Welcome to day three of the Fierce Reads Blog Tour! I’m so pleased to be hosting a stop for this event, especially since it highlights four amazing new books: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, Firewalker by Josephine Angelini, Tonight the Streets are Ours by Leila Sales and First & Then by Emma Mills. I’m so pleased to be a part of the amazing event, primarily because I’ve had the chance to read all four books and can say that they are truly worth taking the time to sit down to read.
I was able to ask the authors one question for this tour – that’s a lot harder than you might think! There were so many things I could have asked them, but I tried to find a question that related to each of the books in some way. Thank you to Raincoast Books for sharing my question with authors, and to Emma, Josephine and Leigh for taking the time to answer!
Q: “We all have something about ourselves that we think is true, but really isn’t. Perhaps it’s a secret that we try to hide but not very well, or perhaps it’s a quality that we don’t recognize that we have. What is something about yourself that you thought was true, and wasn’t (or vice versa) that changed the way you looked at yourself?”
Emma Mills: I was pretty shy growing up, and I guess I thought that I would always be that way. But that definitely isn’t the case! My experiences in college—particularly everything I’ve gotten to do with the YouTube community through vlogging—really helped bring me out of my shell!
Emma Mills is a debut author better known to her subscribers as vlogger Elmify. She is also co-creator and co-host of the “life skills” channel How to Adult. youtube.com/user/elmify
Josephine Angelini: For years I didn’t think I was good enough to be a writer. Not smart enough, not creative enough, not committed enough to finishing anything. I was wrong.
Josephine Angelini is the internationally bestselling author of Trial by Fire and the Starcrossed series. She is a graduate of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts in theater, with a focus on the classics. Originally from Massachusetts, Josie now lives in Los Angeles with her screenwriter husband, her daughter, Pia Marie, and three shelter cats. You can visit her on Facebook, her website josephineangelini.com, or follow her on Twitter @josieangelini.
Leigh Bardugo: Interesting question! I think women are trained to constantly undermine themselves, to ascribe their achievements to luck, and shrug off their talents. There’s a tremendous emphasis on humility and gratitude—both good things, but not when they overtake your own self-esteem.
I didn’t realize how much I’d internalized the whole “aw shucks, I’m not actually good at anything” script until I got asked to interview some other authors for a PBS segment. I panicked. I was sure it would be a disaster, why had I ever agreed to do it? Much terror. Rending of garments. Then I just threw the brakes on. I took a breath, shut down that critical voice, and reminded myself that I’d interviewed plenty of people, done tons of panels. I liked doing it. So maybe instead of being freaked out, I could trust myself to do a good job and just let myself be excited. It changed everything.
Leigh Bardugo is the author of the New York Times-bestselling series The Grisha Trilogy. She was born in Jerusalem, grew up in Los Angeles, graduated from Yale University, and has worked in advertising, journalism, and most recently makeup and special effects. These days, she lives and writes in Hollywood, where she can occasionally be heard singing with her band. leighbardugo.com / grishatrilogy.com
Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone…
A convict with a thirst for revenge.
A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager.
A runaway with a privileged past.
A spy known as the Wraith.
A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums.
A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes.
Six dangerous outcasts. One impossible heist. Kaz’s crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction—if they don’t kill each other first.
One confession before I dive into my review – I honestly could not stop grinning throughout my read of this book. Honestly, just reading it made me so frakking happy. Why? For one thing, it’s a return to the Grishaverse, one of my favourite book-worlds. For another, the characters are incredible.
I loved that this “Oceans Eleven” of the Grishaverse came with so many complex and interesting characters. I have no idea how Bardugo manages it, but she writes characters who are unique and who hide so many secrets that I’m sure that she must have a chart somewhere to track who has what skeletons in their closets. I loved the relationships they built with each other, and how they found kinship in unexpected places. I loved their talents and how they were a part of their personality, rather than the whole description. I loved that the female and male characters were equal in value and talent, and that each person was an integral part of the plan. They were a family – a completely dysfunctional one, but a family nonetheless.
The story is incredibly suspenseful, filled with tension and pitfalls and sheer blind luck (both good and bad). I read waaaay too late into the night with this one, simply because I couldn’t leave them in the lurch! The heist is interspersed with flashbacks into the backstories of the characters; while many of them have some terrible things in their past, Kaz’s history is particularly devastating.
As with the rest of the books in the Grishaverse, the world-building is rich and detailed and filled with sensory images that leave you feeling the wet and the cold along with the characters. Do you need to have prior knowledge of the series? No, I don’t think so – although it certainly helps to immerse you into the story that much more quickly.
I could continue and rave about how much I love this book, but I’ll just leave you with this: I’ve not read a book that has had this level of action, adventure, emotion and sheer fun in it for a very long time. I am so desperately happy that a second book will be coming to us, because there is no way I’m done with these characters.
That’s how seventeen-year-old Arden Huntley has always thought of herself. Caring for her loved ones is what gives Arden purpose in her life and makes her feel like she matters. But lately she’s grown resentful of everyone—including her needy best friend and her absent mom—taking her loyalty for granted.
Then Arden stumbles upon a website called Tonight the Streets Are Ours, the musings of a young New York City writer named Peter, who gives voice to feelings that Arden has never known how to express. He seems to get her in a way that no one else does, and he hasn’t even met her.
Until Arden sets out on a road trip to find him.
During one crazy night out in New York City filled with parties, dancing, and music—the type of night when anything can happen, and nearly everything does—Arden discovers that Peter isn’t exactly who she thought he was. And maybe she isn’t exactly who she thought she was, either.
There’s one in every crowd – the caregiver. S/He is the person who always carries a band-aid, who is the designated driver for a night out, who consoles you when you have a bad test result, who you call after a fight with your parents. Arden is that person – not only for her best friend Lindsey, but for everyone else, it seems. Trouble is, Arden is tired of being “recklessly loyal”, and wants …. more.
Arden was complicated for me, and I mean that in a good way. At first, I was irritated by her blind devotion to everyone, until I realized that living up to the ideal of her doll, of being “recklessly loyal’ (and what a turn of phrase that was!) was all she thought she should be. Watching her slowly realize that she needed more from her life, and that she sometimes needed to be selfish for her own well-being was wonderful. That moment at the end with her father? I kind of wish we had the follow-up to that, because I was cheering for Arden.
“Love means sometimes sacrificing the things you want in order to make somebody else happy. It means being there for them, even when maybe you don’t feel like it, because they need you.”
I loved this quote, because for me it illustrates that fine line that a number of teenage girls walk – that line between the good friend/daughter/sibling and giving up themselves for the sake of others. Watching Arden figure out who she is, especially after she meets Peter in person and slowly begins to compare Peter IRL to the online version was fascinating,
There’s a great second message in this book about the necessity of thinking critically when reading online postings and reflections. Much has been made in the media about FOMO – fear of missing out – based on the perception that everyone else’s life is so much better than your own because their online personas are much more interesting. Peter’s blog posts resonate with Arden, but they are only one point of view, and it’s a hard lesson for Arden to learn and accept.
This was a slow burn for me; I wasn’t sure how I felt about it until the road trip and then I was on board 100%. It’s a coming of age story for the 21st century – of perception and of figuring out who are and of how you want others to see you. There are lessons here about what it means to be a good person and a good friend, but also about how to be good to yourself.
Devon Tennyson wouldn’t change a thing. She’s happy watching Friday night games from the bleachers, silently crushing on best friend Cas, and blissfully ignoring the future after high school.
But the universe has other plans. It delivers Devon’s cousin Foster, an unrepentant social outlier with a surprising talent for football, and the obnoxiously superior and maddeningly attractive star running back, Ezra, right where she doesn’t want them first into her P.E. class and then into every other aspect of her life.
Pride and Prejudice meets Friday Night Lights in this contemporary novel about falling in love with the unexpected boy, with a new brother, and with yourself.
That last year of high school is scary. You’ve finally made it, you’re at the top of your game, and within a year, everything that is familiar to you will be irrevocably changed. The protagonist of First & Then knows that feeling well, because Devon likes her life. She’s a high school senior, she has good parents and great friends, and while she’s half-in-love with her best friend Cas, she also recognizes that he’s a better friend than boyfriend for her. What she’s not happy about is change – that her cousin Foster has moved in with them (although she admits it’s a better situation for him) that she has to think about college and that she has to face the realization that everything in her world is finite.
I enjoyed this book for a myriad of reasons, not the least of which was watching Devon slowly grow into her own, especially as she realizes how important Foster has become to her life. I actually wasn’t sure what to make of it at first, wondering if I was going to like Devon. In the beginning, her nonchalance was almost off-putting, but as the book developed I became really invested in how she was evolving and growing up. By the end, I was cheering for her and for Foster!
There’s a lot of comparisons to Pride & Prejudice and Friday Night Lights in this book, and they aren’t wrong. I’d modify that description though, as Devon loves Austen and sees events in her life the way Austen might have written them, so I think it’s not just P&P, but rather the entire canon that could be included. Ezra was an enigma for a good portion of the book but he was a very Austen-ish male lead so I felt as if we knew more about him than we thought. No spoilers, but that moment at the end with him?
“A thousand electric cars could run on how you feel when you know that the person you like likes you back. It feels incredible. Like it shouldn’t be possible. Of all the happy coincidences to ever exist, it’s one of the happiest.”
As much as there is the romance, there is also the concept of finding who you are, and figuring out what makes a family work. This is something that both Devon and Foster must struggle to figure out, and it was reassuring to see that they both had issues to resolve (no Disney ending here). I ended up being delighted by this charmer of a book, and by the authentic way Mills allowed her characters to grow and to realize hard truths about themselves.
Best quote though: “When you love something, you can’t be happy all the time, can you? Like, that’s why you love it. It makes you feel all kinds of things, not just happy. It can hurt, it can make you fucking mad, but … it makes you feel something, you know?”
Many thanks to Raincoast Books and to the authors participating in the tour for their time, and more importantly, for their wonderful books!