Friday, September 13, 2019

Future Favorites Friday September 19

I take the 2nd Friday of every month to highlight some upcoming releases I am looking forward to that I hope are Future Favorites. Feel free to do your own post, just please link back to my blog and tell me about your post in the comments.

Jenn Reese has a new book coming out!!!!!! I cannot tell you how much love I have for her Above World trilogy, and I was starting to lament that maybe we would never get another fabulous MG from her. BUT WE ARE!!!! And there's a tricky, well-dressed fox! And LOOK AT THE COVER!!!! (All the caps and exclamation points are totally necessary.)

After an incident shatters their family, eleven-year old Samantha and her older sister Caitlin are sent to live in rural Oregon with an aunt they've never met. Sam wants nothing more than to go back to the way things were… before she spoke up about their father's anger.

When Aunt Vicky gives Sam a mysterious card game called "A Game of Fox & Squirrels," Sam falls in love with the animal characters, especially the charming trickster fox, Ashander. Then one day Ashander shows up in Sam’s room and offers her an adventure and a promise: find the Golden Acorn, and Sam can have anything she desires.

But the fox is hiding rules that Sam isn't prepared for, and her new home feels more tempting than she'd ever expected. As Sam is swept up in the dangerous quest, the line between magic and reality grows thin. If she makes the wrong move, she'll lose far more than just a game.

Release Date: April 14, 2020 from Henry Holt & Co.

You guys know how I side-eye anything flirting with Jane Austen but also am pulled to it like a magnet to a refrigerator? Well, it is with equal parts trepidation and anticipation that I present a book that claims Austen influence with some mysterious goings on as well. Don't let me down, book.

Lady Victoria Aston has everything she could want: an older sister happily wed, the future of her family estate secure, and ample opportunity to while her time away in the fields around her home.

But now Vicky must marry—or find herself and her family destitute. Armed only with the wisdom she has gained from her beloved novels by Jane Austen, she enters society’s treacherous season.

Sadly, Miss Austen has little to say about Vicky’s exactcircumstances: whether the roguish Mr. Carmichael is indeed a scoundrel, if her former best friend, Tom Sherborne, is out for her dowry or for her heart, or even how to fend off the attentions of the foppish Mr. Silby, he of the unfortunate fashion sensibility.

Most unfortunately of all, Vicky’s books are silent on the topic of the mysterious accidents cropping up around her…ones that could prevent her from surviving until her wedding day.

Release Date: December 3, 2019 from HarperTeen

What upcoming book releases are you excited for? 

Monday, September 2, 2019

August 2019 Stats

School is back in full swing. Can you tell? I actually read a lot this month, but they were almost all familiar, comfort rereads and books for English class.

Favorite New Read of August:

August in Numbers:
New Reads: 3
Rereads: 7

MG: 1
YA: 2
Adult: 7

Fiction: 10
Realistic Fiction: 8
Speculative Fiction: 2

I don't have a pic of the TBR shelf this month. It's almost embarrassing. It's pretty much all the same books as last month plus some a bunch more I picked up at the library. Here's to hoping I find a school rhythm soon, stay well*, and am able to read more new stuff.

What good books did you read in August?

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Speak Easy, Speak Love

I LOVE Much Ado About Nothing. LOVE. LOVE. LOVE. That is 100% due to Beatrice and Benedick being one of my all time OTPs. (I've written about them before here and here.) There are parts of the story I would, of course, like to change for a more modern sensibility (such as everything with Hero and Claudio). I am therefore completely and irrevocably in love with McKelle George's clever retelling Speak Easy, Speak Love. She fixed everything I wanted fixed, and gave me things I never dreamed I wanted from the story but now can't live without.

Benedick Scott is finished. He is saying good-bye to his old, privileged life and taking off to live the remainder of his days at the "boarding house" Hey Nonny Nonny! While making his escape to meet his friend Prince, a schoolmate named Claude  catches Ben leaving and tags along only to find himself completely captivated by Hey Nonny Nonny's young mistress Hero Stahr. Ben is unsurprised as he seems to be the only male he knows immune to Hero's charms. But Ben has another surprise waiting for him in Hey Nonny Nonny's newest full-time resident. Hero's cousin Beatrice has come to live with them. She is a freight train and a tornado wrapped up in human girl form, and she knocks Benedick completely off his feet.

Beatrice Clark has dreams and ambitions that do not involve rich boys slumming it on their whimsy. She is going to be a doctor. Just as soon as she straightens out her financial and educational standings. Helping out at her family's "boarding house" that fronts as one of Long Island's most famous speak easies in the meantime just seems logical. They need help, and as capable as she is practical, she can provide help in abundance. Too bad most of her help puts her in the company of the one person in the household she would most like to avoid...

George's versions of Beatrice and Benedick are just top notch. It never would have occurred to me to take Benedick and turn him into a wannabe novelist who has a love affair with his (named-feminine, of course) typewriter, but it is just so perfect in every way. It takes all of his philosophical insecure ramblings and gives them a purpose and a psychology that absolutely fits the original intent of the character and the 1920s setting of this iteration perfectly. Beatrice is as ever highly capable and painfully honest. She is a practical girl who yearns to go to medical school and be a doctor. Following  her ambitions has lead her to learn a great deal on her own already. She lugs around a trunk full of medical study materials and diagnoses everyone she comes in contact with who seems remotely suffering from an unknown ailment. When he meets her, Ben is feeling rather purposeless even though he's trying to invest his life with meaning by running away from his rich father to be a writer.  For her part, Beatrice is trying to find her place in a world that doesn't seem to want her and is simply grateful to her uncle for taking her in. Sparks fly between the two immediately and the banter is wonderful and clever and amusing in every way the banter between these two is supposed to be. Though a few choice lines from the source material are used, George adds her own spin to their dynamic and makes their banter relevant to the setting. I would have kept turning pages just to keep reading their back and forth.

The supporting characters that round out the cast are also well done, and it is here that George changed things up a bit. John is not the unscrupulous villain of the source material, and the fraught relationship between him and Pedro (Prince) is explored in more depth. Maggie (Margaret) has a far more prominent role and is not the hapless dupe she was in the original. The sub-plot of her relationship with John is my second favorite part of this novel. I would love to read another book just about them. Claude isn't much changed from Claudio except he is very much put in his proper place by the end. Hero is far more rounded a character. George spends a considerable amount of time focusing on how the absence of Hero's recently deceased mother has affected everyone. Anna is almost as much a character as all the living characters of the story. There is much acknowledgment that things with Hero would go much differently if her mother were still alive. Prince is the secondary character I feel the least amount of connection to, but I was very content with the way his story concluded in this version. I thoroughly loved what George did with the magistrate characters. The addition of Ben's father as a character is a stroke of genius. (Also I loved him. I could read more of him too please.)

The 1920s setting is inspired. Bringing all of these characters together for the purpose of running a speak easy is a brilliant twist. Prince is the one who does the majority of the smuggling as Leo grieves the death of his wife. Hero is determined to keep it all going and runs the place. Maggie is the singer. Ben just tries to help without getting in the way. John is an Italian mobster trying to protect his little brother from getting in too deep in a world that could kill him. Beatrice ends up there because she's related, but she fits in right away and begins helping without batting an eye.

I can't in anyway pretend objectivity with this. It is exactly so much a me book that I was bound to love it no matter what. The banter lives up to its predecessor, the dynamic between Beatrice and Ben is perfect in every way, the setting pleased me, and I loved every single character.

My only regret is that I waited this long to read it.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Shorter Musings: The Lighthouse Between the Worlds, Snow & Rose, Straw Into Gold, Watch Hollow

Here are some shorter musings on recently read MG fantasy novels.

The Lighthouse Between the Worlds by Melanie Crowder
Melanie Crowder is one of the most underrated MG/YA authors. She continuously writes excellent books, and she has such a range. This is an excellent example of what she is capable of. This book takes place in a multi-verse where the portal between the worlds is a lighthouse on the pacific coast. It is about imperialism, slavery, totalitarianism, and political rebellion. Those are important topics to tackle in a rather short MG novel, but Crowder handles it with finesse. The characters are well drawn and the action is exciting from start to finish.

Snow & Rose by Emily Winfield Martin
This is a beautiful retelling of a tale many children are not familiar with because Disney hasn't touched it yet. It is perfect for fairy tale lovers who are new to reading novels. The chapters are short. The illustrations are gorgeous. Both Snow and Rose are layered characters and very different. The world is steeped in the original tale while also having its own sense of place. It isn't very often that you find a book that feels so other worldly written for the younger age of the MG spectrum that does it all so well. Martin managed to pull all of that off.

Straw into Gold: Fairy Tales Respun by Hilary McKay
This is a collection of fairy tales, each with a twist of some sort. The twist range from the point of view of the storyteller, the point in time from which the story is told, and the circumstances surrounding the story. It's a decent collection, but mostly I was just bored. The stories were not engaging enough to keep my interest when or twisty enough to offer anything new. There were a couple of shining, profound moments, but those were too few and far between to count against how I had to force myself to pick up the book when it was time to read. Typically I'm able to say even if a MG book doesn't work for me how it might work for the intended audience. For once, I can't do that. I have no idea. I know many of the 5th-7th graders I work with are completely unfamiliar with the original version of fairy tales, so I don't know what they would get from this.

Watch Hollow by Gregory Funaro 
This is a fantastical mystery involving a spooky house, a magical clock, and inanimate animals that come to life. It is an entertaining read, but for me it didn't really stand out from the pack as far as MG fantasy goes. There is a dead mother and a confused, distant father. Nothing really makes it particularly memorable, but it is a good thing to give new novel readers who have yet to read much fantasy. 

Friday, August 9, 2019

Future Favorites Friday August 19

I take the 2nd Friday of every month to highlight some upcoming releases I am looking forward to that I hope are Future Favorites. Feel free to do your own post, just please link back to my blog and tell me about your post in the comments.

One look at this cover is really all I needed. But I read the synopsis anyway and that only made my desire for this book grow.

Headstrong Anya is the daughter of the only Jewish family in her village. When her family's livelihood is threatened by a bigoted magistrate, Anya is lured in by a friendly family of Fools, who promise her money in exchange for helping them capture the last dragon in Kievan Rus. This seems easy enough—until she finds out that the scary old dragon isn't as old—or as scary—as everyone thought. Now Anya is faced with a choice: save the dragon, or save her family.

Release Date: September 24, 2019 from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Guys, this one is a YA retelling of Mansfield Park, which is not my favorite Austen. This means there's a better chance I'll love it. (Especially considering the creepy cousin element will be gone.)

Mansfield, Massachusetts is the last place seventeen-year-old Edie Price wants to spend her final summer before college. It’s the home of wealthy suburbanites and prima donnas like Edie’s cousins, who are determined to distract her from her mother’s death with cute boys and Cinderella-style makeovers. Edie has her own plans, and they don’t include a prince charming.

But as Edie dives into schoolwork and applying for college scholarships, she finds herself drawn to two Mansfield boys who start vying for her attention. First there's Sebastian, Edie’s childhood friend and first love. He’s sweet and smart and . . . already has a girlfriend. Then there's Henry, the local bad boy and all-around player. He’s totally off limits, even if his kisses are chemically addictive.

Both boys are trouble. Edie can’t help but get caught between them. Someone's heart is going to break. Now she just has to make sure it isn't hers.

Release Date: December 17, 2019 by HMH Books for Young Readers

What upcoming releases are you looking forward to?