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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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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Required Reading: 11 Authors Share the Books They Want Taught in Schools

Originally published on Bookish.com, our sister company.

Every lifelong reader knows that the books you read as a child have the ability to mold you into the person you’ll become as an adult. In the hands of a teacher, a book can be a powerful tool in shaping a reader’s understanding of themselves and the world around them. To celebrate the start of a new school year, Bookish asked 11 authors to share the one book they’d most like to see in classrooms.

The Youngest Marcher

The Youngest Marcher by Cynthia Levinson & Vanessa Brantley-Newton should be taught in schools, as it focuses on children who accomplished a powerful victory in the fight for civil rights in America. It is a story I was not even aware of. Kids should know that they have a loud voice and that they can use it to erase injustice and elicit change. The change can be any size—it might be to petition their school to grow a garden—but it can come to fruition with passionate advocates. Children can make good things happen and they should be aware of their strength.” —Tara Lazar, author of 7 Ate 9

Wonder

“I think middle schools should require students to read Wonder by R.J. Palacio, a story about a ten-year-old boy born with severe facial deformities who braves going to school for the first time. Wonder teaches kids about acceptance and kindness toward others at a time they are forming their adult personas. The message of judging someone by their inner character and not their looks is deftly delivered in a compelling way that will endure in their minds long after they have finished the book.” —Alane Adams, author of The Raven God

I Am Malala

“I would love to see I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai on every student’s reading list. This girl from Pakistan’s Swat Valley was 15 when the Taliban shot her for insisting education is ‘neither Eastern nor Western, it is human,’ and 16 when she co-wrote this book. Her chronicle of war and perseverance is riveting; her bravery rivals that of any fictional hero. In the end, it is inspiring to see how one girl taking a stand can change hearts, minds, and possibly the world.” —Kes Trester, author of A Dangerous Year

Why Am I Me?

Why Am I Me? by Paige Britt, illustrated by Selina Alko and Sean Qualls, asks a series of simply-posed questions (‘Why am I me…and not you?’) designed to spark curiosity and invite further questions, big and small, about identity and human connection. Its open-ended exploration of individuality and universality makes it the perfect book for starting conversations with students about empathy, community, and compassion. The vibrant and appealing artwork (a mixture of paint, colored pencil, and collage) entices readers to flip through the book’s pages again and again, finding new details about the world and themselves on each reread.” —Anica Mrose Rissi, author of The Teacher’s Pet

Save Me a Seat

“I recommend Save Me a Seat by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan. Told in alternating voices, this story is about an Indian boy and Caucasian boy who bond when facing a bully at school. It’s important for kids reach out to make friends across lines of race and culture. Immersing themselves in a world of characters who are like them in some ways but come from a different culture, kids learn they can make friends with anyone. Once they do so, they won’t see such people as outsiders.” —Dori Jones Yangauthor of The Forbidden Temptation of Baseball

We Were Here

“Author Matt de la Peña’s exceptional YA novel, We Were Here, is a perfect fit for educators who want to encourage journal writing in their classes or who simply want to nurture a love of reading amongst their students. We Were Here is a riveting, fast-paced tale told through the journal entries of Miguel Castañeda, a mixed-race adolescent Latino being detained for a crime at a group home near Stockton, California. Befriending two of his former antagonists at the home, Miguel undertakes with them a wild adventure packed with pathos, realism, and self-discovery. It’s quite a romp and hard to put down, which is always a good quality in a book, especially one targeted at teens.” —David Barclay Moore, author of The Stars Beneath Our Feet

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH

“Mrs. Frisby will do anything to protect her family. Brave, practical, and cool under pressure, she’s a momma bear in the body of a mouse. The rats of NIMH, meanwhile, live under the rosebush, ghettoised by their foreign lifestyle. Do we trust these immigrants with their strange ways? Yes, because Mrs. Frisby smashes that stereotype. The rats are an oppressed minority, persecuted by scientists at NIMH, and want nothing more than freedom. Feminism, tolerance, animal rights: This book is an introduction to the ideas of equality that develop in a darker direction in another must-read allegory—George Orwell’s Animal Farm.” —Jo Furniss, author of All the Little Children

The Lie Tree

“My pick is Frances Hardinge’s The Lie Tree, which is set in Victorian England (with a fantastical twist), and won the 2015 Costa Book Award. In it, Faith and her family move to a rocky island, because her father—a clergyman and natural scientist—is in trouble for having lied about a fossil discovery. That sets into motion a variety of wonderful clashes. We see a world in change—religion vs science, feminism, etc. This novel is full of fascinating themes, which would make it great not just for literature class, but for a class that synthesizes literature with history or science.” —Tina Connolly, author of the Seriously Wicked series

Showa

“My pick is a manga (Japanese comic): volumes. 1 & 2 of Shigeru Mizuki’s Showa, a history/memoir of what got Japan into WWII. Mizuki shows blow-by-blow the short-term self-interested decisions Japan’s political leaders made which pushed the nation toward war, and caused fearmongering and militarism to saturate Japanese culture, from newspapers to children’s games. In America today, with talk of crisis all around us, Showa is a brilliant way for young people to learn how small political decisions add up to big changes, and how boring-sounding issues like grain prices or health policy shape larger cultural currents, sometimes deadly ones.” —Ada Palmer, author of the Terra Ignota series

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

“I was sixteen when I read Robert M. Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. We had been assigned many great works in American Cultures, a class designed to teach us philosophy from an American literary perspective. But from the first page, Zen was different. It was something you could pick up and spend the day with, tucked into a nook in the house unaware of whether it was sunny or storming outside. Pirsig’s premise, the conflict between the rational and the romantic, is so ensconced in the captivating journey of father and son riding across country on the back of a motorcycle that the reader is almost unaware of it. While the book left me with the yearning to fully experience the untamed western states without the separation of a glass window, it also led me to understand a bit of myself and the struggle for balance we all face.” —Ismée Williams, author of Water in May

The Passion of Artemisia

“One of my favorite authors, Susan Vreeland, recently passed away. As homage to her work and her gift for beautifully humanizing history and art, I suggest that a work of hers be taught to older teen students. This seems particularly fitting as she was a high school English teacher for 30 years. My favorite: The Passion of Artemisia, about our first major female artist, Artemisia Gentileschi, an early Baroque painter (1593-1656), who was the first woman to be admitted into the Accademia delle Arte del Disegno in Florence, and the first woman we know of to make a living by her brush. The real-life Artemisia’s journey to artistic success was rife with obstacles. Sexually assaulted by her painting tutor, she survived being tortured by court officials with thumbscrews (in an effort to make her ‘tell the truth’) when she gave testimony against her attacker. But rather than retreat into domestic anonymity as advised, she went on to create some of the most haunting and inspiring portraits of biblical and historical femaleheroines, caught in dramatic, large scale scenes, such as her Judith Slaying Holofernes. Vreeland’s novel is a story of individual ascendancy despite overwhelming societal odds and personal trauma, an innately feminist tale. It seems particularly important in today’s political milieu in which a president can brag on grabbing a woman’s genitalia without reprisal, and when even elected congresswomen are subject to being shushed by their male colleagues. And along the way, teen readers will also learn about the Medici and late-Renaissance Florence and Rome, a vitally important era in western history.” —L. M. Elliott, author of Suspect Red

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Best Book Club Picks for September 2017: A Spanish Princess, an Apocalyptic Marathon, and More

Originally published on Bookish.com, our sister company.

Is your book club scrambling for a September read? We’ve got you covered! Here, we’ve pulled the best book club picks coming out this month. Whether you’re in the mood for a moving story about immigration, or would prefer a gripping thriller, we have the book to get your club chatting. For more excellent picks, check out our Fall Previews!

Keep Her Safe

Readers, we don’t have to tell you who Sophie Hannah is, and now she’s back with a gripping tale based on the famous JonBenét Ramsey case. Cara Burrows is at the end of her rope, so she books herself a hotel room to get away from her all-too-complicated life. But when she turns the key and the door swings open, she sees there are already two people in the room. One of them is supposed to be dead—at least, that’s what the news reported. Melody Chapa’s murder made the front page when it happened, and her parents are still in prison for it. Did Cara’s eyes play a trick on her, or did she stumble upon the truth?

The End of the World Running Club

What would you be willing to do and how far would you be willing to go for your family? When an asteroid strikes the Earth, civilization crumbles and the world turns into a chaotic and dangerous place. Edgar Hill’s family is evacuated by a rescue helicopter, but he’s separated from them and left behind. It’s in that moment that Edgar must ask himself if he’s prepared to follow them, crossing 450 miles on foot. Edgar has to move quickly if he hopes to catch up with them. He isn’t a runner, but it’s the only chance he has of ever seeing his family again.

The Living Infinite

Readers will meet a Spanish princess named Eulalia in this exciting novel based on the life and times of a real historical figure. Eulalia grew up in the Spanish court and had an isolated childhood. After such a stifling early life, she broke free when she, along with Thomas Aragon, traveled to Cuba and then America in the 1890s, where she sought to publish her autobiography. This story has it all: historical flair, struggles for power and autonomy, and even romance. We bet this story will keep your book club up chatting long into the night.

Girls Made of Snow and Glass

Inspired by “Snow White,” Melissa Bashardoust’s novel explores the contentious relationship between a young girl and her stepmother, who have more in common than they realize. When Queen Mina was a young girl, her sorcerer father replaced her human heart with a glass one. It’s a decision that drives her to win over the widowed King Nicholas—Mina hopes that if he falls for her, she can experience the love that her glass heart denies her. Becoming queen means gaining a stepdaughter: Lynet—a young girl created out of snow in her mother’s image by a magician, on her father’s orders. Both Mina and Lynet have had their lives forever altered by their fathers, which Bashardoust uses to explore the harmful nature of misogyny.

The World of Tomorrow

Historical fiction fans, this is the book for you. Travel back in time to 1939, when the Dempsey brothers, Francis and Michael, are making their way to New York City where their third brother, Martin, lives. There, the brothers take on NYC together and navigate the challenges of dealing with their past and trying to make it in their new city, and all the while the world stands on the brink of World War II. In a starred review, Publishers Weekly raved: “With the wit of a ‘30s screwball comedy and the depth of a thoroughly researched historical novel, this one grabs the reader from the beginning to its suspenseful climax.”

The Far Away Brothers

In this moving nonfiction account, journalist Lauren Markham follows twin 17-year-old brothers as they flee El Salvador and make their way to California. The two had been living in the village of La Colonia, but when Ernesto was threatened by the local gangs, he and Raúl decided to leave their home and search for their 24-year-old brother Wilber, who lived in Oakland, CA. The journey to America was treacherous, but the challenges only grew once they arrived and needed to apply for citizenship, learn English, find money to pay for their legal counsel (not to mention basic needs), and more. In a starred review, Kirkus called this timely and important read “One of the most searing books on illegal immigration since Sonia Nazario’s Enrique’s Journey.”

Best Day Ever

Does your book club love reading thrillers that explore the fault lines in relationships and marriages? If so, look no further than Kaira Rouda’s Best Day Ever. In it, Paul and Mia Strom are setting out on a road trip and it is supposed to be, as the title of the novel suggests, the best day ever. They’re headed to their lake house for a weekend of romance and fun, and on the surface, it sounds ideal. But as they begin their trip, things begin to unravel. Will Paul and Mia, not to mention their relationship, make it out of the weekend unscathed?

You Bring the Distant Near

Book clubs that love generational sagas will want to dive right into this tale about three generations of an Indian-American family. The tale begins in 1965 when matriarch Ranee Das moves her family to New York City. Her daughters, Sonia and Tara, find themselves torn between their parents’ expectations for their futures and their own dreams. In 1998, Ranee’s granddaughters, Chantal and Anna, enter the picture and reveal their own struggles with identity. Mitali Perkins’ novel is inspired by her own experience of immigrating to America in the 1970s.

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Ben Hatke on Visual Storytelling, Fairytales, and Genre-Blending

Originally published on Bookish.com, our sister company.

Ben Hatke’s Mighty Jack duology takes readers on a wild adventure inspired by the fairytale character who climbs beanstalks and slays giants. The series comes to a close this fall with Mighty Jack and the Goblin King, which follows Jack and Lilly as they travel to a different realm to rescue Jack’s sister Maddy. We had the chance to chat with Hatke and ask him about his obsession with goblins, his thoughts on genre-blending, and more. Here’s what he had to say.

Reader beware: Minor spoilers ahead.

Bookish: In writing your series, which elements of “Jack and the Giant Killer” did you want to preserve and which did you want to get rid of?

Ben Hatke: I really just took the original concept—a young person trades something the family needs for some seeds—and ran with it. Some elements I kept, some elements I discarded. It was all a balancing act between the structure of the earlier tellings and the world that I wanted to build. The elements that I added tend to be things from my own life. Jack’s house, for instance, is modeled almost exactly after my own house. The treasure in the older stories becomes, in my tale, buried Civil War gold, because that’s the history of the Shenandoah Valley.

In the second book, they travel to a realm that has been usurped by giants. There are still fairytale elements, but I really just threw everything in a science fiction blender and focussed more on a good story than sticking to “Jack the Giant Killer.”

Bookish: In this series, you blend fantasy and science fiction without drawing a hard line between the two. Do you feel the two should be less separated in fiction?

BH: Well, I’m certainly not one for hard lines in general fiction. I think the line between science fiction and fantasy is more more about flavor than ingredients. I’d draw a sharper line between sci-fi/fantasy on one hand and speculative fiction on the other. In spec-fic you’re more concerned with spinning out an idea than with telling a good yarn (though you can certainly do both at once). That’s a difference in ingredients more than flavor. Anyway, the edges of genres are delightfully fuzzy and I always hesitate to define them.

Bookish: You’ve been working on this series since 2006—which character has changed the most?

BH: Oh, Maddy for sure. She started out as a goofy six-year-old. She had pigtails! It was just awful. She’s a much more fleshed out character now.

Bookish: You’ve said stories are the language of humankind, which is a beautiful sentiment because it isn’t limiting. Stories can be told in any language. They can be heard, read, seen, or felt. How does that idea connect to Maddy, who barely speaks at all and sometimes simply has speech bubbles appear with strange symbols in them?

BH: Stories are how we make sense of the world. The stories we tell ourselves and the stories we tell others help us explain ourselves to ourselves. We look at people in airports or on the street and say “I wonder what her story is” or “What’s that guy’s story?”

Visual stories transcend language. Silent films were amazing at this, and comics are too.

I’m intensely interested in storytelling through body language and Maddy, beyond my love for her as a character, always reminds me to tell without words.

Bookish: In the original tale, Jack is on his own, and your Jack declines help at first. But ultimately, this is the story of three characters who work together to save the day. Why did you want to have a larger cast surrounding Jack?

BH: Oh yes. Jack needs his friends! He needs them even, and most especially, when he doesn’t think he does. And really, the relationships in this book were much more interesting to me than the adventure. Or, rather, they’re all of a piece. In the first book Jack is really pulled in different directions emotionally. He’s pulled between his mom on the one hand, who wants him to be responsible. And there’s Maddy, on the other hand, who clearly benefits from the garden, despite the danger. Then there’s Lilly, this new outside influence. Lilly is a call to adventure. It’s all very confusing for poor Jack.

The second book is a more straightforward rescue mission, but it tests those bonds (I think) (I hope). In the second book Jack has sorted himself out a little more and has a single minded drive to bring his sister home. We do end up delving a lot more into Lilly and who she is and what she’s about.

Bookish: In this book, Lilly is crowned king, not queen. Was that an important distinction for you to make?

BH: It was the work of a moment, really. And it’s hard to talk about without going deeper into spoiler territory. The Goblin King wants to marry her and make her his queen. Instead Lilly fights and kills him. It didn’t seem quite right to me that she would still become the queen.

There’s a deeper discussion, of course, about the way we use gender in language, but I’m going to dodge that one for the moment.

Bookish: You’re very drawn (no pun intended) to goblins and seem set on redeeming their less-than-stellar public image in your works. What’s the allure?

BH: Yeah, what’s the deal with me and goblins? I’m still figuring that out! I like drawing goblins. I like thinking about goblins. I like the fact that they are little and weak and they only become formidable when they work together. I have this feeling that there’s a little bit of goblin in all of us. It’s that part of us that is grubby and small and awkward and also sort of owns it.

I really like goblins.

Bookish: If you were a mythical creature from one of your books, what would you be?

BH: Hard to say. I think I’ll let others decide.

Bookish: The machinery and pipes infringing on this formerly-green world reminded me of similar elements from the Lord of the Rings series. Can you tell us about why you wanted those two contrasting images?

BH: Like so many others, I’m deeply influenced by J.R.R. Tolkien’s stories. If you read those books early they never leave you. But beyond that, I think that this juxtaposition of the industrial and the organic is part of our modern consciousness now. It’s part of our story.

It’s an instantly relatable image, and it seemed to fit the story I was trying to tell. In that in-between realm, it’s the green growing things that make the links between the worlds. And the industrial encroachment is what breaks down those bonds and isolates the worlds.

…It’s a little heavy handed, maybe. In retrospect.

Bookish: There’s a lot of fun crossover in this series for fans of Little Robot and Zita the Spacegirl. Is this an inside nod to fans or a hint at a larger crossover?

BH: Some of those are just little winks, others are maybe a hint of things to come…

Bookish: Perhaps my most important question: Where can I find the seed packet that will give me one of those adorable little onion-heads?

BH: I’ve been scouring the flea markets, believe me. Let me know if you find anything!

Ben Hatke is the author and illustrator of the New York Times–bestselling Zita the Spacegirl trilogy, the picture books Julia’s House for Lost Creatures and Nobody Likes a Goblin, and the graphic novels Little Robot and Mighty Jack. He lives and works in the Shenandoah Valley with his wife and their boisterous pack of daughters.

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E. Lockhart on Antiheroes, Action Movies, and Genuine Fraud

Originally published on Bookish.com, our sister company.

Young adult readers who want a twisty tale that keeps them guessing won’t want to miss E. Lockhart’s Genuine Fraud. The novel starts with its protagonist on the run and slowly moves backwards to reveal an antihero who is always a step ahead of everyone around her. To celebrate the book’s publication, we chatted with Lockhart about the book’s narrative structure, the difference between villains and antiheroes, and action movies.

Bookish: Genuine Fraud moves backwards in time, slowly revealing Jule’s past and motivations. How did this format affect your writing and plotting process?

E. Lockhart: I love to write challenging structures. Many of my books play with narrative devices of one kind of another. We Were Liars has the two intersecting timelines with fairytale interstitials. For Genuine Fraud, I wrote the plot out forward in distinct beats, then reversed it. Then I rewrote it to make sense going backwards, which was quite a lot of rewriting.  Then I wrote the story going forward and revised it going backwards.

Bookish: One of the common themes in the book is that Jule is underestimated. She’s seen as being harmless, “just” a teenage girl, when in fact she’s strong, intelligent, and generally always two steps ahead of everyone around her. What inspired this theme?

EL: I always felt underestimated, both as a kid and as an adult. It’s a complicated and angry feeling that’s hard to act on. I think a lot of women feel this way.

Bookish: There’s an ongoing question in the book about whether a person is as bad as their worst actions. Jule could be easily viewed as an irredeemable character because of her actions. What do you think of her? Is she as bad as what she’s done?

EL: I love her because she represents what I might be capable of, laid bare. To me, she’s humanity. That’s why we love antiheroes—it’s not that we love to hate them; we love to hate villains. With antiheroes, it’s that we love the release of seeing them act out what’s inside us all.

Bookish: Friendship seems like the wrong word for what Imogen and Jule have; rather they seem inescapably drawn to each other. What elements were important to you when shaping their dynamic?

EL: They look enough alike to share a passport, but that’s not their only connection. They’re both wrenching themselves away from their families of origin in dramatic ways.  They want to make new lives. They’re searching for new ways to define themselves in relation to men, to their bodies, to education, and to the world, generally.

Bookish: Jule views herself as an action hero, and she invents an origin story to fit her narrative. When her true origins are revealed, we learn that the reality she’s pulled herself out of is quite impressive. But for her it wasn’t enough. Why not?

EL: I often write about the desire to live a Big Life. To make a mark. Superhero stories and action movies tap into that desire, and that’s why I love them. So many stories about women in those action and superhero genres are written by men. Jule wants not only to live a big life, but to be the author of her own narrative.

Bookish: Jule references Erving Goffman’s The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, a sociology book that says people behave differently based on who they are around or the situation they are in. What were the challenges of writing a character who was constantly aware of her behavior and intentionally seeking to change it based on her situation?

EL: I think that mindset is something of a norm for anyone who isn’t a member of the dominant culture, and in the USA that includes anyone who isn’t a cisgendered white hetero Christian male. Jule is an exaggeration and dramatization of that experience for someone of her background.

Bookish: In your dedication, you write “Here is my heart with all its ugly tangles and splendid fury.” Those are powerful words. Can you share what this book means to you?

EL: It’s a very honest book, even though nothing in it ever actually happened. I took dark parts of myself and tried to share them in an entertaining way.

Bookish: Jule believes that there are powers that live in our bodies that never leave us. What are your powers?

EL: Jule is referencing things like playing the piano or martial arts—training to a point of mastery gives you access to a power that can stay with you your whole life. Me, I touch-type about 90 words a minute. Not a very sexy power, but I use it every day and it makes my life infinitely easier.

E. Lockhart wrote the New York Times bestseller We Were Liars and the upcoming Genuine Fraud, a psychological thriller. Her other books include Fly on the WallDramaramaThe Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, and the Ruby Oliver Quartet, which includes The Boyfriend ListThe Boy BookThe Treasure Map of Boys, and Real Live Boyfriends. She also wrote How to Be Bad with Sarah Mlynowski and Lauren Myracle. Visit her online at emilylockhart.com, and follow her on Twitter at @elockhart.

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Six Uplifting Books to Read If You’ve Had a Really Bad Year

Originally published on Bookish.com, our sister company.

Eva Woods spent a lot of time thinking about the concept of happiness when writing her new novel, Something Like Happy. The book tells the story of two women who are seeking joy in the midst of sadness, heartbreak, and tragedy. Like many of us readers, Woods turns to books when she’s feeling low. Here, she shares some of her favorite uplifting titles.

My new book, Something Like Happy, is the story of two unlikely friends who’ve hit crisis points in their lives and decide to see if the #100HappyDays social media challenge can make a difference when you’ve truly reached rock-bottom. At times of hardship in my own life, there are certain soothing, feel-good books I like to reach for as a comfort and aid. It’s not about escapism so much as facing the sadness head on and realizing there is happiness on the other side. Here are my go-to happy reads.

Saint Maybe

Saint Maybe is a beautiful, quirky story of how a family manages not to break after a terrible tragedy, but bends and adapts instead, welcoming in new members and sharing the love. It’s a wonderful tale of guilt and sadness giving way to hope and joy. I cried my eyes out when reading it. The Accidental Tourist is another great Anne Tyler book about loss and hope.

Rachel’s Holiday

This is a book about addiction, self-destructiveness, denial, and pain, but it’s written with humor, lightness, and love. The author draws on her own experiences with addiction, and the book pulls off an incredibly clever feat of unreliable narration, all while celebrating family, friends, and forgiveness. As comforting as a big bubble bath.

The Secret Garden

In the darkest times, sometimes only children’s books will do. This classic story of two lonely, neglected cousins in a spooky house has it all:  mystery, sadness, joy, and an uplifting ending that sees the barren garden (both literal and metaphorical) return to life. Angry, spoiled orphan Mary Lennox is a heroine we can all relate to.

Eat, Pray, Love

A bit of a cliché this one, but I’ve read it several times at crisis moments, turning to it again after my own divorce and finding it uncannily resonant. If you ever need permission to go a little wild and let yourself be sad and crazy and eat a lot of ice cream, this book gives it, with warmth and understanding.

Between Silk and Cyanide

I recently read this riveting memoir of life in the Special Operations Executive during World War II, and I highly recommend it if you ever need reminding of just how brave and noble we can be in the face of great tyranny. It’s also very funny and really brings home the fact that the people behind these amazing feats were just humans like the rest of us, complete with office squabbles, black market tea, love affairs, etc.

A God in Ruins

I love all of Kate Atkinson’s books (Case Histories is another favorite), but this tale of a wartime pilot had me in tears, thinking about the impact of our lives on others. Again, there’s lots of stirring wartime bravery and suffering, and it’s told with a fascinating structure that really makes you think about what we leave behind.

Eva Woods was born in Ireland but now resides in London and has published two women’s fiction novels with Mira UK and also writes crime fiction for Hodder UK as Claire McGowan. In addition to writing novels, she teaches creative writing and has written for GlamourYou magazine, the Guardian, the Dublin Herald, and more. Something Like Happy marks her North American debut.

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Happy Birthday, Authors!: A Look at Writers Born in September

Originally published on Bookish.com, our sister company.

Do you share a birthday with your favorite author? Here, we take a look at novelists, poets, journalists, and other writers born during the month of September.

September 1
Edgar Rice Burroughs (1875)

September 2
Allen Drury (1918)

September 3
Sarah Orne Jewett (1849)

September 4
Richard Wright (1908)

September 5
Ward Just (1935)

September 6
Robert M. Pirsig (1928)

September 7
Dame Edith Sitwell (1887)
Joe Klein (1946)

September 8
Frédéric Mistral (1830)
Ann Beattie (1947)

September 9
Leo Tolstoy (1828)
Sonia Sanchez (1934)

September 10
H.D. (Hilda Doolittle) (1886)
Mary Oliver (1935)
Stephen Jay Gould (1941)

September 11
O. Henry (1862)
D.H. Lawrence (1885)

September 12
H.L. Mencken (1880)
Michael Ondaatje (1943)

September 13
Sherwood Anderson (1876)
Roald Dahl (1916)
Adrienne Kennedy (1931)

September 14
Robert McCloskey (1914)
Kate Millett (1934)
John Steptoe (1950)

September 15
James Fenimore Cooper (1789)
Agatha Christie (1890)

September 16
Francis Parkman (1823)
John Knowles (1926)
Henry Louis Gates Jr. (1950)

September 17
William Carlos Williams (1883)
Ken Kesey (1935)

September 18
Samuel Johnson (1709)

September 19
William Golding (1911)

September 20
Upton Sinclair (1878)
Donald Hall (1928)

September 21
H.G. Wells (1866)
Fannie Flagg (1944)
Stephen King (1947)
Marsha Norman (1947)

September 22
Fay Weldon (1931)

September 24
Frances Ellen Watkins Harper (1825)
Wilson Rawls (1913)
Alexis De Veaux (1948)

September 25
William Faulkner (1897)
bell hooks (1952)

September 26
T.S. Eliot (1888)
Jane Smiley (1949)

September 27
Joyce Johnson (1935)
Mark Vinz (1942)

September 28
Kate Douglas Wiggin (1856)
Elmer Rice (1892)

September 29
Miguel de Cervantes (1547)

September 30
J. I. M. Stewart (1906)
Truman Capote (1924)

Know of an author who should be on this list? Leave a comment and let us know!

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