Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Shorter Musings (YA)

Here are some shorter musings on recently read books.

 In a Perfect World by Trish Doller
Caroline is a character is very much aware of her own privilege, which was nice. She moves to Egypt when her mom takes on work in a clinic there (like Doctors Without Borders). She does have some opinions on Egypt and Islam that are stereotypical, but they are almost immediately corrected in most cases. (That I could tell.) The descriptions of Egypt are amazing. This is a book where the world is a really solid place. All in all I think I would have liked it much more if it had been a friendship story and not a love story. I like Adam as a character A LOT, but felt the romance was one too many weighty things in a story that was already exploring a lot. As a bonus though Caroline has one of the best YA parent couples of all time. Her mom and dad are amazing as parents and as a partnership.


Lucky in Love by Kasie West
After having less than enthusiastic reactions to West's previous two books, I was relieved to enjoy this one so much. Yes, it is the second of two YA novels about 18 year olds winning the lottery and learning about life and love we got this year. I'm not sure why this was a thing, but I like this one better than the other. This was a sweet and fun romance with cute banter, but it was also a great family and friendship story. It was a perfect rainy afternoon read to lighten my mood.

Song of the Current by Sarah Tolcser
This is a strong fantasy debut which contained many of the elements I enjoy in YA fantasy. It is mythopoeic, there is political intrigue, and the romance worked for me on most levels. The world building is solid while at the same time the author didn't get bogged down in explaining it. She allows her world to just be making this a quick read. The plot is fast paced and moves from scene to scene quickly. Much of it is spent on boats and I could see how that would get old for some, but I felt the author broke it up well. There was so much happening. It wasn't at all a dull boat ride. The politics could have used a little more substance as could the character development which is why I couldn't completely love it. Still, it is a solid book and I will be reading the sequel and keeping an eye out for this author. (Yes, there is a sequel. BUT. This works perfectly well as a stand alone too.)

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
I have felt a lot of emotions reading Green's books over the years, some positive, some negative, most strong. What I've never felt was bored. Until now. This book has a fabulous concept and a character whose OCD and Anxiety Disorder should be interesting to read about. But so much of the internal monologuing here felt like filler. It's possible this would have worked better as a short story. I don't know. It was missing a lot for  me in terms of character and plot development though.

Wesley James Ruined My Life by Jennifer Honeybourn
Wesley James did not ruin anyone's life. Let's make that clear up front. Quinn has held a grudge against Wesley for years, blaming him for her parents' divorce. I can see how a young girl, confused and scared, would want to find someone to foist her anger over that on. I get that Wesley was an easy target, especially since he was moving. This could have been done really well, but it wasn't because the character development just wasn't there. (Which has been a consistent problem with the Swoons Reads titles.) That being said, if you know teens who can't get enough of fluffy romance that is fairly tame and they've already read all of Kasie West, this book works as a recommendation.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

TTT: Best First Encounters

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly themed blog hop created by The Broke and the Bookish and now hosted at That Artsy Reader Girl.

This Week's Topic: Love Freebie

Often one of the most memorable parts of a love story is how the couple first meets. I'm not just talking about the meet cutes we see in romantic comedies either (although those are fun), but the more fraught situations and even common ones where two people find themselves connecting for the first time. Here are some of my favorites.

Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane
Poor Peter. He's usually so put together and fully capable. Harriet really knocks him for a loop. It doesn't help that he first lays eyes on her when she's being tried for murder, and she first lays eyes on him when he visits her in jail to offer his investigative prowess to get her off. He proposes in the first minute and a half of their acquaintance. He's way off his game, but the banter is delightful.

Babara Grahame and Peaceable Sherwood
This first meeting also involves a rather precipitous marriage proposal. Also espionage, sleuthing, banter over a dinner table, Christmas, and some light poisoning. Not necessarily in that order.

Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe
The gif speaks for itself



Francesca Spinelli and Will Trombal
These two technically have a passing acquaintance with each other due to some bakery rivalry  their grandmothers have over a supposedly stolen S biscuit recipe, but Will seems genuinely oblivious to that. Their first meeting occurs in front of the whole student body when he calls her out in front of everyone for talking. She gets him back shortly after when they have their first face to face conversation in a teacher's office. She shows him whats what, and it is a beautiful moment. Because Will is clearly: a) usually the smartest person in the room and b) not used to dealing with being told he's wrong and c) never had anyone point out to him that he is and d) finding it kind of hot that this girl had the nerve.

Matt Rosier and Layla Dubois
Her car breaks down. She goes to his house, which is the only place around for miles. He is having a birthday party and celebrating in the best of French ways. Lots of wine. Drunk Matt is hilarious. He automatically assumes she's his birthday present and starts dragging her around and introducing her as his girlfriend. It takes a while before one of his relatives (who have also been celebrating with wine) figures out she doesn't know him. Or any of them. It's one of the funniest opening scenes of a book. I can't do it justice here so clearly you need to discover it for yourself.

Tristan Rosier and Malorie Monsard
(Come to think of it, all the Rosier cousins have rather extraordinary first meetings with their significant others. Huh.) Tristan and Malorie meet in Kindergarten. He is a bundle of energy. She has to sit next to him because she is the closest thing to a calming influence. He likes to throw crayons around to brighten up her world and generally keep things exciting. Awwwww. When they reconnect as adults things are not so fluffy (still awesome), but the picture of tiny Tristan giving crayon gifts and proposing to tiny Malorie gets my heart.


Dimple Shah and Rishi Patel
This couple's first meeting is so epic, it's referred to in the very title of the book AND on the cover art. Both Dimple and Rishi grew up in traditional Indian homes. Dimple's mother is obsessed with her finding the Ideal Indian Husband. The Shahs and the Patels have been exchanging letters. Rishi is totally on board and can't wait to meet his future wife. Dimple is so not anywhere near the ship that her parents don't bother to mention they've set up a meeting with the boy they hope she'll marry. What happens next can partly be blamed on Dimple's parents for their secretiveness. Rishi also bears some burden of blame due to behaving like a complete dork. Needless to say he ends up covered in her iced coffee.

Sandra Foster and Bennet O'Reilly
There are no explosions or confrontations or earth shattering moments when these two meet. They meet as so many couples do: at work. They meet for the first time thanks to a mis-delivered package Sandra has to take down to his department. While this might not seem very memorable in comparison to the others on the list, it's one of those moments heavy with importance. Their second meeting is truly amazing though as they sit and snark corporate policy at a mandatory touchy feely meeting they're forced to go to.

Minerva Dobbs and Calvin Morissey
The first meeting between these two is a perfect example of dramatic irony and it plays out beautifully on the page. As the reader you know Min and you know Cal. You have her history and you know what he's been up to that night. But the things they don't know about each other cause for a frustrating, confusing, and all around weird encounter leading to an evening for the both of them. She thinks he bet someone he could get her into bed. He didn't. But he DID accept the bet that he could get her to leave the building with him. He doesn't know she's just been dumped by the guy who tried to make that bet with him. So they don't get off to the best start, but it is hilarious to experience as a reader because their banter is just so good and yet neither is completely understanding the other.


Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy
This list wouldn't be complete without them. An introvert, who is totally over this party is uber-extrovert of a best friend dragged him to, insults a girl unknowingly close enough to hear. She holds onto her grudge over that like a toddler grasping a toy someone told her to share. It's always delightful to re read for me. Or rewatch. Whichever.


Are there any first meetings that stand out to you? What are your favorites?











Friday, February 9, 2018

Future Favorites Friday


I take the 2nd Friday fo 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.

After taking a hiatus in December and January due to end of year and beginning of year posts, Future Favorite Friday is back!

My love for The Crossover by Kwame Alexander is strong and enduring. I was over the moon excited to discover we would be getting a prequel about their father's youth.


Before Josh and Jordan Bell were streaking up and down the court, their father was learning his own moves. In this prequel, Chuck Bell takes center stage, as readers get a glimpse of his childhood and how he became the jazz music worshiping, basketball star his sons look up to.
Rebound will go back in time to visit the childhood of Chuck "Da Man" Bell during one pivotal summer when young Charlie is sent to stay with his grandparents where he discovers basketball and learns more about his family's past. 


Release Date: April 3, 2018 from HMH Books for Young Readers
Goodreads

I thoroughly enjoy J. Anderson Coates. She writes excellent historical fiction. Imagine my delight when I discovered she has a YA political fantasy coming out THIS MONTH. I only discovered this book was happening at the end of December. It's billed in its Goodreads description as Princess Academy meets Megan Whalen Turner, which is setting the bar high, but if it's as excellent as the historical fiction Coates has written,  I'm confident she can clear it. 


Malley has led the constables on a merry chase across her once-peaceful country. With her parents in prison for their part in a failed resistance movement, the government wants to send her to a national school—but they’ll have to capture her first.

And capture her they do. Malley is carted off be reformed as a proper subject of the conquering empire, reeducated, and made suitable for domestic service. That’s the government’s plan, anyway.

But Malley will not go down without a fight. She’s determined to rally her fellow students to form a rebellion of their own. The government can lock these girls up in reform school. Whether it can break them is another matter entirely…
 


Release Date: February 20, 2018 from Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Goodreads

Uprooted by Naomi Novik is one of my favorite Adult Fantasy novels. If this new book of hers lives up to the expectations of its synopsis, I may love it even more.

Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders... but her father isn't a very good one. Free to lend and reluctant to collect, he has loaned out most of his wife's dowry and left the family on the edge of poverty--until Miryem steps in. Hardening her heart against her fellow villagers' pleas, she sets out to collect what is owed--and finds herself more than up to the task. When her grandfather loans her a pouch of silver pennies, she brings it back full of gold.

But having the reputation of being able to change silver to gold can be more trouble than it's worth--especially when her fate becomes tangled with the cold creatures that haunt the wood, and whose king has learned of her reputation and wants to exploit it for reasons Miryem cannot understand.


Release Date: July 10, 2018 from Del Ray
Goodreads

What upcoming releases are you looking forward to?

Monday, February 5, 2018

A Sky Full of Stars

I waited all the way until February 1st to finish my first 5 star read of 2018. There was no need for me to wait that long. I had A Sky Full of Stars by Linda Williams Jackson in my house the whole month of January. But reader, sometimes I get scared about reading highly anticipated sequels to books I've loved. There was no need to worry though. A Sky Full of Stars is the perfect second half to Midnight Without a Moon.

Rose made the difficult decision to stay in Mississippi rather than go with her aunt to live in St. Louis. Now that the choice has been made, Rose must find the strength and courage to stand by her conviction that Stillwater is the place she needs to be. Her strength and courage become more difficult to find as reports of more deaths of black men at the hands of white men come in. Rose's best friend, Hallelujah, is ready to begin his own junior chapter of the NAACP and start peacefully protesting. Rose's first cousin Shorty has other, more violent ideas of ways they can fight back. As tensions rise in the community and in her own home, Rose has to find inventive ways to preserve the present and plan for the future.

The hard thing about sequels is that you already know and love the characters. There isn't that time you spend getting to know them because that work has been done. As a result, sequels are almost stressful from the beginning because of how concerned you are for the characters you already love. I felt that greatly reading this book. Rose and Hallelujah have become two of my favorite MG characters of all time and my concern for their continued emotional and physical well-being was high. They both do a lot of growing, changing, and learning in this book. The foundations of both their personalities were strong, and those foundations are built on in this book. Rose is told she is brave for staying behind in Mississippi, but she feels scared. She is terrified at the idea of risking herself even for a cause she knows is good and just. Hallelujah is full of fire and defiance, ready to take on the world. Through conflicts with each other, circumstances, and the greater society both gain perspective and learn a little balance. Shorty's character is fantastic addition to this mix. He acts as a foil and catalyst for both of them to learn things. He is fascinating in his own right as well and adds a new perspective on the events happening in the community. I also enjoyed getting to know Rose's Aunt Ruth and Hallelujah's Aunt Bertha better in this book. They are both great role models for Rose, though their lives are very different from each other.

The story follows events in Rose's life through the Fall of 1955 and ends at Christmas. There is a lot of history touched on. The Montgomery Bus Boycott starts, Rosa Parks becomes a name everyone knows, and there are references to Martin Luther King Jr. All of this is brought into the lives of the characters through other sources. Rose feels a world away and far removed from even in Alabama. In Rose's own community, tensions are still high from the acquittal of Emmett Till's murderers. Midnight Without a Moon didn't pull any punches with this history, but I feel like A Sky Full of Stars raised it a notch and was throwing fire on almost every page. And it is magnificent. I definitely cried harder during this book than any I've read recently. (And I cried hardest at a wonderful exchange between Rose and Hallelujah about faith and heroes.) As in the first book, the church community and Rose's faith play an important role in the story and her character development. Again, I loved how integral this was and that Jackson was able to fully explore it. Rose has doubts. She feels frustrated. She feels convicted. Her journey through all of that is a thing of beauty.

I was going to do a list of great quotes, but there are SO MANY. I couldn't choose. Just read the book. The underlying humor in these books plays a large part in why I like them so much too.

Fans of historical fiction should not miss out on these books. Whatever age you are, they are must reads.