The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough

the game of love and deathAt first glance, Henry and Flora would not seem extraordinary to most people.  Love and Death, nevertheless, saw great potential within them.  For centuries, Love and Death had been playing a game.  Each would pick a human player, and then they would roll the dice to determine the end date of the game.  There were limitations to how much, and in which ways, they could interfere — but they certainly acted to influence the situation so that they might win the bet.  Regardless of how much love there seemed to be between the people, Death always prevailed. Though previous games have included such famed, star-crossed pairs as Anthony and Cleopatra or Paris and Helen of Troy, Love seems to think that Henry and Flora will finally beat the odds.

There were a few things about this story that made it particularly compelling.  First, that Love and Death were beings who seemed to be almost fighting an attraction between themselves.  They often took human form, and it struck me that this author chose to have Love as a man and Death as a woman.  Since men tend to be associated more with aggression and women tend to be associated more with nurturing, it was very interesting to see this dynamic reversed.  It was also rather amazing to see how well the author managed to weave together themes of socioeconomic discrepencies, race relations, gender norms, and GLBTQ struggles as they related to Americans in the 1930s.  If you enjoy historical fiction with a touch of magical realism and a healthy heaping of romance, look no further.

Happy Reading!

Date Me, Bryson Keller by Kevin van Whye

date me, bryson kellerBryson Keller was the complete package.  Not only was he nice, smart, and good looking, but he was also a jock (a soccer player).  At Fairvale Academy, he may as well have been royalty.  The strangest thing about Bryson, though, was that he hadn’t ever dated anyone.  So, someone came up with a rather interesting dare — that Bryson would have to date whoever asked him out.  Every week, on Monday morning, the first person who asked him out would get to date him for the entirety of the school week and Bryson would have to be their perfect boyfriend.  Though the dare had been going on for months, it was always a girl who asked him out… until Kai Sheridan.  Despite the fact that Kai had never “come out,” and had a crush on a guy named Isaac for a long time, he suddenly felt compelled to ask Bryson out.  There were a couple of things that could definitely go wrong with this impulsive move — not the least of which was being outed before he was ready — but it somehow just felt right.  When Bryson not only said yes but agreed to keep the relationship a secret, I got #AllTheFeels… and I kept right on getting them for the rest of the story.

This was such a well-written story, with characters who felt so real I wished I could meet them in real life.  I don’t know about you, but romantic comedies are probably my favorite way of escaping reality.  There is just something so satisfying about getting an overload of cuteness and humor when it feels like everything is falling down around me in the real world.  If you feel the same way, you’re gonna need to put this book on your #TBR list so you don’t forget to read it when it comes out in May!

Happy Reading!

It’s the End of the World as I Know It by Matthew Landis

it's the end of the world as i know itAs I was preparing to spend A LOT of time at home for #SocialDistancing purposes (because of #COVID19), I saw this book in the new YA section at my library and just knew I had to bring it home with me.  Based on the cover art, I had a feeling it would not be super heavy and actually stress me out.  Luckily, it seems I am pretty good at judging books by their covers!  😉  Though this book discusses potentially heavy topics like death, grief, and #MentalHealth, it handles them all in such a way that it manages to be lighthearted and often humerous.

Ever since his mom died in the line of duty in Iraq, Derrick has been prepping for the end of the world. He even saved up money from building decks all summer and built himself a shed/bunker in his backyard. Derrick is nearly ready, as he has filled his shelter with emergency supplies like food, first aid supplies, HAZMAT suits, and gas masks. And even though nobody else around him seems to believe that it’s coming, Derrick just *knows* it will be happening soon — on September 21st, to be exact. Not only does he have a gut feeling, but he’s been following special apocalypse preparation websites (like a blog/app called “Apocalypse Soon!”). Derrick’s dad has tried bringing him to a therapist, but it isn’t like therapy can halt the apocalypse, so he didn’t see the point.

The closer it gets to the end, the more Derrick is having trouble controlling his feelings of panick and desperation. His dad pretty much ignores his weird behaviors, and his older sister Claudia doesn’t really know how to help either. His best friends, Tommy and Brock, don’t really get it and just want to hang out and play sports or video games while Derrick is certain that they are only wasting time he needs to use more wisely to be ready. The only person who seems to be willing to help is Derrick’s neighbor Misty, who has been out of school for the last year with a life-threatening medical problem of her own. Derrick isn’t sure why Misty was out of school last year, but he is glad that she seems to be doing better and that, while she doesn’t necessarily believe that the end of the world is coming, she is willing to help him get his shelter ready.  But… What will happen once it’s ready?

Happy Reading!

Darling Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel

darling rose goldReading stories like this simply makes my heart ache.  I cannot fathom the idea of purposely hurting my child — let alone so systematically and over the course of an entire childhood. The scariest thing is that people with Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy (MSBP) don’t even see the wrong in what they are doing.  For more information about MSBP, so that you can better prepare yourself for what you will read in this story, I recommend this page from the University of Michigan.

I’m not gonna lie. When I first saw this book, I was leary that it might be a rip-off of a “ripped from the headlines” TV series I had watched [The Act]. In that series, Gypsy Rose Blanchard, was a chronically ill child who, as it turned out, actually had a mother who suffered from MSBP.  Thankfully, though, the rest of this story [aside from the MSBP and the coincidence of “Rose” being a part of her name] stood very much on its own.  Though MSBP could never be truly “understandable” to me, the flashbacks to Patty’s childhood helped me to better understand the factors that contributed to her mental health issues. Likewise, flashbacks to both the childhood of Rose Gold and the time when she was first on her own, after her mother went to jail, helped me to see how Rose Gold had been shaped into the woman she had become and to make the choices she made. Yeah, I am a little hauted by this story. But, I am also eager to see what else Wrobel will publish and hope it won’t be long until I see another book listed on her Goodreads page…

(Disclaimer — This book is technically considered a book for adults, but I see this having crossover appeal for young adults, since the story primarily takes place during Rose Gold’s teen and “new adult” years.)

Happy Reading!

The Oracle Code by Marieke Nijkamp, illustrated by Manuel Preitano

the oracle codeCan you guess why Barbara Gordon is one of my favorite people in the DC Comics universe?  Aside from the fact that I relate to her as a headstrong, curious, and nerdy girl/woman, I love the fact that Batgirl’s alter ego is a librarian!  In addition to being Batgirl, Barbara Gordon is also known as Oracle — and this graphic novel is an Oracle origin story.

In this story, readers are introduced to a teenaged Barbara Gordon (aka Babs) who becomes paralyzed in an accident.  The accident happens in the very beginning of the story, though, so the majority of the action takes place while Babs is working to recover from the accident at the Arkham Center for Independence.  I appreciated how there was a lot of focus placed on the specific limitations that a person would suddenly experience as a result of a major injury like this and how grueling the physical and occupational therapy regimen would be.  I also appreciated that this information was worked into the story seemlessly instead of appearing as clunky asides.  I’d like to wish a happy book birthday to this awesome story, and also wish for some further Oracle adventures from Nijkamp and Preitano in the near future…

Happy Reading!

The Cabin by Natasha Preston

the cabinOh. Em. Gee!  Not only did this thriller of a murder mystery have me on the edge of my seat the whole time I was reading it — but it even left me there at the end. My biggest complaint about this book, in fact, is that I don’t think there will be a sequel that explicitly tells me what happened next. While I am learning to live with books like this, I thought it was worth mentioning in my review in case it would be a deal-breaker for anyone else. But, yeah. This book was intense! There were so many twists and turns that it kept me guessing, and second-guessing myself, for nearly the entire time.

So, what happened that we readers DO know? Well, we know that Mackenzie found two of her friends dead, in a pool of their own blood, on what was supposed to be a fun weekend getaway to Josh’s cabin. And though she wasn’t Josh’s biggest fan, and knew that some of the others in her small group of friends were less than enthusiastic about spending a whole weekend with him, Mackenzie couldn’t imagine that any of them could have murdered Josh. Let alone his girlfriend, Courtney. Was she just collateral damage? Because everyone seemed to love *her*… The strangest thing is that everyone seemed to sleep through such a violent murder. Surely Josh and Courtney must have screamed, right? So how did no one realize what had happened until the next morning?

Happy Reading!

Of Curses and Kisses by Sandhya Menon

curses-and-kissesI know I just posted the other day that I would be doing fewer book reviews than normal, but I had to push myself to get this one done for #ValentinesDay!  I don’t know if I have outright said this before, but Sandhya Menon is quickly becoming one of my favorite YA authors.  Between her strong female characters, witty dialogue, character development, and diverse casts of characters, there is just so much to love in Menon’s books!  As soon as I heard that she would be writing a modernized retelling of Beauty and the Beast, which just so happens to be one of my favorite fairy tales of all time, I was sold!  I am so grateful that my request for access to an ARC was granted by NetGalley, because I am not sure how I would have contained myself until this book was officially published.  And how was it?!?  Freaking. Awesome!

Jaya Rao is a princess. Well, kinda.  Hers is one of the “royal” families that still exist even though India is now technically a democratic republic.  To Jaya, nothing is more important than family.  And, ever since the centuries-old feud between the Raos and the Emersons caused her sister to be targeted and slandered, Jaya has been looking for a way to exact revenge on the Emerson clan.  How utterly perfect, then, that she and her sister should be transferred to the same international boarding school as Grey Emerson as they wait for things to blow over. Once there, Jaya expected that she would have plenty of opportunity to get close enough to Grey that she could hurt him as much as his family has hurt her little sister…  But, will even her love for her sister be enough to keep her going with such a nefarious plan?  I won’t tell you how it all ends, but I will gleefully report that it is the first book in a series that, according to Goodreads, is a planned trilogy!  #squeeeeeeee

Happy Reading!

#SorryNotSorry

So… I have been feeling guilty about falling behind on both my reading and my book reviews on this blog, but I have decided I need to let go of that guilt. I made a New Year’s Resolution to be “more selfish” (i.e. focus on myself a bit more) so that I don’t get burned out, and I need to follow through. In addition to working part-time in two local libraries, volunteering with a few organizations, and running a household, I have some other pretty awesome [yet time-intensive] stuff going on in my life — like planning the 2021 NYLA YSS Spring Conference!

So, I just need to accept that I am only one person, that there are only 24 hours in a day, and that I deserve some time to straight-up relax and do nothing every now and again.  Though I have been struggling to accept these truths, based on my Type-A personality, I *am* trying…  So, hopefully y’all won’t mind that this blog will likely only be updated 1 or 2 times a month for a while.

Happy Reading!

Rogue Princess by B.R. Myers

rogue princessPrincess Delia was not exactly thrilled with the prospect of choosing a husband, but she knew better than to expect an opportunity to marry for love (even if she wished, deep down, that she could). Her mother, the Queen, invited a bunch of princes from neighboring kingdoms/planets for a visit in an attempt to arrange a marriage that would be beneficial for their kingdom/planet, since they were experiencing a devastating energy shortage.  When Delia tried to run from the palace on a “borrowed” royal ship, she ended up meeting Aidan — a thief who thought his most recent acquisition might help him to get enough money to get off the planet and escape his own dreary life. While they were not exactly the dynamic duo you would put together if you had a chance to plan a match, something clicked quite nicely between them.  They were both just so clever and determined that it came as no surprise when they quickly uncovered a rebel conspiracy that threatened the planet… but would they be able to continue working together if Delia discovered that Aiden wasn’t who he claimed to be (a bodyguard for one of the visiting princes) when they first met?

If you enjoyed Marissa Meyer’s Cinder, I highly recommend you check this out.  While the story is definitely very different (i.e. not at all a rip-off), they share a similar vibe and I can’t imagine anyone who liked the Lunar Chronicles not enjoying this gender-swapped, sci-fi retelling of Cinderella.

Happy Reading!

Nameless Queen by Rebecca McLaughlin

nameless queenIn Seriden, bloodlines do not determine the passing of the crown.  Anyone can become the next ruler.  Well, mostly anyone.  All that is required is for the king to speak their name before he dies.  So, that means the Nameless — the bottom rung in a three-tiered caste system consisting of Royals, Legals, and Nameless — are out of the running.  Pretty much everyone assumed that the king would name his daughter to be the successor, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.  No one will know for sure whom he has chosen until that person chooses to reveal the magical tattoo that appeared on their shoulder after the king died.  This is where it gets super weird, though… because Coin suddenly has this tattoo.  Coin is the name she goes by on the streets, but that is just because the Nameless have to have some sort of a way to identify one another.  (She was an orphan who was raised on the streets and likely ended up with her nickname because she was a good pickpocket.)  How in the world, then, could the king have named her his heir if she doesn’t even have a name?  And how will this tattoo be anything more than a death sentence, since the Royals and Legals will surely oppose a Nameless ascending to the throne and will likely to anything in their power to transfer the magic of the tattoo to themselves?

Though there is always the possibility of a sequel, this book was technically written as a standalone, so you won’t be stuck waiting 5 years to see how it all ends!  Aside from the ability to find out how it all ends, I also really appreciated the way this author explored class and how it relates to power and politics.  Want a book with a powerful female protagonist to give you a little inspiration heading into the new year?  Look no further!

Happy Reading!