Thursday, March 23, 2017

Reading on a Theme: Cemeteries and Funerals

I'm a little surprised how easy it was to put this Reading on a Theme together. All of the main characters in these books have a closer connection to the funeral business than most. Turns out growing up in a funeral home or cemetery or attending your own funeral makes for a very interesting novel.               

Life in the Funeral Home:
Growing up in a funeral home and being saddled with the nickname Graveyard Gabe has made it difficult for Gabe to make friends. Bree is her one true companion until she starts dating the very boy that gave Gabe her hated nickname. How can Gabe be a good friend when Bree is making decisions that Gabe is certain will have dangerous consequences? And why has Bree gone MIA just when Gabe needs her advice to navigate her first boy/girl relationship? Jolene Perry's novel about what true friendship means and how to confront death and keep on living is a story with plenty of quirk and lots of heart. All the Forever Things is out April 1st. Review copy from NetGalley.

An Agent of Death:
Leigh already felt like she was an agent of death before her father went and bought a cemetery. Now that she's working for the family business dealing with burials and grieving families everyday that whole agent-of-death-thing is feeling truer than ever. Six Feet Over It is equally tragic and poignant. Leigh, in dealing with her past and the death around her, must come to accept death's place in life. It's not an easy lesson, and at times I felt like I was wading through Leigh's depression with her. Dario is the little piece of light, but you worry that Leigh's feelings for him might end up crushing her even more. Jennifer Longo's book is very character driven. As a reader you ache for Leigh to pull it together and reach out. In the end, I think Leigh will be okay.

Attending Your Own Funeral:
Denton has always know what day he would die. Everyone knows their deathdate. And, although Denton will die when he's only 17, he's done his best to have a normal life. Denton Little's Deathdate begins in the early morning hours on the day before Denton will die. Denton thought he was prepared for death, but it turns out that giving your own eulogy at your own funeral and attending your own sit-in is pretty weird and kind of uncomfortable. And, as the hours tick closer to the close of the Denton's deathdate, the carefully crafted threads of Denton's life begin to completely unravel in ways that are both hilarious and painful. Lance Rubin's book is so crazy and awfully funny.

Murder in the Cemetery:
Lily Graves lives in a funeral home with her mom, aunt, and oma. She fully intends to take over the family business someday. Lily is one spoke of a love triangle that includes Matt, a popular jock, and Erin of high-school royalty. Erin is murdered and all the evidence seems to point to Lily and Matt. So Lily and her best friend and true crimes lover, Sara, set out to clear Lily's name.
The Secrets of Lily Graves is a book that you can't say too much about because it's best to avoid all possible spoilers. I will say that Lily is a great character. Her quirks make her interesting, but she's also incredibly likeable and a fantastic narrator. Sarah Strohmeyer's mystery is nice and twisty. I thought I had it all figured out early on, but I was wrong.

Raised by Ghosts:
This is the story of Nobody Owens. Although he is human, he is raised in a graveyard by his adoptive parents who are ghosts.
With his parents and guardian Silas watching over him, Bod meets lots of ghosts, discovers the secrets of the graveyard, and is learns to Fade and Haunt. The Graveyard Book is like a book of short stories about Bod's life, the crazy characters he meets in the graveyard, and growing up among the dead. These short stories are woven together by the end of the novel as we see characters and situations come back to play a major role in Bod's escape from the man Jack. I love Neil Gaiman. His books are so creative and just the right amount of weird.

All books review by JoLee. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Story Continues: Blood for Blood and Silver Stars

Last year, during our first World War II Week, we did a Reading a Theme featuring five books that take the World War II era into the realm of speculative fiction. In the last few months sequels came out for two of our favorite books from that post. Here we share our thoughts on Blood for Blood, the sequel to Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin and Silver Stars, the sequel to Front Lines by Michael Grant.

Blood for Blood by Ryan Graudin

Publisher / Year: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers - November 2016

Genres: Young Adult Historical Fantasy

Source: My local library

Goodreads | Amazon


Ryan Graudin's Wolf by Wolf series imagines what the world would be like if Hitler and the Axis Powers had won the war. I really enjoyed Wolf by Wolf. In fact, I liked it so much that I passed the book along to several of my friends and then selected it as my book club pick last June. (Good discussion, by the way. It turned out to be a excellent book club choice.) When I read Wolf by Wolf, I found myself absolutely fascinated by Adele. She's not really in the book, and yet, she is so very present. I wanted to know why Adele would have entered the Axis Tour, disguised as her twin brother, how she got away with it, and what exactly went down between her and Luka. So, I read the e-novella Iron to Iron as I not-so patiently waited for Blood For Blood. I never read e-novella (seriously, never), so the fact that I made an exception here says a lot about how much I liked the Wolf by Wolf (and how curious I was about Adele).

With Wolf by Wolf and Iron to Iron under my belt, I was all geared up for Blood For Blood. The second in the series opens just seconds after the final moments in Wolf by Wolf. Yael has successfully killed the faux-Hitler and in the process discovered that he is, in fact, a faux-Hitler. When Yael flees the scene, Luka follows her, and because of him the two get captured. Meanwhile, Felix has been dragged into the investigation and agrees to cooperate if the SS will spare his family.

So... my feelings about this sequel were kind of mixed. On the one hand, I was really impressed with how Ryan Graudin worked things so that she could keep the three main characters together. I also liked the reintroduction of a figure from Yael's past. For the most part, the way that the plot proceeded and the twists and turns, and the way that Project 85 had become central to the Reich's all really worked for me. I especially liked the climax where Luka puts all the pieces together.

However, I felt that this book suffered from a growing pain that I see a lot in dystopia and fantasy series. Many of those books start out with a first book that is focused on a single character and a singular mission. Consider The Hunger Games. Book One is all about Katniss getting through those games. In this series, book one was centered on Yael and the Axis Tour. In many of these series, once that first mission is accomplished, the focus of the next book (or two) is overthrowing the whole empire. (Consider Mockingjay as an example.) And, it seems to me, that such a large jump is really hard to do. I could really feel the big jump in this sequel.

Silver Stars by Michael Grant

Publisher / Year: Katherine Tegen Books - January 2017

Genres: Young Adult Historical Fiction / Alternate History

Source: Review copy from publisher via Edelweiss

Goodreads | Amazon

In his Front Lines series, Michael Grant imagines what the war would have been like if women had been eligible for the draft and fought on the front. His series follows three girls serving in the armed forces. Rio is in the army. She is a tough and a very good soldier. Frangie is a medic. She is also African-America and serves in an all-Black unit. Rainy is in intelligence. She knows several languages and goes undercover behind enemy lines. She is also Jewish, which adds an extra layer of danger to her missions.

One thing I love about this series is how Grant confronts the attitudes and prejudices experienced by his soldier girls. The issues of gender, race, and religion are navigated in a way that feels so truthful and really makes the reader consider how all of this would have gone down if it really happened.

In book one the characters spent a lot of time gearing up for war, and now, in book two, they are all seasoned soldiers. Silver Stars is dedicated to war and all its brutality, heroism, fear, and boredom. Personally, I often get a little bogged down by books with battle scene after battle scene, and I did feel that a little in this book. There is a lot of fighting. Also, in some ways this book is hard to read because the characters are put through such traumatic situations. Rainy's story line, especially, was absolutely terrifying both because of the ineptitude of her superiors and the physical danger she was in.

We see a lot of growth in the characters in this book. Rio, especially, is something of a symbol of how war changes a person. It's not necessary for better or for worse, she's just changed, and some characters are less okay with that than others. Rio has also grown up a lot over the last few months. She was underage when she enlisted and didn't really have a sense of who she was. Now she's having to figure that out on the battlefield.
I really like all of the characters, but Frangie just might be my favorite of the three. I'd love to spend more time with her. The narration moves between the three main characters, but my favorite parts are when the characters' story lines intersect.

Blood for Blood and Silver Stars reviewed by JoLee.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Story Continues: Trouble is a Friend of Mine, Lock & Mori: Mind Games, & The Last of August

Last year one of my very favorite Reading on a Themes, was the one that I put together with a bunch of YA Sherlock Holmes retellings. I loved reading all of those books. We had Sherlock Holmes as girl. Watson as a girl. Sherlock Holmes in Australia. Sherlock Holmes at board school. Sherlock Holmes teaming up with Moriarty. That was a seriously fun post. Sequels for three of the five books in the original post were published in the last few months, and I couldn't resist bringing them together for an encore.

Trouble Makes a Comeback by Stephanie Tromly

Publisher / Year: Kathy Dawson Books - November 2016

Genres: YA Mystery 

Source: I purchased this book with my own money

Goodreads | Amazon

I absolutely loved Stephanie Tromly's debut novel, Trouble is a Friend of Mine. When I heard it was getting a sequel that was basically my dream come true. Trouble Makes a Comeback begins four months after the conclusion of the first book in the series. Zoe has settled into a semblance of a normal high school life. She has new friends, an after-school job, and a boyfriend. She's convinced herself that she is content with this less-zany, Digby-less existence. And then Digby returns.

Digby's reappearance throws a wrench in Zoe's "I'm totally normal" plan. Where Digby is concerned, Zoe has very little self-control. Digby has new information on the case of his missing sister, and the usually shenanigans ensure--Digby shows up, convinces Zoe to go sleuthing with him, they get in some scrape, narrowly escape, and then repeat the process all over again. There's also the unresolved issue of book one's kiss. Talk about tension.

Reading Trouble Makes a Comeback was like hanging out with an old friend. I opened the book and then basically did not stop smiling until I finished it. I am a sucker for smart, snappy dialog, and Ms. Tromly really delivers. Every scene with Zoe and Digby in it is such a treat. I'd read about them doing laundry together. They are that entertaining. But in all seriousness, the plot of this book really moves along and delivers some unforeseen twists and turns. I love Zoe's narration and all the side characters in Zoe and Digby's little gang of misfits. The scenes between Zoe and Sloane were some of my favorite. I also, somewhat unexpectedly, really enjoyed having Cooper around. It's good to have a solid grown-up or two in a book like this.

I'm really excited for the sequel. I'm sure I'll be grinning through that one as well.

Lock & Mori: Mind Games by Heather W. Petty

Publisher / Year: Simon & Schuster - December 2016

Genres: YA Mystery / Retelling

Source: ARC from the publisher via NetGalley

Goodreads | Amazon

After nearly dying at her father's hands, Mori wants nothing more than for her father to rot in jail, but she knows that her James Moriarty is more than capable of hurting his family even from behind bars. Several of the police officers on the case are friends with Mori's father and would love nothing more than to poke several holes in Mori's story. Protestors are camped out in front of the Moriarty home, and Mori starts receiving threatening letters and weird photographs. No, Mori definitely does not feel safe.

There are a few bright spots. Sherlock Holmes continues to be a stolid friend (boyfriend?), even as Mori debates whether or not she should push him away for his own sake, and Mori's mother's friend, Alice, arrives in town complete with a forged custody file that will allow Mori's brothers to stay in their home.

I was not expecting to like this sequel so much. I absolutely flew through this book. I enjoyed the first book in the series, but it was a little dark for me (there was some heavy stuff in the first book), and I remember feeling like I wasn't quite jiving with the writing. I don't know if I was just in the right place this time around or if something changed behind the scenes, but I am now completely sold on this series.

One thing I absolutely love about this series is how complicated Mori is. The reader can easily see how Mori could go down path that will lead to the amorality we associate with Sherlock Holmes's nemesis. In fact, Mori clearly identifies and struggles with this aspect of her personality as well. The result is that the relationship between Lock and Mori is so fraught. I just so badly want them to be happy, but I can see the tragedy coming.

The twists at the end of this book kind of killed me. I need the next book in the series.

The Last of August by Brittany Cavallaro

Publisher / Year: Katherine Tegen Books - February 2017

Genres: YA Mystery / Retelling

Source: ARC from the publisher via Edelweiss

Goodreads | Amazon

Brittany Cavallaro's first novel, A Study in Charlotte, was one of my favorite debuts of the 2016. I just loved everything about that book. I loved the boarding school setting, and the literary writing, and the relationship between Charlotte and Jamie complicated as it is with all their family history. I was eagerly anticipating the sequel.

Book two is set during Jamie and Charlotte's Christmas break, and they are back in England spending time with family. Things get icy for the duo when they go to Charlotte's family estate in Sussex. Between weird conversations with Charlotte's parents, Charlotte's mother's poor health, and Charlotte's inaccessibility, Jamie is having a very uncomfortable stay. The only glimmer of light in this weird visit is Charlotte's uncle Leander who is a brilliant detective and Jamie's father's best friend and former roommate. And then Leander goes missing. Charlotte and Jamie jet straightaway to Berlin where Leander was working undercover rooting out a forgery ring. The Moriartys are, of course, the prime suspects.

As much as I hate to say it, this book was a bit of a disappointment for me. And that is so painful to say because I was looking forward to it so much! I think the book suffered from the expanded world. Watson and Holmes made so much sense at boarding school, but gallivanting around Europe? It just didn't feel as authentic. Then there is this worrisome ever-increasing darkness in Charlotte (oh, I suppose it was always there but Jamie used to be able to temper it). I'm afraid this series is turning into a tragedy! In that sense, it reminded me a lot of Mind Games, which I just reviewed above and I really like the tragedy in that series, but it's like a knife to the heart in this one.

There were some things that I really enjoyed about this book. I really liked the whole art forgery aspects (art historian, here) and settled on thinking of Hans Langenberg as a German Edward Hopper. The grand finale at the art auction was also very entertaining and funny. Also, I loved the chapters that Charlotte narrated so, so much. It was good to have a break from angsty Jamie. (Although, I mostly blame Charlotte's head games for poor Jamie's wallowing.) But be warned, the ending is pretty brutal.

All books reviewed by JoLee.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Recently Acquired Books from All Sources

We are joining the folks over at Tynga's Reviews for their Stacking the Shelves feature.

From the Library:

The Wrath & the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh:
I've heard a million good things about this retelling of 1001 Nights. I finally decided to read it because Renee Ahdieh is coming to a book event I'm hoping to attend.

Three Dark Crown by Kendare Blake:
I was so excited when I saw that the library recently got this book on audio. I reserved a copy on Overdrive right away.

Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore:
I loved Graceling and Fire, and I have been meaning to read the third in the series for ages. When I saw this book come up on my library's "Recently Acquired" Overdrive shelf, I rejoiced because I knew that I would finally be able to finish the series. I really enjoyed this book. It made me feel so nostalgic for the first two books.

From Audible:

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi:
This was the book club pick for February. I listened to this book in one day. It's only 5 hours long, so that's less of an accomplishment than it sounds, but I was not expecting to be as consumed by this book as I was. It was an excellent book club pick. We talked about it for about three hours.

Caraval by Stephanie Garber:
This book has received so much hype. I've been eager to read it ever since it was all the rage at BEA in May, so I downloaded on the day it came out. I thought Caraval was a lot of fun. I'm definitely game for the sequel.

Wayfarer by Alexandra Bracken:
I enjoyed this sequel to Passenger even more than the first in the series. For a time travel series, I feel like this series is a little short on the more mind-bending aspects of time travel, so it would be a great pick even for people who aren't huge fans of the genre.

For Review:

Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray:
I loved the Firebird Series so much that now I feel like I am game for anything that Claudia Gray writes. This book takes place in space and one of the characters is an AI. I'm sold. (Out April 4th, 2017)

The Whole Thing Together by Ann Brashares:
I'm intrigued by the premise of this book. It's about a broken family that shares the same beach house year and year, never crossing paths. I'm hoping for a book with the feel of We Were Liars or Even in Paradise. (Out April 25, 2017)

Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia:
I really enjoyed Francesca Zappia's debut novel, Made You Up, and so I'm eager to read something by her again. Also, this book is about a girl who is the anonymous creator of a webcomic, and I like that idea. (Out May 30, 2017)

More of Me by Kathryn Evans:
This book is about a girl who unwillingly clones herself every year due to a genetic abnormality. It got great reviews when it was published in the UK, and the premise reminds me of a Cat Patrick book, and I am a fan. (Out June 13, 2017)

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Reading on a Theme: Fame, Celebrity, and Romance

When we need a quick, fun read the average girl meets famous boy (or visa versa) story is becoming our go-to genre. We're back with five brand new tales of fame, celebrity, and romance. They are certain to make you smile, and if you need more check out these posts: here and here.

The PA and the Big Star:
In Lauren Morrill’s My Unscripted Life Dee Wilkie finds herself sulking over her rejection from the precollege fine arts program until pop-sensation Milo Ritter arrives in her small town to film his movie. Dee gets hired and secretly hopes to run into/fall in love with Milo. When Dee does finally run into him she's rather unimpressed. Once Dee opens up and Milo’s guard comes down a chance for love seems possible. I enjoyed that despite an unrealistic situation the author made the story so relatable. I felt Dee responded realistically to seeing her celebrity crush. Dee is adorable, quirky, and a fun character. I wanted more Dee and Milo time in the novel. Overall, a very enjoyable fast read. Out October 2016.

The Over-Achiever and the Ex-Boy Band Member: 
In The New Guy (And other Senior Year Distractions) by Amy Spalding, Jules McAllister-Morgan is a type-A personality with high expectations for her senior year. She plans on being the editor for the school newspaper and has everything going for her until new boy, Alex Powell former Chaos 4 All boy bander, comes to school. Alex and Jules' relationship takes a romantic turn until Alex betrays Jules. I enjoyed getting to know Jules and her friends, especially her friend Sadie who is very blunt and likeable. Jules’s moms are fun and they love to tease Jules about her liking Alex. The relationship between Jules and Alex is adorable and cute. The New Guy was a very fun read. Out April 2016. Review copy from NetGalley.

The Pop Star and the Townie: 
After a devastating breakup, famous popstar Lily Ross decides to take some time away from stardom. Lily and her two best friends head to a small town in Maine. Lily Ross plans to stay far away from love, but how can she when she meets local boy Noel? Will Lily let her past breakup deter her from finding love? Sing is an adorable love story that also forces Lily to decide what's more important: her fans or her love for Noel? Because come the end of summer, Lily will have to make a decision. Despite this novel being a bit unrealistic, the reactions between the two characters are believable. Also, it's impossible to not want to root for Noel in this fun, delightful read by Vivi Greene. Out April 2016. Review copy from Edelweiss.

The Internet Famous:
It was meant to be a joke between Rachel and her best friend, Monique, but when the picture she takes of Kyle goes viral, everything changes for the two of them. Suddenly, Rachel's long-standing crush knows who she is. Maybe together they can cope with their sudden internet fame. Jilly Gagnon created such a fun story. I liked that there were different consequences for Rachel and Kyle because of the picture. I also found the supporting characters to be really interesting. There were times when I wasn't sure who sincerely had Rachel and Kyle's backs. #famous was so fun and sweet--I read it in a day. #famous is out February 14, 2017. Review copy from Edelweiss.

The Hockey Player and the Drummer:
Bishop Riley, the drummer for Burn, is sent to Alaska to get his act together. He hates everything about this plan until he meets Penny, a high school hockey player. He can't tell her who he is or why he's there. Out of Play deals with some of the grittier things in life (drugs, dementia) and handles them so well. Penny and Bishop are both such complex and interesting characters, but Gramps is my absolute favorite. The book did have several "will you just talk/listen to each other?!" moments, proving it is not a book about how to have a perfect relationship,but how to work through the imperfections. Out of Play is a lovely collaboration by Nyrae Dawn and Jolene Perry. Review copy from NetGalley.

My Unscripted Life, The New Guy (And Other Senior Year Distractions), and Sing reviewed by Sarah.
#famous and Out of Play reviewed by Paige.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Young Adults Books for Fans of Audrey Hepburn Movies

Last summer Paige and I put together a post that paired Meg Ryan movies with Young Adult books. We had so much fun putting that post together that I knew this movie to book pairing was something we'd have to revisit again.

Stephanie Scott's debut Alterations is a retelling of movie Sabrina. Both the original version with Audrey Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart and the 1995 remake with Julia Orman and Harrison Ford are fantastic. I loved what Stephanie Scott did with this material and how she adapted it for a young adult audience living in the 21st century.

There are so many great Audrey Hepburn movies, and we had a lot of fun thinking of young adult books to pair with each one.

If you love Sabrina try Alterations by Stephanie Scott:
Stephanie Scott's Sabrina character, Amelia Blanco, is an aspiring fashion designer who lives with her mother and grandmother in the service apartment of the wealthy Laurenti family. Amelia's longtime crush, Ethan Laurenti, doesn't notice Amelia until he sees how much she's changed after a summer internship in New York. Alterations is fun update of the classic Audrey Hepburn movie.

If you love Funny Face try Geek Girl by Holly Smale:
Both Funny Face and Geek Girl feature very unlikely models. Funny Face's Jo Stockton works in an obscure bookstore and loves philosophy. She is definitely not looking to become a model. In Geek Girl watch math nerd Harriet Manners take on the world of modeling.

If you love Charade try With Malice by Eileen Cook:
Charade was one of the movies that my mom loved to pull out during slumber parties as an example of a classic thriller. Reggie Lampert's (Audrey Hepburn's character) husband is murdered and Lampert doesn't know who to trust and if anyone is who they say they are. With Malice is a YA thriller where the reader (and the main character) doesn't know what's true and if everyone is who they say they are.

If you love Breakfast at Tiffany's try Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland:
I recently rewatched Breakfast at Tiffany's, the story of Holly Golightly and her new neighbor Paul Varjak. Our Chemical Hearts, like Breakfast at Tiffany's, features a girl with a troubled past and a boy who, despite his best intentions, gets involved with her.

If you love Roman Holiday try Love, Lucy by April Lindner:
There are a whole slew of princess books that I could have picked for this pairing. (If you prefer princes and princess we have some recommendations here.) However, I just love April Lindner's retelling of Room with a View, and it definitely also has a bit of the Roman Holiday vibe.

If you love Wait Until Dark try Reign of Shadows by Sophie Jordan:
Wait Until Dark was another sleepover classic at my house. The first time I ever watched it was late at night with my friend Megan and my mom. We were at the most dramatic moment of the story when our recording switched to something else. Someone had recorded over the ending! (Ah the days of VHS tapes.) So we had to make a midnight run to Blockbuster so that we could find out what happened. (Ah the days of Blockbuster.) The main character in Wait Until Dark is blind, and her only advantage over her attacker is that she can navigate through the darkness much better than he can. This is also true of Sophie Jordan's main character, who's blindness allows her to navigate the dark world she lives in.

If you love My Fair Lady try The Fine Art of Pretending by Rachel Harris:
In the classic updating of Pygmalion, Professor Henry Higgins transforms Eliza Doolittle into a fine lady. In The Fine Art of Pretending, Alyssa Reed, with the help of her best friend Brandon Taylor, attempts to transform herself into someone more dateable. Unforeseen consequences and hijinks ensue.  

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Reading on a Theme: A Russian Setting

I've been on a bit of a Russian history kick as of late, and so, when I saw that several new books were set in Russian, I knew that I wanted to do a Russian Reading on a Theme. A little reminiscing is in order here because the very first Reading on a Theme we did on this blog was Russian themed. I can hardly believe it was so long ago. Winter is, of course, the perfect time to read a book set in Russia, so grab a cozy blanket before you pick up any of these books. 

Imperial Russia:
I really enjoyed the mix of magic, competition, and old Russia in The Crown's Game. Vika Andreyeva and Nikolai Karimov are the only two enchanters in Russia, but there is only enough Russian magic for one Imperial Enchanter, and so, the Tsar initiates the Crown's Game, an ancient duel of magical skills. To lose means certain death. Evelyn Skye's debut was such a welcome surprise. It is full of elements I love--an alternate history, magic, and a fabulous setting. I'm eager to read the sequel. The magical duel and the complicated feelings of its participants reminded me a bit of The Night Circus, which, in my book, is always a very good thing. I also loved the hints of the cartoon version of Anastasia.

The Russian Empire:
Marguerite's parents are geniuses. Together they invented the Firebird, a device that allows an individual to travel across dimensions. Marguerite's happy life comes crashing down when her father is murdered. In a race to find the killer Marguerite takes a Firebird prototype and hops across the dimensions in hot pursuit. When her Firebird is damages she spends several months trapped in a parallel world where she is a daughter of the Tsar in world where the Russian Empire never fell. I am such a sucker for parallel realities and alternate dimensions, and I loved reading about all the parellel worlds Claudia Gray created throughout this series.

Medieval Russia:
In this highly anticipated debut, Katherine Arden spins a story that blends Russian fairy tales and folklore with history. Vaslisa is a girl with old magic in her blood, and she must save her village by honoring the old traditions. I really loved the feel of this story. It has a mysterious quality to it that reminded me a little of The Snow Child. I also loved how the tale is wrapped in the world of Medieval Russia. The fairy tale aspects and the historical are woven together so well. The Bear and the Nightingale is the perfect winter read, so curl up with a cozy blanket and a warm drink and crack this one open. The Bear and the Nightingale was out January 10, 2016. Review copy from NetGalley. 

The Russian Revolution:
Marcus Sedgwick's Blood Red Snow White is set during the Russian Revolution and the early years of the Bolshevik regime. Sedgwick weaves history and the lives of real historical figures with Russian fairy tales. The writing, the pacing, and the charging Russian bear all lend a fantastical quality to the historical events, yet they remain tragic and bloody, as Russian fairy tales often are. In Parts Two and Three, Sedgwick tells the story of Arthur Ransome, a British journalist working in Russian. A real historical figure and well-known writer, Arthur Ransome published, among other things, a book of Russian fairy tales entitled Old Peter's Russian Tales. I really liked the tone of the book and the mood established by the fairy tale structure.

The Stalinist Era:
Sana Krasikov's debut, spans multiple generations and several decades. Beginning in the 1930s, we see idealistic Florence Fein leave Brooklyn for the Soviet Union. In 2002, Florence's son seeks answers about his mother's life and hopes to convince his son to leave his job in Russia and return home to the United States. Sana Krasikov's story is truly epic, and I was deeply engrossed in Florence's tale in particular. The way Russia kept drawing the Brink men back to Russia was also fascinating. Ms. Krasikov takes her time with the intricacies of the story and the result is a tale digs deep into the trauma of the Stalinist era for one family. The Patriots is out January 24, 2017. Review copy from NetGalley.

All books reviewed by JoLee.
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