Book Mix: The Square Root of Summer

The Square Root of Summer by Harriet Reuter Hapgood
Release Date: May 3, 2016
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Format: Hardcover
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary, Science Fiction, Romance
Ratings:Surprised Me I Ship It Gut Punch 

A common occurrence for me is reserving a book at the library and then, once it becomes available, having no recollection of what the book is about or even reserving it at all.

The Square Root of Summer is one of those books which I decided to jump into without reading the synopsis so it was all surprising to me. Perplexing and curious, the story grabbed my attention. Based on basically nothing (the cover? the title?) I expected a lighthearted story, but got something much more serious. Grief and love and wormholes and equations.

Something I specifically appreciated was the depiction of grief after the death of a grandparent. The deaths I come across in fiction that deeply affect someone are usually a parent’s or SO’s or sibling’s or friend’s. I don’t seem to find as many stories where the loss of a grandparent is so central. It’s usually someone dying too young. The MC’s grief over the loss of her grandfather resonated with me.

This story ended up being generally sadder than anticipated, but also more beautiful than anticipated. There’s heartbreak and romance, three dimensional secondary characters, and life lessons all with a side of being sucked back into time.

While listening to The Dø in the car, Miracles (Back in Time) seemed like an appropriate song for this book’s soundtrack so an entire playlist was born.

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The Rose & the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh

The Rose & the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh
Release Date: April 26, 2016
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Format: Hardcover
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Romance, Fantasy, Retelling
Ratings:fave2Page TurnerPretty WordscharactersI Ship It

If you haven’t read The Wrath and the Dawn, stop reading this and order it or reserve it at the library. Whatever you need to do to get it read. The book is luscious. A warning that it ends on a cliffhanger, but that’s okay because we were gifted The Rose & the Dagger.

The Basics
So if you still haven’t read the The Wrath and the Dawn, it’s inspired by A Thousand and One Nights. The caliph Khalid marries one girl each night and kills her the next morning. One of those girls was Shahrzad’s best friend so she volunteers herself as a bride to get revenge. It’s wonderful so go read it. Right now.

If you’re one of those monsters who reads summaries to later books in a series before reading the first, book two is about after Shahrzad finds out why Khalid has to kill the girls (a curse) and falls in love with him. At the end of book one they are separated (for reasons) and Shahrzad is determined to break the curse with a war looming against Khalid because he killed all those girls and no one knows why (because he won’t tell them… for reasons.)

And all of this is told in beautiful language with quite a few descriptions of delicious food so these books may also leave you hungry.

My Thoughts
To put it all in a non-spoilerly way: The Rose & the Dagger was everything I wanted from a sequel.

The book throws you right back into Khorasan’s unsettling events. The chaos that Wrath ends on is there and you start to get some answers. While the first book starts a little slowly because there is a lot to introduce the reader to, the second is instantly dramatic. Shazi and Khalid are separated. She is keeping the secret of the curse, while trying to figure out what she can do to fix all the unrest. It’s instantly captivating.

There are a couple new characters, but mostly old characters given a broader story. Knowing more about Tariq and Rahim as well as Shazi’s father and sister added a new layer to everything going on, as well as gives more insight to Shazi’s life before she became the calipha.

There are so many surprises and little revelations that kept me engrossed. I could gush about all of them, but then I would ruin it for you.

“This is why the world would be a far better place
in the hands of women.”

And then there is Shazi who is definitely one of my favorite characters of all time. I have said before that I am a huge fan of difficult women and Shazi is one of them. She speaks her mind even when it’s not exactly safe to. She’s passionate and headstrong and oh how I love her. She loves fiercely and imperfectly and fights for who and what she cares for. There is so much more of her greatness in Rose.

Also the romance is great. I SHIP IT. I ship it in several instances. And in more serious terms, Ahdieh does wonderfully at building the relationship between Khalid and Shazi. In book one, she puts them on equal footing to be able to fall for one another. “Get up, Shahrzad al-Khayzuran. You kneel before no one. Least of all me,” is such a gorgeous and necessary line in the first book. It summarizes how Khalid sees her as an equal. This carries into the second book and there is growth in their love. Fear not, Ahdieh doesn’t take Khalid down the broody “I don’t deserve love” path like many heroes. She has instead created two characters that see the worth in each other and themselves. It’s not a perfect love, as no love is, but it is one that burns deep and expands and learns to be better.

Positives/Negatives
+ The action, the tension, the female characters, the romance, everything?
– ??? There isn’t more?

In Summary
The Rose & the Dagger is a deeply satisfying follow up. It provides the important answers to questions created in The Wrath & the Dawn. It keeps the plot moving. It gives more insight to characters only barely introduced in the first book. It has kickass woman saving the day. And it has Shazi and Khalid finding a way for their love to exist.

If you loved or even just liked The Wrath & the Dawn, you should read the second. It’s everything I loved about the first book plus more.

 

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Recently Loved: A Study in Charlotte and The Girl From Everywhere

charlotteA Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro

A thing you will learn about me is I am a sucker for modern retellings. I love seeing how a writer can take a well known story and turn it into something new.

A Study in Charlotte is about the great-great-great grandchildren of Holmes and Watson, Charlotte and Jamie. They both go to a boarding school in Connecticut and try to solve a murder that Charlotte is framed for. It’s a “what if Sherlock and Dr. Watson were real and had descendants a lot like them.” This modern Holmes and Watson duo have the same basic roles, but they get to be their own characters as they play detective.

The mystery has twists and turns and nods to the original Holmes stories, but what I like most about the story is that Charlotte Holmes is a little more human than some other portrayals of a Holmes character. She’s a brilliant girl, but still just a girl.  Jamie Watson is captivated by her, but there is nuance to their relationship that is revealed as the story progresses.

Within the context of the mystery and their friendship, Cavallaro also manages to tackle addiction and rape culture. With Holmes being a teenage girl, those two issues were explored in a way much differently than they could be with Holmes being a male adult. We only see Charlotte through Jamie’s eyes, but there is still a complexity to her he discovers as he gets to know her better. He learns about what she is dealing with and makes some assumptions and mistakes along the way but ultimately their relationship deepens. Charlotte isn’t this cold, unfeeling genius.  She is a person.

As much as I enjoyed the mystery, the friendship between Jamie and Charlotte is what makes this book. While it appears instant, it takes Jamie time to start to understand Charlotte. Sometimes the relationship between Holmes and Watson is portrayed as one-sided, but in Cavallaro’s story there are two people who care for one another.

tgfeThe Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig

This year has gifted us with a few YA time travel books, but this is perhaps my favorite. I adore unique approaches to time travel, because sometimes the topic gets a little stale. It’s difficult to make work because there is always the “couldn’t one little thing completely change the course of time?” question. The rules need to be clear and consistent and Heilig manages to do that without burdening the reader with a time travel how-to guide.

At the surface this book is about time traveling pirates which is kickass on its own. In order to time travel they need a map created at that particular time and place. The main character, Nix, is a crew member of her father’s ship as he tries to find a way to return to his love and Nix’s mother to save her from dying.

Oh how I love so much about this book!

  • Nix and her father, Slate, have a complicated relationship that partially stems from his struggle with bipolar disorder. (You can read an interview with Heilig about this and her own struggle with the illness.) Those with mental illness aren’t always the heroes or the villains. They are humans with good qualities as well as flaws and the depiction of Slate shows this.
  • The entire crew is lovely but oh the charming Kashmir. The witty dialogue between Nix and him is wonderful.
  • History!!! Hawaii written by someone actually from there!!! Real issues the islands faced are incorporated into this fictional story with such care.

Most of all I loved Nix. She makes some horrible decisions, but by the end I care for her so deeply. At the root of this story is a girl trying to figure out her life, which is of course easy to relate to even without having a pirate captain as a father.

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Into the Dim by Janet B. Taylor

dimInto the Dim by Janet B. Taylor
Release Date: March 1, 2016
Publisher: HMH Books
Format: ebook
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, SciFi, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Romance
RatingsEnjoyable Page Turner

The Basics
Hope’s mother is dead. Or at least that’s what she thought when her mom was assumed dead at a disaster scene where she was supposed to be giving a lecture.  But when Hope’s aunt that she barely knows invites her to Scotland, she is told her mother is actually a time traveller and alive, just stranded in the past. Hope is needed as part of a team to go back in time to save her mother.

My Thoughts
A good way to get me to read a book is set it in Scotland. I went into this only knowing that Scotland and time travel were somehow involved. There was less Scotland than I would have liked, but despite being picky about time travel stories, I still found myself enjoying the book.

The story starts out slowly since a lot of set up is necessary. The reader gets a glimpse of Hope’s life and then learns about time travel along with her. There are some of the usual cliches. There’s the big secret of time travel Hope’s mom kept from her to protect her. She has been prepared her whole life for time traveling without knowing it (and her photographic memory helps.) She meets a mysterious boy she instantly falls for and she also doesn’t realize how beautiful she is. So smart and beautiful girl finds out family secret and meets a mysterious boy before she’s off on an adventure. A typical fantasy setup.

Thankfully the book expands a bit from there. Once the rescue mission gets going, the pace really picks up. I started to like the cast of characters more and needed to know what happened next. There are some unique aspects to how time travel works so it doesn’t feel entirely trite. The dire nature of the situation kept me engrossed in the book until I was finished.

Through all of the twists and turns, some of the character development got a little lost. Plenty of fun, witty dialogue and tough spots that reveal pieces of each character. However, this book really only provides an introduction to the time traveling crew so I didn’t feel truly attached to any characters. It was mostly the winding plot that kept me reading.

It wasn’t until the very end that things seemed to dig a little deeper. That of course is because there is going to be a second book. A lot happens in the last few chapters that leaves loose ends for a continuation. It wasn’t until everything was ending that I started to feel more for the characters. Hope and her friends started to feel more real and the romance became less hollow. Book two has the potential to be a much stronger novel.

Positives and Negatives
+ Second part of the book is fast paced, great setup for book two
– Characters felt a little shallow, took a little to become its own story

In Summary
Once the pace picks up, Into the Dim becomes a fun read that keeps you guessing. Some of the twists are predictable, while others sneak up on you. I didn’t start to feel invested in any characters until the story was ending which has me interested in reading the second book. The story didn’t blow me away and some of the aspects of the romance and time travel are typical, but I still found the story entertaining.

Note: An advanced copy of this book was provided free by the publisher for review consideration. This in no way influenced my opinion.

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Review: Remembrance by Meg Cabot

remembrancecoverRemembrance by Meg Cabot
Release Date: February 2, 2016
Publisher: William Morrow
Format: Paperback
Genres: Supernatural, Paranormal, Romance, Adult Fiction

 

The Mediator is a series I devoured as a teen. It’s about a teenage girl, Susannah ‘Suze’ Simon, who can see ghosts and helps them pass onto the afterlife, which is often messy and requires some humor. As luck would have it, one of the ghosts she encounters is an attractive boy who haunts her house/bedroom and stuff happens. You can probably guess what “stuff” might entail, but it gets complicated as ghost-human relationships do. The series is also full of mysteries and ass kicking and drama and a side of ridiculousness.

Meg Cabot surprised fans by announcing a seventh installment of the series years after it ended. Except with Remembrance the series passes from YA to Adult Fiction and many fans who have also grown into adults get to see Suze as an adult.

There won’t be any spoilers for this book in the review, but since it’s the seventh book in a series there will be spoilers for the original series. So proceed with caution if you haven’t read the original series and want to.

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