the cookbook.

In terms of favorite cookbooks, Stella loves The Flavor Bible: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity, Based on the Wisdom of America's Most Imaginative Chefs for flavor pairings. Karen jokingly mentions she loves all the Flour cookbooks but she uses loves Hartwood: Bright, Wild Flavors from the Edge of the Yucatán. Joanne's most used cookbook is Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything.

In terms of recipe testing, Joanne talked about how scaling and rewriting for the home and not for the restaurant was sometimes a challenge. Testing out the recipes in a home kitchen was key. Joanne had three people test out a recipe and will receive feedback from them. The recipe is rewritten before she asks another three people to test out the recipe. This process continues until the recipe is perfect. Stella had her friends and associates test out her recipes and then she had professionals test them out.

The balance between stories, images and recipes were vital for Stella's book. Her book is for avid home bakers and for those how love some history. Her editor sat in during the photo shoot to help streamline the process. Karen and Joanne mentioned how their book is catered for home cooking.

After the panel, I was lined up to have Karen and Joanne sign my copy of Myers+Chang at Home: Recipes from the Beloved Boston Eatery. Joanne already signed my Flour copies in the past. Afterwards, I went to check out some of the vendor booths and had some Chicken and Rice Guys at the food truck outside of the Boston Public Library. I ended the day fairly short and ended up going home early.

Definitely check out Karen and Joann'e latest book Myers+Chang at Home: Recipes from the Beloved Boston Eatery and also Stella's book BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts. Thank you to the organizers and volunteers of Boston Book Festival. I always look forward to this free annual festival.










Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Haunting the Deep Event Recap

On Sunday, October 22nd, I was fortunate enough to attend a book event at the Hawthorne Hotel in Salem, MA hosted by Wicked Good Books. Adriana Mather and Kali Wallace packed in a huge room full of book lovers. Adriana and Kali talked a bit about their current novels and answered questions from the audience. A book signing occurred after the talk and hot apple cider and delicious donuts were served!

I was able to see Adriana last October when her debut novel, How to Hang a Witch, was published. She had an event at Hawthorne Hotel last year as well. It was amazing to see how many new fans she gained over the year. Last year the event was fairly small and this year the hotel staff had to find more chairs for attendees!

When Adriana was looking for a particular book the only place that had it was in Salem, MA. When she inquired about the book, the lady at the bookstore said Mather is name not popular around Salem. This sparked the idea to write How to Hang a Witch. When Adriana was at her grandmother's house, she found a desk with older letters and old journals. There she found a letter about the Titanic and how a relative survived. Of course, Adriana did her happy dance when she found the Harper letter. This letter was inspiration for Haunting the Deep. Did you know the Harpers that Adriana is related to is also the Harpers of Harper & Brothers which is now HarperCollins? Adriana mentioned that the third book in the series (if she writes it) will take place in Sleepy Hollow since she is related to some people there. Adriana hit the trifecta jackpot for being a descendant.

The audience asked some very interesting questions this year. One person asked Adriana if she makes her books into movies. For those who don't know, Adriana is also a screenwriter in California on top of being an author. Adriana shot her book trailers in Salem, MA and in CT at her mother's house which is at least 300-years-old. How to Hang a Witch is optioned as a TV show but Adriana can't let us know the network or any of the details yet.

In terms of historical research, one person asked how was the research with the Titanic compared to the Salem Witch Trials.  With the Salem Witch Trials, the research was limited due to how far back in time the events occurred. Adriana used letters and written accounts. For the Titanic, it was a blackhole since there were so many people involved and there were a lot of interviews to comb through. One of the stories that Adriana told the audience was about Ester Hart who didn't want to go on the ship but her husband insisted. She had a feeling something bad will happen. Because of this feeling, she slept all day and at night she stayed in her day clothes. Another story was about a ship cat  who took her kittens off the boat one by one on a ramp at the last port before New York City. Adriana also read a lot of conspiracies whether it be socioeconomic, sociopolitical or even environmental.


Adriana spoke about her favorite scene that she wrote. She likes writing about Mrs. Meriweather's bakery called Sugar Spells. Adriana loves everything to do with the bakery whether it be the interior design to the bakery's sweet treats. Adriana's favorite character within the How to Hang a Witch duology is Alice. She has a soft soft for people who can't keep their mouths shut and she loves a good flawed character.

One person asked Adriana if she would bring back Sam's mother or grandmother in the series. Adriana said she was toying around with the idea to bring back an immediate family member or even Jaxson's father. In terms of a prequel, Adriana possibly will consider the option especially if the How to Hang a Witch TV show kicks off. Everyone seems to love Elijah and would love to read more about him before he met Sam.

For inspiring writers, Kali recommended to "keep writing. Your voice matters. You're the only one that can tell the story. Go with what you you like. Do it! You have to love it!" 

Adriana mentioned, "There is no right way to write. Complete it and you can break it apart. Have fun and learn. Keep writing. You learn stuff you don't know. Write what is interesting and fun for you."

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Top Characters Who Would Make Great Leaders


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's Top Ten Tuesday asks bloggers to blog about their top ten characters who would make great leaders. The following characters are in no particular order.


1. Hermione Granger, from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling - There is no doubt that Hermione Granger would make an excellent leader. She is the brains of the Trio and has the collected coolness during tough situations. She believes in equality for all whether it be for House Elves to Werewolves. I would totally vote for Granger for president!

Image from tvtropes.org
2. Minerva McGonagall, from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, is a badass no question asked. She is skilled in dueling and is an excellent Transfiguration professor. Peeves hardly listens to anyone besides the Bloody Baron but takes orders from McGonagall. She takes charge of Hogwarts in the absence of Albus Dumbledore.

3. Annabeth Chase, from the Percy Jackson and the Olympians  and The Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan, is the daughter of Athena and she is one of the chosen seven. She is head counselor of Cabin 6 and is an exceptional architect. She is well versed in battle and shares the same wisdom as her mother.

4. Tina Goldstein, from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay by J.K. Rowling, is an Auror for MACUSA. She graduated from Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardy as a Thunderbird. Although, Tina follows the rules of the most part, she does what is best based on the situation. She has a good heart and would make fantastic leader.

5. Audrey Rose Wadsworth, from Stalking Jack the Ripper series by Kerri Maniscalco, is the quintessential renaissance woman. She doesn't mind getting her hands dirty and doing things that a man can do. Ms. Wadsworth uncovers mysteries while taking charge in the 1800's, leading the path for ladies to take a stand and to do anything that set their minds to. It's okay to love forensics while donning a dress and drinking a cuppa.

Image from phantomrin.tumblr.com
6. Nicolette Lampton, from Mechanica by Betsy Cornwell, is independent and doesn't rely on others for her own happiness. She is smart and is very creative in engineering and other sciences. I love how she embraces her STEM interests. It shows that females can achieve anything.

7. Charlotte Branwell, from The Infernal Devices series by Cassandra Clare, is former head of the London Institute and is the first female Consul in the late 1800's. Charlotte is a naturally born leader who can do anything a male can do. She is independent, responsible and knows when to lay down the law.

8. Sydney Sage from the Bloodlines series by Richelle Mead is intelligent, systematic and is responsible. She was once very closed-minded but has opened up after she eventually falls for someone who she once despised. Ms. Sage's character development has blossomed over the course of 6+ books. Sometimes being in someone else's shoes opens your eyes to things you've missed.

9. Kestrel Trajan, from The Winner's Trilogy by Marie Rutkoski, is a mastermind! Never underestimate her because she always has something up her sleeves. Not only is she a brilliant strategist but she doesn't care about rankings of the Valorians and the Herrani. She believes that the two shouldn't be at war.

Image from pinterest.com


What characters do you think would make great leaders? Comment below.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Little Elliot, Fall Friends by Mike Curato

Title: Little Elliot, Fall Friends
Author: Mike Curato
Publisher: Henry Holt & Company
Publication date: August 29, 2017
Pages: 40
Source/format: From Publisher//Hardcover

Rating: ☆☆☆

Synopsis (from goodreads.com):

It's autumn in the Big City! Little Elliot and Mouse love the hustle and bustle of the city streets. But sometimes it feels like there are too many people, too many noises--just too much! The best friends decide to get out of town for a vacation in the countryside. There, they'll discover the sights and smells of autumn in the country. Everything is more fun when shared with a friend!

M Y  T H O U G H T S
 
Little Elliot, Fall Friends is the fourth book in the Little Elliot picture book series. Mike Curato illustrated a wonderful book for everyone of all ages.

The soft muted colors are timeless. Curato transports readers to the countryside where Little Elliot and Mouse go apple picking and hang out with the barn animals. The countryside is much slower in pace and Little Elliot and Mouse start to wind down more when they escape the craziness of the big city. They learn to appreciate nature and enjoy nature's bounty. 

The scenery is bursting with the fall foliage, pumpkins and apples. The picture book focuses on slowing down, reconnecting with nature and to embrace coming together as a family as well as making new friends.

This is the perfect picture book for this time of year and for children to understand the changes of the season from summer to fall. The warmth of the illustrations provide a cozy feeling.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Top Ten Books to Read on Halloween


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's Top Ten Tuesday asks bloggers to blog about a Halloween freebie. I decided to list top ten books to read on Halloween. You can see my previous lists for creepy Halloween reads for 2015 and 2016. The following books are in no particular order.


1. Forest of Thousand Lanterns by Julie Dao is a retelling of the Evil Queen in Snow White but with an East Asian twist. Don't be fooled and thinking it will be similar to how Disney portrays the Evil Queen. Dao's dark fantasy is intoxicating, unexpected and quite unsettling.


2. Black Bird of the Gallows by Meg Kassel is a dark paranormal fantasy that make you second guess about crows in the future. Kassel wrote a captivating and engaging novel about two teenagers that are fated to be together but due to certain circumstances, they must stand their distances to save each other.


3. Hunting Prince Dracula by Kerri Maniscalco is the sequel to Stalking Jack the Ripper. If you are looking for a Victorian gorey thriller, check out this novel. Join Wadsworth and Cresswell on their journey at a forensics science school in Romania.


4. Haunting the Deep by Adriana Mather is the sequel to How to Hang a Witch. The main character narrowly escaped a fiasco in Salem, MA and she can see spirits. In this novel, she tries to solve a mystery involving the Titanic.


5. Caraval by Stephanie Garber is a carnival novel that will sweep you off your feet with mysteries and puzzles to solve before time runs out. Garber's twisty dreams and illusions will keep you entertained.


6. Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman is one of my favorite books since the early 2000's. Join the Owens family as they embark on their living their lives in a small town in Massachusetts. Magical realism intertwines within this captivating novel. The book focuses on Sally and Gillian.


7. The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman is the prequel to Practical Magic but this time the novel focuses on the the lives of Frances, Jet and Vincent. Join the siblings in the 1960's and how they pave their own paths to avoid the Owens Curse.



WANT TO READ

1. Ravenous by Amy Lukavics sounds super creepy! One of the Cane sisters dies but comes back to life craving the flesh of other people in order to survive.


2. Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King and Owen King just came out and it sounds fantastic. Women go through a transformation where they become feral after a cocooning process. However, one woman is immune to this disease.


3. The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw is a hybrid of Hocus Pocus and Practical Magic rolled into one. Yes, please! I am fortunate enough to be able to read this via Edelweiss. This novel will be out in 2018.




What novels are you reading in October or for Halloween? 

Friday, October 27, 2017

The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman

Title: The Rules of Magic
Author: Alice Hoffman
Publisher: Simon Schuster
Publication date: October 10, 2017
Pages: 369
Source/format: Purchased//Hardcover

Rating: ☆☆☆1/2

Synopsis (from goodreads.com):

Find your magic

For the Owens family, love is a curse that began in 1620, when Maria Owens was charged with witchery for loving the wrong man.

Hundreds of years later, in New York City at the cusp of the sixties, when the whole world is about to change, Susanna Owens knows that her three children are dangerously unique. Difficult Franny, with skin as pale as milk and blood red hair, shy and beautiful Jet, who can read other people’s thoughts, and charismatic Vincent, who began looking for trouble on the day he could walk.

From the start Susanna sets down rules for her children: No walking in the moonlight, no red shoes, no wearing black, no cats, no crows, no candles, no books about magic. And most importantly, never, ever, fall in love. But when her children visit their Aunt Isabelle, in the small Massachusetts town where the Owens family has been blamed for everything that has ever gone wrong, they uncover family secrets and begin to understand the truth of who they are. Back in New York City each begins a risky journey as they try to escape the family curse.

The Owens children cannot escape love even if they try, just as they cannot escape the pains of the human heart. The two beautiful sisters will grow up to be the revered, and sometimes feared, aunts in Practical Magic, while Vincent, their beloved brother, will leave an unexpected legacy.

M Y  T H O U G H T S

Do as you will, but harm no one.
What you give will be returned to you threefold.
Fall in love whenever you can.

The Rules of Magic is a prequel to Practical Magic. If you loved reading about Gillian and Sally, you will love diving into the childhood of Franny, Jet and Vincent. For most of their lives, the three siblings have to live under their parents strict rules. Their mother hides things from them even though they know they are different. Being outcasts at school is hard enough but their mother would tell them no walking in the moonlight, no wearing black, no night blooming flowers and etc.

One summer, the three children travel to a small town in Massachusetts from New York City to visit their Aunt Isabelle on Magnolia Street. Here is where they learned more about the black soap that their mother uses and about curse that is upon the Owens family. Franny, Jet and Vincent each have their own personality traits, natural gifts and temperaments that set them apart from each other but they are connected by the Owens magical bloodline. Taking place starting from the 1960's until more present day, readers delve into the history of the Owens family legend while watching the three siblings grow up falling in love and dealing with heartbreak.

Alice Hoffman has a gift with words. Her descriptions are exquisite and you can smell the fragrances depicted in the novel right off the pages. There is one scene when Aunt Isabelle is making soap with the help of Franny in which the bars of soap set quickly even though they soap is made with lye. It's just a minor thing but saponification of soap is not quick and the soap needs to cure for 1-2 weeks for hot process soap and 4-6 weeks for cold process soap.

Hoffman's charming characters shine in The Rules of Magic. Readers learn to embrace family, believing in yourself and and overcoming heartbreak. The Rules of Magic is a heartwarming novel yet tragic at the same time. Readers will be entranced by the whimsical magic. Just remember that "There is no remedy for love, but to love more."

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Dear Rachel Maddow Cover Reveal Blitz





Dear Rachel Maddow is written by Adrienne Kisner and it comes out June 5, 2018! I am so happy to reveal the cover to this novel! Thank you to Rockstar Book Tours for letting participate in this cover reveal blitz! Adrienne is super nice and I was fortunate to get to know a her during Boston Teen Author Festival in 2016 and 2017! I can't wait to read this novel next year!


Title: Dear Rachel Maddow
Author: Adrienne Kisner
Pub. Date: June 5, 2018
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Formats: Hardcover, eBook
Pages: 400
Find it: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, The Book Depository , Goodreads

Synopsis:

Sixteen-year-old Brynn Harper’s life has one steadying force—Rachel Maddow. She watches her daily, and after writing to Rachel for a school project—and actually getting a response—Brynn starts drafting emails to Rachel but never sending them. It’s an outlet; Brynn tells Rachel about breaking up with Sarah, her first serious girlfriend, about her beloved brother Nick’s death, her passive mother and even worse stepfather, about how she’s stuck in remedial courses at school and is considering dropping out.

But then Brynn is confronted with a moral dilemma. She learns that one student representative will be allowed to have a voice among teachers and administrators in the selection of a new school superintendent. Sarah, along with Brynn’s arch-nemesis John, believe only honors students worthy of the selection committee seat. Brynn knows they are more interested in power and perks. Brynn feels all students deserve a voice. When she runs for the position the knives are out and her brother’s memory and her new crush Michaela are shamed. Brynn asks herself: What would Rachel Maddow do?

DEAR RACHEL MADDOW EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT 


Folder:  Sent
To: egrimm@westing.pa.edu
Date:  September 10
Subject:  School Assignment

Dear Rachel Maddow,
I am writing to you because of a school assignment.  It’s a totally lame reason to be writing, but I don’t think you’ll actually read it anyway.  This kind of thing is so sixth grade.  I am a junior in high school and I’ve been forced to write to a “celebrity hero” by the Applied Language Arts teacher.  (Hey Mr. Grimm!  How’s it hanging, buddy?)  I wasn’t going to do it, because my ex-girlfriend worships you and, hello, school assignment.  But I turned on your show and Mom totally freaked out to see me watching you.  Apparently your liberal and leftist views don’t sit well with her.  Mom spat out the words like she was talking about my dad, so I knew she meant it.  That made you my celebrity hero.
You were talking about some guys running for congress.  But then you said one of them was “freaking amazing.”  I don’t think news people are supposed to say things like that.  And isn’t that biased?  News people aren’t supposed to be biased.  I know this because Mr. Grimm made us watch this video about newswriting.  Though no one else knows this about me, Rachel Maddow, I have a near photographic memory for stuff people say.  Their words just stick in my brain.  So I remember what a reporter is supposed to do. 
Anyway, thanks for pissing off my Mom.
Sincerely,
Brynn Harper

Folder:  Sent
From: Egrimm@westing.pa.edu
Date:  September 11
Subject:  RE: School Assignment

Dear Rachel Maddow,
I am writing to you because of a school assignment.  It’s a totally lame reason to be writing, but I don’t think you actually read them anyway.  This kind of thing is so sixth grade.  [Brynn, this is good, honest writing.  Can you try to put a positive spin on it?]  I am a junior in high school and I’ve been forced [asked] to write to a “celebrity hero” by the Applied Language Arts teacher.  (Hey Mr. Grimm!  How’s it hanging, buddy?)  [I’m doing well, thanks.  But you can take this out.] I wasn’t going to do it, because my ex-girlfriend worships you and, hello, school assignment. And Mom totally freaked out to see me watching you.  Apparently your liberal and leftist views still don’t sit well with her.  Mom spat out the words like she was talking about my Dad, so I knew she meant it.  So that made you my celebrity hero.  [Again, great personal touch.  But maybe too intimate for this correspondence?]
You were talking about the people running for congress.  But then you said one of them was “freaking amazing.”  And I don’t think news people are supposed to say things like that.  And isn’t that biased?  News people aren’t supposed to be biased.  I know this because Mr. Grimm, my English teacher, made us watch this video about newswriting.  Though no one else knows this about me, Rachel Maddow, I have a photographic memory for stuff people say.  Their words just stick in my brain.  So I remember what a reporter is supposed to be. [You are right, Brynn!  I didn’t know that about you.  Shouldn’t you remember your assignments, then?]
Anyway, thanks for pissing off my Mom. [There is a list of questions I asked you to include.  Maybe you could end with that instead.]
Sincerely,
Brynn Harper

Folder:  Sent
Date:  September 12
Subject:  School Assignment Again

Dear Rachel Maddow,
                  I learned an important lesson about rough drafts.  If you really want to send someone a letter, you should just send it.  Do not turn it in to your English teacher first.  But Mr. Grimm (said English teacher) is the only person I know who doesn’t think I’m hopeless, so I am trying this again for his sake.  Though I’m sending it to you too, to avoid further editing. 
                  My name is Brynn Harper and I am sixteen years old.  I live with my mother and stepfather in Westing, Pennsylvania.  I have a brother, too.  Or, I had one, anyway.
                  I first watched your show a couple of times in high school because my best friend (well, okay, my girlfriend) loved you, so she kind of dragged me along with her.  She’s not my girlfriend anymore.  And she said she didn’t have time to watch television anymore either, even for you.  So she dumped us both.  That gives us something in common.
                  I had a list of questions that I was supposed to ask you, but I got most of the answers online already.  Mr. Grimm suggested I think of new ones.  So here you go:
1.    When you look at the papers on your desk and circle something, are you really reading from them?  Don’t you read from a teleprompter?  When you go to commercial, you shuffle those papers, too.  Seriously, is there anything even written on them?
2.     How much does a person have to know to be considered a “wonk?”
3.     At least one person laughs in the background while you are talking.  Is this on purpose?  Who is that? 
4.     Why don’t you run for political office?
5.     Is there ever a staff meeting when you think to yourself, “Huh, there really isn’t a lot going on in the news today.”
6.     How many pairs of shoes do you actually own?



About Adrienne Kisner

I have lived my entire “adult” life in a college dormitory working in both Residence Life and college chaplaincy. I like the term "dormitory" better than "residence hall." I went to school for a long time so that now I get to swoop around in a fancy robe and silly hat (like at Hogwarts). I have an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts (a place like Hogwarts). I play both the viola and tennis with more heart than skill. I love my current home in Boston but will always be a Pennsylvanian at heart.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads



GIVEAWAY DETAILS


2 winners will receive an ARC of DEAR RACHEL MADDOW, US Only. Nicole's Novel Reads is not responsible for books lost or damaged in the mail. Good Luck!


Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Forest of a Thousand Lanterns Launch Party Recap

I was ecstatic to attend Julie Dao's Forest of a Thousand Lanterns launch party at Porter Square Books on Thursday, October 12th. I got out of work early so I could venture to Cambridge and still had time to catch dinner before the event.

Julie's launch party is probably the best launch party I've attended. From her homemade photo booth frame to themed cupcakes and drinks, she really set the bar high. Even her brothers helped out with handing out raffle tickets, holding up the photo frame to taking photos. Her mother is the sweetest too. She helped out with setting up the sweets and drinks and even sewed cute fleece snakes.


Julie started the launch with a reading from her book and then answered questions from the audience. It was wonderful to hear about her writing and publishing journey. It took her ten years to get a book published. Julie's passion is in writing but her father didn't want her to pursue a writing career. So Julie majored in pre-med and biology. However, she felt like she lost herself in college and was unhappy. Julie ended up returning to what she loves doing.

When she first acquired an agent, the manuscript she was working on was a topic that wasn't going to sell well. Later on, her proposed idea about writing about a world of women of kingdoms fighting for the throne became Forest of a Thousand Lanterns which took 5 weeks to write and 1.5 years to revise. She had this idea since she was 13-years-old. Her ideas poured out of her as she transferred everything on paper. Julie said the hardest part of writing is to put a envisioned story on paper but the revisions are probably the toughest. Julie is a Type A and plots a lot prior to writing.

Julie describes the book as dark and and bold just like her writing career. She wanted to have an all Asian world with an Asian cast. She wanted to see herself in a book! She did a lot of research on imperial life and some of her inspiration came from the epic Chinese dramas her mom used to watch. Julie wanted elements of Snow White to be fresh and original in her novel. She twisted and bended the elements to make it her own with the apple, mirror and the Evil Queen wanting Snow White's heart. Julie calls her copies of Forest of a Thousand Lanterns her horcruxes. They are part of her soul!

Julie told the audience a few teasers about the next book. The draft is done and the series is a duology. The next book is about Snow White when she is about 17-18 ready to reclaim the throne! Julie's favorite character is Ambassador Shiro. The second book was harder to write because she had a fixed deadline. There is more pressure and the acting of putting words and ideas on the page is harder when there is a time crunch. Her third book will either be set in the same world as Forest of a Thousand Lanterns or it will be a standalone.


When Julie talked about YA, she mentioned that YA is finding out what you want and who you are. It's about becoming who you are meant to be and what the universe wants you to explore. Julie provided advice to aspiring writers. Write about what you love. And make sure you have a good writing community to support you.

In terms of diversity in Hollywood films being based on a novel, Julie mentioned that it's important to be true to the story. The representation on film is starting to become more diverse than before.

Thank you so much to Porter Square Books, Julie Dao and her family as well as Philomel for making this launch party a success! Also, it was nice to see Ellie again and to hang out with Janella and Christy. I love going to book events to celebrate authors, books and talk everything bookish with book friends!

Friday, October 13, 2017

American Street by Ibi Zoboi

Title: American Street
Author: Ibi Zoboi
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication date: February 14, 2017
Pages: 336
Source/format: Library//Hardcover

Rating: ☆☆☆

Synopsis (from goodreads.com):

The rock in the water does not know the pain of the rock in the sun.

On the corner of American Street and Joy Road, Fabiola Toussaint thought she would finally find une belle vie—a good life.

But after they leave Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Fabiola’s mother is detained by U.S. immigration, leaving Fabiola to navigate her loud American cousins, Chantal, Donna, and Princess; the grittiness of Detroit’s west side; a new school; and a surprising romance, all on her own.

Just as she finds her footing in this strange new world, a dangerous proposition presents itself, and Fabiola soon realizes that freedom comes at a cost. Trapped at the crossroads of an impossible choice, will she pay the price for the American dream?

M Y  T H O U G H T S

Fabiola Toussaint entered the United States to begin a new life but problems arose when she arrived to New York with her mother. Fabiola's Maman told her to fly to Detriot without her and that she will meet Fabiola there. However, Fabiola later learns that her mother is detained by ICE at a facility in New Jersey and faces deportation back to Haiti. This is the first time Fabiola's mother left her alone but not by choice.

With slight worry about her mother, Fabiola is welcomed by her cousins and aunt. Culture shocks hits right away and Fabiola is learning how to fend for herself without her mom which has become extremely hard for her. She starts high school and she tries to adjust to the tough streets of Detroit. Fabiola gains a nickname of Fabulous, meets new friends and is even smitten with a guy.

Ibi Zoboi wrote a powerful novel that is gritty and expressive. Fabiola hangs onto her Haitian roots despite trying to fit in with her new American lifestyle. Zoboi weaves in iwas, Vodou spirit guides, within American Street. The novel includes instances of domestic violence, drug dealing, name calling and a lot of profanity. However, readers shouldn't shy away from tough topics depicted in the novel.

Although the American Street is hard hitting, it's a fast paced novel with a variety of memorable characters such as Fabiola, Pri, Donna, Chantal, Imani, Dray and Kasim. Mainly in first person narrative of Fabiola, the novel includes snippets of secondary characters' voices. With immigration being a hot topic of discussion lately, American Street is a book everyone should read.


Monday, October 9, 2017

Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie Dao

Title: Forest of a Thousand Lanterns
Author: Julie Dao
Publisher: Philomel Books
Publication date: October 10, 2017
Pages: 384
Source/format: Publisher//ARC

Rating: ☆☆☆1/2

Synopsis (from goodreads.com):

An East Asian fantasy reimagining of The Evil Queen legend about one peasant girl's quest to become Empress--and the darkness she must unleash to achieve her destiny.

Eighteen-year-old Xifeng is beautiful. The stars say she is destined for greatness, that she is meant to be Empress of Feng Lu. But only if she embraces the darkness within her. Growing up as a peasant in a forgotten village on the edge of the map, Xifeng longs to fulfill the destiny promised to her by her cruel aunt, the witch Guma, who has read the cards and seen glimmers of Xifeng's majestic future. But is the price of the throne too high?

Because in order to achieve greatness, she must spurn the young man who loves her and exploit the callous magic that runs through her veins--sorcery fueled by eating the hearts of the recently killed. For the god who has sent her on this journey will not be satisfied until his power is absolute.

M Y  T H O U G H T S

Xifeng lives in a village with her abusive and sometimes cruel aunt. Fated by the cards to be Empress of Feng Lu, Xifeng lets out the darkness deep within her out. However, her evil and cunning thoughts can be deadly.

Because Xifeng follows her destiny of greatness, she ends up missing out on the finer parts of life. She is blinded by the fact that she can live a wonderful life with Wei, who ultimately would do anything for Xifeng. I absolutely adore Wei and it pained me to see Xifeng always coming up with excuses when Wei told her to run away with him or when he asked for her hand in marriage. Unfortunately, Xifeng is hungry for power and not for love. Even though Xifeng can be ruthless, she finds a friendship with Kang, a eunuch at the Imperial Palace, which I find good for her since she needs to have someone that she can sort of trust.

Julie Dao has created many characters with multi-faceted personalities. The character development for Xifeng is well written. So much happens to the young lady that I cannot even fathom going through at such a young age. She blossoms overtime from a child who doesn't know how to please her aunt, Guma, to a dynamic and persuasive lady. Mythology is woven into the narrative along with a retelling of the Evil Queen of Snow White with an East Asian twist.

When the tengaru queen tells Xifeng that the destiny is true that she can become Empress, she also warns Xifeng of the sacrifices that Xifeng will have to make. The tengaru queen also mentions that there is one person who shall bring salvation and one who will bring destruction. Which will Xifeng be?

Xifeng is an ambitious anti-heroine and she reminds me of Adelina from The Young Elites series by Marie Lu. Forest of a Thousand Lanterns is an intoxicating dark fantasy novel for fans of the Evil Queen in Snow White and for fans of Levana from the Lunar Chronicles. Forest of a Thousand Lanterns starts off as a tame retelling but it morphs into something deceitful, scandalous and downright wicked.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Boston Teen Author Festival 2017 Recap

I was fortunate to attend the Boston Teen Author Festival (BTAF) located in Cambridge, MA on Saturday, September 23rd. This was my fourth time attending BTAF and all I can say is that I had so much fun! Not only did I meet amazing authors and attended fantastic panels but I was able to meet a good amount of new friends that all love reading. Some are big Potterheads too! This year I managed to only attend two panels because I wanted to have a more relaxed approach compared to previous years. I wanted to spend more time catching up with old friends and learning more about my new friends.

I got up a little bit before six and got ready to head to the blue line to venture to Cambridge. Jess was on a bus from New Hampshire and I met her in Harvard Square at a Starbucks. We both then met up with my friends Marci and Rachel at the Tealuxe down the street and chit chatted before walking to the Cambridge Rindge and Latin School for the start of BTAF. I decided to purchase my books during the beginning of day so I could avoid long lines closer to the signing. I bumped into Ellie when she was volunteering and assisting guests to the auditorium. Because it was so hot inside the auditorium, I ended up hanging outside for awhile.










Marci found me outside and we proceeded to the Teen Room in the Cambridge Public Library for the Fantastical Four panel. Marci and I met April, who was sitting in front of us. We were talking about how April and I were wearing the same shirt and April showed us her collection of Harry Potter items that she had on her. Maddi met up with us too. Rachel pretty much introduced us to Maddi and a few other people during the day. Maddi also had a When in Doubt, Go to the Library shirt.

Adam Silvera, Lana Popović, Stacey Lee and Ibi Zoboi all spoke at Fantastical Four panel. The panel focused on novels that include magical elements but they are not fantasy and honed on the magical realism genre. Adam was fortunate enough to moderate since there was no formal moderator. Because I read books by three of the authors, I was super excited to hear what they had to say about their books. The panel was engaging, insightful and it was well-paced. Adam was hilarious throughout the whole panel and he really set the mood. Adam's first experience with queer characters included Cassandra Clare's City of Bones. The novel has a cool cover and a shirtless guy. He was 19-years-old when he first read about queer characters. "I want to do that for other readers. I want to show others there is diversity," when he explained about the books he wrote. Adam wanted other readers to share his experience about reading a book that they can relate to. He was excited to see his novel, They Both Die at the End, being shelved under realistic teen fiction and not under sci-fi.

Ibi mentioned how her first manuscripts she wrote about were Vodou mythology based but Vodou is hard to sell. However, she incorporated Vodou mythology in American Street. She loves how people come to our country with their own views, voices and cultures. I enjoyed hearing Stacey speak about how scents are made out of different pitches and how most scents hover around a middle to high C music note. She spoke about the complexity of scents. English words for scents don't exist. Scents are associated with emotions. Stacey also read a lot of wine labels when writing The Secret of a Heart Note. She also talked about the role of the aromateur and how she purposely had Mim have a makeup of multiple ethnicities and races since an aromateur does not identify with a specific race. Lana talks about how she wants to see the world through a magical lens and how it is easy to create a contemporary world with magic in Wicked Like Wildfire.

One of the questions that the authors answered included what books and authors introduced you to the genre?

Lana mentioned Laini Taylor, Maggie Stiefvater and Francesca Lia Block are influences. She loves Neil Gaiman's American Gods and mentions that divine influences in YA is important. Stacey seconded on Magie Stiefvater. Her favorite Maggie book is The Scorpio Races. She is also a big fan of Wizard of Oz. Ibi loves Toni Morison and Daniel José Older. She claims trauma is a magical element and claims Gods are living amongst us.

Another fascinating question was what elements of magic would you like to see today?

Lana mentioned how there is no visual way to perceive magic. Leisure time magic of tarot cards, herbs and crystals would be nice to see. Adam talked about how cool it would it be to translate magic to a visual medium. Ibi would like to see auras. She claims they would be like walking mood rings. Stacey claimed there are a lot of bad things happening in the world and she would like to see positive auras.

Of course at the end of the panel, Maddi, April and I had to get a picture of the three of us with our matching shirts! Thanks Marci for taking the photo!


After the panel, Marci, Maddi and I met up with Adrienne, Shannon and Rachel to get some lunch from the local market. We bumped into Julie Dao before we headed back to the school to eat outside. I was able to grab a water bottle for Ellie and Ellie joined us for a bit during her break. Marci, Shannon and I went to save seats for the Out of Character panel in the lecture hall of the Cambridge Public Library. The panel consisted of Jason Reynolds, Leigh Bardugo, Ashley Poston and Kerri Maniscalco. I found it hilarious how Jason got their time and everyone was late. Rachel was joking around how it's the Jason Reynolds Panel.


During the panel, the audience learned more about what the authors researched for their characters. They also shared with us what their favorite things that they learned while researching.

Kerri enjoyed researching Dracula's castle which ultimately became the castle for the forensics school. Ashley learned that if you exhale, you can float for 3-4 minutes before you bloat up and explode like a balloon in space. Leigh enjoyed debunking myths when researching Helen and Troy. Jason found out that the name Miles means solider. He likes to learn what words mean and to learn the roots of words.

One of the questions that was asked included what characters in mythology would you want to write about?

Kerri would love to write about a gender-swapped Rumpelstiltskin. Ashley wants to write about Batgirl because she really loves Barbara Gordon. Leigh mentioned how she wants to write about Lex Luthor because she loves evil industrialists in sharp suits. Jason wants to write about the three bears in modern time but they obviously wouldn't be bears. He would retell the story of the three bears as the quintessential story of gentrification.

Someone in the audience had a good question about what advice would the authors give to young writers. 

Kerri: "Never give up and read everything you can get your hands on!"

Ashley: "Keep moving forward."

Leigh: "Finish a draft. Read outside your comfort zone. There is no expiration date on talent. Find critique partners you trust. That's how you tell a good story."

Jason: "Celebrate small victories but only for a moment. Write through it. Push through uncomfortably. There are no rules to writing. Process before progress. There is no shortcut. One word before the next."

Marci and I decided to skip the last panel slot and went back to the school to start lining up for the author signing outside of the cafeteria. We made a good decision since the line was long despite us getting there at least 50-60 minutes in advance. The signing didn't start until 3:15. During the time when we waited, Seoling and Kristen met up with us and Rachel and Maddi found us as well. Once the doors opened, the lines formed quickly. Marci and I went to Kerri Maniscalco's line first and gushed how much we love her books and how we're excited to meet her. Marci even gave Kerri a box of tea. Kerri is so sweet and her outfit was killer! Her necklace and her atmospheric castle skirt definitely screamed Hunting Prince Dracula. Of course, Marci and I are part of the Knights of White Chapel and it was lovely to meet Kerri, the mastermind of two twisted novels, in person. Definitely check out Stalking Jack the Ripper and Hunting Prince Dracula for October reads! Check out this tweet to win a signed copy of Hunting Prince Dracula.

Marci and I hopped into Stacey Lee's line. I was so excited to meet Stacey! I love all her books and I was super excited when she remembered me from twitter. Stacey had awesome stamps for her books and they added a special touch. Stacey actually inspired Marci and I to create a feature involving indie perfumes. More on that at a later date but I am very excited about working on a fragrance feature. The rest of the authors I visited afterwards I only had one title for each of them sign. I was able to meet Sandhya Menon, Karen McManus, Amanda Foody, Akemi Dawn Bowman and Jason Reynolds again. Akemi's novel Starfish didn't come out until the following Tuesday and I was excited to be able to purchase it early and to get it signed. Akemi signed and personalized the book with a purple sharpie. I was fortunate enough to read the ARC and I fell in love when I first read it. Also, Akemi lives in the UK so it was a treat to see her at the festival this year.


This year's author lineup was fabulous and I can't wait for next year's Boston Teen Author Festival. Thank you to all the staff, volunteers and authors who made the event possible!