Outrun the Moon, by Stacey Lee


Last July, in my post “Cross-Dressing Heroines in New YA Westerns,” I called Stacey Lee’s debut, Under a Painted Sky, “a nontraditional, diverse, feminist western that celebrates female heroism, adventure, and resilience.”  Her latest novel, Outrun the Moon, is not a western; but it is a nontraditional, diverse, and feminist exploration of a significant historical event: the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, which destroyed the city and killed roughly 3,000 people.

Like Sammy in Under a Painted SkyOutrun the Moon‘s Chinese-American heroine, Mercy Wong, is headstrong, ambitious, and clever. According to her Ma, her high cheekbones, called “bossy cheeks,” are a sign of authority, meaning she’s assertive and independent. So true.  We can tell from the first few sentences alone that she’s bold and adventurous:

In my fifteen years, I have stuck my arm in a vat of slithering eels, climbed all the major hills of San Francisco, and tiptoed over the graves of a hundred souls. Today, I will walk on air.

Tom’s hot air balloon, the Floating Island, hovers above us, a cloud of tofu-colored silk trapped in netting.

Mercy almost floats away in Tom’s hot air balloon. But this is not how she wants to escape Chinatown! She has a plan. She will become a successful business woman like Mrs. Lowry, the author of her much-loved Book for Business-Minded Women. First, she must get a prestigious education; but how will she do that when the best schools exclude non-whites? (Mercy has graduated from the Oriental Public School.)

Mercy’s clever plan for admittance to St Clare’s School for Girls is just the beginning of this powerful novel that celebrates triumph over racism, sexism, and classism. When the disastrous earthquake strikes, her assertiveness and resilience become even more important as she must rally other survivors to overcome their sorrows and prejudices and work together to build a community amidst the ruins.

Alyssa just realized she published this post without including her bio! Here it is. She thanks the author for an ARC of Outrun the Moon, for review purposes only, and Alyssa’s opinions are her own.


What’s Ahead

Most of what I’ve been reading lately is for our Coven Chat discussion posts (previously called Coven Reads), so I figured now’s a good time to announce what we’ll be talking about as a group in April and May.

The Starbound Trilogy, by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner:  I’ve been hearing wonderful things about this series for years, so I’m really looking forward to our discussion. I just finished These Broken Stars (#1), and I’ll finish This Shattered World (#2), and Their Fractured Light (#3) this week.  Since each book is about different characters and takes place in a new setting, I’m most curious about how they will relate to one another and bring clarity to the series’ overarching plot.


The Winner’s Trilogy, by Marie Rutkoski: The Winner’s Curse (#1) and The Winner’s Crime (#2) are a couple of my favorite books, so I can’t wait to read The Winner’s Kiss (#3), available tomorrow.


A Gathering of Shadows Final

The Shadowhunters Novels, by Cassandra Clare: I’m now finishing The Mortal Instruments books (City of Bones, City of Ashes, City of Glass, City of Fallen Angels, City of Lost Souls, and City of Heavenly Fire). Next I’ll read The Infernal Devices Trilogy (Clockwork AngelClockwork Prince, and Clockwork Princess), along with the first book in The Dark Artifices Trilogy, Lady Midnight, and The Bane Chronicles. We’ll also compare the books to the Shadowhunters tv show, so I’m really excited for our discussion.

A Gathering of Shadows (Shades of Magic #2), by V.E. Schwab: Allison and I had so much fun discussing A Darker Shade of Magic last year, and I’m looking forward to talking about its sequel.

The Raven Cycle, by Maggie Stiefvater: I can’t wait to re-read The Raven Boys (#1) and The Dream Thieves (#2)  before The Raven King (#4) hits the shelves on April 26th. I’m glad I waited until now to read Blue Lily, Lily Blue (#3), so I won’t have a painful wait between books 3 and 4.


23308084A Court of Mist and Fury, by Sarah J. Maas: Last May Allison, Nicola and I had so much fun discussing A Court of Thorns and Roses, and I can’t wait to chat about this sequel with them!

The Rose and the Dagger, by Renée Ahdieh: The three of us loved The Wrath and the Dawn (see my recommendation) and are excited to discuss its sequel in May.

Have you read these series? Which books are you looking forward to the most? 

Happy Spring! – Alyssa 

Spring/Summer YA Fantasy Favorites

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Last week, when I recommended The Crown’s Game, by Evelyn Skye, I said it’s one of my favorite 2016 releases.

In this perfectly crafted, fully immersive, and fiercely romantic historical fantasy debut, star-crossed enchanters must duel to the death in an alternate Tsarist Russia. It’s a great choice for fans of The Night Circus, Red Queen, An Ember in the Ashes, and Shadow and Bone.

I also highly recommend these forthcoming releases in YA fantasy, the first books in new series. (Some of these mini-recommendations will be followed by full recommendations closer to their release dates.)

25203675A cursed princess, prophesied to marry Death and Destruction, becomes an empowered queen of the Otherworld, in Roshani Chokshi’s darkly romantic  The Star-Touched Queen (May).

Inspired by Indian and Greek mythology, and exquisitely written, sensuous, and lush, this debut’s spellbinding tale of love, betrayal, and redemption is perfect for fans of Laini Taylor, Rosamund Hodge, and Bree Despain.

26074185Ruined (May), by Amy Tintera, has everything YA fantasy fans crave: a fierce heroine, perilous adventure, unlikely romance, intrigue, deception, and magic.

After her parents, the king and queen of Ruina (magic wielders), are murdered and her sister kidnapped, Emelina Flores embarks on a clever, yet dangerous, plan to infiltrate the enemy kingdom of Lera (non-magic wielders) and get her revenge. She kills Crown Prince Casimir’s fiancee and assumes her identity with the intention of murdering him and his family. But what if Em and Cas fall in love?

27064385If you’re looking for YA fantasy that’s unlike anything you’ve ever read, pick up Julie Eshbaugh’s Ivory and Bone (June). You’ll venture to a prehistoric world with mammoths, saber-toothed cats, and clan rivalries.

Along with life-or-death adventure, there’s love/hate romance. Kol’s and Mya’s clans are trying to make amends after they nearly went to war five years earlier, and their contentious relationship, as well as their clans’ concerns about courtship and marriage, will remind you of Pride and Prejudice …with mammoths.

25324111What if Vlad the Impaler (Count Dracula) had been a girl? This question inspired Kiersten White’s And I Darken (June), a fully immersive, vividly imagined historical fantasy, set in the Ottoman Empire, starring a feisty, brutal heroine.

Abandoned by their father, the deposed prince of Wallachia (Romania), and held hostage in the Ottoman court, Lada Dragwlya (female Vlad) and her younger brother, Radu, befriend Mehmet, the Ottoman heir. But Lada wants revenge against the Ottomans and to reclaim her homeland. Will her love for her brother and Mehmet overcome conflicting loyalties, political and religious strife, prejudice, and hate? This book is perfect for fans of An Ember in the Ashes and Red Queen.


25064648I just finished The Reader (Sept), by Traci Chee, for the second time since late January. If I lived in a world where reading was rare and books were literally magic–and, like Sefia and Archer, my life was in danger because of the one book I possessed–I’d better be holding The Reader. Chee’s debut, celebrating literacy and storytelling, unlikely friendship and slow-burn romance, is a breathtaking adventure you’ll treasure. (Especially if you have to fight off pirates and assassins!)

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

Sefia knows what it means to survive. After her father is brutally murdered, she flees into the wilderness with her aunt Nin, who teaches her to hunt, track, and steal. But when Nin is kidnapped, leaving Sefia completely alone, none of her survival skills can help her discover where Nin’s been taken, or if she’s even alive. The only clue to both her aunt’s disappearance and her father’s murder is the odd rectangular object her father left behind, an object she comes to realize is a book—a marvelous item unheard of in her otherwise illiterate society. With the help of this book, and the aid of a mysterious stranger with dark secrets of his own, Sefia sets out to rescue her aunt and find out what really happened the day her father was killed—and punish the people responsible.

Alyssa recommends new and forthcoming releases in (mostly) young adult fiction at Coven Book Club and Spellbinding BooksShe thanks the publishers, Edelweiss, NetGalley, and the Boulder Book Store for providing her with DRCs and ARCs for review purposes. Find her on Twitter.

The Tsar’s Guard Parade: The Crown’s Game Recommendation & Giveaway

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Privet! I am so thrilled to recommend Evelyn Skye’s historical fantasy debut, The Crown’s Game, as part of The Tsar’s Guard Parade. My list of favorite 2016 releases will definitely include this book. It’s perfectly crafted, fully immersive, and fiercely romantic. It’s even more amazing than its cover and synopsis (and that’s saying a lot).

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by Evelyn Skye

Published by Balzer+Bray, on May 17th, 2016, 416 pages

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks


Vika Andreyeva can summon the snow and turn ash into gold. Nikolai Karimov can see through walls and conjure bridges out of thin air. They are enchanters—the only two in Russia—and with the Ottoman Empire and the Kazakhs threatening, the Tsar needs a powerful enchanter by his side.


And so he initiates the Crown’s Game, an ancient duel of magical skill—the greatest test an enchanter will ever know. The victor becomes the Imperial Enchanter and the Tsar’s most respected adviser. The defeated is sentenced to death.


Raised on tiny Ovchinin Island her whole life, Vika is eager for the chance to show off her talent in the grand capital of Saint Petersburg. But can she kill another enchanter—even when his magic calls to her like nothing else ever has?


For Nikolai, an orphan, the Crown’s Game is the chance of a lifetime. But his deadly opponent is a force to be reckoned with—beautiful, whip smart, imaginative—and he can’t stop thinking about her.


And when Pasha, Nikolai’s best friend and heir to the throne, also starts to fall for the mysterious enchantress, Nikolai must defeat the girl they both love . . . or be killed himself.


As long-buried secrets emerge, threatening the future of the empire, it becomes dangerously clear . . . the Crown’s Game is not one to lose.

To avoid spoilers, I’m not going to say more about the plot than what’s stated here. What I will say is that The Crown’s Game is told from multiple points of view. Not only will you experience Vika’s and Nikolai’s thoughts and actions, but you will get inside numerous secondary characters’ heads.  (To learn more about the characters, check out Evelyn’s monthly reveals, including reveal #9: enter to win Aizhana’s cloak and an autographed ARC.)

The Crown’s Game brilliantly merges real and imagined places and events. You’ll be immersed in the history, politics, language, literature–and food!–of Imperial Russia, 1825.

With its lush world-building, thrilling magic, and star-crossed romance, this spellbinding debut is perfect for fans of The Night Circus, Red Queen, An Ember in the Ashes, and the Grisha trilogy. Pre-order it now and play the  Tsar’s game to unlock six treasure chests!

The Tsar’s Guard Parade also includes a giveaway for an ARC of the book. So if you’d like a chance to win, enter in the Rafflecopter at the bottom of this post.

Evelyn Skye head shot high resEvelyn Skye was once offered a job by the C.I.A., she not-so-secretly wishes she was on “So You Think You Can Dance,” and if you challenge her to a pizza-eating contest, she guarantees she will win. When she isn’t writing, Evelyn can be found chasing her daughter on the playground or sitting on the couch, immersed in a good book and eating way too many cookies. THE CROWN’S GAME is her first novel. Evelyn can be found online at www.evelynskye.com and on Twitter @EvelynSkyeYA.


1 winner will receive an ARC of THE CROWN’S GAME.  International.

A Rafflecopter Giveaway

Alyssa recommends new and forthcoming releases in (mostly) young adult fiction at Coven Book Club and Spellbinding Books. She thanks HarperCollins, Edelweiss, and the Boulder Book Store for providing her with a DRC of The Crown’s Game for review purposes. Find her on Twitter.



Winter 2016 YA: Glass Sword, by Victoria Aveyard

Red Queen was one of my favorite books of 2015, so while I was very excited to finally get my hands on its sequel, Glass Sword, I was afraid that it would not live up to the awesomeness of its predecessor. Fortunately, what I love most about Red Queen–its rich world-building, dynamic characters, high-stakes adventure and romance, and plot twists and turns that never lose their punch (even after multiple reads)–continues in Glass Sword, but with an even more elaborate and expansive setting, cast of characters, and storyline.

23174274I don’t want to risk spoiling the plot of Red Queen and Glass Sword in case you haven’t read them yet; rather, I want to focus on the number one lesson that the protagonist, Mare Barrow, learned in Red Queen–anyone can betray anyone–and the effect this devastating truth has on her character and purpose.

After discovering she’s not the only gifted Red (newblood), Mare enters a deadly race against her enemies to find and recruit an army of newbloods who will join the Red rebels (the Scarlet Guard) in their fight against their evil Silver oppressors. This means Mare’s a hero, right?

Yes, and no. Motivated by revenge, and consumed with heartbreak, alienation and a deep-rooted hatred for Silvers in general, how will Mare not become as cruel and dangerous as her enemies? How will betrayal and treachery not turn her into the kind of monster she is fighting against?

What I love most about Aveyard’s series is that it explores the liminal space between heroism and villainy in a way that reminds me of another favorite series of mine: Marie Lu’s The Young Elites. A few months ago I wrote about Adelina Amouteru, the gifted hero turned villain, who becomes increasingly treacherous in The Rose Society. In that post, I commended Adelina’s successful evolution into a villain. Rather than trying to overcome her negative traits (fear, anger, stubbornness, manipulation, hatred, vengeance, and narcissism), Adelina recognizes that they make her a more formidable opponent. Motivated by revenge and destruction, not compassion, love and heroism, Adelina would rather be everyone’s adversary than risk being anyone’s victim.

Similarly, Mare must demonstrate her negative traits in order to become a more powerful opponent. She cannot lead a revolt and defeat her enemies with kindness and mercy. She will not be a victim. Not again. While Mare isn’t as villainous as Adelina in her quest for revenge–she still feels love, compassion, loyalty, and guilt–Mare is determined to kill her enemies. But at what cost?

Alyssa recommends new and upcoming releases in young adult fiction (and occasionally middle grade and adult). Please follow her on Tumblr and Twitter.