Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Pride by Ibi Zoboi

Summary from Goodreads:
Zuri Benitez has pride. Brooklyn pride, family pride, and pride in her Afro-Latino roots. But pride might not be enough to save her rapidly gentrifying neighborhood from becoming unrecognizable.

When the wealthy Darcy family moves in across the street, Zuri wants nothing to do with their two teenage sons, even as her older sister, Janae, starts to fall for the charming Ainsley. She especially can’t stand the judgmental and arrogant Darius. Yet as Zuri and Darius are forced to find common ground, their initial dislike shifts into an unexpected understanding.

But with four wild sisters pulling her in different directions, cute boy Warren vying for her attention, and college applications hovering on the horizon, Zuri fights to find her place in Bushwick’s changing landscape, or lose it all.
I had a feeling I was going to love this book, and I was right. This book was everything I needed on a day I was trapped inside with a cold. Pride and Prejudice is one of my all time favorite books, and I practically pounce on any and all YA Austin retellings. When I read that this would be a diverse, urban fiction retelling, I was even more excited. I’ve never read Austin like this before. It was both familiar and surprising for me.
I loved the fresh, modern perspective on love, class, and gentrification. This wasn’t just a fluffy romance retelling. This was also an honest, snarky, commentary on society and all of its latest changes. I felt like that makes this book stand out in a truly authentic Austin style. I loved Zuri almost as immediately as I loved Elizabeth Bennet. They are both girls that could so easily have been held back by what society expects of them, but instead flourish intelligently, poetically, and artfully.
This is not a book for poetry haters. The book is full of poetry explaining Zuri’s fears, loves, and ambitions. And I actually felt like I got to know the main character more through her poetry. Her writing added to her person. Often I feel like poetry is used as a plot device, but here it genuinely added to Zuri’s character.
Also, the setting (Brooklyn) felt like a character. The city was alive in this book. I felt like I was seeing everything Zuri was seeing. I was sitting on that rooftop with her and her sister. I was walking to the bodega down the street, and riding that train with her. The only other book I can really compare this setting writing to is The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros. Both books really make me feel like I’m escaping to somewhere else for a while.
All in all, this went above and beyond my expectations. I read this in one day. I’ll have to track down Zoboi’s other YA novel soon. I know she’s an author to keep my eye on. I give this a 10/10.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The Beauty of Darkness by Mary E. Pearson

Summary from Goodreads:
Lia has survived Venda—but so has a great evil bent on the destruction of Morrighan. And only Lia can stop it.

With war on the horizon, Lia has no choice but to assume her role as First Daughter, as soldier—as leader. While she struggles to reach Morrighan and warn them, she finds herself at cross-purposes with Rafe and suspicious of Kaden, who has hunted her down.

In this conclusion to the Remnant Chronicles trilogy, traitors must be rooted out, sacrifices must be made, and impossible odds must be overcome as the future of every kingdom hangs in the balance.
As soon as I finished this book, this is what I wrote on Goodreads: “Sometimes a book is so good, you have to finish it slowly, to savor its final words. I savored the whole 679 page volume like it was my favorite French dessert eaten at a cafe in Paris, at midnight when anything is possible. I’m so happy I finally dove into this series and was able to read one book after the other -almost like one epic fantasy, instead of 3. It was a flight of sweet, crunchy yet creamy crème brûlées. I almost feel sorry for the book that comes next.”
I loved this book. I loved the whole series, really. It kind of blew me away into a fantasy world I wasn’t expecting to fall for. Lia is the ultimate kick-butt fantasy main character in this installment. She leads rescue parties, defends herself from attackers, bravely stands up to the family that appears to have rejected her, fights for her freedom, fights for those she loves, and saves the lives of so many people. Watch out, Wonder Woman. Lia is a superhero in her own right.
I loved getting a happy ending for so many characters. I loved finally learning what was what with Lia’s family. I loved learning more about the secret text Lia’s been carrying with her for 3 books. I loved getting so much resolution for all the kingdoms. I accept the the ship that sailed, though it may not have been what I secretly wanted. It made sense. And I knew it was coming. I loved the strong lady side characters here. Considering one woman goes from giving birth to fighting for her friend in a blink of an eye, the fierceness was something else.
 But, most of all, I love Lia. I love how far she’s come. I love how she refuses to let anything or anyone get in the way of her doing what’s right for her people. Kingdoms over bros. Seriously, I had so much respect for her when she parted ways with her love –even though my inner romantic hated it. Her bravery and loyalty was a force in this book.
Stuff did seem to resolve kind of quickly at the end. But, I was kind of glad it did because I’m not a huge war story fan. And I was worried it would be all war at the end. I’m glad things ended the way they did. All in all, this series was unbelievable, and I’m so glad I read it. This book gets a 10/10.

Monday, September 24, 2018

A Good Week in Books (190)

I had a very nice book week. I was sick this week, so I had more time for reading. Unfortunately, this meant I missed a totally amazing teen author festival…but I really needed another day in bed with books for company.
I read one awesome YA fantasy, one Pride and Prejudice retelling, and one graphic novel. I received 4 new books for review (Thank you, Macmillan). And possibly to fix my MIA festival heart, I purchased 4 new books while running errands yesterday.
The new pretties:

Unbroken: 13 Stories starring disabled teens edited by Marieke NiJkamp
Unclaimed Baggage by Jen Doll
A Blade so Black by L.L. McKinney
Black Wings Beating by Alex London
Sadie by Courtney Summers
A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares by Krystal Sutherland
Warcross by Marie Lu
Heart of Thorns by Bree Barton
How was your week in books?

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Heart of Betrayal by Mary E. Pearson

Summary from Goodreads:
Held captive in the barbarian kingdom of Venda, Lia and Rafe have little chance of escape. Desperate to save Lia's life, her erstwhile assassin, Kaden, has told the Vendan Komizar that she has the gift, and the Komizar's interest in Lia is greater than anyone could have foreseen.

Meanwhile, nothing is straightforward: There's Rafe, who lied to Lia but has sacrificed his freedom to protect her; Kaden, who meant to assassinate her but has now saved her life; and the Vendans, whom Lia always believed to be savages. Now that she lives among them, however, she realizes that may be far from the truth. Wrestling with her upbringing, her gift, and her sense of self, Lia must make powerful choices that will affect her country... and her own destiny.
As I said on Goodreads, I think I actually liked book 2 better than book 1! I could not put this book down.....And I'm so glad I did not start this series until all 3 books were out...because that cliffhanger at the end of this one was rough…
I loved the love triangle of book 1. And I think I loved the action/suspense of book 2 even more than that love triangle There was never an okay moment to put this book down. The whole thing was nerve wrecking and terrifying. I never knew what would befall Lia next. And I never really knew who to trust. I liked still getting the multiple points of view, so I could figure out for myself (at least a little bit) who I could trust from the main characters.
The Komizar was a villain for the ages. Yikes, he scared me. I was constantly worried he’d catch on to more of everything. I loved the new characters in Venda. The whole society there was fascinating (a whole new world to build from).  And still, there’s the whole underlying mythology/mystery/history of it all. And I got so sucked into that history. Is it prophetic? I’m not certain. But threads of prophecy and “seeing” were common plot elements….so I’m thinking it is. I guess I won’t know for sure until book 3.
I loved all the scenes where the people of Venda grew to love Lia. She kind of had fans. She’s so fierce and strong in this installment. She’s really grown into an amazing warrior princess. She’s so good at acting, at deceiving, and at planning, it’s almost hard to believe that not that long ago, she was upset for being locked out of meetings with the adults. She’s come a long way.
Spoiler paragraph ahead (skip this one if you haven’t read the book yet): There wasn’t as much romance in this one….And I hate to say it, but I kind of ship Lia with the wrong guy…I kind of fell in love with the assassin in this book. The prince is there too, but I didn’t see as much of him and his imprisoned life. And I don’t know why, but I kept expecting him to die…like there were serious foreshadow moments that I thought were in place to prepare me for it, but it never happened. Who knows what book 3 will bring…
All in all, the suspense was epic. I loved the new characters. I loved the new world. I loved the emphasis on the stolen texts. I can’t wait to get to the next book. I give this one a 10/10.

Monday, September 17, 2018

The Kiss of Derception by Mary E. Pearson

Summary from Goodreads:
A princess must find her place in a reborn world.

She flees on her wedding day.

She steals ancient documents from the Chancellor's secret collection.

She is pursued by bounty hunters sent by her own father.

She is Princess Lia, seventeen, First Daughter of the House of Morrighan.

The Kingdom of Morrighan is steeped in tradition and the stories of a bygone world, but some traditions Lia can't abide. Like having to marry someone she's never met to secure a political alliance.

Fed up and ready for a new life, Lia flees to a distant village on the morning of her wedding. She settles in among the common folk, intrigued when two mysterious and handsome strangers arrive—and unaware that one is the jilted prince and the other an assassin sent to kill her. Deceptions swirl and Lia finds herself on the brink of unlocking perilous secrets—secrets that may unravel her world—even as she feels herself falling in love.
This is one of those books I’ve had for a million years, and for some reason I kept pushing it further and further back in my TBR piles. Maybe it’s the size of it that was daunting? 486 pages is pretty big, even for a good fantasy. Though, the summary sounds like total and utter book addiction material, so I don’t know what my problem was.
Regardless, I’m so glad I finally did read this. I was in a bit of a slump (DNF’ing 2 books in a row!) and I’m so glad this was what called to me and pulled me out of it. One of the things I kind of hate admitting to is that I love a good love triangle. And this book had an amazing one. I loved not knowing which guy was the prince and which one was the assassin. I actually guessed wrong! That happens so rarely for me in books, that my jaw literally dropped, and I knew I had found a winner. I want books that can still surprise me.
I can see people not liking this book if they are not so into love triangles…because that really was the focal point of it all. I loved the different points of view in this book too. Prince and assassin had their own chapters too, and I actually loved reading from their unique viewpoints. The author did a good job of keeping me interested in each character this way.
I also loved the world building. I loved seeing everything fresh from Lia’s point of view. The towns, the traveling, and the world in general was just classic fantasy stuff at its finest. And I love Lia. I love how fierce and determined she is. I love how she values others and never underestimates anyone. I love that she admits to needing to learn a lot about the world she was so sheltered from.  And I love her friendships.
There’s also this deep-rooted mystery behind everything. There’s the stolen book, hidden languages, and almost prophetic sort of history coming to the surface that I know gets explored more in further installments.
For such a big book with little action in it, I read it remarkably fast. Like I said, most of the story is in the love triangle. Having already read book 2, I can say that book 2 is all about action. So, I know the writer can do it all. I really enjoyed this book, and I can’t wait to finish the series up soon. I give it a 9/10.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Summary from Goodreads:
Remember, it’s only a game…

Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny island where she and her sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval—the faraway, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show—are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt-of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. Nevertheless she becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic. And whether Caraval is real or not, Scarlett must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over or a dangerous domino effect of consequences will be set off, and her beloved sister will disappear forever.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval…beware of getting swept too far away.
This was another perfect summer read. I really enjoyed this one. The darkness, magic, and suspense made it seriously hard to put down. The one thing it was lacking was character development. The main character felt a bit like a giant trope. I’ve read so many books with the same main character. And I do tend to enjoy books for characters and character development, so it was a little surprising that I loved this as much as I did. I guess sometimes, all the other stuff is just so good, that the lack of character development can be pushed aside a little.
The other stuff was fantastic. I loved the setting. It was like a floating Disney Land mixed with Hunger Games arena…The islands, the boats, the magical places were just so beyond fascinating and unlike any other setting I’ve come across. And the game! I loved the game and the clues. It was like a giant murder mystery party that spanned days, giant prizes, and lots of parties.
I loved the back-story, the history of the game. I loved the story of Legend, and the stories the girls’ grandmother used to tell them. There were so many layers to everything, and I ate it all up.
I found the romance to be okay. There was some definite sizzle….I just never shipped the main character with her guy as much as I would have liked to. Maybe I could sense how much he wasn’t telling her? I don’t know. I also never loved the sister. She came off as an adventure-seeking snob, who stole things from her sister. I just wasn’t seeing the love. And their love is supposed to be the motivation for everything…I just wish I understood and saw the sisterly love more. Then everything would have made a lot more sense.
The main character and her sister were lacking serious development. However, the world, the game, the suspense, the back-story, and everything else was just pure magic and fun to read. I definitely intend on reading book 2. I can’t wait to see where everything goes. I give this one an 8/10.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

The Square Root of Summer by Harriet Reuter Hapgood

Summary from Goodreads:
This is what it means to love someone. This is what it means to grieve someone. It's a little bit like a black hole. It's a little bit like infinity.

Gottie H. Oppenheimer is losing time. Literally. When the fabric of the universe around her seaside town begins to fray, she's hurtled through wormholes to her past:

To last summer, when her grandfather Grey died. To the afternoon she fell in love with Jason, who wouldn't even hold her hand at the funeral. To the day her best friend Thomas moved away and left her behind with a scar on her hand and a black hole in her memory.

Although Grey is still gone, Jason and Thomas are back, and Gottie's past, present, and future are about to collide—and someone's heart is about to be broken.

With time travel, quantum physics, and sweeping romance, The Square Root of Summer is an exponentially enthralling story about love, loss, and trying to figure it all out, from stunning debut YA voice, Harriet Reuter Hapgood.
I loved this one. It read a bit like a YA version of the The Time Traveler’s Wife. It was smart, funny, heartfelt, and true. I took it with me to the beach, hoping for a light YA romance. This wasn’t exactly the light book I was thinking it would be. It was however, above and beyond my expectations.
So many YA novels involve girls and families grieving the loss of a mother. This was the first one I’ve read that deals with the aftermath of losing a close grandparent. And my heart just kept breaking for Gottie, over and over. Her grandfather sounded amazing. And her grief felt so honest and gut wrenching.
I also found the romance elements to ring so true also. I love that her first love was not her last love. I love what Gottie learns and takes away from Jason. And I love watching her come out of her grief-shocked shell here to accept what she needs to about Thomas, about her family, and about herself.
I love the play with physics and time. This is a book about a smart STEM driven main character. And I loved that her logic/her way of thinking is so clinical and science-based. Science wasn’t just a hobby the author threw in there to make her sound more interesting. Science was kind of everything –it was the way Gottie handled her grief  and learned about what was happening to her.
I loved the side characters (especially the somewhat estranged best friend) and big brother. I loved the house, the bookstore, and the way of life the grandfather left behind. Gottie’s unique family sometimes stole the show away from her, and that’s okay. I was fascinated by all of them.
I really can’t come up with anything negative about this book. I was surprised by how much I loved it right away. And I look forward to this author’s next book that comes out this spring. This gets a 10/10.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James

Summary From Goodreads:
A surprising and gripping sci-fi thriller with a killer twist

The daughter of two astronauts, Romy Silvers is no stranger to life in space. But she never knew how isolating the universe could be until her parents’ tragic deaths left her alone on the Infinity, a spaceship speeding away from Earth.

Romy tries to make the best of her lonely situation, but with only brief messages from her therapist on Earth to keep her company, she can’t help but feel like something is missing. It seems like a dream come true when NASA alerts her that another ship, the Eternity, will be joining the Infinity.

Romy begins exchanging messages with J, the captain of the Eternity, and their friendship breathes new life into her world. But as the Eternity gets closer, Romy learns there’s more to J’s mission than she could have imagined. And suddenly, there are worse things than being alone….
I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this quite as much as I did. I have to admit that there was one review I read on Goodreads for this book that just gushed about this so much, I had to read it for myself. All it takes sometimes is one glowing review. And I’m so glad I read that review. And then I’m even gladder that review stuck with me when I went to the bookstore and found this book.
I could easily have seen this book boring me to tears. What’s so interesting about being so drastically alone? Well…everything. I read this in one sitting. I was on the edge of my beach chair the whole time I read this…There were moments when my jaw dropped in shocking surprise. And there were moments I held my breath for way too long. This book takes suspense to whole new intergalactic level. It’s probably the most suspenseful book I’ve read all year. It’s kind of what I was hoping the movie Passenger would have been…
I also absolutely cannot go into any kind of details about the plot because it’s best going into this blind. All you should know and all I knew going in, was that there are plenty of twists, and crazy levels of suspense. This is not he cutesy book the summary on the back kind of makes this sound like. It’s definitely a suspense story.
It’s also a book for sci-fi fans. I’m by no means a space expert, but it reads like the author did her research. And if space ships, astronauts, and the universe are not your thing, this is not the book for you. I feel like you need at least a slight appreciation for sci-fi to really love this.  This book is also for the suspense lovers. It’s not a huge character driven story –mostly because there are so few of them…but, it’s a good story.  I give it a 9/10.

Monday, September 10, 2018

A Good Week in Books (189)

The last couple of weeks went by in a blur. Summer kind of went by in a blur too. My mom came to visit for two weeks. One of those weeks, I took off and had a very beachy stay-cation. At first, I was in a reading frenzy. I was reading a book a day on that stay-cation. Then, I hit a major book slump. I dnf’ed one book that I seriously was not clicking with. The main character just came off as too superficial. And then I read another book that seemed so promising, but kept taking destructive paths to the point of awfulness. I made it 75% through it, before my hatred of it became too much.
Then, I introduced my mom to Riverdale, and my reading just kind of took a vacation too. I did finally find my groove again with an awesome fantasy I’m reading now. And I also did complete 3 books on my stay-cation. I also purchased two new books at the 50% off book haul sale at Barnes and Noble.
The new pretties:

Smoke in the Sun
by Renee Ahdieh
Dread Nation by Justina Ireland
How was your week in books/end of summer?