Friday, July 14, 2017

Future Favorite Friday (4)


This is a feature I am starting to highlight upcoming books I'm particularly excited about. If you would like to join me, you are welcome. Please just link back to this post in your own. I've included a Mr. Linky at the bottom. Right now I'm only going to do it the 2nd Friday of the month, but I'm open to doing it more often if there is enough interest.

I don't think I need to explain my excitement for this first one. Look at that cover. LOOK AT THAT GIRL ON THE COVER. And if that doesn't convince you, read the synopsis. You should be convinced now. 


MEET KIRANMALA: INTERDIMENSIONAL DEMONSLAYER

(But she doesn’t know it yet.)

On the morning of her twelfth birthday, Kiranmala is just a regular sixth grader living in Parsippany, New Jersey… until her parents mysteriously vanish later that day and a rakkhosh demon slams through her kitchen, determined to eat her alive. Turns out there might be some truth to her parents’ fantastical stories—like how Kiranmala is a real Indian princess—and a wealth of secrets about her origin they've kept hidden.

To complicate matters, two crushworthy Indian princes ring her doorbell, insisting they’re here to rescue her. Suddenly, Kiran is swept into another dimension full of magic, winged horses, moving maps, and annoying, talking birds. There she must solve riddles and slay demons all while avoiding the Serpent King of the underworld (who may or may not want to kill her) and the rakkhosh queen (who definitely does) in order to find her parents and basically save New Jersey, her entire world, and everything beyond it…
 

Release Date: February 14, 2018 from Scholastic Books (Goodreads)

I have to confess: I'm equal parts nervous and excited about this next one. I fervently hope its a favorite. Every time I think about it, I quietly whisper, "Please be good. Be so good." It could go very wrong. I know this. Shakespeare retellings often do. And this is a retelling of Much Ado About Nothing, which is my favorite so....


After she gets kicked out of boarding school, seventeen-year-old Beatrice goes to her uncle’s estate on Long Island. But Hey Nonny Nonny is more than just a rundown old mansion. Beatrice’s cousin, Hero, runs a struggling speakeasy out of the basement—one that might not survive the summer. Along with Prince, a poor young man determined to prove his worth; his brother John, a dark and dangerous agent of the local mob; Benedick, a handsome trust-fund kid trying to become a writer; and Maggie, a beautiful and talented singer; Beatrice and Hero throw all their efforts into planning a massive party to save the speakeasy. Despite all their worries, the summer is beautiful, love is in the air, and Beatrice and Benedick are caught up in a romantic battle of wits that their friends might be quietly orchestrating in the background.

Release Date: September 19, 2017 from Greenwillow Books (Goodreads)

Stephanie Burgis is an auto-buy author for me. I have read and loved all of her books. Even if this weren't written by her, I would want to read it. Look at the beautiful cover! Plus it is Regency England (or Angland in this universe) plus Magic!!! Because it's Stephanie, I know it's going to be good and she's going to get that Regency Magic thing RIGHT. (Because she already has. Read Kat Incorrigible if you haven't yet!)


Four months ago, Cassandra Harwood was the first woman magician in Angland, and she was betrothed to the brilliant, intense love of her life.

Now Cassandra is trapped in a snowbound house party deep in the elven dales, surrounded by bickering gentleman magicians, manipulative lady politicians, her own interfering family members, and, worst of all, her infuriatingly stubborn ex-fiancĂ©, who refuses to understand that she’s given him up for his own good.

But the greatest danger of all lies outside the manor in the falling snow, where a powerful and malevolent elf-lord lurks...and Cassandra lost all of her own magic four months ago.

To save herself, Cassandra will have to discover exactly what inner powers she still possesses – and risk everything to win a new kind of happiness.

Release Date: September 5, 2017 from Five Fathoms Press

What upcoming releases do you hope are Future Favorites?



Monday, July 10, 2017

An Uninterrupted View of the Sky

You know how when you read a book that opens your eyes to something you  never knew about, it can come to mean the world to you almost instantly? When it rips your heart open and makes you love the characters, it has even more impact. This is exactly what An Uninterrupted View of the Sky by Melanie Crowder is for me.

Francisco is a busy teenager in 1999 Bolivia. He is balancing school with his friends and plans for his future. Plans that do not involve University no matter how many lectures his father gives. And the fights he gets in regularly? What is he supposed do when his darker skin and indigenous heritage cause him to be a constant target for many. All Fransisco's plans for his future and his carefree present are torn from his grasp when his father is arrested and placed in prison under a drug law that allows Bolivian police to circumvent his constitutional rights. Though innocent, the family can not afford a lawyer. Now Fransisco and his sister, Pilar, are forced to live in the prison with their father, though they can escape daily for school. But Fransisco's time there is limited. As soon as he turns 18, he has to leave. Leave his father, who he sees losing a bit of his poet's heart every day. His sister further complicates matters as she is only 8. Fransisco knows he can't leave her in a men's prison, but returning to the rural peasant home of his father's parents seems like the worst possible scenario. As the week's pass, Fransisco must come to terms with his new reality and figure out a way into the future for himself and his family.

Crowder has a talent for writing complicated, realistic characters who find their way into your heart and take over. Fransisco may be my favorite of her creations to date. He is so surly and full of so much anger, resentment, and frustration. While he's very sympathetic because he's living  in a racist, unjust world that is taking everything from him, he also has weaknesses and makes mistakes that are hard on more than just him. He is such a real person and I just wanted to wrap him in hugs and hunt down his mother (who abandons her children in the prison because she can't handle it) and smack her down.  Even as his life is crashing down and he realizes the prison is his family's new reality, he stubbornly (and a bit selfishly) clings to his plans and how this is affecting him alone. It is so very much a realistic teen reaction. When his careless thoughtlessness puts his younger sister in a horrifying situation, Fransisco begins to wake up to the reality of exactly what his family is facing. He begins a journey then that is equal parts beautiful and heart-breaking to become the man his father has always seen in him. He begins to forge a new plan for his future, one that will not be the ticket to easy street he thought he would have. But he's willing to work so much harder now.

There are several secondary characters in the novel, all important in how they relate to Fransisco and his journey. The relationship between Fransisco and his sister, Pilar, is the most fleshed out. His mistake causes her so much trauma and yet she clings to him for protection, and he gives it willingly after that first horrible selfish moment. The majority of Fransisco's focus for most of the book is keeping Pilar safe and figuring out how to make it so she stays that way. At first his plans for this are naive and grounded in his desire to have things his way, but he eventually begins to see how much sacrifice he's going to have to make to keep all his family safe. In the prison is another student in Fransisco's year at school named Soledad. Soledad has lived in the prison a long time and the affect of being a teen girl in a men's prison comes out in how she behaves toward the world. After a while, she lets Fransisco and Pilar into her life, and the three protect each other and become their own little family unit. It's a beautiful and heart wrenching relationship. I love all three of these kids so much. I adored and shed many tears for Fransisco's father too. This man who is a poet and had so many dreams for himself and his children but saw them all ripped to pieces by a racist law, an unjust system,  and a corrupt government.

I took a class on South American history in college and never learned about this law and what it did to families. Probably because it was too recent and we didn't make it to the 1980s and beyond. I know my particular professor would not have glossed over it, because he was not one for cutting the US slack for the havoc it frequently wreaks south of its border. Fransisco's father is caught by a law passed to appease America during the "war on drugs". Bolivia had a quota it had to meet to prove to the US it was doing something to curtail cocaine manufacturing. They passed this law that circumvented a citizens constitutional rights and allowed them to hold people without evidence or trial on drug charges. It was pretty much exclusively used to lock up poor indigenous people. In Bolivia, if a poor family could not live outside the prison without the father's income, the entire family moved into the prison with him. Yeah. Horrifying. Crowder doesn't pull any punches about exactly how horrifying, especially for the girls. She does this without being terribly graphic and with a pulled back lens, but it is impossible to misinterpret what the reality is. In the Author's Note she explains how she learned about this through work she did in Bolivia at the time as a college student. She does an excellent job showing the human cost that politicians so often overlook in their bid to create empires and further agendas.

This book is as real as it gets and is an excellent work of historical fiction. In that, Crowder has developed themes of family, community, and art, and how they can be found even in the harshest, darkest of places. She also shows how hope is an integral part of all that. For all its hard truths, this is a book full of beauty, heart, and hope.

Everyone should read it.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Shorter Musings (YA)

Shorter musings on some recent YA reads.

Hunted by Meagan Spooner
Meagan Spooner is definitely a talented wordsmith, but this just wasn't a right fit for me. I love "Beauty and the Beast". It is my favorite fairy tale. But what I get from the tale and what Spooner gets from it are clearly very different. The entire time I felt like I was reading about the two most selfish beings that ever breathed air, which made me less than hopeful that things would work out for them in the future. I love "Beauty and the Beast" because of the hope, redemption, and love. I just couldn't find any of that here. Spooner has an excellent writing talent, that is evident in how she constructed the story and managed to keep me reading to the end despite my growing misgivings over where it was all headed.

I Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maureen Goo
This is pretty adorable. I don't know anything about K-dramas, but I know a lot of teens who do and will be so excited this book exists. Desi is a lot to take as a main character, which is not at all a bad thing. Her presence is just very much felt. She is like a teenage Leslie Knope. Desi comes up with an elaborate plan to find love her senior year of high school, and she is going to follow the plan. Some of the stuff she does is hard to swallow and a bit cringe inducing. I don't deal well with second-hand embarrassment so some parts were hard for me. But overall this is cute, fun, and a perfect read for teens who enjoy romance.

Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley
This was rather disappointing after how much I loved Crowley's previous two novels (which was a lot). It is technically as well written with the same dreamy quality to the prose and yet hard core of reality woven through it. However, I could not get past my desire to strangle Henry for being a spineless jellyfish. For the life of me I can't figure out why all the other characters think he's so great. He comes around at the end, but it was an ending I just couldn't buy based on everything that came before it. I'm so sad because I was really looking forward to this. The three stars are because I really did love Rachel (you deserve better, Rachel!), George, and Martin.

You're Welcome, Universe by Whitney Gardner
This is a book about art, friendship, communication, and fighting for your place in the world. Julia is expelled from her school for the deaf for painting graffiti over a slur directed at her best friend that was painted on the school's wall. Now in a public school with an interpreter she doesn't want, Julia is just trying to survive the year and figure out how to continue her illegal art activities when her two moms are watching her like hawks. Julia is an incredibly angry main character and the author makes the reader feel that anger, while at the same time showing Julia's faults. This is a fine balance in a first person narrative and I really appreciated it. All of the supporting characters in the book are well done too. I enjoyed reading this and would recommend it to those who enjoy realistic YA.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Quarterly Round-Up

It is time for the Quarterly Review Round-Up where I talk about the best of the best, the one's I couldn't finish, and the adult novels I'm reading that I don't review here.

The DNFs'
The Book Jumper by Mechthild Glaser
A Clatter of Jars by Lisa Graff
A Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi
The Secrets of Hexbridge Castle by Gabrielle Kent

Adult Books
Do You Want to Start a Scandal by Tessa Dare (historical romance)
Forever a Maverick by Genevieve Turner (contemporary romance)
The Girl With the Make-Believe Husband by Julia Quinn (historical fiction)
Her Best Worst Mistake by Sarah Mayberry (contemporary romance)
The Irish Prince by Virginia Nelson (contemporary romance)
The Thing About Love by Julie James (contemporary romance)
Trust Me by Laura Florand (contemporary romance)
Trust Me by Farrah Rochon (contemporary romance)

My Favorite Reads (links to my reviews unless otherwise noted)


Thick as Thieves by Meagan Whalen Turner*


Things I Should Have Known by Claire LaZebnik
When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

*I don't have a review of this book because I can't review this series. I don't have the words. But you should read it if you haven't.




Thursday, June 29, 2017

Shorter Musings

Here are some shorter musings on recent reads.

Eat the Sky, Drink the Ocean by Kirsty Murray
I saw this at the library and decided it looked interesting. I had not heard about it before seeing it on display. It is a fascinating combination of narrative short stories and graphic shorts created by Australian and Indian authors and illustrators. The point of the book is to highlight struggles of teen girls with harassment. The book came out of a series of events that occurred close together in both countries where teen girls were the victims. Many of the stories depict a future where girls are still having to deal with the every day terrors of misogyny. All of them are empowering. The art in the graphic stories is all excellent. There were stories I enjoyed more than others, but they were all incredibly good.

Geekerella by Ashley Poston
This is super cute and adorable. It is told in alternating point of view between Elle and Darien so we get the perspective of both the Cinderella character and the prince character. It is a really great nod to cons and fan culture. There have been several books with this focus released the past year or so, and this one is definitely my favorite. I really enjoyed Darien as the hero. The supporting cast of characters adds a great dimension to everything too. The pacing is a bit off and I would have liked more on page time with Elle and Darien together. I'm going to be recommending this to a lot of teens I know though.

The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein
This is a prequel to [book:Code Name Verity|11925514] and follows a younger Julie as she has to say goodbye to her grandfather and ancestral home. It is an excellent book that captures the feeling of summer when you are a teen and everything is ending, but everything is also beginning. This is a little mystery and a lot of coming of age. It is a fascinating look into Julie's past. In this book we see Julie become Queenie and in this we see the firm foundation of Verity.

A School for Unusual Girls by Kathleen Baldwin
In the Stranje House series, Kathleen Baldwin explores an alternate historical timeline in which Napoleon returns from Elba, the Congress of Vienna is disastrous, and the chaos of the Napoleonic wars continue. In England there is a school that takes in the unusual daughters of the aristocracy with the promise to render them normal, biddable misses. Except that's not what's happening at all. The girls are being trained to use their talents in the interest of their country and to revel in who they truly are in a place where they're appreciated for the first time in their lives. For the most part, I enjoyed the concept. I found the main character of this volume, Georgie to be frustrating. It took her way too long for her to figure out what the school really was for someone as intelligent as she was purported to be. It wasn't like they were keeping it that much of a secret. I wasn't as impressed by the ship as some either. The romance was a fun addition, but not something that I was particularly invested in. (I can see myself being invested in Tess's story in the sequel more. I'm not sure if I'm going to read it or not though.) Some of the girls do have paranormal (not sure that is quite the right word but I'm going with it) abilities so this is definitely a fantasy for those reasons as well as the alternate timeline. One thing that really  bothered me was the use of the words  "Oriental" and "exotic" to describe non-white characters. I know that this is taking place in a time when those words would have been used but as the rest of the language in the novel is modern, it wouldn't have altered anything to use words people from those groups mentioned find less offensive. And it's an ALTERNATE history after all so those could have been left out.

Shuffle, Repeat by Jen Klein
This is a fun contemporary story about two seniors in high school who are forced to ride to school in the same car every day courtesy of their mothers' friendship.  Oliver and June have a great chemistry. The banter between them is inspiring. Oliver is a popular jock who embraces everything high school has to offer and revels in it. June is a sneering, rather pretentious smart girl who can't wait until it is all over. The morning car ride leads to a competition involving their differing music tastes and opinions about high school. I enjoyed how their characters developed. June is rather hard to swallow at times, but she reminds me so much of many teens I've worked with. The payoff for their relationship in the end is worth it. I really couldn't buy the  music battle though. YA authors you really have to let go of this idea that all teens are super into the 80s. Even with Stranger Things, they are only flirting with the decade. None of them are going to argue over the Ramones and Whitesnake.