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.

Body talk review + blog tour – 37 stunning voices exploring bodies of all kinds

It is not always that I read a non-fiction anthology and fall in love with it. Body Talk is one such book that mesmerized me and stole my heart, and I will shout about this book for as long as I can.

An anthology of 37 unique voices about our radical anatomy. These 37 writers, musicians, models, actors and artists bring forth a collection of stories, illustrations, lists and essays that portray how their particular, unique bodies have helped inform and shape who they are. To put it in simple words, this collection is all about bodies – how we view them, how others view them, how society views it, how we live in them and how to love them.

“The parts of us that are different are the parts of us that truly make us special. Oftentimes, they’re the parts of us that tell our story.”

The book itself is divided into a few sections, and each section focused on a certain issue. It focused on disability, on body hair, on fatness and its positive use, on the little things about our body that bugs us, on menstruation and sexuality and so much more. It was so heartwarming to read these stories, and they truly warmed my heart.

There was an account by Julie Murphy about her swimsuits and it was so adorable. Then there was Tyra Banks being bold and confident and spreading positivity in all the ways that she can. There was Roshani Chokshi who talked so positively about makeup, and how people get shamed for putting on too much sometimes. There was Amanda Lovelace talking about asexuality and love. There were a host of other stories that talked about varied themes, all instilling hope in various ways. It is such a great collection of essays and informational pieces from some of our favorite people, and I also found a few new people to look up to.

“I think a lot of us think we need to put on a show in life. A performance. Maybe it’s an act to get a job. A metaphorical social dance to make friends . Maybe it’s to fall in love. To look like the person you think you need to be, instead of the person you are. And I just want to tell you this: Be. Who. You. Are.”

The best part was that the book was also supported by illustrations and art, and lists of important topics by various contributors. There were comprehensive details on body positivity, on menstruation and self-care, about ways to help trans people in their lives, about hormones and what not.

The stories and accounts were eye-opening, to say the least. Full of real-life accounts – both big and small – these are stories that made me smile, think and reflect and understand. Being spectacularly #ownvoices, the contributors gave us such an honest insight into body and the biological/radical anatomy of ours. They were honest and raw, and filled with emotions to the core. I loved how hese stories, with a mix of illustrations, comics, art and writings, talked about disabilities too, and how it shed light on how people with disabilities are looked at/viewed.

“Breaking the stigma around the “but you don’t look sick” mentality starts and ends with you. So even though I “don’t look sick,” I am, because it’s so much more than loos. Disabilities and chronic illnesses are not, nor have they ever been, a one-size-fits-all style.”

I absolutely loved reading these stories so much, and each page filled me with a new knowledge. There was so much to learn, about hormones, about vaginal discharge, about self-care and so much more. This book is surely a conversation starter for uncomfortable topics, and a book I’d go back to when I’m doubting my own body. It was raw and outright honest, about how the society puts expectations on our bodies and how it then becomes an unending fight to achieve that set standard. There is simply so much to learn from these people, who’ve braved the world in spite and despite of anything and everything holding them back. Truly mesmerizing, insightful and full of hope.

A big thanks to @algonquinyr for giving me the opportunity to read this marvelous book.

“The most important thing I’ve learned from this entire experience is that all those things we sometimes don’t like about ourselves truly can be seen as beautiful or unique or strong or wonderful if we love ourselves enough when we look at them.”

Body Talk | Goodreads

It’s time to bare it all about bodies!
We all experience the world in a body, but we don’t usually take the time to explore what it really means to have and live within one. Just as every person has a unique personality, every person has a unique body, and every body tells its own story.
In Body Talk, thirty-seven writers, models, actors, musicians, and artists share essays, lists, comics, and illustrations—about everything from size and shape to scoliosis, from eating disorders to cancer, from sexuality and gender identity to the use of makeup as armor. Together, they contribute a broad variety of perspectives on what it’s like to live in their particular bodies—and how their bodies have helped to inform who they are and how they move through the world.

Star Daughter review + blog tour – a starry and fantastic desi debut to check out!

Thank you to @hearourvoicestours for having me on the tour and giving me the opportunity to read and review this book!

A fantastic and starry tale, Star Daughter narrates the story of Sheetal, a half mortal and half star girl, who has to win a celestial competition in order to save her father’s life. Told in exquisite narration, this book is all sorts of glorious and stunning.

Sheetal is half star and all she wants is to have her mother with her, beside her, a full family. But being a star comes with dread and responsibilities, and magic that could sometimes prove fatal. She had always hidden her star half, dying her silver hair black and ignoring the starsong that flows to and within her. But when a mistake leads her father to the ICU, Sheetal is desperate to save him, and this leads her back to her mother’s abode, the Star Court.

Sheetal is a lovely character, her awkwardness and anxiety making her even more real. The way the author described her, it legit made me imagine her like a star. Clad in starry clothes and dripped in starlight. However, I did find Sheetal a little too two dimensional at times, especially when she was up with her mother. At times, I couldn’t really figure out her motives and her emotions, and that is why at times, I fell a little detached from her. As a protagonist, I felt like she didn’t have enough of a depth to make me root for her as much. Also, the way she repeatedly envisioned kissing Dev and missing him was – uh – a bit cliché for me. Like, I’m really not into the cutesy romance, you know, and this was definitely a personal opinion. Or maybe it’s just young love and I’m – uh – over that.

Minal, Sheetal’s best friend, was all sorts of adorable. I loved this girl. She’s a bundle of joy and excitement and her constant support for Sheetal was so awesome. When Sheetal was deciding whether to go to Dev’s house or not, Minal’s playful threaten made me laugh out loud. She honestly added so much humor and light to the story. And the fact that as a side character, she had a considerable role and growth throughout.

Dev, however, again, I felt was a bit one dimensional. I don’t know why, but I didn’t really ship him and Sheetal as much as I had hoped to; I just didn’t see the chemistry and I just didn’t care. But still, I loved his passion for music and that he was so sweet to Sheetal. He wasn’t the typical bad boy, but a human with a past and family, and someone who is too pure. Ah, Dev was cute with his guitar and songs though, no kidding.

Star Daughter is heavily inspired by Indian culture and Hindu astrology. The author has taken in various aspects and elements of the nakshatras and Hindu deities, and created a stunning world of stars, called the Svargalok. The Star Court is all sorts of beautiful, and the descriptions were so vivid it made me want to go and live up there. There was so much of starry wholesomeness, and me being totally obsessed with all things stars and universe, totally loved every bit of it.

Shveta Thakrar’s world building was splendid; she took immense time to carefully explain in details the world of the stars, their history and past, the references to Hindu myths, all while not getting to info-dumping. I also totally loved how she swept in mythical tales, and how she took the space to explain them to readers not familiar with them, and how it didn’t even sound forced. There were also so many references to desi culture, the story laden with all the delicious desi food that made my mouth water at two am ah! All the samosas, naan, aloo mattar, dal and rasmalai – ah, pure pliss! It was so great to see these mentioned in the book because often times when I’m reading about western culture, I couldn’t really relate with the food, you know? So this was really great! And the mentions of so many cultural instruments like the dilruba, bansuri, the old Bollywood songs and artist – they all were so seamlessly incorporated into the story. The author also extensively used dikri, nana, nani, chhokri which was truly impressive. Really commend the author for this marvelous writing and fantastic desi representation.

Shveta Thakrar has a unique way with words. Her narration is exquisite and she has woven the plot so poetically intricate, which adds more excitement to the whole reading experience. The imagery, as I’ve been saying for quite some time in this review, is extraordinarily exquisite and it made reading so much fun. She used song and music in a beautiful way, incorporated, and the mention of Kishore Kumar is such a classic addition.

Sure, there were certain parts of the book that I didn’t enjoy enough. Like for instance, I found Charulata very emotion-less, and her desperation didn’t seep through the pages for me. In similar ways, as I had mentioned before already, I felt like at times the emotional development of the characters was lacking and hence, my connection with them wasn’t as deep as I had hoped to be. It was also kind of predictable, and did go along the lines of a typical YA, but Thakrar did also manage to create an original world and story despite. And well, the climax towards the end was so dramatic that I didn’t know if I liked it or disliked it haha.

The ending wasn’t my favorite and I felt like it was very abrupt. Another thing that bothered me so much was the fact that there literally wasn’t any high stakes in the story – like, everything was simply so straightforward and told and that bugged me. The plotline wasn’t that strong, I’ll say, and I didn’t really like any of the characters.

Overall, I think Star Daughter is one gorgeous tale of complicated family relations, about love, about coming to terms with yourself, about your art and inspiration and making mistakes, and above all, being you. Laden with starry descriptions, magic, cultural representation and a legit star world, Star Daughter is one standalone desi fantasy that you all need to check out! And if you are still debating, let me convince you with the following quotes:

“It always felt like a betrayal, but there was something I didn’t see, because I’d been looking at all the wrong parts, all the shadows between the stars. I didn’t yet know how to find our light.”

“Magic isolates you. You’re this misfit who doesn’t belong anywhere, and you want to make it all go away, but at the same time, you crave it, and you can’t help craving it. You’re just stuck.”

“Where there is magic, there will always be hunger to possess it.”

“What artist does not wish to be remembered? To know their work speaks to others across eras and cultures?”

“We can’t stand being alone, but we still look for ways to separate ourselves.”

“This is what makes us – and art – what we are. That choice to keep getting back up and trying again in the face of suffering and injustice and despair.”

“We can’t take people’s mistakes away from them.”

“People had to grow on their own, make their own decisions, good and bad. It was those mistakes and the choice or refusal to learn from them that gave life – and art – their texture, their meaning. It had to be a choice.”

“She was nothing but the words of a story, one tale weaving imperceptibly into the next. She was the loom that wove the tapestry. She was the tapestry that joined all things.”

I made a few mood boards for the book, check them out!

Star Daughter |Goodreads

This gorgeously imagined YA debut blends shades of Neil Gaiman’s Stardust and a breathtaking landscape of Hindu mythology into a radiant contemporary fantasy.
The daughter of a star and a mortal, Sheetal is used to keeping secrets. Pretending to be “normal.” But when an accidental flare of her starfire puts her human father in the hospital, Sheetal needs a full star’s help to heal him. A star like her mother, who returned to the sky long ago.
Sheetal’s quest to save her father will take her to a celestial court of shining wonders and dark shadows, where she must take the stage as her family’s champion in a competition to decide the next ruling house of the heavens–and win, or risk never returning to Earth at all.
Brimming with celestial intrigue, this sparkling YA debut is perfect for fans of Roshani Chokshi and Laini Taylor.

Buy the book from Book Depository

Buy the book from Amazon

Interview with Tanaz Bhathena – author of A Girl Like That, The Beauty of the Moment, Hunted by the Sky

Hello people of the internet! I have a special author interview on my blog today, whose fantasy debut had me craving for more. Tanaz Bhathena’s fantasy debut has been creating all sorts of sparkle and hype in the book world, and rightly so. Inspired by medieval India, and laden with Indian as well as Persian myths, Hunted by the Sky is a fantasy worth your time (I did a small cover recreation of HBTS on my bookstagram, check it out and let me know if you like it hehe). We talked about world building and how to keep writing, and a little bit about HBTS’s sequel too. So let’s jump right into the interview!

1. Before we begin, how have you been? What has this time been like for you?

I’ve been okay! Busy with my day job and writing mostly, but that’s probably a good thing considering this pandemic.

2. What was the biggest inspiration for Hunted by the Sky?

Indian women—both historical and modern.

3. Hunted by the Sky is your fantasy debut, if I’m not wrong. How was the experience of writing a fantasy different from that of writing contemporary? Which other genre would you like to explore in the future?

The general process of developing characters and a plot is the same. However, fantasy does require world-building and developing a magic system, which was both challenging and fun for me. I would like to explore non-fiction in the future.

4. This quarantine period has definitely been difficult as a whole. What was the experience of publishing a book during this time like? What are the challenges that you had to face, if any?

It has been very strange. I haven’t been able to go to book festivals or do any launches in person. I had to pivot and learn to use multiple different virtual platforms and also film and edit videos, which was challenging in the beginning.

5. Your world building in Hunted by the Sky was spectacular, to say the least. How much world building takes place before you actually begin writing? For aspiring writers, what tips would you give for building a fantasy world? What are the key points that we should remember while building our new worlds?

Oh, thank you! That’s very kind. For HUNTED BY THE SKY, I did a bit of both, building the world as I wrote the book and also keeping a separate notebook to list specifics about magic systems, magical creatures, weapons, history, etc. Every writer is different in the way they go about this. Some writers develop the whole world and outline the story before even writing the first sentence—I can’t do that. My biggest tip is to create a bullet-point document roughly outlining your world’s history and the events that take place in your story. That will give you a broad, big-picture idea of what’s missing in your world and what you need to add.

6. Hunted by the Sky is heavily inspired by medieval India and has Persian as well as Indian myths dispersed within the story. What was the research process like? How long did it take for you to write this book?

I looked up primary historical sources from the medieval period like Ayeen Akbary. I also read a lot of historical non-fiction from the time period, looked up museum archives online for information on clothing, jewellery, weapons, etc. It took me a year to finish the first draft and then 3 more years to edit it.

7. What are some of your all-time favorite books?

The God of Small things by Arundhati Roy and Tales from Firozsha Baag by Rohinton Mistry!

8. Do you remember the first book/story you ever wrote? And did you always want to be a writer?

Haha, yes! I was eight and it was a story about three girls who went to visit a witch on a mountain. It had illustrations and everything. I knew I wanted to be a writer by the time I was thirteen.

9. From all your books, which was the hardest scene to write? And which was your most favorite scene?

I find emotionally heavy scenes and battle scenes difficult to write; they take the most time and I sometimes can spend a whole hour repeatedly revising a single sentence. I always love writing scenes where my protagonists are bantering or where an older character imparts some much needed wisdom.

10. The sequel to Hunted by the Sky, Rising like a Strom, is set to release next year, according to Goodreads and Google. Can you tell us a little about what we can expect from book 2?

You’ll see more of Gul, Cavas, and the Sisterhood. There will also be a war 😉

11. If you were in Ambar, what type of magic would you have liked to have?

Whisper magic—communicating telepathically with animals.

12. Writing can sometimes be a bit draining and emotional journey. There are often times where we cannot help but feel unoriginal about our own works. As a published author, how do you tackle these feelings? What are some things you’d like to say to aspiring writings wanting to go into publishing?

It’s in the nature of writers to be critical (sometimes over-critical) of their own work. But, in reality, there is always someone out there doing better than you or whose work will appear better than your own—pre- and post-publication. This is when you have to remember: Why did you begin writing your story? What’s important about it? Find your faith and hold it close. If you don’t believe in your work, no one else will.

Tanaz Bhathena | Website

Tanaz Bhathena writes books for young adults. Her sophomore novel, The Beauty of the Moment, won the Nautilus Gold Award for Young Adult Fiction and has also been nominated for the Ontario Library Association’s White Pine Award. Her acclaimed debut, A Girl Like That, was named a Best Book of the Year by numerous outlets including The Globe and Mail, Seventeen, and The Times of India. Her latest book, Hunted by the Sky, is the first of a YA fantasy duology set in a world inspired by medieval India, with the sequel Rising like a Storm releasing on June 22, 2021. Her short stories have appeared in various publications including The Hindu, Blackbird, Witness, and Room.

Born in India and raised in Saudi Arabia and Canada, Tanaz lives in Mississauga, Ontario, with her family.

Monthly Reading Wrap Up – July!

July was an emotional and happening month for me, to be honest. There were so many internal decisions that I had to make and so many realisations about myself that I came across, and if nothing, it’s been a month of learning. Well, moving on from the sappy things, July was a total blast regarding reading. I managed to read 35 freaking books! THIRTY-FREAKING-FIVE! I cannot believe it myself either, oh my god. Most of them were eBooks though, and a few graphic novels (which were so fun!) and without further ado, let me tell you about all the books that I read last month!

1. In the Neighborhood of True | Goodreads

I read this for the blog tour organized by Algonquin team and this book is such an important read. Although I did feel a little bored at times, and the romance felt a tiny bit overwhelming, this book talked about anti-semitism in such a profound way. Really an important story!

2. Throwaway Girls | Goodreads

This thriller was one of my anticipated reads, considering it had LGBTQ rep and a great cover. But it disappointed me so much. The writing was stunning and the f/f relationship was so heartwarming but the story? The plot? Literally a downer.

3. Home before Dark | Goodreads

I buddy read this with my best bud @evelynhugosbicth and we had such a fun time discussing this haha. It was my first Riley Sager and I wasn’t disappointed. Sure, the ending wasn’t my favorite but it was such a greatly written book with the right amount of creep and thrill.

4. Ever After | Goodreads

This was a fun zombie/ post apocalypse sort of graphic novel and it was a quick read, so I really liked it. A small and fun tale about friendship in unlikely situations.

5. Sheets | Goodreads

OMG I loved this graphic novel so much. It was so darn cute, with such a cute ghost ahh! I adore Sheets and the illustrations and it is just the sweetest!

6. Mooncakes | Goodreads

This is a LGBTQ graphic novel with trans rep in its fantastic glory. I loved the adventure and the art and the sweetness of relationships between the characters! It was magical and beautiful.

7. Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me | Goodreads

Okay I did not really mean to relate to this graphic novel the way I did – ah! The sheer truth about toxic relationships and how we often tend to take those for love and keep holding on. The pink and faded grey/black color scheme of the illustrations was an added beauty. It is such a strong story filled with hope and a great moral.

8. Suicide Gyal | Goodreads

I got an early e-copy from Netgalley and the blurb sounded so good but I was a little bit disappointed with the story. It surely is an important story but I felt like the execution wasn’t good enough. I had a lot of struggle getting into the story and the getting a hang of the writing style. It is only the middle part full of action and thrill that I enjoyed, and then later it went down again. So yeah, good book but not my favorite.

9. Nimona | Goodreads

Another graphic novel that I absolutely loved! Nimona is about a shapeshifter who is equal parts funny and serious and just super amazing! This is such a heartwarming story about unlikely friendships and love of all kinds. Just, too good ok!

10. Well-behaved Indian Women | Goodreads

I got a chance to read an e-arc of this book for Nerd Daily and I related to it so much. Having all the Indian rep, it was so fun reading this book – about the women in society and their struggles they have to go through, about love and career and everything in between. Surely, it had its missing points and at times, became a little jumbled, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

11. My Riot | Goodreads

I got approved for an early copy of this graphic novel about following your dreams and being yourself. It is about a band and music and teens finding their ground. The story was good but towards the end, it just became too fast and a little unrealistic. Not my favorite book of the month but it was quick and fun, though.

12. Through the Woods | Goodreads

This was one creepy collection of five dark tales. I enjoyed most of them, the illustrations adding a whole range of darkness and thrill to the reading experience.

13. The Turn of the Key | Goodreads

Okay I was really excited to read this book but I was – umm – disappointed? I was honestly expecting so much more from this book but the way the story unfolded wasn’t my favorite. Sure, it had its creepy moments and spine-tingling horror elements, but ultimately the end just ruined it for me. It wasn’t bad, but just – I don’t know – I didn’t like it enough.

14. Thornhill | Goodreads

This book was so creepy! Part illustrations and part text, this was one thrilling story. I read it after midnight and that added more thrill to my reading experience. It is a story about a young girl uncovering the story of the ghost of a girl she sees next door. It was also so hard to read because of the inflicted abuse and the bullying. It is a dark story, but surely a great one.

15. Heartstopper vol. 1 | Goodreads

Can I say that I absolutely love Nick and Charlie and Alice Oseman’s illustrations? Because I FREAKING DO!! I loved loved loved this book so much – it is uber cute and so beautiful!

16. Heartstopper vol. 2 | Goodreads

It would be right for me to say that this volume of Heartstopper totally stole my heart. Yes. Volume 2 was just all of adorableness and softness and cuteness merged into one ahh! I loved this so much. I remember having a wide smile on my face throughout.

17. Heartstopper vol. 3 | Goodreads

While this was adorable and cute and so full of love and importance, I thought some of the scenes and dialogues were too repetitive. However, the setting of Paris and vacation was adorable and couldn’t be more perfect. But it ended on such a cliffhanger and I – ahh!

18. Bloom | Goodreads

Another sweet, queer and coming of age graphic novel. The story was so heartwarming and all the baking mentioned made me simply drool. This was a really fun graphic novel to read through!

19. The Prince and the Dressmaker | Goodreads

Oh my, this wholesome and precious book! Glamorous and heartwarming and beautiful – this graphic novel is one of a kind. A prince who secretly rocks amazing gowns hires a stellar dressmaker for themselves. But all the fun and glory come to a sudden halt when the Prince’s secret is found out by everyone. It is just so cute and tells a stunning story about loving a person for themselves and who they are, about loving through the darkest times. I loved it so much.

20. Inebriated | Goodreads

Again, another that I was looking forward to, given that this story dealt with addiction. But I felt that the story was very sloppy and poorly executed. It felt all over the place and some aspects really made me so mad. I’m glad that the end was at least better and believable. Honestly, this story had a lot of potential.

21. Fate of Eight | Goodreads

Ah another book that made me want to bang my head on the wall. No kidding. This was promised as a prophesied thriller sort of story but hello, where was the thrill? Where was the murder that was promised in the blurb? I swear, the author took up 90% of the book to explain the characters and why they were that way, and relating them to each other. the murder/ thriller part of the book happened only in the last couple of pages and then was closed as fast as it started. The writing was also so sloppy, I cannot even. I only liked that all the loose ends and characters got a very good connection at the end.

22. The Last Time I Lied | Goodreads

I picked up my second Riley Sager and to say the least, I was a little disappointed with this book. This story is set in a summer camp and keeps switching between the past and present, forming a highly suspenseful setting and story. I liked it, really did, until it came to the ending. Ah, that was not what I was expecting and somewhat ruined it for me? Like, it was just bland and did not match up the whole build up.

23. This is How it Always is | Goodreads

I read this book for my @underratedreadsbookclub and wow, such an important book this is. I feel like this is a book that needs to be displayed in libraries and be read by children and parents alike. A heartwarming story about a young boy who wants to dress up and be a young girl, and a story about all that the family goes through to make them feel accepted. It is wholly precious and an important read that I’ll recommend over and over!

24. I’m Thinking of Ending Things | Goodreads

Netflix is apparently bringing this book to screens and I cannot wait to see how they pull it off AHH! This story is so creepy and weird and just spot on mind-fuckery. I enjoyed it and all the weird stuff happening and the characters were just so weird and then came the ending that I wasn’t really expecting. Holy shit! It was such a blow on our faces, not kidding!

25. The Tea Dragon Society | Goodreads

A fun and light graphic novel about tea dragons which was too cute! It is, I felt, also a story with the moral of never losing your cultures and opening to new experiences. So sweet, and the illustrations were adorable.

26. The Tea Dragon Festival | Goodreads

This was a follow up to The Tea Dragon Society, and although the illustrations were very adorable, I don’t think I enjoyed it that much. But I loved it for the representation of a POC character and use of sign language! It was really good.

27. Today is a Little too Precious | Goodreads

This is a collection of poems full of hope and brightness. All of the poems are connected and talk about memories and taking pride of your current progress. It was a heartfelt read, quick and hopeful.

28. The Switch| Goodreads

I listened to the audiobook and it was such an experience ah! I loved the narrators and the story as a whole. It was full of important and heavy themes that the author dealt with so gently and in a precise way. It also dealt very well with mental health, I believe, and healing from trauma. I enjoyed the story throughout!

29. Dark Tales | Goodreads

My first Shirley Jackson and I now know what to expect from her. These collection of short yet creepy tales are surely very unsettling. They are not horror in the scary boo! way, but more in an everyday thrill and creepy way. They are stories that will make your skin scrawl and leave you with a sour taste after you’ve completed a story. Jackson doesn’t outrightly give you the whole story and leaves it up for interpretation, and that is an amazing aspect. I enjoyed most of the stories and they surely were fantastically written.

30. Cabin at the End of the World | Goodreads

This book has been marketed as one of the most horrific and scary books. And what did I find? a disappointing read and story that made me want to sleep and just throw away my phone. It wasn’t horror or scary at all and I felt too bored. There was no story, whatsoever. I really was intrigued by the beginning but then it just turned out to be a cult novel, which had a very poor storyline.

31. Super Fake Love Song | Goodreads

I got an e-arc of this book from Edelweiss and honestly, I wasn’t expecting to love the book this much. It is full of music, of fandom and geek, of science and romance and family and friendship. I enjoyed the voice of the MC and the writing style was stunning. The story kept me engaged, and the pop cultural references made it a whole lot enjoyable. Our MC Sunny is an adorable dork and I absolutely loved him!

32. The Shadows | Goodreads

A very well done and creepy thriller. I listened to the audiobook, thanks to Netgalley, and it was a great experience. The story was very well crafted, the characters having their own unique personalities, and although it was narrated in first person, the author did a commendable job in showing the other characters’ emotions well too. I loved the way it played with the theme of lucid dreaming; it was clever.

33. Fangs | Goodreads

I got this copy from Netgalley and read it on a whim because it sounded cute and different. I mean, it was cute and different but it was just so random. Fangs is a love story between a vampire and a werewolf, and literally every page has a random interaction or scene between the two. It was funny but it was so random, and ended as fast as it had begun. Haha! Perfect for a quick read.

34. The House in the Cerulean Sea | Goodreads

Oh my God, this has to be one of the most adorable and educating and important books I’ve read in a while. I was filled with joy while reading this story, about the little kids in Marsyas and Linus and Arthur. It was such a great book about being open to perceptions and letting go of stereotypes and prejudices. Sure, at times I felt that certain things got repeated but it was still such an enjoyable read full of characters that you will end up wanting to adopt. And the ending!!

35. With or Without You | Goodreads

This is a story about changing relationships and the plight of people when they want to go their own ways. I think it meant to be a moving story but I felt a little detached from the story, to be honest. It felt forced – the dialogues and the scenes – and the huge time jumps made it a bit difficult for me to follow through. And I felt like the story was a little jumbled up, and I wasn’t so fond of certain relationships in the story and the way they turned out. Despite that, I think it has a strong message to tell, that sometimes relationships change and people change and you cannot do anything about it.

Phew! That was one long list, wasn’t it? I have never done a monthly wrap up before so I don’t know if I did it right, but there you go anyway. Looking at this list, I think I did have a lot of disappointing reads from last month, sheesh. But a lot of precious ones too. My favorites from last month has to be

  • Heartstopper,
  • The House in the Cerulean Sea,
  • Super Fake Love Song,
  • The Prince and the Dressmaker!

I truly loved these books so much and I think I’ll remember them for some time.
Tell me about your favorite read from last month! Find any favorite from this list?

Interview with Rachel Lynn Solomon – author of Today Tonight Tomorrow, Our Year of Maybe and You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone

Hello book lovers! Today I have a very special interview with one of my favorite authors, Rachel Lynn Solomon! Her new book Today Tonight Tomorrow comes out today and if you enjoy enemies-to-lovers trope as well as #ownvoices stories, this is definitely a book for you. Check out my review here.

Read on for some fun questions, book recommendations, writing tips and Rachel’s favorite tropes!

1. Before we start, would you like to tell us how have you been? How has this whole pandemic been on your side of the world, and how have you been keeping up in quarantine?

That’s so kind of you to ask—I hope you’ve been holding up okay too. It’s been tough and there’s a lot I miss, especially with a book about to release, but overall I’m extremely fortunate to still be able to work. I’m grateful for that and for deadlines keeping me focused.

2. Today Tonight Tomorrow is such a heartfelt book that takes into its cusp so many important topics relevant today – like the whole taboo surrounding the romance genre as well as anti-Semitism that is still prevalent. And there was such a great balance with all these underlying themes; you have managed to show us how reading romance shouldn’t be a guilty pleasure and at the same time, also given us a glimpse of Jewish traditions. For aspiring writers, what would suggest when stringing in multiple themes into one story? How do you keep the whole balance and give screen to all of them without overwhelming the overall story?

This is an interesting question because this is actually something my editor and I tackled during revisions! Initially, I had too many threads that all felt like they carried equal weight, and my editor wanted me to pick one as the main thread with regard to Rowan’s personal growth. That thread became her desire for perfection and how she fears real life won’t match up with what she’s imagined. As far as everything else, sometimes I’ll make a list of my chapters and mark where a certain theme is discussed, which makes it easy to isolate those threads and make sure I’m giving attention to the right ones.

3. It is a believed fact that writers often leave parts of themselves in their stories. If this is true, how much of yourself do you find in Rowan or your other characters? Also, from all of your books, who was your favorite character to write and why? (I know this is difficult to choose, but just one that somehow stands out for you?)

Absolutely! There’s a piece of myself in all my characters. Rowan has a lot of my insecurities and fears about the future, and she’s also a huge over-thinker, as am I. She’s been my favorite character to write because she’s just so optimistic, and she loves so fiercely, especially when she finally stops keeping that love a secret. It was also a tremendous amount of fun to write her gradually realizing her feelings for Neil—feelings that horrify her at first.

4. T3 talks extensively about romance novels and the taboo that surrounds it in the readers community. And honestly, I have faced this too, seen how romances are dismissed for being a ‘useless’ genre. As a reader and a writer, have you face this in real life?

Yes, unfortunately. Rowan as an aspiring romance author was drawn partially from my experience as a YA author. The interests of teens and women are so readily dismissed by the media, and I know so many YA authors (myself included) who’ve been asked when we’re going to start writing “real” books. So writing Rowan was cathartic in that sense because I was able to unpack a lot of the ways we’re conditioned to think something is “lesser” simply because it’s marketed to women.

5. What was your inspiration behind T3?

I was inspired by two different movies! The first was Before Sunrise, a movie where two characters meet on a train and spend a day together in Vienna, exploring the city and falling in love. The second was Dazed and Confused, which I watched for the first time in 2017, and while it has some problematic elements, it does an amazing job capturing all the nostalgia and excitement of the last day of senior year. Today Tonight Tomorrow combines the love story of Before Sunrise with the atmosphere of Dazed and Confused.

6. T3 is an #ownvoices story, if I’m not wrong. At this crucial time, as a writer, would you like to highlight on the importance of such stories and why as readers, it is important that we read them more often too?

Yes, my main characters are Jewish, as am I. There are still so few YA novels by Jewish authors featuring Jewish characters—only about a dozen traditionally published each year. For the longest time, I only saw Jewish characters in World War II books, and it’s so important to see Jewish characters in contemporary books just living their lives. Anti-Semitism is something a lot of us deal with regularly, and it felt important for Rowan and Neil to confront that as well. Romantic comedies give us this comfortable, familiar framework that enables us to tackle difficult topics like that.

7. Rom-coms are your niche and Rowan is a big lover of romance novels. We would like to know, what are some of your favorite romance novels?

  • Love Lettering by Kate Clayborn
  • A Duke by Default by Alyssa Cole
  • The Hating Game by Sally Thorne
  • Beautiful Secret by Christina Lauren
  • Vision in White by Nora Roberts (also Rowan’s favorite romance novel 😁)

8. If not romance, which genre would you like to write?

That’s tough! Romance is the majority of what I read these days, so I feel my reading habits would have to drastically change as well. I do enjoy mysteries and thrillers, and I’d love to try my hand at one someday!

9. It is true that every book you write and publish holds a different meaning for you. How was T3 different from your debut? Also, was the ending of T3 different from the final version and if yes, how?

With this book, I really wanted to write something that would bring readers joy. My first two books were a bit heavier, and I wrote this one while going through a difficult time. It was always so much fun to be able to escape into this book. And yes, while the endings of my first two books changed throughout revisions, this one has always ended this way!

10. As an aspiring writer, the thoughts of my draft and writing not being good enough is always a recurring one that never leaves. As someone who had written and published such amazing books, do you go through these thoughts of uncertainty and doubt too? And if yes, how do you tackle them?

All the time. The anxiety and doubt never fully goes away—it just morphs. The best advice I can give is to make sure you have people you can be 100 percent honest with about your anxiety, people who won’t judge you but who will give you a loving kick when you need it. It’s also okay to take breaks when it gets especially tough. The other piece of advice I come back to is that I can’t improve as a writer unless I actually write. Even if my first draft is terrible—which they often are—I can’t make it better unless I have that first draft to begin with. Try to turn off that inner editor and just focus on what you love about what you’re working on!

11. Your next book is an adult enemies to lovers story. What are some of your favorite tropes to read in novels (it’d be nice if you could recommend some of your favorite books with this trope)?

Enemies to lovers is definitely my favorite trope! I also love second chance romance, forbidden love, fake dating, age gap, and forced proximity. Some books with these tropes:

  • You Deserve Each Other by Sarah Hogle (enemies to lovers, second chance romance)
  • To Have and to Hoax by Martha Waters (second chance romance)
  • Alisha Rai’s Forbidden Hearts series (forbidden love)
  • The Worst Best Man by Mia Sosa (enemies to lovers, fake dating, forced proximity)
  • The Real Deal by Lauren Blakely (fake dating)
  • Something to Talk About by Meryl Wilsner (age gap)

12. Apart from The Ex Talk, you’ve hinted at two more books coming out later next year and another the year after. If possible, could you give us a small hint of what these two books would be?

The Ex Talk, my first adult book, is a romantic comedy set in the world of public radio! It’ll be out February 2021. And then I have another YA coming out next summer, a romantic comedy about a teen wedding harpist disillusioned with love and a cater-waiter who’s a hopeless romantic forced to work the same weddings over the course of a summer. In 2022, I’ll be releasing a second adult book, and all I can share about it for now is that it’s another journalism workplace romcom!

Thank you so much for having me, Kajree!

About Today Tonight Tomorrow

Today Tonight Tomorrow | Goodreads

Today, she hates him.
It’s the last day of senior year. Rowan Roth and Neil McNair have been bitter rivals for all of high school, clashing on test scores, student council elections, and even gym class pull-up contests. While Rowan, who secretly wants to write romance novels, is anxious about the future, she’d love to beat her infuriating nemesis one last time.

Tonight, she puts up with him.
When Neil is named valedictorian, Rowan has only one chance at victory: Howl, a senior class game that takes them all over Seattle, a farewell tour of the city she loves. But after learning a group of seniors is out to get them, she and Neil reluctantly decide to team up until they’re the last players left—and then they’ll destroy each other.
As Rowan spends more time with Neil, she realizes he’s much more than the awkward linguistics nerd she’s sparred with for the past four years. And, perhaps, this boy she claims to despise might actually be the boy of her dreams.

Tomorrow…maybe she’s already fallen for him.

About Rachel Lynn Solomon | Website

Rachel Lynn Solomon writes, tap dances, and collects red lipstick in Seattle, Washington. She is the author of the YA novels You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone, Our Year of Maybe, and the forthcoming Today Tonight Tomorrow. Her debut adult romantic comedy, The Ex Talk, will be published in spring 2021.

In high school, Rachel sang and played keyboard in an all-girl band, and she was once part of a group of people who broke a Guinness World Record for the most natural redheads in one place.

She has written for newspapers, produced a radio show that aired in the middle of the night, and worked for NPR. Currently she works as a freelance editor. Rachel has been a Pitch Wars mentor since 2014 and currently serves on the Pitch Wars leadership committee.

Today Tonight Tomorrow review – a heartwarming story about romance novels, friendship, family and culture, and the last day of high school

Before I begin, I’d like to say grateful I’m to be a part of Rachel’s street team and getting a chance to read this book early on and get numerous behind the scenes updates.

Now, moving on to the review – ah, I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed this book. The enemies-to-lovers trope is one that I tend to stay away from because I often find myself being underwhelmed by them. Naturally, I was wary of going into the book. But it passed all of my expectations and became one of my favorite books I read this year.

It is the last day of high school and the last chance for Rowan to win against her all-time competitor, Neil. But when Neil takes away class valedictorian, Rowan is slightly crushed. In the game of Howl that starts later that day, the last game for the whole graduating class for a prize, Rowan and Neil team up and realize their emotions and truth that they have been holding back for so long.

I must say, the story grabbed my attention from the beginning itself, with the witty way it began. Rowan has a distinctive competitive voice and you cannot help but like her. Her drive to do better and her aspirations are something most of us will relate to. Rowan is a romantic at heart and just like all of us readers, she too dreams of a perfect romance and also wishes to be a romance writer someday. But deep inside is fear of not being accepted, the general perception of the romance genre as a whole that pulls her back and makes her keep her love for romance novels a secret. And it surely doesn’t help that her parents are popular authors. Rowan, as I said, is a very relatable character. She is clumsy and yet brave and loveable. I loved how well the author showed us Rowan’s emotions and her dilemmas.

Talking about her competitor who she assumes to very much dislike 🤪, Neil is an absolute sweetie and I’m sure you’ll love him from the start. Neil’s snarky and sarcastic comments and his texts with Rowan truly added more color to the story. Through these text exchanges, we could see the level of comfort that these two characters were at with each other and how well they knew each other too. Neil is more like a soft boy but also outspoken and charming. His character story was adorable; I loved the scene where he and Rowan go to his house and she meets his mother. It was sweet and fun.

Rachel’s writing is really fun to read and it is definitely a page-turner. The various throwbacks added the much-needed depth to the relationships and gave us readers an insight into the characters’ relations too.

The whole concept of the game of Howl, a sort of a treasure hunt through the city, was a great addition to the storyline. I think it added so much to the growth of Rowan and Neil’s characters as we saw them teaming up and getting to know each other better for one last time. It was also where we see the two of them accepting their flaws and talents, and being vulnerable with each other so it was super cute! The game of Howl, if I had to be honest, was a bit unbelievable. It went on for hours and the kids were all scavenging through the city. It was fun to read but a bit unrealistic. And yes, I did feel like some parts were a tad bit dragged – like in the middle when Rowan and Neil seek help from his friend and at the end after everything ends.

What I loved the most about this book was the little themes of importance and its representation. Today Tonight Tomorrow is an #OwnVoices Jewish book and Rachel tackles the theme of anti-Semitism really well. Rowan and Neil are both Jewish and through them, you get to see a small glimpse of their culture as well as the racism that they have to face. It was the little comments and gestures that mattered so much, and that was well portrayed in the story. That said, T3 is also a big nod to being proud of whatever you read and write. It is true that the romance genre as a whole is so under-looked and considered to be less of a genre. This is something that makes Rowan feel guilty of her pleasures, which makes her hide her books. But Rachel did a commendable job here to show that you should never be guilty of anything that brings you pleasure (I mean, of course as long as it is not violent) and that you shouldn’t be ashamed of enjoying romance novels. That was really a sweet message and an important one, I believe.

T3 is set in Seattle and the author takes us on a beautiful journey through the city. All the while that I was reading, I had an aching desire to visit all the places that were mentioned and experience the story for my own self. The Ferris Wheel and bench scenes were some of my favorites, and they both hold utter importance in the story. There are so many little scenes that hold so much importance to the story, and I really adore Rachel for writing it out so smoothly. Not anywhere did I feel that the scenes or dialogues were forced and clustered. All of the scenes were really beautiful and added glitter to the story.

I totally enjoyed that happy ending. It was heartfelt and wholesome and so raw. The complexity of emotions was something that we saw in Rowan, and we saw her grow. Sure, it is set in the time frame of a day but the characters do have recognizable growth. Rowan came to terms with the reality and that sometimes you need to break free from your fantasies, that you shouldn’t forget to cherish your friends. Rachel truly brought in all the emotions of leaving high school, realizing that you are suddenly growing up, and the importance of cherishing friendships and family all in the span of twenty-four hours and a few hundred pages, and that was extremely splendid!

Today Tonight Tomorrow is a heartwarming story about high school and romance and breaking free from hard norms. It is equal parts humorous and exquisite, one that will make you giddy and happy and definitely make you want to right away fly to Seattle.

Today, she hates him.
It’s the last day of senior year. Rowan Roth and Neil McNair have been bitter rivals for all of high school, clashing on test scores, student council elections, and even gym class pull-up contests. While Rowan, who secretly wants to write romance novels, is anxious about the future, she’d love to beat her infuriating nemesis one last time.

Tonight, she puts up with him.
When Neil is named valedictorian, Rowan has only one chance at victory: Howl, a senior class game that takes them all over Seattle, a farewell tour of the city she loves. But after learning a group of seniors is out to get them, she and Neil reluctantly decide to team up until they’re the last players left—and then they’ll destroy each other.
As Rowan spends more time with Neil, she realizes he’s much more than the awkward linguistics nerd she’s sparred with for the past four years. And, perhaps, this boy she claims to despise might actually be the boy of her dreams.

Tomorrow…maybe she’s already fallen for him.

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