Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Reading Challenges Check In: January

What's this? A post not on a Monday? I know, I'm as surprised as you are! But I wanted to check in on my 2017 reading challenges with you guys, and this is the last day of the month!

So for January, the 2017 Diverse Reads Book Challenge mini-challenge theme was "Stories based on/ inspired by diverse folktales/culture/mythology", so my choice for that was:

Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older

Published: June 30th, 2015 by Arthur A. Levine Books
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 297 plus acknowledgements
Part of a series? This is book one of what looks to be a trilogy, and there's a novella. The kindle version of that is only $1.50 and... ooh, I might get that. It sounds good.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Sierra Santiago was looking forward to a fun summer of making art, hanging out with her friends, and skating around Brooklyn. But then a weird zombie guy crashes the first party of the season. Sierra's near-comatose abuelo begins to say "No importa" over and over. And when the graffiti murals in Bed-Stuy start to weep.... Well, something stranger than the usual New York mayhem is going on.

Sierra soon discovers a supernatural order called the Shadowshapers, who connect with spirits via paintings, music, and stories. Her grandfather once shared the order's secrets with an anthropologist, Dr. Jonathan Wick, who turned the Caribbean magic to his own foul ends. Now Wick wants to become the ultimate Shadowshaper by killing all the others, one by one. With the help of her friends and the hot graffiti artist Robbie, Sierra must dodge Wick's supernatural creations, harness her own Shadowshaping abilities, and save her family's past, present, and future.

The part where I talk: I enjoyed this! Review to come soon. Beautiful cover, too.

Now, my Diversity Book Bingo books were:

Confetti Girl by Diana López

Published: June 1st, 2009 by Little Brown Books for Young Readers
Genre: Contemporary MG
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 194 plus a glossary.
Part of a series? Nope.
Got via: I bought it from amazon.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Apolonia "Lina" Flores is a sock enthusiast, a volleyball player, a science lover, and a girl who's just looking for answers. Even though her house is crammed full of books (her dad's a bibliophile), she's having trouble figuring out some very big questions, like why her dad seems to care about books more than her, why her best friend's divorced mom is obsessed with making cascarones (hollowed eggshells filled with colorful confetti), and, most of all, why her mom died last year. Like colors in cascarones, Lina's life is a rainbow of people, interests, and unexpected changes.

The part where I talk: The review/thoughts of this won't be posted when this goes up. I don't think it will actually be posted until... March, actually. I've actually got a whole bunch of stuff scheduled and a ton of posts in general. I know, it's very strange, isn't it? Very quick thoughts - cute, but had a couple problems. Keep an eye out for that post though!

Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee

Published: March 17th, 2015 by G. P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Genre: Historical YA
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 370 plus an acknowledgement
Part of a series? Nope.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Missouri, 1849: Samantha dreams of moving back to New York to be a professional musician—not an easy thing if you’re a girl, and harder still if you’re Chinese. But a tragic accident dashes any hopes of fulfilling her dream, and instead, leaves her fearing for her life. With the help of a runaway slave named Annamae, Samantha flees town for the unknown frontier.

But life on the Oregon Trail is unsafe for two girls, so they disguise themselves as Sammy and Andy, two boys headed for the California gold rush. Sammy and Andy forge a powerful bond as they each search for a link to their past, and struggle to avoid any unwanted attention. But when they cross paths with a band of cowboys, the light-hearted troupe turn out to be unexpected allies. With the law closing in on them and new setbacks coming each day, the girls quickly learn that there are not many places to hide on the open trail.

The part where I talk: I really liked this. Review to come soonish. And by soonish I mean March too. I may have to start posting twice a week if I keep this pace up. Now I have to go dry some dishes and put them away and make a pizza dough for tomorrow (which will actually be yesterday when you read this I think... time is so weird!), but, yeah. Spoiler for my review, but I enjoyed this a lot. So glad I read it, and I probably wouldn't have if it wasn't for doing Bingo!


So here's my bingo card!


Not an amazing amount of progress, but I have several books waiting for me at the library and have ordered more. I have plans! But I am at the mercy of the library, and it took a chunk of January for anything to get here at all. Still 34 books to go, but January totally doesn't count, right? Right.

I've got my February book challenge book ordered and, like I said, more holds waiting to be picked up, so I think I'll make a better dent come February.

I think this is a good start! How about you guys? What did you do this month?

Oh, also, do you guys prefer this on the last day of the month, or would you pefer it on the first day of the next month?

Peace and cookies,
Laina

Monday, January 30, 2017

Things I've Read Recently (38): Comic Books

Ms. Marvel, Volume 1: No Normal by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona

Published: Each comic was obviously released indiviually with this bind-up released October 15th, 2014
Genre: YA Comic book
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: Goodreads says 120, so we'll go with that because there aren't any numbers on the pages.
Part of a series? This is a bind-up of the first five issues of Ms. Marvel.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Kamala Khan is an ordinary girl from Jersey City — until she's suddenly empowered with extraordinary gifts. But who truly is the new Ms. Marvel? Teenager? Muslim? Inhuman? Find out as she takes the Marvel Universe by storm! When Kamala discovers the dangers of her newfound powers, she unlocks a secret behind them, as well. Is Kamala ready to wield these immense new gifts? Or will the weight of the legacy before her be too much to bear? Kamala has no idea, either. But she's comin' for you, Jersey!

Thoughts: I took like no notes on this, and this is probably not going to be a really amazing review. The art is so cool in this, from the action to the background characters to Kamala's design to the general atmosphere of the city. Everyone's talked about how awesome this series is, so I'm just going to say I enjoyed it a ton, and I can't wait to read more.

I will be ordering as many volumes as I can get my little hands on from the library for sure. In fact I may have interrupted this review to do that.

Also can I talk about how much I appreciate how Kamala is drawn? She's thin, and yeah, it would be nice to see more fat characters (there are actually fat background characters in this, though!), especially superheroes, but her body is not overly-sexualized the way many teen comic book characters are (*cough*Darkchylde*cough).

This series is, and is going to be, so important to so many people, and I'm just happy it exists. Also, if you have a fan of Legend of Korra in the house, try this, because I think people who like Korra will like Kamala. I can't wait for more.

Supergirl: Cosmic Aventures in the 8th Grade by Landry Q. Walker and Eric Jones

Published: December 29th, 2009 by DC Comics as far as I can tell
Genre: Comic
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 144
Part of a series? This bind-up is a six-part mini-series spun off of what I think is the "Tiny Titans" comic series. As far as I can tell from researching, the six comics in this are the entire thing.
Got via: Library.
Amazon (which is like 7 dollars, so if you need a gift...)  / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Meet Linda Lee! She's the newest kid on the block-and the planet, too! Find out how an ordinary girl from Krypton became the most extraordinary girl on Earth in the pages of this brand new monthly series. And if you think life is tough as a hero, try being in the eighth grade.

Thoughts: This is cute. I was looking for early readers about Supergirl for a Storytime (of which there is a huge lack!) and this showed up in the search results on the library website. I watch the show Supergirl, so this is a bit of a different continuity than I'm used to, but I think it explains it just fine and I didn't have trouble following anything.

This is definitely aimed at a younger audience. It's more Archie Comic than Ms. Marvel. It's definitely been well-loved, though, because the copy I got from the library is super beat-up. It's a fun way to spend a little time, and I think it would be great for young superhero fans. No real complaints here.

A Terrible Plan by Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters, Carolyn Nowak, and Maarta Laiho

Published: April 5th, 2016 by BOOM! Box
Genre: YA comic book
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: Goodreads says 112
Part of a series? This is volume three of the Lumberjanes bind-up, containing issues 9-12.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): IF YOU GOT IT, HAUNT IT!

Trying to take advantage of the first quiet day at camp in a while, Mal and Molly's date takes a bizarre turn with the appearance of the Bear Woman! Back at camp, Jo, April, and Ripley must stay on their toes as they try and earn every badge possible, which ends up being a lot harder than any of them ever planned.

Thoughts: This might actually be my favourite bind-up that I've read yet, and I absolutely adored the first issue in this, the If You Got It, Haunt It Badge one (although I keep calling it Ghost Stories in my head). That issue is made up of several stories from different characters, and the stories reflect their personalities and voices amazingly. Each of them has a slightly different art style reflecting their voices and it's so clever.

Also in this one THEY MAKE SUBTEXT INTO TEXT. Mal and Molly go on a date and they call it that!!!! Head kisses guys *dies* There are head kisses. I am not strong enough to express how much I love this.

Both the A-plot and the B-plot are great in this little arc, and I seriously loved this so much. Highly recommended.

Orphan Black by John Fawcett, Szymon Kudranski, Graeme Manson, Jody Houser, and Cat Staggs

Published: September 23rd, 2015 by IDW Publishing
Genre: Adult comic book
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 124 pages
Part of a series? This is a bind-up of the "The Clone Club" series. There is also a follow-up series called Helsinki. (Or at least that's near as I can figure out.)
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Sarah's life was changed dramatically after witnessing the suicide of a woman who looked just like her. Sarah learned that, not only were she and the woman clones, but there were others just like them, and dangerous factions at work set on capturing them all. Now, the mysterious world of Orphan Black widens, with new layers of the conspiracy being peeled back in this series by co-creators John Fawcett and Graeme Manson!

Thoughts: I really like the TV show Orphan Black. It's one of my favourite shows, and when the new seasons come out, I watch them in about a day and a half because I have absolutely no impulse control with them. This comic series does a very good job of capturing the feel of the show, which really is an accomplishment. This doesn't continue any of the arcs started on the show, but it does show a lot of backstory, going into the past of each of our main Clone Club clones.

If you haven't seen the show, I don't think you're going to get a lot out of this. There's no real plot at all, and I think the draw in this really is learning a little more about characters that you already enjoy. And if you have seen the show, just make sure you're caught up or you might run into spoilers. As an extra, though, it's a lot of fun, and this series is pretty much self-contained, so you're not going to have to track anything extra down. Also just to be clear, this is definitely an adult show and while the comics are less explicit, they are still adult in tone and nature. Use your discretion, guys. I'm not your mom.

So basically if you're an Orphan Black fan, I'd recommend giving this a shot. The art is beautiful, and I really enjoyed this.

And I think that's it for this post!

Peace and cookies,
Laina

Monday, January 23, 2017

MG Review: A Little Taste of Poison

A Little Taste of Poison by R. J. Anderson

Published: September 27th, 2016 by Antheneum Books for Young Readers which is a Simon imprint.
Genre: MG Fantasy/Mystery
Binding: ARC
Page Count: The ARC has 359 plus the acknowledgement, and everything says the finished version has 368, so around that (probably slight formatting changes).
Part of a series? This is the second book in the Uncommon Magic series, and I think the last in the series? I'm not 100% sure, but it seems that way. See my review of the first book here.
Got via: Simon and Schuster Canada sent it to me for review consideration. Only... six months ago. Gosh I'm terrible at this reviewing thing. I don't know why anyone likes me.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): The city of Tarreton is powered by magic, from simple tablets that light lamps to advanced Sagery that can murder a man from afar. Isaveth has a talent for spell-making, but as a girl from a poor neighborhood she never dreamed she could study at the most exclusive magical school in the city. So when she’s offered a chance to attend, she eagerly accepts.

The school is wonderful, but old and new enemies confront Isaveth at every turn, and she begins to suspect her scholarship might be more a trap than a gift. Even her secret meetings with Esmond, her best friend and partner in crime-solving, prove risky—especially once he hatches a plan to sneak her into the biggest society event of the season. It’s their last chance to catch the corrupt politician who once framed her father for murder. How can Isaveth refuse?

Review: This was pretty much just what I wanted it be. It's really cute, a great mystery, and the setting continues to work great for the story. It's nice to read a book that's just good and that's what this was. I love the idea of combining magic with good old fashioned mysteries. I think kids would love this. Eleven year old me seriously would have devoured this and wanted like eight more books. I still wish there would be like eight more books, because I genuinely enjoyed this one.

Plot Talk: This one continues one of the larger plot threads from the last book and many of the smaller ones. The continuity is wonderful, honestly. I won't go into too much details because I don't want to end up spoiler territory, but this one wraps up everything from the first book without being too neat and tidy. Everything is exciting and fresh, and this is my least favourite part of the review process so let's move on.

Characters: A new thing happens in this book! We get to switch POVs from strictly Isaveth's to Esmond's POV as well, and that allows us to see things that Isaveth isn't present for. I like that despite that, the book kept only to Isaveth or Esmond, not anyone else. It pretty much would have been impossible to have Esmond's POV in the last book, or it would have ruined one of the surprises at the end, and the tension of that surprise. But it's nice that there wasn't random headhopping, and just our two main characters. The POV choices worked for me.

I still adore the relationships in this, especially the relationship between Isaveth and her sisters. There is a good amount of female characters in this, including several new ones, and the book does take some time to give us a new female friendship for Isaveth, and I love that that was included, because it's so important. And while you get a touch of romance in this one, it's handled well, and it's not so over the top that I think it's too much. While a tiny bit predictable, romance being built on trust, friendship, and mutual respect is always a good thing to show.

PG-13 stuff: Dude straight up gets shot in this and dies, and it's not really "off-screen". Plus the usual mystery stuff like kidnapping and the poisoning mentioned in the title. Sensitive readers may be upset by that, but it's not graphic.

Cons, complaints, bad stuff, etc.: I wish some of the people had been described a little better at certain times. Specifically, I think sometimes it's hard to tell if some characters are meant to be characters of colour or not. I choose to error on the "absolutely they are" side, but I don't think it's quite clear enough in context especially considering the inherant subconscious bias that we white people have while reading (and the autho is white as well).

I think that kind of ties into one of the bigger things I feel conflicted about, and that's if Isaveth being Moshite, which is clearly meant to be Jewish, but isn't actually called Jewish, is problematic or okay. Because, like, there are elements in this that are reminscent of Harry Potter in the magic school and such, and who wouldn't want to read Harry Potter if Harry was a Jewish girl??? Since I'm totally not the one who should be deciding this stuff, I'm looking for reviews from Jewish reviewers, and I'm just not finding anything, so shouting out to you guys - what do you think of this one? Does ths make you uncomfortable, or are you cool with it?

As such, I'm raising that element specifically as a concern, but neither taking points off my review of it nor giving points for it.

Oh, and there wasn't any fatphobia in this one. Very few fat characters as far as I can remember that were around for any significant time, if any, though.

Cover comments: This cover is very cute, and props for it actually showing a scene that happens in the book, and I really enjoy the colour scheme, but it is slightly inaccurate. One character is wearing something they wouldn't be wearing in the book, which is fine. That makes sense, to make the character more recognizable (although it would have annoyed the crud out of me as a kid). But the other thing is... Isaveth is described as "olive skinned" in the middle of a harsh probably based on Canada winter by Esmond's narration. That aspect is, ah. Not happening so much on the cover, or the cover of the last book.

They're gorgeous covers, don't get me wrong. I'm just looking a little sideways at that particular aspect.

Conclusion: While I have some concerns that I'm missing glaring microaggressions or maybe worse, I really enjoyed this. I know eleven year old me would have loved it, and it is a really fun read. The mystery is great, the magic setting is really fun, and there's a whole lot I enjoyed about it. I also think that this series has incredibly realistic depictions of poverty, and there are no easy fixes for that in it. I appreciate that. Some things I mentioned could definitely do with being a little more explicit, but overall, I find these very enjoyable. Strong three and a half roses, and I'll probably round it up on goodreads to four comfortably when I get around to posting this review over there.



Other notes:

- Is the city meant to be Toronto? Because that'd be cool.

- The epilogue of this is amazing. Seriously, I can't say anything because spoilers but wow.

- This title puts two songs in my head. "A Little Taste" by Skyler Stonestreet and "Familiar Taste of Poison" by Halestorm. They get mashed up together in my head and make this, I guess.

Peace and cookies,
Laina

Monday, January 16, 2017

YA Review: The Swan Riders

The Swan Riders by Erin Bow

Published: September 20th, 2016 by Margaret K. Elderberry Books which is an imprint of Simon and Schuster.
Genre: YA Science Fiction
Binding: ARC
Page Count: 376 in my ARC, but the finished version most likely has closer to 384. Or at least that's what the info in the ARC says.
Part of a series? Yes, this is the second book in the Prisoners of Peace series. You can read my review of the first book here. Be warned, even the summary of this will contain spoilers for the first book, as will my review. I will try to avoid major spoilers for this book itself in the review. I do not think this will be a trilogy.
Got via: A lovely envelope filled with goodies from Simon and Schuster Canada.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Greta Stuart had always known her future: die young. She was her country's crown princess, and also its hostage, destined to be the first casualty in an inevitable war. But when the war came it broke all the rules, and Greta forged a different path.

She is no longer princess. No longer hostage. No longer human. Greta Stuart has become an AI.

If she can survive the transition, Greta will earn a place alongside Talis, the AI who rules the world. Talis is a big believer in peace through superior firepower. But some problems are too personal to obliterate from orbit, and for those there are the Swan Riders: a small band of humans who serve the AIs as part army, part cult.

Now two of the Swan Riders are escorting Talis and Greta across post-apocalyptic Saskatchewan. But Greta’s fate has stirred her nation into open rebellion, and the dry grassland may hide insurgents who want to rescue her – or see her killed. Including Elian, the boy she saved—the boy who wants to change the world, with a knife if necessary. Even the infinitely loyal Swan Riders may not be everything they seem.

Greta’s fate—and the fate of her world—are balanced on the edge of a knife.

Review: For the record, I didn't even read the back of the book before I started reading this. I was very, very careful to go in not knowing anything but that I was super excited after reading The Scorpion Rules.

Oh, you guys, I adored this. If this is the last book I read in 2016 (which I hope it won't be - I have plans for a couple more!), that would be a very, very high point to go out on. This works for me so well. I read half of it and then had to basically abandon it because Christmas exploded and when I picking it up at least week later, it felt like I had put it down ten minutes ago. I liked the first book a whole lot, but this one is really, really good. It hits so many of the things I greatly enjoy in books and I was so, so hooked.

Plot Talk: I don't think I can tell you anything that happens in the plot without completely spoiling things! I can say that the pacing is amazing. Like I said, I put it down for a long time because Christmas, and as soon as I picked up up, I read the second half in one sitting. It knows how to take time for the important moments that need to be a little slower without dragging or being boring.

Characters: I still loved Greta and also still can't type or write "Greta" without my fingers wanting to make it "Great". She is pretty great, though. I'm pretty sure that I am always going to love girls that are a little broken and the contrast in her voice in this book has an amazing contrast between moments where she's removed and cold and moments where her emotions almost overwhelm her. There are times when her emotions are stifled (by plot things I can't tell you) and that loss and emptiness are incredibly striking. I think that feeling will ring true for many people who have struggled with depression. This is a thing that works for me. Ask me about my feelings about New Moon and season six of Buffy some day.

I also like that while Greta is obviously very important to the plot, it's because of her actions that she's important, and other people are as well. She can't fix everything by herself.

We get a lot of new characters in this. There's a lot of change in general, in settings and characters and voice, and it works very well. Bow has a real gift for creating chemistry between characters. Not just sexual and romantic tension (although she is really good at that, too), but the characters she writes are interesting and you want to read about how they interact and come together and even how they irritate each other.

Also the sneaky little snarky and sarcastic bits about Elián are stil absolutely hilarious, but he has grown as a character. He's such a deviance from the norm of this archetype and I so appreciate what the author is doing with this character. He's not perfect, he doesn't make good decisions and there are consequences for this, the stereotypical things that this type of character does and gets away with don't work for him. My favourite line about him, and this is from the ARC so, like, [sic] or whatever, it might be different in the finished copy, is one where he's said to be, "demonstrating his knack for getting through a crisis, but not past it" and that was just... absolutely hilarious to me for some reason. It really does describe him, and shows that humour the author has about the character and the tropes associated with it, but never goes so far as to make the character a joke.

And again, prominent Jewish character is nifty, right? This one also has a prominent black disabled character and a brown queer girl among the new characters, and I loved them so much. There is such care taken with these characters, you know?

Let's not talk about the ending where I cried for about twenty minutes - or let's talk about that a little later, actually. It'll be more relevant in a later part of this review.

PG-13 stuff: Uh what does the back say... the back says ages 14/grade 9 and up, so that's context. Slightly older YA, 'cause of, like, you know the war and violence and stuff. Not actually a lot for language, which is interesting, and I'm sort of impressed by. Some of the violence in these books could be a little disturbing for younger or more sensitive readers, so use your discretion as necessary.

Also, I don't know where else to put this, but kudos for a YA book actually mentioning that people have nipples, especially considering the context (medical situation).

Cons, complaints, bad stuff, etc.: I do actually have one. There are characters who have seizures in the book because of things I won't say because spoilers, and whenever a seizure happens, people hold them down and there's a fair amount of talk about how much force/weight it takes to hold them. DON'T DO THAT. PLEASE. You can dislocate peoples' shoulders, cause nerve damage, be injured yourself, etc. This is actually something that has really started irritating me in medical shows especially, but every time I read it, it made me cringe. Maybe it's been edited in the finished copy - I can't get my hands on one at this time to see - but regardless, I thought I'd mention it because even if that's changed, it's good for people to know not to do that.

I did miss Xie a lot, though. I'm going to get into some spoiler territory in the next couple paragraphs, so feel free to skip this segment, but I think it's important to talk about. If you don't know or didn't read my review of the first book or whatever, Greta is queer and in love with a girl, and that is definitely not ignored in this book. I just... I understand why the book ended the way it did for a story reason... but I missed Xie, and I wish we could have seen them be happy together more, especially because I'm pretty sure this is only a duology. DEFINITELY SPOILER BUT I FEEL LIKE YOU GUYS WOULD WANT TO KNOW - but it's not like the book killed either of them. There's a line in the first book about no fairy tales having two princesses in them, and I wish there had been something to show that that isn't true just a little more.

About deaths... let me try to explain this. Actually, let me add another link to this review. A few days ago, Seanan McGuire talked about how characters and how she can't protect all of her characters but can still treat them with respect, and basically go read this real quick and come back. I think that's also an accurate way to describe this book. Queer characters may die, but everyone is at equal risk of death because, you know, war. All deaths are treated with respect, and I don't think it ever goes into "bury your gays" (or bisexuals) territory, or remotely close. The ending, though we've lost characters we cared about, is very, very hopeful. Greta has plans on making things better, and those plans feel good.

All that is to say, I missed Xie, but I'm not uncomfortable recommending this book because of any representation issues I noticed. And if I missed anything that should affect my recommendation, please let me know!

Cover comments: I adore this cover. This colour blue and the relative simplicity of it super works for me. It's almost deceptively simple, since you don't see the background at first, and that's really cool. Also, while I liked the Scorpion Rules' cover fine, the new paperback cover is gorgeous, and it fits with The Swan Riders way better. Those two would look so good next to each other. Really like the cover.

Conclusion: I'm really glad I read this. I enjoyed both books, and if I'm correct in assuming this is a duology, Swan Riders really wraps up the series well. There's no slump from the first book from the second. I love books that talk about consent, and this has several moments of that and it's handled very well. I love the setting being in Saskatchewan still, because that's my home. Also, two books essentially about princesses and other royalty, and there's legit no body shaming or fatphobia. Probably could have used a couple more prominant fat characters, but frankly at this point I take what I can get.

I feel like between the seizure thing and missing Xie, I'm probably going to knock off half a rose, but this is still a book I really, really enjoy, and I do recommend the series as a whole. For me, they feel really good to read and I'm glad I did. Four out of five roses.



Peace and cookies,
Laina

Monday, January 9, 2017

Things I've Read Recently (37): Books I Have Sequels to I Need to Review

Welcome to my first post of 2017!!

If you're new around here, Things I've Read Recently is a series of posts I do that are basically mini-reviews of books that I either forgot to review, didn't have enough to say for a full review, or just didn't want to do a full post about for whatever reason. In this case, I've got sequels to review!

The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow

Published: September 22nd, 2015 by Margaret K. McElderry Books which is a division of Simon and Schuster.
Genre: YA Science Fiction leaning more Dystopian than anything else.
Binding: Hardcover.
Page Count: 374 and it's really heavy.
Part of a series? Yes, this is book one of the Prisoners of Peace series. There's at least one more, 'cause I have it over there on the table. I am not going to look up anything more because I really want to avoid spoilers. I'll update you in the next review.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Greta is a duchess and crown princess—and a hostage to peace. This is how the game is played: if you want to rule, you must give one of your children as a hostage. Go to war and your hostage dies.

Greta will be free if she can survive until her eighteenth birthday. Until then she lives in the Precepture school with the daughters and sons of the world’s leaders. Like them, she is taught to obey the machines that control their lives. Like them, she is prepared to die with dignity, if she must. But everything changes when a new hostage arrives. Elián is a boy who refuses to play by the rules, a boy who defies everything Greta has ever been taught. And he opens Greta’s eyes to the brutality of the system they live under—and to her own power.

As Greta and Elián watch their nations tip closer to war, Greta becomes a target in a new kind of game. A game that will end up killing them both—unless she can find a way to break all the rules.

Review: Okay, I have to say it - this book is set in my province. My province once, like, the world has tried to end, but it's still my province! And I'm glad it's a book I like for once considering my track record with not-amazing books set in Canada. I'm seriously stumbling for words trying to summarize my thoughts, but I really, really did enjoy this.

Bow has a gift for distinct, vibrant voices. There are two different narrators. Between a prologue that is one of the best done prologues I've read in a long time, and the book, those narrators are very, very different. The prologue's narrator is casual, very snappy, and callous, and I loved it immediately. Meanwhile, Greta's voice is completely different. She is regal, removed and elegant. Her voice is the kind of writing I will never, ever be able to accomplish because, well, you read my blog. I sound like this. Greta is a great narrator and a type of character I really enjoy. I love how much the writing shows how she's spent sixteen years being trained to react certain ways, and how strictly important the rules of ettiquette and behaviour properly suiting royalty are for her, and how drastic it is when those things change and her reactions and behaviour has to change.

Is this normally the part where I complain about the book being filled with only white straight people? Yeah, I don't have to do that! Because of the premise of the book, there are characters from many different places of many different races. I'm really, really white so obviously I am not the one you should be looking to for here regarding anything problematic, but I tried to be as critical as possible while reading, and I didn't really see anything that would raise red flags. One thing that I could see was that the main character could have been not white, but I could also see the really bad implications of a white author writing a character of colour being taken away from their family to a school-like environment.

I could be totally off-base, but I feel like things were handled well, and I hope I'm more right than wrong. I want books to be good and have good representation, not just that I can't see the bad.

So let's talk romance. I'll try to avoid spoilers, but I can't promise anything. There's a love triangle in this. I kinda loved it. Greta has two love interests, a male character and a female character. Have you guys ever read a book or watched a movie where the dude love interest is like super intense and full of angst and impulsive and the character isn't necessarily awful but you're so sick of that trope that you kind of hate him? This book uses that to surprise you. I make notes while I read and one of them said something like, "Can Greta hook up with (female love interest) instead?" AND THEN THEY WENT THAT WAY.

I loved it. Made me so happy :D

Also, the male love interest was Jewish, which I don't actually see a whole ton, and always enjoy.

All in all, this worked so well for me, and I can't wait to read the next one. I could be missing things, but I really hope I'm not. I liked this so much, guys.

On to the next!

A Pocket Full of Murder by R. J. Anderson

Published: September 8th, 2015 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers which is a Simon and Schuster imprint.
Genre: MG Fantasy
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 340 plus acknowledgements
Part of a series? Yes, this is book one of the Uncommon Magic series which has at least one more book because I have it sitting over there.
Got via: The library of course.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): In the spell-powered city of Tarreton, the wealthy have all the magic they desire while the working class can barely afford a simple spell to heat their homes. Twelve-year-old Isaveth is poor, but she’s also brave, loyal, and zealous in the pursuit of justice—which is lucky, because her father has just been wrongfully arrested for murder.

Isaveth is determined to prove her innocence. Quiz, the eccentric eyepatch-wearing street boy who befriends her, swears he can’t resist a good mystery. Together they set out to solve the magical murder of one of Tarreton’s most influential citizens and save Isaveth’s beloved Papa from execution.

But each clue is more perplexing than the next. Was the victim truly killed by Common Magic—the kind of crude, cheap spell that only an unschooled magician would use—or was his death merely arranged to appear that way? And is Quiz truly helping her out of friendship, or does he have hidden motives of his own? Isaveth must figure out who she can trust if she’s to have any hope of proving her Papa’s innocence in time. . .

Thoughts: This is gonna be such a boring review because I don't have giant thoughts on this book. This is good. Really cute and fun. I liked it. That's about it.

Okay I'm not really going to do that. This was a very cute middle grade fantasy book with some surprising depth. The main character and her family are Moshite, which is pretty obviously meant to be Jewish, much as Duesday is pretty obviously meant to be Tuesday. That's kind of a thing in thia book, where everything is slightly different in spelling and naming (along with the magic and everything.) As such, I don't know if people would call this Jewish representation since it's not called that. It is a religion and stated as such in the book. The book handles a lot of discrimination and bigotry because of the main characters' religion, and it isn't easily solved or solved at all.

Jewish followers, I'm throwing this one out to you. If you've read this (or if you haven't), what did you think?

All in all, there's a lot I liked in this. I really liked the focus on Isaveth's family, and her relationship with her sisters. It's really, really sweet, and I liked how her two younger sisters weren't just lumped into "annoying little siblings" role. There's an exciting plot, the setting is a lot of fun (it reminded me of The Wizard of Dark Street), and I liked the character. While there was a tiny bit of fatphobia that I did not like in one chapter, eleven year old me probably wouldn't have even noticed, and I know eleven year old me would have really enjoyed this.

Final verdict: Good. I look forward to the next one.

Okay, just two books today! More reviews to come!

Peace and cookies,
Laina