FIRST LINES FRIDAY: Cemetery Boys, by Aidan Thomas

Hello, Friday! First Lines Friday is a feature on my blog in which I post the first lines from a book I am interested in reading, either a new release or a backlist title! For the rest of the year, I’m going to feature books by non-white writers, partially because I just did a whole list of classics by a majority of white writers and partially because I am continually focusing on purchasing and reading books by non-white writers for a whole list of reasons. The books featured will range from “classics” to adult fiction to YA/middle grade fiction, and these are all I’ve had on my shelf for a bit that I want to read by the end of this year or within the first few months of 2021! I can’t believe it’s basically the middle of November already, but time flies when you’re in the middle of a stress-bomb called COVID-19. Stay safe, stay home, wear a mask!

Yadriel wasn’t technically trespassing because he’d lived in the cemetery his whole life. But breaking into the church was definitely crossing the moral-ambiguity line.

Still, if he was going to finally prove he was a brujo, he had to perform the rite in front of Lady Death.

And she was waiting for him inside the church.

The black Hydro Flask full of chicken blood thumped against Yadriel’s hip as he snuck past his family’s small house at the front of the cemetery. The rest of the supplies for the ceremony were tucked away inside his backpack. He and his cousin Maritza ducked under the front windows, careful not to bump their heads on the sills. Silhouettes of the brujx celebrating inside danced across the curtains. Their laughter and the sound of music filtered through the graveyard. Yadriel paused, crouching in the shadows to check the coast was clear before he jumped from the porch and took off. Maritza followed close behind, her footsteps echoing in tandem with Yadriel’s as they ran down stone paths and through puddles.

Adrian Thomas’s Cemetery Boys has been buzzy in my neck of the book internet, and the premise intrigued me from the get-go. Thankfully my store got copies on release day so I could buy it, and I wanted to read it around Halloween but life took a different turn than I was expecting with the death of my cat and work getting busier/more stressful. But after reading the first few pages in preparation for this post, I definitely am bumping it up to the top of my TBR because it already sounds so good and perfectly spooky.

BOOK REVIEW: The Guinevere Deception, by Kiersten White

BOOK REVIEW: The Guinevere Deception, by Kiersten WhiteTitle: The Guinevere Deception by Kiersten White
Series: Camelot Rising #1
Published by Delacorte Press
Published: November 5th 2019
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Pages: 352
Format: ARC
Source: Netgalley
Goodreads

There is nothing in the world as magical and terrifying as a girl.

Princess Guinevere has come to Camelot to wed a stranger: the charismatic King Arthur. With magic clawing at the kingdom's borders, the great wizard Merlin conjured a solution -- send in Guinevere to be Arthur's wife... and his protector from those who want to see the young king's idyllic city fail. The catch? Guinevere's real name -- and her true identity -- is a secret. She is a changeling, a girl who has given up everything to protect Camelot.

To keep Arthur safe, Guinevere must navigate a court in which the old -- including Arthur's own family -- demand things continue as they have been, and the new -- those drawn by the dream of Camelot -- fight for a better way to live. And always, in the green hearts of forests and the black depths of lakes, magic lies in wait to reclaim the land. Arthur's knights believe they are strong enough to face any threat, but Guinevere knows it will take more than swords to keep Camelot free.

Deadly jousts, duplicitous knights, and forbidden romances are nothing compared to the greatest threat of all: the girl with the long black hair, riding on horseback through the dark woods toward Arthur. Because when your whole existence is a lie, how can you trust even yourself?

From New York Times bestselling author Kiersten White comes a new fantasy series reimagining the Arthurian legend, set in the magical world of Camelot.

I’ve always loved King Arthur, it’s mythologies, and all of the various takes on the lore, but Kiersten White’s The Guinevere Deception blew me away. It had been so long since I’ve read anything King Arthur, and I was really excited when I got approved for this ARC from Netgalley.

The story opens with Guinevere arriving to Camelot before her marriage, unsure of herself and her future position in King Arthur’s court, and it’s soon revealed that Guinevere is not who she seems, not even to herself. She has been sent to protect King Arthur rather than merely be a bride sent from a royal family. Throughout the course of the story, Guinevere balances learning about her past and her realities while also getting to know the court in which she lives and the people with whom she is surrounded.

I absolutely love the duality of Guinevere’s character and thought that the struggles she faced while in the midst of all sorts of discovery were true to herself. The supporting case of characters were well-developed, had incredible range and depth, and delighted and surprised me at every turn. The first part of the book did feel a little slow, but since this is the set-up to what I hope is at least a trilogy, I did find it necessary. There’s a lot of ground to cover when reinventing a familiar story, and by the last half of the book, I was completely hooked and didn’t want this to end. I don’t want to spoil anything, but of all the supporting characters, I think Lancelot is my favorite and I’m so excited to see what White does with this character in the context of the familiar stories.

This is one of my favorite reads of the year, and not just YA reads, just because it was so much fun and so inventive on so many levels. I’ve never read White before, but I’ve had the physical ARC for her Frankenstein retelling and the first of another series on my kindle for a while, so I’m definitely bumping those up on my TBR because I enjoyed this so much.

Read this if you enjoy fantasy and/or King Arthur revisits, because this checked off so many boxes for me and I’ve not been able to stop thinking about it since I read it.

Thank you to Netgalley and Delacorte for the review copy! All opinions are my own.

Waiting on Wednesday, YA SFF edition!

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme originally hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine (though it seems as though it’s been a while since she updated that particular blog, so if you know of the current host, if there is one, please let me know) that highlights upcoming releases that we’re impatiently waiting for. This week I’m highlighting some new/upcoming YA SFF books that I can’t wait to read!

INTO THE CROOKED PLACE – ALEXANDRA CHRISTO

Even though I still haven’t read To Kill a Kingdom, Alexandra Christo’s upcoming gangster fantasy about a girl “who delivers a vial of dark magic—a weapon she didn’t know she had—to someone she cares about, sparking the greatest conflict in decades. Now four magical outsiders must come together to save their home and the world, before it’s too late. But with enemies at all sides, they can trust nobody. Least of all each other.” Sign me up! This releases October 8, 2019!

THE MAGNOLIA SWORD – SHERRY THOMAS

I love reimaginings of popular stories, and a Mulan retelling?? Yes, please. I have Sherry Thomas’s Charlotte Holmes series on my TBR right now (sensing a theme here…), and I’ve heard such good things about her writing. I’m excited to read her version of Mulan! It’s out September 10, 2019!

THE MERCIFUL CROW – MARGARET OWEN

All of this just sounds amazing, and I’m so here for more crows and bird-related imagery in fantasy. Crows especially bring up the imagery of cunning darkness, so I’m hoping for that to be reflected in this and the next title! It releases July 30, 2019!

THE STORM CROW – KALYN JOSEPHSON

Elemental, magical crows? Sisters? Taking back what was taken from them? Yes, thank you. This comes out July 9, 2019.

WAR GIRLS – TOCHI ONYEBUCHI

Bionic limbs, post-nuclear disaster survival, political unrest, and two sisters who dream of more. This cover looks amazing, and I’m here for the intersection of humanity and mech and hope for a better future.

Are any of these on your radar? What are you looking forward to reading in the upcoming months?

BOOK REVIEW: Evermore, by Sara Holland

BOOK REVIEW: Evermore, by Sara HollandTitle: Evermore by Sara Holland
Series: Everless #2
Published by HarperTeen
Published: December 31st 2018
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 368
Format: eBook
Source: Publisher
Goodreads

The highly anticipated sequel to New York Times bestseller, Everless!

Jules Ember was raised hearing legends of the ancient magic of the wicked Alchemist and the good Sorceress. But she has just learned the truth: not only are the stories true, but she herself is the Alchemist, and Caro—a woman who single-handedly murdered the Queen and Jules’s first love, Roan, in cold blood—is the Sorceress.

The whole kingdom believes that Jules is responsible for the murders, and a hefty bounty has been placed on her head. And Caro is intent on destroying Jules, who stole her heart twelve lifetimes ago. Jules must delve into the stories that she now recognizes are accounts of her own past. For it is only by piecing together the mysteries of her lives that Jules will be able to save the person who has captured her own heart in this one.

Evermore picks up not long after Everless ends, and while I read the first over a year ago, it wasn’t difficult to get back into Sara Holland’s world not having reread the first. I loved how the world building, magic system, and mythology were expanded upon and built to be so much more in the second, and it honestly made me wish there was at least one more book in this series just to flesh out the world that much more. The writing was just as lyrical and compelling in the sequel as it was in the first, and I absolutely enjoyed the twists and turns the sequel took after book one left off. Jules is fully fleshed out, having moments of brilliance and airheadedness throughout, and I thought that made her real to me and added a lot of dimension to the story. She is a young woman, after all, and I like it when writers choose to add that ‘young’ feeling to their characters without having them be ‘the best at everything.’

Evermore took a different turn than I was expecting, and I found myself completely enjoying the ride. In Everless, Liam is believed to be the villain throughout most of the book, and in Evermore we get to see a lot more of him. The romance in this duology is appropriate for the genre, and sometimes I found it a little too instalove, but overall, I like where Holland went with the character development with Jules and Liam, showing us as readers that there is often a lot more than meets the eye. Besides, I have a little soft spot for those fantasy antiheroes, and I always want more of them.

Overall, if you read Everless and enjoyed it, definitely finish out the duology. I thought it was a fitting ending even though I was left wanting more!

Thank you to the publisher and Glasstown Entertainment for sending me an e-galley to review! All opinions are my own.

BOOK REVIEW: Hullmetal Girls, by Emily Skrutskie

BOOK REVIEW: Hullmetal Girls, by Emily SkrutskieTitle: Hullmetal Girls by Emily Skrutskie
Published by Delacorte
Published: July 17th 2018
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 320
Format: eBook
Source: Netgalley, Publisher
Goodreads

Aisha Un-Haad would do anything for her family. When her brother contracts a plague, she knows her janitor's salary isn't enough to fund his treatment. So she volunteers to become a Scela, a mechanically enhanced soldier sworn to protect and serve the governing body of the Fleet, the collective of starships they call home. If Aisha can survive the harrowing modifications and earn an elite place in the Scela ranks, she may be able to save her brother.

Key Tanaka awakens in a Scela body with only hazy memories of her life before. She knows she's from the privileged end of the Fleet, but she has no recollection of why she chose to give up a life of luxury to become a hulking cyborg soldier. If she can make it through the training, she might have a shot at recovering her missing past.

In a unit of new recruits vying for top placement, Aisha's and Key's paths collide, and the two must learn to work together--a tall order for girls from opposite ends of the Fleet. But a rebellion is stirring, pitting those who yearn for independence from the Fleet against a government struggling to maintain unity.

With violence brewing and dark secrets surfacing, Aisha and Key find themselves questioning their loyalties. They will have to put aside their differences, though, if they want to keep humanity from tearing itself apart.

Emily Skrutskie’s Hullmetal Girls is what I’ve been wanting to see from YA science fiction for what feels like forever! A lot of the “science fiction” YA books I’ve read in the last several years have been more science fantasy, or they’ve been shelved in the adult science fiction/fantasy section, which can keep titles out of view of their targeted audiences. And I’m happy to say that I absolutely LOVED Hullmetal Girls.

Emily calls it her “standalone sci-fi Battlestar/Pacific Rim/Sens8/Snowpiercer frolic affectionately known as Cyborg Space Jam” and in addition to loving the premise of it before, seeing her own blurb of it made me want to read it even more. It definitely lives up to that tagline, and I also can’t tell you how much I love that it’s a standalone. I sometimes feel a little burnt out on series, so knowing that this is it for these characters made me get that much more invested in the story.

Hullmetal Girls will make you think about bodies, about the role of bodies and physical forms in society versus what’s going on in your mind or someone else’s (or, daresay, a collective), and about challenges and consequences do to the spirit before, during, and after action or inaction. I loved that the cyborg aspect had a little bit of alien/artificial intelligence thrown in and that the body modifications ended up being more of a symbiosis kind of meld rather than the body merely being a host for the implants and modifications.

If you liked Kameron Hurley’s The Stars Are Legion (which, SPOILER ALERT, that’s one of my favorite science fiction books ever), Hullmetal Girls is something you need to add to your TBRs immediately because the styles and themes are very much riding on the same wavelengths. RIGHT NOW! Go preorder it! I’m buying myself a physical copy too!

Many thanks to Netgalley and Delacorte for the free review copy!