Monday, May 22, 2017

Things I Should Have Known

My feelings for Clair LaZebnik's books have run from lukewarm to extreme love. I was on the fence about reading Things I Should Have Known because I knew it dealt with autism, and I was worried about how that would go. All her other books I've read have been fluffy, romantic modern Austen retellings. I was thoroughly pulled into this story and characters though. This is definitely on the extreme love end of my LaZebnik book rankings.

Chloe's sister Ivy has autism so even though Ivy is older, Chloe has always felt like the older sibling who has to take care of and watch out for Ivy. When Ivy walks in on Chloe making out with her boyfriend and begins asking a lot of questions about feelings and romance, Chloe thinks Ivy wants a boyfriend. After assessing all of Ivy's friends at her special school, Chloe encourages Ivy to text a boy named Ethan who is also on the spectrum. Ivy agrees to meet with Ethan for yogurt, but only if Chloe goes with her. When they arrive, Chloe finds that Ethan is accompanied by his brother David, the one guy in school she absolutely can not stand. As Ivy and Ethan continue to meet, David and Chloe tag along and discover they have a lot in common. As the friendships between all four of them develop in  unexpected ways, Chloe begins to learn more about her sister, herself, and the people around her.

The story is told in Chloe's first person point of view so the way she sees the world affects the way the reader sees the world, but Ivy, David, and Ethan become just as real and nuanced people. So do Chloe's boyfriend James and her best friend Sarah. (The fact I remembered all their names and didn't need to look any of them up speaks volumes about this. I have a hard time remembering the names of secondary characters in contemporary novels.) Chloe is beautiful and popular. She is smart, but she also works hard. To unwind she enjoys gossiping with Sarah and making out with James. She is in every way a typical teen, but she has a maturity about her that comes from years helping Ivy navigate the world. Her sister is the most important thing in the world to Chloe even when she gets frustrated with her. Her quest to help Ivy find love is not entirely selfless as Chloe knows it will give her a little more freedom. But she's not looking for too much freedom. She's making her college plans around how close she can stay to Ivy just in case she needs her.

This book is first and foremost a sibling story. I adore sibling stories and this is a good one, with not one but two sets of very different siblings both with amazing dynamics. Chloe and Ivy have issues at home: their father died shortly after Ivy's diagnosis, they have a new step father Chloe doesn't particularly like, their mother suffered from depression in the past. The girls rely heavily on each other. David and Ethan are much the same. Their mother left after Ethan's diagnosis  and their step mother is paranoid their new baby brother will be autistic too. David does pretty much everything with Ethan. David has absolutely no social life because he leaves school to help his brother. And that's it. Because there really is no one else. Chloe is able to have more freedom because she has her mom and step dad, but in David she finds someone her own age who finally really gets what she deals with every day. And he begins to see her in a different light as well. The best part about the dates is watching David and Chloe interact with their siblings and guide them through the world as best they can. These interactions build all four of their characters well. The second best part of the dates is watching the understanding, familiarity, and friendship grow between Chloe and David.

The romantic thread is definitely secondary to the rest of it, but how it develops is interesting and atypical for a YA romance. Chloe is the outgoing, experienced one. She likes boys, kissing, and making out and has had a lot of experience with all of it. David is basically a hermit. Part of that is because of his dedication to Ethan, but a good chunk of it is because deep down he is a socially awkward, arrogant nerd. (So we know how I feel about him.) Their relationship is really a friendship first. The two of them banter with the best of them, but their physical attraction is slower to get going. And their first kiss isn't fabulous because it's David's first kiss ever. (Though Chloe is much delighted with being the instructor in that which was so refreshing to see.)

I can't really assess the portrayal of autism as that is not my lane at all. I love both Ivy and Ethan as characters. They are different people with strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes. They process and deal with the world in different ways. I thought that the way LaZebnik presented the reactions of people around them in public and how all four teens dealt with this was really enlightening. From my limited perspective, it all felt nuanced and well done.

There is another thing that comes as an element in Ivy's interactions with Ethan that is handled really well too. I don't want to say much about that because of spoilers (but I don't think it's very difficult to figure out once you start reading). I just really enjoyed all the reactions and the events that came out of it made perfect sense.

I recommend this to people who enjoy realistic stories about family, friendship and life.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Today is the Day

Any regular reader of this blog knows that I have strong feelings about The Queen's Thief series. I talk about them kind of a lot. They are in so many of my lists: Favorite Books, Favorite Series, Favorite Female Characters, Favorite Male Characters, Favorite Secondary Characters, Favorite Romantic Relationships....well you get the point.

I've reread the first four books in the series so many times I've lost count, and each time I find things I had not noticed before. I never grow tired of reading them. That doesn't mean I haven't wanted with a desperation the next book in the series. Waiting for it has been hard.

Really it's only been 7, but in publishing years 7 feels like 84.


My love for these books is such that I don't review them. I talk about them a lot, but I don't review them. I can't. Because of this, I passed up several opportunities to get an ARC. I don't regret that decision. At all. And I want to reflect on that for a moment. Reading for reviewing often changes the way I read. I wanted to just experience this book the same way I experienced its four predecessors (which I read pre-blogging). I gained something else from not picking up the ARC I wasn't expecting. I remembered what it was like to truly anticipate with every fiber of my being something I'm passionate about. No chance for spoilers. (Our tiny fandom is super courteous. They are the best.) No having to keep all my thoughts to myself before everyone had a chance to read. I got to just sit back and be a fan of a YA book and enjoy it as it is. I'm deeply grateful to past me for finding the backbone to walk away from all those shiny ARCs at Midwinter and refuse the offers I got from others who had it. I needed this dash of excitement and joy these past few months. I needed the delicious agony of this wait and the months to just revel in rereading the other books.

Anyway if you haven't read these books yet, what are you waiting for? How have I not convinced you? What more can I do?

Here is a post I wrote last year on why I love them. Start there. In the mean time I'm going to enjoy this day and look forward to when I get to do this again. (Though hopefully it won't take 84 7 years for the final book to come out.)

Friday, May 12, 2017

Future Favorite Friday

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.

When Ghost came out last year, I didn't realize that each book in the series was going to feature a different kid as the main character. I'm even more excited about this sequel knowing that and who it is about.

Patina, or Patty, runs like a flash. She runs for many reasons—to escape the taunts from the kids at the fancy-schmancy new school she’s been sent to since she and her little sister had to stop living with their mom. She runs from the reason WHY she’s not able to live with her “real” mom any more: her mom has The Sugar, and Patty is terrified that the disease that took her mom’s legs will one day take her away forever. So Patty’s also running for her mom, who can’t. But can you ever really run away from any of this? As the stress builds up, it’s building up a pretty bad attitude as well. Coach won’t tolerate bad attitude. No day, no way. And now he wants Patty to run relay…where you have to depend on other people? How’s she going to do THAT?

Release Date: August 29, 2017 from Atheneum Books

Next up is a sequel I've wanted since the moment I read the last word of Shadowshaper

Sierra and her friends love their new lives as shadowshapers, making art and creating change with the spirits of Brooklyn. Then Sierra receives a strange card depicting a beast called the Hound of Light -- an image from the enigmatic, influential Deck of Worlds. The shadowshapers know their next battle has arrived.

Thrust into an ancient struggle with enemies old and new, Sierra and Shadowhouse are determined to win. Revolution is brewing in the real world as well, as the shadowshapers lead the fight against systems that oppress their community. To protect her family and friends in every sphere, Sierra must take down the Hound and master the Deck of Worlds . . . or risk losing them all.

Release Date: September 12, 2017 by Arthur Levine Books

It takes a lot for an adult novel from a new author to catch my eye before release. But a sibling story? Forbidden (or discouraged) associations that might possibly turn to romance? Betrayal? Intrigue? Sign me up.

Since the death of Ragnvald Eysteinsson's father in battle, he has worked hard to protect his sister Svanhild and planned to inherit his family's land when he comes of age. But when the captain of his ship tries to kill him on the way home from a raiding excursion, he must confront his stepfather's betrayal, and find a way to protect his birthright. It is no easy feat in Viking-Age Norway, where a hundred petty rulers kill over parcels of land, and a prophesied high king is rising.

But where Ragnvald is expected to bleed, and even die, for his honour, Svanhild is simply expected to marry well. It's not a fate she relishes, and when the chance to leave her stepfather's cruelty comes at the hand of her brother's arch-rival, Svanhild is forced to make the ultimate choice: family or freedom.

Drawing from the Icelandic Sagas, The Half-Drowned King takes inspiration from the true story of Ragnvald of Maer, the right hand man of King Harald Fairhair, first king of all Norway, and his sister, Svanhild, as she tries to find freedom in a society where the higher her brother rises, the greater her worth as a political pawn.

Release Date: August 1, 2017 by Harper Collins

What are some releases you are anticipating as future favorites?

Monday, May 8, 2017

The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart

Stephanie Burgis became an auto-buy author for me because I know I can always count on her books to be both well written and the among the best of whatever fantasy angle and age category it falls in. Her newest release, The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart, is a perfect example of this.

Aventurine is a young dragon who has yet to find her passion in life. All dragons have them. Her brother studies philosophy. Her sister is an oh so perfect epic poet. Adventurine doesn't want to study books and she doesn't want to stay safe inside her family's mountain. Knowing she is old enough and just needs to prove herself, she sneaks out of her mountain. In doing so she finds her life's passion: Chocolate. Unfortunately for her, the chocolate comes from a human who enchants it. Aventurine finds herself in a human body quite incapable of avenging herself on the Food Mage she was planning to take back to her family as a treat. Alone and forced to find her way in her new state, Aventurine makes her way to the city of Drachenburg where she manages to force her way into an apprenticeship at a chocolate house. As she learns the ins and outs of working with her passion, she also learns a lot about humans. When her family come to the city, and both the dragons and humans she loves are threatened, Aventurine must find a way to save both and learn how to balance her two natures.

Aventurine is the best. She is determined, stubborn, brave, and reckless. As a dragon, she is loved, sheltered, and adored. As a human, she has to learn to survive, make allies, and navigate a strange world of feelings. It is no small feat to write a well developed and rounded personality of a single species. That Aventurine is very much a dragon and very much a human at the same time is a marvel. At times her dual natures are in conflict. Watching her find her way as a human, is a fascinating study in nature and character dynamics. I enjoyed how much of a dragon she remained. I read for pages getting used to thinking of her as a girl and suddenly there would be a line like: "I just wished that all the horses I passed didn't look so delicious." It is delightful. The way Aventurine boldly finds her way in life is wonderful too, but I love that there was a flip side of this. As a dragon, she did something reckless and paid a high price for it. As a human, she makes mistakes too and learns how her actions as both dragon and human affect all those who love her. (And eventually the whole city of Drachenburg.)

Joining Adventurine, is a wonderful cast of supporting characters in a novel that is packed full of girl power. Silke is a savvy city girl who takes Aventurine under wing when she is newly arrived in the city. The girls develop a business partnership based on mutual respect that blossoms into a great friendship. Marina is the prickly, artistic, driven yet recovering from a failure she finds difficult to move on from mistress of the chocolate house Aventurine works at. Aventurine and Marina learn mutual respect and assist each other in facing down their fears and achieving their goals.

The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart will appeal to those who love fantasy and magic. It is a comforting sort of read (at least for me) that was reminiscent of the Wrede's Enchanted Forest Chronicles. It had the same sort of humor mixed with empowerment. I think this novel will appeal to a slightly younger audience, but is certainly for people of all ages.

Warning: Have chocolate on hand. You will want it.

I read a copy made available by the publisher, Bloomsbury Children's US, at ALA Midwinter. The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart goes on sale May 30th.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Book Trailer: The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart

Stephanie Burgis is an auto-buy favorite author of mine. Her latest MG book combines some of my favorite things: dragons, strong girls, female friendships, and chocolate. I am so pleased to debut the trailer for the book today.

The trailer was created by Lodestar Author Services (@lodestaras).

The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart is currently available in the UK and releases in the US on May 30th.

You can read the first chapter here at Stephanie's website.

Barnes and Noble

Trust me. You want to read this one. And have plenty of chocolate on hand when you do.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

TTT: Books with Green Covers

This week's TTT topic: Cover Freebie

I decided to do books that have covers mainly featuring my favorite color. Green has been my favorite color for as long as I can remember. I went through a Pre-K peer pleasing phase where it was pink for like two weeks. But other than that it's always been green. Looking at my book shelf, I discovered a lot of my favorite books have green covers too. Is it because I'm attracted to that color so I read more green covered books? I don't know, but these books are all excellent in contents as well.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Shorter Musings (YA)

Shorter musings of some recent reads.

The Education of Margot Sanchez by Lilliam Rivera
Margot's voice is perfectly teen. She is self-absorbed yet open to learning more about the world around her. She is consumed by petty goals and desires yet has a real desperate need to figure out what she's truly meant to do and live for. She is both shallow and deep. She is incredibly real and the situations she finds herself in are very much typical teen problems. The cover makes this book seem like it might be edgier than it actually is. Margot's family has some serious problems, and part of her journey is learning to navigate those as well as her own social circle's dramas. It all comes together very well. Highly recommended.

The Star Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi
I was pulled into the beginning of this one. I enjoyed Maya as a main character and found myself really looking forward to her journey and the use of Indian folklore and mythology. The middle got to be a bit tedious for me though. This partly due to personal taste. The lush, descriptive language used here is not my favorite and it got old. I also think it is partly because the story is longer than it needs to be. The end drew me back in, but I didn't end up loving the whole thing as much as I expected to. Amar as a hero never became a real fully developed person for me. Not the way Maya was. I am still going to read the companion novel (A Crown of Wishes) because I'm very interested in Gauri as a character.

When We Collided by Emery Lord
This is a tough book in many ways. The main character, Vivi, has bipolar disorder. Not having any personal experience with that, I can't speak to the representation here (though I've heard good things). Vivi is the type of girl who has the potential to be labeled as a Manic Pixie Dream Girl. And honestly, if this book had been written by a man, that is most likely all she would have been with some tragic end to teach the boy a lesson. Lord is more careful in her handling of Vivi and her personality, stressing how important it is that Vivi have the treatment she needs and that her manic personality when not on her meds is not healthy for her or the people around her. This is about Vivi needing and getting help. The way that plays into her relationship with Jonah works well. He is a good guy with his own serious issues. He doesn't really need to be taking on hers as well. His father died, his mother is depressed, and he is taking on a lot of adult responsibilities. But they help each other at a time they both need it most. This is very much a summer romance and I was happy with the way all the different elements were resolved even if some felt a bit rushed (while the book also felt a tad overlong). This not the type of book I typically enjoy reading, but it does what it sets out to do well.

The White Road of the Moon by Rachel Neumeier
I enjoyed this so much. It felt so much like Neumeier's earlier works, but with more and it was fabulous. The world is complex and the reader has to figure it out as the story unfolds. I love it when an author trusts readers enough to that. The characters are all wonderful and layered. This is a great story of female friendship and I loved watching the girls fight together and for each other. I highly recommend this one to anyone who loves high fantasy with political intrigue and stories about amazing girls doing great things.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Future Favorite Friday (1)

Since Waiting on Wednesday is no longer linking, I am starting my own feature that I will probably do once a month to highlight 1-3 upcoming releases I'm excited for. If you are interested in joining me for this, let me know and I can make it more formal with a linky and an actual schedule. 

This is technically an ALREADY favorite, but I feel like I haven't done enough to bring attention to the fact that A Face Like Glass FINALLY has a US release date. This is my favorite Hardinge novel and I've never been able to figure out why it is the one book she's written not available here. Well fear not Americans, as of May, you can easily procure a copy. 

In the underground city of Caverna, the world’s most skilled craftsmen toil in the darkness to create delicacies beyond compare—wines that remove memories, cheeses that make you hallucinate, and perfumes that convince you to trust the wearer, even as they slit your throat. On the surface, the people of Caverna seem ordinary, except for one thing: their faces are as blank as untouched snow. Expressions must be learned, and only the famous Facesmiths can teach a person to express (or fake) joy, despair, or fear—at a steep price. Into this dark and distrustful world comes Neverfell, a girl with no memory of her past and a face so terrifying to those around her that she must wear a mask at all times. Neverfell's expressions are as varied and dynamic as those of the most skilled Facesmiths, except hers are entirely genuine. And that makes her very dangerous indeed . . . 

Release Date: May 9, 2016 from Amulet Books

Next up is the sequel to one of my favorite reads from last year. I can not wait to share in the further adventures of these characters. This is one of my favorite sibling/family series.

A missing Martian. A sinister plot. A French spy.

If Edward thought life was going to be easy in Tharsis City, he was very, very wrong. The moment he intercepts a thief escaping from Lady Harleston’s townhouse, he is caught up in a terrible scheme that threatens the whole of Mars.

Soon he’s fighting off vicious sea serpents, battling a small army of heavily-armored thugs, and trying to unpick an impossible mystery. Meanwhile, Putty has declared war on her new governess, a war that, for the first time in her life, Putty may be in danger of losing.

Edward doesn’t know whom he can trust. Will he make the right choice? Or will his family – and his entire planet – fall victim to the treacherous Emperor of Mars?

Join Edward and his family for a whole new, exciting adventure on Mars.

Release Date: July 18, 2017 Henry Holt & Co. (BYR)

And finally for today, is the next installment in Joanna Bourne's Spymaster Series which I LOVE. I'm especially excited about this one because it is about SEVIE and everything about the synopsis makes me want it yesterday.

Séverine de Cabrillac, orphan of the French revolution and sometime British intelligence agent, has tried to leave spying behind her. Now she devotes herself to investigating crimes in London and finding justice for the wrongly accused.
Raoul Deverney, an enigmatic half-Spaniard with enough secrets to earn even a spy's respect, is at her door demanding help. She's the only one who can find the killer of his long-estranged wife and rescue her missing twelve-year-old daughter.
Séverine reluctantly agrees to aid him, even though she knows the growing attraction between them makes it more than unwise. Their desperate search for the girl ​unleashes treason and murder. . . and offers a last chance for two strong, wounded people to find love.

Release Date: August 1, 2017 from Berkley Books

Anyone else looking forward to these?  Which upcoming releases are you certain will be future favorites? 

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

TTT: Most Unique Books I've Read

This week's TTT topic: Most Unique Books I've Read

All of these fall under the umbrella of Speculative Fiction, and for most of them their uniqueness lies in their world-building.

 What unique books are your favorites?

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Shorter Musings (MG)

Here are some shorter musings of recent reads.

Clayton Byrd Goes Underground by Rita Williams Garcia
Clayton is an excellent main character. He is grieving the death of his grandfather and trying to navigate all those emotions while his mom is dealing with it in exactly the opposite way he needs. The inter-generational struggles here and how we carry the baggage of disappointing relationships into new ones is explored in a way that the target audience can take in. I think this could have been a truly extraordinary book, but (and I can't believe I'm saying this) it was too short. The last quarter of the book is packed with too much action and emotion with a rushed resolution that fives the reader no time to process it.

Crushing It by Joanne Levy
This is a fun, lighthearted romantic MG read. Yes. Romantic. MG readers often want those too and this is perfect for the age range. It is a retelling of Cyrano de Bergerac, which the audience isn't going to know or care about, but I think it makes sense to retell this story in the context of middle school. Any one older should know better. My one big complaint with the book was how flat a character Olivia is. She is built on stereotypes and never goes much deeper than that. I really loved the dynamic between Kat and Tyler though.

The Great Shelby Holmes  by Elizabeth Eulberg
I'm very much over Sherlock Holmes adaptations as a whole personally, but at least this one is going to an audience that hasn't been saturated with them. And it's pretty adorable. This is perfect for readers who are still fairly new to MG books. It's short, fast paced, and, while it uses some large vocabulary, is incredibly accessible to many levels of readers. There is always a need for a new, fun mystery series and this has the added bonus of having a diverse cast of characters.

Forever or a Long Long Time by Caela Carter
Flora and her brother Julian spent years in the foster care system and were kids who fell through the cracks of the bureaucracy. They have been with their forever mom for two years now, but when she announces she is having a baby Flora and Julian begin to wonder if there will still be a place for them. They also begin to question where they came from. Their mom takes them on a journey to discover their past and build their family. The book is told in Flora's first person voice and it is really well done. Flora has a hard time expressing herself but is super smart. Her internal monologue reads as incredibly real. All the characters here are wonderful and Carter handles the challenges of blending families and kids with trauma both frankly and delicately. This is a good book for kids who enjoy introspective reads about family and bonding.

Friday, March 31, 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 (links to my reasons why-if I shared them-on Goodreads):
Caraval by Stephanie Garber
Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham

Adult Books (links to reviews on Goodreads):
A Baby for Easter by Noelle Adams (contemporary fantasy)
Congress of Secrets by Stephanie Burgis (historical fantasy)
First Time in Forever by Sarah Morgan (contemporary romance)
A Crown of Bitter Orange by Laura Florand (contemporary romance)
Forever a Soldier by Genevieve Turner (contemporary romance)
Iris After the Incident by Mina V. Esguerra (contemporary romance)
Only You by Denise Grover Swank (contemporary romance)
Pretty Face by Lucy Parker (contemporary romance)
Rise by Karina Bliss (contemporary romance)
Romancing the Duke by Tessa Dare (historical romance)
Say Yes to the Marquess by Tessa Dare (historical romance)

The Best of the Best (4.5/5 star reads):

American Street by Ibi Zoboi
Amina's Voice by Hena Khan 

A Crown of Bitter Orange by Laura Florand
Midnight Without a Moon by Linda Williams Jackson

Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson

Pretty Face by Lucy Parker
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas 

Links to my reviews unless otherwise noted.

What have you particularly enjoyed (or not) over the past few months?