This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab
Published: July 5th 2016 by Greenwillow Books
Format: Paper Book
Length: 427 pages
Genre: Dystopia, Supernatural, Horror, Urban Fantasy
Rating: 3 stars
Goodreads | Amazon
There’s no such thing as safe.
Kate Harker wants to be as ruthless as her father. After five years and six boarding schools, she’s finally going home to prove that she can be.
August Flynn wants to be human. But he isn’t. He’s a monster, one that can steal souls with a song. He’s one of the three most powerful monsters in a city overrun with them. His own father’s secret weapon.
Their city is divided.
Their city is crumbling.
Kate and August are the only two who see both sides, the only two who could do something.
But how do you decide to be a hero or a villain when it’s hard to tell which is which?
I’ve only read one other Victoria Schwab book several years ago. It was The Near Witch and I was very unimpressed with it. I received This Savage Song in my OwlCrate box last month and figured, since I had it, I might as well give her another try. I must say, she’s gotten better over the years. While I still found This Savage Song a bit slow at the beginning; the world building is fantastic and the writing superb. In Schwab’s dystopian world, violence spawns physical monsters as consequences. Simple violence breeds Corsai; murder breeds Malchai; while the most heinous crimes, like mass murders, breed Sunai. The best aspect of This Savage Song is the world building because in most other ways, the story is rather generic.
The city of Verity is split in two, with each side ruled by a different man. In North City is the mob boss like Hawker, giving protection to the citizens who can pay for it and keeping the monsters under his control at bay with harsh punishments. South City is run by Flynn, whose task force is barely keeping its head above water. It’s all very West and East Berlin like, with the empty Seam between the city halves acting like the Berlin Wall. Then there are the characters. I liked August but I found Kate to be your typical cookie-cutter YA tough girl who is really a mess inside. She really wasn’t interesting. August was your usual tortured emo boy but at least he had his interesting aspects. The plot is also pretty dull as well. The first half of the book is just Kate and August circling each other until Kate figures out August is a Sunai and even when the action picks up in the second half, there were no surprises. It was obvious what was going to happen and who was behind it. I felt like the whole book was just setup for the next novel, where, hopefully, more interesting things will happen. Over four hundred pages is a lot of setup, though. I kind of felt like I was wasting my time.
The novel’s saving grace is the excellent world building and the writing. I applaud Schwab’s choice to leave out any romance between Kate and August. I often find the romantic tropes between two characters detract from a story and was pleased to find it absent here. I liked the juxtaposition of the monster hierarchy. The more horrendous the violence, the more human looking the resulting monster. The Sunai looked completely human but were spawned from the worst violence. I would have enjoyed even more world building. We never learn why violence started creating physical monsters. It’s just called the Phenomenon but we’re never given details. In all, I felt like This Savage Song by Victor Schwab was good but not perfect. There were no surprises in the plot and the characters are overdone tropes but it was entertaining for the most part.
As I Descended by Robin Talley
Publication: September 6th 2016 by HarperTeen
Maria Lyon and Lily Boiten are their school’s ultimate power couple—even if no one knows it but them.
Only one thing stands between them and their perfect future: campus superstar Delilah Dufrey.
Golden child Delilah is a legend at the exclusive Acheron Academy, and the presumptive winner of the distinguished Cawdor Kingsley Prize. She runs the school, and if she chose, she could blow up Maria and Lily’s whole world with a pointed look, or a carefully placed word.
But what Delilah doesn’t know is that Lily and Maria are willing to do anything—absolutely anything—to make their dreams come true. And the first step is unseating Delilah for the Kingsley Prize. The full scholarship, awarded to Maria, will lock in her attendance at Stanford―and four more years in a shared dorm room with Lily.
Maria and Lily will stop at nothing to ensure their victory—including harnessing the dark power long rumored to be present on the former plantation that houses their school.
But when feuds turn to fatalities, and madness begins to blur the distinction between what’s real and what is imagined, the girls must decide where they draw the line.
From acclaimed author Robin Talley comes a Shakespeare-inspired story of revenge and redemption, where fair is foul, and foul is fair.
The Graces by Laure Eve
Publication: September 6th 2016 by Amulet Books
In The Graces, the first rule of witchcraft states that if you want something badly enough, you can get it . . . no matter who has to pay.
Everyone loves the Graces. Fenrin, Thalia, and Summer Grace are captivating, wealthy, and glamorous. They’ve managed to cast a spell over not just their high school but also their entire town—and they’re rumored to have powerful connections all over the world. If you’re not in love with one of them, you want to be them. Especially River: the loner, new girl at school. She’s different from her peers, who both revere and fear the Grace family. She wants to be a Grace more than anything. And what the Graces don’t know is that River’s presence in town is no accident.
This fabulously addictive fantasy combines sophisticated and haunting prose with a gut-punching twist that readers will be dying to discuss. Perfect for fans of We Were Liars as well as nostalgic classics like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the 1996 movie The Craft, The Graces marks the beginning of a new wave of teen witches.
Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee
Publication: September 8th 2016 by Duet Books
Welcome to Andover… where superpowers are common, but internships are complicated. Just ask high school nobody, Jessica Tran. Despite her heroic lineage, Jess is resigned to a life without superpowers and is merely looking to beef-up her college applications when she stumbles upon the perfect (paid!) internship—only it turns out to be for the town’s most heinous supervillain. On the upside, she gets to work with her longtime secret crush, Abby, who Jess thinks may have a secret of her own. Then there’s the budding attraction to her fellow intern, the mysterious “M,” who never seems to be in the same place as Abby. But what starts as a fun way to spite her superhero parents takes a sudden and dangerous turn when she uncovers a plot larger than heroes and villains altogether.
A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess
Publication: September 20th 2016 by Random House BFYR
I am Henrietta Howel. The first female sorcerer. The prophesied one. Or am I?
Henrietta Howel can burst into flames. When she’s brought to London to train with Her Majesty’s sorcerers, she meets her fellow sorcerer trainees, young men eager to test her powers and her heart. One will challenge her. One will fight for her. One will betray her. As Henrietta discovers the secrets hiding behind the glamour of sorcerer life, she begins to doubt that she’s the true prophesied one. With battle looming, how much will she risk to save the city—and the one she loves?
Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter
Publication: September 20th 2016 by Tor Teen
In the enchanted kingdom of Brooklyn, the fashionable people put on cute shoes, go to parties in warehouses, drink on rooftops at sunset, and tell themselves they’ve arrived. A whole lot of Brooklyn is like that now—but not Vassa’s working-class neighborhood.
In Vassa’s neighborhood, where she lives with her stepmother and bickering stepsisters, one might stumble onto magic, but stumbling out again could become an issue. Babs Yagg, the owner of the local convenience store, has a policy of beheading shoplifters—and sometimes innocent shoppers as well. So when Vassa’s stepsister sends her out for light bulbs in the middle of night, she knows it could easily become a suicide mission.
But Vassa has a bit of luck hidden in her pocket, a gift from her dead mother. Erg is a tough-talking wooden doll with sticky fingers, a bottomless stomach, and a ferocious cunning. With Erg’s help, Vassa just might be able to break the witch’s curse and free her Brooklyn neighborhood. But Babs won’t be playing fair. . . .
Inspired by the Russian folktale Vassilissa the Beautiful and Sarah Porter’s years of experience teaching creative writing to New York City students.
Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake
Publication: September 20th 2016 by HarperTeen
Fans of acclaimed author Kendare Blake’s Anna Dressed in Blood will devour her latest novel, a dark and inventive fantasy about three sisters who must fight to the death to become queen.
In every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born: three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions.
But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose…it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins.
The last queen standing gets the crown.
A long list of new books coming out in September this year. I’m really excited to see something new from Kendare Blake. Anna Dressed in Blood was my favorite when it came out. I’m also looking forward to Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter. On a side note, all of these are up for grabs from Goodreads contests. Just click the link and it will take you to the book’s page where you can sign up for a chance to win a copy of the book.
My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows
Published: June 7th 2016 by HarperTeen
Format: Paper Book
Length: 512 pages
Genre: historical fiction, fantasy, magic, shapeshifters, royal drama
Rating: 4.5 stars
Goodreads | Amazon
Edward (long live the king) is the King of England. He’s also dying, which is inconvenient, as he’s only sixteen and he’d much rather be planning for his first kiss than considering who will inherit his crown…
Jane (reads too many books) is Edward’s cousin, and far more interested in books than romance. Unfortunately for Jane, Edward has arranged to marry her off to secure the line of succession. And there’s something a little odd about her intended…
Gifford (call him G) is a horse. That is, he’s an Eðian (eth-y-un, for the uninitiated). Every day at dawn he becomes a noble chestnut steed—but then he wakes at dusk with a mouthful of hay. It’s all very undignified.
The plot thickens as Edward, Jane, and G are drawn into a dangerous conspiracy. With the fate of the kingdom at stake, our heroes will have to engage in some conspiring of their own. But can they pull off their plan before it’s off with their heads?
I was prepared to give My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows a pass when I first heard of it. I usually find period historical royal drama books dull and pretty cringe worthy. Then a copy of My Lady Jane arrived in the June Owl Crate subscription box and I figured since I had it, I should give it a read. I’m glad I did. I expected something stuffy and sluggish but My Lady Jane is a hilarious, clever reinventing of English history with a heavy helping of magical highjacks. It was so much better than I could have anticipated.
Ah, the Tudors. Never a more dysfunctional royal family will you find. In case you need a refresher, this is the period of time where Henry VIII broke with the Catholic Church just so he could marry 6 different women. (His wives kept ending up dead, for some reason.) His son Edward VI, by Jane Seymour (wife #3), was brought up a Protestant, while his half-sister Mary, by Catherine of Aragon (wife #1), was brought up a Catholic. Both were struggling for control of the English throne. It is into this political stew pot that our story unfolds. Our authors take the religious tensions of the day and switch them over to a magical prejudice system between shapeshifters, the Edians, and those who despise them, the Verity. Our story is set in 1553, just as young King Edward was about to die from tuberculosis (as history tells us). Only Edward doesn’t die, much to everyone’s frustration. Throw in a royal coup d’état, other dastardly plots, and a horse and you have My Lady Jane in a nutshell.
For the amount of political drama that is the setting, My Lady Jane is a silly historical comedy full of puns and mockery of the sexist attitudes and ridiculous social graces of the time period. It’s funny and tongue-in-cheek. It’s entertaining. My Lady Jane is the type of easy, undemanding book that you can relax with. The romantic relationships, especially between Jane and G, are done spectacularly, with a believable evolution. The humor is clever and sarcastic. It is the exact tone I love to read. The characters are interesting. I especially like Jane. I really identify with her. She has so much book smarts but it’s hard to translate that usefully into the real world. The plot is well-written and the blending of history and fantasy is splendid.
My only real complaint is that it jumps between three POV’s, making it slightly irritating when we switch over to another person and have to backtrack to cover what was happening to them during a time period we’ve already covered from a different POV. I find changing POV’s incredibly jarring to the reading experience, making it hard to really settle into the flow of the narrative. However, I would have never guessed there were three authors. The writing style doesn’t change throughout the book and the tone never shifts. Our authors blended seamlessly together. I have to assume they wrote different parts but you could never tell. There are some portions that drag but the action picks up quickly. I was pleasantly surprised by how NOT annoying the romances were. My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows is a fun, witty rump through Tudor history turned on its head that I recommend anybody looking for a good chuckle and some sweet romance should read.
The Gilded Cage by Lucinda Gray
Expected Publication: August 2
After growing up on a farm in Virginia, Walthingham Hall in England seems like another world to sixteen-year-old Katherine Randolph. Her new life, filled with the splendor of upper-class England in the 1820s, is shattered when her brother mysteriously drowns. Katherine is expected to observe the mourning customs and get on with her life, but she can’t accept that her brother’s death was an accident.
A bitter poacher prowls the estate, and strange visitors threaten the occupants of the house. There’s a rumor, too, that a wild animal stalks the woods of Walthingham. Can Katherine retain her sanity long enough to find out the truth? Or will her brother’s killer claim her life, too?
The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill
Expected Publication: August 9
Every year, the people of the Protectorate leave a baby as an offering to the witch who lives in the forest. They hope this sacrifice will keep her from terrorizing their town. But the witch in the forest, Xan, is kind and gentle. She shares her home with a wise Swamp Monster named Glerk and a Perfectly Tiny Dragon, Fyrian. Xan rescues the abandoned children and deliver them to welcoming families on the other side of the forest, nourishing the babies with starlight on the journey.
One year, Xan accidentally feeds a baby moonlight instead of starlight, filling the ordinary child with extraordinary magic. Xan decides she must raise this enmagicked girl, whom she calls Luna, as her own. To keep young Luna safe from her own unwieldy power, Xan locks her magic deep inside her. When Luna approaches her thirteenth birthday, her magic begins to emerge on schedule–but Xan is far away. Meanwhile, a young man from the Protectorate is determined to free his people by killing the witch. Soon, it is up to Luna to protect those who have protected her–even if it means the end of the loving, safe world she’s always known.
The acclaimed author of The Witch’s Boy has created another epic coming-of-age fairy tale destined to become a modern classic.
Nevernight by Jay Kristoff
Expected Publication: August 9
Destined to destroy empires, Mia Covere is only ten years old when she is given her first lesson in death.
Six years later, the child raised in shadows takes her first steps towards keeping the promise she made on the day that she lost everything.
But the chance to strike against such powerful enemies will be fleeting, so if she is to have her revenge, Mia must become a weapon without equal. She must prove herself against the deadliest of friends and enemies, and survive the tutelage of murderers, liars and demons at the heart of a murder cult.
The Red Church is no Hogwarts, but Mia is no ordinary student.
The shadows love her. And they drink her fear.
Nevernight by Jay Kristoff has been wildly anticipated by book lovers for the past few months but I’m not hearing great things about it by the early reviewers. Most are calling the writing overwrought and painful to read. If you like super dense high fantasy stories, you might be able to get through Nevernight, but most readers are completely put off by the writing style. Lots of descriptions, overuse of similes and metaphors, and with slow plot spacing. Reader beware.
These book reviews are going to be short and sweet because I did not like either of these books, didn’t even finish one, and I don’t want to waste time with books I disliked this much. So, here are some mini book reviews.
The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney
Published: March 22nd 2016 by Ecco
Format: Paper Book
Length: 368 pages
Genre: Adult, Fiction, Family
Rating: 1 star
Goodreads | Amazon
The Plumb siblings are sure The Nest, the nest egg their father set up as a little gift for their later year that unexpectedly ballooned, will solve all their problems. At least, it would have if their mother hadn’t almost drained it paying for the elder brother’s rehab when he gets in a car accident while intoxicated, complete with 19 year old waitress in the passenger seat. Brought together as never before, Leo, Melody, Jack, and Beatrice must grapple with old resentments, present-day truths, and the significant emotional and financial toll of the accident, as well as finally acknowledge the choices they have made in their own lives.
After about a 100 pages of people whining, I gave up. This was the book that I did not finish. Other people might find the train wreck that is the Plumb family interesting but I just could not stomach reading about the whining of a bunch of self-entitled, self-absorbed brats. The characters are vapid and lifeless and the entire situation is just laughable. I’m confused about the many positive reviews. This book wasn’t interesting at all. I guess you have to have more patience for morons than I do.
After the Woods by Kim Savage
Published: February 23rd 2016 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Format: Paper Book
Length: 304 pages
Genre: Young Adult, Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
Rating: 2 stars
Goodreads | Amazon
Julia saves her friend Liv when they are attacked in the woods. Liv runs, leaving Julia at the mercy of their assalant. A year later, Julia is trying to puzzle out the details of her abduction while dealing with Liv’s self-destructive spiral down and a whole host of secrets.
I wanted to like this more than I did. It took me forever to finish After the Woods because I kept losing interest. Despite an halfway interesting main character and a sort of fresh angle on the mystery – the book takes place after the abduction and sort of moves backward with our unreliable amnesic main character trying to remember what really happened and unravel the spider web connecting everyone – but it just felt wandering and unfocused rather than suspenseful. I don’t know why the romantic interest was in there at all, as he serves no purpose and I’ve already forgotten his name. Plot points are added and then never brought up again and characters just seem wooden. By the end, I was rolling my eyes so hard they hurt. Savage was aiming for intrigue but fell flat with a messy plot and slow pacing.
13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl by Mona Awad
Published: February 23rd 2016 by Penguin Canada
Format: Paper Book
Length: 244 pages
Genre: Adult, Memoir, Short Stories, Mental Illness
Rating: 2 stars
Goodreads | Amazon
Growing up in the suburban hell of Misery Saga (a.k.a. Mississauga), Lizzie has never liked the way she looks— her weight affects every portion of her life, self-esteem, and makes her miserable. So she starts to lose. She grows up and gets thin, navigating double-edged validation from her mother, her friends, her husband, her reflection in the mirror. But no matter how much she loses, will she ever see herself as anything other than a fat girl?
I’ve read a couple of these fat lady memoir / autobiographical books. This one is a little heavy on the mental illness aspect for my tastes but otherwise ok. There is little ‘I’ve come to accept myself’ and a lot more ‘look how messed up I am because of society’. There is a tiny bit of dark humor and some clever turn of phrase going on but it is not a funny book and I honestly don’t know where people got that impression. If you are looking for something uplifting, look elsewhere. Honestly, the way Mona acts in this book is just short of horrifying.
Down with the Shine by Kate Karyus Quinn
Published: April 26th 2016 by HarperTeen
Format: Paper Book
Length: 355 pages
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Magic, Horror, Murder, Funny
Rating: 3 stars
Goodreads | Amazon
Make a wish…
Lennie always thought her uncles’ “important family legacy” was good old-fashioned bootlegging. Then she takes some of her uncles’ moonshine to Michaela Gordon’s annual house party, and finds out just how wrong she was.
At the party, Lennie has everyone make a wish before drinking the shine—it’s tradition. She toasts to wishes for bat wings, for balls of steel, for the party to go on forever. Lennie even makes a wish of her own: to bring back her best friend, Dylan, who was murdered six months ago.
The next morning gives Lennie a whole new understanding of the phrase be careful what you wish for—or in her case, be careful what wishes you grant. Because all those wishes Lennie raised a jar of shine to last night? They came true. Most of them came out bad. And once granted, a wish can’t be unmade…
Talk with your kids about their secret wish granting powers, people. Down with the Shine by Kate Karyus Quinn started out strong but lost its edge as it progressed. The dark and macabre mood we start out with is soon lost amid out of place humor and slapstick. Down with the Shine flip-flops between the two and ends up being kind of annoying with the different atmospheres. If you are going to be dark, then be dark. Same thing with silly. Mashing the two together just leaves me unsatisfied and unsure which way to go. The elements that were dark; Lennie’s psychopath father, murdered best friend, and string of accidently granted wishes that turn out rather horrifyingly, were all great, but sort of fell to the wayside as Down with Shine focused more on comedy in the middle portion. There were so many juicy elements to explore and we’re just let down.
The wishes that Lennie unknowingly grants at the party are played for laughs and the whole thing comes off as a comedy sketch with her uncles running around trying to contain teenagers suddenly stuck with bat wings, who were turned into Thumbelina, or turn everything they touch into Cheetos. Then there is the ridiculous drama of the budding romance between Lennie and Smith. I was frankly uninterested about those two. Dylan’s murder, mutilation, and decent into the dark side are unexplored. The disturbing kiss between Smith and his mother is left dangling. We’re left wondering about Lennie’s father. There are just so many interesting elements in Down with the Shine that aren’t focused on because of the humor. It’s like there are two stories going on here and both suffer from lack of focus. Pick one; dark or silly, and stick with it.
I’m especially disappointed by Dylan. The resolution at the end saves her life, granted, but then the underlying issue of why Dylan acted as she did, pretending to be Lennie and meeting with strange men, is not dealt with. Our main character, Lennie, is your basic sarcastic outcast character that I am frankly tired of in YA books. I love the premise and the majority of my enjoyment in this book was from the interesting storyline and magical elements. Down with the Shine by Kate Karyus Quinn could have been dark and gritty and fantastic but feels watered down.
Some books coming out this month that I thought looked good.
The May Queen Murders by Sarah Jude
Publication: May 3
Stay on the roads. Don’t enter the woods. Never go out at night.
Those are the rules in Rowan’s Glen, a remote farming community in the Missouri Ozarks where Ivy Templeton’s family has lived for centuries. It’s an old-fashioned way of life, full of superstition and traditions, and sixteen-year-old Ivy loves it. The other kids at school may think the Glen kids are weird, but Ivy doesn’t care—she has her cousin Heather as her best friend. The two girls share everything with each other—or so Ivy thinks. When Heather goes missing after a May Day celebration, Ivy discovers that both her best friend and her beloved hometown are as full of secrets as the woods that surround them.
The Sudden Appearance of Hope by Claire North
Publication: May 17
All the world forgets me. First my face, then my voice, then the consequences of my deeds.
So listen. Remember me.
My name is Hope Arden, and you won’t know who I am. We’ve met before – a thousand times. But I am the girl the world forgets.
It started when I was sixteen years old. A slow declining, an isolation, one piece at a time.
A father forgetting to drive me to school. A mother setting the table for three, not four. A teacher who forgets to chase my missing homework. A friend who looks straight through me and sees a stranger.
No matter what I do, the words I say, the people I hurt, the crimes I commit – you will never remember who I am.
That makes my life tricky. But it also makes me dangerous . . .
The Sudden Appearance of Hope is the tale of the girl no one remembers. But this gripping story – of love and loss, of hope and despair, of living in the moment and dying to leave a mark – is novel that will stay with you for ever.
Girl Against the Universe by Paula Stokes
Publication: May 17
From the author of The Art of Lainey and Liars, Inc. comes a fresh, contemporary story about one girl’s tragic past and a boy who convinces her that maybe her luck is about to change. Perfect for fans of Sarah Dessen or Jenny Han.
Maguire knows she’s bad luck. No matter how many charms she buys off the internet or good luck rituals she performs each morning, horrible things happen when Maguire is around. Like that time her brother, father, and uncle were all killed in a car crash—and Maguire walked away with barely a scratch. But then on her way out of her therapist’s office, she meets Jordy, an aspiring tennis star, who wants to help Maguire break her unlucky streak. Maguire knows that the best thing she can do for Jordy is to stay away, but staying away may be harder than she thought.
Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee
Publication: May 24
San Francisco, 1906: Fifteen-year-old Mercy Wong is determined to break from the poverty in Chinatown, and an education at St. Clare’s School for Girls is her best hope. Although St. Clare’s is off-limits to all but the wealthiest white girls, Mercy gains admittance through a mix of cunning and a little bribery, only to discover that getting in was the easiest part. Not to be undone by a bunch of spoiled heiresses, Mercy stands strong—until disaster strikes.
On April 18, an historic earthquake rocks San Francisco, destroying Mercy’s home and school. With martial law in effect, she is forced to wait with her classmates for their families in a temporary park encampment. Mercy can’t sit by while they wait for the Army to bring help. Fires might rage, and the city may be in shambles, yet Mercy still has the ‘bossy’ cheeks that mark her as someone who gets things done. But what can one teenaged girl do to heal so many suffering in her broken city?
Modern Lovers by Emma Straub
Publication: May 31
Friends and former college bandmates Elizabeth and Andrew and Zoe have watched one another marry, buy real estate, and start businesses and families, all while trying to hold on to the identities of their youth. But nothing ages them like having to suddenly pass the torch (of sexuality, independence, and the ineffable alchemy of cool) to their own offspring.
Back in the band’s heyday, Elizabeth put on a snarl over her Midwestern smile, Andrew let his unwashed hair grow past his chin, and Zoe was the lesbian all the straight women wanted to sleep with. Now nearing fifty, they all live within shouting distance in the same neighborhood deep in gentrified Brooklyn, and the trappings of the adult world seem to have arrived with ease. But the summer that their children reach maturity (and start sleeping together), the fabric of the adults’ lives suddenly begins to unravel, and the secrets and revelations that are finally let loose—about themselves, and about the famous fourth band member who soared and fell without them—can never be reclaimed.
Straub packs wisdom and insight and humor together in a satisfying book about neighbors and nosiness, ambition and pleasure, the excitement of youth, the shock of middle age, and the fact that our passions—be they food, or friendship, or music—never go away, they just evolve and grow along with us.
A good mix for the month of May! Most of these are large books, near or over 400 pages. The Sudden Appearance of Hope by Claire North is 480 pages. I hope all these big books are worth reading.
Girls? Are you listening? I’m here with a bit of advice. Now, I apologize for sounding like a bitch. I’m well aware this isn’t any of my business but this seems to be happening to everyone I know lately and I’m honestly convinced that nobody has told you flat out to just stop it. What am I talking about? Well, two things actually.
First a little background; I have a friend of a friend who is suffering the consequences of her bad choices. The first bad choice was that she smoked during her pregnancy. The second bad choice is that she got pregnant with her boyfriend. Why am I calling the latter a bad choice? Because that boyfriend abandoned her when the baby was a month old.
Now, that boyfriend is a dick. A grade A asshole. That’s on him. He’s scum. That is in no way her fault. But I see it happening time after time. This friend of a friend has a 9 year old daughter whose father also skipped out. So, I guess my first piece of advice is you better be absolutely fucking sure your baby daddy is going to stay. Honestly, no babies until you have a ring on your finger. Use birth control when you fuck your boyfriends, ladies. Get the Pill. Make him wear a condom. Have your own condoms so you are sure about them. Use both the Pill and a condom. You make sure you have that man’s balls nailed to the floor before you go popping out any kids.
Yes, kids are amazing and awesome and fulfilling and all that bullshit but single parenthood sucks. Being on food stamps sucks. Being on welfare sucks. Trying to raise a kid on your own, child support or no, sucks. Do everything in your power to avoid it. You make sure that the dick in the relationship is going to stay there after playtime is over.
Now back to the first piece of advice. Do you smoke? Stop it! We all know that smoking is unhealthy. Why are you still smoking? Quit. Quit now. Did you just say it’s too hard? You’re under a lot of stress? It helps you relax? Tough. Suck it up, you piece of shit, and quit. Do you want to be dead by the age of 65, like my Mother? Do you want to be dragging an oxygen tube around the house, like my Father? No, you fucking do not. Quit.
Are you pregnant and smoking? Here, let me apply my boot to your face. What the hell would possess you to smoke while pregnant? Do you want to know what happens when you smoke while pregnant? You get a month long stay in the hospital, a tiny preemie baby that needs special care, and medical bills up the wahoo. Because you are a fucking idiot.
Friend of a friend’s water broke about 9 weeks early and she was rushed to the hospital. Luckily, baby appeared to be fine and what followed was about a month long stay in the hospital trying to keep the bun in the oven as long as possible. She kept losing amniotic fluid the whole time. She would sneak out in her wheelchair to smoke in the hospital courtyard. Her work place basically just fired her. (Don’t sign shit, people.) Then baby appeared to be in distress and there was an emergency C-section done. That was at just 33 weeks and she came out into the world septic and needing special care. The mother’s C-section wound then got an infection and is still not healing right, even a month later. She has a wound pump and has been out of work for about 3 months now.
And then her boyfriend leaves her. So, when I say you better lock down the dick in the relationship, I damn well mean it.
Don’t smoke while pregnant. Don’t smoke at all. Quit. Right now. Save yourself the money and a world of pain. Fucking stop smoking.
And, of course, there is no telling what problems the baby might have later in life because of this.
Stop it. Just… stop it.
Do not be the friend of a friend.
Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke
Published: March 22nd 2016 by Dial Books
Format: Paper Book
Length: 247 pages
Genre: Paranormal, Magical Realism, Messed-up Teenagers, Mystery
Rating: 3 stars
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Every story needs a hero.
Every story needs a villain.
Every story needs a secret.
Wink is the odd, mysterious neighbor girl, wild red hair and freckles. Poppy is the blond bully and the beautiful, manipulative high school queen bee. Midnight is the sweet, uncertain boy caught between them. Wink. Poppy. Midnight. Two girls. One boy. Three voices that burst onto the page in short, sharp, bewitching chapters, and spiral swiftly and inexorably toward something terrible or tricky or tremendous.
What really happened?
Someone is lying.
There is a Wicked Witch, a Wolf, and a Hero in Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke, in that order. Wink Poppy Midnight is a small book at 247 pages and POV jumps between the three characters named in the book’s title. Yes, they all have weird names. We never settle into one character for long and I found this kept me from really sinking into the story. I was never able to connect with the story or the characters. I also find it hard to really care about characters that are just all over nasty and Poppy’s cruel, manipulative, and sexualized behavior irritated me. I tend to not care about characters that have no redeeming qualities and thus didn’t really care if she was dead or not or what she was doing with her apparent cryptic letter writing. I found Poppy childish, like a toddler having an embarrassing tantrum in the middle of a store, and unappealing as a character. I also found it annoying that she was so obsessed with Leaf while he seemed to not care anything for her and was so ugly to Midnight, who might have genuinely cared about her if she hadn’t been so horrible to him.
I liked Wink, up until the end. She is just the type of witchy and interesting character I tend to like in stories. I don’t want to reveal too much but I was unhappy with the evolution of Wink’s character. Her motives turned out to be more selfish than I thought. Midnight is a little spineless and honestly needs to stop letting girls lead him around by the ‘you know what’. I was happy with the actions he takes at the end. Midnight needed to become his own person, away from Wink and Poppy. I loved the structure of the plot and the use of fairytales. Of course, every time I came across a new fairytale, I had to write it down so I could look it up later. I’m weak. The lyrical style to the writing was lovely and the imagery was whimsical and chilling. If the author had stuck with one POV or written third person omniscient, I would have probably loved this.
I don’t remember teenagers being such psychos – even when I was one! – but everyone in Wink Poppy Midnight is crazy cakes. I understand Poppy’s parents treat her like a doll, left up on a shelf until wanted, but her extremely destructive and hurtful behavior really makes me dislike her as a character. Wink’s manipulative actions are just the flip of the same awful coin. The only smart action Midnight takes is leaving; otherwise he is an uninspiring character. The plot was interesting but the constant jumps in POV kept me from really enjoying the story. The more the book progressed, the more scattered it became, leaving me slightly confused as to what was happening or why. Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke was quirky and unnerving with hints of paranormal but was mostly just a bunch of kids whose parents really need to pay closer attention to what their off-spring are doing before the little nutters actually manage to kill someone.
“Aerity…” Her father paused as if the words he was forming pained him. “I must ask you to sacrifice the promise of love for the sake of our kingdom.”
She could only stare back, frozen.
When a strange beast terrorizes the kingdom of Lochlanach, fear stirs revolt. In an act of desperation, a proclamation is sent to all of Eurona—kill the creature and win the ultimate prize: the daughter of King Lochson’s hand in marriage.
Princess Aerity knows her duty to the kingdom but cannot bear the idea of marrying a stranger…until a brooding local hunter, Paxton Seabolt, catches her attention. There’s no denying the unspoken lure between them…or his mysterious resentment.
Paxton is not the marrying type. Nor does he care much for spoiled royals and their arcane laws. He’s determined to keep his focus on the task at hand—ridding the kingdom of the beast—but the princess continues to surprise him, and the perilous secrets he’s buried begin to surface.
Inspired by the Grimm Brothers’ tale “The Singing Bone,” New York Times bestselling author Wendy Higgins delivers a dark fantasy filled with rugged hunters, romantic tension, and a princess willing to risk all to save her kingdom.
I’m going to start screaming and I’m not sure I’ll be able to stop. I really wanted to love The Great Hunt by Wendy Higgins but it commits one of my biggest pet peeves in the YA genre. Nothing drives me up the wall like a male love interest who is an asshole to the female main character but the girl still has feelings for him because, oh my god!, he’s just the hottest thing ever! This type of bullshit belittles women and I hate it. No woman should put up with any type of abuse and the fact that this type of trope relationship is used so much in YA books frankly sickens me. I don’t care how handsome, how mysterious, or how fuckable a man is, if he’s a jerk, for whatever reason, that is it. Knee to the nuts, drop dead you asshole. Crap like this just perpetuates the idea that men can do whatever they want and women should just accept it and not complain and, gag me, even find it appealing. #notromantic #notsexy #stopit
Beyond that, The Great Hunt is bland and a slog to get through. It is repetitive and dull. We all know where the story is going and Higgins’ attempt to use sexual tension between freaking everyone to spice things up is just painful. The more interesting characters are kind of underdeveloped. I would have loved to see more about the Amazonian like Zandalee but they drop out of the story just when it could have gotten interesting. Aerity, our resident princess and prize, is lackluster. There is some attempt to make her interesting but it just comes across as weird. The king, Aerity’s father, fell in love and married a commoner, a circus performer. When she has children… she teaches them circus tricks? (It’s Cirque du Soleil in Scotland!) Aerity’s little sister, Vixie, does horseback tricks and Aerity does aerial gymnastics. It was just off putting and out of place. It’s used as a plot device at the end to allow Aerity to do her part to kill the beast but, honestly, it wasn’t needed.
Every man in this story is an asshole and the ones who aren’t, are background noise. This book is plagued by cardboard characters and predictable plot. It had an interesting concept but I was expecting more. I did enjoy some of the world building. I always find magical systems in fantasy books interesting and Higgins’ Lashed were a fun concept. But most of the book is spent languishing around the castle and I never feel the urgency of the threat of the beast or any of the dark atmosphere we were teased with in the blurb. What little action there is, is short lived and then we return to the castle so our characters can wallow in their emotions and lust. The Great Hunt by Wendy Higgins had some potential but was derailed by slow pace and irritating romance tropes.