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Reader Spotlight

Blog name: The Indigo Quill
Blog URL: http://www.theindigoquill.com
Your name: Lis Ann Morehart

A nice place to start is with your library origin story – when did you decide to become a Youth Services Librarian? Can you briefly explain your role and your favorite aspect of your job?

That’s a great question! I have always loved books, education, and the power of imagination. When I was a kid, I’d ask my parents to drop me off at school 30 minutes early so I could roam the library and pick out my next read. My friends and I started our own book club, which became a sort of competition. From Elementary through High School, my librarians knew my name.

When I began college, I was torn between majoring in Music and English.  At first I chose music, but then I got to Music Theory III and decided it was time to switch gears (think of “Chemistry” class being the point where Biology majors drop out…that’s Music Theory III for Music majors!). I have so many hobbies, it took me a while to decide what I really wanted to do. In 2013, I started The Indigo Quill, and that is when I decided to become a librarian. The more I researched what a Youth Services Librarian did, I realized all of my hobbies and passions fit into this one vocation.

My job, in my opinion, is the best job in the world. I oversee ages 0 to early 20s and work with kids and teens through every phase of their lives. As someone who doesn’t sit still well, my job is always changing, and I love that. I keep up with the best practices for providing not just literacy, but also life skills and development for my patrons. I am in charge of collection development, program planning and execution, bookmobile services, volunteers, outreach, and anything else pertaining to children and teens. I am also the caregiver for our three library guinea pigs, Dobby, Dougal, and Nimbus. That’s just an added bonus. 🙂

Can you speak a little bit about your journey to becoming a book blogger? Do you find that reviewing books helps you better recommend them to students?

I have been a blogger since I was in the junior high, but I wanted to book blog for years before I finally did it. It wasn’t until I had read the end of a series I had followed for nearly a decade that I decided to start my blog. I waited almost ten years for this couple to get together, and then they ended up marrying other people! I won’t name any names, but I was so upset I had to find others who felt the same way. Thus, The Indigo Quill was born. Once I started, I was suddenly connected to several authors and publishers and the entire experience became much more than I ever anticipated. Here I was starting a blog so I had an outlet to complain expecting nothing to come of it, and aside from helping me become a better reader, writer, and editor, it assisted me in landing my last two jobs.

Reviewing has absolutely helped me better recommend books to people. It provides me navigation for picking the right ones to order for the library, and aids me in choosing books for storytime, Tween Book Club, and Teen Book Talk.

What are your favorite genres to read and review? Are there any upcoming book(s) on NetGalley that you’re excited about recommending?

I love Juvenile Fantasy, because you will find the greatest depths of imagination there. It keeps me young and aware of life’s possibilities. But I also enjoy balancing that out with Non-Fiction. I grew up with a fascination for learning things, so whether it’s a biography, cookbook, cultural, or health, I almost always emerge from the pages enlightened.

It actually released earlier this month, but I recommend the book, Women Who Dared by Linda Skeers. If you love books that empower women in history, this title is distinguished and comprehensive. Although it doesn’t provide extensive details (especially the less glamorous ones) for each gal, it introduces women from all over the world in a way that doesn’t intimidate young readers.

Do you have a favorite moment when you provided someone with a book?

At the beginning of Summer Reading, I had a parent who told me her son, who is about 10 years old, hates reading. Every time a parent tells me that, I get a little overly excited. Challenge accepted! 9 times out of 10, the child just needs to be introduced to the right book. They just need to discover something in their “language.” Sometimes that’s My Little Pony, other times it’s Minecraft. This particular child I directed to our graphic novels. He was so excited to find Pokemon books! He had the entire series read by the end of the Summer, and has now moved on to our Juvenile Fiction. He was one of my top readers for the Summer Reading Program this Summer, and I couldn’t be more proud. Sometimes you just need to find the right key.

What is the most requested title in your library?

Anything by James Patterson. We have pages of waiting lists for his books, and they won’t see the shelves for at least 6 months after we receive them.

Lightning Round!

Your blog in two sentences:

First impressions and occasional adventures by a Youth Services Librarian. The days of suffering alone at the hands of a good, or horrible, story are over!

Your all-time favorite Middle Grade book:

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Your favorite character in a book or series:

Hermione Granger is without a doubt my literary parallel.

And to finish off our interview, if you could have coffee (…or something stiffer) with any author, dead or alive, who would it be, and why?

Neil Gaiman. He is absolutely brilliant on and off the pages.

Thanks so much, Lis Ann, for spending time with us and answering our questions! 

Please make sure to check out The Indigo Quill blog plus more Middle Grade and Children’s Fiction on NetGalley!

Would you like to nominate someone to be featured in our Reader Spotlight series? Fill out this form!

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Kate Moretti’s Favorite Modern Whodunits with Unreliable Narrators

Originally published on Bookish.com, an editorially independent division of NetGalley.

The best mysteries keep readers on the edge of their seats from page one and cause them to doubt their own theories about who killed who. This is certainly the case with The Blackbird SeasonKate Moretti’s gripping latest novel. A young girl has disappeared, last seen with a married high school baseball coach. He claims to be innocent, but even his wife doubts his tale. To celebrate the book’s release, Moretti put together a list of her favorite modern whodunits.

When I started writing The Blackbird Season, my main goal was to keep the reader off their game and unbalanced. I wanted readers to constantly second guess themselves and spend the entirety of the book wondering “wait, did they do it?” I didn’t specifically set out to write an unreliable narrator (Nate says he didn’t do it and well, you’ll have to read to find out!). But I wanted to play with the idea of perception, the notion that guilt and innocence aren’t as black and white as Law & Order makes us think they are.

I was largely inspired by the modern “whodunit”. Recent books by female authors are incredibly rich and layered, and often it’s impossible to predict the endings. They are character driven (which I love!) and often involve family life, kids, husbands, wives, neighbors and friends.

The Girl on the Train

Rachel Watson is the ultimate unreliable narrator! Rachel is a black-out drunk who is barely still functioning. She watches a couple every day from her train window, a couple that happens to live next door to her ex and his new family. Readers will ask themselves a million questions: What’s with the bundle of clothes? What is going on with her memory? Did she kill Megan? Who killed Megan? I confess I spent most of the novel pretty sure that Rachel killed Megan. But the end… we’ll just say it was a surprise.

Big Little Lies

There’s a PTA party and a murder, or at least you think it’s a murder. Honestly, with this one, you spend most of the book wondering who, if anyone, has died. The plot winds backwards, putting suburban unrest on full display, and peppered with ludicrous (and sometimes hilarious) police interviews. There’s a light humor throughout the whole book but you have no idea who is dead, or who killed them. Even the minor players are developed enough to be doubted!

I Let You Go

A woman is grieving alone in a coastal cabin. She grieves for her son, who was killed in a car accident. But her narrative is disjointed and while emotional, it’s also detached. Too much so. Something doesn’t add up. Then comes the twist and the revelations and we are left to wonder, page after page, who is guilty? What really happened that night? How fine is the line between guilt and innocence? My kind of book!

You Will Know Me

This book is an intimate look inside the world of elite gymnastics. Megan Abbott deftly navigates a family where the parents have sunk their time, energy, money, and entire lives into the success of their child. When a member of the community is killed in a car accident that may or may not be an accident, suddenly everyone is a suspect. I spent the entire story flip-flopping between who I think did it, sometimes changing my mind mid-chapter. The greatest part of this novel, for me, was how easily the reader could follow the family down this disturbing, insular rabbit hole.

Emma in the Night

Two sisters disappear and three years later only one returns. She comes back with fantastical stories about a mysterious island and kidnapping, but the family psychiatrist is suspicious. Did Cass kidnap or kill her sister? Immediately, the reader realizes that something is not right with the Tanner family, specifically the mother. There is a thread of narcissism woven thoroughly throughout their lives and the dysfunction is uncomfortable and disturbing. I spent page after page wondering: Was it the mother? The father? Cass herself? What exactly happened that night at the beach? There is no way to guess the ending of Emma, but the reader will spend a fair amount of time trying!

Kate Moretti is the New York Times bestselling author of Thought I Knew You, Binds That Tie, and While You Were Gone. She lives in eastern Pennsylvania with her husband and two kids. Find out more at KateMoretti.com or follow her on Twitter: @KateMoretti1 or Facebook: /KateMorettiWriter.

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13 Authors on Banning Books and Censorship

Originally published on Bookish.com, an editorially independent division of NetGalley.

It’s Banned Books Week, an annual celebration of the right to read. Launched in 1982, Banned Books Week was a response to an increase in the number of books being challenged by groups and individuals. Here, we’ve rounded up the perspectives of thirteen authors—from Roxane Gay to Kurt Vonnegut—on challenged books, book banning, and censorship.

“I don’t believe that books, even bad books, corrupt us. Instead, I believe books challenge and interrogate. They give us windows into the lives of others and give us mirrors so that we can better see ourselves. And ultimately, if you have a worldview that can be undone by a novel, let me submit that the problem is not with the novel.” —John Green“On the Banning of Looking for Alaska

“To the administrators I would say: Find your brain again. Stop lying, stop being hypocritical, and trust the young people. Read the book first and don’t just be shocked by one picture [from Persepolis]. Read it first, and then, if you really are shocked, don’t teach it. But I’m sure these people didn’t even read it. I would say to the children that I trust them—and I really trust that they will make a better world. I think they are very intelligent, and I really believe in young people.” —Marjane Satrapi, interview with SocialistWorker.org

“I have extensive experience with having my books challenged and banned. The thing is, when they ban or challenge a book, it instantly makes it prime reading material for that community. You want to guarantee every kid in a school reads the book? Ban it from a school. So I actually appreciate it. These folks would gladly have a nationwide effort to ban certain books. They would gladly control everything that anybody can read. So these small battles are fought so that they don’t gain power to fight that larger war of controlling all of literature, which is what they want to do.” —Sherman Alexie“Book Banning and Censorship”

“This morning I received an email that was, essentially a gesture of censorship. It was a message predicated on the assumption that I came here to corrupt young minds with an agenda. As I mulled it over I wondered how desperately fragile a faith must be if it cannot withstand critical engagement or diverse points of view. Generally at events like [university visits], I read a few essays and the audience and I have a fun, engaging conversation about social justice and popular culture. I do not consider it my responsibility to convert you to my way of thinking or to malign your way of thinking should we hold different points of view. Instead, it is my responsibility to encourage you to question, to think, critically about your beliefs and what they mean for this world we share and the people with whom we share this world. I offer, I hope, a small act of faith.” —Roxane Gay“Acts of Faith”

“People often ask me how I’d want to respond to those critics who would rather see my books pulled from shelves than handed to young readers. I do have an answer, and it boils down to the fact that not every book is right for every person. Some grown-ups are not amused by the kinds of things that make most children laugh, and so they try to stomp those things out.” —Dav Pilkey“What It’s Like to Top Banned Book Lists Around the World”

“Banning of books is a common practice in police states, like Cuba or North Korea, and by religious fundamentalist groups like the Taliban, but I did not expect it in our democracy. No student is forced to read [The House of the Spirits]. Teachers like to teach it because they believe it gives the students insights into Latin American literature, history, politics, social issues, and customs. They usually offer their students other options but most students choose the book, they enjoy it and often they write to me. Their comments prove that they have understood the story and they are curious to learn more. The novel seems to open their minds to other places and peoples in the world.” —Isabel Allendeletter to the North Carolina School Board

“Well, my first novel, The Kite Runner, has found itself as frequently appearing on the banned book list and frankly it’s something that’s always perplexed and puzzled me. I’m never quite sure what children are supposedly being protected from, because by now I have received thousands and thousands of letters from both middle school and high school students, children who read the book, either at home for themselves or in classrooms and I think, judging on the content of those letters, they’re far, far more sophisticated than we give them credit for. They get the context. They get the reasons why certain scenes are put in. They really understand that and they articulate that to me. I feel that, far more harmful to kids is so much of the pop culture that they’re exposed to through television, through the internet.”—Khaled Hosseinispeaking to the American Library Association

“[A] parent in Tennessee has confused gynecology with pornography and is trying to get my book banned from the Knoxville high school system… I hope the students of Knoxville will be able to continue to learn about Henrietta and the important lessons her story can teach them. Because my book is many things: It’s a story of race and medicine, bioethics, science illiteracy, the importance of education and equality and science and so much more. But it is not anything resembling pornography.” —Rebecca Skloot, on Banned Books Week

“[T]hey never learn. The inevitable result of trying to ban something—book, film, play, pop song, whatever—is that far more people want to get hold of it than would ever have done if it were left alone. Why don’t the censors realize this?” —Philip Pullmanon the futility and evil of banning books

“People died in the freedom struggle, and to think that having gained freedom at such a cost, it is now indeed threatened again. All writers are threatened by censorship, and censorship is the reality lurking behind the words ‘media tribunal.’ We are protesting against the institution of a media tribunal, which of course means ‘word police,’ not merely on our own behalf. Writing presupposes an interaction with readers. If the work and the freedom of the writer are in jeopardy, the freedom of every reader in South Africa is too. Our protest is an action undertaken by South Africans for all South Africans, committing ourselves to a demand for our free country: freedom of thought expressed, freedom of dialogue, freedom from fear of the truth about ourselves.” —Nadine Gordimer, interview with The Guardian

“Dear Mr. McCarthy… If you and your board are now determined to show that you in fact have wisdom and maturity when you exercise your powers over the [education] of your young, then you should acknowledge that it was a rotten lesson you taught young people in a free society when you denounced and then burned books—books you hadn’t even read. You should also resolve to expose your children to all sorts of opinions and information, in order that they will be better equipped to make decisions and to survive. Again: You have insulted me, and I am a good citizen, and I am very real.” —Kurt Vonnegutletter to the North Dakota School Board

“As far as I can tell from the talk of the people who are against the books, they somehow think that if we don’t write about sex, it will disappear, it will go away. They talk about preserving their seventeen-year-old and eighteen-year-old children, protecting them. Well, biology doesn’t protect them. They don’t need to read books.” —Alice Munro, CBC interview

“Maybe what’s upsetting about [Truth & Beauty] is that it’s true, it really happened. So let’s make a pact today not to read any nonfiction that could be upsetting. If stories about girls who are disfigured by cancer, humiliated by strangers, and turn to sex and drugs to escape from their enormous pain are too disgusting, too pornographic, then I have to tell you, friends, the Holocaust is off-limits. The Russian Revolution, the killing fields of Cambodia, the war in Vietnam, the Crusades, all represent such staggering acts of human depravity and perversion that I could see the virtue of never looking at them at all.” —Ann Patchett“The Love Between the Two Women is Not Normal”

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Librarian's Choice

Librarians' Choice: top 10

Librarians’ Choice has announced the Top 10 titles for October 2017 that librarians across Australia love. You can request or wish for the featured titles below on NetGalley right now, and view more information on the Librarians’ Choice site.

If you are a librarian in Australia, you can nominate titles for the Librarians’ Choice list via NetGalley!

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Top Ten Books from the UK – November

Our November Books of the Month roundup is full of excitement, cheer and barnstorming reads. The return of Minette Walters with a historical novel is a welcome surprise, and we’re sure it’s going to be a big hit. Also, do look out for Sing, Unburied, Sing, about which reviewers and early readers have been raving. Enjoy!

BOOK OF THE MONTH

The Last Hours
Minette Walters
Allen & Unwin
UK Edition

Minette Walters burst onto the scene in 1992 with The Ice House – a novel that introduced her unique blend of psychological insight and brilliant plotting. Twenty-five years later, The Last Hours sees her turn her hand to historical fiction. And it’s just as gripping as one would hope. 

June, 1348: the Black Death enters England. In the Dorsetshire estate of Develish, Lady Anne decides to quarantine herself, bringing the serfs inside the walls. But Lady Anne’s plan causes conflicts, fear and uncertainty – and ultimately a dreadful event that threatens the uneasy status quo…

Superbly written and utterly convincing, The Last Hours is a historical epic not to be missed.

Sing, Unburied, Sing
Jesmyn Ward
Bloomsbury
UK Edition

Already a finalist for the US National Book Award, Sing, Unburied, Sing is a genuinely affecting, hauntingly written novel of family, home and hope. Jojo’s mother, Leonie, packs up the kids to drive them to collect their father, lately imprisoned in Mississippi. It’s a journey that will teach Jojo about what it means to be a son, a father and a man, as well as laying bare the battles and scars that his parents have lived. Important, immersive, and utterly distinctive, this is a bravura novel of modern America.

The Mountain
Luca D'Andrea
MacLehose Press
UK Edition

A sensation across Europe, The Mountain is an unusual and beguiling take on the cold case thriller. Distraught and depressed after a crash he caused, Jeremiah Salinger takes his daughter Clara to the Bletterbach – a canyon in the Dolomites. There he discovers that in 1985 three students were murdered there, their bodies savaged by a killer who was never found. Solving the mystery might be the only thing that can keep him sane. An atmospheric thriller for fans of Stephen King and Joël Dicker.

Heather, The Totality
Matthew Weiner
Canongate
UK Edition
US, CA Edition

Matthew Weiner is best known as the creator of the television classic Mad Men – and his forensic understanding of the dark hearts that lie beneath a veneer of wealth and sophistication are evident in this intense and menacing page-turner. The Breakstone family centre themselves around their daughter Heather, a perfect child with a perfect life. But as Heather grows, so does the darkness that surrounds her. A darkness that comes from home and from the street, where someone is watching…

An Almost Perfect Christmas
Nina Stibbe
Viking
UK Edition

Nina Stibbe’s bestselling Love, Nina was full of wry humour, nostalgia and deft characterisation – and this festive book serves up more of her hilarious memories and musings. Stibbe is a natural heir to the late, great Sue Townsend, and An Almost Perfect Christmas cements her reputation as one of the funniest writers around. Whether it’s the dryness of turkey, round robin letters or the perils of re-gifting, Stibbe will show you the yule-tide horrors anew, and ensure you’re still laughing at New Year.

Poverty Safari
Darren McGarvey
Luath Press
Worldwide Edition

With high-profile endorsements from JK Rowling and Irvine Welsh, Poverty Safari is set to be one of the year’s most important and talked about books on modern Britain. Part memoir, part travelogue, part impassioned plea, Poverty Safari takes the reader deep into the invisible world of the systemically deprived, a world ignored and derided, a world that is caught between apathy and seething anger. It is an anger that society will have to get used to – unless something changes. Urgent, vital and startling, this is a must read.

The Secret of Vesalius
Jordi Llobregat
riverrun
UK Edition

You’ve never seen Barcelona this way before – gothic, dangerous, romantic and diabolical – and The Secret of Vesalius will make you want to board a plane immediately. 1888: Called back to Barcelona from Oxford, expert linguist Daniel Amat is asked to help investigate a series of murders – all of which point to an ancient curse and a 16th Century anatomist, Vesalius. Amat is soon plunged into a deadly pursuit to stop the unravelling of Vesalius’s secret. A breath-taking, genre-busting enigma for fans of The Shadow of the Wind.

The Alphabet of Heart's Desire
Brian Keaney
Holland House
Worldwide Edition

It is a bold move to include a literary genius as your central character, but it’s one that Brian Keaney pulls off with aplomb. A young Thomas De Quincey collapses on Oxford Street and is nursed to health far from his safe, rich normal life. There he discovers another world, another realm where pleasure and pain constantly rub against each other. Keaney’s depiction of its denizens is pitch perfect, and its tale of love, desire and addiction utterly compelling.

The Liar
Steve Cavanagh
Orion
UK Edition

The third in the Eddie Flynn series – though you can read them in any order – is another tightly, tensely plotted legal thriller with a difference. Former con-man turned criminal attorney, Flynn is the man you want in a crisis, and Leonard Howell is in crisis: his daughter is missing. Flynn vows to bring her home, but soon realises things are not quite what they seem. One of the best new mystery series around, this latest instalment is the best yet.

The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night
Jen Campbell
Two Roads
UK Edition

From the bestselling author of Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops comes a magical, original and enthralling collection of modern fairy stories. Elegantly weaving the traditional with the contemporary, these twelve tales swirl with outsiders, enchantment, ghouls and ghosts, making for a haunting and often unnerving read. Fans of Angela Carter, Louise O’Neill and The Night Circus will down these stories like nectar.

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Kendare Blake: “I Don’t Really Believe in Endings.”

Originally published on Bookish.com, our sister company.

In Kendare Blake’s Three Dark Crowns series, three young queens are vying for the throne. The one to wear the crown will be the one willing to dirty her hands by killing her competition. The second installment, One Dark Throne, takes readers back to this dark world and follows each queen in her attempts to stay alive. Here, Blake shares the inspiration for her murderous storyline, her thoughts on endings, and where our favorite characters may go from here (if they survive).

Bookish: At its heart, this is a story of young women taking their power and agency back from a society that strives to control them. Can you share with us what drew you to this theme?

Kendare Blake: I’ve always enjoyed putting people in sticky situations and seeing how they deal with them. And I enjoy working with complicated women. But the premise of Three Dark Crowns was wholly inspired by a beehive: a matriarchal system where an exiting queen will bear multiple queens and those baby queens kill each other. So it was that brutal bit of nature that drew me to this story specifically!

Bookish: Katharine emerges from the Breccia Domain a changed queen. She starts to break free from Natalia’s plots, but she isn’t completely in control herself. What can readers expect from her in the next book?

KB: In One Dark Throne, expect for her to be almost completely changed, as far as her drive for the crown is concerned. Her physical weaknesses don’t seem to be bothering her anymore either. But the new strength comes at a price.

Bookish: Unlike her sisters, Mirabella spent her life believing she’d face no competition for the throne. But now, everything she thought she knew is slipping away, and she’s struggling to face a future where she may be killed. What were the challenges of writing a character who is experiencing that kind of realization?

KB: Ah, Mirabella, the most powerful and favored triplet. When I started writing, I didn’t think I would like her. She was so sheltered and, despite her love for her sisters, I thought she would react badly when confronted with the realities of her situation. She was the most difficult character to write, perhaps because she and I are the least alike in personality, but I thought she showed surprising spunk, and was open to learning and changing her mind in a way that the other sisters weren’t.

Bookish: With three protagonists each making decisions that impact and change the story, is your plotting process for this series different from the way you plot your other books?

KB: The setup is more complex, setting all the pieces on the board at the start of the game, if that makes sense, but I still don’t really plot. I let the characters go and see what happens. With this many conflicting interests, and this many forceful personalities, they’re bound to get into the dickens without much interference from me.

Bookish: You’ve said you were thinking about this story for a few years before writing it, and now it’s developed from a duology to a four-book series. Who or what has changed the most since that original conception?

KB: Actually, not much has changed, despite adding books and other content (novellas, bonus scenes, etc.). One Dark Throne still ends more or less where it always would have. Now I just get to write the after, when before it would have been left to the imagination. I’m glad to be able to spend more time on the island, and with many different queens, but part of me is melancholy about that. Knowing the end. Knowing the rest. I like unanswered questions, and I don’t really believe in endings. But, I suppose by the time I reach the close of the fourth book, enough questions will have spun out from new conflicts to be able to leave some things unknown.

Bookish: This series is set in a matriarchal society. Did you research similar societies for inspiration or was your focus instead on subverting patriarchal norms?

KB: The only real inspiration was the beehive. It was fun to write the boys who come to the island from patriarchal cultures and watch them try to acclimate. And it was interesting to watch myself make mistakes, like giving characters the wrong last names (the last name should follow the mother’s line) or the wrong inheritances (daughters inherit first).

Bookish: Both titles follow a pattern of Number Dark Object (Three Dark CrownsOne Dark Throne). What’s your process for coming up with titles? Can readers expect them to follow the current pattern?

KB: Ha, you noticed! Yes, we’re sticking with the pattern. It might irritate some people that we’re not going in order—one, two, three—and I’m pretty sure there won’t be a title with the number four in it. So for the folks who like things just so with their numbers, I’m very sorry!

Titles usually show up fully formed for me. If the book is ready to be written (meaning I’ve tossed it around in my head for a few years), it has usually titled itself. Anna Dressed in Blood was one of the first titles that came to mind. It named the ghost and was wholly the title from day one. Three Dark Crowns was originally titled Three Black Witches, but then I wrote the book and they were more queens than witches. Witches is a mainland word in their world, a foreign word.

Bookish: Which character’s journey are you most excited to explore in future books?

KB: I’m excited to continue on with the relationships between the characters. I want to see how they change within their new situations. But I don’t want to name names… because then readers will know they live!

Bookish: Which scene are you most excited to see readers’ reactions to?

KB: The whole thing, really! Those last hundred pages or so the ropes tighten and the bodies start to drop. I just hope they enjoy it. I hope the queens take them for a ride.

Kendare Blake holds an MA in creative writing from Middlesex University in northern London. She is the author of Anna Dressed in Blood, a Cybils Awards finalist; Girl of NightmaresAntigoddessMortal GodsUngodly; and the New York Times bestselling Three Dark Crowns series. Her books have been translated into eighteen languages, have been featured on multiple best-of-year lists, and have received many regional and librarian awards. Kendare lives and writes in Kent, Washington. Visit her online at www.kendareblake.com.

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Reader Spotlight

Blog name: Beauty in Ruins
Blog URL: https://beauty-in-ruins.blogspot.com/
Your name: Bob Milne

A nice place to start is with your blogger origin story – how long have you been reviewing books online and how did Beauty in Ruins start?

I actually started Beauty in Ruins way back in 2009 (wow, has it really been that long?), with a focus on my photography of ruined and abandoned places. I was already reviewing on Goodreads at the time, which allowed me to find my voice and figure out how to approach reviews, and in 2011 those book reviews came to be the driving force behind the blog. I joined NetGalley soon after, and that was what really kicked the blog into gear.

Can you talk a little bit about your preferred approach to writing reviews for books? Has your style evolved over the years?

I think my reviews have become longer over the years, with more detail and personality to them, but my basic approach remains the same. I am always honest about how I felt about the book, even if that means being negative, and I try to avoid relying on comparisons to describe the book. While it doesn’t work for every title, I generally break down the review into content, characters, themes, and emotions. While literary merit is important, and I am happy to speak to an author’s technical brilliance, I also have no problem admitting that I enjoyed a book despite (or sometimes even because of) its serious flaws.

Which upcoming Sci Fi & Fantasy book(s) on NetGalley are you the most excited about recommending to your followers?

My most anticipated title – the one I keep checking on daily for approval – is The Core: Book Five of The Demon Cycle by Peter V. Brett. When so many epic fantasies linger on without end, it’s exciting to have that ‘final’ book on the way.

Black Star Renegades by Michael Moreci is the latest title to catch my eye this week, and sounds like a swashbuckling read. River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey was a great read, so I’m anxious to give Taste of Marrow a read next, and as a big fan of both the original story and the Bruce Campbell movie, Bubba and the Cosmic Blood-Suckers by Joe R. Lansdale is a must-read.

      

 

Are there any covers on NetGalley that you’re loving?

I assume it’s because they have so much artwork available, but roleplaying tie-ins always seem to have some of the best covers, so I’m loving Numenera: The Night Clave by Monte Cook & Shanna Germain, and Deadlands: Boneyard by Seanan McGuire. Under the Pendulum Sun by Jeanette NG has a great Victorian look, and while I know it’s a reprint, The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia A. McKillip still looks amazing.

      

Do you have any advice for book bloggers who are just starting out?

The best advice I can offer is to always read and review for yourself first, and to not get caught up in the hype of ARCs and review requests. It’s immensely flattering to have authors and publishers asking for your time, but it can become overwhelming. Don’t be afraid to pass on a book that looks kind of interesting, and don’t feel bad about (politely) declining requests. If you’re not enjoying yourself, it will show in your reviews.

Are there particular subgenres that you prefer or find more interesting at the moment? Are there any trends that you are excited to see come or go?

Epic fantasy will always be my go-to subgenre for a read. I love having a massive book to immerse myself in, something to linger over for weeks. I’m excited to see more sword-and-sorcery on the shelves lately, particularly with edgier, more mature authors like Nicholas Eames, Jack Heckel, and Andy Remic (a subgenre I have coined maturesmirk). The one trend that I wouldn’t be at all sad to see less of, and I’m sure I’ll get some hate mail for this, is grimdark. There are grimdark authors I enjoy, and there are still stories worth telling, but I can only sustain so much bleakness in my escapism.

Lightning Round!

Your blog in two sentences:

Beauty in Ruins is a reflection of the imagination, the diversity, and the creativity to be found upon my shelves. My WTF Friday feature is where I dig into the darkest, weirdest corners of the shelves, but otherwise you’ll find a mix of fantasy, horror, adventure, and science fiction.

The last book that made you smile:

The Librarians and the Mother Goose Chase by Greg Cox.

Your all-time favorite Sci Fi or Fantasy book:

I have a soft spot for The Dragonlance Chronicles by Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman, as it was my introduction to fantasy, but the one book I can reread time-and-time again is Imajica by Clive Barker.

Your favorite character in a book or series:

Elric of Melniboné.

And to finish off our interview, if you could have coffee (…or something stiffer) with any author, dead or alive, who would it be, and why?

Hands down, it would have to be Clive Barker. The depth of his imagination astounds me, almost as much as the breadth of his creativity. There are so many stories he’s teased, but has yet to write, and so much material he’s talked about that never made it into a final draft, I feel like I could pick his brain and ask “But what about…?” questions all night long.

Thanks so much, Bob, for spending time with us and answering our questions! 

Please make sure to check out the Beauty in Ruins blog and more Sci Fi & Fantasy on NetGalley!

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Jennifer Mathieu on Feminism, Moxie, and Fighting Back

Originally published on Bookish.com, our sister company.

Picking a favorite book can be tough for any reader, but we can’t deny that Jennifer Mathieu’s Moxie is high on our list. This young adult novel takes readers to an average high school where a quiet girl named Vivian decides that she’s done putting up with sexist behavior. Inspired by her mom’s punk rock zines from the 90s, Viv decides to start a feminist movement, encouraging other girls to join together, stand up, and fight back. Here, Mathieu talks about young feminists today, the importance of intersectionality, and why this book is a love letter to her students.

Bookish: You dedicate this book to teens and women fighting for equality, but also to a teacher who called you a “feminazi.” How, at a young age, did you find the strength to turn an insult like that into an empowering desire to learn more about feminism?

Jennifer Mathieu: I’m not really sure! At the time that teacher insulted me, I knew that it hurt inside and was deeply humiliating. However, in my gut I also knew that the teacher was wrong. I hadn’t explicitly started calling myself a feminist yet, but again, I knew the teacher was not correct in using that term and I knew he wasn’t correct in taking sexist stances in class, which he did so often. It was a challenging experience and at the time I didn’t speak out against him like I now wish I would have. With hindsight, I can see how transformative this experience was for me because it was one of the first times I felt like I was being ridiculed for holding beliefs I knew were good and true.

Bookish: What does having moxie mean to you?

JM: To me having moxie means having guts and gumption. It means speaking your mind, speaking truth to power, and resisting in ways big and small.

Bookish: It’s easy to be caught off guard when something demeaning or sexist happens to you. Through Viv and her friends, you’ve offered readers a script of sorts: things to say or do in those situations. Was that something you were conscious of when you were writing?

JM: I think so, yes. I’ve always shied away from writing for teenagers with any sort of preachy tone because teenagers can see right through that sort of thing. That said, I think Moxie is the closest I’ve ever come to writing a book that I hope teenagers, especially teenage girls, can use as a touchstone or guide as they navigate the world around them. They may not necessarily mimic exactly what Vivian and her friends do, but they might just be inspired by them and come up with their own ways of reacting when confronted with sexism.

Bookish: The book opens with quotes from real teenage girls. How have your experiences as a high school teacher helped to shape the world of this novel?

JM: My female students inspire me every single day. I have been co-sponsor of the feminist clubs at the schools I’ve worked at, and it’s so wonderful to be able to watch young women (and men!) discover gender equality and to fight for it! Young feminists today have a much more intersectional view of the world, and they’re so convinced of their ability to change the world for the better. I love it! At the same time, so much of the garbage that I faced as a teenage girl still exists in high schools today. As a teacher I call it out when I see it, but so much of it goes on when I’m not looking. Writing Moxie felt like a love letter and a thank you letter to my students sort of wrapped into one.

Bookish: Some of the sexism in the book is so extreme (school dress codes, the bump-n-grab) that it feels out of a dystopian novel. But as readers we know that these are real things happening in real schools to real girls. What was it like writing those scenes?

JM: Honestly, I have regular moments of feeling like we live in some dystopian world given everything that happens to women and girls in this country and this world! As for what happens to Vivian and her friends, everything that happens in Moxie I’ve either experienced or witnessed, so I knew I wasn’t making it fantastical and I knew girls and women would relate. Writing it was so validating, though, because I gave these girls the tools to confront their situations and they confronted them and won. That doesn’t always happen in real life, unfortunately.

Bookish: You include a number of well-meaning characters who don’t “get” the movement at first—from a best friend who is disinclined to use the word feminist to a boyfriend whose mantra is “not all guys are like that.” Why was it important for you to feature characters like these?

JM: When I got to college and really heard the word “feminist” and what it meant I jumped in with both feet. I was an immediate believer because I quickly made connections between my lived experience and what the feminist movement was fighting for. I felt like I’d met my tribe. But I also know that for a lot of women and girls the word feminist has a negative connotation, mostly due to how it’s represented in popular culture or because of things they hear from their families. I wanted those girls to feel like they had a place in Moxie, too, and it’s my hope that even if at the end of the book they don’t necessarily feel comfortable embracing “the f word,” they do feel comfortable fighting for their rights.

As for the character of Seth, I wanted to create a believable guy who means well but doesn’t always get it, because so many men and guys I’ve encountered over the years think and act like Seth. Really decent guys who mean well but are still learning and who can benefit from feminism, too. I just wanted a variety of entry points into Moxie. I wanted this book to have as broad of an appeal as possible because I believe in its message so much.

Bookish: Viv often feels empowered and energized when she’s making the Moxiezines. What were you feeling as you created them, and this book?

JM: I felt like I was traveling back in time. In the late 90s and early 00s I made a zine about my life called Jennifer (I’ve never been so hot when it comes to titles, obviously) and it was such a fun, creative outlet for me. I used to put on music and make my zine that was full of silly stories and cartoons about my life in my early 20s. It was just a joyful time of self-expression. I felt that again when I was creating Moxie, but there was an additional layer of excitement because I knew more readers would be able to connect with these zines than they ever did with my Jennifer zine. (And I think that’s a good thing!) Overall, writing this book was such a joyful experience. I put on Bikini Kill and started typing. It was so much fun.

Bookish: Viv is a truly relatable protagonist for this story because she experiences a lot of fear. She’s afraid to be seen, heard, judged. She’s angry but often silent. What message do you most hope she brings to girls like her, who want to stand up but maybe don’t know how or are afraid of what will happen if they do?

JM: I was a lot like Viv when I was in high school. I spoke up a bit more, but I was more Viv than Lucy. I was also terrified of what other people thought of me and was super anxious to fit in. In many ways, writing Vivian’s story was a bit of wish fulfillment for me. I was getting the chance to rewrite my past with what I know now. There are so many times, looking back, that I wish I’d stood up and spoken my mind when I was in my teens. It’s my hope that Vivian inspires some girls to not be afraid to speak up for themselves.

Bookish: You cover a lot of feminist territory in the book, from its history to its intersectionality problems to its modern connotations. Which aspect of it was the most challenging to write about?

JM: I would say my top concern was making sure I made the book as intersectional as possible. The feminist movement has often struggled to include and amplify voices beyond those belonging to white, straight, middle class women. The Riot Grrrl movement was more progressive in terms of its inclusion of queer women, but it was still a primarily white movement. I have zero interest supporting white feminism or a feminist movement that erases and ignores voices of women of color, queer women, trans women, women with disabilities, and other women from marginalized groups. So I knew I wanted to address intersectionality in a very explicit way within certain scenes and with certain characters. At the same time, I didn’t want the book to feel like an after school special with “the gay girl” and “the black girl”—just these perfunctory stand-ins for bigger groups. I was determined to write a book that painted feminism as a big tent, and I want young women to be able to talk about this aspect of the feminist movement with openness. There’s so much work to be done in this area and it’s my hope that Moxie sparks some important conversations. Hopefully I pulled it all off in a way that felt believable even though I know no writer is perfect and I’m super open to feedback.

Something I’m really excited about is the Moxie Tumblr. It’s being run by a former student of mine, a Latina who understands the importance of intersectionality and who is embracing it so beautifully on our amazing Tumblr. You can check out her original art and other awesomeness at moxiegirlsfightback.com.

Bookish: Moxie was already written at the time of the January 21st Women’s March, but there are some clear parallels between the march and one particular scene in the book. Looking back on that scene, did you feel the connection between it and the march?

JM: There is a scene in Moxie that parallels the march, yes, and I’d written it before the march took place. When I marched in January I thought about Vivian and her friends, about all the Moxie Girls, and I knew if they existed for real they would absolutely be marching with me. In my heart, they were.

Jennifer Mathieu started writing stories when she was in kindergarten and now teaches English to high school students. She won the Teen Choice Debut Author Award at the Children’s Choice Book Awards for her first novel, The Truth About Alice. She is also the author of Devoted and Afterward. She lives in Texas with her husband, son, and dog.

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Essential Graphic Novels to Read on Batman Day 2017

Originally published on Bookish.com, our sister company.

Batman Day is back! But the twist? Harley Quinn is taking over. In honor of Harley Quinn’s 25th anniversary, Batman Day (September 23) will also feature the immensely popular Clown Princess of Crime, who burst into our lives when she debuted in Batman: The Animated Series in 1992 and is now a mainstay in comics, movies, TV shows, and video games. But let’s get to the important question: What should we all be reading on Batman Day this year? Well, look no further. We asked our friends at DC Comics to recommend some quintessential Caped Crusader reads and they delivered.

Batman: The Dark Knight: Master Race

It’s Frank Miller. It’s Batman. It’s the next chapter in the Dark Knight Returns saga. What more do you need to know? Well, how about that it’s co-written by master scribe Brian Azzarello? Or illustrated by legends Andy Kubert and Klaus Janson? A new war is beginning. An army of Kryptonian madmen is preparing to claim Earth. Batman has to save the world. Or die trying. Again. On Batman Day, this is the book you have to read.

Harley Quinn: A Celebration of 25 Years

For the last 25 years, from TV to film to comics and back again, Harley has been one of DC’s most popular characters. And now, to celebrate her 25th anniversary, she’s taking over Batman Day! But where to start? How about here with this anthology graphic novel, Harley Quinn: A Celebration of 25 Years, with stories by some of the best creators in the industry, like Paul Dini, Bruce Timm, Jim Lee, and more. It’s one of our essential reads on September 23.

Batman Vol. 3: I Am Bane

This shouldn’t surprise you much—Batman by Tom King is one of the best comics on the stands today. And this volume may just be the apex of the series thus far. The Dark Knight’s intellectual equal and physical superior, Bane, has returned to Gotham City for a single purpose: to break the Batman once and for all. But first he’ll destroy everyone the Dark Knight has ever loved… or loathed.

Batman: Year One

You want an essential read on Batman Day? What about one that’s essential everyday? Look no further than Batman: Year One Deluxe Edition, the classic tale of the Dark Knight’s first year in Gotham City. This new edition of Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli’s seminal story now features more than 40 pages of behind-the-scenes material, including the complete script and pencil breakdowns. It’s a dream come true for collectors and a great way to begin for new fans.

Harley Quinn Vol. 1: Die Laughing

You’ve seen a couple movies and a few TV shows, so you think you know Harley Quinn? Think again. The truth is that the best Harley stories today are being told in comics form from a creative team that’s mastered the art of crazy in Harley Quinn Vol. 1: Die Laughing. In these action-packed pages, the powerhouse team of Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti joins forces with artists John Timms and Chad Hardin to draft a new beginning for DC’s craziest antihero.

Blake Kobashigawa is the Trade Marketing & Sales Manager for DC Comics. He has been with DC Comics for six years, working in the Digital Trade and Book Trade spaces. He reads comic books in his work time, spare time, and any time in between.

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Celebrity Book Club: Read Along with Your Favorite Stars

Originally published on Bookish.com, our sister company.

Admit it. You get a little excited every time you see a celebrity caught by the paparazzi with a book in their hand. You have one of those moments where you realize that even though they are staggeringly beautiful and stunningly successful and talented, they are just like us after all because they read! In fact, some of them read so much that they have even created their own book clubs (Thank you, Oprah!). Here, we hitch our wagon to some stars and take a look at how they share their favorite books.

The RW Book Club

The “RW” in the RW Book Club stands for none other than Reese Witherspoon. The club is described as a “community #ForTheLoveOfReading.” We know from Witherspoon’s adaptations of Wild and Gone Girl that she likes to make movies out of books, but it seems she also loves to read them as well. Most recently, the club read Ruth Ware’s The Lying Game. Check in with the book club’s social media accounts to find out which book is up next.

Our Shared Shelf

No slouch when it comes to social justice, Emma Watson takes an empowering approach with her feminist book club called Our Shared Shelf. The group is open to anyone who would like to join, and a new book is chosen every month or so for discussion. Found within are not just thoughts on the books being read, but also a treasure trove of resources regarding feminism and women’s issues. The most recent read was Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth.

Between Two Books

Between Two Books is otherwise known as the official book club of Florence and the Machine frontwoman, Florence Welch, who just so happens to be an avid reader. Each month, the club’s book choice is posted on Facebook and then discussed within the corresponding group. The book choices are often quite literary. Most recently the group has read Too Much and Not the Mood by Durga Chew-Bose.

Belletrist

Belletrist, created by Emma Roberts and Karah Preiss, is an online platform where readers can “celebrate a new book every month.” On Instagram, they highlight book picks, such as The Answers by Catherine Lacey, and items of literary interest. On their main site, there is exclusive content, such as this recent interview between Emma Roberts and Joan Didion.

Lenny Letter

Have you discovered Lena Dunham’s Lenny Letter yet?  If so, then you probably already know that not only are they publishing books with their own imprint, but each week they also share excerpts from the books they’re reading in Lit Thursday. Books most recently highlighted are Stay with Me by Ayobami Adebayo and Caca Dolce: Essays from a Lowbrow Life by Chelsea Martin.

Book Club Central

We loved Sarah Jessica Parker as writer Carrie Bradshaw, but in her role as Honorary Chair of the ALA’s Book Club Central, she shows us her chops as a reader by offering SJP Picks throughout the year. If her first pick, No One is Coming to Save Us by Stephanie Powell Watts, is any indication, we’re in for a year of great reading recommendations.

Mindy Kaling’s social media

Some stars stop short of creating clubs, preferring to keep their book recommendations personal. For example, if you follow Mindy Kaling on Instagram and Twitter, then you know she loves to read and often recommends books to her followers. Most recently, she posted a picture of Hunger by Roxane Gay.

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