Thursday, June 23, 2016

Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk and read by Emily Rankin

Summary from Goodreads:
Growing up in the shadows cast by two world wars, Annabelle has lived a mostly quiet, steady life in her small Pennsylvania town. Until the day new student Betty Glengarry walks into her class. Betty quickly reveals herself to be cruel and manipulative, and while her bullying seems isolated at first, things quickly escalate, and reclusive World War I veteran Toby becomes a target of her attacks. While others have always seen Toby’s strangeness, Annabelle knows only kindness. She will soon need to find the courage to stand as a lone voice of justice as tensions mount.
This book was such a pleasant surprise. The good reviews for this one have been piling up. The book came highly recommended by a coworker who knows the author. The author lives on Cape Cod. The local papers have been singing its praises, but so have the New York Times and various other bigger fish. I knew it would be good, but I wasn’t expecting to love it so much.
I’m not generally a big historical fiction fan, particularly with middle grade. So, despite the high praise, I wasn’t expecting to love this as much as I did.  Thankfully, it was hard not to love this. The writing was beautiful, the characters were spot-on, the setting was fantastic, and I can understand why reviewers are comparing this to To Kill a Mockingbird.
The plot is actually rather simple. It’s about bullies and standing up to them. It’s about doing what you know is to be right, despite how easy it is to do the wrong thing. Annabelle is strong, intelligent, and the best kind of main character. She’s willing to suffer bullying, so her brothers won’t have to. She defends people who everyone else is so willing to judge without knowing. She stands up for the little guy.
I also love Anabelle’s family. It’s so nice to read a middle grade story where the family is not only present, but good people. I loved how tough her mom was, and how honest her father was. I even loved her snobby aunt. Seriously, each character felt like a real person. And the setting was gorgeous. I can close my eyes now, days after finishing this book, and still picture Wolf Hollow.
To top this all off, this book also just felt so relevant in today’s news. This book covers it all: hate, mental illness, war vets, PTSD, gun violence, xenophobia, and even a bit of police brutality. The book covers these things in a light, in the background, type of way where no lesson is necessarily jammed down your throat and you don’t even realize these topics are all addressed until you’re thinking about the story days later. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
A lot of these tougher topics aren’t thoroughly addressed in an outright way, and I liked this. The author lets the reader decide, think about, and address these topics on their own terms. Yet, at the same time, things aren’t sugar coated either. The story was sad enough to cause a few tears from me. And while the main characters learned a very important lesson at the end, there was no super charming, Disney happily ever after. The outcome for many plotlines was sad. This felt plausible and true too. And this in itself was another lesson: the things you do and say are important and not everything can be fixed and solved with no loss or injury.
All in all, I found this to be a remarkably strong story. It was well written, well thought out, and well put together. The setting and characters were particularly strong. The plot was a simple one, handled eloquently. Some tough topics are covered and it does get rather sad at points. This being said, I think most middle grade readers can handle it. I definitely recommend it to fans of To Kill a Mockingbird. I see this one winning awards. I give it a 10/10.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday (192)

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 The Bronze Key by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare (8/30/16):

Summary on Goodreads:
Magic can save you.
Magic can kill you.

Students at the Magisterium are supposed to be safe. Under the watchful eyes of the mages, they are taught to use magic to bring order to a chaotic world.

But now the chaos is fighting back. Call, Tamara, and Aaron should be worrying about things like pop quizzes and magic contests. Instead, after the shocking death of one of their classmates, they must track down a sinister killer… and risk their own lives in the process.

As Call, Tamara, and Aaron discover, magic can only be as good as the person who wields it. In evil hands, it has the capacity to do immeasurable harm, unless it is stopped in time.

In this striking third book of Magisterium, bestselling authors Holly Black and Cassandra Clare present us with a school where anything, good or evil, can happen, and the only way to unlock the truth is to risk everything to find it.
Why I’m Waiting:
I loved the first two books in this series. I know not everyone loves these books, but I do. They are full of magic, good characters, plenty of awesome twists, and frankly, I can’t wait to see what happens next. I’m surprised I haven’t heard more about this book because it comes out in a couple of months. The cover looks great and fits in with the rest of the books and, I’m super excited to get my hands on this next installment.

Monday, June 20, 2016

A Good Week in Books (137)

I had a fun book week. I realized that Barnes and Noble was doing a teen book weekend. I had plans to stay over at a friends house, go into Boston, celebrate my college roommates 30th birthday, and then attend a barbecue (aka: not be home at all last weekend), so attending a teen book event was going to be hard…My friends are great though and agreed to go with me to teen book trivia night, despite serious hunger. We got yummy Japanese food later though.
Of course, I aced the trivia. Yes, it was amazing to have an actual outlet for all my teen book knowledge. And I’m so glad my friends were with me for moral support. Also, one of my friends (thanks, Chris!) was way better at celebrity/movie questions than I was and he helped me out. I had pretty much read all but one of the many books asked about. And I won! I won two ARC’s, some killer swag, a 20 dollar Barnes and Noble gift card, and a voucher to hook me up with more ARC’s throughout the year (starting with my choice of one of four anticipated coming out books)! I picked Gemina! And I’m flipping out about it.
The swag: (including sampler chapters, 2 tote bags, A Fierce Reads Coloring Book, stickers and more, gift card and more:

The super awesome voucher:

The books:

The Sun is Also a Star
by Nicola Yoon (!!!!)
Kids of Appetite by David Arnold

Thanks for all this, Barnes and Noble! How was your week in books?

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday (191)

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 Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas (9/616):
Description on Goodreads:
The long path to the throne has only just begun for Aelin Galathynius. Loyalties have been broken and bought, friends have been lost and gained, and those who possess magic find themselves at odds with those who don't.

As the kingdoms of Erilea fracture around her, enemies must become allies if Aelin is to keep those she loves from falling to the dark forces poised to claim her world. With war looming on all horizons, the only chance for salvation lies in a desperate quest that may mark the end of everything Aelin holds dear.

Aelin's journey from assassin to queen has entranced millions across the globe, and this fifth installment will leave fans breathless. Will Aelin succeed in keeping her world from splintering, or will it all come crashing down?
Why I’m Waiting:
So, I know I’m a little late to the party on focusing on this book. But, I have to focus on it. Oh man, September is not that far away, yet it is at the same time!  I love the cover and that it matches nicely with the rest in the series. I kind of hate the description because it gives absolutely nothing away. It could almost be a description for book 1…I want more information. Regardless, I know I’ll love it. I have been nothing but completely impressed by this whole series, and I cannot wait for September to roll around.
What are you waiting on this week?

Monday, June 13, 2016

Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs and read by Kirby Heyborne

Summary from Goodreads:
A boy with extraordinary powers. An army of deadly monsters. An epic battle for the future of peculiardom.

The adventure that began with Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and continued in Hollow City comes to a thrilling conclusion with Library of Souls. As the story opens, sixteen-year-old Jacob discovers a powerful new ability, and soon he’s diving through history to rescue his peculiar companions from a heavily guarded fortress. Accompanying Jacob on his journey are Emma Bloom, a girl with fire at her fingertips, and Addison MacHenry, a dog with a nose for sniffing out lost children.

They’ll travel from modern-day London to the labyrinthine alleys of Devil’s Acre, the most wretched slum in all of Victorian England. It’s a place where the fate of peculiar children everywhere will be decided once and for all. Like its predecessors, Library of Souls blends thrilling fantasy with never-before-published vintage photography to create a one-of-a-kind reading experience.
Sadly, this was my least favorite book in the series. I did go about reading/listening to this one in a weird way. It’s a big book (12 discs), and I kind of wanted to see if I’d like the story as much without the spooky photographs, and I’d been on an audiobook kick, so why not? Unfortunately, I missed the photographs (though, there’s a bonus disc that includes them all). Also, so much time had gone by since I read the sequel, that it took me a while to get into things and remember who was who. Maybe I should have re-read the books first. Then add the fact that I went on vacation, half way through my reading/listening and it was weird coming back into the story when I returned, and well…that’s my weird way of saying I didn’t have the normal book experience here.
That being said, I did enjoy this book. The idea for this story is so good. I also love the characters to pieces. I love Jacob and Emma. I love the talking dog. I love Miss Peregrine. I even love the new characters. I did have trouble remembering the other peculiars that Jacob kept missing. But, it had been a long time since I read about them. If I’d re-read the beginning of the series, I’m sure I’d like them too.
Why was this one not as good as I remember the others? For starters, so much of the story felt like filler. I honestly believe this book could have been cut in half and I would have enjoyed it so much more. Too much time was spent deciding on plans, getting to their kidnapped friends, and figuring out what to do at the end. It’s sort of the rare case where I was wishing for more action, and less foresight, if that makes sense. It took me weeks to get through, granted I was away on vacation for one of those weeks, but still. It took me way to long to read.
Also, the villain was an all-time terrible cliché of a cartoon villain. I was used to interesting, dark, and uniquely fun characters. Why couldn’t the bad guy be this too? Every time he complained about no one letting him make speeches or every time he whined about his other siblings getting all the attention, I literally felt like smashing my head against a table. I mean he was one cliché away from petting a cat, doing an evil cackle, and twisting a stereotypical mustache. I was so disappointed in him. Also it didn’t make sense for someone smart enough to do all that he accomplished and planned for years to be so generically stupid.
I liked the very end. I like that things went back to the real world and Jacob had to address the fact the world with his parents in it would never accept the friend he made in the peculiar world. It felt reminiscent of an early Harry Potter novel. I was so afraid it would end before this could happen. Thankfully, this had a great final chapter that had me smiling the whole time, well after the terrifying bits at least.
All in all, I love the story and the characters. I think there was way too much unnecessary filler in the story and it got in the way of the good action sequences for me. Also, it was hard for me to picture the setting because of a lack of world-building. It took me way too long to get through this story. The evil villain was a joke. The final ending though was fantastic. I was hoping to like it more, but I am glad I read it, if anything just for that end. I give it a 7/10.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Scarlett Epstein Hates it Here by Anna Breslaw

Summary from Goodreads:
Meet Scarlett Epstein, BNF (Big Name Fan) in her online community of fanfiction writers, world-class nobody at Melville High. Her best (read: only) IRL friends are Avery, a painfully shy and annoyingly attractive bookworm, and Ruth, her weed-smoking, possibly insane seventy-three-year-old neighbor.

When Scarlett’s beloved TV show is canceled and her longtime crush, Gideon, is sucked out of her orbit and into the dark and distant world of Populars, Scarlett turns to the fanfic message boards for comfort. This time, though, her subjects aren’t the swoon-worthy stars of her fave series—they’re the real-life kids from her high school. And if they ever find out what Scarlett truly thinks about them, she’ll be thrust into a situation far more dramatic than anything she’s ever seen on TV…
I ate this up. I only heard of this book because I saw a blog tour post on another blog (thank you, The Midnight Garden). I loved the review. But more than that, I loved the mini article posted by the author at the end of the review. She wrote about social networking in a way I have not really seen it written about before. She wrote about it being good.
Basically, she said that the online universe did not create bullying. Kids were bullies way before now. The internet just gives cruel kids a newer platform to do what they already were doing. But, really social networking provides so much more good. It allows kids like Scarlett (from her book) to find friends she can’t find at school. It connects people who all like to write fan fic, or who all like to talk about YA books, or it gives kids whole communities of people to talk to when they might not have access to anyone otherwise.
Any way, this inspired me to request her book at my library. I was expecting to enjoy it. How could I not after such statements were made? The author put words to things I’ve thought about for some time, but never wrote down or really vocalized. I knew I had to like her book. I didn’t know I’d love it. I read it so quickly. I even spent some boyfriend time, reading. Thankfully, he likes to read too and didn’t mind having some quality book time with me.
Mostly, I just loved Scarlett. Her voice is so strong and sarcastic. I connected to her immediately. I’m not in the fan fiction world any more. But, I understood her. I 100% relate to her fandom and how she felt when her show was cancelled. I loved getting to read a book that touches on this. The only other one that I know of is Fangirl, which I also loved. Why isn’t there more out there?
I loved that Scarlet is independent and opinionated. I love that she holds true to her convictions. Yet, at the same time, she’s capable of learning that she can be wrong.  She knows when she makes a mistake in her writing. She knows when she needs to quit a certain moment with a certain boy. She knows she’s quick to judge other people, but wants to work on it. She’s flawed, but she wants to learn and be her best.
I love that she wasn’t afraid to talk about sexism in fiction. She legit brings to light two famous authors that everyone loves, and talks about how sexist they are. I have to admit that one of the things I love most about YA, is the lack of sexism. Yeah, it’s not perfect, but I really feel like it’s a whole genre for people who are sick of the authors mentioned in this book, sick of women getting the short end of the stick.
I also have to mention the fun fan fiction. I loved the pieces we got of Scarlett’s story. I know a lot of it was meant to be a lesson in not writing the people you know into your very public stories, but it was also super fun to read. I love how far she took things.
I also adored all the side characters. Her neighbor, Ruth, was just wonderful. I wish I had a neighbor like her growing up. I love that she taught Scarlett about feminism, and got Scarlett to be braver that I think she ordinarily would be. I also loved Scarlett’s complex relationships with her parents.
I ended up liking this one even more than I thought I would. I’m so glad I came across that blog tour post. I give it a 10/10.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday (190)

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 This Adventure Ends by Emma Mills (10/4/16):

Description on Goodreads:
Sloane isn't expecting to fall in with a group of friends when she moves from New York to Florida—especially not a group of friends so intense, so in love, so all-consuming. Yet that's exactly what happens.

Sloane becomes closest to Vera, a social-media star who lights up any room, and Gabe, Vera's twin brother and the most serious person Sloane's ever met. When a beloved painting by the twins' late mother goes missing, Sloane takes on the responsibility of tracking it down, a journey that takes her across state lines—and ever deeper into the twins' lives.

Filled with intense and important friendships, a wonderful warts-and-all family, shiveringly good romantic developments, and sharp, witty dialogue, this story is about finding the people you never knew you needed.
Why I’m Waiting:
To star with, this cover is pure gorgeousness. Second, I loved the debut novel by this author, First and Then. I was so excited to learn she was coming out with another book. And then I read the summary. It sounds so good. It sounds like what I want YA contemporaries to all be.
What are you waiting on this week?