Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Best Books of 2018

What a crazy, amazing book year it has been. A lot of great YA books came out this past year. I’m going to recap my year for a little bit. For the first time in 4 years, I set my reading goal on Goodreads to 100 books, and I’m already one past my goal! I read a lot this year (101 books and still going strong). I took a mini vacation from blogging last Spring, and then came back with some mini reviews. I became a little less stressed about my blogging/reviewing schedule and because of this I actually read more books…imagine that. I am also up to my 1209th blog post! I have written over 1200 blog posts. That is insane.
I also just got engaged this past week! I’ve been dating Nick for 4 years, and it kind of already feels like we are married because we have been living together for the past year and a half, in a house filled to the brim with books. We are both librarians. My stocking this year was filled with Harry Potter sweets, and I honestly cannot believe how happy this makes me. In general, I’m just extraordinarily happy at the end of 2018. And I hope everyone reading this is happy too!
On to the books!
My rules for this list are how they have always been:
1) Each book listed has come out this past year.
2) Each book is YA or Middle Grade
3) I have read the book in 2018
I am going to start at the top with number 1, and make my way down to my number 10 book of the year. Happy Holidays and Happy New Year! May 2019 bring just as many, if not more wonderful books into the world.

1) Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson (Rating: 10/10)

This book is weirdly one of the few books I did not review (while on my blog vacation). But, it stuck with me. It was such a good mystery. It was a kind of homage to Agatha Christie and the older mystery writers. I knew right away that Nick would enjoy it and pushed the book on him. And not only did he also read it and love it, but he has since read it 3 times! He’s read it more than me, and I have a feeling we will have a race to finish book 2 when it comes out soon.  This book has everything: amazing characters, super interesting setting, intriguing murder mystery, a school of brilliant thinkers, a little romance, and plenty of suspense. The over-arcing mystery of it has me jumping in anticipation of the next one. This book is way under-hyped.

2) The Cruel Prince by Holly Black  (Review / Rating: 9/10)

This book was so good! As I said in my review, “It was dark, twisty, violent, and surprising. I loved the characters (most of them any way). And I loved the messed up world this all takes place in. I cannot wait to see what happens next.” This was a book for the fantasy fans who love world-building. The world was epic, and so so very dark.

3) Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi (Review / Rating: 10/10)

This book deserves all the attention and hype it has received. And honestly, my top 3 books of 2018 were a bit of a toss-up. I loved all 3 equally. As I said in my review, “I can feel the books that inspired this masterpiece. I felt elements of Potter, some essence of Throne of Glass, and bits and pieces of The Hunger Games. Though, it was 100% it's own story. A story that kept me up late at night. It was super hard to put down. It's filled with plenty of twists and turns. And some of them I did not see coming!” And also, “Also, the book just feels so important. So relevant to today. I know the whole “we need diverse books” thing has been going on for a while. But, I didn’t know how badly I needed such a diverse fantasy novel until this. Seriously, there are no other fantasy books like this. And now that I’ve had a taste, I want more! Diversity should be in more than just contemporary stories. And this book proves it over and over in how amazing it is.”

4) Tempests and Slaughter by Tamora Pierce (Rating: 10/10)

This is another one missing a review! Just know that it was amazing. What a crazy, amazing year it’s been for YA fantasy books! This book felt very much like the old-school Tamora Pierce books. Though, I guess it helps that it’s a prequel series to her old school series: The Immortals. I had no idea how much I needed to re-visit Tortall, until this came out. It was a mixture of magic learning, power plays, feminism, politics, love, and world-building. I love getting to see behind-the-scenes reasons for why characters are the way they are, and this book is all about that. This is a great one for classic fantasy fans, fans of the author, and fans of exceptionally written YA books.

5) Pride by Ibi Zoboi (Review / Rating: 10/10)

As I said in my review, “I loved the fresh, modern perspective on love, class, and gentrification. This wasn’t just a fluffy romance retelling. This was also an honest, snarky, commentary on society and all of its latest changes. I felt like that makes this book stand out in a truly authentic Austen style. I loved Zuri almost as immediately as I loved Elizabeth Bennet. They are both girls that could so easily have been held back by what society expects of them, but instead flourish intelligently, poetically, and artfully.”  I read a lot of Austen/Pride and Prejudice retellings, and they all focus on the romance. It was nice having one that also focused on society and snark. The diverse cast and modern urban setting helped too. The poetry was beautiful. And of course I liked the romance too.

6) Honor Among Thieves by Rachel Caine (Review / Rating: 10/10)

In my mini review for this, I said, “In trying to explain it to friends, I called it the love child of Illuminae, Mistborn, and the tv show, Firefly. I can’t wait for more folks to read it.” This is some amazing sci-fi, a genre I’ve only recently really grown to appreciate. I remember thinking I’d never really read anything like this book before, and what better compliment is there? Talking about it now, makes me want to re-read it. Maybe I will before its sequel comes out.

7) The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang (Rating: 10/10)

No review again. Yikes. I need to get better at not going MIA from blogging. However, I did say this on Goodreads: “I adored this book! It’s a fairytale, mixed with cross dressing, mixed with Project Runway. The art and the dresses are just beautiful. The concept behind it all: also beautiful. More please!”  The book deals with some serious topics, but handles it all in a light, fun-hearted way. I’m pretty sure this was a one-sitting read. The art was just beautiful.

8) Brightly Burning by Alexa Donne (Review / Rating: 9/10)

As mentioned in my review, “All in all, this was a lot of fun. You don’t need to have read Jane Eyre to enjoy this one, though I do think you’d love it so much more if you have read the original. It was kind of a lighter, sci-fi version of the classic. It has a super fast pace. The world in space was pretty amazing. The characters were familiar. And there were some added bonuses to the story that I felt improved things overall.” Somehow this author managed to make Jane Eyre is space work. 2018 was also apparently a good year for retellings.

9) Always Never Yours by Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegmund-Broka (Review / Rating: 10/10)

This is one of the best, underrated books of the year. It’s YA contemporary at its finest. I believe I compared this to Stephanie Perkins, Jenny Han, and Becky Albertalli in my review. It’s fluffy, romantic, and full of amazing theater drama. I loved all the theater and literature references. I also loved having such a confidant, flirty main character. I feel like YA is filled with a lot of introverted Bella Swan types, but it’s nice to get a Carrie (from Sex and the City) type character front and center too. And I loved the friendship turned romance in this too. I could see this turning into a charming Netflix movie. Aka; I’m crossing my fingers that this gets picked up.

10) Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman (Review / Rating: 10/10)

I loved this book. I think a lot of people gave up on it because of its slow pacing. But, the writing, the world-building, and the self discovery in this unique fantasy were just all so incredible to me. Most YA books involve a little growing up and or coming of age. This one takes that trope and re-creates it. The friendship, the side quests, and the surprise of the main character’s past for me were all just so interesting. I love stories where women dress as men to get by in a patriarchal society, and this story takes that to a whole new level. This was a beautiful book.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Upside Down Magic by Sarah Mlynowski, Lauren Myracle, and Emily Jenkins

Summary from Goodreads:
From New York Times bestselling authors Sarah Mlynowski, Lauren Myracle, and Emily Jenkins comes the hilarious and heartfelt story of a group of magical misfits.

Nory Horace is nine years old. She's resourceful, she's brave, she likes peanut butter cookies. Also, she's able to transform into many different animals. Unfortunately, Nory's shape-shifting talent is a bit wonky. And when she flunks out of her own father's magic academy, Nory's forced to enter public school, where she meets a group of kids whose magic is, well, different.

This new, offbeat series from hit authors Sarah Mlynowski, Lauren Myracle, and Emily Jenkins chronicles the misadventures of Nory and her oddball friends, who prove that upside-down magic definitely beats right side up.
I picked this book up at a book swap of sorts on a vacation I took to upstate New York with my friends from library school. Though, I’m not going to lie; a big appeal for me was the main character’s name: Nory. It’s spelled wrong, but still. It’s not every day that I read from the point of view of another Nory.
This book was cute. It’s definitely a middle grade book that I know I would have loved a lot more if I were a kid. I can see a lot of kids loving this book. The writing style was not my favorite. It felt a little too easy, like maybe the authors were trying too hard to sound young.  I liked Nory a lot, and it was easy to relate to her. I think every kid at some point wishes they were normal.
On the other hand, I was also a little annoyed with her because she had such power and magic, and I was mad jealous. Instead of focusing on not being normal, she should have been focusing on how awesome she was. I like that her new school and teacher were helping her come to terms with her awesomeness. But, I still kept wanting to shake some sense into her. I was also not a huge fan of her friend, Elliot. He put way too much faith and attention in the wrong people. And he should have forgiven Nory way sooner.
I loved Nory’s aunt and her love of pizza. I loved the magic system to this world. And I loved getting to know all the characters in Nory’s new classroom.
I wanted more story though. I kept waiting for something bigger to happen. And while the almost-catastrophe at the end of the story was a pretty big deal, I wanted something more. The whole book kind of felt like the opening to a bigger book that I didn’t get yet. Not a lot happened in it, besides some bullying and some learning to love yourself moments. I’m not sure I’ll continue with the series. I know I’d have read them all as a kid. I give this a 7/10.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Queen of Air and Darkness by Cassandra Clare

Summary from 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.
I am a huge Cassandra Clare fan. I have read every one of her books. They are my catnip. Seriously, amazing characters + magical world setting + all the supernatural creatures my heart can come up with + super dramatic teen romance + crazy addictive, high action suspense, and well you get YA at it’s best. And I have to say that I do think her writing has come a long way since City of Bones (her first book). That all being said, this was not my favorite book by her.
It took me longer to read this book than any other book she has written –almost 2 weeks! It is another giant, reaching almost 900 pages. Maybe that mixed with my busy holiday time schedule, mixed with the epic sadness of the beginning of this book, all added to my lengthy reading time. Yet, I was counting down the days for this book. I was anticipating this one more than any other book this year. I didn’t pre-order it because I knew it would come out while I was away in Chicago. I bought this monster on vacation the day it came out and carried it on a plane…this book is massive and takes up a lot of carry on space the otherwise would have been filled with Garret’s popcorn.
Do not read the rest of my review if you don’t want minor spoilers!!
Reading the beginning of the book was like being punched to the heart, repeatedly…on slow motion. An important character died at the end of the last book, and this wasn’t just a well-loved character, this was a well-loved child character. And you go into these books, with the YA/Supernatural (tv show)/Buffy-type mindset of never really knowing if the character is truly dead forever, kind of hoping they aren’t. And then it’s like Sirius Black all over again when you realize your dreams aren’t coming true.
And of course Clare excels at writing characters, so it’s not a gloss-over kind of death. But, instead it’s the realistic, long lasting, slow motion repeated punch to your heart experienced in the eyes of all the other loved characters kind of death.
Then there were some classic, eye-roll inducing, overdone YA tropes I don’t like mucking up an otherwise awesome addition to the story. The whole spell Julian took to remove his love was just plain stupid and I can’t believe Magnus did that. All the elements of Fairy have been done before, and I was hoping for something new there. And the first half of the book just felt so repetitive. Repetitive grief, repetitive guilt, repetitive forbidden love….And I guess I needed more action, suspense, and humor.
Thankfully, those things finally came in the second half. But, I seriously think a whole chunk of the first half could have been removed and this would have solved a lot of my problems. The action, suspense, and humor also came with dystopia alternate worlds, revenge stories, children playing with necromancy, insane spells, added trips to the shadow market, rescuing Clary and Jace, a civil war, prison uprisings, political corruption, and more. Finally, it got to the point where I couldn’t put this book down. It just took a lot of grief-ridden, overly repetitive nonsense to get there.
Also, a lot of questions were answered in this installment. I finally understood some things about parabatai that I didn’t before.  There were tons of references to past series, past characters, past hardships. And I liked how things ended and connected. Stuff is definitely not over with Ty and Kit. I feel like I know where her next series will go (already), and I’m glad to maybe step away from Julian and Emma and Clary and Jace. Though, I had fun for their stories here. I like that Clare has gotten a lot more diverse with her characters. There’s plenty of LGBT representation. It’s the first time I’ve read about a transgender character in a YA fantasy. It’s also the first time I’ve read about a relationship between two men and one woman…And the romance throughout it all is sizzling.
It’s also the closest Clare has gotten to an allegory of current political situations. So much of the evil cohort could be connected to current day bigots in the Trump administration. I’m shocked that no one has commented on this yet. And I also hope that people can be as promising as shadowhunters/downworlders in the face of adversity and change.  Or maybe more promising would be nice too.
I loved the ending. I’m not quite sure why the book is named for a character that didn’t seem all too important…I kept waiting for her story to take more of a center stage, but weirdly she was the least developed character in there. I liked getting the bonus Clary story at the end. And I loved how stuff resolved with Julian and Emma. I’m glad Emma didn’t make the giant mistake I really though that she would. All in all, I give this one an 8/10. It would have been a 10/10 if the repetition and bad tropes to the storyline weren’t there.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Carols and Chaos by Cindy Anstey

Summary from Goodreads:
A lady's maid and a valet become entangled in a yuletide counterfeiting scheme in this romantic Christmas YA adventure.

1817. The happy chaos of the Yuletide season has descended upon the country estate of Shackleford Park in full force, but lady's maid Kate Darby barely has the time to notice. Between her household duties, caring for her ailing mother, and saving up money to someday own a dress shop, her hands are quite full. Matt Harlow is also rather busy. He's performing double-duty, acting as valet for both of the Steeple brothers, two of the estate's holiday guests.

Falling in love would be a disaster for either of them. But staving off their feelings for each other becomes the least of their problems when a devious counterfeiting scheme reaches the gates of Shackleford Park, and Kate and Matt are unwittingly swept up in the intrigue. Full of sweetness, charm, and holiday shenanigans, Carols and Chaos is perfect for fans of Jane Austen and Downton Abbey.
This is the second fluffy book I read in a row, where I was hoping for just a little bit more. I enjoyed this. Again, it was a great, easy book to read while traveling. And it’s certainly the right time of year to read this cute, Christmas romance. I just don’t think it’s as good as other books by this author.
I weirdly did not know that this was a sequel to a book I read a long time ago, until after I finished it. So, I guess that answers the question of whether or not you need to read book 1 to like this one. The answer is no. Book 1 is not needed. I didn’t even realize there was a book 1. I guess it’s about another character in the same time/story, so it’s more of a side novel.
I loved the definite Downton Abbey feel to it all. The Christmas celebrations really gave me a hunger to re-watch the show, particularly a certain Christmas episode. I loved all the characters in the house (both upstairs and downstairs). And I also rather enjoyed the romance. It was nice to actually have a romance start between characters who clearly were into each other from the beginning. Their flirting was charming.
The main character, Kate, though was kind of boring. She was almost too good. She put up with a crazy mother, a demanding job, and still had time to genuinely care for every soul around her. I wanted a little more sass from her. I did find elements to the story to be quite hilarious. I love how things ended up with the missing friend. I laughed out loud reading the reunion scene toward the end.
All in all, this was a Christmas mystery/romance that was very fluffy (Hallmark worthy). There was not a lot of substance to the story, but maybe this time of year, that’s what people want to read. It did have good humor and characters. Though, the main character was a tad boring. And it did make me want to re-watch Downton Abbey. Maybe I will soon. I give it a 7/10.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

What if it's us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera

Summary from Goodreads:
Arthur is only in New York for the summer, but if Broadway has taught him anything, it’s that the universe can deliver a showstopping romance when you least expect it.

Ben thinks the universe needs to mind its business. If the universe had his back, he wouldn’t be on his way to the post office carrying a box of his ex-boyfriend’s things.

But when Arthur and Ben meet-cute at the post office, what exactly does the universe have in store for them?

Maybe nothing. After all, they get separated.

Maybe everything. After all, they get reunited.

But what if they can’t quite nail a first date . . . or a second first date . . . or a third?

What if Arthur tries too hard to make it work . . . and Ben doesn’t try hard enough?

What if life really isn’t like a Broadway play?

But what if it is?
This was cute. It wasn’t the crazy amazing love child I was hoping for. I love both Albertalli and Silvera. And I may have overly anticipated a book collaborated on by both of them. That being said, I did still super enjoy reading it. I read it remarkably fast (over the course of a travel day). And I did make friends with a stranger at the airport because of it. I feel like both authors would be proud of that. Yay for cool adults reading YA!
I guess what makes this book stand out so much to me is that it is a classic romantic comedy story about a gay couple. It’s practically 2019. Why isn’t this a genre of its own already? It was nice seeing some classic, fluffly tropes apply to all kinds of love, and not just the normal hetero-type romance. Also, both authors know how to write realistic, current relationships in a way that most only dream about writing. Seriously, it felt kind of like the gay, modern version of You’ve Got Mail or Sleepless in Seattle. It was top-notch fluffy romance. If you enjoy a fun romantic comedy, you’ll like this one.
I guess I was expecting a tiny bit more substance to the fluff because both authors are known for a little bit more than this. However, I’m not really complaining. It was nice having a book that was lighter and easy and fun to read during a hectic traveling day. The humor, the awkwardness, the awesome side friendships, and all the unbelievable character development both authors are known for, did really shine through.
My only real qualm with this book overall, is the ending. The ending was too real. I don’t want to say too much about it and spoil it for anyone. But, it was weird having such a fluffy (almost too good to be true-type) romantic comedy not end how all good fluffy (almost too good to be true-type) romantic comedies should. Like why was the ending the one element that was not a part of the cutesy story? I say if you’re going to be fluffy, go fluffy all the way.
All in all, both authors did a splendid job writing a truly modern, cute, gay romantic comedy. I read this book quickly. I loved the characters (main and side ones). I loved the corny love story elements that reminded me of You’ve Got Mail. I was maybe expecting a little more. And I was not a fan of the not-as-cute ending. I give it an 8/10.

Monday, December 10, 2018

A Good Week in Books (195)

I had nice, festive book week. I went to visit family in Chicago for Chanukah. I read one book on the way to Chicago, and I read another one on my way back. I received one book as a gift. I bought a highly anticipated release (that I already started). And I purchased a book about a museum I went to with my mom and boyfriend. Not a bad holiday!
The new books:

Queen of Air and Darkness by Cassandra Clare
Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin
Chicago’s Samuel M. Nickerson House: An American Palace by David Bagnall
How was your week in books?

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Dance of Thieves by Mary E. Pearson

Summary from Goodreads:
A new novel in the New York Times–bestselling Remnant Chronicles universe, in which a reformed thief and the young leader of an outlaw dynasty lock wits in a battle that may cost them their lives—and their hearts.

When the patriarch of the Ballenger empire dies, his son, Jase, becomes its new leader. Even nearby kingdoms bow to the strength of this outlaw family, who have always governed by their own rules. But a new era looms on the horizon, set in motion by a young queen, which makes her the target of the dynasty's resentment and anger.

At the same time, Kazi, a legendary former street thief, is sent by the queen to investigate transgressions against the new settlements. When Kazi arrives in the forbidding land of the Ballengers, she learns that there is more to Jase than she thought. As unexpected events spiral out of their control, bringing them intimately together, they continue to play a cat and mouse game of false moves and motives in order to fulfill their own secret missions.
So, I read the Remnant Chronicles this year. I wanted to read them all before starting this new book, and I wanted to have read them + this one before going to a festival where I could have the author sign them all. Unfortunately, I was super sick the day of the festival and missed out. And then I postponed reading this book because a million library books came in for me. Then, I was worried I wouldn’t remember enough of the books leading up to this one.
Thank goodness I remembered the other books. I know some reviewers have said you don’t need to read The Remnant Chronicles to enjoy this one, but I disagree. A lot of this book alluded to past events, and important characters just would not make sense to you if you have not read the earlier series. That being said, I loved it. I loved the Remnant Chronicles and I wasn’t sure I’d end up loving these new characters like I did the past ones.
I fell in love with these characters too. This book felt like a super amazing combination of Tamora Pierce, Sherry Thomas, and Leigh Bardugo. This is YA fantasy at it’s best. That being said, the story isn’t an entirely new one. It follows a lot of well-known YA fantasy tropes. However, it does bring in new characters, fun additions, and lots of steamy romance. And because of those things, it didn’t feel too overdone. It still felt kind of fresh.
I’m also a sucker for hate turned to love romances. I loved watching Kazi and Jase get to know each other. They are both just so smart, quick, and loyal to their causes. You can’t help but want them to see these similar qualities in each other and know that they belong together.
The plot moved quickly –especially in the beginning when the book was a bit of a survivalist story. Watching the two characters survive in the wilderness while literally chained together at the ankles was quite a story. And then, I was just as riveted in the middle of the book because I needed to know what Kazi’s true mission was. What were her secrets, and what was her awful history?
I love that Pearson slowly answers all your questions as you read, keeping you interested in the plot the whole time. She’s a master of the slow reveal. Though if you’re a fantasy reading pro, you’ll call a lot of the reveals before they happen.
I loved the friendships and side characters. I loved seeing characters form the past books and reading about the leaders they’ve become. I loved seeing the aftermath of the world that survived such chaos and reading about the kinds of people who can benefit from all the sacrifices made in the earlier series. The world building kept going. The character development was masterful. And the love story was one I was hoping for. All in all, this was a fantastic read. I give it a 10/10.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden

Summary from Goodreads:
An epic graphic novel about a girl who travels to the ends of the universe to find a long lost love, from acclaimed author Tillie Walden.

Throughout the deepest reaches of space, a crew rebuilds beautiful and broken-down structures, painstakingly putting the past together. As Mia, the newest member, gets to know her team, the story flashes back to her pivotal year in boarding school, where she fell in love with a mysterious new student. When Mia grows close to her new friends, she reveals her true purpose for joining their ship—to track down her long-lost love.

An inventive world, a breathtaking love story, and stunning art come together in this new work by award-winning artist Tillie Walden.
A LGBT adventure/love story set in space? Yes please! I wasn’t sure how’d I feel about this one because I have mixed experiences with past graphic novels by the author. However, this called to me. And I was so ecstatic to get this one for review.  I also went from one giant book to another giant book. Though, this went super quickly, as graphic novels tend to do. And it was enough of a genre shift for me to fully dive in.
Hands down, this is my favorite book by this author. It’s one of my favorite graphic novels, period. The art kind of reminded me of the art in Scott Westerfeld’s Spill Zone. It was just as dark, strange, and eerie. However, the art was also simple and often in just two or three colors. It really moved the story along in a unique way. I’m normally not a huge fan of books that are filled with flashbacks/time jumps. However, here, it all worked. It was always clear (by color scheme) to me when we were in the past and when we were in the present. I liked this.
I found the concept of Mia’s crew to be unbelievably fascinating. They had a sort of Firefly feel. They’re a group of highly intelligent and kind-hearted misfits. They stand up for gender rights, and love. This wasn’t a book with just one LGBT couple or person. This was a book where every main character was LGBT (I think). That in itself would make this stand out in a positive way for me. I loved this. I loved the love story at the heart of everything. But, I also loved all the side love stories on the ship. Each character was interesting in a way I’m not used to seeing in graphic novels. Basically, this was a graphic novel with exceptional character development.
The adventures, missions, and eventual rescue plot-line, kept me turning the pages late into the night. I had to know if Mia would find her lost love. I had to know how Grace would respond to everything. I had to know what would happen to other characters.
So, I guess this book kind of had everything….It’s a page-turning, suspenseful story. It has great characters. It has a fantastic ensemble of LGBT characters. The art is amazing. The love story is wonderful. It’s all set in abandoned buildings on random planets, and on a space ship, with some flashbacks to boarding school. And well, I ate it up. I give it a 10/10.

Monday, November 26, 2018

A Good Week in Books (194)

So, I have been a little MIA this month. Mostly, I have been super busy. But, also, I had a bit of a book hangover after finishing Kingdom of Ash. Like, I needed some non-reading time to recover from my 1000 page reading frenzy. I did read 2 books this week (one amazing graphic novel and one awesome fantasy).  I cannot believe I’m almost done with my Goodreads reading challenge of the year. 3 more to go….and I’ll have read 100 books.
I received one new book for review (Thank you, Farrar Straus Giroux). And I caved and bought myself some signed/super sale books at Barnes and Noble on Black Friday. I bought some holiday gifts there too. But, I couldn’t turn away from the autographed books and or the 50% YA books.  Holiday shopping in bookstores is dangerous. I can never not buy books for myself. Also, I’m going to Chicago soon, and I always get some quality book time in when I travel. I can’t wait to start some of these new books.
The new books:

Wilder by Andrew Simonet
Skyward by Brandon Sanderson
A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi (autographed)
Soulless by Gail Carriger (also autographed)
How was your week in books?

Monday, November 19, 2018

Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas

Summary from Goodreads:
Years in the making, Sarah J. Maas’s #1 New York Times bestselling Throne of Glass series draws to an epic, unforgettable conclusion. Aelin Galathynius’s journey from slave to king’s assassin to the queen of a once-great kingdom reaches its heart-rending finale as war erupts across her world. . .

Aelin has risked everything to save her people―but at a tremendous cost. Locked within an iron coffin by the Queen of the Fae, Aelin must draw upon her fiery will as she endures months of torture. Aware that yielding to Maeve will doom those she loves keeps her from breaking, though her resolve begins to unravel with each passing day…

With Aelin captured, Aedion and Lysandra remain the last line of defense to protect Terrasen from utter destruction. Yet they soon realize that the many allies they’ve gathered to battle Erawan’s hordes might not be enough to save them. Scattered across the continent and racing against time, Chaol, Manon, and Dorian are forced to forge their own paths to meet their fates. Hanging in the balance is any hope of salvation―and a better world.

And across the sea, his companions unwavering beside him, Rowan hunts to find his captured wife and queen―before she is lost to him forever.

As the threads of fate weave together at last, all must fight, if they are to have a chance at a future. Some bonds will grow even deeper, while others will be severed forever in the explosive final chapter of the Throne of Glass series.
I feel like I kind of have a love/hate relationship with this book. I read it remarkably fast. I had to know how everything would conclude for everyone. Yet, at the same time, it weirdly dragged. I loved the beginning. Stuff was so intense! Some of what Aelin went through was almost too painful to read. The beginning for me, though, really captivated me and showed me how insanely strong Aelin really is.
The middle of the book dragged. I think I’ve determined it’s the longest novel I have ever read. It’s 992 pages! That beats the 5th Harry Potter book and The Mysts of Avalon  (the two I always think of when I remark on novel length). And I’m not really certain if the biggest fault here is that of the author or the editor. So many things repeated in the plot and development of the story. I get sometimes that repetition is needed. It really drives a point across. But, I swear to God, if I read about her scars being missing, or the pull/not-pull of the mate bond, or Manon’s heritage, or how awful the court is, just one more time, I would have stopped reading. I’m not going to lie; I did stop reading a few times, to go, “Again??” Like, I get it. I’m not a moron. I seriously think maybe a third of the book was repetition…and could have been cut out. And repetition is one of my biggest peeves in a book. It made me question whether the book was edited at all.
Also, all the characters are mostly separate through most of the book. So, some character storylines were obviously stronger than others. I mostly skimmed Chaol’s chapters. I found his to be the most repetitive and dull. It was all about how much he’s overcome and how much he loves his wife. Instead of being cute and romantic, it felt forced. Like, I was being persuaded to think he was happy, instead of actually watching him be happy, if that makes sense.
I was actually very into Dorian’s storyline. I liked that he had the mission he did. And I actually feel like he’s overcome so much more than Chaol has, but none of his achievements were repeated or over-emphasized at all, so I felt like I could enjoy things a lot more. I also have come to love Manon and the witches, and I found their stories to be interesting too, though very predictable.
And then of course it’s all action for the last 150 pages or so, and I had a feeling I knew how it would end, and I was surprisingly wrong. So, points to Maas for surprising me there. I do think she did a good job of the end in general, wrapping up all the loose ends and characters. There was even closure with characters I thought long-gone and over. So, that was nice too. I really enjoyed reading the beginning and the ending of this book. I guess it was more the middle that needed the work.
Everyone, literally everyone, is coupled up at the end. I have come to expect this now…though, it still feels almost silly and too good. Maas still uses the word, “prick” rather often. And there were a few things that came off as very vague, mostly about the Gods. But, overall I was impressed with the end. I liked that things ended a little past the final battle, so we got to see how things changed.
All in all, the beginning and the ending were great. So much was repeated and felt like unnecessary filler in the middle that I almost stopped reading the book entirely. I skimmed everything about Chaol. I loved the stories about everyone else. I loved how everything tied up. It’s rare for me to love a book so much in parts, and in others parts really loathe it. I give it a 7/10.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

When We Caught Fire by Anna Godbersen

Summary from Goodreads:
It’s 1871 and Emmeline Carter is poised to take Chicago’s high society by storm. Between her father’s sudden rise to wealth, and her recent engagement to Chicago’s most eligible bachelor, Emmeline has it all. But she can’t stop thinking about the life she left behind, including her childhood sweetheart, Anders Magnuson. Fiona Byrne, Emmeline’s childhood best friend, is delighted by her friend’s sudden rise to prominence, especially since it means Fiona is free to pursue Anders herself. But when Emmeline risks everything for one final fling with Anders, Fiona feels completely betrayed.

As the summer turns to fall, the city is at a tipping point: friendships are tested, hearts are broken, and the tiniest spark might set everything ablaze. Sweeping, soapy, and romantic, this is a story about an epic love triangle—one that will literally set the city ablaze, and change the lives of three childhood friends forever.
I believe I first read The Luxe by this author in 2007, 11 years ago! That was around the time YA books were starting to become the amazing genre that they are now. It was the first time I had read a soap opera –esque historical fiction novel, and I was hooked. I knew, even at the time, that it was not great literature, but it was fun and dramatic and what I wanted at the time.
I didn’t love the Luxe series, but I enjoyed them. Sometimes I want a predictable, dramatic romance. And I always knew what to expect. I never read the other series by this author, but this book jumped to my attention because it’s about Chicago and the Great Chicago Fire. There’s tons of historical fiction and current fiction, set in NY, but no so much in Chicago. And this is a period of history I’ve always been fascinated by.
I went into this thinking it would probably be another dramatic historical romance set in a place I’m super interested in. I was partially right. I did love the background and the setting of this novel. I loved all the Chicago streets and neighborhoods mentioned. Everything else though just felt so blasĂ©. I’ve read this story a million times. I’ve read this love triangle a million times. And I guess, I’ve come to expect more in YA now. Like, if you’re doing a story that’s been done before (many times), change something up a bit, at least a little.
The characters were all so two-dimensional. Privileged Emmeline never learns from her mistakes. I almost liked her. I thought for sure she would have learned a lesson about wealth and privilege following the aftermath of the fire, but no….She just seems to always amount more wealth, attention, and love no matter what terrible things she does. Fiona felt too good. She put up with way too much, and her reactions felt almost fake to me. No one is that good. Anders was boring. He literally had no personality, besides that he was good at boxing. I didn’t love how he could easily go from one girl to another, either. I don’t even remember the name of the fiancĂ©, who was also terrible.
Maybe I’m getting more accustomed to diverse YA, but so much of these characters problems seemed like first world problems. I never truly felt bad for any of them…And Godbersen does excel at the whole “upstairs/downstairs” writing thing. She does write the points of view of the servants and compares them to the wealthy. But, the servants at times seemed almost worse. They were petty and scheming more than the wealthy were. I never liked any of them either.
All in all, this was not the book for me. I’m a character reader, who desperately wanted to like any of the characters but failed to do so. The plot has been done before and there was nothing new added to it this go-around. The location, the time period, and the fire made this readable enough for me to finish. But, if there’s more to come in the series, I do not plan on reading more. I give this one a 4/10.

Monday, November 5, 2018

The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee

Summary from Goodreads:
In this highly anticipated sequel to the New York Times bestselling The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, Felicity Montague must use all her womanly wits and wiles to achieve her dreams of becoming a doctor—even if she has to scheme her way across Europe to do it. A must-have for fans of Mackenzi Lee’s extraordinary and Stonewall Honor-winning novel.

A year after an accidentally whirlwind grand tour with her brother Monty, Felicity Montague has returned to England with two goals in mind—avoid the marriage proposal of a lovestruck suitor from Edinburgh and enroll in medical school. However, her intellect and passion will never be enough in the eyes of the administrators, who see men as the sole guardians of science.

But then a window of opportunity opens—a doctor she idolizes is marrying an old friend of hers in Germany. Felicity believes if she could meet this man he could change her future, but she has no money of her own to make the trip. Luckily, a mysterious young woman is willing to pay Felicity’s way, so long as she’s allowed to travel with Felicity disguised as her maid.

In spite of her suspicions, Felicity agrees, but once the girl’s true motives are revealed, Felicity becomes part of a perilous quest that leads them from the German countryside to the promenades of Zurich to secrets lurking beneath the Atlantic.
I wasn’t sure how I was going to like this one. At first, I was incredibly excited for its release because I absolutely adored The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue. And I was glad to hear that Felicity would get her own story. But, then I read some not-so-great reviews for its pacing and lack of romance. I tend to love a good romance and a fast-paced story, so I became a bit hesitant.
I also learned that I didn’t love Felicity as much I as thought I would. In the first book, she was the logical, intelligent voice of reason. In this book, she’s judgmental, critical, and kind of off-putting. That being said, those kinds of characters tend to seriously intrigue me, and often end up my favorite if not the most memorable. So, I kept going.
I also loved getting to see my favorite characters from the book before. They brought in an appropriate amount of love, humor, and charm. And as soon as Monty and Percy are out of the plot, there was a noticeable drop in the charm and I couldn’t help but want to like Felicity more than I did. It was almost unfair to compare her to her charismatic brother. But, I couldn’t help but do this once Monty came and went.
However, I soon came to love Felicity. I love that she wasn’t ignorant of her flaws. She learns to see how judgmental and off-putting she is. And she works to fix this. I also love how deeply she loves medicine. I had major respect for how hard she worked to get what she wanted. And I definitely loved that she respected this characteristic in others also. I loved that this book sort of became a friendship story. I loved watching Felicity make amends with an old friend. I loved the mystery, the science, and the adventure to the plot. I found the writing and the pacing to actually work fine.  I read the second half of the book in close to one sitting. It was hard for me to put down.
Though, there was one thing that bothered me. The first book was historical fiction. And then 75% of this book was also historical fiction…. However; then, the author throws sea monsters into the story…sea dragons with magical, healing scales….Um? I love historical fantasy stories. I do. But, this just felt so strange to me. Like if this was meant to be fantasy, couldn’t it have been alluded to in book 1? I kept being pulled out of the story and going, “Are there really sea dragons? And could she be referring to a real animal with a fantastical name?” It was confusing and unprecedented in a frustrating way. Then, I was questioning everything that transpired in book 1 and thinking, “What else was fantasy?” and I guess it altered my perception of everything in negative fashion.
I’m glad I read this book despite my earlier trepidation. I fell in love with the story. I really came to love Felicity (almost as much as Monty). I loved seeing old characters come back. I also enjoyed meeting the new characters. There was a definite feminist vibe to it all. Honestly, I’d rate this book much higher, if not for the weird genre shift 75% through…it was just so off-putting. There couldn’t be something else related to medicine, drugs, and pirates that wasn’t so fantastical? I give this an 8/10.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Someday by David Levithan

Summary from Goodreads:
Every day a new body. Every day a new life. Every day a new choice.

For as long as A can remember, life has meant waking up in a different person's body every day, forced to live as that person until the day ended. A always thought there wasn't anyone else who had a life like this.

But A was wrong. There are others.

A has already been wrestling with powerful feelings of love and loneliness. Now comes an understanding of the extremes that love and loneliness can lead to—and what it's like to discover that you are not alone in the world.

In Someday, David Levithan takes readers further into the lives of A, Rhiannon, Nathan, and the person they may think they know as Reverend Poole, exploring more deeply the questions at the core of Every Day and Another Day: What is a soul? And what makes us human?
This is another book that I read at just the right moment. I don’t know why I go into Levithan’s books with such trepidation. Maybe I’m afraid that his next one cannot possibly as good as his previous one. And I kind of liked the tragic ending to Every Day. I had so many questions left unanswered, but I was also kind of afraid how Levithan would answer the questions in this last installment. Maybe some things need to be open and unclear.
I’m not going to lie; this past week has been hard for me. It’s been a week of hatred and tragedy. Between explosives being sent to Democrat leaders, a racist man shooting black people in the south, and then a mass shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, I’ve been feeling really depressed, and honestly frightened. I almost read a fantasy book I’d been anticipating this week, but for some reason, this book called to me instead. And I’m so, so glad it did.
I needed the character, A, this week. I needed to read about someone so genuinely kind and loving. I needed to read about the equality march the characters attended in this novel. I needed to read about how A felt so powerful and at peace around everyone at the equality march. I needed to read about A telling X (another bodiless soul) what was morally acceptable. I needed to feel what A felt looking at art in an art museum and connecting the most to the abstract.  I needed A’s goodness. I needed a book that could be one giant hug of acceptance for all people, no matter their race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, or beliefs. Thank you for this book, David Levithan. It came at just the right moment for me.
I didn’t love this book immediately like I have with books by this author in the past. I kept asking myself the question: does this book need to exist? Is it helping the story or is it just irrelevant thoughts on a remarkable concept that was already done? At first, it didn’t feel like it was going anywhere. And I was confused about all the chapters in the points of view of other souls like A. Why was this important? Did A really need to reunite with Rhiannon? And why was I going into the point of view of such an awful soul (X)?
To be clear, I never felt like I was not going to finish the book. It just didn’t feel as strong or as incredible as the other books in the series until the half way mark. When some questions were finally answered, and one character was being targeted and bullied to get the attention of A, I could not put this book down. I had to know what X wanted. I had to know so many things.
Also, I loved Rhiannon in this book. That girl has come such a long way since book 1. It’s gotten to the point where it’s not just Rhiannon and the world learning from the goodness of A, but A and the world are learning a thing or two from Rhiannon.  There’s a certain passage I read from her over and over, and I wasn’t expecting the wisest words to come from her, but they do. “…The whole point of love isn’t to have fun times without any hard times, to have someone who is fine with who you are and doesn’t challenge you to be even better than that. The whole point of love isn’t to be the other’s person’s solution or answer or cure. The whole point of love is to help them find what they need, in any way you can…(382)”
I loved these words. I loved her relationship with A in this novel. I loved some of the last pages of this book so much, I clutched the novel to my chest in a tight hug. The other points of view that I found interesting (but maybe not so relevant) became relevant at the end. And I loved them so much. I loved what A came to learn from everything. And I loved what Rhiannon came to love from everything too. At it’s core, Every Day was a love story. Another Day was a coming of age story. And Someday is a story of acceptance. I have loved each book differently. The concept behind it all is so utterly unique and eye-opening. And each story has been able to capture something a little different for me. I give this a 10/10. I highly recommend these books to everyone. They are such teachers of empathy and love.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Ivy Aberdeen's Letter to the World by Ashley Herring Blake

Summary from Goodreads:
When a tornado rips through town, twelve-year-old Ivy Aberdeen's house is destroyed and her family of five is displaced. Ivy feels invisible and ignored in the aftermath of the storm--and what's worse, her notebook filled with secret drawings of girls holding hands has gone missing.

Mysteriously, Ivy's drawings begin to reappear in her locker with notes from someone telling her to open up about her identity. Ivy thinks--and hopes--that this someone might be her classmate, another girl for whom Ivy has begun to develop a crush. Will Ivy find the strength and courage to follow her true feelings?
Sometimes it feels like I read the perfect book for the perfect moment. This happened to me twice this week. I have a very large pile of books on my nightstand right now (at least 10 library books because all of the books I’ve been waiting for all came out around the same time). Most of them are YA, yet for some reason this middle grade book spoke to me. And it’s a book about a family surviving the aftermath of a terrible tornado. And weirdly, there have been 2 tornadoes where I live this week, a place that has rarely if ever seen tornadoes before.
And also this week, I talked with a family at my library who told me they were currently staying with family on Cape Cod because they had to evacuate their home in Florida (due to the last hurricane). And I guess weather and survival have just weirdly been on my mind more than normal. And after reading this book, my heart breaks even further for the family I spoke to, who don’t have the privilege of thinking about surviving bad weather when they come across a particularly good middle grade novel. They probably think about it every day.
And I guess, long story short: this book makes me so grateful for what I do have. I guess I’ve thought about the short term affects something like this could have, but I never thought long term and I guess this opened my eyes a little bit. I can see this opening the eyes for a lot of young people who, like me, have not had to think about this before. It also opened my eyes to kindness because the community is so good and caring in this novel. And sometimes I really need to be reminded of how good people can be too.
I also loved the art elements to this story. I love the references to poetry. I love the story of friendship and how it’s not always easy to speak your truths to your friends. My heart ached for Ivy after she opened up to how she felt to her crush. So much happens to Ivy in such a short period of time, and I love that she grows and learns from all of it. I also like that she read like a real 12-year old. She ran away from conflict when a normal 12-year old would. She responded to family mistakes and misunderstandings how a real 12-year old would too. She just felt so unbelievably authentic.
All in all, I ended up enjoying this one a lot more than I thought I would. It came highly recommended by a fellow Youth Services Librarian. I’m not sure I would have loved it as much if I read it a few weeks earlier. It was really the right book at the right moment for me. I give it a 9/10.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor

Summary from Goodreads:
Sarai has lived and breathed nightmares since she was six years old.

She believed she knew every horror and was beyond surprise.

She was wrong.

In the wake of tragedy, neither Lazlo nor Sarai are who they were before. One a god, the other a ghost, they struggle to grasp the new boundaries of their selves as dark-minded Minya holds them hostage, intent on vengeance against Weep.

Lazlo faces an unthinkable choice—save the woman he loves, or everyone else?—while Sarai feels more helpless than ever. But is she? Sometimes, only the direst need can teach us our own depths, and Sarai, the Muse of Nightmares, has not yet discovered what she's capable of.

As humans and godspawn reel in the aftermath of the citadel's near fall, a new foe shatters their fragile hopes, and the mysteries of the Mesarthim are resurrected: Where did the gods come from, and why? What was done with thousands of children born in the citadel nursery? And most important of all, as forgotten doors are opened and new worlds revealed: Must heroes always slay monsters, or is it possible to save them instead?

Love and hate, revenge and redemption, destruction and salvation all clash in this astonishing and heart-stopping sequel to the New York Times bestseller, Strange the Dreamer.
I am a big fan of this author. I love her writing style. I love her characters. And I super love her insane imagination. Laini Taylor is another person I imagine to be incredibly interesting. How does one come up with this stuff? How? Her world building is so impressive, I sometimes have dreams that take place in her fictional worlds.
That being said, this is probably my least favorite book by her so far. I still enjoyed it and it and rated it high because let’s face it, Laini Taylor not at her best, still knocks almost all other YA fantasy writers out of the hemisphere. Her character development and imagination were still epic. I also super appreciated getting a series to conclude in 2 volumes instead of 3.
So what’s my deal? Well, it was way to easy to put down. And it was way too long. I usually don’t mind long books, but this one just felt too much. So much is drawn out and takes place around this one pivotal moment, but it takes half the book to get there. In other words, half of the book (the first half) felt way too drawn out and over-explained. I definitely enjoyed the second half of the book better.
However, when I finally go to the good stuff in the second half, everything almost happened too fast. It felt like a year to get to this one big moment, earlier. And then an enormous amount of action transpires throughout the rest at rapid speed.  The pacing was off.
It took me two weeks to read this monster! Normally, I DNF books that take that long. I kept going because I wanted answers. And I knew this was the conclusion and that I’d get some. Thankfully, I got all the answers by the end, and it was worth the long read. Let me re-phrase my earlier statement: It took me 2 weeks to get through the first half of the book, and one sitting to read the rest. I also grew to hate certain points of view (like the human friend/old enemies of Lazlo –I ended up mostly skimming those chapters.
Taylor does masterfully connect all the dots at the end. Literally all of the dots that I didn’t even knew could be connected were all explained out in a good way. And I found myself going, “Ohhhhh!” I loved the rescue missions. I loved the arguments. I loved the bickering. I loved the romance. I loved the interwoven stories and histories of this crazy, crazy world. I just wish the editor would have cut out maybe a quarter of the beginning…All in all, I still rate this high and give it an 8/10.

Monday, October 22, 2018

A Good Week in Books (193)

I had a light book week. I celebrated a birthday. I had some major, annual programs at work. And I discovered the tv show Superstore. So…I didn’t read a lot. I finished one book (in 2 weeks!). I purchased 2 books (1 for a signing at work and 1 because I wanted it). Hopefully, I’ll get more accomplished in the upcoming weeks. I need to because I have a million library books out right now.
The new books:

What if it’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera
The Monuments Men by Robert M. Edsel (signed)
How was your week in books?

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Louisiana's Way Home by Kate KiCamillo

Summary from Goodreads:
From two-time Newbery Medalist Kate DiCamillo comes a story of discovering who you are — and deciding who you want to be.

When Louisiana Elefante’s granny wakes her up in the middle of the night to tell her that the day of reckoning has arrived and they have to leave home immediately, Louisiana isn’t overly worried. After all, Granny has many middle-of-the-night ideas. But this time, things are different. This time, Granny intends for them never to return. Separated from her best friends, Raymie and Beverly, Louisiana struggles to oppose the winds of fate (and Granny) and find a way home. But as Louisiana’s life becomes entwined with the lives of the people of a small Georgia town — including a surly motel owner, a walrus-like minister, and a mysterious boy with a crow on his shoulder — she starts to worry that she is destined only for good-byes. (Which could be due to the curse on Louisiana’s and Granny’s heads. But that is a story for another time.)

Called “one of DiCamillo’s most singular and arresting creations” by The New York Times Book Review, the heartbreakingly irresistible Louisiana Elefante was introduced to readers in Raymie Nightingale — and now, with humor and tenderness, Kate DiCamillo returns to tell her story.
Reading a book by Kate DiCamillo is like returning to childhood for a few hours. She writes children with such finesse and ease. Her characters think like children. And I know all children in books should think like children. But, usually they don’t. Usually, that pesky thing called adulthood ruins the juvenile lenses at least a little bit. How does this author continue to write the child’s perspective without any adulthood fog smearing it all up?
Also, I love Louisiana Elefante. I loved her in Raymie Nightingale, and I love her even more now. I think part of the appeal of this book for me, at least initially, was the idea of learning what was really true for Louisiana. Her character had so many amazing stories and spoke them so genuinely. And as a reader, I had to know if she believed in her stories or if she was intentionally making them up. I had to know. There I was letting my foggy adulthood fog up my childish lenses. I should have known that Louisiana believed everything she said.
I liked learning Louisiana’s story as she learned it. Learning her history as she read a letter to herself made everything feel so much more authentic. That letter also brought on the waterworks. I knew what was coming from it before Louisiana did, and again, my older person wisdom kicked in…allowing me to fully grasp what this author excels in –writing from the perspective of a child. Seriously, no one does this better.
I loved the new characters. There was a mixed bag of good people and not-so-good people. I loved what the good people say to help Louisiana find her way. I love that she found friends amidst her sadness. The neighborhood of the motel felt almost like a character also. The setting was so spot-on that it truly felt like I was hanging out in Georgia for a while.
I love how much Louisiana grows up. So much happens to her in a short period of time, yet she is so hopeful, so forgiving, and so endearing. She never loses her magical charisma, not ever. My favorite passage is this, “And so it came to pass that I found myself sitting at the end of a long driveway in front of a pink house that smelled like cake, thinking about forgiveness and who I wanted to be in this world” (200).
I both loved and hated how everything wraps up so perfectly. It was the only not-so believable element of the story for me. On the other hand, it gives the book a sort of fairytale feel. And I want everyone to have a happy ending so badly, particularly Louisiana. I give this a 9/10.