Book Review: Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee

Check out what I thought about Stacey Lee’s debut novel UNDER A PAINTED SKY!

under a painted skyTitle: Under a Painted Sky
Author: Stacey Lee
Amazon: Click!
B&N: Click click!!
Goodreads: Your shelf will be 100000x prettier with this book

 

 

 

 

 

 

Missouri, 1849: Samantha dreams of moving back to New York to be a professional musician—not an easy thing if you’re a girl, and harder still if you’re Chinese. But a tragic accident dashes any hopes of fulfilling her dream, and instead, leaves her fearing for her life. With the help of a runaway slave named Annamae, Samantha flees town for the unknown frontier. But life on the Oregon Trail is unsafe for two girls, so they disguise themselves as Sammy and Andy, two boys headed for the California gold rush. Sammy and Andy forge a powerful bond as they each search for a link to their past, and struggle to avoid any unwanted attention. But when they cross paths with a band of cowboys, the light-hearted troupe turn out to be unexpected allies. With the law closing in on them and new setbacks coming each day, the girls quickly learn that there are not many places to hide on the open trail.

This beautifully written debut is an exciting adventure and heart-wrenching survival tale. But above all else, it’s a story about perseverance and trust that will restore your faith in the power of friendship.

I am a history nerd, so I always get excited about YA historicals. But I get more excited when they have:

  • ladies being amazing
  • ladies being besties
  • diversity
  • horses
  • a trio of cute boys who love each other (bromance alert)

Oh! Did I just describe Under a Painted Sky? I think I did!

Samantha and Annamae are the heart and soul of this book. Their friendship develops out of horrible circumstances, but it saves them. They both take turns being the strong one, relying on each other. I was so happy to find a book that puts female friendship at its center.

Historicals have this amazing job of being neither contemporary nor fantasy. They are both. It’s our world, but not our world all at once. Well, Under a Painted Sky nails that. Samantha’s experiences not only as a woman, but a Chinese woman come to life. Annamae’s plight as a slave seeking freedom. The Underground Railroad, life on the trails heading west, illness, and GIRLS ON THEIR PERIOD WHILE PRETENDING TO BE BOYS IN 1849.

under a painted sky reading progress

And to swoon over romance for a second because who doesn’t love that? Sam and West!!! MY FEELS. Annamae and Petey are also adorable but Sam and West hit me hard. The best part of cross-dressing girls stories are when they can’t tell/show the dude they like them and it creates all kinds of shenanigans. This book had plenty of those ‘omg I like you so much’ moments.

Under a Painted Sky is one of the best books I read this year. I devoured it in a day. It has amazing characters and relationships, world building that sucks you in, and stakes that put the rest to shame.

Cover Thoughts
welcome-to-jurassic-park
We just need a dinosaur in the distance and IT ALL MAKES SENSE.

Favorite Line
‘You miss being a girl?’ I ask her.
‘Not as much as I thought I would. Just feels like when I’m being a boy, I can cut a wider path.’
why do i have feelings ouat

Favorite Character 
Cal…
stiles teen wolf cat

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Friday Reads: AN EMBER IN THE ASHES by Sabaa Tahir

My Friday Reads is YA fantasy novel AN EMBER IN THE ASHES. I feel like I’ve been reading a lot of fantasy lately, but a well done fantasy is hard to put down…

an ember in the ashes coverTitle: An Ember in the Ashes
Author: Sabaa Tahir
Amazon: Cliiiicckkkkk
B&N: Clickkkkk
Goodreads: Clickey!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Laia is a slave.

Elias is a soldier.

Neither is free.

Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.

It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.

But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

After hearing only good things and being told by more than 30 people 2 people (how many do you think I know?), I finally got An Ember in the Ashes from the library.

I’m not far in, but I’m enjoying it. The writing is really crisp, which might be a weird descriptor, but it feels accurate.

So far I’m loving the characters, which is usually the fastest way to my heart. I think Laia is going to have a really great arc because she’s already grown so much in the first few pages! Character arcs are basically all I need. Like I want to snuggle up with a good character arc and rub my face in it. Not weird at all. Moving on…

I’m also a little bit in love with the new paperback cover.

an ember in the ashes new cover paperback

Also, this is really random, but it matters to me. So after reading two books–or attempting to read, since I didn’t finish one–that had rape in them and refused to call it rape, I was so goddamn happy to see An Ember in the Ashes call it what it is within the first twenty pages.
“But I think of the Mask’s cold regard, of the violence in his eyes. I’ve always loved dark-haired girls. He will rape me. Then he will kill me.”

Onto happier things, don’t you feel like Elias and Chewie could be the new brotp of the century? No? Just me. Okay.

an ember in the ashes chewie

Have you read AN EMBER IN THE ASHES? What did you think of it? What are you reading this Friday?

Have a good weekend and I’ll see you guys on Monday with a book review!

giggles gleefully

Waiting on Wednesday: THE WINNER’S KISS by Marie Rutkoski

So many awesome books to look forward to! Here’s what I’m super excited for in 2016.

Waiting on Wednesday Theme: End of a series!

rory i wanted to be cool crying emotional feels doctor who

the winner's kissTitle: THE WINNER’S KISS
Author: Marie Rutkoski
Pub Date: March 29, 2016 by Farrar Straus & Giroux
Amazon: Click click!
B&N: Cliiiiiiiick!
Goodreads: Add it!

I decided not to paste the summary for book 3 since it’s spoilery for the first two books.

SUMMARY FOR BOOK ONE, THE WINNER’S CURSE:

Winning what you want may cost you everything you love…

As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions.

One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin.

But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined.

Set in a richly imagined new world, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.

winner's trilogy

These books are mind blowing. Part of the reason I love them so much is every time you think it can’t get worse, IT DOES. The ending of book one was game changing. The ending of book two was an even bigger twist. Marie Rutkoski is honestly a master at raising the stakes.

We were just talking about #MorallyComplicatedYA last night, and Arin and Kestrel are super amoral characters. They’re in the middle of a war/revolution and every decision is weighted, every choice dangerous. They literally hold lives in their hands. They are grey. They’ve done bad for good. They keep their motives closely guarded–which leads to a lot of angst and:

luke crying sobbing feelsLiterally me reading these books

And anyway, if the deepness didn’t entice you then I don’t know what to tell you. There’s also:

  1. Murder
  2. Tigers
  3. KESTREL THE BADDEST B EVER ❤
  4. OMG PLOT TWIST ENDINGS
  5. prettyprettyprettycovers
  6. angstangstangst

And if you REALLY need more convincing:

“He did not want her to know.
He did not want her to see.
But:
Look at me, he found himself thinking furiously at her. Look at me.
She lifted her eyes, and did.” -The Winner’s Crime

“There was dishonor, she decided, in accepting someone else’s idea of honor without question.” -The Winner’s Crime

“Right before sleep, he came close to understanding. But he was awake now.” -The Winner’s Crime

“The truth can deceive as well as a lie.” -The Winner’s Crime

“Isn’t that what stories do, make real things fake, and fake things real?” -The Winner’s Crime

Amazing, right? So read The Winner’s Curse and The Winner’s Crime in time for the LAST book in the series. And Marie promised there would be kissing!

 

I CAN’T WAIT FOR MARCH. And! Marie is joining The Fierce Reads Tour next spring!!! *happy dance* Details here! You don’t want to miss this.

Have you read The Winner’s trilogy? Are you excited for THE WINNER’S KISS? What do you think will happen? Can there be a happy ending? AHHHH!!

BOOK REVIEW: BONE GAP by Laura Ruby

Check out what I thought about National Book Award finalist BONE GAP by Laura Ruby!

bone gap

Title: BONE GAP
Author: Laura Ruby
Amazon: Clicky!
B&N: Clicky clicky!
Goodreads: Add it here!

 

 

 

Everyone knows Bone Gap is full of gaps—gaps to trip you up, gaps to slide through so you can disappear forever. So when young, beautiful Roza went missing, the people of Bone Gap weren’t surprised. After all, it wasn’t the first time that someone had slipped away and left Finn and Sean O’Sullivan on their own. Just a few years before, their mother had high-tailed it to Oregon for a brand new guy, a brand new life. That’s just how things go, the people said. Who are you going to blame?

Finn knows that’s not what happened with Roza. He knows she was kidnapped, ripped from the cornfields by a dangerous man whose face he cannot remember. But the searches turned up nothing, and no one believes him anymore. Not even Sean, who has more reason to find Roza than anyone, and every reason to blame Finn for letting her go.

As we follow the stories of Finn, Roza, and the people of Bone Gap—their melancholy pasts, their terrifying presents, their uncertain futures—acclaimed author Laura Ruby weaves a heartbreaking tale of love and loss, magic and mystery, regret and forgiveness—a story about how the face the world sees is never the sum of who we are.

Reading Bone Gap was a magical experience. I fell fast. I fell hard.

downton abbey happy dance feels freaking out

I was like, “Talking corn! Cats! Magical horses! Badass ladies! Sad boys! GOATS!”

I think you go into this book expecting it’s about Finn and his brother Sean, and then discover it’s really about two women: Roza and Petey. And it’s about society and male gaze and the expectations put on girls. And what happens when people see your worth based on your beauty (Roza and Petey) or your ‘quirks’ (Finn).

The characters made this book. Roza could have easily been the manic pixie dream girl who saves Sean and Finn from their sad life, but she’s not. She’s her own wonderfully fleshed out complex character. This was apparent to me as I read and marveled over it, but more so when I saw Laura Ruby at Books of Wonder last week. She talked about how the myth of Persephone fascinated her, but annoyed her because the story was never about Persephone. Bone Gap is about Roza. The girl who goes missing.

national book awards bownational book awards bow 2

The amazing Children’s National Book Awards Finalists panel at Books of Wonder on Monday November 16, 2015.

I love Bone Gap because of its amazing characters, vivid-heartbreaking writing, and the goat. Its critique of fairy tales, exploration of beauty, and unexpected diversity make it a must read!

Cover Thoughts
i don't know what's going on but i am excited chandler friends

Favorite Quote
I’m sorry, is THE ENTIRE BOOK not a valid answer?

She read and reread all kinds of books for all kinds of reasons. When she was little, someone gave her some weird book called The Wife Store. It was about a very lonely man who decided that he wanted to get married. So he went to the wife store, where endless women lined enormous shelves. He picked himself a wife and bought her. She was bagged up and put in a cart. He took her home. After that, the two of them went to the children store to buy a few kids.

Petey read this book over and over. Not because she liked it, but because she kept waiting for the story to change, kept waiting for the day she’d turn the page and a woman would get to the husband store. She kept waiting for justice. But, of course, the story never changed. She never got justice. If Petey were keeping one of her lists of the things she hated, she wold have to add: the fact that there was no justice. But The Wife Store was still on her shelf at home, if only to remind her that there were assholes in the world who would write such things, believe such things. (page 207)

Favorite Character
If it wasn’t obvious: ROZA ROZA ROZA. Ross sums up my feelings:why do bad things happen to good people

Friday Reads: THE LUNAR CHRONICLES by Marissa Meyer

My Friday Reads is WINTER, the last book in the LUNAR CHRONICLES series!

winter coverTitle: Winter
Author: Marissa Meyer
Pub Date: November 10, 2015 from Feiwel & Friends
Amazon: Here!
B&N: Here!
Goodreads: Add it to your shelves!

 

 

 

The Lunar Chronicles is a fantastic fairy-tale reimagining like you’ve never seen before. It is one of my favorite series, so get ready for a lot of fangirling!

the-lunar-chronicles 1-3

Marissa is a MASTER of pacing! It’s impossible to stop once you’ve started. And she’s a wonderful plotter because–oh my gosh–I’m on the last book and things from Cinder are coming back and even just managing a score of POV characters and all their plot threads in an 830 page book and keeping everything cohesive and amazing… I bow down to you, Marissa.

My favorite aspect of the books are all the fabulous character dynamics. I think every single character interacts with each other at some point in the books. It’s so entertaining! If you’re looking for sass, this is the series for you.

I’m so sad to be finishing this series, but I’m SO HAPPY the last book is AMAZING.

despicable me i'm so happy feels

It totally sucks when the last book is a letdown. Marissa does not disappoint.

She makes these stories feel SO real! She brings back details from the beginning of the books that ground these characters in reality. For example, one character gets kidnapped in book 3, and in book 4 there’s a mention of how her farm is still running despite her not being there to take care of it!

Last Wednesday I went to see Marissa at B&N for her Winter Tour. #WinterIsHere, yo 🙂

marissa meyer

It was Lunar Ball themed, so I wore my Cinderella castle shirt. I figured it was close enough.

There were so many pre-teen and teenage girls with their friends and they were so excited. It made my stone cold jaded college student heart so HAPPY to see girls so unabashedly excited for something. And to see friends reading together.

We were very lucky and got a reading from Rebecca Soler, the audiobook narrator. She read from chapter 2 and did all these voices. It almost felt like what a movie would be. Speaking of, we want a movie! Or a mini series! Seriously, if cyborg Cinderella, hacker Rapunzel, and SPACE doesn’t warrant a movie, I don’t know what does. Hollywood, you have a diversity problem and The Lunar Chronicles might endear some people to you.

Back to the event! Marissa came out and all adorable and said that five years ago today she had signed the contracts for her book deal to publish Cinder. Talk about coming full circle.

She told us the story of Snow White and talked about her love of Disney movies as a kid sparking her desire to retell fairy tales in new and exciting ways. After all, Disney is just one huge retelling.

marissa meyer event winter

winter signed marissa meyer lunar

YES, YES, I WILL JOIN THE RESISTANCE.

cinder join the resistance scarlet join the resistance cress join the resistance winter join the resistance

soooo prettyyyy…

There was a pre-order campaign that included swag, but I didn’t join in since I figured correctly I’d have to buy the book at B&N to get it signed. But to my surprise, there was extra swag to take on tour!

timmy winter 2

Note: The cat was not part of the swag.
Note: Cats do not like posing for pictures. They’d rather sniff stuff. See below.

timmy winter

So in conclusion, read the Lunar Chronicles! I’ll be here, sobbing in my corner about the end of this fantastic series.

Seriously, Marissa. Teach me your ways.

vomiting rainbow

Waiting on Wednesday: THE GIRL WHO FELL by S.M. Parker

Welcome back to our regularly scheduled programming! After an intense two month revision process during Pitch Wars, I’ve recovered from my burn out and am here to fangirl over books!

Waiting on Wednesday Theme: Dark contemporary!

it's fun parksNo, it really is! 🙂

the girl who fellTitle: THE GIRL WHO FELL
Author: S.M. Parker
Pub Date: March 1, 2016 from Simon Pulse
Amazon: Pre-order
B&N: Pre-order 
Goodreads: Add it here!

 

 

 

 

His obsession.
Her fall.

In this dark kissing book, high school senior Zephyr Doyle is swept off her feet—and into an intense relationship—by the new boy in school.

Zephyr is focused. Focused on leading her team to the field hockey state championship and leaving her small town for her dream school, Boston College.

But love has a way of changing things.

Enter the new boy in school: the hockey team’s starting goaltender, Alec. He’s cute, charming, and most important, Alec doesn’t judge Zephyr. He understands her fears and insecurities—he even shares them. Soon, their relationship becomes something bigger than Zephyr, something she can’t control, something she doesn’t want to control.

Zephyr swears it must be love. Because love is powerful, and overwhelming, and…terrifying?

But love shouldn’t make you abandon your dreams, or push your friends away. And love shouldn’t make you feel guilty—or worse, ashamed.

So when Zephyr finally begins to see Alec for who he really is, she knows it’s time to take back control of her life.

If she waits any longer, it may be too late.

I think that summary sufficiently explains how much awesome this book is going to be, but if you need some more convincing, I’m happy to oblige.

  1. DARK KISSING BOOK!
  2. Subversion of The New Kid in School trope!
  3. Girls playing sports!

And on a more serious level, I really want to see a story that handles abusive relationships and portrays it for what it is. Not something romantic. Not something wonderful. I don’t want to see it excused like it is so many times, not only in reality, but in books and movies, too.

The majority of abusive relationships happen in your teenage years and early 20s, mostly because it’s still during the age of development. It is so important that young girls and boys are taught about healthy relationships and dynamics. Especially girls, who oftentimes feel like they must be in a relationship because of societal pressure and struggle with self-esteem issues.

You matter. You do not have to ‘settle.’

I’m looking forward to seeing Zephyr discover this and fight for herself. I mean… I’m assuming she does. And I’m here for this.

oh yes merlin (I’m also here for this. What? Who said that?)

Side note! Look at the cover! I love minimalist covers and I feel like the smudged lipstick outside the lines and the rust on the purple like a stain says so much.  I can’t wait to pet this book. And cry.

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Look for my review in January as part of THE GIRL WHO FELL blog tour, organized by Brittany!

the girl who fell swag

Are you excited for THE GIRL WHO FELL? Do you like the cover? Do you think this book will break you with feels? Comment below.

See you Friday!