Non-Fiction Friday: The Girls of Murder City & Giveaway

Book Review: Scythe by Neal Shusterman

Please welcome the newest member of Team Midsummer: Leia! Leia and Jess both grew up in the suburbs of Charlotte, NC but didn’t meet until they were both students at East Carolina University. After serving as Orientation Assistants during the summer of 2008, they stayed in touch. Give a big welcome to her and help us celebrate her first official review:

Leia holds her Ph.D. in Educational Foundations and Inquiry and is currently a professor of Educational Research. She has been an avid reader for as long as she can remember, and is absolutely obsessed with everything Potter. Her favorite book series include Harry Potter, A Court of Thorns and Roses, and the Gemma Doyle trilogy. She is also obsessed with pugs.

 

 

A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery: humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now Scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control.

Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe—a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own.

Scythe is the first novel of a thrilling new series by National Book Award–winning author Neal Shusterman in which Citra and Rowan learn that a perfect world comes only with a heavy price.

I needed a good story to help break through my post-ACOWAR book hangover, and I certainly found it in Scythe. I have meandered between books, not really committing to any one in particular (and finishing all at a slow pace since none could keep my attention for long)… until I stumbled upon this book.

Shusterman is a name that I tend to hear in passing in the book clubs that I frequent, but I had never read his work before. A friend picked up Scythe and insisted that it was right up my alley – and I can’t thank her enough. It is a fast paced read which picks up to a break-neck speed about halfway through. This is definitely a book that I lost sleep over this week.

Humanity has reached a point where death is no longer a guarantee. Instead of continuing to age, individuals are able to turn back their genes in order to relive their younger years – often resetting to their early twenties. Sickness and pain are things of the past, as “nanites” are injected into the bloodstream of all people in order to keep their bodies healthy and healed. “Splatting,” the process of killing yourself in creative ways, has become a popular past time – splatters are revived and able to continue their lives within a few days. This presents a problem, of course, as people continue to reproduce and the earth is more and more populated.

In order to cull the population, Scythes are trained and ordained to glean the lives of individuals. Each Scythe, however, is given the freedom to glean as they see fit. The book follows Citra and Rowan as they serve and apprenticeship under the great Scythe Faraday.

Citra and Rowan are fantastic as main characters, and I found myself holding my breath as their journey into Scythedom intensified. While a romantic interest between the two is hinted at, it is not a main part of the story itself. This would normally be a turn off for me – I am definitely a fan of romance – but its near-absence never phased me. I feel that anything more than what is present would have felt wrong for the characters, which are focused instead on perfecting the art of death.

I am notorious for predicting story arcs and twists, but never saw the majority of this book coming. Because of this, I am hesitant to say more about the book, lest I spoil something for future readers. The experience was one that I will not soon forget.

4.5 Bards

 

Strange the Cupcakes

In honor of finishing and LOVING Laini Taylor’s  Strange the Dreamer, I present to you: STRANGE THE CUPCAKES:

 

New Feature: 67 Questions with @b00kstorebabe

She’s one of Twitter and Tumblr’s most popular book bloggers, and she happens to be a very close friend of mine!

Check out the video of Team Midsummer interviewing Shauna while she finishes up her work day.

Things you’ll learn:

  1. Apparently Shauna can beast anyone in Scrabble (can you teach me? I’ve never understood the strategy of the double word scores, etc!)
  2. Roshani Chokshi’s fictional creations are some of Shauna’s favorites
  3. It’s possible to forget that you have a tattoo until you are explaining them (and also forget one completely)

For more, watch the interview with one of my favorite people:

 

Book Review: Done Dirt Cheap by Sarah Nicole Lemon

Tourmaline Harris’s life hit pause at fifteen, when her mom went to prison because of Tourmaline’s unintentionally damning testimony. But at eighteen, her home life is stable, and she has a strong relationship with her father, the president of a local biker club known as the Wardens.

Virginia Campbell’s life hit fast-forward at fifteen, when her mom “sold” her into the services of a local lawyer: a man for whom the law is merely a suggestion. When Hazard sets his sights on dismantling the Wardens, he sends in Virginia, who has every intention of selling out the club—and Tourmaline.

But the two girls are stronger than the circumstances that brought them together, and their resilience defines the friendship at the heart of this powerful debut novel.

This book is a television show waiting to happen.  I swear, the writing was so lyrical, but cinematic at the same time that I vividly imagined the entire story as I read.  Now, I know that sounds kind of like the definition of reading in general, being able to picture the story.  But this was something beyond picturing it, Done Dirt Cheap was to the point of me already having cast actors and actresses and it was playing out on the page, dancing around the words.

As a woman who was born and raised in the South, it was such a wonderful and brilliant story of two girls overcoming their circumstances and not only owning them, but bending them to their will.  By no means are Tourmaline and Virginia weak willed, they are by far two of the most fully realized characters I’ve read in a long time.  I find myself torn to try and decide which character I identify with more on a personality level.  I think every reader will find a little of themselves in both T and V, and this is such a compliment to Lemon and her narrative capabilities.

I think that their friendship is almost like those slow burn romances that come on in in books where the characters almost hate one another at first, only to realize they have more in common than they thought. That’s how I view Virginia and Tourmaline, two souls who reluctantly came together but ended up becoming friends against all odds. I love a book that celebrates female friendship in that way, and readers, this has it.

Speaking of slow burn romances, I’m here to tell you that *spoiler alert* Virginia and Jason equate to Deadpool’s Vanessa and Wade.  To not give any MORE spoilers from Done Dirt Cheap, here’s an exchange from Deadpool that can pretty much sum up this pairing (in a good way):

Wade: Well, your crazy matches my crazy, big time. And, uh, we’re like two jigsaw pieces, you know, and we have curvy edges.

Vanessa: But you fit them together and you see the picture on top.

Along more obvious romance lines, I loved the way Lemon kept readers on their toes concerning Cash and Tourmaline and how she made the reader feel the turmoil that Tourmaline did while trying to figure out her feelings and what exactly she was going to do in such an interesting situation.

Overall, I found this book to be really easy to read in that it kept my focus and it is one I wish I could have read in one sitting.  I blame the real world for getting in the way of my reading time, but nonetheless my reading experience was amazing.

 

4.5 Bards for Done Dirt Cheap!

Book Review: The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

Fate and fortune. Power and passion. What does it take to be the queen of a kingdom when you’re only seventeen?

Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of death and destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father’s kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: As Akaran’s queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar’s wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire…

But Akaran has its own secrets—thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger. Yet who, besides her husband, can she trust? With the fate of the human and Otherworldly realms hanging in the balance, Maya must unravel an ancient mystery that spans reincarnated lives to save those she loves the most…including herself.

Now, I realize that when I first read The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi that I never actually wrote a review for it!  So, upon my receipt of an Advanced Reading Copy of the companion novel, Crown of Wishes, I decided to re-read TSTQ in order to prepare myself for more the feels that are going to come along with revisiting Guari and Bharata.

Finally, here is my review of TSTQ!

One of my favorite parts of Chokshi’s novel is the noted difference between the treatment of women in the kingdom of Bharata and how Amar promised to treat her within Akaran while she ruled alongside him.  It was interesting to see through the eyes of a daughter kept within the harem inside her kingdom, and while that wasn’t the focus of the novel, it was so great to see this kind of diversity in a young adult book.  I was a little bothered by the slut-shaming comment upon my re-read, when Maya throws “spreading legs” at one of the meaner harem wives.  But it wasn’t something that was a deal-breaker in this story for me.

Maya has a ton of fire in her personality and I love that she has that spunk and the urge to be as much as an individual as her society allows, and I love that.  She’s quick witted and stronger than she appears.  Now, with these traits, comes negative things: Maya is impulsive and more gullible than I remember from my first read.  I love that Chokshi has created a whole character full of strengths and flaws.  If there’s anything I can’t stand in young adult literature is when a main character is not well rounded and Maya is so well written as a frustrating and lovely character. Such a great character creation by Chokshi.

The world that Chokshi has created in The Star-Touched Queen is complex and wonderful.  The different worlds that the reader discovers alongside Maya, specifically the Night Bazaar (to quote Liz Lemon, “I want to go to there.”), has been beautifully created through flowery and expressive language.  I normally don’t like excessively descriptive narrative (a la Charles Dickens), but Chokshi’s writing is so enthralling that I found myself growing to love it.

As for the love story, I’m looking forward to Amar and Maya’s relationship in the novella Death and Night, because for me The Star-Touched Queen was so much more about Maya’s journey to remembering her past lives and becoming the strong woman she needed to be to restore balance to her world.

Also, is anyone else super interested in their horoscopes after reading this?

Overall, I’m so glad I went to re-read and spent more time with Maya and it makes me look forward to Crown of Wishes so much more! If you haven’t had a chance to read this beautiful book, then order a copy as soon as you can.

4 Bards.

Book Review: Last Seen Leaving by Caleb Roehrig

25036310Flynn’s girlfriend has disappeared. How can he uncover her secrets without revealing his own?

Flynn’s girlfriend, January, is missing. The cops are asking questions he can’t answer, and her friends are telling stories that don’t add up. All eyes are on Flynn—as January’s boyfriend, he must know something.

But Flynn has a secret of his own. And as he struggles to uncover the truth about January’s disappearance, he must also face the truth about himself. 

Team Midsummer had the amazing chance to interview Caleb Roehrig and we love him. Check out our interview here.

I read this book in a matter of hours.  The only reason I put it down for a few minutes was to run from one airport terminal to the other so I could make sure to catch my flight home.  Even then, I held the book in my hands, unwilling to let it go or lose my place for too long.

When Caleb said he set out to write a thriller, I’d say he succeeded in spades.

First things first, let’s talk about characterization.

Flynn, oh, Flynn, my sweet snowflake.  He is so well rounded as a character, he has his flaws, he has his snarky sarcasm that made me laugh out loud (to the chagrin of my neighbor on the flight), last-seen-leaving-aestheticand he has a struggle of accepting himself for who he is.  He is brash, he is ridiculously self confident in that he will find clues and information that the cops can’t find about his missing girlfriend, and I assume he must have an extremely trustworthy face, because a lot of people he doesn’t really know open right up to him.  Although, I think my main concern here is that those people’s parents didn’t teach them to not talk to strangers.  But again, I could always talk to a wall, so I’m not the best judge!

January is somehow able to be likable despite all of her flaws and her incessant lying.  For instance, even waaaaaaaaaay before the events in Last Seen Leaving, she was consistently portraying her boyfriend, and so-called best friend, Flynn is a very negative light to those around her.  Not only to some of the kids at her new private school, but also to her coworker, who she also pitted against Flynn to make him jealous.  She’s definitely a master manipulator, and I credit Roehrig for still creating a character that I was rooting for, even though I kind of hated her too.  She reminded me of one of those girls in high school who definitely thought she was better than anyone and everyone, therefore isolating herself from everyone.

The mystery/thriller aspect.

This story kept me on my toes the entire time. While I do have my reservations about girls just giving up a lot of random information about January to a guy they’d never really met before, I loved that Flynn had this whole Nancy Drew thing going on (Side note: Nancy Drew was way better than The Hardy Boys).  He’s definitely a bolder person than I’d ever be.  I’d be persuaded to let the cops handle it and then wallow in my own misery, but not Flynn.  Which I love.  I found it so amazing that he was kind of bad at investigating, and the killer was definitely not someone who I immediately suspected, so I credit Roehrig for laying plenty of false leads throughout the narrative that were pretty convincing.

Romance.

I just fangirl flail about Kaz and Flynn. Just, go read this.

4.5 Bards!

four.fivebards

 

 

 

 

Keep up with the rest of our LGBT Month Celebration!

midsummer-lgbtq-history-month

Reading Empire of Storms: A Timelapse

Waiting on Wednesday

waiting on wednesday

 

Every week Breaking the Spine hosts the bookish meme for book bloggers to share what books they are waiting on to be released!  This week I’m waiting on:

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Release Date: October 4, 2016

Gemma has been in and out of hospitals since she was born. ‘A sickly child’, her lonely life to date has revolved around her home, school and one best friend, Alice. But when she discovers her father’s connection to the top secret Haven research facility, currently hitting the headlines and under siege by religious fanatics, Gemma decides to leave the sanctuary she’s always known to find the institute and determine what is going on there and why her father’s name seems inextricably linked to it.

Amidst the frenzy outside the institute’s walls, Lyra – or number 24 as she is known as at Haven – and a fellow experimental subject known only as 72, manage to escape. Encountering a world they never knew existed outside the walls of their secluded upbringing , they meet Gemma and, as they try to understand Haven’s purpose together, they uncover some earth-shattering secrets that will change the lives of both girls forever…

 

 

Vlog 1: Introduction & a Cocktail

The vlog does have a brief cameo from Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles…as their faces are on my shirt and their eyes peak over the table fairly frequently…which is amusing.

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