Friday, May 29, 2015

Kids Comics Blog Tour:
Five Questions with Eleanor Davis

Blog Tour organized by Macmillan
Go HERE for the full schedule

In celebration of Children's Book Week - the longest-running national literacy initiative in the country - Macmillan has organized a month-long kids comics Q&A blog tour. 

Dragons Beware! authors Jorge Aguirre and Rafael Rosado have interviewed thirty-two different kids comics authors, and I'm thrilled to feature their chat with cartoonist and illustrator Eleanor Davis


RAFAEL/JORGE:  Hi, Eleanor. It's very nice of you to answer our questions.  Thanks! And great to cyber-meet you.

ELEANOR DAVIS: So nice to be asked!! And so nice to meet you, Jorge & Rafael!

QUESTION (FROM RAFAEL)I’m in awe of your illustration work, there’s such a strong sense of design and color-it’s amazing how you’ve managed to translate all that into your comic work. Does it take a lot of work for you, or does it come naturally?

ELEANOR DAVIS: Thank you so much! I'm so glad you like my stuff, especially in my comics. Are you asking if my design & color take a lot of work, or if translating that aesthetic into comics is a lot of work? Either way, the answer is yes!! But I was a cartoonist before I was an illustrator, so comics comes a lot more naturally to me - even though it tends to be much more difficult. The challenge with making comics that you'd also like to be visually beautiful is that you can't let the art overwhelm the story - the story is always the most important thing, and the art is just there to further it. That can be hard for a lot of illustrator/cartoonists, I think!

QUESTIONThere’s such a huge difference in style and story between “Secret Science Alliance” and “How to Be Happy” - do they occupy different parts of your creative brain?  Are you able to work on both types of stories at the same time, or do you have to be in that space as you create the work?

ELEANOR DAVIS: Well, Secret Science Alliance was published in 2009 & I pitched it way before that - in 2005, I think. The way SSA is drawn was my regular style back then. By the time it was picked up by Bloomsbury in 2007, my style had already shifted to be very different, like my stories Seven Sacks & Stick and String. So drawing SSA was very challenging because it was sort of going backwards in time!

In contrast, my husband Drew & I just finished another kid's book for TOON called Flop to the Top & it's in a much more illustrative style that fits in more with my adult work, I think. I don't feel so much like Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde anymore!

As for the storytelling, it can be very hard for me to switch back and forth between projects, any projects. That's something I really struggle with!

QUESTIONCan you name some of your artistic influences/inspirations? How about favorite comics?

ELEANOR DAVIS: Artistic inspirations include Tove Jansson, Lyonel Feininger, John Porcellino, Joann Sfar and so many more people - also my best friend Katherine Guillen, who I've been making comics with since we were in high school, and my husband Drew Weing.

Favorite comics include the Dungeon books, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind by Hayao Miyazaki, This One Summer by Mariko & Jiilian Tamaki, The Innocents by Gipi, anything by Lisa Hanawalt, Nonnonba by Shigeru Mizuki, Gokinjo no Monogatari by Yazawa Ai, anything by Joann Sfar, anything by Vanessa Davis, anything by Kate Beaton, etc etc etc.

QUESTION:  What are you working on next? any more Secret Science Alliance or Toon Books?

ELEANOR DAVIS: I'm always working on 2 million things! There won't be an SSA sequel, but Drew and I just finished our new TOON book Flop to the Top & that will be released in September. I'm also very slowly working on a YA historical murder mystery with my mom, Ann Davis! Who knows when that will be out, but I'm excited about getting back to it as soon as I can.

QUESTIONWhat's on your nightstand? 

ELEANOR DAVIS: Right now, Sibley's Guide to Trees, a book on bicycle riding, To the Lighthouse, Leaves of Grass, and Anouk Ricard's Anna and Froga. <3 u="">

Thanks so much for the lovely questions!!! I'm excited to be part of this project.

This tour was developed in association with the Children’s Book Council/Every Child a Reader and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (and their exciting new partnership for Children’s Book Week in May).

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

5 to 1 by Holly Bodger

5 to 1 
by Holly Bodger 
Read: April 29 - May 2, 2015
May 12, 2015 by Knopf BYR (RH)
Source: Galley from publisher (THANK YOU, RH!)
Category: YA, dystopian, India, over population, 

Find: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository | Indiebound 

In the year 2054, after decades of gender selection, India now has a ratio of five boys for every girl, making women an incredibly valuable commodity. Tired of marrying off their daughters to the highest bidder and determined to finally make marriage fair, the women who form the country of Koyanagar have instituted a series of tests so that every boy has the chance to win a wife.

Sudasa doesn’t want to be a wife, and Kiran, a boy forced to compete in the test to become her husband, has other plans as well. Sudasa’s family wants nothing more than for their daughter to do the right thing and pick a husband who will keep her comfortable—and caged. Kiran’s family wants him to escape by failing the tests. As the tests advance, Sudasa and Kiran thwart each other at every turn until they slowly realize that they just might want the same thing.

This beautiful, unique novel is told from alternating points of view—Sudasa’s in verse and Kiran’s in prose—allowing readers to experience both characters’ pain and their brave struggle for hope.

I am always amazed when authors are able to create a world, unfold a plot and draw out strong emotions from the spare words of a verse novel. I wasn't sure what to expect in 5 to 1, but I ended up loving the dual narrative format. Sudasa speaks in verse, and it fits her love of poetry and her increasing feeling of being fractured between obedience to her expected roles and the life she wants for herself. Kiran's voice is in prose and it is more steady and certain, but also more angry and less careful, despite how carefully he's determined to follow his plan. 

This book takes place in a country called Koyanagar in the year 2052, somewhere in what was India. Boys in this society outnumber girls of a rate of 5 to 1, and because of that, women are valuable and men must compete for the opportunity to wed them. When I started this book, I thought that no way would our world have a society like this at so recent a point in the future. But then I remembered that there are many countries in the world where the rules for men, and especially women are very different. After that I could see they way that Koyangar was formed: with over population leading to rules about numbers of children, and then gender selection and finally a pushback against all of that. This society was set up to protect and venerate women, but if it traps them - and the men - to accomplish that task, is it actually benefitting anyone at all? I liked the overall message of having the courage and freedom to choose your own path, and allowing others to do the same. 

This book isn't really a romance. It takes place over a short time and the two main characters hardly interact face to face, although they are in the same room as each other for most of the book. But I love the way that Sudasa and Kiran's stories overlap and inform each other, and I could see similarities in their desire for truth and freedom that would make them a great ship if given the opportunity.

Assuming this remains a standalone, it reminds me a lot of dystopians like The Giver, which are less about revolutions and overthrowing societies and more about one person's awakening to the truth of their world, and then what personal decisions they make because of that knowledge. I've gotten tired of revolutions, so I actually really liked this. I think 5 to 1 is lovely as a standalone, but I'd also like to see what happens next to Sudasa and Kiran, and to get a broader picture of the world in which they live. 

Love Triangle Factor: None - very light romance. Hints of something that could be. 
Cliffhanger Scale: Standalone? I would love to know what's next for these characters,  but I also could be content with this conclusion. It is open ended, but still there is hope.

PS. I am headed to BEA this week! I can't wait to see many of you, and I will miss everyone who cannot be there. I'll mostly be around on twitter and instagram - come chat with me there! 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

by Naomi Novik
Read: April 29 - May 2, 2015
May 19th 2015 by Del Rey (RH)
Source: NetGalley (THANK YOU, RH!)
Category: Adult, Fantasy, Magic,

Find: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository | Indiebound 

“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”

Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.

I hadn't even heard of Uprooted until I saw Kim from The Midnight Garden raving about it. Then I wrongly assumed it was Middle Grade, which it is not at a all. The heroine is 17 when the book begins, but this is an adult fantasy, and it is wonderful. 

Despite the fact that I cannot spell or say her name, I loved Agnieszka fiercely through this entire book. Even at the beginning when she was awkward and had very little self regard, I wanted to give her a hug and be her friend. But she grows a tremendous amount through the course of this story, and though she discovers amazing things about herself, she never loses herself. She is always true to who she is, and always fights for what loves. 

One of my favorite relationships in this book is the friendship between Agnieszka and Kasia, which begins in childhood and is an element that drives this story. Though both girls experience great change through the course of the story, and their relationship suffers separation, jealousies and tragedies, there is a steadiness at its core that is unshakable.

I love the way the romance in Uprooted is subtle and never overtakes the plot, but is a thread running through the entire book and could be very swoony. This is a slow building relationship that begins in true dislike and inequality - Agnieszka is a captive of the Dragon. But one of my favorite aspects of their romance is how different they are, but how well they compliment each other, especially because that's not at all obvious at the beginning. (highlight for spoiler) 
Every time they worked together and combined their magic, I swooned. Their changing relationship is perfectly paced along with Agnieszka's personal growth, so that it makes sense when it begins. I do wish there was a tiiiiny bit more of the romance, though that is for selfish reasons, because it wasn't needed. The author did a great job at making it meaningful, but still a side element. 

The world building in this story is divine. The magic is complex and beautifully described, and the danger of the Wood is terrifying, but also fascinating, I only wish I had a map to see the landscape for myself (perhaps there's one in the final version?). I'm struggling to say more about the larger fantasy part the story. It's very important and one of the reasons I love the book so much, but it's fun to go in not knowing what you'll expect, so I will just leave you with the bit I said above. 

I did think Uprooted went a little long, especially near the end, and that affected my reading momentum somewhat. However, overall this is a stunning fantasy story, and I was very satisfied with the end. As far as I know, this is a standalone, but I would love to read more of this world, and I need to check out what else Naomi Novik has written - and is going to write in the future. You don't want to miss this one - don't  make the assumptions I did.  

Love Triangle Factor: None
Cliffhanger Scale: Standalone

A side note: This book has some similar elements to another very popular recent release, especially in the captive heroine set-up. But where that book didn't work for me for various reasons, this one did beautifully. I don't think it has to be one or the other, but if you are a lonely black sheep for ACOTAR like me, I'd definitely recommend giving this one a shot! 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Wrath and the Dawn Blog Tour:
Author Renée Ahdieh discusses the food + Giveaway

Tour organized by Penguin Teen
See below for the full schedule

Did The Wrath and the Dawn make anyone else hungry?  

Today I’m thrilled to have Author Renée Ahdieh visiting to talk about the delicious meals she wove in her story. 

Go HERE to see my love for this book in 5 points.

The Wrath and the Dawn
Renée Ahdieh
Published: May 12, 2015 by Putnam Juvenile 
Category: YA, fantasy, magic, 1001 Nights, Persia

Series: The Wrath and the Dawn #1
Find: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository 

A sumptuous and epically told love story inspired by A Thousand and One Nights

Every dawn brings horror to a different family in a land ruled by a killer. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, takes a new bride each night only to have her executed at sunrise. So it is a suspicious surprise when sixteen-year-old Shahrzad volunteers to marry Khalid. But she does so with a clever plan to stay alive and exact revenge on the Caliph for the murder of her best friend and countless other girls. Shazi's wit and will, indeed, get her through to the dawn that no others have seen, but with a catch . . . she’s falling in love with the very boy who killed her dearest friend.

She discovers that the murderous boy-king is not all that he seems and neither are the deaths of so many girls. Shazi is determined to uncover the reason for the murders and to break the cycle once and for all.


The Food in The Wrath and the Dawn
by Author Renée Ahdieh

Food has always been a particular passion of mine. I grew up in a mixed-race household, and watching my family struggle to bridge cultural gaps was a pivotal part of my upbringing. Oftentimes, these struggles were most clearly manifested in food. My mother is South Korean, and I was raised on a diet of white rice, pickled vegetables, and lots of garlic. There were occasions when these foods brought about a dubious look from strangers and even my father’s own family members. But I soon learned that food—much like music—can be such an equalizer. When you share a plate of something you love with someone new, you start to see the humanity in the simplest of gestures . . . an extra spoonful here, and a laughing question asked there.

I knew when I began writing a book based in a non-Western culture that I really wanted to make the cuisine shine. And in this small way, I hoped to bridge any divide readers might feel between them and what could be considered a foreign or “exotic” culture. If a reader could see herself/himself partaking in the same food as the main character, then the story could then become that much more relatable. Some of my most favorite reads as a child contained lush descriptions of food. I particularly recall Brian Jacques’ Redwall series. To this day, I can read the descriptions of the food and feel instantly transported to another world . . . in addition to being instantly hungry! I mean, who wouldn’t want a bowl of hotroot soup and candied chestnuts?

In order to do the cuisine justice, I turned to my Persian mother-in-law and some of my closest friends. The Wrath and the Dawn’s world is based on ancient Persia, with some touches of the Abbasid Caliphate and Hindustan thrown into the mix. My mother-in-law patiently taught me how to make Persian rice—though I might have set fire to the kitchen the first time—and all the many wonderful stews and amazing marinades that have made Persian food world-famous over the years. The best part about learning how to cook these things (other than getting to eat them!) were the stories that came along with it. The tales of how this particular dish came to be, or even the way my mother-in-law has carefully tweaked it over the years. These are the things one can’t necessarily learn by reading a book, and I will forever be grateful for these experiences.

After learning more about the cuisine, I turned toward my own training for guidance, both as a writer and as a self-confessed foodie. Prior to writing books, I wrote for several travel magazines and food blogs. Having done this, I had a fair idea of what might translate well onto the page. It was important for me to be as authentic as possible while being equally accessible. So I took particular pains to make the food in the book a big facet of the world building.

Honestly one of the best compliments I’ve received about The Wrath and the Dawn—aside from people telling me it kept them up at night!—is that they wanted to eat all the food in it. And if I had my way, we would all be sharing a big plate of buttery saffron rice and sizzling kebabs!

YUM! Bring on the food. Are you all as hungry as I am now?


About the Author

I live in North Carolina (Go Heels!) with my husband Victor and our dog Mushu. My YA fantasy novel, THE WRATH AND THE DAWN, was published on May 12th, 2015. In my spare time, I like to cook, dance salsa, and wreak havoc on the lives of my characters.

Follow Renée: Goodreads | Website | Twitter


Blog tour schedule

The Young Folks – Guest post - May 11
Two Chicks on Books – Interview - May 12
Once Upon a Twilight – Interview – May 13
Addicted Readers – Review – May 14
Cuddlebuggery – Review – May 15

The Eater of Books! – Top 10 list – May 18
Love is not a triangle – Guest post – May 19
Mostly YA Book Obsessed – Character profiles/Where I See Fashion – May 20
Gone with the Words – Interview – May 21
Fiktshun – Review - May 22

Read.Breathe.Relax. – Interview – May 25
The Daily Quirk – Review – May 26
The Irish Banana – Would You Rather? – May 27
No BS Book Reviews – Review – May 28
Me, My Shelf and I – 25 Random Things – May 29


Five winners will receive a finished copy of The Wrath and the Dawn + 3 silk scarves. One scarf features the cover design, and the other 2 have a tiger (for Khalid) and a falcon (for Tariq)* 

Giveaway is for US residents only (Sorry, international readers!)
You must be at least 13 years old to enter
See my policies HERE

*I want to note again that I don't think this series has a triangle. You can see more of my thoughts on this in my review

Monday, May 18, 2015

Exquisite Corpse by Pénélope Bagieu Blog Tour
Review + Giveaway

Blog Tour organized by Macmillan
Go HERE for the full schedule

Equisite Corpse
by Pénélope Bagieu
Read: May 12, 2015
May 5, 2015 by First Second
Source: Macmillan (Thank You!)
Category: ADULT, graphic novel, authors

Find: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository | Indiebound

Zoe isn't exactly the intellectual type, which is why she doesn't recognize world-famous author Thomas Rocher when she stumbles into his apartment...and into his life. It's also why she doesn't know that Rocher is supposed to be dead. Turns out, Rocher faked his death years ago to escape his critics, and has been making a killing releasing his new work as "lost manuscripts," in cahoots with his editor/ex-wife Agathe. Neither of them would have invited a crass party girl like Zoe into their literary conspiracy of two, but now that she's there anyway. . . . Zoe doesn't know Balzac from Batman, but she's going to have to wise up fast... because she's sitting on the literary scandal of the century!

I have a confession to make: this is the first graphic novel that I've ever read in full. Before I started it, I was worried about getting into the flow of a story that combines pictures with words, instead of just one of those. But after a few pages I was completely absorbed, and the story began to come to life. Kind of like when I watch a foreign movie with subtitles and forget later that I read the words instead of hearing the actors say them. I love that I didn't need long descriptions or dialogue to get into the book and understand what was happening. 

Exquisite Corpse is the story of Zoe who is working a dead end job and has a loser boyfriend that she keeps thinking of leaving, but can't seem to quite make it happen. One day she randomly ends up in the apartment of a guy who turns out to be a famous author...who's supposed to be dead. Of course Zoe doesn't know anything about Thomas Rocher or his "death," because she doesn't do much reading. (She's never been into a bookstore, WHAT? Poor girl!). Zoe unwittingly gets caught up in a book selling scheme being carried out by Rocher and his ex-wife Agathe. She's in way over her head and nobody will guess how she'll get herself out of the situation. 

Zoe and I do not have much in common at all, but I like her laid back approach to life, and I think everyone has moments where they get stuck and feel paralyzed to change their situations. I could definitely feel how much Zoe was weighted down by that as I was reading, and I was excited when she began to get out of her rut and started to take charge of her life.  I also enjoyed that she saw things very differently from Rocher and Agathe, and I was cheering her on when she got angry and told them exactly what she thought of their plan. 

This was a great first graphic novel. It's not super long, and I was able to absorb it in one sitting. The images were clear but also a little gritty. This is not a YA book, by the way. The heroine is 22 and the themes and pictures are more adult focused. I don't have a lot of books to compare this one with, but I like the way author Pénélope Bagieu's art matched her honest storytelling, and especially that she threw some unexpected twists into it. The ending is especially hilarious. 

After such a positive graphic novel reading experience, I'm excited to try out more of these books. What are your favorites? 

Love Triangle Factor: Medium - This is hard to rate. One person isn't torn over two people, but there are some Linear Love Progressions. Also, I wasn't heavily emotionally invested in the romance of this book. 
Cliffhanger Scale: Standalone 

About the Author

Pénélope Bagieu was born in Paris in 1982, to Corsican and Basque parents. She is a bestselling graphic novel author and her editorial illustrations have appeared all over the French media. She blogs, drums in a rock band, and watches lots of nature shows.

Find her website | twitter (mostly in French)


Win a finished copy of Exquisite Corpse

Giveaway is for US or Canada residents only (Sorry, other international readers!)
You must be at least 13 years old to enter

See my policies HERE

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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