April Round-Up

  • What is Not Yours is Not Yours by Helen Oyemi
  • The Lady of Misrule by Suzannah Dunn
  • Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina
  • The Winner’s Kiss by Marie Rutkoski
  • Duke of Sin by Elizabeth Hoyt
  • Step Aside, Pops: A Hark! A Vagrant Collection by Kate Beaton
  • Lady Renegades by Rachel Hawkins
  • The Grownup by Gillian Flynn
  • The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi
  • Barbara the Slut and Other People by Lauren Holmes
  • Ms. Marvel Volume 4: Last Days by Willow G. Wilson
  • Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare
  • Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke
  • The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater
  • The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
  • The Rose and the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh
  • Literary Starbucks: Freshly Brewed Bookish Humor, No-Whip, Half-Caf by Nora Anderson Katz, Wilson Isaac Josephson, Jill Madeline Poskanzer, Harry Bliss
  • The Immortals by Jordanna Max Brodsky

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(hmm…must have been a blue month)

What is Not Yours is Not Yours

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by Helen Oyeyemi

4/5 stars

With boys there was a fundamental assumption that they had a right to be there–not always, but more often than not. With girls, Why here? came up so quickly.

A doomed romance set against the romantic and mysterious city of Barcelona. Fans of a cultish pop star dealing with the fallout of his bad behavior. A student puppeteer–where there’s more to the puppets than meets the eye. All of Oyeyemi’s stories revolve around locks and keys. some of the stories are tangentially related. All are captivating.

Those of you that know me, or having been reading my ramblings here for a bit, know I generally prefer my short stories with a touch of the odd. Oyeyemi delivers. Like with her novels Boy, Snow, Bird and White is for Witching (and presumably also the ones I have not yet read), Oyeyemi takes the ordinary and spins a fairy tale. Or she adds that one odd element that makes all the difference. These stories live up to that. If you like Karen Russell or Kelly Link (who was just a Pulitzer finalist!), this will be right up your alley.

With her touches of magic, Oyeyemi manages to dig deep, and all of her stories ring of truth. One of the stories that stood out to me most involved two teenagers dealing with he fallout of the pop star they idolized beating a woman. The tone feels extra sinister as if these girls were victims themselves. And, in many ways they were. It was a look at the fall of a teen idol that did not shame the teens, and I loved that. It was analysis of how we worship, and forgive, “stars” seemingly ripped right from the headlines.

The marketing of this one led me to believe these stories were more interconnected than I found them–though that they are connected is undeniable. There also could have been things I missed. Regardless, pick this one up.

The Siren

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By Kiera Cass

1/5 stars

Life was just a collection of small decisions

I just didn’t with this one. Cass’s Selection books have never really blown me out of the water, but there’s a guilty pleasure element to them. They’re readable in the way the best tabloid magazines are, and as they are modeled after the Bachelor that is not meant to be a derogatory comment.

If the Siren was Cass’s first book it was pretty obvious. The development just wasn’t there. I didn’t get a sense of the main character. The romance had the hints of something great, but it was rushed insta-love. The pacing was laborious. Lots of time passes over the course of this novel. But not much really seem to happen. The sister’s didn’t particularly stand out. The concept of the personified ocean wasn’t really developed enough for me to get my head around. And the exploration of the sirens was just too surface level for me.

Also that we had this line

That’s really cool that you’re going to a traditional school even though you use sign language. I thought I was brave just getting out of state.

Like….really? Where do I even start with that line?

I thought this would be fun, and for some people it seems to be. Maybe fictional sirens and mermaids and the like just aren’t my jam. But my problems with this novel did go beyond the development of the mythology.

Summer Days and Summer Nights

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edited by Stephanie Perkinks

5/5 stars

Unlike summer days, summer evenings were magical

Are you looking for a cute collection of romantic stories? Well, good news. Stephanie Perkin’s is following up 2014’s Christmas collection with a new collection focussing on summer romance: appropriately titled Summer Days and Summer Nights (though there are no Grease themed stories). And I think I enjoyed this go-around even more the the previous collection. This new collection includes stories from YA heavy hitters: Stephanie Perkins, Leigh Bardugo, Francesca Lia Block, Libba Bray, Cassandra Clare, Brandy Colbert, Tim Federle, Lev Grossman, Nina LaCour, Veronica Roth, Jon Skovron, and Jennifer E. Smith.

A return of Stephanie Perkin’s characters from her story in My True Love Gave to Me Collection (but a story that still stands completely independent). The staff at a summer resort play matchmakers, and maybe get caught in a web themselves. Two teens relive August 4th over and over, and end up making a map of all the small, beautiful moments they encounter over and over throughout the day. The local horror cinema is closing down. Crushes must be resolved before the night ends, but an urban legend about a film turns out to have a grain of truth. And much, much more. A lot of these stories have pretty straightforward premises (even if some are tinged with supernatural), but that is why they work.

I tried to hold off closer to pub date, but I failed. But, as expected, I was utterly charmed. This is just a really well written and curated collection. And I was beyond, beyond ecstatic to see a traditional love story with an autistic love interest. This collection knows what it is, and it does it well. An absolute joy, and it will make a great summer (or winter obviously) read!

Thank you to Edelweiss and St. Martin’s Griffin for a digital ARC of this collection. You can snag up a copy on May 17th, just in time for some charming summer reading!

Lady Renegades

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by Rachel Hawkins

3/5 stars

I’d done lots of impossible things before. No one had thought we could afford five school dances in one year, and hadn’t I found the funds? . . . We could do this.

David has left Pine Grove, leaving Harper alone with a  summer of lifeguarding duty. With David gone, the supernatural hasn’t been rearing it’s ugly head. That is until David starts inadvertently making new Paladins on his journeys, Paladins that occasionally come back to Pine Grove and try to kill Harper. Soon Harper is on a road trip with her best friend, and her enemy, on a quest to save her boyfriend. She just has to be back before her SGA duties resume. After all, a girl had priorities.

I don’t know. I missed some of the romance and banter of the first two. I really loved watching Harper and David interact, and they were separate for basically all of the book. The lighthearted tone remains, but the stakes are higher. Except, the stakes don’t necessarily feel higher? It is David’s life on the line at this point, but it can be hard to grasp what we’re fighting against because it’s not as tangible as in the first two, though the mythology was firmly established. At this point we’re more fighting against David’s destiny, which feels a little more ephemeral. And there was some quality girl bonding time here, but honestly I could have taken more.

It felt like the action was kind of rushed. Still, I did like the fast-paced nature of the book. And I loved Harper as much as ever. I’ve drawn Buffy comparisons since the beginning here with a strong cheerleader/leader-type female protagonist, and this book definitely gave me some end of season 2 vibes (in the bittersweet kinda heartbreaking sense. Not as tear inducing as the season 2 finale don’t fret).But I guess I was expecting to go out with a little more of a bang. Hawkins writes some of the most fun contemporary supernatural books in the YA market right now, and I was just hoping for a little more oomph. I guess I would also accept a sequel to School Spirits.

The Lady of Misrule

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by Suzannah Dunn

2/5 stars

I am all for more books about Lady Jane Grey. Bring ’em! But this title seemed to lack any sense of urgency. Taking place during Jane’s captivity, and told from the POV of a lady maid in captivity with her, it just didn’t feel like it had much to offer. And it didn’t paint a very interesting or complex picture of either of the female characters at the center of this novel. While I appreciated the intent behind keeping the narrative focused on the days between Jane’s 9 days as queen and her execution, it just didn’t work here. There needed to be something else going on to keep pushing the narrative.

Also, Elizabeth’s relationships in this novel, including her weird semi-flirtation with Guildford just seemed kind of awkward and didn’t add to the narrative in the way they wanted to. I still really didn’t know Elizabeth as a person, and didn’t see all that much growth from her over the course of the novel. This is her story and really at its heart about how her relationship with Jane changed the course of her life. But, it doesn’t give me enough of the before.

The blurb talks about Elizabeth and Jane’s developing relationship, but it doesn’t really develop all that much. I was really bummed because I thought I would at least get some interesting female friendship out of this, especially with attempts to make both females more feminist in their own way.

Lady Midnight

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by Cassandra Clare

2.5/5 stars

Life is short, and wisdom long to learn.

We finally get to pick back up with Emma, Julian, Mark, and the rest of the gang as introduced in the final Shadowhunters book. This go around we’re in LA. Emma has never gotten over her parent’s murder. So when bodies begin to show up resembling the way they were murdered, she wants to get to the bottom of it, even if it looks like there is a fae link. When the faerie courts offer the return of Mark to help with the investigation, as the Cold Peace means Shadowhunters can’t intercede in fae matters, the gang only has two weeks to get to the bottom of the case. But as usual, there is more going on than meets the eye. And with new friends, the dynamic begins to change. And as usual, love (sometimes of the forbidden sort) is complicating everything.

I finished it! This was hard for me, because I have been living in this world with Cassie Clare for a decade now. I am not of the “god Cassie Clare needs to stop writing Shadowhunter books” camp because I think it’s dumb. Yes, she keeps writing books in this world people obviously enjoy. But there are many, many genre series out there that do the same thing. Maybe not in YA anymore, but so what? And yes, sometimes plot lines can have callbacks or parallel structures. Again, certain genres do this more than others. And sometimes there’s a comfort in the familiarity to it all. It is pleasure reading friends. If it does not bring you pleasure, don’t read it. The end. Stop getting your panties in a knot.

This novel had a lot of potential. I think I could really enjoy these characters. But it is weighed down by way, way too much going on, and not enough actual action. Basically, this novel needed a heavier editing hand. Not all of the scenes were necessary for the book. They were fine scenes. But too many of them bogged down the narrative. I totally get wanting to give people who love this world as many goodies in the way of scenes as possible. But I think it actually did a disservice to the novel. It took away the nuance, and the opportunity for us as readers to put pieces together ourselves.

Still, I think there is a foundation set here that could continue to grow over the course of the trilogy. I wasn’t absolutely won over by Clockwork Angel at first, and loved the second two.