Mini Reviews: Wrath & Dawn short stories, King George

Do short stories garner reviews? Even mini ones? Why yes, yes of course! Because why the heck not. Also, I went back into a The Wrath & the Dawn kick after re-reading the first book and falling in love with the characters all over again. So why not continue that love by reading the prologue-y chapters?

The first one, The Moth & the Flame, is pretty much the larger of the two pieces, owing to the fact that Ahdieh has written Despina and Jalal’s first encounters with each other. The two had ample chemistry in the books, but in these first few meetings, they’re short and sweet and altogether worth reading.

The second, The Crown & the Arrow, is a reflection piece in Khalid’s POV. It takes place exactly around the same time the novel begins, with Shazi on the verge of walking up to her husband and caliph for the very first time. Khalid’s always a fun POV, because he’s a very poetic and romantic one.

And…because the first two ARE short stories, I’ve thrown in a non-fiction I’d read because it was one of those books I had assigned to my literature voldies.

Have you read any of these books? What did you think?

Of Book Hauls and Signings

I shall keep this post sweet and short, because honestly all I want to do this morning is play Final Fantasy XV and read A Conjuring of Light (but let’s face it, I’m probably doing neither because I have lesson plans to write and papers to grade *sobs*).

Last week and the week before I was lucky enough to attend two book signings at my favorite book shop! Of course, this meant a breakage in the bank, but OMG my haul is pretty lovely. And the authors were fantabulous.

From the Tor side of things…

So um. A Conjuring of Light came out late February, and obviously the first thing I was thinking was: “WHEN IS SCHWAB COMING TO TOWN AND I CANNOT WAIT TO GET MY HANDS ON THIS BOOK.” The lines for Schwab were absolutely ridiculous that I was getting paranoid about making it on time. Thankfully, I managed to dash out of work without having to inflict any physical injury on other persons on my way there, hah.

Seriously, you guys, I’m 300 pages into ACOL and LOVING IT. I mean…I totally cried at least once already. Maybe twice. And I totally squeed several times already. And yelled at characters to get a room (an advice they seemed to have heeded occasionally *COUGHSQUEECOUGH*) because my god that tension. And and and…oh god, okay, I’ll review this at some point.

Also! I had been oggling Truthwitch for ages, and borrowed a library copy to read prior to Dennard showing up at Books of Wonder. Unfortunately, the reading didn’t happen on time, but I decided I wanted a copy of at least the first book anyway, because hell, I’ve bought books in the past that I don’t plan on reading at all, and honestly, I feel like I’d actually like Truthwitch. Susan Dennard should totally be my friend. Not only is she a Dragon Age fan, but like Schwab, she’s also an Avatar: The Last Airbender fan. She’s ALSO a Zutara fan. (YES SOMEONE I KNOW IN PERSON IS A ZUTARA FAN, I MEAN, WHAT.)

Not pictured, but I also got a signed copy of Goldenhand by Garth Nix, because I mean, let’s complete that signed Abhorsen hardcover collection I have sitting prettily on my shelf. No, really, though, I do want to read this next book. Eventually.

God, I just love authors.

From the Penguin side of things…

Let’s be honest here, I was totally hoping Flame in the Mist galleys would be thrown at the audience during this tour, but hell, there was a stellar set of ladies kicking off their tours, and I’ve been meaning to get Rebel of the Sands for the longest time. Alwyn Hamilton’s sequel also came out, but I opted to get just the first book for now. Lesley Livingston’s The Valiant also caught my eye because um, hello, princess-turned-gladiator? Yaaaaaas. Livingston herself was such a dork, I loved her.

AND I AM A LITTLE JEALOUS of the girl who actually DID get an ARC of Flame in the Mist from Renee Ahdieh. But omgah, Ahdieh was awesome enough to let me take some swag and a signed poster! I cannot wait to Food and Fandomize Ahdieh’s next book…though I am still trying to figure out the best opportunity to make myself a full-blown Persian meal…

Food and Fandom: The Wrath & the Dawn

Otherwise known as “Ms. Mari and the Search for Quince Chutney.” Which, by the way, is much harder than it looks. Apparently quince is not a fruit one will usually find in the U.S. of A, so I got puzzled looks at the local Indian mart and the local supermarket and farmer’s market and the kosher market (which seemed to have “Turkish dip” but that TELLS ME NOTHING). The Indian market carried every other chutney EXCEPT quince. I imagine that it’s sort of like an apple (or pear), so at some point maybe I’ll make an apple chutney as a substitute. Sigh.

However, this post is clearly not about quince chutney or any variation of chutney. It’s about what I tend to do best, and that’s bake stuff. Occasionally when I’m inspired by foods I come across in books.

Which, in this particular case, is pulled out of The Wrath & the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh.

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I could probably talk nonstop about this book (and its sequel), but I will just point out one of the aspects I love about it: it mentions food. Renee Ahdieh pretty much admitted to her being a big foodie during her author signing, and it’s no wonder, with some of the scrumptious stuff she mentions in the book.

Her lips were hers one moment. And then they were his. The taste of him on her tongue was like sun-warmed honey. Like cool water sliding down her parched throat. Like the promise of all her tomorrows in a single sigh.

I mean…uh, WHAT? I totally didn’t just add that quote because it’s beautiful and lovely and squeeful. It talks about food, I swear! But I mean, COME ON. Isn’t that PRETTY?

Alright, I’m breathing now. It’s all good.

They marched in unison until they arrived before the dais, setting plates of food in front of each guest–aromatic rice with fresh dill and split fava beans, lamb simmered in a sauce of turmeric and caramelized onions, skewers of chicken and roasted tomatoes, fresh vegetables garnished with mint and chopped parsley, olives marinated in fine oil, lavash bread with rounds of goat cheese and seemingly endless sweet preserves…

Shahrzad had never seen so much food.

Seriously, I think my mouth watered at that point in the book. I might actually do a few of these at some point, too.

But I’m more talking about this particular quote:

She lifted the lid from the tray and began eating some jewel rice and saffron chicken. In between bites of fresh herbs and cool yogurt, she drank tea and nibbled on pistachio cakes sweetened with honey.

Pistachio cake? Honey? Now that. That sounds like something I could do–and find ingredients for easily enough.

Shazi pretty much stuffs her face in this scene, because she’s a little mad with one particular caliph. But don’t worry. Hijinks follow soon after. Because one cannot be mad at Khalid forever. Hee.

Pistachio and Almond Cake with Butterscotch Honey Glaze

So I may have improvised this recipe. I found a pistachio cake recipe that seemed simple enough, though I had a bit of a disagreement with the ingredients, so I heavily altered the recipe and er…improvised. The honey butterscotch glaze recipe was pretty much as is, except I didn’t have heavy cream so had to use milk and a little more butter so that it wasn’t too liquidy. Oh, and I didn’t use sanding sugar.

Ingredients

For the Cake:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp ground pistachios
  • 1/2 cup ground almonds

For the Honey Glaze topping:

  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar (or brown if you want more of a caramel honey flavor)
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • a pinch of sea salt
  • 2 Tbsp ground pistachios
  • sliced almonds for garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 F (175 C).

Using a mixer, mix butter and sugar. Add eggs in one at a time. Slowly add flour and mix until well distributed. Fold in the pistachios and almonds using a spatula.

Fill a 9-inch round cake pan with the cake mixture. Bake for 40-50 minutes (mine baked just fine at 40).

Let cool and do the topping.

Simmer sugar and honey until mixture turns dark. Stir with a wooden spoon and slowly add in the butter and milk. Let cool completely before pouring on cake.

Sprinkle the ground pistachios. Garnish with almonds if you’d like.

Verdict: Oh my goodness. I don’t know why I never did this recipe before. It’s delicious and is a perfect marriage of nuts, cake, and honey. Much like Shazi and Khalid. YEAH, I WENT THERE.

Love from the Stars, to the Stars || The Rose & the Dagger Review

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Initial Thoughts:

As the second–and concluding–book of The Wrath & the Dawn duology, it delivered all the promises the first book made. And it did so with a language that was a mixture of poetry and song, in a setting that was filled with wonder and magic–both literally and metaphorically. And hot damn. Those characters and their sort of…togetherness. Loved them to bits.

THE ROSE & THE DAGGER

by Renee Ahdieh
G.P. Putnam’s Sons, April 2016
YA fairy tale fantasy
Rated: 5 / 5 cookies

rosedaggerThe darker the sky, the brighter the stars.

In a land on the brink of war, Shahrzad is forced from the arms of her beloved husband, the Caliph of Khorasan. She once thought Khalid a monster—a merciless killer of wives, responsible for immeasurable heartache and pain—but as she unraveled his secrets, she found instead an extraordinary man and a love she could not deny. Still, a curse threatens to keep Shazi and Khalid apart forever.

Now she’s reunited with her family, who have found refuge in the desert, where a deadly force is gathering against Khalid—a force set on destroying his empire and commanded by Shazi’s spurned childhood sweetheart. Trapped between loyalties to those she loves, the only thing Shazi can do is act. Using the burgeoning magic within her as a guide, she strikes out on her own to end both this terrible curse and the brewing war once and for all. But to do it, she must evade enemies of her own to stay alive.

The saga that began with The Wrath and the Dawn takes its final turn as Shahrzad risks everything to find her way back to her one true love again.

Note: As The Rose & the Dagger is the second–and final–book of The Wrath & the Dawn, expect spoilers from the first book.

Last We Heard…

Not too long ago (read: less than a month ago, actually), I’d listened and reviewed The Wrath & the Dawn in preparation for a book signing I was attending the same month. If I’d liked the book well enough, I was determined to own both hardcovers, because hey, it’s a duology, which meant Rose would conclude the story I fell in love with in Wrath.

Which meant an end to the cliffhanger of book one. Which I had fortunately only finished weeks back, so my wait for book two was not as long as most people who’d read Wrath and gone “WHAT. YOU CAN’T LEAVE US HERE. NOOOO. WANT. MORE.”

So by the end of the first book, I had a ton of questions I wanted answered, like, NOW.

Clearly the duology is a love story first and foremost, between Shazi and Khalid. But how does Tariq deal? Is he going to the path of eeeeeevil or does he redeem himself? Do we see more than a glance of Irsa for once? How are the people in Rey dealing with the aftermath of the fire? Are Jalal and the Rajput hanging on? Will Despina and Jalal work through their angsty romance? Is Musa going to re-feature now that it’s clear magic runs in the al-Khayzurans? Is Shazi going to fly her magic carpet back to Rey? Is Khalid going to be separated from Shazi the entire bookARE PEOPLE GOING TO DIE?!

Yeah, soooo many questions. And theories. And nervousness. Honestly, I wasn’t sure if the second book would live up to the first, and I adored the first.

I shouldn’t have worried. My glass ceiling was shattered enough times and I will say I loved The Rose & the Dagger much more than I did the first book.

And let me tell you why.

The Story is Practically a Love Poem

“Where is your heart, Shahrzad al-Khayzuran?” His voice was coarse in its insistence.

In an alley by the souk. In a night of oblivion.

In the promise of tomorrow.

First of all, Ahdieh writes beautifully. It could probably explain why, when I listened to the audiobook of Wrath, I was moved and soothed by the narration. It was lyrical and poetic and magical, and most of all, it told the story of Scheherazade in a way I’d often imagined it being told. I have yet to read Wrath in text form, but I plan to, if only to read the bits and pieces I loved in the retelling.

She’d always loved dusk. It was as though a hand in the sky had pulled the sun from its berth…only to have the sun fight back, resisting, leaving a trace of itself to fade amongst the stars.

Of course, with beautiful writing comes beautifully quotable descriptions. I mean, egads, the amount of times I’d taken pictures of pages just so I can quote them in this review.

The wonder of Shahrzad. Shazi goes through a lot of angst–and growth–throughout the two books. By Rose she’s able to temper a number of her emotions. She is no longer as angry as she had been in Wrath, and she has a couple of goals in mind that she wants to see through. One is to help her father. The other is to figure out Khalid’s curse. Another is to fix the mess of the impending war between two powerful nations. And only by figuring these things out will she finally be able to go Home. And yes, I capitalize that for a reason.

“Since you can’t say it, will you at least tell me how much you love me?”

“From the stars, to the stars.”

Khalid you beautifully dangerous man, you. Okay, I will admit it now. I fell in love with Khalid. I mean, I loved him in Wrath. How could I not with his lovely poetic letters and his flashing golden eyes and his expert swordsmanship? (I honestly had to tell myself “Whoah, Mari, down, the guy’s an effing serial killer, remember that?” And yes, I am aware things get better because there’s a reason behind his dilemma–which has lots to do with the ruthless calculus of curses and death.) He still constantly makes quips that made me squee every single time. And like Shazi, he struggles and grows.

The magic is real. And there’s much more of it in Rose, to a point where Shazi comes to her own magic–with the help of the people at the Fire Temple. Musa was lovely, but it was Artan that held my attention. Artan Temujin is first introduced in Rose and I have to say I loved him from the getgo. He’s an interesting fellow, and if there is any spinoff novel to be made in this world, I’d totally love it to be about Artan and his dysfunctional family (and maybe Irsa, because WHY NOT). Who knows, there may even be djinn involved, OH MY GOD HOW AWESOME WOULD THAT BE?!

Character arcs are actually concluded. Even the secondary characters have conclusions, and I was actually quite glad with how Tariq’s story panned out. Not that that says much, considering there were storylines that made me cry at the end, and one particular scene that almost made me want to throw the book out the window. But I didn’t. I held out. Thank the spirits I held out.

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Also, the inside artwork for the book. It just makes me melt. I am SO glad I got this duology. I can’t even.

But yeah, let me stop gushing now.

5 out of 5 cookies!


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Stacking the Shelves: No. 12

Yep. I’ve pretty much blown my book budget for the next few months. Here’s to me AVOIDING any more purchases…until July.

Because the Schwab books are obviously calling to me…real loudly.

But I won’t dwell on that right now. Nope.

Stacking the Shelves

We are all book lovers and the need to share our enthusiasm is sometimes overwhelming. Stacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks!

If you’re anything like me, you are probably hoarding books and even though you are excited about your latest book arrival, it might be a while before you get to review it and Stacking The Shelves is a good way to express your undying enthusiasm for those titles!

For more information, click here.

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Purchases

Mind, a bunch of these purchases did not entirely occur over the course of the week. They did, however, happen over the course of the month. I’m almost disgusted by my disability to say no to book event awesomeness and Book Outlet deals. #noselfcontrol

The Girl who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente

The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski (slightly bummed that I forgot to take this copy to Marie for signing)

Stars Above by Marissa Meyer (yaaaaay more Lunar Chronicles stuff!)

Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch (the hardcover deal on Book Outlet tho…)

Mass Effect: Homeworlds by Mac Walters, Patrick Weekes, John Dombrow, and Sylvia Feketekuty (honestly I got this particular volume because of one turian’s story arc…)

And then I went to a book signing for Fantastic Teen Fiction at Books of Wonder. That pretty much killed my budget entirely, lol!

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It was fun, though! The ladies were a hoot and a half and delivered anecdotes that made me laugh and smile super-widely. No regrets there.

The Wrath & the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

The Rose & the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

Library Borrows

Deadman Wonderland Vol. 2 by Jinsei Kataoka

Deadman Wonderland Vol. 3 by Jinsei Kataoka

Deadman Wonderland Vol. 4 by Jinsei Kataoka

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell (because more Rowell please!)

E-Books

Secrets in the Snow by Michaela MacColl

The Looking Glass Wars: Crossfire by Frank Beddor, Curtis Clark, and Sami Makkonen

The Assassin Game by Kirsty McKay

A Promise of Fire by Amanda Bouchet

Blood of the Earth by Faith Hunter

Because I’m totally not behind on reviews as is…

Anyway. Until July?