What’s better than an entertaining book? How about an entertaining book with something to say? Every book in this Book Beat review round-up tackles some timely issues from Imperialism, sexual orientation, environment, cyberbullying and misogyny.
Odd One Out by Nic Stone
Pitch: Heartfelt exploration about the confusion when you fall in love for the first time with the person you don’t expect
Story: “From the New York Times bestselling author of Dear Martin comes this illuminating exploration of old friendships, new crushes, and the path to self-discovery.
Courtney “Coop” Cooper
Dumped. Again. And normally I wouldn’t mind. But right now, my best friend and source of solace, Jupiter Sanchez, is ignoring me to text some girl.
Rae Evelyn Chin
I assumed “new girl” would be synonymous with “pariah,” but Jupiter and Courtney make me feel like I’m right where I belong. I also want to kiss him. And her. Which is . . . perplexing.
The only thing worse than losing the girl you love to a boy is losing her to your boy. That means losing him, too. I have to make a move. . . .
No easy answers.”
Quick takes: This book explores feelings and attractions in a very open and honest way. Labels aren’t everything and you’re always learning something new about yourself. All three characters get their confusing say in this oddest of love triangles. It’s raw and hopeful and hurt and joyful with these characters so clearly and honestly drawn.
Available: October 9
The Devil’s Thief by Lisa Maxwell
Pitch: Everything gets crazy and more complicated in this historical fantasy sequel to The Last Magician
Story: “In this spellbinding sequel to the New York Times bestselling The Last Magician, Esta and Harte set off on a cross-country chase through time to steal back the elemental stones they need to save the future of magic.
Hunt the Stones.
Beware the Thief.
Avenge the Past.
Esta’s parents were murdered. Her life was stolen. And everything she knew about magic was a lie. She thought the Book of Mysteries held the key to freeing the Mageus from the Order’s grasp, but the danger within its pages was greater than she ever imagined.
Now the Book’s furious power lives inside Harte. If he can’t control it, it will rip apart the world to get its revenge, and it will use Esta to do it.
To bind the power, Esta and Harte must track down four elemental stones scattered across the continent. But the world outside the city is like nothing they expected. There are Mageus beyond the Brink not willing to live in the shadows—and the Order isn’t alone in its mission to crush them.
In St. Louis, the extravagant World’s Fair hides the first stone, but an old enemy is out for revenge and a new enemy is emerging. And back in New York, Viola and Jianyu must defeat a traitor in a city on the verge of chaos.
As past and future collide, time is running out to rewrite history—even for a time-traveling thief.”
Quick takes: This book is complex and ambitious with more characters, new well-researched locations and vivid details. There’s a steady build as all the elements weave towards the big ending. My favorite storyline is, of course, Esta and Harte whose slow-burn relationship fuels this story. This isn’t a light and breezy book, but if you’re looking for an emmersive story with big stakes, this is a great choice.
Available: October 9
Blanca and Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore
Pitch: Inspired by several fairy tales and other works, this is a romantic and dark look at expectations and acceptance
Story: “The biggest lie of all is the story you think you already know.
The del Cisne girls have never just been sisters; they’re also rivals, Blanca as obedient and graceful as Roja is vicious and manipulative. They know that, because of a generations-old spell, their family is bound to a bevy of swans deep in the woods. They know that, one day, the swans will pull them into a dangerous game that will leave one of them a girl, and trap the other in the body of a swan.
But when two local boys become drawn into the game, the swans’ spell intertwines with the strange and unpredictable magic lacing the woods, and all four of their fates depend on facing truths that could either save or destroy them. Blanca & Roja is the captivating story of sisters, friendship, love, hatred, and the price we pay to protect our hearts.”
Quick takes: Magical, hypnotic, beautiful, unexpected, aching and romantic. This has Anna-Marie’s trademark gorgeous writing and startling imagination with a touch of weird (in a good way).
Available: October 9
Damsel by Elana K. Arnold
Pitch: What if the fairy tale’s handsome prince is an abuser?
Story: “The rite has existed for as long as anyone can remember: when the prince-who-will-be-king comes of age, he must venture out into the gray lands, slay a fierce dragon, and rescue a damsel to be his bride. This is the way things have always been.
When Ama wakes in the arms of Prince Emory, however, she knows none of this. She has no memory of what came before she was captured by the dragon, or what horrors she has faced in its lair. She knows only this handsome prince, the story he tells of her rescue, and her destiny to sit on the throne beside him. Ama comes with Emory back to the kingdom of Harding, hailed as the new princess, welcomed to the court.
However, as soon as her first night falls, she begins to realize that not all is as it seems, that there is more to the legends of the dragons and the damsels than anyone knows–and that the greatest threats to her life may not be behind her, but here, in front of her.”
Quick takes: This isn’t your normal fairy tale. It’s a dark story about abuse from the victim’s viewpoint. Fascinating and uncomfotable, it’s not for everyone, but it is well-executed and not for the faint-hearted.
Available: October 2
Star-Crossed by Pintip Dunn
Pitch: Romance and mystery set in a dystopian sci-if setting
Story: “Princess Vela’s people are starving.
Stranded on a planet that lacks food, Vela makes the ultimate sacrifice and becomes an Aegis for her people. Accepting a genetic modification that takes sixty years off her life, she can feed her colony via nutrition pills. But her best friend is still getting worse. And she’s not the only one.
Now the king is dying, too.
When the boy she’s had a crush on since childhood volunteers to give his life for her father’s, Vela realizes her people need more than pills to survive. As tensions rise between Aegis and colonists, secrets and sabotage begin to threaten the future of the colony itself.
Unless Vela is brave enough to save them all…”
Quick takes: Good romance set in an odd world. It’s well-drawn and original, but the setting was just a little too weird for me. There’s a light touch so it’s sort of breezy, but it will have you salivating for food. Don’t read it on an empty stomach!
Available: October 2
The Chaos of Now by Erin Jade Lange
Pitch: A tale of bullying, revenge and the dangers of the internet and escalation
Story: “Is it real if it happens online?
Life at Eli’s high school hasn’t been the same since his classmate Jordan committed suicide after being tirelessly bullied. Schools now have access to students’ online activities and students have less privacy than ever. Eli just wants to graduate—so he can get out of town, get away from his father’s embarrassingly young fiancée, and get himself a prestigious coding job. But Eli’s hacking skills get him roped into a vigilante website that—while subverting the school’s cybersnoops— seeks justice for Jordan and everyone else being bullied. Suddenly Eli finds himself in way over his head as his keystrokes start to have devastating consequences in the real world . . . This timely story from the author of Butter is a thrilling tale about the power of the internet, the young people who wield it, and the fine lines between bully and victim, justice and vengeance.”
Quick takes: It’s a cautionary tale about the dangers of cyber bullying and how extreme they can be. The story moves swiftly as the stakes and consequences escalate. You don’t need to like the characters to enjoy the story which is good since some of them do some stupid stuff.
Available: October 2
Thanks to Random House (Odd One Out), Simon & Schuster (The Devil’s Thief), Macmillan (Blanca & Roja), HarperCollins (Damsel), Entangled (Star-Crossed) and Bloomsbury (The Chaos of Now) 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.
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