Thursday, August 23, 2018

Blog Tour & Book Spotlight: Mirage by Somaiya Daud



MIRAGE
By: Somaiya Daud
Published By: Flatiron Books
Release Date: August 28, 2018
Series: Mirage #1
Pages: 320
Genre: Sci-Fi
Reading Level: Young Adult
Source: Publisher
Buy the Book: Amazon


Goodreads Summary: In a star system dominated by the brutal Vathek empire, eighteen-year-old Amani is a dreamer. She dreams of what life was like before the occupation; she dreams of writing poetry like the old-world poems she adores; she dreams of receiving a sign from Dihya that one day, she, too, will have adventure, and travel beyond her isolated moon.

But when adventure comes for Amani, it is not what she expects: she is kidnapped by the regime and taken in secret to the royal palace, where she discovers that she is nearly identical to the cruel half-Vathek Princess Maram. The princess is so hated by her conquered people that she requires a body double, someone to appear in public as Maram, ready to die in her place.

As Amani is forced into her new role, she can’t help but enjoy the palace’s beauty—and her time with the princess’ fiancé, Idris. But the glitter of the royal court belies a world of violence and fear. If Amani ever wishes to see her family again, she must play the princess to perfection...because one wrong move could lead to her death.



~ ~ ~ READ AN EXCERPT ~ ~ ~

Prologue

He is the only one of his family without the daan. They say this makes him ideal; no traditional markings on his face to identify him should he die. No way to trace him back to his family. He is young, not yet fifteen, too young for the daan ceremony. This is what she says to him when she comes to choose him. That he is young and that he is skilled and that he is steady. This, she says, is all that matters. He does not feel young. He feels hungry, the sort of hungry that gnaws at him day and night, until it is so much his companion he does not know how to live without it. He feels hard, because he knows how to take a beating, how to fall just so when a guard hits him with a baton. He feels angry, so angry, the sort of anger that does not need fuel.

He is invisible in a sea of invisible faces.

The crowd is silent, but then the crowds at these events are always silent. They are solemn. Too solemn. The nobles sit on velvet cushions behind gold rope, but those who stand, who look up at the podium waiting for her to appear, they are the poor. The hungry. The weak. They are here because they must be here. The makhzen titter among themselves like jeweled birds, gowns glittering in the sunlight, scabbards flashing as men shift in the uncomfortable summer air. It is a wonder any of them are Andalaan; they all look Vathek now. They have accepted Vathek rule. They would not dress so, not if they truly were Andalaan in their hearts. He thinks of his younger sister as he moves through the crowd. Dead for two summers now, her stomach bloated from hunger. His father, long gone, too weak to support them, to stay.

He has one sister left, and a brother besides, and his mother. All to be taken care of after this. She’d sworn. A husband for Dunya. A cottage away from the city for them all, with access to grain and a garden, and mayhap even livestock. Away from everything they know, but a chance for a new life.

His hands sweat. He has trained for this, he is ready, but he has never taken a life.

The blood never dies, he remembers. The blood never forgets.

This is for a higher purpose — one more important than his life, more important than any life. These things must be done, he thinks. In the name of Andala. In the name of freedom.

He marvels, as she climbs the steps to the dais, that one who looks so much like his kin is capable of causing such terror. He has heard the stories, knows that these things are often twisted through the telling. But his life, the lives of his siblings and neighbors, bear witness to some truth. The occupation is cruel. Its heirs crueler still.

The sun flashes against the silver metal of his blaster. He lifts it, aims, fires. Twice.

Mizaal Galaxy, Ouamalich System Cadiz, a moon of Andala

CHAPTER ONE On a small moon orbiting a large planet, in a small farmhouse in a small village, there was a box, and in this box was a feather.

The box was old, its wood worn of any trace of design or paint. It smelled of saffron and cinnamon, sharp and sweet. Along with the feather there sat an old signet ring, a red bloom preserved in resin, and a strip of green velvet cloth, frayed around the edges.

I crept into my parents’ room often when I was small, always to peek into the box. And its mystique only increased in my eyes when my mother began to hide it from me. The feather fascinated me. A five-year-old had no use for a ring or a flower or fabric. But the feather of a magical, extinct bird? Like all things from the old order, it called to me.

The feather was black, made up of a hundred dark, jewel shades. When I held it up to the light it rippled with blues and greens and reds, like magic reacting to some unseen hand, roiling to the surface. It had belonged to a tesleet bird, my mother said, birds once thought to be messengers of Dihya.

When Dihya wanted to give you a sign He slipped the feather into your hand. When He wanted to command you to a calling, to take action, He sent the bird itself. It was a holy and high calling, and not to be taken lightly. War, pilgrimage, the fate of nations: this was what the tesleet called a person for.

My grandfather had received a tesleet, though my mother never talked about why or even who he was. “A foolhardy man who died grieving all he did not accomplish,” she’d said to me once.

I stared into the old box, my eyes unfocused, my gaze turned inward. The sun would set soon, and I didn’t have time to waste by staring at an old feather. But it called to me as it had when I was a little girl, and my thumb swept over its curve, back and forth, without thinking.

There were no tesleet left on Cadiz or our mother planet, Andala. Like many things from my mother’s childhood, they had left, or been spent, or were extinguished. All we had were relics, traces of what once was and would likely never be again.

I jumped when my mother cleared her throat in the doorway.

“Amani,” was all she said, one eyebrow raised.

It was too late to hide the box, and I could not keep down the surge of guilt for having snooped in my parents’ room just to bring it out again.

But my mother said nothing, only smiled and came forward, hand outstretched.

“Did . . . did your father give you the feather?” I asked at last, and handed the box over.

Her eyes widened a little. For a moment, I thought she wouldn’t answer.

“No,” she said softly, closing the box’s lid. “I found it a little while after the bird had gone. In a moment of weakness in some shrubbery.”

I rarely saw my mother look as she did now, soft and wistful, as if remembering a kinder time. She’d survived two wars: the civil war, and then the Vathek invasion and following occupation. She was hard, with a spine of steel, unbendable, unbindable, and unbreakable.

“What was your moment of weakness?” I asked. I wouldn’t get a response. I never did.

But my mother surprised me and smiled. “I was running from love,” she said. “Your father, to be specific. I saw in my own heart my father’s capacity to lose himself in another person, and it frightened me.” My mouth dropped to her amusement. I knew my parents loved each other; it was obvious to anyone who watched them, despite their differences. But I’d never heard my mother say as much, and to hear her admit it of her own free will—

< “What are you doing here, at any rate? You are meant to be getting ready for tonight.”

I didn’t know how to explain it, so I just shook my head and shrugged.

“I don’t know. I just — I love it. I suppose I wanted to see it again.”

She came forward and tilted my chin up. I was full grown, and my mother still towered over me by a full head. The backs of her fingers brushed over my cheek, tracing the lines where I would receive my daan — sharp geometric tattoos that would mark my first step into adulthood. I hoped they looked as hers did: stark and powerful, letting the whole world know who she was and where she was from in a single glance.

“I know this week has been difficult,” she said at last. “More difficult than most. But it will pass, as they all do.”

I bit my tongue rather than say what I thought. We shouldn’t have to wait for them to pass. They should never be in the first place. We had suffered not only the burning of our fields this week, but the increased presence of the Vath.

But my mother surprised me into silence a second time, and set the box back in my hand.

“I think this should pass to you,” she said, her voice soft again. “Hope is a younger girl’s game, and you find more comfort in it than I do.”

I opened then closed my mouth, wordless with shock.

“Really?” I said at last.

She smiled again. “Really,” she repeated and kissed my forehead. “Perhaps Dihya will send you a second feather, and you shall have your own sign in these trying times.”

My mother left me alone in her room, the box still clasped to my chest. After a moment I moved to hide the box away in my room, lest she come up the stairs and change her mind.

The sun was setting truly now, and I hurried to put it away, and find my things. Khadija would be waiting, and I hated to hear her skewer me for my tardiness. Outside, the village was quiet. Normally, around now, I could hear the quiet singing of field workers as they made their way back to the village, and the ringing of the end of day bell. The march of boots, the cries of sellers hawking their wares in our small village square, dogs and goats crying out; all those sounds were absent.

There were no fields left, not after the fire the Imperial Garda set last week. Rebels — or, more likely, starving thieves — had taken shelter in one of the gate houses. Rather than looking through each one, the Garda had set fire to the fields. We’d heard the rebels screaming from as far away as the village square. Now, with the fields gone, the village was counting down the weeks till winter, and the famine that was sure to follow.

What would I want my own feather, my own sign, for? In the wake of this — of life — I had no need for a sign. I wanted something else, something more tangible and immediate. I wanted the world.

The Vath were not settlers in our nebula — they’d lived on their planet, Vaxor, mostly peacefully and in accordance with galactic laws. But they’d poisoned their own atmosphere, and were forced to relocate to an orbiting moon. A stopgap measure, with an exploding population and a lack of resources. Some said it was inevitable that they chose to expand to other systems.

There were moments when I glimpsed the world as it was before the occupation of the Vath. When my mother or father spoke without thinking, or a village aunt said when I was young, or a man sang an old song I’d never heard before. The bones of our old ways of life were there, barely traceable, and I wanted them back. I wanted all of us to remember what we’d been, how strong we were. And endurance was strength, to be sure, but even a rock wore away to nothing if asked to endure enough rain.

I could want until I was dead and nothing would come to pass. Wanting never solved anything. I tucked the box away with a sigh, found my cloak and shoes, and made my way downstairs.

In the kitchen, I packed away the last of the food we were taking with us. We were celebrating my majority night. I and twelve other girls had finally come of age, and as was our way, the whole village would travel to one of the abandoned kasbahs. There, we would receive our daan and become adults in the eyes of the village, and follow with dinner and dancing to celebrate.

“Amani.”

I turned to see Husnain, my brother, standing in the doorway. My parents had three children: Aziz, the eldest of us, more than ten years my senior. Myself, the youngest, and Husnain, fifteen months older than I was. I might have relied on Aziz for wisdom, but Husnain was one half of me, a twin despite the months between us. He had all the foolhardiness and fire of a second son, rarely tempered but for me.

“I brought something for you,” he said when I sat down.

I grinned and held out my hands. “Give it to me.”

“Close your eyes.”

I did so, but kept my hands outstretched. A moment later a wide, thin object was folded into my hands. I peeked before he told me I could open my eyes and nearly dropped the sheaf of papers as if they were on fire. “Amani!”

“Is that—?”

Almost a month ago we’d journeyed to Cadiza Prime, the capital city on our moon, to pick up supplies for the small farm my brothers and father kept on our tiny sliver of land. I’d wandered through the open market, and shoved in the back of a bookstall was an aging sheaf of papers — Massinite poetry. It was too expensive to even consider purchasing it, and besides, most religious poetry was outlawed. It had been used too often as a rallying point for the rebels during the occupation.

Massinia was the prophetess of our religion and though we all loved her, I loved her above all other things in our faith. Just as we had songs in her name, so too had an entire tradition of poetry sprung up venerating her life and accomplishments. I loved such poetry above all else, and hungered for it despite the risk of being caught with it. My hands shook as I reached for the collection.

“You took a huge risk—”

“Never you mind the risk,” he said. “It belongs to you now, and that’s all that matters.”

I was afraid to grin or to touch them. Mine! I could hardly believe it. I’d never owned a collection of poetry before.

“Oh, for Dihya’s sake,” he laughed, and undid the twine around them before setting them in my hands. I would have to transcribe them to holosheets or put them in a database or some such. There was no telling if they’d survive the weather here, or if I would lose them or any number of things that could happen. And I would have to hide them, or risk them being confiscated by the magistrates.

Our souls will return home, we will return, the first poem read. We will set our feet in the rose of the citadel.

I closed my eyes, seeing the imagined citadel, no doubt now turned to dust. I could imagine the pain of the writer, could feel it like a bruise on my heart as my soul looked over its shoulder, leaving something treasured behind. I knew what it was like to trace a quickly fading memory in my mind, to watch it fade with every remembering until it was nothing but a feeling, a well-worn groove you could walk but not recall. The pain on the page was palpable — everyone had a citadel. The city of their birth, turned to rubble, family long gone, buried in an unmarked grave, all of it unreachable except through death.

And this, poetry like this, was all we had to preserve our stories, our music, our history.

“Thank you,” I said at last, and threw my arms around him. “You have no idea—”

“I have some,” he laughed, and kissed my forehead. “You are my favorite person in the the world, Amani. I’m glad to give you this. Dihya, are you crying?”

“No!” But I could feel the lump in my throat, ready to dissolve into tears at any minute. I’d been so afraid, so nervous about tonight. And in the end, it was a night of joy. I would step into adulthood not just with family and friends, but now with a treasure that would comfort me on nights too difficult to comprehend. “Maybe now you’ll write some of your own,” he said, a little softer.

I snorted out a laugh. I was a poor poet, to be sure, and in a world where poetry didn’t pay, I’d had no chance to improve.

“You’re good,” he insisted. “You should write more.”

I flushed, hungry for praise. Husnain was the only person who’d ever read my poetry, but I knew he spoke out of the loyalty born between us and not out of any knowledge of what my skill looked like compared to true poets.

“In another world,” I said, and clutched the poetry to my chest.

Our souls will return home, we will return.

I looked up, and smiled at my brother, the other half of my heart. “But not this one. In this one, these poems are enough.”


~ ~ ~ ABOUT THE AUTHOR ~ ~ ~


Somaiya Daud was born in a Midwestern city, and spent a large part of her childhood and adolescence moving around. Like most writers, she started when she was young and never really stopped. Her love of all things books propelled her to get a degree in English literature (specializing in the medieval and early modern), and while she worked on her Master’s degree she doubled as a bookseller at Politics and Prose in their children’s department. Determined to remain in school for as long as possible, she packed her bags in 2014 and moved the west coast to pursue a doctoral degree in English literature. Now she’s preparing to write a dissertation on Victorians, rocks, race, and the environment. Mirage is her debut, and is due from Flatiron Books in 8/28/2018.


Find Her Online:
Website | Twitter | Instagram


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Find all the dates you need to know here!



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Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Blog Tour & Book Sketch: Grace and Fury by Tracy Banghart



Grace and Fury
By: Tracy Banghart
Published By: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release Date: July 31, 2018
Series: Grace and Fury (#1)
Pages: 320
Genre: Fantasy
Reading Level: Young Adult
Source: ALA
Buy the Book: Amazon


Goodreads Summary: In a world where women have no rights, sisters Serina and Nomi Tessaro face two very different fates: one in the palace, the other in prison.

Serina has been groomed her whole life to become a Grace - someone to stand by the heir to the throne as a shining, subjugated example of the perfect woman. But when her headstrong and rebellious younger sister, Nomi, catches the heir's eye, it's Serina who takes the fall for the dangerous secret that Nomi has been hiding.

Now trapped in a life she never wanted, Nomi has only one way to save Serina: surrender to her role as a Grace until she can use her position to release her sister. This is easier said than done. A traitor walks the halls of the palace, and deception lurks in every corner. But Serina is running out of time, imprisoned on an island where she must fight to the death to survive and one wrong move could cost her everything.



First Thought After Finishing: Can I have the next book now please?

From just reading the synopsis, Grace and Fury seemed to have all the makings of a great fantasy book. Sisters, role reversal, royalty, secrets—I was hooked! And I ended up reading this book in one sitting because I needed to know what happened!

Serina has always been the model daughter—a submissive beauty, eager to please the prince and become a Grace. Her sister, Nomi, is just the opposite—opinionated, outspoken, and constantly pushing her limits. But once they arrive at the palace, a chance encounter with the prince ends up with Nomi being chosen as a Grace instead of Serina. And when Serina takes the fall for one of Nomi’s decisions, the sisters’ relationship is threatened forever. Both sisters are suddenly engaged in a world they never prepared for, and one mistake could be fatal. Can they survive and find their way back to each other?

As an only child, I’ve always loved stories about sisters. I loved the fact that Nomi and Serina were fiercely protective of each other, even when they didn’t see eye to eye. That’s the kind of sister or friend anyone would be lucky to have. In addition to the sister bond, I really enjoyed the Italianate setting. Traveling to Italy is on my bucket list, so I enjoyed the vicarious trip, even though it wasn’t truly Italy. Then there was the dual POV. The chapters alternate between Nomi and Serina, weaving two very different tales while maintaining the timeline. I was fascinated with both parts of the story but for different reasons.

Nomi is dealing with the secrets and balancing act that comes from palace life. She is determined to avoid the crown prince, but she finds his younger brother intriguing. Nomi walks a fine line of scheming and pretending, but I love the fact that she remains true to herself even when her fortune changes. Serina, on the other hand, has every reason to wallow in self-pity and misery, but she decides to fight back. Her character development is inspirational, and I can’t wait to see what else she does in the second book!

Although a bit predictable at times, the story definitely has potential. I’m looking forward to seeing how Nomi and Serina continue to grow! If you’re a fantasy fanatic, be sure to add this to your TBR pile!

Most Memorable Aspect: The bond of sisterhood and the dual POVs between Nomi and Serina.



~ ~ ~ ABOUT THE AUTHOR ~ ~ ~



Tracy Banghart grew up in rural Maryland and spent her summers on a remote island in northern Ontario. All of that isolation and lovely scenery gave her the time to read voraciously and the inspiration to write her own stories. Always a bit of a nomad, Tracy now travels the world Army-wife style with her husband, son, cat, and sweet pupper Scrabble. She wrote Grace and Fury while living in Hawaii.

I had the opportunity to ask Tracy a few questions! Learn more about the story and Tracy's writing habits below!

How would you describe Grace and Fury in five words?

Sisterhood. Bloodshed. Betrayal. Rebellion. Kissing.

Grace and Fury has a complex story and world. What was the inspiration for this story? Did you always plan dual POVs?

I love writing stories about girls finding their agency, especially when there are significant obstacles they have to overcome. I loved the idea of getting to see that process play out in different ways through two very different main characters.

It actually started out as a story with just one POV (and no sister!) but Nomi appeared and wouldn’t leave. And I’m so glad. I love that Serina and Nomi have very different perspectives and arcs in the story. Serina has to learn to be strong, and Nomi has to learn to play by the rules.

If choosing between Serina and Nomi, which sister would you be and why?

I think I relate to aspects of them both. Serina is the eldest—she’s responsible, protective of her little sister, and feels the weight of her family’s expectations. As the eldest sibling in my family, I felt a lot of that growing up. But I also wanted to rebel against those expectations and all of the ideas everyone else had for my life. Which is where my Nomi instincts kick in.

The Italian-inspired world made me want to plan a trip to Italy! What would your dream vacation be?

Ha! Probably back to Italy, to be honest. I haven’t been to Europe in a few years, and I would love to go back. Italy is one of my favorite places to visit.

If you could have dinner with any author(s), who would they be?

I recently had dinner with Dhonielle Clayton, Zoraida Córdova, and Mark Oshiro, and that pretty much blew my mind. They are amazing people and authors! I would love to share a meal with Victoria Schwab, who inspires me daily. And I’d love to have dinner with a struggling author, who hasn’t made it to publication yet. Just so I could say HANG IN THERE. Because this business is tough, and everyone’s journey is different. It can feel so daunting!

What is your writing process like? Do you have any habits or superstitions?

I used to be a pantser but have recently converted to writing outlines, and it’s still a weird feeling to do so much plotting in advance. But I do think it helps me stay on track. I don’t think I have any weird superstitions, but I do get weird about my documents and folders and playlists–I have to have everything organized a certain way, and I can’t start writing a new project unless I’ve got a title. Even if it’s a crappy placeholder title, I need SOMETHING or it doesn’t feel like a real thing.

What message do you hope that readers take away from your book?

Most of all, I hope they have fun reading it. That’s the most important thing! But if they do take anything away, I hope it’s that together, women can accomplish anything. That the pitting of one woman against another, the competition, is often a construct by the patriarchy to divide and conquer us. We get farther supporting each other than we do tearing each other down.

Is there anything you can tell us about the second book?

I wish I could say it’s all happiness and unicorns for my sisters in book 2, but that wouldn’t make for a very exciting sequel. There’s more blood, more heartache, and more badass women warriors fighting back. I’m very proud of it. I hope I do my sisters and the rest of the women of Viridia justice!

Find Tracy Online:
Website | Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram


~ SEE THE FULL TOUR SCHEDULE ~

Week One:
7/23/18 - Tea Party Princess - Review
7/24/18 - Paperback Princess - Review
7/25/18 - Confessions of a YA Reader - Review
7/26/18 - Book Dragon Lair - Review
7/27/18 - Laura's Bookish Corner - Review

Week Two:
7/30/18 - The Desert Bibliophile - Review
7/31/18 - Do You Dog-Ear? - Review
8/1/18 - Synopses by Sarge - Review
8/2/18 - Coffee Cocktails and Books - Review
8/3/18 - Kat's Books - Review

Week Three:
8/6/18 - Feed Your Fiction Addiction - Review
8/7/18 - Portrait of a Book - Review
8/8/18 - To Be Read - Review
8/9/18 - Brooke Reports - Review
8/10/18 - Cindy's Love of Books - Review

Week Four: 8/13/18 - A Court of Coffee and Books - Review
8/14/18 - Smada's Book Smack - Review
8/15/18 - The Young Folks - Review
8/16/18 - Book-Keeping - Review
8/17/18 - A Gingerly Review - Review


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