Furyborn: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

“You’re just my kind of dangerous.”

cover art for Furyborn by Claire LegrandOnly two people are meant to have power over all seven kinds of elemental magic–a prophesied pair of queens. The Sun Queen will bring light and salvation. The Blood Queen will summon an age of ruin and destruction.

Rielle Dardenne should not be able to wield all of the elements. Her uncontrolled magic has already cost Rielle dearly. She isn’t eager to lose more. Terrified she may be marked as the Blood Queen, she hides her power from everyone.

When her best friend Audric, the crown prince, is attacked by assassins Rielle has no choice but to intervene. The kingdom believes Rielle to be one of the queens in the prophecy. But which one? To prove her loyalty and that she is the Sun Queen, Rielle agrees to demonstrate her control and her power by completing seven trials where failure will mean death.

One thousand years later, Queen Rielle is remembered as little more than a legend–a story from when magic and angels were thought to be real. Eliana Ferracora doesn’t have time for stories. Not when it takes all of her energy to keep herself and her family alive.

Eliana isn’t proud to be a collaborator with the invading forces of the Undying Empire. But she doesn’t have time for pride or regret or pity. Not when her work as a bounty hunter is the only thing keeping her mother and her brother Remy safe. Until her mother disappears.

To save her, Eliana will have to form a tenuous alliance with a mysterious man called the Wolf and embark on a dangerous mission traveling across her country to distant shores and the center of a conspiracy closer to Eliana than she can imagine.

Two queens with the power to save their world or destroy it. Two young women pushed to desperate lengths for what they love. One war that has spanned millennia and demands that both Rielle and Eliana choose a side in Furyborn (2018) by Claire Legrand.

Find it on Bookshop.

Furyborn is the dynamic start to Legrand’s Empirium trilogy. This high fantasy novel alternates chapters between Rielle and Eliana bringing both characters closer to dangerous realizations about their world and their own roles in it. Legrand expertly manages both story lines maintaining tension throughout even in the midst of a surfeit of fight scenes.

High action and lush writing create an evocative and sensuous setting with intricate world building. The dual narrative structure makes for a fascinating setup as readers are positioned with more knowledge than almost all of the characters except, perhaps, for Eliana’s perceptive younger brother Remy and my precious Simon.

Legrand’s characters are fully realized, complex, and often flawed. Rielle’s calculated self-preservation and Eliana’s ruthless protection of her family prove that there are no easy choices for these characters who exist in a world where good and evil often walk hand in hand.

Furyborn is a taut, dramatic story filled with action, adventure, and some hints of romance. This masterful series starter is utterly engrossing and sure to leave readers eager for the installment. Highly recommended.

Possible Pairings: Realm Breaker by Victoria Aveyard, Frostblood by Elly Blake, Graceling by Kristin Cashore, The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi, The Never Tilting World by Rin Chupeco, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Truthwitch by Susan Dennard, Reign the Earth by A. C. Gaughen, Forest of Souls by Lori M. Lee, Angel Mage by Garth Nix, Beasts Made of Night by Tochi Onyebuchi, Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch, The Midnight Lie by Marie Rutkoski, Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor, Realm of Ruins by Hannah West, The Girl King by Mimi Yu

Be sure to check back tomorrow to read my exclusive interview with Claire about Furyborn too!

Top Fives: Scholastic’s Summer 2018 Mailing

This week I realized that although I don’t go to preview events for Scholastic, I can definitely still do a recap of books I receive in their seasonal mailings of middle grade and YA arcs. Here are my top fives from their Summer 2018 box.

Middle Grade

  1. Lovely, Dark, and Deep by Justina Chen: I love Justina Chen. She’s one of the first YA authors I ever met and her books still hold a special place in my heart. This one could technically by YA but I think it also counts as upper middle grade. Violia Li is determined to lead a normal life, even as her extreme case of photosensitivity promises to make that difficult. With a swoony boy that the blurb describes as a Thor look-a-like it’s safe to say that this will be a great read-a-like for fans of Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon.
  2. From Me to You by K. A. Holt: In a departure from her verse novels, Holt tackles grief and moving on in this story where Amelia decides to try to complete her older sister Clara’s middle school bucket list as a way to move on now that Clara has died. Publishing in May.
  3. Strays Like Us by Cecilia Galante: Surly foster child trying to stay detached until she can go home. A motley band of misfit friends. A rescue dog. All the makings of a poignant middle grade. Publishing in June.
  4. Two Dogs in a Trench Coat Go to School by Julie Falatko and Colin Jack: Waldo and Sassy decide that they have to save their boy Stewart from the horrible nightmare of school. All they have to do is disguise themselves as a human with a handy trench coat and tag along. The rest should be simple, right? This is a series starter and it sounds like a riot. Publishing in May.
  5. Confusion is Nothing New by Paul Acampora: Ellie uses 80s music, Cyndi Lauper, and perseverance to navigate the confusion world of modern girlhood–especially for a girl like her being raised by her single father. Publishing in May.

 

Young Adult

  1. Give Me Some Truth by Eric Gansworth: I pushed really hard to get Gansworth’s earlier novel If I Ever Get Out of Here on this year’s summer reading list (it made it, yay). I’m excited to see what Gansworth does with a contemporary setting in this story about teens becoming unlikely friends as they try to make their mark (on and off the reservation). Publishing May 2018.
  2. I Felt a Funeral in My Brain by Will Walton: My friend Estelle adored Walton’s debut Anything Could Happen and the author has been on my radar since. This book is a little bit about poetry and a lot about grieving. I’m assuming some Emily Dickinson connection from the title and I am here for it. Publishing May 2018.
  3. Listen to Your Heart by Kasie West: Obviously I had to put a new Kasie West on here. I absolutely loved her last book Lucky in Love (I pushed that book so hard I felt like it was my job) and I am very excited to see what she does in this story about a girl who reluctantly winds up dispensing advice via podcast. Publishing May 2018.
  4. The Fandom by Anna Day: This one actually sounds bananas and I’m still not totally clear on the plot. The story starts with a girl at Comic-Con with her friends who are cosplaying. Only to then be catapulted into the story. Where the main character dies? I don’t know. This one is getting a big marketing push and I think it’s probably going to be big. Publishing in April.
  5. Storm-Wake by Lucy Christopher: YA fantasy, Tempest retelling. Need I say more? Publishing in July.

 

Week in Review: May 12–The Longest Week

missprintweekreviewThis week on the blog you can check out:

I’m behind on blog review writing again and this week has just felt endless for some reason (it probably doesn’t help that I’m working today too *cry*).

This week I hit level 35 in Pokemon Go. I tried a new Hybrid Smart Watch from Fossil but it didn’t work as well as I had hoped so I am returning it. I finished Royals by Rachel Hawkins–super fun. And I’m squeezing in Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett before knuckling down to read some review books. It also promises to be super fun so far.

Building my ~brand~ on Instagram and Litsy has been a lot of work. I am debating just deleting Litsy and never going back. Instagram I’m trying to be more zen about but it’s hard.

I think I need to do a big weeding of my TBR piles at home too. It’s getting out of hand (again) and I like to be in better shape before BookExpo. I have been thinking about the books I’m so excited to read that I get to them immediately. And I have realized that maybe *that* needs to the criteria for if a book sits in my bookcase. If I don’t want to read it right away, do I want to read it all? Maybe not. (Thank you to my idol, Marie Kondo who includes similar advice in her book AKA my holy grail The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.)

Speaking of BookExpo, I am going this year again with my bestie Nicole. We are both very excited. Let me know in the comments if I’ll be seeing you there!

Oh and since it’s flower season, I think I might start doing a weekly flower break. Here’s the first one:

Here are two of my favorite posts I shared on Instagram this week:

How was your week? What are you reading?

Into the Bright Unknown: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

*Into the Bright Unknown is the final book in Carson’s Gold Seer trilogy. This review contains spoilers for books one and two. If you’re new to the series start with book one Walk On Earth a Stranger*

“It’s knowing someone so deeply that facing the unknown together isn’t dark and dangerous, but instead beautiful and bright.”

cover art for Into the Bright Unknown by Rae CarsonLeah Westfall came to California to make her fortune with her witchy gift to sense gold. Along the way Lee has been chased by her parents’ murderer–her own uncle–and found an unlikely new family in her wagon train heading west.

The California Territory has yielded riches and helped Lee and her friends grow their settlement into the fledgling town of Glory. But a town doesn’t become a town just by existing. It needs a charter. Something that Lee has been promised with no sign of delivery.

Lee has made a life for herself in Glory but preparations for her wedding with her fiancé (and best friend) Jefferson will have to wait as Lee and her friends work to keep what’s rightfully theirs. Billionaires are circling the Glory settlers looking for their own peace of the wealth and Lee is coming up against someone who might have a power like her own–something she never imagined could be possible.

It will take Lee and all of her friends, both new and old, to make sure they come out on top this time in Into the Bright Unknown (2017) by Rae Carson.

Find it on Bookshop.

Into the Bright Unknown is the final book in Carson’s Gold Seer trilogy. This review contains spoilers for books one and two. If you’re new to the series start with book one Walk On Earth a Stranger.

This installment picks up shortly after the events of Like a River Glorious. Lee is still haunted by memories of her abduction by her uncle and, worse, by the atrocities he committed against the American Indians and Chinese immigrants that he held captive to work his mine. As Lee and her friends once again encounter adversity and obstacles Lee has to relearn the hard lessons that she can’t save everyone and that she may not know best.

Although this novel is filled with more fantasy elements than the first two in the series, Carson continues to deliver solid historical fiction. Her descriptions of San Francisco bring the bustling boom town to life at a time when settlers were literally expanding the coastline by building on top of ships abandoned in port by crews eager to join the gold rush. Carson also continues to be careful to keep our heroine Lee at the center of the story without framing her as a white savior. Lee’s privileges and biases are constantly checked by her wiser and often more world weary counterparts helping her to become a better ally and a stronger character.

Forced to buy their freedom in the form of a town charter Into the Bright Unknown quickly shifts to a bit of a heist novel as Lee tries with the help of her friends to get the best of a California billionaire with his eyes on the town of Glory and the US presidency.

Into the Bright Unknown is an excellent conclusion to one of my favorite trilogies. While Lee and Jefferson’s future is uncertain, their devotion to each other is plain and ensures that whatever comes next, they’ll face it together. If you’re looking for a new western or historical fantasy to love this series is for you.

Possible Pairings: Retribution Rails by Erin Bowman, A Curse as Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce, Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee, Every Hidden Thing by Kenneth Oppel, The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson, For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund, The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye, Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White, Thirteenth Child by Patricia C. Wrede

Announcing a New(ish) Project

I have been hinting at this news for a couple of days but I wanted to take some time to make a formal announcement:

Nicole (of The Bookbandit Blog) and I are relaunching out short story blog!

This has been an on again off again project for us since 2012 and we are both very excited to reignite our love for writing and sharing short stories.

You can find us over at Little Women Stories (littlewomenstories.wordpress.com)

Here’s what you can expect from Little Women Stories as we gear up for our May relaunch:

  • Two stories a month from Emma and Nicole
  • Each month we will share one free write story each
  • Each month we will each write a story based on a predetermined prompt

Nicole and I are both really excited to get back to short stories, this blog, and writing. If you like any of those things I hope you’ll join us on this journey and read some of our stories.

You can head over to the short story blog now for a preview of some of the prompts we’ll be using.

 

Hit Makers: The Science of Popularity in an Age of Distraction: A Non-Fiction Review

cover art for Hit Makers: The Science of Popularity in the Age of Distraction by Derek ThompsonWhat takes a song from a moderately enjoyable earworm to an unavoidable hit? How does a movie go from a solid screenplay to a worldwide phenomenon? In an age of social media saturation can any content ever really go “viral”? Hit Makers: The Science of Popularity in the Age of Distraction (2017) by Derek Thompson endeavors to answer some of these questions.

Hit Makers explores what makes a hit with surprising results as he examines how exposure, familiarity, and other factors play into the often ineffable quality of popular appeal.

In chapters themed around popular music, movies, and television Thompson examines various sensations from their inception to the moment they were decidedly a hit. Examples include how “School House Rock” went from a middling B-Side song to the defining song of a generation thanks to one nine-year-old’s music collection, the origin story like legend surrounding Star Wars, and how one writer of Twilight fanfic managed to tap into the zeitgeist and create a sensation of her own.

This book is at its best when Thompson is sharing stories instead of disseminating theories and facts although those are just as fascinating to learn. Some gems include the exposure effect (being the right thing and being seen), fluency vs. disfluency (as it relates to people wanting to be shocked while simultaneously gravitating toward what they already know), as well as the principle of striving for the most advanced yet acceptable outcome in all things. There are a lot of interesting takeaways here although the ultimate lesson remains that culture is chaos and there’s no good or consistent way to predict a hit.

Hit Makers is approachable nonfiction at its best and a must read for anyone with more than a passing interest in pop culture. Recommended.

Week in Review: May 5–I’m (re)Launching a New Project

missprintweekreviewThis week on the blog you can check out:

Since it’s a new month now is a great time to check out my April Reading Tracker too!

If my post title here enticed you, here’s the big announcement:

Nicole and I are relaunching our short story blog. We’re taking May to promote and work out our schedule so stay tuned for new stories, prompts, and more. You can find all of the details and read some of our previous short stories over at Little Women Stories.

Speaking of projects, don’t forget to check my instagram every Monday for a new #bookishMondayMemories post. Maybe you’ll join me?

Here’s last week’s:

Here are two of my favorite posts I shared on Instagram this week:

How was your week? What are you reading?

Be Prepared: A Graphic Novel Review

cover art for Be Prepared by Vera BrosgolVera has been trying hard to fit in with her friends in the suburbs. After carefully studying all of the ingredients, Vera knows exactly what she needs to have the perfect birthday party. Except the end result doesn’t turn out quite right. The Russian pizza place doesn’t stuff their crust with cheese. The Russian bakery doesn’t have ice cream cake. And Vera’s single mother can’t afford a big house like the other girls so the sleepover is more cramped than fun.

As summer approaches and all of her friends talk about going to camp Vera is reminded that her family can’t afford camp and she’ll be spending another summer at home with her siblings. Until Vera finds out about something amazing at church: Russian summer camp!

Vera is certain that Russian summer camp is her chance to finally fit in and make friends. And even if things go wrong, it’s only two weeks, right?

Unfortunately things go wrong almost immediately.

Vera winds up at a camp filled with Russian history lessons, older girl drama, no candy, and worst of all outhouses instead of indoor plumbing! When her two weeks turn into a full month Vera will have to see if she can use her love of art and (some) animals to try and turn things around in Be Prepared (2018) by Vera Brosgol.

Brosgol’s latest book is an excellent addition to the increasingly popular graphic novel memoir arena. The story is inspired by Brosgol’s own childhood and includes an author’s note at the end explaining how she adapted her real life experiences into a compelling graphic novel.

Be Prepared has a palette of green, black, and white lending a natural feel to the artwork even before Vera (and her younger brother who is forced to tag along) show up at camp. Brosgol’s artwork has bold lines that help to convey expressive characters and detailed backdrops. Young Vera’s drawings are also integrated well into the comic with a less polished pencil-like drawing style.

Be Prepared is an utterly sympathetic story of plans gone wrong, scary bathrooms, nature, and learning to adapt. Perfect for fans of Raina Telgemeie or Shannon Hale.

Possible Pairings: El Deafo by Cece Bell, Making Friends by Kristen Gudsnuk, Real Friends by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham, All’s Faire in Middle School by Victoria Jamieson, Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson, Smile by Raina Telgemeier

*An advance copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review consideration*

Noteworthy: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

cover art for Noteworthy by Riley RedgateJordan Sun is a scholarship student at the prestigious Kensington-Blaine Boarding School for the Performing Arts. Jordan is a junior now and she has never been cast in a school play. Something her mother is quick to remember whenever she wonders if Jordan would be more valuable to the family closer to home where she can work while going to school.

The problem isn’t Jordan’s skill or talent. The problem is that Jordan’s height and deeper voice don’t fit the narrow mold of most female roles.

Jordan can’t change either of those things. But in a moment of desperation she realizes that she can use them by auditioning for The Sharpshooters–one of the school’s a cappella groups. The only problem is she’ll have to audition as a boy because the Sharpshooters are an all-male group.

Being found out could be devastating leaving Jordan shunned for the rest of her time at Kensington-Blaine and known forever as the girl who infiltrated an a cappella group. Basically the least impressive spy of all time. But the rewards are worth the risk with all of the school’s a cappella groups competing for a chance to accompany Aural Fixation on the European leg of their tour as show openers.

All Jordan wants is to prove to her school and her parents (and maybe herself) that she can thrive in a leading role. She’ll stay with the Sharps long enough to win the competition, nail the tour, and move on. Keeping the guys at arm’s length for that long should be simple. But as her friendships with the Sharps (and competition with a rival group) grow, the lies start to mount and Jordan realizes that sometimes you have to get close to people. Even if it means you might get hurt in Noteworthy (2017) by Riley Redgate.

Jordan is a first generation American and a low income student at her historically white and affluent at Kensington-Blaine. She struggles with the dissonance between her life at boarding school and her family’s struggles to make ends meet through part-time and retail jobs. Adding to that pressure are mounting hospital bills from her father’s recent hospital stay when his pre-existing health issues (he is a paraplegic) make a light cough so much worse. Still stinging from her breakup, Jordan also starts to acknowledge her bisexuality for the first time.

Despite being in a predominantly white school, Jordan’s circle of friends and acquaintances is thoughtfully diverse with characters coming to terms with parental expectations, school pressures, and their sexuality among other things. In the Sharps, Jordan quickly bonds with dry witted Nihal who is Sikh and one of my absolute favorite characters.

I so appreciate the way that Jordan acknowledges both her limitations as a poor scholarship student and also her privilege in being able to cross dress essentially on a lark–a decision she struggles with long before her secret is revealed (because of course it is revealed). While the middle is bogged down in numerous issues of varying important to the story, Noteworthy still ends suddenly and leaves readers wanting to see more of the Sharps (and maybe some payback for their rivals the Minuets).

Noteworthy is a thoughtful commentary on gender, agency, and ambition. By inhabiting the role of Julian, Jordan starts to realize how many limitations have been placed on her life–both through outside expectations from family, friends, and teachers as well as by herself. It’s only by hiding in plain sight as a boy that Jordan really gets the chance to shine and embrace her own dreams. Recommended for readers looking for a light contemporary with some meat on its bones and, of course, a cappella fans everywhere.

Possible Pairings: Not Now, Not Ever by Lily Anderson, Take a Bow by Elizabeth Eulberg, Chaotic Good by Whitney Gardner, All Summer Long by Hope Larson, The Victoria in My Head by Janelle Milanes, Famous in Love by Rebecca Serle