New Releases

A whole slew of new releases this week, most we’ve all been eagerly anticipating. The first one I was able to obtain an ARC and loved it! Look for Audrey’s review coming next week.

emberAn Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
Razorbill

Laia is a Scholar living under the iron-fisted rule of the Martial Empire. When her brother is arrested for treason, Laia goes undercover as a slave at the empire’s greatest military academy in exchange for assistance from rebel Scholars who claim that they will help to save her brother from execution.

Elias is the academy’s finest soldier— and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias is considering deserting the military, but before he can, he’s ordered to participate in a ruthless contest to choose the next Martial emperor.

When Laia and Elias’s paths cross at the academy, they find that their destinies are more intertwined than either could have imagined and that their choices will change the future of the empire itself. – Cover image and summary via Goodreads

 

legendLegend: The Graphic Novel by Marie Lu
Putnam Juvenile

Born into an elite family in one of the Republic’s wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a military prodigy. Born into the slums of the Republic’s Lake Sector, fifteen-year-old Day is the country’s most wanted criminal. But his motives are not as sinister as they often they seem. One day June’s brother is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Now, Day is in a race for his family’s survival, while June tries desperately to avenge her brother’s death. And the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together and the lengths their country will go to in order to keep its secrets. – Cover image and summary via Goodreads

 

rogueRogue (Talon, #2) by Julie Kagawa
Harlequin Teen

Ember Hill left the dragon organization Talon to take her chances with rebel dragon Cobalt and his crew of rogues. But Ember can’t forget the sacrifice made for her by the human boy who could have killed her—Garret Xavier Sebastian, a soldier of the dragonslaying Order of St. George, the boy who saved her from a Talon assassin, knowing that by doing so, he’d signed his own death warrant.

Determined to save Garret from execution, Ember must convince Cobalt to help her break into the Order’s headquarters. With assassins after them and Ember’s own brother helping Talon with the hunt, the rogues find an unexpected ally in Garret and a new perspective on the underground battle between Talon and St. George.

A reckoning is brewing and the secrets hidden by both sides are shocking and deadly. Soon Ember must decide: Should she retreat to fight another day…or start an all-out war? – Cover image and summary via Goodreads

Diva RulesDiva Rules by Amir Abrams
K-Teen

1. “Always step out camera ready.”
2. “Never, ever, fight over a boy.”
3. “Serve ‘em grace ‘n’ face.”
” ”
Fiona Madison has being popular on lock. She’s everywhere everyone wants to be–and she knows just how to keep frenemies, haters, and admirers guessing. Fiona keeps it cute and knows how to turn a party out no matter how tough things get at home–or how lonely she really is. The only relationship a guy can have with her is BWB (Boo-With-Benefits). Anything more is a major not-going-to-happen…Until someone Fiona never sees coming is suddenly too close, understands her all too well–and is turning this diva’s life upside down…

 

Girl at MidnightThe Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey
Delacorte Press

For readers of Cassandra Clare’s City of Bones and Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone, The Girl at Midnight is the story of a modern girl caught in an ancient war.

Beneath the streets of New York City live the Avicen, an ancient race of people with feathers for hair and magic running through their veins. Age-old enchantments keep them hidden from humans. All but one. Echo is a runaway pickpocket who survives by selling stolen treasures on the black market, and the Avicen are the only family she’s ever known.

Echo is clever and daring, and at times she can be brash, but above all else she’s fiercely loyal. So when a centuries-old war crests on the borders of her home, she decides it’s time to act.

Legend has it that there is a way to end the conflict once and for all: find the Firebird, a mythical entity believed to possess power the likes of which the world has never seen. It will be no easy task, but if life as a thief has taught Echo anything, it’s how to hunt down what she wants . . . and how to take it.

But some jobs aren’t as straightforward as they seem. And this one might just set the world on fire.

 

Review: Of Dreams and Rust

23309705Title: Of Dreams and Rust (Of Metal and Wishes #2)
Author: Sarah Fine
Genres: romance, steampunk
Pages: 288
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Availability: August 4th, 2015

Summary: In the year since the collapse of the slaughterhouse where Wen worked as her father’s medical assistant, she’s held all her secrets close. She works in the clinic at the weapons factory and sneaks away to nurse Bo, once the Ghost, now a boy determined to transform himself into a living machine. Their strange, fragile friendship soothes some of the ache of missing Melik, the strong-willed Noor who walked away from Wen all those months ago—but it can’t quell her fears for him.

The Noor are waging a rebellion in the west. When she overhears plans to crush Melik’s people with the powerful war machines created at the factory, Wen makes the painful decision to leave behind all she has known—including Bo—to warn them. But the farther she journeys into the warzone, the more confusing things become. A year of brutality seems to have changed Melik, and Wen has a decision to make about him and his people: How much is she willing to sacrifice to save them from complete annihilation? [Image and summary via Goodreads]

Review:  Of Dreams and Rust is the sequel to Of Metal and Wishes — if you haven’t read that, what are you doing here? Go read it first, or check out RIC’s review of it! Okay, moving on…

Of Dreams and Rust is a solid follow-up to its predecessor. At first, the book falls into the classic pitfall of sequels — a slow, drawn-out beginning that introduces the essential plot points of the first book. But, once I got past that, I was drawn into the story to the point that I was a weeping mess by the end.

The plot of Of Metal and Wishes covers the rebellion of the Noor people against their oppressors. The book’s characters occasionally take a backseat in favor of the progression of the plot. Fortunately, the main character Wen’s narration prevents the book from feeling too plot-driven.

As with the first book, Of Dreams and Rust’s strength is its gorgeous language and worldbuilding. While more melancholy than Of Metal and Wishes, the writing in Of Dreams and Rust is a pleasure to read. The worldbuilding and conflict were believable and detailed. Plus, I’m a sucker for steampunk robot spiders and machines. In that regard, the book can do no wrong.

If you enjoyed Of Dreams and Rust, this book is a must-read… and if you’re at all interested in a book inspired by Phantom of the Opera with gorgeous worldbuilding, then Of Dreams and Rust is the book for you, and once you read that, check out the sequel! I thoroughly enjoyed the sequel, and can’t wait to read Sarah Fine’s next book.

Recommendation: Get it soon! This is a wonderful sequel to Of Metal and Wishes.

Review: Crazy Horse’s Girlfriend: A Novel

crazy

Title: Crazy Horse’s Girlfriend: A Novel
Author: Erika T. Wurth
Publisher: Curbside Splendor
Pages: 285
Review Copy: Borrowed from library
Availability: On shelves now

Publisher’s summary: Margaritte is a sharp-tongued, drug-dealing, sixteen-year-old Native American floundering in a Colorado town crippled by poverty, unemployment, and drug abuse. She hates the burnout, futureless kids surrounding her and dreams that she and her unreliable new boyfriend can move far beyond the bright lights of Denver that float on the horizon before the daily suffocation of teen pregnancy eats her alive.

Filled with complex characters overcoming and being overcome by circumstances of their surroundings, Crazy Horse’s Girlfriend thoroughly shakes up cultural preconceptions of what it means to be Native American today.

Review: Margaritte pulled me into the book almost immediately. Her voice is raw and honest as she shares her life and opinions in this excellent coming-of-age novel. Margaritte makes no attempt to hide as a narrator. She shows her vulnerability in the midst of her strength. She struggles through difficult situations and decisions and along the way, she drew me into her life completely. It reminded me a lot of Gabi, A Girl in Pieces and Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kiss Your Ass in that these three young women have voices that will ring in my head for a long time to come. They also share realities that perhaps some people want to ignore. They are realities though, that many young adults may be experiencing.

Reading the summary, it is clear that poverty, drugs, and the many difficulties that surround those things permeate this story. It’s also a book that takes on identity, class, addictions, violence, stereotypes and more, but this is not all readers see here. I also found hope, beauty, family ties, friendship, and strength. One aspect that stood out was Margaritte’s relationship with her cousin Jake. Some of their shared activities do lead to trouble, but they have each other’s back – always. Even after Margaritte’s mother was furious with Jake after a dangerous encounter she said, “He loves her, even if they are both screwing up their lives together.” There is no doubt that they make some poor choices, but they also hold each other up through the rough patches of life.

Beyond Jake, she has younger twin sisters that she loves and cares for, her mother and father and a small circle of friends. Within her group of friends, many have experienced or are in desperate situations and are looking for any way out through drugs, money, education or other dreams both realistic or fantastical. Loneliness, desperation and addictions lead to many poor decisions, but again, I saw that friendship, love, hope and inner strength also led to positive choices too.

Without totally spoiling things, I would say that not everyone that Margaritte loves is helpful or even safe to be around. She has so many things to navigate and she does this with her dry sense of humor. After someone asks about the black eye she is sporting, he says, “No one should hit someone with a face like yours.” Her instant response is, “No one should hit someone with a face.”

In the publishers summary, the final sentence addresses another big plus for this book. It, “…shakes up cultural preconceptions of what it means to be Native American today.” There are so many ideas about what it means to be Native American and many of them are not even close to reality. In Crazy Horse’s Girlfriend, there are characters that show many faces of Native America and the majority do not live on a reservation. Margaritte’s family is Apache, Chickasaw, Cherokee and white. Her cousin Jake was adopted and is Nez Perce, Arapahoe, Cheyenne and Black. Megan and Will are from the Oglala reservation. There were characters involved that were from other Nations too. Not only are characters from different Nations, but there are other distinctions like religion, language, beliefs and priorities. It would be difficult to finish reading this book and have a single picture of Native Americans.

Recommendation: Buy it now for many reasons that I am not even sure I can communicate. Crazy Horse’s Girlfriend shares a deep look into life. There are no easy fixes or answers, but the people in this story are striving and enduring. Most are working towards a positive future even when things may look futile. This is certainly not a Disney movie, but it’s a story of strength and beauty.

Extra:

Reading from Crazy Horse’s Girlfriend in the Skylark. from Erika Wurth on Vimeo.

Two More Books in April

We found two more YA books by and/or about people of color for you this week. Be sure to check them both out!

Nobody's GoddessNobody’s Goddess (The Never Veil #1) by Amy McNulty
Month9Books

In a village of masked men, each loves only one woman and must follow the commands of his “goddess” without question. A woman may reject the only man who will love her if she pleases, but she will be alone forever. And a man must stay masked until his goddess returns his love—and if she can’t or won’t, he remains masked forever.

Where the rest of her village celebrates this mystery that binds men and women together, seventeen year old Noll is just done with it. She’s lost all her childhood friends as they’ve paired off, but the worst blow was when her closest companion, Jurij, finds his goddess in Noll’s own sister. Desperate to find a way to break this ancient spell, Noll instead discovers why no man has ever loved her: she is in fact the goddess of the mysterious lord of the village, a Byronic man who refuses to let Noll have her right as a woman to spurn him and who has the power to fight the curse. Thus begins a dangerous game between the two: the choice of woman versus the magic of man. And the stakes are no less than freedom and happiness, life and death—and neither Noll nor the veiled man is willing to lose.

newbirdEndangered by Lamar Giles
Harper Teen

The one secret she cares about keeping—her identity—is about to be exposed. Unless Lauren “Panda” Daniels—an anonymous photoblogger who specializes in busting classmates and teachers in compromising positions—plays along with her blackmailer’s little game of Dare or . . . Dare.

But when the game turns deadly, Panda doesn’t know what to do. And she may need to step out of the shadows to save herself . . . and everyone else on the Admirer’s hit list. – Cover image and summary via Goodreads

Book Review: None of the Above

NoneTitle: None of the Above
Author: I.W. Gregorio
Genres:  Contemporary, Realistic
Pages: 330
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Review Copy: ARC from publisher
Availability: In Bookstores now

Summary: 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 world completely unravels. With everything she thought she knew thrown into question, can she come to terms with her new self?

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.

Review:  Not knowing much about people who are intersex, I was very interested in I.W. Gregorio’s novel. Being that she is a doctor, I trusted Gregorio to get everything right and to help the reader learn more about people who are intersex, but I also wondered if the novel could end up being an information dump. Turns out I was very wrong. None of the Above is a compelling novel that moved me, yet informed me at the same time. Not once did I feel like a voyeur, “watching” someone’s life who was very different from me. Instead, I was drawn into Kristin’s story and truly traveled on the emotional roller coaster she was on after she learned about her condition.

As Kristin learns about being intersex, so does the reader, but at no point does it feel like an info dump. We’re with Kristin as her doctor explains her condition, as she finds an online support group, as her father goes research crazy about the condition (what parent wouldn’t), and as she befriends a young woman who is also intersex. The information parts of the novel were spaced out just enough between the narrative bits of Kristin’s story that it didn’t feel burdensome. Gregorio also includes the case of the South African runner, Caster Semenya, to help the reader make a real world connection to what being intersex is. In fact, Semenya’s story helps Kristin figure out her new identity because Kristin is a track athlete herself. The sharing of Semenya’s story is actually a nice moment between Kristin and her father, of how much her father loves her, as he’s spending time researching Semenya and her story, wanting to help his daughter get back on the track team. This scene was a wonderful example of a loving parent-child relationship that is not often shown in YA fiction, and a perfect example of how Gregorio incorporated info about being intersex while still telling Kristin’s story.

The heart of any excellent story is a character that the reader can connect with and I really connected with Kristin. She has what seems like the “perfect” life, when suddenly she is thrown a curveball that essentially gives her an identity crisis. And that is where I felt for Kristin the most. The teenage years are all about self discovery and Kristin thinks she has it almost figured out, then she learns she’s intersex. Imagine having to basically re-think your own identity at the time you are trying to find your true self. How would you deal? And that is what makes Gregorio’s novel so good. Kristin doesn’t deal with it well at all, especially as someone she trusted betrays her and informs the entire school of her condition, but instead of getting it right, they think that she is Trans, so everyone thinks she is a boy trying to pass as a girl. The bullying Kristin receives from that is horrible, but very real. I like that Gregorio didn’t hold back or sugar coat the ugliness that Kristin experiences. It’s hurtful and painful, but very true to the story. Kristin reacts as any person would, which again I liked, because a normal person in Kristin’s situation wouldn’t be one to “fight the power” and rebel against her enemies. Kristin retreats into herself, and takes a medical leave from school. She works at becoming her old self again, and works at healing from the hurt her friends and her classmates caused. By the end, I was rooting for her as she came to understand her condition and tried to form a “revised” identity. She is unfinished at the end, and even though I did want more of the story, I felt like the ending was perfect. Life isn’t always a happy ending, but one where we learn from our troubles and use those as growth as we move through life. Gregorio’s ending was much like real life and I greatly appreciated it. In fact, when I was done, I sat with the book in my hands to stay the in moment of finishing an incredibly moving book.

Recommendation: Get this touching novel now!

Fun Fact: As I was writing this review, my computer kept auto-correcting intersex to interest. Shows how the concept of a person being intersex is not widely known.

Mini-review: The Grace of Kings

18952341Title: The Grace of Kings (The Dandelion Dynasty #1)
Author: Ken Liu
Genres: fantasy
Pages: 640
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Availability: April 7, 2015

Summary: Wily, charming Kuni Garu, a bandit, and stern, fearless Mata Zyndu, the son of a deposed duke, seem like polar opposites. Yet, in the uprising against the emperor, the two quickly become the best of friends after a series of adventures fighting against vast conscripted armies, silk-draped airships, soaring battle kites, conspiring goddesses, underwater boats, magical books, as a streetfighter-cum-general who takes her place as the greatest tactitian of the age. Once the emperor has been overthrown, however, they each find themselves the leader of separate factions—two sides with very different ideas about how the world should be run and the meaning of justice. [Image and summary via Goodreads]

Review: Even from the title, you know that The Grace of Kings is going to be something epic. Then you pick up the hefty book and read it — and, sure enough, you’re drawn into a whole other fantasy world. The fact that it’s not another thinly veiled version of medieval Europe is a breath of fresh air.

In The Grace of Kings, you follow the exploits of the bandit Kuni Garu as he gets caught up in uprisings and grand battles between factions. While the story takes a while to set the scene and get underway, once it does, it’s amazing. The scope of the tale is reminiscent of classics such as The Romance of the Three Kingdoms or Tale of Heike, while the detail and vivid characterization brings to mind everyday folk tales.

If an epic gamechanging fantasy (and silkpunk! how cool is that) is at all appealing to you, definitely read The Grace of Kings.

Recommendation: Buy it now! Seriously.

Further reading: Ken Liu Discusses Silkpunk and a New Aesthetic