Time to go broke at the book store! There’s a ton of terrific new books coming out in the second half of May. I’ve got quick takes on a wide variety of books – all of them are enjoyable and a few are already on my “best of 2017” list already!
Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh
Pitch: A historic fantasy/thriller/mystery that’s part Mulan and part ninja origin story as Mariko infiltrates the mysterious Black Clan who tried to kill her
Story: “The daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has long known her place—she may be an accomplished alchemist, whose cunning rivals that of her brother Kenshin, but because she is not a boy, her future has always been out of her hands. At just seventeen years old, Mariko is promised to Minamoto Raiden, the son of the emperor’s favorite consort—a political marriage that will elevate her family’s standing. But en route to the imperial city of Inako, Mariko narrowly escapes a bloody ambush by a dangerous gang of bandits known as the Black Clan, who she learns has been hired to kill her before she reaches the palace.
Dressed as a peasant boy, Mariko sets out to infiltrate the Black Clan and track down those responsible for the target on her back. Once she’s within their ranks, though, Mariko finds for the first time she’s appreciated for her intellect and abilities. She even finds herself falling in love—a love that will force her to question everything she’s ever known about her family, her purpose, and her deepest desires.”
Quick take: As you might expect from Renee Ahdieh (The Wrath and the Dawn), there’s superb world-building that’s deep and beautiful. There’s adventure and romance and everything I wanted in this book. Read this one and put the sequel as one of your most anticipated reads for next year!
Available: May 16th
A Million Junes by Emily Henry
Pitch: Gorgeous, magical, bittersweet, romantic story of the son and daughter of two feuding families who connect and try to resolve the magic/curse that separates them
Story: “In their hometown of Five Fingers, Michigan, the O’Donnells and the Angerts have mythic legacies. But for all the tall tales they weave, both founding families are tight-lipped about what caused the century-old rift between them, except to say it began with a cherry tree.
Eighteen-year-old Jack ‘June’ O’Donnell doesn’t need a better reason than that. She’s an O’Donnell to her core, just like her late father was, and O’Donnells stay away from Angerts. Period.
But when Saul Angert, the son of June’s father’s mortal enemy, returns to town after three mysterious years away, June can’t seem to avoid him. Soon the unthinkable happens: She finds she doesn’t exactly hate the gruff, sarcastic boy she was born to loathe.
Saul’s arrival sparks a chain reaction, and as the magic, ghosts, and coywolves of Five Fingers conspire to reveal the truth about the dark moment that started the feud, June must question everything she knows about her family and the father she adored. And she must decide whether it’s finally time for her—and all of the O’Donnells before her—to let go.”
Quick take: It’s a gorgeous love story not only with the boy-from-my-mortal-enemy, but between fathers and daughters and best friends. The emotions here just pour across the page and dare you not to feel as well. There’s such a dreamy quality to the world-building that some parts seem like a fable, and then other parts get creepy. This world is original, magical and aching at the same time. Seriously, it’s a beautiful book and confirms that I’ll ready anything Emily Henry wants to put out in the future.
Available: May 16th
The Names They Give Us by Emery Lord
Pitch: Beautifully written, this contemporary story is a great workout for the heart and for the soul.
Story: “Lucy Hansson was ready for a perfect summer with her boyfriend, working at her childhood Bible camp on the lake. But when her mom’s cancer reappears, Lucy falters—in faith, in love, and in her ability to cope. When her boyfriend “pauses” their relationship and her summer job switches to a different camp—one for troubled kids—Lucy isn’t sure how much more she can handle. Attempting to accept a new normal, Lucy slowly regains footing among her vibrant, diverse coworkers, Sundays with her mom, and a crush on a fellow counselor. But when long-hidden family secrets emerge, can Lucy set aside her problems and discover what grace really means?”
Quick take: This is a standout book for vivid characters and a truly emotional read. There’s a wonderfully diverse cast of kids with all kinds of issues and backgrounds and each character is unique and well-drawn. There’s a lot of heavy and intense issues, but it has a light touch and a good dose of humor. This book is also about faith, but not in a lecture, high-handed way. It’s about finding strength and hope and companions for whatever lies ahead.
Available: May 16th
I Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo
Pitch: A straight A student thinks she’s cracked the code to dating by using K dramas (Korean TV shows) as her guide
Story: “Desi Lee knows how carburetors work. She learned CPR at the age of five. As a high school senior, she has never missed a day of school and has never had a B in her entire life. She’s for sure going to Stanford. But—she’s never had a boyfriend. In fact, she’s a disaster in romance, a clumsy, stammering humiliation-magnet whose botched attempts at flirting have become legendary with her friends. So when the hottest human specimen to have ever lived walks into her life one day, Desi decides to tackle her flirting failures with the same zest she’s applied to everything else in her life. She finds her answer in the Korean dramas her father has been obsessively watching for years—where the hapless heroine always seems to end up in the arms of her true love by episode ten. It’s a simple formula, and Desi is a quick study. Armed with her ‘K Drama Rules for True Love,’ Desi goes after the moody, elusive artist Luca Drakos—and boat rescues, love triangles, and fake car crashes ensue. But when the fun and games turn to true feels, Desi finds out that real love is about way more than just drama.”
Quick take: Super cute and fun. You don’t need to know K dramas to enjoy this book (there’s an appendix with suggestions if you want to dive into a new addiction). Desi is a lovable mess with really epic fails when it comes to boys. Her K drama rules are pretty extreme, but so entertaining. Great read for a laugh and a smile.
Available: May 30th
When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
Pitch: Matched by their parents, Dimple and Rishi have different ideas on romance and dating
Story: “A laugh-out-loud, heartfelt YA romantic comedy, told in alternating perspectives, about two Indian-American teens whose parents have arranged for them to be married.
Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the ‘Ideal Indian Husband.’ Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?
Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.
The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this ‘suggested arrangement’ so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?
Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.”
Quick take: It’s a cute contemporary romance with something more to offer. IT’s a sweet romance of opposites, but what makes this book stand out is its unique flavor of a practical girl and romantic boy, of dealing with people who judge you on whether or not you fit in by the color of your skin or the sound of your name, of living between two cultures and so much more.
Available: May 30
The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich
Pitch: A refreshing spin on the YA love triangle with an unexpected pairing and where the loser dies
Story: “There is a secret organization that cultivates teenage spies. The agents are called Love Interests because getting close to people destined for great power means getting valuable secrets.
Caden is a Nice: The boy next door, sculpted to physical perfection. Dylan is a Bad: The brooding, dark-souled guy, and dangerously handsome. The girl they are competing for is important to the organization, and each boy will pursue her. Will she choose a Nice or the Bad?
Both Caden and Dylan are living in the outside world for the first time. They are well-trained and at the top of their games. They have to be – whoever the girl doesn’t choose will die.
What the boys don’t expect are feelings that are outside of their training. Feelings that could kill them both.”
Quick take: And now for something completely different! It’s a great flip on the typical love triangle (and its nice to see the pressure for the perfect body from the male perspective). I enjoyed this book not just because it’s so original, but also because Caden is engaging and real (even though he’s a fake). The premise of the book could make for a really odd book, but he’s so grounded it all works.
Available: May 16th
Seeking Mansfield by Kate Watson
Pitch: A modern take on Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park
Story: “Sixteen-year-old Finley Price has perfected two things: how to direct a world-class production, and how to fly way, way under the radar. The only person who ever seems to notice Finley is her best friend, the Bertram’s son Oliver. If she could just take Oliver’s constant encouragement to heart and step out of the shadows, she’d finally chase her dream of joining the prestigious Mansfield Theater.
When teen movie stars Emma and Harlan Crawford move next door to the Bertram’s, they immediately set their sights on Oliver and his cunning sister, Juliette, shaking up Finley and Oliver’s stable friendship. As Emma and Oliver grow closer, Harlan finds his attention shifting from Juliette to the quiet, enigmatic, and thoroughly unimpressed Finley. Out of boredom, Harlan decides to make her fall in love with him. Problem is, the harder he seeks to win her, the harder he falls for her.
But Finley doesn’t want to be won, and she doesn’t want to see Oliver with anyone else. To claim Oliver’s heart—and keep her own—she’ll have to find the courage to do what she fears most: step into the spotlight.”
Quick take: This is a very faithful, yet completely updated version of Mansfield Park featuring Finley Price, a girl with self-esteem issues. It’s an enjoyable take on this less-popular Austen tale, but sensitive readers should be aware that Finley is traumatized by her mother so there is some verbal abuse and physical abuse.
Available: May 16th
Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan
Pitch: The third book in the Crazy Rich Asians series has the whole gang of dysfunctional, paranoid, social-climbing crazies back for more ridiculous fun (think the Real Housewives of Singapore)
Story: “Kevin Kwan, bestselling author of Crazy Rich Asians and China Rich Girlfriend, is back with an uproarious new novel of a family riven by fortune, an ex-wife driven psychotic with jealousy, a battle royal fought through couture gown sabotage, and the heir to one of Asia’s greatest fortunes locked out of his inheritance.
When Nicholas Young hears that his grandmother, Su Yi, is on her deathbed, he rushes to be by her bedside–but he’s not alone. It seems the entire Shang-Young clan has convened from all corners of the globe, ostensibly to care for their matriarch but truly to stake claim on the massive fortune that Su Yi controls. With each family member secretly fantasizing about getting the keys to Tyersall Park–a trophy estate on 64 prime acres in the heart of Singapore–the place becomes a hotbed of intrigue and Nicholas finds himself blocked from entering the premises. As relatives claw over heirlooms, Astrid Leong is at the center of her own storm, desperately in love with her old sweetheart Charlie Wu, but tormented by his ex-wife–a woman hell bent on destroying Astrid’s reputation and relationship. Meanwhile Kitty Pong, married to billionaire Jack Bing, finds a formidable opponent in his fashionista daughter, Colette. A sweeping novel that takes us from the elegantly appointed mansions of Manila to the secluded private islands in the Sulu Sea, from a schoolyard kidnapping to a gold-leaf dancefloor spattered with blood, Kevin Kwan’s gloriously wicked new novel reveals the long-buried secrets and rich people problems of Asia’s most privileged families.”
Quick take: There are plenty of characters to love, hate and pity in this sudsy tale of the ultra-wealthy. Even in book 3, there are lots of surprising and outrageous turns. All in all, it’s a great load of fun and a glamorous escape.
Available: May 23rd
The Emperor’s Riddle by Kat Zhang
Pitch: A Middle Grade book set in China and filled with adventure as Mia sets out to solve a series of puzzles to find her aunt
Story: “Mia Chen is on what her mother calls a Grand Adventure. She’s not sure what to make of this family trip to China, and didn’t want to leave her friends for the summer, but she’s excited about the prospect of exploring with her Aunt Lin, the only adult who truly understands her.
Then Aunt Lin disappears, right after her old nemesis, a man named Ying, comes to visit. Mia knows that years ago, when Aunt Lin and Ying were sent to the Fuzhou countryside to work as laborers, the two searched for an ancient treasure together—one that still hasn’t been found. She’s suspicious that their shared history might be linked to Aunt Lin’s disappearance.
When Mia discovers an old map filled with riddles in Aunt Lin’s room, she quickly pieces together her mission: find the treasure, find her aunt. Now, Mia, along with her big brother, Jake, must solve the clues to rescue the person she knows best in the world—and maybe unearth a treasure greater than her wildest dreams.”
Quick take: The Emperor’s Riddle has lots of puzzles, a big mystery, complex family dynamics, a creepy bad guy and a gorgeous location. It’s a fun adventure which kids will love and totally absorb. Mia is inquisitive, slightly shy and very resourceful. She’s also an Asian-American visiting relatives in China. The book touches on the unique position of being bi-cultural and assimilation which is so rare in middle grade books. There are some great descriptions of the city, the countryside and, of course, the food.
Thanks to Penguin Teen (Flame in the Mist, A Million Junes), Bloomsbury (The Names They Give Us), Macmillan (I Believe in a Thing Called Love, The Love Interest), Simon & Schuster (When Dimple Met Rishi, The Emperor’s Riddle), Flux (Seeking Mansfield), Doubleday Books (Rich People Problems) for providing the books for review. Want more details on my impression of these and other books? Check out my ratings and full reviews at Goodreads.