ARC Review - What to Say Next

Title: What to Say Next
Author: Julie Buxbaum
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Series: n/a
Published: July 11, 2017
Source: Sent for review
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Sometimes a new perspective is all that is needed to make sense of the world.
KIT: I don’t know why I decide not to sit with Annie and Violet at lunch. It feels like no one here gets what I’m going through. How could they? I don’t even understand.
DAVID: In the 622 days I’ve attended Mapleview High, Kit Lowell is the first person to sit at my lunch table. I mean, I’ve never once sat with someone until now. “So your dad is dead,” I say to Kit, because this is a fact I’ve recently learned about her. 
When an unlikely friendship is sparked between relatively popular Kit Lowell and socially isolated David Drucker, everyone is surprised, most of all Kit and David. Kit appreciates David’s blunt honesty—in fact, she finds it bizarrely refreshing. David welcomes Kit’s attention and her inquisitive nature. When she asks for his help figuring out the how and why of her dad’s tragic car accident, David is all in. But neither of them can predict what they’ll find. Can their friendship survive the truth?

Overall?
I REALLY ENJOYED IT

Last year I was thrilled to find that everything everyone was saying about Julie Buxbaum and her debut YA novel Tell Me Three Things was true, so when I heard about her next novel I was more than excited to see if that trend continued.  I'm thrilled to say that, at least in my mind, it most certainly did.  There's something about Buxbaum's writing that, despite never having been in the position of any of her characters (thank goodness), she's able to make it so I feel like I have been there, that I'm actually there right along with them.  Her books do exactly what a good contemporary novel should, and allow you to connect with the main characters; to feel what they're feeling and to root for them despite any flaws they might have.  It also doesn't hurt that they're pretty darn adorable.

Seeing as contemporary novels are all about the characters I don't think it's a surprise that they were my favorite part of this book.  First off it was told in dual POV, which is something I love.  Getting the chance to see through both main characters eyes, especially when there's something romantic that might come to pass between them, makes the story feel more real to me.  I know that in real life you can't see through anyone else's eyes but your own so in a book I think it's cool to see both sides of something like that.  Both POVs in this book were something I enjoyed, although each for different reasons.  Kit was a fascinating character because of what she was going through and how it changed her.  Watching her transform from the start of the book to the end was such a treat, and I can honestly say that there were moments when I not only felt her grief and confusion, but I felt as though I was changing right along with her.  And David.  Sweet David.  I think I liked watching him change even more than Kit.  He was such a fascinating character, and from the first chapter of his that I read I knew he was going to be someone special.

David is on the autism spectrum, something that is near and dear to my heart because my own brother is too, so this was obviously the other thing I really loved about this novel.  I can't tell you how excited I was to learn that there was going to be a YA book with a POV character on the autism spectrum who was also going to be a love interest.  I don't think I've even heard of another book like that.  I was a little worried about how it was going to play out though, if it was going to feel real.  In the end, while there were a few small elements that I wasn't 100% thrilled with, I thought it appeared to be a really great look at what it means to be on the spectrum based on my own observations of the experience.  Buxbaum clearly did her research, and the result is something that I think is really important to include not only in YA literature but in literature for all age ranges.

I"m sorry if this review feels a little messy, there are things I want to say about this book that I can't seem to find the words for, but overall what I really want to say is that I was very happy with this book.  The characters were great, the representation was fantastic (not only was David on the spectrum but Kit was biracial), and the heart of the book was real.  It seems to have a slightly heavier feel to it than what I remember of Tell Me Three Things, but it still had that small element of mystery and the last page still left a smile on my face.  I can confidently say that thanks to this novel Buxbaum is on my list of authors to automatically read, and for one reason or another, I think it's a book everyone should at least attempt.  It won't be for everyone, I can tell you that right now because I'm sure some people won't care for David's voice, but if that doesn't bother you I guarantee you're in for something really great.

Review - Roar

Title: Roar
Author: Cora Carmack
Publisher: Tor Teen
Series: Stormheart #1
Published: June 13, 2017
Source: Bought
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In a land ruled and shaped by violent magical storms, power lies with those who control them.
Aurora Pavan comes from one of the oldest Stormling families in existence. Long ago, the ungifted pledged fealty and service to her family in exchange for safe haven, and a kingdom was carved out from the wildlands and sustained by magic capable of repelling the world’s deadliest foes. As the sole heir of Pavan, Aurora’s been groomed to be the perfect queen. She’s intelligent and brave and honorable. But she’s yet to show any trace of the magic she’ll need to protect her people.
To keep her secret and save her crown, Aurora’s mother arranges for her to marry a dark and brooding Stormling prince from another kingdom. At first, the prince seems like the perfect solution to all her problems. He’ll guarantee her spot as the next queen and be the champion her people need to remain safe. But the more secrets Aurora uncovers about him, the more a future with him frightens her. When she dons a disguise and sneaks out of the palace one night to spy on him, she stumbles upon a black market dealing in the very thing she lacks—storm magic. And the people selling it? They’re not Stormlings. They’re storm hunters.
Legend says that her ancestors first gained their magic by facing a storm and stealing part of its essence. And when a handsome young storm hunter reveals he was born without magic, but possesses it now, Aurora realizes there’s a third option for her future besides ruin or marriage. 
She might not have magic now, but she can steal it if she’s brave enough. 
Challenge a tempest. Survive it. And you become its master.

Overall?
I REALLY ENJOYED IT

I think I've read all of Carmack's NA novels so when I read that she was delving into YA I was pretty interested, though somewhat weary.  When I heard it was a fantasy novel I was even more interested, and perhaps wearier.  Going from one targeted age group to another isn't always something authors can do well, and the same goes for genre, so for Carmack to do both it was both exciting and a little worrisome.  In the end, there was nothing to worry about.  Roar was fantastic!  The characters, the plot, the setting, the detail, all of it was done expertly and it all combine into a novel that I didn't want to stop reading.

As I said above pretty much every aspect of the novel was spot on, but the piece of it that I loved the most has to be the setting.  The world Carmack has created was vibrant and fresh and while I'm not 100% sure it's some place I would want to live, I think it would be pretty darn cool to visit.  The idea of a world plagued by magical storms is such a fascinating one.  Initially, I was reminded of Avatar: The Last Airbender and Susan Dennard's fantasy (also published by Tor) Truthwitch, but honestly this world is entirely its own.  Just because you have what is called an "affinity" for a particular kind of storm doesn't mean that you can bend it to your will, you just have a slight advantage over those who don't.  And unlike pretty much any other story/world I can think of you can't use that affinity to create storms.  In fact, it reminded me a little of Yu-Gi-Oh/Pokemon, you have the cards/creature, or in this case the affinity, but you still have to battle it out in order to gain a new stormheart.

The other thing I really enjoyed was the characters.  I'm one of those people who loves reading books that have at least two POVs, just because I think it's fun to get into the heads of more than one character, especially if those characters have a thing for each other, so getting into the heads of three or four characters in this novel was a lot of fun, and while there was no distinct labeling of whose eyes we were looking through the transition was done well because there was a small break between sections to keep it from being confusing.  It was also nice that all of the main characters had dimension to them, they were more than just one thing, and I really appreciate that.  I found myself connecting to Aroura/Roar and how she wasn't sure who she really was.  It was fascinating the way Cassius was hard but wanted to soften, and how Locke completely reinvented himself in an effort to protect whatever he had left.  I also can't express how much I loved the side characters.  I think I could probably read a whole book about the other storm chasers just because they were so much fun.  My favorite was Jinx, and I hope we get to learn more about not only her but about all of the other minor characters in the sequel.

There were a few things about the story that I didn't LOVE, but they were pretty small all things considered.  It could be argued there's a little bit of a dual love interest going on, and Aurora seems to develop feelings for both guys rather quickly.  It might annoy some people, but if you think about the way she was raised, never really able to develop relationships of any kind (platonic or romantic) with anyone it's not surprising that she was attracted to two hot guys who paid her attention.  The other thing is that it might be considered a little formulaic at times, it seems to follow the general plot outline of several other YA fantasy novels, but let's be honest, is there really a storyline that doesn't mirror at least three or four others at this point in time?  I'm pretty sure that original plot arcs haven't happened for several hundred if not thousand years.  I also would have liked to see Aurora use the knife skills she displays early on in the novel out in the wild, but I can see why it wouldn't have really fit in with the story.

All together I was REALLY pleased with this novel.  Carmack transitioned from NA to YA expertly, and it's obvious that a lot of thought went into the fantasy world she's created here.  The world itself is pretty darn original, and I'm excited to see where she takes it next.  Her characters are well thought out and nicely flawed, and a lot of people are likely to connect with at least one of them for one reason or another.  If you're a fan of the Throne of Glass series or the Truthwitch series I suggest you give this one a try too.  Actually, if you're a fantasy fan in general I would suggest looking into Roar.  Fans of Carmacks NA novels and new readers alike are sure to enjoy the world she's created here, and I for one can't wait to see where she takes it next.

I'm Back, I Think!

Hey, Everyone!  I have no idea how many of you are still with me, probably not a lot of you, but hopefully a few.  According to the blogger...whatever it is, the last time I posted a review was over a year ago, which is pretty crazy.  I've actually still been reading and I've been writing some "mini reviews" for a local indie bookstore, but my blogging has fallen pretty far to the wayside because I've just been so busy with school.  I transitioned from community college to...University? That sounds kinda British but it's not like I am now going to college, I was in college before, it's just that now instead of being at a community college I'm at a local University.  Anyway, this last year I've been not only a full-time student but also working on adjusting to the classes at the school, because while the effort and time involved is pretty much the same the focus isn't so much on making sure we learn as it is to get rid of the weak.  That kind of makes it sound like I'm in some weird Hunger Games/Game of Thrones mash-up school, but in reality the classes I was taking are used to filter out people who aren't cut out to be in certain majors (even though I'm already in mine), so the grading scale is rather frustrating.  
I'm finally done with all of my gen-ed requirements and my major pre-recs though, so from now on, I'll only be in school part time, which leaves more time for me to read and to actually BLOG about the books I'm reading.  We'll see how that ends up going, but as of right now I'm saying that I'm (hopefully) back, and while you might not get reviews every week, I hope there will be one every two weeks or so (at least) and my plan is to post some cool interviews and giveaways to fill the gaps. Thanks again to everyone who is still here, and I hope you'll continue to stay with me in the days/weeks to come!