Wicked As You Wish: A Review

Wicked As You Wish by Rin ChupecoThere are a hundred names for magic in the Tagalog language but no matter what you call it, Makilings can negate it. This long line of Filipina warriors can render spells and modern spelltech useless. At least, that’s the idea. Tala Warnock is still getting the hang of it.

Even as a novice, Tala’s unique ability will come in handy when her best friend Alex has to  journey to Avalon–one of the Royal States of America’s neighboring kingdoms–to reclaim his throne. The only problem? For the past twelve years Avalon has been encased in ice and largely impenetrable with its residents trapped in an enchanted slumber.

Guided by the firebird–a creature thought to have shifted from reality to myth–Tala and a ragtag group of misfits from the Order of the Bandersnatch will have to work together to get Alex safely into Avalon and back on his throne in Wicked As You Wish (2020) by Rin Chupeco.

Find it on Bookshop.

Wicked As You Wish is the start of Chupeco’s A Hundred Names For Magic duology. Close third person narration keeps the focus primarily on Tala. The breakneck pacing of the opening chapters does not let up as Tala is thrown headfirst into her world’s political conflicts and her own parents’ murky roles in the recent war.

Chupeco’s world building draws on varied fairy tales and myths (both western and non-western) to create a dynamic alternate reality filled with magic and mayhem along with a somewhat on-the-nose nod to the current USA president in the form of King Muddles. A large ensemble cast, snappy dialog, and the general madcap pacing keep the story moving while also keeping Tala in the dark about a lot of the larger plots at play.

Wicked As You Wish is a frenetic, zany series starter with an inclusive and distinct cast of characters. Recommended for readers who like their fantasies fast, funny, and full of adventure.

Possible Pairings: The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde, A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer, Enchanted by Alethea Kontis, Cinder by Marissa Meyer, Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige, The Accidental Highwayman by Ben Tripp, A Well-Timed Enchantment by Vivian Vande Velde

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

If I Fix You: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Jill Whitaker knows the exact moment she fell out of love with Sean Addison. It was the same moment she caught him in a compromising position with her mother. It was just before her mother walked out leaving behind nothing but a post-it note by way of explanation.

In the aftermath of that horrible day, Jill is trying to relearn the intricacies of her life. She still works with her father at his garage. (She isn’t about to give up fixing cars when she could turn a wrench before she could tie her shoes.) She runs cross country with her best friend Claire to train for the high school track team. Sean is there too, but Jill isn’t sure how to be around him yet. She isn’t sure if she’ll ever be able to fix everything that has broken between them.

When a new guy moves in next door, Jill finds herself trying to fix him too. But as Jill gets closer to Daniel she realizes that his problems (and his scars) may be bigger than she imagined. There’s also the small matter that despite their obvious chemistry Daniel is twenty-one. Jill used to be able to fix anything but before she can move on, she’s going to have to learn how to fix herself in If I Fix You (2016) by Abigail Johnson.

Find it on Bookshop.

If I Fix You is Johnson’s excellent debut novel.

Jill is a thoughtful and entertaining heroine. Her first person narration is conversational and breezy filled with evocative descriptions of a hot Arizona summer. Jill’s love for cars and skills as a mechanic are unexpected and add another dimension to this story.

I enjoyed Claire as a best friend and counterpoint for Jill but I do want to say that it was frustrating to see Claire described as overweight before her Type 2 Diabetes diagnosis and her subsequent efforts to get healthy which included becoming more athletic which, it turns out, she really enjoys. The conflation of being overweight with Type 2 Diabetes is a really tired and damaging stereotype. It’s also not at all accurate (going with the little information given by the author Claire should even have her diabetes under control if not reversed with her fitness and food regimen) and was one dark spot in an otherwise excellent story.

Johnson negotiates a complicated love triangle well. Jill’s interactions with both Sean and Daniel are fascinating with chemistry that is tangible. While the romance is a huge part of the story, If I Fix You is really about Jill and her own choices as she tries to decide how to move forward after the painful heartbreak of her mother’s departure.

If I Fix You is a solid and often unexpected contemporary romance. Recommended for readers who enjoy stories about characters pulling themselves back from the brink, books with chipper best friends, and romances that keep you guessing.

Possible Pairings: The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things by Ann Aguirre, Suffer Love by Ashley Herring Blake, This Raging Light by Estelle Laure, When We Collided by Emery Lord, Falling Through Darkness by Carolyn MacCullough, The Edge of Falling by Rebecca Serle

Now That You’re Here: A Review

“A boy shows up at my door and sets off a series of events that shatters everything I understand about the universe.

“And my place in it.”

nowthatyourehereDanny has spent his entire life pushing back against the totalitarian restrictions his government has put in place to monitor citizens in the name of law and order. Sometimes that means putting up coded messages in graffiti on city walls. Danny knows that this kind of tagging is dangerous, but he’s also positive that this will be the last time.

Then everything blows up.

When Danny wakes up he is still himself. But not quite. Longer hair, less muscle, and definitely not on the run. Things get even weirder when Danny realizes he recognizes the girl sitting next to him.

Eevee is calm, collected, and knows exactly what she has to do to get the best grades to get into the best college and then get the best job. She doesn’t know anything about Danny or why he seems to think he knows her as anything more than a classmate. She also doesn’t know why this new version of Danny is making her question everything she thought she knew about her life.

Thrown together by the most unlikely of circumstances, Danny and Eevee will have to work together to get Danny back home to his own universe before time runs out in Now that You’re Here (2014) by Amy K. Nichols.

Now That You’re Here is Nichol’s first novel. It is also the first Duplexity book. The second novel, While You Were Gone, will be a mirror image of Now That You’re Here. It is slated for a 2015 release.

Told in alternating chapters by Eevee and Danny, Now That You’re Here is an interesting addition to the sub-genre of alternate universe stories. With action, romance and lots of science, this story is a great introduction to the world of YA science fiction as well as a dramatic story for anyone looking for their next impossible romance.

Nichols populates the story with quirky characters including Eevee’s parents and her best friend Warren. While Nichols makes several nods to diversity with a disabled parent (not seen in this novel but perhaps they will feature more largely in book two) as well as parents who were never marries. Both points were unbelievably welcome and refreshing. Unfortunately an entirely different character is revealed to have no lower legs with no references made to any concessions needed for such a disability (to the point that no one knew this character was disabled and they didn’t even use a cane) which lowered the entire effort to lip service more than actual mindful inclusion.

It’s difficult to judge Now That You’re Here on its own knowing that it is the first part of a duet. Ideally, many of the flaws in this novel will be smoothed over in the second volume. It seems likely that these stories are more a case of one book in two packages rather than two distinct stories. Nonetheless, readers only have one half of the story here which leaves many plot points to develop off page as Danny catches glimpses of his home universe and later explains what is happening to readers.

The development of Eevee and Danny’s relationship is similarly jarring as it lacks a basic foundation and instead escalates to all-out love very quickly. This abrupt shift in both characters’ feelings also makes for some very murky character motivation as the story progresses.

Set in present-day Arizona, Now That You’re Here offers tantalizing hints of an alternate history and what it’s like for Danny to live in his own universe. The dual-narrative structure also offers readers a very faceted view of the story that will likely expand even more when the companion novel is punished. This book is an obvious choice for readers looking for a sweet romance with a lot of action in any genre.

Possible Pairings: I Remember You by Cathleen Davitt Bell, In Some Other Life by Jessica Brody, Little Brother by Cory Doctorow, Two Summers by Aimee Friedman, A Crack in the Line by Michael Lawrence, Hourglass by Myra McEntire, Parallel by Lauren Miller, Fair Coin by E. C. Myers, The Square Root of Summer by Harriet Reuter Hapgood, The Shadow Society by Marie Rutkoski,  Time Between Us by Tamara Ireland Stone, All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill, Pivot Point by Kasie West

Stargirl: A Review

Stargirl by Jerry SpinelliOkay, I’m going to say it: Stargirl (2000) by Jerry Spinelli is a young adult classic (maybe even a children’s classic but that’s really a cataloguing issue that I am ill-equipped to discuss). (Find it on Bookshop.)

This designation raises the question: What makes a book (any book) a classic? For me it means a book that is timeless; something you can read years and years after it was written without the book losing its vibrancy. A classic also needs to have memorable writing and characters. It needs to speak to the reader. It needs to be a book that you enjoy more every time you read it or talk about it. Classics are the books you want to immerse yourself in: the books you wish you could live in with the characters that you wish were your friends.

I’ll say it again: Stargirl is a classic.

The story starts with Leo Borlock, who moved to Mica, Arizona at the age of twelve. Around the time of his move, Leo decided to start collecting porcupine neckties–no easy task, especially in Mica. For two years, Leo’s collection stood at one tie. Until his fourteenth birthday when an unknown someone presented Leo with his second tie, someone who was watching from the sidelines.

Mica’s unusual events don’t stop there. The story continues when Leo is a junior in high school. On the first day the name on everyone’s lips is Stargirl. Formerly home-schooled, Stargirl is a sophomore like no one Leo (or any of the other Mica students) has ever met before:

“She was elusive. She was today. She was tomorrow. She was the faintest scent of a cactus flower, the flitting shadow of an elf owl. We did not know what to make of her. In our minds we tried to pin her to corkboard like a butterfly, but the pin merely went through and away she flew.”

After finishing this book and recently reading Love, Stargirl (Spinelli’s newly released sequel), I have my own explanation: Stargirl is magical. She represents the kind of magic more people need in their lives: to appreciate the little things, to dare to be different, to be kind to strangers. The kind of magic where you still believe things can be wondrous.

In the story, Leo soon realizes that Stargirl might be someone he could love.

Unfortunately, high school students don’t always believe in (or appreciate) magic like Stargirl’s. As the school moves from fascination to adoration and, finally, to disdain Leo finds himself in an impossible position: forced to choose between the girl he loves and his entire lifestyle.

Technically speaking I love everything about this book: the characters, the story, the cover art. This one has the full package. Spinelli’s writing throughout the story is perfect. He captures Leo’s fascination with Stargirl as well as his equivocation as he is forced to choose between Stargirl and “the crowd.”

Stargirl is not a long book. The writing is cogent, sentences brief. Nonetheless, the text is rich. This book never gets old or boring. Spinelli creates a compelling, utterly new narrative here (with a charmingly memorable heroine).

Possible Pairings: Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt, A Little Wanting Song by Cath Crowley, The Blue Girl by Charles De Lint, Paper Towns by John Green, The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler, Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, Love, Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli, Holes by Louis Sachar