Come On In – an anthology of fifteen stories about immigration and home – review + blog tour

When it comes to reviewing and rating an anthology, I always find myself at a fork-road. Especially stories like those in Come On In. I’m not the biggest fan of anthologies, to be honest, there are only a selected few I’ve enjoyed. When I started Come On In, I didn’t really know what to expect – I had only a vague idea about what the book was about and that was it. But reading this book – my heart is full of hope and love. Truly.

Come On In, edited by Adi Alsaid, is a collection of 15 stories (fiction but very honest and raw and definitely Own Voices) about immigration and finding home. And rightly so, all the stories bring out the essence of this tagline. Before I go deeper into my supposed review, I must warn you all – I absolutely LOVED this book and these stories and they all are simply amazing!

The 15 stories featured are from some of our beloved as well as up-and-coming diaspora authors and all of these were stories about immigration in different forms. Reading these really made me stop a little and ponder upon the ways that people perceive outsiders, the ways that microaggression seeps into the daily lifestyles, the way that racist thoughts are so prevalent even though others dismiss them as being joke – it just makes you wonder at the stereotypical and limited knowledge of people sometimes. These stories also explored so many varied emotions that come about with immigration – that of grief, of the confusion, of not fitting in, the anger and sometimes, also the hope. All in all, it strives to show us readers the experience of living in a completely different country and the ways that people cope and sometimes even lose.

All the Colors of Goodbye by Nafiza Azad told the story of a family moving, a young girl leaving her brother behind. It comes with the heartfelt emotions of saying goodbye, of wondering how you could leave all your life behind. This story was so beautifully written, the emotions so vivid and raw. The Wedding by Sara Farizan was another lovely story, mostly focused on the beautiful relationship between a grandfather and granddaughter, and family over all. It is also a story of acceptance and love amongst ourselves. Where I’m From by Misa Suguira really made me stop and ponder, to be honest. It tells the story of a Japanese girl recently moved to college and how the one question she gets asked is where she is from. This story was very profound, as we get to see everything from this young girl’s perspective and how she perceives her culture far away from home.

Salvation and the Sea by Lilliam Rivera was such a stunning tale of friendship and wanting freedom. Featuring Guatemala and Puerto Rican characters, this story was about two friends simply wanting to be themselves without any fear. It really showed the hardship of being Latinx in the US, and the conflicting position of the police. It was really a very important story. The Curandera and The Alchemist by Maria E. Andreu was another such story that spoke about being Latinx in the US, and how scared the main character was because of not having the proper immigrant papers.

While the next story, Volveindome by Alaya Dawn Johnson, didn’t make that much of an impact for me, I still enjoyed reading it and learning something new. Another story that didn’t quite make the cut for me was When I Was White by Justine Larbalestier. I simply couldn’t feel the characters, to be very honest, and it felt too haphazard. About a young Irish girl who travels from Australia to Harlem with a man she loved. It explored the life of a white women in a black community, which started out really well with an interesting dynamic, but somehow, I really just disliked the characters.

From Golden State by Isabel Quintero and Fleeing, Leaving. Moving by Adi Alsaid were two stories that were full of hope and longing, and equally wonderful. They weren’t as memorable as the others, I must point, but I enjoyed reading them nonetheless.

The next story called The Trip by Sona Charaipotra, featuring Indian characters, was one of my favorites. It honestly made me so nervous for our main character Sarika, and was at the edge of my seat when she gets held back by the airport authority just because of her birth place – Kashmir. The psychological impact that she has because of this is so intense and Charaipotra portrayed this immensely well through her story. Another story about Indian immigration was First Words by Varsha Bajaj, who brings out the ‘American Dream’ that most of us have, in her story. The process of adapting to a new life and new everything is so hard, and we see that here in the ways how Priya, the MC, loses the will to speak and engage because she is so frightened to say something wrong. Those were such honest renditions of true emotions. I don’t have an experience with immigration, per se, but as an Indian, these two stories really spoke to me a lot. I could feel and understand both Priya and Sarika’s emotions and their dilemma, and I commend the authors for writing about them.

A Bigger Tent by Maureene Goo was another lovely story, featuring Korean characters and a story about families and flaws. It was so realistic the way that the main character’s emotions were portrayed, as well as her changing relations with her family. It was fun and resinous at the same time, and I absolutely adored the happy ending. Hard To Say by Sharon Morse is another story that explores familial relationships in a foreign country. Our MC here feels a little detached from her Spanish family, especially her grandparents, because she had moved to the US very young. We see how these relationships change and how she learns to communicate through art, and its beautiful!

The next beautiful story that really excited me so much was Confessions of an Eucadorkian by Zoraida Cordoba. I loved the writing style of this story and how it was told in the form of a diary entry. It was about friendships, about realizing yourself and about speaking up. It is told in a very humorous light that makes the reading experience even more enjoyable. Family Everything by Yamile Saied Mendez was another stunning story about leaving home and the dilemma the comes along with it. There are so many thoughts when one is moving – it feels as if they are leaving behind their lives and running off. This story was exquisite in that portrayal – family and hardships and a love that cannot be broken by borders. I have loved Saied’s writing style before, and the way that she is so passionate about family in her stories, and the same was with this too. It was beautiful and so full of hope and love.

All of these fifteen stories touched me heart in one way or the other, and made me see the world from different perspectives. These stories are about hope in a new world, about courage when being different, about confusion in a new land, about yearning and craving and wanting to fit in. It is about so much and I feel this book, although fiction, is such an important collection. It is a great step in seeing the world through different lenses and understanding. With diverse voices and a plethora of experiences, Come On In is a brilliant anthology that needs to be read and analysed. I loved this collection so much and would wholeheartedly recommend.

I was provided an early e-copy of this book as part of the blog tour hosted by Hear Our Voices. All views and opinions are mine. Thanks to the publishers and Hear Our Voices tour for giving me the opportunity to read this marvelous book!

Come On In | edited by Adi Alsaid

This exceptional and powerful anthology explores the joys, heartbreaks and triumphs of immigration, with stories by bestselling and beloved YA authors who are themselves immigrants and the children of immigrants.

WELCOME

From some of the most exciting bestselling and up-and-coming YA authors writing today…journey from Ecuador to New York City and Argentina to Utah, from Australia to Harlem and India to New Jersey, from Fiji, America, Mexico and more… Come On In.

With characters who face random traffic stops, TSA detention, customs anxiety, and the daunting and inspiring journey to new lands, who camp with their extended families, dance at weddings, keep diaries, teach ESL, give up their rooms for displaced family, decide their own answer to the question “where are you from?” and so much more, Come On In illuminates fifteen of the myriad facets of the immigrant experience.

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Interview with Jahnavi Barua – author of Undertow, Rebirth, Next Door

Hello lovely people of the internet! I have an amazing person over on my blog today. Jahnavi Barua is a the author of the highly acclaimed book Undertow, which was recently longlisted for the JCB prize. We sat down for a fun quick chat about her book, endings and writing, so here we go!

1. I hope you are doing well! So, before I ask you more questions about your books, how did you feel about Undertow’s recent longlist for the JCB prize? What and how do you think this accounts for uplifting more regional literature?

I am honoured, humbled and delighted at Undertow being longlisted for the 2020 JCB Prize. As one of the jurors mentioned in the announcement, it may lead the way to readers discovering more literature from the North-East.

2. How much of Undertow’s story changed in the final draft? Why did you choose to end Undertow the way you did? Is there an explanation beyond? Were there any other alternate endings that you had written in your initial drafts?

Undertow’s story did not change too much in the final draft and the ending remained the same. The arc of the story demanded one particular ending for the story to have any meaning and hence that is the way I ended it.

3. As an aspiring writer, I’ve always wanted to know more the whole querying and publishing process. Would you like to share your story of publishing, mostly how to query one’s manuscript? What were a few challenges you faced during this process?

I was fortunate in my publishing journey as my first book, Next Door, a collection of short fiction, did not have any trouble finding a publisher. My advice to aspiring writers would be to submit their work to reputed publishers, either directly or through an agent, and see what response they receive. One may not be successful at the first try as this is a challenging field, but one has to try again and again.

4. Being a writer from the North East, a place and state that people are not well-acquainted with even now, did you face any challenges regarding this while publishing? Have you ever, while writing, felt like people might not relate to our culture or Guwahati as a setting and doubts in taking the story further?

No, fortunately I did not encounter any of these difficulties.

5. In Undertow, we meet different generations of women with distinct personalities – there is Usha and Rukmini and then Loya, and even Sita. Were these women based on or inspired by women you’ve met in real life? Do you engage in any elaborate process whole creating your characters?

The women in my fiction are purely fictional. Having said that, of course, women I have met in my life have given me an insight into how they think or how relationships work. This does feed into my writing.

From my Instagram

6. Coming to one of the most basic questions to ever ask an author, what was the inspiration behind writing this story? What do you wish readers take away after reading your book?

Certain themes in the book have been close to my heart and I always meant to explore them in my writing. The idea of home, identity, loneliness and family, among others. While tracing Loya’s journey, I sought to explore these facets of life and in a way, you can call that my inspiration. I would like readers to examine and think about these very questions as they read the novel, for these issues are important ones before us today.

7. Have you always wanted to be a writer? Do you remember any of your initial stories you had written?

No, I never planned to be a writer. My earliest stories would have been ones I had written for school magazines.

8. I’m always intrigued by book titles. Could you tell me more about the reason behind choosing Undertow as the title? Was it the working title right from the beginning? And if not, what was the initial title?

Undertow is that hidden current in a river or sea, that cannot be seen from the surface but can drag you under if you are not careful. There are many such currents in life that can prove dangerous if you are not aware of them – hence the title.

9. If given the chance, who is an author that you’d absolutely love to collaborate or co-write a book with? Also, I would love to know about some of your all-time favorite books!

I don’t think I can ever co-write a book. My favourite authors are too many to name but to name a few – Alice Munro, Raymond Carver, Anita Desai, JM Coetzee, Shashi Deshpande.

10. Writing can definitely be a tedious job sometimes and blocks are nothing but usual. How do you overcome creative blocks? What are some tips you would love to give to aspiring writers who wants to publish their books?

I don’t have blocks but I go through long periods of not writing when other areas in life demand attention. Maybe, that is why I don’t have blocks! I would ask aspiring writers to read, read a lot before they begin to write.

11. Lastly, are there any new projects you are working on that we might hear of soon?

Right now, I am in thinking, planning stage of the next book and I guess, it will be a while before it take shape.

Jahnavi Barua

Jahnavi Barua is an Indian writer based in Bangalore. Next Door (Penguin India, 2008), her debut collection of short stories was longlisted for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. Her next, a novel called Rebirth (Penguin India, 2010), was shortlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize and the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. The third, Undertow, a novel, was published by Penguin Random House India (Viking Books) in February 2020 and was longlisted for the JCB Prize for Literature 2020. Her short fiction has been widely anthologized and her work is part of several university syllabi. Jahnavi studied medicine but is not a practising doctor. She was born in Guwahati and raised between Assam, Meghalaya, Delhi and Manchester.

Connect with her on Instagram

Interview with Aminah Mae Safi – author of This is All Your Fault – blog tour + giveaway (US)

Hello lovely people! Today on the blog, I have the very special and adorable Aminah Mae Safi, whose book This is All Your Fault came out on the 13th October, 2020. Set in the course of one day in an indie bookstore, three young girls come together to save the bookstore from collapsing.I got an opportunity to chat with Safi as part of the promotional blog tour for her book, thanks to TURN THE PAGE TOURS. So without further ado, let’s hop onto the interview. Hope you enjoy it!

1. What are some of your favorite books featuring bookstores and new found friendships?

Oh man, I can’t say that I’ve read a ton of books featuring bookstores, funny enough. But I’ve always loved stories about female friendship and girl gangs. I love the complexities of the friendships in Saving Francesca and I love the bonds of sisterhood in stories like Little Women.

2. What was your inspiration behind This is All Your Fault?

I was watching Empire Records, which is a great comfort watch of mine, when I realized that the POV characters were actually the boys, not the girls. I’d been re-watching that story so many times, but I’d filled in who the main story arcs belonged to.So I set out to write a story about three girls, each trying to save their dying local bookstore, instead of a dying record store. I grew up going to my local indie in Houston, Texas and I felt a great affinity for local independent bookstores in general.I wanted to celebrate that space and celebrate the moment where a group of could-be friends actually starts working together, rather than against one another, for the first time.

3. Did you always want to be a writer? Do you remember the first story you’ve written?

I did not always want to be a writer but I have always been writing. Which is a funny paradox, but a true one. The first story I wrote was a ghost story, where I made up my own lore about ghosts. Everyone had very fancy colored eyes, the way all great early fics seem to play out.The second story I wrote was taking a Camelot comic and changing all the speech bubbles so that Guinevere actually affected the plot. That took a lot of formatting and actual cutting and pasting but it was worth it, in the end.

4. Writing a story set in the course of a day, with multiple characters, seems like somewhat a task. What tips would you give to aspiring writers about writing multiple characters and giving them each unique personalities?

I start with character, so I’m always trying to dial in who each character is. I figure out who likes to swear and who copes with optimism and who copes with sarcasm. Those are good early markers that help.I’d also say, This Is all Your Fault specifically, I had to start out pretty organized. I made an outline that was just a single line for each chapter. But I had to know which POV that chapter was, which story beats moved forward, and what time it happened. That kept me from being able to go too far off the rails, when problems did arise.Sometimes, boundaries can be very helpful.

5. How do you plan your research and plot your story? What is the most difficult part, for you, about writing and plotting?

Research, to me, is a series of ongoing questions. So I tend to have more questions as I start, but the questions never really stop. I started out my training thinking I would be an academic and a professor, so the research is a pretty natural part for me at this point.There is always a point in drafting for me that is difficult. I know where I am going but I’m tangled up in the middle of where I am. I have a hard time letting go of the idea that my first draft needs to be perfect.I know intellectually, by the way, that no first draft is perfect and all it needs to do is exist.But right in the middle of writing it, I get this sort of existential dread about the whole story. It happens every time, and the only way out at that point is through.

6. How long did it take for you to write This Is All Your Fault? And how long was the publishing process?

As This Is All Your Fault is my third book, I sold it on proposal. So I started drafting it sometime in November of 2018. I turned it in April 2019. I think the first draft took about three or four months plus a few extra weeks to edit before turning the manuscript into my editor.Then we went through a few rounds of edits, and I believe the book was off to copy edits sometime that summer. July or August, if I remember correctly. So end to end, about nine or ten months, would be my guess.Publishing has a nice long tail, which I believe can be frustrating, but for me it’s nice that there’s so much time to tinker and get things right.

7. Who are some of your favourite female characters in literature? If you could live as a character in any fictional world, who and where would you choose?

I don’t think I could live as a fictional character, but I would love to chill out in the Shire for a while. Just rolling around in some meadows and eating six meals and drinking lots of tea.My favorite characters in literature? I love Catherine Moorland from Northanger Abbey and Lyra Belacqua from His Dark Materials and Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables. Claudia Kinkaid from The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankenweiler. Amy March from Little Women.

Aminah Mae Safi | Website

Aminah Mae Safi is a Muslim-American writer. Safi was the winner of the We Need Diverse Books short story contest, and that story appeared in the anthology Fresh Ink. She lives in Los Angeles, California, with her partner and cat. This Is All Your Fault is her third novel, following Not the Girls You’re Looking For and Tell Me How You Really Feel.TwitterInstagram

About This is All Your Fault

Publisher: Feiwel and Friends
Release Date: October 13, 2020
Genres:Young Adult, Contemporary, LGBT

Set over the course of one day, Aminah Mae Safi’s This Is All Your Fault is a smart and voice-driven YA novel that follows three young women determined to save their indie bookstore.

Rinn Olivera is finally going to tell her longtime crush AJ that she’s in love with him.

Daniella Korres writes poetry for her own account, but nobody knows it’s her.

Imogen Azar is just trying to make it through the day.

When Rinn, Daniella, and Imogen clock into work at Wild Nights Bookstore on the first day of summer, they’re expecting the hours to drift by the way they always do. Instead, they have to deal with the news that the bookstore is closing. Before the day is out, there’ll be shaved heads, a diva author, and a very large shipment of Air Jordans to contend with. And it will take all three of them working together if they have any chance to save Wild Nights Bookstore.

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– Win a finished copy of This is All Your Fault

– Ends on: 19th October, 2020 at 12am

– Open to US residents only

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The Puppetmaster’s Apprentice – a dark gender bent retelling – blog tour + review + giveaway (US)

Retellings have always been a favorite kind of read for me. When I came across The Puppetmaster’s Apprentice, I was very intrigued. The thing is, there are literally so many retellings of Beauty and the Beast and Cinderella that reading this book was refreshing.

The Puppetmaster’s Apprentice is a dark gender-bent retelling of Pinocchio, mixed with elements of Frankenstein. Pirouette and her father are renowned puppet makers in Tavia. Tavia’s ruler, The Margrave, has been putting out orders for life-sized soldier puppets, clad in full uniforms and weapons. But then the Margrave’s son orders the puppet-master’s apprentice to create a deadly assassin, and give it life.

I must say, the plotline of this book is highly intriguing and the author doesn’t fail in delivering the right punches. Right from the prologue, we are plunged into a world of mystery and secrets, spells and the blue moon.

The characters were introduced to all right away, and then further proceeded to introduce to us their layers. I loved Pirouette’s character right from the start and her relationship with her father is really wholesome. The author gave her a distinctive voice, clad with innocence and strength. Bram was a lovely person too, and I adored his relationship with Pirouette. While the romance wasn’t a very strong driving force of the story (which I’m so glad of, by the way), I couldn’t help but enjoy them together. They were a very positive duo, and I completely rooted for both. The familial relations in this book were spectacular – they were so close and positive and helpful, and it filled my heart with happiness seeing how they jumped to helped each other at the time of need. Yay family!

The plot does take a little time to get to the main point, though, and all the while we get to see different sides of Tavia, The Margrave and Pirouette and her friends. The author doesn’t really do much to conceal the truth and the twists, the secrets, rather we readers are very much aware of what would happen. I think that really added to the stakes – to hold my breath and only hope for the best, knowing that disaster would strike soon.

The story developed very smoothly. I loved the tension that seeped in, and the dread when the soldiers started coming alive. The author’s beautiful writing perfectly complimented the gorgeous story. There was a vivid aesthetic image that was created through her words.

There were parts in the book that somewhat bored me, to be honest. In the middle, I felt that the story dragged a little, and the emotional feelings of Pirouette got a little lost between words. In the time period that Pirouette was captured, I really felt like she lacked an emotional essence, as if she was simply agreeing to everything without any ulterior motive of her ownself. I also felt that during those scenes, the plot got a little over the place and the character development halted, went over the place too. The Margrave was totally crazy and yet, I felt there could have been more to his personality.

The last part of the book, if I may be honest, was a little bit of a mess although dramatic. The whole scenes and actions during the Blue Moon felt a bit underdeveloped and rushed, like the writing was here and there, and the emotions were lost here too; again. However, it was also so creepily good. The whole element of the wooden puppets interacting, speaking and helping gave me all the Toy Story feels. They truly added so much depth and motion to the whole story, what with their creepy looks and whisperings. It was, nevertheless, intense; the last chapters.

That said, I really enjoyed the book and the story. I think it is a unique take on Pinocchio and Frankenstein, set in a medieval-esque town with a group of close-knit people and a pinch of magic. The writing was spectacular, and kept me hooked throughout, made me turn the page and want to read more and more, know more about these people. As I had said already, it was in the last bit that I lost my attention a little, due to the pacing, but otherwise it is a stunning book. If you love found family, forbidden magic and aesthetic writing, dark retellings and unique storylines, The Puppetmaster’s Apprentice is one book you shouldn’t miss!

Thanks to Caffeine Books for having me on the blog tour. I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy from the publishers and Caffeine Tours as part of my participation in this blog tour. All opinions expressed are solely mine.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book:

“Far sharper than any lie, I’ve learned the truth has a way of coming out. Always.”

“Part of who we are is who we come from. There’s no escaping that, not for any living creature.”

“We’ll realize the things and people we’ve lost aren’t really lost at all, they’ve just gone on journeying without us.”

The Puppetmaster’s Apprentice | Lisa DeSelm

Author: Lisa DeSelm

Publisher: Page Street Publishing

Publication date: 13 October 2020

Age group: Young Adult

Genre: Fantasy

Synopsis:

“Listen well. Soon, the blue moon, the rarest of all moons will be on the rise. At its waxing offer up one of your creations and by moonlight they will be given breath. Choose wisely who to awaken.”

With her puppet-maker father imprisoned and the land of Tavia on the brink of war, Pirouette does not have a choice other than to follow the ruler’s whims. But when he discovers her secret – that she was once a puppet brought to life by the magic of the blue moon—he demands that Pirouette create an assassin out of wood and then make it come alive.

Fighting against forbidden magic and racing against the rise of the next blue moon, Pirouette cannot help but wonder, if she is making a masterpiece…or a monster. And if she is making a monster, what does that make her?

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Lisa DeSelm | Website

Lisa DeSelm lives happily with her husband and two daughters in the wilds of suburban South Bend, Indiana. When she is not writing, you will find Lisa working as an art director and designer, most likely daydreaming with a cup of tea in hand. The Puppetmaster’s Apprentice is her first novel.

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Prize: Three (3) hardback editions of

The Puppetmaster’s Apprentice

  • Open to the United States (US)

  • Ends on 11 October 2020 (Philippine time)

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A Golden Fury – alchemical fantasy with a touch of magic – blog tour + review

Let me start is this way – A Golden Fury has one gorgeous cover with an intriguing plotline. And to be honest, that is where most of the intrigue ended for me.

Thea Hope is a seventeen-year-old talented alchemist, sick of her mother’s harsh and narcissistic personality. They are on the verge of creating the Philosopher’s Stone when her mother has a manic episode and breaks the stone. I really liked this first part of the book. Thea had a strong and determined voice that really spoke to me. I loved the mischievous spark in her and her talent in alchemy was commendable. The relationship with her mother and the usual life at her home was something I enjoyed reading about. I think the author really described well the desperation of creating that stone, of being the first women alchemist to achieve such a feat.

After her mother’s madness started to kick in, Thea is sent off to Oxford where she meets her father for the first time. This part, I feel, was very intense and yet, underdeveloped. While I absolutely disliked the new characters – the father, the professor – they did add to the story. What I felt was a lack of emotions on either of their part. Her father was so stupid and shallow, and the other professor was a big misogynistic man. Dominic, the loyal assistant, was however, okay. I didn’t like him, neither did I dislike him. I agree though, that his and Thea’s connection was too abrupt, too fast and too childish. Both simply threw each other at themselves after knowing for a short period of time so excuse me when I say that I couldn’t really comprehend the ‘chemistry’.

Soon, in her father’s laboratory, Thea learns of the alchemist curse and watches more people succumb to the madness upon trying to forge the stone, even leading to death. But then Thea finds herself in the middle of a dilemma – try creating the stone and give in to the madness or watch the people she loves die. This is where the stakes get high, or supposed to. When Thea finds Will, I had hopes and yet, doubt overpowered too. I hated Will, and we will find out later that I was right in my judgement. Going back to the stakes getting high, Thea finds herself in the company of strange people who wants her to create the stone, not understanding the full implication of the curse, Thea doesn’t know who to trust.

Honestly, this is the part where things went downhill for me. For one, Thea’s character became insufferably stupid, all overpowered by blind love that I simply couldn’t stand. Her empty devotion to Will, a boy she had not met for years and claims to love, was annoyingly stupid and ugly and more maddening than the curse itself. This part also felt like it was very haphazardly put forward, with the plot going all over the place. Again, emotional portrayal lacked so much. I couldn’t feel the dread and madness from Thea, nor from Dominic who was captured and Will, who was suffering.

The last few chapters were overly melodramatic and very messed up. It was in one chapter only that the climax happens and then passes too. I do think that the author could have spread those chapters out a little more, shown in more details how the stone worked and impacted Thea. But it simply ended way too soon, before it even began.

Short review on my Instagram @paperbacksandpen

While I say all these, I still think A Golden Fury was a unique book with an interesting plotline. I have barely read about women alchemists and magic in fantasy and hence, it was a good experience finding something new.

I loved the beginning so much – the writing was spectacular and so was the science part of it too. I think the idea was so good but what lacked was development of the plot and the characters. The side characters were not given much space to grow, even the main characters. There were shallow and very one dimensional. I think I simply expected more. There was a lot of potential and I’ll surely look forward to more books from the author!

Thanks to Wednesday Books for having me on the tour and giving me a chance to read and review an early copy of the book.

A Golden Fury by Samantha Cohoe| Goodreads

Thea Hope longs to be an alchemist out of the shadow of her famous mother. The two of them are close to creating the legendary Philosopher’s Stone—whose properties include immortality and can turn any metal into gold—but just when the promise of the Stone’s riches is in their grasp, Thea’s mother destroys the Stone in a sudden fit of violent madness.

While combing through her mother’s notes, Thea learns that there’s a curse on the Stone that causes anyone who tries to make it to lose their sanity. With the threat of the French Revolution looming, Thea is sent to Oxford for her safety, to live with the father who doesn’t know she exists.

But in Oxford, there are alchemists after the Stone who don’t believe Thea’s warning about the curse—instead, they’ll stop at nothing to steal Thea’s knowledge of how to create the Stone. But Thea can only run for so long, and soon she will have to choose: create the Stone and sacrifice her sanity, or let the people she loves die.

Myrtle Hardcastle Mystery – a fantastic middle grade mystery series – blog tour + review

Mystery tales have always been one of my favourite genres. I grew up reading books like The Secret Seven and Famous Five, and naturally, when Algonquin contacted me about this new middle grade mystery series, I was ecstatic! And rightly so, it did not disappoint!The series starts with Premeditated Myrtle, which introduces us to the young curious soul and her family. Having grown up with her Prosecutor father and in the company of men from the criminology industry, Myrtle couldn’t have been more intrigued by murder and solving crime. So, when she notices events in her neighbour’s house that are out of place, she is quick to point out that something was wrong. And rightly so, a murder.Premeditated Myrtle was so fun to read. I loved it for the fact that it didn’t have Myrtle playing detective right away, but her being a curious girl who wanted answers. We are thrust into the action right from the first line, and the story is rather fast paced. Moreover, I enjoyed Miss Judson’s character a lot too. Her constant encouragement for Myrtle was superb and she made a great companion. The duo totally stole the show with their wit and courage and observance.Being the first in the series, we were given ample information but it wasn’t simply dumped upon us readers. There was a gradual increment of these details – like about her father’s job, about her mother, about her friends and her father’s friends. And the author uses a lot of small details to build up her story, details that play a huge role later in the story. So, I think, that was really clever.However, there were certain parts that failed to hold my attention. I felt like, at times, there was so much going on in the story that I lost track. But at the same time, I think that made the mystery aspect of the story even more enjoyable and credible. I couldn’t help but suspect everyone, haha! But at the end, proud to say that I guessed the murderer and the actual culprit.The relationship between Myrtle and her father was sweet. It was one where the love was not explicitly stated but rather, shown through actions. They didn’t have much screen-time together though, and I wished there was more of them. Myrtle’s father initially had harboured stereotypical thoughts surrounding Myrtle being a girl and then prompting her to engage in more ‘girly’ stuff.Myrtle being a girl, and that too so young, plays a huge role in how the events turn out. For instance, she isn’t given much importance with evidences due to her age, and time and again she is dismissed on the account of her gender. Her father repeatedly hinders her from venturing into investigating the murder and encouraging her more to play with friends. This really goes on to show the image and attitude towards girls that society has as a whole, and it was a delight reading that. That was also why I loved Miss Judson so much, because she was simply so supportive and always encouraged Myrtle’s curiosity. Judson is definitely that friend we all need.The whole mystery case in Premeditated Myrtle, however, did not excite me as much as I had hoped it would. That said, the next book in the series was lovely and even more amazing.Myrtle and Judson are sent away on a tour with her insufferable aunt, Myrtle’s namesake, in the second book of the Myrtle Mystery series – How to Get Away with Myrtle. This book gave off all the Murder on the Orient Express vibe and I totally loved it!
In the second book, the author doesn’t spend much time with details or character backgrounds but directly jumps into the plot. Myrtle, after successfully solving the murder mystery back home, is sent away for a holiday with Miss Judson and her aunt. But all Myrtle wished to do was spend time with her father and solve more mysteries, not wear hefty evening dresses and travel on a train. But when a priced jewel crown is stolen and soon after, a murder occurs on the train, Myrtle finds herself in a classic adventurous holiday!Just like the first book, this too had a great storyline and fantastically executed! The best part about reading these two books was the fact that the author knows how to write a mystery that keeps a reader engaged. I was roped in from the first page, obsessively pinning my doubts on everyone, going on this fabulous journey with Myrtle. The wit and cleverness of Myrtle and the story totally surprised me.How to Get Away with Myrtle had an ensemble cast of characters and hence, the stake of finding the culprit was even higher. I loved these new additions and how the author also touched upon various important social themes in these stories. Here too, we see how the constable and police casually ignored Myrtle’s words as she was a girl and young, on top of that, and how no one would believe her. At the same time, the author also touched upon the theme of privilege and politics of power in this book, I believe.My favourite, apart from Miss Judson, has to be Mr. Blakeney. He was such a dear character in this book and I loved how much he supported and believed in Myrtle.The stories both portray a commendable growth in characters, and that is very lovely. One can see how the characters grow in their relationships with each other as well as individually, and the author portrayed this very well. Aunt Helena’s change towards the end was simply fantastic and more so because it was so very gradual.That was something very stunning about this book – although the story was fast paced, everything was much gradual in its unfolding. The author takes great care in developing the characters along with the plot, giving us not a straightforward mystery but one with ample twists and turns. The little footnotes and legal detective jargons made reading even more fun!The Myrtle Hardcastle Mystery is one fun middle grade mystery series that I enjoyed reading thoroughly. It was exceptionally well-scripted with a bunch of fun characters. I will definitely be looking forward to the next book/s in the series!

Premeditated Myrtle | Goodread

Twelve-year-old Myrtle Hardcastle has a passion for justice and a Highly Unconventional obsession with criminal science. Armed with her father’s law books and her mum’s microscope, Myrtle studies toxicology, keeps abreast of the latest developments in crime scene analysis, and Observes her neighbors in the quiet village of Swinburne, England.When her next-door neighbor, a wealthy spinster and eccentric breeder of rare flowers, dies under Mysterious Circumstances, Myrtle seizes her chance. With her unflappable governess, Miss Ada Judson, by her side, Myrtle takes it upon herself to prove Miss Wodehouse was murdered and find the killer, even if nobody else believes her — not even her father, the town prosecutor.

How to Get Away with Myrtle | Goodreads

Myrtle Hardcastle has no desire to go on a relaxing travel excursion with her aunt Helena when there are More Important things to be done at home, like keeping close tabs on criminals and murder trials. Unfortunately, she has no say in the matter. So off Myrtle goes—with her governess, Miss Judson, and cat, Peony, in tow—on a fabulous private railway coach headed for the English seaside.

Myrtle is thrilled to make the acquaintance of Mrs. Bloom, a professional insurance investigator aboard to protect the priceless Northern Lights tiara. But before the train reaches its destination, both the tiara and Mrs. Bloom vanish. When Myrtle arrives, she and Peony discover a dead body in the baggage car. Someone has been murdered—with Aunt Helena’s sewing shears.

The trip is derailed, the local police are inept, and Scotland Yard is in no rush to arrive. What’s a smart, bored Young Lady of Quality stranded in a washed-up carnival town to do but follow the evidence to find out which of her fellow travelers is a thief and a murderer?

Interview with Sara Faring – author of The Tenth Girl and White Fox

Hello folks! White Fox released today and I have a really fun interview up with the author, Sara Faring! She’s ABSOLUTELY fun and so adorable but her stories are gonna give you all the creeps. Let’s jump into the chat as we talk about writing and inspiration from the weirdest of events!

1. Hey Sara! I hope you are doing great. How has this pandemic been for you so far? How are you coping?

Hello! There have been so many waves of emotion at unexpected times (sometimes it feels like a hostile ocean of emotion). Some of my coping techniques: 1. Moving my bones on very, very long walks, during which I call a rotating list of friends and/or family (This is a new development. I used to hate talking on the phone. But I guess I finally maxed out my screen time during the pandemic.) 2. Staring at nature and/or reading books that create a similarly calm, perspective-widening environment in the mind (like The Overstory, Naomi Novik’s books, or Ali Smith’s Seasonal Quartet) 3. Making fancy beverages and drinking them while sprawled on a sofa in a red waffle weave tracksuit that—soothingly—makes me feel like a soccer mom on a gambling vacation in Las Vegas 4. Sound baths… Google them 😉

2. Your new book, White Fox, has a very atmospheric and eerie setting, with vivid details. How much of research went into this book and how long did it take for you to complete it?

Ah! Years of the most enjoyable research. I love adding texture to books (little sensory details borrowed from lived experience), so of course, for White Fox, it was mandatory to sample every flavor of granita in Sicily. And then there came the historical, geographical, linguistic research, done in my hermit cave.

White Fox incorporates bits of the first book I ever wrote, so it’s hard to say how long it took. I’ve been tinkering with it my whole life. And then (thank goodness) my editor came around and said, okay, buddy, get it together.

3. When drafting White Fox, what came to you first – the story, the characters, the setting or anything other? What was your biggest source of inspiration behind it?

The atmosphere came first. I had a specific mood in mind: eerie, lush, sublime. You sink into the story believing it’s familiar and comfortable—a tale of two sisters at odds with each other as they unravel family secrets—but then a series of surreal and astonishing twists take you by surprise.

I was inspired to write it because of an experience in my own life when I was eighteen. I discovered a long-held family secret that shook up my sense of self. I knew I wanted to explore this unsettling and thrilling time on the page someday.

4. How was writing and publishing White Fox different from your debut The Tenth Girl?

Oh, gosh. I was so tender and thin-skinned leading up to the publication of The Tenth Girl. I would compulsively read reviews and spiral into despair because of a single word. Often, oddly, that word wouldn’t even be negative—it would simply demonstrate a reader had taken my work in a completely different way than intended (can you tell I have a little thing for control? Don’t all fiction writers?). But that’s part of the beauty of publishing a book too, isn’t it? The book lives on in ways entirely outside your control. The reader brings their own baggage to their read. A book I read one way at age 18 will be read in an utterly different way at age 30. Sometimes I’ll read a book I despised when I was young later on and appreciate it, realizing it was just calling up issues I didn’t want to face then.

5. Writing an engaging thriller, I believe, is not an easy task. There are so many things that one has to look after – so many clues. Both your books have been fantastic thrillers. What are some tips that you as a writer follow, and what tips would you give for aspiring thriller writers?

There must always be a pressing question requiring an answer. Once an answer has been supplied, another question must either be immediately introduced or come to the forefront, ideally having been simmering in the background for some time.

6. I have always been intrigued by titles, to be honest. And hence, I wanted to know the ultimate significance of the title – White Fox – apart from it also being the title of the script. What were some other working titles for the WF draft?

What a brilliant question. I cannot title my books to save my life. My working title for TTG was Vaccaro School, and my working title for White Fox was Stökéwood. Both are the names of their eerie primary settings. I suppose it shows you where these two books began in my imagination: in a sense of place. After that, we landed on Cloud House for TTG and Delirium Forest for White Fox. But my genius editor’s picks became the final titles for these books.

White Fox is a character my protagonist’s mother creates in order to better explain herself (and her beautiful contradictions) to her daughters. White Fox alludes to the unknowable in each of us. We may believe we know our loved ones deeply—we may believe we know ourselves—but in truth, we can only know so much. We’re always evolving and always ignorant of certain elusive qualities in ourselves and others. There’s magic in that.

7. Who has been your favorite character to write about and why? In real life, are you more like Tai or Manon?

I adore them both: Manon is the introvert in me, who must replenish her energy and her creative well with solo journeys of the mind, and Tai is a through-and-through extrovert, fed by her interactions with others. I’m an introvert who likes to pretend she’s extroverted (until I inevitably run out of steam and collapse on the sofa for a couple of days, in the aforementioned tracksuit).

8. What is your drafting process like? And how do you stay motivated to write despite creative blocks?

My drafting process requires me to simmer a scene for several days. I like to have a sense of how it will open and how it will close before I begin writing (but I like to be surprised by the middle). Ideally, the scene will be a perfectly contained little jewel, and the book will be a string of these jewels.

If I am feeling blocked creatively, I’ll read, walk around the city and eavesdrop (in a pinch, watch tv), or get in contact with water (even if that just means a shower with fancy soap).

9. Are you working on anything new, any new WIP? Would you be able to share some hints or sneak peeks with us?

Yes! I have a short story coming out in a Wednesday Books YA Latinx SFF anthology in 2022. It’s a quirky, funny, dark tale set in 1910 Argentina, inspired by the story of my great-great-grandmother’s poisoning by tomato (…)

10. Lastly, what are some of your favorite books that you’d recommend always?!

My answer shifts depending on what I’m in the mood for, but… Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, Ali Smith’s Seasonal Quartet, anything by Rory Power, anything by Kevin Wilson, anything by Tana French, anything by Shirley Jackson… They’ll leave you thinking, this lot.

Thank you for your thoughtful questions, Kajree!

Sara Faring | Website

Born in Los Angeles, Sara Faring is a multilingual Argentine-American fascinated by literary puzzles. After working in investment banking at J.P. Morgan, she worked at Penguin Random House. She holds degrees from the University of Pennsylvania in International Studies and from the Wharton School in Business. The Tenth Girl is her debut book. She currently resides in New York City.

Your Heart After Dark review – a diverse supernatural YA that had a lot of potential

You Heart After Dark intrigued me with its nuanced titled and the very minimalistic yet profound cover. I was super excited to read this but there were a lot of things about the book that really left me disappointed.

Before venturing deeper into that, let me tell you a little about what the story is. In surface, it would look like any other Young Adult contemporary about two young lovers trying to figure out each other’s lives sprinkled with secrets. Your Heart After Dark tends to go in that similar line too – we have Maria, who is grappling with her parents’ divorce and the aftermath of one of her best friend’s death. On top of that, she also has to keep herself sane through Ehmet’s mixed signals, wanting so badly to let go from the clutches. But like everything else, Ehmet too have his own secrets.

There were a few things about this book that I truly enjoyed and loved seeing in the story. First, the representation of Ughyur Muslims, and the brutality against them, had a significant role in the story. I felt like even within the few pages, the author managed a fantastic job at the cultural representation, made people feel seen. The best part was having Maria on the lead – who also totally ruled the cover! It was fantastic to see a hijabi in the center as well as in a book cover.

The writing, I felt, was a bit over the place. It was easy to read and the emotions were conveyed really well – starting from sadness to anger to confusion and fear. The setting too played a huge role in adding more to the book, as I felt that it had an eerie atmosphere on its own. Seeped with secrets and danger, the whole setting felt very creepy and yet comfortable in its own way, and I think that was great!

Coming to the characters, I cannot say that I had any favorites. All throughout, I felt like the characters were so ill-fleshed out; and with the constantly changing POVs, I didn’t really get much time to connect with either. I began with my likes for Maria, understanding her confusion and pain, and her anger and doubts about Ehmet. I felt for Ehmet too – a boy who was pained beyond reasoning, hiding in the dark. When the story began, I really did root for them too but as it progressed, I really lost my charm for them.

Maria turned out to be like a typical young adult, cranky and whiny, a girl so lost for the world that she really didn’t have any purpose. The author really tried to make Ehmet into one of those brooding hot guys with immense secrets that readers usually fall for, but I guess this time, it really did not work for me. He felt too obvious, too outwardly (I mean, yes, of course he was), and too detached. But if that was how the author wanted to present him, then I guess it was a good job.

As for Maria and Ehmet’s mutual friends, I couldn’t help but really despise them. They truly did not have any huge role to play other than creating unnecessary drama and misunderstandings. I could really care about them the least. Towards the middle of the book, Maria simply became too insufferable for me. However, one of the highlights of the book for me was towards the ending when Maria really went savage on her aunts and gave them a piece of their own medicine! That was truly bold and definitely my favorite part of the book.

The one main problem I had with the story – apart from it being overly cliché – was the fact that there were so many things left unsaid and unexplained, even to some extent. For instance, I really would have loved to know more about Ehmet and his condition (saying this for reasons of not disclosing the secret) and how it truly affected him, how it happened, the reasons of him living where he did. I felt like there really wasn’t much of an explanation to this, which ultimately didn’t let me connect with him much. And Maria, she wouldn’t budge a little and went ahead with her head full of misunderstood talks – I could tell I understood her and why she chose to believe what she did, but at the same time, I would have loved to see a more sensible character.

The whole plot was too rushed, and the constantly changing POVs really had me struggling to grasp who was who. New character POVs were introduced sometime in the middle of the story, out of the blue, and those really threw me off as a reader to be honest. I do wish that there is a sequel because I believe that there is much to tell.

The thing is, I have read so many YA contemporaries and so many similar stories that took on the cliché and added nothing much to it that I am a little tried of it. I do not really feel much – scratch that – I do not really like unnecessary misunderstandings or stupid unthoughtful decisions in a book, unless they truly were done well and added more structure to the plot. But here, it felt so childish, and so weird that I couldn’t really bring myself to like it. At all. And that was my biggest problem with the book. The representation was well done (though, please keep in mind that I’m a desi reviewer, I’m not a Muslim and Own Voices reviewer to account for the representation and its accuracy) and the author tried to throw light on Ughyur Muslims, which I think is really great. The uncomfortable desi family dynamics, the orthodox views and all were portrayed with immense care and importance. Besides that, I really don’t think I liked the overall story that much. That said, if you enjoy typical YA with a dash of supernatural and wish to read more diverse literature, do add this book to your tbr piles!

Thanks to Hear Our Voices Blog Tour for having me on the tour and giving me an early copy of this book to read.

Your Heart After Dark | Goodreads

Maria Chaudhry’s personal demons trap her in a downward spiral, but the beast lurking in Ehmet’s blood can do a lot worse than that.
After a year of living in a prissy suburb, Maria Chaudhry is back downtown. Back to what she never wanted to leave. But she can’t really enjoy it since neither the living nor the dead will leave her in peace.

JC’s death still keeps her up at night and Ehmet’s sudden ambivalence isn’t helping. Maybe she had read his signals wrong and Ehmet was never in love with her like she thought. Or maybe his love is tangled with secrets too dark to speak aloud, secrets about JC’s death and the unpredictable beast in Ehmet’s blood.

When an upcoming hiking trip is canceled, there’s no pretty path left towards the truth. A growing spiral of deceit threatens to tear Maria and Ehmet apart forever, but the beast lurking within Ehmet can do a lot worse than that.

Mahtab Rohan’s debut YA novel delivers a paranormal tale of crumbling friendships, malevolent secrets, and the struggle to have hope in the face of uncertainty.

Amazon

Charming as a Verb – a fantastic coming of age young adult novel – review + blog tour

High school is all fun and games until it comes to the dread of college applications and admissions. The tension and anxiety during those weeks are honestly high-fold, and I always enjoy seeing this portrayed in fiction. So, when Charming as a Verb landed on my kindle, and I met Henri, it was no wonder that I related to his character so much.

Henri Haltiwanger, a Haitian-American, is the definition of comfortable and charming. He is easy-going, popular amongst his peers and teachers, runs a high-functioning dog-walker website that no one knows is run by a seventeen-year-old, a star debater, and is an ultimate charmer. Yet deep inside, fear of college applications and not getting into his dream college bugs him every day. Then fate puts him and Corrine together, and the rest is history and – ahem – chaos.

Though very real and perfect, Henri had his own shortcomings and flaws. As a person, he did a lot of mistakes and made a lot of wrong decisions throughout the story. But in his character is also where we see years of desperation and struggle, a constant battle to put on a perfect face and smile. I loved Henri’s personality arc so much – there was never a dull moment getting to know him.

Ben Phillipe truly knows how to introduce a character to us and gradually give us the details to make us like them. It was the same with Corrine too. At first meet, I wasn’t much fond of Corrine. But as the story progressed, out came the insecurities and the inability to socialize, the constant pressure of doing good. Corrine grew on me by the end, and I loved this girl’s decisions! She was headstrong, she knew what she wanted, and yay to having more independent females in YA!

What was even more fun was reading about the trio – Henri, Ming and Corrine – together in parties and otherwise. They were simply so wholesome and totally grew on me. The friendship wasn’t even forced and Ben took great care in building their bond in stages, creating an unmissable link of friendship between the three. Corrine was an awkward little kid right from the beginning, her full focus on academics and her goals. With Henri and Ming, she starts to loosen up a little and start enjoying. And I mean, this meet-cute was legit blackmail and done so well! It was so adorable, I tell you. And Ming deserved more screen time aah – I adored his and Henri’s friendship.

The truth is, high school is so tumultuous and before you know it, everything is ending. It isn’t so perfect always, and in Charming as a Verb, we get a glimpse of that imperfections too. That high school isn’t always only about lavish and grand parties, that it isn’t only about hookups and relationships – there is simply so much more to it. In Charming as a Verb, the little thoughts about an unclear future, the anxieties about college and friendships and your cultural identity, the little hint of jealousy that somehow seeps in at your friends’ accomplishments – they were all portrayed and showed in a very heartwarming manner that made me reminisce my own high school days.

But the story did not only focus on friendship and romance but also largely on family and changing dreams. Henri’s relation with his parents is uber sweet and supportive. But at the same time, he wasn’t let free of the indirect power that they hold upon him. At times, our dreams and our parents’ get so muddled that the line separating them both vanishes. Same happened with Henri too – he was so hung up on going to Cambridge that the prospect of venturing in a different line of course and college scared him. Because he had been fed this idea since youth, he believes that is what he has to do. However, this also wasn’t a classic Disney case of ‘those were your dreams, dad, not mine’, but a more realistic explanation. Henri only wanted to prove to his dad that he could do it and fulfill the ‘Haltiwanger’ dream.

It is because of these experiences in the book that made reading it so much more enjoyable for me. Although filled with its own bunch of clichés, Ben knew how to own the story and make it his own. There were so many little moments that made up the book – little moments of affection and care that added so much light to the overall story, and the discussions around identity and immigrant families and dreams. Oh, and we can never forget Palm Tree ah – I wish we had gotten more of this adorable dog!

The story gets a bit intense towards the end as our characters end up making a lot many bad decisions. But through it all, we see tremendous growth in Henri as well as Corrine. And at the end, it was friendship bonds that mattered so much. I cannot tell you how much I loved the end – it wasn’t an unrealistic happy ending but true. It was bittersweet in some ways – you win some and you lose some and I feel the whole book revolved around this very important lesson. With Ben’s beautiful narration and storytelling, commendable creation of characters that just stood out so well, and a fun and honest young adult coming of age story – Charming as a Verb was a delight to read.

Thanks to Colored Pages Blog Tour for having me on this tour and giving me a chance to read this spectacular book.

Charming as a Verb | About | Goodreads

Title: Charming As A Verb

Author: Ben Philippe

Publisher: Blazer + Bray

Publication Date: October 13th, 2020

Genres: Young Adult Contemporary

Synopsis:

Henri “Halti” Haltiwanger can charm just about anyone. He is a star debater and popular student at the prestigious FATE academy, the dutiful first-generation Haitian son, and the trusted dog walker for his wealthy New York City neighbors. But his easy smiles mask a burning ambition to attend his dream college, Columbia University.

There is only one person who seems immune to Henri’s charms: his “intense” classmate and neighbor Corinne Troy. When she uncovers Henri’s less-than-honest dog-walking scheme, she blackmails him into helping her change her image at school. Henri agrees, seeing a potential upside for himself.
Soon what started as a mutual hustle turns into something more surprising than either of them ever bargained for. . . .
This is a sharply funny and insightful novel about the countless hustles we have to keep from doing the hardest thing: being ourselves.
Book Depository | Amazon

Interview with Nikki Barthelmess – author of The Quiet You Carry, Quiet No More

Hello book people! I have an interesting and beautiful author interview with Nikki Barthelmess, author of The Quiet You Carry and Quiet No More. Her books are tough and difficult reads, but very important to learn something. This is also a creative post as a part of the book tour with TBR and Beyond tours! Without further ado, let’s jump into the mini interview!

  1. What are the few things you wish you knew about publishing before getting your book published?

That’s a great question! Although I was warned this likely would be the case, I wish I really understood that I will probably always be striving for something. When I started my fiction-writing journey, I thought everything would change for me once I got a literary agent. And then, after I had an agent representing my work, I thought I’d be happy once my agent sent publishers my manuscript for consideration. After being on submission for what seemed like forever, having one book never sell to a publisher and then writing and revising another, I was on sub again. But this time I really thought as soon as I got a book deal everything would be great and I’d be happy! I would have arrived, so to speak.

Getting that first book deal for The Quiet You Carry felt amazing. I was right in that it did change my life in a wonderful way. But I still had goals for my career. Even now, after selling two more books, I continue to feel like there’s so much more I want to accomplish. I’ve learned that though it’s great to have dreams, it’s also important to be grateful for and content exactly where I am.

  1. What do you prefer more – series or standalones? And can you tell about some your favorite books?

I love series because with them you get more time to live in a world and share adventures with the characters! But I also appreciate that some stories really can and should be wrapped up in a single book. I have so many favorites so rather than talk about them all, I’ll say that I most recently fell in love with the Caraval series, written by Stephanie Garber. I loved those books so much that when I finished reading, I was actually sad, like seriously feeling down for several days! I enjoyed being completely transported into another world full of magic and intrigue. And I loved feeling like I was getting to know some of the characters over time, caring more deeply for them as I read. I’ll read anything Stephanie Garber writes from now on!

  1. What was the most difficult part / scene to write about in Quiet you Carry and Quiet no More? Which was the easiest?

I had a very difficult time writing the scene Victoria gets assaulted in for The Quiet You Carry. Initially, I tried to imply more than put on the page, until a couple very trusted people gently told me that doing so would be a disservice to the story and to readers. I knew in my heart, even before receiving this constructive feedback, that I needed to show the assault, but it was a challenge writing something so terrible and feeling the way I needed to feel to do so.

While writing TQYC, I felt happy creating the scenes when Victoria realized she had found a family in her friends and that they wouldn’t abandon or turn against her the way her father and stepmother did.

There were a couple of scenes in Quiet No More that I found most difficult to write, but I can’t talk about them without giving too much away! They involve conflict with Victoria and someone who means a lot to her. Writing those scenes proved challenging (I even cried!) because I care a lot about these characters and didn’t want to hurt them. But if authors pulled punches to make things easier on characters, that would make for pretty boring books! And ones that don’t feel authentic or true to what people experience.

The easiest scenes to write for QNM might have been when Victoria and her new friends visit the batting cages. I played softball in high school so I knew how to describe what they were doing, but it was also fun to play with tension and how that can interact with physical activity, like what’s going on in a character’s head as they connect a baseball bat with a ball.

4. What do you wish for people to take away from your books?

After reading my books, I hope people walk away feeling hopeful. But first, it’s important to understand healing from trauma is never easy. I speak as someone who was abused as a kid and, though I’ve come a long way in dealing with my past, I’ve realized that it will always affect me. The things that happen to us stay with us. We can try to bury feelings but the pain that comes from these experiences will often find a way back if we don’t figure out how to face it. And that’s okay.

Those of us who have had some seriously terrible thing happen to us can learn, grow, and move forward. We can even use our experiences to help others, if that’s what we choose to do. True beauty can come out of the darkest periods of our lives, if we let it.

Thanks so much for having me on the blog!

About the author | Website

Nikki Barthelmess is a journalist and author of young adult books. She entered foster care in Nevada at twelve, and spent the next six years living in six different towns. During this time, Nikki found solace in books, her journal, and teachers who encouraged her as a writer. She graduated with a degree in journalism from the University of Nevada, Reno, and has worked as a maid, cashier, newspaper reporter, and event coordinator, among other odd jobs. Nikki lives in Los Angeles with her husband and her pride-and-joy Corgi pup.

The Quiet You Carry is her debut novel.