Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Me on Mirage

Title: Mirage
Author: Somaiya Daud
Release Date: August 28, 2018
Publisher: Flatiron Books (Macmillan imprint)

In a star system dominated by the brutal Vathek empire, eighteen-year-old Amani is a dreamer. She dreams of what life was like before the occupation; she dreams of writing poetry like the old-world poems she adores; she dreams of receiving a sign from Dihya that one day, she, too, will have adventure, and travel beyond her isolated moon. But when adventure comes for Amani, it is not what she expects: she is kidnapped by the regime and taken in secret to the royal palace, where she discovers that she is nearly identical to the cruel half-Vathek Princess Maram. The princess is so hated by her conquered people that she requires a body double, someone to appear in public as Maram, ready to die in her place. As Amani is forced into her new role, she can't help but enjoy the palace's beauty—and her time with the princess' fiancé, Idris. But the glitter of the royal court belies a world of violence and fear. If Amani ever wishes to see her family again, she must play the princess to perfection... because one wrong move could lead to her death.

Mirage is a lush and richly imagined tale full of deception and cruelty, full of family, history, faith, and complicated relationships.

Amani is kind and thoughtful, a dreamer. She dreams of writing poetry, dreams of one day receiving a sign from a god or goddess. She dreams of one day seeing a sign as to what she will do, how she will help those she cares about or those around her. But then she's abducted by a regime she despises, forced to work for a young woman who hated their shared heritage. A young woman who looks almost identical to Amani. And so Amani is forced to pretend to be someone she hates, someone cruel and unfeeling about the problems and history of being Kushaila in an empire ruled by the Vath. What else can she do when the lives of her parents and siblings are at stake? What else can she do but follow orders and listen to what happens around her.

There's something so interesting about this book, something that's maybe a little similar to series like The Winner's Curse. Under all the opulence, under Maram's cold rule and Amani's fitting in to be like her, under Amani being drawn towards Idris and her wanting her family to be safe, there's so much talk about empire and colonialism, about culture and family and motivation. Amani is caught between staying alive and potentially making sure her culture isn't completely overwhelmed, while Maram is caught between her father, a Vath of great power and importance, and the history and people of her mother, people who hate her because she's turned her back on them while she looks so much like them. It's a deep and complex tale, one that's only started this this book, and I can't wait to see what happens next with Amani.

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

Monday, August 27, 2018

Me on Toil & Trouble: 15 Tales of Women & Witchcraft

Title: Toil & Trouble: 15 Tales of Women & Witchcraft
Authors: Tess Sharpe, Jessica Spotswood, Brandy Colbert, Zoraida C­órdova, Andrea Cremer, Kate Hart, Emery Lord, Elizabeth May, Anna-Marie McLemore, Tehlor Kay Mejia, Lindsay Smith, Nova Ren Suma, Robin Talley, Shveta Thakrar, & Brenna Yovanoff
Edited by: Jessica Spotswood & Tess Sharpe
Release Date: August 28, 2018
Publisher: Harlequin Teen

Are you a good witch or a bad witch? Glinda the Good Witch. Elphaba the Wicked Witch. Willow. Sabrina. Gemma Doyle. The Mayfair Witches. Ursula the Sea Witch. Morgan le Fey. The three weird sisters from Macbeth. History tells us women accused of witchcraft were often outsiders: educated, independent, unmarried, unwilling to fall in line with traditional societal expectations. Bold. Powerful. Rebellious. A bruja's traditional love spell has unexpected results. A witch's healing hands begin to take life instead of giving it when she ignores her attraction to a fellow witch. In a terrifying future, women are captured by a cabal of men crying witchcraft and the one true witch among them must fight to free them all. In a desolate past, three orphaned sisters prophesize for a murderous king. Somewhere in the present, a teen girl just wants to kiss a boy without causing a hurricane. From good witches to bad witches, to witches who are a bit of both, this is an anthology of diverse witchy tales from a collection of diverse, feminist authors. The collective strength of women working together—magically or mundanely--has long frightened society, to the point that women's rights are challenged, legislated against, and denied all over the world. Toil & Trouble delves deep into the truly diverse mythology of witchcraft from many cultures and feminist points of view, to create modern and unique tales of witchery that have yet to be explored.

Toil & Trouble: 15 Tales of Women & Witchcraft is full of magic and wonder, of strengths and weaknesses, of love and fear and despair and power. It's a collection of stories highlighting young women and their abilities, be they accepted or hidden, honoured or feared, as they live their lives freely or in secret.

Sometimes it's a little hard to review anthologies because in an anthology there are usually two or three stories I really like, two or three that I don't, and the rest are okay. In this anthology I, at the very least, liked all of them. It's so much fun, reading all the different stories about everyone's different versions or adaptations of young women being witches or practicing some kind of witchcraft. Whether it was an inate power or something from a Goddess or passed down through families. Whether it was set in the past or in the present. Stories full of complicated politics, star-crossed lovers, moments between sisters, and young women rising up against the men that fear them. Stories about star signs, fear, faith, and fate. There are a few I love more than the others, the ones by Tess Sharpe, Zoraida Córdova, Anna-Marie McLemore, and Emery Lord, but all the stories are magical and powerful. They all speak to the power of young women, whether it be magic or determination or an indestructible combination of the two. It was such a joy to read this anthology and I hope there will be more like it in the future.

(I received an e-galley of this title from Harlequin Teen through NetGalley.)

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Me on Waiting on Wednesday (388)

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

Title: Sherwood
Author: Meagan Spooner
Release Date: March 19, 2019
Publisher: HarperTeen

From Goodreads:

Robin of Locksley is dead. 

When news comes that he's fallen in battle at the King's side in the Holy Land, Maid Marian doesn’t know how she’ll go on. Betrothed to Robin, she was free to be herself, to flout the stifling rules of traditional society and share an equal voice with her beloved when it came to caring for the people of her land.

Now Marian is alone, with no voice of her own. The people of Locksley, persecuted by the Sheriff of Nottingham, are doomed to live in poverty or else face death by hanging. The dreadful Guy of Gisborne, the Sherriff’s right hand, wishes to step into Robin’s shoes as Lord of Locksley, and Marian’s fiancé. Society demands that she accept her fate, and watch helplessly as her people starve.

When Marian dons Robin's green cloak, and takes up his sword and bow, she never intended that anyone should mistake her for Robin, returned from the Holy Land as a vigilante. She never intended that the masked, cloaked figure she created should stand as a beacon of hope and justice to peasant and noble alike. She never intended to become a legend.

But all of Nottingham is crying out for a savior. So Marian must choose to make her own fate and become her own hero...

Robin Hood.

I'm curious to see how this will go. In all the retellings I've read, so few of them have been Robin Hood retellings, and with this one also involving Marian disguising herself and people thinking she's actually Robin, I do wonder how everything will play out. How it will end.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Me on Ruin of Stars

Title: Ruin of Stars
Author: Linsey Miller
Release Date: August 28, 2018
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

As Opal, Sal finally has the power, prestige, and most importantly the ability to hunt the lords who killed their family. But Sal has to figure out who the culprits are before putting them down. Which means trying to ignore the fact that Elise is being kept a virtual prisoner, and that the queen may have ulterior motives. And the tales coming out of north are baffling. Talk of dark spirits, missing children, and magic abound. As Sal heads north toward their ruined homeland and the lords who destroyed everything, they learn secrets and truths that can't be ignored.

Ruin of Stars is a conclusion to a mission full of revenge and anger, a search for the truth and those who would plot to destroy so many lives.

Sal, now Honorable Opal, in service to the Queen of Igna, is ready to carry out their plan. Hunt down the lords that brought about the destruction of their home country of Nacea. The death of their family. The capture of Elise. Sal may be full of guilt, guilt at surviving and not seeing the traitors until it was too late, but they're also full of determination. They will not rest until all the names on their list is crossed out, until the truth is revealed, until all the innocents are saved. Even if it kills them.

A big part of this book, something that isn't hidden or whispered about, something that's discussed openly and thought about long and hard by Sal, is destroying Erlend's way of thinking. Their way of treating people. The strict confines of the male/female binary, the belief that men are smarter and better at leading and commanding than women. It's a way of thinking that looks at inclusion and acceptance with disgust, a way of thinking that tells people they're wrong, that something in wrong with them, and that there is only a binary when it comes to gender, only a male romantic partner to consider when you're female. For Sal who considers themself genderfluid, who shifts back and forth and in-between, for Elise who would rather court other girls, or for Emerald who feels no romantic attraction toward her partners, this way of thinking hurts in so many ways. Sal phrases their feelings about Erlend and their restrictive way of thinking so well: "Their comfort was more important than [Sal's] existence." Those like Sal, like Elise or Emerald or Lark, are seen as less than people, less than human, seen as something broken and in need of fixing, and that kind of thinking is horrific and wrong.

How far will revenge take you? How much will it fuel you, push you towards an end drenched in blood and despair? What will become of you when you reach the end, when all those who wronged you are dead at your feet? What will become of Sallot Leon, of Honorable Opal, when their list no longer has any names on it? I thoroughly enjoyed reading this duology of identity and discovery, of pain and sorrow and revenge, of despair over close-minded ways and hope for the future.

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

Friday, August 10, 2018

Me on Let's Revisit a Book! (2)

And we're back with another fun look back at an older YA book to see if I still think it's good or not. Today, or prior to today, I reread Malinda Lo's Adaptation! (There might be a little bleed-through of the second half of the duology, Inheritance, because they do go hand in hand.)

Title: Adaptation
Author: Malinda Lo
Release Date: September 18, 2012
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (Hachette Book Group imprint)

From Goodreads:

Reese can’t remember anything from the time between the accident and the day she woke up almost a month later. She only knows one thing: She’s different now.

Across North America, flocks of birds hurl themselves into airplanes, causing at least a dozen to crash. Thousands of people die. Fearing terrorism, the United States government grounds all flights, and millions of travelers are stranded.

Reese and her debate team partner and longtime crush David are in Arizona when it happens. Everyone knows the world will never be the same. On their drive home to San Francisco, along a stretch of empty highway at night in the middle of Nevada, a bird flies into their headlights. The car flips over. When they wake up in a military hospital, the doctor won’t tell them what happened, where they are—or how they’ve been miraculously healed.

Things become even stranger when Reese returns home. San Francisco feels like a different place with police enforcing curfew, hazmat teams collecting dead birds, and a strange presence that seems to be following her. When Reese unexpectedly collides with the beautiful Amber Gray, her search for the truth is forced in an entirely new direction—and threatens to expose a vast global conspiracy that the government has worked for decades to keep secret.

My revisit conclusion: it's still really good! It's like sci-fi lite, set in the present day with some creeping in of aliens and advanced technology and conspiracy theories and a secretive government (because aren't they all? *winky face*). I do like stories like this, when it's set in the present day and everything's as the reader knows it but there's something that's a little different, something unfamiliar and chaotic in all the mundane.

What books like this seem to be about, to me, is about the unexpected. How sometimes it comes right at us, barreling into us, and we're just left behind to pick up the pieces and move on. But we know something's different, something's changed, and there's no one there to ask why or how or if it can be stopped or how long it's going to last or why us. Why now. And now that it's happened, how do we navigate this familiar but slightly different space when no one's there to guide us? I mean, there are figures there to guide us as best as they can, but it's not 100%. We have to learn on our own, and that can be a frightening prospect when we don't understand what's happened.

So if you haven't read this duology and you're looking for some sci-fi, far less violent and deadly than Independance Day with a fair amount of alien confusion and romance, then give it a chance. It flips back and forth between alien secrets and tension to teenage romance and Reese questioning her sexuality.

I hope you've enjoyed this week of looking back at a couple of slightly older YA books. I'll probably do this again when I get a free week or two. :)

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Me on Waiting on Wednesday (387)

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

Title: A Sorrow Fierce and Falling
Author: Jessica Cluess
Release Date: October 16, 2018
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers

From Goodreads:

It’s time for war.

After suffering terrible losses, Henrietta and Lord Blackwood have led their warriors to Sorrow-Fell, a vast estate where only those invited by a Blackwood may enter–and the ideal place to plan a final assault against the Ancients.

It’s time for a wedding.

Henrietta nervously awaits her marriage to Blackwood, but when the ritual to become his bride reveals a dark secret, she realizes that Sorrow-Fell is not a safe haven; it’s a trap. Convincing the sorcerers of this, however, is not easy. So with Maria, the true chosen one, and Magnus, the young man who once stole her heart, at her side, Henrietta plots a dangerous journey straight into the enemy’s lair. Some will live. Some will die. All will be tested.

In this stunning conclusion to the Kingdom on Fire series, Henrietta must choose between the love from her past, the love from her present, and a love that could define her future. While battles rage, the fate of the kingdom rests on her decision: Will she fall or rise up to become the woman who saves the realm?

It’s time for Henrietta to make her stand.

How in the world is this series going to end?!?

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Me on Let's Revisit a Book (1)

Hi there! So, this spring and summer I've come across a lot of books that I've read and afterwards thought, "Well, it was okay," and that's not exciting for you. Review after review of me saying it was okay or fine is boring. I don't know if it's me or the books I've been reading or both, but it feels like fewer books have stood out for me so far this year.

So I thought I'd do something fun and revisit a book I read years ago to see if it still holds up, if I still enjoyed it, if I think you should go check it out at the library or if you happen to find it at a new or used bookstore (because it's possible it's hard to find or out of print now), of if it's horribly dated or insulting.

And I'm going to start with one of the first books I reviewed: Dia Reeves' Bleeding Violet. (Note: don't go back and read my old review. It's so bad. Long story short, when I read this in 2010 I loved it.)

Title: Bleeding Violet
Author: Dia Reeves
Release Date: January 5, 2010
Publisher: Simon Pulse (Simon & Schuster imprint)

From Goodreads:

Love can be a dangerous thing...

Hanna simply wants to be loved. With a head plagued by hallucinations, a medicine cabinet full of pills, and a closet stuffed with frilly, violet dresses, Hanna’s tired of being the outcast, the weird girl, the freak. So she runs away to Portero, Texas in search of a new home.

But Portero is a stranger town than Hanna expects. As she tries to make a place for herself, she discovers dark secrets that would terrify any normal soul. Good thing for Hanna, she’s far from normal. As this crazy girl meets an even crazier town, only two things are certain: Anything can happen and no one is safe.

My revisit conclusion: For the most part, this book is still really good. It's dangerous and silly and serious. It really fits in with what's coming out these days, what's coming out in the next year or so. It's got Hanna talking openly about being biracial and how hard it is to fit in when people keep asking where she's from, Hanna talking openly about her mental health and mental illnesses, her bipolar disorder and her depression and her hallucinations, and Hanna talking rather openly and practically about sex. It's about a town where really weird things happen and the townsfolk don't hide it. It's about secrets and family dynamics and wanting and enacting plans and plots. It's about making the impossible possible. It's about Hanna being Hanna, that the weird things she says and does doesn't mean she's broken.

Hanna's relationship with Wyatt is interesting in that she very clearly states that, in a town as weird and dangerous as Portero, she doesn't need him to protect her or keep her safe (which confuses the heck out of his ex-girlfriend). Hers is a practical no nonsense kind of confidence. She's attracted to him, sure, and he's attracted to her, but does she need him to save her? No. She needs him in other ways. It can look cold, the ways Hanna uses and needs Wyatt, but when you step back and look at everything that's going on, the conclusion that Hanna reaches, it's all very practical. And Hanna's not a cold, unfeeling girl. Look at how much she craves affection from her mother, who's unwilling to give it at the start because she believes that love only leads to pain and sorrow.

Everyone in Portero is a little broken, a little messed up. To be honest, Hanna's the most normal out of everyone in town. The only thing is it's a little gory at times, a little bloody and gruesome, and I'd certainly give it a trigger warning for self-harm and suicide. During my re-read, it felt a little like some of the discussions about mental illness and suicide were too light and flippant.

So, after all that, if you're still interested, then check out your local library or bookstore or e-book provider or choice and give it a read. I think it still holds up, but I'm wondering what someone else who's read it thinks, if there was anything they didn't agree with or thought was poorly discussed.

I'll probably do another one of these posts on Friday, so see you then!

Friday, August 3, 2018

Me on The Adventure Zone: Here There Be Gerblins

Title: The Adventure Zone: Here There Be Gerblins
Authors/co-adaptors: Clint McElroy, Griffin McElroy, Justin McElroy, Travis McElroy, & Casey Pietsch
Artist: Carey Pietsch
Release Date: July 17, 2018
Publisher: First Second (Macmillan imprint)

Welcome to the Adventure Zone! SEE! The illustrated exploits of three lovable dummies set loose in a classic fantasy adventure! READ! Their journey from small-time bodyguards to world-class artifact hunters! MARVEL! At the sheer metafictional chutzpah of a graphic novel based on a story created in a podcast where three dudes and their dad play a tabletop role playing game in real time! Join Taako the elf wizard, Merle the dwarf cleric, and Magnus the human warrior for an adventure they are poorly equipped to handle AT BEST, guided ("guided") by their snarky DM, in a graphic novel that, like the smash-hit podcast it's based on, will tickle your funny bone, tug your heartstrings, and probably pants you if you give it half a chance.

The Adventure Zone: Here There Be Gerblins is full of impossible hijinks and an oddball trio running wild in classic fantasy-setting encounters. Magic and swords, treasure and gerblins, this is the beginning of a grand adventure

Taako is the ever snarky and always sassy wizard, Magnus is the friendly and ever-proficient fighter, and Merle is the sometimes grumbling, sometimes preaching cleric. Somehow, these three characters have come together to form adventuring party. They all have different personalities, different backstories, different motives. And yet here they are, adventuring along. Their interactions with each other are often full of bickering, but they barely know each other and sometimes one of them (Taako) can be a little abrasive. There are bound to be bumps along the road. Plus, every so often, their all-seeing and all-knowing Dungeon Master pops in for some insight, explanation, or some snark of his own.

The art style is just perfect, Carey Pietsch nailed it. Magnus being all big and full of both muscles and smiles. Merle looking like a crabby dwarf cleric, spreading the good word with flowers in his hair. Taako with that near-constant frown furrowing his brow, the crooked point in his hat, the smile on his face when he talks about his cooking show. Plus all the outside landscapes and the cave interiors, the cartoony monster killing.

What this is is something new, something different. Something exciting. It's a graphic novel adaptation of a wacky and hilarious Dungeons & Dragons podcast. It's gone from paper to audio back to paper with full colour pictures, which is rather interesting. D&D is becoming pretty popular as something to watch, as something with complicated characters and missions and making the best of a bad situation because of bad dice rolls. The book feels more streamlined than the podcast (I've only listened to the first couple of story arcs), more fluid and faster-paced. No mention of dice rolls or rules or limitations on spell-casting. Now, by no means do you have to have listened to the podcast before reading this, or after, and you're not required to read this if you've already listened to the entire campaign and know how it'll all end. Having both options gives it layers, makes it deeper, makes it more. Some things are different, some names and some of the actions, but the heart of the story is still the same. It's still three dorks adventuring their way, collecting objects and finding secrets while Griffin describes the rich tapestry they just blasted their way through without waiting to see if they were walking into a trap. If you're a fan of the podcast, or D&D podcasts or live shows in general, odds are you'll love this. And I'd definitely give it a read if you're interested in D&D or fantasy comics. It's just so much fun, and if they do more books, the fun's only going to continue.

(I borrowed a copy of this title from the library.)

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Me on Waiting on Wednesday (386)

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

Title: The Storyteller
Author: Traci Chee
Release Date: November 13, 2018
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group

From Goodreads:

The thrilling conclusion to the epic adventure that began with New York Times bestselling The Reader, "a series fantasy lovers will want to sink their teeth into." - Booklist, starred review

Sefia is determined to keep Archer out of the Guard's clutches and their plans for war between the Five Kingdoms. The Book, the ancient, infinite codex of the past, present and future, tells of a prophecy that will plunge Kelanna in that bloody war, but it requires a boy—Archer—and Sefia will stop at nothing to ensure his safety. The Guard has already stolen her mother, her father, and her Aunt Nin. Sefia would sooner die than let them take anymore from her—especially the boy she loves.

But escaping the Guard and the Book's prophecy is no easy task. After all, what is written always comes to pass. As Sefia and Archer watch Kelanna start to crumble to the Guard's will, they will have to choose between their love and joining a war that just might tear them apart.

Full of magic, suspense, and mystery, Traci Chee brings her Sea of Ink and Gold trilogy to a close in this spellbinding final installment.

I'm so excited for this, the first two books were so good. It's all about stories and fate and magic and belief and hope and defiance. And I'm kind of thinking that the ending will be more satisfying and fitting with the overall trilogy as opposed to happy. I could be wrong, but this seems like one of those 'for the good of everyone and the continuation of Sefia's hope for the future' kind of endings is going to happen. I could be wrong. We'll see in the fall. :)