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?

Monday, March 27, 2017

The Hate U Give

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas was one of the most anticipated releases in the YA community this year, if not the most anticipated. There was a lot of press prior to its release. It had its own hashtag. Since its release, its been on the NY Times Best Seller List. When a book is talked about this much, it is sometimes easy for me to think my voice is superfluous. How is it possible anyone would not know about this book? Then I remember that a good chunk of my blog readership aren't in the know when it comes to everything that is going on in publishing. They are kids and parents just looking for good books. And do I want them to know about this book and read it. I believe this should be required reading for everyone, but since I don't have that power, I can only hope to  convince people of the need to read it here.

Let me start by saying Angie Thomas earned every bit of press, praise, and accolade this book has and will receive.

Starr Carter is a 16 year old girl carefully trying to navigate two very different worlds. By day she attends a private school where she is one of only two black kids in her grade. The rest of her life is spent in Garden Heights where her family lives. Garden Heights has drugs, dealers, shootings, and gangs. Starr feels like there are two versions of herself and she is always torn between the two. After a party, she and her childhood best friend Khalil are stopped by a police officer. The encounter ends with Khalil bleeding to death in front of Starr while the cop who shot him holds a gun on her until back up arrives. Khalil was unarmed. As the only eye witness, Starr has to grieve and figure out what her role is as the incident becomes a national headline and protests and riots break out. Her two worlds are impossible to keep separate now, and her words and voice matter more than ever.

Starr is magnificent. The story is told in first person and the cadence and realness of her voice hooked me from the start. It is incredibly easy to slip into her head and see the world through her eyes. It is incredibly easy to feel her life. From the opening scene, I was with her all the way. The first part of the book was the hardest part for me emotionally. Those first two chapters, you know where it is all going and it's intense. I loved Starr from the beginning and I wanted to protect her from what was to come. I loved Khalil from the beginning too. I sobbed my way through chapters two and three and about a quarter of the way through, I had to put the book down to take a break and just breathe for a while. I am tremendously aware that ability to step back and take that breath comes from a place of tremendous privilege. And that is one of the many reasons this book is so important. If books are meant to be mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors, Starr's story is a mirror for so many who never see themselves reflected in the books they read AND it is a thrown open door to those who will never know what it is like to live her life. There is so much depth, nuance, and insight in her story though that people who experience it from any angle can't help but be transformed by it. Starr's journey is hard one, but taking it with her is well worth it. Starr is fierce, loyal, smart, and full of love and power she is only just beginning to realize the full potential of.

Thomas brings the world of Garden Heights to life through the people of the community. The secondary characters who people Starr's neighborhood are flesh and bone real people, and they show the reader the community itself. They are gang members, drug dealers, activists, church members, kids trying to take on adult responsibilities, adults overwhelmed, people helping their neighbors. There is so much nuance and layers packed into each character and the place they have in the world. Starr's relationship to each of them and how they factor into her story are important, but the subtle way they build the setting is amazing art in and of itself. I loved Starr's family and her dynamic with each family member. I could go in to detail about each and every one, but you should really just get to know them yourself by reading this book. Starr often feels excluded and judged by the people in her neighborhood because she goes to a private school and doesn't attend the parties that would make her "cool" in the Heights.

In contrast to that, Starr's school world is not a peaceful paradise either. Starr actively keeps herself within boundaries she's created at school.
"That means flipping the switch in my brain so I'm Williamson Starr. Williamson Starr doesn't use slang-if a rapper would say it, she doesn't say it, even if her white friends do. Slang makes them cool. Slang makes her 'hood'. Williamson Starr holds her tongue when people piss her off so nobody will think she's the 'angry black girl'. Williamson Starr is approachable. No stank-eyes, side-eyes, none of that. Willimason Starr is non confrontational. Basically, Williamson Starr doesn't give anyone  a reason to call her ghetto."
The code switching Starr does at school is obvious from the first scene we are there with her. It is a little jarring at first as she puts on this entirely different persona. But man, does it drive home the point and is a real reflection of how so many black women have said they live their lives. The dynamics between Starr and her classmates are fraught at times particularly as Khalil's case gains more media attention. Starr has a "friend" who is prone to say racist things and then blame Starr for being too sensitive. Starr is dating a white boy at her school who she really loves and who really loves her. While she feels she can be more of herself around him than anyone at Williamson, she still hides a lot. Their relationship arc is an important aspect of Starr's journey in this book and their interactions are really wonderful.

As you can tell, this is a book that relies heavily on character. Any reader of this blog knows how much I love those books, and this one is set to become an all time favorite. These are people who are living life and working their way through a racist system and trying to survive while also pushing hard every day to make change. These are people who are now a part of my psyche in a way that I won't ever lose, and I find myself wanting to know and read more and more about them: Starr, Seven (her brother), Kenya (Seven's other sister), Devante (a friend), and Chris (the boyfriend) in particular.

I could go on and on about all of the aspects of the book that make it phenomenal, but I really just think everyone should read it and discover that for themselves.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

TTT: Books I Read in One Sitting

This week's TTT topic: Books I Read in One Sitting

Sometimes you know a book is going to take you out of the world with no desire to return anytime soon. Others you start reading and are taken by surprise at how much you don't want to put them down ever. For me these sort of books result in my kids eating PB&J for dinner and watching too much TV. Both can lead to lack of sleep as even when I'm expecting a book to pull me in, the only time I can carve out to read it one sitting is late at night. Here are my favorite books (some I knew to set aside time for and some that took me by surprise) that I read in one sitting on the first read.

I intentionally set aside time for:

I accidentally read in one sitting causing major disruption (but oh so worth it):

*It should be noted that The King of Attolia actually falls into both categories. I knew I was going to want to read it in one sitting after my experiences with the first two books. I set aside the time rather late. (My kids were 1 and 5 at the time.) My husband had the next day off so I knew I was covered for early morning and he was warned. I started the book around 9:30 and finished it around 1. BUT THEN. I read the entire thing again immediately. I went to bed at 4:45. Oops. (Still the best book hangover of my life.)

Do you read books in one sitting? Does it ever happen unintentionally? What are you willing to give up to do it?

Tuesday, March 14, 2017