Author Interview With Isabel Ibañez {Woven In Moonlight}

Hey everyone! Its been over a few months since I attended Yallwest 2019 and I’m thrilled to finally share, that I had the opportunity to interview 2020 YA Fantasy debut author: Isabel Ibañez!! 🎉✨

Her debut Woven In Moonlight is set to be released January 7, 2020 and we chatted all about the inspiration behind her story, its different layers, characters and other parts of her story that she’s looking forward to sharing with readers! (Thanks again Isabel 💕)

This interview was done during Fierce Reads Friday at Yallwest on May 3, 2019!

Here’s Isabel to talk a little more about Woven In Moonlight:

“My debut is a Bolivian political-fantasy and it’s about a decoy Condesa who infiltrates this corrupt monarchy and she sends coded messages back to the rebels through her weaving. So, she uses celestial magic and undergoes an experience unlike any she’s ever been taught or known!”

When talking about the inspiration behind her debut, she mentioned that she never really saw herself represented in any of the books she read―“I mean, [reading about] a South-American character would have been fabulous, but I never did…” 

“I really wanted to write someone that looks like me, understood my culture, the importance of family and so, I wanted someone to share that perspective and worldview that I had while growing up…”

Secondly, she discussed how the political climate in Bolivia is complicated and dangerous, so the antagonist is heavily inspired by the current president/dictator. She “wanted to write and tell this story because it’s not really talked about…”

Next, we discussed the elements of Bolivian culture within her novel and I asked Ibañez if there were any, that while writing, she thought “yes, this has to be in the story!”

“I love food and I love the experiences that are centered around sharing a meal. Bolivia has such wonderful, wonderful dishes and recipes, so all of those foods that I enjoyed eating with my family ended up in Woven In Moonlight!”

Alongside that, Woven In Moonlight is also heavily inspired by the “food, clothing, and the Bolivian history as well. Your going to find snippets of that in the story woven throughout (pun intended 😂✨).”

Ibañez and I then discussed what it meant for her to create this fantasy world inspired by a country that hasn’t really been represented in YA Fantasy before:

“It’s amazing to me that there could be a story that can touch people in this country because growing up Bolivian in the US, I ran into a variety of people from Spanish-speaking countries, but I didn’t often run into a Bolivian. So when I started getting sweet emails from readers who had some sort of relationship with Bolivia (either from there, lived there, or had a relative whose from there), it was astounding that there were people here who had that kind of connection to Bolivia and hopefully, this book reaches them!

I hope they can find and see themselves in this story and that really matters to me.”

Woven In Moonlight is a standalone fantasy novel and it does have a “satisfying ending”  but Ibañez shared that she does leave many threads open! With that said, it was announced on June 21 that Ibañez will be returning to the fantasy kingdom she created  within Woven In Moonlight in 2021 with a spin-off!

If your anticipating Woven In Moonlight, she also discussed some elements of the story that she’s looking forward to see readers explore throughout her story:

“I love YA and I’ve read so many books that center around a revolution, and this idea of fighting for a type of republic/democracy that benefits everyone. We’ve seen those books, I’ve bought those books, read them and loved them. So, I’m looking forward to see readers excited about a revolution story that’s happening in real time, in Bolivia.

If you read the book very closely and do a bit of research with the current Bolivian politics, you might see some parallels.”

Woven In Moonlight by Isabel IbañezNext we talked about her cover! If you didn’t know, it was announced back in March that Isabel would be designing her own book cover and as of June 6, the cover for Woven In Moonlight has been revealed via Hypable!

“My editor reached out to me asking if I knew of any Bolivian artists I could contract for the cover and I happened to be an artist/illustrator + greeting card designer by day! So I sent her my portfolio and I’m excited that they went ahead and trusted me with so much of the book. There was so much support, encouragement, and the fact that they even asked (wanting a Bolivian artist to do the cover) just meant so much to me!

They were doing everything they could to step-up in regards to representation, support, and encouragement for this book!”

Next we talked about the main character of Woven In Moonlight, Ximena, who has the unique ability to spin thread from moonlight. In doing so, she’s able to use this power to help the resistance. Ibañez delved a little more into her inspirations for Ximena’s rare ability.

“In Bolivia, the tradition of weaving tapestries, blankets, pouches, bags, that is a long-standing tradition, its beautiful, bright, and colorful! These women who work the loom are absolutely talented and many of us learn how to weave. Its such a Bolivian art form…I’m a weaver and I wanted to give Ximena something that felt very Bolivian, something I knew intimately well, also as an artist I think there is something so beautiful about being able to create something by hand and have this piece of art you’ve created. Using your imagination and a skill set handed down to you–I really wanted Ximena to have that. Also because I love fantasy, I wanted to infuse her ability with something special. In Bolivia, there are a group of people who still respect and worship different deities, that they’ve inherited from their Incan ancestors, so I wanted to honor that as well!”

“When I was thinking of what kind of ability Ximena could have, I was inspired by Pachamama (Incan goddess of the earth). I also thought about not going downward, but up and that’s how I picked that type of magic…”

I then chatted with Ibañez about the elements of Woven In Moonlight she had the most fun developing!

“I loved creating Ximena! She’s named after my mother and she’s someone who is fierce, loyal, incredibly brave, and outspoken. So, I wanted to create this character out of love and respect for my mother, but also because I’ve always been fascinated by her courage! Ximena came really easily to me because I felt I really knew her–so that was a lot of fun!”

To conclude our interview, Ibañez shared her final thoughts on why readers should check out Woven In Moonlight:

“If you love food, magic, kissing, adventure, stories about girls who are flawed and whose reactions aren’t perfect, are still growing, confronting and called out for their mistakes, I think you should check out Woven In Moonlight! Plus, did I mention there’s lots of good food?”

Also, as part of Isbael’s Inkasisa Street Team for WIM I wanted to share the wonderful pre-order campaign going on! Here’s some of the awesome swag that’ll be included:

Woven In Moonlight bookmark, print, sticker, annotated PDF of Chapter 1, and there’ll be special grand prizes! All the info/details can be found on her Instagram post here!
(*To show support for the street team too, if you find yourself pre-ordering please include this code in your email INKASISA07)

Are you looking forward to Woven In Moonlight? 🌙✨

Author Interview With Lauren Shippen {The Infinite Noise + Being A Podcast Creator}

During Yallwest 2019 which ran from May 3-4, I had the opportunity to interview podcast Lauren Shippen Author Interview Infinite Noisecreator and debut author: Lauren Shippen!

Her upcoming novel The Infinite Noise is the first book in a trilogy, which will focus on different characters based on her science-fiction audio drama podcast, The Bright Sessions!

For those who don’t know, The Bright Sessions can best be described as people with superpowers going to therapy― however it goes much more beyond that, actively discussing/exploring mental health and featuring a diverse cast of characters.

The Infinite Noise is set to be released September 24 and as a big fan of TBS, I’m honored to have had the chance to chat with her all about her upcoming book and of course, podcasts (thanks Lauren💞)!

This interview took place on the last day of Yallwest on May 4! Here’s Lauren sharing The Infinite Noise by Lauren Shippenwhat The Infinite Noise is all about:

“It’s a dual-perspective story about two boys in high school who are grappling with different types of mental health issues. We have Adam who’s a run-of-the-mill kid in a a lot of ways…he’s a little bit nerdy, lonely, struggles with depression, he’s gay and feels a lot like an outcast from the world. Then on the other hand we have Caleb who seems like the sort of classic football jock, but he’s actually dealing with supernatural empathy. He has extreme empathy, which means he can feel the feelings of others around him at all times. [The Infinite Noise] is about the two of them meeting and learning more about each other and themselves…”

In the world of The Bright Sessions, there are everyday people with supernatural abilities called Atypicals. The series focuses on a unique group of therapy patients who are in-fact Atypical. Told via audio recordings (mainly therapy sessions), we learn more about their mysterious therapist Dr. Joan Bright and her patients, who are all trying to better understand themselves and their abilities.

An interesting fact Shippen shared as to why the story was framed that way, was that she was originally the one sound-designing. She felt it would make sense to give an in-world reason as to why the recordings would be “lo-fi.” That set up the narrative framing early on in the show, and added a good sense of mystery as to why Dr. Bright was recording these sessions. However, eventually  Shippen broke off that format around the last few seasons and especially in her spin-off series, The AM Archives.

Its obvious that fans of the podcast are incredibly excited for the release of Shippen’s novel, however we delved into specifics when it came to those who maybe haven’t yet listened to The Bright Sessions and whether they can still get into The Infinite Noise as a standalone. She even went on to discuss a little bit more about the timeline of this novel (with the podcast having already been completed at this point):

“Definitely, yes! There are certain Easter eggs that listeners will find and enjoy, but it very much is intended to be an introduction into the world…”

Shippen also mentioned that the The Infinite Noise “starts a little bit before the podcast…” to build on that introduction for readers who haven’t heard of The Bright Sessions. While listeners will be familiar with the already established world-building, she hopes it’ll be done in a new way that doesn’t necessarily “[retread] old territory” for listeners looking to get into the book.

We even discussed more of the specifics when it came to the timeline of The Infinite Noise and how it compares to that of The Bright Sessions:

“The Infinite Noise is more true to about the first 26 episodes of the show…there are also scenes lifted directly from the podcast and expanded upon, however for future books there’ll definitely be a looser timeline…”

Within this trilogy, she will delve more into the head space of specific Atypicals and this first novel will focus on Caleb Michaels! I then asked what inspired her to delve more into his story and how she knew his story would kick-off the trilogy:

“I actually think that the reason this one was the first book and the one I wanted to tell, was that I wanted to get that non-Atypical side of the world through Adam’s story/perspective…”

Half of the novel (Adam’s perspective) is something listeners never really get to hear in the podcast and this was Lauren’s opportunity to delve more into his character!

Shippen mentioned that the early ideas of this novel actually began getting written in 2015 (when the podcast first aired). She discussed more about what writing this novel meant for her characters as the podcast was still on-going at this time:

“As I was working out Caleb’s story, [I knew] we only heard his voice in the podcast initially. Adam eventually became a character, but he was never intended to be a voiced character in the show. I wanted to do 2 things as an exercise: figure out how Caleb’s empath ability functions and get more into Adam’s head (because Caleb was spending so much of sessions talking about Adam and his connection with him).

Initially, I even shared the first couple of chapters with the actors who play Caleb and Adam (Briggon Snow & Alex Gallner) and since the book tracked closely with the first few seasons of the podcast, it didn’t feel like too much of a departure…”

Next, I asked her what delving more into both Caleb and Adam was like and what she wanted to focus on in this first book. Additionally, how being a big fan of love stories offered her inspiration on how to explore The Infinite Noise:

“The realities of having someone close to you who can feel all your feelings, [what would that be like?] I wanted to explore both the struggles and vulnerabilities in that.

I suppose this isn’t really a spoiler, but I love love stories and reading them! So, being able to tell those 2 sides, their clumsy romance through their perspectives to see what the other is thinking, making assumptions, and all that miscommunication seemed like something super fun to dig into…”

Shippen then discussed her writing process and how she approached this change when going from a script format to prose:

“It was certainly very different! I did find myself getting lost in the prose at times, because when compared to a script format, its all dialogue―for the audio medium you don’t have to worry about setting up visuals. Though I don’t think its actually changed how I approach writing scripts, because in the back of my mind I’d always been thinking about what becomes the prose in a book: how the characters are sitting, standing, looking at one another― I always think about those things when getting into scripts anyways.

I think I became more specific in my imaginings, but I don’t think it actually shifted my script writing too much.

The Bright Sessions

I then asked her how exactly the timeline of The Bright Sessions influenced how she plotted this first book:

“Because this was a meet-cute story in a lot of ways, it had to take place in a specific part of the podcast…”

Shippen really wanted to focus on the Caleb and Adam relationship and through that she knew she wanted to tell the story of them getting to know each other and getting together!

I then asked her about the canon in that of the novel vs. podcast and it was fascinating to hear her discuss them both:

“I would say the “book canon” is sort of separate from that of the official podcast canon, which I would consider the true Bright Sessions universe…”

It was interesting to hear because in reality, through an audio drama (unless its stated within the audio), specifics such as appearance are never defined. So, Shippen discussed what it was like comparing the canons of both stories:

“There are certain elements being defined, like appearance. We’ve never really defined what anyone looks like in the show and I love that―giving people the freedom to imagine what they want to imagine. The fanart that’s come out of this series has been amazing. But, even as the show progressed I had this vision of what these characters look like, their backgrounds, etc. 

Getting more into these specifics was something I could only ever do in the books, because in the show its not something that can be done through dialogue.

However, because people already have established headcanons for what these characters look like, I don’t want people to think “oh, now knowing Caleb’s eyes are this color, I can’t make fan-art of him looking this way anymore”―No, I still want you to do that, you can still imagine however you want to imagine. So, with that I can say that the podcast is the truest form…”

The Bright Sessions podcast is known for its focus on mental health and delving into psychology (which is one of my many favorite aspects). So, I then asked Shippen if she found herself focusing on that in the novel or if she found the specifics in that translation from podcast to book as challenging:

“It’s actually a lot of the novel because throughout it, Caleb is in therapy, but its less of focus I would say. You know, so much of the conflict takes place in the therapy room and Dr. Bright having all these patients. Where for Caleb, its really much is just an element of his life, which is my intention. Because in the show (therapy) is such a driving force, within the novel I explore the idea that “Yes! This can be a part of your life, while you still have all these other things going on.”  So, its something you can use to check on things and figure something out…”

It was important for her to show this positive representation of therapy. Because it can be such an intrinsic part of our lives, she wanted it to be showcased in a different way, but still highlighting that its as much a part of the book as it is the podcast!

I then asked her if she ever found herself re-listening to the show or rereading scripts to get back into the headspace for the novel:

“It’s funny! I actually haven’t relistened to any Bright Sessions episodes since they were released, because by the time their released I’ve listened to hours and hours of them. I don’t sound-design them, but I do edit all the dialogue so I’m listening to the same lines I’ve recorded over and over again.

But, I did go back and re-read some of the scripts, especially since I needed to reference them for certain moments in the book. There’s been an instance where I would go back and listen to Briggon’s character on the podcast (or even call him) to get back into Caleb’s voice. Adam was someone who was very much like me in high school, so his voice was an easy one to hop into. Caleb overtime, has become a little different and increasingly overtime became a blend of Briggon and I…”

Then within the second part of our interview, I chatted with Lauren more about her background as a podcast creator. She’d been listening to 2 audio fiction shows, Welcome To Nightvale (which she mentioned has been many people’s entrance to the audio fiction world) and a BBC Radio For Comedy called Cabin Pressure:

“I  was really enjoying both of these shows a lot and thinking about stories that I wanted to tell, also making something I could have completely my own. So I thought “okay, here’s this [wide] spectrum of different ways of doing audio fiction…” I began thinking about characters, then the idea of including therapy came to me. It made sense for me to have it be 2-person conversations and go from there…”

There was also this one quote that really stuck with me throughout our interview when I asked if she started out wanting to have certain messages or ideas get across through her podcast of The Bright Sessions:

“I more think about the human stories I want to tell and telling them in a way that is interesting and authentic to me…”

Shippen then shared that if there was a message she wanted to get across as she developed the show, it was this:

“I think if there is one thing I wanted to communicate because this was the intention I had in making it is helping people feel less alone. That’s both from a character and audience perspective, what The Bright Sessions is really about is these people who feel very isolated, feel very different, and alone, then finding themselves, others, and realizing they don’t have to lonely…”

I then asked Shippen if there were any episodes in particular that we’re personal or memorable for her:

“Every episode is personal to me in some way, maybe not necessarily because I personally experienced it, but because of the way I approach in writing those scripts is coming from a genuine place. 

As for memorable, we did a musical episode for our 50th episode which was hugely memorable. The writing process was incredibly different for that and I worked with my composer Evan Cunningham on the songs. I also think the Season 3 Finale episodes 39 & 40 were hugely memorable because that was the first time we ever recorded in a professional studio (we’d be moving as the characters would and did 10 hours of straight recording).

Those remain as my favorite episodes of all time because everyone just knocked it out of the park!”

I then asked Shippen who her favorite characters in The Bright Sessions were, if she had to pick:

“That’s so hard, I really do love all of them because they’ve all surprised me in different ways. I think Mark is one of my favorites (& easiest) to write because he’s snarky and charming, very much in the same way that Damien is― and I loved writing their dynamic specifically.

Andrew Nowak and Charlie Ian who play Mark and Damien had such amazing chemistry that it went in directions none of us were expecting and it was wonderful! 

Similarly, Julia Morizawa and Ian McQuown who play Dr. Bright and Agent Green, have brought layers and depth to their characters in ways I didn’t expect, so exploring their characters and dynamic (which is a huge part of The AM Archives) has been so fun! 

In the end though, I really do love them all!”

Next we talked a bit more about any difficulties when it came to developing any part of The Bright Sessions world in particular and Shippen said that the hardest character to write from a mechanical perspective has been Chloe (the mind reader, voiced by Anna Lore):

Your always writing two conversations on top of each other. She’d be having a conversation with someone she’s talking to, but then she’s hearing their thoughts and responding to their thoughts.”

“When it comes to the mechanics of writing someone who’s reading everyone’s thoughts, that was very challenging…”

We then got into theorizing where podcasts would be headed in the future and Shippen shared that this is something the community and creators are often discussing:

“We’re definitely going to see more large studios getting into the medium…”

With the audience of podcasting growing, she shared that it wouldn’t be surprising to see these companies begin to create more of their own original content.

Shippen then explained that what you often see in television or film, can (and already is) finding its way to podcasting, for instance through subscriptions. The most recent example is that of Luminary, a podcast subscription app where listeners can find her continuation to The Bright Sessions world, The AM Archives!

“I’m sure we’ll also see a diversification in the way podcast and their creators are supported from listener support, ads, touring, merchandise because, not any one way is sustainable for all creators…” 

I’m thrilled to have had the chance to chat with Lauren about The Infinite Noise, her wonderful podcast The Bright Sessions and delve more into her work as a podcast creator! Its exciting to see this podcast coming to life in book form and I hope readers will check out her debut!

If you haven’t listened to The Bright Sessions, what are you waiting for? Do you love relatable and complex character-driven stories? An ensemble cast you’ll fall in love with? Superpowers? Then check out Lauren Shippen’s podcast! 

If you are a fan of TBS, also keep an eye out this week for a special giveaway of The Infinite Noise! 💡🎙✨

Are you looking forward to reading The Infinite Noise? Have you listened to The Bright Sessions podcast? 🎙📚❤

Author Interview With Astrid Scholte {Four Dead Queens}

Yallwest 2018 ran from May 4-5 and I had the opportunity to interview 2 upcoming debut authors: Maura Milan for her upcoming YA Sci-Fi Ignite The Stars and Astrid Scholte for her YA Fantasy Four Dead Queens!

Astrid ScholteFour Dead Queens is set to be released February 26, 2019!

Thanks again to Astrid for taking the time to chat with me in line during a Yallwest giveaway and for being my first interview of the day! I can’t wait to read Four Dead Queens!

*The interview also includes qs. post-Yallwest*

Q1: How has your Yallwest experience been so far?

Astrid: This is my first time being here and its been fantastic! I went to the Keynote which was amazing, with Tomi Adeyemi & Tami Pierce!

I went to the Penguin Teen booth, now I’m here, and I have a lot more that I want to see and do!

1a: Would you return again in the future?

Astrid: Absolutely! It’s only been a few hours and already I’m blown away! Its so exciting!

Q3: Are there any authors, books, or panels, you’ve been looking forward to?

Astrid: The Keynote! I was really looking forward to it and anything that’s fantasy based (I love fantasy ^_^), & Sabaa’s PM keynote!

Q4: Have you managed to get any book swag or ARCs?

Astrid: I have! Shout out to fellow Penguin Teen authors, its called Always Never Yours, I also met the authors and they were super nice!

Four Dead Queens/Writing Qs.

Q5: For those who haven’t heard of Four Dead Queens, can you tell us what its about?

Astrid: Four Dead Queens is a murder-mystery set in a fantasy world. Its a nation divided into four very distinct cultures and they are each ruled by a queen.

These queens then start being killed off one by one, so its a murder-mystery as to why they are being killed and what secrets they could possibly be hiding!

So the main character, Keralie, is trying to solve the riddle before its too late.

Q6: What inspired Four Dead Queens and in general, do you have any other writing inspirations?

Astrid: What inspired me, was mostly that I wanted to write and murder-mystery. I’ve always loved them, ever since I was a kid and I love fantasy!

So, I thought it would be unique to blend the two genres together!

I actually had a dream about a futuristic car flying past a carriage and wondered what sort of world would exist where these two very different technologies would be in parallel, so that was also a starting point.

Q7: With Four Dead Queens being YA Fantasy, do you have any favorite YA Fantasy books or authors?

Astrid: Absolutely! YA Fantasy is my favorite genre, I read a lot of it! My favorite is probably Leigh Bardugo (Six Of Crows duology) and Laini Taylor!

Sci-Fi-wise, because I love the blend of fantasy and sci-fi, I love Amie Kaufman!

Any kind of blockbuster sci-f or fantasy is my jam!

Q8: Is there a character from Four Dead Queens your excited for readers to meet?

Astrid: Yeah! I’m excited for readers to meet all the characters, but one that stands out is the character of Mackiel, he is really fun to write and I think readers will love to hate him 😅😂!!

Q9: With the world of Four Dead Queens being separated by four distinct quadrants, which would you say was your favorite to write about or explore?

Astrid: I think my favorite would have to be Ludia which is the entertainment quadrant. They focus on the fun and lightness of life.

I’m a kid at heart, so that one was really great to explore and develop!

Q10: Do you listen to any music when you write? If so, any songs you listened to while writing Four Dead Queens?

Astrid: I wish I could write to music! I’m one of those people who can only write in silence.

However, when I revise I can definitely listen to music. Anything without lyrics though such as movie soundtracks! I like listening to Disney, anything that is just to keep in the background.

Q11: With Four Dead Queens being a 2019 release, can you share a couple 2019 YA releases your looking forward to?

Astrid: I really want to read King Of Scars by Leigh Bardugo! Really looking forward to that one, as well as Tomi Adeyemi’s sequel to Children Of Blood And Bone, Children Of Vengeance And Virtue!

Four Dead Queens by Astrid ScholteQ12: As of June 1, Penguin Teen revealed the Four Dead Queens cover! What were your thoughts on the cover and overall, how did you feel when you first saw it?

Astrid: I absolutely LOVE the cover! I was blown away when I first saw it. You can see my
gobsmacked reaction when I first saw it on Instagram Here!

The cover is so beautiful, dramatic and also mysterious! It’s perfect for my book! I worked
with Penguin to make sure the crowns suited each of the queens and their regions and I
couldn’t be happier.

Q13: Four Dead Queens was also part of a galley drop during BEA/Book Con 2018 that the Penguin Teen booth was keep a secret throughout the day! How did you feel when you saw pictures of your ARC being featured & all the readers excited to get their hands on a copy?

Astrid: It was surreal! Penguin Teen told me about their idea when I visited New York a month earlier, and I thought it was genius! Of course, I wanted to tell everyone it was *my* book, but I had to stay silent.

When they finally revealed it as Four Dead Queens, I was able to share the news on Twitter and Instagram and watch the excitement unfold. I heard the ARC drop got a little intense as people tried to grab a copy, and that there was more security than Bill Clinton’s panel! I’m so lucky that people are excited to read my book and to have such a wonderful team at Penguin Teen supporting it!

Lightning Round Qs.

1.Can you describe your book in 3 words? Murder, Mystery, & Mayhem!

2.Go-to writing snack (or drink)? Peppermint Tea, its a must when I’m writing!

3.Current Read? The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw

5.Most anticipated 2018 YA Release? The sequel to Warcross, Wildcard!

6.Favorite YA Book of 2018 so far? Definitely Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone! I loved how cinematic it was and can’t wait to see the film adaptation! I’m also loving Legendary by Stephanie Garber, which I’m reading right now.

7.Can you describe your favorite kind of book in 3 words? I could say Four Dead Queens, as I put everything that I love about YA in it, but I won’t! 😉 If
I had to boil it down to three things, it would be fantasy, mystery and romance.

8.Plotter or Pantser? Pantser, 100%

Thanks again to Astrid for an awesome interview!

Are you looking forward to reading Four Dead Queens? ✨⚔👑

Not The Girls You’re Looking For by Aminah Mae Safi ARC Review

Not The Girls Your Looking For by Aminah Mae SafiNot The Girls You’re Looking For by Aminah Mae Safi

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Release Date: June 19, 2018

Pages: 336 (327 ARC)

Summary: Lulu Saad doesn’t need your advice, thank you very much. She’s got her three best friends and nothing can stop her from conquering the known world. Sure, for half a minute she thought she’d nearly drowned a cute guy at a party, but he was totally faking it. And fine, yes, she caused a scene during Ramadan. It’s all under control. Ish.

Except maybe this time she’s done a little more damage than she realizes. And if Lulu can’t find her way out of this mess soon, she’ll have to do more than repair friendships, family alliances, and wet clothing. She’ll have to go looking for herself.

*Received ARC through Yallwest*

My Rating: ★★★★☆ ½

My Thoughts: Not The Girls You’re Looking For is a YA Contemporary that explores with such complexity: friendships, love, family, and self-growth! Safi’s debut also seamlessly weaves in humor while navigating a complex and heavy topics!

Through a 3rd person POV, Safi’s debut centers around Leila “Lulu” Saad as she’s continuing to navigate her life + high school with her friends: Audrey, Lo, and Emma by her side!

But aside from high school there’s also family, friendships, and so many different facets to her life that are explored throughout the entire book! From the very beginning Lulu came to life on the page and with each and every moment, Safi continued to develop her character with so much depth!

I loved that there were just–so many different sides of Lulu’s life that are explored and seen throughout.

Friendship is a huge element of this book, obviously seen through Lulu and her core group of friends. As the friendship hits a few bumps along the way, it allows us to explore the complexities of it through Lulu’s eyes as she finds herself attempting to mend the conflict that has driven her friends apart.

Safi tackles the messy aspects of friendship in what I found to be an honest and complex way that is a big element to the story!

With Lulu a bit lost and unsure of how to mend and repair those bonds, it allowed for numerous amounts of page time of seeing Lulu’s complexity and the differing sides of her life!

It really allowed for me to connect to her even more and see her struggle to find a balance with various obstacles that appear as the story progresses.

Lulu was easily my favorite character of the entire book! She’s outgoing, reckless, sarcastic, and some would say “imperfect” but that’s what makes her such an incredible character!

She loves going out to parties, making out with guys, drinking + hanging out with her friends, etc. and I loved how she’s very outgoing and just always willing to have fun!

For me personally, at certain moments it definitely takes time to be very outgoing, but reading about Lulu and how confident she was, was just really inspiring and I just loved reading about a character who’s personality is different than mine but also very much like mine in ways too!

She is very much trying to find a space for herself, both as a biracial teen (white mother & Muslim + Iraqi father) finding where she fits in with her other family members, & overall just on her own.

I loved how Safi explored Lulu’s character and made it such a grounded element to the story!

Family is also a huge aspect to this book as Lulu confronts her uncertainties of her identity as she spends Ramadan with other family members and also explores the complex relationships/dynamics with them.

Additionally, I loved the sibling dynamics explored with her older brothers Ben & Reza. Though they aren’t present for the whole novel, their moments with Lulu are done so well as we see the sibling banter between them and as they try to help Lulu navigate the rift between her friends.

I also loved how integral her parents were! Her relationship with her mother and father is explored so well throughout the entire book. For me I did find the growth and development was slow and gradual and something that really took its time to develop and change, which I loved!

Also the way Safi crafted them as characters, their development/dynamic growth with Lulu and overall through Safi’s writing-style, they really did feel so real and I found them to be so memorable and real!

While there’s definitely memorable parents in YA Contemporary, there’s just something about Safi’s complex writing that added unique layers to Lulu’s parents, Aimee +Ahmed as well!

From family to friendship, Safi makes it clear that there’s so many differing sides and the dynamics and relationships we have with them aren’t just one sided and I loved how she explored that through her writing.

There’s also a character named James who Lulu finds herself falling for and I love how their relationship was developed! She finds herself really opening up to him over the course of the story before + after the obstacles with her friends arise!

She’s very outgoing + bold and it was great seeing that part of her shine through even more as she got to know him!

Plot-wise, it was very unique! There was never a moment where I knew where the plot was going and I found that made this reading experience so great!

From Lulu’s family life, school, celebrating Ramadan, etc. I loved the way Safi developed her plot while also making it both slow and fast paced & having work perfectly for the story!

Not The Girls You’re Looking For also discusses a number of complex/heavy subjects involving consent as it becomes a relevant topic to the overall story.

There’s just so much I loved about this book!! From the amazing focus on family and family dynamics that are so central to the story, importance of finding yourself, and the messy/complex dynamics of friendships!

Overall Not The Girls You’re Looking For is a must read YA Contemporary! It explores numerous topics from friendship, family, self identity, and so much more! Safi navigates the real and messy moments in life, while also balancing with the wonderful and memorable ones too!

Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl ARC Review

Neverworld Wake by Marisha PesslNeverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Release Date: June 5, 2018

Pages: 336 (324 ARC)

Summary: Once upon a time, back at Darrow-Harker School, Beatrice Hartley and her six best friends were the cool kids, the beautiful ones. Then the shocking death of Jim—their creative genius and Beatrice’s boyfriend—changed everything.

One year after graduation, Beatrice is returning to Wincroft—the seaside estate where they spent so many nights sharing secrets, crushes, plans to change the world—hoping she’ll get to the bottom of the dark questions gnawing at her about Jim’s death. But as the night plays out in a haze of stilted jokes and unfathomable silence, Beatrice senses she’s never going to know what really happened.

Then a mysterious man knocks on the door. Blithely, he announces the impossible: time for them has become stuck, snagged on a splinter that can only be removed if the former friends make the harshest of decisions. Now Beatrice has one last shot at answers… and at life.

And so begins the Neverworld Wake.

*Received ARC through Yallwest*

My Rating:★★★☆☆ ¾

My Thoughts: Neverworld Wake is a YA Contemporary which brilliantly blends mystery with science fiction! The development and uncertainty surrounding Neverworld Wake delivers so much to this intriguing mystery story, that is both haunting and thought-provoking!

Even as I’m writing this review, I am so torn on how I should rate Neverworld Wake! I’m leaving it at 3.75 though am conflicted on whether I should bump it up to a 4, because there were things I really loved/liked, and some things I wish could have been better.

Regardless, I really did find Neverworld Wake such an interesting story, that was a very interesting reading experience from start to finish! And I do hope to check out Pessl’s previous book Night Film at some point & her future books, because the way she crafted the mystery of Neverworld Wake was just so great!

I can’t remember exactly how I heard about this book, but from both the summary and eerie + haunting cover, this sounded like such a great mystery read!

Told through a first person POV, we follow Beatrice Hartley, who is spending the summer after her first year at college, working at her parent’s ice cream parlor.

However, when an opportunity arises for her to head to an estate (Wincroft) and reconnect with her best friends from boarding school after the passing of her boyfriend Jim Mason, she is hesitant at first, but believes it’ll finally allow her to find closure.

Then after a close call that almost causes a car crash, a mysterious man arrives explaining to them they are now a part of the Neverworld Wake.

And by the end, only one person can live.

What I really loved about this novel, was the mystery, development, and exploration of the Neverworld Wake. The complexities to it kept me so invested in the story!

It essentially gathered Beatrice, Whitley, Kip, Cannon, and Martha’s experiences/life events, etc. and it all blended together to create a Neverworld Wake, where they each relive the same day for a certain # of hours.

The exploration of the Neverworld with how it related to each of them, the mystery they were solving surrounding Jim’s death, the intricate time/space aspects etc. were all explored so well and delivered at such perfect times throughout the book , that it never felt info-dumped or under/overly-explained.

There was a perfect balance of information given about it to keep you guessing, but also on track with how it evolves throughout Neverworld Wake.

Because its told through a first person point of view, it was definitely easy for me to get a lot of character/internal development from Beatrice. It even allowed for the mystery and uncertainty of the story to deliver plot twists & the story in general, in a way that was very easy to follow and allowed for each element of Neverworld to build in a brilliant way, where it never got confusing.

There were particular names/references which I personally related to classic stories (like Alice In Wonderland) through the introduction of a figure from their past at boarding school called the White Rabbit.  For me that gave it another level of mystery, almost magical, and otherworldly sense that classic stories such as Alice In Wonderland offer.

Not sure if that was Pessl was going for, but I found that made Neverworld Wake even more interesting and immersive.

There was also the introduction to this fictional book called: The Dark House Of Elsewhere Bend by J.C. Gossamer Madwick, which really builds itself into the story as it progresses.

It added another level of mystery and added something unique to the story and overall it sounds like such an interesting book when you learn more about it!!

Neverworld Wake also really focuses on the plot, mystery, and interesting world/world-building, that there is little to no romance in the book (Only through Neverworld/general flashbacks Bea has about her time with Jim).

The mystery of the novel is built in such a way that honestly left me guessing each and every moment, because when you think you figure out how Jim died, you get even more pieces to the puzzle and I loved that!

They are all introduced and developed in a great way that doesn’t leave you lost as you meet more characters and find out how they connect to Jim’s story.

Now what I found to lower my rating were a couple of aspects such as writing-style, slow pacing, and word choice for a couple lines (planning to see if they are in the FC & share them soon!).

As mentioned above, were following the story from a first person POV, told through Beatrice’s eyes.

From the writing-style in general, I never really found an attachment to Beatrice as a character. I felt her personality didn’t shine through at all to be honest. While I was definitely invested in the story and what was happening, I never really found a point in the story where I ever really connected with her as a character, even though we were following her and getting a lot of her inner thoughts, etc.

The writing-style never really allowed her to stand out.

Because of that, it also made surrounding/side characters (maybe aside from Martha & a couple other characters) not entirely memorable.

Additionally, while we are told Beatrice knew these friends in high school and were inseparable, I never really felt there was a friendship dynamic between them & Beatrice at all (or at least through the writing and execution of their dynamics, I never really felt it in the story). I could definitely feel the relationship/friendship between all the friends, but never with Beatrice.

At points overall, the simplicity to the writing-style made elements of the story feel a bit generic and forgettable.

However I will say that the writing in my opinion, really delivered in developing and intricately expanding on the mystery, Neverworld Wake as a whole and how they tie together.

Neverworld Wake is an eerie and immersive YA Contemporary that focuses and shines on the plot, mystery, and complexities of the Neverworld Wake! Merging contemporary with science fiction, and mystery, Pessl’s novel delivers an intricate story with a plot that will leave you guessing till the very end!

Running With Lions by Julian Winters Review

Running With Lions by Julian WintersRunning With Lions by Julian Winters

Publisher: Duet Books (Interlude Press)

Release Date: June 7, 2018

Pages: 320

Summary: Bloomington High School Lions’ star goalie, Sebastian Hughes, should be excited about his senior year: His teammates are amazing and he’s got a coach who doesn’t ask anyone to hide their sexuality. But when his estranged childhood best friend Emir Shah shows up to summer training camp, Sebastian realizes the team’s success may end up in the hands of the one guy who hates him. Determined to reconnect with Emir for the sake of the Lions, he sets out to regain Emir’s trust. But to Sebastian’s surprise, sweaty days on the pitch, wandering the town’s streets, and bonding on the weekends sparks more than just friendship between them.

*Bought an early copy from Yallwest*

My Rating:★★★★☆ ½

My Thoughts: Running With Lions is a fantastic YA Contemporary! With a dynamic cast of characters and page-turning plot, this novel follows senior Sebastian Hughes, goalie for Bloomington High’s soccer team! This novel follows him and his teams summer at Camp Haven to train for their upcoming fall game! Winters explores the complexities of love, friendship, and finding oneself in this unforgettable YA Debut!

Running With Lions was a book I had been looking forward to for a while! From the amazing cover + summary, and focus on soccer!

What I love about this book is that it explores sexuality in such an open way.

“No exclusions around here…Be who you are! Be proud! Treat each other like family!”

Seeing the team + coaches being supportive of each other and just having that strong friendship between Sebastian, Mason, Willie, the other team members, and Grey, the coach’s daughter, was just amazing to read!!

Sebastian is ready for summer! Spending it with his teammates at Camp Haven to train for one last season of soccer together, he’s ready!

Though things get a bit complicated when Sebastian notices his childhood friend Emir Shah is also on the team this season. Emir keeps to himself and pretty much avoids the team when he can (due to his shyness).

Though Sebastian is aware that their friendship during childhood is now over, he tries to get through to him and make him feel more at home with the team.

From a rocky start to early morning runs and training sessions to improve on his soccer skills, Sebastian finds himself trying to connect with his old friend again. This soon leads to something more!

Seeing their dynamic develop as they learn more as to why they grew apart was such a deeply explored aspect to their relationship and it was great seeing how they were able to look past it, accept, and start again!

Emir was such a great character! Through the teams eyes he seems like someone who just doesn’t care, but that is not the case! We see how lonely Emir has felt since his sudden move to the UK caused his friendship with Sebastian to crumble.

However, we see that Sebastian’s courage to make him feel part of the team regardless of their past, really allows Emir to see the team as family!

Told through a 3rd person POV, it allows you to get an overall + in-depth look at the characters, plot and builds the setting/summer atmosphere, which comes to life on the page!

The characters all are written and explored with such depth that they also come to life from their first introductions!

Each and every character is written in such a way where you know so much about them from such few words and you really find yourself connecting with each of them!

We also see there’s so much more to these characters than when we are first introduced to them! Over the course of this novel, we see how their friendships/relationships change and grow as the summer at camp progresses!

There’s just so much development to the Bloomington High team and each character was given a great amount of page time, so were able to see the many different sides to these teammates!

I also really loved Grey Patrick (Coach Patrick’s daughter, who tags along at Camp Haven)! She was just such a great character and I loved her interactions/moments with the guys, like Sebastian & Mason!
She’s fierce and confident and overall she was such an amazing character! I also loved Willie, he was also one of my favorites!

Over the course of the novel Grey and Willie go through their own journeys, which are really given enough page time as we see them develop over the course of the story!

While its mentioned he has a knee injury in the beginning, we see how Willie’s soccer training develops and changes, as does the relationships + dynamics that grow among his friends/teammates throughout the book.

Both Grey & Willie’s journeys were given such interesting development and I loved following each of them throughout the book! Their personalities shined with each page!

There’s also such a diverse cast of characters, which was great to see!! Sebastian who identifies as bisexual, Emir who is pakistani-muslim + gay, Willie is gay, Hunter is black, & Gio is stated to be hispanic.

Winters also explores sexuality in such an open and honest way thorough out the entire novel! The team is very accepting and having that is so important to Sebastian as we see throughout Running With Lions.

Sebastian was such a complex main character! What I loved exploring through his POV (which I don’t see much of in YA), is life after high school and being unsure of what that future holds.

Winters explores this element so well throughout the entire book that it gradually becomes an even more recurring thought from Sebastian as he gets closer to the start of his Senior year!

Additionally, Winters explores so well the side of Sebastian who questions who exactly he is without soccer as the thoughts of college, the future, and the future of friends comes into play.

*I also recommend checking out Kris Hui Lee’s Out Of Left Field if your looking for another sports (baseball) YA Contemporary that discusses future after high school in a unique way * 

Running With Lions is fantastic Coming-Of-Age YA Contemporary that explores sexuality in an open and honest way! With a supportive cast of diverse characters, great writing, and themes of friendship throughout, this is a great YA Contemporary to check out!

What I’m Currently Reading & YA Books On My June TBR!

Book Blog Discussion BannerThere’s been a lot of books I’ve made made plans to read over summer and now that I’m officially on summer break, I’m hoping to read as much of these as I can this month!

So, today I’ll be sharing with you what I’m currently reading and the other books I’m planning on getting to!

Currently Reading:

Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl1.Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl

I was able to get an ARC of Neverworld Wake from Yallwest and finally started reading it early last week, but sadly put it down to catch up on a graphic novel & Running With Lions (which I’m hoping to post my review of next week!). I’m still very interested in reading Neverworld and want to try and finish it within the coming week + post my review!

From what I know about it & have read so far, it follows Beatrice Hartley who lives in her small town working at her parents ice cream parlor.

She’s been disconnected from her 6 friends after graduation for a while, with the loss of her boyfriend Jim.

Then she returns with her friends to “Wincroft—the seaside estate where they spent so many nights sharing secrets, crushes, plans to change the world…”

Soon, they receive a mysterious knock at the door and I think, find themselves caught in a Neverworld Wake??

Overall I’d really been enjoying it so far and want to finish it! I don’t read much mystery, but Neverworld Wake has had me intrigued!

June TBR

Bruja Born by Zoraida Córdova1.Bruja Born by Zoraida Córdova (Labyrinth Lost #2)

I read and loved Labyrinth Lost when I read it back in 2016! It centered around Alex who is a bruja and an adventure that takes her on a quest to find her family after a spell she preforms, causes them to disappear!

From the Latinx rep. to themes of family (and sisterhood), all of which I could relate to so well, I fell in love with this book, from the story to the world–everything!

Now with Bruja Born finally out, I am beyond excited to get back into this amazing world & follow even more of Alex’s adventures!

Mariam Sharma Hits The Road by Sheba Karim2.Mariam Sharma Hits The Road by Sheba Karim

Similar to Neverworld Wake, I was also able to get an ARC of this from Yallwest! This book basically centers around a group of friends who go on a road trip after their freshman year at college!

As always, I’m always looking to read more #OwnVoices + diverse books and overall, Mariam Sharma just sounded like such an amazing read, perfect for summer, so I’m definitely going to be reading this one soon as well!

And being a college student myself, I’m also just looking forward to reading more college-centered & about college-aged YA characters!

A Reaper At The Gates by Sabaa Tahir3.A Reaper At The Gates by Sabaa Tahir (An Ember In The Ashes #3)

I’m such a big fan of An Ember In The Ashes quartet, so of course I would definitely have this on my TBR list! I can’t wait to read where Sabaa takes the story, characters, everything!!

I’ve had just– so many theories for where I think A Reaper At The Gates will be going, so I’m just counting down the days until this is out!

I’ve really been looking forward to reading more from Laia, Elias, etc. and am beyond excited to finally get my hands on A Reaper At The Gates!

Not The Girls Your Looking For by Aminah Mae Safi4.Not The Girls Your Looking For by Aminah Mae Safi

Similar to the other ARCs above, I was also able to get a copy of Not The Girls Your Looking For at Yallwest & even met Aminah, who was so nice! Getting the chance to talk to her about the importance of representation and books in general was just so great & I’m beyond excited to read her debut novel!

Definitely check out the summary for Not The Girls Your Looking For below & add it to your TBR if you haven’t already!

“Lulu Saad doesn’t need your advice, thank you very much. She’s got her three best friends and nothing can stop her from conquering the known world. Sure, for half a minute she thought she’d nearly drowned a cute guy at a party, but he was totally faking it. And fine, yes, she caused a scene during Ramadan. It’s all under control. Ish.

Except maybe this time she’s done a little more damage than she realizes. And if Lulu can’t find her way out of this mess soon, she’ll have to do more than repair friendships, family alliances, and wet clothing. She’ll have to go looking for herself.” 

A Thousand Beginnings And Endings by Ellen Oh and Elise Chapman5. A Thousand Beginnings And Endings edited by Ellen Oh & Elsie Chapman

I don’t usually read many anthologies, but when I first read the summary (& saw the gorgeous cover) of A Thousand Beginnings And Endings, I knew I’d have to read it!

This book will contain 15 short stories from authors of East and South Asia background, writing re imagined folklore and mythology!

I love reading about mythology and the blend of fantasy + mythology in this anthology sounds like it’ll be right up my alley!

I also do want to try to get into reading more YA anthologies and in general, it just sounds like an overall great read!

The Game Of Hope by Sandra Gulland6.The Game Of Hope by Sandra Gulland

Additionally, this was also another ARC I was able to get from Yallwest @ PenguinTeen’s booth, out of I think 3 other choices, The Game Of Hope was my pick!

Set in 1798 Paris, France, this novel is a YA Historical Fiction that centers around Napoleon’s step-daughter, Hortense de Beauharnais.

Wanting to go into this book without much knowledge, I do know it essentially follows Hortense as she goes about her daily life in boarding school, studies, arts, etc., but is unsure of where her future lies when her mother marries Napoleon.

I don’t usually read much historical fiction, but this novel just intrigued me from the summary and I’m beyond excited to read it!

And that wraps up my June TBR! 📚✨😍

What are you planning to read this month? Any of the books on your TBR similar to mine? Let’s Discuss! 📚✨☀

Legendary by Stephanie Garber ARC Review

Legendary by Stephanie GarberLegendary by Stephanie Garber (Caraval #2)

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Release Date: May 29, 2018

Pages: 416

Summary: A heart to protect. A debt to repay. A game to win.

After being swept up in the magical world of Caraval, Donatella Dragna has finally escaped her father and saved her sister Scarlett from a disastrous arranged marriage. The girls should be celebrating, but Tella isn’t yet free. She made a desperate bargain with a mysterious criminal, and what Tella owes him no one has ever been able to deliver: Caraval Master Legend’s true name.

The only chance of uncovering Legend’s identity is to win Caraval, so Tella throws herself into the legendary competition once more—and into the path of the murderous heir to the throne, a doomed love story, and a web of secrets…including her sister’s. Caraval has always demanded bravery, cunning, and sacrifice. But now the game is asking for more. If Tella can’t fulfill her bargain and deliver Legend’s name, she’ll lose everything she cares about—maybe even her life. But if she wins, Legend and Caraval will be destroyed forever.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval…the games have only just begun.

*Received ARC through a festival* + *Be wary of major spoilers!!*

My Rating:★★★★☆

My Thoughts: Legendary takes readers back into the world of Caraval! With a darker and more magical atmosphere, Tella finds herself immersed in a game of secrets, mystery, and magic!

While Legendary for me personally wasn’t a 4.5+ star read, it really put the view of Caraval in a completely different perspective and I really enjoyed that.

Legendary takes a different, much darker turn than Caraval, while introducing and expanding on the mythology + lore of the world, which was so interesting. Through the Fates and Deck Of Destiny.

We get an expansion on the world even more than we did in Caraval and I loved seeing how it played a bigger role towards the mysterious character of Legend and the game of Caraval itself.

Firstly, this novel now follows Tella’s journey after the events of book 1 in a much slower paced story, where the stakes are higher. However, in my opinion those stakes were definitely overshadowed by the slow pacing and character-developed route of the story.

Tella’s on a journey through Caraval just as her sister was in Book 1, however with a bit of a twist.

By the end of Caraval, we learn she’s made a deal with the help of a mysterious friend she’s sure will reunite her with her mother. But, we learn she will only get her back, if she learns of Legend’s true name!

She must now complete her own game of Caraval if she hopes to be reunited with her mother, while also preventing darker forces from interfering.

I enjoyed how Legendary took more of fairy tale vibe with royalty, curses, love, prophecies, magic, etc. I found the sequel delivered this element in a very interesting way.

Garber’s writing seamlessly introduces more magical elements this time around and easily incorporates it into the world of Caraval.

With more of a game set in reality, the dark atmosphere and familial/personal stakes this game delivers for Tella was done in a very interesting way and had you really question what was real or just another part of Caraval.

I really loved how Caraval this time around really blended with reality, it made Legendary that much more of a mind game, with the reader unsure of what exactly to believe!

Legendary also introduces us to a couple new characters who deliver so much to the story.

We get introduced to the prince of Elantaine, Jacks (the Prince of Hearts aka one of the Fates) and the queen of Elantaine.

Jacks was easily one of my new favorite characters! He was very mysterious and his personality shined through every moment of page time he was in.

While its clear what his motives are regarding the Fates and his plans during the 2nd Caraval, his character was just so dynamic and interesting till the very end.

I also loved how we got a new and different view of Tella! From book 1 we see her through Scarlett’s eyes and in a very one-sided way, but this time around we just get to see more of her personality shine and the inner depths of her as a character, who isn’t all she seems.

Additionally, it was also great to get more development on the mysterious Dante, who was somewhat of minor character in Caraval, but definitely gets a lot more expansion in Legendary!

I really wish Scarlett had more page-time though! She was so great in Caraval, that I felt in Legendary she didn’t have much of an impact on Tella as Tella had on her, in book 1!

Continuing with the characters and story, I really loved reading more about discovering who exactly was Legend and the introduction to the mysterious prince, Jacks!

Jacks is a character who I can’t wait to learn more about in Garber’s, Finale!

The element of the Fates also allowed for more depth to a different side of the world + story in Caraval, which was so interesting.

However, with those great elements aside, to me Legendary (at times) just felt it was Caraval (plot-wise) all over again, but now following Tella. While that is definitely not a bad thing, I just couldn’t help but compare the 2 very easily.

I was just hoping for Legendary to take a bit of a different approach, however the mystery and expansion on the mythology made it a very memorable sequel.

The last 50 pages or so however, really brought me back in as all the pieces were coming together. Finally reaching the end, all I could think was “what?? Now, how am I supposed to wait for Finale?” 

I enjoyed the ending and know seeing where the story seems to be headed, I am beyond excited to read book 3!

Legendary is a darker and even more character-driven sequel! With the magic system expanded on and even more intrigue and mystery, Garber’s continuation to Caraval will have you unsure of what is real and what is all part of the game as Tella takes a chance and plays Caraval!

Author Interview with Maura Milan {Ignite The Stars}

Maura Milan
Maura Milan at Yallwest 2018, with an ARC of her upcoming debut Ignite The Stars

At Yallwest 2018, which ran from May 4-5, I had the chance to chat with upcoming 2018 debut author Maura Milan about her novel, Ignite The Stars!

Her novel is a YA sci-fi debut which releases September 4, 2018!

Thank you again to Maura Milan for giving me the chance to interview you! It was such an incredible interview experience and I can’t wait to read your book!

Q1: How has your Yallwest experience been so far?

Maura: It’s been a lot of fun! I met a lot of great writers, ones I’ve been following for a while and a lot of great debut authors that are coming out in 2018. Our debut group has been so supportive in this whole publishing process, so it’s been great finally meeting a lot of them face to face.

And also, I loved seeing all the readers in the crowd! It always blows my mind seeing how many readers there are and who love the same books that I love and that’s awesome to me!

1a.: Any books you’ve been excited to hear more about or have gotten a chance to get ARCs of here at the festival?

Maura: I sadly didn’t get any ARCs at the festival. But, one book that I’m excited about is Dark Of The West which is Joanna Hathaway’s book!

She was a 2018 debut, but her book is now coming out in 2019 now. 

I’ve had a chance to talk to her about her book and it seems like there’s a lot of really cool parallels between our books!

I’m really excited that her characters are morally grey like my characters in Ignite the Stars. I’m can’t wait to get my hands on a Dark of the West ARC and see how the story pans out. Crossing my fingers that they all survive!! 😭✨♥♥

Ignite The Stars/Writing Qs.

Q2: For those who may not know about your upcoming novel, can you tell us what it’s all about?

Maura: Ignite The Stars is basically about the most notorious criminal in the galaxy who has been hunted for several years. No one knows how he looks like!

But, when the government finally captures him, they realize he is not a he at all, but actually a 17-year old girl.

With the government realizing they can use her as an asset, they decide not to execute her. Instead, they throw her into one of their Star Force academies.

In order to survive, Ia forms unlikely alliances with Brinn Tarver, a cadet with her own set of guarded secrets, and Knives Adams, an arrogant young flight master, and through her interactions with them, she finds herself questioning her own loyalties and everything she was fighting for. 

24hr.YABookBlog: The concept reminds me a lot of Rogue One! ^_^

Maura: Yeah! It’s similar in that the characters in Ignite the Stars shouldn’t be working together and now they are. The big question is can they work as a team? And also do they even want to work as a team?

Q2: What inspired your novel?

Maura: I had a friend who edited this movie called A Faster Horse which is all about the creation of the Ford Mustang and the film had this section all about Lee Iacocca, who had a huge part in Mustang’s history. I always thought that was a cool name!

So, I took that name, and it became Ia Cōcha, the most notorious criminal in the known galaxies!

On the ride home I just ended up brainstorming the whole thing and wrote about maybe 5 chapters that night and it just kept going! Ia became a character who was in my head and I just had to tell her story!

It took on a life of its own.

Q3: Is Ignite The Stars going to be a series, standalone, etc.?

Maura: Its going to be a duology, with Book 2 coming out next year. It’ll wrap up everything that’s developed in Book 1!

Q4: With Ignite The Stars being YA Sci-Fi, is Sci-Fi a genre you’ve always wanted to write in?

Maura: Yeah, I really love science fiction/fantasy and am very influenced by anime! A lot of what I write is like: ‘Wow! This would an awesome anime, so let me write it as a YA Book..’ 

There’s also a lot of easter eggs to a lot of my favorite shows (similar names to characters, etc.). 

Shows like Cowboy Bebop have always been really important to me and is still one of my favorite series. 

Q5: Ia is said to be a “criminal mastermind and unrivaled pilot!”
She sounds like such a fierce and brilliant main character! I ca’t wait to read more about her! What would you say was your favorite part about creating and developing her character?

Maura: Ia is my complete opposite. She will say whatever she wants to say, do whatever she wants to do, and I’m the kind of person who likes to think about what I say before I say it, and I’m very conscious of how I’m perceived.

But, Ia doesn’t care at all! I think it was fun to write a character like that because there’s a part of me that wishes I could be more like her.

Q6: Are there any YA authors that have inspired you?

Maura: Sarah J. Maas! I loved Throne Of Glass and my book was actually pitched as ‘Throne Of Glass is space’ so that was cool to see. 

I love the way she writes very bold, bad-ass, independent, women who can hold their own and I think that’s great!

I’m inspired by her and Maggie Stiefvater. I think everything she writes is beautiful.

Those 2 have been big inspirations in my book!

Q7: What are you most excited to share with readers about Ignite The Stars?

Maura: I’m really excited for people to see the different friendships that occur.

So, there’s a character name Brinn! Brinn & Ia get thrown together early on in the book and they’re not supposed to be friends, but things happen within the book that allows them to reexamine what their relationship is to each other and I think that was really fun for me write!

Female friendship is a very unique and complicated thing and with any friendship you have to work through it and both Brinn + Ia do a lot of that in this book.

So, I can’t wait to for people to see and read more about them.

Q8: As with Ignite The Stars, its always great to see more #OwnVoices in Young Adult and diverse representation as new books are getting released!

Ignite The Stars by Maura MilanAnd of course we also get to see Ia Cōcha on the cover!! What were your thoughts on the cover and overall the importance of having #OwnVoices rep. within your novel, Ignite The Stars?

Maura: I love that there’s an Asian girl on the cover because, I feel I never got to see that. 

I was really into superheroes back then, like Buffy. I wanted to be Buffy, but I never thought I could be, because I didn’t look like her.

The people who looked like me, usually in film & TV were usually the side-kick characters who didn’t really say much.

So, I think its important to have books like these with people on the cover so kids can find themselves, characters, and role models to look up to!

Its something I’ve always wanted to see ad I’m so happy that the next generation of readers will possibly be able to go to a bookstore and see Ia on the cover and go ‘Yes! This is a story that I could see myself in! I can imagine myself in space and be the hero of the story!’

9.Can you share anything else about Ignite The Stars? Maybe a quote or character you can’t wait for readers to meet?

Maura: I am really excited for people to meet Knives, the flight master of the academy! Because he is my book boyfriend ^_^ & his backstory is so tragic, from the reasons he stays at the academy to the things that have happened in his past that have held him back, and all the stuff he needs to work through.

With Ia there, it forces him to re-analyze what he thinks about the system in which he’s grown up in and how he can decide what to do from there!

Its so fun to see Knives & Ia together and I hope people enjoy their dynamic!

10.Best writing tips or advice for those looking to also write YA Sci-Fi?

Maura: Do your research, but don’t get bogged down by the research! Your not going to get everything right or know every physical law that’s out there.

Know what you can and let the story speak for itself, you know?

People are there for the story and not for ‘Am I getting all these facts accurate about this fictional planet?’

And to conclude the interview I also had some lightning round questions! ⚡📚

1.Current Read?

The Dream Thieves

2.Favorite YA Book (or Books) of 2018 so far?

There’s so many I’ve read & loved, especially YA Contemporary! Like Ship It by Britta Lundin & Farah Penn’s Twelve Steps To Normal

3.Most anticipated 2018 YA Release?

I cannot wait for Hullmetal Girls by Emily Skrutskie, its gonna be so AMAZING! And Light Years by Kass Morgan. It’s such a great year for YA Science Fiction. I’m also really excited for Bree Barton’s feminist fantasy, Heart of Thorns.

4.Describe your book in 3 words?

Friendship in space!

5.Favorite YA Character?

Celaena from Throne Of Glass

6.YA Book you wish more people would read?

Fangirl and with that, Carry On by Rainbow Rowell! 

7.Last YA Book that kept your turning the page?

Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian

8.YA Book you would recommend to everyone?

Warcross!!

9.Favorite YA Sci-Fi book?

Cinder

10.If your characters from Ignite The Stars could meet any other YA characters who would you pick?

I would love for them to meet the characters from Dark Of The West! Joanna and I are already planning our crossover fanfiction haha.

Thanks again to Maura for such a fun interview!

You can check out more about Ignite The Stars on its official site: Ignite The Stars.com 
& if you pre-order, there’s a limited edition enamel pin you can receive!

Are you looking forward to Ignite The Stars? 🚀🌌💫📚

Book Blog Discussion: 2017 Wrap-Up

Happy Holidays!! 😄🎄🎉 Wow 2017 really flew by and I can’t believe 2018 is actually here already!~

This past year really was big for me both personally and for my reading/book blogging~

So today I’ll be sharing some bookish stats/accomplishments with you about reading, book blogging, etc. that I reached in 2017!

1.Books Read In 2017

Originally I planned to set a goal for at least 15 books (mentioned in my 2017 Book Blog Goals {Bookish Goals} post)

Its a pretty reasonable goal I’m planning to set for myself each year and I’m happy to have accomplished it by completing:

72 Books 🎉📚📚

There were so many fantastic books I read this year! Ones that took me on grand adventures, made me cry, smile, etc.! While there are more to add to this list, here are just some of the 2017 books that truly stuck with me throughout the year or whenever I read them + are ones that constantly come to mind, when I think about my 2017 reading as a whole! These books are ones that truly captured my heart & I hope, if you haven’t read them, my reviews inspire you to pick them up too:

wintersong-by-s-jae-jonesWintersong by S. Jae Jones

The Golem And The Jinni by Helene Wecker

A Crown Of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi

The Tiger’s Daughter by K. Arsenault Rivera (Full Book Review To Come)

Eliza And Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

The Victoria In My Head by Janelle MilanesThe Victoria In My Head by Janelle Milanes

Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore

This Mortal Coil by Emily Suvada

Also mentioned in my 2017 Bookish Goals post, I really wanted to make more of an effort to read more diversely and just promote diverse books more!

With that said out of the 72 books I read, 31 of them were either written by authors of color or #OwnVoices books!

I know I can definitely push myself to read even more diversely in 2018 & really want to continue to do so! I already have back-list 2017 titles from #OwnVoices or authors of color I cannot wait to read 😄📚✨💕~

2.Book Blogging Accomplishments

In the 2 years I started 24hrYABookBlog, I never expected to make new friends and just have my blog grow to where it is now!

I’m so grateful to have gotten to know and even meet such inspiring book bloggers  through social media/blogging or even in person through book events!

That has definitely been one of the highlights of 2017! 😍💕📚

literary-listens-24hryabookblog-feature-banner3.Blog Features

One of my newest and most favorite blog features I expanded on in 2017 was Literary Listens! If you’ve never read/heard of it, its basically a blog feature where I discuss books and podcasts! 😍🎙📚

Its a blog feature I always have so much fun writing for and definitely hope to continue with it, this new year!

I also drafted new blog features around the last few months of the year & I hope to share them in the coming months!

4.Misc. Bookish Accomplishments

There were such memorable bookish accomplishments I achieved in 2017! Some were unexpected & took me completely by surprise!

~Creating my very 1st Bookish Vlog (for Yallwest)/ Doing my very first interviews with authors! 😭💕📚📹

~Adding more books to my ARC collections! ( One definitely includes Rebel Of The Sands)

~Holding my first ARC Giveaway 

~Being contacted by a publisher to review a finished copy of an anticipated book release

~Getting my first package of unsolicited books from publishers (Never thought this would happen in 2017!!)

~Reviewing/receiving more ARCs! With some of my biggest surprises being S. Jae-Jones Shadowsong + Marie Lu’s Warcross

AND:  Reaching 200+ blog followers & 1k+ on twitter! 😭💕📚

5. Most Popular Book Blog Posts

Out of the over 90 book blog posts I created this past year, here are some that had the most views:

Life After Legend by Marie Lu Review

Diverse 2017 YA Books To Add To Your TBR {Fall}

Diverse 2017 YA Books To Add To Your TBR {Winter}

Uncaged Wallflower by Jennae Cecelia Review

Literary Listens: Podcast Recommendations Based On YA Books {Sci-Fi}

What were your 2017 Bookish Accomplishments or stats? Whether it be for reading, book blogging, etc.!

Any you hope to reach in 2018? 😁📚✨🎉