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Mirage by Somaiya Daud

Title: Mirage (Book #1 in the Mirage series)
Author: Somaiya Daud
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Release date: August 28, 2018
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Science Fiction

In a star system dominated by the brutal Vathek empire, eighteen-year-old Amani is a dreamer. She dreams of what life was like before the occupation; she dreams of writing po-etry like the old-world poems she adores; she dreams of receiving a sign from Dihya that one day, she, too, will have adventure, and travel beyond her isolated moon.

But when adventure comes for Amani, it is not what she expects: she is kidnapped by the regime and taken in secret to the royal palace, where she discovers that she is nearly identi-cal to the cruel half-Vathek Princess Maram. The princess is so hated by her conquered people that she requires a body double, someone to appear in public as Maram, ready to die in her place.

As Amani is forced into her new role, she can’t help but enjoy the palace’s beauty—and her time with the princess’ fiancĂ©, Idris. But the glitter of the royal court belies a world of violence and fear. If Amani ever wishes to see her family again, she must play the princess to perfec-tion...because one wrong move could lead to her death.




Mirage is definitely a story that I wasn’t expecting but with the way my reading has been lately, I definitely needed. It is an interesting and unique plot, that moves quickly. It was easy to read this in almost one sitting. I loved the characters as well as the lush descriptions of the culture and places

The world building was interesting. I enjoyed the descriptions of the different settings from the architecture, to the foods and just the general differences between the cultures. I think the traditions that vary between the Vath and the Andalaans are so well defined and so much of the culture feels beautiful. I loved the focus on the folklore and stories. The way things are put into poetry and song. I felt like I could really feel and taste what I was reading. As far as the placement of things. I think I could have really used a map to keep it straight in my brain, but at the same time I love that there is a title page letting you know the location they are at.

Even though the story takes place on different planets and moons and at times the Vath are called Aliens. I guess since there are droids too but I wouldn’t consider this really Sci-Fi, to me it definitely flows more in the vein of Fantasy.

The thing I really liked about this book besides the fact that I do think it is a great plot, is the pacing. I love fantasy but lately I feel like the books have gotten really heavy and very involved and lot more like adult fantasy. Which again I do love but I really liked how this story is laid out. There is definitely politics at play but it did not feel overwhelming. Everything is constantly in motion and I did not feel overwhelmed with too many characters. This gave an opportunity for the main characters to be more developed and I really felt bonded with them. It was easy to see why each character is motivated into the actions that they follow.

The writing is great and of course the inclusion of the poetry. It definitely gave it that feel throughout. Plus just a great and unique plot, that is strong in the fact that it’s simple. It’s not too much and extremely easy to follow.

I loved the romance. I needed a romance like this one, sweet and natural. Two people finding solace in having an ally and partner.

I really liked Amani, Maram and Idris. I liked that my opinions of them fluxated as a I read because to me that always shows development. I might not like someone at first but as I learn more about them. I can see things from a new perspective. I also felt like how Amani is strong because she holds on to who she is. She might be striped of many things but she holds fast to her culture and who she is. It’s a deep part of her, where we see Maram often mold herself to what she needs to be.

I’m very excited for the next book. I can’t wait to see where this story takes us next.

Somaiya Daud was born in a Midwestern city, and spent a large part of her childhood and adolescence moving around. Like most writers, she started when she was young and never really stopped. Her love of all things books propelled her to get a degree in English literature (specializing in the medieval and early modern), and while she worked on her Master’s de-gree she doubled as a bookseller at Politics and Prose in their children’s department. Deter-mined to remain in school for as long as possible, she packed her bags in 2014 and moved the west coast to pursue a doctoral degree in English literature. Now she’s preparing to write a dissertation on Victorians, rocks, race, and the environment. Mirage is her debut, and is due from Flatiron Books in 8/28/2018.

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Prize: One finished copy of Mirage by Somaiya Daud (USA only)
Starts: 8/22/18
Ends: 8/30/18

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These Rebel Waves by Sara Raasch

These Rebel Waves
(Stream Raiders #1)
by Sara Raasch
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Release Date: August 7, 2018
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Adeluna is a soldier. Five years ago, she helped the magic-rich island of Grace Loray over-throw its oppressor, Argrid, a country ruled by religion. But adjusting to postwar life has not been easy. When an Argridian delegate vanishes during peace talks with Grace Loray’s new Council, Argrid demands brutal justice—but Lu suspects something more dangerous is at work.

Devereux is a pirate. As one of the outlaws called stream raiders who run rampant on Grace Loray, he pirates the island’s magic plants and sells them on the black market. But after Argrid accuses raiders of the diplomat’s abduction, Vex becomes a target. An expert navigator, he agrees to help Lu find the Argridian—but the truth they uncover could be deadlier than any war.

Benat is a heretic. The crown prince of Argrid, he harbors a secret obsession with Grace Lo-ray’s forbidden magic. When Ben’s father, the king, gives him the shocking task of reversing Argrid’s fear of magic, Ben has to decide if one prince can change a devout country—or if he’s building his own pyre.

As conspiracies arise, Lu, Vex, and Ben will have to decide who they really are . . . and what they are willing to become for peace.




After the magic system in Snow Like Ashes what made you decide on Magic Plants for These Rebel Waves?

Honestly, I wanted something simple. The magic in SNOW LIKE ASHES grew at an alarming rate, and by the end, I spent weeks (maybe months) trying to make sure I hadn’t broken any of my own rules. So with THESE REBEL WAVES, I thought “The plants are magic! That’s simple! Straightforward!” Ha. Hahahahaha. This magic, too, quickly got away from me, and I again had to spend weeks untangling my own rules.

Don’t write books with complex magic systems, friends.

When you create a Fantasy World how do you keep straight the rules, political system and the terrain? (ie. Maps, list, graphs?)

Ha! Funny that this question follows the last one :) I basically DON’T keep the rules straight, then have this moment of intense panic that lasts about half a year in which I bemoan ever having set out to write fantasy.

Seriously though, it does feel like that most of the time, but I am insanely organized. I have maps of every major city/country, detailed documents explaining the magic in every form, lists and pictures and notes. You name it, I have it jotted down somewhere. “Organized chaos.”

Which character did you have the most fun writing??

Vex! He’s such a sarcastic pain the butt, but oh so fun. He has this light about him that makes every situation he’s in that much more enjoyable!

When do multiple POVs, what do find is the easiest way to keep them straight. Do you ever find the characteristics of one characters accidentally bleeding into another?

When I’m first starting out, trying to get the various characters nailed down in my mind, sometimes I tend to get their voices crossed. But after a few drafts, they tend to become separate entities as I’m working on their individual scenes. I always try to stop and ask myself “Would this character really say this line like that?”

What other genres would you like to write?

I’d love to try my hand at adult fantasy! I read so much of it, it just feels like a natural move someday. On a different note, I’d love to write a noir novel? I have no idea why, really. It just seems interesting.

Of course i have to ask what is your favorite type of pirate, pirate movie or pirate character?

Fave Pirate: Samuel “Black Sam” Bellamy who was this real life badass pirate captain in the Caribbean. He amassed the most ships of any pirate captain--and died before he was 30. He had a pretty intense, quick life!

Fave Pirate Movie: Well, I mean, Pirates of the Caribbean. C’mon now.

Fave Pirate Character: Jim Hawkins from basically any version of Treasure Island (tho really, the Treasure Planet Jim is def the hottest)

Describe your book in five words.

Raiders, rebels, and revolutionaries clash.

Sara Raasch has known she was destined for bookish things since the age of five, when her friends had a lemonade stand and she tagged along to sell her hand-drawn picture books too. Not much has changed since then — her friends still cock concerned eyebrows when she attempts to draw things and her enthusiasm for the written word still drives her to extreme measures. Her debut YA fantasy, SNOW LIKE ASHES, the first in a trilogy, came out October 14, 2014 from Balzer + Bray. It does not feature her hand-drawn pic-tures.

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Star-Touched Stories by Roshani Chokshi


Title: Star-Touched Stories
Author: Roshani Chokshi
Published August 7th 2018 by St. Martin's Press

Three lush and adventurous stories in the Star-Touched world.

Death and Night

He was Lord of Death, cursed never to love. She was Night incarnate, destined to stay alone. After a chance meeting, they wonder if, perhaps, they could be meant for more. But danger crouches in their paths, and the choices they make will set them on a journey that will span lifetimes.

Poison and Gold

Now that her wish for a choice has come true, Aasha struggles to control her powers. But when an opportunity to help Queen Gauri and King Vikram's new reign presents itself, she is thrown into the path of the fearsome yet enchanting Spy Mistress. To help her friends, Aasha will have to battle her insecurities and perhaps, along the way, find love.

Rose and Sword

There is a tale whispered in the dark of the Empire of Bharat-Jain. A tale of a bride who loses her bridegroom on the eve of her wedding. But is it a tale or a truth?


 

Star-Touched Stories is a compilation of three different stories that all take place in the world of The Star-Touched Queen. I always love getting a glimpse of what characters are doing after the book ends. Of course the stories are all beautifully written, which I would expect nothing less from Roshani Chokshi

Death and Night
Ahh this is the story of how the Dharma Raja (Amar) and Night (Maya) met the first time. This is probably my favorite of the three stories. It is so sweet how they come together and of course the chemistry is as perfect as it was in The Star Touched Queen. I love going back to the Night Bazaar and experiencing it again through their eyes. We also get some insight to Dharma Raja past and origin as well. Plus Uloopi and Nritti round things out to make the story interesting.

Poison and Gold
This is actually probably my least favorite of the three stories. I loved Aasha and Zahril but for some reason I didn’t connect as well with the plot. Maybe I just wanted more Aasha and Zahril ha ha. I still liked it and it was so enjoyable to see Aasha find her place. I thought the Spy Mistress part was really interesting, plus Gauri and Vikram are always delightful to read.

Rose and Sword
This one is super sweet and I loved how the story is being told to Hira to help her understand the sacrifice that loving someone can be. How it is worth it to go to the end of the world for someone. Especially because it’s hard headed Gauri that the story is about. Thinking about this one makes me feel like I can’t decide if it’s a tie for my favorite. Ha ha.

If you were a fan of the world The Star Touched Queen World then you definitely need to pick up these stories. It made me happy to read them and I loved revisiting the world. They are such a great addition to the collection.

Excerpt


» 1 «

DEATH

I stood outside the home, watching as the light beaded and dripped down the length of the Tapestry thread. I waited. There was never any rush. Not for me at least.
The light dangled from the end of the string, clinging and re- luctant. A passing wind stirred the ends of the thread, teasing out strands of memory. The memories plumed into the air, releasing the scent of a life lived in love. One by one, the memories unraveled— a pillow shared by two heads bent close in secrecy, a frayed blanket kept inside an eternally empty cradle, a table that sagged from the weight of uncertain feasts. Happiness stolen from the edges of sorrow.
I stepped over the threshold.
The lights in the hut extinguished. Shadows slipped off the walls to gather around my feet. Inside the hut, someone had propped up a stingy fire. Cinnamon scented the air. Past the dusty vestibule, rows


upon rows of bay leaves hung from the ceiling. Strange runes scratched into small animal bones and ivory hairpins lay in carefully constructed patterns. I laughed. Someone had tried to ward me away. But there was no door that didn’t open to me.
At the far corner of the house huddled two people. A man in the arms of a woman. Old age had blessed him, yet for all his gnarled veins and silver-streaked hair, the woman cradled him as if he were a child. He murmured softly into the crook of her neck. I watched them. She wasn’t crying.
The woman looked up . . . and saw me. How refreshing.
“Greetings, Dharma Raja,” said the woman in a clear voice.
I took in the bay leaves and bone pins. “You were expecting me, I take it.”
“Yes,” she said, hanging her head. “I regret that I cannot serve you any food or drink or treat you as a guest in our home.”
“Don’t let it trouble you,” I said, waving my hand. “I am rarely a guest. Merely an inevitable occurrence.”
Her husband did not stir in her arms. His breath had grown soft. While the woman had kept her eyes trained on me, I had taken away his pain, siphoned it bit by bit. I was in a generous mood.
“You have come for him.”
“As I will for you, one day. I could tell you the hour, if you wish it.”
“No.”
I shrugged. “Very well.”
She clutched him tighter. Her hands trembled. I knew she could feel his life unspooling. She may have seen me, but she did not see his life pooling beneath him.


“May I ask something of you, Dharma Raja?” “You may.”
But I need not honor it.
“We always wished to leave this life together.”
“I cannot change your appointed time, even if I wished.”
She closed her eyes. “Then may I request, instead, that you not let him pass to the next life until I may join him there?”
Now this was interesting. I sank backward into the air, and an onyx throne swirled up to meet me. I tilted my head, watching her. “Why? I haven’t weighed your life yet. What if you were far more honorable than your husband in this life? I could pour your soul into the mold of a princess blessed with beauty and intellect, riches and wonders. I could add silver to your heart and fortify you from any
heartbreak. I could give you a life worthy of legends.” She shook her head. “I would rather have him.”
“You’d rather have him, and whatever life that entails?” I leaned forward, eyeing the dingy room.
Her eyes flashed. “Yes.”
“He may not even come back as a human. Believe me. I’ve remade emperors into cockroaches and cockroaches into kings. You seem like a reasonably intelligent woman. Would you truly like to keep house for a bug?”
She lifted her chin. “I would be his mate in any form.”
A curious emotion prickled my skin, nudging the back of my thoughts. My hands tightened on the shadow throne. Before I could stop myself, the question flew from me:
“Why? ”
“Because I love him,” said the woman. “I would prefer any life with him than any life without him. Even the deities know love to


the point that they will chase their counterpart through thousands of lifetimes. Surely you, oh Dharma Raja, understand how extraor- dinary love can be?”
I knew very well what could come of love. I had seen it. Been cursed by it. Even now, I thought of her. The way she ran away and left a shadow in her place. Love was extraordinary.
Extraordinarily spiteful. Extraordinarily blind. Extraordinarily misleading. “Bold words,” I said.
“They do not move you?”
I shrugged. “You may appeal and supplicate and wheedle as you wish, but I have heard every excuse and plea and sputter, and my heart has never been moved.”
The woman bowed her head. She gathered her husband to her chest. Her wedding bangles clanked together, breaking the silence. When I left, custom dictated that she must remove those wedding ornaments. Widows did not wear such bracelets. I had not consid- ered until now that the sound itself was a thing near death. And that chime—gold against gold—struck me far louder than any keening. In the echoes, I heard something hollow. And lonely.
I dropped the noose. It slid through the man’s skin, noiseless as silk. Life had left him. All that was left was his soul.
You never forget what it’s like to withdraw a soul. It is an un- clasping. Sometimes a soul is tough and hard, surrounded by sin- ews of memories gone brittle with age. Sometimes a soul is soft and bursting like wind-fallen fruit, all bruised tenderness and stale hope. And sometimes a soul is an ethereal shard of light. As if the force of its life is a scorching thing.


This soul belonged to light.
When the woman looked down, she knew that her husband was gone. The thing she cradled was nothing more than meat soon to spoil. Tears slid down her wrinkled cheeks.
“Come now,” I said, standing from the throne. “I have taken hus- bands when their wives still wore the henna from their wedding. I consider you lucky.”
“I beg of you,” she said. “Don’t let him move on without me. He would have asked the same.”
I swung the soul into a satchel and the light faded. I headed for the door, more out of formality than anything else. If I wanted, I could’ve disappeared right then and there.
“Please. What would you do for someone you loved?”
I stopped short. “I can’t say I’ve had the pleasure of that provo- cation.”
“You love no one?” she asked, her eyebrows rising in disbelief. “I love myself. Does that count?”
And then I left.




About the Author
ROSHANI CHOKSHI is the New York Times bestselling author of The Star-Touched Queen, A Crown of Wishes, and Aru Shah and the End of Time. Her work has appeared in Strange Horizons, Shimmer, and Book Smugglers. Her short story, "The Star Maiden," was longlisted for the British Fantasy Science Award.

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How We Learned to Lie by Meredith Miller

Title: How We Learned to Lie
Author: Meredith Milller
Publisher: HarperCollins
Release Date: July 31, 2018
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary

A voice-driven and explosive novel about friendship, love, and letting go, from the author of Little Wrecks

Violence in the small, suburban town of Highbone, Long Island, is escalating, and best friends Joan and Daisy are finding themselves in the center of it.

Joan has always been fascinated by the inner workings of living things: dogfish, eels, stingrays. But the more she sees of life outside her microscope, the more she realizes that people aren’t as easy to read as cells on a slide, and no one, not even Daisy, tells the truth.

Daisy’s always wished he had a family more like Joan’s, and that desire has only grown since his dad went to jail. But not even Joan can help Daisy keep his deadbeat older brother from putting everyone close to them in more danger.

When tragedy strikes too close to home, Joan and Daisy need each other more than ever. But no matter how hard they try, their secrets and lies have driven them apart. It’s only a matter of time before their friendship, just like their town, goes up in flames.

Sharp-edged and voice-driven, Meredith Miller’s How We Learned to Lie is a keenly ob-served story about friendship, violence, and life in a town on the brink.




Guest Post
Meredith’s Writing Space

I live in a Victorian house in southwest England. If you’ve never been to the UK, fair warning: this is not as romantic as it sounds! I do love it though. My writing space is the loft, which was converted as a third bedroom by the previous owners. It has windows toward the front and back of the house, where I can see the sunrise and sunset.
I’m an early morning writer, so in the winters when the sun comes up late, this is what I see while I’m working.




The most important thing about my writing space is that it’s three floors away from the router. Internet access is patchy at best. For extra insurance against wasting time on social media and getting angry about the news when I should be writing, I have this special faulty computer. For some reason it doesn’t connect to my network. Yay! Also, it has an eight-year-old version of Word and because it doesn’t connect it never pesters me about updates. Perfect.


If you look closely at the middle of the screen, you might be able to see the working file folders for How We Learned to Lie and for Fall River, the book I’m currently working on.

Authors need screen breaks, don’t we? So, I made this little window seat.


I sit here and have a cup of tea and let things turn over in my mind for a bit. It’s in the window at the front of the house, so the view from that seat is this.


There is also a little bed, on which I can lie when I’m reading over drafts and things. I bet you can imagine how that winds up.

The rest of the loft is wallpapered with plot diagrams and notes pasted everywhere reminding me what characters want to do and say and where they’re headed. There are ideas I love but I don’t know where they go yet, so I write them on a scrap of paper and post them over the desk. You can see a few of those in the photo above.

When I’m working on a novel I use a few different notebooks to keep ideas and sketches in, and sometimes spread things out on a board. Below is the working board for Whiteness. The post-it notes represent both story and plot, and the visuals invoke the landscape and various things (good and bad) that characters in the novel do and believe.

I am a very concrete, hands on sort of writer and often print out scenes and physically cut them up, so I can move the pieces around to see how they work best.



I’m VERY lucky to have a space like this that I can fill with messy ideas and also relax, spread out and work in. I think the most important thing about a writing space is that it is yours. I once had a friend who had hers in a nook under the stairs. It was tiny but it was HERS, and she did great work in it. No one else in her house was allowed to mess with it. For writers, writing is self care. If you’re a writer, make space for yourself. Be selfish about it and don’t feel guilty.


Meredith Miller is the author of Little Wrecks and How We Learned to Lie. She grew up in a large, unruly family on Long Island, New York, and now lives in the UK. She is a published short story writer and literary critic with a great love for big nineteenth-century novels and for the sea. Her short stories have appeared most recently in Stand, Short Fiction, Prole, Alt Hist, and The View from Here.

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• Prize: 2 hardcover copies of HOW WE LEARNED TO LIE by Meredith Miller
• US Only
• Starts:8/2
• Ends: 8/13

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