Thursday, December 14, 2017

Foolish Hearts by Emma Mills

Summary from Goodreads:
A contemporary novel about a girl whose high school production of A Midsummer Night's Dream leads her to new friends—and maybe even new love.

The day of the last party of the summer, Claudia overhears a conversation she wasn't supposed to. Now on the wrong side of one of the meanest girls in school, Claudia doesn't know what to expect when the two are paired up to write a paper—let alone when they're both forced to try out for the school production of A Midsummer Night's Dream.

But mandatory participation has its upsides—namely, an unexpected friendship, a boy band obsession, and a guy with the best dimpled smile Claudia's ever seen. As Claudia's world starts to expand, she finds that maybe there are some things worth sticking her neck out for.
As I recently said on Goodreads, Emma Mills Is magic. Like if Sarah Dessen and Stephanie Perkins had a YA love child, it would be her. My heart melts just remembering what I put down. I loved this book.
The funny thing is it always takes me a little while to sink into these books. But once, I sink, I can’t manage to ever really escape out of them. I was on the first few chapters for a few days. But, today, on my day off, I just sat and read practically the whole thing –chores be damned. I could not put this book down.
The characters and the dialog just feel so real. They are all flawed in realistic and believable ways. I know and love someone who reminds me so much of Iris. And I saw myself so much in Claudia. To this day, I’m always underselling myself. Because of a few bad experiences, it’s always been super hard for me to believe that I deserve all the good things that I have. I understand not wanting to try something new because a part of you feels like you’re not worth it and it will eventually end because you’re not worth it.
There’s a lot of times in YA books where I get super annoyed with the angsty feelings of the main character. And I can see other readers maybe feeling this way here, but I don’t. I feel like I am Claudia in so many ways –in less brave ways. I wish I had an Iris to point me in the right direction when I was younger.
I also love Claudia’s family and small group of friends. I love that they all play an online game together. I love the sibling relationships. It’s weird saying this, but it’s always so refreshing to see nice, healthy families in YA books. Surprise surprise, a girl can have a lot to figure out and grow up about, while having a nice family supporting her.
I was also an English major. Aka: I love all things Shakespeare. So, having A Midsummer’s Night Dream in the background was pretty amazing. I especially loved how Claudia was able to break down the language for her fellow teens to understand. She ended up becoming a Shakespeare coach, and I loved it. I loved her interpretations of the play. And I loved the juxtoposition of the play with all the drama/romances of reality. That in itself is a lot like A Midsummer’s Night Dream, which had a play within the play –all to do with love, in various forms.
On top of that, one of my favorite tropes is the one where hatred (or a strong dislike) ends in love, or in this case, strong friendship. Iris and Claudia had such a great friendship that started in hate. They were kind of forced together in an assignment, which led to the play, which led to them becoming friends. I loved that Claudia introduced her online game to Iris. And Iris introduced her boy band obsession to Claudia. And neither girl judged the other too strongly for their respective obsessions.
What Mills probably excels at, above all else is her dialog. The snarky commentary and sass to her characters never came off as too much or too cheesy (as tends to happen a lot in YA). It came off as just right. And no two characters sounded the same. Iris’s sassiness was not the same as Claudia’s or Zoe’s. And Gideon is so charismatic and interesting, but not too much that he’s unbelievable. I guess what I’m getting at is that everything felt authentic. And I genuinely felt like I knew these characters like people.
All in all, I loved this. I read most of it in a few hours. I loved the play inside the story. I loved the characters. I loved the romances. I loved the banter and dialog. I loved the family relationships. And basically Emma Mills has proved herself to be a force in the YA contemporary world. I give this a 10/10.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Waitinf on Wednesday (248)

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: Willa of the Wood by Robert Beatty (7/3/18):

Description on Goodreads:
From #1 New York Times bestselling author Robert Beatty comes a spooky, thrilling new series set in the magical world of Serafina.

Move without a sound. Steal without a trace.
Willa, a young nightspirit of the Great Smoky Mountains, is her clan's best thief. She creeps into the homes of day-folk in the cover of darkness and takes what they won't miss. It's dangerous work-the day-folk kill whatever they do not understand. But when Willa's curiosity leaves her hurt and stranded in a day-folk man's home, everything she thought she knew about her people-and their greatest enemy-is forever changed.
Why I’m Waiting:
I loved the Serafina books. Seriously, the magical darkness, the setting, the characters, and the history of it all was just wonderful. I loved the sense of family in it too. This sounds like another great book with an interesting family too. I can’t wait to read what this author writes next. And it all takes place in the same world! I cannot wait to read this one.

What are you waiting on this week?

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: The Ship of the Dead by Rick Riordan and read by Michael Crouch

Summary from Goodreads:
Magnus Chase, a once-homeless teen, is a resident of the Hotel Valhalla and one of Odin's chosen warriors. As the son of Frey, the god of summer, fertility, and health, Magnus isn't naturally inclined to fighting. But he has strong and steadfast friends, including Hearthstone the elf, Blitzen the dwarf, and Samirah the Valkyrie, and together they have achieved brave deeds, such as defeating Fenris Wolf and battling giants for Thor's hammer, Mjolnir. Now Magnus and his crew must sail to the farthest borders of Jotunheim and Niflheim in pursuit of Asgard's greatest threat. Will they succeed in their perilous journey, or is Ragnarok lurking on the horizon?
I always think I’ve had enough of this author, but something pulls me back in with each book he writes. I have nothing against Riordan. In fact, I have nothing but respect for the worlds he’s created and the kids he’s inspired to read. He is very formulaic and I always think for some reason that there is no way for his formula to possibly appeal to me again, but it does.  And honestly, this is one of my favorite books he’s written so far.
I love Norse mythology. I had zero to no knowledge of it ahead of reading these books and I love that these books have introduced me to some stories I didn’t know. I love the Norse Gods and how different, yet similar they are to the Greek and Roman ones of Riordan’s other books. But more than the Gods, I love the other characters and creatures. I love the elves and dwarves, and even the giants.
I’m not going to lie; the major reason I loved this book so much was my ship sailed! I was shipping two characters that I really thought were not going to end up together. I shipped them because I sensed this spark between them from the beginning. I loved that they made each other better people –more understanding and kinder. And I totally would have understood if Riordan kept this as a friendship that worked in this way, but I was secretly hoping he’d take it further. And he did! I shipped them as much, if not more than Percy and Annabeth, and like I never shipped any of the characters in his last series (where everyone paired off).
There was this kiss that happened. I literally had to pause the disc (by this point I brought them all into my house from my car because I couldn’t stop listening). All I did for five minutes was squee like a fangirl and hug a pillow to my chest in unexpected happiness.
Romance aside, the story was epic. I loved the whole arc about the mead and needing to best Loki in a match of words. Some of Magnus’ speech almost read like an homage to Harry Potter for me. The whole thing about love and friendship being what makes him better than Loki, was just so classic JK Rowling that I had nostalgia tears in my eyes, in a good way.
I love Magnus. I love that he knows he’s not a warrior and I love having the main character not be a warrior. I love that he genuinely admires and respects his crew. He wants to know all of them, and through this book, he really gets to know them. I loved the continued back-stories for old friends. And I super loved getting more story for other characters too. There was another moment (in Norway) that had me thinking of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and I know that Riordan reads a lot of great books.
Some of the ending battle scenes with the undead and the cold literally had me pacing while listening. The suspense and action, as always, was spot-on. I love the mythology. I loved the characters. I incredibly adored the romance. All in all, this was possibly my favorite Riordan book to date (formula and all). I give it a 10/10

Monday, December 11, 2017

Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde

Summary from Goodreads:
Three friends, two love stories, one convention: this fun, feminist love letter to geek culture is all about fandom, friendship, and finding the courage to be yourself.

Charlie likes to stand out. She’s a vlogger and actress promoting her first movie at SupaCon, and this is her chance to show fans she’s over her public breakup with co-star Reese Ryan. When internet-famous cool-girl actress Alyssa Huntington arrives as a surprise guest, it seems Charlie’s long-time crush on her isn’t as one-sided as she thought.

Taylor likes to blend in. Her brain is wired differently, making her fear change. And there’s one thing in her life she knows will never change: her friendship with her best guy friend Jamie—no matter how much she may secretly want it to. But when she hears about a fan contest for her favorite fandom, she starts to rethink her rules on playing it safe.

Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde, chosen by readers like you for Macmillan's young adult imprint Swoon Reads, is an empowering novel for anyone who has ever felt that fandom is family.
I knew I was going to love this one. This book represents so much of what we are lacking in YA. It’s diverse. It tackles mental health. It covers fandoms in a way I’ve hoped and dreamed of in YA for some time. And it all takes place at a convention. Needless to say, the book would have to be all sorts of terrible if I didn’t like it. Thank goodness, I ate it up.
Reading it felt like attending my first con all over again –except maybe better. My first con was New York Comic Con –when I was in college and only just discovering fandoms and even what my fandoms were. Mine, was believe it or not, possibly more dramatic than the one in this book. It involved some serious ins and outs with my then boyfriend. And like Taylor, I’m not usually someone who loves giant crowds of people. It also involved me seriously taking a look at my life and what I wanted out of it, and realizing who my true friends were. So, I totally and 100% get how lives can change at these cons.
Also take note, when I went to Comic Con in New York, we bought tickets the day of…I’m pretty sure today you have to take a fan test to even qualify to get tickets –which are not sold at the door. And when I went, I had no idea what I was getting into and what I’d discover. It led to me going to other cons like Boston Anime Con and Leaky Con (my real fandom) and later ALA, Boston Comic Con, Walker Stalker Con, and BEA. And while there’s a lot of things I remember with a sour taste in my mouth from that weekend at my first con, I probably would never have had the courage to go into the big crowds I belonged to later, if I had never experienced it to begin with.
Needless to say, Taylor was like my spirit animal. And Jamie is like the dream guy all geeky girls dream about. But, weirdly, my favorite moments of the book were the ones that centered on Charlie. I became obsessed. I loved her character. I loved her star quality and her shine. And I super fell for her love story. Reading about her felt like guilty pleasure reading about the love life of Taylor Swift. It felt like celebrity gossip.
So, this book seriously had a lot going for it. It took place at a con and described the con in such a true to life way. The love stories were awesome. Sometimes it read like gossip magazines, in a good way. It was diverse and full of growing up moments. The one thing that did nag it me a little, throughout, was some of the cheesiness. Sometimes the snarky dialog came off as cheesy and not funny and sarcastic (like I think the author intended). There’s a lot of clichés in the conversations between Taylor and Jamie and not enough substance. And a lot of her Taylor’s online postings were super cheesy too. I wanted more substance there also. Though, I guess, she did always sound like a teen.
All in all though, this was amazing. I loved the concept. I super related to everything. And I could not put it down. I give it a 9/10.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Knife's Edge by Hope Larson and art by Rebecca Mock

Summary from Goodreads:
At the end of Compass South, twins Cleo and Alex were been reunited with their father, Mr. Dodge, on the ship Anita after a battle with the pirate Worley. Now, Cleo explains to Dodge and Alex that the pocket knife and pocket watch they have are keys to a treasure. So begins Knife's Edge, the second installment in Hope Larson's Four Points series—another high-speed story of treasure, family, and of course adventure on the high seas.
So, I read this book even faster than I read the first one. Thank goodness, I had both books and didn’t have to wait for the sequel to come out because that would have been a hard wait. I read this in one sitting. I liked it even more than I liked book 1.
For starters, this read a bit more like a family book than the first one did. The first one had a separated family. This one starts with the family back together again. And I loved this! I missed the other set of twins, though, I have to admit, things weren’t quite as confusing without them. I wasn’t as confused by which twin I was reading, as I was before. Granted, they were together a lot.
I also like that there are no evil captains or kidnappers –for the most part the twins are on a ship with a good captain. They are reunited with another long lost family member. And basically, this book is more about finding the treasure than it is about surviving all the predators out there. There still are predators: bad pirates are still on their trail and there are sharks too, but it never feels quite as bleak as the first book did.

What is different is how the characters handle and address Cleopatra. She is known to be a girl now. And she has to manage a family that’s not used to her being so wild and free. She has to fight for the right to be taught to use a sword. It’s interesting to watch her and her twin bicker about protection and what not. She rightly knows she can protect herself. He wasn’t with her on her past adventures and it’s fun watching them re-acquaint themselves with their newer versions. I also like that they forgive another character that was unkind to them in the first book, and he becomes one of their family/crew pretty quickly.

I like that this one deals with native peoples and storytelling. I loved watching the artist handle the storytelling –she made the stories float above the characters. Visually, this was pretty awesome. I also enjoyed getting the evil pirate’s story. His background was so interesting. All the gaps were filled in about the twins’ background also. There was still lots of sword fighting, sailing, pirates, battles, and treasure. The adventures were just as fun, if not more so.
All in all, this was a great sequel. It reads super fast. I loved the added family dynamics. I love the emphasis on stories and forgiveness. I loved learning about the twins’ history. The artwork was beautiful. I loved this. I give it a 9/10.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday (247)

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: Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli (4/24/18):

Description on Goodreads:
Leah Burke—girl-band drummer, master of deadpan, and Simon Spier’s best friend from the award-winning Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda—takes center stage in this novel of first love and senior-year angst.

When it comes to drumming, Leah Burke is usually on beat—but real life isn’t always so rhythmic. An anomaly in her friend group, she’s the only child of a young, single mom, and her life is decidedly less privileged. She loves to draw but is too self-conscious to show it. And even though her mom knows she’s bisexual, she hasn’t mustered the courage to tell her friends—not even her openly gay BFF, Simon.

So Leah really doesn’t know what to do when her rock-solid friend group starts to fracture in unexpected ways. With prom and college on the horizon, tensions are running high. It’s hard for Leah to strike the right note while the people she loves are fighting—especially when she realizes she might love one of them more than she ever intended.
Why I’m Waiting:
I only just discovered Becky Albertalli this year. And I’ve already re-read one of her books –with plans to re-read the other. I’ve also given her books as presents to people and I’m eagerly anticipating the movie that’s coming next year/secretly hoping the movie does it justice. I was both shocked and unbelievably excited to learn that Simon was getting a sequel. It’s not often that greatness can be followed with more greatness. I remember really liking Leah, and I’m glad she gets a more flushed out story. I can’t wait to re-visit other characters too. Basically, I just can’t wait.
What are you waiting on this week?

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Compass South by Hope Larson and art by Rebecca Mock

Summary from Goodreads:
It’s 1860 in New York City. When 12-year-old twins Alexander and Cleopatra’s father disappears, they join the Black Hook Gang and are caught by the police pulling off a heist. They agree to reveal the identity of the gang in exchange for tickets to New Orleans. But once there, Alex is shanghaied to work on a ship that is heading for San Francisco via Cape Horn. Cleo stows away on a steamer to New Granada where she hopes to catch a train to San Francisco to find her brother. Neither Alexander nor Cleo realizes the real danger they are in — they are being followed by pirates who think they hold the key to treasure. How they outwit the pirates and find each other makes for a fast-paced, breathtaking adventure.
This is just what I needed; something light, fast-paced, and full of adventure. I’ve really gotten into graphic novels again this year. With books like this one, it’s easy to see why. The genre just keep expanding and pushing limits. And the artwork just keeps getting better.
The story kind of reads like a classic almost Charles Dickens orphan tale. There are twins with MIA parents. All they have of their parents are two items: a knife and a compass. A gang takes them in. They quickly betray the gang to save each other. Then they embark on an adventure to end all adventures. They want to get to San Francisco because of an ad in the paper from a father trying to find his twin red-headed sons. Cleopatra of course chops off her hair to disguise as a son and they want to go after the reward. The twins end up separated on two different ships, with pirates following them because apparently the compass and knife hold the key to a buried treasure. There’s sword fighting, pirates, secret codes, friendships, sailing, narrow escapes, kidnapping, and so much more.
It was hard to put the book down and I read it really fast. There was this old school vibe to the whole thing –like there were pieces of Charles Dickens and Robert Louis Stevenson. There were no fantastical elements, but it read a bit like a fantasy novel –with all the elements of a grand quest and all the high stakes sword fights one could possibly want.
The art was masterful. The illustrations really carried the plot along. I loved getting to see the sea, the ships, and the adventure through the artwork. Sometimes it was hard telling the two twins apart. I know this was intentional. But, really, it pulled me out of the story sometimes because I had to figure out who I was following.
There were some major gaps to the story about the twins’ background and how they get to be carrying the knife and compass. I had so many questions still at the end. Though, I know there’s a book 2. And by the time this posts, I’ll be long done with it, so hopefully those gaps get filled. All in all, this was a fun, easy to read distraction of a book. I’m definitely looking forward to reading book 2. This gets an 8/10.  

Monday, December 4, 2017

The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo

Summary from Goodreads:
Love speaks in flowers. Truth requires thorns.

Travel to a world of dark bargains struck by moonlight, of haunted towns and hungry woods, of talking beasts and gingerbread golems, where a young mermaid's voice can summon deadly storms and where a river might do a lovestruck boy's bidding but only for a terrible price.

Inspired by myth, fairy tale, and folklore, #1 New York Times–bestselling author Leigh Bardugo has crafted a deliciously atmospheric collection of short stories filled with betrayals, revenge, sacrifice, and love.

Perfect for new readers and dedicated fans, these tales will transport you to lands both familiar and strange—to a fully realized world of dangerous magic that millions have visited through the novels of the Grishaverse.

This collection of six stories includes three brand-new tales, all of them lavishly illustrated with art that changes with each turn of the page, culminating in six stunning full-spread illustrations as rich in detail as the stories themselves.
I’m not generally a big fan of stories or novellas that take place between novels –set in the same world as an author’s bigger series. Needless to say, I had not read any of these stories before. I’m so glad I got to read them for the first time in this format because the format is beautiful. The illustrations in here are just gorgeous. They are the stuff of dreams that any author would hope for.
And I know these are big words, but I have to say them; this is my favorite book by Leigh Bardugo. This book was pure fun to read. Sometimes books of short stories are too easy to put down –because of the large breaks between stories. This book was not like that. I just quickly devoured one story and then another. They were that good. I also just want to take a moment right now to relish the fact that we have a book of fantasy short stories, period. This is such a rare treat.
Also a treat, the worlds Bardugo weaves together with her dark, magical words. She excels at accomplishing the dark fairytale feel. Reading them felt like reading Brother’s Grimm fairy tales. Yet, they also felt uniquely special. They all tended to have endings different from what I was accustomed to. They also all tended to favor a strong female protagonist or antagonist. They were also all tales based off of, or with elements of ones I know.
I loved the first tale: “Ayama and the Thorn Wood.” It was a story filled with stories, and I always tend to favor those. I loved how it opened up everything and worked as the perfect first story. I also love how some of Bardugo’s stories appear to be about one thing, and then end up being something else entirely. I love the twist Bardugo gave to the Little Red Riding Hood story. I was pleasantly shocked and in awe of how that one resolved. And I think my favorite story of all was “The Soldier Prince.” It’s not often one gets to read retellings of the Nutcracker. What a dark, twisty version of that story it was too. I kept thinking, how did she come up with this, while reading it.
I also have major appreciation of the last story, “When Water Sang Fire.”  I fell hopelessly and helplessly in love with the mermaids. I loved the elements of friendship. It made me think of the musical, Wicked, on many levels, even though it was such a little mermaid origin story. This was a story I guessed correctly on the outcome for. Normally, this would bother me because I was so surprised throughout. But, I kind of liked knowing this one; it helped me get through some of the tough stuff that happened at the end of it.
All of the tales are dark, twisty, and fun. I love the sense of feminism present throughout it all. I love the sense of magic and how things are rarely what they seem. I fell head over heals for the words. The writing is beautiful. The illustrations fit everything perfectly. I couldn’t wait to see how the illustrations changed throughout each story. It was quite impressive. All in all, Bardugo created an excellent book of redone fairytales. You don’t need to be familiar with her other work to appreciate it. You just need to love dark fairy tales. I give it a 10/10.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

The book of Dust by Philip Pullman

Summary from Goodreads:
Eleven-year-old Malcolm Polstead and his dæmon, Asta, live with his parents at the Trout Inn near Oxford. Across the River Thames (which Malcolm navigates often using his beloved canoe, a boat by the name of La Belle Sauvage) is the Godstow Priory where the nuns live. Malcolm learns they have a guest with them, a baby by the name of Lyra Belacqua . . .
I feel like I have been waiting 15 years for this book. I kind of have been. I first read The Golden Compass for a high school book club, when I believe I was 16. I fell so in love with the book that I made my dad drive me to Barnes and Noble, find the next two in the series, and then purchase them all for me before I was even half way through it. I knew it would be a long-time favorite. And I was right. Since, I have re-read the series several times. I’ve listened to the audio books. I even dressed as The Amber Spyglass one year for Halloween. I had two other friends dressed as the rest of the series.
I get asked the question “What should I read next, after loving Harry Potter?” The Golden Compass is almost always my number one go-to for this question. That being said, I was a little skeptical going into this book. I don’t always respond well to authors revisiting series that have for a long time been completed. It’s hit or miss. But out of all my years of book geekdom, for all the times I was asked if there could be one book/one series that an author returned to, I always, always said I wished it was this one. I always wanted more. I wanted more hope for Will and Lyra. I wanted more answers about dust. I wanted more answers about the worlds and the universe. And finally, at some point last year, I learned that Pullman was returning to Lyra’s Oxford.
This book takes place when Lyra is a baby. It’s the story of how she came to be at Jordan College. And while it’s not the extended, happier ending I’ve been dreaming about since I was 16, it’s at least something. And I know there will be two more books. And I know Pullman is eventually going to get past the ending of The Amber Spyglass.
Keeping this all in mind, I knew this wasn’t going to be the book I was hoping for. I wasn’t hoping to see Lyra as a baby. Was anyone? But I read it, knowing the book I want will eventually happen. I wish I could say this book makes the wait better or easier. I was slightly disappointed.
It still felt the same. The world, the concept, the plot, and all of it read like it was part of the original series. And for that, I’m eternally grateful. It smelled and tasted like canon. That being said, it was extraordinarily slow. The first half of the book was about setting everything up in the second half of the book. It was about crazy, terrible things the Magisterium was requesting of children. It was about spying. It was about the every day of an extraordinary world (before everything is touched by adventure).
It’s also a lot darker than the previous series. There’s characters with mental illness. There’s sex and rape. There’s kidnapping and natural disasters. It’s the grittier side of Oxford, the side Lyra never had to see.
All of this darker, grittier stuff is certainly interesting. It was also kind of exciting to see the younger versions of characters I’ve known for 15 years. Lord Asriel, Mrs. Coulter, and the Gyptians all brought a smile to my face. I kept waiting for another character who might turn up, and that was fun. I also thought the second half of the book was un-put-downable. Once Malcom and Alice were on the boat, it was one non-stop magical, suspenseful adventure.
The first half did drag. I almost put the book down and stopped reading several times. It was only my knowledge of a better second half (from reading reviews) that kept me dedicated. And I’m glad I stayed with it. I really am. It did feel like it took Pullman a little time to get used to this world again. Like the dragged-on details of the town were him getting re-acquainted with it all too.
All in all, I enjoyed this. It’s not the book I’ve been dreaming of –hopefully that will come soon. It had a very slow first half. And the second half picked up drastically. The world was darker, grittier, and more developed than ever before. The new characters were good. I grew to love them by the end. And best of all, it felt like the other books. I got to return to a world I never thought I’d have this chance to return to. I give it an 8/10.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday (246)

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: Queen of Air and Darkness by Cassandra Clare (12/4/18):

Description on Goodreads:
Dark secrets and forbidden love threaten the very survival of the Shadowhunters in Cassandra Clare’s Queen of Air and Darkness, the final novel in the #1 New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling The Dark Artifices trilogy.

What if damnation is the price of true love?

Innocent blood has been spilled on the steps of the Council Hall, the sacred stronghold of the Shadowhunters. In the wake of the tragic death of Livia Blackthorn, the Clave teeters on the brink of civil war. One fragment of the Blackthorn family flees to Los Angeles, seeking to discover the source of the blight that is destroying the race of warlocks. Meanwhile, Julian and Emma take desperate measures to put their forbidden love aside and undertake a perilous mission to Faerie to retrieve the Black Volume of the Dead. What they find in the Courts is a secret that may tear the Shadow World asunder and open a dark path into a future they could never have imagined. Caught in a race against time, Emma and Julian must save the world of Shadowhunters before the deadly power of the parabatai curse destroys them and everyone they love.
Why I’m Waiting:
I love these books. I’m dying to know what happens next. These characters feel like old friends to me. And my heart just broke a little learning that this book was the last one in this series. The cover is gorgeous. The romance is sure to be sizzling. And I can’t wait to see how things resolve for Julian and Emma.
What are you waiting on this week?

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Spinning by Tillie Walden

Summary from Goodreads:
Poignant and captivating, Ignatz Award winner Tillie Walden's powerful graphic memoir, Spinning, captures what it's like to come of age, come out, and come to terms with leaving behind everything you used to know.

It was the same every morning. Wake up, grab the ice skates, and head to the rink while the world was still dark.

Weekends were spent in glitter and tights at competitions. Perform. Smile. And do it again.

She was good. She won. And she hated it.

For ten years, figure skating was Tillie Walden's life. She woke before dawn for morning lessons, went straight to group practice after school, and spent weekends competing at ice rinks across the state. It was a central piece of her identity, her safe haven from the stress of school, bullies, and family. But over time, as she switched schools, got into art, and fell in love with her first girlfriend, she began to question how the close-minded world of figure skating fit in with the rest of her life, and whether all the work was worth it given the reality: that she, and her friends on the figure skating team, were nowhere close to Olympic hopefuls. It all led to one question: What was the point?The more Tillie thought about it, the more Tillie realized she'd outgrown her passion--and she finally needed to find her own voice.
This wasn’t what I was expecting. I’m not sure exactly what I thought I was getting into. I guess I thought it would be a sarcastic take on synchronized ice-skating, and one girl’s story surviving the craziness. This was definitely one girl’s story surviving the craziness. There just wasn’t any sarcasm or much humor at all. And it was a lot darker and complex than I thought it would be.
This book tackles a lot of tough stuff. There’s the main character working her little butt off every day for her sport. There’s bullying. There’s car accidents. There’s abandonment. There’s coming out of the closet to non-supportive family. There’s heart-break.  And there’s even sexual assault. And while I appreciate a good graphic novel that tackles the tough stuff (frankly, there’s not enough of them), I’m not sure this one really tackled the topics that well.
About 95% of the bullying that takes place is mentioned but not shown. At one point, Tillie does mention one thing that happened to her girlfriend, but even then it was very abrupt. The coming out part was minimal. So, was the heartbreak. The assault scene was actually drawn out a bit more. It was tough to read. But, also the way it was illustrated and mentioned was kind of powerful. It was handled in a unique way I haven’t seen before. And I remember thinking, I wish the author did this with other big moments too. I needed to see this for this bullying and other things to feel more real.
What takes up most of the book’s story and illustrations are the skating practices, tests, and moments with other skaters. It still moved along quickly. And it was interesting learning and seeing this much detail about the skating world. But weirdly, I felt like the book was supposed to be something else. It was supposed to be about growing up and figuring out what works and doesn’t work for you. I just wish more time was spent on visualizing that, and less on fancy footwork and early morning wakeups.
Also, I don’ think this was supposed to be the takeaway here, but I totally took away the fact that Tillie’s parents were pretty much scum. She was the only one without either parent at any of the practices, shows, and important competitions. Where were they? When they were shown, it was to complain about money or to not be supportive of their daughter coming out. For the most part, it felt like Tillie was abandoned by them completely. The poor girl couldn’t speak up about any of the bad stuff that happened to her. And I didn’t really blame her. There was no support for her. At all.
All in all, this was a unique book with excellent art. I wish some of the major things that happened to Tillie (things that defined her and helped her to eventually make her final decision about skating) were actually fleshed out and shown in more detail. I didn’t need so much detail about the actual skating. And I’d like to slap some sense into her parents. I give this one a 7/10.

Monday, November 27, 2017

A Good Week in Books (175)

I’ve been a little MIA this month. Mostly, I’ve just had a lot on my plate at work because my director retired, so I’ve been temporarily filling in as Acting Director (on top of all my regular duties). I haven’t had as much free time and when I’ve had it, I’ve been cooking, holiday shopping, etc. I did finish a big fantasy novel and an interesting graphic novel. I also finished listening to a giant, adult audiobook. I received a couple of new books for review courtesy of Macmillan. And I have lots of reading to catch up on! I only have one more month to finishing my yearly reading goal (and I have 10 more books to read!).
The new pretties:

Cici’s Journal
by Joris Chamblain and art by Aurelie Neyret
Renegades by Marissa Meyer
How was your week in books?

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani

Summary from Goodreads:
Priyanka Das has so many unanswered questions: Why did her mother abandon her home in India years ago? What was it like there? And most importantly, who is her father, and why did her mom leave him behind? But Pri's mom avoids these questions--the topic of India is permanently closed.

For Pri, her mother's homeland can only exist in her imagination. That is, until she find a mysterious pashmina tucked away in a forgotten suitcase. When she wraps herself in it, she is transported to a place more vivid and colorful than any guidebook or Bollywood film. But is this the real India? And what is that shadow lurking in the background? To learn the truth, Pri must travel farther than she's ever dared and find the family she never knew.

In this heartwarming graphic novel debut, Nidhi Chanani weaves a tale about the hardship and self-discovery that is born from juggling two cultures and two worlds.
I ended up enjoying this even more than I was anticipating. I read it in one sitting (maybe a couple of hours). I absolutely adored the art in here. It reminded me a bit of Raina Telgemeier mixed with Jennifer L Holm. The art is bold and colorful, but also a little cute –with nods to some graphic novels/manga that has come before. I loved seeing the Sailor Moon poster in Pri’s room.
I’m loving these middlge grade/YA graphic novels about girls with different backgrounds and stories. This was a different perspective than I’m used to reading from and I loved all the things that made this different. There’s this sort of magical pashmina that shows Pri a beautiful, enticing side to India. It was fun learning about Shakti and the elements to this part of the culture.
I also loved getting to see the real India (away from the magical pashmina), and all the good that Pri’s family was doing there. And while there are fun and different traits to this fantastical story that I haven’t seen before, there is also the familiar: a girl wanting to know where she came from. Why hasn’t Pri’s mother talked to her about her past at all?
This was a fun coming of age story. I loved learning about India. I also loved Pri, and getting to learn with her, the stories of her family. This was a great graphic novel. I hope to see more from this author/artist in the future. I give it a 9/10.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday (245)

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: 2 Fuzzy, 2 Furious by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale  (3/6/2018):

Description on Goodreads:
Squirrel Girl is BACK in an all-new adventure and things are about to get . . . hairy. Thanks to Squirrel Girl, Ana Sofia, and the Squirrel Scouts, the crime rate in New Jersey is at an all time low. It makes for safer streets but also bored-er squirrels. That's why it's super exciting when Doreen's school announces a new mall is being built right next to their town. Mmmm . . . Doreen can smell the soft pretzels now. The corporation building mall has also announced that there will be a competition to choose the mall's mascot. Because malls need mascots? Anyway, Doreen's school will be voting for a cat and the neighboring school will be voting for a dog. As the relationship starts to unravel between the two towns, Squirrel Girl and her friends suspect something more sinister is at work. With the help of old friends like Ana Sofia, Tippy Toe, and The Mighty Thor as well as some surprising new ones, Squirrel Girl will squash a villainous plot and save everyone.The unbeatable Squirrel Girl is ready for more nuts AND more butts! Are you?
Why I’m Waiting:
I’m a huge Squirrel Girl fan. I love the comics. I love the comedic concept. And I loved the first book in this series. The world is so ready for more Squirrel Girl. I can’t wait to see where the authors take my favorite heroine next.
What are you waiting on this week?

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The Silver Mask by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

Summary from Goodreads:
A generation ago, Constantine Madden came close to achieving what no magician had ever achieved: the ability to bring back the dead. He didn't succeed . . . but he did find a way to keep himself alive, inside a young child named Callum Hunt. Now Call is one of the most feared and reviled students in the history of the Magisterium, thought to be responsible for a devastating death and an ever-present threat of war. As a result, Call has been imprisoned and interrogated. Everyone wants to know what Constantine was up to-and how he lives on. But Call has no idea. It is only when he's broken out of prison that the full potential of Constantine's plan is suddenly in his hands . . . and he must decide what to do with his power. In this spellbinding fourth book of Magisterium, bestselling authors Holly Black and Cassandra Clare take us beyond the realm of the living and into the dangers of the dead.
These books are like popcorn. I can’t stop until I’ve gone through it all. Seriously, I read this one in less than a day. I wish more people read these books. I feel like they had some weird, negative press for book 1. And then no one kept reading them. I seriously love these middle grade stories. They are dark, twisted, full of magic and excellent characters, and suspense. These are books I’d put into the hands of reluctant readers, bored readers, and fantasy readers.
In this fourth installment, stuff is as dark and suspenseful as they can possibly get. Call is still reeling from the death of a loved one in the previous book. He’s also imprisoned and kind of left to rot, without knowing the shape of the rest of his friends. That is until he’s broken out and taken to the land of the enemy. It’s there, that he’s actually kind of embraced, educated, and taught to understand his crazy powers. He may even be taught how to bring back the dead.
There is so much I’d love to get into, but it would involve insane spoilers. Just know that not everything is as it seems in this book. Call has a lot of growing up to do. There’s fighting, sacrificing, magic, betrayals, power, death, and even a little bit of love. It was kind of hard reading this one because of the lack of a certain loved character. The dynamics are all off balance, kind of.
This one ended with another twist that had me surprised again. These books keep surprising me. I can’t wait to see what happens next. This wasn’t my favorite volume of the series. There did appear to be a couple of plot holes, and some super cheesy stuff with the bad guys that just seemed too over the top to me. But, otherwise, this was pure, buttery delicious popcorn. And I can’t wait to keep reading. This gets an 8/10.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Before the Devil Breaks You by Libba Bray

Summary from Goodreads:
New York City.
Lights are bright.
Jazz is king.
Parties are wild.
And the dead are coming...

After battling a supernatural sleeping sickness that nearly claimed two of their own, the Diviners have had enough of lies. They're more determined than ever to uncover the mystery behind their extraordinary powers, even as they face off against an all-new terror. Out on Ward's Island, far from the city's bustle, sits a mental hospital haunted by the lost souls of people long forgotten--ghosts who have unusual and dangerous ties to the man in the stovepipe hat, also known as the King of Crows.

With terrible accounts of murder and possession flooding in from all over, and New York City on the verge of panic, the Diviners must band together and brave the sinister ghosts invading the asylum, a fight that will bring them face-to-face with the King of Crows. But as the explosive secrets of the past come to light, loyalties and friendships will be tested, love will hang in the balance, and the Diviners will question all that they've ever known. All the while, malevolent forces gather from every corner in a battle for the very soul of a nation--a fight that could claim the Diviners themselves.
I love Libba Bray. I often refer to her as my favorite author. She’s an unbelievably talented writer. The trouble with these books is that they take her a very long time to write. They could take years. And this one ended depressingly badly in a cliffhanger to end all cliffhangers. How long must I wait to find out what happens next? 1 year? 2? 3? Maybe hold off on reading this one if you can, until the next installment. The ending is brutal.
The story was magnificent. The setting, the characters, the supernatural world this author weaves into historic context is just beyond anything I’ve come to expect in any author. I want to live in her words. I want to go to this NYC, where booze is illegal and ghosts are out for revenge. I want to dance with Evie, fight for my dreams like Theta, stand up for the working man with Mabel, get into trouble with Sam, write poetry with Memphis, play music with Henry, and learn science with Ling. I don’t just love these characters; I wish I could physically hang out with them. I feel like I know them.
Somehow, Bray is able to throw in everything to the mix. I was actually terrified in the scenes that took place in the asylum. There is nothing as creepy as evil ghosts who can control the unsuspecting bystander and make them do monstrous/murderous things.  I cried my eyes out for a character who was betrayed in the worst of ways. I was practically pacing to see what ramifications would occur for a possible explosion. I fell in love with Sam all over again. I shipped him and Evie so hard in this book, though I think like Evie, I used to be a little divided between him and Jericho.  And I felt so terrified for Jericho and everything he endured just to survive. The mystery with Sam’s mom was so good.
Stuff finally resolves with Memphis’ creepy neighbor. A lot is learned about Project Buffalo. There is a lot of sleuthing, plotting, betraying, escaping, and mayhem. Also, this book is political and relevant to today’s heightened arguments about immigration and racism.  This book is also loaded with all kinds of diverse romance. There’s a lesbian couple, a gay couple, and an interracial couple. And it’s so interesting and fun to read about this in the context of 1920’s NYC.
It took me a long time to read this book. It is a monster at 546 pages. I also had a killer sinus infection that limited my reading times. However, I’m so grateful that I took my sweet time reading this. It allowed me the ability to pick up on so many current day connections. And I got to savor my overall reading experience. At one point, stuff felt too good for the characters, and that’s when I knew a crazy ending would be approaching. And I postponed finishing it…That ending was just insane. Insane.
All in all, this was a wonderful installment in the series. The writing was beautiful. The characters were the best. I loved watching them work together! The setting was so interesting. The romance was sizzling. Pieces of the story were legit terrifying. The suspense was crazy. And the ending kind of ripped my heart out and I’m dying to read more. When will there be more???? I give it a 10/10.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday (244)

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: If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say by Leila Sales (5/1/2018):

Description on Goodreads:
This provocative and relevant young adult novel is about Winter, a one-time National Spelling Bee Champ with a bright future ahead of her. That all changes after she haphazardly writes a racially offensive tweet that she thought was a harmless joke. What unfolds is a barrage of Internet shaming and rejection from her community and closest friends. Winter seeks to redeem herself, but first must come to terms with what she wrote and understand why there was so much backlash.
Why I’m Waiting:
First off, this topic for a YA book sounds like gold. There’s so much with the internet that has never come up in YA literature, and it’s about time we started seeing it. I can’t wait to see how this main character handles her mistake. I also love this author. I have high hopes for the one to be a rather powerful book.
What are you waiting on this week?

Monday, October 30, 2017

A Good Week in Books (174)

I have fallen a little behind in my reading. This is due to a few things: tv shows starting up again, being crazy/busy with work, and a terrible sinus infection that made reading kind of hard for a whole week.  But, I’m getting back on track. I finished my audio book and I’m starting a new one tomorrow. I’m half way through an amazing book by Libba Bray. And who knows what tomorrow will bring? I received some lovely new books from Macmillan this week.
The new books:

Wild Beauty
by Anna-Marie McLemore
Meant to Be by Julie Halpern
Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani
Nemesis by Anna Banks
Ally by Anna Banks
Because I Was a Girl edited by Melissa Cruz
How was your week in books?

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday (243)

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:  Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman (1/9/18) :

Description on Goodreads:
Rowan and Citra take opposite stances on the morality of the Scythedom, putting them at odds, in the second novel of the chilling New York Times bestselling series from Neal Shusterman, author of the Unwind dystology.

Rowan has gone rogue, and has taken it upon himself to put the Scythedom through a trial by fire. Literally. In the year since Winter Conclave, he has gone off-grid, and has been striking out against corrupt scythes—not only in MidMerica, but across the entire continent. He is a dark folk hero now—“Scythe Lucifer”—a vigilante taking down corrupt scythes in flames.

Citra, now a junior scythe under Scythe Curie, sees the corruption and wants to help change it from the inside out, but is thwarted at every turn, and threatened by the “new order” scythes. Realizing she cannot do this alone—or even with the help of Scythe Curie and Faraday, she does the unthinkable, and risks being “deadish” so she can communicate with the Thunderhead—the only being on earth wise enough to solve the dire problems of a perfect world. But will it help solve those problems, or simply watch as perfection goes into decline?
Why I’m Waiting:
This sounds nuts! I loved the first book. I wasn’t positive there were going to more books to follow it. I’m so glad this sequel is really coming out, and so soon! I can’t wait to see where the story goes and how the world deals with these changes. I’m also super glad for a consistent cover. I can’t wait to read it.
What are you waiting on this week?

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

Summary from Goodreads:
Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis.

Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.

In his long-awaited return, John Green, the acclaimed, award-winning author of Looking for Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars, shares Aza’s story with shattering, unflinching clarity in this brilliant novel of love, resilience, and the power of lifelong friendship.
I love John Green. He’s a brilliant writer and such a good person too. I’m not as a big a fan as others out there. I used to watch his and Hank’s videos religiously. While, I don’t do that any more, I know a lot of people still watch them and that he helps a lot of people. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting him a couple times over the years of conferences and I always felt like he was just so genuinely kind and willing to talk to and listen to everyone who came to get a book signed.
I know he has critics and that the most common piece of criticism is that he creates YA characters who are too adult, too intelligent, and too wise for their years. I’m not going to lie; I love that about his characters. I loved reading those characters when I was a young adult, and I love reading those characters, now as a genuine adult. He doesn’t sugar coat things. He doesn’t make the mistake of dumbing down the words or actions of characters like other YA authors really seem to do. And I always have this strange sense of familiarity with his writing. Like, I’d be able to pull him out of a book lineup.
This book, like all his past books, focuses more on character and character development then it does on plot. He is not an author for readers who need more plot-driven stories in their lives. His plot is always the journey his characters take inward –how people grow up and learn with their experiences. I was a little surprised to learn that the plot of this book would revolve around a disappearance and the mystery behind it. That doesn’t sound very John Green. Thankfully, that almost suspense story took the back seat to Aza.
This book is a story of mental illness. It’s about Aza learning to see beyond her mental illness and work in tandem with it. I loved this. I loved that her anxiety was always there, sometimes at the worst possible moments. Sometimes I got so frustrated with Aza. I wanted to physically shake her. I realize that’s how many people probably feel about their loved ones with mental illness. It also showed me how attached I was to Aza. I loved her and wanted all the right things for her. And that’s what John Green excels at the most: getting readers to care about his characters.
I loved the romantic side of the story, but I also loved that that part of the story was really in the background. The main focus was on Aza overcoming things and on Aza’s friendship with Daisy. I’m not sure I’ve had the pleasure of reading about girl friendship with John Green’s past novels. This was pure gold. I loved the balance between Aza and Daisy. I also loved that things weren’t perfect. And that Aza was willing to own up to what wasn’t working.
This was a book that made me laugh out loud, bite my nails at the tension, and cry with sadness at the heart-wrenching scenes. I had to take note a couple of quotes:
“Your mom gives a shit, you know? Most adults are just hollowed out. You watch them try to fill themselves up with booze or money or God or fame or whatever they worship, and it all rots them from the inside until nothing is left but the money or booze or God they thought would save them. That’s what my dad is like –he really disappeared a long time ago, which is maybe why it didn’t bother me much. I wish he were here, but I’ve wished that for a long time. Adults think they’re wielding power, but really power is wielding them” (145).
“You remember your first love because they show you, prove to you, that you can love and be loved, that nothing in this world is deserved except for love, that love is both how you become a person, and why” (285).
I give this a 10/10. I think this book deserves all the hype it is most likely getting right about now. I hope lots and lots of people read it.

Monday, October 23, 2017

A Good Week in Books (173)

I had a nice book week. I’m on the second to last disc of an awesome audio book. I finished John Green’s latest. And I started reading a new book by my favorite author. My library had its annual Nickerson event, and my wonderful boyfriend purchased the two books for sale by the author for us, so we can have signed copies. It was also my birthday this week. I’m officially 31 now.
Besides having a wonderful weekend with my closest friends, I got a couple of gift books. I’m now the proud owner of the third installment of the illustrated Harry Potter books. The boyfriend gets me one at each birthday (along with gorgeous earrings this year). I also received a lovely signed picture book from his aunt (that takes place on Cape Cod). I received one new book for review (Thank you, Macmillan!). I actually received several more for review that were sent to my old house. And I think I’ll be getting those Friday…It’s always nice to know I have fresh books waiting.
The books:

The Midnight Dancer by Nikki Katz
The Girls of Atomic City by Denise Kiernan (signed)
The Last Castle by Denise Kiernan (signed)
Sea Snow by Leslie Lanou Bigoness and Lindsay Meade Bigoness (signed)
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling and illustrated by Jim Kay
How was your week in books?