Sunday, April 3, 2016

The Love that Split the World

The Love That Split the WorldThis book broke my brain--in a good way. Pitched as Friday Night Lights meets The Time Traveler's wife, the story follows Natalie as her senior year winds up and heads into a last, long summer. On the football field where everyone she knows is celebrating, something happens. Time blinks out, and she sees Beau, a boy she's never met before, but who she feels drawn to in a way she can't explain. But Natalie's working against a ticking clock: a mysterious figure she calls "Grandmother" tells her she has only three months to save "him"--and if Natalie can't figure out what's wrong or why she keeps things that don't exist, her world may come undone.

Natalie is a smart, warm, character that I liked immediately--and I loved how Henry didn't shy away from tricky questions, as Natalie is Native American, adopted by a white family. Interwoven through the book are beautiful stories, told to Natalie by Grandmother as a way of learning about her heritage, but also of explaining the world around her. Her relationship with Beau is intriguing, and her friendships are quintessential teen friendships: that is, strong, loyal, heart-breaking, infuriating, and very human.

I'll admit that I didn't always follow the theoretical explanations of what was happening to Natalie--but it didn't matter, because the end of this book is so powerful and mind-bending that it transformed everything about this book into something astonishing.

Definitely worth reading.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Adventurer's Guide to Successful Escapes

The Adventurer's Guide to Successful Escapes Wade Albert White's debut, THE ADVENTURER'S GUIDE TO SUCCESSFUL ESCAPES, is the perfect new series for fans of Christopher Healy's League of Princes and Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events. Blending madcap adventure with a delightful sense of humor, this is the kind of adventure story kids of all ages will adore.

The Adventurer's Guide stars Anvil (known more commonly as Anne) in a futuristic world where the round globe of our world no longer exists and everyone lives on island-like levels suspended in the sky. Anne is eager for the ticket that will release her from a miserable life in an orphanage for adventure in the world--except her ticket never arrives, and she seems fated to live the rest of her life in a narrow, confined existence. Until, that is, she finds a book (The Adventurer's Guide to Successful Escapes) that conveniently changes to fit the situation, encounters a dragon, and lands herself in a middle of a quest that will take all of her smarts, savvy, and courage to fill--and that of her friends as well.

The story was a fun, fast-paced, mash-up of sci-fi and fantasy. Best of all, it's funny. The book was chosen as one of five middle grade novels for the BEA buzz panel for this summer, and it's easy to see why--I predict readers will come away wishing they had an adventurer's guide of their own.

Monday, March 28, 2016

The Star-Touched Queen

The Star-Touched Queen I've wanted to read Roshani Chokshi's THE STAR-TOUCHED QUEEN since I read one of her short stories online, a story so full of magic and whimsy and jaw-dropping prose that I couldn't wait to read her book.

And the novel didn't disappoint: a Persephone and Hades story inflected by Indian folklore, the story follows Maya, outcast among her father's many daughters because of a dark horoscope fortelling a marriage to death. Maya doesn't mind (much): she's happy to pursue her studies and eavesdrop on her father's court. But then her father arranges a marriage to settle outside rebellions--the betrothal goes terribly wrong--and Maya finds herself fleeing with Amar, as his wife, to a world she's only heard of in stories.

I loved Maya from the beginning: for her honesty, her clear-eyed voice. And then I fell in love with the world Roshani creates here--so vivid and dream-like and beautiful and deadly all at once, like the very best fairy-tales. My heart ached for Maya and for Amar and for the betrayals that plague them. This is the kind of book that deserves to be savored, no less for the characters than for the prose, which rivals some of my favorite YA writers (Laini Taylor, Maggie Steifvater).

Friday, March 25, 2016

Gemini

Gemini I devoured Sonya Mukherjee's debut, GEMINI, in an afternoon--it's a compulsively readable book that made me laugh, made me cry, and ultimately, made me glad to live in a beautiful, complicated world full of possibilities.

The story follows the dual POVs of Clara and Hailey--twins who share almost everything but their own interior world, thanks to a posterior conjoinment. Their shared lower nervous system means they can even feel through the other's legs. Despite their closeness, the twins are distinct: Clara is quiet and reserved, saving her enthusiasm for her close friends and the stars she loves (and her secret, impossible dream of seeing the earth from space). Hailey is blunter, with an in-your-face style of vivid clothes, heavy make-up and pink hair. The twins have been raised in a small, close community where their conjoined state is no longer a wonder--everyone knows them. And they've mostly been happy, until the arrival of a new boy serves to disrupt their world and make them question all the things they thought they wanted.

There were so many things I loved about this story. First, I loved the sensitive portrayal of the twins: the book made the challenges of conjoinment clear, but it also presented some of the beauties of it, like a life where you are never lonely because someone you love is always by your side. Clara and Hailey were each so distinct, but lovable in their own way. Sometimes dual POVs suffer from one overpowering voice, but these were so perfectly balanced, trading off insights and pivotal moments and emotional highlights. The story consistently surprised me, alternating moments of transcendence with moments of tragedy in a way that felt very real.

A definite must-read--not only for the subject matter, but because Mukherjee has a gift for creating characters and a story that will stay with you long after you've closed the book.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Has to be Love

Has to Be Love I've been trying to put together my thoughts on Jolene Perry's Has to be Love for over a week now and I'm still not sure I've arrived at a good articulation of them. But first: the story. Years before, Clara survived a bear attack near her Alaskan home that left her with unsightly scars across her face and torso--and left her mother dead. Clara continues to deal with the fall-out from that, missing her mother and also struggling with public reactions to her scars, sure that somehow they prevent people from really seeing her, though she has a lovely and supportive boyfriend.

Enter the end of Clara's senior year. Clara's been accepted to Columbia--her dream school nearly a continent away--and she's waiting on an appointment with a plastic surgeon that will, she hopes, cure her scars. In the meantime, she's in limbo, not sure if she wants the risk Columbia represents, or if she wants the safety and security of a college near home, a life with her long-time boyfriend. When a new substitute teacher (a Columbia student himself, on leave) arrives in her life, representing all the things Clara secretly longs for, her plans for the future become tangled and uncertain.

Things I loved about the book: the setting. There aren't a lot of YA books set in Alaska, and I found the way Clara navigated her world fascinating. Clara's religion: she's Mormon, which you also don't often find in mainstream YA novels. And while her religion isn't a pivotal plot point, it informs who Clara is--particularly her very-real struggles between what her body wants and what she believes she ought to do. I loved too that the plot surprised me several times, particularly in terms of Clara's relationships. It wasn't at all what I expected. Mostly, I found the story so real: Clara is flawed and makes some dumb decisions, but she's also a teenager and human and Perry does such a great job at capturing that messiness and uncertainty.

I do think some readers (particularly if they go in knowing Clara is Mormon) might be surprised at how explicit some of the physical scenes are--and while I think those scenes are important to Clara and to her story, it's not necessarily a story I would recommend for younger YA readers, though for older or more experienced readers it's a wonderful story on so many levels.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Cover Reveal for Charlie Holmberg's MAGIC BITTER, MAGIC SWEET

I adored Charlie's Paper Magician series--particularly her charming characters and inventive magic system. I'm thrilled to participate in her cover reveal for her newest fantasy: MAGIC BITTER, MAGIC SWEET.

***



The peculiar tale of an enchanted baker who creates fairy tales’ darkest and most magical confections.



Maire is a baker with an extraordinary gift: she can infuse her treats with emotions and abilities, which are then passed on to those who eat them. She doesn’t know why she can do this and remembers nothing of who she is or where she came from.

When marauders raid her town, Maire is captured and sold to the eccentric Allemas, who enslaves her and demands that she produce sinister confections, including a witch’s gingerbread cottage, a living cookie boy, and size-altering cakes.

During her captivity, Maire is visited by Fyel, a ghostly being who is reluctant to reveal his connection to her. The more often they meet, the more her memories return, and she begins to piece together who and what she really is—as well as past mistakes that yield cosmic consequences.

From the author of the Paper Magician series comes a haunting and otherworldly tale of folly and consequence, forgiveness and redemption.

Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet is available for preorder on Amazon and B&N. Ebook, audiobook, and paperback release from 47North June 28th!

You can also preview the novel on Goodreads.

~*~

About the Author


Born in Salt Lake City, Charlie N. Holmberg was raised a Trekkie alongside three sisters who also have boy names. She graduated from BYU, plays the ukulele, owns too many pairs of glasses, and hopes to one day own a dog.

Holding Court

Holding Court I knew just a few pages into KC Held's debut, HOLDING COURT, that I was going to enjoy the book--particularly after discovering that Held and I have a mutual adoration of Elizabeth Peters' wonderfully madcap mysteries, and those were part of her inspiration behind this book.

This book was fun, breezy, and witty with just the right touch of romance. Juliet ("Jules") Verity was a delightful main character--smart, loyal, and just self-deprecating enough to be relatable. Part of this, of course, comes from her "PTS"--or self-diagnosed psychic Tourette's syndrome, where she feels an inexplicable compulsion to blurt random things that turn out to be true. (Jules is aware that this isn't real Tourette's syndrome, and even comments on the fact that corprolalia, or the blurting tendency most commonly associated with Tourette's syndrome, only happens in 10 % of the cases). Whatever the cause, her blurts are a source of annoyance and embarrassment to Jules.

As the story begins, Jules is looking for a summer job--and finds the perfect one at a local Medieval dinner theater, where, she believes, she'll get to wear an attractive dress and discretely ogle her long-time crush from a distance. But life, of course, rarely works the way you planned (especially in novels!) and Jules finds herself cast as a mad, fortune-telling nun, of all things, and that her crush's girlfriend is also part of the staff. When Jules stumbles across a dead body (that disappears while she's trying to summon help), things only get worse, particularly as Jules tries to uncover information that could clear herself from suspicion.

Held does a wonderful job with this--it's compulsively readable, quick, and the characters run the gamut from funny to downright creepy. Despite the potential darkness of the murder, Held keeps the tone light even as the tension picks up (a perfect combination for me: there's a reason I read cozy mysteries!). Recommended for readers looking for a light-hearted, escapist read.