Blog Tour: Giveaway: Books by Theme: In celebration of The Reader by Traci Chee, a list of books C.J. can't live without

books by theme                needlikeair

Sefia knows what it means to survive. After her father is brutally murdered, she flees into the wilderness with her aunt Nin, who teaches her to hunt, track, and steal. But when Nin is kidnapped, leaving Sefia completely alone, none of her survival skills can help her discover where Nin’s been taken, or if she’s even alive. The only clue to both her aunt’s disappearance and her father’s murder is the odd rectangular object her father left behind, an object she comes to realize is a book—a marvelous item unheard of in her otherwise illiterate society. With the help of this book, and the aid of a mysterious stranger with dark secrets of his own, Sefia sets out to rescue her aunt and find out what really happened the day her father was killed—and punish the people responsible.

With overlapping stories of swashbuckling pirates and merciless assassins, The Reader is a brilliantly told adventure from an extraordinary new talent.

On September 13th, Traci Chee's debut The Reader will hit shelves!  It's a story of Sefia, who lives in a world where books are banned.  Seriously, I'm twitching just thinking about it.  While living without any books would suck more than whatever misfortune caused Michael Phelps to make that face during the Olympics (look at me being all on topic), there are a few I would trade my firstborn to keep.  Read about them below ... and then keep scrolling for more info about The Reader and a chance to win a copy and one of those snazzy tote bags.  Thanks so much to Penguin Random House, my partner for this awesome feature! 



Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

If you've only seen the movie, you're missing out.  Miyazaki's work is lovely, but (drumroll) the book is better.  Like mousy girl gets transformed into old lady and befriends a fire demon and a vain wizard cursed using a John Donne sonnet better.  The ultimate in whimsy and magical-feeling awesomeness.  I still reread it once a year, and grin like an idiot every time.  


Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

It'd take a whole year of blog posts to explain the depths of my love for this series, and how much it has meant to me.  The books themselves are a constant source of laughter, comfort, and escape.  When I had a rough time in high school?  Joined HP roleplaying sites.  In college?  Dressed up for the premiers.  Before starting internship?  Listened to the series over a whole summer on audiobook as a bedtime story.  Now there are going to be Fantastic Beasts, Pottermore Presents, and Cursed Child better freaking come to America TAKEMYMONEYALREADY.  I'll always be a Potterhead.  Always.


Dark Lord of Derkholm by Diana Wynne Jones

I mean, I could basically put all of Diana on here, including her fantastic Chronicles of Chrestomanci, but I'm limiting myself.  I can't believe more people don't know about this book!  It kindled my love of fantasy, inspired me to write fantasy, and is an all-around hysterical half-serious satire of fantasy itself in which a whole world is enslaved by an Earth-born businessman to put on elaborate fantasy adventure tours for Earth tourists.  As in, people from Earth come to this world to have a Tolkien-esque fantasy adventure, but really the inhabitants are just reluctant actors putting on a ridiculous show.  And, scene.


Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

Forget the movie.  The book is a whimsical, magical feminist fairy tale with a badass heroine whose brain is her best weapon and some really awesome messages about social justice and self-worth.  Also it's just a fantastic tongue-in-cheek reimagining of the original story with enough original elements to feel old and new at the same time.  Will love forever. 


Grimm's Complete Fairy Tales

When I can't sleep, which is often, I read fairy tales.  One particular volume, in fact.  The pages are dog-eared and worn.  The stories are well-traveled from being thumbed through since I was too young to remember, when my mom had to read the stories to me because I couldn't read yet.  Yeah, my mom read me the real ones.  Because she's a badass.  They may be simple and short, but there's still something magical in the way these two awesome linguists wrote and retold stories.  Hans Christian Andersen's got nothing on Jakob and Wilhelm.

meet the author, traci chee

Traci Chee is an author of speculative fiction for teens. An all-around word geek, she loves book arts and art books, poetry and paper crafts, though she also dabbles at piano playing, egg painting, and hosting potluck game nights for family and friends. She studied literature and creative writing at UC Santa Cruz and earned a master of arts degree from San Francisco State University. Traci grew up in a small town with more cows than people, and now feels most at home in the mountains, scaling switchbacks and happening upon hidden highland lakes. She lives in California with her fast-fast dog. The Reader is her YA debut.

win an awesome swag pack

To enter, post a comment about which books you can't live without!  Penguin Random House will send a copy of The Reader and a tote bag to one super lucky person.  

Read an excerpt of the first two chapters here!
Follow @TraciChee on Twitter


Review: Simon and the Homo-Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

review         book

I'll Meet You Theretitle: Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda
author: Becky Albertalli
pages: 303
format: Kindle
isbn/asin: 978-0062380876
buy it: Amazon | B&N | Goodreads
rating: 4.5/5 (from hated to loved) or 7/10 (all books I've ever read)
recommended for: Fans of Wuthering HeightsLegacy of Kings by Eleanor Herman, other sweeping, epic, historical dramas.
Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.

With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.

in depth

  • You've already heard this book's praises sung from every corner of the blogoverse, but get ready to hear more--because it's truly an outstanding debut.  I read Simon shortly after I finished The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley, and it was everything I'd wanted Andrew to be.  Light, funny, surprisingly poignant.  

  • Simon reminded me much of myself in high school, except myself if I'd been a gay young man, of course.  He's insecure and awkward, well-meaning but terrified about whether he means anything, to anyone.  Of course, he's much brasher than I was, and a bit of an asshole in a totally normal and character-enriching way.  So, even when you want to punch him in the face for being jerky to his friends and acting overly tragic, you also can't help but want to squeeze him.  I also really sympathize with Leah, his best friend, who gets sidelined by both Simon and their friend Nick with the introduction of pretty Abby to the circle.  They're just so believable as teens, as people. 

  • The relationship between Simon and Blue is everything I want in a young adult romance, especially a contemporary.  It's cute, slow to build, awkward and adorable.  You can see their adoration developing across their emails--and it's a clever format for a generation increasingly reliant on text for romance--and it's so satisfying when they finally meet.  For some reasons I won't give away.  Normally I go gaggy over a lot of book romances, but Simon and Blue really belong together.  

  • Simon's voice was really the clincher for me.  Of course it's cleverer and a little more poignant than anything most of us have ever penned at 17, but it still feels like a 17-year-old is writing it.  Simple, clear, and punchy, with gems like "I don't know how to be gay in Georgia," offhanded references to slash fiction and Xbox achievements, slang that doesn't feel pilfered from Urban Dictionary.  It resonated with me right away and kept me invested.  

  • The plot twists a few rom com cliches into fresh forms.  There's the Cyrano-esque pen pals, Simon falling for his online buddy Blue.  The blackmail: loser Martin threatening to out Simon unless Simon helps him hook up with one of his friends  It's farfetched enough to be fun, but still tame enough for me to buy.  Then there's the usual drama, friends getting jealous, dating drama, clueless but well-meaning parents, snarky sisters.  

  • There were slow moments, eye-roll-inducing phrases, and some cringe-inducing behavior on Simon's part, but that didn't detract from a truly stellar high school novel.  It's a refreshingly real read in a sea of over-the-top emotional contemporaries and teens that talk like thirty-year-old English teachers.  

    in a sentence

    Simon and the Homo-Sapiens Agenda is a funny, heartening debut, a refreshingly real read in a sea of over-the-top emotional contemporaries and teens that talk like thirty-year-old English teachers.  


    will i read this author again?  Yes! 
    will i continue the series?  N/A, thankfully. It doesn't need one.  

    Note: I purchased this copy. The price of the book and its origin in no way affected my stated opinions.


    ARC Review: And I Darken by Kiersten White

    review         book

    I'll Meet You Theretitle: And I Darken
    author: Kiersten White
    pages: 475
    format: Kindle ARC
    isbn/asin: 978-0062380876
    buy it: Amazon | B&N | Goodreads
    rating: 5/5 (from hated to loved) or 9/10 (all books I've ever read)
    recommended for: Fans of Wuthering Heights, Legacy of Kings by Eleanor Herman, other sweeping, epic, historical dramas.
    No one expects a princess to be brutal. And Lada Dragwlya likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland of Wallachia and abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival. She and Radu are doomed to act as pawns in a vicious game, an unseen sword hovering over their every move. For the lineage that makes them special also makes them targets.

    Lada despises the Ottomans and bides her time, planning her vengeance for the day when she can return to Wallachia and claim her birthright. Radu longs only for a place where he feels safe. And when they meet Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, Radu feels that he’s made a true friend—and Lada wonders if she’s finally found someone worthy of her passion.

    But Mehmed is heir to the very empire that Lada has sworn to fight against—and that Radu now considers home. Together, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed form a toxic triangle that strains the bonds of love and loyalty to the breaking point.

    in depth

    • I knew very little about this book before it appeared in my life, a glimmer on Netgalley.  I was skeptical.  The daughter of Vlad the Impaler?  I wasn't terribly enthused about a quasi-vampire paranormal rewrite, but something about it drew me.  And I'm glad.  First, because it's not paranormal and there are no vampires.  Second, because it's a slow-burning historical, generational epic, vibrant and devastating and deeply affecting.  Lada and Radu will haunt me until their next installment--and ever after.  

    • There's a Wuthering Height feel to And I Darken.  We begin with the birth of Lada, daughter of Vlad, and in alternating chapters we trace Lada and her brother Radu through their painful, grim youth.  Given as hostages to the Ottoman Empire, they battle with the conflicting identities forged by a life in gentle captivity.  It's a slow build.  I felt like I was reading and reading and there was still so much left--but while other readers have found it slow, I enjoyed the careful layering of Lada and Radu's identities over time, the subtle introduction of their friend Mehmed, the setting of the stage in White's razor sharp, yet lyrical prose.  

    • Then the children become teenagers, where the bulk of the story takes place.  Having known them for years now, I felt completely at home in their heads.  Lada is cold, bitter, a ruthless protector of the little she holds dear.  I met her at a difficult time in my life and I ached for her.  She's not the cliche soft-hearted lass in a case of stone. She's stone, through and through.  I loved that White didn't take that out.  Lada does have softness, enough to feel love and loyalty, but it's a softness she fears, doesn't understand, an embattled softness always forced aside.  On the other hand, Radu is all softness, fragility and compassion and wonder--yet time and heartbreak forges steel in him, even as it tempers Lada's iron.  

    • Between them is Mehmed, beloved by both, friend and protector, cocksure but also deeply insecure, and lonely.  Surrounding them are other characters painted in the most exact detail, people who feel dredged up from history, but these three are the center, the core.  The relationships between them evolve into a complex web that entangles and endangers all three hearts.  White spins a gorgeous drama, romantic and quasi-familial, that at more than one time had me racing through pages, steeling myself against foreshadowed pain, desperate to see them happy and mended.  In many ways, they each carried parts of me with them through the story, so vivid are they in White's telling.  

    • White isn't kind to her characters, and it's just as well.  Theirs is a hard world.  Mehmed is the Sultan's heir, thrown callously and too-young into power.  Lada is the eternal exile, thirsting for Wallachia even as she forms reluctant, inescapable ties in the empire.  Radu is the convert, finding strength in the beauty of Islam and the comforts of a new home that embraces him as his father never did.  Surrounding these individual threads are the machinations of power, civil war in the Slavic states, rumblings of rebellion and intrigue in the empire, forces that toss Lada, Radu, and Mehmed cruelly and indifferently.  I don't say this lightly, but in scope and power it reminds me of Dumas, of old romances and epics.  

    • If you want a quick, light read, look elsewhere.  If you want something dense, gorgeous, soul-wrenching and intricate, then buy this book, immediately.  And I Darken is a vast endeavor, a lush drama entwining a rarely elucidated corner of history with the hearts of three young people.  It's the kind of book that brings to mind epic movie scores, hard and glittering wave-swept clifftops, ceaseless battle cries.  It's the kind of book that reverberates beyond the last page and makes you ache with every cut, every heartbreak, and somehow by the end, it's too short.  I need more.  

    in a sentence

    And I Darken is a masterpiece of historical fiction, a glittering, sweeping epic of a book that carves out a permanent place for Lada and Radu in the minds of its readers.  


    will i read this author again?  I guess I'll just read everything she's ever written while I wait for book two.  
    will i continue the series?  I needed it like, yesterday.  

    Note: I received this copy in exchange for a review. The price of the book and its origin in no way affected my stated opinions.


    Blog Tour: Giveaway: ARC Review: Poisoned Blade by Kate Elliott

    review         book

    I'll Meet You Theretitle: Poisoned Blade
    author: Kate Elliott
    rating: 5/5 (from hated to loved) or 8/10 (all books I've ever read)
    recommended for: Fans of Game of Thrones, Legacy of Kings by Eleanor Herman, and other sweeping, quasi-historical fantasy.
    Jessamy is moving up the ranks of the Fives—the complex athletic contest favored by the lowliest Commoners and the loftiest Patrons in her embattled kingdom. Pitted against far more formidable adversaries, success is Jes's only option, as her prize money is essential to keeping her hidden family alive. She leaps at the chance to tour the countryside and face more competitors, but then a fatal attack on Jes's traveling party puts her at the center of the war that Lord Kalliarkos—the prince she still loves—is fighting against their country's enemies. With a sinister overlord watching her every move and Kal's life on the line, Jes must now become more than a Fives champion...She must become a warrior.

    in depth

    • Poisoned Blade is a masterpiece of fantasy, with the same intrigue, spirit, and adventure that made Court of Fives one of my favorite books of 2015.  It combines elements of fictionalized Greco-Roman history, fierce athletic competition, badass women, political intrigue, and social consciousness into one sweeping epic tale.  Of course, this is no simple mish-mash of past masters.  Elliott's past prowess in the adult fantasy world shines through in the rich and unique details of her world--poets bound to truth, entombed oracles, walking corpses, multifaceted souls...and, of course, the Fives itself, a daring athletic competition that unites conquerors and slaves alike in the celebration of their champions. It's a fierce story that cuts deeply and leaves you aching for more.  

    • Jes has become a Challenger in her own right, seen her family splintered apart, lost the boy dearest to her, and become the reluctant puppet of a cruel and scheming master.  That's just before the first page, and Elliott flings you into the sequel with a dramatic opening: Jes's friend and father leaving for war, a family member returned, and an overheard scheme. Because Jes is the brazen sparkplug that I love, she unwittingly thrusts herself into the heart of the chaos--the war from ancient enemies without, the throne-stealing plot from greedy highborns within.  Suddenly, Jes's world is more dangerous than ever.  
    • Love Game of Thrones?  Then, like me, you'll relish the political intrigue and deception.  There are so many layers of scheming, and Jes is never quite sure who is lying to her, who she can trust, even what motives are driving the players.  There is an ineffective king and cloistered queen in an embattled city; rumblings of revolution from the enslaved natives of Efea; dastardly spiderwebs of schemes stretching from Jes's master, her father's deadly new bride, and even the queen's brother.  I found myself enthralled following each thread, guessing at who was working with whom and their plans, and inevitably being wrong when Elliott pulled another satisfyingly shocking twist.  The climax managed to be both delightfully foreshadowed and surprising, and the ending gave unexpected (and enjoyable) closure for a mid-series book while still leaving so many threads open for the next adventure.  

    • Of course, the plot could be half as thrilling and I'd still read for the characters.  Elliott has truly created people, carefully crafted and still messy and flawed and shivering with life.  Jes still has the same fire, cockiness, and compassion that drew me to her in the first book, but she's been forced to grow as well.  She's had to compromise her ideals to save the people she loves, all while tiptoeing around dangerous schemes that are a tightening noose with every new secret she learns.  Rebel and risk everything, or be quietly complicit in the atrocaties perpetrated by her masters?  

    • Then there's more of the adorably snarky Ro, the sometimes naive but good-hearted Kal.  We come to better know Jes's stubbornly inscrutable father, her brutally practical and cruelly reasonable master Lord Gargaron, her father's deadly, viciously clever new bride.  I wanted a little more of some of the side characters, like fellow contenders Dusty, Mis, and Tana, but I know that Elliott can only give us so much without overwhelming the story in detail.  The characters we do get wormed their way into my heart and left me breathless and shattered at every turn. 

    • Finally, there is Elliott's world.  On one side, it's a fantasy fan's dream, with details plucked from history, enough to make it familiar, but with its own feel.  Between the mouthwatering food descriptions, details of clothing and customs, and hints of language, you truly feel transported to another world.  Then there are the parts that mirror our own.  With her enslaved, dark-skinned Efeans and light-skinned Saroese conquerors--and Jes, born to a Commoner mother and Patron father--Elliott expertly explores the dynamics between a conquered people and its overlords, and the struggles of a girl caught between worlds, belonging to both and neither, trying to decide what she stands for.  

    • On the whole, I cannot recommend this series enough.  If you've read the first one, then rest assured that Poisoned Blade is a worthy successor written in the same lush, gorgeous, yet approachable prose.  If you're new to the series, don't delay.  Elliott's world is one you won't soon forget.  

    in a sentence

    The Poisoned Blade is an ambitious, vibrant sequel worthy of its predecessor.  Riveting.  


    will i read this author again?  Yes yes yes yes yes 
    will i continue the series?  Can I haz now?  

    Note: I received this copy in exchange for a review. The price of the book and its origin in no way affected my stated opinions.  [[Forgive the rambling. I basically had to rewrite the whole review because Blogger is evil.]] 

    about the author 

    Kate Elliott has been writing stories since she was nine years old, which has led her to believe that writing, like breathing, keeps her alive. As a child in rural Oregon, she made up stories because she longed to escape to a world of lurid adventure fiction. She now writes fantasy, steampunk, science fiction, and YA, including recent works Black Wolves, Court of Fives, and Cold Magic.

    It should come as no surprise that she met her future husband in a sword fight. When he gave up police work to study archaeology, they and their three children fell into an entirely new set of adventures amid dusty Mexican ruins and mouthwatering European pastry shops. Eventually her spouse’s work forced them to move to Hawaii, where she took up outrigger canoe paddling. With the three children out of the house, they now spoil the schnauzer.

    Find the book 
    Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
    Formats: Hardcover, Paperback, eBook, audiobook

    enter to win loads of cool prizes!  

    catch more stops on the poisoned blade tour! 

    Tour Schedule:
    Week One:
    8/8/2016- SFFWorld.comInterview
    8/9/2016- Sarcasm & LemonsReview
    8/10/2016- Such a Novel IdeaGuest Post
    8/11/2016- The Eater of Books- Review
    8/12/2016- Two Chicks on BooksInterview

    Week Two:
    8/15/2016- Fiction FareReview
    8/16/2016- Dark Faerie TalesGuest Post
    8/17/2016- YaReadsReview
    8/18/2016- Once Upon a TwilightInterview
    8/19/2016- Just CommonlyReview


    Author Interview: Blog Tour: Sunday Street Team: Katherine Glasgow talking about her book Girl in Pieces

    I'm so excited to have Katherine Glasgow on Sarcasm and Lemons today talking about her brilliant and heartbreaking debut, Girl in Pieces.

    The very short, episodic chapters are unusual and very impactful.  What made you decide to write Charlotte's story in this way, rather than in a more traditional style? –

    In the first part of the book, the short paragraphs are meant to represent Charlie’s response to the world in the wake of the trauma she’s endured. Short, staccato episodes because her thoughts come in short, rapid, panicked bursts as she is trying to figure out the hospital and the other girls. The book is told in three parts, not chapters, and as Charlie moves through her experiences, her perspective on the world opens up and her thoughts necessarily get longer, too.

    What was the most difficult part about writing this book? –

    Finding time, to be honest. It took eight years, I had two babies during that time and a full-time job. I relied a lot on arts fellowships to take time off my job and to rent a little studio above a bar in Saint Paul where I wrote like mad.

    In what way is Charlotte most like you?  In what way is she the most different?  --

    Like me, Charlie is a sucker for drawing, music, and wild, beautiful, heartbroken people. Unlike me, she is an excellent artist. I like to give my characters some ability or talent that I wish I had.

    Your portrayal of mental illness feels very authentic.  What kind of research did you do on mental illness (and the psychiatric facility, in particular) to capture Charlotte's story so vividly? --

    Creeley Center is made up from the tips of its toes to the top of its head! My own time in psychiatric care was a long time ago, and we were thrown in together without regard for age or diagnosis. I assume that specialty programs like Creeley are around now, so I made one up. I did do research on post-traumatic stress disorder, MPD, and a variety of other mental illnesses/diagnoses for the hospital section. 

    What do you most hope that readers get out of reading Girl in Pieces?—


    If you're allowed to tell us, what kind of project are you working on next?—

    I signed a two-book contract so I am presently working on book 2, which at the moment involves a girl named Tiger, a girl named Cake, a horse named Opal, grief, skateboarding, and lots and lots of emojis.

    What books, young adult or otherwise, have you loved recently?

    I’m currently reading Beware That Girl, by Teresa Toten and I am pretty blown away. Other books that I’ve recently loved include The First Time She Drowned,  Last Seen Leaving, Seven Ways We Lie, Ivory and Bone, and Lily and Dunkin.

    Thanks so much! Catch Girl in Pieces this month!