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review 2016-11-29 18:46
The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma
The Walls Around Us - Nova Ren Suma

Hmmm... I still don't really know exactly how I feel about this book, and I've been mulling it over for a few hours now. Admittedly, I didn't read the blurb before starting The Walls Around Us. I simply noticed that it had a ton of love thrown at it, plus that I hadn't yet reviewed it as a NetGalley book, and decided to make it my next read. It's nice to go in with no preconceived notions, and just really let a book sweep me away. This one just didn't do that as easily as I expected it to.

 

The base story, the story that goes back and forth between the calculating Violet and the slightly lost Amber, was pretty spot on for me. I loved this story of two girls, in such different circumstances, each facing the truth trapped inside themselves. It's tough to imagine such young girls committing any type of atrocities, but Nova Ren Suma weaves this story that makes you feel for them. It makes you understand, even if you don't necessarily forgive.

 

What lost me, and what I afterwards realized was in the synopsis, was the "ghostly" aspect of this book. It's difficult to explain without spoiling anything, and I absolutely want to leave this vague for anyone still interested in this book, but this portion of the book just felt like it was missing something. I can't put my finger on what, exactly. It was like at some point the book wandered off into the forest, and I lost track of it in the trees. After the first few chapters, I had already figured out the main plot points that were to come. So the "mystery" aspect of this wasn't really there for me. Plus I all but despised Violet. So I didn't care all that much if something terrible were to come her way.

 

Then there was the ending. Which, although it actually did fit with the book as whole, really felt unsatisfying to me. I was confused at first. Then, after reading through it at second time, I finally understood what had happened. Still, I didn't feel like it was what I wanted. Redemption is great. Revenge is understandable. This, however, was really confusing. I'm sure there are plenty out there who will appreciate the vagueness of it all. I really wanted solid closure though.

 

So, I'm going to settle this right at 3 stars. If anything, I'm going to say that this book has peaked my interest in terms of Nova Ren Suma as an author. This is the first book of hers that I have read, and now that I see how solidly she can build characters, I'm intrigued so see what else is out there. Rest assured, this all my opinion. As I mentioned above, there is a ton of love for this book and I see a lot of things other people will love. It just wasn't exactly what I was looking for.

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url 2016-03-30 13:41
Young Adult Magical Realism Recommendations

YA Magical Realism is still a fledging genre, I think. Compared to the YA fantasy and contemporary books that are published each year, it’s a much smaller part of the pie. But as I’ve said before, I’d love to see more YA magical realism. I basically love magical realism because I think in YA, in particular, these kinds of stories take really unexpected turns and can push the boundaries of what YA does. Some people think that magical realism stories are slow-paced and they can be, but for good reason. I’m not an expert, but the magical realism definition according to Wikipedia involves work that “share… an acceptance of magic in the rational world…. Magical realism… refers to literature in particular that portrays magical or unreal elements as a natural part in an otherwise realistic or mundane environment.” According to The Atlantic, when they wrote an obituary for Gabriel Garcia Marquez, they mentioned how his works were “quintessential examples of ‘magic realism’: fiction that integrates elements of fantasy into otherwise realistic settings.” (More magical realism definitions, re: YA magical realism & urban fantasy vs. magical realism).

This is where things get a little hazy for me – because Urban Fantasy often includes magic + contemporary settings, but the feeling of urban fantasy is much different from that of magical realism, though I think both could end up in an urban setting if you wanted. I think that UF is much more likely to include creatures of legends; both can have that dreamy feeling, too, but then I think magical realism focuses more on the individual, the main character and the MC’s unique experience. You can have character-driven urban fantasy, of course, but the actual experiences of the character PoV in magical realism tales are more deeply explored, I think. Hey, for all I know I could be talking out of my ass, but if you’re looking for more YA magical realism books to read, here are some of the ones that I’ve enjoyed reading!

 

 

 

** Chime by Franny Billingsley.

Chime is the story of a girl whose life turns upside down once a new boy comes to her witch-intolerant village swamp, because his presence helps to reveal long-lost secrets. It’s cyclical and beautifully written, and the swamp – here’s another magical realism quality! The setting is almost ALWAYS its own character! Which should happen in most books anyways, but can be critical to magical realism – the swamp is its own character. You get fantastic new magical creatures in the swamp, and Briony’s coming-of-age and sexual awakening are twined together so beautifully in her quest for the truth. Highly recommended! The writing style might throw some people off, but stick with the book and you’ll be so rewarded!

** We Were Liars by E. Lockhart.

We Were Liars is the story of a girl who no longer remembers the tragedy that happened at her family's summer home but seeks to discover the truth behind all the lies.. The details of her fifteenth summer at her family's private island elude her, and her family is reluctant to talk about what exactly happened. Her quest for the truth is interspersed with fairy tale like stories about her family and her memories of their summers at their island retreat. It’s a beautifully written suspense story on grief, privilege, family, duty, friendships, and much, much more.

 
(Is WWL technically Magical Realism? Or is it more speculative? It could just be considered contemporary, but given the above definition, I think it still fits into magical realism.)

** The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle.

First off: if you’re a fan of We Were Liars, definitely check out The Accident Season. Set in Ireland, The Accident Season is the story of a family plagued by “accident seasons” – they fall down; they bruise; their bones break. Is everything that happens in The Accident Season truly an accident, or is there something more sinister going on? Like We Were Liars, The Accident Season is beautifully written, full of atmosphere, and it centers on family, grief, truths and more as well.

** Bone Gap by Laura Ruby.

Bone Gap is the story of Rosa, a girl who suddenly appears in Finn’s life and then just as suddenly goes missing, and Finn, a boy who witnesses Rosa getting kidnapped but who isn’t believed in town because everyone thinks he’s weird and maybe a little unstable. The story takes place in a town where again! Setting is its own character. People can go missing in the “gaps” of the town, all the corn fields… What really happened the day that Rosa went missing is up for the both characters to discover. Laura Ruby really does a wonderful job developing the setting and making the people of Bone Gap feel unique to Bone Gap (but also familiar to us). The story does a great job examining the construct of beauty and perception, and is unlike anything I’ve read in YA (despite me lumping it in here with other magical realism books).

** The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma & Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma.

The Walls around Us and Imaginary Girls are the two Nova Ren Suma novels that I’ve read, but they definitely won’t be the last. The Walls around Us was described as Orange is the New Black Swan, and I think that’s a perfect description—and yes, the book focuses on girls, jealousies, intimacies, and more. Imaginary Girls is the story of a girl sent away from her sister when she discovers a body in their town’s reservoir. When she returns to her sister, certain secrets will be revealed. Nova Ren Suma writes gorgeous, atmospheric stories that are about and told in the voices of girls, and both of these are no exception to her list of highly recommended reads.

** Love in the Time of Global Warming by Francesca Lia Block.

Love in the Time of Global Warming is a YA magical realism post-apocalyptic retelling of The Odyssey told from Penelope’s point of view. Francesca Lia Block’s writing is as always incandescent, proving why she’s one of the founders of YA. Reading this made me want to go back and reread The Odyssey, which I think is always a sign of success for a retelling—rekindling or stirring new interest in the classic.

** The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater & The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater.

I don’t even know whether to consider either of these novels magical realism. Some part of me wants to classify The Scorpio Races as a high fantasy because it takes place on a fictional island, and so the society is also modeled after ours but is its own thing. But The Scorpio Races is also written in a way that reminds me of magical realism novels. The Raven Cycle could also be categorized as urban fantasy or just fantasy, but looking at the definition for magical realism, hey, the series could fit too. Plus part of that dreamy atmosphere, again, makes me think of magical realism novels. Oh, genre categories.

Every November on the fictional island of Thisby, its inhabitants compete in a dangerous race riding legendary, deadly water horses. The Scorpio Races is a standalone filled with magic, adventure, and romance—and is unlike anything I’ve read in YA. The Raven Cycle is a tad harder to describe. One of the main characters, Blue, has been told all her life that if she kisses her true love, he will die. It’s implied that Gansey is her true love, and she ends up getting caught in Gansey’s quest to find Glendower, a mythical sleeping Welsh King who’s supposed to grant a wish to whoever wakes him up. A very bare bones sort of intro summary—but anyway, the books have multi-layered, complex characters, unpredictable, complicated plots… magic, adventure, atmosphere, romance. I talk on and on about these books, so get to reading them if you haven’t already!

Those are my YA magical realism novel recommendations. One I’m looking forward to reading this year is A Fierce and Subtle Poison by Samantha Mabry, which made my 2016 YA Debuts on my TBR list. Let me know if you’ve got any other recs! Have you read any of the books I recommended? Is magical realism your “thing”?
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text 2016-01-03 01:18
My Top Ten Reads of 2015
The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins
The Walking Dead, Compendium 1 - Cliff Rathburn,Charlie Adlard,Tony Moore,Robert Kirkman
Dead of Winter - Brian Moreland
Fevre Dream - George R.R. Martin
Speaks the Nightbird - Robert R. McCammon
Locke & Key (Full cast audio) - Joe Hill
The Boys, Definitive Edition I - Garth Ennis
Seed - Lisa Heathfield
The Walls Around Us - Nova Ren Suma
By Brian K. Vaughan Saga Deluxe Edition Volume 1 HC (De Luxe edition) [Hardcover] - Brian K. Vaughan

 

2015 was a pretty productive year, although it felt at times I wasn't getting much reading done I still managed to blast through my yearly goal of 150 with an end of year total of 235.

 

This is probably due to my graphic novel addiction which took over most of my reading last year. The break down of what I read was:

 

Novels/novellas/shorts - 101

Audio - 6

Graphic novel/issues - 128

 

I was also lucky enough to have 32 5* reads and an amazing 135 books that score 4/4.5*. Only 7 books out of 235 scored 2.5* or less, overall an amazing year and probably down to the fact that I read a lot of books that are recommended through BL and GR friends. You guys always steer me right.

 

 

Here is my Top 10

 

The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins  

 

Finally read this and get what the fuss is about now, dystopian themes with a kick ass female character. Loved it.

 

The Walking Dead, Compendium 1 - Cliff Rathburn,Charlie Adlard,Tony Moore,Robert Kirkman 

 

The same as the TV series in a lot of ways but so different, not better, just different. Even with the b&w art, which I'm not a fan of, I still thought it was amazing.

 

Dead of Winter - Brian Moreland 

 

Serial killers, cannibals, native indian mythology and demons, in another author's hands this could have been a hot mess but Moreland keeps all the threads of the story taut and pushes it to a fantastic ending.

 

Fevre Dream - George R.R. Martin 

 

There are some books that you just don't want to finish, your heart breaks that you have come to the end of your adventure within the world you've become immersed in. It's a rare book that pulls me in this way and makes me care so much about the characters.

Abner Marsh will stay with me for many, many years. *sniffs and wipes away tear*

 

Speaks the Nightbird - Robert R. McCammon 

 

A tightly woven mystery with a young clerk and an accused witch. Compelling and wonderfully written with amazing characters and an engaging historical setting.

 

Locke & Key (Full cast audio) - Joe Hill 

 

I listened to this whilst re-reading the comics and couldn't believe how much of the story I had missed. This was my favourite audio book this year, the fact that it was free was just the cherry on top.

 

The Boys, Definitive Edition I - Garth Ennis 

 

Superheros are a bunch of arseholes, the government has a special group to watch over them and make sure they don't cross over too many lines.

This is so many things; offensive, rude, violent, sexist, crass but I still loved it!

 

Seed - Lisa Heathfield 

 

A cult community as seen through the innocent eyes of Pearl. When new members arrive her perspective starts to change. Wonderfully written, the author gives the main character an authentic voice but still manages to show readers the true nature of the community.

 

The Walls Around Us - Nova Ren Suma 

 

A story told from 2 perspectives; Violet, a spoiled ballerina and Amber, a young inmate in a juvenile detention centre. Their story revolves around Ori, a friend of Violets who is sent to Amber's detention centre after an incident. Slowly unraveling story that makes you want to keep turning the pages, beautifully written and heartbreaking.

 

By Brian K. Vaughan Saga Deluxe Edition Volume 1 HC (De Luxe edition) [Hardcover] - Brian K. Vaughan 

 

Wonderfully diverse tale of forbidden love, families, intergalactic war and it has some amazing art to go along with it.

 

 

There you go, another year down and the start of another.

Wishing all my BL friends a great 2016.

 

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url 2015-12-16 17:40
My Epic Reads Book Shimmy Awards Nominations

Hello! Did you know that the nominations for the Epic Reads Book Shimmy Awards are happening NOW until this Friday, December 18th? Normally, I must admit, I don't pay much attention to book awards and lists (aside from Printz/NBA/Morris), but the Book Shimmy Awards are 100% determined by the community. We have agency in what we are going to be voting for, and I hope that you'll join me in nominating your favorites! (I hope that we have some common favorites as well...)

 
My goal in this was to nominate every one of my favorite books published in 2015 at least once. Unfortunately, I couldn't, but I tried my best, and even if I liked some books more than others, I didn't want to nominate something more than once. So, here we go!
 
 
Best of Shelf
Award given to the best overall book published in 2015.

 
The Winner's Crime by Marie Rutkoski. This was a really hard book to choose. BEST OVERALL BOOK??! I don't about you, but I like books for very different reasons. Some have excellent romances. Some have beautiful prose. Some have action-packed plots. Maybe I was influenced bythe recently released excerpt of The Winner's Kiss, but the Winner's trilogy reminds me of Kristin Cashore's books, which definitely make my favorite books of all time list. Not one scene is ever unnecessary in The Winner's Trilogy. Masterful plotting, masterful characterization... and how many times have I paused, wondering whether Kestrel and Arin will ever come to an accord of their own making? THAT EXCERPT! I reviewed The Winner's Crime, encouraged people to pre-order the novel, and basically said whenever I could how awesome the book is.

The Pagemaster
Award given to favorite YA author of the year. (Author must have published a book in 2015.)

Nova Ren Suma. At first, I was going to nominate Samantha Shannon, but her books aren't technically considered YA. And then I looked at my list, saw The Walls Around Us and remembered a blog post I'd read from Nova Ren Suma about the surprises she'd had as an author. As someone who is trying to navigate different careers and expectations of life, I really resonated with that post. Nova's dedication in the Walls Around Us is also perfect for the YA community. She seems like an incredibly sweet author, and The Walls Around Us, as I said in my review andanother post, is like a tribute to girls in all our complexity. Yes to Nova Ren Suma.

New Kid of the Shelf
Award for best debut YA author of 2015.

Made You Up by Francesca Zappia. In some sense, this isn't fair of me because Chessie and I are good friends, but I really did enjoy Made You Up. I interviewed Chessie on this blog when her deal had recently been announced and when her book was soon to be released. I reviewed Made You Up and encouraged you all to pre-order the book when you could, because it was one of theawesome 2015 books that I'd read. I gave away an annotated ARC of Made You Up. There are only so many ways that someone can say this is an amazing debut novel and Francesca Zappia is an amazing author to watch.

Cover Lust Award
Award given to the YA book with the most gorgeous cover design.

Made You Up by Francesca Zappia. Made You Up has made Bustle's list for best YA book coversas well as the beautiful covers list from Epic Reads and some categories in the viewer-votedYoung Adult Book Cover Awards. It's actually a cover that also represents aspects of the book well. If I'm not mistaken, the eyes of a pivotal character in the book are described as something like, taking a bunch of blue crayons and melting them together. The umbrella is a great representation of the main character trying to shield herself from things beyond her control. Plus, the emphasis on her red hair, which plays its own role, and the fact that she's illustrated allows you to picture her however you want. Win, Greenwillow Designer. Win.

We Need Diverse Books Award
Award given to the best YA book of 2015 that explores the diverse experiences, including (but not limited to) LGBTQIA, people of color, gender diversity, people with disabilities, and ethnic, cultural, and religious minorities.

Serpentine by Cindy Pon. The interesting thing is, when I saw this award, my first thought was towards the excellent selection of diverse contemporary novels that I'd read, like Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed. But contemporary generally seems to be where most diverse novels are; fantasy has a serious problem when it comes to including diversity because of some fallacious arguments. I enjoyed and reviewed Serpentine, and included Skybright in various lists about brave heroines. At its core, Serpentine is discussing what it means to be Other; with our patriarchal society marginalizing the voices of those who fit the aforementioned diverse label, well, Serpentine also seemed perfect for this category. Plus, y'know, the exploration of Chinese folklore, and a non Western-centric fantasy: that definitely fits the We Need Diverse Books Award criteria, no?

The Mental Health Matters Award
Award for the best book that shines a light on mental health.

Delicate Monsters by Stephanie Kuehn. I considered adding Made You Up here as well, but I know that Francesca Zappia is planning on releasing books not focused on mental health, whereas all of Stephanie Kuehn's novels thus far have been about exploring mental health issues. I've reviewed and enjoyed Delicate Monsters, Complicit, and Charm and Strange. Basically, Stephanie Kuehn is a wordsmith, a masterful plotter exploring the complexities of the human mind, and I can't wait to see what she produces next. (The Smaller Evil looks so good!).

The Here and Now Award
Award for the best contemporary YA novel.

Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli. Undoubtedly, you've already heard of the awesomeness that is Simon Versus the Homo Sapiens Agenda; it was on the National Book Award longlist and has been making the rounds across various YA best-of lists. I reviewed Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda and encouraged people to pre-order the book. Simon was also recently optioned for a book to movie adaptation. Simon is a great YA contemporary, and I can't wait for more from Becky Albertalli.

The Reality Bites Award
Award for the best fantasy / sci-fi YA novel published in 2015.

Bone Gap by Laura Ruby. This made me feel a little strange because I consider Bone Gap to be more like "magical realism" than SFF, but if there's no magical realism category, sure, Bone Gap, I'll mention you here. I can undoubtedly say that Bone Gap is one of the most unique YA books that I've read, which is probably why it was a National Book Award finalist and has been making the rounds across various YA best-of lists. I love Laura Ruby's writing style; I love her willingness to try something completely different; I love her exploration of perception and beauty. Laura Ruby really does a wonderful job developing the setting and making the people of Bone Gap feel unique to Bone Gap (but also familiar to us). 100% recommended.

Hot Under the Cover
Award for the best romance YA novel. (This also known as the Theo James Award for sexiest novel.)

Dumplin' by Julie Murphy. Well, this category was a little strange for me because none of my favorite YA novels are romance novels. They're romantic; the romance is frequently a side plot connected into the coming-of-age. But, ultimately, I still decided to nominate Dumplin'. I enjoyed and reviewed Dumplin', and discussed why people ought to anticipate its release. Willowdean made my list of favorite YA heroines, and I discussed more of the awesomeness of Dumplin' in aCinderella Book tag. I chose to nominate Dumplin' for romance because of all that and more. Julie Murphy has been getting reader emails suggesting that the romance is wish fulfillment because Willowdean is fat. No, ladies. Let's not play into this harmful societal narrative that fat girls deserve less. I enjoyed the romance in Dumplin', and my nominating Dumplin' for this category is also a statement against those reader emails.

World Series Champ
Award for your favorite new, on-going or series that ended in 2015!

Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman. I was considering nominating The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon (book 2 of The Bone Season, which I loved and have encouraged people to read), but it's technically considered adult and ineligible for the Book Shimmy Awards. I enjoyed and reviewed Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman; Seraphina is one of my favorite YA heroines. It's a shame that this inventive dragon duology has ended, but hopefully there will be more Rachel Hartman books to come!

The Blast from the Past Award
Award given to the best historical fiction book published in 2015.

Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson. It was pretty awkward realizing that I hadn't read much historical YA this year; I had planned to read Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee but... haven't yet. Still, Walk on Earth a Stranger fits; its historical, Oregon-trail quest-like elements are more prominent than the fantastical gold hunting magic. Lee/Leah was one of my favorite YA heroines. Walk on Earth made my Cinderella Book Tag list, and I told people to anticipate its release. Of course, I also reviewed Walk on Earth a Stranger. Walk on Earth a Stranger was a great introduction to the Gold Seer trilogy, and I'm looking forward to more from Rae Carson.

The Retelling Award
Award for the best YA retelling published in 2015.

A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston. I considered nominating Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge -- I've loved every one of her dark spins on fairy tales, including her short stories and novellas, and I reviewed Crimson Bound, encouraged people to pre-order the awesome book -- but ultimately I want there to be more Middle Eastern books that actually feel Middle Eastern in the way that A Thousand Nights does. I also considered nominated Uprooted by Naomi Novik, which I reviewed here, but it's technically not a YA book (it's like Red Rising, both published by Del Rey as adult fiction but both frequently making YA book lists, which the publisher isn't going to complain about because it wants the crossover crowds). I reviewed A Thousand Nightsand have sung its praises whenever I could, including discussing my love for the main character. As someone with Middle Eastern heritage, I felt that A Thousand Nights was authentic. The atmosphere was wonderful. ATN is an epic fantasy that should not be missed.

The Most Anticipated Award
Award for the book you are most excited to read that publishes in 2016.

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi. I have a list of 2016 books and 2016 debuts that I need to write up, but I haven't done so yet. The Star-Touched Queen was "pitched as a Hades and Persephone-style romance infused with Indian mythology, about an unlikely princess who must overcome her sinister horoscope and embarks on a quest to unravel her true identity and find the one she loves." A.) We don't have enough YA fantasy that's actually diverse, and very little YA fantasy that aren't Western or European centric. B.) Indian mythology! C.) I don't even like Hades and Persephone that much, but I read The Star Maiden by Roshani Chokshi and her writing IS GORGEOUS. YES PLEASE to this book.

Book Nerd of the Year
Award given to your favorite contributer to the YA community. Nominate your favorite YA book blogger, vlogger, podcaster, Instagramer, Tumblr-er, ect. (Please list their handle and which platform! Example = @EpicReads on Instagram)

Ameriie at the booktube channel, Books Beauty Ameriie. If you're reading this, you might feel offended that I didn't nominate you. I can guarantee you that I considered you, especially if we're (close) friends. But unlike most of you, I've hung out with Ameriie in person several times, and we've been friends for over three years, so I know her book nerd ways intimately. This girl, when we first hung out, I can still remember feeling nervous in the way that you always are when you're hanging out with someone for the first time, but she made our interaction comfortable with her book nerd ways. Sniffing all those books, discussing our favorites, always driving to bookstores at the end of one of our writing days spent together... I mean, even if you forgo my personal experiences with Ameriie, all you need to do is check out her channel and here's a particular book nerd video: How She Reads. If you aren't one of her subscribers yet, you're seriously missing out on a wonderful perspective on both YA and adult books.

Books I almost nominated...

Those were my Book Shimmy Award nominations! Do we have any in common? What have you decided to nominate for each category?
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review 2015-09-26 17:58
The Walls Around Us - Nova Ren Suma

So I read that last couple of chapters four or five times, because what the fucking what!?

 

 

Two stories:
A ballerina who is on a meteoric rise towards whatever it is that she dreams.  A princess whose best friend was sent to prison and died three years ago.

 

An innocent (?) girl in prison for the murder of her stepfather.  A bookworm delinquent whose family doesn't even visit her for all the years she's been incarcerated.

 

How are these two girls connected?  How is justice truly delivered and what does justice actually mean?  And who is responsible for a tragedy that took the life of 41 teenagers?

 

Holy fucking shit, you guys.  Read this book.  I absolutely adored it.  Putting it down was not an option.  I was walking around the airport, ignoring my inlaws with my nose still firmly planted in this mess of human emotion, error, and twisted beautiful gory justice.

 

There was just so much done right in this book.  I can't even give a coherent review without giving you massive spoilers.  So I'll leave this.  Read it.  Just do it.

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