Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The November Girl by Lydia Kang

The November Girl
by Lydia Kang
Read: September 15 - 18, 2017
Published: November 7, 2017 by Entangled Publishing
Source: Netgalley
Category: YA, PNR,  
Find: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository | Indiebound

Book Description: I am Anda, and the lake is my mother. I am the November storms that terrify sailors and sink ships. With their deaths, I keep my little island on Lake Superior alive.

Hector has come here to hide from his family until he turns eighteen. Isle Royale is shut down for the winter, and there's no one here but me. And now him.

Hector is running from the violence in his life, but violence runs through my veins. I should send him away, to keep him safe. But I'm half human, too, and Hector makes me want to listen to my foolish, half-human heart. And if I do, I can't protect him from the storms coming for us.
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Surrounding the bones of this PNR of two lonely teens falling in love, is a story that is deep in gorgeous imagery and heavy in themes. Although Hector and Anda seem very different at first, they have both grown up feeling like two halves of different things: he of heritages ("Too Korean or too American. Too Black, or not Black enough.") and she, split between her human and other nature. They both carry darkness and pain within them. She, embracing the death of ships and sailors to live, he, running from horrors at home. From who Anda is, and what Hector's running from, it doesn't seem like these two would find something in each other, but somehow they make perfect sense as a pair. 

This story is romance focused, and for much of the book, Hector and Anda are the only characters present, together on 
a lonely island in the middle of Lake Superior that has been closed for the winter. I enjoyed watching them get to know each other as they work to survive, and Anda works to control her nature. One criticism: I did think Hector's level of surprise at finding out about what Anda is, was over done, especially, as it happens late in the book when he'd been observing her for a month by that point. It was clear she wasn't human!

Near the end the story picks up in intensity - both of these characters have a lot to face emotionally and physically - and I was turning pages quickly. I would have liked an epilogue, or at least a little more at the end. But this is a solid tale with depth to match the lake on which it is set, and an ending that left me satisfied. 

Love Triangle Factor: None
Cliffhanger Scale: Standalone


Monday, September 25, 2017

Invictus by Ryan Graudin

Invictus
by Ryan Graudin
Read: July 1 - 7, 2017
Published: September 26, 2017 by Little, Brown BYR
Source: BEA
Category: YA, time travel, history thieves  
Find: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository | Indiebound

Book Description: Time flies when you're plundering history.

Farway Gaius McCarthy was born outside of time. The son of a time-traveling Recorder from 2354 AD and a gladiator living in Rome in 95 AD, Far's birth defies the laws of nature. Exploring history himself is all he's ever wanted, and after failing his final time-traveling exam, Far takes a position commanding a ship with a crew of his friends as part of a black market operation to steal valuables from the past. 

But during a heist on the sinking Titanic, Far meets a mysterious girl who always seems to be one step ahead of him. Armed with knowledge that will bring Far's very existence into question, she will lead Far and his team on a race through time to discover a frightening truth: History is not as steady as it seems.
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I liked so much about Invictus. The whole set up of the story, in fact, is completely my kind of thing. I just LOVE the idea of a crew of time traveling teens racing through history, stealing treasures that have been lost to time and tragedy. Getting a first hand look at history past is always a favorite theme, and I enjoyed following Farway, Priya, Imogen and Gram on their trips. Also, my kids have recently gotten completely hooked on "Jack and Annie books" as they call them, so for there sake, I'd definitely label this story (at least at first) as 'The Magic Tree House reboot for teens, but in a spaceship with a red panda'. 

After a prologue recounting Farway's very unconventional birth outside of time, this book begins on the day he fails his time-traveling exam and his entire life's path shifts directions to something all-together different, and, also, more exciting. Even if Farway thinks it's completely over at first. Then the story jumps again to nearly a year later when Far is commander of his ship the Invictus and his crew has successfully completed many missions stealing lost treasure for their black market dealing boss. I could definitely read an entire book just about Far's crew's adventures stealing treasures in time. But it is at this point in the story that the crew experiences a major hiccup in their previously smooth missions and 'all hell breaks loose' as one might say. The characters are all left reeling and racing through time to fix a problem they never anticipated. This is where the meat of the story is, and also where the mysterious Eliot joins the crew. 

I did not like Eliot at all when we first meet her, and I didn't know what to think of her for a long time. But her role in this story definitely surprised me, and she upped the intensity factor - and changed the direction of the plot - a lot. I also ended up feeling a lot differently about her by the end than I thought I would have. I like characters that surprise me like she does that well. 

The way the story jumps, Farway and Priya are already dating during the majority of the tale. And while we don't get the swoony build-up of their romance, I loved the settled-ness of it and how their relationship was important to both of them. It also allowed the drama and action to focus on other things, which makes sense for a story that's less character driven and more focused on plot and saving the world (or multi-verse, as it were)

While the plot shifts directions, things slowed down for me a bit in the middle, but the end is fast paced and exciting with very high stakes. I was rushing to turn pages to find out how Far and friends would solve the huge worlds-ending problem they'd gotten themselves into. Invictus is a standalone with a strong and solid ending, and thank goodness for that. As much as I love a good series, it's also nice to read a self-contained sci-fi/fantasy book. 

Love Triangle Factor: None. I was worried for a moment there but my fears were completely unfounded. 
Cliffhanger Scale: Standalone


Find this and other bookish images on Instagram at @loveisnotatriangle

Friday, September 22, 2017

Blog Tour: Before She Ignites by Jodi Meadows
Guest Post + Giveaway

Tour organized by BookNerd Addict Tours
See below for the full schedule 

Before She Ignites is one of my favorite recent reads. 
You can see my thoughts on this story HERE

Today, I'm very excited to be hosting author Jodi Meadows as part of the blog tour, especially, because my post is all about my favorite topic. Love Triangles! Or rather, avoiding them! Read on for more. 


About the Book:

Before She Ignites
by Jodi Meadows

Published:  September 12, 2017 
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Series: The Fallen Isles Trilogy, book 1/3

Book Description: Before

Mira Minkoba is the Hopebearer. Since the day she was born, she’s been told she’s special. Important. Perfect. She’s known across the Fallen Isles not just for her beauty, but for the Mira Treaty named after her, a peace agreement which united the seven islands against their enemies on the mainland.

But Mira has never felt as perfect as everyone says. She counts compulsively. She struggles with crippling anxiety. And she’s far too interested in dragons for a girl of her station.

After

Then Mira discovers an explosive secret that challenges everything she and the Treaty stand for. Betrayed by the very people she spent her life serving, Mira is sentenced to the Pit–the deadliest prison in the Fallen Isles. There, a cruel guard would do anything to discover the secret she would die to protect.

No longer beholden to those who betrayed her, Mira must learn to survive on her own and unearth the dark truths about the Fallen Isles–and herself–before her very world begins to collapse.

Find the Book: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository | Indiebound
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Guest Post by Jodi Meadows: How do you write a multi-book series with a romance and no love triangle?

Why oh why am I not surprised about this topic from you, Lauren? ;)

While I don't have anything against love triangles -- I love a well-done triangle -- I generally prefer to explore one romance within a story. Well, occasionally I like to bring up romances between secondary characters, but they tend to do their thing off screen. (That might be a hint about Fallen Isles 2!)

Because my tendency is to explore multiple stages of relationships, I never feel bored. I never feel like there can't be enough tension just because the couple has finally admitted they like each other and now they're (maybe) doing something about it. Relationships don't stop there.

Relationships are evolving things. They are ever changing. While writing about those first moments of attraction and getting up the courage to kiss is really exciting, there's just as much tension and excitement later, when they learn more about each other and find something they don't like. Or they're separated for some reason. Or any number of other reasons an author can come up with to delay a happily ever after.

Personally, I like to have a sense of where I want the characters to end up by the end of the book. I mean, it's important to understand that my characters' relationship will (maybe?) continue after the last page is turned, and it's not actually a happily ever after because those are stagnant and relationships are not. But I need to know where I want their emotional arc to land at the end of the book. Is it with a kiss? A fight? Have they even admitted they like each other?

Once I know where I want that arc to end, I write toward that. And over the course of the series, I continue in the same manner.

There are lots of things to throw at characters to get in their way: a duty that prevents them from being together, class barriers, separation, profound disagreements, someone does something unforgivable, disapproving parents, society, death . . . to name a few. There can -- and should be -- internal and external barriers. The hard part is making the reader believe those barriers are enough to keep a couple apart.

There's no shortage of tension in established relationships. The phrase "they fight like an old married couple" wouldn't be a thing if it were all peace and harmony once the vows have been said. But . . . I think the key is that the characters have to WANT to be together. They have to DESIRE to be together. And the reader needs to feel that, too. Otherwise, the tension won't work and the reader will just hope the character they like will just find a different person to kiss.

Ok. I love everything about this post! I'm always looking for books and series that explore relationships in their many stages. Not just the beginning part of it. This makes me even more excited for more of this series.
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About the Author: 

Jodi Meadows wants to be a ferret when she grows up and she has no self-control when it comes to yarn, ink, or outer space. Still, she manages to write books. She is the author of the Incarnate Trilogy, the Orphan Queen Duology, and the Fallen Isles Trilogy (HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen), and a coauthor of My Lady Jane (HarperTeen). Visit her at www.jodimeadows.com
Find Jodi: Website | Twitter | Goodreads

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Follow the Tour:
Monday 9/4 TheLifeofABookNerdAddict – Guest Post 
Monday 9/4  TalesofTheRavenousreader– Creative Post
Tuesday 9/5  BooksAndPrejudice – Review
Wednesday 9/6  EaterofBooks – Interview
Thursday 9/7  ForTheSakeofReading – Review
Friday 9/8  ABackwardsStory– Guest Post
Monday 9/11 MaryHadALittleBookBlog -Guest Post
Monday 9/11 – thatartsyreadergirl.com -Review
Tuesday 9/12   TheYABookTraveler -Review 
Wednesday 9/13  AThousandWordsAMillionBooks – Interview
Thursday 9/14  BookCrush– Creative Post
Friday 9/15  TheReaderAndTheChef– Review
Monday 9/18 –  YAandWine – Review
Tuesday 9/19  TakeMeAwayToAGreatRead – Creative Post
Wednesday 9/20  AphonicSarah – Interview 
Thursday 9/21  TheKindredReader – Review
Friday 9/22  ReadWriteLove28 – Excerpt 
Friday 9/22  LoveIsNotATriangle – Guest Post
Bonus: Check out the awesome Before She Ignites book trailer created by Sarah from  The YA Book Traveler. She also created the gorgeous banners in this post. 


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Giveaway:
Thank you @BNATours for organizing this tour! 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Before She Ignites by Jodi Meadows

Before She Ignites
by Jodi Meadows
Read:  September 7 - 10, 2017
Published:  September 12, 2017 by Katherine Tegen Books
Source: Galley from publisher (TY!)
Category: YA, fantasy, dragons, prison
Find: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository | Indiebound

Before

Mira Minkoba is the Hopebearer. Since the day she was born, she’s been told she’s special. Important. Perfect. She’s known across the Fallen Isles not just for her beauty, but for the Mira Treaty named after her, a peace agreement which united the seven islands against their enemies on the mainland.

But Mira has never felt as perfect as everyone says. She counts compulsively. She struggles with crippling anxiety. And she’s far too interested in dragons for a girl of her station.

After

Then Mira discovers an explosive secret that challenges everything she and the Treaty stand for. Betrayed by the very people she spent her life serving, Mira is sentenced to the Pit–the deadliest prison in the Fallen Isles. There, a cruel guard would do anything to discover the secret she would die to protect.

No longer beholden to those who betrayed her, Mira must learn to survive on her own and unearth the dark truths about the Fallen Isles–and herself–before her very world begins to collapse.

_________________________________________________________________________

This is my third beginning of a Jodi Meadows series and as always, I was invested right from the start and could not put the book down. I wouldn't consider Before She Ignites  to be high action, although it definitely has its moments. But that doesn't mean this story lacks intensity. In fact, there is a creeping sense of danger and urgency that underlies the entire story, and it continues to build as Mira spends more time in prison, and more is revealed about her past and the political climate of her world. 

The first thing I fell in love with was Mira's voice, which is a good thing, because the story centers so much on her. Mira begins this novel naive and pampered, accepting her role as the public - and pretty - face of the Mira Treaty. She's been told that her looks are important and so she centers much of her self-worth around them, believing she doesn't have much more to offer. The only things she loves fiercely are her friends Hristo (who is her body guard) & Ilina, and dragons. It is the dragons where she gets herself into trouble. 

Mira spends the majority of the story locked inside a prison, suffering mental and even physical abuse that could be difficult to read at times. But it is through this powerlessness, when her public voice and freedom is taken away, that Mira discovers her own power - to speak up and take action and do something . In many ways this book is the personal, internal story of one girl coming to terms with herself and her own strength. It is a tale that I found to be extremely compelling. 


As Mira is coming to terms with herself, she's also uncovering secret government plots and lots of political intrigue. Many of these revelations were equally surprising to her as to me. I'm excited to see how all of this information plays out into plot action in the future. For the slow reveal of why Mira's in prison and what she learns about what's happening to her island nation, this book is centered on a lot of information gathering. But it is all a strong set up for the action that is to come in the future books. 

Mira meets a lot of characters while she is in prison, some allies, some definitely not, though it's not always clear which is which. I am looking forward to getting to know many of these characters more deeply in the future books. This story also features the beginnings of a sweet romance. The kind of romance that Jodi excels at. But within the sweetness are jagged edges and differences that will continue to create tension going forward. I cannot wait to watch more develop between these two. Absolutely is no love triangle is to be found in these pages. 

I loved this book so much because I connected with Mira right away and was rooting for her all along. I cannot wait for more of this series. More Mira and friends. More romance. More intrigue and action and revelations and definitely more dragons.


Love Triangle Factor: None
Cliffhanger Scale: Low/Med. Definitely the first book in a trilogy. But no painful cliffhanger. The book ends in a hopeful place with the anticipation of a lot more to come.
 


Two extra things!

1) I'm participating in the Before She Ignites blog tour on Friday. I'm especially excited about the post I'm doing, so make sure to stop back in then!

2) This book is the subject of the latest Owl Crate, which was my first to get ever, and I'm very impressed. I haven't taken a good picture of it yet, but it includes a different cover than the standard hardback, and it's absolutely gorgeous! 

See this and other bookish instagram pics at @loveisnotatriangle

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares by Krystal Sutherland
Blog Tour: Would You Rather + Giveaway

Blog Tour Organized by Penguin Teen
See below for the full schedule

I always love learning more about characters through a Would you Rather interview. Plus they're just so fun to do! 

Today, I'm excited to be playing Would You Rather with the author and cast of A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares.


A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares
by Krystal Sutherland 
Read: July 29 - 31, 2017
Published: September 5, 2017 by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Source: HC from publisher (TY!)
Category: YA, phobias, Contemporary, Magic, 
Find: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository | Indiebound

Book Description: From the author of Our Chemical Hearts comes the hilarious, reality-bending tale of two outsiders facing their greatest fears about life and love one debilitating phobia at a time.

Ever since Esther Solar's grandfather was cursed by Death, everyone in her family has been doomed to suffer one great fear in their lifetime. Esther's father is agoraphobic and hasn't left the basement in six years, her twin brother can t be in the dark without a light on, and her mother is terrified of bad luck.

The Solars are consumed by their fears and, according to the legend of the curse, destined to die from them. 

Esther doesn't know what her great fear is yet (nor does she want to), a feat achieved by avoiding pretty much everything. Elevators, small spaces, and crowds are all off-limits. So are haircuts, spiders, dolls, mirrors and three dozen other phobias she keeps a record of in her semi-definitive list of worst nightmares. 

Then Esther is pickpocketed by Jonah Smallwood, an old elementary school classmate. Along with her phone, money and a fruit roll-up she d been saving, Jonah also steals her list of fears. Despite the theft, Esther and Jonah become friends, and he sets a challenge for them: in an effort to break the curse that has crippled her family, they will meet every Sunday of senior year to work their way through the list, facing one terrifying fear at a time, including one that Esther hadn't counted on: love.

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My mini review

This book is a great mix of serious and really quirky. I liked how the story starts off feeling very placeless and enchanting, but slowly goes deeper while the picture sharpens. A lot of serious topics are handled, including mental illness, physical abuse, self-harm and suicide, all with a dose of weirdness that makes the tale feel not so heavy as it could have been. I really loved following Esther on her adventures as she tries to conquer her fears, and though I didn't like him at first, I adored Jonah Smallwood so much by the end. I am a huge fan of sibling bonds, especially twins and Esther and Eugene's relationship is one of my favorite parts of this book. My only complaint is the end was way too abrupt and one aspect of it threw me off. But as a whole, this is a story not to be missed. 

Love Triangle Factor: None
Cliffhanger Scale: Standalone


What is on your list of worst nightmares -
Maybe feeding birds out of your hand?
Photo from my bookish Instagram @loveisnotatriangle

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Would You Rather Interview 
with Esther, Jonah and author Krystal Sutherland

Hey guys! I’m excited to be sitting down with all of you to play a round of Would You Rather.  No skipping questions, and feel free to elaborate.

1) Would you rather wear the same outfit every day for the rest of your life OR eat the same meal?

Esther: Same outfit, as long as it’s an elaborate costume.
Jonah: Same outfit, as long as it’s ‘70s threads from a thrift store.
Krystal: Same outfit, as long as it’s pajamas. And warm. Warmth is very important to me.

2) Would you rather have a rewind button OR a pause button in your life?

Esther: A pause button. It would give me a little extra time to breathe and focus and not let my anxiety spiral out of control.
Jonah: I wouldn’t use either. You can’t rewrite the past, or dwell in any one moment for too long.
Krystal: It has been my dream ever since high school to have a pause button. I could procrastinate as much as I wanted and still get my work in on time!

3) Would you rather be on a survival reality show OR dating game show?

Esther: If I’m being honest, I’d probably be out in the first round on both.
Jonah: If I’m being honest, I’d probably win both.   
Krystal: I’d go on If You Are the One in a heartbeat. It’s more brutal than any survival show. Where else could you tell potential suitors that “Apart from your appearance, you’re a very good candidate” and “I turned you down because you’re wearing red pants”?

4) Would you rather suffer from spontaneous shouting OR unpredictable fainting spells?

Esther: Give me the fainting. More publicly acceptable.
Jonah: I’ll take the shouting. Why not? I don’t mind causing a scene.
Krystal: Shouting seems less likely to lead to a serious brain injury, so sign me up for that.

5) Would you rather only age from the neck down OR the neck up?

Esther: Neck down. You can hide your old body under clothes (preferably costumes), but there’s no masking crow’s feet.
Jonah: I’m just gonna continue to age naturally, all over, because I’m gonna look all kinds of distinguished when I hit my mid-forties.
Krystal: I still get carded at 27 (and the drinking age in Australia is 18!) so I’m gonna go with neck up. Hopefully that way my face will catch up to the rest of my body and people will stop thinking I’m a teenager. (True story, I answered my front door recently, and the salesman asked me if my parents were home, because he needed to talk to an adult.)

6) Would you rather never play OR play but always lose?

Esther: Never play. Playing sounds dangerous.
Jonah: Play but always lose. I love a bit of adventure, no matter the outcome. 
Krystal: I’m probably with Esther on this one. By “playing” I’m imagining sports, and I have no hand-eye coordination to speak of.  
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About the Author


Krystal Sutherland was born and raised in Townsville, Australia—an inhospitable land where crocodiles, snakes, and jellyfish are always on the prowl. She grew up living directly across the road from the local library and spent almost every day after school (and weekends, too) having adventures between the pages of books (mainly because it was too dangerous to go outside).

She moved to Sydney for college (and safety), where she cut her writing teeth as the editor of the student magazine at the University of New South Wales. She kept gathering tales as an exchange student in Hong Kong and as a foreign correspondent in Amsterdam. Her first book, Our Chemical Hearts, was released in 2016, and was published in over twenty countries.

Her three greatest fears are heights, dark caves . . . and (perhaps worst of all) frogs.

Find Krystal Sutherland: Website | Twitter | Goodreads

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Follow the Tour

Week One:
September 4 – Mrs. Leif's Two Fangs About It – Review & Excerpt
September 5 – Tales of the Ravenous Reader – Chase Away the Nightmares: A Playlist
September 6 – Arctic Books – Reviews
September 7 – YA Wednesdays – Favorite Quotes
September 8 – Feed Your Fiction Addiction – Author Guest Post: Krystal's Top 10 Addictions

Week Two:
September 11 – Swoony Boys Podcast – Dream Casting
September 12 – Twinning for Books
September 13 – Love is Not a Triangle – Author Guest Post: Would You Rather? With the Cast of ASDLOWN
September 14 – Forever Young Adult – Review
September 15 – Adventures of a Book Junkie – Author Q&A

Week Three:September 18 – Xpresso Reads – Review & My Top 5 Fears/Phobias
September 19 – Chasing Faerytales – Review
September 20 – Boricuan Bookworms – Review
September 21 – YA and Wine – Author Guest Post: Krystal's Biggest Fears
September 22 – A Book and a Cup of Coffee – Psychology of Phobias

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Giveaway

Enter for a chance to be one (1) of three (3) winners to receive a hardcover copy of A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares by Krystal Sutherland. (ARV: $17.99 each).
NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Enter between 12:00 AM Eastern Time on September 4, 2017 and 12:00 AM on September 25, 2017.  Open to residents of the fifty United States and the District of Columbia who are 13 and older. Winners will be selected at random on or about September 27, 2017. Odds of winning depend on number of eligible entries received. Void where prohibited or restricted by law.

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