June Reads – End of Month Wrap-Up

Hello, fellow book junkies! June was a fantastic month for reading. Not that there were 5-star books across the board–actually, there was only one– but I sure enjoyed the literary ride.

MAGICAL FANTASY WORLDS:

Uprooted by Naomi Novik
Adult Fantasy, 438 pp. 5/5 stars

I fell madly in like with protagonist Agnieszka, a wild heroine with a heart of gold. Yes, Agnieszka is a young adult character but–fair warning–the writing is not.

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Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton
YA Fantasy-Middle East, 306 pp. 4/5 stars

The mythical creatures in this book are so, so good. Sure, Act Two had pacing issues, but the ending was epic and set the stage for a fantastic book two, which I’m super pumped to read. The next book in the series is tentatively titled Traitor to the Throne and is supposed to be released March 2017. Nine months to go, just like a baby. 🙂

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HISTORICAL POLITICAL INTRIGUE:

And I Darken by Kiersten White – Netgalley ARC
YA Historical Fiction (not fantasy), 496 pp. 4/5 stars

A bold new character has entered the YA arena and her name is Lada Dragwlya. I cannot wait to see where Kiersten White takes this series. See my review of And I Darken here.

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A TRIP TO PARANORMAL ROARING ’20s:

Lair of Dreams (The Diviners #2) by Libba Bray
YA Paranormal-Historical Fiction, 613 pp., 4/5 stars

Libba Bray is an architect of a writer who deftly weaves together multiple story lines featuring tons of characters without confusing the reader. Lair of Dreams made me laugh out loud and also cower in terror (in a good way?) Descriptive passages, while masterfully written, went on a bit long at times. I highly recommend listening to the the audio version of this book; narrator January LaVoy is super talented–she voices every kind of accent, different genders, and even sings beautifully.

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MIND-BLOWING ALTERNATE DIMENSIONS:

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North
Adult Speculative, 403 pp., 4/5 stars

Author Claire North is all kinds of smart–only a brilliant mind could come up with the very believable but far-out concepts proposed in this book. Protagonist Harry August has the ability to relive his life many, many times over. With each rebirth, he gets to know other people with the same ability, and they pass along messages to each other through time. They can also alter events. If Harry of the analytical mind had been a bit more sympathetic this would have been a 5-star read.
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A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray
YA SciFi/Romance, 360 pp., 4/5 stars

I was thrilled to finally hold a hard copy of this book in my hands so I could get a good, close look at what may be one of the all-time most beautiful YA covers. Marguerite, the only artist in a family of genius scientists, travels through different dimensions to find her father’s killer. In each dimension, Marguerite experiences an alternate version of her life. In one dimension, the Russian Romanov royal family was not murdered in 1918, and as a Romanov descendant Marguerite still lives in modern-day Russia as a princess. I could have stayed in that dimension for the entire book. It was so good! The romance aspect of the story was fine except for the love triangle.

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ART AND LAUGHTER IN AUSTRALIA:

The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl by Melissa Keil
YA Coming-of-Age, 295 pp., 3.5/5 stars

Funny story with a unique POV, set in a small Australian town. Check out my review here.

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TEARS IN TENNESSEE:

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner
YA Contemporary, 384 pp., 4.5/5 stars

Writer Jeff Zenter THREW DOWN with a strong debut. The Serpent King was about friendship, boys standing up to dad issues, teens taking emotional risks, plus nice, nuanced descriptions that made you feel you were walking alongside the characters in Tennessee. Lydia, one of the three central characters, was unique and entertaining but might have crossed the line into Manic Pixie Dream Girl territory. If you’ve read the book, I’d love to hear your thoughts on that–reality checks are good.

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AND BOOKS THAT MAKE YOU THINK:

The Day We are Born by Philippa Cameron
YA Contemporary-Mental Health, 210 pp.

I fell hard for the evocative title. The Day We are Born was well written and started out nice and voice-y, but then the promising story got hijacked by pamphlet-style education about depression.

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The Light Fantastic by Sarah Combs
YA Contemporary, 320 pp., 4/5 stars
Expected pub. date: 9/13/16

This book gets you thinking. Lots of emotion and a dreamy writing style. I reviewed it  here.

— Eve Messenger

 

 

 

ARC Review: The Light Fantastic by Sarah Combs

Light Fantastic by Sarah Combs

Hello, fellow book junkies! I’ve been reading, writing and working a lot, plus I came down with a terrible stomach bug this week, so blogging and social media had to take a back seat. I’m back now! Isn’t it such a great feeling when, after you’ve been terribly sick, you finally feel better?

I wanted to share with you about an ARC I recently read. The Light Fantastic by Sarah Combs is slated to be published in September of this year, and it had some of the finest writing I’ve ever read in YA. The topic it explores is one I typically avoid: high school mass shootings. I freely admit that when it comes to fiction I tend to stick my head in the sand and not read about issues that already feel so upsetting in the real world. However, I’m glad I decided to read this book.

Here’s my review:

THE LIGHT FANTASTIC by Sarah Combs – YA Contemporary, 320 pp.

Sarah Combs’ writing style has a poetic, stream of consciousness feel to it, like a river flowing through the minds of one character to the next, building an atmospheric exploration of what moves teens to engage in mass violence. The topic is terrifying, but this is not a blood and guts story. The story swirls around the collective human heart.

The writing is pretty much brilliant throughout. Some examples:

“The sky! How huge it is, how opposite a thing from the narrowing that has become her life.”

“She loves to laugh at her own First World problems even as she is wallowing in them.”

The Light Fantastic also masterfully touches on the close, even psychic, connection sisters can have.

The story’s weakness is in the looseness of the plot. At times, the narrative dwells too long inside a POV character’s head and begs to be stepped up to the next level through action or dialogue. The main character April has hyperthymesia, meaning she can recall in perfect detail every event connected with her life. As intriguing a trait as this is, April’s gift/curse quickly becomes an excuse to overload the plot with backstory.

Nonetheless, The Light Fantastic is a powerful story. For myriad reasons—cruelty from peers, mental illness, dropping into the rabbit hole of the internet—a person can lose touch with their humanity to the point where they think it is acceptable, even necessary, to engage in mass murder. This book serves as a reminder to us all to connect with other people IN REAL LIFE, to be the one to say something genuine and kind to acknowledge another person as a living, breathing, feeling human being. You never know what difference your words might make, not only in that person’s life but in the lives of others who, perhaps, that person might not decide to kill.

–Eve Messenger

Happy & Confused April Reading #amreading

April 2016 Reads

This month I got to go all over the place in books. Just looking at the graphic of the ten books I read in April makes happy and maybe just a bit confused. While there was definitely a YA fantasy slant to my reading selections (no big surprise there), I think this month each book ended up being from a different genre.

Consider by Kristy Acevedo-I kicked off April with a bit of YA sci-fi. Intriguing concept, shocker ending.

What We Need to Survive by Elena Johansen – My writer-blogger friend Elena published an adult post-apocalyptic romance that I just had to read. Her writing is flawless.

The First Time She Drowned by Kerry Kletter – This YA contemporary blew me away with its beautiful writing and All. Of. The. Feels. I posted a review of it here.

Captain Marvel Further, Faster, More vol. 1-6 Higher by DeConnick & Lopez-Another recommendation from Carolyn @ A Hundred Thousand Stories that I adored, this (graphic novel? comic book?) series predominantly features females in the lead roles, including of course Carol Danvers as Captain Marvel. Excellent writing by DeConnick and beautiful artwork by David Lopez. Now I’m off to read Ms. Marvel. . .

The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou-At last I sat down and read a collection of poetry by the modern goddess of poetry herself, Maya Angelou. She wrote deep, musical, personal poetry that does what poetry should–makes us see the world as very big and very small all at the same time and makes us think.

Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor-An outstanding YA urban fantasy. I liked the dark, imaginative story and the atmospheric Prague setting. From all the things I’d heard about it,  I expected the writing to be transcendent, which finally started happening on page 174. This story went to a place that, well–no spoilers–but what an ending.

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld – I finally got around to reading this hugely famous book and had a fun time. Mixing things up with a bit of  YA dystopia every once in a while is a good thing.

The Uninvited by Cat Winters – YA paranormal. I’m always up for a story about ghosts, and I liked the historical setting of WW-I , flu-epidemic era small-town America, but this turned into a romance right away, which is not my favorite genre.

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman – Adult urban fantasy. I read this as an audio book and, as someone who swore long ago never, ever to commute to work again, listening to it during my short ride to work and during errands took an excruciatingly long time. Five weeks, to be exact. I finally broke down, found a PDF of Neverwhere online, read the last 30 pages (with my eyes, not my ears), and enjoyed the book so much more. Also, an interesting thing happens when I read Neil Gaiman’s writing–it almost instantly makes me a better writer. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? But it’s really true!

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi- Yay, this highly anticipated YA Indian fantasy finally arrived! Thanks to Amazon, I received it on the release date, April 26, and read it in two days.Gorgeous imagery, poetic prose.

Happy reading! Did you have a crazy, mixed-up genre of a reading month, too?

–Eve Messenger

Devastating & Beautiful – The First Time She Drowned

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The First Time She Drowned is the first book I’ve read in a long time that kept me up until the wee hours of the morning. I couldn’t put it down. It drew me in with some of the most beautiful prose of any YA book I’ve ever read, and the plot is structured in such  a way that it keeps you guessing all the way through. Pretty clear clues are given early on as to a pivotal event in Cassie’s life, so the revelation isn’t a big surprise and it doesn’t need to be.

Written by former Hollywood actress Kerry Kletter, The First time She Drowned is a brilliant YA contemporary debut novel, but be warned that the protagonist Cassie endures genuine cruelty, the kind of cruelty that may be devastatingly familiar to you, the kind that may cause you to have to process the feelings it evokes. Too often, books exploit traumatic experiences for the sake of compelling plot lines. This book doesn’t do that. The First Time She Drowned doesn’t exist to aggravate old wounds; it gets blood flowing to emotional injuries so we can heal.

Rating: 5 stars

–Eve Messenger