Top 5 October Releases

So many incredible books came out this month! Two of my favourite authors are listed below as well as three new-to-me authors who I’m sure will become new faves. Definitely add these titles to your TBR.

As always, I hope you buy or request these at your local library. If you’ve read any of these, don’t forget to leave a review on Amazon, Goodreads and other book retailer sites – long, short, positive, negative, it all counts. You can read more about this feature here.


33958230Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao

Philomel Books | October 10, 2017

Buy: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

Synopsis: 

An East Asian fantasy reimagining of The Evil Queen legend about one peasant girl’s quest to become Empress–and the darkness she must unleash to achieve her destiny.

Eighteen-year-old Xifeng is beautiful. The stars say she is destined for greatness, that she is meant to be Empress of Feng Lu. But only if she embraces the darkness within her. Growing up as a peasant in a forgotten village on the edge of the map, Xifeng longs to fulfill the destiny promised to her by her cruel aunt, the witch Guma, who has read the cards and seen glimmers of Xifeng’s majestic future. But is the price of the throne too high?

Because in order to achieve greatness, she must spurn the young man who loves her and exploit the callous magic that runs through her veins–sorcery fueled by eating the hearts of the recently killed. For the god who has sent her on this journey will not be satisfied until his power is absolute.


24974996Dear Martin by Nic Stone

Crown Books for Young Readers | October 17, 2017

Buy: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

Synopsis:

Raw, captivating, and undeniably real, Nic Stone joins industry giants Jason Reynolds and Walter Dean Myers as she boldly tackles American race relations in this stunning debut.

Justyce McAllister is top of his class and set for the Ivy League—but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. And despite leaving his rough neighborhood behind, he can’t escape the scorn of his former peers or the ridicule of his new classmates.

Justyce looks to the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for answers. But do they hold up anymore? He starts a journal to Dr. King to find out.

Then comes the day Justyce goes driving with his best friend, Manny, windows rolled down, music turned up—way up, sparking the fury of a white off-duty cop beside them. Words fly. Shots are fired. Justyce and Manny are caught in the crosshairs. In the media fallout, it’s Justyce who is under attack.


22552026Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books | October 24, 2017

Buy: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

Synopsis: 

A cannon. A strap.
A piece. A biscuit.
A burner. A heater.
A chopper. A gat.
A hammer
A tool
for RULE

Or, you can call it a gun. That’s what fifteen-year-old Will has shoved in the back waistband of his jeans. See, his brother Shawn was just murdered. And Will knows the rules. No crying. No snitching. Revenge. That’s where Will’s now heading, with that gun shoved in the back waistband of his jeans, the gun that was his brother’s gun. He gets on the elevator, seventh floor, stoked. He knows who he’s after. Or does he? As the elevator stops on the sixth floor, on comes Buck. Buck, Will finds out, is who gave Shawn the gun before Will took the gun. Buck tells Will to check that the gun is even loaded. And that’s when Will sees that one bullet is missing. And the only one who could have fired Shawn’s gun was Shawn. Huh. Will didn’t know that Shawn had ever actually USED his gun. Bigger huh. BUCK IS DEAD. But Buck’s in the elevator? Just as Will’s trying to think this through, the door to the next floor opens. A teenage girl gets on, waves away the smoke from Dead Buck’s cigarette. Will doesn’t know her, but she knew him. Knew. When they were eight. And stray bullets had cut through the playground, and Will had tried to cover her, but she was hit anyway, and so what she wants to know, on that fifth floor elevator stop, is, what if Will, Will with the gun shoved in the back waistband of his jeans, MISSES.

And so it goes, the whole long way down, as the elevator stops on each floor, and at each stop someone connected to his brother gets on to give Will a piece to a bigger story than the one he thinks he knows. A story that might never know an END…if WILL gets off that elevator.


33158561Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore

Feiwel & Friends | October 3, 2017

Buy: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

Synopsis: 

Love grows such strange things.

For nearly a century, the Nomeolvides women have tended the grounds of La Pradera, the lush estate gardens that enchant guests from around the world. They’ve also hidden a tragic legacy: if they fall in love too deeply, their lovers vanish. But then, after generations of vanishings, a strange boy appears in the gardens.

The boy is a mystery to Estrella, the Nomeolvides girl who finds him, and to her family, but he’s even more a mystery to himself; he knows nothing more about who he is or where he came from than his first name. As Estrella tries to help Fel piece together his unknown past, La Pradera leads them to secrets as dangerous as they are magical in this stunning exploration of love, loss, and family.


34017058The Bloodprint (The Khorasan Archives #1) by Ausma Zehanat Khan

Harper Voyager | October 3, 2017

Buy: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

Synopsis: 

A dark power called the Talisman has risen in the land, born of ignorance and persecution. Led by a man known only known as the One-eyed Preacher, it is a cruel and terrifying movement bent on world domination—a superstitious patriarchy that suppresses knowledge and subjugates women. And it is growing.

But there are those who fight the Talisman’s spread, including the Companions of Hira, a diverse group of influential women whose power derives from the Claim—the magic inherent in the words of a sacred scripture. Foremost among them is Arian and her apprentice, Sinnia, skilled warriors who are knowledgeable in the Claim. This daring pair have long stalked Talisman slave-chains, searching for clues and weapons to help them battle their enemy’s oppressive ways. Now, they may have discovered a miraculous symbol of hope that can destroy the One-eyed Preacher and his fervid followers: The Bloodprint, a dangerous text the Talisman has tried to erase from the world.

Finding a copy of The Bloodprint promises to be their most dangerous undertaking yet, an arduous journey that will lead them deep into Talisman territory. Though they will be helped by allies—a loyal ex-slave and Arian’s former confidante and sword master—both Arian and Sinnia know that this mission may well be their last.

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Book Review: The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo

ghostbrideThe Ghost Bride

Yangsze Choo

4/5 stars

Release Date: August 5, 2014

Publisher:  William Morrow Paperbacks

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

Synopsis on Goodreads:

Yangsze Choo’s stunning debut, The Ghost Bride, is a startlingly original novel infused with Chinese folklore, romantic intrigue, and unexpected supernatural twists.

Li Lan, the daughter of a respectable Chinese family in colonial Malaysia, hopes for a favorable marriage, but her father has lost his fortune, and she has few suitors. Instead, the wealthy Lim family urges her to become a “ghost bride” for their son, who has recently died under mysterious circumstances. Rarely practiced, a traditional ghost marriage is used to placate a restless spirit. Such a union would guarantee Li Lan a home for the rest of her days, but at what price?

Night after night, Li Lan is drawn into the shadowy parallel world of the Chinese afterlife, where she must uncover the Lim family’s darkest secrets—and the truth about her own family.

Reminiscent of Lisa See’s Peony in Love and Amy Tan’s The Bonesetter’s DaughterThe Ghost Bride is a wondrous coming-of-age story and from a remarkable new voice in fiction.

Review:

I absolutely loved THE GHOST BRIDE by Yangsze Choo. I ended up listening to the audiobook, read by the author. The writing is really lovely, I couldn’t stop reading/listening to the story and the author did a fantastic performance re: reading the book. Audiobooks are usually a hit or miss for me, but this was probably my best experience yet. Another great thing about the author reading the book, I got to hear how the characters sound to Yangsze, which was pretty cool.

Li Lan was a very interesting protagonist. Sometimes things would happen to her and she’d act totally calm or she’d go do things she probably shouldn’t. Half of it was probably bravery and if she didn’t do them the plot wouldn’t move along but the other half was like curiosity or something. So I’d be like “no don’t do that” but also “why are you doing this *very confused*”. So I liked the protagonist but I also had mixed feelings re: her actions. Li Lan doing certain things that were obviously a bad idea didn’t create suspense but confusion.

I’m torn between giving this a 4 or 4.5/5 stars. I would also categorize this book as historical fiction with fantastical elements. The story was very captivating and I didn’t want to stop listening to the audio. My favourite part was probably part 2 or 3, when the MC was exploring the afterlife. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about the ending – it kind of ended on a cliffhanger. This may be an effect of listening to the audiobook so I plan to check out a physical copy; I might get a sense of closure that way.

The book does use the slur c*olie a few times and while technically accurate (the book is set in 19th century colonial Malaysia) I think the author should have acknowledged it’s a slur. I’m not 100% sure if it was necessary, considering the MC doesn’t think of those in a different class as below or less than her.

This book is also told from the POV of an upper class Chinese woman (I think she’s around 18?) living in colonial Malaysia. The family have fallen on hard times, so they aren’t exactly rich but have been able to (mostly) hide their debt and still have a good name. It should’ve probably been acknowledged the sort of privilege the MC has over other classes of people living in 19th century colonial Malaysia.

Book Review: Defy by Sara B. Larson

defyDefy (Defy #1)

Sara B. Larson

2/5 stars

Release Date: January 7, 2014

Publisher: Scholastic Press

Buy: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

Synopsis on Goodreads:

Alexa Hollen is a fighter. Forced to disguise herself as a boy and serve in the king’s army, Alex uses her quick wit and fierce sword-fighting skills to earn a spot on the elite prince’s guard. But when a powerful sorcerer sneaks into the palace in the dead of night, even Alex, who is virtually unbeatable, can’t prevent him from abducting her, her fellow guard and friend Rylan, and Prince Damian, taking them through the treacherous wilds of the jungle and deep into enemy territory.

The longer Alex is held captive with both Rylan and the prince, the more she realizes that she is not the only one who has been keeping dangerous secrets. And suddenly, after her own secret is revealed, Alex finds herself confronted with two men vying for her heart: the safe and steady Rylan, who has always cared for her, and the dark, intriguing Damian. With hidden foes lurking around every corner, is Alex strong enough to save herself and the kingdom she’s sworn to protect?

Review:

I listened to the audiobook of DEFY, read by Rebecca Mozo. This review is way longer than I meant it – how is it I have more to say about books I hate?! DEFY is actually one of the worst books I’ve read this year and that says a lot considering most of my 2017 reads have been 4 and 5 stars. Slight spoilers in my review below:

TW: rape, abuse

DEFY by Sara B. Larson is a derivative fantasy with boring, forgettable characters and flat world-building. The pacing of the plot was all off and there was no excitement or action to it. There were also hugely problematic aspects. I usually have a better experience reading a book versus listening to the audiobook because I’m a very visual person, but it was the opposite here. The narrator convinced me to listen to the entire audiobook (8-9 ish hours), whereas if I’d been reading the book I probably would have DNFed it. I’m a slow reader and I doubt I could handle more than 9 hours with this book. The writing itself wasn’t bad and I see the potential but DEFY is one of those books that should’ve never seen the light of day.

There is nothing in this book we haven’t already seen in YA fantasy; the author is unable to make it stand out. DEFY is trying to be GRACELING but falling short. We see one kingdom warring against the other, a love triangle, a king hated by his heir and a special snowflake protagonist – and it is all badly executed. RED QUEEN is a good example of a book that takes things we’ve seen in fantasy and makes something different of it. DEFY not so much.

I can’t tell what was worse – the plot, the world building, the characters or the problematic aspects. If I’m on chapter 10 and still waiting for something to happen, there are issues with the pacing. Sometimes when there’s a lack of action, there’s at least a focus on characterization but not with DEFY. There was very little character growth and honestly, the only characters I remember are the protagonist Alex/Alexa, her twin brother Marcel, the Prince Damian and Rylan, another member of the prince’s guard and the other love interest. I also remember the king and an assassin, but not their names.

The world building was very confusing and I couldn’t catch enough of the details, although that may be because I listened to the audiobook. If I miss the name of a character or place, I can stop and rewind it, but I can’t see how it’s spelled etc. I cannot for the life of me remember the names of the two kingdoms, I don’t really know what sets them apart and I am only 50% sure of when and how the war between these two kingdoms started. I do know the kingdom the MC lives in has a jungle-like environment and thanks to a review (read after starting this) I know the other kingdom is supposed to be desert-like. I assumed the rest of the fantasy world fit a European medieval period.

I usually don’t have a problem with the “special snowflake” protagonist but it’s not believable that the MC is the only girl ever who thought to cut her hair and disguise herself as a boy. You have the strong heroine surrounded by male characters. The one other female character is Alexa’s side enemy *didn’t see that coming* and the queen was murdered before the beginning of the book to start a war and move the plot along.

Onto the problematic aspects!

This book needs a trigger or content warning. The world building and plot are based on rape and abuse. The kingdom the MC lives in has these “breeding houses” where orphan girls are imprisoned, abused, and raped so that they can “breed” new soldiers for the King’s army. This is usually not triggering for me but the summary I’d read for this book had nothing about breeding houses?! I’d seen so much praise and hype for this book, but nothing that mentioned this (I didn’t read any Goodreads reviews prior to starting it).

The king would either take orphan girls from his own kingdom and send them to the breeding houses or they were orphans from the enemy kingdom that his army captured (or both?). I’m not too sure, it’s one of those details I missed. The orphan boys were however forced to join the army… This is why the MC disguises herself as a boy. Orphan boys join the army and orphan girls are sent to the breeding houses. Not only are rape and abuse just thrown in, but there’s no *logical* reason and it isn’t examined in the text. The king apparently does this to increase the size of his army but the war only started 5-15 years ago (I think). I don’t know if the author forgot, but children take a long time to grow. The king doesn’t want child soldiers either. The MC was orphaned at 14 and had to lie and say she was 17, in order to join the army. Not only that, but having an army of people you’ve enslaved is probably not a good idea – I’m surprised there were no rebellions or rumours of soldiers wanting to assassinate the king. This was just so sickening to read. I don’t want a fantasy book that is based on rape and abuse and isn’t even examined in the text.

POC are described as food. One of the main characters was continually described as chocolate. As far as I can remember, only one character’s skin colour is described so I had to assume the rest were white.

Lots of toxic masculinity. Since the MC is disguised as a boy, she would constantly talk about the things she can’t do because people need to believe she’s a boy. Things like “boys don’t blush, boys don’t have long hair or high-pitch voices, only girls do this, etc”. I understand what the author was trying to do but I don’t think it was done well.

I feel like I should be reimbursed for the time I wasted reading this.

Recent Cover Reveals in YA Sci-fi

In the last couple of weeks, the covers for two of my most anticipated 2018 YA sci-fi releases were revealed. They are so incredible, I really wanted to share them here. Preorder links aren’t up yet, so I’ve included links to Goodreads instead. If you missed them or you haven’t heard of one or both titles, here they are:


33382313Hullmetal Girls by Emily Skrutskie

Delacorte | July 2018

Add to Goodreads

Delacorte has acquired Hullmetal Girls by Emily Skrutskie. It was pitched as a YA Battlestar Galactica in which two girls risk everything they have for new lives as mechanically enhanced soldiers; after a rebellion against the governing body forces dark secrets to the surface, the fate of the entire fleet is left in their hands. Publication is slated for summer 2018.

I know that’s not a very detailed summary, but I have a lot of faith in Skrutskie. I loved her debut The Abyss Surrounds Us – which you should definitely check out – and have been avidly awaiting her next series. The HULLMETAL GIRLS cover was originally revealed here. The first chapter was also shared here.


35068650Contagion by Erin Bowman

Harper Teen | July 24, 2018

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It got in us.

After receiving an urgent SOS from a work detail on a distant planet, a skeleton crew is dispatched to perform a standard search-and-rescue mission.

Most are dead.

But when the crew arrives, they find an abandoned site, littered with rotten food, discarded weapons…and dead bodies.

Don’t set foot here again.

As they try to piece together who—or what—could have decimated an entire operation, they discover that some things are best left buried—and some monsters are only too ready to awaken.

Sci-fi is probably my favourite genre, so I’ve been really desperate to read some new and thrilling YA releases in that genre. Some great sci-fi novels are coming out next year and I’m super excited. It also helps that the author’s Pinterest board for this book is super intriguing. I’ve been following the Pinterest board and the author’s teaser tweets for awhile, so I know CONTAGION was originally called Achlys. Bowman also shared more details about it here. The cover for CONTAGION was originally revealed here.