Rhoma Grace is a 16-year-old student from House Cancer with an unusual way of reading the stars. While her classmates use measurements to make accurate astrological predictions, Rho can’t solve for ‘x’ to save her life—so instead, she looks up at the night sky and makes up stories.
When a violent blast strikes the moons of Cancer, sending its ocean planet off-kilter and killing thousands of citizens—including its beloved Guardian—Rho is more surprised than anyone when she is named the House’s new leader. But, a true Cancrian who loves her home fiercely and will protect her people no matter what, Rho accepts.
Then, when more Houses fall victim to freak weather catastrophes, Rho starts seeing a pattern in the stars. She suspects Ophiuchus—the exiled 13th Guardian of Zodiac legend—has returned to exact his revenge across the Galaxy. Now Rho—along with Hysan Dax, a young envoy from House Libra, and Mathias, her guide and a member of her Royal Guard—must travel through the Zodiac to warn the other Guardians.
But who will believe anything this young novice says? Whom can Rho trust in a universe defined by differences? And how can she convince twelve worlds to unite as one Zodiac?
I bought this book for another blogger for a swap. I thought it looked interesting so I borrowed a copy for myself.
I liked the idea of a galaxy set up according to astrological signs. I never knew much about astrology until I met the husband. He’s into it. He doesn’t use it for predictions but instead uses it to understand people’s personalities. He was all upset that our signs shouldn’t get along when we started dating. He didn’t understand how we could like each other so he did deeper research about our moon signs or some crap like that. I don’t remember but apparently on that level we are highly compatible. I thought that we just liked each other but what do I know?
In this galaxy people from Cancer feel strongly about protecting people and hate secrets. Actually, that hating secrets thing made me a bit crazy. The characters would get all angry and moody whenever they thought that someone had a secret. I wanted to yell at them to get over themselves. I’m not a Cancer.
I was very interested in the story and the world building about this society. Based on that, this would have been a four star book, but the romance aspect dropped it a star. There was an attempt at a love triangle with instalove and I hate both of those tropes. I didn’t feel like any of the relationships were at all believable. Of course, both men involved immediately declared their undying love for the female protagonist and had a hard time working together to save the galaxy because of their feelings for her. It took me right out of the story.
Wipe away the romance aspect and this is a solid start to a series.
About Romina Russell
Romina Russell (aka Romina Garber) is a Los Angeles based author who originally hails from Buenos Aires, Argentina. As a teen, Romina landed her first writing gig—College She Wrote, a weekly Sunday column for the Miami Herald that was later picked up for national syndication—and she hasn’t stopped writing since. When she’s not working on ZODIAC, Romina can be found producing movie trailers, taking photographs, or daydreaming about buying a new drum set. She is a graduate of Harvard College and a Virgo to the core.
For fifteen years, Reason Cansino has lived on the run. Together with her mother, Sarafina, she has moved from one place to another in the Australian countryside, desperate not to be found by Reason's grandmother Esmeralda, a dangerous woman who believes in magic. But the moment Reason walks through Esmeralda's back door and finds herself on a New York City street, she's confronted by an unavoidable truth—magic is real.
Reason has been taught from a young age to believe in numbers and logic. She has also been taught that her grandmother is a dangerous woman. But, when she is 15, her mother has a mental breakdown and custody is given to her grandmother.
While trying to escape the house like she has been trained to do by her mother, she goes through a door that opens into New York and then can’t figure out how to get back. She’s taken in by another girl who is magical and now Reason has to decide whose stories to believe – her mother’s or her grandmother’s.
I liked this book mostly because the Australian influence is very strong and I don’t read a lot of books like that. Reason uses Australian slang and can’t get used to a New York winter.
The magical system is different than other books I’ve read. Every time you use magic you are using up life force. Magic users die young.
This is the first book of a trilogy. As of now I’m not intrigued enough to read the rest.
Freida and isabel have been best friends their whole lives. Now, aged sixteen and in their final year at the School, they expect to be selected as companions - wives to wealthy and powerful men.
The alternative - life as a concubine - is too horrible to contemplate.
But as the intensity of the final year takes hold, the pressure to be perfect mounts. Isabel starts to self-destruct, putting her beauty - her only asset - in peril.
And then into this sealed female environment, the boys arrive, eager to choose a bride.
Freida must fight for her future - even if it means betraying the only friend, the only love, she has ever known...
It was the tagline on the book that got me. “Mean Girls meets The Handmaid’s Tale”
In this world female children are taught that their only asset is beauty. They will be selected into one of three groups – companions, the privileged wives of men; concubines, the playthings of men; or if chosen of either of those they will be teachers who live to serve the girls yet to be chosen. All women die before the age of 40.
Every day the girl’s popularity is ranked based on pictures taken each morning. Their social media profiles are watched by those outside the school to see who is the best. They have to maintain a very narrow weight range or they are but on calorie blockers. They have to be “perfect.”
In their last year though, a change comes over Isabel. Isabel has always been ranked number one but now she is gaining weight. That is the worst thing that can happen to a girl. She doesn’t seem to care though. Frieda can’t understand why she is doing this when the boys are about to come to pick their companions.
This book seems to be meant to be accessible to those who are too young to read The Handmaid’s Tale. It is only about the school. You don’t have to see the lives of sex slavery that the companions and concubines are forced into. The book ends with the selection. The ending is very quick and nothing seems resolved. I knocked it down a star for that.
Princess Winter is admired by the Lunar people for her grace and kindness, and despite the scars that mar her face, her beauty is said to be even more breathtaking than that of her stepmother, Queen Levana.
Winter despises her stepmother, and knows Levana won't approve of her feelings for her childhood friend--the handsome palace guard, Jacin. But Winter isn't as weak as Levana believes her to be and she's been undermining her stepmother's wishes for years. Together with the cyborg mechanic, Cinder, and her allies, Winter might even have the power to launch a revolution and win a war that's been raging for far too long.
Can Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter defeat Levana and find their happily ever afters? Fans will not want to miss this thrilling conclusion to Marissa Meyer's national bestelling Lunar Chronicles series.
I loved the rest of the books in this series – a science fiction retelling of Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and Snow White. The books have been smart and inventive in reimagining the stories in a world where Earth is vulnerable to Lunar people who are able to control minds. That’s why I’m ultimately disappointed in this last book in the series featuring the story of Snow White.
Winter is the step-daughter of the Lunar Queen, Levana. Levana was the sister of the former Queen. When her sister died she attempted to kill her sister’s child, the rightful heir to the throne. Unbeknownst to Levana, the child was smuggled to Earth and healed by making her a cyborg. Now Linh Cinder is leading a rebellion to take back her throne from the cruel Levana.
Winter is known for her stunning beauty and her refusal to use her ability to manipulate minds. Refusing to do so is driving her insane. She hallucinates a lot and rambles incoherently. She is such a vapid heroine that she drove me crazy. Maybe the problem was that I was listening to this on audio. I sped it up to 1.5 times normal speed just so her ramblings didn’t take so long. All she does the entire time is be a hinderance to everyone else in the book. She has no agency. She doesn’t make many decisions at all. The whole story just washes over her. Her one decision to try to go recruit some soldiers to the rebel cause is based entirely on, “I’m pretty and nice so of course they will follow me.” Read that in the breathiest voice ever and you’ll get the idea of the audio.
I know that the story of Snow White and the evil Queen is based entirely on looks but I was really hoping that there was going to be more to this story than that. Levana has enslaved her people and engineered and released a plaque on Earth and killed anyone who upset her but the plan is to show people that she isn’t a legitimate ruler because she is actually ugly under her glamour? Come on. I was hoping for something with more substance.
And the ending? Let’s just say there is a lot of “Why don’t you let go of all your goals and marry me instead?”
The rest of the books are great and maybe this one wouldn’t have been so bad if I had read it instead of listening to it so I didn’t have so much time to dwell on the inconsistencies.
Darcy Patel has put college on hold to publish her teen novel, Afterworlds. With a contract in hand, she arrives in New York City with no apartment, no friends, and all the wrong clothes. But lucky for Darcy, she’s taken under the wings of other seasoned and fledgling writers who help her navigate the city and the world of writing and publishing. Over the course of a year, Darcy finishes her book, faces critique, and falls in love.
Woven into Darcy’s personal story is her novel, Afterworlds, a suspenseful thriller about a teen who slips into the “Afterworld” to survive a terrorist attack. The Afterworld is a place between the living and the dead, and where many unsolved—and terrifying—stories need to be reconciled. Like Darcy, Lizzie too falls in love…until a new threat resurfaces, and her special gifts may not be enough to protect those she cares about most.
I picked up this book for my first attempt at #ReadYourMyDamnBooks since it has been sitting on my shelf for a while. I don’t even know where it came from. It is the ARC so I had get it from someone else. Thanks, whoever it was!
I found it funny that a book that I picked up read to restart my reading mojo after NaNoWriMo turned out to be about a girl who wrote a novel during NaNoWriMo.
Darcy sells her book and is given a large advance for it and another book after it. She is just 18 and decides to defer college and move to New York to do rewrites and start the next book. She has a strict budget. This was the most stressful part of the book for me because I am old and cheap. She kept doing over budget in wasteful ways. She rented an apartment that was $500 over budget for example. She kept going out to eat. I honestly had to put the book down and walk away for a bit because it was stressing me out.
Every other chapter in this book is Afterworlds, Darcy’s novel. It is the story of a girl who survives a terrorist attack by slipping into the world inhabited by ghosts. She is able to cross back and forth and needs to learn how to function in both worlds.
Darcy spends a year learning how to navigate the YA publishing world while trying to fix everything her editor says is wrong with Afterworlds. We are reading the finished Afterworlds after rewrites and it is interesting to see her talk about the book she wrote versus the book we are reading.
Darcy’s story is a satire about world of YA publishing from editors who love your book and then tell you to rewrite it all to the randomness of whether a book will sell well to the craziness of going on a book tour with a YA superstar when your book isn’t out yet.
There is also a lot of talk about cultural appropriation. Darcy is Indian but not a practicing Hindu. Does that make it ok for her to use a Hindu god as a character in her book? Is it worse that she is using him as a love interest because he is hot?
The Afterworlds in the book has a lot of the YA tropes that people love to hate – instalove especially. It is done on purpose to show what a high school senior with absolutely no life experience would write because all she knows is what she reads in YA.
For as long as Fei can remember, there has been no sound in her village, where rocky terrain and frequent avalanches prevent residents from being self-sustaining. Fei and her people are at the mercy of a zipline that carries food up the treacherous cliffs from Beiguo, a mysterious faraway kingdom. When villagers begin to lose their sight, deliveries from the zipline shrink and many go hungry. Fei's home, the people she loves, and her entire existence is plunged into crisis, under threat of darkness and starvation. But soon Fei is awoken in the night by a searing noise, and sound becomes her weapon.
Fei lives in a small village on the top of a mountain. Generations ago the passes through the mountains were blocked by avalanches cutting off the village from the land below. The village survives by mining metals and sending them down the mountain on a small zip line. Food is sent up in return. It is hardly enough to keep the village fed and the amounts that are being sent up are getting smaller.
No one can go down the mountain because of avalanches. Everyone in the village is deaf so they can’t hear the rocks falling as they are repelling down. Now, people are starting to go blind also so something has to be done. When Fei mysteriously regains her hearing, she knows that she can guide a trip down the side of the mountain to the city below.
I liked the author’s description of how a town with only deaf residents would function. She also did a good job of trying to describe what it would be like to suddenly have a whole new sense that no one you know has ever had before.
Interacting with the outside world for the first time after the isolation of the mountain village was interesting. This book lost me a bit though at the end. I swear I’ve never said these words before in my life but I don’t think the fantasy elements of this story were necessary or helped the story. They don’t show up until the end and seem jarring to a story that was well grounded with scientific explanations for events.
It was like I was reading along and then:
It was very deus ex machina and not needed.
I was looking at some other reviews and noticed that there aren’t a whole lot of nice reviews about this one. A lot of those are done by people who DNFed it. I don’t get that. If you didn’t read the whole thing, you can’t complain that you don’t understand things that aren’t explained until after you quit reading it.
Some readers seem to think “world building” means “explain everything to me in one chapter right at the beginning so I understand how everything works and don’t have to figure it out as I go along.” I think of that as lazy reading.
Yes, the book isn’t as Chinese as it is touted as being except for the names and the calligraphy and the fantasy part at the end and I don’t know what people were expecting. People are complaining that it could have taken place anywhere like China is the most insanely different place that isn’t at all like anywhere else. It isn’t like people living in China run around pointing and yelling, “Oh look! That’s a Chinese person. There’s another one!” Were people expecting more stereotypes?
This is why I shouldn’t read reviews while I’m still writing mine. I go off on rants.
Take home message
Soundless is an okay way to spend a few hours. Don’t expect to be blown away but it isn’t as hideous as some other reviews make it sound.
It's the accident season, the same time every year. Bones break, skin tears, bruises bloom.
The accident season has been part of seventeen-year-old Cara's life for as long as she can remember. Towards the end of October, foreshadowed by the deaths of many relatives before them, Cara's family becomes inexplicably accident-prone. They banish knives to locked drawers, cover sharp table edges with padding, switch off electrical items - but injuries follow wherever they go, and the accident season becomes an ever-growing obsession and fear.
But why are they so cursed? And how can they break free?
I loved the central mystery in this book. Why is October accident season for this family? Looking for that answer kept me reading through this book.
The mystery deepens when Cara is looking through pictures and realizes that a girl from her school named Elsie is in all of her pictures – even the ones taken outside the country. When she goes to ask her about it at school, Elsie can’t be found and no one remembers her.
I liked the idea that there is a typewriter in the library where people type confessions and put them in a box. They are used in an art installation at the end of each year.
But this book also hit one of my personal pet peeves. I hate stories that center around teenage drinking. I think that kids arranging their lives around opportunities to drink is so amazingly stupid that it takes a lot of the enjoyment out of the story. The kids in this book can’t seem to do anything if they aren’t drinking at the same time. It isn’t just that I’m an old fogey. I thought it was incredibly stupid and boring when I was a teenager too. I would have DNFed this one for that if I wasn’t intrigued about who Elsie was and the origins of the accident season.
Terry Pratchett's final Discworld novel, and the fifth to feature the witch Tiffany Aching.
A SHIVERING OF WORLDS
Deep in the Chalk, something is stirring. ¬The owls and the foxes can sense it, and Tiffany Aching feels it in her boots. An old enemy is gathering strength.
This is a time of endings and beginnings, old friends and new, a blurring of edges and a shifting of power. Now Tiffany stands between the light and the dark, the good and the bad.
As the fairy horde prepares for invasion, Tiffany must summon all the witches to stand with her. To protect the land. Her land.
There will be a reckoning. . . .
THE FINAL DISCWORLD® NOVEL
It isn’t often that an author writes a book knowing that it is going to be his last. Terry Pratchett was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s in 2007 and wrote novels as his “embuggerance” worsened. When he lost the ability to read and write, he dictated. The Shepherd’s Crown is the last book he wrote. It is a goodbye to the world that he created in his Discworld novels.
Minor Spoilers Ahead
I didn’t preorder the book. I couldn’t make myself do it. Eventually I ordered it and let it sit in the box on my counter for about a month. One day I was off work and sick and decided to suck it up and read it. I didn’t know much about what it was going to be about other than the fact that it was about Tiffany Aching, his YA version of the witches’ story in the Discworld novels and that Granny Weatherwax was going to die. Granny Weatherwax is my favorite. I want to be her when I grow up. This was going to be rough.
Later I handed that page to my husband who has read all the Tiffany Aching books. He said he got chills.
Witches in the Discworld know when they are going to die. The book starts with Granny Weatherwax finding out that she is going to die the next day. She gets her affairs in order by cleaning the house and making a coffin. Then she lays down in bed and greets Death.
YOU ARE TAKING THIS VERY WELL, ESME WEATHERWAX.
“It’s an inconvenience, true enough, and I don’t like it at all, but I know that you do it for everyone, Mr. Death. Is there any other way?”
NO, THERE ISN’T, I’M AFRAID. WE ARE ALL FLOATING IN THE WINDS OF TIME. BUT YOUR CANDLE, MISTRESS WEATHERWAX, WILL FLICKER FOR SOME TIME BEFORE IT GOES OUT — A LITTLE REWARD FOR A LIFE WELL LIVED. FOR I CAN SEE THE BALANCE AND YOU HAVE LEFT THE WORLD MUCH BETTER THAN YOU FOUND IT, AND IF YOU ASK ME, said Death, NOBODY COULD DO ANY BETTER THAN THAT….
The witches and wizards know when she dies and come to pay their respects. It is a chance to say goodbye to a lot of characters that he created. What really got to me though was after Nanny and Tiffany bury her, the animals in the forest who she used to borrow (hitchhike on their consciousness to see what was going on) come and sit near the grave. That got the tears flowing.
The rest of the story is about what happens when a guardian of a land is gone. How do you go on? It isn’t hard to see the parallels to him thinking about his own death. In the book, elves invade because Granny isn’t there to defend the borders between worlds. Everyone has to learn to get along to defend themselves. I found that I didn’t really care about the plot so much as I cared about the interaction between characters trying to figure out where they fit in this new reality. That’s true for most Discworld novels though. The overall plot takes a backseat to the characters. (He does work in a great subplot about old, retired men finding a way to be useful and the magical powers of sheds in the lives of men.)
I’m glad I read it. The husband hasn’t worked himself up to it yet. I’ll be interested to hear his thoughts on it.
Fans of The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices can get to know warlock Magnus Bane like never before in this collection of New York Times bestselling tales, in print for the first time with an exclusive new story and illustrated material.
This collection of eleven short stories (10 in the audio version) illuminates the life of the enigmatic Magnus Bane, whose alluring personality, flamboyant style, and sharp wit populate the pages of the #1 New York Times bestselling series, The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices.
I had a really hard time reading Cassandra Clare’s two series about Shadowhunters who fight demons. I couldn’t keep them apart in my head. One was set in England in the 1800s and one was in New York in present times but I still don’t know which series title refers to which. I didn’t know they had different locations either. I was reading them as they came out intermingled and with time in between. I was never clear on who the bad guy was supposed to be in each series. Everybody had the same last names in both series so I kept waiting for characters that I thought were in one book to show up in another only to realize halfway through that they were in the other series. The only character I could keep straight was the warlock Magnus Bane because he was in both series because he was immortal.
I downloaded the audiobook version of the stories from the library. These were really good. They are co-written by several authors and read by different actors including David Oyelowo and Gareth David-Lloyd (I went to his shrine!).
What Really Happened in Peru? – Magnus convinces his warlock friend Ragnor to accompany him on several trips to Peru, none of which end well.
The Runaway Queen – Magnus tries to help Marie Antoinette and her family escape from Paris.
Vampires, Scones, and Edmund Herondale – The Shadowhunters and the Downworlders are trying to make a peace agreement but neither side can trust the other.
The Midnight Heir – Magnus meets the son of the protagonists of the first Shadowhunter series.
The Rise of the Hotel Dumont – It is the 1920s in New York and an ancient warlock is playing with humans for his own evil plans.
Saving Raphael Santiago – Magnus is hired to find a young man who went hunting a vampire.
The Fall of the Hotel Dumont – Vampires are acting strangely and Magnus needs to figure out what’s wrong before they are all killed.
The Last Stand of the New York Institute – This chronicles the rise of the villain who is in the second Shadowhunter series.
The Course of True Love – Magnus takes a Shadowhunter on a horrible first date.
What to Buy the Shadowhunter Who Has Everything – Magnus tries to figure out a birthday present while summoning a demon for a client.
I actually understand what happened in the series now. Seeing it in chronological order helped. These stories made everything else fit together.
When I read both Shadowhunter series I kept thinking that the Shadowhunters were pretty horrible people. The nice thing about this book is that Magnus has pretty much nothing but contempt for them either. He likes a few individuals here and there but as a race, he despises them. That’s a risky choice for the author to make in writing a book about a minor character. It is hard to cast your heroes as the bad guys. I like it.
After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin.
Her opponents are men-thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king's council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she'll serve the kingdom for four years and then be granted her freedom.
Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging. But she's bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her... but it's the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best.
Then one of the other contestants turns up dead... quickly followed by another. Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.
This series is all the rage for a lot of the book people I follow on Twitter. When I saw the first book was available to read on Oyster I decided to see what all the fuss was about. I got about 25% through and quit because I was bored. This week another book in the series came out and people on Twitter were all excited like it was the second coming of Harry Potter. I decided to try again to see if I missed something. I forced myself to finish it this morning. Yeah, forced. That’s not a good sign. Checking the % finished number every few pages wasn’t a good sign either.
I checked reviews on Goodreads after I finished and am relieved to see that I am not alone. This seems to be a love it or hate it book.
Here’s what bothered me.
Creepy Male Main Characters
Celaena is a seventeen year old female assassin who has been in a prison camp for a year. She is taken out by a Prince and the Captain of his guard to compete in a contest. If she doesn’t win the contest she is going to be sent back to prison. Once at the palace she is kept in her rooms with guards on the doors unless escorted out.
These two men who took her out of the prison have complete control of her life. They have become her jailers. What do they do? They take turns coming into her room in the middle of the night when she is in bed. WTF? That’s not okay.
You know what is even worse? Sometimes she doesn’t wake up when they come in so they stand there and watch her sleep. No, just no. Why is this somehow considered sweet and romantic in YA books? It is not sweet. That is Get Me A Restraining Order behavior. (Why is such a supposedly fearsome killer such a heavy sleeper that they creep up on her all the time anyway?)
So then one of them starts coming onto her. He’s supposedly some major womanizer but of course he wants to give it all up for her. Well, except for that time she is escapes and sees him kissing on another woman while Calaena is supposed to be locked up. How does our heroine react? Does she realize that he is a creep? Don’t be silly. She wonders what is wrong with her and why she feels so jealous.
At the end of the book, (that’s your spoiler alert) she decides to just be friends with him because she wants to be free at the end of her sentence and make decisions for herself. Good on her. But then the other guy comes along and finds out about this decision. His response? He ogles her short nightgown because he always comes in unexpectedly at night. Then this conversation happens.
He pulled out the chair in front of him and sat down. She filled a goblet with wine and handed it to him. “To four years until freedom” she said, lifting her glass.
He raised his in salute. “To you, Celaena.”
Their eyes met, and (creepy dude #2) didn’t hide his smile as she grinned at him. Perhaps four years with her might not be enough.
Right, she’s celebrating the fact that eventually she is going to be free to make her own decisions and he is thinking that now that Creepy Dude #1 is out of the picture that she is all his for the next four years. Chilling.
Magical Puppy Raising
At one point in the story Calaena is given a puppy by Creepy Dude #1. Here is her response.
…I want her trained. I don’t want her urinating on everything and chewing on the furniture and shoes and books. And I want her to sit when I tell her to and lay down and roll over and whatever it is that dogs do. And I want her to run – run with the other dogs when they’re practicing. I want her to put those long legs to use.”
…. “When I’m training” — she kissed the pup’s soft head, and the dog nestled her cold nose against Celaena’s neck — “I want her in the kennels, training as well. When I return in the afternoon, she may be brought to me. I’ll keep her in the night.” Celaena held the dog at eye level. The dog licked her legs in the air. “If you ruin any of my shoes,” she said to the pup, “I’ll turn you into a pair of slippers. Understood?”
Oh, Lord, help me. It is attitudes like this why I have to remind myself on a daily basis that it is illegal to beat people. It is a puppy. It is a baby. It doesn’t know all the rules just because you explain them once. She can’t hold her urine. A person locked up in a room can’t take her outside and she isn’t allowed to urinate in the room. Good plan.
I have this discussion all the time. People bring me 9 week old dogs thinking there is something horribly wrong with them because they aren’t housebroken yet. Or they want drugs for the 4 month old because he is chewing on things. Have they taught the dog manners? Of course not. Dogs are just supposed to know or else magical dog trainers swoop in during the night to teach. Trust me – sending a young puppy outside in the morning for a few hours and then locking her up in a room for the rest of the day and ignoring her (which she does), does not a trained dog make. This is a recipe for an abandoned dog when it doesn’t live up to expectations.
About Sarah J. Maas
“Sarah lives in Bucks County, PA, and over the years, she has developed an unhealthy appreciation for Disney movies and bad pop music. She adores fairy tales and ballet, drinks too much tea, and watches an ungodly amount of TV. When she’s not busy writing, she can be found exploring the historic and beautiful Pennsylvania countryside with her husband and canine companion.” from Goodreads
The Challenge: Eighteen-year-old Piper has one month to get her high school's coolest rock band Dumb a paying gig.
The Deal: If she does it, Piper will become the band's manager and get her share of the profits.
The Catch: How can Piper possibly manage a band made up of an egomaniacal pretty boy, a talentless piece of eye candy, a silent rocker, an angry girl, and a crush-worthy nerd boy? And how can she do it when she's deaf?
The book isn’t focused on Piper’s deafness. She is a normal high school student who is trying to get publicity for a band. She doesn’t know anything about music so she is learning on the job.
Discussions of disability
Deafness is a hereditary condition in Piper’s family. Her mother’s parents were deaf. Piper started to lose her hearing at age 6. Her little sister was born deaf. Her sister just got a cochlear implant that allows her to hear. Because Piper was older she wasn’t as good of a candidate. Her parents don’t understand why she has mixed feelings about this. They wonder why she doesn’t want what is best for her sister. She wonders if they think it is better that Grace is now “fixed” unlike her. This is even before she finds out that her parents used her inheritance from her grandparents that was for her college fund to pay for her sister’s operation.
The romance isn’t the focus
One of my major complaints about YA books is that there is almost always romance. That isn’t happening here. There is a little bit that develops but no instalove and no one gets stupid because they have a boyfriend/girlfriend.
Girls stick together
The relationships that do develop in this book are between the girls involved in the band. In fact, when things get tense they ditch the guys and go hang out together. They support each other and aren’t made to fight over a guy.
Even if you aren’t generally a fan of YA contemporaries, this one is worth reading.
About Antony John
“Antony John was born in England and raised on a balanced diet of fish and chips, obscure British comedies, and ABBA’s Greatest Hits. In a fit of teenage rebellion, he decided to pursue a career in classical music, culminating in a BA from Oxford University and a PhD from Duke University. Along the way, he worked as an ice cream seller on a freezing English beach, a tour guide in the Netherlands, a chauffeur in Switzerland, a barista in Seattle, and a university professor. Writing by night, he spends his days as a stay-at-home dad—the only job that allows him to wear his favorite pair of sweatpants all the time. He lives in St. Louis with his family.” from Goodreads
In the northern Ooni Kingdom, fear of the unknown runs deep, and children born dada are rumored to have special powers. Thirteen-year-old Zahrah Tsami feels like a normal girl--she grows her own flora computer, has mirrors sewn onto her clothes, and stays clear of the Forbidden Greeny Jungle. But unlike other children in the village of Kirki, Zahrah was born with the telling dadalocks. Only her best friend, Dari, isn’t afraid of her, even when something unusual begins happening--something that definitely makes Zahrah different. The two friends determine to investigate, edging closer and closer to danger. When Dari’s life is threatened, Zahrah must face her worst fears alone, including the very thing that makes her different. In this exciting debut novel by Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu, things aren’t always what they seem--monkeys tell fortunes, plants offer wisdom, and a teenage girl is the only one who stands a chance at saving her best friend’s life.
This is the first book that Nnedi Okorafor published. It is a middle grade novel about a girl who is born different and whose difference is not easily hidden. Zahrah has vines growing out of her head along with her hair. As she starts to go through puberty, she also develops the ability to levitate. She doesn’t want to be any more of an oddity so she hides this skill. Besides, she’s afraid of heights.
On the outskirts of the town there is the Forbidden Greeny Jungle. No one goes in there. No one knows anything about it except it is dangerous. Zahrah’s friend Dari is obsessed with a book that tells of people who explored the Jungle. They found it absurd that no one knew anything about an area that covers most of the land. Zahrah tolerates Dari’s obsession. After all, he believes in the mythical land of Earth too. When Zahrah needs a private place to practice levitation and Dari wants to go into the Jungle, they decide to go together.
There is overflowing imagination in the building of this world. Plants are used for everything. Computers are grown from seeds and tended like flowers. Buildings are grown the same way. In the Dark Market, forbidden to children, are fortune tellers who interpret the psychic readings of baboons and vendors who sell two headed parrots who fight with themselves. Zahrah meets gorillas who speak and live in villages in the Jungle. She finds all kinds of amazing creatures in the jungle.
Zahrah is a good heroine because she is afraid of everything but learns to trust her skills and her judgement. She finds out that she is capable of so much more than anyone gave her credit for.
I liked the idea of everything being plant based in this world. While I was reading this book, I happened to listen to the Infinite Monkey Cage podcast called What Is The Point of Plants that discussed quantum interactions in plants. They had a discussion of whether or not your lawn is a lazy quantum computer. Zahrah would have been able to make it work. She was good at growing computers.
A hard-hitting and hopeful story about the dangers of blind faith—and the power of having faith in yourself The Kevinian cult has taken everything from seventeen-year-old Minnow: twelve years of her life, her family, her ability to trust. And when she rebelled, they took away her hands, too. Now their Prophet has been murdered and their camp set aflame, and it's clear that Minnow knows something—but she's not talking. As she languishes in juvenile detention, she struggles to un-learn everything she has been taught to believe, adjusting to a life behind bars and recounting the events that led up to her incarceration. But when an FBI detective approaches her about making a deal, Minnow sees she can have the freedom she always dreamed of—if she’s willing to part with the terrible secrets of her past.
Minnow is in jail for beating up a man who approached her as she was running away from the fire that destroyed her cult’s compound. All her life she had been taught that the Gentiles would kill them if they were to go into town so it isn’t surprising that she fought.
Jail is the first experience Minnow has had with the outside world since she was five years old. We learn Minnow’s story as she opens up to an FBI counselor in exchange for his recommendation at her parole hearing.
The story is not told chronologically. It is told as Minnow feels comfortable letting details slip out.
I think that it is interesting that the religion that her family joined was made up especially for this book. I think that highlights the stupidity of the choice to join this movement and to go and live in the woods in Montana. Because it isn’t a Christian sect, it may help some people see how stupid this all is.
Of course, regardless of the religious worldview, it all comes down to suppression of the women in the group. Why do some men feel that this necessary? Why do the women take it? The men take multiple wives and find sadistic joy in physically punishing any transgressions by women.
“Stephanie Oakes is a teacher and YA author from Washington State. Her debut novel, THE SACRED LIES OF MINNOW BLY (Dial/Penguin, June 9, 2015), about a girl who escapes from a religious commune only to find herself at the center of a murder investigation, is based on the Grimm fairy tale, “The Handless Maiden.” from Goodreads
In an alternate London where magical creatures are preserved in a museum, two teens find themselves caught in a web of intrigue, deception, and danger.Vespa Nyx wants nothing more than to spend the rest of her life cataloging Unnatural creatures in her father’s museum, but as she gets older, the requirement to become a lady and find a husband is looming large. Syrus Reed’s Tinker family has always served and revered the Unnaturals from afar, but when his family is captured to be refinery slaves, he finds that his fate may be bound up with Vespa’s—and with the Unnaturals. As the danger grows, Vespa and Syrus find themselves in a tightening web of deception and intrigue. At stake may be the fate of New London—and the world.
“Some people whisper the Old Londoners called this place Fairyland or Arcadia or Elysium, that Saint Tesla drew our ancestors all through a door that should never have been opened. They say we don’t belong here. But people say lots of things. And whatever is true, it’s a fact that we’re here now and have been for nearly six hundred years.”
The New Londoners have kept themselves separate from the inhabitants of their world. They don’t believe in magic. They worship the saints of science like Darwin and Tesla and Curie. But in this world, trying to believe that magic isn’t real requires you to turn a blind eye to a lot.
The world is populated with creatures labelled as Unnaturals – sphinxes and grues and kraken for example. Vespa helps her father catalog them in the Museum. She has always just considered them interesting specimens until an encounter with a sphynx starts opening her eyes to the magical world around her.
Vespa doesn’t want to be a typical lady. She wants to be a scholar but her family is relying on her to make a good match so they are forcing her give up her work at the Museum.
The Tinkers are a human race who live in harmony with the magical world. They are despised by the New Londoners and rounded up to work in the power plants. Syrus is the only member of his family left since the last Cull. He is told by the Manticore to find the witch in New London because she is the only one who can prevent the death of the world. Whenever a magical creature dies, a dead zone spreads across the world. Saving the Unnaturals is the only way to save the planet.
The world building in this story is very well done. There is a lot here that I haven’t read over and over before. It is a mix of steampunk and fantasy. Look at that outfit in the cover. I want that. I’d look fierce in that.
There is a little bit of insta love which made me a tad cranky but it didn’t play out to Happily Ever After in typical fashion so I’ve forgiven it.
About Tiffany Trent
Tiffany Trent is the author of eight young adult books, including the award-winning novel THE UNNATURALISTS and its sequel THE TINKER KING. Born and raised in Roanoke, Virginia, she has stayed true to her Appalachian roots with a deep interest in the natural world and folklore, which is apparent in both her fiction and nonfiction.
Twelve-year-old Sunny lives in Nigeria, but she was born American. Her features are African, but she's albino. She's a terrific athlete, but can't go out into the sun to play soccer. There seems to be no place where she fits. And then she discovers something amazing-she is a "free agent," with latent magical power. Soon she's part of a quartet of magic students, studying the visible and invisible, learning to change reality. But will it be enough to help them when they are asked to catch a career criminal who knows magic too?
Sunny is an American-born Nigeria girl who has been living in Nigeria for three years. She isn’t accepted in school and is referred to as “akata” — a derogatory term for someone who is an American black person or any foreign black person who doesn’t fit in. One night she is staring into a flame and sees a vision of the end of the world. That’s her first clue that things are about to get weird.
Orlu is the only classmate of Sunny’s who seems to tolerate her. He starts walking home with her and that brings her to the attention of his other friend Chichi. She doesn’t go to school. She lives with her mother in a small run down house filled with hundreds of books.
Chichi and Orlu are Leopard People — magic users. Most of them come from families of Leopard People but they suspect that Sunny has power so they decide to test her to find out. When she passes the test they take her to their teacher and all meet Sasha. He’s an American who is in trouble for torturing a classmate with magic. He’s been sent to Nigeria for punishment and hopefully some retraining.
The four children are grouped together to learn about their skills. They find out that the ultimate goal of their training is for them to be able to work together to defeat a magical serial killer.
There is so much that I love about this book.
There is a wasp who makes sculptures out of chewed up paper. If you don’t praise her enough for her creations she will sting you until she dies in a fit of artistic pique.
Everyone has a true face that is private and you need to be able to access it in order to reach the Leopard People’s village.
One of the most powerful people is the librarian because she holds all the knowledge.
The funky train is a magically powered bus driven by a man called Jesus’ General and covered in Christian signs that may or may not change to Islamic signs depending on where it is going.
Chittim is magical money. Any time you learn a new skill or gain knowledge it falls from the sky at your feet. I want this to happen.
I don’t know that the overall plot with the serial killer made a lot of sense. It seemed like it wasn’t really necessary because so much was going on with just watching Sunny navigate her new world. After not being thrilled with Okorafor’s recent The Book of Phoenix, I’m glad this one was a delight to read though.
A groundbreaking story about a teenage girl who discovers she's intersex . . . and what happens when her secret is revealed to the entire school. Incredibly compelling and sensitively told, None of the Above is a thought-provoking novel that explores what it means to be a boy, a girl, or something in between.What if everything you knew about yourself changed in an instant?When Kristin Lattimer is voted homecoming queen, it seems like another piece of her ideal life has fallen into place. She's a champion hurdler with a full scholarship to college and she's madly in love with her boyfriend. In fact, she's decided that she's ready to take things to the next level with him.But Kristin's first time isn't the perfect moment she's planned—something is very wrong. A visit to the doctor reveals the truth: Kristin is intersex, which means that though she outwardly looks like a girl, she has male chromosomes, not to mention boy "parts."Dealing with her body is difficult enough, but when her diagnosis is leaked to the whole school, Kristin's entire identity is thrown into question. As her world unravels, can she come to terms with her new self?
Kristin was 18 and had never started her period. She was a runner and attributed hard training to her lack of menstruation. She went to a pediatrician and had never had a gynecological exam so she had no idea that she had no uterus and two internal testes. She is confused and ashamed when she finds out and her first instinct is to hide from everyone. When she does finally decide to tell a few of her friends, the news is leaked to her whole school with horrible results.
This book addresses a lot of issues facing a person with Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome. That means that although the chromosomes are XY the body doesn’t respond to the testosterone produced so the person develops the physical characteristics of a female.
If you have testicles that are producing testosterone, can you continue to compete in sports as a female?
When and how do you tell someone you are interested in dating about your condition?
Since intersex is relatively unknown, how do you explain it to people and should you have to?
How do you respond to bullying from people who don’t understand your condition?
The main goal of this book is to give information about AIS. Sometimes that information giving can get in the way of the story but it is necessary. I found the parts about sports interesting. I had read articles before about the lengths that are gone to when trying to prove or disprove that athletes are female. It can be humiliating.
About I. W. Gregorio
“I. W. Gregorio is a practicing surgeon by day, masked avenging YA writer by night. After getting her MD, she did her residency at Stanford, where she met the intersex patient who inspired her debut novel, None of the Above (Balzer + Bray / HarperCollins). She is a founding member of We Need Diverse Books™ and serves as its VP of Development.” from her website
Cara always knew life on planet L'eihr would be an adjustment. With Aelyx, her L'eihr boyfriend, back on Earth, working to mend the broken alliance between their two planets, Cara is left to fend for herself at a new school, surrounded by hostile alien clones. Even the weird dorm pet hates her. Things look up when Cara is appointed as human representative to a panel preparing for a human colony on L'eihr. A society melding their two cultures is a place where Cara and Aelyx could one day make a life together. But with L'eihr leaders balking at granting even the most basic freedoms, Cara begins to wonder if she could ever be happy on this planet, even with Aelyx by her side. Meanwhile, on Earth, Aelyx, finds himself thrown into a full-scale PR campaign to improve human-L'eihr relations. Humans don't know that their very survival depends on this alliance: only Aelyx's people have the technology to fix the deadly contamination in the global water supply that human governments are hiding. Yet despite their upper hand, the leaders of his world suddenly seem desperate to get humans on their side, and hardly bat an eye at extremists' multiple attempts on Aelyx's life. The Way clearly needs humans' help but with what? And what will they ask for in return?
If you think too much about the premise of this series it is a bit disturbing. An alien race needs an influx of genetic material so they come to Earth. They want to establish a colony of people from both planets and let them breed. Of course, this is a YA novel so all the breeding stock colonists are teenagers. I hardly think teenagers are the best people to make this kind of life and species altering decisions, but it is what it is, so moving on.
Cara, the human chosen to represent Earth on L’eihr, is put into the equivalent of high school where she is much less advanced than the rest of the students. Someone is setting her up to take the fall for some crimes so she has to figure out the bad guys. Meanwhile, Aelyx, the L’eihr representative on Earth has multiple attempts on his life.
This book is a fun, light read. It reminds me of Dawn by Octavia Butler. They both are about setting up a new civilization combining humans and aliens. Dawn looks much more deeply at the issues involved and is much less optimistic about the ability of humans to adapt and survive in this environment.
Are there any other books that you know of that explore these themes?
About Melissa Landers
“Melissa Landers is a former teacher who left the classroom to pursue other worlds. A proud sci-fi geek, she isn’t afraid to wear her Princess Leia costume in public—just ask her husband and three kids. She lives just outside Cincinnati and writes adult contemporary romance as Macy Beckett.” from her website
Padma Venkatraman’s inspiring story of a young girl’s struggle to regain her passion and find a new peace is told lyrically through verse that captures the beauty and mystery of India and the ancient bharatanatyam dance form. This is a stunning novel about spiritual awakening, the power of art, and above all, the courage and resilience of the human spirit. Veda, a classical dance prodigy in India, lives and breathes dance—so when an accident leaves her a below-knee amputee, her dreams are shattered. For a girl who’s grown used to receiving applause for her dance prowess and flexibility, adjusting to a prosthetic leg is painful and humbling. But Veda refuses to let her disability rob her of her dreams, and she starts all over again, taking beginner classes with the youngest dancers. Then Veda meets Govinda, a young man who approaches dance as a spiritual pursuit. As their relationship deepens, Veda reconnects with the world around her, and begins to discover who she is and what dance truly means to her.
I didn’t realize that this book was written in verse. When I opened it and the first chapter was verse I planned on skipping it and getting to the real story. That’s what I do when I see verse. If an author quotes song lyrics or poems in the book, I skip it. That probably makes me a bad person but it is the truth. I don’t like verse.
I really enjoyed this verse novel too. The author covered a lot of issues that can appear after a person’s life changes – friends fall away, people you weren’t close to are there for you, starting over with the basic functions of your body, being a financially comfortable amputee in a country where beggars are on the streets.
One of Veda’s inspirations in this book is Sudha Chandran, a classical dancer who lost a leg at 16 and has since become an actress and dancer in India while using a very basic prosthetic.
About Padma Venkatraman
Padma Venkatraman was born in Chennai India and currently lives in the United States. She has a doctorate in oceanography. Her debut novel was published in 2008.
Identical twins Nikki and Maya have been on the same page for everything-friends, school, boys and starting off their adult lives at a historically African-American college. But as their neighborhood goes from rough-and-tumble to up-and-coming, suddenly filled with pretty coffee shops and boutiques, Nikki is thrilled while Maya feels like their home is slipping away. Suddenly, the sisters who had always shared everything must confront their dissenting feelings on the importance of their ethnic and cultural identities and, in the process, learn to separate themselves from the long shadow of their identity as twins. In her inspired YA debut, Renee Watson explores the experience of young African-American women navigating the traditions and expectations of their culture.
What is gained when a neighborhood is gentrified?
Property values go up for the homeowners who live there
New businesses available to everyone
What is lost?
Renters can’t pay higher prices
Breakup of long time communities
These are just some of the issues discussed in This Side of Home.
What happens when a school has an influx of Latino and white students and the new principal wants to celebrate the “diversity” which is code for “We’re not the black school we used to be”?
Why will the media only come to the school to cover crime and not positive events?
Should you patronize new businesses that replaced black-owned businesses that couldn’t get business loans?
Should you be friends with the people who bought the house that your best friend used to live in?
If an African-American girl doesn’t want to date a white boy is that racial pride, racism, a matter of personal taste, or all of the above?
About Renée Watson
“Renée Watson is the author of This Side of Home (Bloomsbury 2015) and Harlem’s Little Blackbird: The Story of Florence Mills (Random House 2012). Her work has received several honors including an NAACP Image Award nomination in children’s literature. Her novel, What Momma Left Me, (Bloomsbury 2010), debuted as the New Voice for 2010 in middle grade fiction. Her one woman show, Roses are Red Women are Blue, debuted at the Lincoln Center at a showcase for emerging artists.” from her website
Theo is better now. She’s eating again, dating guys who are almost appropriate, and well on her way to becoming an elite ballet dancer. But when her oldest friend, Donovan, returns home after spending four long years with his kidnapper, Theo starts reliving memories about his abduction—and his abductor. Donovan isn’t talking about what happened, and even though Theo knows she didn’t do anything wrong, telling the truth would put everything she’s been living for at risk. But keeping quiet might be worse. Brandy Colbert dazzles in this heartbreaking yet hopeful debut novel about learning how to let go of even our most shameful secrets.
I’ve seen this book featured on a lot of lists about dance. The main character is a dancer but this not a book about dance.
Theo was 13 her first boyfriend broke up with her and then her best friend Donovan disappeared. She buried her feelings in dance and trying to control her life in ways that developed into an eating disorder. When Donovan is found, it is revealed that he was taken by the person who Theo still thinks of as her first love – except he is much older than he told Theo.
No one knows about their relationship except Donovan and he hasn’t spoken since he came home. Theo is going to have to testify but she doesn’t know if she should tell the whole truth.
This is a book that is hard to read as an adult. Of course you testify! The author did a good job getting into the mind of a teenager who has been abused and whose abuser’s voice is still in her head telling her that it is their secret.