Tuesday, November 25, 2014

TTT: Books on My Winter TBR

This week's TTT topic: Books on My Winter TBR

Shadowed Heart by Laura Florand (December) This is a rare thing-a sequel to a romance that is about the same couple as the original (The Chocolate Heart) and I absolutely can not wait. Florand is superb with character development and Luc and Summer are two of her more complex characters.

Party Lines by Emma Barry (January 12) This one is a CAMPAIGN romance. Democrat boy, Republican girl, opposite teams: this should be a whole lot of fun. And there will probably be amazing banter because its Emma Barry and there's that set-up.

Perfect Couple by Jennifer Echols (January 13) I read the first book in the Senior Superlatives earlier and LOVED it. It was my first Jennifer Echols experience and I have been making my way through her backlist. I'm most interested to see what she will do with this couple.

All the Answers by Kate Messner (January 27) I adore Messner's books and they are such easy sells to  MG readers I know. Also, I've already heard a ton of great things about this book.

Love, Lucy by April Lindner (January 27) I haven't read any of Lindner's other books, but this one is a retelling of A Room with a View so I have no power to resist it.

Beastkeeper by Cat Hellisen (February 3) Any regular reader of this blog knows I have a weak spot for fairy tale retellings and since Beauty and the Beast is my favorite fairy tale....and this is gender swapped.

 I'll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios (February 3) I adored Demetrios' Something Real. She is an excellent writer of realistic fiction, and the letter she wrote that went with the ARCs to this is amazing.

Villain Keeper by Laurie McKay (February 3) There are so many books about kids who are transported to the real world from a magical land. I love that this is the reverse of that. And that it takes place in Asheville,NC!

Listen Slowly by Tanhha Lai (February 17) It's a new Tanhha Lai book. I don't need any other reasons.

Death Marked by Leah Cypess (March 3) I am wary about where this is going to take the story, but absolutely unable to resist its allure.

What are you looking forward to reading this winter?

Monday, November 24, 2014

Pennyroyal Academy

Fantasy boarding schools are nothing new. They weren't even new when Harry Potter was published. But certainly trending and hot right now are Fantasy boarding schools where a fairy tale tradition is somehow incorporated into the world-building. Pennyroyal Academy by M.A. Larson is the latest such book and is a fun inventive take on the concept.

A young girl completely lacking memories of her past except a few snatches here and there, not knowing even her name, is in an enchanted forest with naught but an advertisement stating all people, even those of common blood, may apply to be cadet Princesses and Knights at Pennyroyal Academy. Unfortunately she ends up in the house of a witch. Fortunately a knight candidate is on hand and they manage to rescue each other. Arriving at the school, the girl is given the name Cadet Eleven, Evie to her friends, and embarks on her education to become a Princess. But being a princess is a different reality than many were expecting. For it is the destiny and occupation of a princess to fight witches, a reality that is terrifying as a band of powerful witches is sweeping over the countries destroying one after another. As the reality of the war she has stumbled into is made clear to Evie, she needs to make some tough decisions about the road ahead. A task that becomes even harder as she is faced with her resurging memories, a most unpleasant fellow cadet, and the strange effect she has on one of the knight cadets.

I quite enjoyed the world of Pennyroyal Castle. Of all the fairy tale boarding school books to come out recently, this is definitely my favorite. It doesn't have the internal logic problem of Ever After High or the multiple issues I had with The School for Good and Evil. At Pennyroyal girls are trained to be princesses to fight witches. (Except in Evie's year there is a groundbreaking boy princess candidate.) Boys are trained to be knights to fight dragons. The school runs like a military academy with fairly godmother drill sergeants. The princesses frequently yell the four traits every princess must have to succeed in the war against witches: Courage. Compassion. Kindness. Discipline. I love all of it. The classes, the challenges, the obstacle courses, the partnerships with the knights: all of it creates a very real world and an interesting one at that.

Evie is an excellent heroine, though one it is tough to connect with at first as she has no memory that includes no name and is rather quiet and reserved. There is enough mystery there that I was engaged from the start. And Evie's growth through the book is wonderful. There are times when switches and revelations happen a bit too abruptly. So abruptly it forced me to reread several pages. However that is a minor complaint in the face of the delightful characters and unique setting. Evie's friends, a few fellow princess cadets and the knight cadet she meets at the beginning (Remington) form an excellent team and are wonderfully supportive of each other. I thought the relationship between Remington and Evie had exactly the right amount of romance for a MG book, enough to keep fairy tale lovers happy, but not overwhelm those who don't wish for that aspect in their books yet. I kind of adore Remington as a character too and am very much looking forward to future installments of this series.

The plot mostly revolves around Evie figuring out who she is and setting up the world. It has several lovely twists, a couple I guessed but most I did not. It is just a lot of fun and recommend it to anyone who loves fantastical boarding schools, magic, and fairy tales.

Friday, November 21, 2014


I was pretty excited to read Nightmares! mostly because of the authors. I adore Jason Segel (or maybe  I just adore Marshall-hard to say.) And I love Kirsten Miller's Kiki Strike books. A book written by the two of them together was too good a prospect to pass up. While fun, I didn't love it quite as much as I expected to.

All his life the mysterious purple mansion on the hill has fascinated Charlie Laird. But now that he's living in the mansion, he's not longer so excited about it. Another thing he's not excited about is his new stepmother, Charlotte. He's convinced she's a witch. What other explanation is there for the witch who haunts his dreams at night? After all the witch looks too much like Charlotte to be a coincidence. Charlie is doing everything he can to stay awake so the nightmares don't come. Then Charlie discovers his friends are also having strange recurring nightmares and the mysterious new principal features in a lot of them. When the witch from his nightmares takes his brother into the Netherworld (world of nightmares) through a portal in the mansion, Charlie follows and has to face and defeat his worst nightmare.

Charlie is having a rough time and he's taking it all out on the people around him driving those who love him away. He is angry and resentful. He is still highly sympathetic because it is clear he misses his mother, his old house, and doesn't know how to embrace the changes in his life if it means letting the past go. His relationship with his brother and father are suffering. He feels like his life is being consumed by darkness. Charlie's story is peppered with many doses of humor and at times their is a lighter treatment to the issues, but it is a hard journey. I did like how the darker themes were balanced with enough lighter elements to make it fun and have depth at the same time.

The concept of a world in which nightmares live is an interesting one. I enjoyed how the kids only had to face their fear-what the nightmare truly represented-and defeat it to be free. It wasn't necessarily easy, because first they had to figure out what the underlying fear was. And it showed how nightmares can come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Though I feel Charlie's confrontation with his "worst nightmare" didn't ring true with the rest of Netherworld, but it was a scene that made me cry.

This is a book that will have a lot of appeal and is well done. I can see kids really loving it. And the cover is marvelous.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

TTT: Sequels I Can't Wait to Read

This week's TTT topic: Sequels I Can't Wait to Read

The as Yet Unnamed Book 5 of the The Queen's Thief Series-Nothing else tops my want for this!!!!!!

The Silent Bells, Book 4 in The Ashtown Burials Series by N.D. Wilson

The Next Lion Hunter Book by Elizabeth Wein

Jinx's Fire by Sage Blackwell

The Penderwicks in Spring by Jeanne Birdsall

The As Yet Unnamed Sequel to Black Dog by Rachel Neumeier

Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman

Perfect Couple by Jennifer Echols

Party Lines by Emma Barry

Shadowed Heart by Laura Florand

I will be waiting for some of these longer than others. What sequels are you looking forward to most?

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Ex Games

I am continuing to make my happy way through Jennifer Echols' backlist. This past week in keeping with our first wintry weather of the year, I read The Ex Games.

Hayden was excited when her family started over again in Colorado after a traumatic couple of years in Tennessee following her broken leg. She was even more excited when, on her first day in her new seventh grade, the cutest boy in school plopped down beside her and swept her into a month long dream romance. But it turned out Nick had made a bet with his friend Gavin about getting the new girl to date him. When Hayden finds out, she breaks up with Nick in a spectacular display that most of their classmates witnessed at the movie theater. Four years later, Hayden and Nick are juniors and their relationship has mostly consisted of snarking each other. Now that Hayden's best friends have hooked up with Nick's best friends, everyone in the school assumes they will get back together providing entertainment for the whole student body. Hayden even thinks it might happen. Then Nick demeans her winning a snow boarding competition and says she would never be competitive against a boy. The challenge is on now in a three event personal comp between Hayden Nick, but the competition extends to everyone in the school. Girls versus Boys for concert tickets. Everything is riding on Hayden beating Nick, including her own plans for her future. Can she conquer her fear of jumps and truly become a professional snow boarder? And will her and Nick ever be able to get it together and stop fighting long enough to make a relationship work?

What I really love about Echols's books is how realistically teen her characters are. They do behave in ways that would drive me bananas if these were adult books, but as teens their decisions, drama, and cluelessness make so much sense. Her characters remind me of teens I actually know. I particularly appreciate this about her male characters as often in YA books the boys are too ridiculous perfect. Echols's boys are not, and Nick is no exception. He does dumb teen boy things. He says dumb teen boy things. He has no clue how to make up with Hayden for being a dumb teen boy and so he stumbles around their relationship like a newly born blind kitten knocking things down all over the place. Hayden isn't much better about negotiating their rocky relationship. That's what's so much fun about this book, watching them learn and try to figure it out. And in the end they are both good people you want to see happy. They both have their insecurities they need to work on, but I couldn't help but want to see them fix things together.

The Ex Games is a fun romantic read to get in the winter spirit. It is no longer available in print, but can be purchased as an e-book.