The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi

I’ve grown as a reader since the time I read Roshani Chokshi’s The Star-Touched Queen. This bittersweet realization came to me while reading her latest, The Gilded Wolves. Fantasy novels have always been a favorite of mine because of the vivid worlds they allow me to dive into, which is why I loved Chokshi’s debut. Unfortunately, three years later, her fifth novel falls flat.

“History is a myth shaped by the tongues of conquerors.” 

I am not a fan of overly-poetic prose, especially when it’s hiding simple meanings. It leads me to skim and takes me out of the story because the writing feels juvenile. For instance, the sentence above basically expresses the common saying “history was written by the winners,” but wraps it in overly loquacious phrasing (see- I can write with SAT words, too!), which makes it feel like the writer is trying to prove their skills. I wish they would display their story-telling abilities in ways other than whipping out a thesaurus, because everyone can do that. Writers I love tend to show their skill instead of telling us all about it. As a thirteen year old, I appreciated the vocabulary practice. As a sixteen year old, not so much.

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Five Books to Get You into the “Game of Thrones” Spirit

Game of Thrones is back for its final season! I am so excited (and terrified) to see what’s in store for my favorite characters this season, but I know that once the show is over, I’ll be in serious withdrawal. To mitigate this feeling, here are some fantasy series that bring all of the magic, intrigue, and romance that Game of Thrones is known for to your very own hands. Hopefully, you can find a new favorite to binge between episodes or after the finale.

I am proud to say An Ember in the Ashes is one of the first fantasy series after Percy Jackson and Harry Potter that I truly fell in love with. Tahir’s world-building is truly incredible (and has only gotten better three books in) and her diverse ensemble of female characters is admirable. If you loved the family relationships in Game of Thrones, particularly female relationships, I promise you’ll devour Tahir’s debut fantasy series.

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My interview with the amazing Heidi Heilig, author of The Girl From Everywhere

I knew this interview was going to go great as soon as Heidi Heilig suggested we meet at Doughnut Plant, a local Brooklyn eatery that boasts the best doughnuts in NYC. Now, I feel the need to stress, I did not suggest this meeting place. I repeat, I did not suggest this place. But! Heidi Heilig, who has great taste in doughnuts and a fantastic YA debut coming out this February, did. So thank you, Heidi. Now, lets get onto the interview.

What was it like growing up in Hawaii?

I spent high school hiking and going to the beach. Just like in the city [New York City] there are so many free things to do!

Tell me about the transition from paradise to the city that never sleeps…

I moved right before senior year to go to a performing arts school in Rockefeller Center and left behind so many friends. New York felt so much more cold and gritty. I fell in love with the city through walking. I would explore New York for hours on my feet, just walking.

You studied musical theatre and wrote for the stage… what motivated you to write Young Adult?

My theatre partner did music and I did the writing- I was not musically talented. When he went on tour in the Midwest, I had nothing to do. I had always loved YA and Fantasy, things like Game of Thrones. So, I just decided to give it a try myself.

You travel a lot. Do your travels inspire your characters or do you travel to research your characters?

I walk and explore to recharge. Those explorations really inspire my characters.

How do you choose a destination when you travel?

I have such a scattered brain… I’ll become obsessed with things and I just have to know more. I wanted to go to Morocco after I saw a lamp in a thrift store!

What drew your interest to the father daughter relationship, which is such an integral part of your book?

I didn’t think I would be able to have a kid and really wanted a relationship with kids. The parents in my book were really more like me, struggling with things such as addiction and bipolar disorder. I really wanted the father in particular to have a redemption arc.

Time travel is a big part of The Girl from Everywhere. Why did you focus on it?

I regret so many things. I think its good to regret, it means you tried. When I lived in Hawaii, I fell in love with a classmate, who is now my husband. I was so creepy! I bought a disposable camera one day and ran up to him, asking for his picture! I still have it. When I moved to New York, I really regretted never telling him how I felt and had this morbid fantasy that years into the future we would go to the same retirement home and fall in love there. Luckily, we met at a friend’s wedding a couple years later and reconnected then.

A lot of authors have playlists for the books they write… do you have one?

For The Girl from Everywhere, I listened to a lot of sea chanties, which are really wail-y and dark. I also listened to Marianas Trench’s Ever After.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on the first new book in a three book series for Harper Collins.

Okay.. time for the lightning round! Say whatever comes to your mind first! It doesn’t have to be right.

Where do you want to travel to next?

China!

Do you have any pet?

A boy hognose snake! 

I have to ask… what’s your favorite doughnut?

Tres Leches.

What’s your takeout order?

Shrimp veggies with egg rolls.

Do you prefer the big city or a small town?

Big city!

What are you watching on Netflix?

I don’t watch TV when I’m writing, but I want to start Veronica Mars.

What book is on your beside table?

Seven Ways We Lie by Riley Redgate.

Thank you so much for the interview, Heidi! Heidi Heilig’s debut, The Girl from Everywhere comes out this February. Follow her on Tumblr and Twitter: @heidiheilig and Twitter

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh

Renée Ahdieh’s lush YA debut is an extraordinary retelling of the classic The Arabian Nights, that won’t disappoint seasoned readers. On the same note, with all of its intricate plot lines, The Wrath and the Dawn is not for reluctant readers or those desiring a fast, light read. Don’t let this deter you from this gem, it really is fantastic when you have the chance to concentrate on it.

In Renée’s retelling, the Caliph (king) of Khorsan is a murderous boy-king, who marries a new girl every morning only to murder her come to the dawn. The Wrath and the Dawn starts with revenge-bent Shahrzad, a teen girl who has volunteered to become the new wife of the Caliph, Khalid. The reason? She has a plot to murder him and avenge her dead best friend, Shiva, whom he killed. While she had good intentions, Shahrzad was a bit too cocky in the beginning. Fortunately she greatly improves as the book goes on.

When Shahrzad meets the Caliph however, he is not what she expected. He seems the last person to murder innocents. So why is he? As Shahrzad is drawn closer into the unforgiving heart of the palace, she’s thrown into a web of lies, deceit, and curses, and finds herself drawing closer to the very person who she set out to kill. And when her dear childhood love, Tariq enters the equation, things go from terrible to worse. Renée Ahdieh’s breathtaking YA fantasy debut oozes stunning prose, enviably romances, and promise. This May release is one you just can’t miss!