Anticipated 2019 Releases!

As I sit here with a giant stack of unread books in my room that are calling my name, I’m going to share the books I am most excited about that are releasing next year. The TBR pile is endless.

But in all seriousness, there are so many books coming out next year that I cannot wait to get my hands on.

The Wicked King by Holly Black (January 8th)

The Cruel Prince remains one of the best books I read this year- it had politics, fae, and the promise of a haters-to-lovers romance. Obviously I am ready for the sequel.

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi (January 15th)

This is my most anticipated release by far, because it’s ROSHANI CHOKSHI. Everything I’ve read of hers has blown me away and I’m sure this is going to be just as amazing.

Stain by A.G. Howard (January 15th)

I read a chapter sampler of this and I want the rest. That is all.

Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte (February 26th)

I heard about this at YALLFest and the title alone is enough to make me want to read this.

Lovely War by Julie Berry (March 5th)

I adored Julie’s The Passion of Dolssa (if you haven’t read it, you should, but be prepared for an emotional roller coaster). This one is a love story set amidst both World Wars and it’s told from the perspective of the goddess Aphrodite.

Sherwood by Meagan Spooner (March 29th)

I just found out about this as I write this post and it’s a ROBIN HOOD RETELLING. YES. It’s also Meagan Spooner, who has some beautiful prose.

Midnight Beauties by Megan Shepherd (August 13th)

I will be trying to get an ARC of this if possible, because August is too far away. Grim Lovelies was magnificent.

Also, from the synopsis, I think there’s going to be an arranged marriage. Therefore I need it.

Renegades #3 (we do not yet have an official title) by Marissa Meyer (November 5th)

I am reading Archenemies right now and IT’S AMAZING. Renegades was a bit of a letdown but I am loving book two in the series and expect a major cliffhanger.

That’s it so far, but I’m sure there are a bunch of others I just haven’t discovered yet.

(I did not include any ARCs I received at YALLFest in this list, even though I am excited to read many of them.)

What books are you looking forward to in 2019?
-Clara

 

 

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Arranged Marriage in Fiction: A Discussion

Periodically, I like to do discussion posts.

I haven’t in a while, because, while I love them, I struggle to come up with ideas that haven’t been done before (or at the very least, haven’t been done in a while).

Last week, I published a NaNoWriMo post and briefly mentioned that I love arranged marriage stories. Alan Zaroff asked me why, which led to a few comments on the subject. I thought it might be interesting to do a discussion post about it.

If you’re new here, I absolutely love arranged marriage in books. I’m not entirely sure why, when I personally do not ever want my marriage to be arranged, but I have always been fascinated by the concept of falling in love after marriage.

Here’s the thing: As someone who is so intrigued by the concept, I’d really like to read about it. However, I can name exactly 2 novels (okay, so one is a series) off the top of my head involving love-after-marriage. And very few books, even political fantasy novels that I’ve read, have arranged marriage as a part of a plot, whether or not it actually happens.

Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge is a Beauty and the Beast retelling that executes the arranged marriage trope rather well. It’s not a personal favorite, but I did enjoy it.

Morgan Rhodes’ Falling Kingdoms series did it very well– although, to be completely honest, after book one, the arranged marriage development was about the only thing I enjoyed about the series. I still haven’t read the last two books.

What bothers me is that even these two books at first act as though arranged marriage is a horrible tragedy, etc. (I will say that, given who the characters are marrying, it makes sense that they’re opposed–but I’d also like some books where the man the girl is marrying isn’t a demon or seemingly horrible enemy prince.) And that’s the case with pretty much every book that mentions arranged marriage in some way. It’s often treated as a violation of human rights, the worst thing that could happen to a character, all that.

Please don’t misunderstand me: I know very well that sometimes arranged marriage is forced and a basic human rights violation, especially child marriage. Aisha Saeed’s Written in the Stars is a good one that illustrates this point, and I love that book.

However, in 2017, the average percent of arranged marriages that ended in divorce was only 4% (brandongaille.com). (I am aware that this article shows the dark side of arranged marriage, which is definitely important to consider.) According to the American Psychological Association, “40-50% of married couples in the United States divorce.” In America, love marriage is the most common. Love marriages aren’t bad– I want one myself. What I’m saying is that, in reality, arranged marriages aren’t as bad as they’re made out to be in the books we read.

Repeatedly, arranged marriages end up as happy marriages. My parents know people who are in arranged marriages and are very happy. This article (please excuse the curse word) shares other stories about arranged marriages that have worked out well.

I am not going to sit here and tell you that every single arranged marriage is wonderful and perfect. What I am going to tell you is that it needs to be presented differently and a little more often in books. Because, in reality, lots of people in the world are in arranged marriages. 55% of marriages are arranged, actually (brandongaille.com).

I would really appreciate more books, YA novels especially, that involve arranged marriage that isn’t treated like a tragedy. In all genres.

I’m trying to do this with my current writing project. I’ve been guilty of treating arranged marriage as horrible at first in my books, but it works out well in the end. What I’m writing now, The Nikolai Project (here’s my NaNoWriMo post about it), is, at its core, about an arranged marriage. It’s got politics and magic, of course, but it centers around two people falling in love– after the wedding.

If any of you have ever wondered why in the world arranged marriage plots are one of my favorite things, I hope this answers your question at least a little bit.

I want to hear your thoughts on this topic–let’s discuss in the comments!

-Clara

 

 

November Reading Wrap-Up

I am so excited that I am finally reading again. Lately I haven’t been reading all that much (nothing could hold my attention very well? At all?) but this month I read a few books that I really loved.

The Darkdeep by Ally Condie and Brendan Reichs (aka my besties)

Okay, MG has not been able to hold my interest in forever but I 100% adored this book. It’s amazing and you should go read it if you haven’t. Also, Brendan and Ally are both amazing people. 5 stars for this one!

Grim Lovelies by Megan Shepherd

Also 5 stars– because this is set in a magical Paris, has a dark brooding prince that I LOVE, a main character that’s amazing, and a scene set in the most amazing fashion boutique ever that also references a lot of designers (which is always great).

Bookish Boyfriends: A Date with Darcy by Tiffany Schmidt

This was SO CUTE. The best part was when the main character was reading Pride and Prejudice and was having the exact same feelings I was when I read that beautiful Jane Austen novel.

There were, however, a few things I thought weren’t explained enough, so all-in-all, I gave this 4 stars.

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

THIS. BOOK. It was amazing- from the world to the characters to the clothes (I really, really appreciate pretty clothes in books). And the plot twist at the end? Perfect. And it looks like the sequel is going to have the pretending-to-be-married trope which is actually one of my favorite things. This one was also 5 stars, if you couldn’t tell.

I am currently reading In Paris With You by Clementine Beauvais, an ARC I received at YALLFest, but I may end up putting it on hold. I’m not exactly feeling the poetry thing.

What did you read in November?

-Clara

 

NaNoWriMo 2018!

Another NaNoWriMo is over and…

I won!

I did 30k words, which is standard for the Young Writers’ Program. (Shout out to a friend of mine (you know who you are) who did 50k in 3 weeks. I am so proud of you.)

I worked on the same project this year as I did last year- what I call The Nikolai Project, although that’s not the title. It still doesn’t have one, even after working on it for almost a year and a half.

What happened with this project was interesting. By the end of last year’s NaNo, I had worked on it for about three months and had 25k words of what was more romance novel than anything. After NaNo 2017, I returned to working on Lady Gwen (which released a little over a month ago and is available here) and put The Nikolai Project away for a bit. I certainly kept thinking about it– and all that thinking led to a plethora of changes I wanted to make to the plot. So the 25k words I wrote last year are no longer a real thing. My sweet arranged-marriage romance is now more of a political intrigue fantasy with a lot of romance (and yes, the marriage is still 110% arranged, because I’m the one writing it and I am absolutely in love with arranged marriage plots, okay?).

All that said, my draft is at almost 40k words now, no where near done, and there’s a lot that I need to expand, revise, etc. when I have a full draft. But regardless, I am really proud of myself and I am hopelessly in love with this story.

And my dear friend Annabeth Tyler (The Junior Inklings) drew me this gorgeous picture of Nikolai and Amira (yes, she really does have that much hair):

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I had a very successful NaNoWriMo and am hoping to finish my draft of The Nikolai Project in December. In January I plan to start on the conclusion to the Gwendolyn Trilogy!

Did you participate in NaNoWriMo? How did it go? Also, any political intrigue novel suggestions for me?

Thanks for reading!

-Clara

 

The Merchant’s Daughter by Melanie Dickerson: A spoilery, very ranty DNF review

themerchantsdaughter

Listen.

I have enjoyed Melanie’s books in the past. The Golden Braid is a really solid novel. Her books are cute, sweet, and Christian, usually without a bunch of preaching. I like her books, I really do.

But The Merchant’s Daughter was horrible. I tried to make myself finish it, hoping it might redeem itself, but I just couldn’t keep reading.

It’s not even plot or characters (although I didn’t really like any of them and they were rather flat).

A little background: Annabel, the lead, wants to join a nunnery. Her family is trying to make her marry this disgusting old bailiff (why are disgusting men in every one of Melanie’s books? Just once I’d like a good-looking villain) so she goes to work as an indentured servant. The bailiff very clearly wants to rape her. And Melanie will not say it bluntly for anything in the world.

And that, my friends, is why I quit reading.

If you’re going to write a book that deals with as serious a topic as rape, you’d better say the word. I don’t care if you’re trying to be “clean” or that you’re writing Christian fiction. Christians get raped too, and it’s a very real problem that should never, ever, be sugar-coated. Annabel is afraid the bailiff will rape her and the reader needs to know that. “Hurt” is not an adequate word.

Now, I can see reasons Melanie may not have wanted to say “rape” blatantly. I know some readers may not know what it is. But she writes teen fiction. I’m pretty sure her readers know what rape is. As a matter of fact, I have read middle-grade Christian novels that mention rape. We can handle it, Melanie- don’t lose your point.

And just because it’s called Christian doesn’t mean it has to be squeaky clean. I’ve read the Old Testament, for crying out loud, and I’m pretty sure most other Christian girls have too.

So, yeah, I just couldn’t stand it anymore.

It was also a thousand times preachier than her other books. I don’t mind a little bit of preachiness; it’s Christian fiction and I kind of expect it, but this was excessive. I get that Annabel had never read the Bible, but I did not need a commentary on every parable of Jesus. I don’t read novels for Biblical commentary.

All that said, I do have a good friend that adored this book. So maybe you’ll like it, but I obviously did not.

How do you feel about rape being handled in fiction? Have you read The Merchant’s Daughter

-Clara

I Went to YALLFest!

I had the privilege of taking a weekend trip to Charleston for YALLFest this weekend and it was absolutely amazing!

If you don’t know, YALLFest is a book festival held annually in Charleston, SC. There are always a bunch of wonderful authors there doing panels, signings, and other fun events. It’s also a great place to get free books- I came home with 11 including the one I picked up for my brother.

I wanted to share some pictures with you all from my trip as well as the stuff I picked up.

I’ll start with the chapter samplers:

  • The Afterward by E.K. Johnston
  • Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson
  • Stain by A.G. Howard
  • King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo (I have got to get into the Grishaverse; they all sound so good and I’ve been wanting to hop on the bandwagon for ages)
  • Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller
  • To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

I also picked up quite a few ARCs (advanced reader copies):

  • Slayer by Kiersten White
  • Famous in a Small Town by Emma Mills
  • In Paris With You by Clementine Beauvais
  • The Field Guide to the North American Teenager by Ben Phillipe
  • Daisies and Devotion by Josi S. Kilpack
  • Crown of Feathers by Nick Pau Preto
  • Courting Darkness by Robin LaFevers (which is signed and I am so excited about this one- I haven’t read any of Robin’s books yet and after hearing her speak I really need to fix that!)

And a few books that are already out:

  • Bookish Boyfriends: A Date with Darcy by Tiffany Schmidt
  • Lies Jane Austen Told Me by Julie Wright
  • There’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins (I also got this one signed)

I also got a ton of bookmarks and other swag things, including a tote bag with a Flame in the Mist quote that I got Renee Ahdieh to sign and an Iko art print because I knew some Renegades trivia.

But despite all the free stuff, the authors were definitely the best part. The panels were amazing and all the authors I talked to were so nice and I loved meeting them.

I want to talk about Brendan Reichs for a minute. I met him last weekend at another event where he signed The Darkdeep for me, and this weekend he was sitting next to Ally Condie at a signing and remembered not only my name but where I had mentioned possibly attending college. He is a super nice guy and I will definitely be reading more of his books. The Darkdeep, by the way, is fantastic- and I haven’t enjoyed middle grade in a long time.

I met Megan Shepherd, Renee Ahdieh, Brandon Mull, Ally Condie, Stephanie Perkins, Dhonielle Clayton, Robin LaFevers, and Roshani Chokshi.

Meeting Roshani was the highlight of the entire trip. If you’re new here, Roshani is my favorite author (it’s a tie between her and Marissa Meyer; I like Marissa’s books but Roshani has the most beautiful writing style in this world). I got to meet her and she signed her books for me. I also gave her a copy of both Captain Guinevere and Lady Gwen that she so graciously accepted. She is so sweet and beautiful and I am so happy to have met her.

Now for some pictures:

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A panel, from left to right: Veronica Roth, Victoria Aveyard, Danielle Paige, Destiny Soria, and Adrienne Young
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A blurry picture of the Booksplosion event: Kat O’Keefe, Christine Riccio, and Jesse George. They were hilarious!
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Another panel; we were on the front row: Renee Ahdieh, Danielle Paige, Emiko Jean, Robin LaFevers, and Laura Sebastian (I ADORED Laura on this panel and will be picking up her book very soon).
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Me with Megan Sheperd- I gave her copies of my books as well.
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Renee and I took a selfie.

And last but not least:

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Here I am with Roshani Chokshi!

If you get the chance to make a trip to YALLFest next year, do it. It was an amazing trip.

Have you been to YALLFest? What was your favorite part? Who’s the author you’d love to meet the most?

-Clara

P.S. Special thanks to my mom and dad for making this happen! I love you both so much!

A Reaper at the Gates by Sabaa Tahir

*WILL MOST LIKELY CONTAIN SPOILERS FOR THE FIRST TWO BOOKS IN THE AN EMBER IN THE ASHES SERIES*

RATG

The highly anticipated third book in Sabaa Tahir’s New York Times bestselling EMBER QUARTET.

Beyond the Empire and within it, the threat of war looms ever larger.

The Blood Shrike, Helene Aquilla, is assailed on all sides. Emperor Marcus, haunted by his past, grows increasingly unstable, while the Commandant capitalizes on his madness to bolster her own power. As Helene searches for a way to hold back the approaching darkness, her sister’s life and the lives of all those in the Empire hang in the balance.

Far to the east, Laia of Serra knows the fate of the world lies not in the machinations of the Martial court, but in stopping the Nightbringer. But while hunting for a way to bring him down, Laia faces unexpected threats from those she hoped would aid her, and is drawn into a battle she never thought she’d have to fight.

And in the land between the living and the dead, Elias Veturius has given up his freedom to serve as Soul Catcher. But in doing so, he has vowed himself to an ancient power that will stop at nothing to ensure Elias’s devotion–even at the cost of his humanity.

(via Goodreads)

I don’t really know where to start. This book was amazing, of course, as I knew it would be. It wasn’t 100% perfect, but is that even possible?

I’ll just get the negative out of the way first: I was a little confused at times. It’s been a thing throughout the series; the magic system isn’t exactly explained in simple terms, but I don’t mind it too much. With Reaper, I had a bit of a struggle remembering what happened in A Torch Against the Night (and there was a ton that happened in that one), so a lot of the confusion was me not remembering. I would have liked a little more summary of the previous book (summarizing previous books in a series usually bothers me, but for a series with release dates so far apart, I think it’s a little bit necessary); I think it would have generally just been helpful even to just have a synopsis of the first two books like some series have done. Of course, I could have just reread A Torch Against the Night, but it still just makes a lot more sense to put a little summary in there because not everyone likes to reread.

Anyway…

I was super surprised by this installment. I will say I wasn’t quite as emotionally destroyed as I expected (which I guess is a good thing), but I absolutely loved it.

What surprised me the most was that Helene’s point of view chapters were my favorite. I remember not liking her parts as much previously, but this time around I almost wanted to skip ahead to keep reading her side of the story. I’ve been wanting all the political intrigue lately and I definitely got it here. It was very well done.

I didn’t particularly like Helene before this book, but now I absolutely love her as a character. She’s extremely interesting and complex and just so completely human. I also really loved seeing her interactions with her sister. The whole Livia-Marcus-Helene ordeal, while being horrible, is well done and plays in well with the grand scheme of things.

Laia was…not my favorite? Like I love her, but she just kinda got pushed to the wayside a little, I think. I didn’t like reading her chapters as much in this book and just generally felt less important. I know that she is very crucial to the story but it just didn’t quite feel that way.

Elias is my child. I always, always have that one character that I just feel super protective of and he is the one in this series. So…It was his part of this book that kinda tore me apart. No spoilers but it’s really bad.

That’s all I’m going to say about him.

Avitas Harper is honestly one of my favorite characters. I just can’t help but love him; he’s got the sassy, sarcastic, Carswell Thorne vibe and I kinda really love it.

I still hate Keris Veturia and I doubt that will ever change.

Characters are so important to me and Sabaa did a great job again. Like I said, Laia wasn’t as good as she has been, but everyone else was amazing.

I can’t say much about the plot without spoilers, but it was full of all the political intrigue and power-hungry people and just general wartime things that all make up an amazing story.

The romance has definitely sorted itself out since book one. Book one’s romance was a little all over the place but it ended up redeeming itself. We also get another couple in Reaper and I’m shipping it very, very hard.

I’m rating this 4 stars. It was a solid third installment, certainly, but I did have some issues.

I definitely recommend this series if you’re a fan of fantasy (I will warn you that it’s very brutal) and political intrigue.

Have you read A Reaper at the Gates? What did you think?

-Clara

 

 

Lady Gwen is Out!

Hey you guys!

I know this is just a little bit sudden and I probably should have done an update a while ago, but….

Lady Gwen is now available! 

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Ravenoth is destroying everything Gwen loves. She must be stopped. Finding Rose is the only answer, yet they have no idea where to start. After an attempt on Gwen’s life, events begin to spiral, causing Gwen more grief than she could ever imagine. She must fight harder than ever to hold onto Ignatius and her children and sabotage the evil faerie’s plans before it’s too late.

As you all know, this has been a very long process and I know so many of you have been waiting almost two years for this book. I am so excited for you to read it and I hope you enjoy it as much as book one!

At the moment, only a paperback is available, but the ebook is coming for those of you that prefer a Kindle. It’s currently in Amazon’s review process and should be available on Amazon withing 72 hours at most, probably less.

If you’re new here, Lady Gwen is the sequel to Captain Guineverewhich I released in November 2016. Writing the sequel has been a lot harder than I expected but I’ve definitely learned a lot.

Buy Lady Gwen: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1724033271/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1539702633&sr=8-1&keywords=lady+gwen+clara+bennet

Buy Captain Guinevere: https://www.amazon.com/Captain-Guinevere-Gwendolyn-Trilogy-1/dp/1539710408/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1539702885&sr=1-1

Thank you all so much for your support and patience. I love you guys!

-Clara

French Music + My Favorites

If you’ve been here long, you probably know I listen to French-language music. I love it. It’s been extremely beneficial to me, and I wanted to post a little about it.

I started learning French when I was twelve, and my mom told me for a few months that I should find some of the music and listen to it, but I didn’t until I accidentally discovered a musical called La Legende du Roi ArthurOne thing led to another- I found artists I loved and more musicals, and my French got so much better because of it. I’ve since been known to speak French in my sleep and dream in it (I had a French dream just a couple of days ago, actually, but I don’t remember too much of it).

No matter what language you may be learning, listening to music in that language will help you so much.

With that being said, I want to share my favorite music with you all. I’ll start with musicals and then the non-musical stuff. It’s in no particular order aside from that; I can’t pick absolute favorites!

La Legende du Roi Arthur

My first favorite, to the extent of paying $20 for the CD.

 

Mozart l’Opera Rock

Based on the life of Mozart. I’ve seen this one far too many times.

 

1789, Les Amants de la Bastille

For fans of A Tale of Two Cities. 

 

Les Trois Mousquetaires

I haven’t been able to watch this one yet as it’s not on YouTube but the music just makes me happy.

 

Onto artists, many of which I discovered because they were in the aforementioned musicals.

Charlie Boisseau

He played Lancelot in LLDRA and his voice is so uniquely beautiful.

Florent Mothe

Arthur in LLDRA and Antonio Salieri in Mozart. He has an interesting style that I just love.

Zaho

Morgane in LLDRA, and what a good villain she played. She’s on the R&B side of things and also has a cool voice.

Coeur de Pirate

She’s Canadian and sings in both French and English. I put her on when I’m in the mood for music that’s more chill; she just has one of those voices. Her first album is mostly acoustic, too, and I believe she plays her own piano in her songs.

Louane

I found out about Louane in a travel magazine and I completely love her music.

 

There you have it!

What music do you listen to?
-Clara

I know I haven’t blogged about books in a while but I haven’t been reading all that much…. I’m currently almost 200 pages into A Reaper at the Gates which I may or may not review depending on how emotional it makes me. 

I Played with Makeup for Almost 2 Hours, and This is What Happened

Every so often I spend an evening playing with makeup. I love doing it- it gives me a chance to do the crazier stuff.

I certainly went crazy this time.

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It’s definitely a Halloween look. Maybe for a mermaid or fairy costume. I was kinda sorta going for a fairy, but the blue made it a mermaid. Regardless, I’m quite pleased with it. I think some false lashes could make it better, but I don’t have any at the moment.

If you’d like to know how I did this, I can do my best to post a tutorial (I’m not sure I remember exactly what I did)- just let me know in the comments!

-Clara