Waiting on Wednesday: Unearthed by Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner


Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases.



Unearthed
Unearthed #1
by Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner
Coming January 9, 2018
Disney-Hyperion

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Summary:
When Earth intercepts a message from a long-extinct alien race, it seems like the solution the planet has been waiting for. The Undying's advanced technology has the potential to undo environmental damage and turn lives around, and Gaia, their former home planet, is a treasure trove waiting to be uncovered.

For Jules Addison and his fellow scholars, the discovery of an alien culture offers unprecedented opportunity for study... as long as scavengers like Amelia Radcliffe don't loot everything first. Mia and Jules' different reasons for smuggling themselves onto Gaia put them immediately at odds, but after escaping a dangerous confrontation with other scavvers, they form a fragile alliance.

In order to penetrate the Undying temple and reach the tech and information hidden within, the two must decode the ancient race's secrets and survive their traps. But the more they learn about the Undying, the more their presence in the temple seems to be part of a grand design that could spell the end of the human race...

Why I Want It:
Four years ago, I read one book that would become an instant favorite and introduce me to two amazing authors and a genre that I adore. I've always enjoyed space in general, but These Broken Stars was the first book that showed me how much fun YA space operas can be. Now I'm hooked! Amie and Meagan are an unstoppable duo, and as long as they're writing, I'm going to devour their work! I actually have an ARC of Unearthed, and I don't know how much longer I can keep my hands off it.

Why I think you should want it:
Amie and Meagan write amazing action and adventure that keeps your blood pumping as you read. But they also write tough girls, swoony boys, and lovely romance. Also, Unearthed was pitched as "Indiana Jones meets Lara Croft in space" so if that doesn't do it for you, I honestly don't know what will.

Review: Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han



Rating: 4 stars
Release Date: May 2, 2017
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Genre: young adult contemporary romance
Format/Source: hardcover, from my library
Status: book 3 of the To All the Boys trilogy

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Summary:
Lara Jean is having the best senior year. And there’s still so much to look forward to: a class trip to New York City, prom with her boyfriend Peter, Beach Week after graduation, and her dad’s wedding to Ms. Rothschild. Then she’ll be off to college with Peter, at a school close enough for her to come home and bake chocolate chip cookies on the weekends.

Life couldn’t be more perfect!

At least, that’s what Lara Jean thinks…until she gets some unexpected news.


Now the girl who dreads change must rethink all her plans—but when your heart and your head are saying two different things, which one should you listen to?

Waiting on Wednesday: Heart of Iron by Ashley Poston


Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases.


Heart of Iron
by Ashley Poston
Coming February 27, 2018
Balzer & Bray

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Summary:
Seventeen-year-old Ana is a scoundrel by nurture and an outlaw by nature. Found as a child drifting through space with a sentient android called D09, Ana was saved by a fearsome space captain and the grizzled crew she now calls family. But D09—one of the last remaining illegal Metals—has been glitching, and Ana will stop at nothing to find a way to fix him.

Ana’s desperate effort to save D09 leads her on a quest to steal the coordinates to a lost ship that could offer all the answers. But at the last moment, a spoiled Ironblood boy beats Ana to her prize. He has his own reasons for taking the coordinates, and he doesn’t care what he’ll sacrifice to keep them.

When everything goes wrong, she and the Ironblood end up as fugitives on the run. Now their entire kingdom is after them—and the coordinates—and not everyone wants them captured alive.

What they find in a lost corner of the universe will change all their lives—and unearth dangerous secrets. But when a darkness from Ana’s past returns, she must face an impossible choice: does she protect a kingdom that wants her dead or save the Metal boy she loves?

Why I Want It:
I absolutely fell in love with Ash's writing and style when I read Geekerella so I knew I wanted to read more of her work. Then I discovered Heart of Iron is an Anastasia retelling AND it's set in space, and those are two of my very favorite things! Also, Ash is a boss person, and I adore her. 

Why I think you should want it:
ANASTASIA IN SPACE, Y'ALL!!! Also, I heard this book will break you in the greatest way possible. How can you NOT want to sign up for that??



Review: The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo



Rating: 4 stars
Release Date: September 26, 2017
Publisher: Imprint
Genre: young adult fantasy, fairy tales
Format/Source: hardcover, purchased from SEVERAL stores
Status: part of the Grishaverse

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Summary:
Love speaks in flowers. Truth requires thorns.

Travel to a world of dark bargains struck by moonlight, of haunted towns and hungry woods, of talking beasts and gingerbread golems, where a young mermaid's voice can summon deadly storms and where a river might do a lovestruck boy's bidding but only for a terrible price.

Inspired by myth, fairy tale, and folklore, #1 New York Times–bestselling author Leigh Bardugo has crafted a deliciously atmospheric collection of short stories filled with betrayals, revenge, sacrifice, and love.

Perfect for new readers and dedicated fans, these tales will transport you to lands both familiar and strange—to a fully realized world of dangerous magic that millions have visited through the novels of the Grishaverse.


This collection of six stories includes three brand-new tales, all of them lavishly illustrated with art that changes with each turn of the page, culminating in six stunning full-spread illustrations as rich in detail as the stories themselves. 

Waiting on Wednesday: Batman: Nightwalker


Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases.


Batman: Nightwalker
DC Icons #2
by Marie Lu
Coming January 2, 2018
Random House Books for Young Readers

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Summary:
Before he was Batman, he was Bruce Wayne. A reckless boy willing to break the rules for a girl who may be his worst enemy.

The Nightwalkers are terrorizing Gotham City, and Bruce Wayne is next on their list.

One by one, the city's elites are being executed as their mansions' security systems turn against them, trapping them like prey. Meanwhile, Bruce is turning eighteen and about to inherit his family's fortune, not to mention the keys to Wayne Enterprises and all the tech gadgetry his heart could ever desire. But after a run-in with the police, he's forced to do community service at Arkham Asylum, the infamous prison that holds the city's most brutal criminals.

Madeleine Wallace is a brilliant killer . . . and Bruce's only hope.

In Arkham, Bruce meets Madeleine, a brilliant girl with ties to the Nightwalkers. What is she hiding? And why will she speak only to Bruce? Madeleine is the mystery Bruce must unravel. But is he getting her to divulge her secrets, or is he feeding her the information she needs to bring Gotham City to its knees? Bruce will walk the dark line between trust and betrayal as the Nightwalkers circle closer.

Why I Want It:
Man, I loved Batman as a kid. I adored the animated show and Batman Forever (yes, really. It was the only one of the Batman movies I watched as a kid), and I loved our broody bad boy superhero. He's not my favorite superhero now, but I also love Marie Lu. You know how people always talk about authors whose grocery lists they'd read? Yeah, Marie is on my grocery list author list. She's so talented, and I think she does an AMAZING job writing morally ambiguous characters and spotlighting the good and bad in people. My body is READY.

Why I think you should want it:
Batman is one of the most fascinating superheroes. First of all, he's a normal dude (although rich af) and not super-powered. Instead, he uses his money, connections, and intellect to fight crime. Secondly and more interestingly, he's a good guy, but he's all about the revenge. Guys like Superman and Captain America are the goody two-shoes guys who are altruistic and boy scout-y. Bruce isn't like that. He helps people, yes, but he only got into the game to avenge his parents' murder. Still, not-great intentions or no, Batman does a lot of good. I don't know much about the actual comics, but in the movies, the focus is always on adult Bruce or kid Bruce, but there's very little in the way of teenage Bruce. I think it's really interesting that Gotham is currently exploring that age and now we can add Nightwalker to the mix. Plus, it's Marie Lu. You should want to read her grocery lists too.





Mary's Minute: Fluffy Books


Today I want to talk about a beloved sub-genre of books: the fluffy book. Fluffy books are a type of  (usually) contemporary romance (although I think there can be some fluffy fantasies or historical books as well) are fun, sweet, swoony stories that just make me feel GOOD after I've read it. It's one of my absolute favorite genres, and I know many of my friends love it as well. So why am I discussing it today?

Several months ago, author Jenn Bennett (The Anatomical Shape of a Heart, Alex Approximately) had a few words to say about frequently reading reviews that called her books fluffy:



This sparked a great conversation in which many bloggers and readers spoke up about how much fluffy books mean to them and what they define fluff as, and we'll come back to that in a second because it seems that authors and readers are mixing lines of communication when using the term fluff.

I recently moderated a panel called Me + You = Fate during the Texas Teen Book Festival, which was AMAZING. We talked a lot about romance, and I was shocked to find two more authors who said they dislike their books being called fluff. Mackenzi Lee (The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue) said she doesn't like the term, but when people call her book serious, she likewise said, "well, not THAT serious!" And Jenna Evans Welch (Love and Gelato) said she didn't think her book qualified since a primary theme is grief. So I want to talk about this genre again.

 I asked Twitter a few days ago, and here a few replies to me and a few to Jenn:

(for the record, I asked how the define fluff, is it an insult, why do you like it, and who are your faves)









A couple things that stuck out to me is that for a lot of people, fluffy = little angst and also, fluffy books are the ones they most often reread. That's super important!!! Fluff has a rereadable factor!!


What makes a book "fluffy"? For me, there are a few indicators: 
  • light, easy-to-read prose (basically the complete opposite of James Joyce and pretentious literary writing)
  • emphasis on romance in the story
  • use of romance tropes like love to hate, friends to more, fake date, etc.
  • humor
  • slice of life stories
  • mc has an important hobby/interest that usually has a lot to do with the plot

There are a few other elements that are frequently found in fluffy books, but I don't think they're necessarily a requirement (especially since some of these are complete opposites). It's one of those a square is a rectangle but a rectangle is not a square things. Travel (especially European); seasonal-specific (summer or winter holidays); celebrity love interest; royal love interest; athletes; etc.

None of these are super hard and fast other than light prose and romance, but really, what makes a book fluffy for me is if I feel good reading it. If I'm reading a book with a HUGE irrepressible smile on my face, it's probably fluff. I tend to swoon a lot because the boys are dreamy, and I always want to be the girl's best friend. For me, fluff doesn't mean no conflict or heavy topics. A book can cover topics like death, mental illness, physical illness, abuse, etc, and still be fluff to me. It entirely depends on the overall tone of the novel and how the author approaches the topic. If I'm left feeling satisfied by a story and hopeful for the characters and their futures, I'm more inclined to consider a book fluff. If I'm left feeling like life sucks and then you die and this character is fucked or the road is going to be long and hard for them when the book is over, I'm usually more inclined to consider it realistic fiction. And I don't necessarily WANT realistic fiction.

I find great comfort in fluffy books, and it's frustrating when lighter contemporary novels go temporarily out of fashion in YA. A couple years ago, I went to a professional library conference during which most publishers didn't have very many contemporary romances in their catalogs. Lots of fantasy (duh) and lots of realistic fiction, which I always consider heavier reads, but little romance. And that made me sad. I love fantasy and sci-fi, but I need them interspersed with books that are light and fun!

2017 is a garbage fire. I frequently feel like our society is completely doomed and WE are the characters who are fucked after the book ends. I don't need to read books that will leave me feeling depressed after I close the cover. I already feel depressed. I want books where I envision the character still has their best days ahead of them, even if I don't get to read about those adventures. I want to feel happy and warm and content, like a cat lazing in a ray of sunshine streaming in through a window. Like I'm curled up in a cozy blanket with a mug of hot chocolate. Like I'm lying in a hammock listening to the ocean's waves as a breeze gently caresses my face. That's how fluff makes me feel. The world might be terrible, but at least it seems like writers are creating more of these stories and publishers are publishing them. I'm grateful for that. I just want EVEN MORE, and also, I would very much like more diverse stories of all kinds.

One thing about fluff is that like just about all genres of YA, it's populated with a million stories about white cishet Christian-or-not-religious usually-middle-or-upper-class able-bodied characters. I love that we're seeing other kinds of stories like When Dimple Met Rishi and I Believe in a Thing Called Love, To All the Boys I've Loved Before and Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda, Queens of Geek and The Secret of a Heart Note but I definitely want more. It's comforting to me to read warm, sweet stories, and I bet a lot of readers would feel the same if they could see more characters like themselves on the page. So come on, writers and publishers, keep pushing!

I don't think book bloggers really write for authors, just for other readers, but if there are any authors reading this, please don't be offended when you hear readers categorize your books as fluff. We don't mean that they lack substance; instead, it's an indicator of how your book makes us feel: like rainbows and sparkles and whipped cream and sprinkles and stardust and chunky cable knit and crunchy leaves. Think of it this way: do you really want a hard, flat pillow or a fluffy one? Those weird hairless cats or a fluffy kitteh? Runny (or super dry) scrambled eggs or fluffy? Thin, wimpy pancakes or fluffy? A regular, run-of-the-mill unicorn or a SUPER FLUFFY ONE?


Fluff is not an insult, and if someone is using it as one, it's probably a dude, and he is a sexist douchecanoe who sucks and doesn't understand the power of fluff. For your reference, here's a Buzzfeed listicle of amazing fluffy things. I would only change it to add books to the list.


Recommendations!
I couldn't let you guys go without recommending some of my fluffy favorites!

The Upside of Unrequited – Becky Albertalli
Alex, Approximately - Jenn Bennett
Teen Idol, Nicola and the Viscount – Meg Cabot
99 Days – Katie Cotugno
Endless Summer – Jennifer Echols
My Life Next Door – Huntley Fitzpatrick
I Believe in a Thing Called Love – Maurene Goo
To All the Boys I've Loved Before – Jenny Han
The Secret of a Heart Note – Stacey Lee
Open Road Summer, The Start of Me & You – Emery Lord
The Unexpected Everything, Amy & Roger's Epic Detour - Morgan Matson
When Dimple Met Rishi – Sandhya Menon
First & Then, This Adventure Ends – Emma Mills
Being Sloane Jacobs (although my boss loves Meant to Be more) – Lauren Morrill
Dumplin' – Julie Murphy
Bittersweet, The Book of Broken Hearts – Sarah Ockler
Anna & the French Kiss, My True Love Gave to Me anthology – Stephanie Perkins
Geekerella – Ashley Poston
This is What Happy Looks Like – Jennifer E. Smith
The Art of Lainey – Paula Stokes
Love & Gelato – Jenna Evans Welch
On the Fence, The Distance Between Us – Kasie West
Queens of Geek – Jen Wilde


How do you feel about fluff? Do you have any recommendations of your own? Please share in the comments!

Waiting on Wednesday: Meet Cute


After a three year hiatus, I'm bringing back my WoW posts! Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature hosted Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases.



Meet Cute
by a butt-ton of authors
Coming January 2, 2018
HMH Books for Young Readers

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Summary:
Whether or not you believe in fate, or luck, or love at first sight, every romance has to start somewhere. Meet Cute is an anthology of original short stories featuring tales of "how they first met" from some of today’s most popular YA authors. 

Readers will experience Nina LaCour's beautifully written piece about two Bay Area girls meeting via a cranky customer service Tweet, Sara Shepard's glossy tale about a magazine intern and a young rock star, Nicola Yoon's imaginative take on break-ups and make-ups, Katie Cotugno's story of two teens hiding out from the police at a house party, and Huntley Fitzpatrick's charming love story that begins over iced teas at a diner. There’s futuristic flirting from Kass Morgan and Katharine McGee, a riveting transgender heroine from Meredith Russo, a subway missed connection moment from Jocelyn Davies, and a girl determined to get out of her small town from Ibi Zoboi. Jennifer Armentrout writes a sweet story about finding love from a missing library book, Emery Lord has a heartwarming and funny tale of two girls stuck in an airport, Dhonielle Clayton takes a thoughtful, speculate approach to pre-destined love, and Julie Murphy dreams up a fun twist on reality dating show contestants. 

This incredibly talented group of authors brings us a collection of stories that are at turns romantic and witty, epic and everyday, heartbreaking and real.

Why I Want It:
In a word: the lineup. This is a SPECTACULARLY assembled group of enormously talented writers. I have a post coming out tomorrow about fluffy books and how I want more of them and I want more diverse fluff. Including authors of color, particular black women, and queer authors, especially trans, lesbian, and bisexual authors, is a huge deal in anthologies, and I'm REALLY excited about this step forward. I've always loved anthologies because it means I get more stories from authors I love, but I am really excited about all the upcoming anthologies that are branching out from the typical. A few other anthologies I can't wait to read include Three Sides of a HeartHope Nation, The Radical Element, (Don't) Call Me Crazy, and Toil and Trouble.

Why I think you should want it:
Okay, but do you SEE that lineup?? Also, those teasers! Rock stars! Diners! Missed connections! Library books! Airports! Reality tv! If you need a pick-me-up kind of read, Meet Cute seems like it will hit that mark for sure.