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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BookCon Wishes

Currently my laptop is off being repaired. *sobs* Everything is breaking around me which has kept me from all the posts I had planned. (I’ll spare you my sob story though.) Right now my lunch break is providing me with the computer and time for this post so…

This week is BEA and therefore this weekend, BookCon. (yay!) I considered doing the full week of BEA, but decided to wait for the NYC return and just head to BookCon this year. I’ve been meaning to visit Chicago friends for a while so this provides a quick trip that also involves books. There’s a lot I’m looking forward to!

My Must See Panels

love book panels, okay? As much as I also love walking around the floor and getting ARCs, panels are always my priority. I feel like I’m in the minority here since a lot of people I know who go to BEA/BookCon strategize autograph lines and galley drops before panels. But the way I see it, the books always come out eventually. Panels are more of a once in a lifetime kind of thing. And autographs? When it comes to BookCon, I’ve only stood in autograph lines for free books. Meeting authors can be great, but I’m also not a meet and greet kind of person. So here are my priority panels:

What is Light Without Darkness? Balancing Good and Evil in YA Literature w/ Veronica Roth, Lauren Oliver, Sabaa Tahir, Melissa de la Cruz

Who isn’t game for a good v. evil discussion? It’s part of most books even if it’s not a superhero or dystopian situation.

Friendship is Magic w/ Sarah J. Maas, Susan Dennard, and Alexandra Bracken

I am having a problem. That problem is the Moone Boy panel (a show I LOVE) is the same time as this panel. But these three are the CUTEST friends. So I think it has to be my Must See. I might change my mind last minute and go see Chris O’Dowd, because I have seen Sarah and Susan together before but gahhh. Decisions, decisions…

Leigh Bardugo and Marissa Meyer: Truth or Dare w/  Leigh Bardugo, Marissa Meyer, Isabella Biedenharn

This sounds like pure fun and Bardugo’s Six of Crows was one of my favorite books from last year.

The Power of Storytelling w/ Sherman Alexie, Kate Dicamillo, Meg Cabot, Anthony Breznican

Like many, Meg Cabot was a grade school/high school fave. I also love Sherman Alexie. So it’s those two drawing me to this panel. They both tell very different stories so I’m interested in hearing how their views on writing vary.

The Simon & Schuster Sisters: Morgan, Siobhan…and Jenny! w/ Morgan Matson, ,Siobhan Vivian, Jenny Han

Another wonderful friendship panel. Always here for strong female friendships.

These aren’t the only panels I plan to go to. There are so many that look amazing, but these are the top ones on my radar. It’s a lot though and sometimes I feel like taking a break just to roam around so I will see where the day takes me.

ARCs Wishlist

Although I try not to get too caught up on must have ARCs because that gets so stressful and is inevitably disappointing, I do have a few I’d love to get my hands on.

Regardless of whether I get any of these, I always come home with something great to read.

torch

A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir

Only three of these are being given away so I’m not holding my breath on this one. It also comes out this August so it’s not that much longer to wait. But holy cliffhanger on book one.

 

geminaGemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

I have no idea if they are even giving more than a few of these away, but the first one blew me away a little so GRABBY HANDS.

 

 

Yoon_9780553496680_jkt_all_r1.indd

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

Everything Everything was an ARC I got at last year’s BookCon. I had heard a little bit about it and then ended up loving it. This one is already being hyped up by the authors I follow on Twitter.

 

snow Stealing Snow by Danielle Paige

Paige is doing a signing for these so maybe if I have time, I’ll join that line. We already know she can do retellings/reimaginings well judging by Dorothy Must Die and this one sounds just as fun.

 

I have 2.5 more days of work to get through then off to Chicago for books and friendship! I’m going to do some panel note-taking and possibly some live tweeting for those who can’t make it to BookCon this year, so watch out for that.

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Recent Reads: April

Spring is quite possibly here and therefore outdoor reading is slowly beginning. April afforded me a few days outdoors and I read some lovely books, too. My absolute favorite of the month was The Rose & the Dagger, but that’s going to need its own post once I wrap my mind around it a little better. Here are four others I enjoyed.

Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston Gut Punch Pretty Words

Johnston’s writing is breathtaking. Her A Thousand Nights blew me away with how beautiful her descriptions are. I was unsure how a contemporary novel would compare since it requires a different sort of writing, but Exit, Pursued by a Bear ended up being just as luscious. I don’t think I’ve ever read two books by the same author so vastly different yet similarly gorgeous.

In Exit, she borrows names from Shakespeare’s Winter’s Tale and turns it into something completely new. In this modern story, Hermione is a cheerleader who is raped at camp and doesn’t know who did it. What follows is a story about friendship and moving on. It takes a lot of talent and care to write a sexual assault story and this novel does it so well.

Paper Hearts, Volume 1: Some Writing Advice by Beth Revis Required Reading

Revis is best known for her Across the Universe series that I read a while back. The ebook version of this first volume of writing advice was on sale so I decided to give it a go. I have two novel drafts just sitting around and I’ve started a number of other projects so felt I could use some motivation. There’s a lot of bad writing advice out there (which Revis discusses) and Revis seemed like a writer I could trust. I wasn’t wrong.

I mostly read this in between fiction readings which helped me pace a little and not devour all the wisdom all at once. If you are someone who writes novels or wants to write novels, this offers a lot of helpful tips and inspiration. What’s great is she doesn’t insist on a particular way to write; she offers different routes you can take depending on what works for you. This is how all writing advice should be.

Holding Smoke by Elle Cosimano Enjoyable Page Turner

I hadn’t heard anything about this book, but the cover caught my eye so I gave it a shot. The basic premise is a teenage boy, John, is in jail for two murders: one he didn’t commit and one that was an accident. He has the power to leave his body and turn into what is basically a ghost to leave the jail and gather information. Things start to change when he comes across someone who can actually see him.

Holding Smoke ended up being more suspenseful than I expected and I’m glad for it. The book is more plot heavy than character centered. I never got a true sense of John or anyone else, but I felt enough for him to be invested in his story.  It’s clear he’s innocent and you want to know what really happened. He uses his ability to trade information for protection or other help inside the jail, but also uses it to get closer to the truth of the day he was arrested (with a little help from the girl who can see him in ghost form.) Because while he knows he didn’t do it, he doesn’t know who did. What unravels is a satisfying mystery that speeds up towards the end of the novel. While there wasn’t a “wow” moment for me, the read was quick and enjoyable, with a little food for thought on our justice system and youth incarceration.

(Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a review.)

Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke Surprised Me Wow Factor Pretty Words

The poetic prose of this book is lush and the selling point for me. It has the feeling of fantasy and magic in a contemporary setting. The story is told from three points of view of teenagers heading into summer and manages to capture that feeling of mystery and adventure built up by young minds.

There’s a plot I won’t tell you about because part of this book’s reading experience is not knowing exactly what the plot is. Which sounds messy, but I liked the puzzling nature of it. It’s a short, pleasant read that’s not entirely what it seems.

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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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