Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday (240)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that allows bloggers to share which books we are most anticipating.

This week I am waiting on:  From Twinkle, With Love by Sandhya Menon (6/5/2018):

Description from Goodreads:
An aspiring teen filmmaker finds her voice and falls in love in this delightful romantic comedy from the New York Times bestselling author of When Dimple Met Rishi.

Aspiring filmmaker and wallflower Twinkle Mehra has stories she wants to tell and universes she wants to explore, if only the world would listen. So when fellow film geek Sahil Roy approaches her to direct a movie for the upcoming Summer Festival, Twinkle is all over it. The chance to publicly showcase her voice as a director? Dream come true. The fact that it gets her closer to her longtime crush, Neil Roy—a.k.a. Sahil’s twin brother? Dream come true x 2.

When mystery man “N” begins emailing her, Twinkle is sure it’s Neil, finally ready to begin their happily-ever-after. The only slightly inconvenient problem is that, in the course of movie-making, she’s fallen madly in love with the irresistibly adorkable Sahil.

Twinkle soon realizes that resistance is futile: The romance she’s got is not the one she’s scripted. But will it be enough?

Told through the letters Twinkle writes to her favorite female filmmakers, From Twinkle, with Love navigates big truths about friendship, family, and the unexpected places love can find you.
Why I’m Waiting:
First off, this sounds adorable. That description would appeal to me even if I didn’t already know this author. I loved When Dimple Met Rishi. I loved listening to this author speak at the Boston Teen Author Festival. I love that her main characters always (at least so far) are passionate about things other than romance. I love the idea of a YA book about a film director. I also love the romantic comedy aspect to it all too. Also, how cute is the cover?
What are you waiting on this week?

Monday, October 16, 2017

Wishtree by Katherine Applegate

Summary from Goodreads:
Trees can't tell jokes, but they can certainly tell stories. . . .

Red is an oak tree who is many rings old. Red is the neighborhood "wishtree"—people write their wishes on pieces of cloth and tie them to Red's branches. Along with her crow friend Bongo and other animals who seek refuge in Red's hollows, this "wishtree" watches over the neighborhood.

You might say Red has seen it all. Until a new family moves in. Not everyone is welcoming, and Red's experiences as a wishtree are more important than ever.
This book pleasantly surprised me. First off, I need to say that I love this author. She knows how to write books for children. I’ve been reading her books since I was a child. And I think I appreciate her so much more now after reading books like this one, as an adult. This book is brave, smart, and timely.
I pretty much sat down at the table with this book as my boyfriend made dinner one night. I wasn’t expecting to read this in one go, before dinner was even ready. I also don’t think I was expecting to enjoy it so much. I thought the personified tree was going to be a little gimmicky for me. And okay, it kind of was. But there are so many deeper levels to this tree besides it’s tree-like wisdom, peacefulness, and serenity.
I wasn’t expecting the deeper layers of this book. And I certainly wasn’t expecting a book with a message on immigration, acceptance, and community. Applegate expertly weaves together very short chapters (perfect for struggling readers) in the tree’s point of view. I can see this gimmick appealing to young readers and drawing them in. She educates you on trees, animals, and wildlife. And then she makes you think of trees differently, like people who live for significantly longer periods of time.
And then you start to see the world a little bit differently. Like you sum up a timeline by the things people do outside, by the kindness you witness in others, and the wishes people make. It’s also the story of an immigrant family who is struggling. The tree has seen struggling immigrant families before and wants to fix things. The tree wants to grant the wish of the little girl who wishes purely for a friend.
I love the idea of the tree involving itself in the lives of the people who live near it. I love the idea of tying wishes to a tree. I love that the tree values the community and the people more than it values itself. I love the home that the neighborhood animals make in the tree. And I love the messages that can and will be drawn from this story. The topic of acceptance is critical, and Applegate tackles it in an easy-to-read, simple way.
I wish this book were a little bit longer. By the time I was 100% invested in the story, I felt like it ended. I wish the tree spoke more. I loved the message. I loved the characters. All in all, this was a really good book. I can see schools using it in the curriculum. I give it a 9/10.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

A Good Week in Books (172)

I have had such a crazy workweek. I wasn’t even sure I’d be doing blog posts this week, but here I am. I’m going to be busy with lots of work stuff this weekend, so I’m even putting this together early. I finished one great middle grade book. I started an excellent audio book. And I’m reading the newest John Green book right now, and I’m in love with it. Seriously, I would be lost without books. I’m so thrilled to have such great books to read this fall and I know my work-crazed brain would not be nearly as calm as it is without such great reads.
I received 3 new book for review, courtesy of Macmillan. And I’m feeling so lucky right now to have such a large, enticing TBR shelf.
The books:

The Librarian of Auschwitz
by Antonio Iturbe
Berserker by Emmy Laybourne
Cast No Shadow by Nick Tapalansky and Anissa Espinosa

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Murder, Magic, and What We Wore by Kelly Jones

Summary from Goodreads:
The year is 1818, the city is London, and our heroine, 16-year-old Annis Whitworth, has just learned that her father is dead and all his money is missing. And so, of course, she decides to become a spy.

Annis always suspected that her father was a spy, so following in his footsteps to unmask his killer makes perfect sense. Alas, it does not make sense to England’s current spymasters—not even when Annis reveals that she has the rare magical ability to sew glamours: garments that can disguise the wearer completely.

Well, if the spies are too pigheaded to take on a young woman of quality, then Annis will take them on.

She’ll follow the clues her father left behind and discover what befell him.

She’ll prove she can sew an impenetrable disguise.

She’ll earn a living without stooping to become a—shudder—governess.

It can’t be any harder than navigating the London social season, can it?
This is one of those rare books that I purchased for the library having read no prior reviews for. The title, alone, is what appealed to me. And then when it came in, I finished processing it, and put a hold on it right away. I knew it would be something for me. Can the title get any better? Thank goodness the book was just as good as I thought it would be, and then some.
Imagine Jane Austin mixed with Maria V Snyder, mixed with Meg Cabot, and mixed with Project Runway. I love historical fiction that involves magic and hidden feminism. I’m not a huge spy story fan. But, there’s something about a story with lady spies that really appeals to me. Add lady spies with hidden magical sewing powers, and a murder mystery involving Napoleon, and well, this book was just fabulous.
There were a few moments when I had to re-read certain pieces of dialogue because things were often said that I didn’t pick up on. And this was annoying. Also annoying was one twist that I found painstakingly obvious since the first chapter. I wish the author made things with a certain surprise spy a little less obvious.
I loved Annis. I loved her dreams. I loved her relationship with her maid, and how highly she viewed her maid’s safety and needs. I loved that Annis couldn’t do everything. For instance, throwing knives seemed impossible for her. She was a little silly and na├»ve at times, but this was okay because she was always willing to learn from her mistakes and grow.
I loved the disguises, the balls, the subterfuge, and the wit behind everything. This book was smart. Ladies were smart. Every chapter starts with a famous quote, and a little explanation by Annis.
Some things felt a little bit far-fetched, like all the ladies coming together at a ball to heed the words of what happened to a maid behind closed doors. But, I do like that the author did make Annis register that when she was disguised as a maid, people did not respect her. Her safety was always in question. People would spill things on her without apology. And her voice did not matter as much. Little historic truths did come out. It wasn’t all pretty dresses and fun disguised adventures.
I read this super quickly, despite how easy it was to put down after each short chapter. I just had so much fun reading this that I was smiling the whole time. My jaw actually hurt at one point from all the smiling while reading that was going on. I loved the concept of the story. I loved the historical setting. I loved the magic and the network of spies. I loved the characters. There were a few little things that annoyed me, but all in all, this was a great read. I give it a 9/10.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday (241)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that allows bloggers to share which books we are most anticipating.

This week I am waiting on:  Puddin’ by Julie Murphy (5/8/2018):

Description on Goodreads:
It is a companion novel to Dumplin', which follows supporting characters from the first book in the months after Willowdean's star turn in the Clover City pageant.

Millie Michalchuk has gone to fat camp every year since she was a girl. Not this year. This year she has new plans to chase her secret dream—and to kiss her crush. Callie Reyes is the pretty girl who is next in line for dance team captain and has the popular boyfriend. But when it comes to other girls, she’s more frenemy than friend. When circumstances bring the girls together over the course of a semester, they will surprise everyone (especially themselves) by realizing they might have more in common than they ever imagined.
Why I’m Waiting:
I had no idea there was a sequel in the works! I loved Dumplin’. I remember reading and thinking, Finally! I do have to admit that I will need to re-read it to get familiar with the characters again, before reading this new one. But, that’s just a good excuse to go back to a book that I loved. I can’t wait to see what will happen next. And I love that the covers remain consistent!
What are you waiting on this week?

Monday, October 9, 2017

Ms. Marvel, Vol. 7: Damage Per Second by G. Willow Wilson

Summary from Goodreads:
Civil War II is behind her, and a brand new chapter for Kamala Khan is about to begin! But it's lonely out there for a super hero when her loved ones no longer have her back. It's time for Kamala to find out exactly who she is when she is on her own. Plus: it's election time! Kamala gets out the vote!
I love Ms. Marvel. Earlier this week, my boyfriend and I were discussing the influx of superhero shows on TV this year and how we both wished that these major networks would talk more to the fans and listen to the shows we would go gaga over. Like instead of 3 shows coming out that all look like similar variations of X-Men, why not something else? The first thing that came to mind when I was asked, who I wanted to see on TV was Ms. Marvel.  Seriously, TV networks, we are tired of the same hero shows! More girl heroes please (and not just in groups with guys heroes, but alone)!
I recommend Ms Marvel all the time to comic, graphic novel, and even manga readers at my library. The fun, modern plot, the Muslim family setting, the girl power and friendships, and even the little inkling of romance in these is just so amazing.
That being said, this might have been my least favorite volume so far. It wasn’t terrible. I just didn’t compare to some of the previous installments. Like always, there were 3 storylines. The first one was about getting people to vote. At first I liked this. I was like, yes! Finally, something that shows the importance of voting in YA! But, then, it got a little too preachy for me. I wanted to read about how voting was important without getting a secret lesson also. And I can see teens feeling this way too.
The second story was more fun. It was about a virus that started in Kamala’s online game. The virus leads to mass cyber-bullying and all kinds of black mail, terror, and kind of plausible destruction. I liked that Kamala had to learn to figure things out on her own (with one phone call to someone who’s noticeably ignoring her). I liked the sense of online friendship in this one, and how strangers (that only know each other from gaming) came together to save the world.
The last story was in Bruno’s point of view, and it involved the Black Panther, which is super cool (especially considering his movie that is coming soon). That being said, his adventure just wasn’t as interesting as any of Kamala’s. The only times I put the book down were during Bruno’s adventures. He just seems too overdramatically angsty. While I appreciate him finally seeming to come to in his story, I also wish this didn’t have to happen so far away from Ms. Marvel.
All in all this volume was fun, fast-paced, and filled with drama. I wasn’t as into Bruno’s journey, as I was Kamala’s. I also didn’t super enjoy being “taught a lesson” about voting in the first part. But the second story, made up for all the down parts of the other two stories. The gaming aspect to it all was so much fun. I give this volume a 7/10. I know the next volume will be better.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

Summary from Goodreads:
Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men.

But as Monty embarks on his Grand Tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy.

Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, he vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.
What’s the opposite of reading slump? A reading party-cruise? I’ve seriously been loving all the books I’ve been reading lately, particularly this one. There’s a lot of hype for this one. I haven’t heard anything negative about it at all. And I kind of dove into it blind, despite this. I didn’t know the extent of what it would cover. And honestly, I’ve never been a big historical fiction reader. I’m so glad I took everyone’s slight nudging of the book into my lap seriously. Also, thank you to the random, exasperated employee of HarperCollins who allowed me to take a hard cover copy of this book at ALA. I asked her what they were doing with all the hard covers of it (on a whim) and she said, “Just take it.”
I’m glad all the fates worked together and I read it and even got it signed at the Boston Teen Author Festival. It just felt like I was meant to read the book. And it was wonderful. I absolutely adored Monty. He reminded me so much of a favorite character of mine from Vampire Academy: Adrian. Both are tortured souls who come off as rakish upper society failures. And both are capable of extreme growth, love, and accomplishment.
I fell in love with Monty right away (even when he was coming off as a rakish failure). I loved that he saw his European tour as his last year of freedom. I loved his friendship with his long time crush: Percy. I also loved his sister, who was constantly reading and saving everyone with her medical knowledge and all-around knowhow. I loved the three of them together. I couldn’t wait to get to the part of the book that delved into the whole “manhunt” thing mentioned in the summary.
Thankfully, I did not have to wait too long. This book has a bit of everything: romance, adventure, witty banter, suspense, highway men, gun wounds, pirates, cross-continental travels, gambling, drinking, stealing, alchemy, and escape. There seriously was never a dull moment –something I wish for all historical fiction books. And in the background of it all are tougher topics of racism, sexism, prejudice, abuse, and fear. Monty is essentially a bisexual in a time when the word doesn’t even exist yet. And his best friend Percy is constantly picked on, sneered at, belittled, and looked over because of the hue of his skin. Felicity has the mind of a doctor, but isn’t even allowed into medical related lectures because of her sex. And despite that, or maybe even partially because of that, the three make a powerfully intelligent and heartwarming trio.
There’s also this rather fantastical element of the story that revolves around alchemy and wanting to cure a friend’s illness. There’s secret code boxes, bone keys, creepy, bone made crypts, and sinking islands. This element of the story kept me even more riveted. I loved the darkness to it all. I loved the lengths characters were taking to seize control of such power.
All in all, this book had everything: awesome characters, excellent setting, crazy adventures, a tiny bit of fantastical magic, interesting issues, and plenty of wit. I loved Lee’s writing style. I hope she continues to write. I’m so glad I happened upon this story. I give it a 10/10.