Want

32333174by Cindy Pon
Science Fiction
4 of 5 stars

Cindy Pon has been recommended to me many times and I’m so glad I finally grabbed one of her books! This was fun to read and balances a healthy push towards activism–particularly when it comes to climate change–with a tight plot and characters that feel like a version of you (you know, if you rode airborne motorcycles and could climb skyscrapers like a super-spy).

Jason Zhou and his group of friends live in futuristic Taipei, when pollution is so bad that the wealthy buy special suits to protect them from bad air and acid rain. Most people don’t have that luxury, and lifespans have shrunk to 40 years or less. With the help of his friends, Zhou infiltrates the wealthiest circle in the city, growing close to Daiyu, the daughter of Jin Corp’s CEO–the suit manufacturer worth billions. He hopes she will be the key to accessing Jin Corp’s secrets and shutting down the company from the inside. What he didn’t count on was falling for her.

This world is gritty and largely unpleasant, but Zhou’s undying love for his city is a bright spot in the darkness. (Literal darkness–the air is so polluted the sun is dim and the skies are brown). He has an interesting dynamic with his friends. They’ve known each other for years, yet he’s told none of them his real name. There’s a carefully cultivated distance rarely breached, yet they risk their lives for each other. It’s an interesting mirror to our friendships, when technology allows you to craft a persona and it can be difficult to allow any true intimacy.

Although this centers around people wearing protective suits and helmets and keeping all kind of barriers intact, this allows the blend of sensory details to flood your mind in ways they normally don’t. When Zhou is rock climbing, or gardening outside his secret apartment, or telling Daiyu about the rumored blue skies of the past, the imagery is compelling, wistful, and vulnerable.

This is a timely story and Zhou is the voice of everyone who feels frustrated and powerless. As he finds a path to creating change, you feel as if you can do the same.

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


Similar reads:

  • The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie – Cas has spent her whole life training Reckoner beasts to fight pirates in the NeoPacific, but her first solo trip goes horribly wrong. Pirate Queen Santa Elena captures Cas and orders her to train a stolen Reckoner for the pirates, under the watchful eye of Swift, a girl who seems to understand the darkest parts of Cas. See my review here.
  • Rebel Seoul by Axie Oh – This debut explore futuristic Korea through the eyes of Jaewon, a soldier commissioned to guard a girl in a test program for people given superhuman abilities. Jaewon will have to guard his heart as well as Tera if he wants to succeed–but success means choosing to support a regime that goes against everything his parents fought for.
  • A Long Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan – A sci-fi retelling of Sleeping Beauty. Rosalinda Fitzroy awakens from 62 years of stasis to find out her family is dead and she is the missing heiress to a global conglomerate. The acting CEO is not pleased to hear she was found, and Rosalinda must come to terms with her past if she is to survive the fight for her future.
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The Last Namsara

32667458by Kristen Ciccarelli
YA Fantasy
4 of 5 stars
Debut: October 3, 2017
*ARC review

I was eagerly awaiting this book the moment I heard the author was inspired by my favorite novel. At ALA I got my hands on an advanced reading copy and I could not be more excited!

Asha is the Iskari–the most-feared dragonslayer in the land. To atone for a terrible dragon attack when she was a child, Asha is determined to eradicate all dragons from their land, and the threat of the old stories along with them. But no matter how many heads she brings to the king, she is still set to marry the commandant, a man Asha despises and fears. Until her father makes a deal with her: bring him the head of the First Dragon, Kozu, and escape the betrothal. Asha only has six days, but she has never failed to kill a dragon she’s hunted.

The mythology of this world is addictive! I was most fascinated by the old stories that poisoned their tellers–for a story to eat a person from the inside out whether they speak or write it down kept my imagination up late into the night. Several of the stories are included in the book and I found myself wanting a bound copy of all of them. Of course, the dragons kept me enthralled! It is HARD to find good YA stories with dragons. I don’t know why. I would have loved even more of them, but their presence in this story always stole the show.

Asha’s journey was surprising to me and I’m interested to see what the next two books explore with the world and her place in it! I also hope to see more of Safire and Roa!

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


Similar reads:

  • The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley – This was the main comp for Namsara and it’s my favorite story ever. I am so blinded with love that I can’t see it clearly but it’s about a disgraced princess slaying dragons and trying to save her prince and her kingdom. See my review here.
  • Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey – Lessa is a kitchen slave harboring a plan for vengeance on those who killed her family and stole her land. But everything changes when she is selected to bond with the dragon queen, elevating her to leadership she has only dreamed of and forcing her to face a threat to the entire planet.
  • Eon by Alison Goodman – Eon has been training for years in magic and combat for the chance to become the next Dragoneye apprentice–the successor to bond with one of the twelve zodiacal dragons that governs the land. But Eon’s secret is that she is a 16-year-old girl, not a 12-year-old boy, and if this is discovered the penalty is death. See my review here.
  • Seraphina by Rachel Hartman – Seraphina is a talented musician with connections in the royal court. Yet she fears the discovery that she has more than diplomatic ties to the scientific geniuses that are the dragon ambassadors to humans. This is a complex, interesting world where dragons and magic must coexist with wary humans intent on preserving peace. See my review here.

Saints and Misfits

32333055by S.K. Ali
YA Contemporary
4 of 5 stars
Debut novel: June 13, 2017

This is a perfect depiction of high school–a YA book truly written for teens, and I loved it!

Janna Yusuf is an Indian-American hijabi teen trying to fit her identity into every part of her life while making the fewest waves. But when her best friend’s cousin assaults her, she must decide if she will be the one to expose him. He’s a saint in their community, and she’s the only one who knows he’s a monster.

This is a serious novel and a heavy read, but the writing is excellent. Janna’s stress and emotional turmoil is portrayed in big and small moments. Sometimes she lashes out, sometimes she makes a surprisingly compassionate decision, but she does everything while navigating her parents’ recent divorce, her brother’s courtship with the perfect Muslim girl, and her network of friends. She learns who to trust, and what her personal beliefs are, and what forms a solid faith and what does not. Her female friendships are the brightest and lowest points of the book and I loved how true that is to high school. There are feel-good moments in this story but it doesn’t sugarcoat anything either. I rec this to anyone who enjoys YA contemporary with more nuance and reflection.

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


Similar reads:

  • Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy – Ramona is as well-known in her small southern town for her blue hair as she is for being a lesbian. But her surety of her identity is tested when an old friend moves back and she discovers not everyone fits into a box. See my review here.
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas – Starr’s life comes under intense scrutiny from both her white high school and her black neighborhood when she witnesses the police shooting of her unarmed friend Khalil. See my review here.
  • You’re Welcome, Universe by Whitney Gardner – An art-filled story of friendship–and rivalry. When Julia is expelled and becomes the only Deaf girl in a mainstream school, she throws herself into her art even more. But she unwittingly stumbles into a turf war and must figure out who is trying to push her out. See my review here.
  • Our Own Private Universe by Robin Talley – Aki has always known she is bi. At least, she’s pretty sure, even though she’s only had boyfriends. But when she develops a crush on another girl during their Mexico mission trip, she finds herself putting her theory into practice as they deepen their secret relationship. But Christa doesn’t want to keep it a secret. See my review here.’
  • Gabi, A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero – Gabi is caught between two worlds, trying to please her traditional Mexican American family, and trying to fit in at school. Both worlds give her nothing but stress: college apps, one best friend coming out to his religious family, her pregnant sister, her father’s drug habit, and her mother’s constant advice to lose weight. Finding her voice through poetry might be the only way she survives. See my review here.

Goldenhand

23302838by Garth Nix
YA Fantasy
4 of 5 stars

I’ve been reading about the Old Kingdom since I was….12? Sabriel (remains a favorite), Lirael, Abhorsen and then Clariel the prequel and now this one, another chapter in Lirael’s story. I love this world, I love the characters, the magic–it feels as familiar to me as our world and returning for a new story is always a cozy feeling!

Lirael is trying to fit in with her newfound royal family and manage her duties as the Abhorsen-in-Waiting. She also has to adjust to her glowing, golden hand that Sam made her, and the loss of the Disreputable Dog. Sabriel and Touchstone go on holiday to enjoy the peace–which is of course when chaos returns. Ferin is trying to reach Lirael with a vital message from the north, and Nick is trying to reach Lirael about a Free Magic creature south of the Wall, and it takes some time for these events to be linked.

Although slower than some of the other books, I found the lead-in to the inevitable meeting between them all interesting, because we learn so much more about the Old Kingdom and its inhabitants, as well as about Charter Magic.

This hit all the sweet spots I expect for a continuation of a favorite series. Although the emphasis on romance was a bit disappointing, and I’ll always hope for more of Sabriel’s adventures, this was a satisfying, enjoyable read.

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


Similar reads:

  • The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman – A trilogy filled with dark magic and destiny. Lyra gets drawn into the political and religious fronts about to start a war for the freedom of human souls. It’s action-packed but thoughtful as Lyra grows up and faces her role in a prophecy that could change her world forever.
  • The Chronicles of Chrestomanci vol 1 by Diana Wynne Jones – The Chrestomanci is the nine-lived sorcerer responsible for keeping balance in the Twelve Related Worlds, but first he has to learn how that’s done. Especially if he can’t seem to do magic at all. These novellas are fun and imaginative like all of Jones’ work.
  • A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab – Kell is one of the last Antari, magicians that can travel between the four parallel worlds. Officially, he works for the king of Red London (where magic is vibrant and free) but unofficially, he smuggles objects between the worlds for those willing to pay. But when he accidentally smuggles a piece of Black London (which should be extinct) into Red London, all hell breaks loose across the four worlds. See my review here. See my review here.

Ramona Blue

31449227by Julie Murphy
YA Contemporary
4 of 5 stars

There was a lot of concern with the initial description of this book but to allay any fears of this being a “lesbian-turned-straight” book, it is most definitely not! So many of the harmful stereotypes are addressed on page and dismissed. And Ramona never renounces her attraction to girls or the idea that she might date other girls in the future.

Now that that’s out of the way!

Ramona survives each day one at a time. Her family’s trailer already requires Ramona to duck in doorways and the shower, and now it is more crowded with her pregnant sister’s deadbeat boyfriend. As her friends prepare for senior year and going to college, Ramona knows she will be left behind as she helps her sister with the baby and her father with the bills. She works several jobs after school and her own dreams (what dreams?) are last priority. Then her childhood friend Freddie returns with his grandparents, and they’re able to pick right back up. Sure, at six feet she’s taller than him now, and her hair is bright blue, and she’s one of only two out lesbians at their small-town Mississippi high school. But other than that, what has changed?

But as they start swimming together in the mornings and Freddie becomes a part of Ramona’s group of friends, they start to wonder if their feelings are more than friendship.

Ramona’s voice is so down to earth and wryly lovable as she deals with issues that most of her friends don’t have to think about. As she says, she doesn’t have to worry about what to be when she grows up–she grew up years ago. Allowing herself to love something like swimming feels indulgent. Not only does Ramona have to examine her attraction to Freddie, she has to decide whether her life is permanently tied to her sister’s choices. I really enjoyed it and all the questions it posed!

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


Similar reads:

  • Our Own Private Universe by Robin Talley – Aki has always known she is bi. At least, she’s pretty sure, even though she’s only had boyfriends. But when she develops a crush on another girl during their Mexico mission trip, she finds herself putting her theory into practice as they deepen their secret relationship. But Christa doesn’t want to keep it a secret. See my review here.
  • Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit by Jaye Robin Brown – Another take on Christian girls who are into girls. Jo’s dad is a pastor, and for years she has wanted to add an LGBTQ-friendly radio show to his extensive radio ministry. She might finally get her wish—if she can pretend to be straight for his new wife’s extended family, until she graduates high school. Sketchy, but fine, Jo agrees. And then she meets beautiful, funny, sensitive Mary Carlson. See my review here.
  • Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli – This came to me highly recommended and I loved it so much! Simon is not out to everyone, but that choice might disappear thanks to another student who threatens to expose Simon’s email correspondence with a boy named Blue. With great sarcasm and poise, Simon deals with blackmail and trying to discover the identity of the boy he loves. See my review here.

The Seafarer’s Kiss

32890474by Julia Ember
YA Fantasy
4 of 5 stars

This gorgeous cover caught my eye and since I love fairy tales I knew I had to check out this Little Mermaid retelling. It’s definitely the most interesting one I’ve found! I love all the Norse mythology and setting it in a completely different part of the world–and having the mermaid trying to win the heart of a fierce shield-maiden was refreshing. Fairy tales fascinate me because you can change so many components and yet still see the bones of the myth underneath.

Ersel has always wondered what adventures she could have on land, but she doesn’t meet a living human until she finds a scared girl named Ragna trapped on the ice after a shipwreck. Ragna is determined to have revenge on the men who kidnapped her and burned her village. Ersel wants to escape the oppressive rule of an isolationist king who insists that a mermaid’s value is linked to her fertility.

The two girls form a tentative friendship that hints at something more–until Ersel’s suitor catches them together and threatens to tell the king. Desperate to find Ragna and be with her on land, Ersel makes a bargain with the treacherous god of lies, Loki. Her wish threatens to destroy not only her hope of reuniting with Ragna, but her entire underwater community if she doesn’t discover a way to outwit the god.

This short book is so fast-paced! This world was so interesting to explore, especially Ersel’s life under the icebergs. The way the mermaids had to survive such intense cold was thought out! I wouldn’t have minded more time with these characters, but I still felt like they were all so fleshed out. Each of them had such intense desires and were so ruthless in going after what they wanted. Despite knowing the fairy tale, the game with the trickster god and the horrifyingly imaginative results had me wondering what would happen next.

Ersel and Ragna don’t have a lot of time to develop their relationship, yet there was a spark there that I’ve found true to life–when you find someone completely driven to achieve their dreams, it’s so attractive! That spark can grow quickly, and I wanted them to be together just to see what adventures they could have. They’re not “nice” girls but I wanted them to win!

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


Similar reads:

  • Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst – Denna’s betrothal has stretched on for years, but it’s finally time for her to meet and marry her husband. She just has to keep her affinity for fire magic a secret–and try not to fall for her fiance’s sister. See my review here.
  • The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie – Cas has spent her whole life training Reckoner beasts to fight pirates in the NeoPacific, but her first solo trip goes horribly wrong. Pirate Queen Santa Elena captures Cas and orders her to train a stolen Reckoner for the pirates, under the watchful eye of Swift, a girl who seems to understand the darkest parts of Cas. See my review here.
  • When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore – Lush prose that draws you into a small town filled with magic, secrets, and romance. Sam and Miel have been best friends their whole lives, but when the Bonner sisters decide they want the roses that grow from Miel’s wrists, protecting Miel could reveal all the secrets Sam and Miel have kept from each other and themselves. See my review here.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

15881by J.K. Rowling
Children’s Lit
4 of 5 stars

As a 13-year-old I just wanted Harry to make Dobby tell him the truth (I was pretty impatient as a kid!) but of course that wouldn’t be any fun! It’s so hard to be objective about these books…

Harry’s second year at Hogwarts is much darker than the first, with a mysterious monster attacking the students and petrifying them. Draco Malfoy is even more horrible in this book, and the mysterious Chamber of Secrets defies Hermione’s library researching skills. Harry is about to learn just how much the past repeats itself in the present (which feels more relevant now that I’m older). The themes of identity here are broken down from many angles–not just Harry’s fears about being a good fit for Slytherin. The students are learning what it means to be in different houses, what it means to Muggle-born or not, and if any of it truly matters. I like to think that Malfoy has some introspective moments off-page, but who can say. All we really know is that Lockhart is the only one who manages to leave this story less self-aware!

29241319Reading this again after a few years was so much fun! Harry is still adorably concerned about rule-following and making friends. He and Ron still do homework! Probably the weirdest magic in this book is Dumbledore keeping the school open while all these terrible things are happening.

The illustrations in the newest edition are charming though not as interesting as the first book’s adaptation. Admittedly, taking the whole series into account this one doesn’t rank as a favorite-favorite but it’s still magical!

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


Similar reads:

  • Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty – Serafina and her father secretly live in the basement of the Biltmore Mansion. When Serafina finds a creepy man with a Black Cloak sneaking around down there stealing visiting children, she’s determined to unmask him. See my review here.
  • Coraline by Neil Gaiman – Coraline’s family moves to a new house, and she has fun exploring it. Then she finds the Other Mother, who is determined to keep Coraline forever if Coraline can’t outsmart her trap.
  • Inkheart by Cornelia Funke – Meggie is an avid reader who learns her father is able to read aloud and bring characters from books into our world–and accidentally transport humans into novels.

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