Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday: Skullsworn by Brian Staveley


Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights exciting upcoming releases that we can't wait to be released!

This week's upcoming book spotlight is:

Skullsworn by Brian Staveley
Publication Date: April 25th, 2017
Tor Books
Amazon |  Barnes & Noble | Book Depository


From Goodreads:


Skullsworn
Pyrre Lakatur doesn’t like the word skullsworn. It fails to capture the faith and grace, the peace and beauty of her devotion to the God of Death. She is not, to her mind, an assassin, not a murderer--she is a priestess. At least, she will be a priestess if she manages to pass her final trial.

The problem isn’t the killing. Pyrre has been killing and training to kill, studying with some of the most deadly men and women in the world, since she was eight. The problem, strangely, is love. To pass her Trial, Pyrre has ten days to kill the ten people enumerated in an ancient song, including "the one you love / who will not come again."
Pyrre is not sure she’s ever been in love. If she were a member of a different religious order, a less devoted, disciplined order, she might cheat. The Priests of Ananshael, however, don’t look kindly on cheaters. If Pyrre fails to find someone to love, or fails to kill that someone, they will give her to the god.
Pyrre’s not afraid to die, but she hates to quit, hates to fail, and so, with a month before her trial begins, she returns to the city of her birth, the place where she long ago offered an abusive father to the god and abandoned a battered brother—in the hope of finding love...and ending it on the edge of her sword.




I've heard great things about Brian Staveley in the fantasy world, but I've yet to read any of his work! I hope to rememdy that with Skullsworn, which has a really promising plot summary and just sounds full of suspense and adventure. And a little darkness, and I love darkness. 



What do you think about this upcoming release? What are your anticipated upcoming releases?


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday: Possession by A.S. Byatt


First Chapter Tuesday is hosted every Tuesday by Diane over at Bibiophile by the Sea. Join the fun by making your own post and linking up over at Diane's blog, or simple check it out to find more new books to read!


Possession by A.S. Byatt

Possession

Chapter 1
"The book was thick and black and covered with dust. Its boards were bowed and creaking; it had been maltreated in its own time. Its spine was missing, or rather protruded from amongst the leaves like a bulky marker. It was bandaged about and about with dirty white tape, tied in a neat bow. The librarian handed it to Roland Michell, who was sitting waiting for it in the Reading Room of the London Library. It had been exhumed from Locked Safe no. 5 where it usually stood between Pranks of Priapus and The Grecian Way of Love. It was ten in the morning, one day in September 1986. Roland had the small single table he liked best, behind a square pillar, with the clock over the fireplace nevertheless in full view. To his right was a high sunny window, through which you could see the high green leaves of St. James's Square."*


It's about time I read this book, I think. I hear it mentioned quite often and it has always intrigued me, so I decided to request it from my library and finally give it a go. (Plus, this first paragraph is talking about books and a library.. and Priapus... and... it just seems like it's off to a great start.)




What do you think? Would you keep reading? (And feel free to join in and make your own post!) 
If you're enticed by this chapter, be sure to check out the full synopsis on Goodreads!


*Excerpt taken from the novel itself; I do not claim to own any part of the excerpt.




Monday, November 28, 2016

Merchants and Maji by William C. Tracy

Merchants and Maji by William C. Tracy. Space Wizard Science Fantasy, 2016. Ebook. 174 pages.

**I received a copy of Merchants and Maji courtesy William Tracy in exchange for an honest review.**

Merchants and Maji is a science fantasy novella that consists of two tales set in William C. Tracy's Dissolutionverse. This was my first foray into the Dissolutionverse world and the writing of Tracy, and it proved to be a thrilling and wildly entertaining read. 

The first installment, "Last Delivery," introduces a delightful cast of characters that I feel really brought this story to life. Prot is a passionate and endearing character that immediately made me want to root for him; he is savvy and quick-witted, but he also has his soft spots and is open-minded. His decisions were very realistic, and I found him to be a relatable character overall. Prot's girlfriend, Amra, is also a highly relatable and enjoyable character, and I loved seeing the interactions between the two of them. The rest of the characters, such as Kamuli and Bhon, brought even greater depth and entertainment to the story, and I liked watching the team work together throughout a variety of obstacles. 

The second story, "The First Majus in Space," brought forth a different but just as exciting story that introduces readers to the memorable character of Origon Cyrysi, as well as provides a deeper look into Tracy's unique magic system. Origon is a strong-headed character that has no problem taking the lead and asserting his own authority in a situation. I found everything about this story to be intriguing, and I would love to see these characters and worlds expanded into a larger novel.

Both stories were the type that pick you up on page one and plop you right down into the middle of this world, where you are then fully immersed in a well-developed and unique world. I've found that books that throw you right into the action with little explanation tend to either be extremely successful, or entirely confusing, so fortunately Merchants and Maji seemed to fall into the former category. Tracy gives us enough backstory and information to understand what is going on, but there is still plenty to discover on your own.

Tracy's writing style is swift, thorough, and always engaging. Every once in a while, however, I would come across a scene or set of dialogue that felt slightly out-of-place or awkward, but this was such a minor occurrence that it did not affect my reading experience much. The rest of the story and writing was strong enough that these minor issues could easily be overlooked and overcome as Tracy continues to write. And as much as I loved the unique idea behind this magic system, I feel like it needs a bit more fleshing out, which is something that a short novella just can't quite provide.

I think that these two stories provide an extremely promising start for what could be expanded into a more expanded and developed full-length story. The magic system  is intriguing, the world-building is meticulously done, and the various races and political happenings provide an abundance of potential. Overall, I am giving Merchants and Maji four stars!

You can find out more about William C. Tracy and his work here!




You might also like:
Dragon's Trail by Joseph Malik
A Vanishing Glow by Alexis Radcliff

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday: Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman


Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights exciting upcoming releases that we can't wait to be released!

This week's upcoming book spotlight is:

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
Publication Date: February 7th, 2017
W. W. Norton & Company
Amazon |  Barnes & Noble | Book Depository


From Goodreads:


Norse Mythology
Neil Gaiman has long been inspired by ancient mythology in creating the fantastical realms of his fiction. Now he turns his attention back to the source, presenting a bravura rendition of the great northern tales.

In Norse Mythology, Gaiman stays true to the myths in envisioning the major Norse pantheon: Odin, the highest of the high, wise, daring, and cunning; Thor, Odin’s son, incredibly strong yet not the wisest of gods; and Loki, son of a giant, blood brother to Odin and a trickster and unsurpassable manipulator.
Gaiman fashions these primeval stories into a novelistic arc that begins with the genesis of the legendary nine worlds and delves into the exploits of deities, dwarfs, and giants. Once, when Thor’s hammer is stolen, Thor must disguise himself as a woman, difficult with his beard and huge appetite, to steal it back. More poignant is the tale in which the blood of Kvasir, the most sagacious of gods, is turned into a mead that infuses drinkers with poetry. The work culminates in Ragnarok, the twilight of the gods and rebirth of a new time and people.
Through Gaiman’s deft and witty prose emerge these gods with their fiercely competitive natures, their susceptibility to being duped and to duping others, and their tendency to let passion ignite their actions, making these long-ago myths breathe pungent life again.





I've been incredibly excited for this release ever since I Neil Gaiman revealed the information on his Twitter, and it just occurred to me that I hadn't shared it as a Waiting on Wednesday post! I had to rectify this, so here it is! Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite authors, and he is such a masterful storyteller that I feel he will do a wonderful job retelling the vibrant world of Norse mythology. I am also planning to take a Norse mythology seminar next quarter, so this release will just happen to coincide perfectly with that... 

What do you think about this upcoming release? What are your anticipated upcoming releases?


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Bookish Things I'm Thankful For

Top Ten Tuesday is weekly book blog meme hosted by the lovely girls over at The Broke and the Bookish.

This week's Top Ten Tuesday topic is a Thanksgiving freebie, so I have chosen to keep it simple and go with ten bookish things I'm thankful for!


1. The Tumblr booklr community. I most likely wouldn't even have this book blog right now without Tumblr and the incredible booklr community. Everyone was so welcoming and fun and I finally felt like I had found a place where I could spend time with those who are just as passionate as I am about books.

2. Indie book stores. I will admit that I buy many of my books from Amazon and library sales and the like because I am broke and I can't always afford to go to a bookstore, but I am trying to change that and I truly appreciate all the indie bookstores out there. They are some of the unsung heroes of the book world, and I absolutely love stumbling upon (or seeking out) some indie bookstores wherever I go. Earlier in the year I created a brief series spotlighting some indie bookstores throughout the U.S. that were nominated by my lovely Tumblr followers, so feel free to go check that out to find out about some awesome indie bookstores! (Part One, Part Two, Part Three)


Image result for goodreads logo3. Goodreads. Say what you want about Goodreads and some of its flaws, you can't deny that this is a great source to keep track of yours books, connect with others who like to read, and discover tons of great new books. I particularly love the 'lists' section, which has introduced me to so many great books - though I try to avoid lists with 100+ books... that's just way too intimidating. I use Goodreads as my main method of tracking my books (though I am currently working on a spreadsheet as well), and it is perfect for what I need, not to mention it is a great way to keep track of bookish things!

Image result for book riot
4. Book Riot. For some reason, I wasn't a fan of this site when I first stumbled upon it a year or so ago. Why? I honestly have no idea. Now I love it. Not only is insanely passionate about all things books, but it focuses so much on the bigger issues that plague the publishing industry, such as diversity in literature, reading stigmas and stereotypes, and so much more. I also love all of their podcasts have been introduced to so many great books because of them.





5. Libraries. Do I really even need to go into this? Even though I often rag on my library a little bit because it is so incredibly small and doesn't really do all that much, it is one of the top ways in which I obtain books. I mean, come on - free books!? Granted, they have to be returned, but I don't even care. Interlibrary loans have allowed me to read so much, and for that I am eternally grateful. Libraries are also so important to so many communities, and I hope to always support local libraries whenever and however I can.

6. Authors and writers everywhere. Okay, I know this one is just a tad broad, but I truly can't even put into words how appreciative I am for every author I've ever read. Even if it was a horrible book that I hated. I am still so thankful that I have been able to experience so many different worlds, ideas, people, places, and so much more! In fact, I originally wanted to make this Top Ten Tuesday about authors/books I'm thankful for, but that quickly spiraled out of control...

7. Booktube. So not only do I get to read about books on the internet and listen to them from podcasts, but I also get to watch people talk about and show off their beautiful book on the internet! The Booktube community is not without its faults, and I certainly have my favorites and no-so-favorites, but pushing that all aside, the basis of this entire idea is absolutely wonderful. I love watching book hauls, reviews, recommendation videos, tags, you name it!

8. Open-mindedness. Specifically, open-mindedness within the book communities. Everyone is so open toe everything, and I love it. Discussions are always welcome, and people are free to agree and (respectfully) disagree all the time. I feel like I am in a very safe space, and I often forget that not everyone is as open and friendly about things as those I often interact with on the internet. And I love the push for more diversity that has really taken root - it is absolutely needed and I am so glad more and more people are taking a stand every day.

9. Netgalley. As a book blogger (and avid reader in general), Netgalley is a gift. ARCs in general are awesome, but Netgalley brings that opportunity to read advanced copies to so many more people and it is a great resource to have a chance to read some amazing new releases!

10.. Other book bloggers. Seriously. You guys are all amazing, and I wouldn't even care about my own blog if I didn't have other blogs to enjoy as well. Each and every book blog out there - no matter how big or small, no matter whether you host giveaways or only post reviews are or mainly post book related content or anything else - contributes so much to the community and I love nothing more than interacting with you all. I don't think I could ever complete a full list of all of the blogs I enjoy, but just know that I love you all.


What bookish things are you thankful for? Feel free to share in the comments!

Monday, November 21, 2016

The Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee


The Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee. Houghtin Mifflin Harcourt, 2016. Hardcover. 561 pages. 

I have so many feelings about this book, and it's  been difficult for me to put my thoughts in words. This is a gorgeously written novel, but it is not without its detractors.

The Queen of the Night is a historical fiction novel set in the nineteenth century and centers on a young opera star, Lilliet Bern, who is offered a role in forthcoming opera. However, as she learns what the plot is for this upcoming role, she realizes that it is based upon her own past, and she knows of only three possible figures from her past that could have revealed this information. From this starting off point, we are taken through the journey of Lilliet's life through her own eyes as she relates the many circumstances in her life that have led her to where she currently is when the story begins.

The first and most noticeable aspect of this novel is the writing style. Chee uses a simplistic style with no quotation marks, as if Lilliet Bern herself is merely relating the story to us. This style is largely hit or miss for me usually, so I was immediately skeptical. Fortunately, Chee has such a unique, enchanting way with his prose that this style was a perfect fit. I can easily describe Chee's writing as simply gorgeous; it is filled with passion and breathes elegance, and it felt like I was reading a sweeping, epic beautiful tragedy - which, in a way, it is.

The plot is written in such a manner that makes this book hard to put down. I needed to know what else would occur in Lilliet's life - where she would go, who she would meet, what would happen. Chee is almost tantalizing in the way in which he entices the reader and gives out only certain bits of information at a time.

Now, as  much I loved his writing and raved about it just moments ago, I also felt indifferent to it at times. The first three hundred or so pages of this book were compelling, but the charm started to wear off about two-thirds of the way through. There hit a point where it felt like the novel began to drag, and this point occurred when the war and political issues began to emerge in full force, pulled forward from their backdrop of much of the beginning of the novel. While I enjoyed the historical elements that were worked into the novel, Chee took it just a bit too far for me. He stopped focusing on the characters so much, and I felt very stuck in the book. Perhaps this was meant to reflect Lilliet's current situation in life - stuck where she was - but even so, it wasn't a highlight for me. Things began to be too convoluted, and because of the writing style, I actually started feeling slightly confused about what was going on. The narrator doesn't use distinct names or all characters, so that plus the lack of quotations occasionally left me questioning events of the book. By the end of the story, however, the pacing picked back up and I was once again enraptured in Chee's writing, so I was glad to end it on a high note.

This also leads me to touch briefly upon Lilliet's transitions between telling of her present situation and her past life story. I loved getting both parts of the story, and it worked really well for the plot and telling the story itself, but again, Chee was not exactly clear-cut about these distinctions and I sometimes felt as though I were floundering in the sea of unclear narrative.

And lastly, before I wrap up, I'd like to add in some opinions on the character of Lilliet herself, who was a rather enigmatic figure that truly seems to embody some interest feminine ideas that were likely not common during the time period of this book. I felt both connected and disconnected to Lilliet. She has wonderful insight and so many deep, personal reflections that let me feel as if I was truly getting to know her, but at the same time I still felt as if I wasn't let into every aspect of her life. Maybe Chee did that on purpose, but it just created an ever-present distance between Lilliet and myself, and it has left me feeling a lit unfulfilled.

Overall, I am giving The Queen of the Night for all of the reasons listed above. This is a truly enchanting and enthralling read, and I certainly recommend it for those who are ready to invest some time into this young opera star's life.





You might also like:
The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber
The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters
Dear Mr. M by Herman Koch
Smoke by Dan Vyleta
Blood Red Snow White by Marcus Sedgwick

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday: City of Saints & Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson


Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights exciting upcoming releases that we can't wait to be released!

This week's upcoming book spotlight is:

City of Saints & Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson
Publication Date: January 24th, 2017
G. P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young
Amazon |  Barnes & Noble | Book Depository


From Goodreads:


City of Saints and Thieves
In the shadows of Sangui City, there lives a girl who doesn't exist. After fleeing the Congo as refugees, Tina and her mother arrived in Kenya looking for the chance to build a new life and home. Her mother quickly found work as a maid for a prominent family, headed by Roland Greyhill, one of the city’s most respected business leaders. But Tina soon learns that the Greyhill fortune was made from a life of corruption and crime. So when her mother is found shot to death in Mr. Greyhill's personal study, she knows exactly who’s behind it.

With revenge always on her mind, Tina spends the next four years surviving on the streets alone, working as a master thief for the Goondas, Sangui City’s local gang. It’s a job for the Goondas that finally brings Tina back to the Greyhill estate, giving her the chance for vengeance she’s been waiting for. But as soon as she steps inside the lavish home, she’s overtaken by the pain of old wounds and the pull of past friendships, setting into motion a dangerous cascade of events that could, at any moment, cost Tina her life. But finally uncovering the incredible truth about who killed her mother—and why—keeps her holding on in this fast-paced nail-biting thriller.




This book just popped up on my radar, and I'm surprised I haven't heard more about it! I love that we have such a intriguing novel set in an African setting (finally!), and I just really can't wait to check this one out.

What do you think about this upcoming release? What are your anticipated upcoming releases?


Tuesday, November 15, 2016

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday: The Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee

First Chapter Tuesday is hosted every Tuesday by Diane over at Bibiophile by the Sea. Join the fun by making your own post and linking up over at Diane's blog, or simple check it out to find more new books to read!

I finally picked this up from the library this past weekend and started it immediately. The Queen of the Night has been absolutely enchanting and I can hardly put it down.

The Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee

The Queen of the Night

Chapter 1
"WHEN IT BEGAN, it began as an opera would begin, in a palace, at a ball, in an encounter with a stranger who, you discover, has your fate in his hands. He is perhaps a demon or a god in disguise, offering you a chance at either the fulfillment of a dream or a trap for the soul. A comic element—the soprano arrives in the wrong dress—and it decides her fate.
The year was 1882. The palace was the Luxembourg Palace; the ball, the Sénat Bal, held at the beginning of autumn. It was still warm, and so the garden was used as well. I was the soprano.
I was Lilliet Berne."*


What do you think? Would you keep reading? (And feel free to join in and make your own post!) 
If you're enticed by this chapter, be sure to check out the full synopsis on Goodreads!


*Excerpt taken from the novel itself; I do not claim to own any part of the excerpt.



Monday, November 14, 2016

The Secret Keepers by Trenton Lee Stewart


The Secret Keepers by Trenton Lee Stewart. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2016. Hardcover. 512 pages.

A little over a year ago I began reading Trenton Lee Stewart's The Mysterious Benedict Society and absolutely fell in love with Stewart's witty, approachable, and adventurous writing. I particular enjoyed that although his books were written with a younger audience in mind, they are completely accessible to all ages, and I can't imagine any age group not being able to find something entertaining in them. The reason I say all of this is because The Secret Keepers, his latest release, is every bit as wonderful as his previous books and I fell right back in love with his writing.

I had read maybe ten pages when I realized that this was going to be yet another stand-out novel by the masterful Stewart, and I had such a fantastic time diving into this unique, intriguing world. The story begins when eleven-year-old Reuben comes across a watch that appears to be broken, However, he soon realizes that the watch is actually a bit more peculiar than that, and what it actually does ends up being something that more than a few people are after - both good and bad people, that is. The rest of the story consists of his journey to unravel the mystery of the watch and why it is such a treasured, sought-after item.

This book is set in a somewhat dystopian-esque setting, but if you're wary of dystopian, please don't let that stop you. It's a rather minor aspect, but at the same time it also sets up for the crucial plot points of this book. I don't want to go into too much detail about what all of it means, but please trust me that it is well worth reading to find out.

Let's talk about Reuben, who is extremely clever and about a thousand times smarter than I was at his age - hell, he's probably smarter than me now, too. Reuben is a tough, adventurous kid who is not afraid to take on some of his own responsibilities, and I think that is a wonderful quality for a character in a book (and one I believe he probably inherited from his mother, but more on her later). There are so many books where the main character seems to have difficulties owning up to their mistakes or realizing they have a responsibility to do something and it drives me nuts, so it was refreshing to see such a young character actually embody qualities such as these.

Mrs. Genevieve and Penny are also wonderful additions to this book, and both characters brought their own unique charm. Penny is a bold, awesome little girl that was such a joy to read. She brought in an extra level of wit and entertainment that really enriched the story. Mrs. Genevieve was also quite a quirky characters; she appears rather aloof and not overly friendly when we first meet her, and although she remains somewhat distant, her endearing demeanor and care for the children truly make her a great character.

The villainous Smoke was also another fun villain created by Stewart. I found many similarities between The Smoke and the villain of The Mysterious Benedict Society, but he was still a solid villain with a wide array of strength and weaknesses. I like that Stewart gives his villains his so many strengths, including intelligence, which helps to make the playing field a bit more exciting.

I think one of my favorite aspects of this book, however, was Reuben's relationship with his mother. There was something about it that just seemed so realistic, so tender that I couldn't help but cherish every scene they had together. Reuben and his mother are not exactly well-off, and his mom works multiple jobs tirelessly so that Reuben can maintain a healthy, stable lifestyle. Reuben knows his mom works incredibly hard, but he also realizes that she never complains, which was the trait I found most admirable. Reuben is a great character - as are all of the rest of the characters - but I have to say that his mom is the real hero in this book.

When I picked up this book from the library, I had no idea it was as long as it is - 500+ pages! This book is geared toward a younger audience, but if not reading aloud with children, I would probably give it to kids who are dedicated and prepared to sit down and read such a long book. It's certainly worth it, but I can see some kids becoming discouraged by the sheer volume of this book.

This book absolutely deserves each of the five stars I am giving it! I would highly recommend this to anyone with a love for intrigue, adventure, and wit. If you enjoyed Stewart's other books or Lemony Snickett books, I would definitely give The Secret Keepers a go.




You might also like:
The Secret of Dreadwillow Carse by Brian Farrey
Over the Underworld by Adam Shaughnessy
Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye by Tania del Rio

Friday, November 11, 2016

Book Tour Spotlight: The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict + Excerpt & Giveaway!


The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict

 
The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict
Release Date: October 18, 2016
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
 ISBN 9781492637257


I am thrilled to be a part of the book tour for Marie Benedict's The Other Einstein, which follows the story of Albert Einstein's incredible wife, Mileva Maric. Below you will find a summary with helpful links, information about the author, Marie Benedict,  an excerpt from the book, an abundance of praise, and finally - a giveaway! You can also find my review here



Summary:
A vivid and mesmerizing novel about the extraordinary woman who married and worked with one of the greatest scientists in history.

What secrets may have lurked in the shadows of Albert Einstein’s fame? His first wife, Mileva “Mitza” Maric_, was more than the devoted mother of their three children—she was also a brilliant physicist in her own right, and her contributions to the special theory of relativity have been hotly debated for more than a century.

But as Albert’s fame grows, so too does Mileva’s worry that her light will be lost in her husband’s shadow forever. A literary historical in the tradition of The Paris Wife and Mrs. PoeThe Other Einstein reveals a complicated partnership that is as fascinating as it is troubling.

Barnes & Noble: http://ow.ly/Ya8l305MKC6
About the author:
Marie Benedict is a lawyer with more than ten years’ experience as a litigator at two of the country’s premier law firms and for Fortune 500 companies. She is a magna cum laude graduate of Boston College with a focus in history and art history and a cum laude graduate of the Boston University School of Law. She lives in Pittsburgh with her family.
Social Media Links:

      
***EXCERPT:***


Chapter 1
Morning
October 20, 1896
Zürich, Switzerland

smoothed the wrinkles on my freshly pressed white blouse, flattened the bow encircling my collar, and tucked back a stray hair into my tightly wound chignon. The humid walk through the foggy Zürich streets to the Swiss Federal Polytechnic campus played with my careful grooming. The stubborn refusal of my heavy, dark hair to stay fixed in place frustrated me. I wanted every detail of the day to be perfect.

Squaring my shoulders and willing myself to be just a little taller than my regrettably tiny frame, I placed my hand on the heavy brass handle to the classroom. Etched with a Greek key design worn down from the grip of generations of students, the knob dwarfed my small, almost childlike hand. I paused. Turn the knob and push the door open, I told myself. You can do this. Crossing this threshold is nothing new. You have passed over the supposedly insurmountable divide between male and female in countless classrooms before. And always succeeded.

Still, I hesitated. I knew all too well that, while the first step is the hardest, the second isn’t much easier. In that moment, little more than a breath, I could almost hear Papa urging me on. “Be bold,” Papa would whisper in our native, little-used Serbian tongue. “You are a mudra glava. A wise one. In your heart beats the blood of bandits, our brigand Slavic ancestors who used any means to get their due. Go get your due, Mitza. Go get your due.”

I could never disappoint him.

I twisted the knob and swung the door wide open. Six faces stared back at me: five dark-suited students and one black-robed professor. Shock and some disdain registered on their pale faces. Nothing—not even rumors—had prepared these men for actually seeing a woman in their ranks. They almost looked silly with their eyes bulging and their jaws dropping, but I knew better than to laugh. I willed myself to pay their expressions no heed, to ignore the doughy faces of my fellow students, who were desperately trying to appear older than their eighteen years with their heavily waxed mustaches.

A determination to master physics and mathematics brought me to the Polytechnic, not a desire to make friends or please others. I reminded myself of this simple fact as I steeled myself to face my instructor.
Professor Heinrich Martin Weber and I looked at each other. Long-nosed, heavily browed, and meticulously bearded, the renowned physics professor’s intimidating appearance matched his reputation.
I waited for him to speak. To do anything else would have been perceived as utter impertinence. I could not afford another such mark against my character, since my mere presence at the Polytechnic was considered impertinent by many. I walked a fine line between my insistence on this untrodden path and the conformity still demanded of me.

“You are?” he asked as if he weren’t expecting me, as if he’d never heard of me.

“Miss Mileva Marić, sir.” I prayed my voice didn’t quaver.

Very slowly, Weber consulted his class list. Of course, he knew precisely who I was. Since he served as head of the physics and mathematics program, and given that only four women had ever been admitted before me, I had to petition him directly to enter the first year of the four-year program, known as Section Six. He had approved my entrance himself! The consultation of the class list was a blatant and calculating move, telegraphing his opinion of me to the rest of the class. It gave them license to follow suit.

“The Miss Marić from Serbia or some Austro-Hungarian country of that sort?” he asked without glancing up, as if there could possibly be another Miss Marić in Section Six, one who hailed from a more respectable location. By his query, Weber made his views on Slavic eastern European peoples perfectly clear—that we, as dark foreigners, were somehow inferior to the Germanic peoples of defiantly neutral Switzerland. It was yet another preconception I would have to disprove in order to succeed. As if being the only woman in Section Six—only the fifth to ever be admitted into the physics and mathematics program—wasn’t enough.
“Yes, sir.”

“You may take your seat,” he finally said and gestured toward the empty chair. It was my luck that the only remaining seat was the farthest away from his podium. “We have already begun.”

Begun? The class was not designated to start for another fifteen minutes. Were my classmates told something I wasn’t? Had they conspired to meet early? I wanted to ask but didn’t. Argument would only fuel the fires against me. Anyway, it didn’t matter. I would simply arrive fifteen minutes earlier tomorrow. And earlier and earlier every morning if I needed to. I would not miss a single word of Weber’s lectures. He was wrong if he thought an early start would deter me. I was my father’s daughter.

Nodding at Weber, I stared at the long walk from the door to my chair and, out of habit, calculated the number of steps it would take me to cross the room. How best to manage the distance? With my first step, I tried to keep my gait steady and hide my limp, but the drag of my lame foot echoed through the classroom. On impulse, I decided not to mask it at all. I displayed plainly for all my colleagues to see the deformity that marked me since birth.

Clomp and drag. Over and over. Eighteen times until I reached my chair. Here I am, gentlemen, I felt like I was saying with each lug of my lame foot. Take a gander; get it over with.
Perspiring from the effort, I realized the classroom was completely silent. They were waiting for me to settle, and perhaps embarrassed by my limp or my sex or both, they kept their eyes averted.
All except one.

To my right, a young man with an unruly mop of dark brown curls stared at me. Uncharacteristically, I met his gaze. But even when I looked at him head-on, challenging him to mock me and my efforts, his half-lidded eyes did not look away. Instead, they crinkled at the corners as he smiled through the dark shadow cast by his mustache. A grin of great bemusement, even admiration.

Who did he think he was? What did he mean by that look?

I had no time to make sense of him as I sat down in my seat. Reaching into my bag, I withdrew paper, ink, and pen and readied for Weber’s lecture. I would not let the bold, insouciant glance of a privileged classmate rattle me. I looked straight ahead at the instructor, still aware of my classmate’s gaze upon me, but acted oblivious.

Weber, however, was not so single-minded. Or so forgiving. Staring at the young man, the professor cleared his throat, and when the young man still did not redirect his eyes toward the podium, he said, “I will have the attention of the entire classroom. This is your first and final warning, Mr. Einstein.”


Praise for The Other Einstein
October 2016 Indie Next and LibraryReads Pick!
PopSugar’s “25 Books You’re Going to Curl Up with this Fall”
“The Other Einstein takes you into Mileva’s heart, mind, and study as she tries to forge a place for herself in a scientific world dominated by men.”– Bustle
“…an ENGAGING and THOUGHT PROVOKING fictional telling of the poignant story of an overshadowed woman scientist.”– Booklist
“...INTIMATE and IMMERSIVE historical novel.... 
Prepare to be moved by this provocative history of a woman whose experiences will resonate with today’s readers.”– Library Journal, Editors' Fall Picks
“Many will enjoy Benedict’s feminist views and be fascinated by the life of an almost unknown woman.”– RT Book Reviews, 4 Stars
“Benedict's debut novel carefully traces Mileva's life—from studious schoolgirl to bereaved mother—with attention paid to the conflicts between personal goals and social conventions. An intriguing… reimagining of one of the strongest intellectual partnerships of the 19th century.” Kirkus
“In her compelling novel… Benedict makes a strong case that the brilliant woman behind [Albert Einstein] was integral to his success, and creates a rich historical portrait in the process.” Publishers Weekly

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