Category Archives: Uncategorized

A Breath is all you need, sometimes

Standard

Have you ever felt not quite right in your own skin? What about in your family or community? I struggle with those kinds of feelings all the time. I have not reconciled myself with how I look (fat) or how I feel (fat and slow) or how I think other people see me. It is not a comfortable situation, ever. Basically, I have zero self-confidence about my looks. I love the way that I am…my personality and how I interact with people. I’m kind (most of the time, just don’t piss me off online…), I’m funny, I’m smart (unless you give me a math problem then, I’ll freak out), I care about other people. I wish that I could have the confidence of some of the fictional characters I’ve met over the years. When the negative thought bombard me, sometimes, I close my eyes, breathe in and out slowly and count the good things about myself. Just breathe… The main character in my latest awesome read is one such person.

Juliet is from a predominantly Puerto Rican neighborhood in the Bronx. She’s short and thick and sassy and…gay. She’s been in a relationship with her college roommate her family thinks is just her bff. She is an amazing writer and an avid reader. Her latest obsession is the Pussy book by famed author Harlowe Brisbane, the guru for all things female and gay. In response to the book, she wrote a long, passionate letter to the author in hopes of becoming her research assistant for the summer. It worked, she was on her way to Portland…a think, brown-skinned girl from the Bronx! It’s all hippies, weed, crystals, and a whole, unfamiliar vocabulary describing gayness that makes her feel out of place. Still, Harlowe is amazing…right up until she isn’t. The fallout from her betrayal leads Juliet to question everything about herself, her family, her girlfriend, and what it means to be a gay woman.

Whether you are a gay woman or not, we can all learn much about who we are and what we stand for from Juliet! Kudos to author Gabby Rivera for writing such a powerful, funny, beautiful character! We need more like her.

Endings…

Standard

If you have followed me for a while, you know that Juliet Marillier is one of my favorite authors. Her characters are complex, intense, and magical. I’ve read every book she’s written and have loved all of them. A while ago, after finishing her Blackthorn and Grim trilogy, I emailed her asking if she was going to come out with any more in that series. Miraculously, she answered my email and…sadly, the answer was no. However, she did tell me that she was working on a series that involved those to beloved characters and that it would complete their story. That series is The Warrior Bards and it was spectacular and she was right, it did tie up all the loose ends quite nicely. That said, I have now read all three books and am bereft at that fact. I REALLY tried to read slowly and to only read while I ate lunch but the book was just too good so, SIGH, I finished it far too quickly. Anyway, If you’re looking for a fabulous series to take you away to fantastical places but with a firm foot in reality, look no further than The Warrior Bards.

Harp of Kings

A Dance With Fate – Liobhan is adrift. Her brother, Brocc, has joined the Otherworld, a place neither can pass into or out of easily. She returns to Swan Island to resume her training. Fate, it seems, is not done with her yet and tosses another tragedy her way. During a training bout with Dau, he sustains a devastating injury which leaves him blind. Dau is despondent at the possibility of having to return home, a place of horror for him. As a result of her part in his injury, Dau’s family asks that Liobhan accompany Dau to his estate for a full year.

There are dark secrets at the heart of Oakhill and Dau is caught in the middle of them. Together, they unearth the evil that has infested the place and make themselves a target for it. Liobhan must find a way to help Dau see through his disability or they might not survive.

Song of Flight – The Prince of Dalraida has gone missing in a violent kidnapping where his guard and most trusted friend, Galen, was badly injured by both human and Crow Folk assailants. News comes to Swan Island quickly and a team is sent out but without Liobhan. In the Otherworld, Brocc has run afoul of his wife because of his work with the Crow Folk and now, he and his daughter, not yet two, are cast out into the world where he falls into the hands of Due to unforeseen circumstances, Liobhan is now called out on a mission to save him. As they travel, stories reach them that indicate that the two missions are related. Both missions are perilous and the lives of so many hang in the balance.

It’s All About the Sauce…

Standard

I love to eat…pretty obvious if you ever see me in person. I also love to cook but don’t often get the chance and I hate to cook for myself. My Granny, though, was an amazing cook. Every dish she ever made was off the charts awesome. I remember being in college and going to visit her. She’d make me a cup of cocoa and it always tasted so good but, when I made it, it tasted different. I watched her like a hawk to see what she did to it. The only difference I could discern is that she stuck her finger in it to make sure it wasn’t too hot. I miss that cocoa even these 25 years later so this book, Salty, Bitter, Sweet by Mayra Cuevas struck a tender spot in my heart and my tummy.

Isabella, Isa to most people, grew up in her abuela’s kitchen, watching, helping, tasting the wondrous creations Lala whipped up. All of her happiest memories are tied to those apron strings. Now, she’s adrift with Lala’s passing, her parents divorce and her father’s new wife so she throws herself into her cooking. When she’s accepted into an exclusive cooking school in Paris, she jumps at the chance to hone her skills so that she can one day win the coveted Michelin award. The schedule is grueling but she manages to make a couple of real friends in the class but when push comes to shove, she makes a horrible and hurtful decision. Add to the mix a handsome Spaniard, a stepmother who’s pregnant and doesn’t seem to like anything you do, and you have a recipe for disaster…or for the most interesting and fulfilling life, depending on how you mix them all together.

For foodies and fans of excellent storytelling, Cuevas has a little something for everyone in this tale. It reminds me of Flavor of the Week by Tucker Shaw…I wish that they’d included some of Lala’s recipes, though they were probably guarded, old family recipes…oh well, sigh, I can always dream of Lala’s County Fair Royalty apple pie, right?

Adam Silvera: Superhero

Standard

I’m a sucker for a good superhero story! I love the comic book/graphic novel versions but my favorite are the novel-length stories. There’s so much more time and paper to tell the intricate details that you miss in the shorter graphic novels, though I do miss the illustrations terribly! In the vein of diversity, I present, Infinity Son by Adam Silvera.

Emil and Brighton are brothers and close friends. They share a love of all things Spell Walker, a group of individuals, Celestials, born with superpowers. They fight to save the world not from aliens but from Specters, people who kill magical creatures to steal the power in their blood. It’s hard being mere mortals and specters offer the possibility of becoming something more. Neither boy has manifested powers, yet, but Brighton still believes that they could, on their 18th birthday. Disappointed, they head back home but, on the way, they are attacked by a specter and Emil suddenly starts shooting phoenix fire which is NOT a Celestial power. Their heroes, the Spell Walkers, are desperate for Emil to join their fight but he’s not a fighter. He wants peace and to have nothing to do with his powers. Brighton, however, is ecstatic. Immediately, he sees his popularity on YouTube skyrocket. He might not have Celestial or even specter power but he has his followers which are growing exponentially. Soon, however, the constant struggle, the personality differences and a BIG SECRET revealed begins to fray Emil and Brighton’s relationship to the breaking point.

In his signature style, Adam Silvera takes the reader on a rollercoaster ride through familial relationships, loyalty, rage right up until the surprise ending!

A Dash of Diversity

Standard

I’ve been focusing on ordering books with diverse characters, settings, and backgrounds. Diversity in YA fiction has been a struggle for a long time. When you were in school (are in school?) and you read the classics, how many of them had people of color in any other role than servant, slave, or bad guy? Book Riot did a survey of the 3,000+ ya books published in 2019 and broke them down; 41.8% of main characters were white. This number is far better than, say, 5+ years ago, but we still have a long way to go to have a truly balanced selection of books for our very diverse young adults.

Now, if you know me at all, you’ll know that the first of my diversity books was going to be a fantasy. Yes, yes, I’ll get to other genres later but I’m a eat dessert first kind of person (or even east dessert for dinner).

Malik and his sisters are on the run. They escaped their village and assumed new identities since the Eshran people are maligned by nearly everyone. When they reach Ziran, amid a crush of people arriving for the Solstasia festival, a spiteful specter kidnaps young Nadia. In order to free her, Malik makes a bargain that will mean death to the young princess Karina, who has her own deadly intentions to bring her recently murdered mother back to life. Forces are working around them that neither are aware of or understand and each one is determined to see their mission through, no matter the cost. The evil they unleash will take strength, cunning, and magic to overcome.

 

Roseanne A. Brown is of West Africa decent and Song of Wraiths and Ruin was inspired by the folklore of her ancestors. Her princess is lonely, angry, clever, spoiled and lost. Her hero is timid and uncertain yet he’s also brave and selfless. As they move through the intricately woven tale, they grow and change and they learn that wisdom isn’t always easy to find and betrayal can come from the least likely places.

The Damned…Sequel did not disappoint!

Standard

I do love it when the next book in a series is just as good as the first. It doesn’t always happen but, when it does HALLELUIA!!!

War is eminent in the beautiful city of New Orleans. Bastien is remade and reborn and is the catalyst but could he also be a peacemaker? Celine remembers nothing about that horrible night or the deal she made, at least that’s what was supposed to happen. But there are ghost memories that keep niggling at her mind, trying to break through. What do they mean and why is everyone lying to her about what happened? One evening, she crosses paths with Bastien, a man she’s sure she knows and to whom she feels a powerful attraction. As her memories begin to bubble to the surface with a vengeance, there are shadowy forces at work all around her; forces that are as dangerous as they are mysterious. What choices will Celine and Bastien be forced to make to survive what is coming?

Again with the Vampires?

Standard

I have always been fascinated by vampires. They are gruesome, bloody creatures and there is a romantic mystique about them. Queen of the Damned by Anne Rice has explored this dichotomy most entertainingly…especially the movie (yes, I do get that the cheese factor in it is immense…still, I loved every second). Stephanie Meyer reignited my love of these bitey creatures, though the movies were, UGH!!! I’ve read the True Blood, Jaz Parks, and Blood ties series with relish. P. C. Cast (a mother/daughter team) wrote the House of Night series and Rachel Mead wrote Vampire Academy, both are excellent vamp stories.

I’m not sure what it is that I find so scintillating. Is it that they bite the neck, a vulnerable place so close to the heart? Is it that they are always beautiful? Is it that they live forever (Nah…I DEFINITELY don’t want to do that the way the world is today!!!)? Vampires are worldly and they know a great deal about many things because they’ve lived so long. They have touched every corner of the earth and a bit of the exotic has become part of their essence. Whatever it is, I will never tire of reading about them and will always pass on what I have learned. The Beautiful by Renee Ahdieh is the latest vampire-ish book in my arsenal.

New Orleans is a mystical city. The light and the dark are drawn there for reasons they, themselves, do not understand. Celine Rousseau is running form her life and the dreadful deeds she has done. At the Convent, she is taken in but they seem to sense something about her, something that is just a little off and they treat her with caution. During a fund-raising endeavor, she meets a fascinating woman who hires her to design a gown for a fancy party. This one decision draws her inexorably into a dark and dangerous group. La Cour des Lions is a place unlike any other. Magic seems to sparkle in the very air. Those who live there are strange and, maybe, not quite human? When tragedy strikes and a girl from the convent is murdered in the most horrible way possible, a pall is cast over everyone. She is the second girl to meet this fate in as many weeks. As she draws closer to the group and its inscrutable leader, Bastian, she makes herself a target for the evil lurks in the shadows. Celine has never backed down from a fight in her life and she’s not about to start now. A plan takes form in her mind and a third murder in her own cell at the convent spurs her to action but surviving and encounter with this creature may be more than even she can handle.

This tale will surprise and delight readers as Ahdeih moves you through the streets of New Orleans in the late 1800s. It is a masterfully told fantasy that twists and turns through the streets like a manic carnival parade. I look forward to reading the sequel, Damned.

Yeah, but is it a romance novel, really?

Standard

I am not a fan of romcoms on the screen or in book form but I do enjoy a good romance, once in a while. Back when I was in high school (just a few years ago), I devoured those bodice rippers. You know the ones I’m talking about where the stunningly beautiful woman stands wrapped in the arms of an equally stunning man who seems to have just (accidentally?) torn her bodice to shreds. I learned a lot about the birds and the bees from those novels (probably why I’m not married now…super high expectations from those bees). My favorite books, however, are those that build the relationship between the characters slowly and there’s a whole lot of other stuff going on around them. These novels are not, technically, romance novels. You certainly wouldn’t find them at Barnes and Noble next to the bodice rippers (yes, they still write those and it’s a billion dollar industry). Mostly, they are contemporary fiction novels or fantasy novels (you know how I love my fantasy stories) that have characters who fall in love. You’ll have noticed that I don’t even have Romance as a genre listed! Honestly, though, that’s more of an oversight than purposeful. Maybe you can help me come up with a list of truly Romance-y novels?

I’ve made an observation after the thousands of books I’ve read throughout my life…many, many YA novels have an element of romance in them but you wouldn’t necessarily label them with the Romance genre sticker. Some revolved around crushes that turn into something or that remain star-crossed. Others, focus on the I-don’t-need-anyone-until-BAM-I’m-in-love stories. Below are some of my favorites. Please forgive me for the overabundance of my favorite genre. I can’t help myself!

Hunger Games – there’s even a love triangle in this one…Katniss, Gale, and Peeta.
Graceling by Kirstin Cashore – This one is about a girl who has the powerful “grace” of being able to kill anyone, any time, with any or no weapon. She’s being used as an enforcer by her uncle but runs a rescue group on the sly. One a mission to save an elderly royal, she meets the only person ever to be able to hold his own against her. Oh, she still beats the daylights out of him but she has to break a sweat to do it.
Matched by Ally Condie – Sure, this one is all about matching young people for mates but, there’s a lot more going on here, still, you definitely get the LUV angle.
Divergent by Veronica Roth – you CANNOT deny the smoldering passion between Four and Triss from the moment they meet.
Sarah Dessen – I mention her because her books ALWAYS have an angsty love story unfolding amongst the dysfunctional family drama (and, they are ALL fabulous books).
Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier – Based on the Seven Swans fairy tale, the romance in this one builds over three fabulously long books.
Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas – This one’s a mashup between the Beauty and the Beast and the Scottish Tam Lin fairy tales. There’s death and destruction, betrayal, and, ultimately love, but with a mind-bending twist.
The Dark Artifices series by Cassandra Clare – the romance in this book started long before this was even published! There are demons, warlocks, curses, betrayal…love?
Harp of Kings by Julie Marillier – This one has a couple of love stories but the main one unfolds slowly with all the infuriating potholes and familial interferences that make a good love story. Bonus: two of the characters are the children of a couple from another of my favorite Marillier books, the Blackthorn and Grim series.
Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levitan – This story is a borderline love story about two boys, both named Will Grayson, looking for and finding love even though one of them wasn’t looking for it and the other finds it in an unexpected place.
An Abundance of Katherine’s by John Green – This is all about a mathematical genius (no, seriously) who is trying to figure out the formula that will explain why he only falls in love with girls named Katherine all while he’s on a post-graduation road trip with his best friend. Is it a buddy story? Is it a romance? You decide.





Pan…dammit

Standard

The last time I posted was March before all of the stuff hit the fan. It’s been a long, difficult road and I have used more cuss words during this time than I ever have before (hence the title of this post). I don’t know if you read the Twilight books but Stephanie Meyer did something in New Moon (book 2) that so perfectly illustrated what Bella was going through when Edward left. There were three pages, blank except for the name of the month. It was a poignant, powerful visual and it perfectly describes how things have been for me since March. I had little motivation to do anything except sit in front of the tv, series after series, and not think (one of these days, I’ll do a post all about my pandemic watchlist). Still, I managed to get a couple of books read; mostly from my favorite authors so I’d know what to expect…fabulousness (the word “unprecedented” is a word I NEVER want to hear, again). I was not disappointed.

Juliet Marillier is in my top 5 favorite author group. Her high fantasy picks me up and whisks me away to worlds long ago and full of magic and mystery. Harp of Kings is her latest.

Liobhan (sounds like leo-bhan) is a strong girl with big dreams to become a warrior. She has the skills and the determination. She and her twin brother, Brocc, have been accepted to Swan Island, a training camp for elite fighters. Their fighting skills are honed as they compete for a place amongst the famed warriors. In the midst of their training, they are recruited for a special mission. They will be traveling as musicians. Liobhan has almost magical skill on the pipes and Brocc has the voice of an angel and the skill of a master on the harp. Together, they will face the most difficult challenge in their young lives…separation.

Sarah J. Maas has become one of my new favorites. Her fairy stories are brutal and beautiful, brash and seductive. Her latest, Crescent City, is also quite steamy! I’d rate it M for mature.

Bryce is a party girl. Dancing, drinking, and having fun is all she wants right up until she watches her best friend torn to shreds by a demon in front of her. On the surface, she seems unchanged. She allows her reputation to remain but behind the scenes she is in turmoil. The man she believed guilty of the crime is behind bars so why have the murders begun again? Who is behind it and why? She is recruited to help in the search by the Asteri Micah, an arch angel. He assigns Hunt Athalar, a famed warrior with his own personal demons to work with her. The two are like oil and water but they think alike and quickly pick up a trail but where it leads them will shatter their souls.

Bam…

Standard

Have you ever read a book, gotten totally hooked on, devouring pages just to see where the story goes then you turn a corner and a huge plank hits you upside the head and the story goes off the rails? Well, that’s exactly what just happened to me as I read I Know You Remember by Jennifer Donaldson

Ruthie moved away three years ago. Now, her mom has died and she’s back but everything is different and, Zahra is missing. Zahra and Ruthie were best friends from the moment they met. They read fantasy books and wrote their own stories. They even created their own “castle” at the local park. Ruthie believes that she can find her friend so, she gets to know Zahrara’s new friends to try to figure out what went wrong. The web entangling them all gets twisted and a sudden twist throws everything topsy turvy. Who is responsible? The answer will shock you.

This book takes me back to the first time I saw Sixth Sense. I had to rewind the VCR tape and watch it again to see if I could spot the moment things went awry. It was one of the few movies that caught me completely off guard. This book is the same except with fewer hints and clues scattered throughout. If you’re a fan of mystery and suspense books and don’t mind a super surprising ending, this one is definitely for you.