Spontaneous book signing in London

This week I’ve been around London and on the very last day I was having lunch in Wasabi with a friend in Soho when a man next to us overheard us talking about Bell Eleven. Fortunately I had a couple of copies with me so I whipped one out and he bought it on the spot! What a lovely way to find new readers.

Out September 10!

Blurb below image ** WARNING: SPOILER ALERT **

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EIGHT BRIDGES 

Freja may have escaped Topster’s grasp for now but as Amérle is taken over by his army, an even greater challenge awaits. Together with her faithful companion, the batsër Pollux, she must seek out the mythical Duo, the ruling brothers of the third landskapë—the Red World. Only there can she hope to find help to stop Topster and to quench the failing Network before it’s too late.

The journey forces her to face the consequences of her newfound self. She is a true Master of the Élan, but can she really set aside all her humanness to embrace the proper nature of a Master?

Then there’s the rumour of a prophecy—a truth which in Freja’s possession could change everything. Of course, it’s only a rumour …

Eight Bridges is the second book of YA fantasy adventure series The Landskapë Saga.

COVER REVEAL!

Why The Blackthorn Key made my nails curl

I recently read The Blackthorn Key (by Kevin Sands, published by Puffin) and it made my nails curl inwards and sent every off every feminist alarm in my body. Here’s why.

Allow me a short summary: It is a story about a orphan and his best friend 9780141360645_200_the-blackthorn-key_haftadsolving a code left by the protagonist’s  apothecary Master. The riddle takes them across 17th century London where they have to dodge the Masters of the Guild and chase down several clues. A group is trying to overthrow the  King. The clues  lead them to the hidden treasures of the secret society to which his Master belonged.

What, then, could be so infuriating about this exciting middle grade adventure novel?

The characters are male, all male.

Sorry, not all. The author has condescended to toss in a few women as well (after all, they did exist in the 17th century!): a mother, a bunch of silly but delightful sisters, a pigeon, a fellow orphan (mentioned once) and a servant girl (also mentioned once).

The female characters are at most an unhelpful but lovely sidekick (4-yr old Molly + Bridget, the pigeon) and both are pretty much unimportant to the actual solving of the puzzle (the plot) and mostly act on male orders. When the protagonist meets the orphan girl he is worried about her future – if she does not get a job (obviously not as an apothecary apprentice – how should a girl be able to handle that?!) she will have to become a prostitute. At one point one of the boys peers into a room, sees it full of dolls and deduces that of course, naturally, it must be the girls’ room. Another room is not quite as “girly”.

As well, the phrase like a girl is used to portray a derogatory quality – a simile that always, always makes me want to punch something, hard – LIKE A GIRL.

The male characters, on the other hand, are scheming, accomplished and powerful, more often than not violent. It is customary for Masters to beat their apprentices (all boys, naturally) and a father regularly flogs his son. The men rule the Guild of apothecaries and there is a King on the throne. You get the picture. The exception to the violent Masters is the protagonist’s own Master, who never lays a hand on him.

Besides the characters’ lack of diversity, the society painted by Sands is patriarchal to the extreme and there is not one ounce of problematisation about this fact.

Sure, it’s set in the 17th century, it’s the way things were. Sure, I get the idea of getting boys to read by focusing on male characters (then again, girls have been used to reading about male characters since like forever).

But come on! It’s a book. For children. And more than anything else, it’s sad to see an established publishing house allow this atrocity to end up on the shelves. I thought we were further along than this.

Kevin Sands and Puffin: Do you even realise what message you send to young boys and girls reading The Blackthorn Key? Every single part of it manifests the idea that men are the competent ones rightfully in power and women are the natural angels of the house, cute and soft and quite useless besides for baking bread (yay for us!).

Surely, if Master Benedict can serve as an exception to the male violence rule there can be room for a female viewpoint that isn’t a victim, a domestic slave or a mere annotation? Not even one?

I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone.

xoxo N.

Competition: The Island

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My brilliant author friend S. Usher Evans is (besides one of the most productive people I know) endlessly able to create addictive stories and after exploring space with her Razia series (pirates in space!!!), she’s now about to release a new series called The Madion Trilogy. It starts with The Island.

Even better – in the count down she’s doing a competition where you can win awesome things! Here’s what she says herself about it:

Basically, I have a list of things that you can do to help spread the word about The Island. Each action, like posting a photo to Instagram or writing a review of The Island, will earn you points. Preordering any version of the book will obviously grant you more!

The competition runs until April 26th – in other words, you still have plenty of time to collect points and be one of the winners!

So waste no more time on this post and head over to S. Usher Evans’s corner where you find everything you need to know!

‘Til next time!

xoxo N.

Gamma feedback!

Eight Bridges is under way, but it’s not quite yet at beta stage – so I shall call today’s session gamma feedback. An avid reader and very clever person kindly agreed to be part of the editing process of Eight Bridges so a few weeks ago I sent her part I to read. And today was the big day – feedback!

It went well, overall. I do have a lot of work to do, but the text needs enriching rather than rewriting. So far. I received valuable comments on characterisation and plot, questions about tricky concepts and themes from the first book that might need a tad more explanation. Also, her questions told me that those sneaky traps I’m placing are working … Very happy with that!

Next step: go through part II so that I can send it to her + rework part I and send it to my next beta reader.

After a long time struggling, I’ve finally found the joy in writing again. And though this book needs a lot of work, so much it makes me want to cry a little bit, I’m also excited about bringing this story to life and continuing Freja’s adventures across the landskapës. I hope you’ll join me!

If you’d be interested in an eArc when that time comes, please comment below or message me on Facebook!

Happy writing & reading y’all!
xoxo N.

 

Review: Alliances

This is a story of two women tough as nails, of an epic friendship and of courage to pursue the path on which your heart is set, irrespective of other people’s opinions. And it’s a story of empowerment. All set in space, mind. With pirates – PIRATES. IN SPACE!

All right, let’s get down to it. Razia the bounty hunter is on a mission to capture a pirate and when a government official turns up for that very same mission, she’s not having it. So, being Razia, she fights tooth and nail for her right to pursue this pirate on her own.

Two strong women become even stronger as one to unravel a conspiracy and, in the meantime, discover new and important things about themselves. Beyond the action and humour, it’s an important vision of breaking out of your comfort zone and allowing a listening ear, even when you think you know it all (I’m looking at you, Razia).

Alliances is yet another kick-ass girlpower story from S. Usher Evans, with complex and engaging characters, a superb Universe and an empowering message underlying the action without ever compromising the plot or organic feel. It’s there, as a natural part, as a crucial part even, and I applaud the author for weaving such an intricate and brilliant net of it.

Add high pace, always urging its reader to turn to the next page. PLUS you never know what’s coming around the next bend. If I could live in a book universe for one day, I’d like it to be the Razia world!

xoxo N.

Next review will be of Clariel by Garth Nix.

Alliances by S. Usher Evans

Lyssa Peate has found a tenuous balance between her double lives – the planet-discovering scientist and space pirate bounty hunter named Razia. No longer on probation, Razia still struggles to be thought of as more than a chocolate-fetching joke, and Lyssa can’t be truthful to those closest to her. But both lives are turned upside-down when feisty government investigator Lizbeth Carter shows up to capture the same pirate Razia is after.

Lizbeth’s not interested in taking Razia’s thunder; rather, she convinces the caustic bounty hunter to help solve a mystery. Somebody’s hiring pirates to target government ships, and there’s a money trail that doesn’t make any sense. From the desert planet of D-882 to the capital city on S-864, the investigation leads them deeper and deeper into a conspiracy that reaches to the highest levels of the Universal Government – and to one of the most painful chapters in Lyssa’s past.

Alliances is the highly anticipated sequel to Double Life, Book 1 in the Razia Series.

Check it out here! And for more wit, humour and playful banter, follow S. Usher Evans on Facebook >>

 

Nina + Pulitzer = ♥

There is no denying it. It started with The Goldfinch, now All the Light We Cannot See has me wrapped good and steady (crying on the tube? Me? No …). The pattern is crystal clear:

I ♥ my Pulitzer winners!

Therefore, here’s my reading (and purchasing) list for the coming months:

  • The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson
  • A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
  • Tinkers by Paul Harding
  • The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
  • The Road by Cormac McCarthy
  • March by Geraldine Brooks
  • Gilead by Marilynne Robinson (also Lila!)
  • The Known World by Edward P. Jones
  • Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
  • Empire Falls by Richard Russo
  • The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon

… and that’s just the beginning. Anyone read any of these?

xoxo N.