Scheherazade + The Wrath & the Dawn

This is a lovely series wrapped in an equally as gorgeous red and blue covers respectively. The story is a retelling of 1,001 Arabian Knights, the young Caliph takes a new bride whom is killed each morning – as required by the original story – but not all is as it seems and as the narrative unfolds you begin to understand how much more is at play. Shahrzad volunteers to be a bride and as a reader you follow, through her eyes, the story. At times, she can be so irritatingly naive, and other times she is fearless and pursues justice with an almost Batman-like zest.

I would highly recommend these two books both for the narrative and for the beautiful covers.

Between the two books I was able to attend an arrangement of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade, a sweeping orchestral piece based on 1,001 Arabian Knights. It’s big, heaping with drama, and plays with tension like any good story should – the characters shine through and you can almost feel their frustration or fear.

If you are able to listen to music while reading, I think pairing Scheherazade with these two stories could be very interesting… granted you have to be talented enough to multitask, a skill I have not yet mastered.

Best of luck if you decide to try this pairing – please let me know how it goes!

My Most Excellent Year

121I know summer is long gone and we’re pretty far into fall, but I recently made one last trek to the beach and have a beach read recommendation!  My Most Excellent Year: a Novel of Love, Mary Poppins, and Fenway Park is a light hearted, easy, fun, and almost sickly sweet.  The beauty of a beach read is that it doesn’t need to be an award winning novel with a great plot and fantastic literary prose – beach reads are meant to be fun, and happy vacations from life.  The guy should get the girl – the school play should be saved – the parent’s should accept their daughter’s choice to become a Broadway actress.  That’s what this book is: happy, fun, coming-of-age, romance.  So, if you’re looking for a beach read (or fun vacation book) consider this one!

Gallagher Girls

Gallagher-GirlsThe other week I got my hands on the final book in Ally Carter’s Gallagher Girl series.  This was a long time coming.  I very vividly remember reading the first book when I was in 7th grade, finished it that night, then begged my family to take me to the bookstore and get the second book the next day (which happened to be Black Friday and leads to a funny story about Black Friday and bookstores).  From there I was hooked on anything Ally; her third book – Don’t Judge a Girl by her Cover – was one of the first advanced copies I received, I was able to meet Ms. Carter with the release of the Perfect Scoundrel (part of her Heist Society series) earlier this year, and I even read her earlier, lesser well known adult novels.

I’d love to just gush about the final book but there’d be soooo many spoilers for the entire series!  Instead I’m going to try to give you the entire series in a nutshell: the Gallagher Girls series is about a top secret spy school (Gallagher Academy) and follows the misadventures of one student (Cammie) and her friends (Liz, Bex and Macey).  That’s basically the nutshell – a very, very, very tiny nutshell.  With this series you really have to read them in order or else you’d be completely lost:

GG1: I’d Tell You I Love You But then I’d Have To Kill you

GG2: Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy

GG3: Don’t Judge a Girl By Her Cover

GG4: Only the Good Spy Young

GG5: Out of Sight, Out of Time

GG6: United We Spy

Cammie is a fantastic main character.  She’s smart, funny, a little shy, and not afraid to bend the rules!  We get to experience Cammie going up as the books go from sophomore year and romantic-comedy storylines, to senior year and international spy rings chasing her down.  The series does become darker and more serious as each book comes out but understandably so, as the stakes become higher and more is revealed about Cammie’s enemies but we never lose Cammie’s humor and sass.  This series sucks you in and makes you want to put on the plaid uniform skirt and head off spy school.  It’s a perfectly funny, light hearted, witty, and awkward (in the way all books about teens falling in love should be).

The Queen’s Thief

Queens Thief

You know that moment when you realize the series you just finished is scheduled to release another book, but there isn’t a title, or a release date?  Yah, that’s not fun, when I found out there would be another book in the Queen’s Thief series I was excited then quickly became impatient knowing it would take years for this book to be published.  Still, it inspired me to go back and re-read the first four books in Megan Whalen Turner’s fantasy middle reader series. 

The Thief is set in a time period similar to ancient Greece but with some medieval era inventions (ie glass, rifles, books) and is an adventure quest story revolving around three main countries – Sounis, Eddis, and Attolia.  It all starts in a prison cell in the kingdom of Sounis where Gen, self-proclaimed master thief, is locked away until the king’s Magus (the most trusted advisor) approached him with an offer of freedom in return for stealing something.  This sends the characters – Gen, Magus, his apprentices Ambiades and Sophos, and the soldier Pol – on an adventure to find a mythical stone.  While a really great book – well written, clever plot – it’s not my favorite in the series.  That honor belongs to the second book in this series – The Queen of Attolia.

The second book, begins with Eugenides (Gen from the first book) captured by the Queen of Attolia and as penalty for steeling in Attolia his hand is cut off.  This all happens in the first three chapters so I’m not spoiling any of the book but I’m also trying hard not to spoil any of the first book as well.  Eugenides is returned to Eddis, his home country, while a war breaks out between Eddis and Attolia.  I can’t tell you much more without giving too much of the first book away but I promise you – this book is really good!

King of Attolia is the third book in the series and if I even began to describe the story I’d spoil the first two books so I’ll leave the third and fourth book – Conspiracy of Kings – un-reviewed.

Mrs. Turner writes clever, plot driven books, populated with interesting characters.  As much as I wish she’d just hurry it up some and publish the fifth book in the series I know that good books take time and can’t be rushed – and these are really good books so they take an extra long time.

What is YA?

I was looking at my bookshelves the other day, and I’ve got quite a few YA books which got me thinking – what is YA?  There are many poorly defined categories but nothing hold a candle to how poorly clarified as “young adult” or teen fiction.  What the heck is teen fiction?  How is that defined? What makes a YA book different than any other book?  And, really, defining a young adult novel is very subjective – what one person calls teen another might not.  There are no clear rules, no cut and dry answers in defining what a book is, but there are some general elements most people will agree are needed to classify a YA novel.

First, it’s a category NOT a genre.  YA is a classification and there are many genres that exist within the broad boundaries: YA science fiction, YA romance, YA dystopia (really a sub-genre but whose getting that specific?), YA realism.  The list goes on.

Second, when looking to identify a YA novel consider the audience.  I’ve referred to this category as YA/young adult/teen fiction for a reason – the main audience is teen, 12-18, that does not mean you can’t read a YA book if you’re 28.  According to this study approximately 55% of YA readers are not in that target audience, not reading a book just because of where it’s shelved is one of the stupider reasons I’ve heard in a while.  Basically, the YA audience is 12-18 but anyone who wants to read a YA book should.  Really that’s about it – the one generally accepted qualifier for this category.

There’s a much longer list of what YA is not.  YA is not giggly romance.  YA is not (just) John Green (much as I love him there is a much wider variety).  YA is not just for girls.  YA is not crummy writing (although the category has its fair share).  YA is not just Twilight and the Hunger Games.

I know that’s an incredibly broad definition for a category but I did say in the beginning that YA is very subjective.  Some people will argue that A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a YA book because it tells a classic coming of age story for a young adult, while others will argue that while Francie (the protagonist) falls in the “teen” age group the book is geared towards adults and therefore not a YA book.  I wish I could draw a line in the dirt clearly defining what is and what isn’t YA but I don’t think that can be done for this category.