Tag Archives: fate

Legendary: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

*Legendary is the second book in Garber’s Caraval trilogy which begins with Caraval. Start there to avoid spoilers.*

cover art for Legendary by Stephanie GarberTella never doubted that her sister Scarlett would win Caraval and use her wish to bring Tella back to life. Dying was worth any risk if it meant that Tella would be one step closer to mending her broken family and finally, for once, protecting her older sister. Playing Legend’s game was the only chance either of them would have to truly win their freedom–something that is worth far more than any debt Tella may have incurred to get Legend’s attention.

But every debt has to be paid eventually and Tella’s are coming due. Tella has always been quick on her feet, easily dodging any risk and danger. But even Tella isn’t sure that she’ll be able to acquire this last payment: Caraval Master Legend’s true name.

 If Tella fails to discover Legend’s identity she could lose everything that matters–including her life. Winning the game will help Tella discover Legend’s identity. But the prize will come at a cost that could destroy Legend and Caraval forever. Tella knows better than to get swept away by the wonders within the game. But as time runs out, Tella starts to wonder if this time the game (and the dangers) might be more than illusion.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval, the grandest show by land or by sea. Inside you may come face to face with Fate or steal bits of destiny. As fantastical as Caraval might feel, the next five nights are very real. Elantine has invited us here to save the Empire from her greatest fear. For centuries the Fates were locked away, but now they wish to come out and play. If they regain their magic the world will never be the same, but you can help stop them by winning the game. Are you ready to play? in Legendary (2018) by Stephanie Garber.

Legendary is the second book in Garber’s Caraval trilogy which begins with Caraval. It picks up right after the events of Caraval with a decent recap of key events. Fans of the first book will appreciate many of the familiar characters in this installment.

This novel follows Tella in close third person as she tries to win Caraval while keeping her own secrets–particularly from her sister Scarlett who is sadly sidelined for much of the story as a result. Garber dramatically expands the world of the Meridian Empire and Caraval as well as offering more backstory on Tella and Scarlett’s past.

While Scarlett was a clever heroine who had to learn how to take risks and conquer her fears, Tella is already very shrewd and fearless. She wears her youth and femininity as weapons and is quick to acknowledge almost all of her weaknesses except, perhaps, for her fierce loyalty. Tella’s biggest struggle throughout Legendary isn’t learning to believe in herself. Rather she has to trust herself as she begins to realize that this version of Caraval bears little resemblance to the game Scarlett won.

Much like Caraval itself, Legendary plays with readers expectations as this story moves in surprising and unexpected directions. In many ways Tella’s story arc is as defined as Scarlett’s while leaving many key questions waiting to be answered in book three. Legendary is a must read for fans of the first book and proves that this series has staying power. Highly recommended.

Possible Pairings: The Cruel Prince by Holly Black, A Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi, Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George, Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson, A Darker Shade of Magic by Victoria Schwab, The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

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

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The Apple Throne: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

“It is by touching gods and godlings, elves and trolls and men and women, by starting a new story for ourselves and our names, that we reach into the future.

“That is how we thrive.”

The Apple Throne by Tessa GrattonAstrid Glynn traded her life as a talented prophet and seethkona to save the person she loves. Soren Bearstar struck a bargain in turn so that he would remember Astrid even as the rest of the world forgot her.

It has been two years since Astrid gave up her name, her prophetic dreams, and her life to become Idun the Young–the not-quite goddess who guards and distributes the apples of immortality. In those two years Soren’s bargain has allowed him to visit her every three months. Until he doesn’t come.

Certain that something terrible is keeping Soren away, Astrid goes against the gods to escape her hidden orchard and search for him. With unexpected help from one of Thor’s bastard sons, Astrid travels across New Asgard to find Soren and save him.

Astrid is no longer the seer she once was nor is she exactly a goddess. She will have to bridge the gap between her old life and new if she wants to save the people she loves and protect the world as they know it in The Apple Throne (2015) by Tessa Gratton.

The Apple Throne is the conclusion to Gratton’s Songs of New Asgard (United States of Asgard) series. It is preceded by The Lost Sun and The Strange Maid. All of the books function very well as stand-alone titles however, because of timeline and character overlap, The Apple Throne does include spoilers for the earlier books. These titles have all been reissued by the author through CreateSpace as paperbacks and eBooks.

The Apple Throne is a fantastic conclusion to one of my favorite fantasy series. This story starts soon after the conclusion of Soren’s story and references the events of Signy’s ascension to her title as Valkryie. Although Astrid’s story is removed from that of the other protagonists in this series, her arc culminates in a finish that neatly ties all three books together.

Astrid accepts her current role as Idun, a quasi-goddess, gladly. But the loss of her identity as young prophet Astrid Glynn and her separation from Soren still sting. More importantly, Astrid isn’t sure who she is without a place in the world and her dream visions to guide her. Throughout the story Astrid has to reconcile who she used to be with who she has become as she tries to correct past mistakes and protect the people she holds dear.

A feminist story literally about a young woman carving a place for herself in the world, The Apple Throne is another thoughtful fantasy filled with the intricate world building that Gratton’s fans will expect. Highly recommended.

Possible Pairings: Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken, Graceling by Kristin Cashore, Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst, The Curiosities by Tessa Gratton, Maggie Stiefvater and Brenna Yovanoff, Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones, Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers, Freya by Matthew Laurence, The Outlaws of Sherwood by Robin McKinley, Soundless by Richelle Mead, Clariel by Garth Nix, Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce, Bone Gap by Laura Ruby, Song of the Sparrow by Lisa Ann Sandell, The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab, Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick, The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

Be sure to watch for my interview with Tessa about this book tomorrow!

You can also enter my giveaway to win ebooks of this trilogy!

The Sun is Also a Star: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

“Because everything looks like chaos up close. Daniel thinks it’s a matter of scale. If you pull back far enough and wait for long enough, then order emerges.”

“Maybe their universe is just taking longer to form.”

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola YoonNatasha believes in science and facts. Her life doesn’t have room for fate or destiny. Which is why it’s so hard to hope for a miracle on her last day in New York City. Natasha’s family is going to be deported to Jamaica in twelve hours. Natasha doesn’t believe in long shots but it’s the only shot she has left to try and stay in the city that’s been her home since she was a child. She doesn’t have time to waste meeting a cute boy and maybe falling in love with him. Not when she is so busy trying to balance her practical nature with her hopes for some last-minute magic.

Daniel is used to being a good son. Not the best son because that’s always been his older brother. But solidly second best. Except now his brother screwed up big time and Daniel’s parents are pinning their hopes for having a Successful-Ivy-League-Graduate-Doctor in the family on Daniel. The problem is that Daniel wants to be a poet–something his Korean immigrant parents can’t understand. At. All. Daniel believes in poetry and fate which is why he knows the moment he sees Natasha on the street in Times Square that their lives are about the change forever.

It feels like the universe or fate or something Big is conspiring to bring Natasha and Daniel into each others’ lives. But over the course of a day filled with possibility, neither Natasha nor Daniel is sure if that will be enough to keep them together in The Sun is Also a Star (2016) by Nicola Yoon.

The Sun is Also a Star is Yoon’s second novel. It was a finalist for the 2016 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature and has received six starred reviews. (UPDATE:) The Sun is Also a Star also received an honor for the 2017 Printz Award.

All of that is impressive on its own but it’s also important to remember that we often hold contemporary romances like this one up to a higher standard when considering them for awards based on literary merit which makes this book stand out even more as both an exemplar of contemporary romance at its best and also as a generally excellent book.

The Sun is Also a Star is set over the course of one day but the plot is more far-reaching with interconnecting narratives and characters related to each other by six (or even fewer) degrees of separation.

The majority of the novel alternates between Natasha and Daniel’s first person narrations with their distinct voices and world views. Other chapters follow characters who are key to bringing Daniel and Natasha together including a depressed security guard, a subway conductor who has found god, and even Natasha and Daniel’s parents–all chronicled as brief histories. This shifting story maintains a consistent and deliberate voice thanks to the omniscient narrator whose sections contrast well with Natasha’s pragmatic nature and Daniel’s classic dreamer outlook in their respective narrations.

This thoughtful story also nicely subverts some of the traditional gender roles found in contemporary romances. Natasha is an unapologetically smart girl who works hard and knows that life isn’t fair. She is jaded and ambitious. Daniel, meanwhile, is a genuinely nice and optimistic boy who believes in the power of fate even while learning how to make his own choices and stand by them.

Everything in The Sun is Also a Star refers back–sometimes subtly and sometimes not–to the idea of love being a driving force in the universe. All of the tangential characters whose actions work to bring Natasha and Daniel together through happenstance or fate are working on some basis of love–the train conductor who has found god and loves life, the security guard who is lonely and mired in her own lack of love both from others and for herself, the attorney and his paralegal. It’s all love in one form or another. Even Natasha’s father and his actions are driven by his conflict between his love for his family and his love of performing.

Yoon does so many things in The Sun is Also a Star and she does them all well, while making it seem effortless with a combination of literary prose and a deceptively sleek plot. This book juggles multiple characters, narratives, and plot threads to create a coherent story about the many factors bringing Natasha and Daniel together as well as those which are conspiring to keep them apart. It evokes an authentic New York City setting not just a shiny tourist one but the dingy parts too. The Sun is Also a Star does all of that while offering an intellectually stimulating story that still manages to be upbeat and romantic. Highly recommended.

Possible Pairings: In a Perfect World by Trish Doller, I Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo, The Careful Undressing of Love by Corey Ann Haydu, The Truth Commission by Susan Juby, The Romantics by Leah Konen, The Museum of Heartbreak by Meg Leder, The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord, I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson, The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick, Summer in the Invisible City by Juliana Romano, Tonight the Streets Are Ours by Leila Sales, The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith, Wild Swans by Jessica Spotswood, Cloudwish by Fiona Wood, Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin

*An advance copy of this title was acquired from the publisher for review consideration at BEA 2016*

The Shadow Behind the Stars: A Review

The Shadow Behind the Stars by Rebecca HahnChloe is the youngest of the three sisters who spin the world. Her fingers choose the wool, spin the thread, and begin each life. Motherly Serena guides the thread and marks the end. Xinot, the oldest, slices each thread with a snap of her shears.

When a girl appears at their door asking to understand her disastrous fate, the sisters have nothing to say. Serena casts a spell meant to ease the girl’s pain before sending her away. Instead, the spell begins a series of events that will bring about the end of the world in The Shadow Behind the Stars (2015) by Rebecca Hahn.

This sophomore novel from Hahn takes readers on a strange and wondrous course through questions of fate and free will as the narrator and her sisters embark on a journey with the potential to change the very foundation of existence.

Written in second person as Chloe tells her story to us mere mortals, this evocative and descriptive novel is timeless beyond the assumed ancient Greek setting (although all of the characters have names with Greek origins, Hahn avoids delving into retelling any familiar myths instead giving these characters entirely new plots).

A unique voice and mythology-tinged writing give this quiet book some punch and offer a few surprising revelations for the three sisters. Hahn expertly tackles the power of belief and choice in this thoughtful and introspective work. Strong characters and intricate prose help to mitigate a plot that is often slow and narrowly focused (with insights about the human condition that may seem obvious to older readers).

The Shadow Behind the Stars is a unique and often literary tale that will appeal to those interested in mythology, fate, and philosophy.

Possible Pairings: The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh, Sorrow’s Knot by Erin Bow, The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi, Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst, A Thousand Nights by E. K. Johnston, The Library of Fates by Aditi Khorana, Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers, Forbidden by Kimberley Griffiths Little, All Our Pretty Songs by Sarah McCarry, Soundless by Richelle Mead, Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon, The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner, And I Darken by Kiersten White

*A more condensed version of this review appeared in the July 2015 issue of School Library Journal from which it can be seen on various sites online as a Starred Review*

Soulprint: A Review

Soulprint by Megan MirandaAlina Chase has been imprisoned her entire life for crimes she didn’t commit. With soul fingerprinting a chilling reality, the world knows that Alina’s soul belongs to the most notorious criminal of her time. Everyone is terrified that if she is free, Alina will do it all again.

Desperate for freedom, Alina jumps at the chance to escape even if it means throwing herself in with people she doesn’t know let alone trust. But freedom has a cost and it might be more than Alina is able to pay.

Everyone wants something from Alina. All Alina wants is to be left alone. On the run and still trying to clear her soul, Alina will have to follow clues left by her former self to a shocking secret if she ever wants to escape in Soulprint (2015) by Megan Miranda.

Miranda once again offers up her trademark blend of science and suspense in this story where reincarnation can have severe consequences. In the midst of Alina’s daring escape and numerous chase sequences, Miranda raises questions about the inevitability of fate and whether certain traits really can transfer from life to life.

Alina is a great heroine. She struggles to be strong and independent while also yearning for the kind of human connection that is impossible when you have been a prisoner your entire life. It is also worth nothing that Alina’s mother is Hispanic–a culture Alina identifies strongly with as she clings to the memories of her mother.

Although some big twists are broadcast early on, Soulprint remains a nail-biting mystery that will keep readers on their toes as they try to follow the clues along with Alina. With a strong cast of characters and just a hint of romance Soulprint is one action-packed story sure to have wide appeal.

Possible Pairings: Loop by Karen Akins, The Leaving by Tara Altebrando, Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi, Hourglass by Myra McEntire, All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill, Pivot Point by Kasie West, Minority Report

*An advance copy of this book was acquired for review consideration from the publisher*

I Remember You: A Review

I Remember You by Cathleen Davitt BellLucas and Juliet have nothing in common. Juliet is an overachiever who, even as a junior, already has plans for college and law school. Lucas knows that at the end of his senior year he will enlist in the Marines–just like his father and countless other relatives.

Still, Juliet finds herself drawn to Lucas even as common sense tells her she should be afraid. Despite just meeting, just starting to know each other, Lucas says he remembers their entire relationship from their first kiss to their first fight and even how they break up.

Juliet doesn’t know if she should be more worried about Lucas or herself when she starts to believe him. As they grow closer, Lucas’ memories begin to come with more frequency and much more foreboding. Juliet wants desperately to keep Lucas safe with her in the present but she doesn’t know how to do that when she has already lost him in the future in I Remember You (2015) by Cathleen Davitt Bell.

I Remember You sounds like a fantasy. It is not. Instead I Remember You reads superficially as a contemporary romance with one (supposedly though with no explanation given) supernatural element. Except it’s technically historical because most of the book is set in 1994. (It becomes clear early on that Juliet is relating past events from a point in the future as an adult which also raises questions about whether this book even is YA in the truest sense but that’s a different discussion.)

Upon closer reading, the problems in I Remember You begin to mount. A lot of how readers react to I Remember You depends on how they feel about Juliet and Lucas (both separately and as a couple).

Working from the initial fact that Lucas and Juliet have nothing in common beyond proximity in Physics class (the only class they have together since the rest of Juliet’s schedule consists of Honors classes), it’s incredibly hard to believe these two characters would ever embark on a relationship, let alone an epic one that seems poised to defy time and space. This uncertainty about the two main characters ever connecting casts the entire initial premise of the book in doubt but if you can get past it, then maybe this book will work for you.

That is assuming you can also get past the fact that when Juliet and Lucas first begin to talk, Juliet is afraid of him. It’s important to point out that Juliet is also drawn to Lucas and there is definitely mutual attraction. But the key point here is that Juliet is afraid of Lucas when he starts to talk about remembering their relationship. If you can get past fear being as key to this relationship as attraction, then maybe this book will work for you.

Plot-wise, I Remember You is going to be familiar because it reads like countless other romantic first love stories.

Character-wise, there are also a lot of familiar faces. Juliet is the calm, focused, over-achiever-with-her-eye-on-the-prize. Lucas is the jock with a surprising amount of depth but also the boy who is going to leave everything behind to enlist. Add to the mix a single mother (Juliet’s), a disillusioned father and harried mother (Lucas’s) and you start to check off a lot of character archetypes.

Juliet’s best friend Rosemary also features. Rosemary–sometimes Rose–is gorgeous and she knows it. She also uses it at every opportunity to manipulate men (men because she is 16 and dating college students) to give her gifts and adoration. Rosemary’s outlook on life seems to be “love ’em and leave ’em” which would not raise any eyebrows if she were a boy and it is an interesting choice here. Except it all leads to rather disastrous consequences for Rosemary (and Lucas and Juliet) as one relationship escalates into stalking territory. Furthermore, without actually discussing that Rosemary is trying to parlay her looks into agency the entire thing falls flat and we are instead left with a one-note character who is manipulative and often quite mean.

Then we have Lucas’ best friend Dexter. Poor, hapless Dexter with his sad, hopeless crush on Rosemary. Dexter is used and abused in this story when he appears seemingly out of nowhere so that Rosemary will have a new guy to chew up and spit out. Dexter is shy. He has bad hair and he wears baggy clothes. He is also almost certainly white. Dexter eventually gets his day which comes in the form of a good haircut that highlights his inherent good looks. So far so good. Then Juliet says the haircut makes people notice things about Dexter including the fact that he has cheekbones like a Lenape warrior. There is no scenario in which that description can be interpreted as anything but the worst kind of cultural appropriation.

In addition to these problems, I Remember You often handles the fact of Lucas’ imminent enlistment very poorly. Juliet never truly accepts that being a Marine is something Lucas very deeply wants and not something he is being forced into. (There is a hint of familial obligation here since Lucas likely wants to gain approval from his father. But at the same time Lucas has two younger brothers who do not seem to share his aspirations so maybe there isn’t that much familial pressure after all?)

Later in the novel, Juliet describes herself as a pacifist. She goes on to talk about Lucas’ decision to enlist with what can only be called disdain. This disdain is especially troubling given the fact that the book has already established that Lucas is not as smart as Juliet (per their classes) and perhaps from the wrong side of the tracks (or at least the bad part of town).

Juliet’s friends are horrified by Lucas’ choice and have an even more pervasive dislike not only of him but perhaps the entire military as they clearly see Lucas (and by extension anyone who joins the military) as somehow lacking. Both viewpoints seemed reductive and distasteful. Is it not possible to be a pacifist while also holding at least some respect for our troops and the risks they take to protect our country?

In terms of unlikely romance, I Remember You is about as unlikely as it gets. I Remember You may appeal on a surface level to readers looking for a book to transition into YA as well as fans of The Time Traveler’s Wife or Nicholas Sparks. Readers who give their novels closer inspection may find more to fault than to praise.

Possible Pairings: The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson, The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler, How to Love by Katie Cotungo, The Secrets We Keep by Trisha Leaver, Now That You’re Here by Amy K. Nichols, The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith, Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks, Time Between Us by Tamara Ireland Stone, Pivot Point by Kasie West

Illusions of Fate: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Illusions of Fate by Kiersten WhiteAlbion is dank and cold; a dreary, grey thing far removed from Jessamin Olea’s tropical island home of Melei. Even the people of Albion are different with their harsh, staid manners and so many of them obsessed with wealth or status.

With her dark hair and skin, Jessa never stood a chance of blending in here–even if she wanted to do such a thing.

No matter the hardships, Jessa knows moving to Albion will be worthwhile once her fancy Alben education is complete and she can use all of her new knowledge to help Melei and its people.

If Jessa hadn’t tried to walk down an alley on her way home from class, that might have been the end of the story. Instead, after a chance encounter with a strange and charming man named Finn Ackerly, Jessa’s life becomes something very different.

Soon Jessa is drawn into a magical power struggle between Finn and the sinister Lord Downpike. Weeks ago Jessa’s biggest concerns were keeping warm and trying to afford her textbooks while staying at the top of her class. Now, as enemies circle, Jessa will have to decide whether to stay on the path that will bring her home to Melei or bind herself further to Finn in Illusions of Fate (2014) by Kiersten White.

White offers a clever and original story here that is a fine historial-esque fantasy set in a well-realized world. With wit and humor aplenty, Illusions of Fate also features a nuanced commentary on what it means to feel and be seen as “other” along with the power that comes from claiming one’s heritage and identity.

Ideas surrounding feminism and imperialism are also handled as thoughtfully as race here. Jessa is a fierce heroine who knows exactly who she is and refuses to compromise that sense of self for anyone. Unapologetic, smart, and more than capable of saving herself, Jessa is sure to appeal to readers of all ages. Finn is her perfect foil as these unlikely allies bring out the best in each other with chemistry that is evident in every banter-filled exchange.

Illusions of Fate is a delightful blend of fantasy and romance with an action-packed plot with more than a few twists. The story builds slowly to reveal a story that is both engaging and thoughtful as Jessa tries to navigate the murky waters of Alben society. Although the ending is rushed in places, readers will finish this book with all of the pieces they need to imagine what other adventures might be in store for this truly wonderful heroine.

Possible Pairings: Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger, Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson, Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore, The Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleason, A Breath of Frost by Alyxandra Harvey, The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg, That Inevitable Victorian Thing by E. K. Johnston, Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, Dreamology by Lucy Keating, Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal, A Spy in the House by Y. S. Lee, Winterspell by Claire Legrand, The Keeper of the Mist by Rachel Neumeier, Sabriel by Garth Nix, For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund, The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope, An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson, A Darker Shade of Magic by Victoria Schwab, These Vicious Masks by Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas, The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye, Iron Cast by Destiny Soria, Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood, Sorcery and Cecelia by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevemer