grav_ity: (books)
2017-06-06 05:32 pm

Book #34: Saints and Misfits, by S.K. Ali

This book was really, really good. Like, it was really good judged in a vacuum, and since there's no such thing as a vacuum in literature, it's also a REALLY good example of what happens when characters are allowed to have their whole culture and not just be stereotyped or tokenized.

Ali's characters are brilliant, her insight into marginalized communities is perfect, and her portrayal of complication within those communities is absolutely wonderful.

It comes out in a week or so, and I highly recommend it.
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2017-05-31 10:06 pm

Book #32: Unearthed, by Meagan Spooner and Amie Kaufman

This was another book that was just fun. Meagan and Amie are so good at coming up with interesting ways to keep the story moving (in this case it has to do with oxygen). I'm pretty picky when it comes to books about archaeologists, but I felt like they covered both sides of the "Lara Croft meets Indiana space!" pitch (though: the Lara Croft character is poor and the Indiana Jones character has never been out in the field before, so, you know, no pitch is perfect).

If there's a downside, it's that one of the trademarks of a Spooner-Kaufman story is very, very tight POV. There are really only two characters in the book (the side characters show up and do stuff, but they don't get a tonne of development). This doesn't bother me at all, but if you're after a good ensemble story, this isn't really it.

ANYWAY. I ended up blurbing it, so obviously my good feelings about it are strong. :)
grav_ity: (books)
2017-05-30 03:59 pm

Book #31: Invictus, by Ryan Graudin

I liked this one quite a bit. It was fun, and it was action-packed without being overwhelming. The pitch is "Doctor Who meets Firefly", but I think a more accurate description would be "Doctor Who meets Orphan Black".

Basically, a boy born out of time is breaking everything, and must be stopped. But the how and the where and the when are delightfully complicated. It's a true ensemble piece (I was a little worried we'd spend too much time with Far, but that turned out not to be the case), and the world(s)-building is super fun.

I do really like time travel.
grav_ity: (force)
2017-05-05 10:25 am

Book #29: Guardians of the Whills, by Greg Rucka

I finished Guardians of the Whills! I liked it. Chirrut and Baze were on point (and so was Saw Gerrera, tbh), and the new characters were good (though obviously I would have preferred it if a single one of Saw’s partisans were female). The illustrations were excellent, and the story itself, like all good Middle Grade, pulled no punches at all.

There were a couple of philosophical points I disagreed with (at one point, Chirrut tells Baze that there are there are others worse off and when Baze says that doesn’t make him feel better, Chirrut says maybe it should. Which, I mean, no), but at the beginning when Chirrut is describing how Jedha has changed since the Empire showed up, just, my heart. Like, I see a lot of people talking about how great Rae Sloane is and how much they love nuanced, hard-working Imperials, and this book just goes to town on that, and I appreciate it.

It also pulls no punches with regard to Saw, who we already know is kind of a jerk about, like, literally everything. Obviously I am more sympathetic to him and his partisans than I am to the Empire, but I still have zero problems believing that the dude who abandoned 16yo Jyn with a knife and a blaster and NO EXPLANATION because she was cramping his style would do any of the things he did in this book.

Middle Grade is so deliciously complicated. :)
grav_ity: (rey and bb-8)
2017-05-03 10:01 pm

Book #28: The Dark Prophecy, by Rick Riordan

These books, I tell you.

I've read in several places that Apollo is an underdog hero, but I think that's incorrect. This series is straight up his redemption arc. He acknowledges his privilege, and that his own hardships don't negate his privilege. He sees the shitty system (previously, only demigod got a good look at this, so it's nice to have an actual god experience), and he's learning. It's an incredible way to tell a story, and it manages not to be too heavy or pedantic because Rick Riordan is hilarious.

Also, we're introduced to several more characters who have escaped abusive pasts. In the demigod books, bad/neglectful parenting was pretty common, but this is much, much more serious, and I really appreciate seeing it. Because it's not just one situation (Apollo), it's several different ones (Meg, Lit, Emmie, Jo...), and they all deal with their situations differently.



Anyway, also watching Calypso adapt to her new life after centuries in prison is heartwrenching. GOD, RIORDAN IS SO GOOD AT THIS.
grav_ity: (no power in the verse can stop me)
2017-05-02 06:50 pm

Book #27: Dreadnought, by April Daniels

This book. THIS BOOK. I loved it so much.

So Danny is a girl who is next to the superhero Dreadnought when he dies, and he passes her the mantle, making her the new Dreadnought. This also makes her a girl, because Danny is trans, and she hadn't told anyone about it yet. So now she has a perfect body...and her life changes rather drastically.

Daniels wrote an excellent superhero story (politics, shades of grey, the usual), but she also wrote an incredible story about identity and change, and it was a delight to read. Danny's family is unsupportive. Her best friend thinks he can date her. Her new colleagues are, shall we say, surprised. And Danny is going to face all of them, because she finally, finally can.

This is a series (yaaaaaaaay!), and I'm super pumped for book 2. I highly, highly recommend it.
grav_ity: (cake)
2017-05-01 09:37 pm

Book #26: Royce Rolls, by Margaret Stohl

This is the first of Stohl's books I've read, and it was bizarre and hilarious and fun. I got to talk to her about it for a while last fall, so I knew a bit about why she'd written it in the first place (basically: it's a passion project. she wrote it for kicks, and having just finished a book like that, it's kinda the best thing). Also, it was cool to learn how reality TV works (kind of).

And, of course, I am ALWAYS here for a mastermind teenage girl who protects everyone and lets absolutely nothing stand in her way.

Fun and funny and LA (apparently...I've only ever been there twice, and once was to Anaheim!). ;)
grav_ity: (books)
2017-04-27 08:46 pm

Book #22 and #23: All Fall Down and See How They Run, by Ally Carter

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)
2017-04-26 08:39 pm

Book #21: Hunted, by Meagan Spooner

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 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)
2017-04-18 10:36 am

Book #20: Journey's End, by Rachel Hawkins

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 things)
2017-03-02 08:56 pm
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Book #19: The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas

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)
2017-03-01 09:32 pm
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Book #18: A Line in the Dark, by Malinda Lo

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.
2017-02-21 11:42 pm
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Book #16: Wintersong, by s. Jae-Jones

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 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)
2017-02-20 11:00 pm
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Book #15: Frostblood, by Elly Blake

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.


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: (sabewon)
2017-02-15 03:10 pm
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Book #14: Someone to Hold, by Mary Balogh

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)
2017-02-14 06:55 pm
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Book #13: When Dimple Met Rishi, by Sandhya Menon

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... 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!)
2017-02-13 10:48 pm
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Book #12: Radiant Road, by Katherine Catmull

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)
2017-02-12 09:39 pm
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Book #11: A Darkly Beating Heart, by Lindsay Smith

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)
2017-02-11 10:52 am
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Book #10: The Gauntlet, by Karuna Riazi

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)
2017-02-10 11:09 pm
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Book #9, Windwitch, by Susan Dennard

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.