June 21, 2018

Review: A Thousand Beginnings and Endings

36301029
A Thousand Beginnings and Endings by various authors (edited by Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman)
Grade: B-
Release date: June 26, 2018
An e-galley was provided by HarperCollins via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
Summary: Fifteen bestselling and acclaimed authors reimagine the folklore and mythology of East and South Asia in short stories that are by turns enchanting, heartbreaking, romantic, and passionate.

Compiled by We Need Diverse Books’s Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman, the authors included in this exquisite collection are: Renée Ahdieh, Sona Charaipotra, Preeti Chhibber, Roshani Chokshi, Aliette de Bodard, Melissa de la Cruz, Julie Kagawa, Rahul Kanakia, Lori M. Lee, E. C. Myers, Cindy Pon, Aisha Saeed, Shveta Thakrar, and Alyssa Wong.

A mountain loses her heart. Two sisters transform into birds to escape captivity. A young man learns the true meaning of sacrifice. A young woman takes up her mother’s mantle and leads the dead to their final resting place.

From fantasy to science fiction to contemporary, from romance to tales of revenge, these stories will beguile readers from start to finish. 

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: This boom of YA short story anthologies is producing some great stuff. I loved the idea of retold myths and folklore, especially stories I hadn't heard before. Don't get me wrong - I love a good fairytale retelling, but I'm tired of the same ones over and over again. So A Thousand Beginnings and Endings was fresh and interesting and entertaining. I appreciated hearing why each author chose to retell the legend they did. Now to break it down by story.

"Forbidden Fruit" by Roshani Chokshi
It almost worked for me but not quite. I think it was something about the beginning. 3.5 stars.

"Olivia's Table" by Alyssa Wong
Interesting and compelling, and I think it mostly wrapped up well for a short story. 4 out of 5 stars.

"Steel Skin" by Lori M. Lee
Interesting interpretation of the tale Lee chose to reinvent. I'm not big on sci-fi, though, so I didn't love it. 2 stars.

"Still Star-Crossed" by Sona Charaipotra
Interesting, and it kind of worked, but something wasn't quite right about the narration. I liked that there was enough space to develop the mother-daughter relationship and establish some settings. 3/5 stars.

"The Counting of Vermillion Beads" by Aliette de Bodard
It was fun to read how the author reinterpreted this tale. I do wish some details were a little more concrete, though. 3.5 stars.

"The Land of the Morning Calm" by E.C. Myers
Good blend of modern and legend. I think younger readers will easily open their imaginations to believe this story, at least for a few pages. 4 out of 5 stars.

"The Smile" by Aisha Saeed
I love Aisha's writing. I also appreciated what she explored in this story - is it really love if there is always fear of disappointment and punishment? 4.5 stars.

"Girls Who Twirl and Other Dangers" by Preeti Chhibber
Fun story about a holiday celebration, but the voice sounded very young. 3 out of 5 stars.

"Nothing into All" by Renee Ahdieh
Oh, I really liked this one. Charan was lovely, and the magic and the world were interesting. 5 stars.

"Spear Carrier" by Rahul Kanakia
I didn't like the voice, so I skimmed the first few pages and then skipped the rest. DNF.

"Code of Honor" by Melissa de la Cruz
Vampires just aren't my thing. The writing style was good, though. 3 stars.

"Bullet, Butterfly" by Elsie Chapman
Such a cool retelling that mostly worked for the short format. The side characters felt a little confusing and not fleshed out enough, though, so only 4 stars.

"Daughter of the Sun" by Shveta Thakrar
I probably would've liked this more when I was younger, but I'll give it 4 stars.

"The Crimson Cloak" by Cindy Pon
Beautiful and tender and a wonderful homage to the original. I didn't like how the main character spoke to readers, though. 4.5 stars.

"Eyes like Candlelight" by Julie Kagawa

Felt very much like a folktale. 3.5 stars.

Content warning: Some violence. Very little foul language. I'd feel comfortable giving this to middle schoolers.

The Verdict: A must-read.


Will I be adding this book to my library?: I don't think so, but I'm picky about what anthologies I own. 

June 19, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday: Books to Read by the Pool


This week, I tried to list books I haven't before for summer vacation reading. They're not all light, fluffy books, but they're definitely ones I'd read by the pool/lake/ocean or in a park this summer.

35791907
1. The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo

35485731
2. The Game Can't Love You Back by Karole Cozzo

36086513
3. Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed

35008814
4. Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson

31625048
5. Let's Talk About Love by Claire Kann

33275690
6. Foolish Hearts by Emma Mills

33602144
7. Not Now, Not Ever by Lily Anderson

18051352

30038963
9. Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson

28245707
10. Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde

31707102
11. And We're Off by Dana Schwartz

31078124
12. The Unlikelies by Carrie Firestone

25062038
13. Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert


What books do you think are great summer reads?

June 17, 2018

Rewind & Review #112


~It's been a busy two weeks! I've moved into my dorm and settled in there. My roommate is super nice, and I like the place okay.
~The internship is going well. I'm starting to figure things out better, and I'm making friends. The intern who sits next to me is so nice.
~Got to see my first Broadway show of the summer! Kelly came to visit, and we saw Waitress. I didn't entirely love the storyline, but the music was awesome and everyone sounded AMAZING.
~I finally met Morgan Matson at her launch event for Save the Date, and oh my gosh, she was so lovely and amazing. I hope someday I'll have her confidence and poise.
~I've found my new favorite coffee shop and went there to write the last two Fridays. If y'all are ever in New York, you should try Maman. They have a couple locations downtown and they're so cute and perfect for millennials. 

Books I Received for Review
The Girl King by Mimi Yu (from Bloomsbury)

Books I Won/Traded for/was Gifted
Sadie by Courtney Summers
Little White Lies by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (traded with Kelly)
Even the Darkest Stars by Heather Fawcett (traded with Erin)
96 Words for Love by Rachel Roy and and Ava Dash (gifted by Jaime)

Books I Bought
Save the Date by Morgan Matson
The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall
The Call of the Wild by Jack London

Books I Read
Ellie, Engineer: The Next Level by Jackson Pearce (3 stars)
Breakout by Kate Messner (4 stars)
Save the Date by Morgan Matson (4 stars)
Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas (reread)
Final Draft by Riley Redgate
Tough Mothers by Jason Porath (3 stars)
Unicorn Princesses 8: Feather's Flight by Emily Bliss (3 stars)
Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas (reread)
Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson (reread)
All the Real Indians Died Off by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz and Dina Gilio-Whitaker (3 stars)
Listen to Your Heart by Kasie West (4.5 stars)

Blog Posts You Might've Missed in the Last Few Weeks
   (from 6/4-6/9)
   (from 6/10-6/16)

June 16, 2018

Review: My Plain Jane

36301023
My Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows
Grade: B
Release date: June 26, 2018
An e-galley was provided by HarperCollins via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
Summary: You may think you know the story. After a miserable childhood, penniless orphan Jane Eyre embarks on a new life as a governess at Thornfield Hall. There, she meets one dark, brooding Mr. Rochester. Despite their significant age gap (!) and his uneven temper (!!), they fall in love—and, Reader, she marries him. (!!!)

Or does she?

Prepare for an adventure of Gothic proportions, in which all is not as it seems, a certain gentleman is hiding more than skeletons in his closets, and one orphan Jane Eyre, aspiring author Charlotte Brontë, and supernatural investigator Alexander Blackwood are about to be drawn together on the most epic ghost hunt this side of Wuthering Heights.
 

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: My Plain Jane is the follow-up to My Lady Jane, a rewrite of Lady Jane Grey's story. This time the Lady Janies are remixing Charlotte Bronte's and Jane Eyre's stories. Once again, there are three point-of-view characters: Jane, Charlotte, and Alexander Blackwood. All of their voices generally worked for me. Jane's voice was a little young at times. And, to be honest, I enjoyed Charlotte and Alexander's chapters best. 
The beginning of the novel was a bit slow, and the ghost thing threw me for a loop. At first, I was unsure if I'd enjoy MPJ as well as MLJ. But I did appreciate the twists in Jane's and Charlotte's stories, especially because Jane Eyre is squicky as heck. Also, I shipped Charlotte and Alexander from very early on, haha. 
I think I would've liked a little more of Charlotte's sisters in her story? But maybe the Lady Janies could give Emily and Anne the attention they deserve in a different novel after the final Lady Janies book about Calamity Jane.

Content warning: Violence is probably the worst offender. There's also spirit possession by ghosts, which got a little weird and might be scary for younger readers who like to venture into YA.

The Verdict: So much fun. (Plus there's at least one Princess Bride reference.)


Will I be adding this book to my library?: Absolutely.

June 15, 2018

Eighteen 2018 Reads Check-In

I'm starting to feel like I've lost my touch. The first year I did this post series (2015), I had pretty good results. I didn't love everything but I liked most of the books I'd chosen. But I've been slipping since then. I've taken loads of my choices from the last few years off my TBR after reading only a chapter or two, and finished others that were complete let-downs. But I still wanted to give y'all an update, and I'll do the final post in December as usual.
(FYI, some of the links below go to Goodreads; others go to my review of the book, if I had that opportunity.)


READ AND LOVED/LIKED

American Panda by Gloria Chao (4 stars)
Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian (4 stars)
The Beloved Wild by Melissa Ostrom (4 stars)
Dread Nation by Justina Ireland (4 stars)
Love, Hate & Other Filters by Samira Ahmed (4 stars)
Love, Life, and the List by Kasie West (4 stars)
My Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows (4 stars)
The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevado (4 stars)
The Radical Element by various authors (3.75 stars)
Save the Date by Morgan Matson (4 stars)
Stay Sweet by Siobhan Vivian (4 stars)
Together at Midnight by Jennifer Castle (4 stars)
Your Destination Is on the Left by Lauren Spieller (3.5 stars)


READ AND WAS NEUTRAL ABOUT

The Ambrose Deception by Emily Ecton (3 stars)
Now a Major Motion Picture by Cori McCarthy (3 stars)
You'll Miss Me When I'm Gone by Rachel Lynn Solomon (3.5 stars)


READ AND DISLIKED

A Date With Darcy by Tiffany Schmidt (DNF)
Furyborn by Claire Legrand (2 stars)
Nice Try, Jane Sinner by Lianne Oelke (1 star)


REMOVED FROM TBR
(the majority of which I lost interest in or tried a few chapters and didn't like)

The Forgotten Book by Mechtild Glaser
Gunslinger Girl by Lyndsay Ely
The Harper Effect by Taryn Bashford (due to bad author behavior)
Ink, Iron, and Glass by Gwendolyn Clare
Layover by Amy Andelson and Emily Meyer (due to poor reviews)
The Midnights by Sarah Nicole Smetana
The Place Between Breaths by An Na
Summer Constellations by Alisha Sevigny
The Way the Light Bends by Cordelia Jensen (I realized I really couldn't do a verse novel)


STILL NEED TO READ

Always Never Yours by Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka
The History of Jane Doe by Michael Belanger
The Length of a String by Elissa Brent Weissman
Listen to Your Heart by Kasie West
Love & Luck by Jenna Evans Welch
Nothing Happened by Molly Booth
Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young


YET TO RELEASE IN 2018

Not the Girls You're Looking For by Aminah Mae Safi (6/19)
Letting Go of Gravity by Meg Leder (7/17)
Resistance by Jennifer A. Nielsen (8/28)
Dare You to Lie by Amber Lynn Natusch (9/4)
Rule by Ellen Goodlett (9/11)
Blanca & Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore (10/9)
The Light Between Worlds by Laura E. Weymouth (10/23)
The Resolutions by Mia Garcia (11/13)
Love à la Mode by Stephanie Kate Strohm (11/27)


PUSHED BACK TO 2019
[A lot of my choices got pushed back. D:]

The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee
Semper Augustus by Mackenzi Lee
A Court of Miracles by Kester Grant
Night Music by Jenn Marie Thorne
The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi (1/15/19)
The Field Guide to the North American Teenager by Ben Philippe (1/22/19)
Courting Darkness by Robin LaFevers (2/5/19)
Dark of the West by Joanna Hathaway (2/5/19)
Comics Will Break Your Heart by Faith Erin Hicks (2/12/19)
Never-Contented Things by Sarah Porter (3/19/19)


Here's hoping all the ones I have yet to read won't let me down... I am grateful that I did enjoy a big chunk of these books, but I'm still disappointed that I didn't like most of them.

June 13, 2018

Review: Final Draft

35960813
Final Draft by Riley Redgate
Grade: C-
An e-galley was provided by Abrams Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Summary: The only sort of risk 18-year-old Laila Piedra enjoys is the peril she writes for the characters in her stories: epic sci-fi worlds full of quests, forbidden love, and robots. Her creative writing teacher has always told her she has a special talent. But three months before her graduation, he's suddenly replaced—by Nadiya Nazarenko, a Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist who is sadistically critical and perpetually unimpressed.

At first, Nazarenko’s eccentric assignments seem absurd. But before long, Laila grows obsessed with gaining the woman’s approval. Soon Laila is pushing herself far from her comfort zone, discovering the psychedelic highs and perilous lows of nightlife, temporary flings, and instability. Dr. Nazarenko has led Laila to believe that she must choose between perfection and sanity—but rejecting her all-powerful mentor may be the only way for Laila to thrive.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: After quite enjoying Redgate's Noteworthy, her latest title, Final Draft, was a bit of a let-down.
Although this shouldn't impact anything, Final Draft is shorter than most YA books (only 272 pages). The pacing of the book definitely felt off, though. None of the catalyst-type events felt significant enough to me, and I didn't feel there was enough to keep moving the story along.
The main friendships mostly felt weird. Laila's friendships with the guys, Felix and Leo, didn't ever feel developed. Laila and Hannah's relationship felt a little more solid, but they felt like separate characters that never needed each other like friends do.
The writing scenes didn't seem as impactful as I expected, and yeah, the creative writing sub pushed the students in good ways, but I also think Laila thought of her better than she deserved, considering the woman was teaching high school students and being way too brutal and unhelpful.
There were a few tiny scenes about Laila being Ecuadorian, which I really liked! 

Content warning: Some foul language, including f-bombs. 

The Verdict: Disappointing.


Will I be adding this book to my library?: No.

June 11, 2018

So You Like... #69

If you're looking for something a little different, this recommendation post is for you. So you like...


BOOKS WITH DIFFERENT FORMS OF NARRATION
(i.e., where the story isn't told entirely through standard prose)


31931941
(Eliza's web comic)


26114524
(lots of text messages!)


30312700
(online messages)


35495083
(journal pages and more)


33294200
(novel in verse)


24974996
(letters and script-like dialogue)


25528808
(emails, decrees, and more between the sections of prose)



What books do you like best that are told in an unusual format?

June 8, 2018

Random Friday: Favorite Classic Novels


Want to participate in Random Fridays? Just do the following:
  • Include the above image in your post and link back to my blog.
  • Blog about this week's topic (or a variant of it).
  • Add the link to your Random Friday post at the bottom of this one.

Sometimes the classics are actually as good as everyone says. So I'm giving myself and y'all an opportunity to talk about our favorites.

135847921358479317465750
I think my enjoyment is augmented by movie and web series adaptations and Tumblr interpretations, but the characters are still compelling.

2657
4. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
One of the few books I read for school and actively enjoyed.

16000365
5. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
I loved this as a child.

15824390
6. Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
Once you get past the unnecessary historical descriptions and the like, this massive tome is actually pretty good! It wouldn't be such an awesome musical if there wasn't something good about the source material.

18051121
7. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
Loved it as a kid, went through a phase where I vehemently disliked it for some reason, and now I'm back to loving it (thanks to Green Gables Fables and Jonathan Crombie, primarily).

22064184
8. Betsy-Tacy series by Maud Hart Lovelace
Such a childhood favorite.

28475861
9. Dubliners by James Joyce
Thanks, Dr. Strait.


So I wanna know - what are your favorite classics??


June 6, 2018

Nineteen More 2019 Reads

Time for my second and last round-up of (hopefully) 2019 releases that I'm stoked for. Get ready for lots of book hype!


1. I Wanna Be Where You Are by Kristina Forest
Ballerina stories are getting kind of old...but not when the protagonists are women of color. Plus there's a road trip involved. What more could I ask for?


2. Summer of a Thousand Pies by Margaret Dilloway
 I am always here for baking...plus the main character is a Great British Bake Off fan!


3. Dangerous Alliance by Jennieke Cohen
Historical fiction plus Jane Austen? Yes please!!


4. The Devouring Gray by Christine Lynn Herman
The Goodreads blurb for this one is still pretty short, but it says "for fans of Stranger Things and The Raven Boys" so sign me up.


5. A Match Made in Mehendi by Nandini Bajpai
I don't know if my Slytherin-ness hides it, but I adore rom-coms, and A Match Made in Mehendi sounds like the perfect one.


6. In the Neighborhood of True by Susan Kaplan Carlton
This one's been on my radar since December, and I needed it, like, yesterday. It's non-Holocaust historical fiction about a Jewish girl, which we always need more of.


7. The Blood of Stars by Elizabeth Lim
Non-European fantasy is on the rise, and for good reason. This one especially sounds excellent cause who doesn't want a book about fashion and adventure?


8. Reconnected by Catherine Tinker
I'm extremely biased when it comes to this book, but it's my blog, so I can do what I want.

Basically, it's a contemporary Persuasion retelling by one of my best writer friends, and I read an earlier draft of it on Swoon Reads, and it was already excellent then, so I can't wait to read it after more edits.
(Note: That is not the final cover; it's the one Catherine used when the book was available on Swoon Reads, but it's so darn cute, I couldn't help but use it.)


9. She's the Worst by Lauren Spieller
Anything pitched as "____ meets Ferris Bueller" is already a win in my book.


10. The Weight of Our Sky by Hanna Alkaf
My favorite type of historical fiction, I think, is the kind that touches on events we don't talk about enough. Since The Weight of Our Sky is about the Chinese and Malay riots of 1969, it seems to be right up my alley.

11. Cacophony by Kelly Powell
Historical murder mystery set around a lighthouse? Yes please.

12. The Never Tilting World by Rin Chupeco
The world in this story sounds so ridiculously cool. It's been split in two and ruled by two vastly different goddesses.

13. The Raven's Tale by Cat Winters
YA historical fic about Edgar Allan Poe!



14. Enchantée by Gita Trelease
15. An Affair of Poisons by Addie Thorley
I paired these two together because they're French historical fiction (albeit, one is during the time of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, and the other is during Louis XIV's reign). But don't they sound opulent, lush, and fun?



16. Untitled by Morgan Parker
Listen, this one doesn't even have a title yet, so that should tell you how hype I am. I'm really looking forward to how the themes of depression and race are explored.

17. I Love You So Mochi by Sarah Kuhn
This. Sounds. So. Cute!!!

18. Nira Paints the Sky in B-Flat by Natasha Deen
I was just asking recently for YA protagonists who play an instrument other than guitar, and Natasha Deen is delivering with a heroine who plays the trumpet.

19. Sick Kids in Love by Hannah Moskowitz
This sounds so cute (and also like it'll break my heart into a thousand pieces).


So there you have it! The last of my nineteen 2019 reads. I'll be checking in on my eighteen 2018 reads in a few weeks, and then we'll have to wait and see how my thirty-eight 2019 reads fare.

June 4, 2018

DNF Review: The Bird and the Blade

32702487
The Bird and the Blade by Megan Bannen
Grade: DNF
Release date: June 5, 2018
An e-galley was provided by HarperCollins via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
Summary: As a slave in the Kipchak Khanate, Jinghua has lost everything: her home, her family, her freedom … until she finds herself an unlikely conspirator in the escape of Prince Khalaf and his irascible father as they flee from their enemies across the vast Mongol Empire. On the run, with adversaries on all sides and an endless journey ahead, Jinghua hatches a scheme to use the Kipchaks’ exile to return home, a plan that becomes increasingly fraught as her feelings for Khalaf evolve into a hopeless love.

Jinghua’s already dicey prospects take a downward turn when Khalaf seeks to restore his kingdom by forging a marriage alliance with Turandokht, the daughter of the Great Khan. As beautiful as she is cunning, Turandokht requires all potential suitors to solve three impossible riddles to win her hand—and if they fail, they die.

Jinghua has kept her own counsel well, but with Khalaf’s kingdom—and his very life—on the line, she must reconcile the hard truth of her past with her love for a boy who has no idea what she’s capable of ... even if it means losing him to the girl who’d sooner take his life than his heart.


When did I stop reading: About 20% into my e-galley.
Why did I stop reading?: I wasn't connecting with the narrative. I was also having trouble keeping characters straight. The author also should have picked one timeline and stuck to it. It was annoying to have a flashback, then a jump forward, then go back and stay with the time of the flashback.

The Verdict: A lot of people will enjoy this story, and I hope they will! Maybe I'll give it another try some day.

Update: Since writing this review, I've heard from an own-voices reviewer that, spoiler alert, the Chinese heroine dies by suicide for a love interest. That is nothing something I wish to promote, especially since the book is written by a white author. I cannot in good conscience recommend this book to anyone, so I won't be giving The Bird and the Blade another try, and I implore you not to either.