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Author Spotlight: Renée Ahdieh

Debut 2015 author Renée Ahdieh has created a richly satisfying retelling of A Thousand and One Nights shows brilliant and delightful characters in an engrossing adventure that will leave you feeling as if you’ve been in the hot sands with Shahrzad the whole time.

The Wrath & the Dawn

Seeking vengeance for her best friend, Shahrzad volunteers to be the new bride of the Caliph of Khorasan, infamous for killing his many wives before the sun rises on their wedding night. Shahrzad is determined that she will not be killed by her monster of a husband, and so conspires to live by telling the caliph stories. She succeeds but is living each day trying to be the calipha she is, often pushing boundaries where no woman has before. As she grows closer to Khalid trying to trick him, her feelings become involved. He, who has been trying to push everyone away, has suddenly opened up to the one girl he shouldn’t, the girl who wants him dead. Khalid finds himself drawn by this girl who breaks barriers, who shows courage and strength. Just as they are finding out the truth from each other, enemies threaten from all sides, even Shahrzad’s own father. Can their growing attachment to each other survive such odds and even a curse?

The Rose & the Dagger

Shahrzad has left Khalid, intent on finding a way to protect him and her people of Khorasan from his curse. She returns to her family, who has allied with a border tribe and has been in talks with the neighboring King of Parthia, an enemy of Khalid despite being his uncle. Conflict also arises in being closer to Tariq, her former lover, and his deep hatred of her husband. Shahrzad finds there are enemies and assassins even in her own camp who would harm her because of her relationship with Khalid, and while trying to save her father from his destructive black magic, she must protect herself and her sister and father. At night, Shahrzad continues to teach herself more about her own magic if she hopes to be able to break the curse, and comes under much suspicion doing so. Meanwhile, Khalid suffers greatly from his lack of sleep in defying the curse and continues losing allies, while trying to repair the damage to his home and his relationships. As tensions rise, blood spills, and bargains are made to end the evil haunting their future and that of the people of Khorasan, Shahrzad and Khalid will only succeed if they are together and they trust their friends…

Notes: Though there is the implication of husband/wife/wedding night, there is little sexuality in this series,(or as little as there was in the written Divergent series [not the films]).

I am now a fan of Ms. Ahdieh. She’s an NC resident like me, and has the best Twitter feed. She chats all the time with other YA authors, and it’s great for fangirls. Totally makes you want to be a part of their bff friend group. She’s also hilarious. I’d like to really meet her some day now that I’ve read her stories and have gotten to know her through writing. I love that she brought such a unique story to life and is part of #WeNeedDiverseBooks. You will not want to miss this series!

I received my first copy of The Wrath & The Dawn for free at ALA 2015, THANK YOU! I love this series! Buying book 2 soon.

 

 
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Posted by on August 23, 2016 in Fantasy, Young Adult/Teen

 

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Keeping the Castle/ A School for Brides by Patricia Kindl

Teen and adult fans of Jane Austen or light historical romances will find this series quick, lighthearted, and highly entertaining.

keeping-the-castle-cover-photoKeeping the Castle

Althea Crawley must find a rich husband soon or her family home, the legacy for her little brother Alexander, will fall apart, not to mention their poor finances and hospitality. When a new Lord moves back to the country and brings new faces, Althea and her stepsisters, Prudence and Charity Winthrop, set their caps at finding a husband amongst the party. One member, Mr. Fredericks proves to be annoying and keeps getting into arguments with Althea when she’d like to be taking long walks with Lord Boring. Will she find only the rich husband she desires, or does she really want something more substantial from marriage?

 

23281631A School for Brides

Girls at the Winthrop Hopkins Female Academy are taught to be young ladies suitable for marriage, the only catch is that there are no appropriate men anywhere for miles. When a dashing young man falls from his horse and must recuperate at the school, his friends soon follow and chaos reigns as girls try to find romance, men concoct secret plots, women contrive to be great ladies, and favorite characters from the earlier novel sprinkle this mad romp with humor, mystery, heartfelt emotion, and hopefully happiness.

 
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Posted by on August 16, 2016 in Historical fiction, Romance, Young Adult/Teen

 

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What I’m Reading: Graphic Novels

What I’m Reading: Graphic Novels

So, I have a few posts that I am working on currently, but I have also been reading a number of graphic novels which don’t exactly merit a full post like a book. Here’s a few I’ve recently read!

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Favorite new series: Ms Marvel by G. Willow Wilson

Kamala Khan is the new Ms Marvel, protecting her hometown of Jersey City. She tries to balance her new life as a superhero with school, friends, romance, and family. Her goals to protect those she loves often clash with HYDRA’s evil plans.

I love her and the series 1) because she is the first Muslim American female superhero and gives insights into her culture and family life, often providing a bit of comedic irony; 2) she’s such a relateable teen that she’s trying to pursue her goals, have a life, be responsible and a good kid, but also wants to be more, do more, offer her talents in a direct way to help others even when adults say she can’t or shouldn’t; 3) the humor and fun! There are sightings of other Avengers, famous villains, and other Easter eggs all interacting with her life and best friends to create excitement and delight — this is basically the best of the best in how it’s executed, what you’d always want in a comic! Lastly, the art! It’s easy to follow, bright, and provides fun scenarios that don’t always play out in the action but provide a behind-the-scenes feel to Kamala’s powers.

51YHqA2w0SL._SX314_BO1,204,203,200_Second favorite series: Batgirl

Batgirl goes to college and Barbara Gordon finds drama, friends who might be allies, and plenty of conspiracies to discover and thwart. I love Babs Tarr’s illustrations as they’re fun and capture the freshness of youth in her new surroundings.

 

 

 

Stand-alone book: Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

In a modern science/medieval mashup, Nimona is a unique character filled with spunk, unpredictability, and teen angst. She’s a shapeshifter with rage issues who applies to be the new sidekick to local villain Ballister Blackheart. Blackheart had been somewhat content in his role to be a bad villain in name and not action (he doesn’t kill people and is horrified when Nimona suggests it). When he signs up Nimona, she wrecks havoc that spurs harsher retaliation from Blackheart’s archenemy, Ambrosius Goldenloin. Suddenly, Blackheart’s villainy becomes more active and the Institute (officially the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics) instructs Goldenloin to kill Nimona, especially after she uncovers Institute secrets, that it’s using substances that it has outlawed and could harm the public. Blackheart and Nimona must expose their deeds and hopefully find the justice they deserve.

Subversive tropes, unusual illustration, and amusing situational irony mark this gem of a graphic novel that is both a quick read and fun for all readers. Good especially for upper elementary looking for crossover appeal into YA.

I really liked these, especially as I hadn’t been much into graphic novels before. Now I really want to read Lumberjanes, anything by the Tamakis, and classics like Maus, Persepolis, and other award winning titles! I plan to start a new Spider-Woman one soonish.

(Note: I will say I tried Squirrel Girl, and I just couldn’t do it. Well, reading is subjective. XD)

Do you have any favorites I should try?

 

 
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Posted by on August 9, 2016 in Graphic novels, Young Adult/Teen

 

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An Ember in the Ashes & A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir

Ember

An Ember in the Ashes

When Masks murder Laia’s grandparents and take her brother Darin, she decides to request help from the Resistance to free her brother from prison. The Resistance, which her mother and father used to lead before they were killed, pledges her assistance only if she takes risks for them, as a slave and secret spy in the Commandant’s household, the leader of the training academy of Masks, Blackcliff. The Commandant has a cruel history with her slaves, and Laia would be going into certain torture…

Elias is a Mask, albeit a reluctant one. He was taken from his adopted Tribal family and put back into his Gens, his familial house, and sent to Blackcliff to be a Mask like his mother, the Commandant. She holds no love for her son, and forces him, despite his nature, to be a killer. When the Emperor suddenly dies, four candidates from the class of graduating Masks are chosen as potentials, Elias among them. He must compete against his best friend Helene Aquila, cruel Marcus, and Marcus’s twin to become the Emperor because the alternate fate is likely death.

Though each are on a different quest, Laia and Elias share a journey that has all the potential to change an Empire while thousands of lives hang in the balance.

Obvious spoilers for book 2 below…


 

 

A Torch Against the Night

With Elias hunted as the Empire’s top fugitive, he and Laia are desperately trying to make their way out of the Blackcliff compound and the city of Serra to save her brother Darin, rumored as imprisoned in harsh Kauf, far to the north. Before they can escape, they are purposefully trapped on their way out of the city by the Commandant, Elias’s mother. She wounds Elias with a deadly poison but lets them go. Laia is left to find her way to the nearest city before Elias dies from his blackouts and seizures, while Elias dreams of strange things that are real and important to both his past and his future.

Meanwhile, Emperor Marcus sends Helene, his Blood Shrike, to kill Elias, but only after severe abuse and torture, making a deal with her father in exchange for influence, allegiance, and insurance of Helene’s compliance. And if Helene does not bring back Elias and kill him? Her family will die.

When Helene comes after Elias and Laia and their new allies, they manage to escape but not without a price. Despite Elias’s illness, he decides to journey on alone hoping that he can rescue Darin before Elias succumbs to poison. As their situation and survival grows more desperate, the Commandant enacts her genocide against the Scholars, Helene edges closer to her goal and her potential doom, while the noose of the Nightbringer is well-laid and waiting for the tiniest misstep from Laia and Elias.


 

A feverish debut that had a lot of marketing and hype, so I was looking forward to this read. I found it an unusual adventure with an intriguing societal system. There is a very deep extreme between hated and liked characters, very few mediocre characters. I automatically liked Elias much more than I liked Laia (but I am not sure how much of not liking Laia was feeling how little I knew her and knew of her). Perhaps I related more to Elias because I could see he was reluctant but forced into terrible deeds? I loved Izzi and the mystery of the Cook and also loved the contrast of Helene and how she grows throughout the series.

While this was a solid read, it just didn’t grip me as much as I had expected. Maybe I am very character-driven and that’s where I experienced a disconnect, but I also very much hated the love triangles and was questioning Laia’s mental sensibility about a certain guy the whole story until I was finally proven right (book 2, but see, still not spoilering!). I liked the first book, but I think book 2 is a typical book 2 in that it is a journey (we’re walking, we’re walking…) and nothing much is resolved but just a set up for book 3. Disappointing but not unheard of.

A solid read and a shoo-in for fantasy fans who are looking for adventure, romance, and an a-typical story. I must confess it took me a lot longer than usual to read the second book. Make of that what you will.

Notes: Graphic violence and sexual circumstances.

 

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Cross-post: Alex Award Recap with Ryan Gattis

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I’ve blogged over at YALSA’s The Hub last week, sharing the experience of attending ALA Annual and listening to Alex Award winner Ryan Gattis describe the recent opportunities he’s had to chat with teens about his book All Involved. 

Check it out, here.

Note: The Alex Award is a list of ten books, and vetted titles, published for adults but with special appeal to teens.

 

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