The Philosopher’s Flight by Tom Miller

Shout-out to Pam Parker for telling me to read this one!  This book completely blew me away.  The cover blurb made me nervous.  Magic and science in one book?  That probably isn’t a book I would enjoy.  But boy was I wrong.

Miller has created a fascinating story placed in the midst of the very real history of WWI.  He calls out the gender issues that were in place by turning the tables.  Sure, women weren’t allowed to do things at the time but that is because they were women and it was the turn of the century!  Instead of going with this view, he flips it, following a male character who isn’t allowed to help out with the war efforts due to the fact that women are the only one with the magical abilities to do so.  And this isn’t just a book that sets out to prove a point.  It is a well-written, fascinating story that I didn’t want to leave.  I was actually shocked to find myself at the end of the novel.  I didn’t want to let these characters go.

5-stars

The Infinite Future by Tim Wirkus

Half of this book worked for me and the other half just really didn’t.  Formatted like my favorite novel, The Princess Bride, the first half of the book is a fictionalized retelling of how the book came to be while the second half is the book itself.  I very much enjoyed the sections talking about finding the lost Salgado-MacKenzie manuscript as well as the adventure to discover his identity was a joy to read.  Wirkus created a fun cast of characters that came together over a shared love even though they never should have met.  The second half, Salgado-MacKenzie’s lost novel, was less entertaining.  Leading up to it, many characters describe it as being a bad book, which already didn’t make me excited about it.  The story was weirdly complicated seeing that very little actually happened.  And it’s trying too hard, in my opinion, the mirror the meta-ness of the first half.  I would have very much enjoyed this book if it was just the first half but instead it didn’t end there and I found myself slogging through to get to the end.

3-stars

The Devil In Silver by Victor LaValle

Since I read The Changeling last year (and had it immediately become one of my favorite books of all time) and now I find myself buying any book of Victor LaValle’s that comes through the store.  (Well, I made my parents buy this one from the bookstore I work at as a Christmas present for me when they came to visit.)  LaValle is the master of magical realism.  Each of his books that I have read so far start out as a completely normal novel of realistic fiction until it suddenly isn’t.  And this book was no exception.

The Devil in Silver follows Pepper, a man who ends up in the mental ward of a hospital one night because the police don’t feel like doing paperwork.  From there, LaValle shows a crossroads of America, showing us all different kinds of people who call this hospital their home. From the quite old to the quite young, he gives lives and full backstories to characters who, in other literature, tend to just become flat characters.  Added to all that is the man with a bison head who climbs through the ceiling and attacks people.

LaValle questions what it means to be “sane” as well as looking at the good and bad sides of mental illness treatment.  On top of that, he has created a crazy mystery plot that never stops moving (even when the characters themselves are having a hard time moving due to being drugged and/or tied down).  Out of the three LaValle books I have read, this is my number two.

4-stars

Renegades by Marissa Meyer

I have had friends telling me to read Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles series for years and just haven’t gotten around to it so I jumped at the chance to listen to the audiobook of her newest book.

Renegades questions what it means to be good or bad.  In a world where those lines are very defined, Meyer brings us two protagonists, one from each side, that really mess with your brain.  From Nova’s point of view, the Renegades let her down and let her family get killed and the Anarchists took her in, gave her a place to live.  To Adrian, the Renegades are the only family he has ever know and he, as a Renegade, is made to feel like a hero on a regular basis.  So what happens when their paths cross?  Who is on the right side of history?  Is there a right side?

Meyer not only manages to deal with these difficult questions but also creates a great adventure.  The plot never stops moving (which is super impressive because this is a super long book) and she takes the reader through endless twists and turns.  She has thought up a really interesting world filled with superpowers that, at least to me, seemed incredibly unique.  Even when I started to get worried about the book slipping into YA trope world, she managed to pull it out and put a fun spin on things.  Nova and Adrian both don’t fall into the stereotypical gender roles that YA books tend to.  This book was a commitment (especially when listening to it) but it was worth it.

4-stars

The Sweetest Kind of Fate by Crystal Cestari

I absolutely loved The Best Kind of Magic and have been gazing longly at The Sweetest Kind of Fate on my bookshelf for months, saving it for a time when I really needed it.  And that time finally came.

I absolutely love Amber Sand and the fun world that Cestari has created.  When I met her for the launch of the first book, I said to her, “Everyone has been describing it as Buffy meets Gilmore Girls but it is really more Buffy meets Veronica Mars” to which she very much agreed with me.  This book had both Veronica Mars and Buffy references and my heart was so incredibly happy.

This book is filled with some much humor while also dealing with heavier topics.  She looks into the complexity of what makes a person, not allowing any character to fall into a terrible stereotype.  (She made me like Ivy, which I didn’t think was possible after the first book.)  I love living in Chicago but reading these books makes me wish that I could live in Amber’s magical Chicago.

These books are so great.  I love them so much and need more of them in my life.

5-stars

I have been lucky enough to host both of Crystal’s launch parties and she is just the greatest.  Really, read these books.  And, if you are in Chicago, come see her and many other awesome YA authors at the Chicago Young Adult Book Festival on April 14th!

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I love these books and absolutely adore the author.  She is the sweetest human alive.

The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend

This book is magical and awesome!  From the magical changing hotel to traveling by umbrella to a giant butler cat, I loved every part of this book and am so glad that it is finally available to recommend to kids.

I have recently discovered (by accident) that I enjoy books with cursed children (I know, I know, dark) and this book was no exception.  There is something incredibly powerful about seeing kids overcome the universe.  And not only does Morrigan have overcome the universe, she has to pass a series of tests in hopes of entering a very special society of people.  Townsend has created a fully rendered world filled that, while magical, is still very relatable.  This book is so much fun.

4-stars

The Wizards of Once by Cressida Cowell

I was too old (and not cool enough to realize that middle grade books are awesome at any age) to read the How to Train Your Dragon books when they came out but I am glad that I have finally gotten to experience Cressida Cowell’s wonderful writing.

The Wizards of Once is both beautifully written and filled with tons of fun illustrations that take the story to the next level.  Her main characters are royal underdogs (which seems like an oxymoron but actually made for an awesome reading experience) and I was immediately invested in their lives.

This is a perfect book for boys and girls alike, seeing as there is one of each as a main character.  It teaches acceptance of those different from you as well as the need to question authority when it seems to be leading you astray (which I believe to be important in this day and age).  I can’t wait for the next installment in the series.

4-stars

Warcross by Marie Lu

I have to admit, this is a book I judged by its cover and I said, “No thank you!” But I had heard such good things about it so when the audiobook was an ALC on Libro.FM, I decided to give it a chance.

This book was great. Lu has created a fascinating world that isn’t very different from our own, making it easy to connect to the action of the characters. She has assembled an incredibly diverse cast of characters to tell a story that I think is very important to to the world today, namely privacy in a world of technology. (I am drawn to this kind of book, like The Circle by Dave Eggars and so I was glad to see one geared at teens.) Emika is an incredibly powerful female protagonist who shows everyone that girls can be just as good at things such as science and technology as boys. The plot is filled with twists and turns (even though I did see one of the big ones coming) and it made me want to go places and do things just so I could listen to the audiobook. Definitely worth checking out.

4-stars

Whichwood by Tahereh Mafi

Furthermore was one of my favorite books of last year and so I shook with joy when this was handed to me.

While still a great book, it didn’t live up to Furthermore for me.  And, as a bookseller, I am incredibly confused by this book because I am not sure how to sell it.  It is incredibly dark, dealing with a lot of death and very violent and gory descriptions of things.  (Bodies walking down the street without their skin will always haunt me.)  On the other hand, it was a great story of accepting help.  Seeing the characters from the last book interact with a new character and a completely new world was also a great experiences.  I love Mafi’s characters and her worlds are fully rounded out.  I liked that this is a companion book rather than a sequel but I just wish I could read Furthermore again for the first time.

4-stars

Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero

As a fan of Scooby-Doo, this book was a blast to read.  Cantero does a great job of sprinkling references to Scooby-Doo and the gang throughout the text while still keeping the story completely his own.  His gang is different and their dog doesn’t talk.  (In fact, it reminds me a lot of what Rainbow Rowell did with Harry Potter in Carry On.)  You don’t need to have ever watched the cartoon to have a good time reading this book.

Cantero has created a spooky and enthralling mystery that takes twists and turns that I could have never expected.  He brings together a group of adults who had once been a mystery-solving gang as tweens and makes them revisit their last and most successful case.  I deeply cared for each of these characters and wanted them to solve the mystery and get their lives back!

A fun, fast read that will keep you on your toes.  Just a warning: it gets surprisingly gory with no warning.

4-stars

Reincarnation Blues by Michael Poore

This book had me laughing out loud so many times and then, turning the page, I would find myself sobbing. Reminiscent of Tom Robbins and Christopher Moore, Poore sees what is deeply funny in the dark absurdity of life. The characters are incredibly honest and true and remind you that, regardless of in the past, present, or future, what is means to be human and good is always the same.

I was a little surprised to see how much of the book took place in the future, sometimes finding myself wishing that more of it would be set in a more familiar world to the one we live in now, but those thoughts would quickly be pushed aside when Poore would show the way the each life connect, such as his use of floating fish robots that help to make everyone’s lives easier. Each incarnation of Milo has certain things that carry through each life, creating a fun puzzle that had me saying, “Oh man! I see what you did there!”

This book made me question myself as a person as I found myself rooting for Milo to die each time, something I’ve never experienced with a book before. It made me think about death in a whole new light. I have spent time since finishing the book thinking about the ideas Poore sets out, wondering what past lives I could have lived.

Reincarnation Blues is a great darkly funny and absurd book that introduced me to a new literary talent. I look forward to seeing what Michael Poore has in store for us in the future.

4-stars

Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore

This book was such a fun adventure.  Following Jane through 5 different possible timelines, the book goes from most realistic timeline to bizarre as the book goes on.  Jane is a fun character who is stuck in a strange house with people she barely knows yet she is always up for adventure.  Cashore does a great job of making each timeline its own story while pulling details throughout them, which kept me incredibly invested as a reader.  And she left me questioning what was actually real.

This book is incredibly fun and I flew through it, wanted to know how much weirder it could get.  Cashore created some awesome characters and it was great to see how they were different in each timeline while still being the character you had grown to love.  It’s a great puzzle of a book and I loved attempting to solve it.

4-stars