Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Book Review: Buzz Books 2017: Young Adult Spring/Summer

I requested another collection of excerpts from Publishers Lunch - this particular edition was for YA Spring and Summer 2017 books. This collection contained 18 books. I already had 6 of the books on my TBR, I added 2 more, and removed 1 after reading the excerpts. I skipped one because it was a sequel to a book I have not read and then two because I couldn't get into them.

I was gifted this ebook via Netgalley.

The Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh [5 stars]
Synopsis: The daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has long known her place—she may be an accomplished alchemist, whose cunning rivals that of her brother Kenshin, but because she is not a boy, her future has always been out of her hands. At just seventeen years old, Mariko is promised to Minamoto Raiden, the son of the emperor's favorite consort—a political marriage that will elevate her family's standing. But en route to the imperial city of Inako, Mariko narrowly escapes a bloody ambush by a dangerous gang of bandits known as the Black Clan, who she learns has been hired to kill her before she reaches the palace.

Dressed as a peasant boy, Mariko sets out to infiltrate the ranks of the Black Clan, determined to track down the person responsible for the target on her back. But she's quickly captured and taken to the Black Clan’s secret hideout, where she meets their leader, the rebel ronin Takeda Ranmaru, and his second-in-command, his best friend Okami. Still believing her to be a boy, Ranmaru and Okami eventually warm to Mariko, impressed by her intellect and ingenuity. As Mariko gets closer to the Black Clan, she uncovers a dark history of secrets, of betrayal and murder, which will force her to question everything she's ever known.

The beginning shocked me - I had my jaw hit the floor. Mariko is a very likeable character from the short excerpt I read and I felt the writing style was very beautiful and easy to read in such a short time. Looking forward to reading this one for sure!
The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr [5 stars]
Synopsis: Seventeen-year-old Flora Banks has no short-term memory. Her mind resets itself several times a day, and has since the age of ten, when the tumor that was removed from Flora's brain took with it her ability to make new memories. That is, until she kisses Drake, her best friend's boyfriend, the night before he leaves town. Miraculously, this one memory breaks through Flora's fractured mind, and sticks. Flora is convinced that Drake is responsible for restoring her memory and making her whole again. So when an encouraging email from Drake suggests she meet him on the other side of the world, Flora knows with certainty that this is the first step toward reclaiming her life.

With little more than the words "be brave" inked into her skin, and written reminders of who she is and why her memory is so limited, Flora sets off on an impossible journey to Svalbard, Norway, the land of the midnight sun, determined to find Drake. But from the moment she arrives in the arctic, nothing is quite as it seems, and Flora must "be brave" if she is ever to learn the truth about herself, and to make it safely home.

I love amnesia books and it pains me to read a short excerpt and then be left hanging. Like Ariel...I want moreeeeee! :)
Dream Me by Kathryn Berla [2.5 stars]
Synopsis: Zat is a dreamer from the distant future—a time when humans no longer dream and Earth is a desolate wasteland. He dreams of the beautiful Earth of the past, and a fiery-haired beauty named Babe. Against the wisdom of his peers, Zat decides to risk everything to travel back in time and live in Babe’s dreams…

Babe is the perpetual new girl in town. Her father's job frequently moves the family around the country, and Babe just longs for a place to call home. As she settles into the sleepy town of Sugar Dunes, Florida, Babe begins to have strange dreams of a green-eyed boy named Zat. Night after night, Babe shows Zat her world. But the dreams come at the cost of nearly crippling migraines every morning. Babe’s life outside of her dreams pales in comparison to her growing love for Zat and their time spent together.

But the more time Babe and Zat spend together in her dreams, the more Babe’s pain increases, and Zat begins to question the reality of his existence. How can he live a life with Babe, when all they have is her dreams?

Can a dream become a reality?

The excerpt was very wordy and where the one perspective is dystopia/sci fi, the other is contemporary. Or that's how it reads to me so far and I don't get how that would make for a good book.
Future Threat by Elizabeth Briggs [skipped]
This is the second book in a trilogy that I have not started.
Piper Perish by Kayla Cagan [1 star]
Synopsis: Now is the time for fearlessness.

Who are you now?

Piper Perish inhales air and exhales art. The sooner she and her best friends Enzo and Kit can get out of Houston and get into art school in New York City, the better. It’s been Piper’s dream her whole life, and now that senior year is halfway over, she’s never felt more ready.

Who will you become?

But in the final months before graduation, life’s got Piper a little more breathless. Things are weird with Kit and awful with Enzo; art school is looking increasingly impossible; three different guys have each claimed a different piece of Piper’s heart; and Piper’s sister’s tyrannical mental state seems to thwart every attempt at happiness for the Perish family. Piper’s art just might be enough to get her out. But is she strong enough—and brave enough—to seize that power, even if it means giving up what she’s always known?

Be now. Then be bow. Be now, now, now.

That was a ridiculously pretentious MC. Incredibly judgmental too.
Roar by Cora Carmack [2 stars]
Synopsis: In a land ruled and shaped by violent magical storms, power lies with those who control them.

Aurora Pavan comes from one of the oldest Stormling families in existence. Long ago, the ungifted pledged fealty and service to her family in exchange for safe haven, and a kingdom was carved out from the wildlands and sustained by magic capable of repelling the world’s deadliest foes. As the sole heir of Pavan, Aurora’s been groomed to be the perfect queen. She’s intelligent and brave and honorable. But she’s yet to show any trace of the magic she’ll need to protect her people.

To keep her secret and save her crown, Aurora’s mother arranges for her to marry a dark and brooding Stormling prince from another kingdom. At first, the prince seems like the perfect solution to all her problems. He’ll guarantee her spot as the next queen and be the champion her people need to remain safe. But the more secrets Aurora uncovers about him, the more a future with him frightens her. When she dons a disguise and sneaks out of the palace one night to spy on him, she stumbles upon a black market dealing in the very thing she lacks—storm magic. And the people selling it? They’re not Stormlings. They’re storm hunters.

Legend says that her ancestors first gained their magic by facing a storm and stealing part of its essence. And when a handsome young storm hunter reveals he was born without magic, but possesses it now, Aurora realizes there’s a third option for her future besides ruin or marriage.

She might not have magic now, but she can steal it if she’s brave enough.

Challenge a tempest. Survive it. And you become its master.

The premise sounded very interesting, but upon reading the excerpt I'm not sure I want to read the book anymore. I really don't like the prince at all and I'm not a fan of how it is written. It's almost like a change in POV without being first person, but almost seeming like first person. That doesn't make much sense, but that's how it comes off to me.
This Is Really Happening by Erin Chack [4 stars]
Synopsis: BuzzFeed senior writer Erin Chack provides a collection of personal essays for the Snapchat generation.

Erin recounts everything from meeting her soulmate at age 14 to her first chemotherapy session at age 19 to what really goes on behind the scenes at a major Internet media company.

She authentically captures the agony and the ecstasy of the millennial experience, whether it's her first kiss ("Sean's tongue! In my mouth! Slippery and wet like a slug in the rain.") or her struggles with anxiety ("When people throw caution to the wind, I am stuck imagining the poor soul who has to break his back sweeping caution into a dustpan").

Yet Erin also offers a fresh perspective on universal themes of resilience and love as she writes about surviving cancer, including learning of her mother's own cancer diagnosis within the same year, and her attempts to hide the diagnosis from friends to avoid "un-normaling" everything.

This is a memoir from a Buzzfeed senior writer. The little excerpt was about when she shaved her head after starting treatment for Hodgkin's Lymphoma. It was well written; nothing wrong with it. I probably won't read the book, but it wasn't bad by any means.
Dividing Eden by Joelle Charbonneau [3 stars]
Synopsis: Twins Carys and Andreus were never destined to rule Eden. With their older brother next in line to inherit the throne, the future of the kingdom was secure.

But appearances—and rivals—can be deceiving. When Eden’s king and crown prince are killed by assassins, Eden desperately needs a monarch, but the line of succession is no longer clear. With a ruling council scheming to gain power, Carys and Andreus are faced with only one option—to take part in a Trial of Succession that will determine which one of them is worthy of ruling the kingdom.

As sister and brother, Carys and Andreus have always kept each other safe—from their secrets, from the court, and from the monsters lurking in the mountains beyond the kingdom’s wall. But the Trial of Succession will test the bonds of trust and family.

With their country and their hearts divided, Carys and Andreus will discover exactly what each will do to win the crown. How long before suspicion takes hold and the thirst for power leads to the ultimate betrayal?

It wasn't bad, but it didn't blow me out of the water. I can tell that it won't be something I will like, but I think a lot of people would like it :)
Spirit Quest by Jennifer Frick-Ruppert [skipped]
Synopsis: Skyco, an Algonquin boy, is heir to the great chief Menatonon, but he has much to learn before he can take his place within the tribe. He studies with the shaman Roncommock, who teaches him how to enter the spirit world and communicate with spirits and other animals, while he also learns practical skills of hunting, fishing, and starting a fire from other men in his village. But learning to throw a spear with an atlatl and shoot arrows with a bow are just precursors to the ultimate test, the husquenaugh, when he is challenged to use his hard-earned skills to survive the harrowing life-or-death ritual.
I tried to read this but couldn't get into it.
The Black Witch by Laurie Forest [skipped]
Synopsis: A new Black Witch will rise…her powers vast beyond imagining.

Elloren Gardner is the granddaughter of the last prophesied Black Witch, Carnissa Gardner, who drove back the enemy forces and saved the Gardnerian people during the Realm War. But while she is the absolute spitting image of her famous grandmother, Elloren is utterly devoid of power in a society that prizes magical ability above all else.

When she is granted the opportunity to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming an apothecary, Elloren joins her brothers at the prestigious Verpax University to embrace a destiny of her own, free from the shadow of her grandmother's legacy. But she soon realizes that the university, which admits all manner of people—including the fire-wielding, winged Icarals, the sworn enemies of all Gardnerians—is a treacherous place for the granddaughter of the Black Witch.

As evil looms on the horizon and the pressure to live up to her heritage builds, everything Elloren thought she knew will be challenged and torn away. Her best hope of survival may be among the most unlikely band of misfits…if only she can find the courage to trust those she's been taught to hate and fear.

Attempted to read this one as well, but the writing is very very basic and choppy. ETA: This has been marked as a problematic book by many reviewers, so you may want to read into that if it concerns you.
How To Be a Supervillain by Michael Fry [3.5 stars]
Synopsis: Victor Spoil comes from a long line of famous supervillains and he's fully expected to join their ranks one day. But to his family's utter disappointment, Victor doesn't have a single bad-guy bone in his body. He won't run with scissors, he always finishes his peas, and he can't stand to be messy. Hopeless!

As a last-ditch effort before they give up and let him be a--gasp!--civilian, Victor's exasperated parents send him to apprentice under a disgraced supervillain called The Smear. This matchup starts off as a complete disaster, but Victor and The Smear eventually find that they have a lot to learn from each other. When the stakes get high as Victor is forced to choose between his mentor and his family morals (or lack thereof)...what will the world's nicest bad guy do?

In this rollicking middle-grade adventure, Michael Fry's witty text and hysterical artwork combines superhero action with classic fish-out-of-water humor.

Really cute and I think my older kids would like it :)
The End of Our Story by Meg Haston [2 stars]
Synopsis: Meg Haston's romantic and thrilling new YA novel explores a star-crossed high school relationship in a tale rife with deeply buried secrets and shocking revelations.

Bridge and Wil have been entangled in each other’s lives for years. Under the white-hot Florida sun, they went from kids daring each other to swim past the breakers to teenagers stealing kisses between classes. But when Bridge betrayed Wil during their junior year, she shattered his heart and their relationship along with it.

Then Wil’s family suffers a violent loss, and Bridge rushes back to Wil’s side. As they struggle to heal old wounds and start falling for each other all over again, Bridge and Wil discover just how much has changed in the past year. As the fierce current of tragedy threatens to pull them under, they must learn how to swim on their own—or risk drowning together.

Not my favorite kind of contemporary. I'm sure others will like it though.
Laugh Out Loud by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein [2 stars]
Synopsis: Get ready to Laugh Out Loud (a lot!) with James Patterson's newest illustrated middle grade story!

Jimmy loves reading so much that he's inspired to start a book company for kids--run by kids. It's a bit dream for a twelve-year-old boy--some would even say it's laugh-out-loud ridiculous!

But that doesn't stop Jimmy from dreaming even bigger! His company will be as imaginative and fun as Willy Wonka's chocolate factory...with a Ferris wheel instead of an elevator, a bowling alley in the break room, and a river filled with floating books! He just has to believe in himself and his idea. (And maybe win the Lotto.)

In this hilarious story filled with clever references to children's book favorites, James Patterson shows young readers that anything can be achieved if you believe in yourself no matter what!

The premise is great with a child wanting to have a book company. My older two kids actually have their own "company" where they make comics together. But the voice is so young and almost spazzy.
Aftercare Instructions by Bonnie Pipkin [5 stars]
Synopsis: “Troubled.” That’s seventeen-year-old Genesis according to her small New Jersey town. She finds refuge and stability in her relationship with her boyfriend, Peter—until he abandons her at a Planned Parenthood clinic during their appointment to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. The betrayal causes Gen to question everything.

As Gen pushes herself forward to find her new identity without Peter, she must also confront her most painful memories. Through the lens of an ongoing four act play within the novel, the fantasy of their undying love unravels line by line, scene by scene. Digging deeper into her past while exploring the underground theater world of New York City, she rediscovers a long-forgotten dream. But it’s when Gen lets go of her history, the one she thinks she knows, that she’s finally able to embrace the complicated, chaotic true story of her life, and take center stage.

This powerfully immersive and format-crushing debut follows Gen from dorm rooms to diners to house parties to auditions—and ultimately, right into readers’ hearts.

I won an ARC in a Goodreads giveaway and I have an ARC via Netgalley and now I MUST read the full book. It was excellent. Touching on a very touchy subject as well (abortion).
Geekerella by Ashley Poston [5 stars]
Synopsis: Cinderella goes to the con in this fandom-fueled twist on the classic fairy tale.

Part romance, part love letter to nerd culture, and all totally adorbs, Geekerella is a fairy tale for anyone who believes in the magic of fandom. Geek girl Elle Wittimer lives and breathes Starfield, the classic sci-fi series she grew up watching with her late father. So when she sees a cosplay contest for a new Starfield movie, she has to enter. The prize? An invitation to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball, and a meet-and-greet with the actor slated to play Federation Prince Carmindor in the reboot. With savings from her gig at the Magic Pumpkin food truck (and her dad’s old costume), Elle’s determined to win…unless her stepsisters get there first.

Teen actor Darien Freeman used to live for cons—before he was famous. Now they’re nothing but autographs and awkward meet-and-greets. Playing Carmindor is all he’s ever wanted, but the Starfield fandom has written him off as just another dumb heartthrob. As ExcelsiCon draws near, Darien feels more and more like a fake—until he meets a girl who shows him otherwise.

I love a Cinderella retelling and was excited to hear about one with Geek culture in it (even if it's an offbrand geek culture). I was surprised with the dual perspective in this excerpt but now I am really excited to read it! :)
Rebels Like Us by Liz Reinhardt [4 stars]
Synopsis: Culture shock knocks city girl Agnes "Nes" Murphy-Pujols off-kilter when she's transplanted mid–senior year from Brooklyn to a small Southern town after her mother's relationship with a coworker self-destructs. On top of the move, Nes is nursing a broken heart and severe homesickness, so her plan is simple: keep her head down, graduate and get out. Too bad that flies out the window on day one, when she opens her smart mouth and pits herself against the school's reigning belle and the principal.

Her rebellious streak attracts the attention of local golden boy Doyle Rahn, who teaches Nes the ropes at Ebenezer. As her friendship with Doyle sizzles into something more, Nes discovers the town she's learning to like has an insidious undercurrent of racism. The color of her skin was never something she thought about in Brooklyn, but after a frightening traffic stop on an isolated road, Nes starts to see signs everywhere—including at her own high school where, she learns, they hold proms. Two of them. One black, one white.

Nes and Doyle band together with a ragtag team of classmates to plan an alternate prom. But when a lit cross is left burning in Nes's yard, the alterna-prommers realize that bucking tradition comes at a price. Maybe, though, that makes taking a stand more important than anything.

I honestly didn't expect to like this one based on the synopsis, but it was very readable and the MC was very witty and sassy. I don't think this one was on my TBR, so I must add it ASAP :)
Definitions of Indefinable Things by Whitney Taylor [5 stars]
Synopsis: This heartbreaking, humorous novel is about three teens whose lives intersect in ways they never expected.

Reggie Mason is all too familiar with "the Three Stages of Depression." She believes she’s unlocked the secret to keeping herself safe: Nobody can hurt you if you never let them in.

Reggie encounters an unexpected challenge to her misanthropy: a Twizzler-chomping, indie film-making narcissist named Snake. Snake’s presence, while reassuring, is not exactly stable—especially since his ex-girlfriend is seven months pregnant. As Reggie falls for Snake, she must decide whether it’s time to rewrite the rules that have defined her.

It was such a short excerpt and I blew through it. Reggie was hilarious and I love reading her POV so far. Seriously brilliant for such a short piece of the book - I cannot wait to read the entire thing!
Gem and Dixie by Sara Zarr [3.5 stars]
Synopsis: From renowned author and National Book Award finalist Sara Zarr comes a deep, nuanced, and gorgeously written story about the complex relationship between two sisters from a broken home.

Gem has never known what it is to have security. She’s never known an adult she can truly rely on. But the one constant in her life has been Dixie. Gem grew up taking care of her sister when no one else could: not their mother, whose issues make it hard for her to keep food on the table, and definitely not their father, whose intermittent presence is the only thing worse than his frequent absence. Even as Gem and Dixie have grown apart, they’ve always had each other.

When their dad returns home for the first time in years and tries to insert himself back into their lives, Gem finds herself with an unexpected opportunity: three days with Dixie—on their own in Seattle and beyond. But this short trip soon becomes something more, as Gem discovers that that to save herself, she may have to sever the one bond she’s tried so hard to keep.

Not sure what to think of this. I think I would like to read more, but I'm still unsure of what I just read, if that makes sense.

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