Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Book Review: The Girl I Used to Be by April Henry

Greetings fellow TBF readers,

If you’re like me, then there are few things that seem more appealing than a good mystery novel on a cold Rochesterian evening. Thankfully, April Henry, who will be arriving this May for TBF, has written several books that fit this description. One of her more recent works: The Girl I Used to Be, a roller coaster ride of a story about a girl who is the sole survivor of a killing when she was three, a killing that claimed both of her parents’ lives… a killing that she might just be beginning to remember.

When Olivia's mother was killed, everyone suspected her father of murder. But his whereabouts remained a mystery. Fast forward fourteen years. New evidence now proves Olivia's father was actually murdered on the same fateful day her mother died. That means there's a killer still at large. It's up to Olivia to uncover who that may be. But can she do that before the killer tracks her down first?

Sounds exciting, doesn’t it?

One of my favorite parts of reading The Girl I Used to Be was the main character, Olivia Reinhart. She’s quite the interesting character, looking for both revenge and a connection to her past life. Both tasks are fraught with peril, especially since anyone from before could, in fact, be her parents’ killer (no spoilers, of course!). However, Olivia is more than up to the tasks that await her, a driven and clever protagonist that is enjoyable to watch. Also quite fascinating is her description of the world around her. The town of Medford, where she grew up and is now returning, is revealed to her both as it is in the present and how it appeared years ago in her youth. Memories of how it once was could hold clues to what really happened to her parents. Its many inhabitants, each with their own stories and relations to the victims, hold secrets awaiting to be unravelled.

So , then, who did it?

You’ll just have to read the book to find out!

Happy reading,

Kate Giugno

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

TBF Author Interview with Taran Matharu

Hello TBF readers,

Hooray! It's the first author interview of the blogging season! Are you ready for it?

I chatted with Taran Matharu, author of The Novice series. Take a look:

Miranda Reads: What was the inspiration behind The Summoner Series?

Taran Matharu: It's always hard to nail down the inspirations for my books, since so much of it is unconscious, but if I think about it, it comes down to four things:

1.) History

I have always loved history, even as a subject at school. Historical fiction was one of my preferred genres, with Bernard Cornwell and Wilbur Smith's books stacking my shelves. Medieval times, with their great battles, political intrigue and the importance of family, heritage and succession had a great influence on the nobility in The Novice.

Then there is the 18th century, an age of great empires, rampant piracy and a mad mix of modern and early weaponry, with gunpowder muskets, pistols and cannons being used alongside cavalry, sabres, and lances. It was a time of scientific advancement and technological disparities, great clashes of cultures and racial discrimination. I took great inspiration from this time period, especially in The Novice's weapons and warfare.

2.) Mythology and Cryptology

When creating my "Demonology" and designing my demons, I wanted a mix of the familiar and the new. From the world's legends, I adapted Griffins, Salamanders, Minotaurs, Golems and Hydras, to name but a few, all of which would be familiar creatures to the well-read.

Then there were the lesser-known creatures, such as the cannibalistic Wendigo from Native American mythology, or the Raiju, a lightning powered mammal from Japan. Another favourite was the Persian Chamrosh, a griffin-like mix between bird and dog. Of course I designed my own unique demons as well, but my love for mythological creatures around the world had a huge influence on it all.

3.) My Own Experiences

One of my passions is to travel. All over the world, I encountered fascinating cultures, from the aboriginals of Australia to the native tribes of the Amazon. I have been in deserts and rainforests, deep sea and mountaintops, snowy wastelands and the hilly English countryside. These inspired the geography of Hominum, as well as the cultures and histories of my fantasy races.

During my schooldays I saw how class divisions could cause great rifts and shape the people within them. I have also experienced racism as a minority, something that featured heavily in my life when I was younger. From here, the discrimination, classism and personalities in Vocans Academy and the wider Hominum Empire were conceived.

4.) Fantasy and Science Fiction Culture

I have enjoyed science fiction and fantasy in all aspects they manifest themselves in, be that films, books, comics or videogames. These include the magical schools of Earthsea, Harry Potter and Discworld, the multiple races of Lord of the Rings, Skyrim and Redwall, the portals to another world in the Chronicles of Narnia and Stargate, and even the creature companions in Pokémon. All these and more have influenced and inspired the Summoner series.

Miranda Reads: How did you go about building the world for your books?

Taran Matharu: My world building usually starts with the seed on an idea, usually a question. In this case, it was: What if we could summon demons? From there, more questions expand the universe. What kind of demons are they? Where do they come from? Can everyone summon demons, or just a select few? Is this a skill that must be taught, or is it something we are born with? Eventually, the world will take shape in my mind and becomes a fully fleshed out universe.

Miranda Reads:
The Outcast is a prequel novel to The Summoner Series, starring Fletcher’s mentor, Arcturus. What made you decide to write the prequel about Arcturus?

Taran Matharu: When I read Harry Potter, I had always wanted to see what happened to Harry's parents, as well as the various teachers and villains in the series, but of course, we only see some of this in flash backs. Luckily, with my own series, I can do just that!

Arcturus is one of my favourite characters, and in many ways it is his story that sets Fletcher on his journey. But what Summoner readers know of Arcturus is anecdotal and told after the fact. By going back in time to see Arcturus's adolescence, it allows my readers to not only see the history of the world of Summoner, but also many of the older characters in their formative years.

Miranda Reads: What three established fantasy worlds would you love to live in and why?

Taran Matharu: If my last answer didn't give it away, Harry Potter is definitely one of them. But only after the last book - I don't think I'd like to be a wizard while Voldemort was still on the loose! I also love Ready Player One, and it would certainly be extremely cool to have access to its VR world, the Oasis. Finally, I think I would like to live in Terry Pratchett's Discworld series - it's just such a fun, crazy world!

Miranda Reads: Which TBF Author are you most excited to meet this year?

Taran Matharu: I would love to meet Jon McGoran, his book Spliced sounds right up my street!

Thank you so much, Taran!

You can pre-order The Outcast and purchase the rest of Taran's books at Barnes and Noble or Amazon. Better, you can check out Taran's at your local library, here.

That's all for today! Be sure to check the blog for more book reviews, author interviews, and TBF-related fun posts!


Friday, February 23, 2018

My Experience as a TBF Attendee

Hi everyone! Happy February! I hope you guys have all had a chance to read some wonderful romance books (Pride and Prejudice anyone?) and I know it’s sad that the month of romance (novels) is coming to an end. Look on the bright side though, it it does mean that Teen Book Fest is that much closer (less than three months away)!
I’ve been going to Teen Book Fest for a few years now but I must say, last year was the best year yet. I was able to see Sarah J. Maas and Renee Ahdieh. Getting to see Sarah J. Maas was one of those happy little quirks of fate because I had not yet read her books and was frankly just going to see Renee Ahdieh because I loved her book The Wrath and the Dawn (it’s amazing!). The session was so memorable that I started reading her books which led to a memorable summer of discussing A Court of Thorns and Roses with a Physics teacher at summer camp and, of course, Rhysand (does anything more need to be said?). Sarah J. Maas and Renee Ahdieh were both incredible, sharing funny stories and making everyone in the room wishing that they had such an exciting life (or maybe that was just me…). Getting Renee Ahdieh to sign copies of her books was amazing. Getting to meet the creator of the wonderful fantasy worlds that you live vicariously in while reading the books is always fantastic. The stories that Sarah J. Maas and Renee Ahdieh told were so much fun to hear and they seemed like such normal (albeit extraordinary) people. TBF is such an amazing event and getting to meet the authors is truly inspiring. I hope that all of you can get out on May 18th and meet these exceptional authors (Alisa Kwitney is coming! I read Cadaver and Queen and it is fantastic!).
Hope to see you all there! Have a fantastic March and stay warm in this erratic Rochesterian weather! And if you are looking for a book suggestion read Cadaver and Queen- you will not regret it.
Until next time!


Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Book Review-Haddix

Hi guys! It is Anica. I just finished a really great book. I read it in the car on my way to my grandparents. It is one of those books I just couldn't put down, and it is The Missing Found by Margaret Peterson.

Thirteen-year-old Jonah has always known that he was adopted, and he's never thought it was any big deal. Then he and a new friend, Chip, who's also adopted, begin receiving mysterious letters. The first one says, "You are one of the missing." The second one says, "Beware! They're coming back to get you."

Jonah, Chip, and Jonah's sister, Katherine, are plunged into a mystery that involves the FBI, a vast smuggling operation, an airplane that appeared out of nowhere - and people who seem to appear and disappear at will. The kids discover they are caught in a battle between two opposing forces that want very different things for Jonah and Chip's lives.

Do Jonah and Chip have any choice in the matter? And what should they choose when both alternatives are horrifying?

I had never read a book by Margaret Peterson Haddix before, although I have heard wonderful things. I was not disappointed.The Missing Found was full of suspense and had me on the edge of seat the whole time. I can not wait to go to the library so I can grab the rest of the series, there are quite a few more books.

I think lovers of any fantasy or science fiction book would deeply enjoy it, or anyone who just wants a quick, but gripping read.

I can not wait for TBF- it is getting so close.


Friday, February 16, 2018

TBF Friday Fun Post: My Experience as a TBF Volunteer

Hello everyone! Today I’m going to share my experience at TBF 2017. I have gone to TBF twice so far, once as an attendee (2016) and once as a volunteer (2017).

Volunteering (anywhere) is a rewarding feeling, but it is especially so when you’re doing it for something you love. Volunteering at TBF is a special memory for me, and I encourage (if you can) to take part in it sometime in the future. Getting to work a little behind-the-scenes definitely helped me better understand the workings of the event and gave me further opportunity to connect with the authors. There are various positions, depending on how many hours you’re available, from 2-hour shifts to the entire day, so hopefully there’s a time that fits for you. The tasks can range from festival greeting to assisting merchandise sales to helping authors (but keep in mind you need to be available all day to apply for an author assistant position).

As for my experience, I had school on Saturday mornings up until this year, but I wanted to be an author assistant so badly I ended up taking the day off- it was worth it. Having your “own” author is such an amazing experience, and you have plenty of time to connect with them over breakfast, autographing sessions, etc. I was an author assistant along with two other teens and one adult to Kim Savage, and she was such a lovely person. Sometimes it can feel really intimidating to meet and talk with an author, but she was so down-to-earth and engaging. When I signed up to volunteer, I had only read one of her novels, and listening to her presentation and talking with her gave me a better understanding of her books and background. Some of our duties included introducing our author, escorting them to lunch and back, maintaining the autograph line, and in general making sure everything went smoothly. Not a moment of it was boring, even when all I had to do was move the autograph sign forward and back. :) It was an amazing experience, as not only were my fellow volunteers passionate about reading, but everyone there was too. Overall, volunteering at TBF is such a unique experience, and the rewarding feeling of contribution has definitely pulled me in for another year.

Registration for volunteering has already begun, so make sure you sign up by April 1! There is a mandatory training session on May 15th.  For more information, visit

I hope to see everyone at TBF this year!


Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Book Review: Brazen by Penelope Bagieu

What's up everybody! Katie C. here with a super cool book review from another author attending TBF this year: Brazen by Penelope Bagieu!

Image result for brazen graphic novel coverThroughout history and across the globe, one characteristic connects the daring women of Brazen: their indomitable spirit. against overwhelming adversity, these remarkable women raised their voices and change history. 
With her one-of-a-kind wit and dazzling drawings, Penelope Bagieu profiles the lives of these feisty female role models, some world-famous, some little known. from Nellie Bly to Mae Jemison or Josephine Baker to Naziq al-Abid, their stories are sure to inspire the next generation of rebel ladies.

I'm gonna be honest, this book has been on my TBR pile ever since I first heard it was coming out. I absolutely love graphic novels and this book was no exception. 

First off: the art style. I love it so much!!! Each panel is so simple, and yet so pleasing to look at. It's such a cute style and very good at entertaining the eye through the story of each story. Not only that, but the last page of each section is a two page spread of a picture portraying a part of the previous story. These two page prints are my favorite part of the graphic novel because of the energy and spirit they give off, not to mention they have so much more power once you know the story behind the woman being portrayed. My favorite one is Nzinga's! The color scheme (and her story in general) is so fresh and inspiring!

However, Brazen is more than just the art. Brazen is a collection of stories about powerful, spirited, historic women all around the world and throughout time. Even if you're not a graphic novel person, I would still really recommend this book. There's so much history packed inside, and most of the stories are about places and events that the average high school history class never taught me. In addition to that, each individual story is different, refreshing, and most importantly, true. Reading about the lives of these women and their stories about how they against all odds changed the world is inspiring and brought me so much joy reading this book.

My copy of Brazen was an ARC, but you can expect to pick up this book at your local bookstore or library on March 6th. And if you need one more reason to read this beautiful book, while looking for the release date, I stumbled across multiple articles about how this very book is currently being adapted into an animated series! And as someone who loves animation and wants to have an animated series of her own someday, this is beyond exciting!!!!! 

Hope you all are having a great valentines day (I know I am)!!! This is Katie C. signing off!

Friday, February 9, 2018

Friday Fun Post: My Experience as a TBF Attendee

Hey readers! For this weeks Friday Fun Post I'm writing about the first year I went to TBF, Teen Book Fest 11 in 2016. I was incredibly excited after having learned about it from the amazing founder herself, Stephanie Squicciarini at my home library.

The first thing I did when I arrived before going to a session I headed to the bookstore that was set up and bought a few books by authors I was planning on seeing later in the day. (A coveted TBF Tip is to go to the store during sessions to avoid some crowd and a big line, but if you want definite first picks on books I'd recommend going first thing in the morning.) My favorite part of the day was the last author session I attended by Jesse Andrews. He was one of the biggest authors going that year and so getting to hear him speak about his books that I loved and later meeting about him was amazing.

After the sessions, authors start signing books in the main hall area as well as in a few other locations, so I recommend making sure you know where all your favorite authors are going to be to get your newly purchased (or brought from home!) copies signed. The books I've gotten signed at TBF over the years are some of my most prized possessions alongside the memories of meeting these authors.

If you aren't planning on volunteering this year (more info about volunteering here) I know you'll still have an incredible day at TBF and most likely end up treasuring those memories forever! Feel free to check out our website for all the latest TBF news, information on all attending authors, as well as to learn more about TBF's history and past events.


Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Book Review: Also Known As by Robin Benway

Happy February everyone! I hope you're all staying warm. To start off this month's book reviews, I have for you Also Known As by Robin Benway!

Being a 16-year-old safecracker and active-duty daughter of international spies has its moments, good and bad. Pros: Seeing the world one crime-solving adventure at a time. Having parents with super cool jobs. Cons: Never staying in one place long enough to have friends or a boyfriend. But for Maggie Silver, the biggest perk of all has been avoiding high school and the accompanying cliques, bad lunches, and frustratingly simple locker combinations.

Then Maggie and her parents are sent to New York for her first solo assignment, and all of that changes. She'll need to attend a private school, avoid the temptation to hack the school's security system, and befriend one aggravatingly cute Jesse Oliver to gain the essential information she needs to crack the case…all while trying not to blow her cover.

What would it be like to be a seasoned safecracker, and prodigy spy, at just sixteen years old? Robin Benway's Also Known As answers us just that. We follow our main character Maggie, Margret, Mags, the girl with twelve different passports and identities, into her very first solo field mission. I thought that Maggie was extremely relatable as a character, even as a spy. She faces the same thing that students everywhere have experienced at least once. Her mission takes her to a new school, with new friends and new trials ahead. She just alsonhas the added bonus of also being a spy and the clock is ticking. I also thought the dynamic between Maggie and her new best friend Roux was hilarious. Roux was the perfect sidekick for this spy story, as the over the top dramatic mean girl type who was just in need of a friend. I thought this book was a cool twist on the typical high school drama that you can pull off of any teen library shelf. I thought AKA was a refreshing read, full of just enough high school romance and high energy chase scenes to satisfy any reader's palate. 

I would suggest this book to any reader who is a fan of teen romance, action, and even just general fiction. Also Known As isn't necessarily in a genre I typically read, but even so it did not disappoint. With that, I'm off to read it's sequel, Going Rogue. It looks to be as promising as the last. Happy reading!


Monday, February 5, 2018

Friday Fun Post: TBF Tips

With only about a hundred days left until Teen Book Fest, you might be starting to think about attending the event as either a guest or a volunteer. As someone who has, throughout the years, participated in each of the two positions, I can tell you that both are incredibly rewarding. However, there are a couple of tips you can use to make your day even better (if that’s even possible).
As an attendee, make sure to arrive early. I know it’s Saturday and waking up at any time before nine might not seem to be the most appealing option, getting to TBF at the 8:30 opening time is certainly worth it. First of all, you’ll get the chance to peruse the book selection before the most popular novels are already taken, and, second of all, you’ll also be able to snag a good seat for the Teen Book Fest opening ceremony. Even if you can’t arrive by 8:30, make sure to be at Nazareth by the time this starts, 9:15 a.m. I missed it the first time I attended and have regretted it ever since. Also, make sure to plan out your day. If you’re like me, you’ve already been scouting out the attending authors for months so you might have a good idea of who you want to see. Make sure you know the top three or four authors you’d like to see, and, as always, have some backup options available in case a session is full or you arrive late. Finally, be prepared. Make sure to have bring a water bottle, some food (in case you run across a starving author, of course), and money (for books!). Also, if you have copies of any books by the attending authors, don’t forget to bring them to be signed. Again, this is a mistake I’ve made in the past and one I still regret. Most of all-- don’t forget to have fun! TBF is book lovers’ paradise so make sure to take advantage of it.
As a volunteer, don’t forget to sign up. It may sound self-evident, but I know that without any reminders, I can miss things pretty easily. Set a reminder on your phone, write it down in your planner, whatever you need to do because it’s simple for that due date to slip by. Secondly, make sure to attend the training session on May 15th at Nazareth. It’s important to get a layout of the campus, and schedule as well as meet your fellow volunteers before the event. Finally, the day of the event, don’t forget to take a deep breath and quell your nerves. When meeting an author, it’s pretty much a natural instinct to start freaking out-- particularly about whether the writer will like you or not. Don’t worry. Be yourself. Things will go fine.
So, whether you are an attendee or a volunteer, mark your calendar for May 19th where I hope to see you all at TBF!
-- Kate G