Saturday, June 24, 2017

Becoming Jinn by Lori Goldstein

Summary from Goodreads:
Forget everything you thought you knew about genies!

Azra has just turned sixteen, and overnight her body lengthens, her olive skin deepens, and her eyes glisten gold thanks to the brand-new silver bangle that locks around her wrist. As she always knew it would, her Jinn ancestry brings not just magical powers but the reality of a life of servitude, as her wish granting is controlled by a remote ruling class of Jinn known as the Afrit.

To the humans she lives among, she’s just the girl working at the snack bar at the beach, navigating the fryer and her first crush. But behind closed doors, she’s learning how to harness her powers and fulfill the obligations of her destiny.

Mentored by her mother and her Zar “sisters”, Azra discovers she may not be quite like the rest of her circle of female Jinn . . . and that her powers could endanger them all. As Azra uncovers the darker world of becoming Jinn, she realizes when genies and wishes are involved, there’s always a trick.
I was hoping to like this a lot more than I did. I just feel kind of meh about the whole thing. I didn’t love it. I guess I didn’t’ hate it either. Basically, the concept was super cool and interesting. But, the execution was kind of sloppy and needed some more work. I never really understood or cared too much for the main character. Characters, overall, weren't very developed and I’m definitely a character reader.

The world building and genie details were super cute and fun to read about. I loved that they all loved sugar and were supposed to be a part of this everlasting sisterhood. The power of women comes off really strong here. I loved the friendships and the secret gossip of the older generation of jinn.
Not a lot happens though. Basically, Azra becomes a jinn on her 16th birthday as she knows she will. And then she makes one mistake after another. All her mistakes are kind of stupid, and easily could have been avoided if she listened to her mom and did her research. And instead of learning from past mistakes, she seems to continuously make them. Ugh.
There’s also a love triangle. But, I don’t actually ship her with either of the guys. I just don’t feel like I know either them enough to make a ship. One guy is super cute and likes saving people. And the other has basically been in love with the main character since childhood. But, I’m not really sure what he does for fun, or what he’s about. Ugh. I was hoping for more emotional connections and sparks.
The major twist at the end was totally predictable. The main character is super powerful, more so than anyone else and well, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out why…I do like the family mystery/drama though. I wanted to know more about her parents. And I found the whole magic book and talisman thing to be super fun to read.
I did read this relatively quickly. It had a cutesy/Sabrina the teenage witch type of feel. The magic and family drama was fun. I never felt like I understood really why the main character was so angsty and pushed everyone away. I never really believed her rebellious act. And I never felt like I got to know the two love interests that well either. I wish I had more time with other Jinn because they seemed super interesting.  I give it a 5/10.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Seeking Mansfield by Kate Watson

Summary from Goodreads:
Sixteen-year-old Finley Price has perfected two things: how to direct a world-class production, and how to fly way, way under the radar. The only person who ever seems to notice Finley is her best friend, the Bertram's son Oliver. If she could just take Oliver's constant encouragement to heart and step out of the shadows, she'd finally chase her dream of joining the prestigious Mansfield Theater.

When teen movie stars Emma and Harlan Crawford move next door to the Bertram's, they immediately set their sights on Oliver and his cunning sister, Juliette, shaking up Finley and Oliver's stable friendship. As Emma and Oliver grow closer, Harlan finds his attention shifting from Juliette to the quiet, enigmatic, and thoroughly unimpressed Finley. Out of boredom, Harlan decides to make her fall in love with him. Problem is, the harder he seeks to win her, the harder he falls for her.

But Finley doesn't want to be won, and she doesn't want to see Oliver with anyone else. To claim Oliver's heart—and keep her own—she'll have to find the courage to do what she fears most: step into the spotlight.
I kind of pounce on all Jane Austen retellings, particularly of the YA variety. That being said, Mansfield Park was never my favorite. And I knew going into this that I probably wouldn’t love the main character. I wasn’t sure though because I don’t recall ever having read a retelling of this particular Austen story.
So, did I hate the main character? Yes, yes I did. And I kind of understand why people don’t do a lot of retellings of this story. What’s the modern version of taking in a poor ward with no income and raising her alongside your family, but not quite alongside them? I guess this is the modern equivalent (mixed with movie stars) and it wasn’t really working for me.
Fanny Price was never my favorite character because she was too good. She was a lot like Cinderella without the dream of going to the ball, without any dreams at all. In fact, she believes she deserves all the terrible stuff her “step-family” pushes on her, and that she should have no wants of her own. I can’t stand this character. I need a good main character who knows she deserves the best, no matter her social/economic standing. I need Elizabeth Bennet. And Finley was almost worse than Fanny Price. Imagine a teen girl who works as a janitor, who only accepts hand-me-downs, who doesn’t own a smart phone, who never stands up for herself. I almost stopped reading on many occasions.
The weird thing though is I never stopped. I read this story super quickly. I knew that Fanny Price eventually grew to be a stronger character and I knew there was no way Finley could get any worse. And I was right. She learns to apply for what she wants and to accept that she deserves dreams and respect too. It just takes an awfully long time to get there.
I know this sounds super cheesy, but I loved the teen celebrity element of the plot. I loved that the neighbors were stars. I think their characters (which weren’t the greatest) held my attention a lot better than the main character did. It’s kinda weird to be more invested in the story by the bad guys than by the main character, but I was. It was like reading a super dishy magazine and not being able to stop.
I liked how the author tied in the theater element. I liked the volunteering thing too. Because of course a modern day Fanny Price would reserve any free time to helping others. I loved making all the connections to the original Austen work, which I remember a lot more strongly than I thought I did.
I read this book super fast. I hated the main character. I knew I’d hate her, and I did. But, I kept reading because I kind of fell for the bad characters and the whole teen movie star sideline. I loved making the old Austen connections. And I like that Finley did eventually become a somewhat stronger main character. I give this a 6/10.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Real Friends by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham

Summary from Goodreads:
When best friends are not forever . . .

Shannon and Adrienne have been best friends ever since they were little. But one day, Adrienne starts hanging out with Jen, the most popular girl in class and the leader of a circle of friends called The Group. Everyone in The Group wants to be Jen's #1, and some girls would do anything to stay on top . . . even if it means bullying others.

Now every day is like a roller coaster for Shannon. Will she and Adrienne stay friends? Can she stand up for herself? And is she in The Group—or out?

Newbery Honor author Shannon Hale and New York Times bestselling illustrator LeUyen Pham join forces in this graphic memoir about how hard it is to find your real friends—and why it's worth the journey.
This was way better than I was expecting. I already know Shannon Hale can write excellent YA, and the occasional excellent graphic novel. I had no idea she had this tough middle grade graphic novel to bring to the world. This book is so true to the mindset of middle school girls, I almost had to put it down because of memories it had me recalling.
I’ve never seen the use of cliques handled and told so truthfully. I’ve often in life gone over when and why I lost connections with friends. It’s something I’m sure we all do as we get older. We don’t stay in touch with everyone (even with Facebook). And this book really had me look backwards to where a lot of my dissolved friendships started: middle school.
I felt for Shannon because I’ve been Shannon. I’ve lost and gained friends to cliques. I’ve also been hypnotized by the appeal of cliques and been in them and I’ve seen their inner awfulness and left them (despite some pretty terrible consequences). I was 100% relating to this story. And just the idea that someone went through this almost exactly as I did, empowered me, as an adult. Can you imagine what this book could do for a 10 year old girl experiencing this now?
Girl friendships are so complicated. And sometimes it can be incredibly difficult to discover who your true friends are. I was extraordinarily lucky to have found some amazing friends in high school, college, and graduate school –true friends I’m still in touch with and love today. But, middle school was just the worst. I don’t think I’m in touch with anyone from those years. Kids can be evil villans in their own right. I can honestly see this book helping people.
I guess I just loved how honest this book was. It didn’t sugar coat the group dynamics. I also love that the head of the group never came off as the stereotypical queen bee you often see in tv and books. She looked normal (not even blonde). The head of the group could end up being anyone. I love how this book touches on the fact of friends moving away and changing everything too. What do you do when you’re one good friend leaves?
The one thing I did no love about the book was how it all wrapped up at the end. For such a truthful story of how awful middle school can be, the ending seemed so fake and unnecessary. I like that Shannon found new friends, but I hated how everything had to be tied up with the old ones. Sometimes old friends and old non-friends just stay old and in the past, and I was kind of hoping for a more realistic end for that.
All in all though, the art is was bright and fun. The characters and group dynamics were authentic and intense. I loved how honest this book was (at least until the ending). I wish the ending wasn’t so perfect –it was the one unbelievable aspect to me. I give it an 8/10.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday (228)

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:  Mr. Lemoncellos’ Great Library Race by Chris Grabenstein  (10/10/17):

Description on Goodreads:
On your marks. Get set. Lemon, cello, GO!

Everyone's favorite game maker, Mr. Lemoncello, is testing out his new FABULOUS FACT-FINDING FRENZY game! If Kyle can make it through the first round, he and the other lucky finalists will go on a great race--by bicycle, bookmobile, and even Mr. Lemoncello's corporate banana jet!--to find fascinating facts about famous Americans. The first to bring their facts back to the library will win spectacular prizes! But when a few surprising "facts" surface about Mr. Lemoncello, it might be GO TO JAIL and LOSE A TURN all at once! Could Kyle's hero be a fraud? It's winner take all, so Kyle and the other kids will have to dig deep to find out the truth before the GAME is OVER for Mr. Lemoncello and his entire fantastic empire!

Filled with brand-new puzzles and games (including a hidden bonus puzzle!), this fast-paced read will have gamers and readers alike racing to the finish line because, like Mr. Lemoncello's commercials say, IS IT FUN? . . . HELLO! IT'S A LEMONCELLO!
Why I’m Waiting:
I have to admit I came into these books a little later than most Youth Services Librarians. However, I absolutely adore them. I was so excited to learn about another book in this series. I love the characters, the games, the riddle solving, and of course the unbelievably amazing library. I can’t wait to read what happens next!
What are you waiting on this week?

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare

Summary from Goodreads:
A Shadowhunter’s life is bound by duty. Constrained by honor. The word of a Shadowhunter is a solemn pledge, and no vow is more sacred than the vow that binds parabatai, warrior partners—sworn to fight together, die together, but never to fall in love.

Emma Carstairs has learned that the love she shares with her parabatai, Julian Blackthorn, isn’t just forbidden—it could destroy them both. She knows she should run from Julian. But how can she when the Blackthorns are threatened by enemies on all sides?

Their only hope is the Black Volume of the Dead, a spell book of terrible power. Everyone wants it. Only the Blackthorns can find it. Spurred on by a dark bargain with the Seelie Queen, Emma; her best friend, Cristina; and Mark and Julian Blackthorn journey into the Courts of Faerie, where glittering revels hide bloody danger and no promise can be trusted. Meanwhile, rising tension between Shadowhunters and Downworlders has produced the Cohort, an extremist group of Shadowhunters dedicated to registering Downworlders and “unsuitable” Nephilim. They’ll do anything in their power to expose Julian’s secrets and take the Los Angeles Institute for their own.

When Downworlders turn against the Clave, a new threat rises in the form of the Lord of Shadows—the Unseelie King, who sends his greatest warriors to slaughter those with Blackthorn blood and seize the Black Volume. As dangers close in, Julian devises a risky scheme that depends on the cooperation of an unpredictable enemy. But success may come with a price he and Emma cannot even imagine, one that will bring with it a reckoning of blood that could have repercussions for everyone and everything they hold dear.
This book was intense. Book 1 ended in such a dramatic spot that I could not wait to dive into this one. And dive I did. I read this 699-page monster in a couple of days. That being said, the beginning was almost painful to read.  After how Emma made a terrible decision in the end of book 1, I had to watch the separation of my ship. And ugh, it was painful. Painful to watch Emma with Mark. And painful to watch all the pain Julian continued to go through.
On top of that, there is everything else! The L.A. Institute is invaded by the worst shadow hunters in training. More and more sea monsters are popping up. And soon it becomes clear that a certain evil warlock from book 1 is not in fact actually dead. There is a ton of animosity between the shadow hunters and the fey.  This however, does not stop our favorite characters from venturing into the land of fairy to rescue someone. It also doesn’t’ stop a big deal from being made.
It soon becomes evident that another big downworlder war is on the horizon. It’s not clear what side the shadowhunters will be on: that of the ignorant and hateful new group of shadowhunters who want to cut all ties with all downworlders, or the right side (which involves making allies with past enemies.
There’s a lot of parallels between this installment and current American politics. I couldn’t help but compare the ignorant, hateful shadowhunters to ignorant, hateful Americans…but also, this book really opened my eyes as to why the series couldn’t have ended where I initially wanted it to. Things cannot be left this way between shadowhunters and fairies. And stuff needs to seriously change for the better in shadowhunter politics.
Why was this book intense? Mostly, the last hundred or so pages destroyed me emotionally. Clare is not afraid to kill off characters I love. And I was not prepared for that ending at all. This wasn't just a sad ending and a cliff hanger. This was an ending in the middle of utter insanity, chaos, and destruction. How long until the next book?

Also, Clare improves and gets better with each book. Her character development is above and beyond anything I've read so far this year. I feel like these characters are my friends. They are so real. I loved getting to see Alec and Magnus’s matured relationship. I loved learning about the L.A. tutor and seeing her get her own love story. I loved watching Julian and Emma try to stay away from each other. Clare knows how to write forbidden love, really, really well. I love how Clare touches on the topic of autism. She now has bisexual characters, mentally ill characters, gay characters, characters from institutes around the world, and a shadowhunter with autism. Keep bringing the diverse casts, please.
All in all, I was impressed with this volume. I loved the politics. I loved the character growth. I loved re-visiting old friends. I loved getting to know new friends. The action, especially at the end, was beyond crazy. There’s also this depth to the characters and sadness to them that wasn’t there with the generation before them. These main characters are already survivors of so much war and loss. And knowing more is coming for them, is just so intense and hard to read, but also addicting. I give it a 10/10.

Monday, June 19, 2017

A Good Week in Books (163)

I’ve been a little MIA lately, and I’m sure to be again. I’m moving July 1st so most of my free time is spent packing. I have been getting a nice amount of reading accomplished somehow (4 books!). I guess it always takes me a long time to unwind from late work nights and late packing nights, and books are just the best for unwinding. Later this week, I’ll be attending the ALA Annual conference in Chicago, so I will definitely be MIA for that. I have a feeling I’ll have a lot of catching up to do here in July.
I received two new books for review. Thank you, Macmillan! And the lovely boyfriend of mine (who I’m moving in with!) picked up a signed copy of a YA book I’ve wanted to read at his library’s book sale. Yay.
The new books:

Highly Illogical Behavior by John Core Whaley (signed)
Bad Romance by Heather Demetrios
The Square Root of summer by Harriet Reuter Hapgood
How was your week in books?

Friday, June 9, 2017

The Trials of Apollo Book 2: The Dark Prophecy by Rick Riordan

Summary (from Goodreads):

Zeus has punished his son Apollo—god of the sun, music, archery, poetry, and more—by casting him down to earth in the form of a gawky, acne-covered sixteen-year-old mortal named Lester. The only way Apollo can reclaim his rightful place on Mount Olympus is by restoring several Oracles that have gone dark. What is affecting the Oracles, and how can Apollo do anything about them without his powers?

After experiencing a series of dangerous—and frankly, humiliating—trials at Camp Half-Blood, Apollo must now leave the relative safety of the demigod training ground and embark on a hair-raising journey across North America. Fortunately, what he lacks in godly graces he's gaining in new friendships—with heroes who will be very familiar to fans of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians and Heroes of Olympus series. Come along for what promises to be a harrowing, hilarious, and haiku-filled ride.
I love this series. I love getting a whole series in the point of view of Apollo. What this book has (and book 1) is loads and loads of humor. While Percy Jackson had it’s funny moments, this whole series promises to be one giant, funny moment. And I love that it stands out for this.
That being said, it still reads like a classic Rick Riordan story. He has his formula, and I do admit there were times I grew a bit bored with it. I could never be allowed to be bored for more than a few seconds ever though because of all the action. Riordan excels at writing action-packed battle scenes, monster-fighting, and high-stakes quests. And I guess I get so consumed in the action, that I don’t have time to think about how familiar the formula is. I do know that it’s there, in the back of my head.
I love how diverse Riordan’s books are becoming. His cast is made up of uniquely diverse characters. I also think it’s great that Apollo, himself, is interested in both men and women. He recognizes the beauty in men, women, in the young and the old, and in art and music. He’s more than the full of himself, conceited God who writes haikus at the beginning of each chapter. He sees the beauty in things other characters can’t see.
He’s also becoming more and more likable as the series goes on. He has grown so much over the course of his punishment. He is capable of realizing his own mistakes. He can understand why two women turned away from a gift he once gave them. He even is willing to risk his life for his closest friends! The Apollo at the beginning of book 1 was not like this at all.
I also loved a few reunions that happened in this book. I don’t want to spoil things but it was nice seeing a certain character from the first series again. And I love the character that was brought back at the very end. 
I love how much Apollo has grown over the course of these two books. As always, I loved Riordan's humor, suspense, and action. And it was fun seeing old friends from past series too. The ending promises a super, fun couple of books ahead. The book did at times feel a bit formulaic, though the humor and everything else tended to make up for this. All in all, I give this an 8/10.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams and read by Stephen Fry

Description on Goodreads:

Seconds before Earth is demolished to make way for a galactic freeway, Arthur Dent is plucked off the planet by his friend Ford Prefect, a researcher for the revised edition of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy who, for the last fifteen years, has been posing as an out-of-work actor.

Together, this dynamic pair began a journey through space aided by a galaxyful of fellow travelers: Zaphod Beeblebrox, the two-headed, three-armed, ex-hippie and totally out-to-lunch president of the galaxy; Trillian (formerly Tricia McMillan), Zaphod’s girlfriend, whom Arthur tried to pick up at a cocktail party once upon a time zone; Marvin, a paranoid, brilliant, and chronically depressed robot; and Veet Voojagig, a former graduate student obsessed with the disappearance of all the ballpoint pens he’s bought over the years.

Where are these pens? Why are we born? Why do we die? For all the answers, stick your thumb to the stars!

So, technically, this is a re-read. However, the last I read this was about half my life ago! How crazy is that? It’s been on my mind lately because my boyfriend is obsessed with it. (He literally owns a towel that has the words, “Don’t Panic,” typed on it. That, and I loved reading the reviews for these books over at one of my favorite blogs not that long ago (Lunar Rainbows Reviews). Mix that with a dire need for something funny and not too dark to listen to on my way to work in the mornings, and well, it was only a matter of time.
I’m also extraordinarily lucky because my library (where I work) had a copy on audio, read by Stephen Fry. Stephen Fry was an amazing audio book reader. Amazing! I’m not sure I’d have laughed so strongly if it were read by anyone else. There was one time where I had to pull over because I was crying from laughter and I didn’t want to get into an accident. (It was a scene involving a falling whale and a pot of petunias, and even now thinking about it, makes me laugh).
This may be the funniest book I have ever read. So much of it is in the timing. Reading/listening to it was bit like what I’d imagine getting a book written by the best stand-up comedian would be like. And mix that with some awesome Star Wars level science fiction, a little philosophy, a manically depressed robot, very intelligent rodents, super computers, and a lot of adventure and you get this rather remarkable book.
I want to re-watch the movie now. And read the rest of the series. I already requested the next audio book, though sadly it’s not read by Stephen Fry. I love the idea of going to work every morning after having laughed for a good straight 20 minutes beforehand. It does wonders for your day.
I first read this book when I was 15, and I hope I appreciated it then as much as I do now. It’s not necessarily a YA novel, but it’s just a really great novel. Certainly a teen or an adult would enjoy it. If you need a good laugh, read this! I give it a 10/10.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday (227)

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 Becoming of Noah Shaw by Michelle Hodkin (11/7/17):

Description on Goodreads:
In the first book of the Shaw Confessions, the companion series to the New York Times bestselling Mara Dyer novels, old skeletons are laid bare and new promises prove deadly. This is what happens after happily ever after.

Everyone thinks seventeen-year-old Noah Shaw has the world on a string.

They’re wrong.

Mara Dyer is the only one he trusts with his secrets and his future.

He shouldn’t.

And both are scared that uncovering the truth about themselves will force them apart.

They’re right.
Why I’m Waiting:
I can’t believe I’m only just learning about this book’s existence. I loved this author’s first series. I am slightly worried about things because I believe I actually loved how it all ended, and this scares me for what the next installment will bring. On the other hand, I know it will be good, filled with suspense, loaded with romance, and revolve around a great mystery. I’m in. November is so far away though!
What are you waiting on this week?

Monday, June 5, 2017

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Description on Goodreads
(note that I have the British version):
The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around—and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance or lose his dream forever.

What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving?

The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries—including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo’s dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? And if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real?
What a magical, magical story. I have forgotten how much I love Laini Taylor. How could I possibly forget her skill with the written language? She is a master storyteller. I feel like the stories that grab me the most lately are the ones that remind me of nothing else. This certainly fits that description. This was not what I was expecting, and I loved it even more so for that. I already loved it for its beautiful prose.
I knew going in that this would be good. It’s about a librarian (and I’m a librarian!). It takes place across the desert (and that’s one of my favorite settings). It involves a plot that mixes a world of magic with a world of normalcy and this is also one of my favorite fantasy tropes. Add in teenage demi-gods with super powers (way darker than Percy Jackson), a desolate town that puts other dystopian, desolate towns to shame, a mysterious floating statue that blocks out the sun, ghost servants, and a competition amongst some of the worlds brightest scholars, and well, this book had a little bit everything.
And oh yeah, there’s a sort of forbidden romance too –that mostly takes place within the librarian’s dreams, but still. Taylor knows how to write a forbidden romance well. I was fascinated by the similarities between Lazlo and Sarai.
I think what this author excels in, above all else, is her world-building. This book is not for everyone. If you are a reader that needs a lot of action right away, in your fantasy reads, this is not for you. This is a story that revolves entirely around this magical town of Weep. It’s a setting-heavy story and the action doesn’t really transpire until the second half. Laini Taylor doesn’t just create this magical town. She creates an entire religion and mythology to go along with it. And it’s beautiful.
This book is also one of those books I’d like to shove in YA hater’s faces. It’s just so well written. I can see many adults coming across this title and enjoying it like an adult novel. Favorite quote: ‘"I think you're a fairytale. I think you're magical, and brave, and exquisite. And..." His voice grew bashful. Only in a dream could he be so bold and speak such words. "I hope you'll let me be in your story."’
This was one of my favorite reads of the year and I’m so glad I was able to slowly read it and soak up all of the lovely writing. I give it a 10/10.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday (226)

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 Midnight Dance by Nikki Katz (10/17/17):

Description on Goodreads:
When the music stops, the dance begins.

Seventeen-year-old Penny is a lead dancer at the Grande Teatro, a finishing school where she and eleven other young women are training to become the finest ballerinas in Italy. Tucked deep into the woods, the school is overseen by the mysterious and handsome young Master who keeps the girls ensconced in the estate – and in the only life Penny has never known.

But when flashes of memories, memories of a life very different from the one she thinks she’s been leading, start to appear, Penny begins to question the Grand Teatro and the motivations of the Master. With a kind and attractive kitchen boy, Cricket, at her side, Penny vows to escape the confines of her school and the strict rules that dictate every step she takes. But at every turn, the Master finds a way to stop her, and Penny must find a way to escape the school and uncover the secrets of her past before it’s too late.
Why I’m Waiting:
I’m not going to lie; this gorgeous cover is a bag part of my waiting. But, also, I love stories that involve ballet. I wish there were more of them in YA. This sounds like a dark, mysterious thriller of a ballet story and I cannot wait to get my hands on it. I can’t wait for October this year!
What are you waiting on this week?

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

A Good Week in Books (162)

I had a great book week. I received 3 new pretties for review (thank you, Macmillan!). I received one new book directly from the author (in exchange for an honest review), plus some super cute swag. And another book I’ve been waiting all year for finally came out. I could not get home soon enough from work to find it on my doorstep that day. I’m glad I remembered to pre-order it this time.
The gorgeous books:

Shuffle, Repeat by Jen Klein (along with the cute swag)
Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare
The Traitor’s Kiss by Erin Beaty
Real Friends by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham
I believe in a thing called love by Maurene Goo
Every sing one of these books I received this week have unbelievably adorable covers. It’s a good book cover week too. How was your week in books?

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Summer Days and Summer Nights Edited by Stephanie Perkins and read by: Jessica Almasy, Michael Bakkensen, Cherise Boothe, Christopher Gebauer, Erin Moon, and Stina Nielsen

Summary on Goodreads:
Maybe it's the long, lazy days, or maybe it's the heat making everyone a little bit crazy. Whatever the reason, summer is the perfect time for love to bloom. Summer Days & Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories, written by twelve bestselling young adult writers and edited by the international bestselling author Stephanie Perkins, will have you dreaming of sunset strolls by the lake. So set out your beach chair and grab your sunglasses. You have twelve reasons this summer to soak up the sun and fall in love.

Featuring stories by Leigh Bardugo, Francesca Lia Block, Libba Bray, Cassandra Clare, Brandy Colbert, Tim Federle, Lev Grossman, Nina LaCour, Stephanie Perkins, Veronica Roth, Jon Skovron, and Jennifer E. Smith.
I seriously loved this one. I don’t know why I’m always surprised to love short story collections. I always find myself enjoying them more than expected. It’s like getting an extra cupcake treat of an author you weren’t expecting to hear from for a long time.
Of course, I enjoyed some stories more than others. And I definitely loved some narrators more than others. I think this was my first time listening to an anthology, as compared to reading it the old fashioned way. And, I have to say, this was a good choice. Each story being read by a different voice, helped differentiate them more completely (though I know there were a couple repeat voices).  I’m going to take it apart by story.
“Head, Scales, Tongue, Tail” by Leigh Bardugo (10/10)

This was probably my favorite story in the whole book. I absolutely adored it and related to it in a weird way. I had a friend turned crush like the main character did. And I acted so stupidly, just like the main character did, but instead of coming to my senses I let something good go. This seemed so authentic. So did the town and summer setting. And I loved the slight pieces of magic added to the otherwise contemporary story. I loved how the beginning fitted perfectly with the end. And I loved the ending. Before getting to the final moments, I even cried. This story just moved me.

“The End of Love” by Nina LaCour (7/10)

This one didn’t grab me like the first story did. I liked the main character. Though, I’m not sure I ever believed her reason for doing geometry for summer school (even though she already aced it). Sometimes, I can super relate to teen characters (even as an adult) for feeling so strongly, and sometimes I do serious eye rolls for them completely overdoing it, and unfortunately I kept with the eye rolls in this story. Maybe the main character was behaving how any teen would, whose parents were getting a divorce, but I kept hearing a certain friend of mine in my head going, “first world problems.” I liked the romance/new friendship angle though.

“Last Stand at the Cinegore” by Libba Bray (8/10)

I love that everything I read by Libba Bray is nothing like anything else I’ve ever read by Libba Bray. I wouldn’t read/listen to this story and think this was the same author as A Great and Terrible Beauty, Beauty Queens, or The Diviners. This was something totally different. I loved the NYC old movie theater setting. It read like an episode of Are you Afraid of the Dark, so kinda creepy, but not too scary that I’d necessarily call it horror. It kind of reminded me of an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, with all the humor, teen angst, and believable boy characters (who think about believable things like sex and not just a girl’s laugh).  This one added a good sense of humor to the book. I just wish it had a better narrator. I kept zoning out to his voice, and I wish he was better at reading suspense.

“Sick Pleasures” by Francesca Lia Block (6/10)

I didn’t really get this one. I haven’t had much luck with reading this author in the past, though I have friends who swear by her. I hated the characters only having initials (though this is explained at the end). I couldn’t believe the lack of parents, the awfulness of the main character’s friends, or even how terrible the main character’s first sexual experience was. This was a harder, darker story. I guess I just found it super hard to relate to, at all. It was missing any light.

“In Ninety Minutes, Turn North” by Stephanie Perkins (10/10)

I adored this one. It’s like the sum of every girl’s wishes about what would happen with a certain ex that got away. More than that though, Perkins just gets teen YA awkwardness; it’s like she’s been in my mind and had the same thoughts as me. I loved the mountain setting. I loved that the main character had to realize her own feelings and it wasn’t just about rescuing her ex. This one gave me all the feels.

“Souvenirs” by Tim Federle (9/10)

I loved this story too. I’m not familiar with the author at all. But, I thought this was great. It seriously captured the truth of a lot of summer romances: they are only meant for summer. Not all of these romances can end with an OTP. And I’m glad the main character didn’t end up with his romance for good because he sounded kind of awful. I loved all the theater stuff and theme park stuff. I loved the main character’s relationship with his mother. Despite the not so happy ending that the main character tells you is coming, I still thought this was one of my favorites. 

“Inertia” by Veronica Roth (9/10)

This was not what I was expecting from Veronica Roth at all. And I ended up enjoying it more than I thought I would. It’s a darker story because the main character’s best friend is on his death bed and in this weird world, people who are dying can share their dying consciousness with loved ones before they go…Everything else is contemporary and realistic. I thought this was a cool concept. And I loved seeing the ups and downs of their friendship. I had tears in this one. And I loved the hopeful ending.

“Love Is the Last Resort” by Jon Skovron (7/10)

Unfortunately, I don’t remember a lot about this one because I despised the narrator. I almost just skipped the story entirely, so I wouldn’t have to listen to his voice. Some voices are just misses for me (and I’m not entirely sure why). Though, I’m glad I made it through, cause I remember loving the summer setting. And it was nice having a more cheerful story.

“Good Luck and Farewell” by Brandy Colbert (9/10)

I wasn’t familiar with this author at all either. But, I loved this story. I loved the Chicago setting because it’s where I grew up. I loved that the main character could find a new friend/romance amongst the pain of her closest friend/relative moving away. There’s some good family drama, relationship drama, and Chicago fun to be had.

“Brand New Attraction” by Cassandra Clare (10/10)

I also loved this story. I loved the carnival setting. I loved the idea of carnivals being run by demons (thought not connected to shadowhunters at all). I loved the adults who disappeared and the kids working together to figure it out. I loved the main character, even though it took her so long to figure things out. Again, I had some Buffy flashbacks with this one, in all the good ways.

“A Thousand Ways This Could All Go Wrong” by Jennifer E. Smith (10/10)

If I didn’t already declare Leigh Bardugo’s story as my favorite, this one would be it. I loved the camp counselor setting. I loved getting a YA story that talked about autism in more than one character! I loved the believable romance and that the main character had no idea about so many things, but she was so willing to do her best. I could have read a whole book of this.

“The Map of Tiny Perfect Things” by Lev Grossman (8/10)

This was a strange story. The main character kept repeating the same day over and over. I like that he first spends his days reading! I kind of loved him. And I like that the repeating days is actually because of someone else and not him. The reason behind it all had me really sad and surprised. I’m not sure I liked his love interest as much as I was supposed to, but I was definitely hooked from the very beginning
All in all, I loved this. I want more stories like this. I almost feel like going back to my car and re-listening to my favorites. The good stories and narrators outweigh the less good ones. I give it a 10/10 overall.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday (225)

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 Renegades by Marissa Meyer (11/7/17):

Description on Goodreads:
From #1 New York Times-bestselling author Marissa Meyer, comes a high-stakes world of adventure, passion, danger, and betrayal.

Secret Identities.
Extraordinary Powers.
She wants vengeance. He wants justice.

The Renegades are a syndicate of prodigies—humans with extraordinary abilities—who emerged from the ruins of a crumbled society and established peace and order where chaos reigned. As champions of justice, they remain a symbol of hope and courage to everyone...except the villains they once overthrew.

Nova has a reason to hate the Renegades, and she is on a mission for vengeance. As she gets closer to her target, she meets Adrian, a Renegade boy who believes in justice—and in Nova. But Nova's allegiance is to a villain who has the power to end them both.
Why I’m Waiting:
This sounds like a lot of fun. I’m interested in reading a story by this author that is not a fairy tale retelling. The story does sound like a lot of dystopias already out there, but I have a feeling this author will put her own, humorous, and fun spin on it. I can’t wait to read it.
What are you waiting on this week?

Monday, May 22, 2017

A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas

Summary from Goodreads:
Looming war threatens all Feyre holds dear in the third volume of the #1 New York Times bestselling A Court of Thorns and Roses series.

Feyre has returned to the Spring Court, determined to gather information on Tamlin's maneuverings and the invading king threatening to bring Prythian to its knees. But to do so she must play a deadly game of deceit-and one slip may spell doom not only for Feyre, but for her world as well.

As war bears down upon them all, Feyre must decide who to trust amongst the dazzling and lethal High Lords-and hunt for allies in unexpected places.

In this thrilling third book in the #1 New York Times bestselling series from Sarah J. Maas, the earth will be painted red as mighty armies grapple for power over the one thing that could destroy them all.
So, I was mostly disappointed by A Court of Thorns and Roses. Then, I liked A Court of Mist and Fury a little more than book 1, though I still just felt like there was something I wasn’t getting that the whole book world got, but me. And then this third book happened. And I’ve gotten to the point where I’m not sure if I’ll be continuing with this series or not. I love Maas’ other series. And maybe I just expect too much from her because of my love of those other books. Either way though I liked this book the least in the series so far.
I didn’t hate it. I wouldn’t have read 705 pages if I hated it entirely. It did take me a significant amount of time to truck through it all, which is weird because even with the previous books in this series, a Sarah J. Maas book has never taken me more than a few days to read.
Book 2 ended with a big cliff-hanger. And thankfully, this one picked up right where that left off. You’d think with my drastic need for this book to come out and the way things left off in the previous book, I’d be flying through the beginning. You’d be wrong. The beginning was super slow. And that is my first problem. How can a beginning where (BIG SPOILER AHEAD FOR BOOK 2 –Warning you now) the main character is under cover with her ex, an evil priestess, and some seriously evil characters and not with her “mate” be boring?
The beginning moved so slowly I thought about putting this book down a few times. This should have been a hard-to-put-down part. I should have been biting my nails. I should have loved the suspense and revenge-like plotting. I was bored. There was not enough of any of those things I just said. I needed more suspense, plotting, and drama.
Then, finally, Feyre escapes (after her little bit of revenge that seemed more petty and less helpful for Rhys), and the pace picks up a bit. My second problem with the book, and it’s a problem I had from the second book, was all the “mate” business. Am I the only one creeped out by its usage? Like why can’t the characters ever say each other’s names instead of, “my mate.” It feels more animal than human. And it certainly reminded me of imprinting from the Twilight books. It felt like a cheep way to get away with insta-love. And every, single important character has one…It was too much. I was hoping this would be less eye-roll inducing for me in this book than it was in the last one. I was wrong. It was worse.
I liked the romance between Rhys and Feyre. However, the “mate” stuff kept taking me out of he story and I kept rolling my eyes. And I wish I could have enjoyed that stuff more because I know how sizzling Maas’s romance can be.
The second half of the book was a lot more action-packed. But, it was my least favorite kind of action-packed. It’s the one element of a lot of fantasy books that I just never got into, nor ever enjoyed as much as everyone else: war. It was all about fighting in war, planning for war, making alliances for war, etc. And war just isn’t my favorite thing to read about. Did Maas write it well? I think so. It’s just unfortunate that when the writing finally picked up, it did for a kind of fantasy style that I never liked.
There was a deeper sense of girl power in this book than in any of the others in the series so far, and I loved that. I loved how Feyre’s sisters had a big role to play. I loved that stuff wasn’t necessarily easy for the sisters just because of who they were now. I loved that the animosity between the fairies and the humans was still a thing. And I loved all the meetings with all of the high fey. There was some serious banter going on.
All in all, this could have been better. The beginning could have been so much more interesting. The “mate” terminology bothered me even more in this book than it did before. It kept taking me out of the story in parts I really didn’t want to be taken away from. And then, the book became a war book, and I personally hate reading war stories. The characters were still fun to read. I loved the girl power and the banter between the high fey. But, I’m not sure this was enough to keep me interested enough to continue with the series. I give it 6/10.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk

From the author of the critically acclaimed Wolf Hollow comes a moving story of identity and belonging.

Twelve-year-old Crow has lived her entire life on a tiny, isolated piece of the starkly beautiful Elizabeth Islands in Massachusetts. Abandoned and set adrift on a small boat when she was just hours old, Crow's only companions are Osh, the man who rescued and raised her, and Miss Maggie, their fierce and affectionate neighbor across the sandbar.

Crow has always been curious about the world around her, but it isn't until the night a mysterious fire appears across the water that the unspoken question of her own history forms in her heart. Soon, an unstoppable chain of events is triggered, leading Crow down a path of discovery and danger.

Vivid and heart wrenching, Lauren Wolk's Beyond the Bright Sea is a gorgeously crafted and tensely paced tale that explores questions of identity, belonging, and the true meaning of family.
So, I’m kind of obsessed with this book. I knew I’d enjoy it because I loved Wolf Hollow. But, I wasn’t expecting this level of love that I have. I think I like it even more than Wolf Hollow. This book kept me up to 3am one night…on a night, where I knew I had to be up at 5am the next day. Go me.
The weirdest thing is I never really was a big fan of historical fiction, but I guess that doesn’t matter when the quality of book is out of this world. I just get so lost in Wolk’s words. I feel like I’m there with her main character. I connected so deeply to Crow. And in this one, there were just so many things I needed to know. This book I guess could fall kind of into the mystery genre. Crow’s history is such a mystery. It’s tied in with an abandoned leper colony, island travel, treasure hunts, a love story, con artists,  and so many other interesting things.
It also takes place on an island off Cape Cod, where I live. And it was so, so cool getting a glimpse of these places in the 1920’s. The mainland Crow visits (aka: New Beford) was just as interesting for me as Cuttyhunk.
Also, the life of Crow and Osh is so unique. They live off the sea. They set lobster traps and grow their own gardens. They live an isolated, yet beautiful and simple life. Their neighbor, Miss Maggie is another interesting character. She lives across the sandbar and helps teach Crow lessons. Crow helps her with physical chores and in return gets a lot of home cooked meals. Their world and life seems so extordinary to me that it almost read like a fantasy.
The mystery is what kept me up late. I had to know if Crow was connected to the Leper colony. And then I had to know other things like why a certain character was kidnapped.  And I don’t want to say too many more things because it’s best to go into this with as little knowledge as possible. It will hopefully be as nice a surprise and as enticing a mystery for every reader. Also, the overarching themes of family and identity ring so strongly and true.
This is definitely one of my favorite books of the year. I recommend it highly, particularly to fans of Middle Grade. I give it a 10/10.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday (224)

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 Piper by Jay Asher and Jessica Freeburg (10/31/17):

Description on Goodreads:
#1 New York Times bestselling author Jay Asher and co-author Jessica Freeburg brilliantly reimagine the classic Pied Piper legend as a powerful graphic novel about loneliness, love, and vengeance. Fans of Neil Gaiman and Through the Woods by Emily Carroll will devour this eerie, atmospheric retelling.

Long ago, in a small village in the middle of a deep, dark forest, there lived a lonely, deaf girl named Maggie. Shunned by her village because of her disability, her only comfort comes from her vivid imagination. Maggie has a gift for inventing stories and dreams of one day finding her fairy-tale love.

When Maggie meets the mysterious Piper, it seems that all her wishes are coming true. Spellbound, Maggie falls hard for him and plunges headfirst into his magical world. But as she grows closer to the Piper, Maggie discovers that he has a dark side.

The boy of Maggie's dreams might just turn out to be her worst nightmare...

With striking illustrations from Eisner-nominated artist Jeff Stokely, Piper is an exciting new departure for Jay Asher that deftly touches on the same themes of truth, guilt, and redemption that made Thirteen Reasons Why a beloved bestseller.
Why I’m Waiting:
I love Jay Asher. I’d probably read anything he writes. Also, I’m excited to see what a fantasy story by him looks like. I love the Pied Piper story and I don’t think I’ve ever read a YA that covers it. All in all, this looks like something I’ll love. I can’t wait for Halloween!
What are you waiting on this week?

Monday, May 15, 2017

A Good Week in Books (161)

I had a nice book week. I devoured a new Middle Grade. I was literally up until 3am reading…not so easily done when you wake up at 5am. I’m in love with an audio book that I’ll finish in the next couple of days. I’m also very much addicted to a fantasy right now too. So many books! I received 3 lovely new books for review (Thanks, Macmillan!)
The new books:

The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich
Shattered Warrior by Sharon Shinn and Molly Knox Ostertag
The Truth about Happily Ever After by Karole Cozzo
How was your week in books?

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Starfall by Melissa Landers

When Princess Cassia Rose fled her home world of Eturia to escape an arranged marriage, she had no idea her sudden departure would spark a war. Now after two years hiding as a ship hand, she is finally returning to her beloved home, but not in the way she imagined. Shackled by bounty hunters, she is violently dragged back to account for her crimes. Her only solace is that the Banshee crew managed to evade capture, including Kane Arric, her best friend...with occasional benefits.

Meanwhile, Kane and the rest of the crew of the Banshee plan a desperate rescue mission. But when they arrive on Eturia, Cassia isn't exactly in need of heroics—she's claimed her birthright as Eturia's queen, but has inherited a war-torn planet simmering with rebellion. Cassia must make alliances, and Kane, the bastard son of a merchant, isn't a choice that will earn her any friends. Kane knows he will never find someone to replace Cassia—and is certain she returns his feelings—but how can he throw away his own promising future waiting on a queen?

When the outer realm is threatened by the dangerous Zhang mafia, Cassia, Kane and the rest of the Banshee crew uncover a horrifying conspiracy that endangers the entire universe. In the face of unspeakable evil, Cassia must confront her own family's complicated legacy on Eturia and decide once and for all who her real family is.
This was a fun read. I absolutely loved the first book in the series. And while I knew this would be about different characters, I still had high expectations. This series has a definite Firefly mixed with Cowboy Bebop vibe. I love all the spaceship drama and strong character development.
That being said, it was not as good as book 1. The lead characters just did not have the spark that the original main characters did for me. Cassia is interesting. Her story though is very familiar. She has the same sort of dystopian/revolutionary story arc as many leading ladies in YA. Little add-ons to the story did make this a little different. And Cassia was a lot tougher that I originally made her out to be.
I guess I did ship the two leads –just not in the same way I shipped the two leads in the first book. I almost feel like its unfair to always be comparing this to book 1. Like if this was book 1, I’d have no comparison and I’d probably like this more.
I enjoyed seeing all the characters again. And one thing I really loved was being able to get right back into the swing of things. I felt like I never left the crew. I didn’t have to readjust to them. I just naturally got back into their stories. I also love that the crew got to go explore and figure out how to solve the problems on Cassia’s planet.
There’s still this overall sense of camaraderie and humor amongst all the characters. And I guess that’s what really makes this book shine. I could see this being a great tv show, maybe something done by Joss Whedon…A girl can dream.
All in all, it was joy to read this. It was not as good as the first book in the series. The couple was lacking a spark that I hope they’d have. And there were definite dystopian elements I’m kind of bored of seeing at this point. The characters and setting though were just as strong as before. I also loved the humor and how easy it was to fall back into the story again. All in all, I give it an 8/10.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday (233)

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 Foolish Hearts by Emma Mills (12/26/17):

Description on 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.
Why I’m Waiting:
I love this author. I’m so glad she’s been writing so many books. She’s really starting to develop a name for herself in the YA contemporary genre. And I can’t wait to get my hands on her latest story. Also, I love the play A Midsummer Night’s Dream. This sounds like a fun, dramatic contemporary alright.
What are you waiting on this week?

Monday, May 8, 2017

A Good Week in Books (160)

I had a nice book week. I finished a fun sci-fi novel. I started an audio book compilation of YA short stories that I’m seriously into. I started a new Middle Grade that I’ve been excited about. I also (believe it or not) started reading an adult nonfiction title that I plan on taking my sweet time reading. I also received 4 new books for review. Thank you, Macmillan!
The new books:

Just Dreaming
by Kerstin Gier
The Inquisition by Taran Matharu
The Battlemage by Taran Matharu
Spill Zone by Scott Westerfeld and Alex Puvilland
How was your week in books?