Furyborn by Claire Legrand

Hello Kittens! This title was a little late to get on my radar considering it’s a trilogy that will be complete this October. I’m going through a YA Fantasy renaissance and going back to start some of the series that I missed from the last 5 years or so. If you, like me, missed this one the first time around, I highly recommend giving it a try. Plus, if you start it now, you can have the first and second books done before the finale this Fall.

Title: FurybornFuryborn (Empirium, #1)

Author: Claire Legrand

Author website: https://www.claire-legrand.com/

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Publish date: May 22, 2018

ASIN: B077Y63CVW

Buy the Book: Amazon, Barnes and Noble

Summary:

Furyborn is told in two timelines focusing on two women and a prophecy. The book starts with a foundational scene where a character named Rielle is giving birth to her first child, a girl. She is mostly alone for this process and we learn that her husband, the king, has died and that she is viewed as responsible for his death. After a traumatic event, we find ourselves meeting a character named Eliana who lives 1,000 years later. Alternating chapters tell us their stories. While their lives are very different, we learn that they are bound together by the same prophecy regarding two queens in this land, one who will destroy the land and one who will save it.

In a land of elemental magic, Rielle has had to hide her abilities because she has had trouble controlling them in the past. When her magic makes itself known at a public event, Rielle is challenged by the King and his court to prove that she is the Sun Queen, the queen from the prophecy who will save her people. In order to prove this, Rielle is forced to undergo a series of challenges to show that she can master all of the elements in this magic system. If she fails, she will most likely be killed, but if she succeeds, she will assume her role as a protector of the realm.

Eliana just wants to keep her family safe. If that means working for the Empire, so be it. She emotionally disconnects herself from the work that she is doing, even though she knows that nearly every person she turns over to the Empire’s forces will be executed, regardless of age, gender, or other factors. The people around her, especially her little brother Remy, are always working to remind her of her humanity. She’s not a big fan of their efforts and justifies that her work keeps them all much safer. When the Empire asks her to find a rebel mercenary known as the Wolf, she is all too happy to oblige. Unfortunately, the Wolf finds her first, her mother is taken by seemingly invisible forces, and Eliana is forced to work with the rebels in order to try to get her back.

Why I liked it:

It’s fast-paced and very well-developed. The elemental magic system is well thought out, and we really only get a taste of the lore surrounding it from this first book. I also appreciated how much the story was starting to come together. As the reader, you’ll catch on to certain elements of commonality before the characters do, but I didn’t mind that at all.

I’m definitely invested enough to keep going with this series. I already got the second book, Kingsbane, from a nearby library offering curbside services right now.

What I would like to change:

The book lacks symmetry for my taste. When we get that first chapter, I expected that we would be circling back to that event by the end, but that was not the case. While we did get much closer to it, we evidently won’t be resolving a lot of what happened in that first scene until the second or third books.

Disclaimer: No disclaimer needed. I borrowed an e-book of this title from my library.

My library rating: While I didn’t think it was too much, some people might object to the steamy scenes in the book (there’s only 2). It also gets a little gruesome towards the end and that was a little tough to read (think innocent people being used without willpower).

lemonade_iconlemonade_iconlemonade_iconlemonade_icon4 glasses of lemonade= a book you could recommend to a book group or anybody who reads.  You might find controversial subject matter, but it is handled delicately.

My personal preference rating: 4 stars. I really enjoyed this one and didn’t mind the steamy scenes or the tough battle scenes. We’re just getting started with what I think are going to be some epic love stories and truly magnificent strong female characters.

The Field Guide to the North American Teenage by Ben Philippe

Hello Kittens! It’s been a while since I went in blind to read a book, but I saw this title recommended a few times on BookTube and I decided to just take a shot. I’m taking you back to high school with this read. In the middle of reading this story, I was feeling the nostalgia. I was a nerdy semi-jock with a close-knit but utterly weird and unpopular group of friends. While the main character in this book falls into decidedly different categories than I did, his experience still rings true. This book is full of witty teenage sarcasm and drama. You may be thanking your lucky stars that this wasn’t your high school experience, but this fish-out-of-water story is thought-provoking and I hope it takes your mind off of everything else right now.

Title: The Field Guide to the North American TeenagerThe Field Guide to the North American Teenager

Author: Ben Philippe

Author website: http://benphilippe.com/

Publisher: Balzer + Bray (HarperCollins imprint)

Publish date: January 8, 2019

ISBN: 9780062524134

Buy the Book: Amazon, Barnes and Noble

Summary:

Norris curses Texas and Stephen Fuller Austin the very first day he and his mother land in Austin, TX. He’s a black French Canadian kid from Montreal and he can tell before they even finish their airport layovers that he is a spectacle for the American people. They don’t get his hockey jersey, they openly stare, and they are resistant to his efforts to educate them. Thus begins our introduction to the sassy teen who is the focus of this YA novel. Norris is less than enthused to be starting over midway through his high school career. The only thing worse than his first impressions of his new classmates and teachers are their first impressions of him.

With a mouth that speaks long before his brain fully engages sometimes, Norris is perfectly happy to wait out the next few years in exile, not interacting with the natives. He takes to jotting down his observations in a diary given to him by an overenthusiastic guidance counselor on his first day of school. Considering how his writings revolve around examinations of the Texan-American species, with entries about “jocks and cheerleaders”, “Male bonding”, and “The American Prom”, the diary can be considered a minor character in the story.

As time goes on, Norris makes a few connections with the locals, trying out several new experiences. With a cheerleader named Madison acting as an unofficial guide to romance and a girl named Aarti acting as his unofficial guide to living, Norris is in better hands than he realizes. He even manages to form a hockey team with the help of a persistent new “friend” named Liam. Texas may not be as horrible as he first imagined (except for the relentless heat). Just when things start looking up, everything comes crashing down in typical teenage drama fashion.

While the book comes off as light reading, the truth is it examines several hot button topics in American culture. In particular, we get looks into the immigrant experience, pervasive racism, homophobia, mental health, and the continual threat that everyday life holds for young black men. None of these get a particularly deep examination, but the everyday nature of how Phillipe treats them in the story is almost more damning than any intense scrutiny would have provided. Norris and his friends are all encountering different aspects of these subjects and they all handle them in different fashions, not all of which are completely healthy. The story is not without consequences for typical teenage decision-making, and the inherent lessons are clear for any reader.

Why I liked it:
A lot of YA treats relationships at an accelerated pace, and I really appreciate that Phillipe didn’t artificially speed those up in here. The friendships and the romances develop at a reasonable pace. Old slights aren’t completely forgotten even once they are forgiven. That lines up a lot more closely with the teenage experience that I remember than a lot of YA does. (Seriously though. Pay attention to the timeline in the next couple of YA romances you pick up and see how unnaturally fast the relationships develop.)

I also really enjoyed finding out in the Acknowledgments section that some of the characters are based off of people in the authors life. In particular, I really like knowing that there is a real Aarti out there somewhere, hopefully taking over the world.

What I would like to change:

I know it’s more realistic this way, but I was hoping for a less ambiguous ending. I can’t say too much without spoilers, but there were some things I was hoping for a resolution on.

Disclaimer: No disclaimer needed. I borrowed a digital version of this title from my library.

My library rating: There were a fair number of curse words in here, including sexual and racial slurs, so I’m going to limit the recommendable audience just slightly.

lemonade_iconlemonade_iconlemonade_iconlemonade_icon4 glasses of lemonade= a book you could recommend to a book group or anybody who reads.  You might find controversial subject matter, but it is handled delicately.

My personal preference rating: I gave this one 3 stars. I liked it but didn’t love it. That won’t stop me from recommending it to most people who are looking for a good contemporary YA story.

Slay by Brittney Morris

Hello my Kitten Gods and Goddesses! I have an absolutely stunning debut YA novel to tell you about today. Being a Southerner and a Librarian, race is an ever-present part of my life and I am constantly challenging myself to make sure that I don’t allow my white privilege to overwhelm my perceptions of interactions with patrons. Even so, this next novel I’m telling you about opened my eyes to an experience I previously had not considered. Slay by Brittney Morris tells the story of a young black female video game designer named Kiera and her experiences when her game becomes a hot button topic in the news. This novel deals with social justice issues in an elegant format that delivers an emotional gut punch. I have already recommended this one to tons of people that I work with and I can’t wait to recommend it to patrons. The dedication reads, “To everyone who has ever had to minimize who you are to be palatable to those who aren’t like you.” My dear readers, we need more of that in this world.

Title: Slay

Author: Brittney MorrisSLAY revise 2.jpg

Author website: https://www.authorbrittneymorris.com/

Publisher: Simon Pulse (Simon & Schuster)

Publish date: September 24, 2019

ISBN: 9781534445420

Buy the Book: Amazon, Barnes and Noble

Kiera Johnson is just trying to live her life, going to a predominantly white private school, making good grades, being with her boyfriend Malcolm, and planning their future at HBCU’s (historically black colleges and universities for those of you not in-the-know). She’s just a normal teen…with a little bit of a secret. When she’s not at school, or hanging out with her friends or Malcolm, she is Emerald, a nubian Queen in the virtual reality video game “Slay”. Not only is she one of only two moderators of this game, she is one of the creators along with another gamer, username: Cicada. Slay is a video game that celebrates black culture and black identity. Entry into the game requires an invitation from an existing player and is a carefully guarded secret that helps to protect the safe space that the game has become. Kiera was just a gamer who noticed that many of the characters in mainstream video games, even ones with non-human characters showed a stunning lack of diversity. Either there were no black characters or they were portrayed as villains or somehow “less-than” characters. When she encountered this racism in gaming, she came up with her own solution: create a game that celebrates blackness in all its forms. The result is a triumph, with hundreds of thousands of users.

Kiera chooses to keep her gaming identity a secret from everyone in her life, essentially isolating a second persona that is just for herself: Emerald. Of course, her two lives can’t stay separate forever and when aspects of the game invade real life, Kiera becomes trapped in a nightmare. Media outlets have seized on the game and claim it is a refuge for violence that is exclusionary and discriminatory towards white players. Faced with the enormous task of protecting the safe space she has made for her players while also protecting her own identity, Kiera is in a crisis and doesn’t know how or who to go to for help.

This book was a phenomenal read. In addition to the primary tension between Kiera’s online life and her real life, there are layered stories of her relationships with her boyfriend, her sister, her predominantly white friends, and even her parents. The reader experiences all of the different pulls on Kiera’s time and attention and her fear when it all threatens to come crashing down is palpable. I have seen this novel described as Ready Player One meets The Hate U Give and I think that’s a fair description, but it is also so unique. Having read a good deal of YA fiction, Morris’ style of writing, blending inner monologues with game text and phone messaging to tell the story is unlike anything else that I have read.

This is a fast read that will stick with the reader long after the last page has been read. The story reads as though it could take place in almost any town in America, although it is actually set near Atlanta. Kiera deals with so many of the issues that minority students across the country deal with in school. She is put into spokesperson-like roles for her entire race by students who she considers friends and she’s frustrated by the responsibility that she feels for educating them on these issues. This book does what all truly important books do, it challenges the reader to look into themselves and make a judgment. This is must-read for 2019 as far as I am concerned.

Want to go further into this world? The book has its own website where you can see some of the features about the game described in the book. Plus, if my review hasn’t sold you, there is an epic book trailer on there! https://www.slaythebook.com/.

In general, I’m leery of what happens when a book becomes a movie, but please, someone try to make this book into a movie.  It’s that good.

Disclaimer: No disclaimer needed here. I heard about this book several months back on a podcast and added it to my Goodreads TBR list. When Goodreads emailed me that it was now available, I checked with my library and lo-and-behold, there it was. There was almost no line on this book, and that is an absolute shame.

My rating:

lemonade_iconlemonade_iconlemonade_iconlemonade_icon4 glasses of lemonade= a book you could recommend to a book group or anybody who reads.  You might find controversial subject matter, but it is handled delicately.

Social justice can be a tricky subject, but actually, I put this one at 4 glasses of lemonade because of an emotionally abusive relationship in the book.  It also includes a physical relationship between teenagers that I can promise you some of my patron’s parents would flip their lid if I gave them. This story is absolutely appropriate for adults and I think most teens could not only handle it, they would benefit greatly from reading this story.

Rules for Vanishing by Kate Alice Marshall

Guten Tag Kittens! I don’t know about y’all, but Fall is just starting to make its presence known here in the South. Whatever the calendar might say, it’s been hot as Hades around here and I am loving the 15 degree drop in temperature we got this weekend. When the heat gets too oppressive down here I like to dive in to a read that gives me the heebie jeebies. Thankfully, I won a copy of Rules for Vanishing by Kate Alice Marshall which cooled me down quick by giving me goosebumps for hours. This YA horror title came out just a few weeks ago and deserves some attention.

Title: Rules for Vanishing

Author: Kate Alice Marshall42872940

Author website: http://katemarshallbooks.com/

Publisher: Viking Books (Penguin Randomhouse imprint)

Publish date: September 24, 2019

ISBN: 9781984837011

Buy the Book: Amazon, Barnes and Noble

If you’re looking for a YA horror novel going into the haunting season, this one is a good bet. Rules for Vanishing follows two sisters, Sara and Becca, in Briar Glen, MA, in the spring of 2017. Told in the form of interview transcripts from a Dr. Ashford, first-person accounts from a number of teenage participants, and text messaging/email transcripts from the involved teens. One year ago, Sara’s sister Becca disappeared in the woods near the hometown. She was rumored to have been involved in a game related to a local legend about another teenage girl who disappeared in those woods named Lucy Gallows. For some reason, people in town believe that Becca ran away with a boy that she was dating, but Sara doesn’t buy it. She can’t figure out why people aren’t taking the legend seriously, but despite her own doubts, the legend of Lucy Gallows is her only lead, and she’s determined to follow that road in the woods wherever it may lead.

When all of the students at the local high school get a text message challenging them to solve the clues and go to the woods to free Lucy Gallows, many believe that Sara is behind taunt, but a few of her friends from before Becca disappeared are less certain, and they want to be there for Sara in any way they can. So, on the preordained night, the teens meet in the woods and the road appears to them. The rules for the road seem simple: stay with your partner, stay on the road, don’t let go, thirteen steps, get through all of the gates and you’ll be able to leave. The road is not easy and the teens are in for a horrifying trip from which they will not all return.

This read reminded me a lot of Melissa Albert’s The Hazel Wood. You’ve got teens in the woods on a magical and terrifying journey where they are in over their heads and being influenced by forces beyond their comprehension. The narrative style of Rules for Vanishing is unique, blending a little of the Blair Witch Project with modern technology to an enthralling effect. The paranoia builds and the reader is on the road just as much as the teens are, trying to figure out who to trust and keeping track of all of the major players and their motives. There’s more than just horror in this story however, as it also addresses the bonds of sisterhood as well as the evolving nature of multiple relationships.

The road gets real pretty fast, and while the copy I’ve got lists the ages as 12 and up, I would probably say 15 and up would be more appropriate. But then again, I’m a scaredy cat who won’t watch horror films and will only read YA horror, nothing more hardcore. The characters are well developed and the setting is richly detailed. The set-up is also there for additional books, focusing more on the mysterious Dr. Ashford than the sisters in this case. The ending is a little ambiguous for my taste, but the storytelling was masterful and I truly didn’t see any of the twists coming. If more titles are coming from this author, I definitely want to read them.

Disclaimer: I received an Advanced Readers’ Edition of this title from the publisher via BookishFirst with the expectation that I would write an honest review.

My rating:

lemonade_iconlemonade_icon2 glasses of lemonade= a book that you could probably recommend to family and close friends.  They may not like everything that’s in it, but they’re not going to start sending you cards with holy scripture written in them as messages to get you back on the path of righteousness after reading them either.

This one gets a lower lemonade rating because there are some gruesome deaths and there’s a homosexual relationship. Before you get your pitchforks, remember that I am a Southern Librarian talking about the recommend-ability of this book to potential patrons. I loved this book, but I would hesitate to recommend it because of those two things unless I had a clear idea of the patron’s comfort level with those topics.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Hello Kittens! This week I have a book that is making some headlines down south. Currently, a police union in South Carolina is protesting the inclusion of this book on a high school reading list. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas has been on my TBR list for a while. I started hearing about it shortly after it came out and the cover was intriguing. It’s coming to theaters in October and the first trailer that is out for it looks fantastic. This story is one of those that I struggle with as a Librarian, because the book and its story is so important, but I live where I live, so…it’s a difficult choice.

Title: The Hate U Give

Author: Angie ThomasThe Hate U Give

Author website: http://angiethomas.com/

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Publish date: 02/28/17

ISBN: 9780062498533

Buy the Book: Amazon, Barnes and Noble

The Hate U Give tells the story of a teenage girl named Starr Carter and the way her life changes dramatically when she witnesses the shooting death of her childhood friend by a police officer. As she struggles to deal with the death of her friend she is also confronting issues with her identity and her desire to support the activism in her community while maintaining her own security. She has a lot of difficult decisions to make in this book, decisions that no teenage girl should have to make. She is torn between the desire to defend her friend’s memory, protect her family, and protect her identity. She faces threats that are very real as she prepares to speak her truth to the courts in the hopes of gaining justice for her friend.

The subjects that this book tackles are incredibly timely. There are some objections to this book out there, mainly they argue that it encourage distrust of the police. I don’t see that argument being made in this book. I think Thomas managed to convey an honest evaluation of the feelings these incidents incite, both at an individual and a community level. A lot of the book is written in Starr’s vernacular, and I will admit that I didn’t quite get all of the references, although that could be my age. I was able to get the sentiment even if I couldn’t connect all of the dots.

The writing is strong and I think any judgments that are made are balanced. Ultimately, I just think this book is important. It reads as hauntingly real. I think when the film version comes out, the response is going to be visceral.

Disclaimer: Not needed. I got this book from my library.

My rating:

lemonade_iconlemonade_icon2 glasses of lemonade= a book that you could probably recommend to family and close friends.  They may not like everything that’s in it, but they’re not going to start sending you cards with holy scripture written in them as messages to get you back on the path of righteousness after reading them either.

Let me be clear here, I LOVED this book. I gave it 5 stars on Goodreads. I think that everyone should read this book. That being said, from a professional point of view, there are people in my community who would be outraged to read anything that suggests that not all police officers are without guilt in these circumstances. Also, there was a fair amount of cursing throughout the book.