Review Take Two: Geekerella by Ashley Poston

Friday, May 26, 2017
Title: Geekerella
Author: Ashley Poston
Genre: contemporary, retelling
Series: N/A
Pages: 320
Published: April 4 2017
Source: publishers via NetGalley
Rating: 5/5

Cinderella goes to the con in this fandom-fueled twist on the classic fairy tale.

Geek girl Elle Wittimer lives and breathes Starfield, the classic sci-fi series she grew up watching with her late father. So when she sees a cosplay contest for a new Starfield movie, she has to enter. The prize? An invitation to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball, and a meet-and-greet with the actor slated to play Federation Prince Carmindor in the reboot. With savings from her gig at the Magic Pumpkin food truck (and her dad's old costume), Elle's determined to win unless her stepsisters get there first.

Teen actor Darien Freeman used to live for cons before he was famous. Now they re nothing but autographs and awkward meet-and-greets. Playing Carmindor is all he's ever wanted, but the Starfieldfandom has written him off as just another dumb heartthrob. As ExcelsiCon draws near, Darien feels more and more like a fake until he meets a girl who shows him otherwise.

Part romance, part love letter to nerd culture, and all totally adorbs, Geekerella is a fairy tale for anyone who believes in the magic of fandom.

There are a few words that come to mind about Geekerella: "delightful" is one of the first that spring to mind. "Fun" is another. "Reread worthy" is definitely part of the conversation. Charming, nerdy, charismatic, inclusive, and romantic are all also applicable labels for this fun mashup of ideas. Ashley Poston's contemporary YA retelling of Cinderella contains all the hallmarks of the fairy take that we've come to love but combines them with unique, modern adaptations. Geekerella is the best of both worlds. Nerdy and entertaining; it's a celebration of fandom and love and diverse nerdlove and makes for the perfect escapism read.

There was a grin on my face the entire time I was reading Geekerella. From the vegan food truck that is the Pumpkin to ExcelsiCon ball, I loved the various ways the author interpreted a timeless take for the modern age. The miscommunication trope between Darien and Elle adds a new layer to their relationship without being cliche, and allows for the two teens know each other for longer than a dance before falling (believably) in love. One of the failings of Disney is that their heroines' story often revolves around the introduction and keeping of a love interest -- that is not true for Elle. Her life is imperfect and full of struggle, but it is also rich with the memory of her father and her own stalwart interest in Starfield.

I was prepared for how much I would ship the relationship between fanfic writer Elle and secret-nerd Darien, but I was not prepared for how much I would love Ashley Poston's writing itself. While it wasn't one of the things I've heard touted for this awesome title, I'd often find myself rereading certain sections because they were perfectly worded and expressed emotion I myself understood, regarding fandom or relationships or even family. It's also unexpectedly funny -- Elle's humor and wit are paired right alongside her more soulful moments. I adored her awkward ass.

Whited out because kinda spoilery.... even though it's a Cinderella retelling aka we all know where this is going:

"I want his gaze, the way he looks at me -- like I'm the last star in the night sky and the first one at dusk -- branded on my heart."

"Somehow, in this impossible universe, his lips find mine."

"And he kisses me again. It isn't the kind of kiss to end a universe of possibilities. It's the exact opposite. It's the kind of kiss that creates them."

From nerdery to romantic love, Poston can write and write with flair.

Pop culture and classic fairy tale make for an oddly perfect combination. Maybe Ashley Poston is magic? Geekerella has the odd moment or two where it can stumble in its execution (Sage's relationship with Calliope was way out of left field, much as I like that the lesbian best friend got her HEA) but that can hardly detract from the overall awesomeness that this novel brings to bear. A creative mix of fandom nerdery and Cinderella, Geekerella stands out. With its super charming and funny narrative style, the A+ ship it's easy to recommend this contemporary.

Review: The Whole Thing Together by Ann Brashares

Thursday, May 25, 2017
Title: The Whole Thing Together
Author: Ann Brashares
Genre: contemporary
Series: N/A
Pages: 304
Published: April 25 2017
Source: publishers via NetGalley
Rating: 2/5

Summer for Sasha and Ray means the sprawling old house on Long Island. Since they were children, they’ve shared almost everything—reading the same books, running down the same sandy footpaths to the beach, eating peaches from the same market, laughing around the same sun-soaked dining table. Even sleeping in the same bed, on the very same worn cotton sheets. But they’ve never met.

Sasha’s dad was once married to Ray’s mom, and together they had three daughters: Emma, the perfectionist; Mattie, the beauty; and Quinn, the favorite. But the marriage crumbled and the bitterness lingered. Now there are two new families—and neither one will give up the beach house that holds the memories, happy and sad, of summers past.

The choices we make come back to haunt us; the effect on our destinies ripples out of our control…or does it? This summer, the lives of Sasha, Ray, and their siblings intersect in ways none of them ever dreamed, in a novel about family relationships, keeping secrets, and most of all, love.

A breakdown of this story in two seconds: A large, modern family of half siblings and stepsiblings share a house and their divorced, bitter parents - awkwardness and worse ensues. Told over the course of a pivotal summer for the youngest nonrelated kids Ray and Sasha, The Whole Thing Together is the convoluted story of how of the Stone-Thomases and the Riggs-Thomas family relate and recognize one another. Despite plenty of fodder for emotion and pathos there was more drama than substance to this novel. There was very little memorable about it -- except for the sadly notable fact that this modern family is interracially mixed.

Brashares has written several novels before, and before her style was brisk, engaging, fresh and occasionally bittersweet. With her newest effort, little remains the same; the emotions and characters are clumsily-drawn. Despite a strong first two opening chapters, the momentum and interest stall early on. The Whole Thing Together clocks in at supposedly 304 pages. I say "supposedly" because the very many characters in this contemporary novel had a way of making those three hundred pages feel rather more like five hundred. Tiresome characters are paired with pedestrian plotlines that eventually intersect with a cheap plot points; for the last 2/3 of the novel it's a struggle to stay involved or care about the revolving cast of narrators.

Also Ray's weird fantasies and thoughts about Sasha, and vice versa, though his are far more squicky ("She was the kind of pretty only someone as deep as him understood. [...] He continued to think it anyway, as though her loveliness was something he'd invented.")* , are not cool and totally ruin any family-feels the book tries to create between camps. I get they are not biologically related to one other, but they share siblings. It's weird... and also disappointing. Which is basically how I would sum up The Whole Thing Together anyway.

*quote from an ARC and subject to change

Top Ten Things On Our Reading Wishlist

Tuesday, May 23, 2017
Top Ten Tuesday is all thanks to The Broke and the Bookish! This lovely header is thanks to APR's own Dani.

This was a topic earlier this month that I missed due to scheduling conflicts. So here I am two weeks later, lol.

1. More dragons

I always say that if a book has a dragon in it or on it, I want it. And there's just never enough book with fire-breathing flying beasts.

2. Based on/inspired by [historical event/place/person]

As a history nerd person, I love connecting real life to fiction.  ESPECIALLY: non-Western and/or genderbent versions of history. (think: And I Darken - a retelling of Vlad the Impaler but as a young woman.)

3. Group heists

Six of Crows, The Lies of Locke Lamora - these are a few of my favorite things. What do they have in common besides ships and feels? They're cutthroats acting out heists on grand scales. High-stakes, quick action and twists... love it, want more of it.

4. Non Greek/Roman Demigods

Both in a classical sense (like Helen, Hercules, etc.) or in a more updated tale (Percy) --- and preferably focused on other pantheons than the ones usually shown.

5. F/F fantasy

I was so excited for Of Fire and Stars last year .. and womp wooomp. But while that was a wash, I am 100% here for more f/f fantasy. Someone has to publish some here soon, right? RIGHT?!

Dani's Picks: (Jessie stole two of mine!)

6. More YA with relationships that don't work out

I had some problems with A Week of Mondays, but the thing it did best was show that you can love someone once and still break up. It's not all or nothing, love forever or never. This Song Will Save Your Life also did this really well with losing your virginity to a relationship that didn't end up panning out.

7. Flower shop owner/tattoo artist romance

A. Cam‏ (@justabookeater_ on Twitter) posted this on her wishlist the other day and now I NEED IT MORE THAN ANYTHING. It's a popular fan fic trope, but where is my full length romance novel, I ask?

8. Reality show contestants

I have never read a truly satisfying reality show book. I want Masterchef with enemies to friends bonding in the finale. I want The Bachelor where two of the bachelorettes fall in love instead. I want The Amazing Race like For Real, but longer and more actual challenges.

9. Weird hobbies

I feel like every contemporary is about a girl who likes to read and a guy who likes soccer. I'm just saying, what if she also did crew? He went geocaching? Or built model airplanes? Maybe she's really into creating ice cream flavors, like candied fennel cream, and they go to antique malls looking for vulgar salt and pepper shakers. I literally don't care, just something different.

10. My motherfucking Anastasia retelling

I know Jess and Gilly feel me on this.

Review: Within the Sanctuary of Wings by Marie Brennan

Sunday, May 21, 2017
Title: Within the Sanctuary of Wings
Author: Marie Brennan
Genre: fantasy
Series: Memoirs of Lady Trent #5
Pages: 352
Published: April 25 2017
Source: publishers for review
Rating: 4/5

The conclusion to the thrilling memoirs of Lady Isabella Trent and her legacy of dragon evolutionary research and anthropological adventures.

After nearly five decades (and, indeed, the same number of volumes), one might think they were well-acquainted with the Lady Isabella Trent--dragon naturalist, scandalous explorer, and perhaps as infamous for her company and feats of daring as she is famous for her discoveries and additions to the scientific field.

And yet--after her initial adventure in the mountains of Vystrana, and her exploits in the depths of war-torn Eriga, to the high seas aboard The Basilisk, and then to the inhospitable deserts of Akhia--the Lady Trent has captivated hearts along with fierce minds. This concluding volume will finally reveal the truths behind her most notorious adventure--scaling the tallest peak in the world, buried behind the territory of Scirland's enemies--and what she discovered there, within the Sanctuary of Wings.

Within the Sanctuary of Wings is the fifth and final novel in Marie Brennan's anthropological fantasy series about a (usually scandalous, never boring) female dragon naturalist. It's Isabella's most daring adventure and biggest discovery yet -- and that's saying something if you know any of the details of Lady Trent's first four books. Even this far into the series, Brennan has creativity and imagination to keep her stories and characters fresh and interesting. Journeying to all new locales and encountering new dragons to study and learn, Within the Sanctuary of Wings contains all the manners and mayhem we've come to expect while effectively tying up the series' plot elements.

Isabella is a force to be reckoned with, as she has been all her life. Here in the last book chronicling her storied and scandalous career and private life, she is a tad bit wiser, a tad less heedless and reckless, but she is no less intellectually curious or personally ambitious. In fact for the first time and thanks to her new marriage, she is motivated by more than just scientific career goals. Her fictional life is robust with action and scientific experiments; she defied societal expectations when she was first Lady Camherst and never failed to continue to do so through her various elevations and associations. Reading from her perspective is a unique experience every time, but a fully-developed one. The memoirs cover five decades of Lady Trent's unusual experience - from an awkward child to potential bluestocking to scholarly infamy and beyond - so it's easy to invest in her personally, and the secondary characters to a lesser degree. 

While Within the Sanctuary of Wings makes for an undoubtedly fun and entertaining read, it feels a bit short for a concluding volume at only three hundred fifty-odd pages. Some of the story's central plot elements feel a bit.. underdeveloped and rushed in the narrative's drive to wrap up all the loose ends of Isabella's life. The main plot of the book is clever - tying in hints and allusions and glimpses from the previous novels about a central mystery at the heart of the world [the Draconeans are alive?! What?!] - as well as some other unexpected parties, but it felt somewhat unexplored before the ending.

As a whole the Lady Trent books have been wryly funny mixes of Victorian attitudes and a fantasy world. With storylines concerned with everything from smashing patriarchal political complications to uncharted draconic exploration, there's a lot to enjoy about Marie Brennan's final chapter in this smart story.


Ageless Discussions: Beyond Merry Olde England

Friday, May 19, 2017

Not all fantasy books are inspired by real-world events or countries but a lot of the best are. A lot of my favorites admittedly fall into this category. Big SF/F genre names like GRRM tend to draw the best plotlines from real life events, like England's The War of the Roses and the Hundred Years' War between England and France, or Daniel Abraham's fantasy version of WWII in The Dagger and Coin series. I love the hook of real life meets dragons or direwolves. Sebastien de Castell's Greatcoats series takes place in an obvious version of fantasy-France and is another fave. Most of these popular and known books are loosely and noticeably drawn from Europe/England's history.

However, the same locations and inspirations can wear thin, especially when the same tropes are reused over and over. I don't want to keep reading the same versions of the same world; there's no invention or imagination to that, not to mention all the other perspectives and places ignored. Not every fantasy should be recognizable as a version of medieval England. Not all story influences should be drawn from European mythology or folklore. As with anything in life, adding diversity - in characters, mythology, authors you read from--  is the way to go. In my opinion and in my reading experience, fiction is at its best when it expands our views, introduces new ideas and different cultures. I read to stand in someone else's shoes -- and I don't want the same view every time.

In recent years, there has been a noticeable push to publish books that are less white and/or obviously inspired by Europe and its history, as well as authored by people of color and lgbtqia+ people. Despite the fact that Europe has always been more racially-mixed in population than art/media would show, fantasy writers tend to write white, straight male heroes saving fantasy-France over and over - and it can be hard to find a story centered on a nonwhite or nonhetero protagonist. The inclusion of a character of color, or a gay character, is rare and often a) a sidekick or b) a redshirt destined to die or c) an evil one-note villain.

It's a glaring issue in publishing and though more diverse books are being published (to wide acclaim and success!) gaining steam, predominant tropes revert to the WASPM perspective and default. Though I had not been as aware of this as I should have been as a reader, I've been trying to diversify my TBR. As I have learned over the last few years of Twitter, it's always better to go with Own Voices when it comes to other cultures and countries. The best fantasy set in non-European-inspired worlds are those from authors who have experienced or know cultures and heritages other than the predominant Western/European.

Read This, Not That:


Saladin Ahmed
The Throne of the Crescent Moon

Roshani Choski
The Star-Touched Queen, A Crown of Wishes

Alaya Dawn Johnson
The Summer Prince

Sabaa Tahir
An Ember in the Ashes, A Torch Against the Night  

Karen Miller
Empress, The Riven Kingdom, Hammer of God

Rin Chupeco
The Bone Witch

Karuna Riazi
The Gauntlet  

Sarwat Chadda
Ash Mistry & the Savage Fortress, Ash Mistry & the City of Death, Ash Mistry & the World of Darkness

Ken Liu
The Grace of Kings, The Wall of Storms

Labyrinth Lost

Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Certain Dark Things

Sangu Mandanna
The Lost Girl


Zoe Marriott
Shadows on the Moon, Barefoot on the Wind

Jay Kristoff
Stormdancer, Kinslayer, Endsinger

Brian Staveley
The Emperor's Blades, The Providence of Fire, The Last Mortal Bond

Alison Goodman
Eon, Eona 


Fiona McIntosh
Odalisque, Emissary, Goddess

Lian Hearn
Across the Nightingale Floor, Grass for His Pillow, Brilliance of the Moon, The Harsh Cry of the Heron, Heaven's Net is Wide

Jay Lake
Green, Endurance, Kalimpura

Howard Andrew Jones
The Desert of Souls, The Bones of the Old Ones

The best way to get more diverse literature is to support diverse voices. So, a few forthcoming fantasies worthy of a preorder:

The Tiger's Daughter by K. Arsenault Rivera (Their Bright Ascendancy #1)
Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao (Rise of the Empress #1)
The Library of Fates by Aditi Khorana
Assassins of Ghadid by K.A. Doore
The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty
Beasts Made of Night by Tochi Onyebuchi
The Bloodprint by Ausma Zehanat Khan (The Khorasan Archives #1)

Do you try to read diversely? Are there some diverse fantasy reccomendations I need to read?

Blog Tour Review: Shattered Warrior by Sharon Shinn

Thursday, May 18, 2017
Title: Shattered Warrior
Author: Sharon Shinn
Illustrator: Molly Knox Ostertag
Genre: post-apocalyptic
Series: Untitled #1
Pages: 256
Published: May 16 2017
Source: from publisher for review
Rating: 3.75/5

Bestselling fantasy author Sharon Shinn delivers a gripping science fiction adventure with a sweeping romance at its heart.

It is ten years after Colleen Cavanaugh's home world was invaded by the Derichets, a tyrannical alien race bent on exploiting the planet's mineral resources.

Most of her family died in the war, and she now lives alone in the city. Aside from her acquaintances at the factory where she toils for the Derichets, Colleen makes a single friend in Jann, a member of the violent group of rebels known as the Chromatti. One day Colleen receives shocking news: her niece Lucy is alive and in need of her help. Together, Colleen, Jann, and Lucy create their own tenuous family.

But Colleen must decide if it's worth risking all of their survival to join a growing underground revolution against the Derichets.

It's strange to consider that just about a year ago I had never read a Sharon Shinn novel and now I seek out anything she's worked on. Graphic novels are somewhat of a new media for me, but Shinn's lively tale of aliens and rebellion paired with Molly Knox Ostertag's unique and sharp art for a quick, entertaining read.

This is the first such graphic novel from an established and prolific author. Though Shinn's experimenting with a new genre, staples and trademarks of her fantasy and romance past are evident in Shattered Warrior's pages. The classic flair for worldbuilding and imagination I expect from this author is evident, though simplified and condensed to fit. I do think her style is a bit hampered by the necessary brevity for dialogue and character development in this type of storytelling. There's just not enough time and/or pages to fully develop the side characters' various personalities or the Derichet antagonists into more than one-note villains. The novel itself is 256 pages and because of that, the plot can skip along easily from plot point to plot point for lack of time to develop it further.

Shattered Warrior is centered around the character of Colleen Cavenaugh, a former heiress who lost much more than her wealth and influence when society fell to alien invaders and war. The loss of her family, friends, and even country has left her a shadow of the person she was before. But her story is a study in character evolution; she is far from static. Colleen grows and changes, makes mistakes through her success and failures. She feels like a real person. And though she may start out shattered, piece by piece Colleen begins fix herself. First she finds her drive to life, then her anger and her bravery return to her. Shattered Warrior is about Colleen fighting for her found family and her world, but first she has to fight her own self-doubt and depression. Her battles over the course of the series' first graphic novel are mental and emotional as well as physical.

Despite the fact I wanted a little more meat to the plot-bone, Shattered Warrior is the first in a series sure to engage and entertain readers. Though the general storyline may not be the most original for scifi, it succeeds on the multiple other strengths present in its pages. Colleen shines the most as the main character, but others in the cast are sure to sink their claws in, emotionally speaking. Shattered Warrior is a quick, clever, enjoyable, and suitably dark look at an Earth invaded and controlled by an alien cat-like species. Molly Knox Ostertag's illustations are bright and interesting - her version of the future is uniquely her own and fun to look at. It's easy and fast to get caught up in the story being told by both Shinn and Ostertag in their first effort together.

Waiting on Wednesday: The Tiger's Daughter

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Tiger's Daughter by K. Arsenault Rivera

Even gods can be slain….

The Hokkaran empire has conquered every land within their bold reach―but failed to notice a lurking darkness festering within the people. Now, their border walls begin to crumble, and villages fall to demons swarming out of the forests.

Away on the silver steppes, the remaining tribes of nomadic Qorin retreat and protect their own, having bartered a treaty with the empire, exchanging inheritance through the dynasties. It is up to two young warriors, raised together across borders since their prophesied birth, to save the world from the encroaching demons.

This is the story of an infamous Qorin warrior, Barsalayaa Shefali, a spoiled divine warrior empress, O-Shizuka, and a power that can reach throu
gh time and space to save a land from a truly insidious evil.

B & N | Amazon | Book Depository

Series: Their Bright Ascendancy #1
Publisher: Tor
Expected Publication Date: October 3 2017
Pages: 512

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