Thursday, April 19, 2018

Review: Ace of Shades by Amanda Foody

Release date: April 10, 2018
Author info: Website | Twitter
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Pages: 416
Format: Egalley
Source: Publisher provided for review through Netgalley
Buy the book: Barnes & Noble | Amazon | The Book Depository
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 haven't read Amanda Foody's Daughter of the Burning City, but if it's anything close to as fun as Ace of Shades, I'm here for it. I picked this up sort of on a whim, curious but without a lot of expectations, and it blew me away!

Enne is fresh off the boat in New Reynes, and it's obvious. Searching for her mother, who came to the city but who Enne hasn't heard from in months, she's willing to do just about anything to find her. Enter Levi, one of the city's street lords, who is beholden to others for more than he can afford. Enne's mother told her to seek out Levi should she need help, but Levi is in more trouble than he can handle already--yet Enne offers a way out. The two team up against what feels like the entire city to find her mother and save Levi.

And while that sounds like there's enough going on, it feels as if the city of New Reynes itself is a character. Foody draws the it as a sinister place, where one wrong step could be the last you take, any corner could hide danger. It's a palpable kind of feeling--and it's the kind I love. The city has more secrets than anyone, and it's a lot of fun to see what comes next.

There's an easy comparison here to Six of Crows, but I think it's important to differentiate this from it. While the feel of a gritty city is much like Ketterdam, that's where the similarities really cease. Levi is far from Kaz. He's a lot more open and while he does keep to himself in a lot of aspects, he's not someone who is keeping everyone in the dark. He doesn't have the same kind of damage that Kaz does. And Ace of Shades is far from the heist story of SoC!

While I wish the romance had been less frustrating (So many close calls--just kiss already, y'all! This could just be me...), I couldn't put Ace of Shades down. From the first couple of pages, I was hooked, taking a book I casually gave a try into something I took every minute I could to read. So, if this sounds like your thing, read it!

About the author:

Amanda Foody has always considered imagination to be our best attempt at magic. After spending her childhood longing to attend Hogwarts, she now loves to write about immersive settings and characters grappling with insurmountable destinies. She holds a Masters in Accountancy from Villanova University, and a Bachelors of Arts in English Literature from the College of William and Mary. Currently, she works as a tax accountant in Philadelphia, PA, surrounded by her many siblings and many books.

ACE OF SHADES is the first novel of THE SHADOW GAME series, releasing April 10, 2018. Her debut, DAUGHTER OF THE BURNING CITY, released in July 2017.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Review: Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi

Release date: March 27, 2018
Author info: Website | Twitter | Facebook
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Pages: 391
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher provided for review
Buy the book: Barnes & Noble | Amazon | The Book Depository
For Penny Lee high school was a total nonevent. Her friends were okay, her grades were fine, and while she somehow managed to land a boyfriend, he doesn’t actually know anything about her. When Penny heads to college in Austin, Texas, to learn how to become a writer, it’s seventy-nine miles and a zillion light years away from everything she can’t wait to leave behind.

Sam’s stuck. Literally, figuratively, emotionally, financially. He works at a cafĂ© and sleeps there too, on a mattress on the floor of an empty storage room upstairs. He knows that this is the god-awful chapter of his life that will serve as inspiration for when he’s a famous movie director but right this second the seventeen bucks in his checking account and his dying laptop are really testing him. 

When Sam and Penny cross paths it’s less meet-cute and more a collision of unbearable awkwardness. Still, they swap numbers and stay in touch—via text—and soon become digitally inseparable, sharing their deepest anxieties and secret dreams without the humiliating weirdness of having to see each other.
Emergency Contact was the book I didn't know I needed--and it came to me at the perfect time. I'd lost a bit of my reading zeal, sticking more to graphic novels and manga because nothing was catching my attention. One day, an ARC of Emergency Contact showed up at work and I read the back. I was instantly intrigued, took it home, and started reading that night. I WAS HOOKED, and completely fell in love with Penny and Sam.

There's so much I could gush about, but the heart of book--the relationship between Penny and Sam--is just so strong. As they grow closer, they open up and find their own strengths, but also they learn how to lean on the other. They see how they don't have to take the world on all by themselves, that they can have one person to rely on. I loved loved loved seeing the two of them grow--though at the same time I also wanted to give each of them a big hug.

The other standout to me was the characterization, not just of Penny and Sam, but of every character. Every single person we meet really feels fully realized, where you can anticipate their reactions. Penny's mom, well-intentioned as she is, is especially memorable, because you see so much heart coming from her, but her actions often feel thoughtless.

As someone who doesn't read a ton of contemporaries, it takes a lot for one to become something that I'll push on others, one that I'll remember for months and years to come, and Emergency Contact is definitely one I'll recommend for a long time. It's gives you all the warm fuzzies and sweet, cute moments, but it also deftly deals with a lot of serious topics in a smart, competent, and meaningful manner. Give me more like this, world, please!

Monday, April 9, 2018

Review: To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

Release date: March 6, 2018
Author info: Website | Twitter | Facebook
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Pages: 342
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher provided for review
Buy the book: Barnes & Noble | Amazon | The Book Depository
Princess Lira is siren royalty and the most lethal of them all. With the hearts of seventeen princes in her collection, she is revered across the sea. Until a twist of fate forces her to kill one of her own. To punish her daughter, the Sea Queen transforms Lira into the one thing they loathe most—a human. Robbed of her song, Lira has until the winter solstice to deliver Prince Elian’s heart to the Sea Queen or remain a human forever.

The ocean is the only place Prince Elian calls home, even though he is heir to the most powerful kingdom in the world. Hunting sirens is more than an unsavory hobby—it’s his calling. When he rescues a drowning woman in the ocean, she’s more than what she appears. She promises to help him find the key to destroying all of sirenkind for good—But can he trust her? And just how many deals will Elian have to barter to eliminate mankind’s greatest enemy?
Lira collects human prince's hearts, one for every year--until the day she prematurely takes a heart against her brutal sea queen mother's blessing. When she is transformed into a human, her mother gives her until Winter Solstice to bring the famed siren hunter Prince Elian's heart back or be fated to remain human. This all sounds great, right?

However, once we hit this point, my interest started to flag. Because, unbelievably, Lira pops up in the right place to land herself on Elian's ship and into a tentative place with him and his crew. She barters herself into their trust with promises that she can help him eliminate the plague of sirens to humans, despite every tell-tale sign that she is one (ability to speak their language and eerie knowledge of them seem like clues). Elian, portrayed as the infallible captain of his crew--always two steps ahead of them, and not letting them in on the secrets, despite established loyalty--falls to Lira's spell easily, forming a tentative alliance and later, of course, a romance. It's just all what we've come to expect, and there was little in the storyline that excited or surprised me.

I did enjoy Lira's growing appreciation for humanity and simmering anger at her mother converging, as it created a much more interesting inner turmoil, rather than the kind of boring outward parts. I'm glad Elian's crew felt such loyalty to him and at least they were smart enough to be suspicious of Lira!

For me, To Kill a Kingdom was a promisingly bloody idea and package that failed to enthrall. I know this is one that's gone around with raves, but unfortunately, it didn't hold my interest. (It is a seriously beautiful physical book, though--look at the endpapers, if you can!)

About the author:

Alexandra Christo decided to write books when she was four and her teacher told her she couldn't be a fairy. She has a BA in Creative Writing and works as a copywriter in London, both of which make her sound more grown up than she feels. When she's not busy making up stories, she can be found buying far too many cushions and organizing food crawls all over the city.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Where Have I Been?

Surprise! It's me! Thought you might never see me again, didn't you? Weeell, that's not the case.

Where have I been?

The same place, honestly. Life's been just the same, I've just been lazy--I think.

The more I think about it the less that feels right to say, though. I looked at my last post, and I remember where I was at the time. My niece was due any day, I'd just started working as receiving manager, and school was kicking my butt a little.

To update all of that: 

My niece was born October 11th and is literally the cutest baby in the world. I will not be taking arguments on that. It's a fact. On the right was her on Easter...

School isn't kicking my butt much this semester, but I am down to my last two semesters after this one! I just signed up for classes and am both really excited and more than a little freaked out. It feels a lot like it did when I was finishing up undergrad and have this kind of precipice coming toward me. I've got some time, but it feels more important than it did the last time around. I mean, I've only spent how many thousands of my parents and my own dollars on my (soon to be!) two degrees and I don't feel as if I've got much to show for it, you know? No pressure!

As for work, well, that's complicated. My store manager's father, who she went on leave in September to take care of, passed away in January, and she came back. But then our actual receiving manager (whose job I had been filling while she was promoted up because the SM was gone) put in her notice, which had me thinking maybe I'd get that job... Only to have that position, as well as a couple of other full time positions, go away for the company. So now I'm in this fun limbo where I'm back to my old job of kid's lead, but I'm acting as receiving manager. And not only am I acting as receiving manager (and not receiving any additional pay), but I'm also doing all of the kid's lead work. I'm doing what was previously two full-time jobs in one 40-hour workweek--AND getting paid what I've always been paid. To say I'm getting fed up is an understatement.

And I think work is why I haven't pushed myself back here sooner. I go to work and feel like I have to push myself for 8 hours a day every day, trying to somehow keep up with the amount of work two of us used to keep up with without asking for help. The people at my store are actually wonderful, though. The management staff is really supportive and tries to help me as much as possible, but our company is just pushing, pushing, pushing and we're going to break at some point. So, be nice to the booksellers when you're in Barnes & Noble! We're STRESSED.

However, I have had to keep a sort of blog for one of the classes I'm in this semester, and it's really reminded me of how much I loved blogging. When I'm writing posts for that, I'm wishing they were for this--and that's the impetus I needed.

Now, to get away from all of the serious stuff, I'm gonna share some of what I've been enjoying the last six months!

First and foremost on that is anime. Like, as a whole. I'd previously loved some Studio Ghibli movies, but my best friend finally convinced me to watch a show and I've been obsessed ever since! I've had so much fun finding shows and really figuring out what kinds of things I like. It's a whole new world and there's just so much to watch that I don't know what to watch first!

As an extension of that, I started reading manga and graphic novels as well. With manga, I've stuck mostly to ones from shows I've watched and need more from, but I've picked up individual ones here and there. I really can't afford to buy a bunch, so I'm stuck using what my library has--which is not extensive AT ALL. As for graphic novels, I've only dipped my toe in there too, but the series that got me started was Saga. I decided to give it a try and was obsessed from then on. I've read them all and don't want to wait for more!

Otherwise, here are some of the books I've loved since I've been gone:

You'll probably see a review of Emergency Contact, since I just read that. And somehow that's... it? When I say I've been reading manga, it's probably 2/3 or even 3/4 of the 40 or so books I've read so far this year?

Anyway, I'd love to hear what's going on with y'all! I see some maintenance I need to do on here, and hopefully I can get myself on a posting schedule. Also, I'm planning to be at ALA in New Orleans in June--anybody else going??