[Blog Tour] The Dark Lord Clementine by Sarah Jean Horwitz

Welcome to the blog tour for The Dark Lord Clementine by Sarah Jean Horwitz.

Having been groomed from birth to be the very wickedest she can be, as the only heir to the Dark Lord Elithor, Clementine’s been sure about where things were headed. But things are changing now: friendships are forming, discovering things about herself and her magic, and about what it means to the the Dark Lord.

Is there another path for Clementine after all? It’s going to take all of her strength to figure out how to be loyal to her family but more so herself in The Dark Lord Clementine, a fascinating middle grade adventure where Clementine has to answer: what if her from birth destiny isn’t set in stone?

Thank you to Kristen from Algonquin Young Readers for including me in the blog tour for this book.

 

 

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Published: 1 October 2019

Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers

Genre(s): Middle Grade/Fantasy

The new face of big evil is a little . . . small.

Dastardly deeds aren’t exactly the first things that come to mind when one hears the name “Clementine,” but as the sole heir of the infamous Dark Lord Elithor, twelve-year-old Clementine Morcerous has been groomed since birth to be the best (worst?) Evil Overlord she can be. But everything changes the day the Dark Lord Elithor is cursed by a mysterious rival.

Now, Clementine must not only search for a way to break the curse, but also take on the full responsibilities of the Dark Lord. As Clementine forms her first friendships, discovers more about her own magic than she ever dared to explore, and is called upon to break her father’s code of good and evil, she starts to question the very life she’s been fighting for. What if the Dark Lord Clementine doesn’t want to be dark after all?

 

 

Excerpt from THE DARK LORD CLEMENTINE

 

 

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NOT. CHIPPING.

Clementine Morcerous awoke one morning to discover that her father had no nose.

This was not exactly unexpected. Several mornings previously, the Dark Lord Elithor Morcerous had greeted her with slightly less nose than usual, and a bit of a weaker chin. The difference was so small that Clementine, who was quite small herself, barely noticed it. She did notice something different about him—he was her father, after all—but she thought perhaps he had gotten a rather unflattering haircut.

An unflattering haircut could not explain the next few days, however, as the Dark Lord Elithor’s nose became skinnier and skinnier, and his chin weaker and weaker. It

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could also not explain why his skin took on the raw-look- ing texture of freshly chopped wood, or why the ends of his fingers sharpened first into long points, and then shorter and shorter ones. It was as if every day, something were eating away at him—chipping away at him, Clementine’s mind helpfully suggested—but the Dark Lord carried on as if nothing were the matter, even when the tip of his fin- ger snapped off as he was ladling out the pea soup at dinner.

It was so light it barely made a plop as it landed in the tureen. They ate the soup anyway.

Clementine Morcerous knew that if the Dark Lord Elithor had three gifts in this world, they were:

  1. The invention and implementation of magical Dastardly Deeds

  2. Math

  3. Not Talking About Anything

But the day she sat down to breakfast, rubbed the last bits of sleep from her eyes, and looked up to see her father sitting across the table from her, quite alarmingly nose- less . . . well. Clementine decided that was the day they were going to Talk About Something.

“Father,” Clementine said as she watched him spear a piece of melon on the tip of his pointy wooden finger. “I do believe you have been cursed.”

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The melon cube paused on its journey to his poor thin lips.

“Ah,” said her father, his thick eyebrows rising. “Do you?”

He then returned his focus to his plate, as if she’d merely made a comment on the weather. His finger had sliced through the melon cube. He picked it up again with some difficulty.

“Well, it’s obvious, isn’t it?” demanded Clementine. Something is . . . well . . . chipping away at you!”

Clementine regretted using the word “chipping” as soon as it was out of her mouth. Yet a consequence of Finally Talking About Anything is that words, once set free into the world, aren’t in the habit of going back where they came from.

The only sound in the room was the Dark Lord’s labored breathing, a thin whistling from the two tiny slits left in his face where his nostrils should’ve been. His eye- brows threatened to meet in the middle. He looked down at his plate again, and even the melon seemed to turn a paler green under the force of his glare.

“No . . .” he said softly. “Not. Chipping.” He spat out the words like they were curses themselves and finally looked up at a very concerned Clementine.

“Whittling.”

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about the author - Copy

 

 

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Sarah Jean Horwitz was raised in suburban New Jersey, where she lived next door to a cemetery and down the street from an abandoned fairy tale theme park. Her love of storytelling grew from listening to her mother’s original “fractured” fairy tales, a childhood spent in community theater, and far too many rereads of Harry Potter and Anne of Green Gables. 

​Sarah was a film production student at Emerson College when she took her first screenwriting class and realized that making up a movie’s story was a lot more fun than actually making it happen, and also that cameras are really heavy. She graduated with a B.A. in Visual & Media Arts and a concentration in writing for film and television in 2012.

Naturally, the first project she decided to write after graduating film school was a book. A few years, a handful of continental U.S. states, and many odd jobs later, that book became THE WINGSNATCHERS, the first book in the Carmer and Grit series. THE WINGSNATCHERS was a Kids Indie Next List pick and a Junior Library Guild Selection. The second book in the series, THE CROOKED CASTLE, was released in April 2018. Sarah’s next project is the standalone middle grade fantasy novel THE DARK LORD CLEMENTINE, which will be released by Algonquin Young Readers in October 2019.

Sarah’s other passions include feminism, circus arts, extensive thematic playlists, improvisational movement, tattoos, curly hair care, and making people eat their vegetables. She currently works as an executive assistant and lives with her partner near Cambridge, MA.

Sarah’s work is represented by Victoria Marini of the Irene Goodman Agency. 

 

 

 

 

All media belongs to the respective owners and is used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

[Review] The Revolution of Birdie Randolph by Brandy Colbert

A quick read with engaging, interesting characters and story elements, The Revolution of Birdie Randolph is sure to be a new favorite.

 

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Published: 20 August 2019

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Genre(s): Young Adult/Contemporary/LGBT+

Perfect for fans of Nina LaCour and Nicola Yoon comes a novel about first love and family secrets from Stonewall Book Award winner Brandy Colbert.

Dove “Birdie” Randolph works hard to be the perfect daughter and follow the path her parents have laid out for her: She quit playing her beloved soccer, she keeps her nose buried in textbooks, and she’s on track to finish high school at the top of her class. But then Birdie falls hard for Booker, a sweet boy with a troubled past…whom she knows her parents will never approve of.

When her estranged aunt Carlene returns to Chicago and moves into the family’s apartment above their hair salon, Birdie notices the tension building at home. Carlene is sweet, friendly, and open-minded–she’s also spent decades in and out of treatment facilities for addiction. As Birdie becomes closer to both Booker and Carlene, she yearns to spread her wings. But when long-buried secrets rise to the surface, everything she’s known to be true is turned upside down.

 

 

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Representation: bisexual SC, lesbian SC, majority Black cast

 

 

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Parental death (off page – cancer related), underage drinking, minor drug use (vaping weed), bullying by an adult (off page – recalled in a story), racially toned police interaction

 

 

what i enjoyed

 

 

The book talking about a variety of subjects in an accessible way: parental expectations, like those that Birdie’s mom had for her daughters and, further on, where the intensity of those expectations came from; Birdie’s rebelling against those expectations in order to discover her own identity; Booker’s history as it related to his time in juvenile detention and how there was more to it than some people (like Birdie’s mom) might have thought i.e. being bullied by a football coach & his mother’s terminal illness; Birdie’s aunt Carlene and her struggle with staying sober over the years after being in and out of rehab. There was a lot to unpack in The Revolution of Birdie Randolph and while one might think that these would be too many things, Brandy Colbert handled them superbly.

I was happy that therapy was talked about, even if it was looked at from two angles. Booker’s Booker’s dad is from the old school South side and it just isn’t “him” to go to therapy, even if it would help his kid, but he gets help for his son because he knows it’s going to help Booker. Birdie’s mom on the other hand would never attend family sessions she’d be worried about what people would think about them, about giving off a less than perfect appearance.

The narrative woven as Birdie figures out who is in relation to her mother, her aunt, in relation to the family she’s a part of (even taking into account the secrets buried in the past) was really engaging. I didn’t want to put this book down because Birdie, trying to figure out how to be a person, a growing teenager, and not just someone’s daughter, pulled me in.

 

 

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I was saddened by how little Birdie’s mom seemed to listen to her, whether it was in regards to Birdie wanting to play soccer, something she enjoyed and allowed her to blow off steam from the immense pressure of academics, or in regards to her relationship with Mitchell, Birdie’s ex at the time of the story. Even after it ended, Birdie’s mom (who is friends with Mitchell’s mom) acted like it was a matter of time before Birdie and he got back together. She didn’t listen or pay attention to her daughter, it felt like, just thought about the best cast scenario in her mind, never mind what Birdie felt or wanted.

 

 

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The Revolution of Birdie Randolph packs a punch of engaging characters, story lines that tackle different, relatable topics, and a story you just won’t want to put down.

 

 

 

 

 

I received a copy of this book from the Amazon Vine Program in exchange for an honest review. Quotes included are from an advanced reader copy and may not reflect the finalized copy.

All media belongs to the respective owners and is used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

 

Trick or Treat Readathon TBR

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October is looking to be another busy readathon month for me. lol First and foremost among them is the Trick or Treat Readathon aka ToTAThon 2019. Taking place October 1-31st, it’s celebrating the spooky, the creepy, and the haunted, plus any other book you can think of that fits the prompts for your team.

Created by Melissa (@meoples92), you can follow the main account on Twitter here: @ToT_athon.

There are three teams: Ghost, Vampire, and Witch/Wizard. I am one of the co-hosts for Team Witch/Wizard along with @NeverlandIngrid.

Each team has a Treat and a Trick they’ll have to abide by. *shocked horror movie face* For Team Witch/Wizard, our Treat is that we can read a non-prompt book in place of one prompt. Our Trick is that we have to read a 500+ page book (how do I always end up on those teams? lol).

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I’m so excited with the selections I made for my TBR for ToTAThon2019. Hopefully some of y’all will want to join as well when you see the prompts and my selections. 🙂

Costume Party (Read the Group Book)

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The group book is Coraline by Neil Gaiman. I’ve read this book a couple of times in multiple formats. This time around, I’ll be going with the audiobook which is narrated by the author himself. Neil Gaiman is the perfect narrator, especially for a spooky tale.

Monster Mash: Read a book that has your team mascot in it

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Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson is likened to The Craft meets Veronica Mars and as I loved both those things, I couldn’t resist the urge to read this, especially with the new cover for the paperback release.

Fall Foliage: Read a book with fall colors on the cover (red, orange, yellow, or brown)

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The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern audiobook has been on my TBR for ages because Jim Dale narrates it and I think it will be well worth it to hear the man that narrates Harry Potter say some of the iconic lines from this book.

This is the book I’ll be reading for my team’s Trick challenge. The paperback edition of this book has 516 pages, so it fits our 500+ Trick. The Red fits for Fall, plus I think the Black adds an extra element as a Halloween color.

Alternate Book: Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older. The cover is a brilliant combination of colors, half of which fit this prompt. It’s chock full of magic, so it’ll be a good October story.

Spooky Hayride: Read a book that involves a trip or quest

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This is a classic series of wizardry and I can’t wait to dive back in. So You Want to Be a Wizard by Diane Duane was a childhood staple and I still remember key scenes. It’ll be a great time of year to revisit it and the epic adventure Nita and Kit go on to fight the Lone One.

Alternate Book: Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova – Alexa is a bruja who must go on a quest to rescue her family when her Deathday spell backfires.

Corn Maze: Read a book where someone gets lost and/or finds themselves

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Winterwood by Shea Ernshaw looks quite spooky. Whether it’s Nora Walker or Oliver Hunstman that’s going to be the one finding themselves in this book, I’m not sure, but I have a feeling it’s going to be a multi-level story. Shea’s books look very atmospheric, if the covers are anything to go by.

Black Cat: Read a book with an animal on the cover

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xxxHolic by CLAMP is one of my favorite series. Butterflies are a huge theme throughout the series, as they’re a symbol of Yuko the Time Space Witch (featured here on the cover). I think I finished this series, but I can’t remember so hey, time to start again!

Spider Webs: Read a book that gives you the heebie jeebies

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I started watching the Netflix adaptation of The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson when it came out. If that is anything to go back, even taking into account the sure changes I can gather by the synopsis of the book, I’m sure this is going to give me the heebie jeebies for sure.

Read a book and watch the movie/tv show adaptation

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Practical Magic is one of my favorite Halloween movies but I’ve never read the book Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman. I figure it’s finally time to read the source material and see what that’s like.


And those are all the challenges for Team Witch/Wizard! There will also be social media challenges to complete for some extra points, so be sure to check those out once the readathon starts. 🙂

If you’d like to signup, you can do so here: Trick or Treat Readathon Signup

I look forward to reading with Team Witch/Wizard and with everyone else too!

All media belongs to the respective owners and is used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

[Review & Favorite Quotes] FFBC Tour: A Treason of Thorns by Laura E. Weymouth

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Violet Sterling has grown up knowing she would be Caretaker of Burleigh House. When that destiny is twisted from her grasp, when the King attempts to warp her future and Burleigh itself is in danger, she must find a way to save itself and the Western Country form the magic that is overflowing and poisoning the land.

Betrayal, sacrifice, heartbreak.

Burleigh House encompasses everything. Welcome home.

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I fell in love with Laura E. Weymouth’s writing and the way she can draw you into the natural world with her debut The Light Between Worlds. In that moment she became an auto-read author and when I read the description for her sophomore novel about a sentient house, I knew it would be another adventure of epic proportions.

The depths of commitment, what it means to be loyal, to be chosen, and what destiny means…these questions and more are put to the characters of A Treason of Thorns, Violet Sterling most of all as she grapples with trying to save not only her beloved House, but all those it affects with its monumental power.

 

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Published: 10 September 2019

Publisher: HarperTeen

Genre(s): Fantasy/Young Adult/Historical FIction

Violet Sterling has spent the last seven years in exile, longing to return to Burleigh House. One of the six great houses of England, Burleigh’s magic always kept the countryside well. And as a child, this magic kept Violet happy, draping her in flowers while she slept, fashioning secret hiding places for her, and lighting fires on the coldest nights to keep her warm.

Everything shattered, though, when her father committed high treason trying to free Burleigh from the king’s oppressive control. He was killed, and Vi was forced into hiding.

When she’s given a chance to go back, she discovers Burleigh has run wild with grief. Vines and briars are crumbling the walls. Magic that once enriched the surrounding countryside has turned dark and deadly, twisting lush blooms into thorns, poisoning livestock and destroying crops. Burleigh’s very soul is crying out in pain.

Vi would do anything to help, and soon she finds herself walking the same deadly path as her father all those years before. Vi must decide how far she’s willing to go to save her house—before her house destroys everything she’s ever known.

Content warnings: The Light Between Worlds portrays characters dealing with depression, self-harm, post-traumatic stress disorder, suicidal ideation, illness and disordered eating, and the loss of a loved one. It refers to possible suicide, contains scenes of violence and war, and brief mentions may be unsettling to readers with emetophobia. If you have any questions about these warnings, or require more details, please don’t hesitate to get in touch via the contact page on the author’s website.

 

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Rep: SCs central to the MC who are Jewish & holidays that are celebrated throughout

 

 

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Animal injury (not a pet), blood, violence, repeated use of the word “s*v*ge”, gorey imagery

 

 

what i enjoyed

 

 

Laura E. Weymouth has such a command of her writing when it comes to nature and how it interacts with humanity. Burleigh at the height of its power within the book and even during the worst of its decline is a thing of beauty and heartbreak, a bittersweet monument that loves the hero of the story, Violet, with as much passion as she loves it.

Burleigh isn’t just the house one would think and a reader doesn’t just get descriptions of bedrooms or sitting areas, but the whole of the property and the countryside that is Burleigh, warts and all. Whether it’s the niceties of it or the mortar seeping from it and breaking your heart on the way out, it’s easy to see how Violet, having lived her for the whole of her life, could be faithful to it. Seeing this place, seeing things grow and respond to her, it wasn’t just words, it was a feeling.

Religion is a quiet undercurrent in A Treason of Thorns, but that makes it no less important, either to the reader or to the characters whose faith being read about. Jed and Mira practice their Jewish faith, even while in the road under less than ideal circumstances and concerned about others’ eyes. Violet reminisces about Shabbats she spent with them, the light & the food. She too attends services for her own faith while on the road (Church of England).

The fight about familial duty versus personal destiny that manifested when Violet’s parents were arguing over their daughter and her duty to Burleigh versus what was best for her personally. It was interesting to see a classic argument play out and what it meant: the sacrifices, how Violet chose even as a young child, how Burleigh influenced those around and in it.

Violet was a strong character from the start and I loved her: how she fought for her House, her wants, the destiny she believed in. She didn’t suffer fools, whether they were a curate who wanted her hand in marriage or the King himself. She had her weaknesses, possible in the allowances she made when it came to Burleigh, but these were part of what made her human: she wasn’t wholly angelic or devilish. She was, as she says herself:

 

I’m not just Violet Sterling, Caretaker of a failing House. I am the sum of everywhere and everything I’ve been.

 

 

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(As this was a 5 Star read, Didn’t Enjoy doesn’t quite apply, so these are more  “hm” things I came across while reading A Treason of Thorns.)

 

There were hints about other Houses around the world and how the handling of them is different from that of the situation in England, from their control to what happens when one grows out of control. There was an allusion to one in Italy whose magic I’m almost certain cause Mount Vesuvius to erupt. The sheer scope of magic around the world is tantalizing, but it makes me wonder at whether there are more details that we could see in the future. A Treason of Thorns is wholly encapsulated in England with only briefs asides to these other Houses and systems. I would have loved to hear more or even see chapters where someone visited them, even if it couldn’t be Violet or present company for reasons.

Romantically, I wasn’t wholly convinced of the relationship that developed between Violet and Wyn. I understand that a strong relationship could form and probably would, given how long they were together and the things they went through and the strong attachments that Violet formed to the people she took to herself, but I never really felt that romantic aspect of their relationship. Being told it, I kind of shrugged and said “okay, sure.” It’s not bad, so to speak, just “meh” for my part.

 

 

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Laura E. Weymouth has done it again and crafted a story that I would like to live in. Seriously, sign me up to take care of an ancient House that may or may not have a portal to the Woodlands somewhere on the property and I will be a happy person.

The magic, the love of a monster/monstrous…thing?, sacrificing…omg, I’m just waiting to read this all over again.

 

 

Favorite Quotes

 

To me, my House always been both more and less than that. Burleigh, like Wyn, is simply this: both family, and a friend.

 

Because what Uncle Edgar doesn’t notice as he turns his attention back to his pudding is that when I smile at him, it looks like murder.

 

“I don’t have to be safe,” I tell her. “I have to do my job, as someone who’s meant to be Burleigh’s Caretaker.

 

I used to look after him, and now things seem to be the other way around. I don’t like it. It makes me feel like a burden, and I’ve always hated to inconvenience anyone else.

 

Most wicked men are at least straightforward—unwieldy clubs that bludgeon you with their ill will and brute strength. But His Majesty the king is a dagger in the night, wielded with a smile.

 

“…folk recognize a devil in fine clothes when they see one.”

 

I know my duty, but that doesn’t keep all of this from feeling like more than I should have to bear. And it doesn’t make me any less afraid.

 

Someday, I will die for Burleigh House. It’s only become a matter of when.

 

“…some people are worth it. They’re worth giving up everything you thought you wanted. And Espie’s not just the princess of Wales to me, or even the girl I love. She’s home.”

 

“I suppose I never feel as if I should have the luxury. If I’m to be queen someday, I ought to rise when my subjects do, and the fishermen set out to sea an hour ago. The farmers have already milked their cattle. The tin miners are at their pitches. Who am I to lie abed?”

 

“The world is full of men who want things, and never question their right to go after them.” Esperanza’s eyes spark, and she leans forward in her chair. “Why should we feel any less worthy than they do, so long as what we want does no harm?”

 

 

 

 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Quotes included are from an advanced reader copy and may not reflect the finalized copy.

All media belongs to the respective owners and is used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

 

[BOTM YA] September Selections

Good morning, y’all, and happy September!

It’s a new month and with that comes new Book of the Month Young Adult selections. 😀 As a BOTM YA Affiliate I’ve been sitting on these titles and waiting to talk about them. Now that it’s official that time, let’s have a look at the fabulous books that you can choose from if you join BOTM YA in September.

 

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The Ten Thousands Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow [Historical Fiction] – In the early 1900s, a young woman embarks on a fantastical journey of self-discovery after finding a mysterious book in this captivating and lyrical debut.

In a sprawling mansion filled with peculiar treasures, January Scaller is a curiosity herself. As the ward of the wealthy Mr. Locke, she feels little different from the artifacts that decorate the halls: carefully maintained, largely ignored, and utterly out of place.

Then she finds a strange book. A book that carries the scent of other worlds, and tells a tale of secret doors, of love, adventure and danger. Each page turn reveals impossible truths about the world and January discovers a story increasingly entwined with her own.

Lush and richly imagined, a tale of impossible journeys, unforgettable love, and the enduring power of stories awaits in Alix E. Harrow’s spellbinding debut–step inside and discover its magic.

 

Permanent Record by Mary H.K. Choi [Romance] – After a year of college, Pablo is working at his local twenty-four-hour deli, selling overpriced snacks to brownstone yuppies. He’s dodging calls from the student loan office and he has no idea what his next move is.

Leanna Smart’s life so far has been nothing but success. Age eight: Disney Mouseketeer; Age fifteen: first #1 single on the US pop chart; Age seventeen, *tenth* #1 single; and now, at Age nineteen…life is a queasy blur of private planes, weird hotel rooms, and strangers asking for selfies on the street.

When Leanna and Pab randomly meet at 4:00 a.m. in the middle of a snowstorm in Brooklyn, they both know they can’t be together forever. So, they keep things on the down-low and off Instagram for as long as they can. But it takes about three seconds before the world finds out…

 

The Girl the Sea Gave Back by Adrienne Young [Fantasy] – The new gut-wrenching epic from the New York Times bestselling author of Sky in the Deep.

For as long as she can remember, Tova has lived among the Svell, the people who found her washed ashore as a child and use her for her gift as a Truthtongue. Her own home and clan are long-faded memories, but the sacred symbols and staves inked over every inch of her skin mark her as one who can cast the rune stones and see into the future. She has found a fragile place among those who fear her, but when two clans to the east bury their age-old blood feud and join together as one, her world is dangerously close to collapse.

For the first time in generations, the leaders of the Svell are divided. Should they maintain peace or go to war with the allied clans to protect their newfound power? And when their chieftain looks to Tova to cast the stones, she sets into motion a series of events that will not only change the landscape of the mainland forever but will give her something she believed she could never have again—a home.

 

The Stars and the Blackness Between Them by Junauda Petrus [Contemporary Fiction] – Told in two distinct and irresistible voices, Junauda Petrus’s bold and lyrical debut is the story of two black girls from very different backgrounds finding love and happiness in a world that seems determined to deny them both.

Trinidad. Sixteen-year-old Audre is despondent, having just found out she’s going to be sent to live in America with her father because her strictly religious mother caught her with her secret girlfriend, the pastor’s daughter. Audre’s grandmother Queenie (a former dancer who drives a white convertible Cadillac and who has a few secrets of her own) tries to reassure her granddaughter that she won’t lose her roots, not even in some place called Minneapolis. “America have dey spirits too, believe me,” she tells Audre.

Minneapolis. Sixteen-year-old Mabel is lying on her bed, staring at the ceiling and trying to figure out why she feels the way she feels–about her ex Terrell, about her girl Jada and that moment they had in the woods, and about the vague feeling of illness that’s plagued her all summer. Mabel’s reverie is cut short when her father announces that his best friend and his just-arrived-from-Trinidad daughter are coming for dinner.

Mabel quickly falls hard for Audre and is determined to take care of her as she tries to navigate an American high school. But their romance takes a turn when test results reveal exactly why Mabel has been feeling low-key sick all summer and suddenly it’s Audre who is caring for Mabel as she faces a deeply uncertain future.

Junauda Petrus’s debut brilliantly captures the distinctly lush and lyrical voices of Mabel and Audre as they conjure a love that is stronger than hatred, prison, and death and as vast as the blackness between the stars.

 

Frankly in Love by David Yoon [Romance] – High school senior Frank Li is a Limbo–his term for Korean-American kids who find themselves caught between their parents’ traditional expectations and their own Southern California upbringing. His parents have one rule when it comes to romance–“Date Korean”–which proves complicated when Frank falls for Brit Means, who is smart, beautiful–and white. Fellow Limbo Joy Song is in a similar predicament, and so they make a pact: they’ll pretend to date each other in order to gain their freedom. Frank thinks it’s the perfect plan, but in the end, Frank and Joy’s fake-dating maneuver leaves him wondering if he ever really understood love–or himself–at all.

 


 

Any of these books would make fantastic choices. My personal selection?

 

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The Stars and the Blackness Between Them by Junauda Petrus! The cover, the description, it all drew me in. It’s not one I’ve heard talked about too much, which seems a shame. Here’s hoping y’all will give it a shot and we can all love on it together. 🙂

Frankl in Love by David Yoon is another great selection. As an affiliate it wasn’t available to me because of a strict street date, but you can be sure I’ll be picking it up one way or the other come September 10th. I’ve heard many good things about it on Twitter and, whether you’ve seen the book trailer or not, it’s well worth reading yourself.

If you want to pick up a copy of this book, or any of the other great BOTM YA picks, as a new member you can use code GROW to get your first box for $9.99 (that’s 33% the regular price!).

September is going to be full of great reads, whatever you choose! New readers, welcome to BOTM YA and don’t forget that code (GROW)!

[Review] The Battle by Karuna Riazi

Farah Mirza faced the Architect in The Gauntlet. Now, it is Ahmad Mirza’s turn in this futuristic take on the in-universe game.

The Battle unites Ahmad with Winnie as the pair are swept into a high tech, glittering city where familiar faces and new puzzles will be thrown at them in order to entrap them and gain justice for the Architect.

What an adventure! For fans of adventure books and films like Jumanji and ZathuraThe Battle is a continuation of Karuna Riazi’s The Gauntlet series that those who have been waiting for a new entry will surely enjoy.

 

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Published: 27 August 2019

Publisher: Salaam Reads

Genre(s): Middle Grade/Fantasy/Adventure

The game begins again in this gripping follow-up to The Gauntlet that’s a futuristic middle eastern Zathura meets Ready Player One!

Four years after the events of The Gauntlet, the evil game Architect is back with a new partner-in-crime—The MasterMind—and the pair aim to get revenge on the Mirza clan. Together, they’ve rebuilt Paheli into a slick, mind-bending world with floating skyscrapers, flying rickshaws run by robots, and a digital funicular rail that doesn’t always take you exactly where you want to go.

Twelve-year-old Ahmad Mirza struggles to make friends at his new middle school, but when he’s paired with his classmate Winnie for a project, he is determined to impress her and make his very first friend. At home while they’re hard at work, a gift from big sister Farah—who is away at her first year in college—arrives. It’s a high-tech game called The Battle of Blood and Iron, a cross between a video game and board game, complete with virtual reality goggles. He thinks his sister has solved his friend problem—all kids love games. He convinces Winnie to play, but as soon as they unbox the game, time freezes all over New York City.

With time standing still and people frozen, all of humankind is at stake as Ahmad and Winnie face off with the MasterMind and the Architect, hoping to beat them at their own game before the evil plotters expand Paheli and take over the entire world.

 

3

 

Rep: Bangladeshi-American MC with ADHD, Black female SC

 

 

content warnings - Copy

 

 

Scenes of peril, including police figures shooting fireballs at children (the main characters)

 

 

what i enjoyed

 

The world building was in-depth, from the hints of old Paheli to the futuristic elements that were made to attract new players to the Game. Middle Eastern elements enfuse the city from Madame Nasirah’s tea shop (a familiar feature to returning readers) to architectural touches in the buildings, clothing, and vehicles. The futuristic elements that I liked the most were one of the lanterns that was likened to a lightning bug and a light up cobblestone “yellow brick road”.

The food served to Ahmad and Winnie made my mouth water. From the spinach pies to the tea pot that poured what was most comforting to the individual drinker, there was so many things to delight in.

Winnie’s enthusiasm for the world of Paheli (driving the futuristic version of a rickshaw) and her quick thinking (being suspicious of twitchy characters, thinking through puzzles) made her likeable even against the frustration I had for her.

 

 

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The book felt like it took off rather suddenly, allowing no time for the reader to bond with Winnie, the new side character who is going on this journey with Ahmad. She’s posed at this person who is meant to be a new friend, possibly even a good friend, but I didn’t feel any kind of connection to her or any kind of reason as to why, as a reader, I needed to care for or about her.

The jacket copy doesn’t quite mesh with how things play out with regards to Ahmad trying to make Winnie his friend using The Battle as a game and it was confusing because I thought maybe my arc was missing a chapter or something, but perhaps it was just poorly worded? I’m not sure, but it does make things a bit awkward when you read the copy and expect one thing and start reading it and get something else.

The trials didn’t feel as significant as in The Gauntlet. The second one especially felt like it was over in the blink of an eye. Pertaining to that (the second task, a labyrinth): there were details, such as moments where one person had a crucial puzzle piece, that got very muddled which added to the confusion. It was like the writing got bumbled or something.

There was also some moments in the action during the finale that made no sense, like everyone was scrambling so fast to get things done that the writing wasn’t concerned with making sense (point a –> point b –> point c, etc.). It was incredibly frustrating because I would reread these sections over and over again, thinking I’d misunderstood, but I’m almost positive these were just threads that weren’t taken care of.

As I mentioned in the previous section section, I liked Winnie’s enthusiasm and quick thinking, but I also don’t think she was as well developed as she could have been. She was only so-so, from the somewhat superficial relationship she had with Ahmad to the journey she went on through the book that ought to have given the reader a deeper understanding and connection with her.

 

 

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Karuna Riazi has amazing ideas and weaves them into interesting stories, from The Gauntlet and now into Ahmad and Winnie’s tale in The Battle. There were some issues that I had that there frustrating, including scenes that didn’t make sense and lack of character development. Overall, I think the bones of a good adventure are here and could well be enjoyed by readers who picked up the story of Farah Mirza and are now curious about what her brother, Ahmad, can do when facing Paheli.

 

 

 

 

 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Quotes included are from an advanced reader copy and may not reflect the finalized copy.

All media belongs to the respective owners and is used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

 

[Blog Tour] His Hideous Heart: 13 of Edgar Allan Poe’s Most Unsettling Tales Reimagined – Review & Excerpt

If you’re looking for the perfect collection of stories to curl up with, to haunt you into the wee hours of the morning and beyond, look no further than this: His Hideous Heart, edited by Dahlia Adler and contributed to by many more names from across the literary world.

Taking inspiration from some of Edgar Allan Poe’s most well known works, and from some possibly not so well known, each story or poem collected and reimagined therein is one sure to inspire chilling thoughts as you wonder about where the story will go, what will have changed, and just who you might be cheering for in the end.

Thank you to Cat from Flatiron Books for having me on the His Hideous Hearts blog tour. It’s been a blast. 🙂

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Published: 10 September 2019

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Genre(s): Short Stories/Retellings/Horror

Thirteen of YA’s most celebrated names reimagine Edgar Allan Poe’s most surprising, unsettling, and popular tales for a new generation.

Edgar Allan Poe may be a hundred and fifty years beyond this world, but the themes of his beloved works have much in common with modern young adult fiction. Whether the stories are familiar to readers or discovered for the first time, readers will revel in Edgar Allan Poe’s classic tales, and how they’ve been brought to life in 13 unique and unforgettable ways.

Contributors include Kendare Blake (reimagining “Metzengerstein”), Rin Chupeco (“The Murders in the Rue Morge”), Lamar Giles (“The Oval Portrait”), Tessa Gratton (“Annabel Lee”), Tiffany D. Jackson (“The Cask of Amontillado”), Stephanie Kuehn (“The Tell-Tale Heart”), Emily Lloyd-Jones (“The Purloined Letter”), Hillary Monahan (“The Masque of the Red Death”), Marieke Nijkamp (“Hop-Frog”), Caleb Roehrig (“The Pit and the Pendulum”), and Fran Wilde (“The Fall of the House of Usher”).

 

4.5

 

Rep: F/F (Night-Tide), disabled MC (Changeling), MOC/WOC MCs (The Oval Portrait), Portuguese LI (Lygia), trans girl MC & French-Filipino LI (The Murders in the Rue Apartelle, Boracay)

 

This list may not be 100% complete, but is compiled to the best of my knowledge.

 

content warnings - Copy

 

 

Animal death, fire, ableist comments, blood, death (cancer), abuse of a child/teenager

 

 

what i enjoyed

 

 

The authors within His Hideous Heart took inspiration from a classic source and brought that into modern places. There were elements of desperation and terror and anger and the need for justice that many feel and need. Whether it’s someone getting a privilege or an absolution they don’t deserve, or another person tearing a character down because of their accent, their heritage…a fragment of a Poe story waits for them within.

The eeriness, the elements of the supernatural, the depths of depravity that humans themselves are capable of, all of these facets combine to weave an intense tapestry of stories.

I loved how I was able to find satisfaction in the crafting of these stories. I won’t say that they’re 100% faithful to the originals, as I haven’t read all of the Poe versions, but let’s say that the contributors to His Hideous Heart were able to find endings that twisted the themes of the stories, embodied the soul of them, and found wicked beauteous finales.

The diversity of the tales was also terrific, much improved over the originals. From the Philippines to Barbadian immigrants to trans girls and more, there was so much to find within these pages.

An exceptionally helpful facet of the book, if you’ve never read the original Poe tales before or if you need a refresher, if that His Hideous Heart includes the corresponding works at the back of this anthology. They’re well worth a look because what would this collection be without Poe’s classics?

 

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While normally of fan of amanda lovelace, I wasn’t entirely taken with her rendition of The Raven, here entitled The Raven (Remix). It didn’t flow smoothly for me and made it difficult to take in amongst all the other stories.

 

 

to sum it up - Copy

 

 

This was one of my favorite anthologies in memory. How often can you say that you enjoyed almost every entry and cannot wait to go back for a reread? I look forward to the publication date of this book and the opportunity to secure the audiobook and experience these tales from a whole new perspective.

If you’ve had the opportunity to read this anthology, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Did you have a favorite retelling? If not, is there one you are looking forward to especially?

As part of my stop on the blog tour, below you’ll find an excerpt from one of my favorites, Stephanie Kuehn’s reimagining of “The Tell-Tale Heart”:

 

Excerpt from Happy Days, Sweetheart

by Stephanie Kuehn

Inspired by “The Tell-Tale Heart”

 

I didn’t cry when he won. I was fifteen, and I wasn’t old enough to vote but I’d done what I could – made phone calls, canvassed neighborhoods, attended rallies, written letters, and galvanized what small power I did hold in order to bring promise to the tomorrow I knew would someday be waiting for me with open arms.

I had hope, is what I want to say, and maybe that’s what tragedy really is. A dream ceded to less. Because at that point in time, there was a true vision for the future, a blueprint, and however imperfect it may have been, it was one of possibility, of a world far greater than the one I’d always known. It was meant to be. Of course it was. After all, she was qualified. Competent. Accomplished.

But then she lost.

To him.

_ _ _ _ _

I didn’t cry when he won. I wanted to, but my defeat was hardly a surprise. How could it be? I was new to Middlefield Academy, a second-year transfer student at this small New England boarding school, one that hovered on the outskirts of Boston and basked in its sweet Yankee glow. For all its claims to inclusive values a  diverse student body – Our students represent more than twenty-two different nations! the school’s glossy brochure boasted – Middlefield as a place that revered tradition. Legacy. The status quo. Not only was I unknown, I was brash, loud, and worse, female. Indeed, I represented the wrong kind of diversity – the product of both black and Mexican heritage, I was still solidly American and required financial aid. My worst sin by far, however, was that I hailed from California. Bakersfield, to be exact.

This is all to say I knew my place even as I strove to defy it, to break that bitch of a ceiling that persisted in remaining so grimly unbroken. Hope, for me, had been replaced by determination, and so during my first month at Middlefield, I threw my hat in the ring for sophomore class president. It was an uninspired race; the only other person running was Jonah Prescott, and Jonah didn’t care at all about the position. I knew this because he’d told me as much. He was only running because his academic adviser had urged him to and Jonah didn’t like to disappoint people. His effort was minimal, while I threw myself into the campaign.

 

 

About the Editor & Contributors

 

Dahlia Adler is an Associate Editor of mathematics by day, a blogger for B&N Teens, LGBTQ Reads, and Frolic by night, and an author of Young Adult and New Adult novels at every spare moment in between. Her books include the Daylight Falls duology, Just Visiting, and the Radleigh University trilogy, and her short stories can be found in the anthologies The Radical Element, All Out, It’s a Whole Spiel, and His Hideous Heart, which she also edited. Dahlia lives in New York with her husband, son, and an obscene amount of books, and can be found on Twitter and Instagram at @MissDahlELama.

Contributors:

Dahlia Adler

Kendare Blake

Rin Chupeco

Lamar Giles

Tessa Gratton

Tiffany D. Jackson

Stephanie Kuehn

Emily Lloyd-Jones

amanda lovelace

Hillary Monahan

Marieke Nijkamp

Caleb Roehrig

Fran Wilde

 

 

 

 

 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Quotes included are from an advanced reader copy and may not reflect the finalized copy.

All media belongs to the respective owners and is used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

 

Wilder Girls by Rory Power – Review

A boarding school beset by a deadly tox.

Girls and women holding together as the wilderness around them changes…and then they, too, begin to change.

What is life like on Raxter Island? Would you survive the tox? What can one of the Raxter girls do when her best friend disappears without “explanation”? Rory Power’s debut novel is a fascinating look into these questions and more with scientific threads and more. Wilder Girls is a fascinating novel and well worth picking up.

 

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Published: 9 July 2019

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Genre(s): Young Adult/Horror/Mystery/LGBT+

It’s been eighteen months since the Raxter School for Girls was put under quarantine. Since the Tox hit and pulled Hetty’s life out from under her.

It started slow. First the teachers died one by one. Then it began to infect the students, turning their bodies strange and foreign. Now, cut off from the rest of the world and left to fend for themselves on their island home, the girls don’t dare wander outside the school’s fence, where the Tox has made the woods wild and dangerous. They wait for the cure they were promised as the Tox seeps into everything.

But when Byatt goes missing, Hetty will do anything to find her, even if it means breaking quarantine and braving the horrors that lie beyond the fence. And when she does, Hetty learns that there’s more to their story, to their life at Raxter, than she could have ever thought true.

——
Please see author’s website for trigger and content warnings.

 

 

3

 

Rep: F/F relationships (main/side); bisexual MC; diverse cast including POC (though unspecified ethnicities)

 

 

content warnings - Copy

 

Graphic violence and body horror. Gore.

On the page character death, parental death, and animal death, though the animals are not pets.

Behavior and descriptive language akin to self harm, and references to such.

Food scarcity and starvation. Emesis.

A scene depicting chemical gassing.

Suicide and suicidal ideation.

Non-consensual medical treatment.

 

 

what i enjoyed

 

The scientific threads woven throughout the novel were interesting. Some I wasn’t quite sure of, because the girls who were seeing it didn’t have all the information either so I had to make guesses based on their perspectives, but there was a lot of stuff going on in the background to pick at as the girls on Raxter Island tried to survive.

The way the mutations developed when the girls contracted the Tox were fascinating. I didn’t understand all of them during the reading, but Rory explained some after the fact which was nice.

Watching the way the Tox crept into the story, listening to Hetty and Byatt recall life before it and how it started in the wildlife, the woods and the creatures first, was very cool because it added to the overall horror aspect. There were scenes of body horror to be sure, due to details about what the Tox did to the girls (mutations, their brain chemistry, etc), but the timeline of everything and hearing about those events was whoa.

I picked up the Barnes & Noble edition, which I would highly recommend, because there is an extra chapter from Reese’s perspective, who we didn’t get to hear from at all in the book. It’s a quick little thing, but it’s tender and very nice. It added to the relationships that were evidenced in the main novel, the ones that propelled Hetty and Reese and all the others to last as long as they did and to do all they did during Wilder Girls.

I loved that the cast was allowed to have their strengths as individuals and as a whole, that they were allowed to be strong but also messy and vicious and just amazing. I’ve seen Wilder Girls described as a feminist Lord of the Flies and from what I know of that book, I can say that there are similarities but also it is very interesting to point out the differences. The personality stereotypes that are expected in girls vs boys, the ones that develop despite those, everything that made them able to survive Raxter Island & the Tox.

A last bit: I can’t say much but being a mystery, there are twisty bits that were “whoa” and “huh” and “wtf” that I liked and cried and cringed over. They were fun/sad/omg. 😀

 

 

what i didn't enjoy - Copy

 

The beginning of the novel was fairly slow. It took some wherewithal to stick with it, though once you get into it I will say the novel is worth it.

The ending as well suffered, I thought, though this for the opposite reason. It felt entirely too quick. I turned the last page and was sincerely confused because it felt like there was something missing, like the writing was cut off in a hurry because…what? Because the author wanted to leave the option open to return to Raxter or the world around the island? As far as I know this is a standalone, but there are so many threads remaining in the book that it really could be at least a duology.

 

to sum it up - Copy

 

There were strong relationships, eerie scenes, and a lot of interesting moments that played out in Wilder Girls. The beginning was a bit of a letdown because of the time it took to pick up. The ending was definitely a letdown, but overall the novel was satisfactory. I’m be curious to see what Rory Power will write in the future.

Would You Survive The Tox?

 

Kelly from Bookish created a flowchart for the release of Wilder Girls to determine whether readers would survive.

Myself…yeah, I died. ^^; I almost made it, but the girls in Wilder Girls have a bond that really helps them out and I’m better working on my own which would not work out in this situation. What about you? How far would you make it?

 

Wilder-Girls-Book-Club-Kit-2-flowchart

 

 

 

 

 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Quotes included are from an advanced reader copy and may not reflect the finalized copy.

All media belongs to the respective owners and is used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

 

The Avant-Guards, Vol. 1 by Carly Usdin (Author), Noah Hayes (Illustrator)

A graphic novel about a basketball team that will endear even those who yell “yay sports”, The Avant-Guards is a charming, fun, beautifully illustrated story that will leave you wanting the next volume as soon as you close the back cover!

 

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Published: 3 September 2019

Publisher: BOOM! Box

Genre(s): Graphic Novel | LGBT+ | Sports

When Charlie transfers to the Georgia O’Keeffe College of Arts and Subtle Dramatics, she struggles to find her feet, but winds up exactly where she belongs…in the school’s (terrible) basketball team.

As a transfer student to the Georgia O’Keeffe College for Arts and Subtle Dramatics, former sports star Charlie is struggling to find her classes, her dorm, and her place amongst a student body full of artists who seem to know exactly where they’re going. When the school’s barely-a-basketball-team unexpectedly attempts to recruit her, Charlie’s adamant that she’s left that life behind…until she’s won over by the charming team captain, Liv, and the ragtag crew she’s managed to assemble. And while Charlie may have left cut-throat competition in in the dust, sinking these hoops may be exactly what she needs to see the person she truly wants to be.

From Carly Usdin (Heavy Vinyl) and artist Noah Hayes (Wet Hot American Summer, Goldie Vance) comes an ensemble comedy series that understands that it’s the person you are off the court that matters most.

 

5

 

Representation: sapphic relationships (past/present); non-binary character (Jay); transgender character (Nicole); casual racial diversity

 

 

content warnings - Copy

 

Panic attacks

 

what i enjoyed

 

The dual point of view, from Charlie the new transfer to Olivia the leader of the Avant-guards, played out well. As the strongest personalities in this volume, their points of view set up the framework the brought the reader to the others, who brought a lot of joy and variety to the group.

I thought there was so much energy that played off one another. Tiffany, Ashley, Nicole, and Jay were separate entities that were still something of a family in this story. There were some “rough” edges, such as the romantic history between Olivia and Nicole, but these edges were still good in a way because it made for interesting interactions.

The basketball aspect is easy enough to follow for someone who isn’t a huge sports fan (i.e. me lol) and whatsmore it’s still enjoyable. The first game between the Avant-guards and their league opponent was fun and sportsmanlike. I actually look forward to seeing more action when generally I’m a “go sports” type person.

The cliffhanger is tricky because I thought it was good in terms of being what it was, but also I didn’t enjoy it because now I have to wait until next February for the answer to that email? How am I supposed to do that? *weep for me*

 

what i didn't enjoy - Copy

 

There’s not a lot to not enjoy about this! I suppose it was rather short, so there’s that? 😦 I can’t wait for the next volume, especially with that ending.

 

 

 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Quotes included are from an advanced reader copy and may not reflect the finalized copy.

All media belongs to the respective owners and is used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

 

RetellingAThon Prompts & Team Announcement

RetellingAThon

Thank you to everyone that has signed up for the first Retelling-A-Thon. I’m sure it’s going to be a lot of fun and it wouldn’t be that without all of you.

A special thanks, of course, to Tay from Frayed Books for creating Retelling-A-Thon and a shoutout to Jen from jm_bibliolater for creating the banner you see above. 🙂

Now, on to the important things you’ve come here for today!

Team Shakespeare!

Calliana—@callathekitten
Lauren—@muchadoforbooks

There are a lot of Shakespearean works from which to draw inspiration for retellings. For the RetellingAThon prompts, I chose these five plays specifically: Macbeth, Hamlet, Twelfth Night,, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Romeo & Juliet.

Two spots are left available for Reader’s Choice. You can choose two more titles based on the prompts or ANY Shakespeare retellings you can think of!

Over the next couple weeks before the readathon starts I’ll be sharing some title recommendations that will fit these prompts, but don’t think they’re to restrain you! As long as it fits the prompt, no matter the genre/format, it’s fair!

Do Not Say the Name: A retelling of Macbeth

Talk to the Skull: A retelling of Hamlet

Witty Fool or Foolish Wit?: A retelling of Twelfth Night

Foolish Mortals and Faeries: A retelling of A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Star Crossed Lovers: A retelling of Romeo & Juliet

Readers Choice x2

Retelling-A-Thon Week 2 Prompts

A brief reminder: RetellingAThon runs from August 1-31st. Each week is dedicated to reading retellings in the theme of the week. Please see the schedule below for each week’s theme and host. 🙂

August 1st-8th

Host: Tay at Frayed Books

Mythology

August 9th-16th

Host: Harker at The Hermit Librarian

Shakespeare

August 17th-24th

Host: Umairah at Sereadipity

Fairy Tales

August 25th-31st

Host: Jennifer Mitchell at JM_Bibliolater

Classics

All media belongs to the respective owners and is used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.