Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Books of (My) Summer

My son started kindergarten yesterday. I was a crazy ball of tangled emotions about this, but mostly excited for him. And me. Since he'll be gone all day learning, socializing, and loving the heck out of those two recesses, I get to write all day five days a week--while the sun is up! No more nodding off over the keyboard. This is exciting. VERY exciting. More on that later. For now, I want to share some of my favorite books I read over the summer.

ONE FOR THE MURPHYS by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Carley uses humor and street smarts to keep her emotional walls high and thick. But the day she becomes a foster child, and moves in with the Murphys, she's blindsided. This loving, bustling family shows Carley the stable family life she never thought existed, and she feels like an alien in their cookie-cutter-perfect household. Despite her resistance, the Murphys eventually show her what it feels like to belong--until her mother wants her back and Carley has to decide where and how to live. She's not really a Murphy, but the gifts they've given her have opened up a new future.

ONE FOR THE MURPHYS was my first official read of the summer. I read it from cover to cover during the bus ride to NYC for BEA (Book Expo of America). What an emotional ride! (The story not the bus ride) I'd heard rave reviews from writer friends but had no idea I'd end up weeping. I wanted to hug Carley the entire time. This is one of those stories that feels too real to be fiction. The characters, the setting, the heartbreaking plot. And that ending...

THE MARK OF ATHENA by Rick Riordan

In The Son of Neptune, Percy, Hazel, and Frank met in Camp Jupiter, the Roman equivalent of Camp Halfblood, and traveled to the land beyond the gods to complete a dangerous quest. The third book in the Heroes of Olympus series will unite them with Jason, Piper, and Leo. But they number only six--who will complete the Prophecy of Seven?

The Greek and Roman demigods will have to cooperate in order to defeat the giants released by the Earth Mother, Gaea. Then they will have to sail together to the ancient land to find the Doors of Death. What exactly are the Doors of Death? Much of the prophecy remains a mystery. . . .

I adore this series. Each book in the Heroes of Olympus is a HUGE (even the length) adventure and THE MARK OF ATHENA is every bit as huge as the rest. I loved seeing Percy's and Jason's groups finally unite to continue the quest. Young romance, crazy life-or-death situations, Greek mythology, giants, a flying ship, Percy Jackson--and that's only the short list of what makes this fourth installment so awesome. Can't wait for HOUSE OF HADES in October. Side note: saw The Sea of Monsters film this summer and loved it!

A GAME OF THRONES by George R.R. Martin

Long ago, in a time forgotten, a preternatural event threw the seasons out of balance. In a land where summers can last decades and winters a lifetime, trouble is brewing. The cold is returning, and in the frozen wastes to the north of Winterfell, sinister and supernatural forces are massing beyond the kingdom’s protective Wall. At the center of the conflict lie the Starks of Winterfell, a family as harsh and unyielding as the land they were born to. Sweeping from a land of brutal cold to a distant summertime kingdom of epicurean plenty, here is a tale of lords and ladies, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and bastards, who come together in a time of grim omens.

Here an enigmatic band of warriors bear swords of no human metal; a tribe of fierce wildlings carry men off into madness; a cruel young dragon prince barters his sister to win back his throne; and a determined woman undertakes the most treacherous of journeys. Amid plots and counterplots, tragedy and betrayal, victory and terror, the fate of the Starks, their allies, and their enemies hangs perilously in the balance, as each endeavors to win that deadliest of conflicts: the game of thrones.

This was one of the few adult books I've read in the last five years. I know I'm way behind the game here. I've watched people gush about the Game of Thrones TV series for a couple years now but I didn't want to jump in halfway or deal with another distraction from writing. Then I took the leap this summer and started the show and...WHAT WAS I WAITING FOR? The show was so brilliant I *had* to read the books so I could spend more time in a world that contained Jon Snow and dragons. Since the books are so long (and season 4 doesn't premiere until March 2014!) and I have so many YA and MG books waiting to be read, I'm taking a little break but looking forward to diving into book 2 this fall. Also looking forward to watching the show with my son when he's older. Much older. 30 sounds good. If you haven't seen it, the show is VERY adult and not for the faint of heart. I'm still mourning the loss of a certain character in season 1. 

THE BURNING SKY by Sherry Thomas
*releases September 17, 2013*

Just before the start of Summer Half, in April 1883, a very minor event took place at Eton College, that venerable and illustrious English public school for boys. A sixteen-year-old pupil named Archer Fairfax returned from a three-month absence, caused by a fractured femur, to resume his education.

Almost every word in the preceding sentence is false. Archer Fairfax had not suffered a broken limb. He had never before set foot in Eton. His name was not Archer Fairfax. And he was not, in fact, even a he.

This is the story of a girl who fooled a thousand boys, a boy who fooled an entire country, a partnership that would change the fate of realms, and a power to challenge the greatest tyrant the world had ever known.

Expect magic. 

I love that last line. Expect magic. Uh, yes. You will find so much magic in the pages of THE BURNING SKY. And a slow smoldering romance, and adventure, and a beautiful fantasy world you won't want to leave. The push and pull and battle of wills between the main character and love interest (who is every bit a leading character himself) is perfection. So thrilled this is a series. A special thanks to Melanie for sharing her ARC full of fun notes. I added my own notes and sent this awesome book off to the next lucky reader in the group. The ARC cover has a different design but I'm loving the one shown here for the hardcover which releases next month. A dragon made of flames and a castle. Doesn't get much better than that. 

THE 5th WAVE by Rick Yancey

After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.

Now, it's the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth's last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie's only hope for rescuing her brother--or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up.

These are not your typical aliens. *shudders* Or your typical anything. The pacing. I can't even. Lightning fast and not a word to spare, THE 5th WAVE consumed me from page one. I had no idea where the story was headed or how the heck it would end. And I LOVED every minute of it. My writer nose couldn't sniff out the plot twists to save my life. Confession: I almost never read book summaries these days. I prefer to go in blind. So if you haven't read THE 5th WAVE yet try to erase the summary you've just read. Whoops.

SERAPHINA by Rachel Hartman

Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty's anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high.Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen's Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life.

Dragons. I could just leave it at that. Seriously, the dragons in SERAPHINA are incredible. I went into this book not knowing what to expect. Dragons that take human shape! Yes, please. What a brilliant way to get inside a dragon's mind and help us relate on a whole different level. But my favorite moments were those when the dragons were in their true form. I can't help it. There's just something about giant, terrifying, beautiful beasts with such sharp intelligence. If you're not obsessed with giant winged beasts like I am, you're still sure to love SERAPHINA for the beautiful writing and descriptions, mystery, fascinating characters, and sparks of romance. There's a pretty big gap between books, so I'm glad I waited to read this first installment. On February 25th you'll find me waiting in the freezing cold for the local bookstore to open so I can get my hands on book 2.