Saturday, January 20, 2018

A Chat With Gloria Chao, Author of AMERICAN PANDA

I'm proud to present Gloria Chao here on my blog! She's releasing her exciting debut, American Panda, on February 6, and it promises plenty of humor and enjoyment. Today, we'll learn a little about her inspiration behind the novel, her favorite books, and more. To learn more about her novel or background, click here or visit Gloria's website.


Gloria Chao is an MIT grad turned dentist turned writer. AMERICAN PANDA is her debut novel, coming out February 6, 2018 from Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster.

Gloria currently lives in Chicago with her ever-supportive husband, for whom she became a nine-hole golfer (sometimes seven). She is always up for cooperative board games, Dance Dance Revolution, or soup dumplings. She was also once a black belt in kung-fu and a competitive dancer, but that side of her was drilled and suctioned out.
(taken from Chao's
Goodreads profile)
 
  
What is the most nerve-wracking part of publishing your first novel?

The most nerve-wracking moment thus far was when the ARCs went out into the world and the book no longer belonged to me. As I say in the next answer, this book is so personal to me, and I’m normally a very private person, so sharing a huge piece of myself with strangers was initially scary. However, when readers began reaching out to tell me how much they connected with Mei, it was all worth it.


How much would you say your own experiences at MIT and in life influenced American Panda?


My experiences influenced a very large percentage of this book. I wrote American Panda when I switched careers from dentist to writer, and many of the struggles (and awkward situations) that Mei goes through are based on real life experiences. I also worked hard to capture the unique, zany culture of MIT, which is one of my favorite communities, and like Mei, the place where I found myself.


How did you select names for the characters in your book?


For my main characters, I chose names that have significance to me. For example, I chose “Mei” because, 1) it means “beautiful” in Mandarin, which her mother pressures her to live up to, and 2) because my family calls me “Mei Mei,” which means “little sister” in Mandarin (I’m the youngest and only girl of three). You can find out about Darren Takahashi’s name in my exclusive content available to those who preorder! (Details here.)


What kind of tea do you like to drink while writing?

I love tea! To celebrate successes along the publishing journey, I usually buy myself something tea-related. Green tea variants (green jasmine, green lemon meringue, dragonwell green) are my go-tos, but I also love oolongs and fruit teas. About 20% of the cabinet and counter space in our kitchen is dedicated to tea 🙈

Which of your favorite authors do you think has inspired your writing style the most?

I’m a huge fan of David Arnold, Nicola Yoon, Amy Tan, and Celeste Ng, and I’ve learned so much from reading their wonderful books.

What is one underrated book you would like to recommend to everyone?

I absolutely loved Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman, and while it has received rave reviews and many well-deserved awards (it’s a finalist for the William C. Morris!), I still think it deserves more love and readership. The book was beautifully written and explores tough topics such as race, abuse, and difficult parental relationships with sensitivity and thoughtfulness. Please do yourself a favor and pick it up if you haven’t already!



Release Date: February 6, 2018

An incisive, laugh-out-loud contemporary debut about a Taiwanese-American teen whose parents want her to be a doctor and marry a Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer despite her squeamishness with germs and crush on a Japanese classmate.

At seventeen, Mei should be in high school, but skipping fourth grade was part of her parents' master plan. Now a freshman at MIT, she is on track to fulfill the rest of this predetermined future: become a doctor, marry a preapproved Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer, produce a litter of babies.

With everything her parents have sacrificed to make her cushy life a reality, Mei can't bring herself to tell them the truth--that she (1) hates germs, (2) falls asleep in biology lectures, and (3) has a crush on her classmate Darren Takahashi, who is decidedly not Taiwanese.

But when Mei reconnects with her brother, Xing, who is estranged from the family for dating the wrong woman, Mei starts to wonder if all the secrets are truly worth it. Can she find a way to be herself, whoever that is, before her web of lies unravels? (taken from goodreads.com)

American Panda Preorder Links:

Indie Bound | Book Depository | Barnes & Noble | Amazon

Friday, January 19, 2018

Review: The Cruel Prince by Holly Black


Title: The Cruel Prince
Series: The Folk of the Air #1
Author: Holly Black
Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: January 2, 2018
Format: Hardcover 

Page Count: 384

Rating: 

Of course I want to be like them. They’re beautiful as blades forged in some divine fire. They will live forever.

And Cardan is even more beautiful than the rest. I hate him more than all the others. I hate him so much that sometimes when I look at him, I can hardly breathe.


Jude was seven years old when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.

To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.

In doing so, she becomes embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, discovering her own capacity for bloodshed. But as civil war threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself. (taken from goodreads.com)


What could I become if I stopped worrying about death, about pain, about anything? If I stopped trying to belong? Instead of being afraid, I could become something to fear. 

Okay, so I know pretty much everyone in the entire world of YA blogging and reading adored this book, and I fully recognize that I am going to be one of the only reviewers out there who isn't shouting its praises from the highest rooftops. But believe me when I say that I desperately wanted to. I can't get enough fae in my novels, and I wanted more than anything to fall head over heels for The Cruel Prince.

Unfortunately, that didn't exactly happen, but before I launch into the problems I had with this book, let's talk about what I did enjoy.

Like I've said before, I will never say no to a promising fae novel. Holly Black provides a heap of magic, and several aspects of the story she created are great fun. Also, the plot kept me guessing as political schemes unraveled and violence started to spread. I've seen so many people equate this novel to an episode of Game of Thrones simply because you never know when a character will wind up on the wrong end of a blade. In that respect, I agree with other reviewers.

Furthermore, that twisted ending definitely struck me by surprise, and despite the fact that I didn't fall in love with The Cruel Prince, I'm interested to see where Black takes this rollercoaster of a story in the sequel. I have to give her points simply for piquing my interest with such a dark, intriguing conclusion.

However, my praise for the novel pretty much ends there. Here are my biggest problems with TCP, in a nutshell:

-Poor romance. Seriously, I don't understand how anyone feels that this book contains a worthwhile love story. If you're looking for a different version of the romance in A Court of Mist and Fury, certainly don't look here.

-Cliché bullying. At least half of this novels centers around petty fights between Jude and the other fae, which both bored and annoyed me. I read faerie novels for political intrigue and epic tales, not little spats between bratty royalty and a human who can't keep her mouth shut.

-Over-the-top descriptions of the fae realm. Yes, we get that things are different and enchanting there, but not every sentence has to contain something whimsical or disconcerting. I felt like Black was trying a little too hard to craft her world when a dash of subtly could actually have been more effective.

-Characters that were difficult to love. Obviously, not every character needs to be kind or friendly, but I seriously can't think of one character in this story that I actually enjoyed reading about. All of them had serious issues, either in their construction or behavior. Additionally, I think all of them were sorely lacking in depth.

-Too many plot holes. There were several instances where Black starts to introduce a topic, then kind of drops it or doesn't follow the thread all the way through.

So, to sum it all up, I certainly didn't hate The Cruel Prince. It shines in certain areas, particularly towards the end, but overall I felt that it flopped in really important places like character and plot development. Maybe book two will impress me more, but for now, I have to say I'm fairly disappointed with this series that I originally thought I would love.
 



This one just wasn't as great as I hoped it would be.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Waiting On Wednesday: Your One & Only

Waiting On Wednesday was created by Jill over at Breaking The Spine. It's a weekly post for you to share what upcoming books you can't wait for! Here's mine for the week.


Title: Your One & Only
AuthorAdrianne Finlay
Release Date: February 6, 2018

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33413958-your-one-only

Jack is a walking fossil. The only human among a sea of clones. It’s been hundreds of years since humanity died off in the slow plague, leaving the clones behind to carry on human existence. Over time they’ve perfected their genes, moving further away from the imperfections of humanity. But if they really are perfect, why did they create Jack?

While Jack longs for acceptance, Althea-310 struggles with the feeling that she’s different from her sisters. Her fascination with Jack doesn’t help. As Althea and Jack’s connection grows stronger, so does the threat to their lives. What will happen if they do the unthinkable and fall in love? (taken from goodreads.com)

Why I Need It: 

Doesn't everything about this one just pique your curiosity? I'm so ready!

Monday, January 15, 2018

Review: The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli


Title: The Last Namsara  
Author: Kristen Ciccarelli
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication Date: October 3, 2017
Format: Hardcover 

Page Count: 432

Rating: 

In the beginning, there was the Namsara: the child of sky and spirit, who carried love and laughter wherever he went. But where there is light, there must be darkness—and so there was also the Iskari. The child of blood and moonlight. The destroyer. The death-bringer.

These are the legends that Asha, daughter of the king of Firgaard, has grown up learning in hushed whispers, drawn to the forbidden figures of the past. But it isn’t until she becomes the fiercest, most feared dragon slayer in the land that she takes on the role of the next Iskari—a lonely destiny that leaves her feeling more like a weapon than a girl.

Asha conquers each dragon and brings its head to the king, but no kill can free her from the shackles that await at home: her betrothal to the cruel commandant, a man who holds the truth about her nature in his palm. When she’s offered the chance to gain her freedom in exchange for the life of the most powerful dragon in Firgaard, she finds that there may be more truth to the ancient stories than she ever could have expected. With the help of a secret friend—a slave boy from her betrothed’s household—Asha must shed the layers of her Iskari bondage and open her heart to love, light, and a truth that has been kept from her. (taken from goodreads.com)


Once there was a girl who was drawn to wicked things. Things like forbidden, ancient stories. 

Gah, that ending was just lovely. If you enjoyed the How to Train Your Dragon movies and The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh, then you simply must give this book a chance because it's a fascinating combination of the two.

Asha has spent her life hunting down dragons ever since the greatest of them all permanently scarred her body and face with his toxic flames. She knows everyone in her city blames her for the destruction the First Dragon caused when he attacked, and she's used to it. Kind of. However, when she's coerced into marriage with a ruthless brute, things start to unravel. There are more secrets lying in her father's palace than she ever dreamed.

Alright, so we have (a) dragons, (b) a badass princess, (c) forbidden romance, and (d) political intrigue. What's not to love about this plot?

The worldbuilding is such fun. I had no idea The Last Namsara took place in a Middle-Eastern inspired land, and I had a great time learning about the culture and history of Asha's realm. Filled to the brim with ancient lore, this novel is far from lacking in the imagination department. Plus, did I mention DRAGONS.

The characters are equally as strong. Asha did rub me the wrong way at first with her backward ideas about slaves and killing, but as the story progresses, her character blossoms wonderfully. At 432 pages, this novel is no short read, so keep that in mind as you start it. There's so much more around the corner if you just keep chugging through the slower parts. I definitely enjoyed the latter half of the story much more than the first.

The storyline might not be packed with shocking plot twists, but it is thoroughly entertaining. You'll get a kick out of Asha's spunk, her attraction to Torwin (a slave from her bethrothed's household), and of course the dragons she is so desperate to destroy.

If you're in need of a quality fantasy read, I'd highly recommend you give this one a shot. There are lots of great ideas in The Last Namsara, so even if you find parts of the story lacking, you'll have a fun ride anyway.
 



Then I'm there.