2019 Winter Curiositales Magazine

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CURIOSITALES New York, New York; USA Volume 15 Winter 2019

FOUNDER Gillian St. Clair BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION Stacy Herman SALES AND ADVERTISING Vipul Kuchhal REGULAR CONTRIBUTORS Elle Jauffret- food writer Elishia Merricks- photographer Juliet White- writer SEASONAL CONTRIBUTORS Elena Armas Raima Afsar Georgia Deiker An-Mari Fouché Mieke Göttsche Mara Hubl Claire Koleske Melleny Smith Rawa Rabail Khan Bianca Visagie AUTHORS Shea Ernshaw Tochi Onyebuchi Nancy Richardson Fischer Shamim Sarif BOOKSTAGRAMMERS Michelle @michellereadsbooks Hannah @hannahleblondauthor Séline @lifebytheink Mia @wldflowerbooks COSPLAYERS Claire @shakespeareandme Georgia @peachyqueencosplay CONTRIBUTE Have something bookish you want to share? Check out our website for more details. COVER Koryaba Images used belong to the credited creator, or have been used through standard license agreement or creative commons. For more information, email support. Copyright 2019 by Curiositales Magazine. All rights reserved. This magazine or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in review.


ONLINE Curiositales is a quarterly magazine. We also engage readers with a free newsletter. For your regular dose of all things bookish, subscribe at www.curiositales.com

Behind the Scenes

Hey bookworms! Confession time... I’m not the biggest fan of winter. I grew up in the desert and so my mind was blown when I moved to New England for college. However, as I look at my ever growing TBR pile sitting next to me, I can’t help but to think maybe winter isn’t so bad after all. When I factor in the conversations I got to have with Shea Ernshaw, Tochi Onyebuchi, Nancy Richardson Fischer, and Shamim Sarif, winter is looking downright incredible. Each of these authors has an awesome new book out and I encourage you to go to your local bookstore to pick it up after you’ve read their interview. Keep warm, keep well read, light a few candles, and enjoy this season’s issue. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts! Happy Reading, Gillian St. Clair




@ lifebytheink




Interviews with Shea Ernshaw, Tochi Onyebuchi, Nancy Richardson Fischer, and Shamim Sarif

Minority Authors Who Shaped Modern Fiction by Raima Afsar

BRUJA by Elena Armas The human heart, even when odd and even when strange, wants what it wants




Cosplayers Georgia and Claire present their favorite literary cosplays

Q&A with Michelle, Hannah, Séline, and Mia, this month’s featured accounts

Book reviews from the Curiositales reading community


CONTENTS 10 Giving Back 11 Contributors 12 News & Updates 16 Naturally Precocious

Shea Ernshaw of Winterwood

21 Share Your Shelf | Shea Ernshaw 22 The History of the Future Tochi Onyebuchi of War Girls

27 Share Your Shelf | Tochi Onyebuchi 28 Boxes Are For Packing Nancy Richardson Fischer of The Speed of Falling Objects

33 Share Your Shelf | Nancy Richardson Fischer 34 Spy Another Day Shamim Sarif of The Athena Protocol 39 Share Your Shelf|Shamim Sarif 42 Minority Authors Who Shaped Modern Fiction by Raima Afsar

44 Bruja, a short story by Elena Armas

48 Fiction Food by Elle Jauffret 52 Peachy Queen Cosplay 60 Shakespeare And Me Cosplay 70 Upcoming Releases 72 Meet the Bookstagrammers 90 Book Reviews 94 Fall Favorites 96 Literary Tourism 98 Bookstagram Photo Tips by Elishia Merricks





CONTRIBUTORS: Writer Raima Afsar @its4eyedgal

As a kid Raima read past her bedtime and dreamt of owning a library as big as the one in Beauty and Beast. As an adult, she still has the same dream. You can find her on Instagram @its4eyedgal obsessing over literature.

Writer Elena Armas @thebibliotheque

Elena Armas is a hopeless romantic and judging by the book stacks around her, a book hoarder too. If you ask her, she will probably tell you there is no such thing as hoarding when it comes to literature. After years devouring and raving about the stories she loves on her bookstagram, she’s finally gathered the courage to bring her own stories to life. thebibliothequeblog.com

Cosplayer Georgia Deiker @peachyqueencosplay

I’m currently a student pursuing a degree in English, and hope to one day be a book editor or an English teacher. When I discovered Sarah J. Maas in 2016, I fell back in love with reading and writing which led to my discovery of the book community It just so happened that,around the same time, I had discovered cosplay. I wanted to combine my love for both cosplay and reading which has brought me to where I am today: a cosplayer of mostly book characters!

Cosplayer Claire Koleske @shakespeareandme

I’m Claire, I’m originally from New Mexico but I moved up to Seattle after getting my degrees in English and Theater Arts. By day, I work for a non profit theater, by night/weekend I’m transforming into my favorite book characters.


News & Updates

Upcoming Interviews: June Hur Maureen Johnson Ryan La Sala Kathryn Purdie Read them in the next issue! Curiositales Magazine is on the lookout for contributors. If you have an idea geared toward readers, or if you’d like to nominate a featured bookstagrammer or cosplayer, send us an email: contribute@curiositales.com. Our readers are creative and talented and we want to feature you. Send us an email to be considered for an upcoming issue. We’re by readers, for readers. 12 K CURIOSITALES






NATURALLY PRECOCIOUS: WITH SHEA ERNSHAW Interview by Gillian St. Clair Written by Juliet White

Last year, The Wicked Deep swept readers away, submerging us into the watery world of Sparrow, a town haunted by the legacy of its past. Now author Shea Ernshaw is back with Winterwood. New evocative setting. New nuanced characters. New shadowed romance—complete with all the creepily addictive atmosphere you’ve been craving. If you haven’t yet immersed yourself in one of Ernshaw’s tales, don’t wait any longer to take the plunge. Already a fan? Then you’ll want to position Winterwood on a bookshelf right next to your copy of The Wicked Deep, to fully appreciate the lush, complementary covers in a Bookstagram no-brainer. Since Ernshaw’s first novel surfaced as a New York Times Bestseller, it’d be easy to assume her route to publication was a sprint, not a marathon. But the truth is far more interesting. Ernshaw was unfathomably precocious. She began writing in childhood and sending her work into the world when she’d barely scraped her way into double digits.

“When I was ten years old, I began querying literary agents, if you can believe that,” Ernshaw said. “My very sweet mother would take me to the library—because back in those days you couldn’t find literary agents online, since online didn’t exist. We would go through these massive books that listed literary agents, and I queried with my post-apocalyptic novel. I would then ride my bike down to the mailbox to see if I got a response. “I received quite a few rejections. But every rejection was a fuel for the fire. It proved there was a way to reach out to the publishing world. I could send them my novel and they would write back, telling me that it was terrible! That did nothing but encourage my drive to be published.” “In my twenties, I was querying again,” Ernshaw continued. “I received more rejections than I care to remember, but for some reason it never discouraged me. I was just excited to see what somebody thought


of my work and to know that they were reading it. I do think that querying from such a young age may have been the reason I was numb to those rejections; it was braided into the framework of my childhood— dealing with literary agent rejections! My parents are probably the biggest reason that I made it to this point, because they instilled in me a ridiculous amount of confidence that I could eventually do it, if I stuck with it.” Finally, Ernshaw snared the attention of not one, but three literary agents, putting her in the enviable position of choosing her representation. Still, the trek to publication proved longer than a Starbucks line of indecisive people. “I got my agent eight years ago on a novel titled Sparrow,” the author said. “I later used the title to name the town in The Wicked Deep—an homage to that novel. It was a witchy story and we sent it out to editors; I received more rejections, and I wrote maybe three more novels with my literary agent before The Wicked Deep, which was originally called Waves and Wonders. “I had that gut instinct. It felt like there was actual magic woven into the sentences and the margins of that story. If I could just get it published, I knew that readers would love it. Thankfully, the book ended up going to auction and there were multiple editors that wanted it. Thinking back on the journey I had to get here, it was an awful long one. This has been the dream, the thing I have been working for most of my life.” “People often ask, ‘Where do your ideas come from?’ For me, it always comes from atmosphere and setting. Once I decide the place that I want to write about, then my characters appear and share the tale they want to tell. I could honestly write an entire book describing the way a tree looks; it would be the most boring novel in the world, but that’s what I feel connected to, describing the natural world around my characters.” Just as the ocean becomes a character in The Wicked Deep, Winterwood centers around a menacing forest. This premise launched a cascade of questions for Ernshaw. “What does it mean if you live in a town where there’s folklore around this dark wood, and it’s a place that you cannot enter? How does that shape the people around that setting?” Her protagonist, Nora Walker, is perceived as a witch in her home of Fir Haven,


not because she’s an outsider—far from it—but because her roots extend a little too deep. The women in her family are known to have an unsettling connection to the woods. “The town then not only fears the forest but then fears these women. Nora recognizes that she’s bound to this thing that maybe isn’t all good, but that doesn’t mean that she has to be all bad.

We all have a little bit of villain and a little bit of hero in us.

“I am fascinated by the idea of, is your character a villain or a hero?” Ernshaw admitted. “I probably have to stop writing that because my readers are going to be on to me, but I love posing that question. Humans are complicated creatures and we all have a little bit of villain and a little bit of hero in us, depending on the moment. “With The Wicked Deep, I still have readers who are upset that I ended [it] that way, but they also appreciate that I couldn’t have ended it any other way. My main character had to make a sacrifice if I didn’t want her to be 100% villain. I’m writing an adult novel right now, exploring German folklore, and it’s been one of the most fascinating books I’ve ever written. It’s forcing me to grapple with that idea of villain or hero. It’s following these very flawed humans, making some really terrible decisions, and that’s what makes writing so fun!” “Authors often say that writing every book is different and Winterwood taught me that in a very brutal way,” Ernshaw confessed. “My characters were elusive. They kept changing their minds about what they wanted to do and how they wanted to do it. I felt like I was chasing them through a deep, dark wood for most of that writing experience. Ultimately, I pinned them down

and made them tell me what their story was. That book will always feel like the unruly little sister to The Wicked Deep. And I love it just as much, but it was mean to me. It broke me into a thousand pieces and only put half of me back together again.” With Winterwood, “I started out wanting to talk about moon phases and also connect with historical elements generationally—so mother to grandmother to great-grandmother—and look at how the elements in our family history are passed down to us. A big theme was looking at my main character and seeing the choices that her ancestors made, and how that affects her today.” The novel is set in current times, but is also anchored in the past and in society’s attitude towards women and witchcraft. “As women we’re looking for how we can step into our own and claim some of that power. Calling yourself a witch is a great way to do that. It’s a big middle finger to everyone who was killed all those years ago. If you reclaim that, it’s the ultimate empowerment to say, ‘You didn’t win.’” Even in a world where technology provides instant access to everything from dating to dining, our fascination with magic persists—or possibly even grows— in response. “We all had folklore growing up, wherever we’ve lived, and that’s what helps build a town,” Ernshaw said, “these

legends about things that happened in the past. Oftentimes, they’re warnings meant to teach us a lesson. We want to believe that behind some secret door, behind an old church, or inside that dark wood, you might find a doorway into a little bit of magic. We’re all searching for that in some way. I’m always looking for that secret portal. When you slip into a story, you can lose yourself in that world—at least long enough to stop checking Instagram and Twitter!” The idea of magic is closely tied to ritual and Ernshaw brings the latter into her writing process. “Rituals don’t have to be something that’s been around for centuries. In the morning, making my tea has become a special ritual. When I sit down to write, I have crystals; I light candles. Lemongrass is supposed to be a good scent for creativity and so I’m always spraying that in my office. “Creatively, you’re meant to face east or north, so I’ve situated my desk to somewhere in the middle. I can be very superstitious and then it can turn into OCD, and I get nothing done. I start thinking, ‘I can’t sit in this chair because it’s facing the wrong direction.’ If I’m on a plane and have to get words on the page, I can’t ask the pilot to fly a certain direction just until I finish a scene. “Sometimes it takes me an hour before I can finally sit down. ‘Okay, everything’s perfect. Slide very carefully into your


chair. Don’t disturb anything. Now you can write and all the inspiration will come to you.’ If I feel blocked, I always go outside. Sometimes it’s a brief walk—enough to reset my brain. My ideal writing place is in the garden, which isn’t easy to do when you’re working on a laptop. I grew up in the woods and that’s where I feel most grounded and centered. Come up with your own things that make you feel connected to nature.” “One thing I get asked a lot is what advice I have for aspiring authors. You need to read like a writer,” Ernshaw explained. “People set book goals for the year and I don’t do that because I read so tragically slow. But I read to understand story structure and plot. Why is it good? Why is this setting so captivating? Why are these characters people I am rooting for? Everything you need to know about writing is in the book you’re currently reading. If you pick it apart, you can figure out how to write by reading any book that you love. “I grew up in home surrounded by books. My parents were artists and we sat at the dinner table discussing books, art, philosophy, and the universe. From a very young age, I was reading adult books and then, when I became an adult, I began reading more young adult fiction. When I was younger, the book that changed everything for me was Watership Down by Richard Adams. I have the original copy that I read on my bookshelf; I adore that book. Alice Hoffman was the other big catalyst author.” Not coincidentally, Ernshaw’s work


has been compared to Hoffman’s. “To have anything I write mentioned in the same breath with anything that Alice Hoffman writes is a dream,” the author said. “I read everything that she’s ever written. She writes with a sense of magic and whimsy, but it’s not straight fantasy. It’s magical realism. Maybe you can’t always tell where the magic begins and the real world ends and that gray area has helped influence the type of fiction that I write. I met her [Hoffman] once at a meet and greet, and I was a blubbering fool. It was such a fan girl moment and afterwards, I was just mortified. I’m sure if I met her tomorrow, I’d do the exact same thing [and] repeat it all over again.” In terms of upcoming and freshly released books, Ernshaw has several recommendations. “There’s Woven in Moonlight by Isabel Ibañez—such a great title. I haven’t read it yet, but the ARC is on its way and I’m so excited; it comes out in 2020. Adrienne Young, who is a dear pal of mine, I love what she writes.” Young is known for her fantasy novels, Sky in the Deep and The Girl the Sea Gave Back, and has a new duology in the works. Aside from those authors, Ernshaw remains devoted to her source of inspiration. “Honestly, it does go back to Alice Hoffman. Whenever anyone asks, ‘What inspires you?’ or they’re looking for stuff in the same vein as what I write. I always say, ‘Go read Alice Hoffman.’” To which we would add, go read Shea Ernshaw! Winterwood was released on 11/5/19. www.sheaernshaw.com/books/winterwood

Share Your Shelf 1. Ember Mug – If you follow me on Instagram, you know my deep love for tea. And this Ember mug that keeps my tea warm for hours has changed my life. I cannot recommend this mug enough! ember.com 2. In the morning, when I enter my office, the first thing I do before I begin writing is draw a card from this beautiful “Inquire Within Deck” made by Worthwhile Paper. With cards that read: “Give it the time it needs,” “Listen,” and “You are always shifting.” It helps me feel focused and centered before I sit down. worthwhilepaper.com 3. One of my favorite books is Mary Oliver’s Upstream—a collection of poems and essays. The way she describes the natural world always inspires me and it’s a book I often pull from the shelf and read whenever I’m feeling stuck on a scene. 4. I love this “Create” mist by Makenzie Flynn reate” mist by Makenzie Flynn. I spray this in my office whenever I’m writing. It’s filled with full moon charged water, Palo Santo, carnelian crystals, and many other beneficial oils to help inspire the senses! makenzieflynn.com 5. Socks! I always have cold feet, so a cozy pair of socks is a necessity to get any writing done. These “constellation” socks made by Tentree are ethically made from recycled bottles! And they’re also just unbelievably cute! tentree.com 6. There are many believed benefits from Himalayan Salt Lamps, and I find that having one of these lamps nearby while I’m writing really relaxes me. 7. A good candle and some crystals always helps to create a calming, inspired mood. And I’m loving these kits put together by a new shop called AWAKE. It’s a perfect bundle of items to celebrate the new moon, or any occasion. I just love these! wide-awake-shop.myshopify.com 8. I’ve only recently started listening to music when I write and one of my favorite musicians is Gregory Alan Isakov. His album, The Weatherman, is the perfect mood and tone for writing magical settings. 9. Chocolate! My go-to writing snack is always chocolate and my current favorite are these Coconut Milk Caramels! They’re vegan (a must for me) and I can devour a whole bag while working my way through a scene! Cocomel Bites 10. Yoga might not seem like an obvious bookish essential, but for me, rolling out a yoga mat on my office floor and doing a few simple poses can really clear my head and help me to focus. This yoga mat by Suga is made from recycled wet suits, so not only will practicing yoga on this mat be good for your body, but good for the planet too. Hooray! sugamats.com



THE HISTORY OF THE FUTURE WITH TOCHI ONYEBUCHI Interview by Gillian St. Clair Written by Juliet White

Welcome to post-apocalyptic Nigeria, in the year 2172—although welcome is the last descriptor that should be applied to a landscape ravaged by climate change, nuclear fallout, and civil war. Inspired by the past, yet set in the future, Tochi Onyebuchi’s War Girls is a gripping contradiction that explores one possible outcome of the decisions we’re making in the present. Just as the author uses his dual career paths as lawyer and writer to enhance his prose, he deftly unites the seemingly disparate Biafran War, waged in the 1960s, with a sci-fi world occupied by mechs, and humans equipped with artificial body parts. War Girls is told from the perspectives of two sisters, Onyii and Ify, who live in a hidden refugee camp, until an attack leaves them stranded on opposing sides of the war. “The first thing Onyii does every morning is take off her arm.” This opening line instantly snares readers, just as Onyebuchi intended. “I wanted to evoke a sense of war time but

show that, in this beginning moment, the girls are living in relative peace. I was very happy when that came to me because there was a lot of worldbuilding, just in that one sentence. You have a sense that there’s this greater conflict going on and also that this protagonist isn’t what she may seem. Taking off her arm. What does that mean? All of a sudden these questions are blossoming.” Regardless of the era in which war rages, its core legacy of violence, loss, pain, and displacement remain the same. “The issues of childhood trauma and the ways we’re forced to sublimate that or reckon with it, the ways in which children are manipulated by people older than them, those dynamics have been around as long as humans,” Onyebuchi observed. “It’s just the manifestations and level of technology involved tends to change. It’s unfortunate how relevant a story like War Girls is. I don’t know how much my readership will know about the Biafran War. My hope is that, after


reading, they might be encouraged to look into some of the resources I point out.” The Biafran War had its roots in British colonial rule and its aftermath, which pushed people of different religious and ethnic backgrounds into one nation. The north of Nigeria was mostly Muslim while Igbos, who practiced Christianity, lived in the southern part of the country. During the 1960s, a coup and subsequent countercoup led to Muslim military rule. In the north massacres displaced many Igbos, who streamed east. In 1967, the Republic of Biafra was established in eastern Nigeria. Federal forces tried to reclaim the separatist state and civil war ensued. Most of the international community supported federal forces when they blockaded Biafra, severing access to communications, currency, trade, and food. In the famine that followed, approximately one million people died of malnutrition and starvation. History provides us with an enduring lesson in inequality and the suffering that comes with it, whether the cause is war or something more gradual, like climate change. “One of the things that makes fiction powerful is that we can postulate worlds where we’ve dealt in equitable ways with the consequences of climate change,” Onyebuchi noted, “but fiction [also] allows us to envision these futures where we haven’t. What will it look like for [the] people left?” “Look at the way climate change has been affecting various parts of the world. You have coastal cities that are in danger, islands in the Pacific that will not exist in a dozen years, the desertification of the Sahara Desert. That, in turn, is moving entire tribes into areas that they hadn’t lived in before. In all these places, people with resources insulate themselves from the worst consequences, whereas you have entire other swaths of the population dealing with droughts now.” Onyebuchi hasn’t shied away from tackling tough issues in his novels, but he believes that how they’re treated is critical. “Everything should be written about but that doesn’t absolve the writer of responsibility for treating that subject accordingly,” he said. “I look at a movie like Spotlight, which deals with the scandal of pedophilia in the Catholic Church and the newspaper


(The Boston Globe) that helped uncover the horrific wrongs that were being perpetrated in that environment. This is a story about pedophilia, yet it’s respectful to the victims.”

If you can’t sit on a panel and explain to an audience why you made a character a specific way and why you stand by that, then maybe you shouldn’t have made that choice.

“I’m personally of the philosophy that nobody should need to ask permission to write something,” Onyebuchi said, “but you need to really be on point. If you’re going to be a white author writing about Black characters and you decide that you want to have them speak in this parody of Ebonics and make them all drug dealers, don’t do that. But, at the same time, look at a TV show like The Wire, which was created by two white guys, David Simon and Ed Burns. If you’re going to make a particular narrative choice, you need to be able to justify that choice. If you can’t sit on a panel and explain to an audience why you made a character a specific way and why you stand by that, then maybe you shouldn’t have made that choice.” The use of sensitivity readers was intended to reduce the number of thoughtless or offensive portrayals in fiction. Feedback from someone with lived experience can be invaluable, but the role is also open to abuse. “I think publishing houses started using sensitivity readers as this meat shield,” Onyebuchi noted. “They said, ‘Oh, we’ve had sensitivity readers read this. We have

our stamp of approval,’ even though very often the reader would have pointed out things that were problematic but the publishing house wouldn’t have listened.” Another point of frustration for Onyebuchi is how discussions about representation can sometimes actually stall progress. “People are asking questions about what it means to have a dope Black girl on the cover of a YA novel, when we should be far past that. I find myself wishing I [was speaking] on panels about integrating climate change into novels, or where we talk about cyborgs versus androids in fiction, or even how we put together certain scenes. Just craft. That would go a long way in pushing things forward because it would assume that it is a good thing to have a dope Black girl on the cover of a book.” “I’d been writing since I was little, but everything was a product of what I was reading. All my characters were white people—essentially.” That changed when Onyebuchi created his fantasy duology, Beasts Made of Night and Crown of Thunder. “[It] was the very first time I’d considered my heritage and my background as something worth integrating into a story.” “I am the son of Nigerian immigrants and one dynamic I’ve noticed—and this goes across ethnic boundaries—is that when you are kids, you’re not really interested in where your parents came from. Whenever Mom was talking very loudly on the phone to relatives in Nigeria because the connection was so bad, I would tune it out and be like, ‘Mom’s shouting on the phone again. She must be talking to our relatives.’ The older I got, the more I realized, ‘Wait a second. My family’s history is interesting.’ Then I found out about the [Nigerian] Civil War and I was like, ‘Mom, you were alive for this,’ and she [said], ‘Yeah, I was a kid. I think I’d just finished kindergarten.’” Onyebuchi had previously only encountered a fictional depiction of the Biafran War in Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. The book won the prestigious Orange Prize for Fiction and was subsequently made into a movie. “That was the first time it entered my head that these concepts I’d studied in college as a political science major were directly applicable to my family’s life,” Onyebuchi revealed. “[Mom]

lived through these African conflicts, so that was the seed that grew into the garden that is War Girls.” His mother also helped Onyebuchi discover his love of writing. “I was originally going to be a comic book artist—I loved to draw. [When I was] a kid, Mom had this second job where she would go round to office buildings in Connecticut and clean. She would take us along. We would take out trash, wipe down desks, clean toilets. In all of these office buildings, they had three ring binders filled with plain sheets of paper and, because they were getting ready to throw these out, Mom didn’t feel guilty about taking them home. I would instantly fill them up with drawings of characters I would create, many of whom were pastiches of the anime I was watching at the time.” “One day Mom was like, ‘Hey, you have all these characters. Why don’t you write stories about them?’ I think [she] [hoped] that getting me to focus on writing would improve my academic performance. She saw it as the development of a skill, more than the nurturing of creative impulses. In Nigerian households, your grades are your net worth. I found out early on that in creative writing class I could be relied upon to bring home an ‘A.’ You had that positive reinforcement [along] with the fact that I was really enjoying storytelling.”


The visual elements of anime and graphic novels continued to shape Onyebuchi as both a reader and a writer. “One thing I love about the comics medium is trade paperbacks. During the ’90s, they would have these giant crossover events like X-Cutioner’s Song, Age of Apocalypse and The Legacy Virus that would span all these different X books. You had to keep track of these simultaneously-running books in order to get the entire story. The only way I could consume that storyline in its entirety was in the trade paperback format and that’s part of the reason why I love graphic novels as much as I do.” Onyebuchi cites Akira as one of his biggest influences. “It’s almost damning it with faint praise to call it a graphic novel because it’s over 2000 pages. Few things have expanded my sense of imagination in the way that that book did. Katsuhiro Otomo is a genius—like capital G.” Aside from Akira, Onyebuchi recommends Rebel Seoul by Axie Oh. “It’s a young adult novel about badass, female antiheroes. [Also,] Julie Dao’s Forest of a Thousand Lanterns and then the companion novel Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix? Extraordinary. Blew my mind. And if you’re looking for really compelling books about Africa, and specifically Nigeria, Chinua Achebe’s memoir, There was a Country, is like the touchstone for me.” In nonfiction, Onyebuchi found A Moonless Starless Sky by Alexis Okeowo enthralling. The book tells “the stories of people living their domestic lives in the midst of extremist environments. One example is this girl in Somalia who loves playing basketball and has aspirations to play professionally. But she has to deal with Al-Shabaab terrorists in her country, car bombings in Mogadishu every single day, and this regime trying to crush the independence of girls like her. You have the story of [an] anti-slavery activist in Mauritania, where there is still slavery, the story of these child soldiers in Uganda. [This book is] one of the perfect tools in combatting the idea that, one, Africa is a country, and, two, it’s filled with cardboard caricatures of people in poverty with distended bellies, whose only need is to be rescued.” Onyebuchi is conscious of the ability and responsibility of the artist to expose injustice. “I’ve been working on a non-fic-


tion project that should be out in a couple of years,” he said. “Over the course of researching, I came across this roundtable discussion that James Baldwin had participated in, sometime in the 1960s. It’s the one where he gives that famous quote, ‘to be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.’ He talks about the role of the artist in the era of social justice and speaks to the occasional guilt that a writer may feel for not literally throwing their body onto the gears of the machine. [However,] he recognizes there are people who are much better than him at doing that.” “When the first iteration of the Muslim ban went into effect, I had friends who were corporate attorneys who took cabs to JFK to file habeas corpus petitions for migrants who were in the process of being banned from the country and being sent back. That’s them perfectly using their powers for good. Then I looked at myself and I was like, ‘Why am I not at JFK right now?’ [But] I might have gotten in the way. I don’t want to be taking up space that is and should be reserved for organizers. That isn’t to say I can’t raise awareness—my platform as a writer positions me perfectly for that— but the writer as activist is very different than the organizer as activist. It’s different from the legislator as activist. Recognizing that allows me a sense of relative peace.” Early on, Onyebuchi had accepted the idea that he would need to follow parallel career paths and balance his roles as lawyer and author. “Going back to the immigrant mindset, it wasn’t until recently that I realized it was possible for me to have a feasible career as just a writer. Growing up, it was always, ‘I will be a writer and…’ That was part of why I was cool with going to law school. I can never not write; it’s like breathing. Having that certainty freed me up to go about collecting experiences because it was this reservoir that I could dip into, to power my fiction and even my nonfiction. The experiences I had, particularly working with Colombia’s Mass Incarceration Clinic and with parolees on Rikers Island when I was with Legal Aid, all of that is continuing to make its way into my writing. Nothing is wasted.” War Girls was released on 10/15/19.


Share Your Shelf 1. My Bookcases. In addition to the three rather spartan swiftly-constructed ones I began with, I have two recently purchased IKEA cases that now house not only the overflow but two paintings a dear friend made for me in commemoration of my first two novels. 2. My magazine subscriptions. I’m only upto-date on the London Review of Books and perilously behind on Vanity Fair and Harper’s and WIRED, but I know that whenever I look to them, take a peek at their glossy pages, and read the astounding reporting and essays inside, I’m bound to be inspired. From these places, I get not only story ideas but lessons on new ways to work my own prose. 3. Moleskines. I have too many. Way too many. 4. Moleskine Go 1.0 pens. I have too many. Way too many. 5. My Funko Pops. Both Erik Killmonger and Miles Morales were gifted to me by dear friends, and I keep them both on the shelf above my writing desk like the good angel and the malevolent daemon, guiding just what journeys I put my characters on. 6. Writing desk: It’s a simple thing, kind of minimalist in design with room for my legs and two shelves built in so that I can have whatever I need—research materials, random novels, bags of candy—easily at hand. 7. Over-the-ear headphones. I often write to music (depends often on the book or type of story or what I’m currently vibing to). 8. Yerba Maté. I’m a recent convert. (One of my favorite music producers extolled its virtues.) But it has become my energy drink of choice. 9. My phone. This may sound counterintuitive, given how distracting social media can be, but. I keep many ideas and phrases that come to mind on my Notes app, and it’s truly a lifesaver having them around whenever I need. 10. My books. Not necessarily ones I wrote but ones that inspire me, that teach me. Novels, essay collections, graphic novel omnibuses. They surround me, and writing with them near is like Superman in close proximity to the sun from which he draws his energy.




WITH NANCY RICHARDSON FISCHER Interview by Gillian St. Clair Written by Juliet White

Seven seconds. That’s how long it takes to form a first impression of someone. Unless you’re giving bull riding a whirl or you just farted in a quiet yoga class, it’s no time at all. But we’re much slower to adjust our existing opinions, even when they’re inaccurate or someone has changed. It’s easy to get trapped in a box by others’ perceptions of us—and sometimes even by our perceptions of ourselves. This theme of self-definition weaves through author Nancy Richardson Fischer’s novels. In her personal life, the author has refused to be defined by other people’s perceptions or her own stumbling blocks, and her characters are equally invested in forging their own identities. At the start of Fischer’s new novel, The Speed of Falling Objects, Danger Danielle Warren (nicknamed Danny) shapes her identity as a response to other people, telling herself that if she were less flawed, then her TV survivalist dad, Cougar, would be

more present in her life. Misplaced blame provides the illusion of control because, if we’re at fault, we also have the power to fix a situation. But when the plane carrying Danny, her dad, and Gus—a teen movie idol— crashes in the Amazon while they’re on the way to film an episode of Cougar’s show, that illusion also smashes, leaving Danny to reassess her own identity and opinions of those closest to her. Fischer craves creating characters that ask big questions. “I think we’re defined really early in life by what our parents tell us, or by what we see reflected in the eyes of other people,” she mused. “In The Speed of Falling Objects, Danny allows her mom’s bitterness, her dad’s abandonment, and her perceived disability of having only one eye define how she sees herself. We’re all guilty of creating who we are on faulty building blocks. Those definitions follow us into adulthood. If we can question our perceptions earlier in life and say, ‘Wait a minute,


I’m not—in Danny’s case—defective, inferior, or an embarrassment, those are somebody else’s issues and hang ups that have nothing to do with me,’—then we can create ourselves based on who we truly are and who we wish to become.” The Speed of Falling Objects is a contemporary standalone with a romantic subplot. A plane crash in the Amazon may not seem like the ideal circumstances for a new relationship, but the inopportune timing contributes to the tension. “People are dying and I had to strike a balance between Danny acknowledging the horrors, and also allow for the reality of living in the moment,” Fischer said. “My editor and I worked hard on the nuance of those moments.” Fischer said creating the romance between Danny and Gus required a light touch. “After the plane crash in the Amazon, obviously Danny is not going to flirt with Gus. But she does feel something as time passes and thinks, ‘Here’s this gorgeous movie star and despite the tragedy surrounding us, maybe we’re not that different. Maybe we both feel an attraction.’ It’s this terrible situation, but part of Danny’s evolution is realizing that the future isn’t guaranteed, so allowing herself to have feelings—whether they’re romantic feelings or anger towards her father—is important and realistic.” Every story starts with a rough draft but the journey to a finished novel takes time. Fischer relished the editing process. As a result, she forged a strong relationship with her editor for The Speed of Falling Objects, Natasha Wilson of HarperCollins/ Inkyard Press. Fischer explained, “When edits come back, I have a knee jerk reaction of, ‘How the heck am I going to do this?’ Then I realize that those edits make my book better, which is the greatest thing ever! Inkyard has been a good fit for Fischer. “They take risks on books. They stand behind their authors. Natasha in particular allowed me to explore in a way that isn’t always the norm. Inkyard [tries] to keep in mind the things that are important to readers and not cross a line into anything that could be harmful, while also remembering that the people who read young adult novels are at a time of exploration in their lives.”


People who read young adult novels are at a time of exploration in their lives.

It’s not only the final part of creating a novel that requires time and collaboration. Even in the research stages, writing is a less isolated experience than you might imagine. “For The Speed of Falling Objects, I did my research online or in conversation with people who had spent time in the Amazon,” Fischer revealed. “I also read tons of articles. For the plane crash, I spoke with doctors and nurse practitioners to find out what types of impact injuries would immediately kill passengers, and the kinds of injuries that might occur that wouldn’t be initially obvious but could turn deadly.” Raise your hand if you’re pretty sure you’d die in your first week in a wilderness setting. Yeah, me too. Day four at best. Still, one way to improve your odds and know-how is by binge watching YouTube survivalist videos. Fischer used this resource to learn a range of skills: “How to make a shelter, build a raft, find and purify water, and start a fire in difficult conditions. I also learned about different plant life—what you could safely eat, what might make you sick or even kill you. But by far the most fascinating part of my research was the creepy crawlies!” Fischer explained, “In the Amazon rainforest, there are millions of insects, 17 different kinds of super poisonous snakes, and myriad venomous spiders. I am afraid of crawly things, so when I first started doing research and a picture of a tarantula or viper was in an article or on my computer screen, I’d cover the picture so I could read about them!” Amateur exposure therapy did lower Fischer’s ick reaction. “I can look at snakes now, but spiders are still really challenging for me. If I see a spider in real

life, I run.” Given her feelings, it’s probably smart that she didn’t gear up and head to the rainforest in person. “I don’t ever want to go to the Amazon,” she confessed. “But I did enjoy learning about everything there that sidles and slithers… from the safety of my office.” Fischer has a history with insects and reason to hold a grudge. As an outdoorsy person who kite-surfs, rock climbs, and backcountry skis, she’s had plenty of opportunities to encounter them, but one particularly unpleasant experience stood out. “My husband and I decided to do a mountain bike ride when we visited Argentina. We rented bikes and the shop owner said something about horseflies. We thought no big deal, rode to the base of a ski area and started the long climb to the top. Horseflies instantly swarmed our sweaty bodies. SWARMED. They were big and their bites hurt and drew blood. The worst part was that those buggers were slow, so when I smacked them, they splatted on my skin. Imagine being covered with blobs of green-yellow-red horsefly guts. I can handle suffering physically, and I really enjoy hard bike rides, but the bug factor was too much! After an hour of climbing and countless bites, we raced [back] down the mountain. So, the Amazon is not an environment that I would ever choose. I want to save the Amazon from deforestation without ever going!” It’s not just the Amazon that Fischer wants to save. Her novels draw attention to causes close to her heart, such as animal welfare. After graduating college, Fischer found work as a writer for Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus and this steered the direction of her own advocacy. “The human performers at the circus were incredible and they passed their tightrope and trapeze artistry through generations. But the wild animals—tigers and elephants—were heartbreaking to see. I didn’t last very long at that job because I couldn’t handle the animal aspect of the show. When I left, I asked myself, ‘How can I make up for working for this circus? What can I do that would make people care about the captive animals?’ Fischer’s answer was to write the young adult novel, When Elephants Fly. The story revolves around a young woman named Lily who has an overwhelming fam-

ily history of schizophrenia. Lily is trying to live a stress-free life to avoid triggering a mental health condition, but when she witnesses a mother elephant violently reject her calf, Lily becomes the calf’s caretaker and ultimately risks her own freedom and sanity to save that calf’s life. Fischer said she hopes that when readers finish When Elephants Fly they continue to the resource section to learn ways they can make a difference for elephants in the wild and captivity. She explained, “Elephants are extremely intelligent, kind, family-oriented beings whose lives in circuses, roadside shows and many zoos are a torment. And elephants in the wild will be extinct in the next 20 years if nothing is done to stop poaching and human encroachment of their habitats.” Novels, Fischer believes, can have a unique advocacy impact of.“I saw many animal rights demonstrations while working for the circus. What the protesters stood for was incredibly important, but watching them I realized that people who yell the loudest don’t necessarily have the biggest impact. An author has the chance to write something that resonates, stays with people, and encourages action. Fischer believes that readers, too, can fight for change. “A stone thrown in the water creates ripples that spread; you may never see where they end, but adding your voice can have a real impact.” So what drives Fischer to tell stories like Lily’s and Danny’s? She mused that she tries to mine emotional issues in every novel she writes. “I like pointing out that everybody has a struggle and not just a struggle we can see. I attempt to create characters that readers relate to, who talk about things that the reader might not talk about in his or her own life.” Fischer draws from her own experiences to do this. “When I was a teen, I was a cheerleader and in the popular clique, yet inside I was riddled with self-doubt and certain that at any moment my popular friends were going to figure out that I didn’t belong. From my experience talking with other young adult authors, many of us excavate the issues we grappled with as teens. It’s actually a very cathartic process, and allows us to create the characters we probably needed to read about when we were younger or


even need now to address unresolved issues. Maybe that’s why so many adults like to read YA—it gives us a chance to reflect, understand, and let go of the baggage we’ve carried for too long.” Given Fischer’s openness to self-reflection, it makes sense that she digs deeply into her characters and their inner landscapes. Her process is to ask, ‘what’s my character’s psychological flaw? What’s my character’s moral flaw? How does she hurt herself or others? Then Fischer begins to write. “I don’t work from an outline. A lot of authors are plot-point driven and they hit those marks, but when I do that—because I’ve tried it that way—I lose who my character is. So I know where the journey starts and where it ends. Then I create a three-dimensional character and allow the story to unfold organically. If I’ve done a good enough job, the character drives the story forward and I try to keep up.” Fischer mused that novels also give authors a unique chance to create understanding for the challenges people face. “In When Elephants Fly, I wrote about how difficult it is to live with the threat of a mental health condition hanging over your head. The Speed of Falling Objects addresses the challenge of living with a perceived disability, and all the fears and misperceptions involved. Novels give us a window into other people’s experiences and allow us to have sympathy or empathy.” For Fischer, one such novel is The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai, which focuses on the AIDS crisis. “When that crisis began, I wasn’t old enough to understand what was going on,” she explained. “Reading Makkai’s incredible novel gave me a window into understanding the individuals, friends and families that were shattered by the disease. Makkai’s story was universal in that it created understanding and compassion for anyone who faces an illness where there are no initial answers and for their loved ones who feel powerless to help.” Back in the sphere of YA, Fischer’s tastes span the spectrum of genres. “I always have a book in my hand and just finished The Liars of Mariposa Island by Jennifer Mathieu, Misa Sugiura’s This Time Will be Different and Jennifer Longo’s What I Carry. All were wonderfully unique stories with gorgeous


prose. I’m also a fan of Laurie Forest’s Black Witch series. It addresses prejudice and the individual’s power to shape the future if they’re willing to risk everything. Fischer also loves science fiction and horror. “The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell is one of my all-time favorites. It’s about a Jesuit mission to an alien planet. One of the underlying themes, that everything you think you know about another person is potentially very wrong, really resonated and reminded me to take a beat before making any judgments.” As for horror, Fischer is a big fan of Stephen King. “SK’s imagination is mind-blowing and I root for his characters as they battle in the most desperate circumstances.” Just as she’s constantly reading, Fischer continues creating. “I have a new novel that’s with my agent at the moment. The path of that manuscript is still being determined. I hope it finds a home where the story can flourish and I can continue to grow as a writer.”

It’s up to each of us to question who we are, ask who defined us and then, if we don’t like that label, to create our own story.

In the meantime, indulge in an imaginary jaunt to the Amazon—entertainment guaranteed, bugs optional! “I hope what readers take from The Speed of Falling Objects is that they can be the hero of their own life story,” Fischer said. “And that it’s up to each of us to question who we are, ask who defined us and then, if we don’t like that label, to create our own story.” The Speed of Falling Objects was released on 10/1/19.


Share Your Shelf 1. My Dog Boone! He might not seem like a bookish item, but Boone is always curled right beside my desk. He makes my office feel cozy and also forces me to take much needed writing breaks. See that look in his eyes? He’s saying: Let’s play NOW! Getting outside and exercising with Boone is an arrow in my quiver for being super-productive. 2. Coke Zero. When I’m editing a complex chapter something about the bite and bubbles of a soda focuses me. That said, drinking diet pop is a habit I am always trying to break! Sometimes I abstain for years but when I get into editing difficulties, I return to this beverage. I’m not endorsing that you do the same!!! 3. I start every writing day with a cup of coffee. My new favorite blend is Stumptown Hair Bender. The beans are freshly roasted in Portland, Oregon, and this particular blend has notes of cherry, toffee, and fudge. All I know is that after a cup my brain cells are jumping up and down, ready to work, and the words begin to flow. 4. What would I do without my dry erase board??? I use it to scribble notes, favorite lines, reminders, and to plot out chapters when I need to switch mediums and see things in a different way. Usually my board is filled with mad scribbles… that I can’t show you as I’m beginning to conjure ideas for my fourth novel. Okay, one hint! There’s a tour bus involved... 5. Post it Notes!!! I’m not sure I know an author who doesn’t have a stack on their desk and a wall covered in bright squares filled with ideas. My wall only has two yellow squares right now as I begin the process of threading together ideas into a new novel. In a month, it will be covered and I’ll be in the delirious process of creating a new book! 6. My iPhone. Oh Instagram, you came into my life for the first time last year and now I’m addicted because Instagram is where my bookish tribe resides. I have the opportunity to chat with authors I don’t personally know but adore, readers who are incredibly kind and supportive, and it’s a chance to be creative in an entirely different way. I love getting messages from readers and ALWAYS write them back. Writing is a solitary endeavor and Instagram makes me feel less lonely!

7. You will always find an ARC from another author on my desk! It’s an honor and a privilege to read another writer’s work, especially before it’s released into the world. I’ve included one of my favorite recent reads on this list: The Liars of Mariposa Island by Jennifer Mathieu. Reading another author’s work inspires me, and hopefully helps me become a better writer! 8. My favorite snack is popcorn. It’s easy to eat while I’m writing and doesn’t make too much of a mess of my keyboard! A snack is a MUST bookish item as it allows me to get on a roll and keep going, even when it’s really time for a meal. 9. My Kindle is a bookish item I simply cannot do without. I do buy hardcover and paperback books BUT if I want to read while traveling, I bring my Kindle as I’m a super fast reader and can’t lug that many physical books along! In addition, there are times when I edit my own work on a Kindle. It’s a great way to see words and chapters differently after reading fatigue sets in. 10. Highlighter Markers. When I get to the point in writing where I need to follow one thread through hundreds of pages, I pull out a colorful highlighter. It’s a different way to track a character, plot point, or dialogue that helps me to sort through a tough edit. Plus, they make my manuscript look pretty;-)!



SPY ANOTHER DAY: WITH SHAMIM SARIF Interview by Gillian St. Clair Written by Juliet White

Growing up in the U.K., the festive season meant watching James Bond marathons with my dad. Explosions, slick cars, and gadgets galore, with a side of mince pies, formed the perfect, nontraditional take on the holidays. The only snag was the “traditional”—read so last century—portrayals of women, especially in the early Bonds. If you’ve struggled with the duality of identifying as both a feminist and a spy genre devotee, then The Athena Protocol will leave you as satisfied as Bond’s women acted. Author Shamim Sarif combines an all-female spy organization, a social justice mission, and a queer protagonist into a YA novel that’ll blow you away—no rocket launcher required. “I got the idea for The Athena Protocol when I was going to TED conferences,” Sarif explained. “ I was sitting in the audience, looking at all these billionaires who are now trying to solve world hunger, and I wondered, ‘What if you have three very successful women who decide to run this rogue agency to deal with human trafficking, and issues governments never get around to addressing because there’s never the time, the long-term vision, or the budget. Then I thought, ‘We’re going into vigilante justice and where do you draw the lines?’” In spy books and films, we can often identify the “good guys” precisely because they start out working for a specific government. While spies may demolish society’s laws—plus a slew of cars and buildings—they typically work for a recognized, if black ops, authority. Along the way they may be exiled or get burned, but that’s part of their journey. Sarif’s characters, on the other hand, are rebels from the get-go, which opens the door to moral ambiguity. Yet the author chose to keep her characters accountable. “A lot of action fiction relies on people killing, and hitting, and fighting, and then going home and just tossing back a vod-

ka,” she observed. “I wanted to show women who were able to do thrillingly brilliant things, but who also experienced the trauma that goes along with facing death every day and having to make split-second decisions. Maybe you choose to do the wrong thing or abuse your power.” When we first meet Sarif’s main character, Jessie Archer, she’s suffering the fallout from precisely that kind of error. She’s been booted from Athena, the organization she adores, by her own mother after an irreversible choice she made in the field. “Jessie is the youngest of the three agents. She’s got [the] ability to hack computers, an engineering brain, and she’s great with weapons and bombs. She does all these fantastic things we imagine we’d be good at if we were secret agents.” Still, Jessie’s age (around eighteen or nineteen) informs her actions. “I’ve read YA books that have these amazingly poised characters,” Sarif said. “I’m the mother of two teenage boys—or nearly teenaged because one is 20 and one is 16—so I know firsthand that if they’re under pressure, they don’t behave the same way as when they’re relaxed. Can you imagine the kind of pressure where they have to break


into a human trafficker’s house and then trade some information? I wanted to be authentic to that experience.” “I know there’s a risk that people will find Jessie immature, but I hope she’s become a lot more mature by the end, and it makes her a real, three-dimensional character,” Sarif revealed. That goal separates Jessie from some portrayals of Bond, in which the agent offers all the depth of a London puddle. “It’s inconceivable for me to write a character where I didn’t care about what they were going through on the inside, because so many of Jessie’s decisions in the action world are driven by her own emotional issues. Even though she’s good at being able to figure out her way into a building, you might not trust her judgment when it comes to realizing who she can trust.” “One of the founders of Athena is her mum and Jessie has a lot of unresolved issues with her,” Sarif added. “She prefers head-on confrontation to figuring things out in the calmer way. It’s not only walls that she literally has to scale, or bombs that she has to defuse, that are standing between her and success, but also how she’s going to be able to go forward with her mum, how she’s going to learn the difference between taking a life in anger and taking a life because it’s absolutely necessary. I wanted it to be a page turner, not just in terms of action, but in terms of the inner drama of the characters.” This goal affected the entire novel, down to its very structure. “I tried to make sure each chapter and each section had a cliffhanger ending,” Sarif said, “but that didn’t always have to be, ‘Is Jessie going to make it out of there?’ Sometimes it was, ‘Is she going to cause a break with her mum that she can never repair?’ or ‘Is she going to find her way back to this friendship with her teammates?’ I hope the plot of The Athena Protocol is gripping, and there are reversals and twists, but it’s that emotional path that Jessie has to take that really pulls you through the novel.” “Ultimately, stories are the way that we as humans digest what’s happening to us, and think about what it is to be human, and what we’re doing here,” Sarif continued. “That’s why stories last, in whatever form, whether it’s streaming on Amazon or


around the campfire 2000 years ago. I don’t think you can overestimate the importance of art in our collective consciousness, our collective conscience, our collective politics, and our way of looking at the world.”

I don’t think you can overestimate the importance of art in our collective consciousness.

Sarif herself has a collection of identities that give her insight into diverse spheres, some of which are not known for openness. She is a Muslim-raised female working in film, with a Palestinian wife. Born in the U.K., Sarif has Indian and South African heritage. She sees storytelling as powerful on its own but, when paired with innovative mediums like streaming, different perspectives are able to reach previously insular audiences. “It’s impossible for countries to shut streamers down because that would be too unpopular, but they don’t have the ability to censor the way they would on their state-broadcasted shows,” she said. “I think it’s important in opening conversations in India, and all over the world. The more issues are explored in a story-based context, the better it is, especially for the young people of that community. Even in the UK, growing up queer and feeling that there was almost no representation on TV or in movies [created] a feeling of tremendous isolation, like you can’t talk to people about this. It’s crucial for art to push boundaries and not to be censored.” Fictional portrayals of real-life scenarios often resonate with us in a way that news articles fail to do. “If you tell somebody that millions of women are being trafficked in Eastern Europe, we all know it’s horrible,

Sarif’s Writing Cabin

but then we move on with our day,” commented Sarif. “It’s too much to think about. But, if you can open the pages and follow the story of women we care about, who are trying to bring down this monstrous human trafficker, suddenly we’re caught up in the whole thing and we learn more about it. Emotional engagement makes a huge difference. It’s part of that magical element of storytelling.” Getting stories featuring diverse characters into the public realm can feel like mission impossible, and it’s a fight scene that Sarif has experienced personally. “In film, some of my worst times have been sitting with Hollywood executives who say, ‘Could it be a man?’ or ‘Can you de-gay that character? Could you make one of them white?’ That’s tough because you want to keep your integrity but it means you don’t get the money, you don’t get the thing made.” Sarif encountered this attitude frequently in movies and TV; in publishing, it’s subtler. “My first novel, The World Unseen, was literary fiction. It ended up winning a couple of major prizes but, even so, sometimes in bookshops you only see it in the LGBT section. Why is that niching happening? It’s relevant there, but it doesn’t have to be just that.”

“With The Athena Protocol, I’ve found it really refreshing working with HarperCollins. My editor said to me, ‘It’s clear that Jessie is gay or at least not heterosexual; could you lean into that more and develop that relationship?’ I almost had tears in my eyes because it was lovely to have that kind of feedback after so many years of, ‘Tone it down.’ I’ve had film companies saying, ‘We already have our female action film.’ There isn’t only one female action film! It would be great to see more characters like Jessie, in the world of action adventure YA, who are LGBT leads but that’s not the main thing about them.” Despite the gatekeepers, Sarif stays true to herself. “I knew very early on what I was writing and what I wanted to say. It wasn’t difficult for me to stick to my guns. The other thing was I had tremendous support from my wife, Hanan, who switched gears to become a film producer. Without her by my side, I wouldn’t have been able to build that career, because she was tenacious in finding ways to get those movies made.” “Even as an author, there was no doubt I would only tell the stories that I want to tell because too much of yourself goes into this to have been happy doing what someone else said. Find stories that are important


to you because the journey is the process; it’s not the end result. That moment walking down the road and seeing your novel in the bookstore window is wonderful, but it’s a fraction of the hours you’ll spend in your life. If you don’t feel that you’re doing something meaningful, it will not be fulfilling. “Never be afraid to keep learning because the bar is really high for storytelling now, in all forms. You’ll know which notes feel good to you and which notes are making you compromise, and my advice is to just go for it. If I can do it, being female, of color, and LGBTQ, in a world where that didn’t exist in the storytelling realm when I started out, then anybody can.” Sarif has immersed herself in stories since childhood. “Reading was always my escape route growing up. I ran through all the books that were in the school library by the time I was about six, and then I had to graduate to the town library. I always wanted to be able to express myself in words.” Her writing breakthrough came when she got several short stories published in the magazine for American Airlines. After that, she branched out and wrote a movie script and a book. “The screenplay got optioned and the novel got published,” Sarif related. “From there, I said, ‘I’m going to quit work,’ and didn’t look back—through all the highs and lows.” “If you have a certain amount of talent, the difference between success and failure is often just persisting. It is sending it out until you find the agent who falls in love with it, and that agent finds the publisher who falls in love with it. In this business, the thing you hear 99% of the time is ‘no,’ so the question is, are you going to hang in there long enough to get that one yes?” Sarif’s previous novels have been adapted into movies and she’s eager to bring The Athena Protocol to the screen. Since she and her wife operate an indie film company, they usually handle the films themselves, but spy movies tend to be ambitious in terms of effects and budget. “I don’t want to option this to a studio and have it sit there for ten years,” Sarif said. “I’d like to partner with a bigger company that can really help us bring it to life for film or TV in a way that’s true to the essence of the book and I


think we are getting close to finding that real partnership.” Screen adaptations require different tools from a writer’s arsenal. “There are two big differences [between the formats],” Sarif said. “One is to understand that a screenplay is a blueprint; it’s not the final piece of art, whereas a novel is. And the second big thing I’ve learned is that screenplays need to be really underwritten compared to novels. If you can sparingly describe a look between two characters in a screenplay, you can cut out ten pages of your book. My learning curve in the last ten years has been how to write less and to make the story leap off the page in a more visual and moving way.”

Why not come up with something new that can be genuinely about women?

City of Saints and Thieves author, Natalie C. Anderson called Jessie, “The female version of James Bond we’ve been waiting for! Only better.” Sarif sees the comparison as quick way to give potential readers a sense of her novel. But she never set out to create a female 007. “For James Bond, it’s such a well-known, iconic character, that I can see why people would say, ‘It would be great to have a female version of that,’ but the question to ask is, ‘Why?’ Why not come up with something new that can be genuinely about women?” That’s precisely what Sarif has done with her spy thriller that delivers intrigue and girl power in lethal doses. Want to get in on the badassery and baddies? The Athena Protocol, the first novel in what is currently a duology, is already out. Jessie’s next mission will be revealed in October of 2020. The Athena Protocol was released on 10/8/19.


Share Your Shelf

1. Writing Cabin. Best. Present. Ever. After years of dealing with my excuses that I couldn’t focus enough to write my next novel, this showed up in the garden as a gift from my wife. It’s decorated with stacks of actual film reel – rushes from my first two movies – which is even more inspiring. 2. Moleskine Notebooks. I keep these on the go for each project I’m working on. It’s like a blizzard in those pages – a storm of ideas, lines of dialogue, weird references. Anything that might remotely make it into a book one day but mostly stuff that won’t… . Spotify Playlists. I write in silence, but I cannot write without musical inspiration. I build up a playlist for every story I write, whether book or screenplay. Just moments that reflect a character’s feeling or the tone of a scene or the build up of a relationship. 4. Running Shoes. I listen to those playlists while out walking or running in the morning. It’s like turning on a tap of ideas and little moments, and gets me ready to face the blank screen. 5. Pyjama bottoms. Maybe it’s weird to shower in the morning and then get dressed in pyjamas – but this is my writing gear of choice. Soft, cotton ones from The White Company are my favorite. 6. Green Tea with Brown Rice. I’m British. A cup of tea can solve anything. And this is smoky, nutty and feels, healthy, so I drink it and feel soothed and virtuous. 7. Homemade lemon cake. With two grown up boys in the house, I make two of these at a time. A slice (who am I kidding, a slab) gets me through another 500 words, no questions asked. 8. Inside Story by Dara Marks. A really character-led, mythic look at structure and story. I keep it in my cabin and just looking at the cover reminds me of what matters most – that we want to see the people we read about transform in some way by the end of the novel… 9. Big screen iMac. I love my screen. It means I don’t need to wear my recently acquired reading glasses and somehow so much screen space feels decadent and necessary. 10. Captain’s Chair. If you have to sit a lot, this is the chair to do it in. So the only voyage I’m taking is through my imagination, but hey… 11. Casablanca Coasters. Kitsch? Possibly. Dispensable? No way. These came with a box DVD set of the movie Casablanca and I am very attached to them, even when they become attached to the moist ring on the base of my tea mug…




It Matters


Modern fiction is knowledgeable yet relatable...

Modern fiction is knowledgeable yet relatable. It guides people through important ideas like gay rights, women’s rights, consciousness, inner self, self-love and a lot more. Minority authors have been shaping the world of modern fiction for a very long time. Even when they weren’t acknowledged, they didn’t stop writing. Our modern era seems to welcome these minority authors with open arms and open minds as people are willing to gain more exposure to unknown-to-them concepts nowadays. These writers not only provide entertainment in the name of fiction, but they give a fresh perspective to important social issues, push boundaries, and speak for the under and misrepresented. Their work shouldn’t be valued for their heritage, but its merit. It’s not only well-deserved but crucial for humankind to grasp from these works as much as possible. A few of my favorite authors are Haruki Murakami, Toni Morrison, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Angie Thomas, Kevin Kwan, Tomi Adeyemi, Rupi Kaur, Mohsin Hamid, Khaled Hosseini, Zadie Smith, Arundhati Roy, Eka Kurniawan, Sayaka Murata, Min Jin Lee, and Ta-Nehisi Coates. All these writers and many more may have only shared with readers small glimpses of their background, but they succeeded in doing so much more. They gave a voice to their thoughts, experiences, fears, knowledge, culture, history and emotions, allowing people to not only view things differently but authentically. A different style of writing not only gives awareness to its readers but, I believe, grows their sense of empathy regarding the people represented. 42 K CURIOSITALES

Only reading books by the authors that speak the same language and belong to the same culture or background would limit us and our knowledge of the world. I think we should be utterly grateful to all the minor authors for giving us the opportunity to learn, discover and experience alternate worlds that deserve as much respect and acknowledgment as any other reality out there. White authors have dominated the world of fiction for a long time, at times they still do, but things are taking a turn now. The industry has suffered from a lack of diversity for innumerable years but new authors are bringing a whirlwind of change. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a Nigerian female writer whose work has been translated into over thirty languages. Her novel, Purple Hibiscus, won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. Another novel of hers, Half of A Yellow Sun, won the Orange Prize and was a National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist and a New York Times Notable Book; and Americanah won the National Book Critics Circle Award. Her TED Talk, “The Danger of A Single Story”, is one of the most viewed TED Talk videos. She writes from her heart, keeping the emotions raw and original. She allows her readers to see her world not only with interest but with acceptance and appreciation. Similarly, Haruki Murakami, a Japanese male writer, has gained well-earned fame. His work has been translated into more than 50 languages. His books have won the Franz Kafka Prize, Jerusalem Prize for the Freedom of the Individual in Society and a few others. He may not always be on the Top 10 lists, but he has found his way into the hearts of many readers from around the world. The world and characters he presents to the world are vivid with imagination and there’s always a touch of uniqueness to them. His originality is matched by no other. Angie Thomas, an American fe-

male writer, wrote the book The Hate U Give to bring forward the issue of police brutality and the movement Black Lives Matter. It’s since held its place at number one on the New York Times Best Seller List for young adult books. She faced her fair share of criticism for covering the controversial issue of police brutality, but that didn’t stop her from writing the truth and allowing people to see the two sides of reality. She showed bravery which gave courage to readers to raise their own voices against violence and injustice. Rupi Kaur is an Indian-born Canadian female poet. She is a #1 New York Times Bestseller for her poetry book, Milk and Honey. It has sold over a million copies. She focuses her poetry on female empowerment, femininity, migration, love, loss, violence, abuse, and trauma. She has given quite a lot of women from different ethnicities the opportunity to voice their choices, thoughts, and opinions. Through her poetry, modern fiction has gained a necessary and much-needed voice for feminism. Mohsin Hamid is a Pakistani writer whose books have been translated into forty languages. His recent book, Exit West, won the Aspen Words Literary Prize and was shortlisted for many other awards. Another book of his, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, was shortlisted and featured on the

bestseller list, and also turned into a movie. He weaves stories beautifully, keeping them close to his heritage, portraying the struggles of immigrants and how they strive in the modern world. But what brings his readers towards his writing is the way he keeps emotions real through his characters. Khaled Hosseini is an Afghan-American writer whose books have been New York Times bestsellers: The Kite Runner, A Thousand Splendid Suns, And The Mountains Echoed, and not to be forgotten, Sea Prayer. Sea Prayer portrayed the current refugee crisis breaking millions of hearts. He captures life in Afghanistan and brings people closer to a world that looks damaged and vulnerable, yet beautiful. He has spoken for hundreds of people through his writing, showing the world how refugees struggle and survive. I am limited to a few words and so I can’t speak about every single minority author I love, but the contributions made by all of them should be appreciated, valued and most importantly read in their true meaning. They have proved that better representation exists. They have amplified the voices of the unheard. We can only gain from reading books that show all cultures and backgrounds. p its4eyedgal


Short Story BRUJA

by Elena Armas


leading cry was carried away by the chill of the first Autumn night.

The human heart, even when odd and even when strange, wants what it wants.

They always said there was something special about the Valdés women. Something odd, something strange. A devilish air. Something that set them apart and also that irrevocably cast them away.

A Valdés born with the Fall equinox was believed to be wicked. A bruja. And it was she who was remembered the longest, her essence lingering in the world even after she was nothing but dust. It had always been common knowledge that the Valdés women hid something among their trinkets, herbs and odd garments— not that anyone would dare acknowledge this out loud. It was rather a murmur, quiet but always present. A loud secret. Like the scent of a storm lurking, impregnating the earth and the air, waiting to happen. The fearful didn’t even dare let the thought take shape in their minds. The boldest called it magic, as dark as the night and mighty as the moon. They said it was a magic capable of altering hearts, souls and wills. A power which inspired more fear than respect. And yet, pounding chests and trembling hands, some still dared knock on the Valdés’ doors. They still entered the Valdés’ home and waded into the unknown.

Only one female Valdés was conceived in each generation. And only then, with the birth of the youngest child would the oldest pass away, fading quickly, as if the world They invaded the space of the women they couldn’t bear the weight of one too many. deemed wicked with cries of heartache, anger and grief. But every single time, a Valdés All Valdés women were born in the early woman opened the door and nodded her hours of a solstice or an equinox. The po- head. A Valdés woman crossed her hands sition and motion of the sun marking their and listened to the ills of the soul. Even when skin with a little birthmark and their exis- cast away by the world, it was not in a Valdés tence with a little something special. woman’s nature to deny aid. Those that the world welcomed with the freezing winds of winter, grew to be solemn and severe. Those that did so before bonfires lit the first night of Summer, carried hearts fated to burn with a passion unknown to common man. A Valdés woman born when the earliest of lush colours blossomed painting fields, farmlands and pastures, could smell bad omens long before a black cat had the chance to cross their path.

Until it was. Juana Valdés. Born when the last leaf of the maple’s crown in the Valdés’ yard turned russet.

“And crimson her end will be rendered,” had said the tired Valdés matriarch a heartbeat before parting ways with the world, just moments after seeing Juana open her eyes to the cool night. But not many had heard, and But the feared ones, the Valdés women even fewer had remembered. By the time that were watched with an enticing mix of those words came to pass, nothing could be fright and awe, were the ones whose eyes done to escape the meaning behind them. first opened with the crash of the early crisp leaves hitting the ground. The ones whose Juana Valdés, the wicked one. Bruja. Wild


black curls, crooked smile and a little birth- Once both her knees hit the floor, Juana’s mark shaped like a horseshoe right above gaze searched the room. In aid, perhaps, her left cheek. to this day, no one could know. The last thing she saw were the faces of her relatives. Knowing glances tainted with heartache, and not a trace of mercy.

And crimson her end will be rendered.

They had done nothing to stop her fall, her own blood.

And so, with her last breath, a curse left her now crimson lips. And as with every wicked Valdés, as the bruja she had become, her essence lingered on the walls and crawled through every room in the house. And with her essence, her words of burden and bane. Juana Valdés, who refused to change the will For years that drifted into decades that bled of a heart. How could she when the heart into centuries, her curse remained suspendshe was begged to beguile was one she could ed in the air. never give up? How could she when the woman knocking on Juana’s door thought she had a right to the man Juana loved?

The man the woman in front of her claimed to be her fiancé. The man that Juana thought loved her back and instead, loved them both. Juana decided. She would bewitch that heart to be only hers instead. She would erase any trace of anyone else but her from the mind of the man she loved.

For years that drifted into decades that bled into centuries, her curse remained suspended in the air.

Every Valdés present that day warned her. That was the only thing a Valdés mustn’t do. They begged her to stop. They commanded her to. She didn’t listen. She could lose it all. Magic could turn on you, they said. But Juana’s mind was set. Something had been lost when Juana’s kin She had to have him, even if that meant not hav- had failed her, so something had to be giving anything at all. en in exchange. A payment, retribution. No Valdés woman would love or bear child unJust like that, Juana summoned conjuring words til magic was renounced. Juana had been beunder her breath and she turned her back on the trayed by her blood and her heart, and so evwoman that had claimed the man Juana thought ery Valdés after her would fall down under hers. She heard the metal draw. Juana felt the the weight of that burden. Heritage or love. blade pierce her back and saw the tip protrude from her chest. She felt the cold seep into her A choice. A balance restored. veins and her scarlet blood stain her dress. Before her legs gave in, a lick of magic left her, extracting Those who dared loving recklessly, without the knife from her back and taking the woman renouncing what their blood entitled would down with it. With her. If Juana couldn’t have lose their loved one. Taken away, just as Juahim, no one would. na’s love was. Just as her life was.


At first, many gave up their one true love It could have been just a name. And the and let the Valdés magic run in their veins meaning beneath it? Just one whose roots until their last breath took it away. belonged to another land and another time. Aidan. The fiery one, said the Irish. But the human heart, even when odd and even when strange, wants what it wants. So It all came crashing down when their eyes with every passing generation, more fell in met for the first time. When Aidan held her the trap of the heart and lost their roots and gaze as if he had been just standing there, blood right. waiting for her. Val remained suspended in the moment for one, ten, thirty seconds Like Juana, every Valdés after her was be- too long. As she looked into those foreign trayed by either their hearts or the magic brown eyes dancing with a familiar emotion, that ran within them. But unlike Juana, they Val felt the pounding stop, her restlessness were given the choice. And wasn’t choosing finally appeased. Her heart settled. But she her path all Juana had wanted? Was hers tru- turned away. She didn’t believe in rooms ly a curse? fading or in kindred spirits. Valentina Valdés never believed in the stories her name carried. They were centuries old, they clearly belonged in books of myths and legends. All the women in her family had lived happy lives. They all had lived fully. Yes, she was aware of certain coincidences. Like how she had only brothers and all her cousins were boys. Perhaps it was odd how her mother would drive their car to the garage right before it would break down. Or how she would call the plumber before the pipe in the basement started leaking. But those were amusing stories from her childhood.

Of course, not in her wildest dreams she would have imagined him waltzing back into her life. Even when she secretly spent weeks looking for his russet head in crowds. Not even when she could still see his gleaming gaze behind her closed eyelids at night. And yet, the world pushed them together. Time and time again, until she yielded to what seemed inevitable. Slowly, Val gave up her heart to that boy of soft smiles, gentle touch and wild eyes, and gradually she found herself taking his heart in her own hands. And as she did that, as Val came to the realization that she had irrevocably fallen in love with Aidan, she also became aware of something else inside her coming alive. Something odd, something strange. Something powerful she had heard of before, from her grandmother tales.

Val had never paid much attention to that or her grandmother’s tales. Even if Val tossed a pinch of salt over her left shoulder and even if mirrors were never placed facing each other in hers or any Valdés’ home, she still thought of that as harmless superstitions carried from one generation to the next. One might think that only destiny could have pulled the strings. That the flames withHer grandmother often said that Val carried in a heart only long to burn higher, stronger. the weight of the world on her shoulders. And they wouldn’t be wrong. A heart blares She called her Summer child and she often bright and loud when it encounters what it sang that one could see Val’s heart beat in needs. But it can also go up in a blaze and be her chest with longing. As if awaiting some- reduced to ash when faced with an imposthing to come. And to an extent, Val felt this sible choice. And it was in that precise way restlessness pounding in her body. A con- that the life of Valentina Valdés ended as she stant tug that she could not silence. knew it. And yet, Val thought of it all as nonsense. Or perhaps her life had just merely started. But that idea dissipated to dust the day she met him. Aidan. p thebibliotheque


Fiction Food Recipes created by Elle Jauffret Inspired by THE WICKED DEEP and WINTERWOOD by Shea Ernshaw

Decadent chocolate fig basil cake (right); Lemon lavender (middle); Hazelnut espresso (left)

“The sign above the glass door reads: ALBA’S FORGETFUL CAKES in pale pink frosting-swirled letters on a cream-color background. […] Her tiny forgetful cakes are intended […] to wipe away bad memories.” Decadent Chocolate Fig Basil Cake Cream butter (4 tbsp of soft butter) + sugar (1/3 cup). Add 3 large eggs and mix well. Add flour (1/3 cup) + salt (1/4 tsp). Mix well. Then add bittersweet chocolate (8oz and melted) + basil (chopped leaves about ½ cup) + figs (2 large, ripe). Pour into muffin pan (makes about 10). Bake at 400 degrees F for about 10-15 minutes. Decorate with powdered sugar, basil leave, or a slice of fig.


Hazelnut Espresso Cream butter (1/2 cup softened) + sugar (1 cup). Add 2 eggs. Mix. Add flour (1 cup) + hazelnut flour (1/2 cup) + baking powder (2 tsp) + salt (1/2 tsp). Mix well. Add low fat yogurt (1/2 cup) + coffee extract (or extra strong coffee) (2 tsp). Divide equally and pour into muffin cups/pan (makes about 10-12). Bake at 350 degrees F for about 20-25 minutes.

“Some recipes were innocuous enough: […] or a particularly tricky recipe for rutabaga-and-parsley stew. […] We’ll bring him a hot thermos of hot cinnamon-apple-tea, a sweet pumpkin cobbler straight from the oven, and jars of freshly sealed honey.” Rutabaga and Parsley Stew (serves 6) Place 2 rutabagas (peeled and cubed) in pan, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, add 1-2 sprigs of rosemary, and bake at 350 degrees F for about 45 minutes (until roasted—slightly golden and tender). Do the same with 2 beets. Meanwhile, place 1 rutabaga and 1 potato (both peeled and cubed) in 5 cups of broth (chicken or vegetable) in a saucepan and bring to boil. Lower heat, cover, and simmer until vegetables are soft (about 30-40 minutes). Remove from heat. Add a bunch of parsley (stems removed and chopped). Blend all with a mixer until smooth. Add 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp paprika, 1/4 tsp nutmeg, and 1/8 cup of honey (up to 1/4 cup if you find the soup too bitter to your taste) to the mixture. Pour in bowl and add roasted rutabagas/ beets to mixture. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve. Sweet Pumpkin Cobbler (serves 6) In a large bowl, mix together 3 eggs + 1 cup brown sugar + 1 15-oz can pumpkin puree +2/3 cup heavy whipping cream +1/2 tsp salt + 2 tsp pumpkin spice +1 tsp vanilla. When the mixture is smooth, divide and pour in 6 small ramekins. Set aside. For the topping, mix together: 1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats + 1/2 cup flour + 1/3 cup brown sugar + 1 tsp cinnamon + 5 tsp butter (melted). Sprinkle topping on top of each filled ramekin. Bake for 45 minutes at 375 degrees F.

Lemon Lavender (Previous Page) Cream butter (1/2 cup softened) + sugar (1 cup). Add 2 eggs. Mix. Add flour (1 ½ cup) +baking powder (2 tsp) + salt (1/2 tsp). Mix well. Add low fat yogurt (1/2 cup) + lavender extract (1 tsp) + lemon juice (of 1 lemon). Divide equally and pour into muffin cups/pan (makes about 10-12). Bake at 350 degrees F for about 20-25 minutes. When cool, pour icing over cakes and sprinkle with lemon zest (of 1 lemon) and lavender flowers. Icing recipe: confectioner sugar (1 ½ cup) + lemon juice (2 tbsp). Mix well until smooth. French-born, Californian lawyer by day, writer/ home chef by night, Elle Jauffret writes from personal experience about the culinary arts, mysteries, and France. She received the 2016 SDSU Writers’ Conference Choice award and loves creating “fiction food” based on the books she enjoys. You can find her at ellejauffret.com or @ElleJauffret on Twitter and Instagram




Peachy Queen Cosplay photos presented by:


(Previous Page) Alina Starkov The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo Photographer: @rdvisual on Instagram


Amren Sarah J. Maas’ A Court of Thorns and Roses Photographer: Georgia Deiker

Feyre Archeron Sarah J. Maas’ A Court of Thorns and Roses series


Juliette Ferrars Tahereh Mafi ‘s Shatter Me series CURIOSITALES K @rdvisual 55 Photographer:

Jude Duarte Holly Black’s The Folk of the Air series Photographer: Georgia Deiker



Aelin Galathynius Sarah J. Maas’ Throne of Glass series Photographer: @rdvisual

Aelin Galathynius Sarah J. Maas’ The Throne of Glass series Photographer: @rdvisual



Evangeline Samos Victoria Aveyard’s The Red Queen series Photographer: Georgia Deiker

photos presented by:


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(Previous Page) Snow White Feyre Archeron Grimm’s Fairytales Sarah J. Maas’ A Court of Thorns and Roses series.

Manon Blackbeak Sarah J. Maas’ Throne of Glass Series

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Circe Madeline Miller’s Circe



Aelin Galathynius Sarah J. Maas’ The Throne of Glass

Katrina Orson Scott Card’s Enchantment



Isobel Margaret Rogerson’s An Enchantment of Ravens



Upcoming Releases

THE HAND ON THE WALL New York Times bestselling author Maureen Johnson delivers the witty and pulse-pounding conclusion to the Truly Devious series as Stevie Bell solves the mystery that has haunted Ellingham Academy for over 75 years. January 21 THE NIGHT COUNTRY In The Night Country, Alice Proserpine dives back into a menacing, mesmerizing world of dark fairy tales and hidden doors. Follow her and Ellery Finch as they learn The Hazel Wood was just the beginning, and that worlds die not with a whimper, but a bang. January 7


DARK AND DEEPEST RED Summer, 1518. A strange sickness sweeps through Strasbourg: women dance in the streets, some until they fall down dead. As rumors of witchcraft spread, suspicion turns toward Lavinia and her family, and Lavinia may have to do the unimaginable to save herself and everyone she loves. January 14 INFINITY SON Balancing epic and intensely personal stakes, bestselling author Adam Silvera’s Infinity Son is a gritty, fast-paced adventure about two brothers caught up in a magical war generations in the making. January 14

ALL THE STARS AND TEETH As princess of the island kingdom Visidia, Amora Montara has spent her entire life training to be High Animancer—the master of souls. The rest of the realm can choose their magic, but for Amora, it’s never been a choice. To secure her place as heir to the throne, she must prove her mastery of the monarchy’s dangerous soul magic. February 4 HEART OF FLAMES The world is balanced on the edge of a knife, and war is almost certain between the empire and the Phoenix Riders. February 11

Upcoming Releases

THE SHADOWS BETWEEN US No one knows the extent of the freshly crowned Shadow King’s power. Some say he can command the shadows that swirl around him to do his bidding. Others say they speak to him, whispering the thoughts of his enemies. Regardless, Alessandra knows what she deserves, and she’s going to do everything within her power to get it. February 25

THE KING OF CROWS The breath-taking finale to the epic New York Times bestseller, The Diviners, from Printz winner and beloved author, Libba Bray. February 4

BONE CRIER’S MOON Bone Criers have a sacred duty. They alone can keep the dead from preying on the living. But their power to ferry the spirits of the dead into goddess Elara’s Night Heavens or Tyrus’s Underworld comes from sacrifice. The gods demand a promise of dedication. March 10

THE KINGDOM OF BACK Born with a gift for music, Nannerl Mozart has just one wish— to be remembered forever. She is a young woman in 18th century Europe, and that means composing is forbidden to her. March 3

HAVENFALL Maddie Morrow lives for her summers at the Inn at HavenHARLEY IN THE SKY fall. The inn is the only place With parents who run a famous where she gets to see the boy circus in Las Vegas, Harley Mi- she loves, Brekken and it prolano spends almost every night vides an escape from her real in the big top watching their life, which consists of endless lead aerialist perform, wishing mind-numbing days at high with all her soul that she could school . . . and visits to the local be up there herself one day. prison where her mother sits on March 10 Death Row accused of murdering Maddie’s brother. March 3


Meet the Bookstagrammer:

p michellereadsbooks

TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF AND WHY YOU BOOKSTAGRAM I signed up for Bookstagram in January 2018 on a whim after I stumbled upon a few other Bookstagram accounts and was looking for a winter project to get me through the long Boston winters. I had recently committed to a New Year’s Resolution of not watching TV for the year and so I had been reading more than I had been before. I joined the community as a way to share what I was reading, take creative photos, and connect with other readers! It motivates me to know that my account may be helping someone get back into reading. It’s the best when someone says they came across my account and were inspired to start reading more. It’s also very motivating when people pick up the books that I share or recommend. I love getting messages from friends that say “I’m reading that book you shared, and I love it!”. It’s been such a nice way to connect, or reconnect, over the love of reading.


WHAT IS YOUR TOP BOOK REC? This completely changes based on what I’ve recently read and who is asking! This summer I was telling everyone I encountered to read The Summer Demands by Deborah Shapiro because I loved it so much as a quiet, beautiful character study for the way that ambition changes as we age and how transitions affect us. Other favorite recommendations are Awayland by Ramona Ausubel for dark fairytale-esque stories, Mayumi and the Sea of Happiness by Jennifer Tseng for some of the most beautiful writing I’ve ever read, and White Noise by Don DeLillo because that is an old favorite of mine.



In the last year I have started reading more contemporary romance and some of the tropes in those books are so ridiculous, but you have to love to hate them! I think my favorite one I have come across in that genre is the ‘second chance at love’. It’s always so cheesy while they pine for each other and then realize they have a second chance, but also so great.

The last five star book I read was Fleishman Is In Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner. I was blown away by her writing and her observations on marriage, motherhood, and aging. It was simultaneously hilarious and depressing and I loved every minute of it.




Characters are such an important elements of a good story to me. I find that I am drawn to stories where the characters are well written, relatable in some way, and interesting. Sometimes you have a great setting and story line but the characters just don’t work! WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE VILLAIN? In thinking about this one, I’m realizing I don’t read many stories with villains! I’m a Pisces, so that makes sense because I hate a lot of conflict. I’ll have to go with Snape from Harry Potter because in the end he just wants to be loved. FAVORITE FICTIONAL UNIVERSE? I feel like Harry Potter is the obvious answer here! But in an attempt to spotlight some other fictional universes I’ll go with the Hinterland from Melissa Albert’s The Hazel Wood. It’s a strange, dark place that makes you feel like you are in a fairy tale fever dream and I can’t wait for the next book in the series to come out! FAVORITE BOOKISH QUOTE? “With freedom, books, flowers, and the moon, who could not be happy?” - Oscar Wilde


WHAT BOOK WOULD YOU LOVE TO SEE ADAPTED TO SCREEN? WHO WOULD STAR? I know it’s already been picked up for an adaptation but I was so happy to hear that they are making Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens into a movie. The whole book was so atmospheric in it’s swamp setting and I could so vividly picture it translating to the screen. And, of course, I would go back in time and cast young Matthew McConaughey as Tate because that is what I pictured the entire time I was reading! FIVE BOOKSTAGRAM ACCOUNTS SHOULD WE BE FOLLOWING? @somekindofalibrary to keep up with all the latest releases @oxfordjanebooks for creative and lovely bookish photos @layoversandliterature for great reviews and insight into flight attendant life @the_spines for reading and home inspiration @shelfbyshelf if you love literary fiction and want to add the BEST Instagram Stories to your feed ...and many others. The list could easily go on!


Meet the Bookstagrammer:

p hannahleblondauthor

TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF AND WHY YOU BOOKSTAGRAM I’m an introverted, redheaded nerd with my heart in Middle-earth, my mind in a galaxy far, far away, and my home in Hogwarts. I’m also an author residing in the North Bay of California, tea addict, and cat mom. I actually discovered bookstagram by accident! I was on Twitter and stumbled upon @frombeewithlove’s account, which linked to her bookstagram. It was a bit like stepping through the wardrobe into Narnia, finding a whole community of book-lovers. I was also excited to find a place where I could share about my own book series, but never expected to fall in love with the community of amazing people or find a new hobby in photography!


WHAT IS YOUR TOP BOOK REC? Harry Potter! “Always.” (Other Potterheads will get that.) While I also adore Lord of the Rings, it does make for a harder read. Harry Potter has all the elements of a perfect, classic story to me (self-sacrifice, good triumphing over evil, friendship, love) and is set in a universe with the perfect amount of magic and realism, charm and hardship. I feel like the best stories are both plot-driven and character-driven, and Harry Potter excels in both these areas. The characters are so human and easy to relate to, and the running plot that winds through all seven books never ceases to blow me away with its brilliance. WHAT TROPE HATE?





I may actually just hate hate, not love to hate it, but LOVE TRIANGLES! So old, so overused, so over it! LAST FIVE STAR READ? The Illuminae Files! I was unsure if I would like it at first, because of the unique way in which it is written. But it only took me a few pages to find myself engrossed in the story, and soon after, falling in love with the characters. I loved the twists and turns and mystery! I’m a big sci-fi lover, but other than Star Wars, haven’t found many sci-fis that I really love, but Illuminae changed that. WHAT ARE THE ELEMENTS OF A GOOD STORY? I guess I kind of answered this when I shared why I love Harry Potter. I think a good story needs to be both character and plot driven, have relatable, sympathetic characters, possess the elements of love, good vs. evil, self-sacrifice, friendship, and a cause/villain/disaster of some kind that draws the reader in. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE BOOKISH QUOTE? “So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” - Gandalf via J.R.R. Tolkien


WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE VILLAIN? This is an impossible question! I have so many favorite villains for different reasons. I’m going to have to cheat and name a few. My favorite overall is Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker. I mean, who could possibly be cooler than Darth Vader in any way? But I don’t categorize Anakin just as a villain, so he doesn’t totally count. I really love President Snow from The Hunger Games. He is a horrible person, absolutely loathsome, and very well-developed. Another ultimate favorite is Senator Sheev Palpatine/Darth Sidious/The Emperor. His masterminding, scheming, and creating both the Empire and Darth Vader make him the best and most detailed villain I can think of. FAVORITE FICTIONAL UNIVERSE? Middle-earth! As I wrote in the intro, my heart belongs in Middle-earth. I fell in love with this world as a kid when my mom read The Hobbit aloud to me and my brother. I began reading The Lord of the Rings series when I was a teenager, around the same time the movies were released. Suffice it to say, eighteen years later I love it more than ever, which only tells me Middle-earth will have my heart forever. I adore the overall vibe, setting, and world of Middle-earth in every way, but I also love how detailed it is! The histories, languages, maps, biographies, etc. absolutely make Middle-earth feel like a real, historic place, not a fictional one. Who knows? Maybe it is. :) WHAT BOOK WOULD YOU LOVE TO SEE ADAPTED TO SCREEN? WHO WOULD STAR? The Illuminae Files! There are lots of books I could list, but I just think this trilogy would make EPIC movies or a tv series! Even for people who haven’t read the book, I think it would be hugely popular. As for actors, I’m the last person to ask because I never pay attention to actors. I watch movies and tv for the stories and don’t care who’s acting the part. FIVE BOOKSTAGRAM ACCOUNTS SHOULD WE BE FOLLOWING? @remantsartco @sarahreadss @thewitchyjasper @rusticpages @vanessarasanenauthor



Meet the Bookstagrammer:

p lifebytheink

TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF AND WHY YOU BOOKSTAGRAM Hello! My name is SÊline DuMane and I am 22-year-old bookworm who enjoys cozy bookstores, several cups of chai, and going on spontaneous adventures around the world, fictional or realistic. My immense appreciation for literature started at an early age with the books -- Madeline, Brothers’ Grimm fairy tales, and Narnia -- which an everlasting TBR later, has encouraged me to create my bookstagram in January of this year. My passions also involve becoming a fantasy author or a content editor in the publishing industry. Because of bookstagram, I am extremely grateful to have the opportunity to connect with other readers, publishers, and writers alike who love to discuss various literary genres, worldly languages and cultures, and writing prompts/advice. Also, a tremendous thank you Curiositales team for featuring me in this Winter Issue!


WHAT IS YOUR TOP BOOK REC? This is quite an impossible question to ask any bookworm, but The Wrath and The Dawn duology by Renée Ahdieh has been a recommendation of mine to others for several years now. I could spend hours discussing why this series is marvelous and how Ahdieh is an equally marvelous author, but if you enjoy a beautifully-written Arabian nights inspired story with elegant and bewitching strong characters; there’s no reason to not give this duology a try. WHAT TROPE DO YOU LOVE TO HATE? Love triangles! The main reason being is I tend to have second character syndrome (where you prefer the second character with the main character which tends to not be the outcome in most cases,) so I become dispirited by the end of the novel. And yes, I was team Jacob. That’s where the hatred began. LAST FIVE STAR READ? Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett! I am an avid lover/reader of the fantasy genre, but I was surprised I did not come across his work until recently. Foundryside is an inventive blend of science-industrialized magic, fantastical heist adventure, and diverse characters that was exhilarating to read. Bennett’s craft is truly magnificent that I was in a proper book slump for months! All I could think about was, “how can I transport myself into the city of Tevanne?” “How can I become friends with Sancia to convince her to take me on her mysterious heist adventures even though I have non-existent combat skills?” Truly, it has been merited as one of my favorite fantasy books to date. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE BOOKISH QUOTE? “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style” – Maya Angelou. Even though this is not exactly a quote from one of her novels, all of Angelou’s works, to me, are one long quote that should be remembered and followed by. Rest in Peace.


WHAT ARE THE ELEMENTS OF A GOOD STORY? My first element would be natural world building. This does not necessarily mean create the most imaginative fictional world like Middle Earth, but to have the readers immerse into the setting. I want to know about the beautiful sounds of the Flamenco guitar pouring through the streets of Seville or the thick humidity clinging to my skin while exploring the jungles of India without verily visiting those places. I want experience exactly what the characters do regardless how fictional or realistic it is. My second element would be compelling character development. Whether it is the protagonist, morally-grey side character or villainous step-mother, I love understanding the characters’ motives, impulsive reactions, foods they enjoy to eat, experiences with love and grief. Development should start from the first page and continuously flourish until the very last word. Some of the best development is in my mind moments, days, or even years after I read the story. Lastly, a transparent plot. It is as simple as just knowing what I’m getting myself into. WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE VILLAIN? I love the Joker! Even though comic books is not a medium of literature I typically delve into, I have always enjoyed the stories of Batman. I think the relationship between Batman and the Joker is not a simple act of good vs. evil. There is a philosophical approach as to why the Joker creates chaotic conflict; he wants to destroy Batman mentally, to make him a synonymous of himself. Typically as a reader, I want information on an antagonist’s backstory to have a sense of hope that their villainous intentions could be changed for the better. But for the first time, I thoroughly enjoyed reading the Joker create mayhem throughout Gotham, and discovering how Batman could defeat/ grow from it. FAVORITE FICTIONAL UNIVERSE? I will say it is an equal balance between Middle Earth and The Wizarding World. The dedication Tolkien gave to The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit with not only developing a world,


but unique races/species, languages, history, and magic is inspirational. J.K. Rowling provided a similar creation in the Harry Potter series, but her ability to connect it to our actual world was mind-boggling in my childhood. As an aspiring fantasy writer, I research plenty about both of their processes in creating these worlds in hopes I could accomplish something as equally extraordinary someday. WHAT BOOK WOULD YOU LOVE TO SEE ADAPTED TO SCREEN? WHO WOULD STAR? Even though it is already being adapted as a Netflix series, I am profoundly excited to see Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows/Shadow and Bone series come life! Easily, I see Ben Barnes embodying the role of the Darkling, perfectly. I do hope in the success of this series though that the next season would be more about the Six of Crows storyline. So, if I did have to cast someone, maybe Jack Dylan Grazer as Wylan. FIVE BOOKSTAGRAM ACCOUNTS SHOULD WE BE FOLLOWING? This is difficult because there is so many wonderful bookstagrammers I love who are equally unique in their creative style, content, recommendations, and target audience base, but with these five book bloggers, I have been following them since I joined the community. They are entirely worth the follow! @cicivford @remnantartsco @hoarding.chapters @sunsnacksseries @bookish.bones


Meet the Bookstagrammer:

p wldflowerbooks

TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF AND WHY YOU BOOKSTAGRAM My name is Mia and I’m a 20 year old English major living in California. My entire life books and writing have been passions of mine. I started bookstagram as a way to express my love for books (my mom can only stand to listen to me rave about them for so long). On bookstagram, I found a wonderful community of creatives--all expressing their passion for books/writing/photography. Bookstagram has helped me discover what I want to do and has given me the confidence to pursue it. Everyday on bookstagram, I get to express my passions and creative energy--it is such a wonderful community.


WHAT IS YOUR TOP BOOK REC? I don’t necessarily have a single top book I can recommend, but an author: Sarah J. Maas. I recommend all of her books (the entire Throne of Glass series and the A Court of Thorns and Roses series). I found her books when I felt alone, the characters she has masterfully created feel like friends to me. The banter between the characters and the inner/outer world struggles they experience drew me in immediately. The female characters she creates are so strong and intelligent (and magical). If you haven’t read any of Sarah’s books...what are you doing? Go get them! YA fantasy with attractive, funny, and powerful characters, what more could you want? WHAT TROPE DO YOU LOVE TO HATE? Definitely enemies-to-lovers. I pretend that I can’t stand it, but every time I read a story with enemies-to-lovers I fall deeply in love with the romance. I’m a sucker for it! LAST FIVE STAR READ? My last five star read is Daisy Jones and The Six written by Taylor Jenkins Reid. Daisy Jones and The Six rocked my world, I did not expect to love it as much as I did. This book is a masterpiece and I cannot let this story go. It is a story that transports you into the world of mid-sixties rock n’ roll. It is filled with characters that feel real and settle into your heart as you read the story. It is a faux biography told through interviews with an amazing cast of characters. I don’t want to give away much of the plot, but this story left me heartbroken and yet so happy. I refuse to believe this is fiction, because the characters and the music depicted in this book feel so real. FAVORITE FICTIONAL UNIVERSE? The Grishaverse! Leigh Bardugo has crafted such an intricate universe, it feels so real because of the detail she put into it. There are languages, customs, magic, wars, and so much more. It is so rare to find such a complex universe in YA Fantasy, it feels almost reminiscent of Lord of The Rings!


WHAT ARE THE ELEMENTS OF A GOOD STORY? Characters, characters, characters. Obviously, everyone will have a different answer, but to me characters are the most important element of a good story. I’m more likely to fall in love with a story if the characters are amazing, even if the plot isn’t that great. World-building is also so important, especially in fantasy & sci-fi (my favorite genres). A world needs to feel realistic and fun for me to stay immersed in a story. Plot is really important too, full of twists and turns and (in my opinion) magic! WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE VILLAIN? My favorite villain is Voldemort from Harry Potter. At points, in learning about his backstory I was actually able to empathize with Voldemort. His story is complex and interesting, it took us so many books to actually understand his backstory. While his actions were evil and callous we can understand Voldemort and his motivations. In my opinion, that is so important to a villain being a good villain! Plus, he was part of my childhood and the villain of one of the best series ever!


WHAT BOOK WOULD YOU LOVE TO SEE ADAPTED TO SCREEN? WHO WOULD STAR? Here I go, raving about Sarah J. Maas again! All I want in life is to see an amazing adaptation of the Throne of Glass series. My life will not be complete till I see it on the screen! My dream casting for Celaena Sardothian is Emelia Clarke! Dorian cannot be played by anyone other than the dreamy Henry Cavill. I neeed Chaol to be played by Grey Damon, I think he could get Chaol’s brooding perfect! I truly don’t think anyone will do Rowan Whitethorn justice, but I could settle for him being played by Chris Hemsworth or Orlando Bloom. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE BOOKISH QUOTE? “You could rattle the stars. You could do anything. If only you dared.” - Sarah J. Maas, Throne of Glass FIVE BOOKSTAGRAM ACCOUNTS SHOULD WE BE FOLLOWING? @rusticpages @lunarnovels @the.cozy.bee @ahobbitsbooks @jessbetweenthelines




Book Reviews The Girl the Sea Gave Back by Adrienne Young

A Dress for the Wicked by Autumn Krause

In this new novel by Adrienne Young, she takes readers even further into the Viking-inspired world she created in her debut Sky in the Deep. For readers who haven’t read the first book and are reading this as a standalone, however, this journey might be a little confusing due to the lack of world-building. The Girl the Sea Gave Back follows the story of Tova, a Truthtongue from the Kyrr clan who ends up casting the runes for the Svell; ostracised and feared. And then there is Halvard from the Nãdhir clan – striving for peace yet determined to protect his people. Their paths are fated to intertwine. Tova and Halvard are brilliantly written characters that are easy to connect with. Tova’s character development is strong and believable; showing her progression into a capable young woman who is capable of taking her future into her own hands and fighting for it. Young writes with a fast, flowing pace and the battle scenes are convincing and keep you riveted. She creates emotion beautifully. Tova being a Truthtongue has the ability to cast the stones and tell the future. These elements and omens are cleverly used as foreshadowing and smoothly blended into the storyline. Sadly, the book left me feeling I need more. While this is normally a good thing, in this case, the ending did not justify the build-up in a satisfactory way. In my opinion, the novel needed at least one more chapter to give the reader that pay-off they need. This novel could have been amazing, but unfortunately leaves the reader feeling disappointed instead of satisfied.

A Dress for the Wicked is my favourite read of the month, and definitely one of my favourites for the year. This lush fantasy transported me back to a time where I wanted to be a designer, and I definitely lived vicariously through the characters in this book. The writing was easy to follow and completely sucked you in, not letting go for even a second. The plot was fast-paced, and I loved the Project Runway vibe this book gave off. I wish this book was a series, even though I always complain about wanting more standalones. I just want more of this story. Emmy, the main character, is passionate and hardworking and doesn’t let anything stand in her way. She’s every little girl who’s been told she can’t be something, but then she goes and does it anyway. Sophie, who starts out as Emmy’s competition, is one of my favourite characters from this book. She’s deeply complex and I wish we could have had more of her in the book. My only complaints about the book are the romance and the worldbuilding. We know very little about Britannia Secunda, the fictional world A Dress for the Wicked is set in. I would have liked more world history in that regard, but it doesn’t detract from the overall enjoyment of the book. The romance between Emmy and Tristen also felt a little rushed, and I would have liked to delve into the relationship a bit more. Other than that, this book was stunning and magical, and I enjoyed every moment of reading it.

Photo and Review by An-Mari Fouché

Photo and Review by Bianca Visagie


Book Reviews The Lady Rogue by Jenn Bennett

Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin

Theo’s usual treasure hunting starts and ends with waiting for her father in whatever hotel room they happen to be staying in. She never gets to go on adventures with him and she’s getting sick of not being included. However, it seems that this time, her father needs saving. Reluctantly paired with Huck, her former best friend and lover, she sets out to find the cursed ring of Vlad the Impaler (also known as Dracula) and uncover hidden secrets. Bad luck and murder seem to follow them everywhere, as the mystery of her father and Dracula’s cursed ring unravel.

Serpent and Dove by Shelby Mahurin is the arguably the most anticipated debut release this season. This incredible book is set in a French-inspired world filled with both witches of all kinds and witch hunters that will stop at nothing to ensure that every witch burns. The story is told from two alternating points of view that help not only build this rich world filled with countless possibilities but also add to the growing tension in the book. The enemy-to-lovers trope had me obsessed with finding out what would happen between Lou and Reid. However, beyond the romantic angst, the book is filled with mysteries and action scenes that will be sure to keep you turning the pages. I enjoyed the different types of relationships that were explored in this book such as the supportive friendship between Lou and Coco. I thought that it was a great touch as, despite everything, they were still there for each other. I loved Lou because she constantly strived to prove the people who doubted her wrong. Her humour had me laughing out loud more than a couple of times and the banter between her and Reid honestly gave me life. Serpent and Dove is a fast-paced fantasy that will have you turning pages faster than you ever thought possible, leaving you no choice but to finish it in one sitting. This book will leave you both greatly satisfied and itching for more.

With enemies-to-lovers, slow burn, and forbidden love, this novel is so many great things wrapped into one. Set in 1937, this novel is well written and has many tropes without overdoing the romance. Theo’s bravery, intelligence and will to fight for herself while being unapologetic about her behaviour is very refreshing. I love the strength of her character, and I desperately want to read more of her. Huck, the love interest, was also complex and developed. I couldn’t help but want more back story on their past. This is a must-read for fans of historical fiction and Dracula stories. I also enjoyed the dark magic and fantasy elements that brought the story to life. With mystery and treasure hunting, this action-filled plot line picks you up from the beginning and takes you on a wild adventure! I highly recommend this 4.5/5 star novel from Jenn Bennett!

Photo and Review by Mara Hubl

Photo and Review by Melleny Smith


Book Reviews Frankly in Love by David Yoon

Wilder Girls by Rory Power

Frank Li is your typical Korean-American high schooler. He scored in the 95th percentile on his PSATs. His name has a lucky number of letters in it (7), he has a girlfriend and he’s pretending to date Korean-American high schooler, Joy Song. Wait, what? Frank Li likes Brit Means but Brit Means is white which means his parents won’t approve. Joy Song loves Wu Tang but Wu Tang is Chinese which means her parents won’t approve. Solution? Fake date one another to bypass the parents. When I first started this book, I had high expectations and it did not let me down. I love reading the fake dating trope but I was curious to see where this book would go with the story since the characters are fake dating to see partners they already have instead of trying to attract a potential partner. I loved the fact that this book deals with racism from a different perspective. Frank Li struggles to form a connection with his parents since he’s growing up so far removed from their Korean culture. At the same time, his parents aren’t allowing Frank the freedom to completely move away from their Korean microcosm to date and build friendships. What I loved most about this book is the healthy relationship between Frank and his African-American best friend, Q. Yoon manages to form a strong bond between them where they can be supportive and affectionate to one another. I would recommend this book to people who enjoyed To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han and would like to read a heartfelt romance mixed with some family drama and a lot of laughs. Photo and Review by Mieke Göttsche

Wilder Girls is an unapologetically ruthless, bone-chilling horror and a bewitchingly compulsive read. This female-centered tale is not just about the pretty cover. It’s got excellent style, too, which often is poetic. It packs so much emotion in such wise ways that it’s almost impossible to put down. Wilder Girls is an intelligent feminist YA dystopian, unique and equally amazing. Females living on an island cut off from the rest of the world. They have each other’s backs most of the time and yet… they’re ready to do whatever it takes to survive because they were told to wait and stay alive. Wilder Girls is full of heart-wrenching dilemmas that would make you think twice about your own decisions. The strength of relationships in this book is a testament to female bonding. This book celebrates womanhood and the earthshaking power of friendship. Rory Power has poured her heart out in an attempt to give us this tragic yet powerful story and has succeeded beautifully. This book is so different from our regular stories about beautiful blondes meeting handsome guys, going through one or two crises where the guy comes to her aid and they live ‘happily ever after’. On the contrary, Wilder Girls is not about pretty girls. It’s about girls with frightful malformations. Girls who have two hearts, extra spines, and scaled hands. Girls who don’t wait around for heroes to come and save them. When we are talking about survival, there are things that are ugly and disgusting, so expect lots of blood, intestines, death, page-turners, betrayals, and secrets from this book.


Photo and Review by Rawa Rabail Khan

Book Reviews The Familiars by Stacey Halls

The Familiars by Stacey Halls revolves around Fleetwood Shuttleworth who is once again pregnant but in grave danger. Her husband receives a letter from her doctor where he clearly states how dangerous his wife’s delivery could be if she decides to keep the baby. In desperate need to give her husband an heir, Fleetwood Shuttleworth seeks the help of a midwife, called Alice Grey. Unfortunately for Fleetwood, Alice gets accused of witchcraft. Fleetwood crosses boundaries to free Alice. As the saying goes, desperate times call for desperate measures. Stacey Halls hasn’t complicated the story with difficult prose and words, even though the story is set in the 17th Century. With simple writing, Halls has covered some pretty serious themes like injustice and brutality against women. With great regret and sadness, we still face such issues where women are silenced, abused and treated with disrespect. They are not given the rights to their own body as it’s portrayed by Halls; it’s Fleetwood’s “duty” to give an heir and at one point, she can’t even decide her own midwife. The characters do not feel one dimensional and that’s one of the best parts of the book! You can empathize, understand, and feel for the female protagonists as they fight and struggle because this story isn’t about just two women fighting the pressures of the society. It’s the story of every woman who has faced inequality and injustice in every way and any century. These issues are relevant and relatable universally. Photo and Review by Raima Afsar

Find the reviewers on Instagram: Raima Afsar @its4eyedgal An-Mari Fouché @ami.thebooktrovert Mieke Göttsche @mousethatreads Mara Hubl @marasfoldedpages Rawa Rabail Khan @_thatgirlwiththebook_ Melleny Smith @abooktropolis01 Bianca Visagie @ yourwordsmyink

Are you a book reviewer? Curiositales Magazine is looking for readers to create thoughtful reviews of recent releases. If you love dissecting your latest reads and picking out why exactly you loved them, send us an email and let us know! hello@curiositales.com


Our Favorite Things: Winter Edition

Infinity Book Tote Bag A roomy, 100% cotton canvas tote bag with a square bottom that’ll hold whatever you need to carry. $19.50 etsy.com/shop/FulfillmentFly

Alice in Wonderland Clutch A durable faux leather clutch with a water resistant print on the cover and removable shoulder strap. $78 etsy.com/shop/BAGatelleStudio

Knock Knock Personal Library Kit Personalized Mermaid Tail Bookmark Everything you need to start your own Customize this fairytale bookmark with a 10 personal library. This is the perfect gift for character word or name. Available in yourself or your favorite bibliophile five colors. $16 amazon.com

$20 etsy.com/shop/bykauri

2020 Jane Austen Desk Calendar Book Open Mouth Closed Socks Spend an entire year with Jane Austen and Is there anything worse than being interrupttest your knowledge of her masterful ed while reading? Next time, prop up your literary canon. feet with these socks on! $14.99 basbleu.com


$9.99 basbleu.com

Our Favorite Things: Winter Edition

Nancy Drew Flair Book Lover Pencils These bookish badges (pins) make great Five matte black pencils in the set (Read em stocking stuffers, teacher gifts, and go great & weep, Treat yo shelf, Readers gonna read, in loot/treat bags! Cooking the books, High Shelf Esteem). $7.95 etsy.com/shop/Bookd

$11 etsy.com/shop/BettieConfetti

The Elusive Bookworm Candle Personalized Mermaid Tail Bookmark FACT: 98% of all Bookworms are Book Customize this fairytale bookmark with a 10 Sniffers. French Press Scented with hints of character word or name. Available in Coffee, Sugar and Vanilla. five colors. $22 etsy.com/shop/DefineDesignEtc

$20 etsy.com/shop/bykauri

2020 Jane Austen Desk Calendar Book Open Mouth Closed Socks Spend an entire year with Jane Austen and Is there anything worse than being interrupttest your knowledge of her masterful ed while reading? Next time, prop up your literary canon. feet with these socks on! $14.99 basbleu.com

$9.99 basbleu.com


Literary Tourism Wethersfield, Connecticut, USA Wethersfield, CT was founded in 1822 and is the setting of the childhood tale The Witch of Blackbird Pond (1959 Newbury Medal Winner) where Kit Tyler struggles to adjust to the strict Puritan culture of 1687. Most know about Salem, but the first confession of witchcraft in the colonies actually took place in Wethersfield (Mary Johnson 1648) and was the first of its kind. Mirroring the novel, the real life “witches” were victims of the superstition, greed, and ignorance of their neighbors. If this story features prominently in your childhood reading memories, you’ll definitely appreciate this destination. Visit the Wethersfield Public Library and check out their map showing the corresponding locations from the book.

Algonquin Hotel, NY, NY USA How would you feel about a daily lunch with Dorothy Parker? If you were a member of The Round Table Wits, that would have been a reality. Literary notables and other artists of the 1920s famously met at the Algonquin Hotel for regular luncheons. They called themselves “The Vicious Circle” and influenced media internationally, helping each other rise to fame. You might not be able to sit down to chat with those literary giants, but you can sit down to a meal at The Round Table restaurant in the Algonquin Hotel. The 174-room hotel opened in 1902 and was designated as a city landmark in 2007. Next time you go to NYC make sure you add this to your itinerary. It would make the perfect luncheon rendezvous point to break up your day at Book Con.


Literary Tourism Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum, Baltimore, Maryland, USA Edgar Allen Poe briefly lived at 203 North Amity Street in Baltimore with his family. Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore saved the home from demolition in 1941 and opened the museum in 2014. Visitors are welcome to take self-guided tours of the home where they can learn more about Poe’s life and work completed in Baltimore. The museum also homes several artifacts, including Poe’s desk, chair, and telescope. While the tours are self-guided, there are docents on hand to answer any questions visitors may have. If you’d like to check out the Poe House, make sure you plan your trip accordingly as the museum is only open on weekdays with occasional extended hours. The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art,

Amherst, Massachusetts USA

Who among us did not love picture books as a child? Take a trip down memory land in this picture book museum in Massachusetts. For many of us, our love of reading started not with words, but with the stories read to us when we were kids. This museum is a non-profit dedicated to supporting and growing that love. Give yourself plenty of time to explore the Carle as it houses 11,000 objects, including 7,300 permanent collection illustrations, three art galleries, an art studio, a theater, picture book and scholarly libraries, and educational programs for families, scholars, educators, and schoolchildren. The museum is closed on Mondays. Plan your visit to include one of their many events such as their Everyday Art program, author meet and greets, or story time.



Bookstagram Photo Tips by Elishia Merricks

Middle Depth of Field

Shallow Depth of Field

Wide Depth of Field

THE GOLDILOCKS APPROACH TO DEPTH OF FIELD When photographers talk about depth of field it can sound intimidating and something you can only achieve with a fancy camera, but all we’re talking about is how much of an image is in focus. Shallow depth of field is where a small amount of the image is in focus and wide depth of field is where a large amount of the image is in focus. For this book, Hatchet by Gary Paulsen, I wanted to find myself lost in a forest fighting against the wilderness… in the middle of Manhattan! There are few places you can go to find secluded woods in Manhattan, so I employed a tight frame and a shallow depth of field to create the illusion like I was stuck in the middle of nowhere. In the first image, there is no distance between the book and the tree and they are

both sharply in focus, but for me, this didn’t have enough context for the book. So for the second picture, I decided to use a shallower depth of field to create more mystery in the forest, mirroring the feel of the narrative. However, the super shallow depth of field feels like a book on a photo shoot, with the forest so out of focus there isn’t enough emphasis on what it is. For the third picture I placed my background further away than the first image, but closer than the second and it was just right. The book was crisply in focus, whilst the trees were just out of focus enough to maintain the mystery but were still recognizable as trees. None of these are ‘bad’ pictures, but the depth of field can drastically alter the feeling of an image and help or hinder the mood you are trying to evoke. p elishia.in.newyork


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