Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Me on Mask of Shadows

Title: Mask of Shadows
Author: Linsey Miller
Release Date: August 29, 2017
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Sallot Leon is a thief, and a good one at that. But gender fluid Sal wants nothing more than to escape the drudgery of life as a highway robber and get closer to the upper-class—and the nobles who destroyed their home. When Sal steals a flyer for an audition to become a member of The Left Hand—the Queen's personal assassins, named after the rings she wears—Sal jumps at the chance to infiltrate the court and get revenge. But the audition is a fight to the death filled with clever circus acrobats, lethal apothecaries, and vicious ex-soldiers. A childhood as a common criminal hardly prepared Sal for the trials. And as Sal succeeds in the competition, and wins the heart of Elise, an intriguing scribe at court, they start to dream of a new life and a different future, but one that Sal can have only if they survive.

Mask of Shadows is thrilling and compelling, a tale of survival and revenge, of shaky alliances and unexpected truths.

Sal is a thief, but they're a determined thief. Willful, skilled but acknowledges that they have flaws and weak points. Maybe a little broken, a little lost and lonely. They're on a mission, they have a purpose. Revenge. To expose those who left Sal's homeland of Nacea a scorched ruin. But first, Sal has to make it through the audition, survive the plots and plans and poisons of their fellow hopefuls in order to make it to the top, The Left Hand of the Queen.

One important part of this story is that of Sal and their identity, their being gender fluid. In no way is this a coming out story. It's just how it is. Sal knows who they are, how they want to be addressed on certain days depending on what they're wearing or how they're feeling. Which is great to see, especially in fantasy. How Sal was accepted warmly (with the exception of a few who didn't care if they misgendered Sal) and how so much of the book's focus was Sal's revenge, their honing their assassination skills, and their struggle to survive to the end.

What is revenge? For Sal, it's important. It pushes them forward, drives them, but at times it blinds them. More than one plot is circling, and there are those besides Sal that might want to change things in Igna. This is a rather dangerous, rather complicated tale of a young thief looking for revenge and those around them, those who help and those who hinder. I would definitely recommend this to those looking for something different and diverse in fantasy, in a land drained of magic but rich in secrets and shadow.

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

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Me on This Week's Book Week (272)

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! I'm back from my week at the library, which was weird in that it was a good week of teens writing and creating and sharing ideas broken up by a bad migraine and me not getting a lot of sleep. And so I'll take the weekend to sleep and feel better and gather up notes from a bunch of books I finished this week. Because there's so much still to read because of all the books coming out in September and October.

Reviews going up this week will feature Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller (Tuesday) and Zero Repeat Forever by G.S. Prendergast (Friday). :)

No books this week! Maybe next week. :)

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Me on This Week's Book Week (271)

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. ;)

It's still warm out there but it's not as smoky anymore! The air's been so stale and dry out there, everyone's really wanting some rain to come in to clear all the dust and smoke away.

No reviews next week! I'll be doing my usual volunteering in Vancouver at the kids writing and book camp all of next week. Reviews will be back the week of the 21st. :)
Bought/borrowed/received:
Before I Let Go by Marieke Nijkamp (e-galley from Sourcebooks through NetGalley)
The Winnowing by Vikki VanSickle (physical copy from Scholastic Canada)

Friday, August 11, 2017

Me on Wicked Like a Wildfire

Title: Wicked Like a Wildfire
Author: Lana Popović
Release Date: August 15, 2017
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (HarperCollins imprint)

All the women in Iris and Malina's family have the unique magical ability or "gleam" to manipulate beauty. Iris sees flowers as fractals and turns her kaleidoscope visions into glasswork, while Malina interprets moods as music. But their mother has strict rules to keep their gifts a secret, even in their secluded sea-side town. Iris and Malina are not allowed to share their magic with anyone, and above all, they are forbidden from falling in love. But when their mother is mysteriously attacked, the sisters will have to unearth the truth behind the quiet lives their mother has built for them. They will discover a wicked curse that haunts their family line—but will they find that the very magic that bonds them together is destined to tear them apart forever?

Wicked Like a Wildfire is deeply, darkly magical, lush and sinister. It's about the secrets we keep, the family that claims us, and what lurks, waiting for us to fall in love.

Iris is bold and rough, bright and full of thorns. She's the rough sandpaper to her twin Malina's soft glide of silk. She argues with their mother, constantly butts heads with her, and continuously heads out at night to do her own thing. She doesn't understand why, when they were younger and their mother used to encourage their little bursts of magic, now they can't do anything. The lack of using her gleam has it waning in Iris, only appearing in fractal flowers. She doesn't understand their mother anymore. But then she's attacked, then she's taken, then whispers and wants weave their way through Iris, and she and Malina slowly discover the reason why their mother left her family so many years ago.

There's something so visual and expressive about this book. It's the descriptions of Iris' flowers and fractals and glasswork, the descriptions of Malina's songs. It's the emotions and sensations they impart on those around them, the feelings they stir up. The shivers and the shudders, the quakes, the laughter and the tears. This book is full of sisters and magic, of Eastern European and Romany folklore and myth, of secrets. Of fate and purpose and death. Of the power we hold when we fall in love, and the lengths some will go to to grab hold of that power. I would recommend this to those who enjoy contemporary fantasy with layers of family and mystery, something slightly similar to Jennifer Bosworth's The Killing Jar or AnnaMarie McLemore's The Weight of Feathers, but know that this is the first book in a duology so there will be some waiting to read the second book.

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

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Me on Waiting on Wednesday (343)

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

Title: The Witch Boy
Author: Molly Knox Ostertag
Release Date: October 31, 2017
Publisher: Scholastic Press

From Goodreads:

In thirteen-year-old Aster's family, all the girls are raised to be witches, while boys grow up to be shapeshifters. Anyone who dares cross those lines is exiled. Unfortunately for Aster, he still hasn't shifted . . . and he's still fascinated by witchery, no matter how forbidden it might be.

When a mysterious danger threatens the other boys, Aster knows he can help -- as a witch. It will take the encouragement of a new friend, the non-magical and non-conforming Charlie, to convince Aster to try practicing his skills. And it will require even more courage to save his family . . . and be truly himself.

The cover is great and this sounds sweet and complicated and I just want to read it so much. :)

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Me on The Hearts We Sold

Title: The Hearts We Sold
Author: Emily Lloyd-Jones
Release Date: August 8, 2017
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (Hachette Book Group imprint)

When Dee Moreno makes a deal with a demon—her heart in exchange for an escape from a disastrous home life—she finds the trade may have been more than she bargained for. And becoming "heartless" is only the beginning. What lies ahead is a nightmare far bigger, far more monstrous than anything she could have ever imagined. With reality turned on its head, Dee has only a group of other deal-making teens to keep her grounded, including the charming but secretive James Lancer. And as something grows between them amid an otherworldly ordeal, Dee begins to wonder: Can she give someone her heart when it's no longer hers to give?

The Hearts We Sold is eerie, serious and dangerous. It's as much about consequences when we make a deal with the devil as it is about what makes us human, what we want and what pushes us. The places we want to escape and the places we end up, the people we end up with.

Dee is mixture of things. She's smart and practical, she's serious. She's lonely and afraid, worried about the future and afraid of her past. She's looking to get out of a bad situation, looking at high school and hopefully college as a way to get free. When things go south, when the situation is dire, she's looking to make a deal. Dee doesn't take the decision, her deal with the demon, lightly, but it certainly isn't what she expected. Others who've made deals have lost fingers or toes, arms or legs. Losing her heart? A little different, especially considering the condition that comes with it. But it's the choice she made, and she has to live with it.

This book is part monsters, part consequences, part humanity, and part lonely people cobbling together a family. Dee's home life is terrible, she wants her parents to be better, to accept her for who she is and what she wants to do, but they don't. But there are people who do, people she meets along the way, before and after her deal with the demon. What this book shows is that in so many ways, you both can and can't choose your family. But when you can, when it's people who understand you and are willing to support you, you'll do anything to keep them safe. I would definitely recommend this to those looking for complicated stories and complicated motives, fans of Brenna Yovanoff's first few books.

(I received an advance copy of this title to review from Hachette Book Group Canada.)

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Me on This Week's Book Week (270)

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. I'd say the weather's been nice, but for the past few days the sky's been full of smoke and haze. It's all coming from the wildfires up in the interior, the winds shifted and the smoke's drifting down. Which means it's a little gritty and kind of muggy and really warm out there. Hopefully the winds will shift and blow it away, and hopefully the winds will die down and some rain will come for the interior to help with the wildfires.

Reviews going up this week will feature The Hearts We Sold by Emily Lloyd-Jones (Tuesday) and Wicked Like a Wildfire by Lana Popović (Friday). :)
Bought/borrowed/received:
The Tea Dragon Society by Katie O'Neill (e-galley from Oni Press through NetGalley)

Friday, August 4, 2017

Me on Spellbook of the Lost and Found

Title: Spellbook of the Lost and Found
Author: Moïra Fowley-Doyle
Release Date: August 8, 2017
Publisher: Kathy Dawson Books (Penguin imprint)

One stormy Irish summer night, Olive and her best friend, Rose, begin to lose things. It starts with simple items like hairclips and jewelry, but soon it's clear that Rose has lost something much bigger, something she won't talk about, and Olive thinks her best friend is slipping away. Then seductive diary pages written by a girl named Laurel begin to appear all over town. And Olive meets three mysterious strangers: Ivy, Hazel, and her twin brother, Rowan, secretly squatting in an abandoned housing estate. The trio are wild and alluring, but they seem lost too—and like Rose, they're holding tight to painful secrets. When they discover the spellbook, it changes everything. Damp, tattered and ancient, it's full of hand-inked charms to conjure back things that have been lost. And it just might be their chance to find what they each need to set everything back to rights. Unless it's leading them toward things that were never meant to be found...

Spellbook of the Lost and Found is all mystery and magic, sweetness and sorrow. All about the lost and the found, be they things or people, trinkets or trash. All about the little things that connect us together, whether we realize it or not.

Olive and Rose are best friends. Supportive and bold, arms bright with message written to each other. They're so close they're almost family. But one night after a big party with alcohol and dancing and missing memories, Olive wakes up missing a few things. Like a hairclip and a shoe. Like Rose. Rose is there the next day they're at school, but something's different. Rose is missing something, but she's not so sure about telling Olive what it was. Laurel's diary went missing, as did her friends Holly and Ash. Looking all around for the missing pages, one of the three find a secret book. Hazel is hiding out in an abandoned building with her brother Rowan and their friend Ivy. Hazel's a little rough and a little cautious. Not wanting to mess anything up, not wanting to be noticed. Not wanting to think about the past. Misplacing a few things here and these. One day in the rain she meets Olive, which in turn leads her to meeting Rose, and Olive meeting Rowan and Ivy, and the five of them searching around. Which leads them to a book that could help them find their missing pieces.

There's something magical and eerie about this book, similar to The Accident Season. It raises questions about the seemingly impossible, about the magic in ordinary things, about connections and ties to things and people that we never expect but are right there waiting to be uncovered. About what we're looking for and what we're hoping stays lost. About lost things that should stay lost, that only serve to disrupt and ruin when they're found. This book is bold and open, rather frank and honest in its discussion of teens and sex and sexuality. I would certainly recommend this to those who enjoy finding moments of magic in real life, to those who enjoyed the author's previous book as well as possibly those who enjoyed AnnaMarie McLemore's books.

(I received an advance copy of this title to review from Penguin Canada.)

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Me on Waiting on Wednesday (342)

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

Title: Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View
Authors: Ben Acker and Ben Blacker, Renée Ahdieh, Tom Angleberger, Jeffrey Brown, Pierce Brown, Meg Cabot, Rae Carson, Adam Christopher, Zoraida Córdova, Delilah S. Dawson, Kelly Sue DeConnick and Matt Fraction, Paul Dini, Ian Doescher, Alexander Freed, Jason Fry, Kieron Gillen, Christie Golden, Claudia Gray, Pablo Hidalgo, E. K. Johnston and Ashley Eckstein, Paul S. Kemp, Mur Lafferty, Ken Liu, Griffin McElroy, John Jackson Miller, Nnedi Okorafor, Daniel José Older, Mallory Ortberg, Beth Revis, Madeleine Roux, Greg Rucka, Gary D. Schmidt, Cavan Scott, Charles Soule, Sabaa Tahir, Elizabeth Wein, Glen Weldon, Chuck Wendig, Wil Wheaton, & Gary Whitta
Release Date: October 3, 2017
Publisher: Del Ray (Random House imprint)

From Goodreads:

In celebration of Star Wars’ 40th anniversary, Del Rey is going to shine the spotlight on those unsung weirdos, heroes, and villains with a unique, new anthology. Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View, coming October 2017, will bring together more than 40 authors for 40 stories. Each will be told from the perspective of background characters of A New Hope — from X-wing pilots who helped Luke destroy the Death Star to the stormtroopers who never quite could find the droids they were looking for.

A Star Wars anthology about a bunch of background characters from Episode 4? With some of my favourite author/writer people (Kate! Zoraida! Kelly Sue DeConnick! Beth! Claudia!)? SIGN ME UP.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Me on The Epic Crush of Genie Lo

Title: The Epic Crush of Genie Lo
Author: F.C. Yee
Release Date: August 8, 2017
Publisher: Amulet Books (Abrams imprint)

The struggle to get into a top-tier college consumes sixteen-year-old Genie Lo's every waking thought. But when her sleepy Bay Area town comes under siege from hell-spawn straight out of Chinese folklore, her priorities are suddenly and forcefully rearranged. Her only guide to the demonic chaos breaking out around her is Quentin Sun, a beguiling, maddening new transfer student from overseas. Quentin assures Genie she is strong enough to fight these monsters, for she unknowingly harbors an inner power that can level the very gates of Heaven. Genie will have to dig deep within herself to summon the otherworldly strength that Quentin keeps talking about. But as she does, she finds the secret of her true nature is entwined with his, in a way she could never have imagined…

The Epic Crush of Genie Lo is a story full of action, intensity, and reality. A combination of fighting, Chinese folklore, and the pressure weighing down on Genie's shoulders to get into a top college before high school is over.

Genie is driven. Not necessarily angry but certainly frustrated at times. She knows what she wants out of her future and has everything planned. Top grades leading to top schools leading to getting out of the Bay Area. She knows she'll have to work impossibly hard in order to get out. But then Quentin Sun falls into her life, pushy and demanding, and turns everything around. Revealing that he's an important figure in Chinese folklore and stories, revealing that Genie herself has mystical abilities. Revealing that demons are coming for them, demons she doesn't have time to deal with if she wants to get into Harvard or Yale. And so comes Genie's battle to keep her lives apart while she and Quentin try to save unknowing citizens from becoming demon food.

What struck me, as a white reader, was the pressure weighing down on Genie as a Chinese-American girl. The pressure to get prefect grades, to stand out among all the other Asian applicants sending essays to top universities. The pressure from her mother to not stand out, to listen and behave, to be proper, to be nice to boys that show interest. The uneasiness she feels in her own body, how she dislikes being a tall Chinese girl. In no way can I attest to the authenticity of Genie's personal life or experiences, that is for other Chinese-American and Asian-American readers to speak on, but it certainly felt real to me. Her worries and wants dripped from the page.

This book is a great mixture of action and real life. Genie's struggle is very real, her desire to get good grades to get into a top university at war with her given mission to stop the sudden demon invasion. Things are never easy for Genie, so rarely is she given a break. I would recommend this to so many readers, so many teens like Genie worried about the future while struggling through their present, fighting against some expectations while trying to live up to others.

(I downloaded an e-galley of this title to review from Amulet Books through NetGalley.)