Monday, July 3, 2017

The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson

Author: Brandon Sanderson
Publisher: Tor
Publication Year: 2008
Pages: 748
Genre: Fantasy
My Rating: 5/5
Spoilers for Mistborn: The Final Empire & The Well of Ascension 


To end the Final Empire and restore freedom, Vin killed the Lord Ruler. But as a result, the Deepness---the lethal form of the ubiquitous mists---is back, along with increasingly heavy ashfalls and ever more powerful earthquakes. Humanity appears to be doomed.

The conclusion of the Mistborn trilogy fulfills all the promise of the first two books. Revelations abound, connections rooted in early chapters of the series click into place, and surprises, as satisfying as they are stunning, blossom like fireworks to dazzle and delight. It all leads up to a finale unmatched for originality and audacity that will leave readers rubbing their eyes in wonder, as if awaking from an amazing dream.


WELL that was...quite something! It's been a couple of weeks since I've finished this book and the ending still gives me shivers. This book makes it easy to see why Sanderson is a titan among his peers. He has managed to create an intricate world, complicated characters, and as always an epic cinematic ending. This books wraps up old story arcs, expands and explains the magic system and introduces us clearly for the first time (although there are hints in his previous books) at the larger intertwined universe and mythology  of the Cosmere. Some peripheral characters like Spook and Ten Soon get their own story arcs as seemingly small or peripheral scenes or issues become of crucial importance to the resolution.

The one thing that really stood out to me about this particular books was just how much the scale of the story had changed from the start of the trilogy; the close knit heisty narrative of the gang of thieves which made me so love the first book has been replaced by a broader narrative that touches upon morality, good and evil, and whether or not an individual has agency. Problems and solutions have become more abstract and the focus on Vin and Elend is less prominent. It’s as though throughout the course of the three books Sanderson has taken his story about a small band of elite thieves and zoomed out to give us a meta view of their context.

He has done so in a way that is subtle and skillful, this is clearly a masterful trilogy. My only concern is that at times this zoom felt too fast which is a bit of a strange thing to say since each book is hefty at over 500 pages each, however I enjoyed the first book so much that the loss of the camaraderie aspect of the first was felt in the other two. It says a lot about just how good this book is that my only quibble is that I wanted more.

The story wraps up in a way that is both emotionally satisfying and wrecking. It is an emotional gut punch which leaves you blinking in a daze after you have turned the last page. The only balm on my battered soul is knowing that we will revisit this world again in a new trilogy and that our time in the Mistborn world is not yet over. 

Here's Sanaa's take on the Hero of Ages:

Friday, June 30, 2017

Take a Virtual Walk through Literary New York!

So this is super cool! According to Time Out New York, Harper Collins is celebrating it's 200th year this year and has released an audio walking tour of places around NYC where some of the most renowned Harper Collins authors used to frequent. There are eight audio clips in total, each about 7 minutes long. The featured authors are James Harper, Mark Twain, Zora Neale Hurston, Betty Smith, Harper Lee, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Richard Wright and Maurice Sendak.

You can find the link to the audio tours here! 

Happy Listening! and Walking!

Book Con 2017 + 5 Tips for Making the Most out of Your Book Con Experience

So this year I got to attend my first Book Con ever and it. was. crazy.

Crazy amazing that is! I haven't felt that much collective bookish energy since I attended a midnight Harry Potter releases. Just being around so many people that shared a common love for books and being able to embrace my book nerdiness unabashedly was wonderful. It was certainly an event worth experiencing. If you are curious about Book Con or wondering if you should attend, here is a break down of my Book Con experience:

Before Book Con

I found out about Book Con late last year when researching bookish events around the city and it was close enough to my birthday that I though, why not treat myself and go? I purchased Saturday and Sunday passes for myself and a friend early February 2017 and as the date approached I checked on the Book Con website as they released more guest speakers, authors and events. I received my passes in the mail about a Month in advance.

Passes? Check! Metro Card? Check!

Prep Time

Being the type A book nerd that I am I spent couple of days before Book Con researching everything from the floor layout of the Javits center to MTA delays and best practices as explained by Book Tubers who had previously attended Book Con. I'm definitely glad I spent some time researching before hand otherwise I wouldn't have know to activate my pass, print my tickets for ticketed signing and what signings required purchases vs gave away free books, and the difference between a Main Stage event and panels and how to line up for one.

Needless to say it's a lot of information so I am glad I had everything ready to go beforehand including a map, my tickets and my schedule printed before hand and  my tote bag(s) ready which made the day of the convention run much more smoothly.

I love spreadsheets!

Book Con!

I live in NYC which is great because I didn't have to worry about hotels or flights. I do however live in Queens which means an early start. On Saturday I woke up at 4:00am and left my apartment at 4:30am. My book buddy and I arrived at the Javits center at around 5:30am to find it closed and a small line of about 30 sleepy bookworms already lined up around the corner. We took turns doing Dunkin' Donuts runs for breakfast and coffee. I was glad I had brought a mass market paper back to keep me entertained through the long waiting lines although chatting with my friend and other people in line made the time go back faster.

At around 7:00am the line began to move and go through a security check still set up out side the Center. We were then corralled into another waiting line closer to the Center doors. At 8:00am the doors were open and we were lead to a large room in the bottom floor of the center where you could choose to line up for a Main Stage event or for the Show Floor. My friend and I chose the latter and we joined more book fans in a corral like line for 2 more hours. At 10:00am we were lead to the show floor. It was madness! People were power walking and cheering as we flooded the Show Floor, snapping up ARCs and forming lines within the first 15 minutes like there was no tomorrow.

Despite the best laid plans, being flexible was key since some events started early, lines filled up and there would be spontaneous arc drops or giveaways. Some of the best experiences I had were unplanned interactions with booksellers, publishers and of course fellow fans. I spent most of the time on my feet on the show floor between attending panels and signings. The vast majority of the time I spent in line waiting for an event or signing and by the end of the day I was exhausted but happy and somehow managed to drag myself out of bed on Sunday as well to do it all again. 

SFF Resist Panel

Attending Book Con for the first time was a surreal and awesome experience. There was also a lot of things I learned about making the most out of your experience! After some thought, here are the

 5 Tips for Making the Most out of Your Book Con Experience:

1. Check the Book Con website and social media constantly for updates!

Things change last minute. Events are switched, new panelists and events are announced or canceled and the lining up system changes every year. Following the official Book Con website, social media pages and downloading the Book Con app will keep you updated of any changes. It's definitely to check in with these sources once in a while as you get closer to the event date.

2. Bring a Buddy with you!

If possible go with a fellow bookworm! There are so many ways that going with someone makes the experience better. Having a buddy makes the hours you spend waiting in line fly by,  it lets you coordinate for bathroom/coffee runs, it means you have someone to gush with and share the excitement with and some one to hold your totes while you need a break.

3. Make a schedule...

There is just WAY too much going on at Book Con to do it all (as much as we might like to!) Events, signings, panels and meet ups overlap and you would do well  to schedule at least 30 minutes of waiting time if not more for popular events. This means that making a plan is crucial to get as much out of your day as possible. You don't have to have a color coordinated spread sheet like some crazy people (me) but knowing how you want to prioritize your time, which events are most important to you and having a plan B and C is worth your time.

4. But be flexible

You would be hard pressed to find anyone whose Book Con schedule went completely according to plan and that's ok! Some of the best experiences I had were attending unplanned meet ups and running across random book drops. Lines are long and your time is limited and sometimes things just don't work out. Take it in stride and have fun because ultimately that's what we're here for!

5. Talk to your fellow Book Nerds!

Mingling with Book Nerds is really what made my experience at Book Con great fun. It can feel daunting for an introvert but everyone is there because they all love books too! You already share a common interest and almost everyone is incredibly friendly so talk to everyone! Please standing in line with you, attend meet ups, talk to book sellers and publishers they have incredible insights, anecdotes and advice. If you're extra nice they'll let you know when their next book drop will take place. You also don't know who you might run into! I stumbled into Gabby Rivera the author of Juliet Takes a Breath and of the new America #1 Marvel comic in the bathroom. Of course I just melted into a blubbery mess of awkward admiration but she was super nice about it.

All in all it was a wonderful experience! I can't wait for next year, I hope you get a chance to go too!

Bookish Bonanza!


Friday, June 2, 2017

The Clancys of Queens by Tara Clancy

Author: Tara Clancy
Publisher: Crown
Publication Year: 2016
Pages: 240
Genre: Memoir
My Rating: 5/5

Also one of the prettiest covers I've seen this year <3


Fifth-generation New Yorker, third-generation bartender, and first-time author Tara Clancy was raised in three wildly divergent homes: a converted boat shed in working class Queens, a geriatric commune of feisty, Brooklyn-born Italians, and a sprawling Hamptons estate she visited every other weekend. This childhood triptych comes to life in The Clancys of Queens, an electric, one-of-a-kind memoir.     


I loved so many things about this memoir. First, Tara Clancy is not a celebrity, a politician or an athlete. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy about famous people too but it always fascinates me when someone can narrate their story in a captivating way. I love reading about ordinary people's lives and the extraordinary things that happen to them. The memoir focuses greatly on Tara's large Irish-Italian-American family and the hilarious and heartbreaking stories that come with being part of such a group. Although all families are a little strange,Tara's is certainly one of the most unique as she switches from her mother's boyfriend's Hampton house to her grandparents' home to her father's blue collar neighborhood in a roller coaster of interesting characters and diverse locations. While her childhood situation may be one of a kind, Tara's narrative will feel familiar and funny to anyone who grew up with a large and crazy family.

Second, I might be biased but I loved the unabashed Queens pride. As a fellow Queens resident, I feel like my borough trails by Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Bronx when it comes to books set in the borough so it's nice to see Queens represented! More Queens books please!

Last but not least, Tara has one of the funniest voices I've read in a long time. She had me snorting with laughter on the train at several points and is really what ties together the narrative and makes it excellent. She is honest and incredibly witty. Contemporary memoirs are not usually my thing but I absolutely loved this one. My only regret is not picking it up on audio book which I have heard is even better as she reads her own book in a magnificent Queens accent. Make sure to pick this one up! It's not too long and is a perfect summer read!

Speaking of, check out this NPR piece that shares more of Tara's background and the book!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera

Author: Gabby Rivera
Publisher: Riverdale Avenue Books
Publication Year: 2016
Pages: 276
Genre: Contemporary/LGBTQ
My Rating: 4/5

Switching it up my coffee for a smoothie!


Juliet Milagros Palante is leaving the Bronx and headed to Portland, Oregon. She just came out to her family and isn’t sure if her mom will ever speak to her again. But Juliet has a plan, sort of, one that’s going to help her figure out this whole “Puerto Rican lesbian” thing. She’s interning with the author of her favorite book: Harlowe Brisbane, the ultimate authority on feminism, women’s bodies, and other gay-sounding stuff.

Will Juliet be able to figure out her life over the course of one magical summer? Is that even possible? Or is she running away from all the problems that seem too big to handle?

With more questions than answers, Juliet takes on Portland, Harlowe, and most importantly, herself. 


I'm not a big reader of contemporary fiction, just going to put it out there. That's slowly changing but I am still predominantly a genre fan  (fantasy and mystery/thriller are my favs!). So I found out about this book in a round about sort of way when I started looking into the creator of the new Marvel: America #1 comic which features a queer Latina as the protagonist.(Also not a fan of superhero comics but a queer Latina protagonist? I was intrigued!) Gabby Rivera is also a queer Neoyorquina and over all bad-ass (find her on IG @quirkyrican) so when I saw that she had previously written a novel my interest was piqued, especially since lately I've been wanting to push myself to read more NY-centric stories (this is NYC Book Owl after all).

The story, which follows Juliet a Bronx born-and-raised Puertorican throughout a college summer as she comes out to her conservative Christian family then flees to Portland to intern with her feminist-hero-author Harlowe Brisbane. Through hi-jinx and new encounters, Juliet learns to trust herself and come into her own voice. I found Juliet to be funny, sharp, insecure and stubborn and super relatable as she struggles through an identity forming college summer.

Rivera does not shy away from bringing to the forefront intersections of class, race, gender identity and sexuality that are rarely explored in YA or new adult stories, and certainly not in such an honest and sympathetic way. Recently, I have become a little more conscious in my efforts to read own voices narratives and this one does not disappoint. Come for the social commentary, stay for the great characters and that ending letter, oh my. I immediately snapped a picture of that page in the book and texted it to my fellow Latinas because it gave me life! If you are looking for a light(ish), fun, thought provoking intersectional novel, help a sister out and pick up this book.

Although the novel's setting is split between Portland, New York (Bronx) and Miami, Juliet is a Bronx-born-and-bred Latina and she carries her New York attitude with her where ever she goes. So I would place this in the NYC category.

Friday, May 5, 2017

American War by Omar El Akkad

Author: Omar El Akkad
Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group
Publication Year:2017
Genre: Dystopian/speculative fiction
My Rating:5/5

Coffee and a good book at the Hungry Ghost in Brooklyn


An audacious and powerful debut novel: a second American Civil War, a devastating plague, and one family caught deep in the middle a story that asks what might happen if America were to turn its most devastating policies and deadly weapons upon itself. 


This book is going to make my top ten books of the year list, I can already tell. I received this book as part of my April Book of the Month box and it has been the only book so far that I immediately put in my box after reading the blurb. The story takes place in 2075 in America, but an America that looks different from our world today: Global Warming has taken a devastating toll, the map looks different as coasts have been swallowed up and political borders have drastically changed. The North has banned the use of fossil fuels and the South has seceded.

The story is framed by the narrative of Benjamin Chestnut, a historian nearing the end of his days living in New Anchorage. We learn that he is part of the 'miraculous generation' of survivors that lived through the Civil War and then the devastating plague that followed. We learn that he alone is privy to way that these events really unfolded and that he knows the person who triggered the plague. It is in this document where he plans to finally come clean. We then go back in time to Louisiana during the war and follow the story of Sarat Chestnut from her life as a little girl who is part of a poor but happy family in one of the purple states (officially supportive of the North but unofficially deeply sympathetic to the south) to a refugee tomboy into a POW and then ultimately a tool for terror. In between the chapters following Sarat's life there are other documents collected by the historian that give glimpses into other parts and POVs of El Akkad's incredibly thorough and carefully thought out world. 

What many reviews have commented on in particular and which has generally drawn praise has been El Akkad's world building. We are given a vivid description of a world that is recognizably ours yet startling different and this is not an accident. El Akkad has worked as a journalist in several parts of the Middle East and has reported on Guantanamo Bay. His experiences clearly inform his topic of choice and how he approaches it. He offers realistic glimpses into life in refugee camps, detention centers, prisons, the cyclical nature of violence and what circumstances forge nationalism and terrorism.

 While many readers have commented that this book serves as a 'warning' as to what could happen if America does not turn away from its dependence on fossil fuels, I interpreted this book a little differently. I saw this book as a searing and raw critique of American foreign policy and 'regime building' interventions. El Akkad himself in an interview with Vox stated that "All I really did was take the conflicts that have defined the world in my lifetime and I dressed them up in different sense has always been that this is not a book about things that didn't happen. Everything in this book has happened. It just happened somewhere far away" Let us let that sink in for a minute. America's imagined dystopia is other peoples' current reality, and in my mind it is this angle that makes this story so powerful, so crucial and so empathetic.