♥ GILT by Katherine Longshore: A tale of intrigue at the court of Henry VIII and Catherine Howard, told by her best friend Kitty Tilney. I am generally fascinated by the poor doomed wives of Henry VIII, and I recommend this to all my friends who love Philippa Gregory’s The Other Boleyn Girl. There’s a bit of romance here, but the story really focuses on the friendship between Catherine and the childhood friends who are her saviors and saboteurs. I felt for Kitty and her steadfast loyalty, even when Cat doesn’t deserve it. If you know your history, reading about the poor young queen’s missteps and bad choices is like watching a frothy horror movie, all “No! Don’t do it!” And there’s a helpful author’s note to determine the fact from the fiction. (advanced copy provided by Penguin; releases May 15).
♥ SOMETHING LIKE NORMAL by Trish Doller: Travis, a Marine struggling with PTSD after his best friend’s death, comes home from Afghanistan to find his parents’ marriage crumbling, his ex dating his brother, and a girl he once wronged willing to give him a second chance. But that summary doesn’t do it justice because…TRAVIS, you guys. He is hot and sweet and funny and really struggling, and he does some colossally dumb things and some very gallant things too. He is a guy, and he sounds genuinely male in a way that many male YA narrators do not, in my experience. I also kind of want to make out with him, especially during the sea turtle scene. Also, I appreciate that while the book ends on a hopeful note, it’s not all, “HEA, he’s all better now!” It feels more honest and complicated and respectful than that. I haven’t read anything else like this in YA and I loved it. (read through the Apocalypsies ARC tour; releases June 19)
♥ SCARLET by AC Gaughen: A retelling of the Robin Hood myth from the point of view of (Will) Scarlet, a lady thief. I’ve never been particularly enamored with Robin Hood before, but oh, I couldn’t put this down. There’s a wonderful mix of action and humor and a slow-burn romance. The characters are heroic but not without their flaws: Little John is a possessive flirt, Robin is a bit of an angsty martyr, and Scarlet is a flight risk who blames herself for everything bad ever. But don’t misunderstand me; those flaws don’t make them annoying, they make them wonderfully three-dimensional. Scarlet is a heroine to root for, brave and broken, and kick-ass in a way that’s refreshingly plausible, borne out of determined necessity rather than magic. The voice is unusual (Scarlet narrates with broken grammar) but incredibly compelling. And there were two plot twists that I didn’t see coming at all! (read via NetGalley)(in stores now)
♥ BLOODROSE by Andrea Cremer: The conclusion to the NIGHTSHADE trilogy, in which Calla, Ren, Shay, and their pack wage a final battle against the Keepers. I enjoyed the first two books in the trilogy but I LOVED this one. I read it on the Breathless tour, picking it up at every spare opportunity. As a reader, I cheered like crazy when Calla came into her own as alpha, when she claimed the position for herself regardless of who she chose as her mate, earning the others’ respect. I loved how strong and independent she was, but how that didn’t preclude her from being vulnerable and open to love. I was on tenterhooks each time the pack went in to retrieve parts of the Elemental Cross, worried about characters that I’ve grown to love (Mason, Neville, Connor, and Adri are favorites); the underwater and ice cavern scenes made me squirm and cringe because of the detailed, oppressive settings. At the same time–especially as a writer–I appreciated the honesty of the very bittersweet ending: how change is effected at a heavy cost, how happiness is achieved but not without loss. (in stores now)
♥ BITTERBLUE by Kristin Cashore: LOVE. So much love. I think this might be my all-time favorite series! This is the companion book to GRACELING and FIRE, in which eighteen year old queen Bitterblue seeks to undo the damage her sadistic father Leck wrought on her kingdom. I’ve read some complaints that this book is unnecessarily convoluted, but honestly, I loved the layers and complexity of it. I’m in awe of Cashore’s world-building, the way Monsea feels so real to me in language, geography, society, government, etc. It’s not a fast read, nor an easy one — Leck perpetrated awful crimes on his people, and there are moments of genuine horror as we uncover how far those crimes went. But we also see Bitterblue grow and evolve into a more empathetic, independent, responsible young woman. Unlike Katsa and Fire, she doesn’t have a Grace or innate power to rely on. In fact, while there’s a love interest, she doesn’t have a partner to rely on either (though I have high hopes for a match happening AFTER the book ends, ahem). Cashore’s writing captures modern sensibilities but still feels timeless; it’s inclusive and feminist without treading into preachy. I’m curious to see if this will remain my favorite read of 2012! (advance copy from Penguin; releases May 1)
What about you all? What have you been reading and loving lately?