There are SO MANY good books coming out in the next couple of months that my shelves may collapse from all the new additions! In this edition of Book Beat I have 7 reviews and there’s still a bunch of upcoming releases I’m dying to read. This is a really good month for books with top notch fantasy, contemporary, historic fiction and more.
Flamecaster by Cinda Williams Chima
Pitch: Full on fantasy with kings, magic, curses and re-claiming the throne from evil forces.
Story: “The first in a thrilling new four-book fantasy series from New York Times bestselling author Cinda Williams Chima, set in the same world as her beloved Seven Realms series, a generation later
Adrian sul’Han, known as Ash, is a trained healer with a powerful gift of magic—and a thirst for revenge. Ash is forced into hiding after a series of murders throws the queendom into chaos. Now Ash is closer than he’s ever been to killing the man responsible, the cruel king of Arden. As a healer, can Ash use his powers not to save a life but to take it?
Abandoned at birth, Jenna Bandelow was told that the mysterious magemark on the back of her neck would make her a target. But when the King’s Guard launches a relentless search for a girl with a mark like hers, Jenna assumes that it has more to do with her role as a saboteur than any birth-based curse. Though Jenna doesn’t know why she’s being hunted, she knows that she can’t get caught.
Eventually, Ash’s and Jenna’s paths will collide in Arden. Thrown together by chance and joined by their hatred of the king, they will come to rescue each other in ways they cannot yet imagine.”
Quick take: This is a book I’ve been looking forward to for quite some time. Last October, I just sat down in my seats for the huge The Walking Dead world premiere when I saw a Twitter post announcing ARCs for Cinda Williams Chima’s Flamecaster if you could spot the grey wolf at the NYCC Epic Reads booth. I came this close to bolting out of Madison Square Garden to find that wolf. Instead, I stayed and dashed to the booth the next morning to triumphantly grab a copy. Mission accomplished!
I loved the Seven Realms and this is a worthy return to that world. Flamecaster is full of adventure, heartache and fascinating turns. We have a whole bunch of new characters representing very different views with new worlds and creatures to explore.
To answer the most frequently asked question: you DON’T need to read the 4 books in the Seven Realms series to enjoy Flamecaster since there’s plenty of background here. However, Flamecaster has spoilers for the Seven Realms books since this is just one generation later. I’d recommend reading The Demon King and the other booksfirst, but if reading 5 books seems like a big investment, you’re fine starting off with Flamecaster.
Available: April 5. There’s a pre-order for book swag and a chance to win signed copies of the Seven Realms books if you send an email with proof of pre-order to firstname.lastname@example.org. Cinda is also going on tour and she signs books through her local independent books store so head to her website for more details!
Tell me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum
Pitch: A sweet love story with a guy that’s everything she needs, but she’s never met
Story: “Everything about Jessie is wrong. At least, that’s what it feels like during her first week of junior year at her new ultra-intimidating prep school in Los Angeles. Just when she’s thinking about hightailing it back to Chicago, she gets an email from a person calling themselves Somebody/Nobody (SN for short), offering to help her navigate the wilds of Wood Valley High School. Is it an elaborate hoax? Or can she rely on SN for some much-needed help?
It’s been barely two years since her mother’s death, and because her father eloped with a woman he met online, Jessie has been forced to move across the country to live with her stepmonster and her pretentious teenage son.
In a leap of faith—or an act of complete desperation—Jessie begins to rely on SN, and SN quickly becomes her lifeline and closest ally. Jessie can’t help wanting to meet SN in person. But are some mysteries better left unsolved?”
Quick take: This is one of those books that you devour in one sitting. Jessie is so easy to relate to and the little bit of mystery as she tries to figure out who SN is will keep you turning the pages and cheering for your favorite candidate(s). Funny and sweet, the end reveal scene is just perfect. Fans of Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda will recognize the basic story here, but this is its own book and just as adorable in its own way.
Available: April 5. Julie is also on a signing tour so visit First in Line for her schedule and a few other goodies.
The Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse
Pitch: A mystery in occupied Netherlands during WWII
Story: “The missing girl is Jewish. I need you to find her before the Nazis do.
Amsterdam, 1943. Hanneke spends her days procuring and delivering sought-after black market goods to paying customers, her nights hiding the true nature of her work from her concerned parents, and every waking moment mourning her boyfriend, who was killed on the Dutch front lines when the Germans invaded. She likes to think of her illegal work as a small act of rebellion.
On a routine delivery, a client asks Hanneke for help. Expecting to hear that Mrs. Janssen wants meat or kerosene, Hanneke is shocked by the older woman’s frantic plea to find a person–a Jewish teenager Mrs. Janssen had been hiding, who has vanished without a trace from a secret room. Hanneke initially wants nothing to do with such dangerous work, but is ultimately drawn into a web of mysteries and stunning revelations that lead her into the heart of the resistance, open her eyes to the horrors of the Nazi war machine, and compel her to take desperate action.”
Quick take: The Girl in the Blue Coat is a whole lot of interesting things: historic fiction, mystery, coming of age and a fascinating look at the young resistance movement. Author Monica Hesse paints a vivid and detailed look at life in the Nazi-regime. Different aspects are laid out through a variety of characters which illuminate many different survivors’ tales that aren’t told as often. Don’t worry, this isn’t a lecture since the language and storytelling make this an easy read, but the story is anything but easy. (Nazi’s are never a good-time sort of thing.) Regardless, there is something optimistic in the courage of these teens and young adults to resist the occupation.
Available: April 5
Railhead by Philip Reeve
Pitch: And now for something completely different…pure science fiction adventure that starts with a thief on a train to different worlds
Story: “The Great Network is an ancient web of routes and gates, where sentient trains can take you anywhere in the galaxy in the blink of an eye. Zen Starling is a nobody. A petty thief from the filthy streets of Thunder City who aimlessly rides the rails of the Network. So when the mysterious stranger Raven offers Zen a chance to escape the squalor of the city and live the rest of his days in luxury, Zen can’t believe his luck. All he has to do is steal one small box from the Emperor’s train with the help of Nova, an android girl. But the Great Network is a hazardous mess of twists and turns, and that little box just might bring everything in this galaxy — and the next — to the end of the line.”
Quick take: Railhead is a thriller in a dense and fascinating world where visiting another world is the next stop on the train. There are lots of fun planets, creatures and a couple of winking fanboy shout-outs to relics from Old Earth. There isn’t a lot of deep character development since the focus is on the action. Still, it’s a brisk read and an interesting start to a new series
Available: April 1st
Daughters of Ruin by K.D. Castner
Pitch: Frenemy girls who each rule a kingdom – will they get along or kill each other?
Story: “Rhea, Cadis, Suki, and Iren have lived together since they were children. They are called sisters. They are not. They are called equals. They are not. They are princesses…and they are enemies.
Not long ago, a brutal war ravaged their kingdoms, and Rhea’s father was the victor. As a gesture of peace, King Declan brought the daughters of his rivals to live under his protection—and his ever-watchful eye. For ten years the girls have trained together as diplomats and warriors, raised to accept their thrones and unite their kingdoms in peace.
But there is rarely peace among sisters. Sheltered Rhea was raised to rule everyone—including her ‘sisters’—but she’s cracking under pressure. The charismatic Cadis is desperately trying to redeem her people from their actions during the war. Suki guards deep family secrets that isolate her, and quiet Iren’s meekness is not what it seems.
All plans for peace are shattered when the palace is attacked. As their intended futures lie in ashes, Rhea, Cadis, Suki, and Iren must decide where their loyalties lie: to their nations, or to each other.”
Quick take: The princesses are friends, sisters, rivals, frenemies and more. As the story and possible rebellion progresses, the princesses start to reveal their true selves. Castner cleverly adds fuel to the action by telling part of the story from each of their points of view and in their own distinct voices. We get to see what’s going on with each of the girls, but they never see the full picture. Some of the girls are more empathetic than others, but each has a compelling story even as the precarious peace starts to unravel.
Available: April 5
Essential Maps for the Lost by Deb Caletti
Pitch: Emotionally wounded people try to build a true connection
Story: “From beloved author and National Book Award finalist Deb Caletti comes a fresh and luminous novel about the grief that can tear us apart and the people who can make us whole again.
When Madison makes a startling discovery, the body of a dead woman floating in the middle of a lake, the summer after her senior year becomes more complicated than she ever expected.
Madison (Mads to everyone who knows her) is staying with her aunt and uncle in Seattle after graduating from high school. Being away from her needy, unstable mother who’s been pressuring her to take over the family business is such a relief. Now all Mads has to worry about is taking classes, swimming laps, and fighting off the sadness that threatens to overtake her.
That is, until the traumatic moment Mads collides with a body in the middle of the lake. After swimming the body back to shore, Mads becomes obsessed with uncovering the identity of the woman and what drove her to leap off of the Aurora Bridge. Determined to discover more, Mads parks outside the woman’s home and sees the woman’s son: the sweet and tormented Billy Youngwolf Floyd.
Through a series of not-so-happenstance meetings, Mads and Billy realize that desperate mothers and rescue missions are not the only thing that bonds them. Billy carries a map in his pocket; the one of the museum from The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler; and it’s his dream to visit the museum one day. And though book-loving Mads is expected to return home to her already-decided future, her dream is to run away to a life of her choosing.
As the unlikely pair fall hard for each other and as the summer draws to a close, Billy and Mads must decide whose story to follow: their family’s or their own.”
Quick take: Essentials Maps for the Lost gets a little lost, but then finds its path. I have to say, I had to push hard to make it through the first third of the book. Really push. (I almost gave up.) Things get much better once Mads and Billy meet. From then on, they are a very cute couple with lots and lots of emotional baggage and a few secrets to sort out. All other humans are pretty cursory and most adults are more messed up than any of the teens. If you like dogs, there are lots of lovable canines in this story.
Available: April 5th
Flawed by Cecelia Ahearn
Pitch: For fans of Divergent who want more melodrama
Story: “Celestine North lives a perfect life. She’s a model daughter and sister, she’s well-liked by her classmates and teachers, and she’s dating the impossibly charming Art Crevan.
But then Celestine encounters a situation where she makes an instinctive decision. She breaks a rule. And now faces life-changing repercussions.
She could be imprisoned. She could be branded. She could be found FLAWED.
In her breathtaking young adult debut, bestselling author Cecelia Ahern depicts a society where obedience is paramount and rebellion is punished. And where one young woman decides to take a stand that could cost her-everything.”
Quick take: Flawed begins well with an interesting start, but the story quickly spirals into a book that wasn’t for me. The big incident that changes Celestine’s life feels contrived and then things get ridiculous as she gets repeatedly (unreasonably) beat up so readers will feel something for her. I’d rather have a character’s actions earn the reader’s sympathy rather than a character’s senseless victimization so I stopped getting involved with the story. There are bonus points for diversity, but this wasn’t the book for me.
Available: April 5. Cecelia is part of the spring Fierce Reads tour with Marie Rutkowski, Harriet Reuter Hapgood and special guests. Check out the Fierce Reads website for dates.
Thanks to Epic Reads (Flamecaster), First in Line (Tell Me Three Things), Little, Brown (The Girl in the Blue Coat), Switch Press (Railhead), Simon & Schuster (Daughters of Ruin and Essential Maps for the Lost) and Macmillan (Flawed) 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.
And yet, there are lots of other interesting releases in the next two weeks! I haven’t had the chance to read these yet, but keep an eye out for:
- Forest of Ruin by Kelley Armstrong (April 5) – Kelley Armstrong finishes off her Age of Legends fantasy series that began with Sea of Shadows. I liked the first two books and can’t wait to see how this ends!
- The Glittering Court by Richelle Mead (April 5) – The author of Vampire Academy is starting a new series about life in the upper echelons of society. Richelle is going on tour so check her website for details.
- The Mirror King by Jodi Meadows (April 5) – The Mirror King completes the story that began with The Orphan Queen. Vigilantes, forging, magic and its dark consequences, this is epic fantasy.
- The Story Of Kullervo by JRR Tolkien (April 5) – A new book by JRR Tolkien! This manuscript was found recently and may be our last new story from Middle Earth.
- When We Collided by Emery Lord (April 5) – Emery Lord’s latest contemporary YA tale is about romance and heartbreak with the added complication of being bipolar. I really enjoyed The Start of You and Me so this is a must-read. Emery is also on tour so hit up her website for dates and places.
As I said, there are lots of great books out there! Anyone headed into a bookstore on April 5th could go broke very easily, but what a way to go!
The next edition of Book Beat will be out on the 15th (as usual) which is when I’ll be hitting up RT Booklover’s Con. This will be my first time so I am very curious about how this goes down!
In the meantime, I’m giving away a stack of ARCs and swag which includes the highly anticipated And I Darken by Kiersten White and a finished copy of Terry Brooks’ The Elfstones of Shannara with the limited edition cover. I’ll also customize this swag pack with additional book/movie/TV swag that the winner can pick. To enter, follow me on Twitter (@Cambear) and re-tweet the pinned contest tweet before 4/4.
I’m also holding an Outlander giveaway with a SIGNED copy of the book and so much more! Head over to my Outlander media blitz calendar to enter for that prize.