What’s Ahead: Coven Chat

Most of what I’ll be reading over the next few months is for our Coven Chat discussion posts, so I figured now’s a good time to announce what we’ll be talking about as a group in August through October.

The Raven Cycle, by Maggie Stiefvater:  I’ve been reading (and re-reading) this series for five years now, so Gansey, Ronan, Adam, Noah, Blue, and the women of 300 Fox Way are some of my most beloved characters. I’ve just started The Raven King (#4), after revisiting The Raven Boys (#1), The Dream Thieves (#2) and Blue Lily, Lily Blue (#3), and I can’t wait to find out how this series ends.

The Remnant Chronicles, by Mary E Pearson: Read The Kiss of Deception (#1) and The Heart of Betrayal (#2) if you haven’t already because The Beauty of Darkness (#3) is out now.

 

 

A Torch Against the Night (An Ember in the Ashes #2), by Sabaa Tahir: An Ember in the Ashes (#1) was one of our favorite 2015 releases and we’re so excited for its sequel.

We’re only a month away from perhaps our most-anticipated release: Empire of Storms (Throne of Glass #5), by Sarah J Maas. You must know by now that Sarah’s books (Throne of Glass (#1), Crown of Midnight (#2), Assassin’s Blade (#.5), Heir of Fire (#3), Queen of Shadows (#4), and Empire of Storms (#5), as well as A Court of Thorns and Roses (#1) and A Court of Mist and Fury (#2)), are our favorites to discuss! We’ve chatted about them here and here and here.

Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows #1), by Leigh Bardugo: Last year we had a blast discussing Six of Crows and we’re really looking forward to finding out what happens next.

Snow Like Ashes series, by Sara Raasch: Another fabulous fantasy series is coming to an end with the release of Frost Like Night (#3) next month.

The Young Elites series, by Marie Lu: Adelina is my favorite villainous protagonist (see my post) and I can’t wait to find out how her story ends in The Midnight Star (#3).

 

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

 


What I’m Reading: Three Dark Crowns

23207027A couple of months ago, I included Three Dark Crowns, by Kendare Blake, as one of my most-anticipated September releases. Even though I haven’t finished it yet, I can confidently recommend this novel. Especially if you like YA fantasy with multiple characters, worlds, and narrative perspectives.

Three Dark Crowns is told in the alternating points of view of three queens, Katherine, Arsinoe and Mirabella. Every generation, on the island of Fennbirn, queen triplets are born and raised by foster families as “daughters of the Goddess.” Katherine is with the Arrons, a strong poisoner family in Greavesdrake Manor; the naturalist queen, Arsinoe, is with the Milones, the most powerful naturalists in Wolf Spring; and Mirabella, the elemental queen, lives with the priestesses in Rolanth Temple.

The novel opens on the eve of their sixteenth birthday, the beginning of the Ascension Year, when the queen triplets must use their gifts to fight to the death because only one of them can become queen of Fennbirn. “The people of Fennbirn Island grow in strength with the ruling queen. Naturalists become stronger under a naturalist. Elementals stronger under an elemental. After three poisoner queens, the poisoners are strong to the last, and the Arrons most of all.”

Each sister is being trained by her foster family to use her magic against her sisters. But so far only one of the triplets, Mirabella, possesses her gift; the others have been faking their powers. Rumored to be immune to the deadliest poisons,  Katherine cannot ingest even the weakest poisons without getting sick. And Arsinoe, who “ought to be able to bloom entire bushes[,] ripen whole fields” and control the fiercest lions, cannot even “bloom a rose from a rosebud” or call forth her familiar; while her best friend Jules Milone is “the strongest naturalist in sixty years.”

Only Mirabella is truly powerful, able to unleash fierce storms. “Every ship that sails to the northeast of the island returns telling tales of the fierce Shannon Storms besieging the city of Rolanth, where the elementals make their home.” But does this mean that she will be the Crowned Queen?

Alyssa thanks the Boulder Book Store, HarperCollins and Edelweiss for a digital review copy for review purposes only. Please note that the material quoted is from a review copy; therefore, it is subject to changes prior to publication and may not reflect the final edition. These quotes will be checked against the final published edition once that’s available.

 


Fall 2016 YA Preview: October Books

Hi! I know it seems premature to preview October releases in June, but I’ll be reading and recommending many of these books over the summer. (Summaries are from Goodreads.)

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Gemina (The Illuminae Files #2), by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff: Hanna is the station captain’s pampered daughter; Nik the reluctant member of a notorious crime family. But while the pair are struggling with the realities of life aboard the galaxy’s most boring space station, little do they know that Kady Grant and the Hypatia are headed right toward Heimdall, carrying news of the Kerenza invasion.

When an elite BeiTech strike team invades the station, Hanna and Nik are thrown together to defend their home. But alien predators are picking off the station residents one by one, and a malfunction in the station’s wormhole means the space-time continuum might be ripped in two before dinner. Soon Hanna and Nik aren’t just fighting for their own survival; the fate of everyone on the Hypatia—and possibly the known universe—is in their hands. But relax. They’ve totally got this. They hope.

ICYMI: Here’s my recommendation for Illuminae.

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When the Moon Was Ours, by Anna-Marie McLemore:  To everyone who knows them, best friends Miel and Sam are as strange as they are inseparable. Roses grow out of Miel’s wrist, and rumors say that she spilled out of a water tower when she was five. Sam is known for the moons he paints and hangs in the trees, and for how little anyone knows about his life before he and his mother moved to town.

But as odd as everyone considers Miel and Sam, even they stay away from the Bonner girls, four beautiful sisters rumored to be witches. Now they want the roses that grow from Miel’s skin, convinced that their scent can make anyone fall in love. And they’re willing to use every secret Miel has fought to protect to make sure she gives them up.

ICYMI: Here’s my recommendation for The Weight of Feathers.

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A Darkly Beating Heart, by Lindsay Smith: A time-travel story that alternates between modern day and 19th century Japan as one girl confronts the darkness lurking in her soul.

No one knows what to do with Reiko. She is full of hatred. All she can think about is how to best hurt herself and the people closest to her. After a failed suicide attempt, Reiko’s parents send her from their Seattle home to spend the summer with family in Japan to learn to control her emotions. But while visiting Kuramagi, a historic village preserved to reflect the nineteenth-century Edo period, Reiko finds herself slipping back in time into the life of Miyu, a young woman even more bent on revenge than Reiko herself. Reiko loves being Miyu, until she discovers the secret of Kuramagi village, and must face down Miyu’s demons as well as her own.

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Beast, by Brie Spangler: Tall, meaty, muscle-bound, and hairier than most throw rugs, Dylan doesn’t look like your average fifteen-year-old, so, naturally, high school has not been kind to him. To make matters worse, on the day his school bans hats (his preferred camouflage), Dylan goes up on his roof only to fall and wake up in the hospital with a broken leg—and a mandate to attend group therapy for self-harmers.

Dylan vows to say nothing and zones out at therapy—until he meets Jamie. She’s funny, smart, and so stunning, even his womanizing best friend, JP, would be jealous. She’s also the first person to ever call Dylan out on his self-pitying and superficiality. As Jamie’s humanity and wisdom begin to rub off on Dylan, they become more than just friends. But there is something Dylan doesn’t know about Jamie, something she shared with the group the day he wasn’t listening. Something that shouldn’t change a thing. She is who she’s always been—an amazing photographer and devoted friend, who also happens to be transgender. But will Dylan see it that way?

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Bound by Blood and Sand, by Becky Allen: Once verdant with water from a magical Well, the land is drying up, and no one remembers the magic needed to keep the water flowing. If a new source isn’t found soon, the people will perish. Jae doesn’t mind, in a way. By law, she is bound by a curse to obey every order given her, no matter how vile. At least in death, she’ll be free.

Lord Elan’s family rules the fading realm. He comes to the estate where Jae works, searching for the hidden magic needed to replenish the Well, but it’s Jae who finds it, and she who must wield it. Desperate to save his realm, Elan begs her to use it to locate the Well.

But why would a slave—abused, beaten, and treated as less than human—want to save the system that shackles her? Jae would rather see the world burn.

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Holding Up the Universe, by Jennifer Niven: Everyone thinks they know Libby Strout, the girl once dubbed “America’s Fattest Teen.” But no one’s taken the time to look past her weight to get to know who she really is. Following her mom’s death, she’s been picking up the pieces in the privacy of her home, dealing with her heartbroken father and her own grief. Now, Libby’s ready: for high school, for new friends, for love, and for EVERY POSSIBILITY LIFE HAS TO OFFER. In that moment, I know the part I want to play here at MVB High. I want to be the girl who can do anything.

Everyone thinks they know Jack Masselin, too. Yes, he’s got swagger, but he’s also mastered the impossible art of giving people what they want, of fitting in. What no one knows is that Jack has a newly acquired secret: he can’t recognize faces. Even his own brothers are strangers to him. He’s the guy who can re-engineer and rebuild anything in new and bad-ass ways, but he can’t understand what’s going on with the inner workings of his brain. So he tells himself to play it cool: Be charming. Be hilarious. Don’t get too close to anyone. Until he meets Libby.

ICYMI: Here’s my recommendation for All the Bright Places.

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Blood for Blood (Wolf by Wolf #2), by Ryan Graudin: For the resistance in 1950s Germany, the war may be over, but the fight has just begun.

Death camp survivor Yael, who has the power to skinshift, is on the run: the world has just seen her shoot and kill Hitler. But the truth of what happened is far more complicated, and its consequences are deadly. Yael and her unlikely comrades dive into enemy territory to try to turn the tide against the New Order, and there is no alternative but to see their mission through to the end, whatever the cost.

But dark secrets reveal dark truths, and one question hangs over them all: how far can you go for the ones you love?

ICYMI: Here’s my recommendation for Wolf by Wolf.

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The Midnight Star (The Young Elites #3), by Marie Lu: There was once a time when darkness shrouded the world, and the darkness had a queen.

Adelina Amouteru is done suffering. She’s turned her back on those who have betrayed her and achieved the ultimate revenge: victory. Her reign as the White Wolf has been a triumphant one, but with each conquest her cruelty only grows. The darkness within her has begun to spiral out of control, threatening to destroy all that she’s achieved.

Adelina’s forced to revisit old wounds when a new danger appears, putting not only Adelina at risk, but every Elite and the very world they live in. In order to save herself and preserve her empire, Adelina and her Roses must join the Daggers on a perilous quest—though this uneasy alliance may prove to be the real danger.

ICYMI: Here’s my recommendation for The Rose Society.

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Frost Like Night (Snow Like Ashes #3), by Sara Raasch:
Meira will do anything to save her world. With Angra trying to break through her mental defenses, she desperately needs to learn to control her own magic—so when the leader of a mysterious Order from Paisly offers to teach her, she jumps at the chance. But the true solution to stopping the Decay lies in a labyrinth deep beneath the Season Kingdoms. To defeat Angra, Meira will have to enter the labyrinth, destroy the very magic she’s learning to control—and make the biggest sacrifice of all.

Mather will do anything to save his queen. He needs to rally the Children of the Thaw, find Meira—and finally tell her how he really feels. But with a plan of attack that leaves no kingdom unscathed and a major betrayal within their ranks, winning the war—and protecting Meira—slips farther and farther out of reach.

Ceridwen will do anything to save her people. Angra had her brother killed, stole her kingdom, and made her a prisoner. But when she’s freed by an unexpected ally who reveals a shocking truth behind Summer’s slave trade, Ceridwen must take action to save her true love and her kingdom, even if it costs her what little she has left.

As Angra unleashes the Decay on the world, Meira, Mather, and Ceridwen must bring the kingdoms of Primoria together…or lose everything.

Alyssa wants to start reading these books now! She thanks the Boulder Book Store, the publishers, Edelweiss, and NetGalley for digital review copies, for review purposes only.

 

 

 


What to Read Around Halloween: A Roundup (Part 1)

Throughout October, I’m recommending new releases that will put you in the Halloween spirit. Here are a few of my favorites:

22811807Mackenzi Lee’s This Monstrous Thing is an alternative historical fantasy set in 1818, Geneva, that brilliantly reimagines Frankenstein with a steampunk twist. Alasdair Finch is a Shadow Boy, an illegal mechanic who supplies humans with clockwork parts. Two years ago, he secretly brought his brother back from the dead, but Oliver is more monster than man. (Read my recommendation here.)

24376529Mindy McGinnis’s A Madness So Discreet is not as gory as American Horror Story: Asylum, but it does paint a horrific picture of what it’s like for an innocent young woman to be trapped in Boston’s Wayburne Lunatic Asylum in the 19th century. Grace has escaped one hell–an abusive father–for another–the asylum’s dark cellars, where she has no hope of surviving (at least with her brain intact). But she’s saved by a doctor who appreciates her genius and relocates her to an ethical asylum in Ohio. Together they try to catch a killer who preys on young women.

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Slasher Girls & Monster Boys is an anthology of scary stories that pays homage to classic horror films and literature, urban legends, fairy tales, and myths; yet these stories are original and disturbing in their own right. Look at this list of contributors and try not to drool! We have Nova Ren Suma, Carrie Ryan, Cat Winters, Leigh Bardugo, Megan Shepherd, Danielle Paige, April Genevieve Tucholke, Jonathan Maberry, Jay Kristoff, Stefan Bachmann, Marie Lu, McCormick Templeman, A.G. Howard, and Kendare Blake. (Read my recommendation here.)

16060716In Lair of Dreams, the Diviners must catch a serial killer who is causing a deadly sleeping sickness. After Evie’s frightening showdown with the serial killer that took place in Libba Bray’s The Diviners (2012), she’s become a celebrity Diviner. The world now knows her special talent: she can “read” objects and discern people’s pasts (and their secrets). But despite fame and fortune, her troubles aren’t over.

18190208Virginia Boecker’s The Witch Hunter brilliantly reimagines an alternate 16th century England (Anglia) where magic is real and forbidden. It has everything I look for in fantasy. Elizabeth Grey is a feisty and fierce heroine, who is also complex, conflicted and flawed. The plot is fast-paced, action-driven, addictive, and full of twists and turns. There’s high-stakes adventure and romance, mystery, dark magic, a deadly curse, unlikely alliances, betrayal, and sacrifice.(Read my recommendation here.)

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Sally Green’s Half Wild, the second book in the Half Bad trilogy, is set in an alternate modern-day Europe, where witches secretly coexist with humans and are divided into two warring factions: White (“good”) versus Black (“bad”) witches. Nathan, as a half code, is at the heart of this conflict. Is he White or Black?He’s not sure and neither are the witches. The White Witches consider him an abomination and threat, since he’s the son of the world’s most evil witch, Marcus. The Black Witches don’t trust him either and think he’s spying for the White Witches. His father fears he might kill him. As Nathan struggles to understand his fate and where he stands in the conflict, whom can he trust? Is he destined to be either good or bad? Is being a half code a gift or a curse?

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The first book in a planned trilogy, Illuminae is co-authored by Amie Kaufman (The Starbound Trilogy) and Jay Kristoff (the Lotus War series). Its storyline goes something like this. It’s 2575 A.D. and two interstellar megacorporations are at war. When BeiTech discovers its competitor is running an illegal mining operation, called the Kerenza colony, on a small, isolated planet, it attacks with brutal force. (Read my recommendation here.)

Bone GapIf you haven’t read Laura Ruby’s Bone Gap, pick it up this October. Two months ago, Finn was the only witness to the disappearance of Roza, his brother’s girlfriend. While the people of Bone Gap stop looking for her because they think she fled, Finn believes she was kidnapped and he must find her, but he can’t recall what her abductor looks like. (Recommended with The Walls Around Us and Bones & All here.)

18044277Told through alternate voices, Nova Ren Suma’s The Walls Around Us is a creepy supernatural tale that combines prison drama and dance rivalry — “Orange is the New Black meets Black Swan” as some reviewers have called it. There’s Amber, imprisoned in a girls’ juvenile detention center, and Violet, a dancer haunted by her best friend Orianna’s imprisonment and death in that detention center.

Bones and AllIn Camille DeAngelis’s Bones & All, sixteen-year-old Maren wants to belong and feel normal, be loved and love herself; but a dark secret keeps her ashamed and alienated. In the opening scene, we learn that Maren devours people, starting with her babysitter when she was just a few years old. She tries to distance herself from everyone emotionally and physically, but if they do get close it’s not like she can’t not eat them.

23346358Moira Fowley-Doyle’s The Accident Season is a perfect choice for October. Seventeen-year-old Cara’s family is cursed. Every October (the accident season), Cara, her mother, her sister Alice, and her step-brother Sam find that no matter how many precautions they take, “[b]ones break, skin tears, bruises bloom,” and sometimes family members (her father and uncle!) die. (Read my recommendation here and Allison’s here).

Alyssa recommends new and upcoming releases in young adult fiction (and occasionally middle grade and adult). She thanks Edelweiss, NetGalley, the Boulder Book Store, and publishers for providing her with ARCs and DRCs for review purposes. Please follow her on Tumblr and Twitter.


Spring YA: Written in the Stars, Becoming Jinn, Half Wild

It may seem strange to recommend Aisha Saeed’s Written in the Stars, Lori Goldstein’s Becoming Jinn (out 4/21), and Sally Green’s Half Wild together in one post. Besides being YA new releases, what do they have in common?

Not much if you compare their characters, settings, and plots. Written in the Stars is about a Pakistani-American forced into an arranged marriage. In Becoming Jinn, Azra doesn’t want to turn sixteen, even if she does become a drop-dead gorgeous and magically-gifted Jinn. Half Bad and Half Wild are about Nathan’s complex identity as half White Witch and half Black Witch. But what ties them together is how their protagonists struggle with the issue of destiny.

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Written in the Stars opens with seventeen-year-old Naila living in America and having no clue that she will soon travel to Pakistan on a vacation that will become an arranged marriage. Although her parents’ strict rules prevent her from having much of a social life, she’s deeply in love with her secret boyfriend and she’s going to college in a few months. Since Saif is Pakistani-American too, maybe her parents will eventually approve of their relationship? However, after Naila is caught attending prom with Saif, her dreams of going to college and being with him are shattered. Will she be able to escape her unwanted marriage? Can she still choose her own fate?

22718738Becoming Jinn also explores what it’s like to not have control over your own destiny. In the opening scene, Azra is trying desperately to cut through a silver bangle, but nothing she conjures–a chisel, a hammer, a wrench–can free her from becoming a Jinn like her ancestors. Now she must value Jinn sisterhood above all human relationships (including friendship and romance with cute boys).

What I like most about Azra is that even though she doesn’t want to accept her new identity, she’s generally good-natured and witty. She isn’t consumed with self-pity and she enjoys her new powers that include wish-granting. You’ll also quickly learn to put your assumptions about Genies aside while reading this book. Goldstein has created a unique and interesting world of the Jinn, especially considering their secret co-existence with humans and complicated relationship with the elite Afrit.

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Sally Green’s Half Bad trilogy also explores the question of destiny in relation to complex notions of identity and world-building. In modern-day Europe, witches secretly coexist with humans and are divided into two warring factions: White (“good”) versus Black (“bad”) witches. Nathan, as a half code, is at the heart of this conflict. Is he White or Black? Good or bad? He’s not sure and neither are the witches.

The White Witches consider him an abomination and threat, since he’s the son of the world’s most evil witch, Marcus. The Black Witches don’t trust him either and think he’s spying for the White Witches. Then there’s his father, whom (in Half Bad) he must find by his seventeenth birthday to give him the three gifts that will become his own magical powers. But his father doesn’t trust Nathan either, believing his son is destined to kill him. As Nathan struggles to understand his fate and where he stands in the conflict (which worsens and becomes more complicated in Half Wild), whom can he trust? Is he destined to be either good or bad? Is being a half code a gift or a curse?

All three writers explore the difficulties of choosing your own destiny when restrictions are severe, choices are very limited, and being rebellious means risking harsh punishment or death. Do they even have free will? Have their destinies been pre-determined or will they be able to choose their own fates?

Alyssa Raymond recommends new and upcoming releases in young adult fiction (and occasionally middle grade and adult) for Coven Book Club and its newly-launched sister site Spellbinding Books. She thanks Edelweiss, Netgalley, the Boulder Book Store, and publishers for providing her with ARCs and DRCs for review purposes. Please follow her on Tumblr and Twitter.