Title: Flame in the Mist (2017)
Series: Flame in the Mist – Book 1
Author: Renée Ahdieh
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Extent: 400 pages
Release Date: May 18, 2017
Mariko has always known that being a woman means she’s not in control of her own fate. But Mariko is the daughter of a prominent samurai and a cunning alchemist in her own right, and she refuses to be ignored. When she is ambushed by a group of bandits known as the Black Clan enroute to a political marriage to Minamoto Raiden – the emperor’s son – Mariko realises she has two choices: she can wait to be rescued… or she can take matters into her own hands, hunt down the clan and find the person who wants her dead.
Disguising herself as a peasant boy, Mariko infiltrates the Black Clan’s hideout and befriends their leader, the rebel ronin Ranmaru, and his second-in-command, Okami. Ranmaru and Okami warm to Mariko, impressed by her intellect and ingenuity. But as Mariko gets closer to the Black Clan, she uncovers a dark history of secrets that will force her to question everything she’s ever known.
I’ve been looking forward to Flame in the Mist ever since I finished The Rose and the Dagger last year. Shazi and Khalid’s love story was one I happily immersed myself in, and I loved every word and enjoyed every minute of it — which is why I was supremely disappointed, to say the least, that Flame in the Mist didn’t quite manage to captivate me in the same way.
Title: The Inexplicable Logic of My Life (2017)
Author: Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Publisher: Clarion Books
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Extent: 464 pages
Release Date: March 7, 2017
Everything is about to change. Until this moment, Sal has always been certain of his place with his adoptive gay father and their loving Mexican-American family. But now his own history unexpectedly haunts him, and life-altering events force him and his best friend, Samantha, to confront issues of faith, loss, and grief.
Suddenly Sal is throwing punches, questioning everything, and discovering that he no longer knows who he really is—but if Sal’s not who he thought he was, who is he?
The Inexplicable Logic of My Life is my second book from Benjamin Alire Sáenz, the first being the very popular Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, which, incidentally, I also wasn’t in love with but actually liked better. This book is the story of Salvador, a sweet, sensitive boy who lives with his gay father, as he goes through a lot of life-altering changes.
Title: Lost Stars (2016)
Author: Lisa Selin Davis
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Extent: 272 pages
Release Date: October 16, 2016
In the aftermath of her older sister’s death, sixteen-year-old Carrie is taken under the wings of her sister’s friends, and finds herself forsaking the science nerds of her former life and slipping into a daze of cheap beer and recreational drugs. Carrie – a talented guitar player and obsessive tracker of the coming Vira comet – is partying hard and fooling around with boys she doesn’t even like, even though she’s desperate for a boyfriend.
Her mother, enveloped by grief at the loss of her eldest child, has retreated to a monastery in the Catskills that requires a vow of silence. With her family splintered apart, Carrie is overcome at times by uncontrollable rages and her father decides to send her to a boot camp for wayward teens. Compounding the shame, and to her horror, she is forced to wear work boots and a hard hat – boy poison.
Then she meets Dean, a fellow musician and refugee from his own dark past. Throughout the summer Carrie learns more about Dean, about her sister’s death, about her own family’s past, and about herself…as well as about the Bee Gees, disco and the difference between wood and sheet-rock screws. Through love, music and her precious comet – and no small help from Lou Reed – Carrie fumbles her way through the complex web of tragedies and misunderstandings, to the heart of who she is and who she wants to be.
Despite the really beautiful cover and the potentially heartbreaking premise, Lost Stars did not engage me at all. I actually picked it up multiple times over a number of weeks, waiting for that moment of utter attention to strike, but after perhaps the fifth time I just gave up because it just never happened. Had this not been a review book, unfortunately, I probably would’ve DNFed it pretty early on.
Title: Openly Straight (2013)
Series: Openly Straight – Book 1
Author: Bill Konigsberg
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, LGBT
Extent: 321 pages
Release Date: May 28, 2013
Rafe is a normal teenager from Boulder, Colorado. He plays soccer. He’s won skiing prizes. He likes to write.
And, oh yeah, he’s gay. He’s been out since 8th grade, and he isn’t teased, and he goes to other high schools and talks about tolerance and stuff. And while that’s important, all Rafe really wants is to just be a regular guy. Not that GAY guy. To have it be a part of who he is, but not the headline, every single time.
So when he transfers to an all-boys’ boarding school in New England, he decides to keep his sexuality a secret — not so much going back in the closet as starting over with a clean slate. But then he sees a classmate break down. He meets a teacher who challenges him to write his story. And most of all, he falls in love with Ben… who doesn’t even know that love is possible.
How do I begin to review a book I have very, very mixed feelings about? I suppose we’ll start with a summary. Openly Straight is the story of Rafe, who moves to an all-boys boarding school far away from home because he is tired of being known as The Gay Guy. At this new school, he hangs out with people he wouldn’t normally hang out with, hides parts of himself, and essentially “reinvents” himself.
Title: Life in a Fishbowl (2017)
Author: Len Vlahos
Publisher: Bloomsbury Childrens
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Extent: 336 pages
Release Date: January 12, 2017
Jackie’s life wasn’t perfect, but it was normal. That is, until her dad got a terminal cancer diagnosis. Then went and did what anyone faced with mountains of medical bills and a family to support would do: he sold his life to the highest bidder.
Which turned out to be a TV station.
Suddenly everyone from psychotic millionaires to cyber-savvy nuns wants a piece of Jackie’s family as they become a reality TV sensation. Her life spirals out of control just as her dad’s starts to run out and meanwhile the whole world is tuning in to watch her family fall apart…
2016 was the year I discovered reality television. The years before, I would catch some episodes of My Kitchen Rules, MasterChef, and The Bachelor/ette but never really stayed, having barely any attachment to the characters. Last year, though, I started watching these things from the very start and very quickly got sucked in. I rooted for my favourite contestants and ‘boo’-ed those I didn’t like. I sat glued to the TV, scrolling through the relevant Twitter hashtag. I was, put simply, obsessed — which was why Life in a Fishbowl should have been right up my alley.