Waiting on Wednesday: A Reaper at the Gates by Sabaa Tahir

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases.

A Reaper at the Gates
An Ember in the Ashes #3
by Sabaa Tahir
Coming April 24, 2017

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Beyond the Empire and within it, the threat of war looms ever larger.

The Blood Shrike, Helene Aquilla, is assailed on all sides. Emperor Marcus, haunted by his past, grows increasingly unstable, while the Commandant capitalizes on his madness to bolster her own power. As Helene searches for a way to hold back the approaching darkness, her sister’s life and the lives of all those in the Empire hang in the balance.

Far to the east, Laia of Serra knows the fate of the world lies not in the machinations of the Martial court, but in stopping the Nightbringer. But while hunting for a way to bring him down, Laia faces unexpected threats from those she hoped would aid her, and is drawn into a battle she never thought she’d have to fight.

And in the land between the living and the dead, Elias Veturius has given up his freedom to serve as Soul Catcher. But in doing so, he has vowed himself to an ancient power that will stop at nothing to ensure Elias’s devotion—even at the cost of his humanity.

Why I Want It:
First of all, I love Helene so seeing my girl front and center on this cover? GIMME IT RIGHT EFFING NOW. I think she's even more stuck than the others—like obviously Laia wants to fight the Empire and she CAN outright rebel, and Elias is the golden boy so he just does whatever the heck he wants, but Helene... Helene already watched [spoiler: that Thing that happened in Torch] and she's just stuck being Blood Shrike for this total asshole douche of an Emperor. And Torch did NOT answer some questions I had burning from Ember and in fact, gave me MORE questions so DANG IT, I NEED ANSWERS. *bangs fist emphatically on desk*

Why I think you should want it:
This series is so cool. It's a Roman-inspired fantasy with dueling people, teen gladiators, a deadly Triwizard/Hunger Games-esque tournament where even the winners are losers, and lots of magic. Plus, it has one of the most evil and awful and fantastic love-to-hate-her villains since Voldemort/Bellatrix Lestrange. You've never rooted so hard for an evil bitch to get what's coming to her.

Review: When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

Rating: 4 stars
Release Date: May 30, 2017
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Genre: young adult contemporary romance
Format/Source: arc, ALA
Status: standalone but When Ashish Met Sweetie is its companion

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Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?

Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.

The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?

Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.

Listmania Monday: Books in Space

Welcome to a new edition of a very old feature here on Mary Had a Little Blog. The oldest feature, in fact. This is Listmania Monday, and today I have brought you a new topic: books set in space!

It should be no surprise that I adore space books, and some of these books are among my all-time favorites so I wanted to share the list of teens-in-space books that I've compiled with all of you. And I do mean teens IN space. I'm not including books where aliens have come to earth (Lux, The 5th Wave, AdaptationLorien Legacies, etc). I've also made note of 2018 and 2019 titles if you're looking for upcoming releases.

If you ever check one of my lists and see a grievous error or a book missing, please let me know! I want these lists to be used as a resource if you're ever looking for a specific kind of book or story. You can find the rest of the Listmania Monday posts at the bottom of my Review Archive at the top of the site or by clicking on the listmania label at the end of this post or at the bottom of the page.

* denotes a series If you're not seeing a book where you expect it to be, please note that I'm going by series name, not individual book titles. That includes those 2018 and 2019 releases. So I'm not listing Obsidio as a 2018 release; instead I'm just marking The Illuminae Files that it has a book releasing in 2018.

Across the Galaxy - Heather Hildenbrand
Across the Universe trilogy - Beth Revis*
Alienated trilogy - Melissa Landers*
The Androma Saga (Zenith) - Sasha Alsberg & Lindsay Cummings (2018)*
Andromeda Cycle - Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff (2018)*
The Australia trilogy - J.P. Smythe*
Avalon duology - Mindee Arnett*

Beyond the Red trilogy - Ava Jae (2018)*
Brightly Burning - Alexa Donne

The Cage trilogy - Megan Shepherd*
Carve the Mark duology - Veronica Roth (2018)*
Cassiel Winters series - Lesley Young*
Century Next Door series - John Barnes*
Chaos Walking trilogy - Patrick Ness*
The Color of Rain - Cori McCarthy
A Confusion of Princes - Garth Nix
Contagion duology - Erin Bowman (2018)*
Constellation series - Claudia Gray (2018)*
Cyclo - Lydia Kang (2019)

Dare Mighty Things - Heather Kaczynski
The Diabolic trilogy - S.J. Kincaid (2018)*
The Disasters - M.K. England (2018)
Dove Chronicles - Karen Bao*

Empress of a Thousand Skies series - Rhoda Belleza (2018)*
Ender's Saga - Orson Scott Card*
Entangled series - Amy Rose Capetta*
The Evaporation of Sofi Snow series - Mary Weber (2018)*
Exo series - Fonda Lee*
The Exo Project - Andrew DeYoung

Feed - M.T. Anderson
The Final Six - Alexandra Monir (2018) (I *think* this might have actual space in it but am not 100% sure)
Firebird - Jessica Khoury (2019)
Freefall - Joshua David Bellin

Heart of Iron - Ashley Poston (2018)
The Honors - Rachel Caine & Ann Aguirre (2018)*

Ignite the Stars - Maura Milan
Inherit the Stars duology - Tessa Elwood
The Illuminae Files - Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff (2018)*

The Kaitan Chronicles - AdriAnne Strickland & Michael Miller (2018)*

The Last 8 - Laura Pohl (2019)
Legacy Code series - Autumn Kalquist*
Light Years series - Kass Morgan (2018)*
The Loneliest Girl in the Universe - Lauren James (2018)
The Lunar Chronicles - Marissa Meyer*

Mars One - Jonathan Maberry
A Million Worlds with You - Claudia Gray (I'm only including this one instead of the entire trilogy because I think it's the only one with actual space travel. Please correct me if this is wrong!)

The Night Lily - Julie Tuovi (2018)
The Nightside Saga (27 Hours) - Tristina Wright (2018)*
The Nyxia Triad - Scott Reintgen (2018)*

Once and Future series - Cori McCarthy & Amy Rose Capetta (2019)*
One Giant Leap - Heather Kaczynski (2018)
The 100 series - Kass Morgan*

Paradise Reclaimed trilogy - Aubrie Dionne*
Pitch Dark - Courtney Alameda (2018)

Red Rising Saga - Pierce Brown (2018)

Salvage duology - Alexandra Duncan*
Satellite - Nick Lake
Sanctuary - Caryn Lix (2018)
Sky Chasers series - Amy Kathleen Ryan*
Space Runners series - Jeramey Kraatz (2018)*
Spectre War series - Margaret Fortune*
Split City series - Heather Hansen*
The Starbound trilogy - Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner*
Starflight duology - Melissa Landers*
Starglass series - Phoebe North*
Stars Fall Circle series - Abby J. Reed (2018)*
Stitching Snow duology - R.C. Lewis*
System Divide duology - Jessica Brody & Joanne Rendell (2019)*

The Taking trilogy - Melissa West*
Tracked duology - Jenny Martin*

Unearthed trilogy - Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner (2018)*

Waste of Space - Gina Damico
We're Not From Here - Geoff Rodkey
What Goes Up - Katie Kennedy
The Whitecoat's Daughter series - Olivia Cole (2018)*

Zodiac series - Romina Russell*

You might have noticed a number of missing space-y titles, and if you did: good job, nerd! I decided to list any Star Wars-specific YA and MG titles down here. (PS I know another popular YA author who is writing one of these, but I can't say who it is yeeeeeeet!)

Ahsoka - E.K. Johnston
Cobalt Squadron - Elizabeth Wein
The Empire Strikes Back: So You Want to Be a Jedi? - Adam Gidwitz
Guardians of the Whills - Greg Rucka
Join the Resistance - Ben Acker & Ben Blacker
The Legends of Luke Skywalker - Ken Liu
Leia, Princess of Alderaan - Claudia Gray
Lost Stars - Claudia Gray
Moving Target: A Leia Skywalker Adventure - Cecil Castelluci & Jason Fry
A New Hope: The Princess, the Scoundrel, and the Farm Boy - Alexandra Bracken
Rebel Rising - Beth Revis
Return of the Jedi: Beware the Power of the Dark Side! - Tom Angleberger
Smuggler's Run: A Han Solo & Chewbacca Adventure - Greg Rucka
Star Wars: Before the Awakening - Greg Rucka
The Weapon of a Jedi: A Luke Skywalker Adventure - Jason Fry

Did I leave anything out? Please let me know in the comments!

Waiting on Wednesday: Unearthed by Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases.

Unearthed #1
by Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner
Coming January 9, 2018

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When Earth intercepts a message from a long-extinct alien race, it seems like the solution the planet has been waiting for. The Undying's advanced technology has the potential to undo environmental damage and turn lives around, and Gaia, their former home planet, is a treasure trove waiting to be uncovered.

For Jules Addison and his fellow scholars, the discovery of an alien culture offers unprecedented opportunity for study... as long as scavengers like Amelia Radcliffe don't loot everything first. Mia and Jules' different reasons for smuggling themselves onto Gaia put them immediately at odds, but after escaping a dangerous confrontation with other scavvers, they form a fragile alliance.

In order to penetrate the Undying temple and reach the tech and information hidden within, the two must decode the ancient race's secrets and survive their traps. But the more they learn about the Undying, the more their presence in the temple seems to be part of a grand design that could spell the end of the human race...

Why I Want It:
Four years ago, I read one book that would become an instant favorite and introduce me to two amazing authors and a genre that I adore. I've always enjoyed space in general, but These Broken Stars was the first book that showed me how much fun YA space operas can be. Now I'm hooked! Amie and Meagan are an unstoppable duo, and as long as they're writing, I'm going to devour their work! I actually have an ARC of Unearthed, and I don't know how much longer I can keep my hands off it.

Why I think you should want it:
Amie and Meagan write amazing action and adventure that keeps your blood pumping as you read. But they also write tough girls, swoony boys, and lovely romance. Also, Unearthed was pitched as "Indiana Jones meets Lara Croft in space" so if that doesn't do it for you, I honestly don't know what will.

Review: Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han

Rating: 4 stars
Release Date: May 2, 2017
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Genre: young adult contemporary romance
Format/Source: hardcover, from my library
Status: book 3 of the To All the Boys trilogy

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Lara Jean is having the best senior year. And there’s still so much to look forward to: a class trip to New York City, prom with her boyfriend Peter, Beach Week after graduation, and her dad’s wedding to Ms. Rothschild. Then she’ll be off to college with Peter, at a school close enough for her to come home and bake chocolate chip cookies on the weekends.

Life couldn’t be more perfect!

At least, that’s what Lara Jean thinks…until she gets some unexpected news.

Now the girl who dreads change must rethink all her plans—but when your heart and your head are saying two different things, which one should you listen to?

Waiting on Wednesday: Heart of Iron by Ashley Poston

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases.

Heart of Iron
by Ashley Poston
Coming February 27, 2018
Balzer & Bray

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Seventeen-year-old Ana is a scoundrel by nurture and an outlaw by nature. Found as a child drifting through space with a sentient android called D09, Ana was saved by a fearsome space captain and the grizzled crew she now calls family. But D09—one of the last remaining illegal Metals—has been glitching, and Ana will stop at nothing to find a way to fix him.

Ana’s desperate effort to save D09 leads her on a quest to steal the coordinates to a lost ship that could offer all the answers. But at the last moment, a spoiled Ironblood boy beats Ana to her prize. He has his own reasons for taking the coordinates, and he doesn’t care what he’ll sacrifice to keep them.

When everything goes wrong, she and the Ironblood end up as fugitives on the run. Now their entire kingdom is after them—and the coordinates—and not everyone wants them captured alive.

What they find in a lost corner of the universe will change all their lives—and unearth dangerous secrets. But when a darkness from Ana’s past returns, she must face an impossible choice: does she protect a kingdom that wants her dead or save the Metal boy she loves?

Why I Want It:
I absolutely fell in love with Ash's writing and style when I read Geekerella so I knew I wanted to read more of her work. Then I discovered Heart of Iron is an Anastasia retelling AND it's set in space, and those are two of my very favorite things! Also, Ash is a boss person, and I adore her. 

Why I think you should want it:
ANASTASIA IN SPACE, Y'ALL!!! Also, I heard this book will break you in the greatest way possible. How can you NOT want to sign up for that??

Review: The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo

Rating: 4 stars
Release Date: September 26, 2017
Publisher: Imprint
Genre: young adult fantasy, fairy tales
Format/Source: hardcover, purchased from SEVERAL stores
Status: part of the Grishaverse

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Love speaks in flowers. Truth requires thorns.

Travel to a world of dark bargains struck by moonlight, of haunted towns and hungry woods, of talking beasts and gingerbread golems, where a young mermaid's voice can summon deadly storms and where a river might do a lovestruck boy's bidding but only for a terrible price.

Inspired by myth, fairy tale, and folklore, #1 New York Times–bestselling author Leigh Bardugo has crafted a deliciously atmospheric collection of short stories filled with betrayals, revenge, sacrifice, and love.

Perfect for new readers and dedicated fans, these tales will transport you to lands both familiar and strange—to a fully realized world of dangerous magic that millions have visited through the novels of the Grishaverse.

This collection of six stories includes three brand-new tales, all of them lavishly illustrated with art that changes with each turn of the page, culminating in six stunning full-spread illustrations as rich in detail as the stories themselves. 

Waiting on Wednesday: Batman: Nightwalker

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases.

Batman: Nightwalker
DC Icons #2
by Marie Lu
Coming January 2, 2018
Random House Books for Young Readers

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Before he was Batman, he was Bruce Wayne. A reckless boy willing to break the rules for a girl who may be his worst enemy.

The Nightwalkers are terrorizing Gotham City, and Bruce Wayne is next on their list.

One by one, the city's elites are being executed as their mansions' security systems turn against them, trapping them like prey. Meanwhile, Bruce is turning eighteen and about to inherit his family's fortune, not to mention the keys to Wayne Enterprises and all the tech gadgetry his heart could ever desire. But after a run-in with the police, he's forced to do community service at Arkham Asylum, the infamous prison that holds the city's most brutal criminals.

Madeleine Wallace is a brilliant killer . . . and Bruce's only hope.

In Arkham, Bruce meets Madeleine, a brilliant girl with ties to the Nightwalkers. What is she hiding? And why will she speak only to Bruce? Madeleine is the mystery Bruce must unravel. But is he getting her to divulge her secrets, or is he feeding her the information she needs to bring Gotham City to its knees? Bruce will walk the dark line between trust and betrayal as the Nightwalkers circle closer.

Why I Want It:
Man, I loved Batman as a kid. I adored the animated show and Batman Forever (yes, really. It was the only one of the Batman movies I watched as a kid), and I loved our broody bad boy superhero. He's not my favorite superhero now, but I also love Marie Lu. You know how people always talk about authors whose grocery lists they'd read? Yeah, Marie is on my grocery list author list. She's so talented, and I think she does an AMAZING job writing morally ambiguous characters and spotlighting the good and bad in people. My body is READY.

Why I think you should want it:
Batman is one of the most fascinating superheroes. First of all, he's a normal dude (although rich af) and not super-powered. Instead, he uses his money, connections, and intellect to fight crime. Secondly and more interestingly, he's a good guy, but he's all about the revenge. Guys like Superman and Captain America are the goody two-shoes guys who are altruistic and boy scout-y. Bruce isn't like that. He helps people, yes, but he only got into the game to avenge his parents' murder. Still, not-great intentions or no, Batman does a lot of good. I don't know much about the actual comics, but in the movies, the focus is always on adult Bruce or kid Bruce, but there's very little in the way of teenage Bruce. I think it's really interesting that Gotham is currently exploring that age and now we can add Nightwalker to the mix. Plus, it's Marie Lu. You should want to read her grocery lists too.

Mary's Minute: Fluffy Books

Today I want to talk about a beloved sub-genre of books: the fluffy book. Fluffy books are a type of  (usually) contemporary romance (although I think there can be some fluffy fantasies or historical books as well) are fun, sweet, swoony stories that just make me feel GOOD after I've read it. It's one of my absolute favorite genres, and I know many of my friends love it as well. So why am I discussing it today?

Several months ago, author Jenn Bennett (The Anatomical Shape of a Heart, Alex Approximately) had a few words to say about frequently reading reviews that called her books fluffy:

This sparked a great conversation in which many bloggers and readers spoke up about how much fluffy books mean to them and what they define fluff as, and we'll come back to that in a second because it seems that authors and readers are mixing lines of communication when using the term fluff.

I recently moderated a panel called Me + You = Fate during the Texas Teen Book Festival, which was AMAZING. We talked a lot about romance, and I was shocked to find two more authors who said they dislike their books being called fluff. Mackenzi Lee (The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue) said she doesn't like the term, but when people call her book serious, she likewise said, "well, not THAT serious!" And Jenna Evans Welch (Love and Gelato) said she didn't think her book qualified since a primary theme is grief. So I want to talk about this genre again.

 I asked Twitter a few days ago, and here a few replies to me and a few to Jenn:

(for the record, I asked how the define fluff, is it an insult, why do you like it, and who are your faves)

A couple things that stuck out to me is that for a lot of people, fluffy = little angst and also, fluffy books are the ones they most often reread. That's super important!!! Fluff has a rereadable factor!!

What makes a book "fluffy"? For me, there are a few indicators: 
  • light, easy-to-read prose (basically the complete opposite of James Joyce and pretentious literary writing)
  • emphasis on romance in the story
  • use of romance tropes like love to hate, friends to more, fake date, etc.
  • humor
  • slice of life stories
  • mc has an important hobby/interest that usually has a lot to do with the plot

There are a few other elements that are frequently found in fluffy books, but I don't think they're necessarily a requirement (especially since some of these are complete opposites). It's one of those a square is a rectangle but a rectangle is not a square things. Travel (especially European); seasonal-specific (summer or winter holidays); celebrity love interest; royal love interest; athletes; etc.

None of these are super hard and fast other than light prose and romance, but really, what makes a book fluffy for me is if I feel good reading it. If I'm reading a book with a HUGE irrepressible smile on my face, it's probably fluff. I tend to swoon a lot because the boys are dreamy, and I always want to be the girl's best friend. For me, fluff doesn't mean no conflict or heavy topics. A book can cover topics like death, mental illness, physical illness, abuse, etc, and still be fluff to me. It entirely depends on the overall tone of the novel and how the author approaches the topic. If I'm left feeling satisfied by a story and hopeful for the characters and their futures, I'm more inclined to consider a book fluff. If I'm left feeling like life sucks and then you die and this character is fucked or the road is going to be long and hard for them when the book is over, I'm usually more inclined to consider it realistic fiction. And I don't necessarily WANT realistic fiction.

I find great comfort in fluffy books, and it's frustrating when lighter contemporary novels go temporarily out of fashion in YA. A couple years ago, I went to a professional library conference during which most publishers didn't have very many contemporary romances in their catalogs. Lots of fantasy (duh) and lots of realistic fiction, which I always consider heavier reads, but little romance. And that made me sad. I love fantasy and sci-fi, but I need them interspersed with books that are light and fun!

2017 is a garbage fire. I frequently feel like our society is completely doomed and WE are the characters who are fucked after the book ends. I don't need to read books that will leave me feeling depressed after I close the cover. I already feel depressed. I want books where I envision the character still has their best days ahead of them, even if I don't get to read about those adventures. I want to feel happy and warm and content, like a cat lazing in a ray of sunshine streaming in through a window. Like I'm curled up in a cozy blanket with a mug of hot chocolate. Like I'm lying in a hammock listening to the ocean's waves as a breeze gently caresses my face. That's how fluff makes me feel. The world might be terrible, but at least it seems like writers are creating more of these stories and publishers are publishing them. I'm grateful for that. I just want EVEN MORE, and also, I would very much like more diverse stories of all kinds.

One thing about fluff is that like just about all genres of YA, it's populated with a million stories about white cishet Christian-or-not-religious usually-middle-or-upper-class able-bodied characters. I love that we're seeing other kinds of stories like When Dimple Met Rishi and I Believe in a Thing Called Love, To All the Boys I've Loved Before and Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda, Queens of Geek and The Secret of a Heart Note but I definitely want more. It's comforting to me to read warm, sweet stories, and I bet a lot of readers would feel the same if they could see more characters like themselves on the page. So come on, writers and publishers, keep pushing!

I don't think book bloggers really write for authors, just for other readers, but if there are any authors reading this, please don't be offended when you hear readers categorize your books as fluff. We don't mean that they lack substance; instead, it's an indicator of how your book makes us feel: like rainbows and sparkles and whipped cream and sprinkles and stardust and chunky cable knit and crunchy leaves. Think of it this way: do you really want a hard, flat pillow or a fluffy one? Those weird hairless cats or a fluffy kitteh? Runny (or super dry) scrambled eggs or fluffy? Thin, wimpy pancakes or fluffy? A regular, run-of-the-mill unicorn or a SUPER FLUFFY ONE?

Fluff is not an insult, and if someone is using it as one, it's probably a dude, and he is a sexist douchecanoe who sucks and doesn't understand the power of fluff. For your reference, here's a Buzzfeed listicle of amazing fluffy things. I would only change it to add books to the list.

I couldn't let you guys go without recommending some of my fluffy favorites!

The Upside of Unrequited – Becky Albertalli
Alex, Approximately - Jenn Bennett
Teen Idol, Nicola and the Viscount – Meg Cabot
99 Days – Katie Cotugno
Endless Summer – Jennifer Echols
My Life Next Door – Huntley Fitzpatrick
I Believe in a Thing Called Love – Maurene Goo
To All the Boys I've Loved Before – Jenny Han
The Secret of a Heart Note – Stacey Lee
Open Road Summer, The Start of Me & You – Emery Lord
The Unexpected Everything, Amy & Roger's Epic Detour - Morgan Matson
When Dimple Met Rishi – Sandhya Menon
First & Then, This Adventure Ends – Emma Mills
Being Sloane Jacobs (although my boss loves Meant to Be more) – Lauren Morrill
Dumplin' – Julie Murphy
Bittersweet, The Book of Broken Hearts – Sarah Ockler
Anna & the French Kiss, My True Love Gave to Me anthology – Stephanie Perkins
Geekerella – Ashley Poston
This is What Happy Looks Like – Jennifer E. Smith
The Art of Lainey – Paula Stokes
Love & Gelato – Jenna Evans Welch
On the Fence, The Distance Between Us – Kasie West
Queens of Geek – Jen Wilde

How do you feel about fluff? Do you have any recommendations of your own? Please share in the comments!

Waiting on Wednesday: Meet Cute

After a three year hiatus, I'm bringing back my WoW posts! Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature hosted Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases.

Meet Cute
by a butt-ton of authors
Coming January 2, 2018
HMH Books for Young Readers

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Whether or not you believe in fate, or luck, or love at first sight, every romance has to start somewhere. Meet Cute is an anthology of original short stories featuring tales of "how they first met" from some of today’s most popular YA authors. 

Readers will experience Nina LaCour's beautifully written piece about two Bay Area girls meeting via a cranky customer service Tweet, Sara Shepard's glossy tale about a magazine intern and a young rock star, Nicola Yoon's imaginative take on break-ups and make-ups, Katie Cotugno's story of two teens hiding out from the police at a house party, and Huntley Fitzpatrick's charming love story that begins over iced teas at a diner. There’s futuristic flirting from Kass Morgan and Katharine McGee, a riveting transgender heroine from Meredith Russo, a subway missed connection moment from Jocelyn Davies, and a girl determined to get out of her small town from Ibi Zoboi. Jennifer Armentrout writes a sweet story about finding love from a missing library book, Emery Lord has a heartwarming and funny tale of two girls stuck in an airport, Dhonielle Clayton takes a thoughtful, speculate approach to pre-destined love, and Julie Murphy dreams up a fun twist on reality dating show contestants. 

This incredibly talented group of authors brings us a collection of stories that are at turns romantic and witty, epic and everyday, heartbreaking and real.

Why I Want It:
In a word: the lineup. This is a SPECTACULARLY assembled group of enormously talented writers. I have a post coming out tomorrow about fluffy books and how I want more of them and I want more diverse fluff. Including authors of color, particular black women, and queer authors, especially trans, lesbian, and bisexual authors, is a huge deal in anthologies, and I'm REALLY excited about this step forward. I've always loved anthologies because it means I get more stories from authors I love, but I am really excited about all the upcoming anthologies that are branching out from the typical. A few other anthologies I can't wait to read include Three Sides of a HeartHope Nation, The Radical Element, (Don't) Call Me Crazy, and Toil and Trouble.

Why I think you should want it:
Okay, but do you SEE that lineup?? Also, those teasers! Rock stars! Diners! Missed connections! Library books! Airports! Reality tv! If you need a pick-me-up kind of read, Meet Cute seems like it will hit that mark for sure. 

Review: Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

Rating: 5 stars
Release Date: 10/24/17
Publisher: Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books
Genre: young adult realistic fiction, poetry
Format/Source: ARC, Baker & Taylor arc program
Status: standalone

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An ode to Put the Damn Guns Down, this is National Book Award finalist and New York Times bestseller Jason Reynolds’s fiercely stunning novel that takes place in sixty potent seconds—the time it takes a kid to decide whether or not he’s going to murder the guy who killed his brother.

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.

Blog Tour: Never Say Die by Anthony Horowitz

Release Date: October 10, 2017
Publisher: Philomel
Genre: young adult thriller
Status: Book 1 of the Alex Rider series

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Alex Rider is back in action! His new mission? Rescue an entire bus filled with children belonging to wealthy families. At stake are not only the lives of each child, but the very future of the terrorist organization known as SCORPIA. Thrilling action and pulse-pounding heroics make the pages fly.

The world's greatest teen spy is back in action in a thrilling new mission: destroy once and for all the terrorist organization SCORPIA. Following the events of Scorpia Rising, Alex relocates to San Francisco as he slowly recovers from the tragic death of his best friend and caregiver, Jack Starbright, at the hands of terrorists working for SCORPIA. With Jack gone, Alex feels lost and alone, but then, out of the blue, he receives a cryptic email--just three words long, but enough to make Alex believe that Jack may be alive. Armed with this shred of hope, Alex boards a flight bound for Egypt and embarks on a dubious quest to track Jack down. Yet SCORPIA knows Alex's weakness. And the question of whether Jack is alive soon takes a backseat to a chilling new terrorist plot--one that will determine the lives of many. From Egypt to France to Wales, from luxury yachts to abandoned coal mines, Alex traverses a minefield of dangers and cryptic clues as he fights to discover the truth. The #1 New York Times bestselling series, perfect for fans of James Bond and Jason Bourne, is back with a vengeance! 

Review: Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde

Rating: 4.5 stars
Release Date: March 14, 2017
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Genre: young adult contemporary romance
Format/Source: ARC, from the publisher
Status: standalone
(but characters from QoG will show up in The Brightsiders!

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When BFFs Charlie, Taylor and Jamie go to SupaCon, they know it’s going to be a blast. What they don’t expect is for it to change their lives forever.

Charlie likes to stand out. SupaCon is her chance to show fans she’s over her public breakup with co-star, Reese Ryan. When Alyssa Huntington arrives as a surprise guest, it seems Charlie’s long-time crush on her isn’t as one-sided as she thought.

While Charlie dodges questions about her personal life, Taylor starts asking questions about her own.

Taylor likes to blend in. Her brain is wired differently, making her fear change. And there’s one thing in her life she knows will never change: her friendship with Jamie—no matter how much she may secretly want it to. But when she hears about the Queen Firestone SupaFan Contest, she starts to rethink her rules on playing it safe.

Review: Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch

Rating: 4 stars
Release Date: May 3, 2016
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Genre: young adult contemporary romance
Format/Source: paperback, gift
Status: standalone, but Love & Luck is a companion

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“I made the wrong choice.”

Lina is spending the summer in Tuscany, but she isn’t in the mood for Italy’s famous sunshine and fairy-tale landscape. She’s only there because it was her mother’s dying wish that she get to know her father. But what kind of father isn’t around for sixteen years? All Lina wants to do is get back home.

But then she is given a journal that her mom had kept when she lived in Italy. Suddenly Lina’s uncovering a magical world of secret romances, art, and hidden bakeries. A world that inspires Lina, along with the ever-so-charming Ren, to follow in her mother’s footsteps and unearth a secret that has been kept for far too long. It’s a secret that will change everything she knew about her mother, her father—and even herself.

People come to Italy for love and gelato, someone tells her, but sometimes they discover much more.

Blog Tour: Breakaway by Sophia Henry

Release Date: September 5, 2017
Publisher: Random House: Flirt
Genre: new adult sports romance
Format/Source: drc, from the publisher
Status: book 5 of the Pilots Hockey companion series

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In a standalone hockey romance that tugs at readers’ heartstrings, a broken ex-pro learns to live and love again—all thanks to the complicated, wonderful nurse who gives him a second chance.

Brianna Collins needs to break away from her overbearing family. Her parents expect her to “fix” her brother after a series of concussions derailed his hockey career. Unfortunately, no doctor will give him clearance to play, and she’s finished with being the person they rely on to perform a miracle that will never happen. For Bree, a six-month nursing assignment at a hospital in Charlotte, North Carolina, is the perfect escape.

Luke Daniels, former forward for the NHL’s Charlotte Aviators, has spent close to a year rehabbing a career-threatening injury—and distracting himself however he can. Worlds collide when Luke realizes that the girl from his latest one-night-stand happens to be the new nurse at the hospital where he volunteers in the pediatric unit. What’s more, Bree’s the only person who makes him excited about life again.

Despite her initial reservations, Luke can’t help pursuing sweet, beautiful Bree. Then he realizes it was her brother whose career he ended with an accidental hit, and he falls back on the thing that’s always helped suppress his demons: alcohol. But if Luke doesn’t kick his old habits, he just may lose the one thing he loves more than hockey.

Don’t miss any of Sophia Henry’s exhilarating Pilots Hockey novels:

Praise for Sophia Henry

“Sophia Henry’s hockey novels are fun and flirty, warm and sweet, with relatable heroines and swoon-worthy hockey heroes. They’ll bring a smile to your face and warmth to your heart.”—USA Today bestselling author Kelly Jamieson

Blog Tour: Invictus by Ryan Graudin

Rating: 4 stars
Release Date: September 26, 2017
Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers
Genre: young adult science fiction
Format/Source: ARC, from the publisher

Disclaimer: I was given a copy of this book by the publisher. This does not affect the content of my review.

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Time flies when you're plundering history.

Farway Gaius McCarthy was born outside of time. The son of a time-traveling Recorder from 2354 AD and a gladiator living in Rome in 95 AD, Far's birth defies the laws of nature. Exploring history himself is all he's ever wanted, and after failing his final time-traveling exam, Far takes a position commanding a ship with a crew of his friends as part of a black market operation to steal valuables from the past.

But during a heist on the sinking Titanic, Far meets a mysterious girl who always seems to be one step ahead of him. Armed with knowledge that will bring Far's very existence into question, she will lead Far and his team on a race through time to discover a frightening truth: History is not as steady as it seems.

Review: Warcross by Marie Lu

Rating: 4.5 stars
Release Date: September 12, 2017
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Genre: young adult science fiction
Format/Source: ARC, from the publisher
Status: book 1 of the Warcross duology

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For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. Needing to make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation.

Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire.

Blog Tour: Before She Ignites by Jodi Meadows: Guest post + giveaway

I am so excited to bring you today's stop on the Before She Ignites tour! BSI is the newest fantasy from Jodi Meadows, and it's out TOMORROW! *celebrates* Jodi joins me on the blog today for a special guest post. Be sure to check out ALL the stops on the BSI blog tour for more guest posts from Jodi, interviews, reviews, and excerpts PLUS the awesome giveaway!

Release Date: September 12, 2017
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Genre: young adult fantasy
Format/Source: ARC, from the publisher

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Mira Minkoba is the Hopebearer. Since the day she was born, she’s been told she’s special. Important. Perfect. She’s known across the Fallen Isles not just for her beauty, but for the Mira Treaty named after her, a peace agreement which united the seven islands against their enemies on the mainland.

But Mira has never felt as perfect as everyone says. She counts compulsively. She struggles with crippling anxiety. And she’s far too interested in dragons for a girl of her station.

Then Mira discovers an explosive secret that challenges everything she and the Treaty stand for. Betrayed by the very people she spent her life serving, Mira is sentenced to the Pit–the deadliest prison in the Fallen Isles. There, a cruel guard would do anything to discover the secret she would die to protect.

No longer beholden to those who betrayed her, Mira must learn to survive on her own and unearth the dark truths about the Fallen Isles–and herself–before her very world begins to collapse.

Blog Tour: Ferocious by Paula Stokes

Rating:  stars
Release Date: August 15, 2017
Publisher: Tor Teen
Genre: young adult thriller
Format/Source: finished copy, from the publisher
Status: Book 2 of the Vicarious series
Links: Girl Against the Universe review

Disclaimer: I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review as part of the blog tour, which was organized & hosted by Jean Book Nerd book tours. The full tour schedule can be found HERE. Please go give my fellow tour hosts some love!

Disclaimer: I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review as part of the blog tour. This does not affect the content of my review.

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Paula Stokes returns to the world of Vicarious in this sequel, a high-action psychological thriller with a protagonist out for vengeance.

When Winter Kim finds out that her sister is dead and that she has a brother she never knew about, only two things matter―finding what’s left of her family and killing the man who destroyed her life. Her mission leads her from St. Louis to Los Angeles back to South Korea, where she grew up.

Things get increasingly dangerous once Winter arrives in Seoul. Aided by her friends Jesse and Sebastian, Winter attempts to infiltrate an international corporation to get close to her target, a nefarious businessman named Kyung. But keeping her last remaining loved ones out of the line of fire proves difficult, and when all seems to be lost, Winter must face one last devastating decision: is revenge worth sacrificing everything for? Or can she find a spark of hope in the darkness that threatens to engulf her?

Merchandise Review: Reel Bookish subscription box

Today I'm reviewing Reel Bookish, a brand new subscription box that pairs goodies from classic AND current films with a newly released YA book. Keep reading to see my unboxing, discover the theme for September, AND receive a code to save on your first box!

Shop: Reel Bookish
Owner: Montana of The Book Belles
Goods: book subscription box

Shop Links:

Overall rating: 4.5 stars

Disclaimer: Reel Bookish provided me with a complimentary box for review. This does not affect the content of my review.

This is the first subscription box I've reviewed, and as I worked on this post, I realize that since boxes are released differently than a regular merch shop, I'll have to tweak the format of my post a bit. Normally I rate shops based on the shop (products offered), product quality, and customer service with an overall rating based on a combination of those three. But subscription boxes... don't have some of those things. So I'll be primarily concentrating on the products that were included in the box.

Reel Bookish is a bi-monthly subscription box so after the initial July box, the next will ship in September. Like the bookish candle market, the YA subscription box market is pretty saturated right now so I think it's smart for Reel Bookish to go bi-monthly. It's definitely a good way to entice readers who want to try a box, but aren't willing to commit to a monthly plan. The price is $29.99, which is on par with other subscription boxes, and it's a pretty good deal considering the July box contained a newly released hardcover and 7 other items. You can purchase a one-time box on the Reel Bookish site or head over to subscription box headquarters at Cratejoy to start up a subscription that will renew automatically. I really appreciate this aspect because I've tried a few different subscription boxes now, and while every box offers the option to cancel, you know how life is. Sometimes you forget these things. Having the ability to start with a one-time box is smart and considerate to your curious but not-quite-ready-to-commit customers.

There's No Business Like Show Business

The theme for the July box is There's No Business Like Show Business, and I like it! This classic Hollywood slogan clearly conveys the box's message, and the message is movies! In this case, the box had three inspirations for the items included: classic Marilyn Monroe film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, the modern award-winning La La Land, and Leila Howland's newest novel Hello, Sunshine. The box came with two guide cards, one that explained the items included in the box and an art card with each title and cover/poster/still on one side and the summary of each title + one fun fact + recommendations on the other. The first card is another standard for a bookish box because it explains the items and credits the shops whose items were included, but I LOVE the second card. I just saw La La Land a couple weeks ago (that opening number tho!), but I've never seen Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and the summary and trivia intrigued me. The info card listed that each title inspired 2-3 items in the box so here's the breakdown:

La La Land
Bookish design queen Evie Seo designed an exclusive print based on the iconic "A Lovely Night" dance from La La Land. It's stunning, of course, and this print will definitely be popping up on my instagram feed in other posts.

My fave Novelly Yours also created an exclusive candle for the box: City of Stars, a dreamy candle about which I am torn. Do I burn this amazing beachy candle and enjoy it or do I keep it forever because IT HAS WAX DRIPPED ALL OVER THE TOP TO SIMULATE STARS? So you see my dilemma. Brittany told me some of the drips are random (mine), but some have constellations dripped into them (!!!!!) like the Little Dipper (!!!!!) and Cassiopeia (!!!!!). Brittany, you tricksy mix, you've done it again & created a masterpiece. The scent is similar to her Scorpio Sea and World-Building candles, but it's actually wholly unique from any other candle I own (which you all know is a LOT).

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
Okay. Some of the words you have read a couple times in this post already are "similar to other bookish boxes" because honestly, so many boxes are very similar. There are a few with a focus on fantasy/sci-fi. There are a few bi-monthly or quarterly. Everyone does candles. Everyone does prints. Everyone has done socks or tea or bookmarks or magnetic bookmarks. Many have done mugs and jewelry and pillowcases and totes. Reel Bookish stands out to me because of the theme, but this next item has me with a major case of heart eyes: THERE IS AN ACTUAL TIARA IN THIS BOX. That's right. T I A R A. To see my reaction, please watch this 50 second video:

I've never seen a box with a TIARA before, but I was super stoked to get it! I have actually been looking for a nice tiara, and I've finally found one!

side note: I might get to meet Mayim Bialik in October & I'm so excited!

There's also gorgeous shimmery pearl gumballs in an adorable little bottle for a movie snack. The gumballs taste like Double Bubble (so I have a HUGE craving for it right now) and the flavor lasts about 20 seconds, but they're beautiful, and if you're into bookish photography, these would look amazing in any sort of ocean themed as bubbles. I'm going to give creative points on this one because I also haven't seen gum in a box yet, and they really are super pretty.

Hello Sunshine
I adore Leila Howland's Nantucket duology (Nantucket Blue, Nantucket Red) so I'm pretty excited to have her third YA novel in my hands! Leila's books embrace and embody the very essence of summer, and while they're fun, fluffy reads, they also contain a great deal of emotion and fantastic character development that most people don't associate with a typical beach read. The bookstagrammer in me is also VERY happy to have another yellow naked hardcover in my collection.

Finishing out the box are a cute LA postcard, surfboard magnet, and starfish shell, all of which I adore. They fit the theme perfectly, and they're adorable!

Conclusion + coupon code!
I'm really happy with this box, and I'm definitely considering snagging a subscription, especially because the September box is a choose-your-own. The TWO themes are A Shimmer of Magic (!!!) and The Life and Times of Diana Prince (!!!). MAGIC and WONDER WOMAN, Y'ALL. If Reel Bookish sounds like a box for you, I definitely recommend you give it a shot. Also, you can use code MARY from now until August 7 for 25% off!