Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Shorter Musings (YA)

Here are some shorter musings on some recent YA reads.

Iron Cast by Destiny Soria
I have very mixed feelings about this one. The prose definitely drew me in as a reader and the concept was interesting and carried out well. I love books that feature strong female friendships and this one is a stellar example. But I thought it was a little too long and despite it being technically excellent, I found that it lacked a certain heart that kept me from falling in love with it. It was more of an intellectual appreciation of the writing skill and that always distracts me from fully loving a book. I don't want to be thinking about that WHILE I'm reading.

My Unscripted Life by Lauren Morrill
I haven't liked any of Morrill's books as much as I liked her debut, [book:Meant to Be|11721314],  but this one comes the closest to recapturing the feel of that book. It is fun, fluffy, and romantic. There is a good bit of a wish fulfillment fantasy type story. That is not a criticism of the book itself, but that is not my favorite type of romance. I'm sure it will have a lot of appeal for teens, so many of them have this exact fantasy. Not about the same sort of celebrity as every teen is different, but generally the meet your fav famous person and they fall in love you is a definite go to for teen dream making times.

Still Life with Tornado by A.S. King
This is well written. A.S. King has such a way with words and characters. Sarah's voice is exactly right for the person she is. She is having a crisis of confidence, faith, and a general ennui with life. There are underlying reasons for this that are major and impacted her strongly even though she couldn't quite acknowledge how much. This book is journey to that point. It is magical realism because 10 year old Sarah, 23 year old Sarah, and 40 year old Sarah are there to help her through. This was the part of the book I couldn't quite get into. I'm not a huge fan of magical realism in general so this was just not meant to be my thing. I did enjoy it for the most part though and I will completely understand if it wins the Printz.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Miss Ellicott's School for the Magically Minded

Miss Ellicott's for the Magically Minded by Sage Blackwood is one of my most anticipated 2017 releases. Blackwood's previous trilogy beginning with Jinx is one of my favorites so I wanted to read this new book as soon as I could. I was immediately pulled into the story here and delighted to find a book about sticking it to the patriarchy with magic and a dragon while fighting for what is right.

Chantel is an orphan who attends Miss Ellicott's School for the Magically Minded. Girls who show proficiency in magic and have no other place in the world go there to learn to use their magic. They also have lessons in deportment and are taught to be "shamefast and biddable". Chantel has more trouble with that part. She is prodigiously talented in the area of magic, but when it comes to holding her tongue and deporting, she has to work extra hard. When Miss Ellicott and all the other enchantresses who do the magic (the buttoning) that holds up the city's walls and keeps it safe go missing, Chantel and her two best friends must find a way to help save their city. But first they have to figure out exactly what it is that needs saving and what is the best way to do that.

Chantel is special. She summons her familiar, a tiny green snake, to her at an incredibly early age. Yet she is not your typical "special" heroine. She is a prodigy of magic, but she has been immersed in it almost her entire life and she works hard. She has a practical no-nonsense approach to life that leads her to impatience with people and can cause her to be snappy. When her snake familiar crawls inside her head, it becomes harder for her to control this. She is also told by Miss Ellicott that she is "the chosen one". I loved how Blackwood used this trope and flipped it on its head in ways that both amuse and make a point about free will and choice. Chantel is joined by her best friend Anna. Together they make a perfect team because they balance each other well. Anna is better at being outwardly shamefast and biddable, but, like Chantel, she knows her own mind and uses it to the optimal advantage. She is better at corralling the younger girls at the school and often talks Chantel into finding her patience when she needs it. The girls have always been friends with Bowser, who works in the kitchens and is the only boy resident of the school. He too helps balance Chantel and is a needed part of the team as the elder males who run the city don't want to deal with girls. This team is eventually joined by Franklin, a Marauder boy from outside the city who brings street smarts, knowledge of the outside world, and a mean ability with a crossbow to help out. The four work well together and tend to stick to what they do best. The story mostly belongs to Chantel though, who set off an important series of events by allowing her snake into her head.

The plot is full of mystery and adventure. The kids live in a walled city. The wall has been there for hundreds of years, but now it is in risk of collapse. Marauders (those who live on the outside) with to break the hold the city has on trade. The ruling parties of the city are engaged in an internal power struggle. In classic MG fashion, the kids are the ones who have to save the day. They see things in different ways and are better able to reassess long held prejudices and beliefs. I don't want to say too much because the book is so much fun to experience, but I was truly impressed with the blend of magic, adventure, politics, and ethics. The main theme of the book is "think bigger". Chantel is told this several times, and it is only through this that she is able to figure out a course to take that will help the most people. The existence of the walled city, which was walled to keep out threats but also kept its inhabitants enslaved to their rulers who controlled their food supply, is a timely thematic element all on its own. I really liked how this was threaded through the book, particularly the quote: "a wall becomes a wall in the mind".

Also there is an absentminded dragon with a massive library.

Fans of adventure, fantasy, and girls using all the tools at their disposal to kick butt and take names should read this book.

I read an ARC received at ALA Midwinter from the publisher, Katherine Tegen Books. Miss Ellicott's School for the Magically Minded is on sale March 21st.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

WoW: Ghosts of Greenglass House

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill of Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

Ghosts of Greenglass is the sequel to Milford's 2014 book Greenglass House, which was one of my favorite reads of that year. Kate Milford is an auto-buy author for me anyway, but I'm especially looking forward to reading more about Milo and the Greenglass House.

Ghosts of Greenglass House releases on October 3rd from Clarion books.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

TTT: Antagonism to Love Romances

This week's TTT topic: Favorite Romance Tropes (all media) I chose Antagonism to Love

I know this trope is usually called hate to love, but hate isn't the right word for how I like these relationships arcs to start out. It's more that the hero and heroine are in opposition for some reason. Sometimes it is initial dislike, but it can also be a circumstantial thing. Whichever, it usually results in excellent banter and fun all around.

Back in 2014 I wrote a post on the love stories I trained on and many of these were featured there. My affinity for this trope started young.

Here they are in order of obsession:

Han and Leia from Star Wars

"'Go back' Taran shouted at the top of his voice.'Have you lost your wits?'
Eilonwy, for it was she, half-halted. She had tucked her plaited hair under a leather helmet. The Princess of Llyr smiled cheerfully at him. 'I understand you're upset,' she shouted back, 'but that's no cause to be rude.' She galloped on.
For a time, Taran could not believe he had really seen her."

Taran and Eilonwy from the Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander

Anne and Gilbert from the Anne series by Lucy Maude Montgomery

Elizabeth Bennet and Darcy from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Beatrice and Benedick from Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare

"Aravis also had many quarrels (and, I'm afraid even fights) with Cor, but they always made it up again: so that years later, when they were grown up they were so used to quarreling and making it up again that they got married so as to go on doing it more conveniently."

Shasta (Cor) and Aravis from The Horse and his Boy by C.S. Lewis

Ron and Hermione from Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

"Discretion prevented me from saying that I thought she was a fiend from the underworld and that mountain lions couldn't force me to enter her service."

"Today, she had yielded the sovereignty of her country to Eugenides, who had given up everything he had ever hoped for, to be her King."

(I always feel kind of bad talking about this on these sorts of lists because it is technically  a pretty massive spoiler, but they are my otpest of otps and they BELONG HERE. So....sorry?)

Gen and Irene from The Queen's Thief Series by Megan Whalen Turner

"I've never thought of you like that,' said Christopher. 'How could I? If you were any other woman, I could tell you I loved you, easily enough, but not you-- because you've always seemed to me like a part of myself, and it would be like saying I loved my own eyes or my own mind. But have you ever thought of what it would be to have to live without your mind or your eyes, Kate? To be mad? Or blind?"

Kate and Christopher from The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope

Leslie and Ben from Parks and Recreation


Do you have a favorite couple who fits this trope?