Google+ YA Romantics: May 2017

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Just Finished Reading: Royal Bastards

Royal Bastards
by Andrew Shvarts

Published on May 30, 2017
by Disney-Hyperion

Source: ARC for review from publisher

Synopsis from Goodreads: Being a bastard blows. At sixteen, Tilla spends her days exploring long-forgotten tunnels beneath the castle with her stablehand half brother, Jax, and her nights drinking with the servants, passing out on Jax’s floor while her castle bedroom collects dust. Tilla secretly longs to sit by her father’s side, resplendent in a sparkling gown, enjoying feasts with the rest of the family. Instead, she sits with the other bastards, like Miles of House Hampstedt, an awkward scholar who’s been in love with Tilla since they were children. Then, at a feast honoring the visiting princess Lyriana, the royal shocks everyone by choosing to sit at the Bastards’ Table. Before she knows it, Tilla is leading the sheltered princess on a late-night escapade. Along with Jax, Miles, and fellow bastard Zell, a Zitochi warrior from the north, they stumble upon a crime they were never meant to witness. Rebellion is brewing in the west, and a brutal coup leaves Lyriana’s uncle, the Royal Archmagus, dead—with Lyriana next on the list. The group flees for their lives, relentlessly pursued by murderous mercenaries; their own parents have put a price on their heads to prevent the king and his powerful Royal Mages from discovering their treachery. The bastards band together, realizing they alone have the power to prevent a civil war that will tear their kingdom apart—if they can warn the king in time. And if they can survive the journey...
My take: Royal Bastards was an engaging, fast-paced light fantasy. I did love the concept - a bunch of semi-outcast kids with one noble parent banding together - and some aspects of the story, but there were a few things that kept me from completely loving this book.

The world-building was good if familiar - a bunch of kingdoms existing not-so-peacefully with one another. There was political rivalry and also some paranormal elements.

There was a lot of action - an assassination during a banquet for a visiting princess sets this band of royal misfits on the run, princess in tow. After that, they stay on the lam, racing from danger to danger. There's a bunch of fighting scenes if that's your thing. There was swearing (though all the "oh, shit" struck me as weirdly modern) and fade-to-black sex but for some reason the overall tone of this still felt like younger YA to me.

I definitely could have used more character development. The whole outcast/bastard thing was a good start on making the characters sympathetic, but I didn't get much of a sense of each one besides their initial characterization (Tilla = spunky, Miles = nerdy, Jax = loyal, Zell = fierce, Lyriana = earnest). They grow closer as they flee, and their loyalty to each other grows as well, but I didn't feel I got to know each one much better from the start of the story to the end. The story is told solely from Tilla's POV, so maybe that was part of it.

There was (sort-of) romance, but to me it felt like it came out of nowhere. Every so often a character would say that they LOVED another character and I'd be like -- huhhh? Again, maybe it was the single POV but I felt the emotional aspect of the story needed some strengthening. Or the love signals were a few bars short and my emotional wi-fi wasn't picking them up.

Overall, an entertaining book but one that (for me) could have used more depth. If you enjoy light fantasy with a lot of action, be sure to check it out!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Hot Off the Presses: New YA Releasing May 30-June 5

Hot Off the Presses -- brand new YA releases!

Welcome to Hot Off the Presses!  

Tuesday is book release day, so every Tuesday I tell you about all the great new YA books you can buy in the week to come.

LAST CHANCE to enter the May giveaway! Each month's winner can pick any book up to $15 on either Amazon (for US winner) or The Book Depository (for international winner.)

Hot Off the Presses aims to include every traditionally published YA book. Please let me know about books that came out this week that I might have missed!Some titles may have different release dates outside the US.

When Dimple Met Rishi One of Us is Lying When It's Real
When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon (Simon)
One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus (Delacorte)
When It's Real by Erin Watt (Harlequin)

Eliza and Her Monsters I Believe in a Thing Called Love Romancing the Throne
Eliza and her Monsters by Francesca Zappia (Harper)
I Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo (FSG)
Romancing the Throne by Nadine Jolie Courtney (Katherine Tegen)

Songs About a Girl Night Magic House of Furies
Songs About a Girl by Chris Russell (Flatiron)
Night Magic (Nightstruck #2) by Jenna Black (Tor)
House of Furies by Madeleine Roux (Harper)

Crossing Ebenezer Creek Dark Breaks the Dawn Kale, My Ex and Other Things to Toss in a Blender
Crossing Ebenezer Creek by Tonya Bolden (Bloomsbury)
Dark Breaks Dawn by Sara B. Larson (Scholastic)
Kale, My Ex and Other Things to Toss in a Blender by Lisa Greenwald (Random House)

Monstrous No Good Deed Washed Ashore Juniper Lemon's Happiness Index
Monstrous (Savage #2) by Thomas F. Sniegoski (Simon)
No Good Deed by Goldy Moldavsky (Scholastic)
Washed Ashore by Kerr Thomson (Chicken House)
Juniper Lemon's Happiness Index by Julie Israel (Kathy Dawson)

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Monday, May 29, 2017

Just Finished Reading ... Romancing the Throne by Nadine Jolie Courtney

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Romancing the Throne
by Nadine Jolie Courtney

To be published
on May 30, 2017
by Katherine Tegen Books

Synopsis from Goodreads: For the first time ever, the Weston sisters are at the same boarding school. After an administration scandal at Libby’s all-girls school threatens her chances at a top university, she decides to join Charlotte at posh and picturesque Sussex Park. Social-climbing Charlotte considers it her sisterly duty to bring Libby into her circle: Britain’s young elites, glamorous teens who vacation in Hong Kong and the South of France and are just as comfortable at a polo match as they are at a party. It’s a social circle that just so happens to include handsome seventeen-year-old Prince Edward, heir to Britain’s throne. If there are any rules of sisterhood, “Don’t fall for the same guy” should be one of them. But sometimes chemistry—even love—grows where you least expect it. In the end, there may be a price to pay for romancing the throne...and more than one path to happily ever after.
My take:  As a huge Anglophile, I really enjoyed this story about two sisters who each date the future king of England at boarding school. (Yes, I guess this is technically a triangle, but the prince's relationship with one sister ends before he takes up with the other.)

Charlotte's the younger sister. She's outgoing and obsessed with fashion, make-up, and her phone. Older sister Libby is shyer and more serious. Edward, who is about to take up official duties as a royal, has the weight of the world on his shoulders. (Can you see where this is going? I thought so.) The two girls are close ... until they have a huge row over Edward. They're also commoners, the daughters of an upper-upper-middle-class shoe entrepreneur. Are you getting a Middleton vibe here? Jolly clever of you to figure that out!

For me, this was a fun, fluffy read. I love boarding school stories and sister stories and am mourning the (probable) end of Ladies of London.

Fans of all things British and royal should check this one out. Triangle-haters may want to proceed with caution. While two sisters dating the same guy is a little weird, I really didn't find that a sticking point. I mean, it happens with brothers in YA all the time: The Summer I Turned Pretty series, the Shatter Me series, the Vampire Diaries series...

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Just Finished Reading: The Go-Between

The Go-Between
by Veronica Chambers

Published on May 9, 2017
by Delacorte

Synopsis from Goodreads: She is the envy of every teenage girl in Mexico City. Her mother is a glamorous telenovela actress. Her father is the go-to voice-over talent for blockbuster films. Hers is a world of private planes, chauffeurs, paparazzi and gossip columnists. Meet Camilla del Valle Cammi to those who know her best. When Cammi s mom gets cast in an American television show and the family moves to LA, things change, and quickly. Her mom s first role is playing a not-so-glamorous maid in a sitcom. Her dad tries to find work but dreams about returning to Mexico. And at the posh, private Polestar Academy, Cammi s new friends assume she s a scholarship kid, the daughter of a domestic. At first Cammi thinks playing along with the stereotypes will be her way of teaching her new friends a lesson. But the more she lies, the more she wonders: Is she only fooling herself?
My take: Overall, The Go-Between is an entertaining story about a girl pretending to be someone she's not. Camilla is the daughter of a famous Mexican telenovela actress - her mom is the beloved star of Mundos sin Fronteras. So she hangs with the #RKOMC (Rich Kids of Mexico City), though she doesn't really feel like she fits in. When her mom gets hired to shoot a pilot in Los Angeles, Cammie's plunked down into a completely new environment, a private school where everyone assumes she's a scholarship kid, the daughter of a domestic worker. When her secret is finally exposed, she's hoping to have taught her new friends something about making assumptions. Instead, they're all mad at her - her rich friends feel manipulated, and an East LA student Cammie has been trying to befriend is furious that Came has been playing at being poor.

What I liked: I was interested to read a YA contemporary that explores the intersections of ethnicity and social class. Watching Cammie navigate her new environment was fascinating and fun - in Mexico she knew she was super-privileged, but in the U.S. she wasn't sure where she fit in and was fascinated at the way people made assumptions about her. The writing was lively and the book included a lot of cool information about Mexico City and Mexican history, architecture, and food.

On the less positive side, there was something about the narration that was distancing. YA writing is usually not like that - in fact, I'd argue that YA writing is all about creating a tight bond between narrator and reader. From the author's bio, I can see that her prior publications were mostly memoirs, which made a lot of sense to me. This book did read a bit like a memoir -- I was always aware that I was being told a story. I'm not one of those people who thinks "telling" in a story is a mortal sin, but this story did feel told and not shown. The plot also felt a little like a sitcom - comic, with a problem that is set up and then quickly and easily resolved - but maybe that was deliberate.

That said, The Go-Between made me laugh and made me think. It's an entertaining read that isn't the typical YA contemporary.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Just Finished Reading: One of Us is Lying

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One of Us is Lying
by Karen McManus

To be published
on May 30, 2017
by Delacorte

Source: e-ARC for review from the publisher

Synopsis from Goodreads: On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention. Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule. Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess. Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing. Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher. And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app. Only Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention Simon's dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose? Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them. 
My take:  I love mysteries, and thought One of Us Is Lying presented a fun locked room inspired puzzle. Five high school students are tricked into thinking they have afterschool detention. All five show up at the assigned detention room, full of questions. Before long, one of the five is dead. As questions swirl, they start banding together to try to figure out what happened and who was responsible for the murder. As the victim was a dirt-digging student blogger who knew secrets about each one of them, they all theoretically had a motive.

I had two theories about the killer, and one of them was correct. It was an ending I'd seen before,  but I still found this an enjoyable and suspenseful read. I also liked the fact that none of the characters was quite what he or she seemed to be at the outset. As each character confronts the secret that the murder victim knew, he or she has to do some serious soul-searching about what will happen when the secret comes out.

This is a fun summer read, perfect for your beach or pool or airplane tote!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Just Finished Reading: Perfect Ten by L. Philips

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Perfect Ten
by L. Philips

To be published on June 6, 2017
by Viking

Source: ARC for review
Synopsis from Goodreads: It’s been two years since Sam broke up with the only other eligible gay guy in his high school, so to say he’s been going through a romantic drought is the understatement of the decade. But when Meg, his ex-Catholic-turned-Wiccan best friend, suggests performing a love spell, Sam is just desperate enough to try. He crafts a list of ten traits he wants in a boyfriend and burns it in a cemetery at midnight on Friday the 13th. Enter three seemingly perfect guys, all in pursuit of Sam. There’s Gus, the suave French exchange student; Jamie, the sweet and shy artist; and Travis, the guitar-playing tattooed enigma. Even Sam’s ex-boyfriend Landon might want another chance. But does a Perfect Ten even exist? Find out in this delectable coming-of-age romcom with just a touch of magic. 
My take: I do love me a good rom-com, and while I don't love magical realism in literary fiction, I'm not above enjoying a sprinkling of magic in a love story.

So... Perfect Ten is  cute story about a high school guy trying to find love. Sam is moping after a disastrous breakup (it's so bad that he speaks of himself in the third person, getting me confused). So he convinces his best friend to perform a Wiccan love spell for him, in which he makes a Top Ten list of what he wants in a guy.

Bam! His wish gets granted and then some. It's raining men!!!  Is Sam in lust with a cute French foreign exchange student? That hot musician? The shy artist? Or is he still in love with his ex??

Okay, so I was voting against the French foreign exchange student. I love accents of all kinds, but the book had this poor guy speaking like "zis all ze time. " For me: ze nails on ze chalkboard! I had my fave picked out from the guys and (yay!) my pick won out.

Perfect Ten is all romance drama, so don't go in expecting something deep. It's a fun summer read, though!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Hot Off the Presses: New YA Releasing May 23-29

Hot Off the Presses -- brand new YA releases!

Welcome to Hot Off the Presses!  

Tuesday is book release day, so every Tuesday I tell you about all the great new YA books you can buy in the week to come.

LAST CHANCE to enter the May giveaway! Each month's winner can pick any book up to $15 on either Amazon (for US winner) or The Book Depository (for international winner.)

Hot Off the Presses aims to include every traditionally published YA book. Please let me know about books that came out this week that I might have missed! Some titles may have different release dates outside the US.

Light week this week - time to catch up on your spring reading!

Dove Alight In a Perfect World Refuge for Masterminds
Dove Alight (Dove Chronicles #3) by Karen Bao (Viking)
In a Perfect World by Trish Doller (Simon)
Refuge for Masterminds (Stranje House #3) by Kathleen Baldwin (Tor)

Lord of Shadows Crazy House The Fashion Committee The Gauntlet
Lord of Shadows (Dark Artifices #2) by Cassandra Clare (Margaret McElderry)
Crazy House by James Patterson and Gabrielle Charbonnet (Hachette)
The Fashion Committee by Susan Juby (Viking)
The Gauntlet (The Cage #3) by Megan Shepard (Harper)

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Monday, May 22, 2017

Just Finished Reading: Words in Deep Blue

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Words in Deep Blue
by Cath Crowley

To be published on June 6, 2017
by Knopf

Source: eARC for review from publisher
Synopsis from Goodreads: Years ago, Rachel had a crush on Henry Jones. The day before she moved away, she tucked a love letter into his favorite book in his family’s bookshop. She waited. But Henry never came.  Now Rachel has returned to the city—and to the bookshop—to work alongside the boy she’d rather not see, if at all possible, for the rest of her life. But Rachel needs the distraction. Her brother drowned months ago, and she can’t feel anything anymore. As Henry and Rachel work side by side—surrounded by books, watching love stories unfold, exchanging letters between the pages—they find hope in each other. Because life may be uncontrollable, even unbearable sometimes. But it’s possible that words, and love, and second chances are enough.
My take: Words in Deep Blue was an amazing book. I've been a huge Cath Crowley fan since Graffiti Moon. I love the realistic way she writes characters and relationships. I love the beauty she weaves into her books, whether that beauty is street graffiti or a shelf of books or the darkest depths of the ocean.

This isn't a sunbeams-and-rainbows kind of book, but I did find it poignant and hopeful. It's a grief book and a second-chance-at-love book. It weaves all sorts of themes and subplots together in a seamless way -- family relationships, first love, grief and heartbreak, letters, books and reading.

There is a secret-keeping aspect of the book, and that is never my favorite trope. It didn't bother me as much as it has in other books, though I still wished the character had opened up sooner. And there's a sort-of triangle-y situation, but strangely it actually didn't feel that triangle-y to me. I think that's because Cath Crowley sprinkles magic in her pages!

Fun fact: Crowley's publisher has created a Virtual Letter Library on tumblr that was inspired by this book, so be sure to check it out!

If you haven't read a book by this author, you're seriously missing out! Try this, or try Graffiti Moon. I'm reading A Little Wanting Song soon - it's been stacked under my nightstand for ages!

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Friday, May 19, 2017

Freebie Friday: The Fashion Committee

Happy Friday!

Today I'm giving away a finished copy of The Fashion Committee!  (I'll be on the blog tour later this month with another giveaway and a fashion quiz!)

Since this is a hardcover, the giveaway is US only.

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Thursday, May 18, 2017

#ReadaDessen What Happened to Goodbye

What Happened to Goodbye?
by Sarah Dessen

Published on May 11, 2011
by Viking

Source: library

Synopsis from Goodreads: Since her parents' bitter divorce, McLean and her dad, a restaurant consultant, have been on the move - four towns in two years. Estranged from her mother and her mother's new family, McLean has followed her dad in leaving the unhappy past behind. And each new place gives her a chance to try out a new persona: from cheerleader to drama diva. But now, for the first time, McLean discovers a desire to stay in one place and just be herself, whoever that is. Perhaps Dave, the guy next door, can help her find out. 
My take: I started blogging the fall this book came out, and am pretty sure I read it that year. To be honest, this wasn't one of my favorite Dessen books. My re-read made me appreciate it a little more, but I still feel like it's a bit flatter and less compelling than some of her other books.

Mclean is a child of divorce. I've never experienced divorce personally, so I'm not an expert, but I thought this book did present a good picture of what it's like to grow up in a family where you have to take sides. Mclean lives with her father, a former chef and now a restaurant consultant who moves around a lot, improving one restaurant at a time. As a result, Mclean doesn't make lasting friends, and has even created a temporary, disposable persona for each new school. But for some reason, she isn't able to do that in Colby. She gets attached to the town, her school, her new friends, and the boy next door.

Dessen books are heavily thematic, something I usually like, but the themes in this felt a little strained to me. There's the (obvious) parallel between Mclean's father's work in making over restaurants and Mclean's making over herself. But then there's an odd subplot about a miniature model of Colby that has to be assembled above the restaurant. There's also a sports theme, as Mclean is named after a legendary local basketball coach, a man who was replaced after retirement by Mclean's stepfather. Maybe there's some connection there I'm missing? Teamwork?

I did like the great crossover appearances in this book. My favorite -- and I only caught this because of my complete Dessen re-read -- was the appearance of Macy's brainiac boyfriend Jason in this book as a minor character. In The Truth About Forever, Jason is an overachieving high school student, while by this book, he's dropped out of Harvard and is working as a prep cook at the restaurant that Mclean's father is remaking. Auden's stepmother Heidi also makes a brief appearance as a friend of Mclean's mom.

This post is not officially part of #ReadaDessen, but be sure to enter to win the Penguin contest for a full set of Dessen books here!

The last Dessen that I'm covering as part of this series is The Moon and Morewhich I reviewed a couple years ago. You can read my review here!, which I reviewed a couple years ago. You can read my review here!

Hope you've enjoyed this Dessen-tastic journey with me!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

#ReadaDessen Along for the Ride

Along for the Ride
by Sarah Dessen

Originally published on June 16, 2009
by Viking

Source: library

Synopsis from Goodreads: It’s been so long since Auden slept at night. Ever since her parents’ divorce—or since the fighting started. Now she has the chance to spend a carefree summer with her dad and his new family in the charming beach town where they live. A job in a clothes boutique introduces Auden to the world of girls: their talk, their friendship, their crushes. She missed out on all that, too busy being the perfect daughter to her demanding mother. Then she meets Eli, an intriguing loner and a fellow insomniac who becomes her guide to the nocturnal world of the town. Together they embark on parallel quests: for Auden, to experience the carefree teenage life she’s been denied; for Eli, to come to terms with the guilt he feels for the death of a friend.
My take: Yay, we are back in Colby again. This is Dessen's second book set there, and I was glad to be back. Along for the Ride has some new themes and re-visits some old ones. Narrator Auden is an older sister for a change, as her dad and his new wife have just had a baby. When Auden is invited by them to spend the last summer before college at the beach, she decides to leave her somewhat overbearing mother and try something new.

Other themes of the book are that people are sometimes different from the way we hastily judge them, and that everyone deserves a second chance. Auden's very disappointed that her perpetually distracted and often narcissistic father is the same kind of father to baby Thisbe that he was to her. And, after a hookup with a guy she's just met on the beach, she finds herself harshly received by the local Colby girls. Plagued by insomnia, Auden begins to wander the town at night, where she meets Eli, a fellow insomniac (and -- awkward! -- the brother of her hookup.)

More crossover appearances: a visit from Isabel and Morgan from Keeping the Moon, a brief mention of Nate Cross from Lock and Key, and -- I never would have caught this if I hadn't read all these back-to-back -- a snort-inducing cameo by Jason, Macy's ex-boyfriend from The Truth About Forever. Talk about narcissists!

This book had a leisurely pace that perhaps befit a sojourn at the beach, but overall I enjoyed my second trip to Colby!

This post is not officially part of #ReadaDessen, but be sure to enter to win the Penguin contest for a full set of Dessen books here!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Hot Off the Presses: New YA Releasing May 16-22

Hot Off the Presses -- brand new YA releases!

Welcome to Hot Off the Presses!  

Tuesday is book release day, so every Tuesday I tell you about all the great new YA books you can buy in the week to come.

Enter the May giveaway! Each month's winner can pick any book up to $15 on either Amazon (for US winner) or The Book Depository (for international winner.)

Hot Off the Presses aims to include every traditionally published YA book. Please let me know about books that came out this week that I might have missed! Some titles may have different release dates outside the US.

Flame in the Mist Crown's Fate Names They Gave Us Best Kind of Magic
The Flame and the Mist by Renee Ahdieh (Putnam)
The Crown's Fate (The Crown's Game #2) by Evelyn Skye (Balzer + Bray)
The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord (Bloomsbury)
The Best Kind of Magic by Crystal Cestari (Disney)

#Antisocial Love Interest Violet Grenade
Antisocial by Jillian Blake (Delacorte)
The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich (Fewer and Friends)
Violet Grenade by Victoria Scott (Entangled)

Thick as Thieves Grit Grace and the Fever
Thick as Thieves (The Queen's Thief #5) by Megan Whelan Turner (Greenwillow)
Grit by Gillian French (Harper)
Grace and the Fever by Zan Romanoff (Knopf)

Riptide Summer Crying Rocks Seeking Mansfield
Riptide Summer (Honey Girl #2) by Lisa Freeman (Sky Pony)
The Crying Rocks by Janet Taylor Lisle (Atheneum)
Seeking Mansfield by Kate Watson (Flux)

Truth About Happily Ever After Seeker Rough Patch
The Truth About Happily Ever After by Karole Cozzo (Swoon)
Seeker (Riders #2) by Veronica Rossi (Tor)
Rough Patch by Nicole Markotic (Arsenal Pulp)

A Million Junes My Fairy Godmother is a Drag Queen No Second Chances
A Million Junes by Emily Henry (Razorbill)
My Fairy Godmother is a Drag Queen by David Clawson (Sky Pony)
No Second Chances by Kate Evangelista (Swoon)

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