Heroine Complex

by Sarah Kuhn
Reviewed by SA

If you like the superhero genre as much as I do, you probably love a kick ass heroine with something to prove. But have you ever worried about their sidekicks, the ones who have to run their social media page and make sure their image is as badass as they are? Have you been dying to get your hands on a book that not only has an amazing conflict, but also fantastic friendships and POCs? Then hold on tight – you need a seatbelt for Heroine Complex.

Summary27209443

Being a superheroine is hard. Working for one is even harder.

Evie Tanaka is the put-upon personal assistant to Aveda Jupiter, her childhood best friend and San Francisco’s most beloved superheroine. She’s great at her job—blending into the background, handling her boss’s epic diva tantrums, and getting demon blood out of leather pants.

Unfortunately, she’s not nearly as together when it comes to running her own life, standing up for herself, or raising her tempestuous teenage sister, Bea.

But everything changes when Evie’s forced to pose as her glamorous boss for one night, and her darkest comes out: she has powers, too. Now it’s up to her to contend with murderous cupcakes, nosy gossip bloggers, and supernatural karaoke battles—all while juggling unexpected romance and Aveda’s increasingly outrageous demands. And when a larger threat emerges, Evie must finally take charge and become a superheroine in her own right… or see her city fall to a full-on demonic invasion.

Eight years ago, a portal opened in downtown San Francisco, bringing with it a demon army from another realm. They didn’t last long, but a handful of people gained extraordinary abilities as a result: one of them was Aveda Jupiter, who’s dead set on protecting her city from demonic activity. But protecting the city is only half of the challenge: people have to like her, too.

Cue Evie Tanaka, Aveda’s childhood bestie. She’s the one in charge of Aveda’s public image, and that means following her into action with a phone in hand, ready to capture badass videos of her beating the heck out of demonic cupcakes. But the job is a lot more than that, and Aveda needs her to take on a much, much bigger challenge.

What I loved about this book was how it managed to not only be exciting, but really funny, too. Demonic cupcakes are only chapter number one: you also have to deal with the gossip bloggers and internet trolls, and maybe try to save the world with a karaoke battle when time calls for it. You also might have to put a fire extinguisher next to your bed when things are getting sexy. There’s never a dull moment.

The plot also had some really fantastic, unexpected twists in there. Which, of course, I will not spoil for you. I absolutely loved how some insignificant details could really come back and turn the story around. And the fact that everything was told from Evie’s perspective meant some really eye opening reveals from other characters. I love it when it gets exciting!

Evie is also such a fantastic protagonist. Her struggles, her growth, her logic: combined, they make for a character who’s not only relatable, but also lovable, and somewhat enviable. She’s a very strong female character, one who’s stubborn and not easily pushed around, and I liked how she could stand up for herself unapologetically. Her relationship with Nate is also one of the most modern and natural takes I’ve seen in recent books. And did I mention, sexy?

It’s also one of those novels that deals with issues we all care about: it’s sex positive, deals with consent, with toxic media, with our habit of pitting women against each other rather than raising them up. Very early on, you see the very relatable moment when the internet care more about Aveda’s appearance than her accomplishments, about a zit breakout than her demon ass-kicking (do they even have asses?). Not only does she have to defend her city, but she can’t eat the foods she loves because it would mean a drop in interest from the public. It’s awful, but completely true.

While as a character, Aveda swayed a bit for me, her friendship with Evie is a definite reason i love this book even more. They’re honest, caring people in a good relationship, able to talk things out rather than take it out on each other. They do love each other. So do Evie and Bea, though this sisterly love is another great example of good relationships in this book.

So if you need a great dose of superhero, strong women, great relationships, and cupcakes, Heroine Complex is the book for you!

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Cure for the Common Universe

23656453by Christian McKay Heidicker
Review by KM

I’ll be completely honest; I was furious with this book when I read the back cover while checking it into my branch at the library for this first time. I was furious during the first twenty pages. But things started to get better. I’m left not absolutely loving this book, but definitely not feeling the rage I had when I read the description.

It’s no secret I’m a heavy gamer. I have over a thousand hours clocked on Guild Wars 2 alone, not to mention my hours spent playing BioShock or Portal. I have commissioned art work of my characters. I have the support of an amazing guild (shout out to the wonderful Skritt Kings). Even as I read this book and wrote this review, I was logged into TeamSpeak and listening to my guild play Overwatch.

Summary

Sixteen-year-old Jaxon is being committed to video game rehab…ten minutes after meeting a girl. A living, breathing girl named Serena, who not only laughed at his jokes but actually kinda sorta seemed excited when she agreed to go out with him.

Jaxon’s first date. Ever.

In rehab, Jaxon can’t blast his way through galaxies to reach her. He can’t slash through armies to kiss her sweet lips. Instead, he has four days to earn one million points by learning real-life skills. And he’ll do whatever it takes—lie, cheat, steal, even learn how to cross-stitch—in order to make it to his date.

If all else fails, Jaxon will have to bare his soul to the other teens in treatment, confront his mother’s absence, and maybe admit that it’s more than video games that stand in the way of a real connection.

From a bright new voice in young adult literature comes the story of a young man with a serious case of arrested development—and carpal tunnel syndrome—who is about to discover what real life is all about.

Musings

I have extremely mixed feelings about this book. I loved all of the gaming references. The metaphors were the best thing ever; I kept reading them aloud to my husband. There are some amazing insights made and there is some rocking character development. I guess I just don’t like the way gaming itself is depicted.

I can admit that gaming addiction is real. Back during our freshman year of college, when my husband and I were doing long distance, we’d spend hours playing Guild Wars together and prepping for the release of the second. When I wasn’t online, I was going to classes and getting on the Dean’s list. When he wasn’t online, he was playing Magic: The Gathering, skipping classes, and ended up on academic probation.

But the numbers in this don’t really make sense to me. “You’ve clocked more than two hundred and fifty hours in this past month alone,” Jaxon’s father had said. I can tell you that last Summer, while I was working forty five hours a week, I was clocking in 250 hours on Guild Wars 2 in a month. I do a lot less now, since I’m working on my MLIS and helping run our Summer Reading Program, but I still probably average in a hundred hours each month right now in gaming time (but a lot less in Guild Wars 2, unfortunately. Hope the next expansion actually offers what it advertises.).

While the book explains in some points that gaming itself isn’t the problem, it’s the prioritizing it over everything else that is the issue, I feel like that got lost in the shuffle often. It was buried under all these conversations about how the characters were using gaming to escape reality, to earn fake achievements to give them higher dopamine levels instead of facing the real world. I can say for my guild, despite the fact most of us have legendary weapons and clock a large number of hours each week, we don’t game for those reasons primarily. Most of us have degrees, work full time government positions, and have a giant group chat running through Kik for our lunch breaks. We game for our community. Our relationships aren’t false because they’re built online.

The most brilliant thing that redeems this entire book in my eyes is that, despite being the main character, Jaxon isn’t a hero. I certainly wasn’t rooting for him. He was the guy cursing you out in PvP, the one you ended up reporting for anger issues at the end of the match. When he finally realizes what a fedora-wearing dudebro he is, it is great. There is no immediate resolution over this. Life is a process of growth; you don’t hit a point and deem you’re done growing.

Overall, I enjoyed reading this. I loved the references, the lingo, and a lot of line had me cracking up. It was refreshing to have a book where the plot line didn’t end the way I expected it to.

To leave us off, the best quote I have to explain what kind of guy Jaxon is, is from the movie The Social Network:

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The Secret King: Lethao – New Goodies!

Not too long ago we reviewed this fantastic, self published novel. Now it’s time to share with you some great news:

THE BOOK IS FREE UNTIL THE 31ST!512borfpclzl-_sx331_bo1204203200_

The secret King Lethao is the first book book of the epic SciFi adventure. Book one takes you on an epic journey as the Aonise rush to flee their planet before it implodes. But their journey to planet Earth is far from smooth. Treachery, secrets, danger and battles all make for one exciting novel.

The Secret King is free to download for just two more days. So get your copy now. Leave Reality and step in the another world.

On mybook, Facebook.

Their website is awesome, too. Lots of amazing goodies! Plus access to the Aonise dictionary.

The Audio books are just about to launch as well, so get excited! Enjoy!

The Brothers’ War

51wkpf6aryl-_sy344_bo1204203200_by Jeff Grubb
Review by KM

Let’s do a throwback here, okay?

I have been spending the last month buried in Magic: The Gathering cards as I try to catalog my collection. I own a lot more than I expected, that’s for sure.

I had heard a lot about the novels that they used to release in the Fat Packs of older sets, but I had never gotten a chance to read them — I got into Magic around 2010 (my husband had some of the books from previous blocks, but he’d gotten rid of them by the time we got together).

I decided a few weeks ago I was going to read all of the Magic books that were released, but I was immediately hit by a roadblock. All of these books that had once been in my library system had either been withdrawn or stolen. They’re from the 90’s, it’s not like I could easily walk into my local bookshop and pick one up. Hell, not even the gaming shops around here had the old ones I was looking for. It was awful trying to track down these books. I couldn’t even start at the first ones released; the furthest back I could get was The Brothers’ War. I have to say, I think this one may be the best of them all.

Summary

The Myth. The Magic.

Dominarian legends speak of a mighty conflict, obscured by the mists of history. Of a conflict between the brothers Urza and Mishra for supremacy on the continent of Terisiare. Of titantic engines that scarred and twisted the very planet. Of a final battle that sank continents and shook the skies.

The saga of the Brothers’ War.

Musings

There’s something so awesome about being familiar with the Magic cards and then finding all the lore about them in the book. I loved the discovery of the ornithopers, the history of the Koilios caves, and especially, the sibling rivalry between Urza and Mishra. The backstory is so in-depth and it’s one of the aspects I love most about Magic. For someone who has been playing a long time without reading these, it was great to link the original Phyrexian lore to what is happening currently with the Planeswalkers.

Before this trek into 90’s fantasy novels, I’d been spending a lot of time in current YA. In current YA, it seems there’s always a romance that is pushed. Always. Please contridict me; I was starting to lose hope. There isn’t romance in The Brothers’ War. There’s a marriage, yes, but I promise no romance. I actually believe that Urza is asexual, though it is never stated in the novel. It was kind of refreshing to see a story so hinged on battle and familial bonds, rather than anyone just wanting to be back with their girlfriend.

I did a casual Google search on the author too and I can say he clearly owns my life, even though he doesn’t know it. He was one of the people who established this lore than runs (mostly) true to the current story. After getting done with Magic, he moved onto Guild Wars and helped create the other game that takes up all my time. He’s moved past GW2 recently and I have no doubt his new project will end up controlling me as well.

Whether you’re an old Magic player or have no idea what tapping mana means, this book is awesome. It drags me into a new plane where artifacts, cyborgs, and magic all exist.

The Invisible Library

by Genevieve Cogman
Reviewed by SA

I’ve found this review very hard to start; there’s is just so much I want to tell you about this book! In the first few drafts, this first paragraph was a gibberish of eager words and a few garbled noises of excitement. Pretty impossible to read, but capturing exactly how I felt about this novel: this novel is too good to put into words!

Summary27209460

Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, which harvests fiction from different realities. And along with her enigmatic assistant Kai, she’s posted to an alternative London. Their mission – to retrieve a dangerous book. But when they arrive, it’s already been stolen. London’s underground factions seem prepared to fight to the very death to find her book.

Adding to the jeopardy, this world is chaos-infested – the laws of nature bent to allow supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic. Irene’s new assistant is also hiding secrets of his own.

Soon, she’s up to her eyebrows in a heady mix of danger, clues and secret societies. Yet failure is not an option – the nature of reality itself is at stake.

Ok, to recap: Librarians, check. Librarians who are also spies? double check. Alternate dimensions? Reality check. Dragons? heck yes. Bring it on!

There is just so much that makes this book enjoyable. First and foremost, Irene, the protagonist, a young librarian whom we follow closely. So closely, in fact, sometimes I would get surprised when there weren’t first person pronouns: we’re so deep in her head, I forgot we were in third person. Irene is smart, mature, and pretty badass. I mean, she’s a book loving spy, so the reader falls madly in love with her pretty instantly. She’s also a brilliant protagonist, with clear motivations and a heck of a lot of spunk.

Overall, I think it’s the premise itself that makes this novel so endearing. The library connects all alternate realities, and the librarians who work there gather books from different worlds, acquiring them by any means necessary. Sometimes that means months of undercover work, sometimes that means fighting some giant steampunk insects. It’s all relative. The worlds are sometimes at a different point in history, which means there’s access to Victorian London, modern day earth, some worlds with magic and others with steam… Any universe you can think of.

The author could literally spend all day telling me about a librarian stacking books in that place, and I would read it. The world she had created is just so fascinating, I could read about it for hours.

And this novel is just so thrilling, so exciting! Sure, at times, it’s a little exposition heavy, which makes the pace slow down a little, but I’m convinced that in the sequel we won’t have to worry about that. The adventure we’re thrown into offers a great mystery, sets up a terrifying villain, and leaves us with a lot of unanswered questions. Which means I just can’t wait for the sequel to come out!

I certainly can’t end the review without bringing up our other favorite character, Kai. Kai’s story itself is fascinating, and I can’t wait to know more. He’s smart and loyal, able to follow orders even when he thinks he knows best. After a huge twist I won’t spoil for you, Irene could badger him with questions – which I’m sure every reader wants to ask – but postpones this until after the danger has passed. Which leaves us eagerly waiting for more! We must know more about Kai!

So if you’re looking for Doctor who meets the Librarians, then you need to pick up the invisible library. It’s a book about books (Bookception!) which is bound to make the book lover find love once more.

Check it out on June 14th!

Uprooted

by Naomi Novik
Reviewed by SA

Put down everything and grab this book. Basically, that’s what I’m going to be saying in this review, so if you’re in a rush, just take that advice first. put down everything and pick up this book.

I have been hearing amazing things about this novel over the course of the past few months, and my curiosity was peaked. Well, once it was in my hands, it stuck fast like glue, and I could not put it down. As a matter of fact, I was reading it on the plane, and wished the flight would last longer so I could finish it!

Alright. That’s me rambling. Let’s get down to business. (To defeat the huns).

Summary27827627

“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”

Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.

This novel reads like an old fairy tale. The kinds where magic and life intertwine completely, the kinds where every word grips you and holds you tight. There even seems to be magic in every word you read. The prose itself is just so beautiful. The novel feels like a folktale told in Russia, or Poland, even without those countries ever being mentioned once.

The story centers around Agnieszka, a young woman from a valley town, chosen by a wizard to live in his tower for ten whole years. Slowly she discovers that she was chosen for her knack for magic, and begins to learn how to wield it, her talents growing as she becomes more confident in herself.

The amazing thing is that the summary only gives you a small peek into the novel: there is just so much more going on. The Dragon tried to protect the people of the valley, and the entire country as well, from the dangerous, mysterious Wood. It contaminated people, driving them mad. It makes food poisonous and animals rabid. Sometimes Walkers will slip out from between the trees and steal people away. It’s dangerous, and it’s growing.

There is just so much going on in this complex novel that I could never summarize it all here. As I said – you just have to read it. But I’ll let you know about the reasons I loved and devoured this book. First, you have Agnieszka, and her character growth through the tale. Then, you have her relationship with Kasia (honestly, I ship them so bad), and their deep friendship and love for each other. Top it off with the mystery of the wood; the amazing world building; the use of magic. And voila: a perfect novel.

And the resolution is incredible. Every question you ever ask is answered, and the reader cannot help but be completely taken away by the explanations. You might wonder, for example, why The Dragon takes women every ten years; or maybe why the wood was corrupted in the first place. Yes, yes you will know, and you will love what you find.

If you have not get read uprooted, read it now. I won’t say any more.

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My Mad Fat Diary: A Memoir

by Rae Earl
Reviewed by SA

For some of you, this book needs no introduction – I keep hearing about the show! So naturally, when the book became available on Netgalley, I jumped on it (thanks for approving me, St. Martin’s Press!). It turns out this is a new edition, so it’s not exactly a new book, but it was new for me so I think i can get away with reviewing it!

Summary 29102624

It’s 1989 and Rae Earl is a fat, boy-mad 17-year-old girl, living in Stamford, Lincolnshire with her mum and their deaf white cat in a council house with a mint green bathroom and a refrigerator Rae can’t keep away from. She’s also just been released from a psychiatric ward. My Mad Fat Diary is the hilarious, harrowing and touching real-life diary Rae kept during that fateful year and the basis of the hit British television series of the same name now coming to HULU. Surrounded by people like her constantly dieting mum, her beautiful frenemy Bethany, her mates from the private school up the road (called “Haddock”, “Battered Sausage” and “Fig”) and the handsome, unattainable boys Rae pines after (who sometimes end up with Bethany…), My Mad Fat Diary is the story of an overweight young woman just hoping to be loved at a time when slim pop singers ruled the charts. Rae’s chronicle of her world will strike a chord with anyone who’s ever been a confused, lonely teenager clashing with her parents, sometimes overeating, hating her body, always taking herself VERY seriously, never knowing how positively brilliant she is and keeping a diary to record it all. My Mad Fat Diary – 365 days with one of the wisest and funniest girls in England.

Funny and witty sure covers it: the author had me even before the novel itself started, when she was still explaining Britishisms and slang. Even though I knew the words themselves, her definitions shed new light on them and had me roaring in laughter. So when the book itself started, I was happy to see that the author’s past self has that same voice: snarky, witty, and above all, incredibly engaging.

The plot itself wasn’t as exciting as I expected. When people call it a fateful year, or talk about having a whole show about this, I wonder what actually happens, because honestly, to me, it was a girl living her life, and looking for love. There are a few dramatic moments, but I guess it was the feeling of watching a year slide by in less than a three hour read that made the novel feel like not much really happened.

Even so, I still enjoyed the book: largely because of just how relatable Rae Earl is. She’s got the same insecurities we all do, worries the same worries, and has some seriously awful friends who are just making it all worse. The diary is a lens into a life some of us have shared, and somehow, her witty comments help validate the struggle in all of us. You can’t help but wish her well – or want to give her a hug and tell her she can make it through this.

But this is a diary: it’s real life, it’s not been made into a nice bundle for us to digest. There’s not always the resolution we want as a reader, not always the wish fulfillment. Life is messy. And this diary is a beautiful way of looking at life and capturing how difficult it can really be. How trying, and stressful, how maddening: how nothing always goes according to plan. Rae’s Diary is just so stinkin’ relatable.

This novel is definitely well worth the read!

UnBound

51gsurfcltl-_sx329_bo1204203200_by Neal Shusterman 
Review by KM

I spent last weekend reading the entire Unwind series. Five books — it took me forty eight hours (including the twelve that I spent sleeping). Seriously, these books are that addictive.

I remember reading Unwind for the first time as a fourteen year old. There is one particularly chilling scene that left me in pieces in homeroom. (Oh my gosh, I didn’t even mean to make that pun, but it’s perfect so I’m leaving it. Feel free to judge me.)

Last Friday, we received UnBound at the library. It was an insta-memory trip for me and I knew I had to read the entire series before I hit this book.

Summary

Find out what happens to Connor, Risa, and Lev now that they’ve finally destroyed the Proactive Citizenry in this collection of short stories set in the world of the New York Times bestselling Unwind Dystology by Neal Shusterman.

Connor Lassiter’s fight to bring down Proactive Citizenry and find a suitable alternative to unwinding concluded in UnDivided. Now Connor, Risa, and Lev are free to live in a peaceful future—or are they? Neal Shusterman brings back his beloved Unwind characters for his fans to see what’s left for those who were destined to be unwound.**

Musings

Now this summary that Amazon so kindly provided me? This summary is crap. I can actually understand the reviews on the book from readers who were left confused. UnBound is not at all about Connor, Risa, and Lev. Thankfully, the actual book revealed the true nature.

This is an anthology from the point of view of all different characters from the series, some that were mentioned a lot and some that were never mentioned at all.

To be honest, the best comparison I have for this is when you’ve finished a book series, but you’re still so in love with the universe that you write the stories of OCs on Archive Of Our Own. Except this is all canon; it’s Neal playing in his own sandbox because he loves that damned sandbox just as much as the rest of us do.

More than anything, this reveals the twisted mindset that wasn’t limited to only unwinding, but the mindset of other ethical issues that accompany it. The most heart-wrenching story had to be the one about a child who was rejected for unwinding, but I’d hate to give away the reason why.

Please, oh, please go read this book. It makes a hell of a lot more sense when you read the entire series, but I really need some more people to nerd out with me as I wait for the movie that will undoubtedly be made.

**Thanks for the summary, Amazon.