Holy cow--I finished five books this week! It was a combination the quality of the books (good), the length of the books (short), and a few extra bus and subway rides.
Also, you may have noticed my new header, designed by Carrie Butler! She just celebrated one year of her blog with a giveaway, and I was one of the winners. Thanks, Carrie!
I celebrated an anniversary this week too--my 3rd wedding anniversary! Check out the awesome present Mr. S got me:
And for his present, I took him to see Icarus at the Edge of Time--a very cool event in which LeVar Burton read us a story, basically. That was totally a '90s kid bucket list item, so fun for both of us.
What I Read This Week:
Transcendence by C.J. Omololu
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Ok, I have to say it--at first I was a little concerned that this book was REALLY similar to Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly. Well, concerned is the wrong word, because that book rocked, so I was excited to read something similar but feeling like this might be encroaching on the territory of something I loved. BUT within the first 100 pages, I realized how much difference there was between the plots, and then I forgot the comparison and just got really into Transcendence. Cello prodigy Cole starts having flashbacks (easily my favorite moments in the novel) and when she meets the charming and enigmatic Griffon, he helps her understand that they are part of who she is. This book kept me guessing, as the main conflict--a century-plus-old grudge--unfolded. I was frustrated to get only snippets of the history that looks as if it will make up most of the next book, though--I'm definitely looking forward to learning more about Lord and Lady Wyatt!
**Disclosure: I received a free advance Kindle copy of this book via Netgalley.**
Gilt by Katherine Longshore
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This was definitely my most anticipated non-sequel spring release, and let me say right off the bat: it completely lived up to how awesome I thought it would be. There are a lot of decent historical YA novels, but the really fantastic ones seem to be a little harder to come by than in other genres. Friends: this is one! The meticulous research never overwhelmed or got in the way of the plot. (A common downfall of historical fiction, and one that I don't mind indulging because I'm a super-nerd, is the frequent historical fact insertion. I kind of love it--but it can also be a little jarring, and often sets me up to look for things to come back later as part of the plot when really, the author just wanted to share something neat.) In Gilt, the details that are shared are all fascinating AND plot relevant! The clothing is always my favorite, and it's totally relevant here because it shows so much about the characters. In fact, almost all of the detail is related to characters' status, which really forms the crux of the narrative. Kitty Tylney, the narrator, chronicles the rise of her long-time friend Cat (short for Catherine Howard, real-life one-time Queen of England). In the meantime, she has her own concerns--I really like Kitty's growth over the course of the novel. Overall, it was just a really satisfying, vivid trip back to the court of King Henry VIII. If you've been hungering for the next great historical novel--try this one. I don't think you'll be disappointed.
Way to Go by Tom Ryan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Clearly, I was into this book--if you check the dates on my reviews, you'll see that I finished a different book on the same date. I picked this one up on my way home, and three long subway rides later, I was done. It's a classic coming-of-age story set in a small town in Nova Scotia, Canada. During the summer after 11th grade, protagonist Danny gets a summer job, figures out who his true friends are, and starts to get comfortable with new ideas about who he really is. What made it stand out were the supporting characters: Danny's little sister Alma was my favorite, with her wise-cracking, movie-quoting ways, and I loved the way Danny's opinion of his friend Maisie evolved as he--and we--got to know her. I also enjoyed the kitchen setting--my interest in food (i.e., eating it) and my interest in theater (having formerly spent a lot of time making it) combine into a complete fascination with stories about professional kitchens. I love the sense of urgency about something that isn't life-and-death, but feels like it (we definitely had that sense backstage.) It was fast-paced, which could be a plus, but I liked the characters enough that I could have happily spent more time with them in exchange for a bit more detail and depth. That said, I thought it ended in the right place--at the end of the summer, when a lot of things were started, but nothing was really finished. Clean, simple, a perfect summer story.
**Disclosure: I won a free copy of this book through the Apocalypsies YAMazing Race. This is my honest review.**
The Bermudez Triangle by Maureen Johnson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
FINALLY, I have joined the rest of the world in seriously digging Maureen Johnson! This is the first of her books that I've read (and I'm halfway through my second even as I write this review...) and I really enjoyed it. For a few reasons. I feel a list coming on:
--Nina. I love this girl. Totally over-scheduled, over-worked, over-committed...and still willing to throw up her hands and walk away from intense midterm studying when one of her besties is having a crisis. I just want to take her out for cocoa and a hug, because she's so me-at-seventeen (but with so much more fashion sense and organization...and a boyfriend.)
--The Mel/Avery dynamic. I loved how real this relationship felt--I've seen this same relationship play out a dozen times in real life, across all kinds of relationships. Differentiating between feelings for specific people and sexual orientation isn't something I've seen a lot of in fiction, and I really appreciate that distinction. I thought Mel's coming out was written really well and none of this storyline felt like something out of an ISSUES novel.
--PARKER. I saved the best for last. Parker is fully responsible for the fourth star in this review. There was a question up on YA Confidential a few weeks ago asking which character you'd want your 16-year-old self to date? PARKER. Except he'd never go for my sixteen-year-old self, because I was too available and poor Parker only goes for the ones he can't have. He's funny and weird and SO sweet and WHY wasn't he real and at my high school? I want a book about Parker. He is hands-down my favorite YA boy of all time ever.
Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Thank you, Maureen Johnson--this is exactly the kind of book I needed this weekend. Suite Scarlett is a fun, charming, lighthearted story about a large family that owns and runs a dilapidated, formerly-glamorous New York City hotel. When the oldest sibling, Spencer, lands a role in a downtown-funky version of Hamlet, his younger sister Scarlett will go to just about any lengths to see that the show actually goes on. But the family finances, not to mention their other siblings, a decades-old rivalry, and New York City building codes, get in the way.
I really liked Scarlett herself, and her relationship with her brother Spencer was super sweet and funny. I will say that just-turned-fifteen-year-old Scarlett's romantic, uh, thing, with a guy who had just moved to New York to start COLLEGE squicked me a bit. That relationship had other issues, but I really never got over the age. I found it totally believable that Scarlett would be into it and think it could happen (years of summer camp crushes on older counselors when I was just a CIT proved that side of it all too well) but Eric? That's kind of weird, dude. Wait a few years, or whatever, but college freshman-high school sophomore is too much for me.
I also really kind of loved Scarlett's older sister Lola. I would absolutely read a book about her (although it would fall into the dreaded New Adult genre/limbo state! Gasp!) and her quiet, serious efforts to make things turn out well even as she's dealt one crummy hand after another.
This would be a great summer read--it went very quickly, and held my attention throughout. (It did make working all day today harder, as I just wanted to pick it up and finish reading!) I have a hunch I will be picking up more of Maureen Johnson's books when school lets out.
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