Monday, September 1, 2014

Perilous Sea

Last year I had so much fun reading The Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas. By no means a perfect book, it still greatly entertained me. I loved Iolanthe and Titus, finding myself invested in their struggle against evil. I was naturally a little nervous going into The Perilous Sea because its the middle of a trilogy, and those books tend to be the most painful. I won't sugarcoat it folks, this book will cause pain for anyone who loves the two main characters as much as I. But it will also cause many squeals, smiles, and joy as it is just as much fun to read as its predecessor. 

You should probably read The Burning Sky before reading this review. 

After spending the summer away from each other, Titus and Iolanthe (still disguised as Archer Fairfax) are eager to return to Eton College to resume their training to fight the Bane. Although no longer bound to Titus by a blood oath, Iolanthe is more committed than ever to fulfilling her destiny—especially with the agents of Atlantis quickly closing in.
Soon after arriving at school, though, Titus makes a shocking discovery, one that makes him question everything he previously believed about their mission. Faced with this devastating realization, Iolanthe is forced to come to terms with her new role, while Titus must choose between following his mother's prophecies—and forging a divergent path to an unknowable future.

My admiration for Iolanthe grew by leaps and bounds in this volume. She is steadfast, honest, and implacable all the way through often in the face of Titus being a complete idiot. And let me tell you he had me wanting to reach into the book and smack him over the head so many times. Not that I didn't understand where his pain and tortured reasoning was coming from. I just had no patience for it. Nothing more infuriating than a mama's boy. Oh-except one who is letting his mama control him when she isn't even alive anymore. Fortunately he is able to work this out for himself in due time, but prepare for frustration aplenty before he does. Iolanthe turned slightly annoying during this phase too, but not nearly as bad or for as long. And in the end it is all worth it, because it does result in some great development of their relationship, solidifying it even more. And in an ingenious move of narrative cleverness, we also get plenty of the banter, flirting, and slow burn romance that was them falling for each other in the first place. Not really going to say much about that so as not to ruin anything, but LOVED what Thomas did there. 

The secondary characters play a far more important role in this book. The Burning Sky concentrated on building the world and the characters of Iolanthe and Titus. With these firmly established, Thomas takes some time to develop other characters. Kashkari and Lady Wintervale are two of my favorites from this story, and I can't wait to see what the future holds for Kashkari especially. long as he survives the third book. (Please let him survive the third book!) There is a fascinatingly mysterious new character introduced that I can't wait to learn more about too. 

We also learn more about the Bane and exactly how horribly villainous he is. Also creepy. While the main villain, Iolanthe and Titus didn't need to confront his evil as much in the first book, going up against his chief minion instead. But here the Bane is stalking them quietly himself, while they are discovering more of the hideous deeds he has carried out making him into a truly dangerous and creepy threa,t and not just a shadowy distant presence of evil.

The plot and narrative are broken in half and told in alternating chapters. As I said above, this narrative move was brilliant because it maintained a heightened mystery and gave me a break from Titus being stupid. In one narrative thread Iolanthe and Titus are at at Eton. Things are unraveling, dangerous stuff is afoot, and they are making discoveries that are horrifying them at every turn. The other narrative thread is really fascinating, taking place in the not too distant future from the Eton narrative. Through this narrative the full potential of Iolanthe's power in the real world and the strength of the team she and Titus are together is fully unveiled. There is so much danger, mystery, and intrigue in this part of the narrative. That's all I'm going to say about that. 

The Perilous Sea is full of twists and intrigue. I liked it even more than the first one in the end. I'm grateful for Shae for reading it first and fully supporting me as I DMed her through my entire reading of the novel with complaints about Titus, excitement over reveals, suspicions, and general thoughts. My husband thanks her too as it spared him from lots of information and second-hand angst over something he knows and cares nothing about.

If you liked The Burning Sky, you need to read this. If you are haven't read The Burning Sky yet, but are a lover of fantasy, political intrigue, and romance, these are perfect books for you. You should get them. It's just so hard knowing we have a year to wait for the next one. Sigh.

I read an e-galley provided by the publisher, Balzer & Bray, via Edelweiss. The Perilous Sea is available for purchase on September 16th. 

Friday, August 29, 2014

10 Books By Women (About Girls) That Boys Should Read

A couple weeks ago Melissa at The Book Nut wrote this post and I loved the idea so I asked her if I could co-opt it and make my own list. She told me to go ahead. I like so many of the books she mentioned, but thought others would be good as well. I imagine if lots of people made lists we would end up with a lot of different books. There would be some crossovers, but in the end we would have a pretty diverse list I think.

Here is mine. 5 MG books and 5 YA. Several of these I have already given to boys with enthusiastic response.

The MG:

The YA:

And a bonus book of poetry for the YA crowd:

What would be on your lists? 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Shorter Musings: Recent MG

Sometimes I read a book, and I even enjoy it, but I don't have much to say about it. I jot down a few thoughts and then I move on. When these start to pile up, I put them together in one post.

Here are some reviews of MG fantasy fiction I've read recently:

Finding Ruby Starling by Karen Fox
Finding Ruby Starling is a novel about finding who your are and your place amidst the pains of growing up like most MG books. It is unique in that it throws in twin sisters who never knew the other existed. Ruth, who is adopted, finds Ruby online and they begin an exchange of emails that changes their lives forever. This is an epistolary novel, told through the emails the girls send each other, their friends, and their parents. There is some boy drama and quite a bit of angst about figuring out how they fit together. All of it is good, but a little long. There were a lot of e-mails I skimmed quickly. The read genuinely like 13 year old's emails, and that includes a lot of totes and ridic and the like. I found the amount Ruth used these words to be thoroughly annoying, but that won't bother everyone. I enjoyed this and would recommend it to any lover of realistic MG fiction. 
I read an e-galley provided by the publisher, Arthur Levine, via NetGalley.

Spirit's Key by Edith Cohn 
I enjoyed Spirit's Key. While I was reading it, it was difficult to put down. It is one of those books that sucks you in due to the mystery, which is incredibly well done. The hints are given out slowly and just enough to keep you engaged and waiting for the next tidbit. I was also pleased that I was only able to half figure out what was going on. The book left a lot of unanswered questions in my head as well. I was never able to fully suspend my disbelief enough to completely buy into the fantasy element. This seems to be a problem just I have. Most others seem to be dealing with it just fine. It is a good book and a wonderful recommendation to give to kids who love fantasies and animals.
I read an e-galley provided by the publisher, Farrar Straus & Giroux, via NetGalley.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

WoW: Kissing Ted Callahan (And Other Guys)

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

After catching their bandmates in a compromising position, sixteen-year-old Los Angelenos Riley and Reid become painfully aware of the romance missing from their own lives. And so a pact is formed: they'll both try to make something happen with their respective crushes and document the experiences in a shared notebook.

While Reid struggles with the moral dilemma of adopting a dog to win over someone's heart, Riley tries to make progress with Ted Callahan, who she's been obsessed with forever-His floppy hair! His undeniable intelligence! But suddenly cute guys are popping up everywhere. How did she never notice them before?! With their love lives going from 0 to 60 in the blink of an eye, Riley and Reid realize the results of their pact may be more than they bargained for.

I love Amy Spalding's books. I adore her characters and real they are. I like how the situations in them have meat and tension, but the books are also full of humor. And music. Humor and music are the greatest things life has to offer other than books. 

Kissing Ted Callahan (and other guys) will be out on April 14, 2015.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Poisoned Apples: Poems for You My Pretty

I am not a huge poetry fan, but once in a while a poetry book comes along that I can not pass up the chance to read. Poisoned Apples: Poems for You My Pretty by Christine Heppermann was just such a book.

The Woods
The action's always there.
Where are the fairy tales about gym class
or the doctor's office or the back of the bus where bad things also happen?

And so begins a beautiful collection of poems that combine fairy tale and real life to illustrate the struggles of teen girls everywhere. Eating disorders, boys who see and treat you as an object, seeing and treating yourself as an object, the never-ending quest for impossible perfection to live up to an artifiical standard of beauty-it's all blended and folded together against a backdrop of familiar characters and scenarios. The poems, which are mostly in blank verse, are hauntingly beautiful. They are more than that too though. They challenge preconceived notions, force thought, and are, in the end, empowering. It is a feminist book. It is a powerful book. It is a human book. It fills me with a zeal to buy copies for all the teen girls I know. And all the adult women. All the boys too for that matter.

In addition to the poems the final copy of the book will be full of art. I read an e-galley, so it is not all there or as clear as possible, but what I saw I very much liked. I pre-ordered this book months ago based on its concept alone. Having read it already, I do not regret that decision in the slightest. I can not wait for my copy to come so I can read it again and see the art in all its beauty with the poems.

I love fairy tales. Actual real fairy tales for all the darkness, horror, and awful truth they contain. I love them because the lines between fairy tales and reality are hard to find when you start thinking about what the stories are really about. Hepperman mentions her similar thoughts on this in the Afterward. This shows clear in every poem,which is based on a tale with a known character, but so tragically real at the same time. It combines all the aspects of fairy tale riffs I adore.

I highly recommend to everyone.

Content Warning: sexual references, strong language, alcohol and drug use

I read an e-galley provided by the publisher, Greenwillow Books, via Edelweiss. Poisoned Apples is available for purchase on September 23rd.