One of the coolest things about being a book blogger – even a little one like me – is the opportunity to get great ARCs. Not all of them are golden, don’t get me wrong. I’m one of those spontaneous bloggers who has requested several books on instinct only to wish I hadn’t. I’ve has some doozies.
But, on the other hand, I’ve also gotten lucky here and there, and I’ve been fortunate enough to get to read some really awesome books early and promote them on the blog and elsewhere on the interwebs. Thank you so much to NetGalley and LibraryThing Early Reviewers and the authors/publishing houses/everyone for these gems.
Here are just a few that I loved and definitely recommend to everyone.
#5. Love, Hate, & Other Filers by Samira Ahmed
Love, Hate, & Other Filters
by Samira AhmedPublisher: Hot Key Books on January 16, 2018
Genre: #OwnVoices, Contemporary, Romance
Check out this book on Goodreads
A searing #OwnVoices coming-of-age debut in which an Indian-American Muslim teen confronts Islamophobia and a reality she can neither explain nor escape--perfect for fans of Angie Thomas, Jacqueline Woodson, and Adam Silvera.
Maya Aziz is torn between futures: the one her parents expect for their good Indian daughter (i.e.; staying nearby in Chicago and being matched with a "suitable" Muslim boy), and the one where she goes to film school in New York City--and maybe, just maybe, kisses a guy she's only known from afar. There's the also the fun stuff, like laughing with her best friend Violet, making on-the-spot documentaries, sneaking away for private swimming lessons at a secret pond in the woods. But her world is shattered when a suicide bomber strikes in the American heartland; by chance, he shares Maya's last name. What happens to the one Muslim family in town when their community is suddenly consumed with hatred and fear?
I was so so so pumped for this book, because I’d never really read a book that had a Muslim protagonist, which in and of itself is sad. It got a lot of buzz when it was first announced, and unfortunately it seemed to sizzle out after publication. But it shouldn’t have, because it was wonderful. Some of my favorite parts:
- Maya. She’s an incredibly likable character, and I took to her immediately. Her life may not be quite so structured as some people would have preferred in Muslim rep, but I still thing she was a strong characters.
- There’s both Muslim rep and Indian rep. Regardless of whether or not it reflects your individual experience, you have to respect that YA is bringing in different cultures and religious backgrounds. This is still a new thing in YA lit, and it’s important to support these authors so we keep seeing more and more variety!
- The best friend dynamic is strong in this one. I’m one of those girls who doesn’t have the best history with female friends, partially because American culture pits us against one another and that’s how I grew up. As such, I very much appreciate healthy, wonderful female friendships in books, and Violet and Maya are great.
#4. Echo After Echo by Amy Rose Cappetta
Echo After EchoCandlewick Press on October 10, 2017
Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQ+
Check out this book on Goodreads
Debuting on the New York stage, Zara is unprepared—for Eli, the girl who makes the world glow; for Leopold, the director who wants perfection; and for death in the theater.
Zara Evans has come to the Aurelia Theater, home to the visionary director Leopold Henneman, to play her dream role in Echo and Ariston, the Greek tragedy that taught her everything she knows about love. When the director asks Zara to promise that she will have no outside commitments, no distractions, it’s easy to say yes. But it’s hard not to be distracted when there’s a death at the theater—and then another—especially when Zara doesn’t know if they’re accidents, or murder, or a curse that always comes in threes. It’s hard not to be distracted when assistant lighting director Eli Vasquez, a girl made of tattoos and abrupt laughs and every form of light, looks at Zara. It’s hard not to fall in love. In heart-achingly beautiful prose, Amy Rose Capetta has spun a mystery and a love story into an impossible, inevitable whole—and cast lantern light on two girls, finding each other on a stage set for tragedy.
This one has flown hella under the radar and it’s too bad because this book was incredible. When I read the description on NetGalley, I requested this book so fast it’d make your head spin – and I’ve never read anything else by Amy Rose Cappetta and honestly had never heard of this book before perusing NetGalley last summer.
Therefore, it is my great pleasure to reintroduce you lovely folks to Echo After Echo and it’s wondrousness. Some items of note?
- All the rep! Our two main characters are a chubby Jewish girl who is discovering her sexuality, but is bi, and her friend/love interest who is Latina and also a lesbian and is just… wonderful? She’s wonderful. They’re both wonderful.
- Cappetta’s love of the theatre shines. If you’re a theatre kid, even to the smallest degree, you know what it feels like to be both on stage and backstage. You know the feeling of an empty theatre, the thrill of it. Cappetta gets all that absolutely right and it makes me want to act again.
- The characters surprised me. To some extent, this book was a little predictable in its direction, but the way the characters found strength in themselves to do what they needed to do made the emotion really raw and powerful.
#3. Ace of Shades by Amanda Foody
Ace of Shades
by Amanda FoodySeries: The Shadow Game #1
Publisher: Harlequin Teen on April 10, 2018
Genre: Crime, Fantasy
Check out this book on Goodreads
Welcome to the City of Sin, where casino families reign, gangs infest the streets… and secrets hide in every shadow.
Enne Salta was raised as a proper young lady, and no lady would willingly visit New Reynes, the so-called City of Sin. But when her mother goes missing, Enne must leave her finishing school—and her reputation—behind to follow her mother’s trail to the city where no one survives uncorrupted.
Frightened and alone, her only lead is a name: Levi Glaisyer. Unfortunately, Levi is not the gentleman she expected—he’s a street lord and a con man. Levi is also only one payment away from cleaning up a rapidly unraveling investment scam, so he doesn't have time to investigate a woman leading a dangerous double life. Enne's offer of compensation, however, could be the solution to all his problems.
Their search for clues leads them through glamorous casinos, illicit cabarets and into the clutches of a ruthless mafia donna. As Enne unearths an impossible secret about her past, Levi's enemies catch up to them, ensnaring him in a vicious execution game where the players always lose. To save him, Enne will need to surrender herself to the city…
And she’ll need to play.
I got really, really lucky on this one.
This book was hyped all over the book blogging community and I had put in on NetGalley and gotten rejected. But then things turned around for me in the Ace of Shades universe – Amanda and her team put together the Shadow Gang to promote the book, and I was chosen for Team Irons. I did an Ace of Shades themed post every week and got to see cool behind-the-scenes stuff with the other Shadow Gang folks. 🙂 It was a great experience, and if you get the opportunity to be on a promo team for a book you’re excited for, I recommend it.
And, lucky me, I won the ARC in one of Amanda’s raffle. Yay! Some reasons why it was a blast:
- Enne Salta is a different twist on a YA heroine. I loved her lipsticks-and-skirts attitude. Even when you know she’s going to be cutting a dangerous figure, she stays true to the things she likes and who she is. Enne is a breath of fresh air in the world of YA heroines.
- The minor characters in this book were awesome. I know I should be a bit more enamored with Enne and Levi, but honestly? Reymond, Jac, and Lola were my favorites. All interesting, spicy, standout characters. Loved them.
- Amanda Foody is undoubtedly a fantastic worldbuilder. In both Ace of Shades and Daughter of the Burning City, you’ve got to hand it to Amanda – her setting and atmosphere is vibrant and alive. It’s a pleasure to spend time in her worlds.
#2. Reign of the Fallen by Sarah Glenn Marsh
Reign of the FallenReign of the Fallen #1
Publisher: Razorbill on January 23, 2018
Genre: Fantasy, LGBTQ+, Magic, Mental Health, Necromancers
Check out this book on Goodreads
Odessa is one of Karthia's master necromancers, catering to the kingdom's ruling Dead. Whenever a noble dies, it's Odessa's job to raise them by retrieving their souls from a dreamy and dangerous shadow world called the Deadlands. But there is a cost to being raised--the Dead must remain shrouded, or risk transforming into zombie-like monsters known as Shades. If even a hint of flesh is exposed, the grotesque transformation will begin.
A dramatic uptick in Shade attacks raises suspicions and fears among Odessa's necromancer community. Soon a crushing loss of one of their own reveals a disturbing conspiracy: someone is intentionally creating Shades by tearing shrouds from the Dead--and training them to attack. Odessa is faced with a terrifying question: What if her necromancer's magic is the weapon that brings Karthia to its knees?
I’m crazy for a good necromancer story. I was dying for this book, had given up on it and already pre-ordered it, and I was granted an ARC from NetGalley only a couple weeks before publication. Yessss. To celebrate, I live-tweeted my read, which was super fun and I definitely recommend it. It was one of my most anticipated reads of 2018, so honestly, I couldn’t be happier.
So extra awesome things:
- The Summerlands. You don’t spend very much time in the Summerlands, but the time you do spend is rich and vibrant and magical in a sort of surreal and creepy way and it was totally great.
- The magic system. The magic system in this book was so completely up my alley, I thought it was great. It’s based on eye color, and there are varying levels of ability and acceptance of magic. The way Sarah brings it all to life is intriguing and captures the imagination.
- Rep, rep, rep! I will not stop loving books for good rep. There’s a lesbian couple and they are perfect, and there’s a lot of time seriously talking about depression and addiction which came completely unexpected for me, but I really liked it and thought it was amazingly done.
#1. Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman
Tess of the RoadRandom House on February 27, 2018
Genre: Dragons, Fantasy
Check out this book on Goodreads
Meet Tess, a brave new heroine from beloved epic fantasy author Rachel Hartman.
In the medieval kingdom of Goredd, women are expected to be ladies, men are their protectors, and dragons get to be whomever they want. Tess, stubbornly, is a troublemaker. You can’t make a scene at your sister’s wedding and break a relative’s nose with one punch (no matter how pompous he is) and not suffer the consequences. As her family plans to send her to a nunnery, Tess yanks on her boots and sets out on a journey across the Southlands, alone and pretending to be a boy.
Where Tess is headed is a mystery, even to her. So when she runs into an old friend, it’s a stroke of luck. This friend is a quigutl—a subspecies of dragon—who gives her both a purpose and protection on the road. But Tess is guarding a troubling secret. Her tumultuous past is a heavy burden to carry, and the memories she’s tried to forget threaten to expose her to the world in more ways than one.
Returning to the fascinating world she created in the award-winning and New York Times bestselling Seraphina, Rachel Hartman introduces readers to a new character and a new quest, pushing the boundaries of genre once again in this wholly original fantasy.
This book was, I swear, written for me.
Tess of the Road has had a decently mixed reception. It’s definitely not Seraphina, even if it’s in the same world. This book just came into my life when I needed to find myself in a book. And I found myself in Tess, to a large extent. I was excited for this book just because it was by Rachel Hartman – I did not expect for it to be so important to me.
Things I loved the most?
- The slow pace. This book is about growth and a journey. It’s an introspective conflict, which isn’t very common in YA right now, and I really related to it. I liked learning about Tess as she learned about herself, as she forgave herself, and as she found strength to move forward.
- It’s rich with mythology. Rachel Hartman has clearly lived in her world for a long time and has perfected every corner of it – and it shows here. Most the story is spent chasing a myth and in return you learn a lot about the culture of this world, which is totally my thing and I loved it.
- This book made me cry. A lot. It’s not my finest moment, but it’s because this book really pulled at my heartstrings. I almost never cry when reading books and I had all the feels for Tess and her situation and I wanted so very much for her to find peace. I was totally, completely, and utterly invested in this novel.
For the first time in a long time, I’m participating in Top 5 Tuesdays with Shanah @ Bionic Book Worm! This is an alternate meme to the long-running Top Ten Tuesday with a more tight-knit community and different prompts. Also Shanah is a delight, so check it out!