Friday, April 29, 2016

The Square Root of Summer ~ Harriet Reuter Hapgood (earc) review [@MacKidsBooks @hapgoodness]

The Square Root of Summer
Roaring Brook Press
May 03, 2016
304 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depository/or Amazon

This is what it means to love someone. This is what it means to grieve someone. It's a little bit like a black hole. It's a little bit like infinity.

Gottie H. Oppenheimer is losing time. Literally. When the fabric of the universe around her seaside town begins to fray, she's hurtled through wormholes to her past:

To last summer, when her grandfather Grey died. To the afternoon she fell in love with Jason, who wouldn't even hold her hand at the funeral. To the day her best friend Thomas moved away and left her behind with a scar on her hand and a black hole in her memory.

Although Grey is still gone, Jason and Thomas are back, and Gottie's past, present, and future are about to collide—and someone's heart is about to be broken.

"It's hard, being the straight one in a house with Dumbledore,and Peter Pan and Axl Rose, being friends with bangle-wearing glittered artists." (pg 29)

Gottie Oppenheimer loves physics. The theories, equations and numbers all make sense to her. In a family where her grandfather Grey endorsed walking barefoot, kept Buddha statues around and was known to throw laundry into the apple tree to dry; her brother is like an eighties rocker with his band, his eyeliner, leopard print and spandex; and her father's there but not there, facts and rules don't always fit.

When wormholes start appearing, taking Gottie to moments from her past she isn't sure she can figure it out, even with physics.

I loved that The Square Root of Summer gave Gottie the equations, the how, what and why of the wormholes to figure out, but her emotions and relationships to figure out. The first summer since her grandfather died and the return of both Thomas and Jason would be enough for her to figure out, without experiencing her past again.  The author does a great job,though, making it apparent that if it were just one or the other (the wormholes or life), Gottie wouldn't figure it out.

It is the combination of the emotions - grief, pain, anger, confusion, love, loss - that she does not understand or know how to deal with and the physics equations that she loves so much that make it work. For her character and the story.

I don't think I fully understand the what or how or why of Gottie's wormholes - and not just the literal math and science of it, but how it worked for the book - but it didn't detract from my enjoyment of the book. The colorful cast of characters, Gotie's intelligence but inability to cope with her grief, with losing Grey, her theories and explanations on the time travel (cannoli included) combine for an insightful, humorous touching and enjoyable read.

Oh, also? I know there's the mention of Dumbledore in relation to Grey, but I definitely read him much more like Jeff Bridges:

received for review, from publisher, via NetGalley

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Star-Touched Queen ~ Roshani Chokshi (earc) review [@NotRashKnee @stmartinspress @MacKidsBooks]

The Star-Touched Queen
St Martin's Griffin
April 26, 2016
352 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depository/or Amazon

Fate and fortune. Power and passion. What does it take to be the queen of a kingdom when you're only seventeen?

Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of Death and Destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father's kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: As Akaran's queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar's wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire...

But Akaran has its own secrets -- thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger. Yet who, besides her husband, can she trust? With the fate of the human and Otherworldly realms hanging in the balance, Maya must unravel an ancient mystery that spans reincarnated lives to save those she loves the most. . .including herself.

A lush and vivid story that is steeped in Indian folklore and mythology. The Star-Touched Queen is a novel that no reader will soon forget.

The first thing that needs to be mentioned with The Star-Touched Queen is the writing. The novel is filled with magical prose and fantastic descriptions. They definitely were not often how I would have imagined something described but there's no doubt about the picture they paint.

"The room had never felt this empty. Like I was trapped between the space of an echo and a scream." (pg 14)

In this world, with its horoscopes, harems, war, powers - magical and political - lives Maya. She knows that her horoscope means there won't be any suitors looking to marry her and she's accepted it. A life spent learning, without someone to answer to is what she dreams of. Until her father suddenly announces her planned marriage.

It's everything she always thought she would hate but with Amar it seems . . . different. Certainly not what she expected but maybe better.

If only there weren't so many things unknown to her, so many secrets kept and truths untold.

Maya's life in the new kingdom has just the right bit of strange. When it is put next to the magical, fantasy elements already present - the  Night Bazaar, the stories and myths, the magic - you aren't sure exactly what is making it different or why or how. When readers (and Maya) discover some of the truth about her new home it makes sense without having been obvious.

Possibly (probably?) because I am unfamiliar with Indian mythology, I was expecting The Star-Touched Queen to go in a different direction than it did. This turned out to be a fantastic thing because it left me really questioning different characters and their motives, even when scenes, undoubtedly, gave me a certain feeling and the surprises. The plot went a way I didn't see coming, included characters I hadn't imagined, in ways I didn't anticipate.

The Star-Touched Queen with its magical prose, mythology not often used in Western literature, unexpected characters (wit possibly more unexpected personalities), fantastical places and Maya, a character who's strong, smart and resourceful but still has doubts and insecurities, is a brilliant read.

digital review copy received, thanks to publisher, via NetGalley

Waiting On Wednesday [@lbkids @CLLFirestone]

Waiting On Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine

My pick for this week:

THE LOOSE ENDS LIST by Carrie Firestone
A refreshing, funny, and moving debut novel about first loves, last wishes, and letting go.

Seventeen-year-old Maddie O'Neill Levine lives a charmed life, and is primed to spend the perfect pre-college summer with her best friends and young-at-heart socialite grandmother (also Maddie's closest confidante), tying up high school loose ends. Maddie's plans change the instant Gram announces that she is terminally ill and has booked the family on a secret "death with dignity" cruise ship so that she can leave the world in her own unconventional way - and give the O'Neill clan an unforgettable summer of dreams-come-true in the process.

Soon, Maddie is on the trip of a lifetime with her over-the-top family. As they travel the globe, Maddie bonds with other passengers and falls for Enzo, who is processing his own grief. But despite the laughter, headiness of first love, and excitement of glamorous destinations, Maddie knows she is on the brink of losing Gram. She struggles to find the strength to say good-bye in a whirlwind summer shaped by love, loss, and the power of forgiveness.

published June 7th by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

add to your Goodreads shelf // pre-order from Book Depo // or Amazon


I love that this book has first love, a cruise to fabulous locales and Maddie's 'over-the-top family' but also her Gram's illness and death. I think the contrast between all of those emotions, the light and dark, the levity and somberness could make for an intriguing, emotional read.

I am looking forward to Maddie's character, who she is and how she deals with everything.

That's my pick for this week, what's yours? Tell me in the comments and/or link me to your own post!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Art of Not Breathing ~ Sarah Alexander (earc) review [@SarahRAlexander @hmhkids]

The Art of Not Breathing
HMH Books for Young Readers
April 26 2016
288 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depository/or Amazon

Since her twin brother, Eddie, drowned five years ago, sixteen-year-old Elsie Main has tried to remember what really happened that fateful day on the beach. One minute Eddie was there, and the next he was gone. Seventeen-year-old Tay McKenzie is a cute and mysterious boy that Elsie meets in her favorite boathouse hangout. When Tay introduces Elsie to the world of freediving, she vows to find the answers she seeks at the bottom of the sea.

When Elsie's brother, her twin, Eddie died five yars ago, it broke her family and its members. Some ways are immediately apparent to readers, others revealed as you read.

Elsie's life, aside from the death of her brother and her dysfunctional family is not easy. She is overweight and she is bullied at school. The girl, Ailsa who's her main tormentor even says to her, "Ergh, you're still here. We all hoped you'd died over the holidays." (pg 27)

When a chance meeting brings Tay into Elsie's life - and she's introduced to freediving, it's both everything she should avoid and exactly what she feels she needs. It isn't only how she feels about Tay, about the boys and Mick, how it feels to finally have people seem interested in her, she hopes it will bring her answers about the day Eddie drowned.

That secret life of Elsie's starts but her family life doesn't become some static thing or drop to the background. There is still something 'off' about her older brother Dillon. Something that, even once she's discovered it, Elise isn't sure how to handle. Then, of course, there are her parents and their troubles both individually and as a couple.

I liked that The Art of Not Breathing was a mystery, with Elsie trying to piece together what happened the day her twin died, but that it was almost something you don't notice at first. As you read, you're more focused on Elsie, her loneliness and isolation, the dysfunction of their family and what it means for and to each of them, and then Elsie's introduction to diving. At first it isn't even clear there's anything to discover about that day five years ago.

When truths to begin to come out: about Elsie, her diving, what's 'off' about Dillon, her father, her mother, the day Eddie died, and even more (though not in that order), it could seem like a lot but because it's all so tied to that one day, that one incident, it works.

I loved all that the author worked into this story and who Elsie's character was, who she became and how the people and circumstances around her changed both because of and independent of her, but with it all tying together so well.

digital copy received for review, from publisher, via NetGalley
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