Monday, January 25, 2016

The Witch Hunter

The Witch Hunter (The Witch Hunter, #1) About 18 months ago, I first encountered writer Virginia Boecker via her blog. She was a Pitch Wars mentor, and of the mentor posts I read, hers was one of my favorite. Imagine, then, my thrill when Virginia chose me as her mentee. I will say that her feedback changed my book--she encouraged me to dramatically increase the pacing, and that advice was just the kick I needed to cut a substantial part of the story.

Needless to say, I pre-ordered this book as soon as I could. (It has taken me a shamefully long time to get to it--I need to stop going to the library when I have other books to read, because the library books always end up taking precedence.) I finally had a chance to read it, and am happy to say I thoroughly enjoyed it. (Of course, I might be a tad biased. See above). 

Elizabeth Grey is a witch hunter in an alternate Elizabethan England where magic is not only forbidden, but an offense punishable by death. Despite Elizabeth's skill, her loyalty blinds her to certain dangers, and when she is betrayed and herself accused of witchcraft, she discovers that the only thing that might save her is allying with the very witches she once fought against.

The premise is great: high stakes that were borne out in the strong pacing. I liked Elizabeth, who struggles to reimagine her place in a world that no longer values her, but who remains strong and determined. But I loved her friends, and the tentative threads that bind them as their adventures unfold. Her growing relationship with a handsome healer was particularly strong, and I look forward to seeing where Virginia takes their relationship in the sequel.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

This Monstrous Thing

This Monstrous Thing Mackenzi Lee's debut, This Monstrous Thing, reimagines Frankenstein in an alternate steampunk world, where the resurrection is accomplished through gears and gadgets. So far, the book is easy enough to sum up. But Lee has done much more with this retelling. It's a lovely homage to the original, down to the inclusion of Mary Shelley herself as a complicated character. The historical details shine, creating a vivid story world. But the heart of the story is the relationship between brothers Oliver and Alasdair--and in keeping with real sibling relationships, this heart is complicated, bruised, hopeful, loving, powerful.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Circus Mirandus

Circus Mirandus After seeing a couple of friends raving about this new middle grade novel, I snatched it up at my library. I'm glad I did. Cassie Beasley's debut, Circus Mirandus, is a charming, magical story about a boy and his grandfather--and a magical circus.

Micah Tuttle has believed in magic his whole life, thanks to his grandfather Ephraim's stories about the Circus Mirandus. But now his grandfather is dying, Micah's life is being overrun by his horrible aunt Gertrudis, and a miracle from the Lightbearer (a Circus magician) may be the only thing that can save his grandfather. With the help of his friend Jenny Mendez and a few unexpected visitors, Micah sets off to find a miracle.

I thought the story was delightful--just the right amount of magic and heart. Now I'm trying to get my kids to read it.

Monday, January 18, 2016


Conviction I picked up CONVICTION after it was short-listed for the 2016 Morris award, so my expectations going into Kelly Loy Gilbert's debut novel were already pretty high. And this book still blew me away.

First, there was Gilbert's prose--clear, deft, and powerful. The way Gilbert writes about baseball made even me interested in it. Braden felt like such a real character, trying to live up to the rules of honor expected both on the playing field and in the church. The plot, of course, was wrenching, as Braden struggles through the aftermath of his father's being accused of murdering a local cop. But that wasn't what kept me reading so compulsively. The heart of the book was the relationships: Braden's relationship with his father, with his friends, with his half-brother Trey--and with God.

What stands out to me the most about this book is its sensitive, true depiction of teen faith. Without ever seeming condescending, Gilbert present's Braden's evolving faith as a real thing. When so many YA books don't even touch on the issue of faith (unless it's to gloss over it), I thought Gilbert's book was brave and much-needed.

Did I enjoy this book? I don't know--what I felt (continue to feel) about it isn't easily summed up in enjoy. It moved me profoundly. It made me hurt, it made me angry, it made me hopeful. I'm still mulling over the ending. A powerful book by a powerful new writer. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Summer of Supernovas

Summer of Supernovas by Darcy Woods SUMMER OF SUPERNOVAS was just as charming as you might expect about a headstrong young woman, Wilamena (Wil) Carlisle, who plots her future according to her astrological chart. Believing this summer to be her last shot at finding true love until the next time the stars align in nearly a decade, Wil is determined to find her one true love. Naturally, just as Wil decides she's meant to find true love, she stumbles across two boys: one who's perfect on paper, the other who makes her heart sing, but is totally, fatally wrong for her according to their astrological signs. As Wil tries to navigate a tricky tangle of relationships, hilarity and heartbreak ensue.

I adored Wil: she was complex, funny, strong, sweet, and loyal. I would have gladly followed Wil through just about any story--it was just my good luck that hers happened to be an epic romance. But for all that the romance had my heart pounding and twisting in a painfully good way, the core of the story was about much more than that. This was a story about friendship and family and finding yourself even as you fall more deeply in love with the ones around you.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Cover reveal: Hayley Stone's MACHINATIONS

Today, I'm lucky enough to help reveal my friend Hayley's amazing cover for her science-fiction debut.  Isn't it gorgeous?

Perfect for fans of Robopocalypse, this action-packed science-fiction debut introduces a chilling future and an unforgettable heroine with a powerful role to play in the battle for humanity’s survival.

The machines have risen, but not out of malice. They were simply following a command: to stop the endless wars that have plagued the world throughout history. Their solution was perfectly logical. To end the fighting, they decided to end the human race.

A potent symbol of the resistance, Rhona Long has served on the front lines of the conflict since the first Machinations began—until she is killed during a rescue mission gone wrong. Now Rhona awakens to find herself transported to a new body, complete with her DNA, her personality, even her memories. She is a clone . . . of herself.

Trapped in the shadow of the life she once knew, the reincarnated Rhona must find her place among old friends and newfound enemies—and quickly. For the machines are inching closer to exterminating humans for good. And only Rhona, whoever she is now, can save them.

Pre-order Machinations today!

And don’t forget to add it to your list on Goodreads!


Hayley Stone has lived her entire life in sunny California, where the weather is usually perfect and nothing as exciting as a robot apocalypse ever happens. When not reading or writing, she freelances as a graphic designer, falls in love with videogame characters, and analyzes buildings for velociraptor entry points. She holds a bachelor’s degree in history and a minor in German from California State University, Sacramento.

Machinations is her debut novel, releasing June 14th, 2016 from Hydra/Random House.

Monday, January 11, 2016

These Vicious Masks

These Vicious Masks (These Vicious Masks, #1)I was fortunate to get an ARC of THESE VICIOUS MASKS, by Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas, in exchange for an honest review. To be honest, I have wanted to read this book since the first time I heard of it pitched as Jane Austen meets X-Men (though it probably should have been more Oscar Wilde meets X-Men, since the late Victorian era is not quite Austen's Regency era--but that's just quibbling. In any case, I adore Oscar Wilde almost as much as Jane Austen).

Evelyn and Rose Wyndham are gently bred young women--but there's nothing typical about them. Between Rose's insistence on healing the neighborhood, and Evelyn's obvious disdain for social events, their mother is about to toss her hands up in despair. When Rose disappears mysteriously, Evelyn believes she's been kidnapped, but her parents refuse to believe her. So Evelyn does what any good sister would: she follows Rose to London, societal conventions be damned. There, she has the help of a witty young gentleman named Nick, and is plagued by a mysterious and brooding Sebastian, who also seems to be searching for Rose--and worse, insisting that Rose has some absurd kind of power. As Evelyn's search leads her deeper into the underbelly of London, she discovers that things are much darker--and more dangerous--than she could have believed.

This book hit so many of my reader buttons: strong-willed and indomitable heroine, mysterious powers, high (and low) society, banter (oh, the banter is quite excellent!), wild escapes, and more. Evelyn is a remarkable heroine, and the plot twists consistently surprised me. And the ending nearly slayed me.

My only complaint is that there wasn't enough--I am devoutly hoping this book has a sequel!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Assassin's Heart

Assassin's Heart (Assassin's Heart, #1)On the face of it, Sarah Ahiers' ASSASSIN'S HEART is a classic vengeance story: Lea (Oleander) Saldana belongs to the first family of clippers in Lovero--highly trained assassin's whose work is in service of the dark goddess who protects their kingdom. Her privileged life is only complicated by a secret romance with a rival Da Via--until she comes home one night to find her family murdered by the Da Vias. Lea vows vengeance, promising not to rest until the Da Vias (including the boy who loved and betrayed her) are dead.

But the story is much more than just a revenge plot. Ahiers' world is rich and complex. The cities of Lovero have some of the rich and vibrant feel of Italy, but this is a world of fascinating gods and angry ghosts that haunt the dead plains between walled cities. Lea's quest for vengeance forces her to confront the limits of her abilities, her heart, and her faith.

I loved the immersive world Ahiers' wrote (though I think I'd be terrified to actually visit it). I loved the surprises and twists she threw into the story, I loved Lea's growing relationship with Les, and I was sad to leave the world as the story ended.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Bookishly Ever After

Bookishly Ever After (Ever After, #1) Isabel Bandiera's debut, BOOKISHLY EVER AFTER, is the kind of book I wish I could have read as a bookish, nerdy teenage girl who knew more about book boyfriends than the real kind.

Phoebe Martin is perfectly happy with her life, working at a knitting store, hanging out with her best friends, and reading as many books as she can fit into her life. She finds book boys more appealing than real-life ones (aside from the unattainable boy she crushes on from afar). That is, until her best friends presents one of her friends as a real-life option, and when Phoebe finally notices Dev "that way," she starts to flounder. Not knowing how to handle a real crush, she turns to her beloved books for advice--with funny, and charming, consequences.

This book was sweet--Phoebe was adorable and genuine, and I thought the portrayal of a crush (and the often terribly awkward ways they unfold) was one of the most realistic I've read in some time. For a fun, sweet, clean YA read, this one is just about perfect.