Thursday, March 28, 2019

To Best The Boys by Mary Weber {review}

To Best The Boys 
by Mary Weber 
♦publisher: Thomas Nelson Books
♦release date: March 19th, 2019
♦intended audience: Young adult
♦stand alone, fantasy
♦source: from publisher for honest review
Every year for the past fifty-four years, the residents of Pinsbury Port receive a mysterious letter inviting all eligible-aged boys to compete for an esteemed scholarship to the all-male Stemwick University. Every year, the poorer residents look to see that their names are on the list. The wealthier look to see how likely their sons are to survive. And Rhen Tellur opens it to see if she can derive which substances the ink and parchment are created from, using her father’s microscope.

In the province of Caldon, where women are trained in wifely duties and men are encouraged into collegiate education, sixteen-year-old Rhen Tellur wants nothing more than to become a scientist. As the poor of her seaside town fall prey to a deadly disease, she and her father work desperately to find a cure. But when her Mum succumbs to it as well? Rhen decides to take the future into her own hands—through the annual all-male scholarship competition.

With her cousin, Seleni, by her side, the girls don disguises and enter Mr. Holm’s labyrinth, to best the boys and claim the scholarship prize. Except not everyone’s ready for a girl who doesn’t know her place. And not everyone survives the maze.

{My review}
Ah, this book. It easily takes its place among my favorites shelf.  And as a longtime fan of author Mary Weber, I can also say it's become my new favorite of her works. It's a feminist tale, for sure, as Rhen fights her way to what she wants and needs in a world that seems only geared toward the success of young men, but the author spins a tale that gracefully shows that feminism doesn't have to be about showing all men as monsters, but about empowering women and putting men who think women deserve to be thought of as powerless in their place.  She's created an enchantingly rich fantasy world full of sirens and ghouls and a terrifying and magical labyrinth competition, and a group of fun characters to carry each other through it all.

I loved the lighter and humorous tone at the beginning, drew me right into the story and put even me at ease with the fact that they were, in fact, cutting into corpses in the very first scene. You quickly get to know Rhen through her snarky interactions and inner dialogue. But further in, the story also puts her through quite a heart-wrenching and time-sensitive challenge---one that becomes her motivation and strength behind her brave decision to sneak into the labyrinth competition.

The plot is so engaging, every twist and turn through the labyrinth is sure to keep readers enticed, thinking through mysterious clues right along with the characters and holding your breath as Rhen, Lute and the others face each puzzle and run a treacherous race to the finish. The subtle romance that grows between Rhen and Lute is perfection---and I love that she makes clear from the beginning that she doesn't have time for any drama and nonsense. I also love how she doesn't back down from Vincent, her childhood friend who seemed to think his declaration of courtship meant he owned her. Grrr. Did not like him. The way things ended with Lute and Rhen---wow. I absolutely loved how everything turned out and the direction it was going, the support and assurance that poured from him. Read it, you'll see. :)  I know this is a stand-alone, but I would absolutely love more of Rhen and Lute and Seleni and goofy Beryll.  Another absolutely stunning story from Mary Weber that just leaves you wondering in awe at what she will come up with next. ♥

{About The Author}

Mary Weber is the bestselling HarperCollins author of six books, including the Storm Siren TrilogyThe Evaporation of Sofi Snow series, and this year’s highly-acclaimed To Best the Boys. When not writing, Mary sings 80’s hairband songs to her three muggle children, and ogles her husband who looks strikingly like Wolverine. They live in California which is perfect for stalking aging superstars while wearing sweatpants and fannypacks.

Purchase the book:  Indiebound  •  BookDepository  •  Amazon

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source: book provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

The Deepest Blue book birthday! Interview with Sarah Beth Durst

Let's all venture back to Sarah Beth Durst's beautiful and dangerous
world of Renthia, visit another of it's stunning lands, and say

Life is precious and precarious on the islands of Belene. Besieged by a capricious ocean full of malicious spirits, the people of the islands seek joy where they can. Mayara, one of the island’s fearless oyster divers, has found happiness in love. But on the day of her wedding to the artist Kelo, a spirit-driven storm hits the island with deadly force.

To save her loved ones, Mayara reveals a dangerous secret: she has the power to control the spirits. When the storm ends, she is taken into custody by the queen’s soldiers and imprisoned with other women like her.

They vary in age and social status, but to many they are heroes who will aide the country or witches that will sacrifice themselves trying. No matter who they are, the women are sent to a terrifying place—an island filled with bloodthirsty nature spirits, and left without food, water, shelter, or any tools except their own instincts and magic. Whoever survives the Island of Testing will be declared heirs to the queen. But no matter if she wins or loses, Mayara knows that the life she dreamed of is gone.

 In the final book of The Queen of Renthia trilogy, I was made so curious by the short glimpse we had of the ocean-side land of Belene. I was so excited when I learned that we'd get to explore it so much more in this newest book!! Today I have the honor of interviewing Sarah so she can tell us a bit more about herself and what awaits us in The Deepest Blue!!
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• Tell us a little about The Deepest Blue and how it relates to The Queens of Renthia series?
I loved writing this book!  So many sea monsters!
THE DEEPEST BLUE is a standalone epic fantasy set in Belene, a string of islands besieged by an ocean full of malicious spirits.  Mayara, one of Belene's fearless oyster divers, is about to marry the love of her life when an unnatural storm hits her island, and wild spirits from the sea ravage her village.
To save her loved ones, Mayara reveals a dangerous secret: she has the power to control the spirits.  When the storm ends, she is taken into custody by the queen's soldiers and imprisoned with other women like her.  They are sent to an island filled with bloodthirsty nature spirits, and left without food, water, shelter, or any tools except their own instincts and magic.  Whoever survives the Island of Testing will be declared heirs to the queen.  But no matter if she wins or loses, Mayara knows that the life she dreamed of is gone.
THE DEEPEST BLUE is set in the same world as my Queens of Renthia trilogy, but you don't have to have read the trilogy first -- it's a new story with new characters.  (If you have read the trilogy, though, there will be one familiar face.....)
• What character in The Deepest Blue are you most excited for readers to meet and why?
I always fall in love with all my characters.  For me, that's an essential step to bringing the characters to life.  Once they feel real to me, I know I can write them. 
With THE DEEPEST BLUE, I fell in love with the main character, Mayara, when I wrote the very first sentence of the book:
"On the dawn of her wedding day, Mayara knotted her diving belt around her waist and climbed the skull of a long-dead sea monster."
After I wrote that sentence, I knew her voice, her dreams, and her determination.

One of the things that I've been exploring in my writing lately is different ways for people, especially girls and women, to be strong.  Mayara is strong because of the love in her life -- her family, her friends, her husband.  All her choices are fueled by that.
I can't wait for readers to meet her!
• You've written 18 amazing books for readers of all ages. Do you have an age group that you enjoy writing for the most?
There's something wonderful about each age group.  When you write for kids, for instance, you're writing about firsts -- first adventure, first friendship, first taste of independence -- and I love that first brush with wonder.  When you write for older readers, you get to build on the rich, wonderful history of the genre.  More experienced readers bring a wealth of expectations with them, and it's so much fun to play with that -- either by fulfilling expectations or subverting them.
THE DEEPEST BLUE is my 18th book.  I write for kids, teens, and adults, and the common thread in all of them is fantasy.
I spent my childhood in the woods behind my house, searching for a dragon's egg.  Every night before bed, I'd check the back of my closet for a way in to Narnia.  And every morning, I'd memorize where I left my stuffed animals so I'd know if they came to life and moved around while I was at school.  So it was kind of inevitable that I'd grow up to write about magic and adventure and deadly sea monsters.
Some stories lend themselves better to a young protagonist; some work better with older characters.  I let the story dictate what kind of book it will be.  So long as it has some element of the impossible, I'm happy.

• Where is your favorite writing spot? Coffee shop?  Kitchen table? In the park surrounded by people?
I own a laptop because I cling to the image of a writer on the top of a mountain, on the beach, in a cafe, in a beautiful library...  But the truth is that I write best just at my desk, in easy reach of my stash of chocolate.  This laptop rarely ever moves.
• With so much experience under your author belt, what is one thing you wish you could tell every writer who is just starting out?
Be kind to yourself.
A writer's greatest enemy is self-doubt, and a writer's greatest strength is perseverance.  You need to quite that little voice inside you that is always criticizing everything and instead give your story a chance to grow.  Trust your instinct.  Trust your sense of story.  And just keep writing!
Thanks so much for interviewing me!

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{About The Author}

Sarah Beth Durst is the award-winning author of seventeen fantasy books for adults, teens, and kids, including The Queens of Renthia series, Drink Slay Love, and The Girl Who Could Not Dream. She won an ALA Alex Award and a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award, and has been a finalist for SFWA's Andre Norton Award three times. She is a graduate of Princeton University, where she spent four years studying English, writing about dragons, and wondering what the campus gargoyles would say if they could talk. Sarah lives in Stony Brook, New York, with her husband, her children, and her ill-mannered cat.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Waiting on Wednesday

"Waiting on Wednesday" is a weekly meme created by Jill at Breaking the Spine. A spin-off of the meme called "Can't Wait Wednesday" is now hosted at Wishful Endings. It lets us all gush about what soon-to-be released books we are jumping-up-and-down excited for.

hitting shelves September 12th, 2019  
from Orbit
In the early 1900s, a young woman searches for her place in the world and the mystery behind a magical door in this captivating literary debut.

In the summer of 1901, at the age of seven, January Scaller found a Door. You know the kind of door–they lead to Faerie, to Valhalla, to Atlantis, to all the places never found on a map.

Years later, January has forgotten her brief glimpse of Elsewhere. Her life is quiet and lonely but safe on her guardian’s estate, until one day she stumbles across a strange book. A book that carries the scent of other worlds in its pages, and tells a tale of secret doors, of love, adventure, and danger. A book that might lead her back to the half-remembered door of her childhood.

But, as January gets answers to questions she never imagined, shadows creep closer. There are truths about the world that should never be revealed.

My thoughts:  This sounds stunning and magical and nostalgic and trippy and I can't freaking wait. 

What book are you eagerly anticipating this week?

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

The Revenge of Magic by James Riley

Today on it's book birthday, I'd like to shine a spotlight on...
by James Riley
published by Aladdin
Thirteen years ago, books of magic were discovered in various sites around the world alongside the bones of dragons. Only those born after “Discovery Day” have the power to use the magic.

Now, on a vacation to Washington, DC, Fort Fitzgerald’s father is lost when a giant creature bursts through the earth, attacking the city. Fort is devastated, until an opportunity for justice arrives six months later, when a man named Dr. Opps invites Fort to a government run school, the Oppenheimer School, to learn magic from those same books.

But life’s no easier at the school, where secrets abound. What does Jia, Fort’s tutor, know about the attacks? Why does Rachel, master of destructive magic, think Fort is out to destroy the school? And why is Fort seeing memories of an expelled girl every time he goes to sleep? If Fort doesn’t find out what’s hiding within the Oppenheimer School, more attacks will come, and this time, nothing will stop them!
{About The Author}

James Riley is the New York Times bestelling author of the HALF UPON A TIME series, the STORY THIEVES series, and the REVENGE OF MAGIC series. Contrary to what previous biographies have stated, he is a) real and b) not the character Nobody from his STORY THIEVES books. Where would people even get that idea? (Spoiler: From him. He totally made it sound like he really was Nobody. He thought it’d be funny. We’re sorry.)

He was born in Connecticut, where he lived for only a short time before moving to … well, quite a few states. He currently lives in Northern Virginia, outside of Washington, D.C., because that’s where his cats are. He has four of them. Other people think that’s a bit much. 
Purchase The Revenge of Magic: