Google+ YA Romantics: September 2015

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Mini-Reviews: Faceless and Dumplin'

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Welcome to Mini-Reviews, a periodic feature in which I give you my (brief) thoughts on a few of my recent reads:


Faceless 
by Alyssa Sheinmel

Published on September 29, 2015
by Scholastic Books
Synopsis from Goodreads: Synopsis from Goodreads: When Maisie gets into a terrible accident, her face is partially destroyed. She's lucky enough to get a face transplant--but how do you live your life when you can't even recognize yourself anymore? She was a runner, a girlfriend, a good student...a normal girl. Now all that has changed. As Maisie discovers how much her looks did--and didn't--shape her relationship to the world, she has to redefine her own identity, and figure out what "lucky" really means.

My take: I'm not going to lie, Faceless was a difficult read for me in several regards. I started it and then had to stop. I mean, this is a tough subject: a girl who's so badly burned that she needs a face transplant. After a break, I re-tried it and was able to finish. And I have a mix of thoughts. On the one hand, I learned a lot about what transplant patients have to go through. And I especially liked the scenes with Maisie and her support group. On the other hand, while reading this I never was able to forget that I was reading a book -- and this could be due to either the extreme nature of the topic or my own emotional distancing.


Dumplin'
by Julie Murphy

Published by Balzer + Bray
on September 15, 2015

Source: eARC for review from the publisher
Synopsis from Goodreads: Self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson (dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom) has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked…until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back. Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Clover City beauty pageant—along with several other unlikely candidates—to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any twiggy girl does. Along the way, she’ll shock the hell out of Clover City—and maybe herself most of all.
My take: So much about Dumplin' was absolutely fantastic -- the irresistible, irrepressible main character and her fabulous voice were among my top two narrators of 2015 (Maddie in Everything, Everything would be the other.) I loved the messy, realistic way that Will's friendships and family relationships were portrayed, and the book's great messages about self-acceptance and not letting fear and shame and low self esteem and other people's negativity stop you from doing whatever you want to do. But I really wish there hadn't been a romance involved. Or if there had to be a romance, that there hadn't been two guys. I mostly wish that part of Willowdean's journey of self discovery had involved the idea that she didn't need to land the guy of her dreams to prove anything to herself or the world or anyone. But I think I'm in the minority on this opinion, so there you go...

If you're curious about Faceless, it will be up for grabs on Freebie Friday, so be sure to stop by!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Hot Off the Presses: New YA Releasing September 29-October 5

Hot Off the Presses -- brand new YA releases!

Welcome to Hot Off the Presses!  

Tuesday is book release day, so every Tuesday I tell you about all the great new YA books you can buy in the week to come. If you're a reviewer, you can also link your blog or Goodreads reviews of any YA book publishing in the current month so we can all check them out!

Today (Sept 29) is your lucky day: you can still enter the September giveaway -- you can scroll down to last week's post to do that -- AND you can enter the new October giveaway below. Each month's winner can pick any book up to $15 on either Amazon (for US winner) or The Book Depository (for international winner.)

Enter by linking reviews of YA books that release that month or by commenting on other people's linked reviews.

Hot Off the Presses aims to include every traditionally published YA book. Please let me know about books that came out this week that I might have missed! Some titles may have different release dates outside the US.

Click on the photos to get to each book's Goodreads page!

Six of Crows Sanctuary Zeroes
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo (Henry Holt)
Sanctuary by Jennifer McKissack (Scholastic)
Zeroes by Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lasagna and Deborah Biancotti (Simon & Schuster)


Faceless Lost Girl Very in Pieces
Faceless by Alyssa Sheinmel (Scholastic)
The Lost Girl (Fear Street Relaunch #3) by R. L. Stine (St. Martins)
Very in Pieces by Megan Frazer Blakemore (Harper)


A Mad Zombie Party Young Man With Camera Madly
Mad Zombie Party (White Rabbit Chronicles #4) by Gina Showalter (Harper)
Young Man with Camera by Emil Sher (Arthur A. Levine)
Madly by Amy Alward (Simon & Schuster)


Untwine Daughters Unto Devils Becoming Darkness
Untwine by Edwidge Danticat (Scholastic)
Daughters Unto Devils by Amy Lukavics (Harlequin)
Becoming Darkness by Lindsay Brambles (Switch)


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, September 28, 2015

Just Finished Reading: A Madness So Discreet

A Madness So Discreet
by Mindy McGinniss
To be published on
October 6, 2015
by Katherine Tegen Books

Source: eARC for review from the publisher

Synopsis from Goodreads: Grace Mae knows madness. She keeps it locked away, along with her voice, trapped deep inside a brilliant mind that cannot forget horrific family secrets. Those secrets, along with the bulge in her belly, land her in a Boston insane asylum.When her voice returns in a burst of violence, Grace is banished to the dark cellars, where her mind is discovered by a visiting doctor who dabbles in the new study of criminal psychology. With her keen eyes and sharp memory, Grace will make the perfect assistant at crime scenes. Escaping from Boston to the safety of an ethical Ohio asylum, Grace finds friendship and hope, hints of a life she should have had. But gruesome nights bring Grace and the doctor into the circle of a killer who stalks young women. Grace, continuing to operate under the cloak of madness, must hunt a murderer while she confronts the demons in her own past.
My take: There were things I really liked about A Madness So Discreet, and other things that frustrated me a little.

On the positive side: Grace is a strong, admirable heroine who goes through a lot in the course of the story. When the story begins, she's locked in an asylum in turn of the century Boston, a place with terrible conditions. As the synopsis indicates, Grace is also pregnant. The asylum scenes were really hard to read, but I think the real-life story of Nellie Bly shows that conditions for the mentally ill were definitely horrific at the time. A Madness So Discreet offers a lot of great feminist themes and storylines. 

However, for me the book also had some issues with consistency in its pacing and story goals. Grace got out of the asylum about a third of the way through the book, and I thought I'd be relieved to have the story move out of that dark place. But after Grace escaped, the plot started to drag. The story switched to a murder mystery, as Grace and some new associates tried to find the person responsible for the serial killings of string of young women. The plot did gain some tension again as Grace valiantly tried to protect someone close to her from harm, but in its last quarter, the book seemed to shift into something else yet again: a revenge story. Grace does something pretty shocking, something that made me wonder if she was mentally ill all along. It's possible that creating that ambiguity was the book's intent, but when the story spent two-thirds of its pages trying to convince me that Grace -- and many of the other asylum patients -- had been locked up unfairly, I was confused. Is Grace an innocent victim or a dark avenging angel? I think the book wanted her to be both, but I needed to see her trajectory more clearly. Overall, I wanted more cohesiveness from this story-- of plot, of pace, and of themes. 

Though A Madness So Discreet wasn't perfect for me, it definitely had its high points. If you've loved YA historical fiction with strong feminist themes like The Cure for Dreaming by Cat Winters or A Mad Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller, you should definitely give this book a try.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Freebie Friday September 25: ARC Grab Bag!



Happy Friday!


Yes, it's more ARC Grab Bag. Check out my Instagram for a sneak peek!

Open to those with a US mailing address.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Trending Thursday: The Wild, Wild (YA) West


Welcome to Trending Thursday, a periodic feature that looks at trends in YA fiction. Today, I'm looking at books with a Western theme:


Okay, I'm here to say that while I've lived in the West and love the wide open spaces, I've never been a huge fan of Western movies or TV shows. Cowboys, train robberies, saloon girls -- these things just aren't my favorite. But I've been tempted to try a few of these new Western-themed YA books: 

Under a Painted Sky Vengeance Road Walk on Earth a Stranger Revenge and the Wild
Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee
Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman
Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson
Revenge and the Wild by Michelle Modesto

What are your thoughts on Western themed books? Have you tried any of these? Let me know in comments.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Hot Off the Presses: New YA Releasing September 22-28

Hot Off the Presses -- brand new YA releases!

Welcome to Hot Off the Presses!  

Tuesday is book release day, so every Tuesday I tell you about all the great new YA books you can buy in the week to come. If you're a reviewer, you can also link your blog or Goodreads reviews of any YA book publishing in the current month so we can all check them out!

LAST CHANCE to enter the September giveaway -- the Rafflecopter closes at midnight on September 30. This month's winner can pick any book up to $15 on either Amazon (for US winner) or The Book Depository (for international winner.)

Enter by linking reviews of YA books that release in September or by commenting on other people's linked reviews.

Hot Off the Presses aims to include every traditionally published YA book. Please let me know about books that came out this week that I might have missed! Some titles may have different release dates outside the US.

Click on the photos to get to each book's Goodreads page!

Blood and Salt Walk on Earth a Stranger Ungodly
Blood and Salt by Kim Liggett (Putnam)
Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson (Greenwillow)
Ungodly (Goddess War #3) by Kendare Blake (Tor)


Beastly Bones Tattooed Heart The Unquiet
Beastly Bones (Jackaby #2) by William Ritter (Algonquin)
The Tattooed Heart (Messenger of Fear #2) by Michael Grant (Katherine Tegen)
The Unquiet by Mikaela Everett (Greenwillow)


Silver Eve Scorpion Rules Dreamland
Silver Eve (Guardians of Tarnec #2) by Sandra Waugh (Random House)
The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow (Margaret McElderry)
Dreamland by Robert L. Anderson (Harper)

I Crawl Through It This Monstrous Thing Bits and Pieces
I Crawl Through It by A.S. King (Little Brown)
This Monstrous Thing by Mackenzi Lee (Katherine Tegen)
Bits & Pieces  (Rot & Ruin #3) by Jonathan Maberry (Simon & Schuster)


Sound Library of Souls Nightfall
Sound by Alexandra Duncan (Greenwillow)
Library of Souls (Miss Peregrine's #3) by Ransom Riggs (Quirk)
Nightfall by Jake Halpern and Peter Kujawinski (Putnam)


Juniors What We Saw Murdstone Trilogy
Juniors by Kaui Hart Hemmings (Putnam)
What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler (Harper)
The Mudstone Trilogy by Mal Peet (Candlewick)


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, September 21, 2015

Just Finished Reading ... The Scorpion Rules

The Scorpion Rules
by Erin Bow
To be published on September 22, 2015
by Margaret McElderry Books

Source: ARC from Book Expo America

Synopsis from Goodreads: A world battered by climate shift and war turns to an ancient method of keeping peace: the exchange of hostages. The Children of Peace - sons and daughters of kings and presidents and generals - are raised together in small, isolated schools called Preceptures. There, they learn history and political theory, and are taught to gracefully accept what may well be their fate: to die if their countries declare war. Greta Gustafsen Stuart, Duchess of Halifax and Crown Princess of the Pan-Polar Confederation, is the pride of the North American Precepture. Learned and disciplined, Greta is proud of her role in keeping the global peace, even though, with her country controlling two-thirds of the world’s most war-worthy resource — water — she has little chance of reaching adulthood alive.  Enter Elián Palnik, the Precepture’s newest hostage and biggest problem. Greta’s world begins to tilt the moment she sees Elián dragged into the school in chains. The Precepture’s insidious surveillance, its small punishments and rewards, can make no dent in Elián, who is not interested in dignity and tradition, and doesn’t even accept the right of the UN to keep hostages. 
My take: I'm not sure that the synopsis above does The Scorpion Rules justice, though it's a difficult book to describe. There were things I liked quite a lot and some that I found less than satisfying.

First off, while that synopsis suggests lots of cliche, this book does also also have some original elements. The premise is very similar to a bunch of other futuristic/post-apocalyptic stories and other YA: environmental ruin leads to global unrest and destabilization which leads to the redrawing of national borders and new alliances. It also leads to the rise of AI (evil robots!) As the machines get smarter and the humans get more effed up, the machines take over, with the brilliant idea that each new geo-political region will send the child of their ruler (most regions seem to have reverted to monarchies for some reason) as a hostage for peace. If that region acts with hostility toward another before their hostage's eighteenth birthday, their hostage dies. (I'm also not sure why the parent-rulers only care about the kid's well-being until eighteen, but whatever...)

This probably sounds like a familiar (and yeah, Hunger Games-y) premise, but in this story it felt well-drawn and well thought out. (And in fact, child hostages like this are apparently an actual Historical Thing, which is both creepy and interesting.) All the hostages live on a farm somewhere in Canada that came off to me as half hippie commune, half prison camp. The hostages grow vegetables and herd goats and are tended by robots and watch as their compatriots suddenly get dragged away to be murdered.

Then a HMNB (Hot Mysterious New Boy) shows up and he's cute and rebellious and wild and our narrator (Princess Greta) is drawn to him AND her region is about to go to war with his over water rights. Can you say smoldering hate to love romance?

But no -- that's not what happens. This book definitely has some surprises up its sleeve (and some unexpected humor and poignancy as well.)  Overall, The Scorpion Rules felt more a political chess game crossed with a Man vs. Machine story like The Terminator than an angsty YA story.

There's plenty of diversity in the characters, given the fact that the hostages come from all over the world. But I didn't really connect well with Greta, the main character. There's romance, but not the romance most readers will expect. (I liked that it was not the insta-love I was expecting.)

To me, the ending was seriously weird. If there's a follow-up book, I'm not sure I'd want to read it. But all in all, I found The Scorpion Rules a smart, well-written (if a little dryly narrated) book that won't be exactly what you expect. If you're of the "if the YA mold ain't broke don't fix it" school, you might give it a pass, but if you could use a break from the typical YA, give this a try!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Stuck in a Good Book Giveaway Hop



Welcome to my stop on the Stuck in a Good Book Giveaway Hop!  My stop is open to US and international residents!

My winner can choose ANY book up to $15 USD on either Amazon (for a US winner) or The Book Depository.  Maybe you'd like to choose one of these:


Six of Crows Blood and Salt Queen of Shadows


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Trending Thursday: YA Sherlock Stories



This week on Trending Thursday I'm looking at a growing YA trend that I'm all in favor of: Sherlock-inspired stories!



Ah, Sherlock Holmes. He is a fictional detective created in the late 1800s by Scottish author-physician Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Most of Doyle's stories featuring Holmes were narrated by Holmes' friend and sidekick Dr. John Watson.

Sherlock-inspired fiction has an interesting history in children's literature. Until recently, it seems like most of the Sherlock-inspired works were either on TV:

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Or, if they were books, most were written for elementary and middle grade readers:

Eye of the Crow No Place Like Holmes A Study in Silks Clockwork Scarab
Eye of the Crow (Boy Sherlock Holmes #1) by Shane Peacock
No Place Like Holmes by Jason Lethcoe
A Study in Silks (The Baskerville Affair #1) by Emma Jane Holloway
The Clockwork Scarab (Stoker and Holmes #1) by Colleen Gleason

But recently, a crop of Sherlock-inspired YA has come on the scene:

Lock & Mori Study in Charlotte Jackaby Every Breath
Lock & Mori by Heather Petty
A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro
Jackaby by William Ritter
Every Breath by Ellie Marney
Sherlock is filled with great material for YA -- a brilliant but troubled detective, his loyal and long-suffering associate, diabolical villains, and women with questionable motives. Good stuff!



 
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