George

24612624by Alex Gino
Children’s Lit
4 of 5 stars
Debut novel – August 25, 2015

This is such a good, much-needed book. It is all the moments of childhood–both important and inconsequential–seen through totally new eyes. George has known for a long time that she’s a girl, but the trouble is that nobody else does. Her mother sees Scott’s younger brother. Scott sees his confusing, probably gay younger brother. Kelly sees her best friend, the shy, quiet boy in her neighborhood. And the kids at school see someone to bully.

George has no idea how to tell her friends or family that all of her problems come from her identity until auditions come up for the school play, Charlotte’s Web. George desperately wants to play Charlotte–and if her teacher agrees to it, maybe this will help her tell her world who she really is. But when Kelly is given the part instead, George thinks she’s lost her chance for good.

This is an emotional middle-grade book about the daily struggle of transgender children and how a little kindness and acceptance can go so far. It’s a good intro for how to approach situations you might not think twice about, and the characters have decent depth for the length of the story. Definitely a step in the right direction for providing diverse books to young readers!

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, George is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s store website, here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • Luna by Julie Ann Peters – Probably the only other book I’ve read featuring a contemporary transgender character, and she isn’t the main character. However, it was still an interesting story about a family coping with a girl assuming her true identity.
  • Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm – Although not an LGBT story, this does feature children dealing with serious adult situations and how they can learn to cope with them. See my review here.
  • The Moorchild by Eloise Jarvis McGraw – A middle-grade fantasy novel about a changeling girl struggling to fit in with humans. This book is dedicated to “anyone who has ever felt different” and the themes of isolation and acceptance are just as loud here.
  • Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli – A classic YA tale about being true to yourself no matter what anyone says. The narrator reflects on his experience meeting Stargirl in high school and how he wishes he hadn’t caved to peer pressure.
  • The Keeper of the Isis Light by Monica Hughes – An older YA story about Olwen, the only human resident of the planet until human settlers arrive to colonize it. Olwen has lived a free-spirited life with only her pet and her guardian for company, but quickly finds that she is not at all what the colonists expected. This is a bittersweet story about prejudice.

Six of Crows

23437156by Leigh Bardugo
YA Fantasy
5 of 5 stars

I will do my best not to over-hype this book, but if you love YA fantasy, you need to read it. There’s no way around that. This is my pick for best book of 2015 – the deal is the deal! I will attempt to explain why this is true with limited hyperbole and gushing, but bear with me–this book is one hell of a ride!

I always say a 5-star rating is a book with zero complaints from me, and this one is no exception. The characters and the plot – both weighted equally, both bringing the two halves of a story together into a satisfying thrill ride of unforeseen twists and turns. So many times a complicated plot involves the awkward withholding of information from the reader and a deus ex machina escape from the jaws of death. Neither of these crutches is put into play here and the result is incredible. It’s cinematic and startling and addictive.

Normally having six point-of-view characters would throw up a huge red flag for me, but each member of this group of criminals has their own past, their own push-and-pull relationship with the Dregs, their own reasons for going along with the mad heist Kaz proposes. You care about all of them and each time a chapter ends and the next character takes over, there isn’t one that you want to skip. You don’t groan and say “I wish this chapter was so-and-so”–you are just as eager to see what they are thinking and doing. There is never that feeling of “oh, we are back with the author’s favorite character now, they get all the action and the good lines”–this group is a team of equals and you will love them all!

Perfect pacing, smart dialogue, air-tight plot, hold-your-breath action scenes, badass women, subtle romance, shifting alliances – check, check, check. It’s all here, and it’s amazing! Whether you read the Grisha Trilogy or not, this book takes her world to a whole new level. I spent a week enjoying this savory read and it will be in my end of year wrap-up for sure. I’m already looking forward to the sequel, Crooked Kingdom, due next September!

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Six of Crows is available on Goodreads and on Powell’s store website, here. Powell’s has several locations in Oregon, and is one of the largest independent bookstores in the country. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • Vicious by V.E. Schwab – Two college students, one thesis seeking the ultimate potential of humanity. Oh, the things that could go wrong and the rivalries that could emerge. This is a suspenseful read with ruthless characters. See my review here.
  • The Rose Society by Marie Lu – Adelina discovers the path to becoming her country’s most-feared Young Elite is complicated and filled with small choices. This is an excellent trilogy about the darkness in all of us. See my review here.
  • Uprooted by Naomi Novik – Until Six of Crows, the best fantasy novel I read this year. The magic feels real and the relationships between the characters are incredibly deep. There are some great surprises with the plot. I loved every page! See my review here.
  • Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas – For another story centered around revenge and schemes, the fourth installment in the Throne of Glass series does not disappoint! See my review here.
  • The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski – Kestrel’s delicate dance along both sides of a war gets more dangerous and complicated by the day. I loved the strategies and mind games in this novel. See my review here.
  • Rook by Sharon Cameron – A one-and-done story about espionage and alliances in a re-telling of The Scarlet Pimpernel. Sophia might be in over her head when it comes to covert activities and saving her family’s fortune. See my review here.

Gabi, A Girl in Pieces

20702546by Isabel Quintero
YA Contemporary
5 of 5 stars
Debut novel – October 14, 2014

My best friend rec’d me this book (an embarrassing 5 months ago) and I finally got my hands on it. I am so glad I did! This book actually made me cry (a rarity) and it is amazing! I’ve read my share of YA high school coming of age novels, but this is unlike any of them. I wish I had read this book when I was in high school.

I was a little nervous when I opened it and realized it’s Gabi’s story as told through her diary, but this format is actually perfect. We get all the ups and downs of Gabi’s high school experience–the stress of class, homework, and peers–but Gabi has so much more going on than the average angst-ridden white student at the center of most of the YA high school novels I’ve read. Her father is a meth addict, her best friend just found out she’s pregnant, and her other friend Sebastian needs a home because his parents kicked him out for being gay. She’s overweight, and constantly guilt-ridden by well-meaning but conservative relatives about what “good girls do” and how her appearance is paramount because otherwise she won’t get married. College? That’s for White sluts. And anyone else who can afford it.

Gabi’s frustrated, elated, and insightful entries chronicle how turbulent high school is, and how difficult it is to grow up in a world of contradictions. Her sharp observations regarding feminism (i.e. a female’s place in the world, body image, and social status) feel smart without being ahead of her age group. She is an honest protagonist that wins you over again with each day’s account of her life.

An additional nice surprise is her poetry. A few poems make it into her diary and these enhance her senior year in ways that surprised me. I don’t normally enjoy poetry (not that I’ve had much exposure to it since English classes) but these were good. The strength of this book is the open language of the writing. It reminds of Kaui Hart Hemmings’ work–strong thoughts and emotions packed into seemingly simplistic thoughts that anyone could have, if they ever stopped long enough to think. I can’t recommend this enough!

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Gabi, A Girl in Pieces is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s store website, here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • Juniors by Kaui Hart Hemmings – Speaking of her style in this review, her sparse, punchy writing is amazing, and Lea’s story of fitting in as the product of two cultures sounds similar to Gabi’s. It didn’t end up taking the direction I wanted, but you decide! See my review here.
  • Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell – I think of this as a quintessential high school coming of age story dealing with sexuality, race, and social class against the back drop of Typical American High School. See my review here.
  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie – Junior doesn’t want to end up like the adults on the Spokane Indian Reservation, so he makes the leap of attending the nearby all-white high school–whose mascot is an Indian. This is probably the closest match to Gabi’s story.
  • The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes – When Minnow escapes the Community the night it burns down, missing her both of her hands and key knowledge about the world outside of the cult, the bigger question is what she knows about the Prophet’s death. See my review here.
  • Born Confused by Tenuja Desai Hidier – Dimple Lala struggles with her identity as the child of traditional Indian parents who finds that India is a trendy stereotype at her high school. Add in being set up with a “suitable boy”–who might not be as suitable as her parents believe–and Dimple has a lot to figure out before she graduates.
  • Hour of the Bees by Lindsay Eagar – A Mexican American family in the southwest is getting ready to sell their family ranch. Carolina feels caught between her parents’ wishes and her grandfather Serge declaring that he doesn’t want to leave his home. Then the story he’s telling Carolina about the past seems to be more real than make-believe. See my review here.

Vicious

13638125by V.E. Schwab (Victoria Schwab)
Fantasy / Science Fiction
4 of 5 stars

This book blew up in my social media feeds a few months ago as if it just came out, but in actuality this is from 2013. The author recently sold a sequel to it, and I’m very excited about that! I wasn’t sure if this would be my cup of tea, but as it turns out I couldn’t put it down. Aside from a slight lull in tension about halfway through, I couldn’t wait to unravel the characters’ connections and see what happened next. This was like a superhero blockbuster movie with better dialogue and more planning. The writing is visual and sharp, and although I think some more time could have been spent on character development, I really don’t have anything to nitpick.

Victor Vale and Eli Cardale were college roommates with a penchant for scientific discovery and aspirations for greatness. When they decide to see if near death experiences could result in giving someone superhuman abilities, they immediately test their theory themselves–and find out they are right. But while Victor rejoices in learning that humans can be capable of so much more, Eli is convinced their abilities mark them as unnatural and against God. Obviously, when they can’t reconcile their opinions, mayhem ensues.

I went into this thinking that it was a villain’s origin story, but Victor and Eli are both painted in shades of gray, and this made it so much more enjoyable. Their interactions with everyone around them, whether normal or ExtraOrdinary, are riveting, as are the plans for their showdown. If anyone remembers the TV show “Heroes” (or this year’s reboot, “Heroes: Reborn”), this is what that show tries and fails to do–showcase people with unique abilities as they encounter obstacles to their existence. It’s just that unlike that show, this book is easy to follow. I highly recommend this and can’t wait for the sequel!

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Vicious is available on Goodreads and on Powell’s store website, here. Powell’s has several locations in Oregon, and is one of the largest independent bookstores in the country. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • The Young Elites by Marie Lu – When the blood fever sweeps through the continent, it leaves hundreds of marked children in its wake, and some of these children possess startling new powers. Adelina discovers her own when she runs away from her abusive father, and she is not going to let anyone else hurt her. See my review here.
  • The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon – In a world where clairvoyance is both rampant and illegal, Paige Mahoney navigates London’s underworld as she tries to assemble the voyants to fight back against the totalitarian regime. See my review here.
  • Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card – This does take the leap into space but it has a similar narrative style and it’s a suspenseful story about one boy finding out if he is destined to save the world–or hasten its destruction. See my review here.
  • The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski – Kestrel becomes trapped in the empire’s plots as she tries to both keep her father alive through the war and aid her lover’s country behind the emperor’s back. See my review here.

One Lovely Blog Award

blog awardI saw this award on Syc’s blog, The Lit Mermaid and I wanted to send the wave to some of my writing friends, because I think their blogs are quite lovely of course. To do that I figured I should write mine first and toss the ball onward, so here we go! (Be sure to check out Syc’s blog and all the other writers below!) 🙂

The Rules:

1. You must thank the person who nominated you and include a link to their blog.
2. You must list the rules and display the award.
3. You must add 7 facts about yourself.
4. You must nominate 5 other bloggers and comment on one of their posts to let them know they have been nominated.

Seven Facts About Me:

  1. Two years ago I conquered my fear of being underwater and spent a vacation snorkeling!
  2. My depth perception is terrible – I can’t go around a corner or through a doorway without bumping the edge. Tables and chairs too, I am guaranteed to get the corners right in the softest part of my side. Clearly my brain thinks I’m about 3 inches narrower than I really am (or have ever been).
  3. I hate walking barefoot across any kind of tile. Grout freaks me out. I feel like it’s never clean and can’t ever be clean because it’s the goo between what you are supposed to walk on, and nobody will change my mind about this.
  4. I never enjoyed math classes but 5 of my 6 jobs have been finance-related.
  5. My favorite weekends are the ones where we decided the night before to travel somewhere. There’s nothing like throwing a couple things in a bag that night and leaving at 6 am the next morning, no plans, no notes to anyone.
  6. Last year I went out to get blond highlights and came home with bright red hair instead, and it was just as fun as it sounds!
  7. When I was little I wanted to be an artist. My parents said there was no money in that. So then I said I wanted to be a writer. 🙂

My Nominees:

Erin

Maddy

Janella

Akshaya

Christine

Sunny Side Up

24612600by Jennifer L. Holm (author) and Matthew Holm (illustrator)
Children’s Lit
5 of 5 stars

This book. Is. Terrific. We found this on an end-cap during a bookstore event and made the best impulse buy of the year! This all-color children’s graphic novel set in 1976 addresses some surprisingly tough issues as 10-year-old Sunny spends a month with her grandpa in his retirement community. Sunny thought her family would take a beach vacation this summer, but it turns out she’s sent to her grandpa’s, alone, with nothing but old people and cats for company. But then she meets Buzz, who introduces her to comic books, and she begins to figure out why she’s with her grandpa, and that the reasons for her lack-luster summer aren’t her fault.

So much of this story is told not through dialogue, but through the art itself. It feels like an authentic preteen girl’s point-of-view, and there is humor and sadness in equal measure, much like Pixar’s film “Inside Out.” Sunny feels the invisibility of being a child, but her blunt questions come out at just the right times. The subtle commentary on feminism and comic book heroes is on point, and the characters come alive quickly. This is a semi-autobiographical story intended to help kids feel comfortable discussing their own feelings about serious family issues, and I think it achieves that. You can read it in an hour and it’s both funny and emotional. I loved this and could not recommend it more!

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Sunny Side Up is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s store website, here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • Smile by Raina Telgemeier – A harrowing story of 6th-grader Raina as she deals with an injury that requires multiple rounds of braces and finding out who her real friends are. This comes highly recommended, though I haven’t read it myself yet.
  • Coraline by Neil Gaiman – When Coraline’s family moves into a new house, she discovers a secret way to live the life she’s always dreamed of. But then the Other Parents want her to stay forever, and she has to find a way to save herself and her family.
  • The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick – This got some attention from the film adaptation (excellent) a few years ago. Hugo fixes his father’s old automaton and meets a famous film-maker through his new friend Isabelle. An interesting weave of original material with historical events, and fully illustrated.
  • How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell – A hilarious and touching account of Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III and his unconventional love of dragons. Hiccup recounts these adventures as an adult, complete with illustrations and commentary. The film varies greatly, but the original material is the entire basis of what you may already know and love.

The Rose Society

23846013by Marie Lu
YA Fantasy
5 of 5 stars
Review of advance uncorrected galley

Happy release day! In a stroke of luck, I found an advance copy of this book in a free little lending library at a coffee shop a few weeks ago! Book magic, indeed. I immediately grabbed The Young Elites, read that in a couple of days, and then went straight into this one. This series is one of my new favorites!

** Minor spoilers for The Young Elites **

Adelina’s journey is darker and if possible, more captivating in this installment. I couldn’t put this book down – we meet more Elites and learn about their intriguing powers as we watch Adelina’s personal goals shift and evolve. Pitting Adelina against Teren, Maeve, and Raffaele is a whirlwind of strategic battles and manipulation. To keep Adelina true to herself and yet empathetic to us is a difficult feat that Marie Lu has mastered. Her character arc has the feeling of inevitable destiny as well as the continued circumstantial push into choices between lesser evils. Adelina balances on a knife-edge and it is perfect. She is one of my favorite leading ladies now. But what makes this even better is that she is not alone! Maeve and Violetta battle Adelina’s will with their own, and the confrontations between these women are the most gripping. I will say every character is given clear-cut, logical reasons for their actions, and that is what makes this story so satisfying.

This action-packed sequel is a worthy follow-up to The Young Elites and the ending is just as much of a cliff-hanger, so brace yourself. I could read seven more of these books! The trilogy is scheduled to wrap up in 2016.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, The Rose Society is available on Goodreads and on Powell’s store website, here. Powell’s has several locations in Oregon, and is one of the largest independent bookstores in the country. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski – Another trilogy of court/political intrigue with high stakes and espionage. Kestrel matches wits with the emperor and Arin’s forces as she tries to reconcile the two halves of her heart. See my review here.
  • Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo – Alina Starkov’s powers are sought after by everyone she meets (the Darkling, a mercenary, and a band of religious rebels), but it’s time for her to decide what to do with them. This is an excellent trilogy to add to your list!
  • Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch – Meira has always known her destiny is to restore the conquered kingdom of Winter, but when she finally accepts her first rebel mission, it sets off a chain of events she never could have imagined. See my review here.
  • Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas – Spies, political intrigue, and magic abound in the fourth installment of the Throne of Glass series. Consider catching up on these while you wait for the final Young Elites book. See my review here.
  • Eon: Dragoneye Reborn by Alison Goodman – An older duology following Eon/Eona – the first (secretly) female dragoneye in a hundred years, as she tries to gain control of her dragon and keep the peace in the empire. Note that this book has come out from several publishers under various similar titles. See my review here.
  • Clariel by Garth Nix – The Abhorsen’s duty is to protect the Old Kingdom from the dead who won’t stay dead, but Clariel never wanted this responsibility. When it is forced upon her, she must decide to follow her heart’s desire or give up her dreams – or watch as her dreams change.
  • Vicious by V.E. Schwab – College roommates Eli and Victor accidentally discover a way to unlock every human’s potential for superhuman abilities. But they could not disagree more on what to do with this knowledge or what makes a hero and a villain. See my review here.
  • The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie – Cas is kidnapped by Pirate Queen Santa Elena to train a sea monster (reckoner) to defend her ship. This goes against everything Cas believes in, until pirate girl Swift comes along and makes her question everything. See my review here.

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