Penguin Teen On Tour

 

Where: Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC
When: Monday, March 13
Who: Renee Ahdieh, Natalie C. Anderson, Alwyn Hamilton, Lesley Livingston

Thanks so much to Penguin Teen for allowing me to feature the fabulous ladies on the Spring 2017 Penguin Teen tour, or #Slaydies as they like to be referred to!

This event was definitely a highlight for me on a rainy and dreary North Carolina Monday.  It’s been about two years since I last visited Quail Ridge Books, and the last time I was there it was a much smaller place, and their new (to me) location is absolutely gorgeous with it’s red walls and spacious floor plan.  Also, I totally loved walking around prior to the arrival of the #Slaydies and discovering the goodies they have on their shelves. I totally found an original vinyl of LET IT BLEED by the Rolling Stones!  Seriously, if you are going to visit Raleigh, you need to make the North Hills Shopping Center and Quail Ridge Books one of your first stops.

Apparently this was the first official panel at Quail Ridge, according to Nancy, who was hosting!  So that made this even more special.  The floor was packed with the members of the Quail Ridge Teen Board, the lovely and large family of Natalie C. Anderson (who is a fellow NC Lady!), some fellow long distance drivers (*waves to Zoey!*), and some local readers.

Nancy started the event off with forty-five minutes of panel discussion with Alwyn, Renee, Natalie, and Lesley.  I think my favorite question of these was definitely how the main characters from their novels would get along and how they’d pull off a heist Ocean’s Eleven style.  Amani and Shazi, per Alwyn and Renee, respectively, would rush in guns blazing, as it were without a proper plan, whereas Tina would be judging them for not creating a proper plan, and Fallon would just be wanting to figure out when the fighting would take place.  I’d seriously watch this movie…maybe a crossover would be a fabulous idea?! *wishes*

After this the crowd was able to ask some questions and they were excellent!  First we had the “what kind of plate would you be” question, which, I think everyone would want to be a giant plate for ALL of the food, although I have to agree with Alwyn and say that I’d want to have one of those plates that are shaped like a book.  (They are REAL!)

I think everyone agreed on which character of theirs would survive the Hunger Games, most definitely the Celtic Gladiatrix, Fallon.

My personal favorite question was my own (I mean, Duh), which was: Since all four novels feature such fierce female characters, what would each be doing in light of the women’s movement today? See Video for all four answers!

The next question was what kind of advice they would give to aspiring authors and what they learned from the process.
Things we learned here:

-Alwyn wrote 6 full novels before even querying Rebel of the Sands
-Renee has almost 200 rejections to her name
-Natalie was given an office that looked like Hogwarts (so fancy)
-Lesley insisted to “not let the bastards get you down.”
-Three of the Four #Slaydies were published off of cold querying, so don’t give up!

After this we were able to get all of our books signed by the Slaydies and chances to chat with them all individually. If you haven’t picked up a copy of any of these ladies’ books, go grab copies now!

Thank you so much to Alwyn, Renee, Natalie, and Lesley for such a fabulous evening and to Penguin Teen for having me cover the event! Keep an eye out for my interview with Lesley Livingston about The Valiant and my 5 Bard review of the book as well!

Waiting on Wednesday

waiting on wednesday

Every week Breaking the Spine hosts the bookish meme for book bloggers to share what books they are waiting on to be released!  This week I’m waiting on:

Release Date: May 2, 2017

The daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has long known her place—she may be an accomplished alchemist, whose cunning rivals that of her brother Kenshin, but because she is not a boy, her future has always been out of her hands. At just seventeen years old, Mariko is promised to Minamoto Raiden, the son of the emperor’s favorite consort—a political marriage that will elevate her family’s standing. But en route to the imperial city of Inako, Mariko narrowly escapes a bloody ambush by a dangerous gang of bandits known as the Black Clan, who she learns has been hired to kill her before she reaches the palace.

Dressed as a peasant boy, Mariko sets out to infiltrate the ranks of the Black Clan, determined to track down the person responsible for the target on her back. But she’s quickly captured and taken to the Black Clan’s secret hideout, where she meets their leader, the rebel ronin Takeda Ranmaru, and his second-in-command, his best friend Okami. Still believing her to be a boy, Ranmaru and Okami eventually warm to Mariko, impressed by her intellect and ingenuity. As Mariko gets closer to the Black Clan, she uncovers a dark history of secrets, of betrayal and murder, which will force her to question everything she’s ever known.

 

Midsummer Meets Maas

It’s no secret that the Midsummer Team are big fans of Maas’ Throne of Glass series and her A Court of Thorns and Roses books (although we both weren’t 100% on board until A Court of Mist and Fury).  So what was it like when we finally were able to meet the woman behind these outrageously popular books?

Well, Lyv (who hates me and moved all the way to Texas) was able to meet Maas the day after the release of Empire of Storms at Book People in Austin, TX!

olyvia-and-maas

Lyv and Sarah J. Maas

What did Lyv learn?

Lyv was there when Maas made the announcement of Hulu officially moving the television adaptation of the Throne of Glass books into production! Side note: it will be called Queen of Shadows, but they will be starting with book 1.

The best part of meeting Maas is that she takes time to talk to everyone, because she is a sweet snowflake with an ergonomic pen, and Lyv was able to talk to her about the 100 (this is relevant because one of the writers from the 100 is going to be working on the pilot script of Queen of Shadows) and their shared disappointment in Bellamy Blake and also their shared love of Ricky Whittle and shirtless hunks.

Lyv was also able to sign Sarah’s first edition Throne of Glass book that she normally has with her for fans to sign (Alas, we didn’t get the chance to do this at the Festival of Books and Authors in Winston a few days later).

Now, the difference between Lyv’s experience and Mine is that Lyv was able to purchase a signing ticket prior to the event, whereas I had to get up at the ass crack of dawn to drive the hour to Winston-Salem, NC to stand in line to wait for a ticket for the signing.  This was fine, as it’s getting me back in the habit before Lyv and I take on the Texas Teen Book Festival in October and then head back to Book Expo America in May, but I definitely should have taken my back pack instead of my shoulder bag (ALWAYS TAKE A BACKPACK!).  maas-ticket

So I picked up Midsummer supporter, Marissa, and headed up to Winston. There were only about 50 people in line ahead of us when we arrived around 7:30 (they were going to hand out tickets around 8:30) so we stood in line and caught up and chatted to some lovely people around us.

The festival was pretty awesome, but in all honesty, we were mostly there to meet Sarah J. Maas, so we went and sat through two other authors’ talks just so we would have a guaranteed spot for the Renee Ahdieh (who is equally amazing, you can check out my interview with her and the reviews of her two novels here on Midsummer) led discussion with Maas.

empire-cover-snap

Marissa, Shauna, & Jess

We met up with Shauna of B00kstorebabe, who is a good friend of mine, and we listened to John Hart, a North Carolina native and a NYT Best selling author, speak…in which he kept talking to us about how he was a NYT Best Selling author.

Then the enigmatic and hilarious Terry McMillan took the stage.  She read us a chapter from her newest novel, I Almost Forgot About You, and it was so funny and sarcastic. I don’t normally get the chance to read a lot of adult fiction, but I might take time out of my young adult reading schedule just for that book.

So, finally, at 12:45 two queens of Young Adult Literature took the stage.  At this point myself, Shauna, and Marissa had found seats in the very front row (excellent) and had so much fun listening to these two women talk about anything and everything.

renee-and-maas

Renee and Sarah

Sarah and Renee told us all about their experience in a fancy restaurant during Comic Con, where they were sitting directly behind Norman Reedus (Darryl from The Walking Dead) and then Renee told us about her time on set as a zombie extra.  Surprisingly, the zombie make up is pretty heat resistant in the Atlanta, Georgia heat.

Not only did they get to spy on Reedus, but the entire Vampire Diaries cast came into the restaurant.  Sarah was on door watch duty and they both freaked out a bit when Ian Somerhalder entered the restaurant.

They jumped around topics, just like true friends do, and discussed their individual experiences traveling in Egypt.  Sarah encouraged everyone in the audience to travel as much as possible, even if it’s just to a town over, to get as many experiences in different places as you can.

Once we got on the topic of Smut, however, it was a pretty awesome conversation.  Sarah says that sometimes she has to get up and walk around when the book is getting too emotional for her, and when she is writing smut, in order to feel less awkward, she drinks a glass of wine while doing it.

maas-talkApparently, Sarah’s grandmother is all about some smut, because she told the audience that when she finished ACOTAR 3, she warned her gran that there would be lots of smut, and her gran replied, “Sounds like my kind of book.”

Also, Sarah said that if she could be any of the characters from the Throne of Glass books, she would want to be Lysandra, because shape-shifting is pretty awesome. (I couldn’t agree more.)

After the panel discussion, it was a mad rush to get in line for her signing.  At this point it was 1:30 in the afternoon in September in North Carolina.  IT WAS SO HOT.  So when we waited in the sun for an hour, and we finally made it up to meet Sarah “Sweet Snowflake” Maas, we were all a little bit sweaty.  Sarah agreed about how hot it was and told us she was glad she was sitting down because her shirt was drenched in sweat.  She’s so relatable and friendly to all fans.

Shauna gave her the book of nice things that she was collecting from Tumblr and from fans in line (Marissa and I were able to write short notes to Sarah) and then it was my turn.

me-and-maas

Sarah and Jess

It is absolutely amazing to see a woman who is just a year older than me being so successful and still so humble and friendly to everyone.  She was so sweet, she pointed out my Midsummer shirt, and said she loved it and asked where it was from.  So I told her about Midsummer and gave her one of our bookmarks.  If you ever visit our page, Sarah, we love you! Then we talked a little bit about my time lapse video that I did and she thought it was an awesome idea.  Overall, she was just so nice and kind.  The line was still outrageously long for her once we were finished, and I’m fairly sure Sarah spent 3 or 4 hours signing books and talking to every individual fan.  So wonderful.

It was a pretty long and exhausting day, but 100% worth the experience and getting to meet one of my favorite authors.  I know Lyv was exhausted after her day of work then the Maas signing, too, but we were both so amped to finally meet her and chat with her even for a few moments.

Did you get to see Sarah J. Maas on her book tour for Empire of Storms?

Share your experiences in the comments!

#TeamTerrasen and #TeamNightCourt

 

 

 

Book Review: The Rose and the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh

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‘I am surrounded on all sides by a desert. A guest, in a prison of sand and sun. My family is here. And I do not know whom I can trust.’

In a land on the brink of war, Shahrzad has been torn from the love of her husband Khalid, the Caliph of Khorasan. She once believed him a monster, but his secrets revealed a man tormented by guilt and a powerful curse—one that might keep them apart forever. Reunited with her family, who have taken refuge with enemies of Khalid, and Tariq, her childhood sweetheart, she should be happy. But Tariq now commands forces set on destroying Khalid’s empire. Shahrzad is almost a prisoner caught between loyalties to people she loves. But she refuses to be a pawn and devises a plan.

While her father, Jahandar, continues to play with magical forces he doesn’t yet understand, Shahrzad tries to uncover powers that may lie dormant within her. With the help of a tattered old carpet and a tempestuous but sage young man, Shahrzad will attempt to break the curse and reunite with her one true love.

Wow. I quite literally could not put this down and I read it in one day. I spent the first half of the book just waiting for Shazi and Khalid to be reunited and when they finally were, I was not disappointed. Ahdieh does an amazing job of building up and continuing their relationship, while also adding some depth to Shazi’s other relationships, with her sister and Tariq.

I really enjoyed the extra magical aspect, especially Shazi coming in to her own powers and learning how they work. My favorite thing about Shahrzad is that she never lets other people and their actions decide her fate. She takes her life into her own hands and she will do anything to protect the people that she loves.

I do wish there was more, however. I think the book does wrap up nicely, but there were so many things and characters that were introduced and I wish we had gotten a better glimpse of them. Specifically, Artan and his aunt. Of all the new characters, Artan was my favorite and I just wish there was more of him and Shazi together, and him teaching her how to use and control her magic. I also wish there was more Despina in this book. One of the things I loved the most about The Wrath and the Dawn was her and Shazi’s friendship. I think it highlighted the importance of female friendship, and I wish that would have continued in this book. Because even though Shazi was reunited with her sister, it wasn’t the same dynamic as she felt like she had to keep secrets and sneak away rather than confiding in her.

Overall, I loved the nonstop, fast pace of everything that was going on. It made the book more intense and the surprisingly few scenes between Shazi and Khalid that much more powerful. I wish we had another book coming, but overall, 4.5 bards.

four.fivebards

 

 

 

 

Waiting on Wednesday

waiting on wednesday

Every week Breaking the Spine hosts the bookish meme for book bloggers to share what books they are waiting on to be released!  This week I’m waiting on:

Release Date: May 3, 2016

In a land on the brink of war, Shahrzad has been torn from the love of her husband Khalid, the Caliph of Khorasan. She once believed him a monster, but his secrets revealed a man tormented by guilt and a powerful curse—one that might keep them apart forever. Reunited with her family, who have taken refuge with enemies of Khalid, and Tariq, her childhood sweetheart, she should be happy. But Tariq now commands forces set on destroying Khalid’s empire. Shahrzad is almost a prisoner caught between loyalties to people she loves. But she refuses to be a pawn and devises a plan.

While her father, Jahandar, continues to play with magical forces he doesn’t yet understand, Shahrzad tries to uncover powers that may lie dormant within her. With the help of a tattered old carpet and a tempestuous but sage young man, Shahrzad will attempt to break the curse and reunite with her one true love.

Purchase The Rose and the Dagger

Author Interview & Book Launch: Renée Ahdieh

meandrenee

Jess and Renée

Thanks to Penguin Teen, I was given the opportunity to interview the author of one of the most anticipated novels of this Summer.  Renée Ahdieh has become a pretty well known in the young adult community thanks to fellow authors giving her debut novel, The Wrath and the Dawn some serious promotion.  Not only were all of the promotions by Lauren DeStefano, Carrie Ryan, and many others completely spot on, but you can also check out my 5 Bard review of Ahdieh’s novel here.

Plus, Ahdieh is local to the Charlotte, North Carolina area, which is where most of us reviewers for Midsummer live!  So myself (Jess), Christine, and Maedchen hopped in the car and drove down to the Barnes & Noble for Ahdieh’s book launch and had a nice sit down in the Starbucks.  Side note: can you look at her? She’s gorgeous. Beautiful and talented to boot, can we all be her?

Note: This interview was transcribed by hand.

A Midsummer Night’s Read (MR): I am really excited about your book, which I have unfortunately not had a chance to read yet. So I’m going to start off with some generic questions and then I’m going to poke you for details.

Renée Ahdieh (RA): Okay!

MR: The first question: is it super nerve-racking to have your debut novel out in the world in such a big genre? And everyone is so excited about it! Twitter blew up today.

RA: I am a little bit nervous, but I think I’m mostly overwhelmed by all of the support that I’m getting from the YA Community, from bloggers, and everyone has just been so wonderful. So I’m just in that place of being overwhelmed and I don’t want to cry.

MR: Is it kind of like putting your baby out there?

RA: You know, I’m very lucky that I’ve been able to talk to others who’ve already had books come out. Some debut authors and some more established authors so they kind of prepped me and they were like, “You need to be okay prior to and letting it no longer be just yours.” So I’ve been kind of ready for that.  Right now I just hope everyone loves it as much as I’ve loved writing it.

MR: Well, I was on Twitter today and there was just so much love for your book all day, and I was just like, “This is awesome! And I get to go talk to her later!” So my other question is why 1001 nights? And while I was writing that question, it reminded me that it is sometimes called Arabian Nights and has anyone sang that Aladdin song to you?

RA: Oh yeah. A lot. In all fairness I’ve sung it so it’s okay! I mean I think there are a couple of blogs that I even wrote where I did the Whole New World like Aladdin with Jasmine on the magic carpet flying up into the sky. I love that movie. So I can go off on a Disney tangent, so I’m sorry what was your question?

MR: Why 1001 Nights? It’s okay, I kind of went off on a tangent there too. Because I thought to myself, “If no one has sang it to her, I’m going to sing it to her.”

RA: You can sing it!  Go ahead and I’ll join in!

Jess, Renée, Maedchen, Christine

Jess, Renée, Maedchen, Christine

MR: But yeah, why 1001 Nights?

RA: You know it’s kind of two-fold, the reasons behind it. The first one is that I’m a child of mixed nationalities and when I was growing up I didn’t have or see a lot of books for kids from diverse backgrounds. It was really important to me that if I was writing a book I wanted to do it from a different perspective because I’m fascinated by that.  Secondly, my husband is Persian, and the narrative of Scheherazade is actually the frame story surrounding 1001 night and it is a Persian story.  So I decided when I was going through deciding what it was I wanted to write that it would be kind of cool and that I could make it a YA narrative. So that was kind of my rationalization.

MR: Well, no one else has done it and I think that’s great. I’m so excited about it.  Is there anything specific that you want readers to take away from The Wrath and the Dawn? Like a theme?

RA: I don’t know about a theme so much.  I wanted the story to be about, and one of my friends Lauren DeStefano said that this book is about bad decisions, and I love that because it is.

MR: I read her review about it and she said something about how Dr. Phil would quit.

RA: I love her review, I laughed so hard when I saw it. I thought it was fantastic. And that is really what the book is about, it is about choice and consequence. And I think that it is definitely what I want people to take away and I hope that everyone is transported to another world.

MR: That’s really cool. I’ve also heard that it is a pretty epic romance. So did you take anything from your relationship with your husband and make it more epic to influence Khalid and Shazi?

RA: I think that… I love my husband very much, and I think it is difficult to say that you take anything from your own life, because I feel that I wanted people to fall in love with the characters and falling in love as Shazi and Khalid fell in love. Romance is really important to me because I’m a huge fan of romance, and I wanted it to be a huge deal in the book. I wanted it to not be kind of “insta-lovey,” but have it be a slow burn and I hope I achieved that.

MR: Can you tell me one of your favorite romances you’ve read recently?

RA: Oh my gosh, I’m a big fan of Marie Rutowski’s The Winners Curse and The Winner’s Crime.  I also love Sabaa Tahir’s An Ember in the Ashes. I also really like to read historical romances. I mean I think there are a lot of really good romances, I’m a fan of Stephanie Perkins, Libba Bray, so I just love YA Romance and I think it’s wonderful.

MR: Me too.  There’s such a wealth of books out there in YA romance.  And I’ve not read one that is completely boring or terrible, because they are all different and it’s great, which is another reason I’m excited to read yours.

RA: Aww.

MR: So what can readers expect from book 2, without giving away too many spoilers?

RA: Lots of sword fighting and lots of swooning and possibly a tear or two.

reneereading

Author Q & A

MR: Is it going to be influenced by another classic work? Or is it still going to be on the theme of 1001 Nights?

RA: It’s very similar to The Wrath and the Dawn.  It is tentatively titled The Rose and the Dagger, and I’m working on edits for that right now.

MR: I’ve heard they (edits) can be a pain.

RA: I keep telling myself that it is going to be worth it and that it’s going to be a better book.

MR: I just always see on Twitter that authors are always editing.

RA: Especially for book 2! And I didn’t believe that until I started writing it, and I was like, “Oh, this is tough!”

MR: Well, I’ve been following, ever since BEA last year, the We Need Diverse books initiative and I’ve read some of the articles you’ve posted on your website.  Do you have any events or panels about these soon?

RA: There are definitely some panels coming up. I think I’m supposed to be on one soon, but I don’t have my schedule in front of me! I know at BEA Book Con there is a big signing happening that will have a lot of the We Need Diverse books authors.  I think it’s on Friday?

It was at this point in the interview where we started discussing travel and how much Renée has traveled around the world.  We invited her to join us for dinner, and she invited us to her after party (which we couldn’t attend, so sad about that!)

 

Not only is Ahdieh’s novel worth my 5 Bard review, but having her here in Charlotte means that we might run into her again!

Renée Signing

Renée Signing

Thank you so much to Penguin Teen and Renée Ahdieh for allowing us to interview you.

You can catch Renée at Book Expo America this week in New York City, and if you are a Charlotte Local then you can see her at ImaginOn with fellow YA authors Brendan Reichs and Carrie Ryan on June 16, 2015.

 

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