Starworld: A Review

Hello Readers & Writers,

I am beyond thrilled to review Starworld by Audrey Coulthurst and Paula Garner due out April 2019 from Candlewick Press. I was sent an ARC from the publisher in exchange for my honest feedback. As always, there will be no spoilers.

Content Warnings for cancer and cancer treatment. 


When I first heard about this book, I was excited to see a powerhouse duo combined into a single novel. I knew Audrey from Of Fire and Stars and Inkmistress while I knew Paula Garner from her gut punching novel Phantom Limbs. I didn’t know how these two authors would blend together, but it didn’t take long to find out once I began Starworld.

The story follows Sam and Zoe – who both have their own realities they’d like to escape. Sam hides the truth from her mother that she’d like to go away for college while Zoe wrestles with a mom recovering from cancer and a disabled brother who is being sent to live in a facility.  On opposite ends of social circles, they bond over fanfiction and find joy in the stories they create. The future looks less daunting until Sam’s feelings for Zoe grow into something she can’t quite explain. Together, Sam and Zoe navigate what their friendship means and how they impact one another’s lives.

There’s a lot of heavy topics handled in this book despite it being a quick read and centered around fanfiction. Sam and Zoe have a lot on their plate that builds as the school year progresses. The authors do a fantastic job of exploring how teenagers not only change, but how scary change can feel. I sympathized with each of the protagonists and the choices they had to make. What I loved especially was the utilization of fanfiction and how it’s used as a coping mechanism. This was extremely relatable to teen me who got into writing full time through fanfiction.

Starworld is a blend of friendship, good writing, and finding escape within reality. It also appropriately navigates everyday issues that teens face like mental illness, discovering one’s sexuality, and difficult home situations. What most stuck with me through the book – aside from the very realistic ending – was the message that what people project and act like does not always reflect who they are.

This gets 4/5 stars from me.



Margins Box: An Upcoming Book Box To Watch Out For

Hello Readers & Writers,

Today I’m beyond excited to feature cara and Adrianne – the creators of an upcoming young adult book box called Margins Box. What makes this box stand out from the crowd is its mission to feature BIPOC authors and creators. There is no official kickstarter yet, but you bet I will be posting it here once it’s made available.

I’ve had the opportunity to sit down with cara and Adrianne to gain insight into how the book box came to be and their goals for this new and necessary addition to the young adult world.


Photo by Aga Putra on Unsplash

1. What made you want to start marginsbox?
cara: I was looking into book subscription boxes for reasons I don’t even remember, and I noticed a common theme across all of the ones I saw was whiteness. They were all heavily pushing books by white authors, usually ones who really don’t even need the extra promotion, and so I was like, what about BIPOC authors? I haven’t seen a single box for us. So I shared the thought with Adrianne and now here we are!

Adrianne: I’ve wanted to do something tangible to help raise the visibility of BIPOC authors for a long time, so when cara mentioned creating a subscription box, it just seemed like great timing!

2. Were there any challenges you faced as you went about creating this book box?
cara: Aside from funding, the biggest challenge I’ve come across so far is getting responses from publicists. They’re busy people, and the writers they represent are busy, so it’s tough when we have specific books we want to feature but don’t hear back.

The next-biggest challenge lies in finding marginalized makers. We put feelers out but, again, it’s tough to get responses. And Google is no help at all. A lot of the time, I would input specific searches for creators of color or creators with disabilities or queer creators and Google’s just like, did you mean this completely unrelated thing? It’s very frustrating.

Adrianne: The biggest challenge I’ve encountered thus far, apart from funding, is navigating the infrastructure of publishing companies. Those organizational charts must be something else! Responsibilities are not always clear and industry jargon is rampant.

3. Was there a book you read by a marginalized author recently that you wished you could shove into the hands of readers?
cara: I honestly really love THE BELLES, by Dhonielle Clayton. It’s exactly the kind of book I’ve been obsessed with my whole life. Fancy futures! Dramatic outfits! Secrets! It’s just really great and I loveit and I need more people to yell about it with.

Adrianne: I love TIFFANY SLY LIVES HERE by Dana L. Davis. It touches on mental health, race, blended families, and mystery with humor, sensitivity, and commanding voice.

4. What do you hope this box adds to the community?
cara: I hope it adds conversation. I hope the people who subscribe find new authors to love and shout about on social media or with friends face-to-face. I want more than anything for marginalized writers to find readers in people who may not otherwise have given them a chance, and I want marginalized readers to feel like they can be more comfortable with themselves and have other people understand their point of view more.

Adrianne: I hope subscribers discover their new favorite authors and books to get excited about. I want authors to have the chance to reach new readers and for those readers to see themselves reflected in the authors’ work. I hope people expand their scope of reading and realize just how many more amazing stories are out there and worth exploring.

5. Are there any items you’re excited to include?
cara: I make things with my own shop, Ten Three Labs, so honestly I’m most excited to get to craft items based on the books we find. I love making perfume oils based on characters, but for the box I’ll probably stick to making candles since more people can enjoy candles.

Adrianne: I can’t wait to boost items by marginalized creators! I’ve worked in art museums for a long time so I’m really excited to include visual and craft art of all mediums.

6. What books are you looking to include in your box – traditionally published, self published, etc?
cara: We’re looking at traditionally published for now, but in the future we could possibly do something special for self-published authors!

Adrianne: Traditionally published is the focus for now, but I’m hopeful that we will can expand to include self-published authors as well!

7. Are you planning to create boxes based on a certain book or do you have themes in mind that you want to work around?
cara: The boxes will primarily be themed around that particular book for the month. So for instance if we had been around to do a box for THE BELLES, we might include tea or tiny elephant figurines or some kind of cosmetics.

Adrianne: The themes are based around that month’s particular book. So if we could’ve done a box for SUMMER BIRD BLUE we might include an enamel pin depicting a wave within a heart shape, candles evocative of the ocean or beach, or a tiny, hand-cranked music box.

8. Tell us some books you’ve absolutely loved within the last year.
cara: A VERY LARGE EXPANSE OF SEA by Tahereh Mafi. I love slow burn and it was just so painful to watch Shirin and Ocean clearly being into each other but not actually getting together. And Jason Reynolds’ LONG WAY DOWN – not usually something I would read, but really gripping. Similarly, I would probably not normally pick up Kosoko Jackson’s A PLACE FOR WOLVES but I read an ARC and was blown away.

Adrianne: THIS IS KIND OF AN EPIC LOVE STORY by Kheyrn Callendar. I love meet-cutes and the awkwardness as Nate and Oliver stumble toward love gave me life. Traci Chee’s THE STORYTELLER is the most satisfying triology-ender I’ve read in a long time, a high-fantasy, immersive world that stayed with me for quite some time.

9. Is there anything you’d like to tell readers as your box gets closer to launching?
cara: Please give us a shot! We want everyone to step into this subscription with an open mind.

Adrianne: Please subscribe! We’re embarking on an amazing adventure and we hope you’ll come along for the ride.

If you’d like to learn more, visit for updates and subscribe to their newsletter.

Follow them on twitter ( to help spread the word! This is absolutely needed in the publishing community and we should do our best to support them.


Internment: A Review

Hello Readers & Writers,

Happy 2019! I hope the New Year turns out to be a great one.

I’m back on the blog with a review of Internment by Samira Ahmed due out March 2019 from Little Brown Books. I was sent an ARC from Novl in exchange for my honest feedback. As always, there will be no spoilers.

Set in a near-distant future, Muslims American citizens have had their rights stripped away and are being put into internment camps. We follow Layla and her family as they are taken in the middle of the night and escorted to what will be their new “home” indefinitely. While trapped inside the camp, Layla comes face to face with those in power as she and her friends fight for freedom.


This was a hard book to read and I think it will be for many as it outlines how racism and fear are tactics used by the government in order to produce a certain outcome. By controlling widespread media, creating propaganda, and enacting laws against Muslims, we follow Layla through a world she does not recognize anymore, a world against her and her family. Ahmed makes the reader understand from the very beginning how dangerous things are. We are introduced to the direct consequences of hate rhetoric and how it can affect others.

Layla’s narrative is a powerful one and never once does Ahmed soften her words. There are parallels to what happened during World War II and tactics used in campaign elections. While for some, this may be seen as blowing things out of proportion, Ahmed’s writing says otherwise. It tells the reader to examine their complacency, examine their privilege, and speak up when something happening around them is wrong. By not taking action, there is always the risk of the worst case scenario.

While, I thought there could have been a bit more clarification and motivation for some characters – particularly the soldiers that wound up helping Layla and her friends – the overall message of the novel is too important to ignore. Internment, through its chilling scenes, is a necessary read, especially for teens and young adults wondering if their voice matters. This book states it does and it can do more than you imagine.

This gets 4/5 stars for me.



You Asked For Perfect: A Review

Hello Readers & Writers,

I am beyond thrilled to review You Asked for Perfect by Laura Silverman due out March 2019 from Sourcebooks Fire. I was sent an ARC from the publisher in exchange for my honest feedback. As always, there will be no spoilers.


This book dives into the life of Ariel Stone, a senior in high school who has done everything in his power to be the example applicant for college. Between his extracurricular activities and perfect grades, college applications should be a breeze, but that changes when he fails a Calculus quiz. Ariel’s plan is ruined and he must do whatever he can to stay on top without anybody noticing that he’s slipping. He reluctantly and by accident gets a tutor, a friend of the family named Amir. Their relationship only adds to the complications and pressure building in Ariel’s life.

As someone who strove for academic perfection – or as close as I could get – You Asked for Perfect hit home. Silverman does an incredible job of pointing out the pressures of academic life, applied by family, friends, self-expectations, and the education system. Together, these factors create a whirlwind of a mindset for Ariel and how not hitting any one of these goals becomes a failure in his eyes. We see from the beginning what Ariel wants to accomplish and how piece by piece, the dream that once seemed so close, inches further and further away. Towards the end (in a set of pages that resonated with my own case of academic anxiety), Ariel is forced to confront what matters most, but also what he must do to function in a healthy way.

What I loved about this book was the honesty. Sometimes, Ariel doesn’t come across as the greatest friend or the most composed individual. We see him make mistakes. We feel his desperation. We unravel with him as readers in the same way he begins to unravel.

All of this begins with one bad grade. It’s easy to forget about the pressures of academia in literature where teenagers have to save the world, fight a mortal enemy, or exist in a world where school is run differently or may not exist. What’s brilliant about this contemporary novel is Silverman focuses on something I haven’t seen in a while in a young adult novel and that’s how hard school is. I feel like some may say, well yeah school is hard, but seeing it represented on page can resonate with students who feel like Ariel.

Despite Ariel’s hardships, the book doesn’t end on a depressing note, but a hopeful one about figuring out what you need to do for yourself and your goals, but without compromising your health (physically, emotionally, and mentally).

Couple this message with a wonderful cast of characters, bisexual rep, Jewish rep, and Silverman’s storytelling, and this is a highly recommended read of mine for teens.

This gets 4.5/5 notebooks from me.



Intricate Garments, Multiple Endings, and Even Sailor Moon: Q&A with Elizabeth Lim

Hello Readers & Writers,

Today I’ll be featuring Elizabeth Lim and her novel Spin the Dawn, releasing in July 2019 from Knopf. If you’re looking for an East-Asian fantasy filled with mythology and an incredible heroine, don’t click away. I am beyond thrilled to be showing off the very recent (as in yesterday) released cover!

Before we dive in, here’s the gorgeous cover and blurb of Spin the Dawn!

36683928This sweeping fantasy duology, steeped in Chinese culture, will entice fans of Sarah J. Maas.

When her ailing father is summoned to compete to become the Emperor’s tailor, 17-year-old Maia Tamarin dresses as a boy and goes in his stead. At the palace, Maia competes with twelve other tailors to win the job. While deceit and sabotage among the tailors complicate the task and a budding romance with the court magician, Edan, threatens to expose her secret, Maia emerges victorious.

Or so she thinks. The recent treaty between her nation and a rebel warlord is precarious, and the Emperor’s marriage to the warlord’s daughter, Lady Sarnai, is the only thing keeping the peace. However, Lady Sarnai demands three magical dresses — one made from the laughter of the sun, one from the tears of the moon, and one from the blood of stars — before she can marry the Emperor. With the fate of their country at stake, Maia and Edan embark on a quest along a reimagined silk road in search of the sun, the moon, and the stars.

Goodreads/Preorder Here

  1. Thanks so much for joining me Elizabeth! I am beyond excited to have you and talk about Spin the Dawn. Let’s start with how does it feel knowing that this book will be out in the world next year?

Elizabeth: Thank you so much, Megan! I’m excited to be a part of your blog and talk about Spin the Dawn. Honestly, part of me is still in awe that Spin the Dawn comes out next year! The deal was announced in November 2017, so I’ve had a long time to anticipate its release, but every time I think about it I’m still nervous, excited, worried, and ecstatic all at once!

  1. What is a major theme that you explore in your book?

Elizabeth: Family is a major theme in Spin the Dawn. Maia embarks on her quest to disguise herself as a boy and compete to become the imperial tailor in part to save her father. Breaking the glass ceiling is another theme; the other reason Maia enters the competition is because she wants to prove that she’s an amazing tailor and being a girl is no impediment to her talent.

  1. Lady Sarnai demands a dress made out of the laughter of the sun, one from the tears of the moon, and one from the blood of stars. If you could have an outfit crafted from anything in the universe, what would it be?

Elizabeth: Hmmm…I’ll go with an outfit crafted from film of my favorite memories. Extra points if they can play all at once.

  1. How are you and Maia similar – if at all? How are you different?

Elizabeth: Maia and I are both very serious about our crafts: hers, tailoring, and mine, writing. We are also family oriented, and total introverts. I like to think of her as a fellow INFJ. We’re different because Maia’s a lot less of a worrywart than I am, and she’s much more of a risk-taker.

  1. Describe your book in three words.

Elizabeth: Enchantment. Journey. Lies.

  1. What was your favorite part about writing Spin the Dawn?

Elizabeth: My favorite part was incorporating allusions to fairytales. The most obvious ones are to East of the Sun, Donkeyskin, and the Chinese legend The Cowherd and the Weaver. I also loved creating new mythology for the world, and writing romance. I love romance.

  1. If you were a character in your Maia’s world, who do you think you’d be?

Elizabeth: Realistically, I’d probably be a zither teacher in Gangsun. But if I could choose anyone, I wouldn’t mind being a chef for the emperor with some magic spices.

  1. I read in your bio that you wrote Sailor Moon fanfic? Who was your favorite character?

Elizabeth: Ahh! I had a soft spot for Rini (the pink hair!), and Sailor Neptune because she was so awesome at the violin. But I think my favorite’s Sailor Mars – always loved her fire and her fierce loyalty to Sailor Moon J

  1. Do you have any fun facts about yourself or about your book that you would like to share?

Elizabeth: Me? I used to be a film and video game composer before becoming a writer. I also used to be a serious hoarder when I was really young: trading cards, pogs, beanie babies, Happy Meal toys…you name it, I probably collected it.

About SPIN THE DAWN: I rewrote the ending multiple times. It was the most difficult part of the book because it just didn’t feel right, but my agent Gina came to the rescue with some ideas, and what’s in the book now feels perfect to me. Without spoiling anything, the original ending inspired the beginning of the sequel…

About the Author

Elizabeth Lim grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she was raised on a hearty diet of fairy tales, myths, and songs. Before becoming an author, Elizabeth was a professional film and video game composer, and she still tends to come up with her best book ideas when writing near a piano. An alumna of Harvard College and the Juilliard School, she now lives in New York City with her husband and their daughter. She is also the author of Reflection: A Twisted Tale, published by Disney Press.

Please don’t hesitate and preorder this book asap. I know that’s what I’ll be doing. And once again, a huge thank you to Elizabeth for joining me.

How To Craft Strong Opening Pages

Hello Readers and Writers,

It’s been a while since I put up an editing related post so I decided to change that by discussing the opening pages of a novel and what you can do to make them as crisp as they can be. These tend to be a struggle for most writers because not only do you have to introduce your main character and your world, but your opening is the most read by critique partners, editors, and agents.

This post will break down not only what makes strong opening pages, but give two examples from literature of how to do them well.

Your opening pages should establish the following things:

  1. Introduce us to your main character(s). One of the reasons why prologues don’t often work is because usually there’s a character shift. Your reader gets invested in a character and then that character is snatched away from them. Alternatively, starting with an opening that distances the reader from your main character leads to a lack of investment. It’s best to start your story with the main character. Give readers their voice/thoughts from the instant the book starts.
  2. Show us your character’s daily life. This is not to say we need a whole section of the book dedicated to this. Rather, we need a few paragraphs, sometimes a few chapters to establish what the character is used to. Do they trade? Are they a fighter? Do they have a complicated relationship with their family? Introduce what makes their life unique to them so that when the inciting incident happens, the readers can clearly see how this change affects what they’ve known for so long. This is a good time to begin world building.
  3. Give your main character a goal to work towards. This obviously doesn’t need to be saving the world or fighting evil or winning prom queen off the bat. Rather, it can be something small like getting their friend a present or fetching water just to establish how your character works towards something and offer a connection for the reader.

I know that may seem like a lot and you may be asking, “How do I cram my character’s entire world and life into a few pages?” The answer is: you don’t. You establish enough for the reader to want to continue reading. Readers know they won’t have the whole picture painted for them when they begin a book. You have time to establish that and if your characters/plot are engaging, readers will be willing to hold on.

Your follow up question is probably, “Okay, so how do I do all of this?” and my answer is, “Let’s take a look at a really prominent example in young adult literature, but also one of the most well-known books ever – The Hunger Games.”


The Hunger Games open up with Katniss missing Prim’s touch in bed. “When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold. My fingers stretch out, seeking Prim’s warmth but finding only the rough canvas cover of the mattress” (pg 1).

What does this do? Well, two lines in and we already have: 1) The importance of Prim to the narrator – ie not having her touch makes the bed cold as well as the narrator. 2) We get a rather somber tone that will only deepen as the chapter (and let’s be honest book) goes on.

Later on the same page, we get the following lines:

“Prim named him Buttercup, insisting that his muddy yellow coat matched the bright flower. He hates me. Or at least distrusts me. Even though it was years ago, I think he still remembers how I tried to drown him in a bucket when Prim brought him home. The last thing I needed was another mouth to feed. …Sometimes, when I clean a kill, I feed Buttercup the entrails. He has stopped hissing at me.”

In some cases, the lines above could be details we don’t truly need. Who needs to go in depth about a pet? But this paragraph establishes a few components of Katniss’s world without blatantly stating them. They establish her and her family isn’t well off. They establish that she takes on a leadership role. They also establish that she may not be as rough around the edges as she had been when Buttercup came into her life.

The chapter then moves through District 12 as she goes to the forest to meet Gale. This is a brutal look into poverty without outright saying people in District 12 are poor. Through her details of too skinny individuals, always needing to trade, and how the main source of income – the mines – is horrible to those involved. We also get the juxtaposition of the government not caring about their people.

Keep reading and we learn about Katniss’s complex relationship with Gale and the beginning snippets of the Games. Note that we don’t get paragraphs of information dumped into the narrative. We learn something’s up through the tone and conversation these friends carry. We don’t learn about the games until close to the end of chapter one when Katniss and her family are preparing to head to town square for the announcement of the tributes. We learn about the games not because they’re a thought that intrudes on the narrative, but because we as readers become part of the narrative. We follow Katniss into one of the most terrifying days out of the year.


And then of course, chapter one ends by Prim being called as a tribute. Because of Katniss’s conversation with Gale, her interactions in The Hob, and how she treats her sibling, we know that this is a shock to her life and we know this is going to change the course of the story.

So to summarize, how did The Hunger Games hit each of my three points?

  1. We’re introduced to Katniss right away along with her voice that sets up her need for her sister and her distaste for the way things are.
  2. We learn about Katniss’s daily life – she hunts, she can use a bow and arrow, she’s the provider for her family in a poor and suffering district. When Prim is chosen as tribute, we see not only the interruption of routine, but Katniss’s first loss of control.
  3. Katniss has two miniature goals in chapter one: seeing Gale in the woods and attending the selection of the tributes. Both of these goals reveal a lot of information about her and how she sees the world.

Next, I want to discuss the hesitance of beginning a story without establishing the main character and their life. While this tends to be the norm, I want to provide an example of a story that starts in the middle of the action so to speak, and does it well. This book is Nyxia by Scott Reintgen.

Note: there will be a mention of cancer in this explanation.

“You all know why you’re here.”

There are ten of us at the table. We all nod like we have a clue. Eight of the richest men and women in the world stand at the opposite end of the conference room. …But the lights and the room and the world are bending forward to hear the man who’s speaking: Marcus Defoe. He’s black, but not like me. I’ve spent half my life feeling like an absence, a moonless night.” (pg 1).

What do we learn from this opening page? We get a sense of warning, but we also get a juxtaposition of power between the narrator and Marcus Defoe.

Further into chapter one:

“Two of them flinched at the word cancer…I wonder if their parents have cancer. I wonder if that’s how Babel roped them into this monkey-in space routine. I wonder if they noticed me flinch right around the same time they did. It’s hard to hear the words that follow, because an image of Moms has snagged my attention…” (pgs 5 – 6).

DWkf00YV4AAYWpNThis is a great example of not only crafting voice, but showing readers without actually being in the scene what life the narrator, Emmett, has come from. We understand implicitly that whatever Babel has done is through fear and preying on the conditions of loved ones. The author has too crafted empathy for Emmett because there’s an understanding of how expensive medical care is and how horrible is it to lose someone to a horrible disease. But more importantly, we learn the break in the model of his life – taking care of his parents.

The rest of the chapter sets up pieces of Emmett’s former life with memories of his friends and family as he decides to work with Babel. We get an introduction of the substance, Nyxia, that Babel wants each of those in the room to work with and understand. The author continues to expand the overwhelming imbalance of power and when people have come from hard situations, a chance at something better could mean everything.

“In my neighborhood, that kind of consolation prize would be more than enough. I’m sure it’s better money than anyone at this table could have imagined before today. But we already know there’s something better. We already know there’s a promise of riches that stretches on forever. The table’s full of greedy face. Babel’s curveball is working.

Competition. Supply and demand. Cage-style.” (pg 13).

This is the chilling end to chapter one and leaves the reader wanting more.

So to summarize, how did Nyxia meet my three points?

  1. We immediately get introduced to Emmett and know that he doesn’t have control in a life altering situation.
  2. We learn through brief flashbacks and the discussion with Babel that Emmett’s daily life was hard and he has a lot that he wants to fight for by being here.
  3. The goal of chapter one for Emmett is to agree to work with Babel and through their monetary compensation and promises of a better life, he does.

I know there was a lot in this post, but it comes down to practice and understanding – even if it takes a few tries – the best place for your story to begin. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to leave them below.

Also if you haven’t read either of these books, you should pick them up immediately.


The Fever King: A Review

Hello Readers & Writers,

I am beyond thrilled to review The Fever King by Victoria Lee due out March 2019 from Skyscape. I was sent an ARC from the publisher in exchange for my honest feedback. As always, there will be no spoilers.

The book follows Noam, the son of undocumented immigrants fighting for the rights of refugees who are trying to escape from terrifying and deadly magical outbreaks. When he wakes up as the lone survivor of the most recent outbreak, he catches the attention of the government who are interested in what Noam’s abilities might be. Offered a chance to be taught by the minister of defense, Noam thinks he can use his newfound grace as an advantage to help those in need. But as secrets unravel and he grows close to one person in particular, Noam has to decide what’s worth fighting for.


The Fever King was a book that I was mad about having to take breaks from. This is a character driven story where Lee never once loses the interest of their reader. You become invested in Noam’s passion for change in an alternate world that speaks to our current political climate. I found myself holding Noam’s same anger and desire for change. Most important, I was rooting for him to succeed.

A lot of time in this book is spent figuring out who can be trusted and what pieces of the puzzle Noam will need to find that trust. I loved how compelling not only Noam was as a main character, but the villain too. We see motivation driving both of them that keep you invested from beginning to end. I want to spend time on Dara, but I think I’ll need at least ten pages to discuss how precious Dara is and how HE MUST BE PROTECTED AT ALL COSTS. Seriously, you’re going to love Dara.

But back to the plot: what I loved about The Fever King the most was how wickedly smart it was, how it makes you examine your own world the way Noam does his, how it shows each person as a key player in the world and the we are all connected. It takes a ripple to disrupt the order of things and Lee shows how the world breaks as the ripple grows. Magic may be a component of The Fever King, but it is used to expose the intricacies and lies of a failing political system.

You will not be disappointed with this book. The more you sink your teeth in, the better it gets. Lee does a fantastic job of exploring morality, human nature, flawed people, revolution, and trauma (Tw: Sexual Assault).

This gets 5/5 stars from me.