What’s new this month

Happy new year! Here’s what I’m looking forward to this month:

209833661/3 – Wayfarer – by Alexandra Bracken

Etta’s debut violin recital culminated with being pulled into the 1700s by an estranged time-traveling relative. With the quest to find the astrolabe and save her mother and the Timeline in tatters, Etta awakens in an unknown time, alone. Nicholas and Sophia have teamed up and are racing through time to find Etta and astrolabe before the Ironwood clan destroys everything. I loved Passenger (see my review here) and I can’t wait to be immersed in a new set of times and place with these characters!

More here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


299393901/10 – Windwitch – by Susan Dennard

The explosive start to this series had me on the edge of my seat the entire time! (You can see my review here). Safi and Iseult are best friends with special abilities, called witcheries. Safi can always tell truth from lies, and Iseult sees the bonds between people. Truth-telling is a rare and valued skill among the three kingdoms, and Safi has kept it hidden until now. With two kingdoms and bounty hunter bloodwitch on their trail, the two friends struggle to stay one step ahead of plans they hardly grasp. Now Prince Merik, a windwitch, must find them and save his kingdom from his conniving sister. I am so excited for this book, her world-building is excellent and the non-stop action is addictive!

More here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


254891341/10 – The Bear and the Nighingale – by Katherine Arden

A story inspired by Russian fairy tales! When a stranger gives Pytor a necklace for his young daughter, he hides it away. Vasya is a wild child who grows up realizing that with the power of the necklace she might be able to save her village the dark foces that threaten to destroy them all. I absolutely adore fairy tales and I can’t wait to see what this winter story holds!

More here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


 


220820821/31 – Our Own Private Universe – by Robin Talley

Aki knows she’s bisexual, even if she has only dated guys. Her best friend is the only person who knows, and that’s fine for now. But when they go on a youth-group mission trip to Mexico Aki meets Christa–the first girl she has wanted to date. This sounds like all the female friendship and all the LGBTQ love! I’m so excited–a cute story with interesting friendship dynamics. I’m curious to see how they explore the church aspect too.

More here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


306523341/31 – The Crystal Ribbon – by Celeste Lim

So curious about this one! A middle-grade novel about Jing, a girl in medieval China who is sold as a bride to a baby in order to provide money for her family. When she is treated badly by her betrothed’s family and sold again, Jing decides it’s time to take control of her own life. She wants to find home again, and she just might with the help of fantastical creatures guiding her way. I love middle-grade books, and this sounds like something completely new to me. So excited to see how it unfolds!

More here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


278832141/31 – Caraval – by Stephanie Garber

I don’t think I have the words for excited I am about this book! I’ve been looking forward to it since last MAY. Sisters Scarlett and Tella secure invitations to Caraval, and incredible annual performance where the audience participates in the show. Despite being assured that it’s all a game, Scarlett quickly realizes that losing will have serious consequences. She has five nights to find her missing sister before everything unravels. Siblings! Magic! A carnival! Love! I signed up ages ago and I will devour this book!

More here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble

Backlist Bonus: Allegiant

17383918by Veronica Roth
YA Dystopian
2 of 5 stars

This was one of my biggest disappointments of 2013. I loved Divergent, Insurgent was all right, and I was confident that the finale would more than make up for any slow bits in book 2. That’s what trilogies do, I said. I was wrong. I won’t copy and paste my Goodreads review (which is the full account of my dissatisfaction with this book) but reading my review again I decided to stand by my initial opinion.

I’m yet to be a fan of changing POV once a series has begun. If it’s one person, keep that person. Don’t add a new POV character part-way through. It never seems to work, and the voices always end up sounding the same. The action is repetitive (so much so that the characters remark on it), and the entire tone of the book changes from hopeful to negative. Tris in the first two books goes through some terrible things, but ultimately believes humanity is good and worth fighting for. Tris in book three learns that humanity is born evil, has no way of redeeming itself, and is probably not worth fighting for after all. Tris doesn’t accept that, but the other characters are skeptical of her positive outlook and their opinions rule the story. Finally, for a series based on “your choices make you what you are,” this book rejects that idea in favor of Genetically-Pure (?!) and Genetically-Damaged (?!?!) people who are predestined to be good or bad. What. (The science of all this is not explained).

The end of this trilogy went against everything I expected, and I don’t mean because it wasn’t a “happy” ending. Everything from the characters to the tone betrayed what the first two books stood for and left me feeling lost, wondering what I just read.  I definitely support taking risks in writing and not going for the easy ending in a series, but this wasn’t enjoyable to read and couldn’t be more different from the first book. It’s possible I would have liked this story if it was the beginning of a series or something, but adding it to the Divergent universe just felt like jamming the wrong puzzle pieces together.

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


Similar reads:

  • Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins  – Another depressing end to a trilogy but it fits with the world and although it’s not pleasant to read, the grit of it is excellent. See my review here.
  • Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve – As a literal interpretation of municipal Darwinism, the largest cities are mobile and sweep across the world consuming and absorbing each other for resources and labor. Tom finds himself stranded on solid ground and must find a way to survive in this stark post-apocalyptic world.
  • The Dark and Hollow Places by Carrie Ryan – The final book in a zombie-apocalypse trilogy that follows Gabry’s twin sister Annah in the Dark City—one of the last human strongholds in America. Annah is waiting for Elias to come back for her to start their life together, but Catcher promises something new in a world full of nothing but death.

Backlist Bonus: Insurgent

11735983by Veronica Roth
YA Dystopian
3 of 5 stars

After the explosive first book I was beyond excited to read the sequel, but like so many sequels, it was just okay. Despite extensive exploration of Tris’ world and the different factions, the story is a bit of a blur, clearly a transition to the last book more than a necessary installment on its own.

Tris’ initiation day ended in violence between the Erudite, Dauntless, and Abnegation factions. All trust between factions and within Tris’ group of friends is fractured and leaves everyone wondering what will happen now. Tris still isn’t sure what being divergent means, but after suffering unspeakable loss she’s determined to find answers. She and Tobias continue trying to navigate a romantic relationship despite the barriers of coming from the most repressive faction. And the rest of the Dauntless are dealing with the trauma of the actions they committed while under Erudite’s (Jeanine’s) control. Everything in Chicago is splintering and if Tris doesn’t find a way to unite everyone more bloodshed will follow.

Although I enjoyed seeing the other factions’ lifestyles and customs, this felt like a tour to distract us from the actual questions. What is divergence? What’s beyond the fence? What is Jeanine’s true endgame and capabilities? The last few chapters drop the bombshell brewing beneath the surface of the story (where did Chicago’s faction society come from) but this feels like the real event and everything else is just side information. The supporting characters also lack depth despite Tris spending so much time with them. An average “book 2” experience but definitely leaves you wanting to read the last book.

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


Similar reads:

  • Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins – Katniss unintentionally started a rebellion with her unusual win in the Hunger Games. If she doesn’t convince President Snow that her love for Peeta drove her actions, everything she loves will be ripped from her. See my review here.
  • The Infinite by Lori M. Lee – Kai must learn to use her powers over the threads of time and what this means for her destiny. See my review here.
  • Rook by Sharon Cameron – A standalone novel set in the ruins of what was Paris, where familiar tensions between the rich and poor are building to an explosive conclusion. See my review here.

Backlist Bonus: Divergent

8306857by Veronica Roth
YA Dystopian
4 of 5 stars
Debut novel – April 25, 2011

Right after The Hunger Games, the YA shelf needed a dystopian series to catch readers, and the Divergent series won that battle. This trilogy follows 16-year-old Tris, who faces the momentous choice of which faction (and virtue) to dedicate her life to: will she remain in Abnegation (the selfless) with her family, or follow her heart to the Dauntless (the brave)? And what consequences will she face as a result?

I heard about this book from my best friend, who happened to attend the same university as Roth and wanted to share the excitement that somebody our age could sign a 3-book + movie rights deal. This was my first exposure to peers writing best-selling material for teens and I was thrilled that this was becoming more commonplace–honestly, I still am!

This was a fun story to read, and several key scenes were so cinematic and beautifully written through Tris’ sparse, direct voice that I couldn’t wait for the next installment.  As it turns out, I feel the first book is the strongest of the trilogy, but it was worth following Tris to the end, and this is still one of the better dystopian options out there, in my opinion. As an added bonus in this genre, there is no love triangle. Tris is a complicated heroine and her world has plenty of mysteries to unlock, but which boy she’ll choose isn’t one of them. I also enjoyed her constantly evolving relationship with her brother Caleb; he challenges her commitments in the best way. Jeanine is an excellent antagonist, with her own complexity and motivations. This small core cast of characters is what pulls you through the wreck of Chicago and its faction systems as Tris struggles to solve her identity and why the Erudite faction believes it should eradicate the Abnegation. Although the series didn’t go where I expected, I appreciated the author’s creative freedom and choices, and I’m curious to see what she does next.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Divergent is available on Goodreads and its parent company Amazon. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins – The most obvious comparison, but it is very similar. Twelve districts must send two tributes to the capital to fight to the death on live TV as a reminder of the brutality the totalitarian state saved the people from decades earlier. Katniss volunteers to save her sister, but she quickly learns half of the game is mastering the politics and alliances surrounding her. See my review here.
  • Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve – As a literal interpretation of municipal darwinism, the largest cities are mobile and sweep across the world consuming and absorbing each other for resources and labor. Tom finds himself stranded on solid ground and must find a way to survive in this stark post-apocalyptic world.
  • The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan – Mary spent her life in the fenced village deep in a forest, and she knows what happens if she leaves its protection – death by zombies – but she can’t stop dreaming about the ocean, and whether the Sisterhood is telling the truth when they say no one else survived. See my review here.
  • Delirium by Lauren Oliver – I haven’t read this yet, but Roth recomends it as an engaging dystopian trilogy that explores a world devoid of all love, and the consequences that brings to the very fabric of society.

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