Iceland and a food-worldbuilding post?! Count me in!
Today I have the distinct pleasure of introducing author H.L. Burke and her brand new release, Ashen! Ashen is a fantasy Cinderella retelling inspired by Iceland, and, well… I’m sure you can see how I would be interested in that!
But if you’re new here, I write some fairy tale retellings of my own, and about two and a half years ago, my husband and I took our honeymoon in Iceland!
I fell in love with it then, and I honestly cannot get enough of it (we may or may not be slowly planning our next trip there… once it’s safe to travel again). At the time, I was dying for fiction set in Iceland, and now I finally have something!
(BTW, if you have other suggestions for fiction-preferably fantasy!-set in Iceland, please send them my way in the comments!)
And in other Selina catnip, today’s guest post by the author herself talks all about the role rood played in the worldbuilding! You may recall I even talked about food in worldbuilding a while back.
So without further ado and such, let’s get right on with this awesome glimpse into the world of Ashen!
Guest Post by H.L. Burke
Lizbete, the main character of Ashen, wouldn’t describe herself as artistic or creative. However, whenever I put her in a scene when she had to cook something, she was REALLY into it. Like, really, really, really into it. Food is Lizbete’s calling, and it plays a major part in the story and world of Ashen.
Lizbete’s home is an isolated fishing village in a cold northern country which I based on Iceland. The green interior is home to many shepherds, but the majority of commerce in town is from fishing. They eat berries they gather and vegetables they grow in their gardens and cliff pigeons … which are a bird I made up because traditionally people in Iceland sometimes eat puffins, but … I couldn’t stand to put one of those adorable things on a plate, even for authenticity.
Lizbete is a foundling with a strange secret curse. Unable to create her own body heat, she has to draw warmth from external sources. Unfortunately, this means whenever she touches another human being, she pulls heat from them, and if their contact is lengthy, her uncontrollable heat-draw can injure or even kill.
Because of this she needs to stay near heat sources, which usually means you can find her hiding in the kitchen of her adopted guardian’s tavern. Auntie Katryn taught Lizbete everything she knows about how to feed a crowd. Lizbete can make delightful soups out of scraps and bones. She roasts savory potatoes. Her sweet squash pie is fantastic, and her fish fry second only to Auntie’s.
In designing the food that I had Lizbete cook in the book I drew from three sources:
What was native to the country and climate I had chosen as a template (Iceland).
What would suit an isolated fishing village in a culture where most people have to work hard in the cold.
First off, I spent a lot of time looking into Icelandic food … by which I mean I found out that they had licorice flavored spirits that sounded amazing and looked seriously into whether I could get them imported before I realized that this was YA book and cocktails probably weren’t the research route I should go … and then I read up a bit on Icelandic cuisine. As I kind of expected, there was a decent amount of fish involved as well as lamb.
This also fit with my idea of an isolated village that had to be self-sufficient, fishing for most of their protein while shepherds treasured their flocks. I wanted the food to be hearty for people putting in a hard day’s work, and warm to chase away the cold wind coming off the frozen seas.
And finally, wish fulfilment.
From what I can tell apples are not historically a big part of Icelandic cuisine, but I had a great scene in mind where Lizbete and Brynar (her love interest and my prince stand in for this Cinderella tale) bond over peeling apples … so yeah, those are in there. Also something called “firewine” because it goes with my hot and cold theming.
So yeah, food is a big part of how Lizbete relates to the world around her, and I hope the descriptions of it help draw you into her world a little deeper.
(As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases made through the purchase link on this page. However, I am sharing this book because I have enjoyed her work before, and I am truly excited for this release!)
Thank you so much, Heidi, for giving us a behind-the-scenes look at this world! I can’t wait to dive in (it’s already loaded on my ereader!).
Also, be sure to keep an eye on the blog for my upcoming review. It may be another month or so, but I plan to write a full review of the book as soon as I finish it!
And in one more bit of news, this month I released a prequel novella to my This Curse series! I’ve been trying to price match it everywhere free, but that’s taking a while. But you can get it for free just by signing up to my newsletter! (Don’t worry, you’re free to unsubscribe at any time.)
Sign up to get a free copy of This Cursed Light, This Curse #0.5!
It seems we’re already halfway through August, and I’m a couple weeks behind in getting you a new blog post. My apologies! I could give you all kinds of excuses… or I could give you five fresh book recommendations?
Since we’re wrapping up the summer, let’s take a look at some good summer and end-of-summer stories. I have a mix of different genres here, so hopefully there’s a little something for everyone.
Without further ado, here are 5 great books to close out your summer!
(As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases made through these links. However, I have chosen these books because I read and enjoyed them by purchasing them myself or borrowing through the local library.)
This is a great summer contemporary! Meet Andie, a politician’s daughter who suddenly finds her summer wide open. So what should she do? How about start a dog walking business? And maybe meet someone new…
Sticking with the contemporary theme for a minute, how about prankster Clara and her rival, Rose? When Clara takes things too far at their senior prom, both of them are sentenced to summer working her dad’s food truck. Together. Or else.
This was a delightful story of unexpected friendships and summer jobs.
Okay, so I may be light on fantasy this week. But we’re switching from YA to adult here.
Gigi is about to lose her crush to her best friend… and she has to be part of the wedding. So to get herself a little distance and perspective, she decides to sign up as a camp counselor at the place where she always felt she belonged: Camp Chinooka. But there’s more there than just an escape there, and Gigi has to find herself and come to terms with her feelings before her whole life unravels.
Of all the books I’m recommending today, this one gives me the biggest end-of-summer vibes. And I can almost smell campfires!
Okay, completely switching gears here, I have a manga I just started. Laid Back Camp is exactly what it sounds like: all about camping, no drama, no stress. But a cute story and characters you can fall in love with.
Honestly, this is one of the most relaxing things I’ve read in a while. If you find you need a break, this may be the book you’re looking for.
This one is a nonfiction story following Cheryl as she hikes the Pacific Crest Trail alone. She talks about her life, what led her to the trail, the trail itself, and how she found herself again by hiking it. It’s a really fascinating story steeped in nature.
And if you like stories like this, I have a bonus story: A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson. Like Wild, this book is all about a hiking trip, but it’s along the Appalachian trail and gives you some history of that trail as well. I really enjoyed this story, and it has a VERY unexpected ending… at least to me!
The second Seasons of Magic: Fireflies & Faeries book comes out on August 20th! (Any links to my own books, like Carnival of Curses below, are not affiliate links)
You can pick up your copy of Carnival of Curses on Amazon or these other retailers. If you want some summer fair fun (since all my local fairs were canceled this year), a vampire acrobat, a pegasus circus pony, and a frog-boy, you’ll adore this contemporary fantasy retelling of the Frog Prince!
I had a ton of fun writing it, so I hope you all enjoy reading it.
Dreaming of the sand and waves? Take a step closer with some beach reads!
This has surely been a summer like no other, but somehow I still managed to make it to the beach (socially distanced, of course). But for anyone who’s dreaming of the beach and can’t get there, whether you’re landlocked or don’t want to take the risk heading out, I figured now would be a good time to share some books that will give you that beach feel!
So without further ado, let’s dive into some beachy reads.
(As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases made through these links. However, I have chosen these books because I read and enjoyed them by purchasing them myself or borrowing through the local library.)
If you like a bit more literary fantasy, this is perfect! In this story, you follow Clara on her epic quest to save her mermaid sister’s life. It’s full of adventure, magic, peril, and found family. Lots of fun and very lyrical!
This is a YA contemporary that takes place in the Outer Banks, NC (if you saw my survival recommendations post, this book was on it). The main characters, Sophie and Finn, are stranded on the islands and must survive a hurricane and reunite with their families. A great tale of missed connections, survival, and the beach!
This is absolutely one of my favorite mermaid books! Follow Kahlen and her siren sisters as they struggle with their call to kill humans. I’ve never read a book with a better ocean character – and yes, the ocean itself is a character – and such a deep moral struggle. Fantastic writing and such a strong set of characters.
This is basically a river pirate book (and there is a second book out now; it’s a duology!). Caro sets off to rescue her father, who has a booming river trade and is favored by the god of the river, and finds herself embroiled in political intrigue and deep questions of her own destiny and desires. Also, the hardcover of this book has a really pretty cover: it’s soft and has streaks of GLITTER!!!
This is what I’d call a science fantasy (and it is a long, scientific one!). If you like science and sirens, like I do, this is the perfect read for you! Imagine that a ship goes to the middle of the Mariana Trench and all hands disappear. Then imagine you’re part of the expedition that sets out to find out what happened. Just be ready for some mermaid horror.
This one is an awesome poetry collection by a very prolific poet. I put this one in honorable mentions because while it does include some oceanic vibes, those poems don’t make up the entire collection. But there are some real gems in here!
This is yet another mermaid story (I’m sensing a theme), honorable mention because of the length. It’s only a short story, but the writing is so clear and beautiful, and it evokes such strong emotion as we watch LeRae yearn for humanity from her place in the water.
This one isn’t the ocean, but it is a resort on the edge of a lake…in a world run by terrifying supernatural creatures. It’s book 6 in The Others series, but it absolutely stands on its own. I fell in love with these characters so much, and it was such an amazing read, just like all the other books in this series.
This one is honorable mention because it also doesn’t actually have ocean. What it DOES have is an adorable romance, lots of weather talk, and such a lovable, feels-filled story! I love the What’s in a Name series by this author – it’s full of adorableness, humor, and feels!
This is the only nonfiction selection on this particular list, but it’s a good one. If you’re interested in surfers looking for the wave of a lifetime or learning how waves (and rogue waves) work, this is a fantastic read! There’s lots of science and human interest in this, and it was a super fun read.
There are plenty more books I could put on this list (like more mermaid stories because mermaids), but I think this list covers it pretty well! I hope I’ve provided a good variety of reading material, with nonfiction, poetry, contemporary, and, of course, fantasy.
There’s also that book actually titled Beach Read…def on my list, but I have not yet acquired it. Has anyone read it yet?
Do you have other suggested beach reads? What stories make you think of the ocean? Share them in the comments, I’d love to build my list and help you build yours as well!
This book is finally out in the world and touching people’s lives! It’s been such a long journey, and I am so so thankful for all the people who have contributed along the way. There is a full list of people who have helped me in the acknowledgements section of my book, but I absolutely want to take a minute to thank my husband, family, friends, and all the professionals who have worked with me since the book’s story seed in 2011.
And thank you, readers, so much for taking this journey with me. I hope this book means as much to you as it has to me! And I promise, now we are back to our regular posting schedule (until the next release!).
Don’t forget to jump over to Facebook for the party tonight from 4-7 pm eastern, and put in your entries for the giveaways! I have hand-painted genie bottles, signed paperbacks, and signed bookmarks, all just waiting for a new home. Giveaways will be open until Monday April 29th, and then I will be choosing winners!
and Safiyya appeared in a shadowed corner of a loud, crowded city. Cars sped by
with alarming disregard for pedestrians. People rushed about, some intent on
the sidewalk ahead of them, some entirely engrossed in their phones. No one
seemed to take notice of their sudden appearance, and, oddly, Janan couldn’t
see any of the other djinn pouring through the portal with them.
the portal dropped everyone in different sections of the city?
plunged into the sunlight outside the alley, and finally people jumped back. It
wasn’t every day that humans saw an ocelot and a purple-eyed girl covered in
blood and dressed in what looked like a costume. For all they knew, she was a
struggling actress in a remake of Aladdin
in her loose violet dress, embellished with gold embroidery and gemstones.
looked around, trying to find someplace quiet, somewhere away from prying eyes.
Safiyya said, drawing a few puzzled and concerned looks. They ducked back into
the alley before she continued. “Do you still have that bottle?”
placed a hand on the wall of the building to steady herself and opened the bag
slung across her body, feeling around for the wrapped bottle. It felt whole,
somehow unbroken. “Yes, I think so.”
I have an idea! Put the bottle on the ground.”
pulled it out of her bag and placed the unwrapped crystal on the cement between
them. Icy fingers of fear clawed at her heart—fear for her family, fear for
herself. She would never be safe. Never.
sat next to it, turning serious eyes on Janan. “We have to do the Binding.”
Janan exclaimed, unable to control her reaction. Too much had happened, and she
was past her limit. Her stomach turned at even the thought of using her magic,
and she wasn’t sure she was capable of such an extensive spell. And Safiyya
certainly couldn’t do it alone. “Isn’t that too extreme?”
yes, but what choice do we have? The others will find us, and this is our best
chance to evade Ahriman.”
here?” Janan looked around the trash-filled alley.
also glanced around, glaring at a stray cat. The cat glared back at her with
dull yellow eyes. “I can add a protection spell. Move the bottle somewhere
please,” Janan said, her voice barely above a whisper.
reached a paw over the bottle, and Janan grasped it. They closed their eyes,
focusing all their energy, all their magic, on the bottle between them. Then,
they concentrated on weaving their own energy into the crystal lattice.
the attachment grew, their bodies phased out of physical being, becoming a
light vapor that swirled in the weak air currents, mixing lavender and green
smoke where they had been sitting.
the attachment complete, they became physical again and opened their eyes.
just need to hide long enough for the others to find us,” Safiyya said. “And
you can get some rest in here. As soon as we’re inside, the bottle will take us
Janan gave her a small
smile, and they vanished in a swirl of smoke, disappearing into the top of the
Hey all! Welcome to the first stop on the This Cursed Flame Blog Tour! I can’t wait for you to see all the bonus content leading up to the release on Saturday, and what better way to start than to share the first chapter with everyone?
But first, here’s the blurb!
Sometimes we put ourselves in the bottle…
Six years ago, Janan was transformed into a genie by an evil djinn, ripping her away from her home, her life, and her humanity. She has been on the run from him ever since. Worlds away, high school honors student Laurelin just wants to get into the chemistry program of her dreams.
When Laurelin discovers a crystal bottle that sucks her into the djinn realm, the girls find themselves working together to escape Janan’s creator and get Laurelin back home. But war is brewing in the djinn realm-a rebellion led by the same evil djinn they’ve been trying to escape. And he is determined to rule both the djinn and the human realms. As his creation, Janan is the one person standing in his way.
But to stop him, Janan must learn to overcome the fears he instilled in her and embrace her own dark magic while Laurelin must accept that some things are more important than an A+. Now, they will have to trust each other, and themselves, to stop the encroaching evil. Otherwise, both the human and djinn realms will fall to the tide of death and dark magic this war will unleash.
You can now pre-order this book on Amazon and any other major retailer! Also, if you prefer a paperback, those will be available through Amazon (insider hint: they’re gorgeous!) Also, be sure to head over to Facebook on Saturday for the Launch Party! (and your chance to win your own hand-painted genie bottle!)
And now, without further ado, the first chapter.
Chapter One: Janan
Fuego, Djinn Realm
white dots floated in her vision as her heart pumped blood faster than her
brain could use it. They obscured the beige and white masonry of the city, the
multicolored throng pushing through the cobbled streets like strutting
peacocks. All four types of djinn surrounded her: the ifrits with their fire
magic, marids with their water magic, sila with their air magic, and ghul with
their shapeshifting and electric magic.
she stood here, alone in the crowd, unprotected, probably the only genie in the
city. A half-breed of magic forever caught between worlds. Her human life still
colored her memories, her behavior, but the djinn who had turned her into this
had robbed her of her natural life.
the djinn could tell, could sense her other-ness, as they gave her a wide berth
or cast vicious looks in her direction. She thought eventually she would be
used to it, but even an errand out to fetch groceries was enough to send her
into a panic, even after six years.
hurried to the side of the road, trying to hide herself from their prying eyes.
Her breaths were shallow, and she wheezed as she tried to pull enough oxygen
into her lungs. She could almost see his gaze
everywhere she turned: the hate in that marid’s face, the same crimson tint in
that ifrit’s skin. Like he was
everywhere. Would she ever be free of this fear?
drew her hood lower on her forehead and pulled her cloak tighter around her,
trying to hide the raspberry color of her hair, a sure sign of her genie
status, and her violet dress with the gold embroidery. She had loved it when
her adopted father, Mahtab, brought it home for her birthday, but now it seemed
like too much, too flashy, like it drew the attention of too many.
A voice rang out over the roar of a thousand voices.
cringed, her head snapping toward the sound. Several nearby djinn craned their
heads, also searching for the source of the voice. Her eyes landed on a small,
beige feline with ebony spots. If she didn’t look directly at the animal, she
could almost see the form of the woman beneath the spell.
Janan, still breathless with fear, pushed her way back through the people still
separating them and knelt in front of her friend.
of the House Grimalkin studied her face. “Everything okay?”
almost laughed. No, everything was not okay. It hadn’t been for some time. Not
since before, when she was still human, when she still belonged.
he wasn’t here, at least not as far as she could tell. It was only her brain
running away faster than reason, again, her terror resurfacing after months of
terror had almost been gone when he returned only a few months ago, like an
angry ghost from her past, wishing to exact some terrible vengeance on her for
her very existence. Her Turning had been a mistake. And now it was a hurdle to
him, to his plans, to the very future of the Realm.
least that was what he had said. Right before attacking, driving her from her
home to flee to Fuego with her adopted family. She had brought him down upon
them, and now she saw him everywhere she turned.
of course,” she found herself saying, rising to her feet and refusing to meet
Safiyya’s bright emerald gaze.
couldn’t tell her what was going on. Safiyya had her own problems. She was
djinn, one of the shapeshifters, but she’d been stuck as an ocelot for as long
as Janan had known her, much like the way Janan was stuck halfway between djinn
and human. One day, maybe Safiyya would tell her what had happened, why she was
stuck, but for now Janan didn’t see a reason to draw the cat into her imaginary
nightmares. It was enough to share this unspoken bond.
continued to study her, doubtful eyes traveling across the old scars marring
Janan’s pale skin. There were no new injuries for her to see, but her friend’s
gaze burned across her skin, and Janan tugged the cloak tighter still. If she
kept pulling at it, soon she’d be a diamond from the pressure.
cat dropped her gaze, returning her attention to the writhing mass of djinn in
front of them. “Have you heard from the others yet?”
nothing.” Janan touched the shining gem that hung around her neck, a simple
piece of Torrebon technology carried by almost every djinn and genie in the
Realm. It not only allowed them access to the human and djinn internets but
also provided a simple means of communication with just a small spark of magic.
was all the magic she could bear to use. She had almost convinced herself that
if she didn’t use any genie magic at all, maybe she could be human again. Still
seventeen, still awkward and scared, but human, with a family and a life and
human problems. As it stood now, she didn’t really fit anywhere, and she felt
the weight of it every time she set foot outside.
nodded her head at the crowd, and they wove through the scores of temporary
stalls lining the sidewalk for the weekly farmers’ market. Vendors on both
sides hawked their wares: fabric bolts here, jewelry there, tiny carved statues
from the ifrit city of Prinnyn, mechanical toys from the ghul city of Torrebos.
The road had been blocked off from automobile traffic for the day, allowing the
thousands of pedestrians to browse freely without fearing oncoming cars.
tried to focus on the market and push her fear out of her mind. It was
uncontrollable, arising unbidden and unwanted, but sometimes she could stuff it
back down and ignore it for a while.
least until the next memory took her.
bag bounced against her thigh as she walked. It held only a few coins and her
single purchase of the day: a bright glass bottle to add to her collection. To
her, it had become a joke, a way of coping with what she was. A genie
collecting bottles. Some form of control over the prison of her existence. And
this bottle had felt particularly special, but she couldn’t say why. Perhaps
some subconscious ghost of memory. Heavens knew there were enough ghosts
flitting around in her skull.
sun was rising higher in the sky as the morning dragged on, but Janan still
shivered with cold. He wasn’t here, she was sure of it—sure that her mind was
just playing cruel tricks on her again—yet she couldn’t shake the way every
djinn in a cloak, every turned back, every sideways glare made her feel like
prey. What if he really was here,
somewhere in this mass of bodies?
glanced sideways at Safiyya. The ocelot was small, but she made a formidable
foe. Surely Janan would be safe at her side.
stopped walking and looked up at her expectantly.
sorry,” Janan said, blinking herself back to the present. “What did you say?”
just asked if you wanted a drink. I’m getting a bit thirsty.” They were stopped
next to a vendor selling cold fruit drinks.
rubbed her head against a picture of a lemon below the counter. “This one,
pointed to the lemon drink and a grape drink in the displayed pitchers, trading
a silver coin for the two glasses. They walked a few steps away before she
placed the lemonade on the sidewalk for Safiyya, out of the way of trampling
feet, and sat down on the curb. Her own straw halfway to her mouth, she
suddenly froze, feeling the pressure of a person standing just behind her.
heart began pounding all over again. Sweat shone on her pale skin, and she
wheezed for breath, unable to take a sip of the refreshing drink. No longer
thirsty, she set the glass down next to Safiyya and turned to face the
presence, ready to run or strike if needed.
man in a cloak stood hunched behind her, eyes bright yellow against his pale
blue skin, even shaded as they were under the hood. They seemed to glow with
their own light, like a harvest moon on an otherwise black night.
she saw the man, her heart began to slow its furious pace, and she forced a
shaky smile. “Mahtab.”
adoptive father stood with his arms full of packages from around the market,
grinning a sharp-toothed smile. She crossed her arms and pressed her hands
against her body, willing the shaking in her fingers to subside. Her adoptive
mother, Irina, reached a hand down to help Janan to her feet.
Mahtab’s wife of nearly a century, was the opposite of him in every way. Where
he was blue-skinned and stood with a permanent bend in his spine, she looked
like she was cut from the finest alabaster, her hair fine-spun gold and her
posture tall and proud.
allowed herself to be drawn up next to them. “Is it time to go home?”
you find everything on your list?” Irina asked.
blushed with guilt. In truth, she’d forgotten about the list after the vendor
with the bottles. She had been so distracted with the bottle that she had
missed half of the family’s produce, still on her list.
take that as a no,” Mahtab said. He studied her, quiet for a moment. “But
perhaps we can drop you at home and finish the errands ourselves.”
closed her eyes. He had seen her fear, had made the decision that she had done
enough for the day. She would remain a burden, unable to fulfill her duty to
their small family.
opened her mouth, intending to say no, to say that she could push through and
finish their trip, but no words left her mouth, and she nodded in defeat.
right, then,” Mahtab said, nodding back. His face was kind, but Janan couldn’t
bear to meet his eyes.
turned in the direction of home, a small apartment on the west side of the
city, and began pushing their way through the crowds. She was buoyed by the
presence of Mahtab and Irina, feeling her confidence replace her fear with
every step they took. Maybe she could make it after all.
opened her mouth to say so when a small trio of smug-looking djinn leered at
genie,” one of them spat.
worry,” another snarled. “They’ll be gone soon.”
Safiyya was at Janan’s side, baring her sharp teeth. “Keep walking,” she
growled low in her throat.
third djinn rolled her eyes before following her friends. Her sighed words were
soft, meant only for Janan’s and Safiyya’s ears. “Genie sympathizers. Just as
bad as the genies.”
Janan dropped her eyes to the sidewalk and trailed after Mahtab, already several yards ahead of her. Perhaps going home was for the best.
Want to read more? Check out the masterpost of stops on the blog tour, or go ahead an pre-order your copy today! Again, you can pre-order this book on Amazon and any other major retailer. And don’t forget about the Facebook Launch Party on Saturday!
One week to go! Here’s a list of the celebrations! 😀
Today is a very special day (also, happy Easter for those of you celebrating, and happy 1 year anniversary to my other half)!
My debut is less than a week away, and now we get to celebrate its release! Today marks the kickoff of the blog tour for This Cursed Flame. Some very kind bloggers/authors have agreed to help me celebrate with a number of posts that I hope you will all find interesting.
Be sure to tune in for all the festivities across the interwebs, and then head over to Facebook on April 27th for the launch party! We’ll have plenty of extras, behind-the-scenes, and giveaways for everyone (including hand-painted genie bottles, made by the author herself!).
Can’t wait to see you there!
Are you excited? I’m so excited! Let me know what you’re most excited about in the comments below!!! Then, head on over to the first stop on the tour!
Wait, you mean there are books with GENIES in them??? GIMME ALL THE BOOKS!!!
We are just over two weeks away from the release of This Cursed Flame (and only a week and a weekend away from the start of the blog tour, starting April 21). So for the next two Fridays, I’ll be sharing things related to the book!
Today I want to talk about some of my favorite books and series that deal with djinn and genies. Genies aren’t common creatures for authors to use, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some really great stories out there that have them!
So without further ado, let’s get right into it! Here are some of my favorite books with djinn and genies.
If you’ve been around a while, you’ve heard me mention this before (maybe back in February?). This series is one of my favorite urban fantasies, and it specifically deals with the relationships between magically gifted humans, the djinn they capture and use, and the tumultuous planet under our feet. I greatly enjoyed the elemental nature of the powers and the complexity of the interactions between each magical thing involved in the story. And having a vengeful planet underfoot, one that seems to be sentient, well, that’s terrifying.
This one just came out earlier this year. It’s urban fantasy, takes place in Pittsburgh, AND features a genie… yeah, this was an insta-buy for me. And I didn’t regret it. This book had a fresh flavor of urban fantasy with unique shifters, lesser-known and lesser seen magical creatures, and a genie with wish magic. I loved every second of the read, and I cannot wait for the next book to come out!
This book was one of those more lighthearted fantastic romps. It felt like I was listening to someone tell me a story, which always warms my reader’s heart, and it stars a genie (jinni) and a golem straight out of Jewish folklore. The story was deep and engaging, and it was such a pleasure to read!
This one is a young adult book set in a desert country full of legendary magic (that a friend of a friend has seen) and gunslingers. It was such an interesting blend of Wild West and desert culture, and then the idea of the magical creatures layered throughout, including genies, just kind of sealed the deal for me. It was a fun, magical read!
This one is about a teen who was changed into a genie a thousand years ago and has been on the run from a power-hungry man who wants to use her magic to become even more powerful. The main character has faced classic genie problems, such as horrible masters and inane wishes, and in this book, she gets a real, kind master who wants to help. This was another fun, unique story that I loved!
And, of course, how could I have a favorite genie books post without including my own??? This book, if you haven’t been paying attention to me lately, is all about a girl who was changed into a genie by an evil djinn… and now he finds that her very existence disrupts his plans. And then there’s the science nerd human. The two girls are accidentally thrown together, and it is only with each other that they can save their worlds, and themselves, from the reach of this evil djinn. This book is full of magic, worldbuilding, and strong female relationships. You can pre-order it on Amazon or any other major retailer, and keep an eye on Amazon for the paperback, coming soon!
Have you read any other books with genies? Have you read any of these books? Let me know in the comments, I would love to hear about some more!
Ever wonder how (and when) to contact an author? Wonder no more.
Okay, so this week I had a lot of feelings. Maybe it was because I turned 30 (that milestone of birthdays). Maybe it was the stress at work (hello, mountains and hours of data analysis!). Maybe it was things I read online (isn’t that everyone?).
One of those things I read online was an article articulating all the things I have been observing online for years, but to an extreme degree. You see, a writer friend sent me this article by Jesse Singal. You should definitely give it a read. And as a result, this blog post happened. There is so much fear in the YA writing community that people can’t express any kind of dialogue regarding diversity or the witch-hunting mentality at work for fear of losing their fans or careers. If they do, swarms of angry internet users descend on them.
Now, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t call out problematic things when we see them (and I’ll come back to that in a bit). But I am saying that this bullying behavior is dangerous and toxic. It is a suppression of ideas when books should be making us think, making us question things. It is censoring the spread of ideas and information and killing the opportunity for open discussion and growth. And it doesn’t solve the problem; it only serves to foster hurt feelings and bitterness.
Is that really healthy? No.
But how do we interact with authors in productive, healthy ways?
First, let’s start with things to remember about authors:
Authors are people, too. They have just as many feelings as everyone else. They really exist, and the things people say about them and their work really do affect them.
Most of the time, they’re doing their best. Yes, sometimes they don’t succeed. But that is an opportunity for growth, just like every other mistake or less-than-perfect attempt out there. They grow and learn with every book they write. If they’re given the chance.
Authors are not the books they write. Their characters do not necessarily represent their personal views of the world, and their stories may not have the meaning you think they do (though half a book is the reader’s experience, so that does matter, and hopefully the author has taken that into consideration during edits).
Authors, and their books, are not perfect. They do everything they can to make it shine and polish it up, but there is always going to be something that someone will hate or disagree with. And that’s okay. We seem to be stuck in a climate where disagreement is obscene, and it is leading to an atmosphere that stifles creative and personal growth as well as diversity.
Now, there are a few different situations in which a reader may want to interact with an author. Let’s start with the simplest scenario.
You read a book. You fall in love with it. And you just can’t keep it to yourself.
Should you contact the author? YES!
It is incredibly encouraging to authors to hear positive feedback on their writing! This is a good time to let an author know you’ve enjoyed it, and it will put a smile on their face, guaranteed. Spread the positivity!
You read a book. You hate everything about it. You didn’t click with it, the story was derivative, and you frankly could have written something better yourself.
Should you contact the author? NO!
Why? Because they are people. Sure, leave your review as you see fit (as long as it’s about the book and not the author… don’t make it personal), but don’t tag an author or otherwise direct their attention to this negative review. They don’t need to see it. It doesn’t encourage them, it can hinder their creativity, and it can do a whole lot more harm than good.
And finally, the idea that brought me to this post in the first place…
You read a book. It has problematic elements that are pretty insensitive and offensive.
Should you contact the author? MAYBE.
Let me explain.
If you feel you can discuss the matter with a calm, level head and have an open discussion, then by all means, contact the author. But if you can’t, leave it to someone else. Write your review, do NOT tag the author, and move on.
And if you do contact the author, here are some tips:
Contact them privately. Do not make a public post to shame or call them out. Oftentimes, the problem you see may be unintentional, and the author is more than happy to hear the feedback and fix the problem, or to correct it in their future writing if the book has already been published and can no longer be changed.
Remember you could be wrong… and accept it if you are. I have seen people shaming and tearing apart books and their authors when they think it has crossed lines of culture and history when in reality it had nothing to do with the problems these hunters are shouting about.
Be kind and tactful. Instead of yelling at the author or shaming them, which can automatically put a person on the defensive and make them less receptive to what you have to say, use phrases like, “I liked your story, but I think [this particular element] may be offensive to some people. Would you be willing to talk about it?” Be honest, but don’t let that make you rude or hurtful.
Offer to be a beta reader or sensitivity reader. Obviously, if you are not in the demographic for which the problematic element is problematic, do not offer to sensitivity read. But you can still suggest that sensitivity readers will strengthen the book. Either way, continue to remember to be kind.
Don’t make it personal. This is about the story, not the person. An author is not their book.
But what if the author is not receptive to your feedback? What if they’re downright mean or argumentative?
Do not engage. Thank them for their time, then stop responding. Some authors just will not be open to a discussion, and it’s better to walk away than to try to argue with a fool.
Leave your review of the book. Don’t make it personal, just like I mentioned already. Keep it focused on the book. Call out the problematic elements or what you didn’t like. But keep it professional.
Don’t start a mob. There is so much mob mentality on so many of these topics online, particularly Twitter and Tumblr. It’s so easy to get caught up in it, but it’s not productive and only hurts more feelings. Again, keep it professional. Even if the author looks like a fool, make sure people can’t mistake you for one, as well.
If you remember nothing else…
…just remember that authors are people with feelings and failings, just like you and everyone else. Treat them that way, the way you would want to be treated if you were in their shoes. And keep in mind…
Someone else’s behavior never gives you permission to be cruel.
Now, I want to hear from you. Are you an author? A reader? What are your thoughts? Tell me below, and let’s talk about talking.
I don’t know about you, but I have very specific tastes when it comes to fictional romantic relationships, particularly the “I never want to see this” kind. These are definitely personal preferences, and if you like one or more of these, I’m certainly not trying to convince you not to or belittle you for something you like. To each their own! But these are the romantic relationships I could do without in my books.
Student-teacher relationships. Example: Pretty Little Liars Especially in YA, I really, really despise these kinds of relationships. In fact, let’s extend this out to any kind of relationship with a dangerous balance of power issue. Student-teacher or student-coach or student-parentofafriend or student/employee-boss. Why, you may ask? It’s gross (if it’s a child or teen and an adult), it’s not legal (or ethical), and I really feel like it gives young readers in particular a skewed idea of healthy relationships. It can blur the lines of right and wrong or safe and unsafe. Any kind of relationship where the balance of power is off (one person has more power than the other, like one controls a job or grade) can be incredibly dangerous and unethical, if not illegal, and it is just as dangerous to idealize or romanticize this abuse of power (as many books do).
Love triangles. Examples: The Infernal Devices, Twilight I am so over this one. Particularly as a person who never had more than one crush and never more than one person (if that) interested in her, I find these kinds of stories dull, self-indulgent, arrogant on the part of the one caught in the middle, and unrealistic. That whole “Oh no, two boys like me, how will I choose when I like them both!” thing just grates on me. Yeah, maybe some people can relate to the situation, and that’s fine. And I know enough people like them for it to have become a trope in the first place. But if I never see another love triangle again, it will be too soon.
Distant “family”. Examples: Born of Earth by A.L.Knorr, Newsflesh trilogy (to be clear, I LOVE both of these books/series…except for that relationship) These are the romantic relationships that also toe the line between legal and illegal, just barely on the side of “this isn’t actually taboo.” For example, a girl falls in love with her adopted cousin or brother. Yeah, they’re not specifically related by blood, but they are still legally related. It just bothers me.
Actual family. Examples: Flowers in the Attic Speaking of family, how about actual family? Like, surpassing the normal family relationship to become romantically involved. It’s just another relationship that weirds me out. I don’t like reading about it. I find it unenjoyable and awkward, and that’s not something I’m looking for in my fiction.
Bad boys/girls. Example: The Infernal Devices and so many others I will never understand the books that romanticize falling in love with a guy or girl who treats the other person like dirt. Why would you want to be around someone who is mean all the time or acts like they don’t care about you? A real, good relationship is one where both parties feel valued and loved. Anything otherwise is modeling poor relationships. It’s not as dangerous as the power balance issues, but it can still lead to some bad times for actual humans.
Abusive relationships. Example: 50 Shades of Gray (I didn’t read it, but I know enough) Much like some of the above relationships, abusive relationships are difficult. They can model dangerous roles and choices to impressionable people, particularly if the relationship is romanticized. Personally, unless it is incredibly important to the story, I don’t really want to read about it. Especially with something like 50 Shades, where the characters seem ignorant and tolerant of such behaviors and it is never addressed. Abuse is never okay, and a lot of times it is lazy writing. I will be more okay with it if it is addressed or necessary, but it’s a hard balance, and I’ll need convincing.
So these are my most hated romantic relationships in fiction. Again, please remember that if you happen to really enjoy one of these kinds of relationships in your reading, I’m not trying to dissuade or belittle your choices and your enjoyment; I am merely pointing out the relationships I dislike and find particularly worrisome or troublesome.
Now that I’ve shared with you, it’s your turn! What are your least favorite romantic relationship tropes in fiction? Why? Share in the comments!