Saturday, April 22, 2017

Me on This Week's Book Week (255)

This Week's Book Week is rather similar to Stacking the Shelves hosted by Tynga's Reviews only with far more rambling and a less witty title. ;)

Hello! We've reached the part of spring when it rains for most of the week and then it's sunny for a day or two so you have to cram all the lawn mowing and weeding into a day.

I think I need to make a list of all the comic series I've been meaning to read and head off to the library to see if they have any. I definitely notice that I read faster when I alternate between prose and comics.

Reviews going up this week will feature Dreamfall by Amy Plum (Tuesday) and Avenged by Amy Tintera (Friday). :)
Bought/borrowed/received:
The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore (borrowed from the library)

Friday, April 21, 2017

Me on The Gauntlet

Title: The Gauntlet
Author: Karuna Riazi
Release Date: March 28, 2017
Publisher: Salaam Reads (Simon & Schuster imprint)

When twelve-year-old Farah and her two best friends get sucked into a mechanical board game called The Gauntlet of Blood and Sand—a puzzle game akin to a large Rubik's cube—they know it's up to them to defeat the game's diabolical architect in order to save themselves and those who are trapped inside, including her baby brother Ahmed. But first they have to figure out how. Under the tutelage of a lizard guide named Henrietta Peel and an aeronaut Vijay, Farah and her friends battle camel spiders, red scorpions, grease monkeys, and sand cats as they prepare to face off with the maniacal Lord Amari, the man behind the machine. Can they defeat Amari at his own game... or will they, like the children who came before them, become cogs in the machine?

The Gauntlet is thrilling and adventurous, a tale of riddles, of tricks and trials. Of secrets and smarts and the strength to keep on going when everything's working against you.

Farah is smart and perceptive. Once inside The Gauntlet, once following the path set out before her, she understands the seriousness of the situation. That she and her friends must complete the puzzles if they want to make it out alive. But that doesn't mean she's not worried about Ahmed, her younger brother who raced off into the game ahead of her, wandering through a world they've never been to. Who knows who he might come across, what danger he might end up in? As Farah worries, she and her friends are racing against time, solving the puzzles of the Architect.

There are wonderful descriptions in this book. From the scenery, the buildings that make up the souk and the palaces, the invasiveness of the sand in everyone's shoes, the mad rush of the wind of a sandstorm, to the smells and the flavours that invade the senses. Ginger and mint, warm food like stewed vegetables and lamb, sweets coated in honey and nuts.

The tone of this book, the voice, has gorgeous charm. It's enchanting and bright in a world of impossibility and danger. There's Farah's initial worry over her new school, suddenly being the only girl who wears the hijab in her class, then her worry about Ahmed, that they can't solve puzzles and save him at the same time, but her determination doesn't waver. As worried as she is, she knows she has to do it. That she can do it. I would definitely recommend this to middle grade readers who love magic and games and the impossible.

(I received a finished copy of this title to review from Simon & Schuster Canada.)

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Me on Waiting on Wednesday (327)

Waiting on Wednesday is a bunch of weekly fun hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. :)

Title: Black Bird of the Gallows
Author: Meg Kassel
Release Date: September 5, 2017
Publisher: Entangled Publishing

From Goodreads:

A simple but forgotten truth: Where harbingers of death appear, the morgues will soon be full.

Angie Dovage can tell there’s more to Reece Fernandez than just the tall, brooding athlete who has her classmates swooning, but she can’t imagine his presence signals a tragedy that will devastate her small town. When something supernatural tries to attack her, Angie is thrown into a battle between good and evil she never saw coming. Right in the center of it is Reece—and he’s not human.

What's more, she knows something most don't. That the secrets her town holds could kill them all. But that’s only half as dangerous as falling in love with a harbinger of death.

There are so many things I'm a big sucker for. Danger and harbingers and covers with gorgeous birds and the supernatural and good and evil. I hope this'll be good.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Me on Devil and the Bluebird

Title: Devil and the Bluebird
Author: Jennifer Mason-Black
Release Date: May 1, 2016
Publisher: Amulet Books (Abrams imprint)

Blue Riley has wrestled with her own demons ever since the loss of her mother to cancer. But when she encounters a beautiful devil at her town crossroads, it's her runaway sister's soul she fights to save. The devil steals Blue's voice—inherited from her musically gifted mother—in exchange for a single shot at finding Cass. Armed with her mother's guitar, a knapsack of cherished mementos, and a pair of magical boots, Blue journeys west in search of her sister. When the devil changes the terms of their deal, Blue must reevaluate her understanding of good and evil and open herself up to finding family in unexpected places.

Devil and the Bluebird is all about the journey, what we're looking for and where we end up. Who we meet along the way, the good and the bad, and the pieces of ourselves that we discover.

Blue is intelligent, compassionate, and lonely. Ever since her mother died, ever since her sister left. Something's been missing in her life, something that was there when they were together. And now, afraid something has happened to Cass, she heads off to the crossroads in order to make a deal with the devil, following the folktale her mother told her. And so her journey begins, heading west from her home in Maine in order to find her sister, her guitar on her back and her boots leading the way. But what Blue doesn't expect are the people she meets along the way, the hard lessons they teach her, and the ways the devil alters their deal.

I think this book says a lot about faith (both the religious and non-religious kind), about journeys and destiny. About the people you come across in life, the good and the bad, the kindness and the criminals, and that you should trust that nugget in your chest that represents your instincts. There's a curious sort of charm that runs through this book, brought on by Blue's introspection, her perceptions of the people she meets, and the music that goes along with it. I would recommend this to contemporary YA fans, to those looking for books all about the journey and how the destination you're looking for might not be the one you end up at.

(I borrowed an e-book copy of this title from the library.)

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Me on This Week's Book Week (254)

This Week's Book Week is rather similar to Stacking the Shelves hosted by Tynga's Reviews only with far more rambling and a less witty title. ;)

Hi there! It's spring, with all its flowers and pollen and grass-cutting and scratches from rose thorns. I'm not looking forward to sinus headaches.

Reviews going up this week will feature Devil and the Bluebird by Jennifer Mason-Black (Tuesday) and The Gauntlet by Karuna Riazi (Friday).
Bought/borrowed/received:
Now I Rise by Kiersten White (e-galley from Random House Children's Books through NetGalley)

Friday, April 14, 2017

Me on The Edge of the Abyss

Title: The Edge of the Abyss
Author: Emily Skrutskie
Release Date: April 18, 2017
Publisher: Flux

Three weeks have passed since Cassandra Leung pledged her allegiance to the ruthless pirate-queen Santa Elena and set free Bao, the sea monster Reckoner she'd been forced to train. The days as a pirate trainee are long and grueling, but it's not the physical pain that Cas dreads most. It's being forced to work with Swift, the pirate girl who broke her heart. But Cas has even bigger problems when she discovers that Bao is not the only monster swimming free. Other Reckoners illegally sold to pirates have escaped their captors and are taking the NeoPacific by storm, attacking ships at random and ruining the ocean ecosystem. As a Reckoner trainer, Cas might be the only one who can stop them. But how can she take up arms against creatures she used to care for and protect? Will Cas embrace the murky morals that life as a pirate brings or perish in the dark waters of the NeoPacific?

The Edge of the Abyss is full of danger and tension, a mission of survival. A story of pirates, of an ocean that now feels like home, and the monsters that lurk beneath the waves.

Cas is full of conflict. Now on the pirate ship Minnow, under the rule of Santa Elena, she's hard at work proving herself. Proving that she has skills beyond those of a Reckoner trainer, because that's not what's needed anymore. For his own safety, Cas left Bao on his own, making sure he'd never be used as a pirate's weapon again. But is it really the life she wants to lead now? She's also struggling with her feelings for Swift, the rough and tumble pirate girl who's saved her life but also ruined it, poisoning the Reckoner Cas had been with for most of her life. She's not sure what to do, how to act, except follow Santa Elena's commands so she can stay alive.

I love how this book was made up of so many morally grey areas. Cas has to confront a number of things, especially pirate things, that she doesn't quite agree with. Like the raising of Reckoners by pirates. Like the underhandedness and thievery of pirates. Like the doublespeak that Santa Elena deals in when teaching her trainees. Like her feelings for Cas that don't always weigh as much as her fury at knowing Cas was behind the events that first brought her to the Minnow. But now comes the biggest conflict of all for Cas. Either stand with the pirates and destroy the illegal Reckoners that broke free and grew up feral in the NeoPacific, or stand by as they tear every single ship apart. And Cas now has to make those decisions.

This duology is dark and deadly and complicated. It's tense and brutal, all about survival and morals. All about a girl trying to stay alive and the girl she has feelings for. But what are those feelings? Love? Hatred? A combination of the two? I was satisfied both by the ending and that it was left slightly open. The world-building here, a mixture of futuristic and impossible sea monsters and piracy, has left a world that feels believable, and so of course Cas's story would continue on. But I feel like I was left with a good ending here. I would definitely recommend this duology if you're looking for something different with a slight Pacific Rim vibe to it.

(I received an e-galley of this title to review from Flux through NetGalley.)

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Me on Waiting on Wednesday (326)

Waiting on Wednesday is a bunch of weekly fun hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. :)

Title: Wild Beauty
Author: Anna-Marie McLemore
Release Date: October 3, 2017
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends (Macmillan imprint)

From Goodreads:

Love grows such strange things.

For nearly a century, the Nomeolvides women have tended the grounds of La Pradera, the lush estate gardens that enchant guests from around the world. They’ve also hidden a tragic legacy: if they fall in love too deeply, their lovers vanish. But then, after generations of vanishings, a strange boy appears in the gardens.

The boy is a mystery to Estrella, the Nomeolvides girl who finds him, and to her family, but he’s even more a mystery to himself; he knows nothing more about who he is or where he came from than his first name. As Estrella tries to help Fel piece together his unknown past, La Pradera leads them to secrets as dangerous as they are magical in this stunning exploration of love, loss, and family.

More magical, complicated books by Anna-Marie McLemore! I rather like the way she weaves together stories, the piecing together of magical realism and characters and mystery and romance.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Me on Duels and Deception

Title: Duels and Deception
Author: Cindy Anstey
Release Date: April 11, 2017
Publisher: Swoon Reads (Macmillan imprint)

Miss Lydia Whitfield, heiress to the family fortune, has her future entirely planned out. She will run the family estate until she marries the man of her late father's choosing, and then she will spend the rest of her days as a devoted wife. Confident in those arrangements, Lydia has tasked her young law clerk, Mr. Robert Newton, to begin drawing up the marriage contracts. Everything is going according to plan. Until Lydia—and Robert along with her—is kidnapped. Someone is after her fortune and won't hesitate to destroy her reputation to get it. With Robert's help, Lydia strives to keep her family's good name intact and expose whoever is behind the devious plot. But as their investigation delves deeper and their affections for each other grow, Lydia starts to wonder whether her carefully planned future is in fact what she truly wants.

Duels and Deception is a sweet, easy-going mystery full of colourful characters and nefarious plots. Thankfully, a clever heroine and a trusting hero are on the case.

Lydia is an intelligent young woman. She's not one to be taken advantage of. Raised to be a practical free-thinker by her late father, she knows what to do in terms what to plant on the family estate, which is the apples they've previously grown. Not the ridiculous pineapples her money-grubbing uncle suggests. But he treats her like a child. So she writes to her solicitor to come help, who sends Mr. Robert Newton to assist her. Robert is smart and compassionate, he understands from the start that Lydia is educated and knowledgeable, understands that her uncle is only looking out for his own dwindling wealth. And so Robert agrees to help Lydia, but then becomes kidnapped along with her, and the two are forced to piece apart a number of mysterious situations.

I found this to be a light and easy read with a rather layered mystery. There are a number of events happening to and around Lydia and Robert, kidnappings and duels and villainous thievery. Combined with both the attitudes and the wit of the Regency England setting, this made for a fun read. Maybe a little slow in the middle, but still entertaining. I'd recommend this to those who enjoyed the author's previous book.

(I received an advance copy of this title from Raincoast Books.)

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Me on This Week's Book Week (253)

This Week's Book Week is rather similar to Stacking the Shelves hosted by Tynga's Reviews only with far more rambling and a less witty title. ;)

Hello! It's been raining again, but I think the weather'll be picking up soon. Maybe?

I've been trying to fit in some library reading around my review reading. Sometimes it works. There are so many series I want to catch up on, mostly comic and manga series, but it takes a while for the library to pick up those. Of course, the local branch has been closed for a few weeks. Maybe once it's open again I'll go for a big browse. Reading comics on a computer screen doesn't always work with my brain, it doesn't always translate the way reading a physical book does.

Reviews going up this week will feature Duels and Deception by Cindy Anstey (Tuesday) and The Edge of the Abyss by Emily Skrutskie (Friday). :)
Bought/borrowed/received:
The Gauntlet by Karuna Riazi (finished copy from Simon & Schuster Canada)
Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor (purchased)

Friday, April 7, 2017

Me on The Upside of Unrequited

Title: The Upside of Unrequited
Author: Becky Albertalli
Release Date: April 11, 2017
Publisher: Balzer + Bray (HarperCollins imprint)

Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love. No matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can't stomach the idea of rejection. So she's careful. Fat girls always have to be careful. Then a cute new girl enters Cassie's orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly's cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly's totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie's new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. If Molly can win him over, she'll get her first kiss and she'll get her twin back. There's only one problem: Molly's coworker, Reid. He's a chubby Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there's absolutely no way Molly could fall for him. Right?

The Upside of Unrequited is clever, current, and romantic. It's all about family, about relationships and crushes, about perceptions and observations. About wanting something when you feel like society keeps telling you you can't have it. And being willing to take the risk.

Molly is smart and creative, observant and opinionated. Her inner voice asks important questions, wonders about important things. Like how society screws over fat girls, classifying them as great friend-material but not romance-material. She wonders about the things teen girls wonder about, like dating and sex, like is it okay to like certain guys. She's glad she has her twin sister Cassie, who's bold where Molly is quiet. But Molly's not sure how to feel when Cassie's suddenly serious about a girl, when they become girlfriends. When Cassie doesn't share everything like they always did before.

I love how this book deals with rejection and unrequited feelings, the crushes that Molly has had on the boys she's met. Crushes are seemingly simple, they're a twinge in the stomach, a flutter. They make you nervous and awkward. And that's it. You don't act on them if you're Molly, partly because she has no idea how to flit or follow up and partly because she doesn't want to be rejected. Being rejected hurts, especially if you're a fat girl who's been repeatedly told that no one will find you attractive until you lose weight. And so Molly's fine with having unrequited feelings, with having crush after crush. Until the wanting to be part of a couple is more than the wanting to not be rejected. Until the loneliness feels too heavy.

As I read this, I couldn't get over how current, relevant, and open this book felt, these characters felt. There's frank and honest talk about sexuality, attraction, anxiety, body imagery, religion. And I couldn't get over how familiar Molly felt. Because I remember being that girl in high school. A fat girl who had crushes but never boyfriends. Who felt out of place at parties. Who wanted to be part of something but always felt awkward about it. This book is charming and honest, blunt and hopeful. This is a must-read. Hands down.

(I downloaded an e-galley of this title from HarperCollins through Edelweiss.)

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Me on Waiting on Wednesday (325)

Waiting on Wednesday is a bunch of weekly fun hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. :)

Title: The Suffering Tree
Author: Elle Cosimano
Release Date: June 13, 2017
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

From Goodreads:

“It’s dark magic brings him back.”

Tori Burns and her family left D.C. for claustrophobic Chaptico, Maryland, after suddenly inheriting a house under mysterious circumstances. That inheritance puts her at odds with the entire town, especially Jesse Slaughter and his family—it’s their generations-old land the Burns have “stolen.” But none of that seems to matter after Tori witnesses a young man claw his way out of a grave under the gnarled oak in her new backyard. 

Nathaniel Bishop may not understand what brought him back, but it’s clear to Tori that he hates the Slaughters for what they did to him centuries ago. Wary yet drawn to him by a shared sense of loss, she gives him shelter. But in the wake of his arrival comes a string of troubling events—including the disappearance of Jesse Slaughter’s cousin—that seem to point back to Nathaniel.

As Tori digs for the truth—and slowly begins to fall for Nathaniel—she uncovers something much darker in the tangled branches of the Slaughter family tree. In order to break the centuries-old curse that binds Nathaniel there and discover the true nature of her inheritance, Tori must unravel the Slaughter family’s oldest and most guarded secrets. But the Slaughters want to keep them buried… at any cost.

From award-winning author Elle Cosimano comes a haunting, atmospheric thriller perfect to hand to readers of the Mara Dyer trilogy and Bone Gap.

This sounds rather eerie, a little like the Sleepy Hollow movie with the dead people but without the horror. I'm curious about the curse part and what sounds like some old family feuds and mysteries.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Me on Get It Together, Delilah!

Title: Get It Together, Delilah!
Author: Erin Gough
Release Date: April 4, 2017
Publisher: Chronicle Books

Seventeen-year-old Delilah Green wouldn't have chosen to do her last year of school this way, but she figures it's working fine. Her dad is on a trip to fix his broken heart after her mom left him for another man, so Del's managing the family café in his absence. Easy, she thinks. But what about homework and the nasty posse of mean girls making her life hell, or how one of Del's best friends won't stop guilt-tripping her, and her other best friend is so in love with his tutor he might go to jail for her if Del doesn't do something. But who cares about any of that really, because above all else, she can't stop thinking about beautiful Rosa who dances every night across the street until one day Rosa comes in the café door... And if Rosa starts thinking about Del, too, then how in the name of caramel milkshakes will Del get the rest of it together?

Get It Together, Delilah! is bright, smart, and complicated. It's the story of a teenage girl, all the trouble that falls into her lap, and what happens when she tries to handle it all on her own.

Del is caring, supportive, and super smart. She's a great friend and a caring daughter, knowing that after her mother's departure, her father really needs to get out and have a life. Things will be fine at home and at the café. What could go wrong? Almost everything. Because Del sees some of the problems as her fault, she takes charge. Takes it all on her shoulders. And even through all the seriousness and the worrying, she still finds time to stumble in front of her huge crush, the gorgeous dancer Rosa.

One thing this book does really well is highlight the different problems we get ourselves into, the different things we focus on and tumble into. There's a lot of tunnel vision going on here. Del's managing the café, her father's travelling, her mother's life without her father, Charlie's crush on his tutor. It's easy for readers to see characters and call them out on being selfish or foolish. Look at Del. Dropping out of school? Running a business on her own? Keeping everything a secret and not telling anyone that she needs help? Or Charlie. Possibly going to jail because you were crushing hard on a girl that probably didn't feel the same? Selfish. Stupid. But be in their shoes. Be Del, when your mother's gone and your father's off on an adventure, relying on you to keep the business going, and you can't tell your father because he needs to learn how to be an adult on his own. Be Charlie, young and following your hormones, wanting to profess your love, and running scared when it doesn't work out. And somehow finding something you're good at while you're hiding. It's easy to criticize, but it's just as easy to stop and see why they'd run, why they'd keep it secret. Sometimes we think we can handle our problems on our own, that no one needs to go sticking their noses into our business.

This book is a curious mixture of sweet and serious, of good times and complications. Maybe a little heavy on the serious and the complications. But I found it interesting. It's been a while since I read a contemporary YA set in Australia, the change in setting for me was fresh. Plus the fact that this book doesn't shy away from being honest about homophobia, about how it exists and how it sucks for those being discriminated, but it doesn't overwhelm the book. This book is about Del and her being a lesbian is only part of it. I would recommend this if you're looking for contemporary YA that's both serious and fun, a little like Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda.

(I received a finished copy of this book to review from Raincoast Books.)

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Me on This Week's Book Week (252)

This Week's Book Week is rather similar to Stacking the Shelves hosted by Tynga's Reviews only with far more rambling and a less witty title. ;)

Hello! The weather's finally sort of nice, but it's still sometimes raining. And the nice weather only means the return of garden work and lawn-mowing. *hides in a ball*

Ugh, it's April Fools Day. Because of the internet, this day has turned weirder and weirder. You're never really sure what to believe online on a good day, but today you're suspect of everything. Even going into yesterday I was suspect of everything I saw on Twitter.

Reviews going up this week will feature Get It Together, Delilah! by Erin Gough (Tuesday) and The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli (Friday). :)
Bought/borrowed/received:
Horimiya Volume 4 (purchased)