Tag Archives For: YA

04 Jan, 2017

Wandering Star by Romina Russell

/ posted in: Reading Wandering Star by Romina Russell Wandering Star (Zodiac, #2) by Romina Russell
on December 8th 2015
Pages: 303
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult
Published by Razorbill
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Setting: Outer Space
Goodreads

“Orphaned, disgraced, and stripped of her title, Rho is ready to live life quietly, as an aid worker in the Cancrian refugee camp on House Capricorn.
But news has spread that the Marad–an unbalanced terrorist group determined to overturn harmony in the Galaxy–could strike any House at any moment.
Then, unwelcome nightmare that he is, Ochus appears to Rho, bearing a cryptic message that leaves her with no choice but to fight.
Now Rho must embark on a high-stakes journey through an all-new set of Houses, where she discovers that there’s much more to her Galaxy–and to herself–than she could have ever imagined.”


I decided to make my first two books I read in 2017 be the sequels to the first two books I read in 2016.  That makes me sound really organized but mostly it was me knowing what those two books were because that was where I stopped scrolling every time I was using my Goodreads list to count up last year’s reading stats.  Every time I’d think, “I never did read the next books in those series….”  So I requested them from the library and they showed up at the right time and now I look like a good planner.

Wandering Star is the sequel to Zodiac, a YA science fiction novel. I particularly fell in love with the world building of this series.

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Each world is based on an astrological sign. The inhabitants of that world all embody the characteristics of that sign. The main character is Cancerian. Her home world is based around the water. Their houses are built of sand and shells. Their personal computing devices are called Waves. Their society is built around strong familial bonds.

Romina Russell has built a detailed world and population for each of the 12 signs of the Zodiac. It is fun to travel around and see the different home worlds for each type of person, especially since in this book we visited the home for Sagittarius. I loved the fact that there are meandering paths if you want to go for a walk and think but otherwise everything is designed to get you to your destination in the shortest possible distance. You can even get shot out of a cannon to your destination. That made me laugh. My husband likes to take the longest possible way to get anywhere and it irritates me to no end. I thought that was because I was a normal person but I guess that just my sign.

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I’m less thrilled about the love triangle in this book. It is described as Rho, the Cancerian, not being able to let go of a love she once had. Ok, I appreciate it trying to be tied to her personality but really it is just annoying.

This is a fun series for when you want some quick light sci-fi with a diverse cast of characters and worlds.

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.

03 Jan, 2017

What the #$^$ Happened to Heartless?

/ posted in: Reading What the #$^$ Happened to Heartless? Heartless by Marissa Meyer
on November 8th 2016
Pages: 449
Genres: Young Adult
Published by Feiwel & Friends
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Goodreads

“Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland and a favorite of the unmarried King, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, she wants to open a shop and create delectable pastries. But for her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for a woman who could be a queen.
At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the King’s marriage proposal, she meets handsome and mysterious Jest. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the King and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into a secret courtship.
Cath is determined to choose her own destiny. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.”


I wasn’t sure if I wanted to read this book or not.

On one hand it is Alice in Wonderland which is my favorite fantasy world ever.  I liked this author’s Lunar Chronicles.

On the other hand, it is Alice in Wonderland which will make me extra mad if it gets all screwed up.

For the first 75% of this book, it was glorious.

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Catherine is a privileged daughter in Wonderland. Her only allowable aspiration is to make a good marriage. She has a different goal though. She wants to open a bakery and make tarts with her maid as her marketing guru and business advisor. Unfortunately, Catherine’s cooking has attracted the eye of the ineffectual King of Hearts. Now that a courtship is on the horizon, her mother devotes herself entirely to making sure that Catherine becomes Queen.

There was word play and appearances by most of the beloved Wonderland characters with just the right amounts of whimsy.  I was rooting for Catherine to find the nerve to stand up to her mother and say that she wasn’t going to be Queen.  Obviously, that doesn’t happen since this is the backstory to the Queen of Hearts, but a plausible explanation is built up to see how she could become Queen and still not have it go in exactly the direction that you thought it would.

RiverSongSpoilers

And then it happened.  (Obviously, spoilers ahead).  Catherine is given a glimpse of two futures.  One where she continues with her rebel plans and one where she doesn’t.  What happens if she rebels isn’t clear but it is very clear that if she turns back, everyone with her will either die or suffer terribly.  Almost immediately, she decides to turn back.  What?  It isn’t even 5 minutes after the ominous warnings from spooky little seer girls and already you choose the stupid route?

Ok, ok, she turns back to help her maid.  I could make a case for the needs of the many not always outweighing the need for a single person if I absolutely had to.  I still think it is overwhelmingly stupid and I had to set the book aside for a few days to let my hot white burning rage simmer down but I eventually pushed on.  Guess what happened next?

Everything the little freaky seers said about everyone will suffer and die was true!  Who saw that coming?

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Yeah. They literally just said it a few pages ago. I mean, I read those pages a few days earlier and yet I still managed to remember. It was way less time than that for Catherine but she was surprised. Seriously, if a trio of mystical fortunetellers shows you the deaths of people standing next to you and you choose to ignore them, you don’t get to go off all crazy like someone tricked you.  You don’t get to feel like you are entitled to righteous indignation because of the consequences of your misguided actions.  You really shouldn’t expect people to feel all sorry for you when you immediately decide to abandon all your ethics and previously deeply held principles.  Yes, immediately our previously tart-loving, nonqueenly Catherine decides that the only thing to do is to seize control of the throne by marrying the King and turning into a tyrant.  Because…. trauma, maybe?  She’s suffering so everyone else must suffer too?  I don’t really know.  It didn’t make much sense in the book either.  It was like it suddenly decided to say, “Yep, and now she’s evil.  Ta da!”  It was completely out of her character.

The ending wouldn’t have made me so mad if the beginning hadn’t had so much promise.  Has anyone else read this one?  Am I the only person who it turned into a boiling ball of rage?

21 Dec, 2016

Climbing the Stairs

/ posted in: Reading Climbing the Stairs Climbing the Stairs by Padma Venkatraman
on May 1, 2008
Pages: 256
Genres: Young Adult
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Setting: India
Goodreads

“During World War II and the last days of British occupation in India, fifteen-year-old Vidya dreams of attending college. But when her forward-thinking father is beaten senseless by the British police, she is forced to live with her grandfather’s large traditional family, where the women live apart from the men and are meant to be married off as soon as possible.
Vidya’s only refuge becomes her grandfather’s upstairs library, which is forbidden to women. There she meets Raman, a young man also living in the house who relishes her intellectual curiosity. But when Vidya’s brother decides to fight with the hated British against the Nazis, and when Raman proposes marriage too soon, Vidya must question all she has believed in.”


I’ve been a big fan of this author’s verse novel A Time To DanceClimbing the Stairs is a bit different.  This is a historical fiction book set in World War II.  Vidya’s father is a doctor who aids nonviolent protestors who are injured by British soldiers.  Vidya’s brother is concerned about the strategic value of India leading to a Japanese invasion.  He wants to enlist in the Army.  The rest of the family is horrified.  They are Brahmin and that caste does not traditionally join the military.  They especially do not join the British Army.

Vidya’s father believes in her dream to go to college instead of being married at a young age.  When he is injured and they have to move to his father’s home, all her dreams are forgotten.  Her family is treated as a burden.  Vidya and her mother are used as servants for the rest of the family.  Vidya gets permission to read in her grandfather’s library while she watches her newborn cousin.  Here she is able to help enhance her education while her world crumbles around her.

I really enjoyed this book.  It is a short book but sets the time and place well.  There is a true conflict between appreciating and supporting the British defense of India against the Japanese while still fighting against the British subjugation of Indians.  There is conflict between traditional ideas of a woman’s place in Indian society and the desire to have a different life.

Important Spoiler about the Dog

Vidya has a dog at the beginning.  It is known that her uncle hates dogs.  I had to put the book aside for a bit because I just knew something bad was going to happen to the dog when they had to move in with the uncle and grandfather.  I can’t handle something bad happening to dogs.  Nothing does though.  He gets a good home.  They even visit him later and he is doing well.  The dog is fine.  Carry on reading.

 

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.

02 Dec, 2016

Flygirl

/ posted in: Reading Flygirl Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith
on January 22nd 2009
Pages: 288
Genres: Historical Fiction, Young Adult
Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Format: Paperback
Source: Owned
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Setting: Louisiana and Texas
Goodreads

“Ida Mae Jones dreams of flight. Her daddy was a pilot and being black didn’t stop him from fulfilling his dreams. But her daddy’s gone now, and being a woman, and being black, are two strikes against her.
 When America enters the war with Germany and Japan, the Army creates the WASP, the Women Airforce Service Pilots – and Ida suddenly sees a way to fly as well as do something significant to help her brother stationed in the Pacific. But even the WASP won’t accept her as a black woman, forcing Ida Mae to make a difficult choice of “passing,” of pretending to be white to be accepted into the program. Hiding one’s racial heritage, denying one’s family, denying one’s self is a heavy burden. And while Ida Mae chases her dream, she must also decide who it is she really wants to be.”


I loved this book so much.  From the very first pages, I believed that we were in Louisiana in the 1940s.  Ida Mae and her best friend feel like real people who grow apart over time because of the differences in their abilities to advance in the world. This book addresses not only racism but also the colorism in the African American community.

Ida Mae’s father taught her to fly for their crop dusting business.  She hasn’t been able to get her license because the instructor wouldn’t approve a license for a woman. When women are started to be hired to ferry planes between bases to free up male pilots for combat, Ida Mae wants to join.  She is very light skinned so she lets the recruiter assume that she is a white woman.  This makes a divide between Ida Mae and her darker skinned mother, family, and friends.  A big question in the story is can she come back from this?  Once she starts living the life of a white woman, will she be willing to be seen as a black woman again?

I read about this topic in A Chosen Exile:  A History of Racial Passing in America but I haven’t seen it addressed in historical fiction often.

If you are interested in reading more fiction about the WASP, check out The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion.

Flygirl is YA so it is a quick read.  I would recommend it to anyone who likes women-centered historical fiction.

 

 

22 Sep, 2016

Unicorn Tracks

/ posted in: Reading Unicorn Tracks Unicorn Tracks by Julia Ember
on April 21st 2016
Pages: 180
Genres: Fantasy & Magic, Young Adult
Published by Harmony Ink Press
Format: Paperback
Source: Owned
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Goodreads

“After a savage attack drives her from her home, sixteen-year-old Mnemba finds a place in her cousin Tumelo’s successful safari business, where she quickly excels as a guide. Surrounding herself with nature and the mystical animals inhabiting the savannah not only allows Mnemba’s tracking skills to shine, it helps her to hide from the terrible memories that haunt her.
Mnemba is employed to guide Mr. Harving and his daughter, Kara, through the wilderness as they study unicorns. The young women are drawn to each other, despite that fact that Kara is betrothed. During their research, they discover a conspiracy by a group of poachers to capture the Unicorns and exploit their supernatural strength to build a railway. Together, they must find a way to protect the creatures Kara adores while resisting the love they know they can never indulge.”


I loved the world building in this story!

A safari guide who lives surrounded by mythical creatures including unicorns?  Yes, please!

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People come to Tumelo’s safari camp to get close to the magical creatures. Mnemba is one of his best guides in addition to being his cousin.  She’s been working for Tumelo ever since she left her village.  She was raped by a popular solider and many people in the town were hostile to her after her rapist was arrested.

She has to go back to her village in the story.  I thought this was well done.  She has to confront her father, the leader of the village, who she feels didn’t support her enough in the aftermath of the attack and arrest.


I didn’t buy into the relationship between Mnemba and Kara though.  It was too insta-love for my tastes.  Kara seemed too predatory in her approaches to Mnemba, almost like she thought sleeping with Mnemba was a perk of the safari.  There didn’t seem to be any type of relationship building.  They didn’t know each other at all or have any conversations before they decided that they were in love.

Kara was also a poster child for poor decision making.  If you have a top safari guide who you also claim to be madly in love with and she is telling you to get out of an area right now because it isn’t safe, you should do that.  You shouldn’t stand in place and pout and complain that she is trying to boss you around.  Bossing you is her job.  I was rooting for Kara to get eaten by the carnivorous mermaids.  (Carnivorous mermaids!  Seriously great world building.) Over and over again she blows off wiser people’s advice and it always goes poorly for her.  I don’t have much tolerance for that personality type.

Just so we are clear – Kara is white.  Mnemba is black.  Let’s revisit that cover.

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Yeah.  Totally whitewashed.  This is an interracial lesbian love story with unicorns but you wouldn’t guess from the cover.

Bottom line

I loved the world.  I loved Mnemba.  She could do better than Kara.

 

 

 

 

 

15 Sep, 2016

Two Boys Kissing

/ posted in: Reading Two Boys Kissing Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan
on August 27th 2013
Pages: 196
Genres: Fiction, Young Adult
Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Goodreads

“David Levithan tells the based-on-true-events story of Harry and Craig, two 17-year-olds who are about to take part in a 32-hour marathon of kissing to set a new Guinness World Record—all of which is narrated by a Greek Chorus of the generation of gay men lost to AIDS.”


I’d seen this book around but wasn’t really interested.  Contemporary YA isn’t my thing.  Then I heard last week that it was narrated by the spirits of men who died of AIDS and I had to read it.

I devoured this book in one afternoon.  When the husband came home that night I told him that a book made me cry – twice.  He was as surprised as I was that a book melted my ice-cold heart.

This is the story of three couples and of a single teenager.  Craig and Harry are exes who are looking to set the world record for kissing at over 32 hours.  They were inspired by a homophobic attack on their friend Tariq.  Craig isn’t out to his family.

Peter and Neil have been a couple for over a year.  Neil’s family is still not acknowledging his homosexuality.

Avery and Ryan just met last night.  Avery is trans and is worried about letting Ryan know.

Cooper’s family just found out that he is gay and the resulting argument drove him out of the house.

These aren’t the stories that got to me though.  I think that’s because I’m older than the typical YA demographic.  It was the narration of the dead men watching these boys openly live their lives in ways that the men of the 1980s couldn’t have dreamed of.

“You can’t know what it is like for us now — you will always be one step behind.

Be thankful for that.

You can’t know what it was like for us then — you will always be one step ahead.

Be thankful for that too.”

Those are the opening lines of the book and that’s when I started getting teary.  The passage that made the tears roll down my cheeks is later when Craig and Harry was going into the first night of the kiss.  They have teachers watching as official monitors so the record counts.  The teacher that is taking over the shift is recognized by the narrators.

“He’s Mr. Ballamy to his history students.  But he’s Tom to us.  Tom! It’s so good to see him.  So wonderful to see him.  Tom is one of us.  Tom went through it all with us.  Tom made it through.”

It goes on to tell the story of a man who lost his partner in the first wave of the AIDS epidemic and stayed in the community to nurse others.

“He lost years of his life to us although that’s not the story he’d tell.  He would say he gained.  And he’d say he was lucky, because when he came down with it, when his blood turned against him, it was a little later on and the cocktail was starting to work.  So he lived.  He made it to a different kind of after from the rest of us.  It is still an after.  Every day it feels to him like an after.  But he is here.  He is living…..

…. But this is what losing most of your friends does:  It makes you unafraid.  Whatever anyone threatens, whatever anyone is offended by, it doesn’t matter, because you have already survived much, much worse.  If fact, you are still surviving.  You survive every single, blessed day.”


I would recommend this book to everyone.  Younger people will likely identify with the problems of the teens in the story.  Older readers, especially those of us who remember the 80s, will think of all of those lost to the disease whose stories were never told.

18 Apr, 2016

The Shadow Speaker

/ posted in: Reading The Shadow Speaker The Shadow Speaker by Nnedi Okorafor
on October 2nd 2007
Pages: 336
Format: Paperback
Source: Owned
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Set in Niger

In West Africa in 2070, after fifteen-year-old "shadow speaker" Ejii witnesses her father's beheading, she embarks on a dangerous journey across the Sahara to find Jaa, her father's killer, and upon finding her, she also discovers a greater purpose to her life and to the mystical powers she possesses.

Goodreads

I’ve been having a sort of disappointing book year.  It isn’t unusual for me not to give out many 5 star ratings.  I just did 7/170 last year.  But so far this has been a solidly 3 star book year for me.  That doesn’t mean I don’t like them.  It means that I liked them enough to finish them but they aren’t going to stay with me.

The Shadow Speaker was such a breath of fresh air.  From the beginning it was wonderful to sink into the world of Nnedi Okorafor’s imagination.

“Kwàmfà, Ejii’s home, was a town of slim palm trees and sturdy gnarled monkey bread trees, old but upgraded satellite dishes, and sand brick houses with colorful Zulu designs.  It was noisy, too; its unpaved but flat roads always busy with motorbikes, camels, old cars and during certain parts of the year, even the occasional truck.  Kwàmfà was also known for its amazing carpets and after the Great Change, in the shadier parts of the market, its flying carpets.”

After a nuclear war, so called Peace Bombs were dropped by a militant environmental group.  They caused a lot of molecular changes to Earth including rapid forest growth and the development of metahumans with special skills.  It also opened passages to other planets with civilizations very different from Earth.  Ejii is a Shadow Speaker.  She can see long distances and see in the dark.  She can hear shadows talking to her but can’t understand what they are saying.  Shadow speakers get an urge to wander but it isn’t safe to travel now and most of them die young during their travels.

Ejii’s father was the chief of her village.  He made women cover and hide themselves and said it was for their own protection.  He was assassinated by Jaa, a female leader.  Life has been going well in Kwàmfà for the last five years but now Jaa is leaving.  Ejii knows that her father’s younger wives have a grudge against her mother and her half siblings are planning to move against Ejii because she is a metahuman.  When Jaa asks her to go with her to a meeting with representatives of other worlds she knows she has to go regardless of the risks of travel.


There is so much to love in this book.  One of the favorite parts of reading this author is seeing all the amazing and unique ideas she comes up with.

  • A talking camel who named himself Onion because onions are his favorite food
  • A planet whose technology is all based on plants
  • Ghosts that act as advisors in a conference room
  • Trickster gods who act as guardians of the passages between planets
  • Wild cats who debate with themselves whether or not to eat you
  • Guardian owls

I was excited to see that the planet that they visit for the meeting is the world from Zahrah the Windseeker.  I loved seeing the apes that made an appearance in that book show up in totally different circumstances here.

My only minor quibble is the ending.  The books ends with a character telling Ejii that she has to tell her a story about what has been happening while Ejii was on her journey.  I want to know that story!  I want more!

If you haven’t read this author yet, you need to.  It isn’t necessary to read Zahrah the Windseeker first to read this book.  Both of these books would be considered MG/YA so they are easy reads and a great entry point to her work before reading her adult novels.

 

14 Apr, 2016

Shadowshaper

/ posted in: Reading Shadowshaper Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older
on June 30, 2015
Pages: 304
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy & Magic
Format: Hardcover
Source: Owned
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Set in New York

Sierra Santiago was looking forward to a fun summer of making art, hanging out with her friends, and skating around Brooklyn. But then a weird zombie guy crashes the first party of the season. Sierra's near-comatose abuelo begins to say "Lo siento" over and over. And when the graffiti murals in Bed-Stuy start to weep . . . Well, something stranger than the usual New York mayhem is going on.

Goodreads

Sierra is an amazing artist.  She has been asked to paint a mural on an abandoned building in her neighborhood.  There is a lot of street art around her but lately she’s been noticing that they are starting to fade.  Then one day she sees a mural change in front of her and start to weep.

Her grandfather had a stroke soon after her grandmother died but now he is agitated and wants Sierra to know that he is sorry for… something.  Her mother seems to know what he means but shuts Sierra down every time she asks.  Some of her grandfather’s friends point her towards another artist at her school for answers before they start to disappear themselves.

The writing in this book was amazing.  Contemporary Brooklyn is a character as much as a setting of this book.  Older shows the joys of living in this neighborhood with dance clubs and vibrant art as well as the problems of street harassment of teenage girls and the specter of police brutality.  I’ve never been impressed by New York City at all but this book almost made me feel like it would be an interesting place to be.  Seriously, salsa thrash metal?  Yes, please.

The cast of characters was inclusive without it coming across as forced for the sake of inclusiveness.  There is a lesbian couple.  Most of the cast are Latina(o).  There are both male and female characters who are important parts of the story and the significant secondary characters range in age from teenagers to elderly.

There are discussions about racism in the community.  Sierra remembers a time when she surprised herself by apologizing for her dark skin.  Her aunt is tells her that she shouldn’t date a Haitian because you don’t want a boyfriend whose skin is darker than the bottom of your foot.

If this was a contemporary novel it would be nearly 5 stars.  But, this is a fantasy story and that aspect was not as strong for me.  The idea of being able to make your art come alive when necessary is good but the stakes of the conflict never felt high.  It felt like something bad was going to happen but it wasn’t clear what that was supposed to be.

If you like the idea of art featuring in urban YA fantasy you can also check out these titles.

The Summer PrinceThe Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson

“The lush city of Palmares Tres shimmers with tech and tradition, with screaming gossip casters and practiced politicians. In the midst of this vibrant metropolis, June Costa creates art that’s sure to make her legendary. But her dreams of fame become something more when she meets Enki, the bold new Summer King. The whole city falls in love with him (including June’s best friend, Gil). But June sees more to Enki than amber eyes and a lethal samba. She sees a fellow artist.

Together, June and Enki will stage explosive, dramatic projects that Palmares Tres will never forget. They will add fuel to a growing rebellion against the government’s strict limits on new tech. And June will fall deeply, unfortunately in love with Enki. Because like all Summer Kings before him, Enki is destined to die.”

Ink (Paper Gods, #1)Ink by Amanda Sun

“On the heels of a family tragedy, the last thing Katie Greene wants to do is move halfway across the world. Stuck with her aunt in Shizuoka, Japan, Katie feels lost. Alone. Then there’s gorgeous but aloof Tomohiro, star of the school’s kendo team. How did he really get the scar on his arm? Katie isn’t prepared for the answer. But when she sees the things he draws start moving, there’s no denying the truth: Tomo has a connection to the ancient gods of Japan, and being near Katie is causing his abilities to spiral out of control. If the wrong people notice, they’ll both be targets.”

Truthfully, this one was a little too “He’s SO DREAMY!!!!!” with no actual explanation of why so I DNFed it.

 

I received this book as a gift from my OTSP Secret Sister as part of my Easter box.  The cover is gorgeous.  I’m going to read more by this author because I love his writing.

My Easter box from my #otspsecretsister. I was just thinking about this book last night.

A photo posted by @dvmheather on

About Daniel José Older

“Daniel José Older is the author of the Bone Street Rumba urban fantasy series from Penguin’s Roc Books and the Young Adult novel Shadowshaper (Scholastic’s Arthur A. Levine Books, 2015). Publishers Weekly hailed him as a “rising star of the genre” after the publication of his debut ghost noir collection, Salsa NocturnaHe co-edited the anthology Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History. His short stories and essays have appeared in the Guardian, NPR, Tor.comSalonBuzzFeed, Fireside Fiction, the New Haven Review, PANK, Apex and Strange Horizons and the anthologies Subversion and Mothership: Tales Of Afrofuturism And Beyond. Daniel’s band Ghost Star gigs around New York and he teaches workshops on storytelling from an anti-oppressive power analysis.” – from his website

07 Jan, 2016

Zodiac

/ posted in: Reading Zodiac Zodiac by Romina Russell
on December 9th 2014
Pages: 336
Genres: Young Adult, General, Fantasy & Magic, Science Fiction
Published by Penguin Group USA
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Set in Outer Space

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?

Goodreads

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.

23 Dec, 2015

Mini Review – Magic or Madness

/ posted in: Reading Mini Review – Magic or Madness Magic Or Madness by Justine Larbalestier
on 2005
Pages: 271
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy & Magic
Format: Paperback
Source: Owned
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Set in Australia

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.

Goodreads

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.

 

16 Dec, 2015

Only Ever Yours

/ posted in: Enviromentalist Wacko Posts Only Ever Yours Only Ever Yours by Louise O'Neill
on June 30th 2014
Pages: 400
Genres: Young Adult, Dystopian, Fiction
Format: Paperback
Source: Owned
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Set in England

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...

Goodreads

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.

 

 

07 Dec, 2015

Afterworlds

/ posted in: Reading Afterworlds Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld
on September 23rd 2014
Pages: 608
Genres: Young Adult
Format: Paperback
Source: Owned
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Takes place in California

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.

Goodreads

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.

 

www.seniorliving.org

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.

03 Dec, 2015

Soundless

/ posted in: Reading Soundless Soundless by Richelle Mead
on November 10th 2015
Pages: 272
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy & Magic
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Set in China

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.

Goodreads

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:

Magic!

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.

travel the world in books
25 Oct, 2015

International YA Books

/ posted in: Reading

TTWIBRAT-300-square

Egypt and England

Ink and Bone (The Great Library, #1)Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

 

In an exhilarating new series, New York Times bestselling author Rachel Caine rewrites history, creating a dangerous world where the Great Library of Alexandria has survived the test of time.…

Ruthless and supremely powerful, the Great Library is now a presence in every major city, governing the flow of knowledge to the masses. Alchemy allows the Library to deliver the content of the greatest works of history instantly—but the personal ownership of books is expressly forbidden.

Nigeria

Akata Witch (Akata Witch, #1)Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

 

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.

India

A Time to DanceA Time to Dance by Padma Venkatraman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

 

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.

Ireland

The Accident SeasonThe Accident Season by Moïra Fowley-Doyle
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

 

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.

England, New York, and Peru

The Bane ChroniclesThe Bane Chronicles by Cassandra Clare
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This collection of eleven short stories 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.

Iran

If You Could Be MineIf You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Seventeen-year-old Sahar has been in love with her best friend, Nasrin, since they were six. They’ve shared stolen kisses and romantic promises. But Iran is a dangerous place for two girls in love—Sahar and Nasrin could be beaten, imprisoned, even executed if their relationship came to light.

So they carry on in secret—until Nasrin’s parents announce that they’ve arranged for her marriage. Nasrin tries to persuade Sahar that they can go on as they have been, only now with new comforts provided by the decent, well-to-do doctor Nasrin will marry. But Sahar dreams of loving Nasrin exclusively—and openly.

Brazil

The Summer PrinceThe Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

 

The lush city of Palmares Tres shimmers with tech and tradition, with screaming gossip casters and practiced politicians. In the midst of this vibrant metropolis, June Costa creates art that’s sure to make her legendary. But her dreams of fame become something more when she meets Enki, the bold new Summer King. The whole city falls in love with him (including June’s best friend, Gil). But June sees more to Enki than amber eyes and a lethal samba. She sees a fellow artist.

Together, June and Enki will stage explosive, dramatic projects that Palmares Tres will never forget. They will add fuel to a growing rebellion against the government’s strict limits on new tech. And June will fall deeply, unfortunately in love with Enki. Because like all Summer Kings before him, Enki is destined to die.


Where to Start

I don’t consider myself to be much of a YA fan at all. Most of them annoy me.  But in this list I’m crazy enthusiastic about all of them except maybe The Accident Season.  One part of that made me grumpy but probably wouldn’t bother anyone else.

The Summer Prince is the book I’ve recommended the most on blogs this year.  Usually I recommend it for people wanting to diversify their reading.

Akata Witch has a main character who lives in a home lined with books and whenever anyone magical learns something important they are rewarded with money falling from the sky.  I want that to be true.

Pick up any of these books for great stories!

 

 

 

02 Oct, 2015

The Shepherd’s Crown

/ posted in: Reading The Shepherd’s Crown The Shepherd's Crown by Terry Pratchett
on September 1st 2015
Pages: 288
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy & Magic
Format: Hardcover
Source: Owned
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)

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

Goodreads

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.

 

 

01 Oct, 2015

Banned Books Week – Into the River

/ posted in: Reading Banned Books Week – Into the River Into the River by Ted Dawe
on 2012
Pages: 279
Format: Paperback
Source: Owned

"When Te Arepa Santos is dragged into the river by a giant eel, something happens that will change the course of his whole life. The boy who struggles to the bank is not the same one who plunged in, moments earlier. He has brushed against the spirit world, and there is a price to be paid; an utu to be exacted. Years later, far from the protection of whanau and ancestral land he finds new enemies. This time, with no-one to save him, there is a decision to be made.. he can wait on the bank, or leap forward into the river"

Goodreads

Banned Book Week

Happy Banned Books Week!  I’m teaming up again with Sheila at Book Journey to celebrate books that have been banned.  The book I chose this year is currently in the midst of a legal battle in New Zealand.

If you go to the author’s webpage there is this warning.

From Wikipedia:

“In 2013 New Zealand’s Film and Literature Board of Review, or appeal from New Zealand’s classification office (which had given the book an unrestricted M rating) restricted Into the River to readers aged 14 years and over.[4] This was the first time in New Zealand’s history this classification was used.[5] Auckland Libraries applied to have this decision reconsidered in 2015. One of the reasons given for the appeal was “the impact that the restriction has had on the value of the book as a teaching resource, and the significance of the book as an aid to countering issues in New Zealand about bullying”.[4][5] The conservative Christian lobby group Family First appealed this decision, and applied for an interim restriction order, which was granted by the President of the Board of Review. The interim restriction order under New Zealand’s Films, Videos and Publications Classification Act 1993, bans it completely from being sold or supplied in New Zealand.[3][6] This was the first time a book had been subject to an interim restriction order in New Zealand in 22 years and was reported by several foreign news media.”

Doesn’t that just make you want to read it?  It seems to be having that effect a lot.  I would have probably never heard of it if not for the banning.

I was able to get a copy of the book from Amazon and I’m giving it away because New Zealand isn’t the boss of me. 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

BBW-logo

10 Sep, 2015

The Bane Chronicles

/ posted in: Reading The Bane Chronicles The Bane Chronicles by Cassandra Clare, Sarah Rees Brennan, Maureen Johnson, Cassandra Jean
on November 11th 2014
Pages: 528
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library

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.

Goodreads

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.

 

 

 

09 Sep, 2015

If You Could Be Mine

/ posted in: Reading If You Could Be Mine If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan
on August 20th 2013
Pages: 247
Genres: Contemporary
Published by Alqonquin Young Readers
Format: eBook
Source: Owned
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)

Seventeen-year-old Sahar has been in love with her best friend, Nasrin, since they were six. They’ve shared stolen kisses and romantic promises. But Iran is a dangerous place for two girls in love—Sahar and Nasrin could be beaten, imprisoned, even executed if their relationship came to light.
So they carry on in secret—until Nasrin’s parents announce that they’ve arranged for her marriage. Nasrin tries to persuade Sahar that they can go on as they have been, only now with new comforts provided by the decent, well-to-do doctor Nasrin will marry. But Sahar dreams of loving Nasrin exclusively—and openly.

Goodreads

The only homosexuals that Sahar has ever met are the friends of her cousin Ali. She doesn’t consider herself to be anything like Ali, who is always working on his next illegal scheme. But when Ali introduces her to his transsexual friend Pavreen, Sahar gets an idea.

In Iran homosexuality is punishable by death. However, transsexuals are considered to have a disease and the government pays for sex reassignment surgery. If Sahar transitions she will be able to marry her girlfriend and live openly. Unfortunately, her girlfriend may not be strong enough to defy convention no matter what Sahar is willing to do.


This is an eye opening look at many aspects of the LGBT community in Iran. Same sex couples are allowed to hold hands in the streets because that is considered normal for friends. Support groups for transsexual people contain people who are happy to be transitioning and those forced to transition by families who feel it is better than having a gay child. Police are paid to protect parties where gay people meet openly instead of turning them in. But get caught and the punishments are swift and severe.

Sahar is blinded by her love for her girlfriend and can’t see her faults. She is trying to make rash decisions without considering all the implications. This is typical teenage behavior but it can be frustrating to read because she is making huge decisions without thinking it through.

I was satisfied with the ending. I think it is realistic for the situation.

About Sara Farizan

“Sara Farizan was born on August 2, 1984 in Massachusetts. Her parents immigrated from Iran in the seventies, her father a surgeon and her mother a homemaker. Sara grew up feeling different in her private high school not only because of her ethnicity but also because of her liking girls romantically, her lack of excitement in science and math, and her love of writing plays and short stories. So she came out of the closet in college, realized math and science weren’t so bad (but not for her), and decided she wanted to be a writer. She is an MFA graduate of Lesley University and holds a BA in film and media studies from American University. ” from Goodreads

04 Sep, 2015

Why Throne of Glass is Not Okay

/ posted in: Reading Why Throne of Glass is Not Okay Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
on August 7th 2012
Pages: 406
Genres: Young Adult
Format: eBook

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.

Goodreads

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

13 Apr, 2015

None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio

/ posted in: Reading None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio None of the Above by I. W. Gregorio
on April 7th 2015
Pages: 352
Genres: Fiction, Young Adult
Format: eBook
Source: Owned
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)

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?

Goodreads

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

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