grav_ity: (books)
This is book one and two in Ally Carter's EMBASSY ROW trilogy, and I really liked it. It's much, much darker than her first two series (the Gallagher Girls and the late, lamented Heist Society, though both of those had their own form of gravity), but it wasn't egregiously "edgy" like some things I could name.

Anyway, it was more or less a straight up political thriller, which I always enjoy, involving Smart Girls and Team Work and Secret Societies and literal gender politics, all of which I basically live for.

There was also a possibly triggering depiction of mental health. Basically, the MC's family gaslight her for, like, international security or whatever, and so she has all of these terrible reactions to her therapist and her meds. Which I gather was problematic for some, but as a person with experience being gaslit(?) by a relative, I have to say: the MC's anger and betrayal and RIGHTEOUS FURY was kind of cathartic. I liked that Carter didn't shy away from the damage that was done.

ALL OF WHICH TO SAY I can't wait for the third book to come out in paperback so I can GET TO THE BOTTOM OF THIS.
grav_ity: (books)
This is a Beauty and the Beast retelling, and it was really good. I liked it because it was very nearly a straight-up retelling, but there were a lot of little nooks and crannies that Spooner put into her story, and that made the whole thing feel really fresh and interesting.

Also: sisssssssstersssssss. It was wonderful.

Actually, that leads me to a wider point: this was an excellent love story. Not romance, though it was that too, but love story. The relationships between the sisters, their husbands, their town, their friends...it was all just really great. Knowing what I know both of Beauty and the Beast and of Meagan's other writing, I was CONSTANTLY waiting for the other shoe to drop, but it never did. I enjoyed it immensely.

Also there was a tonne of magic in this book, and also people being very smart, and also valourized kindness, and I am here for it.
grav_ity: (books)
I love Rachel Hawkins you guys. I just do. She's wonderful and funny and morbid, and I had really high hopes for her first Middle Grade book, and then IT WAS SO GOOD.

Journey's End is this delightful mix of friendship and magic and "science" and adventure and GIRLS BEING SO SO BRAVE and it was a riot from start to finish. All of my favourite bits of pieces of Hawkins's "usuals" were in play, and the result was just unendingly delightful.

(I know that's the worst way to describe Middle Grade, but I can't help it. It's the truth.)

Also: Scotland. Gods, I miss Scotland.

Buy it for the kids in your life, but read it together. It's awesome.

(p.s. I am doing book catch up posts, because apparently I haven't done books since March 2, so there will be a few over the next few days.)
grav_ity: (all in)
Helllllllo!

Today Bustle has the cover reveal for THAT INEVITABLE VICTORIAN THING, and I love it so much it is so purple and gorgeous.

ahem.

It also has an excerpt, where you get to read one of my fake wikipedia articles (I got to write so much history for this!), and also meet the three MCs, Helena, Victoria-Margaret, and August.

(Three guesses who Helena Marcus is named for, and the first two don't count.) ;)

ANYWAY: link to the stuff!

I'm really, really pleased by how this book came together, and I'm so glad I'm this much closer to sharing the whole thing!
grav_ity: (force)
Such a good day at Toronto ComiCon. It came together kinda last minute, so I was a bit worried, but it turned out so well. I think there were 40 books, and only 8 were left at the end? And a bunch of people had brought their own copies, so I actually saw a lot of people. It was pretty great. The 501st were awesome hosts.

And the costumes! Were so great.

FIRST OF ALL, THIS GUY!

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I was just setting up when he walked past, and I think he was surprised by how excitedly I was all "CAN I TAKE YOUR PICTURE?" but then the 501st guys (who are basically professionals) were ALSO really impressed (I had assumed he was one of them, but he wasn't!). Anyway. SUPER impressive.

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These Reys were super cute, comparing staffs (the one on the left is the 501st, so she was telling the other woman how she'd done it. They're actually both holding 501st weapons in the shot, which I thought was super nice of them).

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I love family cosplays, and I love how smart girls are about coming up with ways to cosplay BB-8.

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YOU GUYS. YOU GUYS. (Yes, I was sitting down behind, like, six people when they walked past. Yes, I yelled "WAIT COME BACK" and chased them a little bit. YES, THAT CHILD HAS THE MOST PERFECT HAN POSE OF ALL TIME.)

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"Rey!" said the taller one, and then handed over her lightsaber for the picture. I'm not crying, it's raining on my face.

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This is my favourite Phasma, I think.

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I saw these two on the way in, but was too far away, so I was SUPER glad they came by my booth! They couldn't fit the Sabé headdress in the car, so her new goal is to build one that can be taken off if needed during the day.

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Jyn! I asked if she made the coat, because it was REALLY good quality, and she said she bought it online because of the sewing (all my cosplay friends were in FITS after they saw the stills, because of the sleeves), but she made the cowl.

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And at last, on the way back into the train station, I saw this family. The little girl dressed as Rex was SUPER into being photographed, and the Ezra was getting the hang of posing (pun intended!). I love the way this Ahsoka uses gold tights for skin coverage. She looked amazing.

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And here is me, safely back at The Sister's (I have to do pass pages by tomorrow night, so). The skirt and petticoat are Her Universe. The tank top and blazer are mine, and the scarf is from Think Geek. I got compliments on the skirt all day long (Me: Why did we stop wearing petticoats? Me, trying to pee: Oh. Right. That.), and it was awesome.

An excellent day. Hopefully I can do another con in TO sometime. This one was super fun.
grav_ity: (all things)
I say this with complete sincerity: if you read only one book this year, make it this one.

As a follow up: if you have $20, buy it for a local school or library.

Starr is living two lives, one at her prep school and one in her neighbourhood, never really fitting in at either. When her best friend Khalil is shot by a police officer while she's in the car, her carefully ordered life unspools. Billed as the YA Black Lives Matter book and inspired by Tupac, Angie Thomas's debut (debut!) is stunning and searing and just plain well put together.

The family dynamic is amazing, the neighbourhood is real in all the best and worst ways, the pacing is anxious-making, the ugliness is on the page, but the good things are too. I described in on Twitter as "a series of relentlessly necessary conversations held together by impeccable story-telling", and I think that's what I'm still going with now that I've settled into it a bit.

It sucks that we need books like these, but we need books like these, and this one in particular and outstanding.
grav_ity: (books 2011)
This was a bound MS by the author who got me into writing YA in the first place, so NO NERVES AT ALL INVOLVED LET ME TELL YOU.

*breathes into a paper bag*

Basically, it's a thriller. I'm not always here for thrillers, but Lo's pacing was excellent, and the shift in style for the Before and Afters really worked for me. Also, it was four very complicated girls, and I usually like that. I liked that the viciousness was...real? Like, you know how sometimes you read a Mean Girl, and you're all "A Dude Wrote This"? There was none of that. It was on point without being gratuitous, and I thought it was really good.

The book comes out in October.
grav_ity: (PHENOMENAL COSMIC POWERS)
Pitched as "Labyrinth, but in the late 1700s, in Germany", WINTERSONG is about Liesl, who is good at music, but a girl and therefore untaught. When she was little, she used to dance with a boy in the forest, but then she had to grow up and be the only responsible sibling, and she locked the music away. With her younger brother, the other half of her soul, getting all of the teaching and all of the love, her middle sister gets ignored...by everyone except the boy that Liesl forgot.

What follows is a story I really enjoyed, where a girl goes to the Underworld and makes a tonne of choices and gets to be more than one thing, which I really, really loved.

Also: excellent use of music, family dynamics, sex, being-a-girl, and German diminutives. I am not a Labyrinth fan, but I enjoyed this book a lot.
grav_ity: (books)
This book is criminally underserved by its jacket copy, which makes it look like it's going to be a fairly shallow fantasy with a forbidden love that more eye-roll inducing than anything else.

EXCEPT THEN IT TOTALLY ISN'T.

Blake's use of world-building extends really thoughtfully into religion, prophecy, and politics. She places her fish-hook hints really deftly and then every reveal feels earned. I won, like, ten bets with myself reading this book, and it was AWESOME. The first part is a littttttle draggy, but it turns around really fast, and by the time part two starts, it's flying.

I finished it a couple days ago and I'm STILL super pumped about how the prophecy went down. I can't wait for books 2 and 3!
grav_ity: (star wars team i ship it)
This weekend I'm staying at a century old farm house in the middle of nowhere and it's glorious. Today was sunny and snowy and we stayed inside and read books and ate cheese-based snacks. I wrote a grant application, and am working on another thing, and tomorrow I will read more, and it is glorious.

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I might actually write something. And we might go outside. I mean, eventually we have to go outside because we are going out for dinner, but, you know.
grav_ity: (sabewon)
This is the second book in her new series, about the Westcott family. The MC is the girl who lost her legitimacy in the first book, and is trying to make sense of her life now that she's basically at the mercy of the wind.

I really Camille a lot (surprise!). She is dealing with a legacy of emotional abuse (from her father, the dead guy whose will and general asshole behaviour started the whole thing off), and trying to find out what she's going to do with her life now that being A Proper English Peer is no longer possible. She also learns how to accept help, which is not something she's ever had to do before, and isn't a dick about it. I don't always like stories where girls are forced to confront their privilege by being beaten down (financially, in this case), but Balogh did a really good job of it, and Camille's self-awareness really sold it.

Joel, this book's Dude, also appeared in Book #1. He was a friend of the protagonist (they'd grown up in the orphanage together), and she wrote him letters throughout. Now, he also has to deal with his plans going awry (he and Anna would have had a practical marriage, not a love-match, before, though he does love her a great deal), and also with several revelations.

(The orphanage, btw, is very well off for a Regency-Era orphanage, because the kids in it are ALL illegitimate. Like, a baby shows up in this one left on the door step with a thousand pounds in her blanket, and Joel was also supported by an unknown benefactor until he was 15, and went to school, which the benefactor also paid for. Shenanigans, as you can imagine, ensue.)

ANYWAY, I'm not quite as lit up about this series as I was about the Survivors', but it is interesting to see Regency romance that focuses on class so much. Also, they remain hilarious.
grav_ity: (dance)
This is the second ARC I got from OLA (i.e., the one that nearly led to my proposing to the sales rep at the booth because I was SO PLEASED TO GET A COPY), and it. is. so. good.

Basically: Dimple is pushing back against her parents' traditional goals for her. Sure, they want her to be happy and smart, but they also want her to marry an Ideal Indian Husband asap (and support her going to Stanford, because there will be a lot of fish in that sea, as it were). Dimple mostly wishes they'd lay off. She has career plans, and while she's not against love, she is not interested in sacrifice. She's seen it over and over: it's always the girl who does it. So when they agree to send her to a summer programming camp? She's super excited. And not at all suspicious. Which is too bad, because also at this camp...

...is Rishi. Whose parents are familiar with Dimple's parents (they live far enough away that they don't cross paths much), and who decided a long time ago that when the time was right, they'd introduce the kids, hope for the best, and see what happened. Rishi knows all about this plan, and is for it, even though this programming camp is a bit ahead of schedule. He is okay with being the traditional son.

So when Dimple and Rishi meet? Let's just say it does not go well.

I loved this book so much. It's like how sometimes you see a kitten and then want to punch yourself in the neck. It's so GOOD and so CUTE, and I spent the whole time reading it alternating between making pterodactyl noises and smashing my face against the pages.

Both Dimple and Rishi are such good characters, and their nuances and flaws are PERFECT. And Menon balances first generation Americans against their parents and against the US with heart-wrenching precision. As Dimple thinks about what her plans really mean, and Rishi starts to acknowledge that his plans might not be worth as much as his parents hoped, the story unfolds and just:

it's so fluffy i'm going to die

I wish I still worked at the book store so I could PUSH THIS INTO THE FACE OF EVERY PERSON ALIVE. It's so good.
grav_ity: (aly married a crow!)
This is one of those YAs that's kind of a Middle Grade? The MC is 15 and it's a straight up faery story, but more Perilous Gard-y than anything. Needless to say, I really liked it. I'm just glad I didn't have to do any marketing for it.

ANYWAY. It was Irish. It was interesting. It was refreshingly full of characters who apologized for calling the MC stupid when they had forgotten to give her the information she needed. There was teamwork. I had fun.
grav_ity: (all in)
So this was very, very dark? And not at all in the annoying way. Basically the MC is dealing with depression and self-harm, and then that attracts a demon (because: book), and then she figured it out, and then she got help. But it's SUPER dark. Lindsay is one of my favourite people, so I am not sure how that influenced my reading of the book, but I am sure it did.

(I'm not usually here for DARK LIKE MY SOUL books. Though, tbh, this one had a pretty strong thread of hope woven into it, and the pacing of the reveals was good, so that helped a lot.)

Anyway, YMMV, but definitely trigger warnings for self-harm, suicidal ideation, and depression.
grav_ity: (that's how we roll in the shire)
This was an ARC for a book that comes out on March 27, and I was VERY lucky to get it at OLA last week.

(What happened was that they had samplers at the booth, and I stood there staring at them for a second, and then said out loud "Do I want a sample though? Because they I'll have to wait?" and the sales rep was all "Do you want one? Because I have one!", and then I may have accidentally proposed marriage, because in addition to The Gauntlet, she came back with another ARC I wanted EVEN MORE.)

Anyway, so it's a MG Jumanji-style adventure, about a girl whose brother gets trapped in a game, and so she and her two best friends go in after him. It was very fast paced and also very beautifully written, which was sometimes a little whip-lashy, but generally worked. Kaye is an AMAZING writer, and I am SO PLEASED about her book.

What makes it extra special, though, is that the MC is Muslim. So you have this wacky adventure romp, starring a girl who gets to wear a hijab on the cover of her own novel, and that just makes me so happy.

Also, the descriptions of food are amazing. ;)
grav_ity: (machete)
A follow up to last year's TRUTHWITCH, Windwitch continues to the story of Safi, Iseult, and Merick, while adding and developing new characters and incredibly complicated political and personal shenanigans. It was made for me, is what I'm saying.

I super pleased that this is a true series. I think we're looking at five books total, which is just not common in YA. I'm thrilled with what Susan is doing, though. Her world is just so well developed, and I love how big and thorough it is.

I continue to really like Safi and Iseult, even though they are separated from one another for the entire plot, having adventures with new characters. They are just so great. And both of them are coming into their power and the magic and they are just so good at being...characters.

I was not Merrik's biggest fan (surprise!), but he was at least interesting in this. His mistakes were logical and his solutions reasonable, at it was a solid progression, but it was his sister Vivia who really shone. She was awesome.

The third book is called Bloodwitch, and won't be out until next year, and I can't wait.
grav_ity: (books 2011)
This isn't a book I loved, but I did enjoy it quite a bit. I think this is because the book is outside my preferred genre, but does spend a lot of time on topics and themes I like.

Anyway, The Careful Undressing of Love is a book you relax into. For the first few pages, you're picky: trying to sort Haydu's magical world from the real one, and then it just takes you over. It's weird until it's not, and then it's an examination of love and legacy and family, and the things girls do when we back them into corners and then blame them for being there in the first place.

Haydu's feminism shines on every page, and I was caught between wanting to linger, and wanting to turn the pages even faster.
grav_ity: (books 2011)
This was a book about isolation and grief, and then getting over isolation and grief, and I really liked it. I was afraid at it would be bleak af, but it was so, so the opposite of that, for which I am profoundly grateful.

LaCour's exploration of family and lies and secrets and love was excellent, and the relationship between the two main characters, both romantic and otherwise, was just perfect. Watching them grow back together and figure out how to talk again, now that they've had some distance is so painful and so true. They don't know how, but they also don't want to give up, and so they keep working on it, and it's great.

Also, the roommate (and her family) are wonderful.

Basically, it wasn't quite "good things happen to good people", because it was shrouded by a tragedy, but it was "good people come together", and I enjoy that, too.
grav_ity: (cake)
At about 6PM, I decided I wanted to make cupcakes. Now that I have a shiny mixer, that sort of thing is way easier. Also, I had an icing tip I wanted to try out. Also, is there a better time than before you go away for four days to make 2 dozen cupcakes?

Anyway, they turned out really well.

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I'll get better, but I think this is okay for attempt #1.
grav_ity: (bite psychiatrists)
(note: this series starts with volume 0, which means I am NEVER GOING TO BE ABLE TO KEEP TRACK OF THEM.)

Anyway, this one was waaaaaaaay plottier than the first two Silk volumes, so it was a bit less funny, but still packed with awesome ladies who are badass in a variety of ways, which is really all I ask for from life.

I love how these comics address Cindy's trauma without kicking her while she's down, and I love how they don't use her "victimhood" to make her a hero (does that even make sense? I meant they're not gratuitously beating her up to give her something to conquer within herself. Like, they give her actual villains to fight, instead).

Also: awesome lesbians, good bosses, Mockingbird, family, a talking dragon, and Silk is really good at her powers.

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