Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Spill Zone: The Broken Vow by Scott Westerfeld and Alex Puvilland

Summary from Goodreads:
Only the very brave or the very desperate dare enter the Spill Zone—Addison Merritt is a little of both. In exchange for a suitcase full of cash, she made one last trip to the Zone. She survived the encounter, but came back changed.

Addison is not alone. In a remote village in North Korea, a young man named Jae was touched by the unholy fire of the Spill Zone. He made it out alive—alive, but also changed.

Now bestowed with uncanny powers, Addison and Jae may be the only ones strong enough to face a new threat that has risen in the Spill Zone. This deadly entity is searching for his runaway bride—and his hunt is bringing him closer and closer to Addison and her little sister.
I’m not often as hyper-aware of when graphic novels come out as I am new YA novels. And I was counting down the days for this book.  I loved the first one. And it ended in a bit of a cliffhanger. I was so happy to receive this book for review (early!). I read it in one sitting. It’s genius in its creepiness.
I’m also not normally a fan of such abstract/surreal art in graphic novels. But here, it works perfectly. The images of the people/monsters inside the Spill Zone are just so eerie and terrifying that I’m surprised I could go to sleep after reading this. I’ve also always kind of had this weird fear of dolls…and well, the doll in here is pretty terrifying. The doll’s connection to the little sister is 10 times more terrifying in this book than in the first one.
I loved Jae too. It was nice for Addison to have a friend in the chaos. And everything he brought into the plot with North Korea was so unbelievably interesting and scary in its own right.
I loved how stuff resolved with Vespertine and the Spill Zone. I love what Jae and Addison can still do at the end. We finally get a few answers about some things, but I still have so many questions. And I loved the cliffhanger ending again. The ending felt a bit final though, so I sincerely hope there’s more. I just want to know more, see more, and find out more about what happened to certain characters/monsters.  I give this an 8/10.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Funny Girl edited by Betsy Bird

Summary from Goodreads:
Funny Girlis a collection of uproarious stories, rollicking comics, rib-tickling wit, and more, from 25 of today s funniest female writers for kids.

What could be funnier than family?
Read stories about Ursula Brown's grandmother driving her on a road trip to disaster, Lisa Brown's little brother getting a Tic-Tac stuck up his nose, and Carmen Agra Deedy's mom setting the bathtub on fire.
What could be funnier than friends? Pretty much nothing, as Rita Williams-Garcia shows two besties hatching a bird-brained scheme to get on to a TV talk show, and Deborah Underwood introduces a dynamic dog-and-cat duo teaming up on a pet advice column.

What could be funnier than YOU? Tell your future with Mad Libs, discover your Chinese Zodiac sign with Lenore Look, and learn the best tricks of the comedy trade from professional humorists like Adrianne Chalepah and Delaney Yeager.
With clever contributions from award-winning and bestselling authors including Cece Bell, Sophie Blackall, Libba Bray, Shannon Hale, Lisa Graff, and Raina Telgemeier, this anthology of funny girls will make you laugh until you cry. Or cry until you laugh. Or maybe you won't cry at all. Either way, you'll definitely laugh.

Funny Girl
isn’t just an anthology: it s a cause, a mission, a movement. Girls are funny. Now it s time for the world to know it."
It can be hard to review anthologies because each story is its own. And I’m not going to review all 25 stories in this review. I’ll be writing all day. I’ve had this book for a long time, since my last ALA conference (1 year ago? 2?) It was one of those books I’d never heard of at the time, but I saw other librarians getting excited for it, and I hopped into the very short line to get a free copy signed by the editor. Then of course I learn that the editor is a librarian at the library I grew up going to. And well, I considered myself very lucky to find that line.
I don’t know why I’m always so surprised to love short story anthologies. I almost always love them. I just don’t read them that often. I went through a phase in college and after when I read a ton, but for some reason I never find my way back there. I’m so glad this book called to me when it did. I’m someone who has real trouble blocking out the world’s problems and lately every nigh I go to bed, I’m thinking about plastic straws and immigrant children, and Russia, and who knows what else. And I guess my one and only way to stop thinking about it all is to read. And I needed this book. I needed something silly and heartwarming to distract my brain and let me fall asleep.
This is such a good book to cheer people up. It’s a great, happy escape from the world. And I’m so glad I read it. Not all the stories were hilarious, but at least a few of them had me laughing out loud. I may have even embarrassed myself while reading them. My favorite story had me laughing for about 10 minutes. And of course my boyfriend comes in while I’m reading that one. I then had to read the short story aloud to him, so he could get it. And I laughed even harder my second time around.
Another time I embarrassed myself was while reading this at lunch. My boss came into the break room as I was snorting with laughter to a story. My advice: maybe read this one when you know you’re alone? Like I said, not all the stories are deep-belly-laugh-kind-of stories. Some are subtle in their humor. Some are just so real sounding you can’t help but relating to them. Some were crazy embarrassing. And some were just entertaining.
I didn’t really hate any of the stories. I got a little tired of the animal advice column that kept repeating, but I didn’t exactly hate it.  I just got tired of it, like a joke that needed to end. All in all though, this was light, funny, and exactly what I needed at the time. I give it a 9/10.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Love and Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch

Summary from Goodreads:
“I made the wrong choice.”

Lina is spending the summer in Tuscany, but she isn’t in the mood for Italy’s famous sunshine and fairy-tale landscape. She’s only there because it was her mother’s dying wish that she get to know her father. But what kind of father isn’t around for sixteen years? All Lina wants to do is get back home.

But then she is given a journal that her mom had kept when she lived in Italy. Suddenly Lina’s uncovering a magical world of secret romances, art, and hidden bakeries. A world that inspires Lina, along with the ever-so-charming Ren, to follow in her mother’s footsteps and unearth a secret that has been kept for far too long. It’s a secret that will change everything she knew about her mother, her father—and even herself.

People come to Italy for love and gelato, someone tells her, but sometimes they discover much more.
I have been in a reading frenzy. I ate this book up. I love books that take place in other countries, especially countries I’ve never been to. I loved watching Lina succumb to the magic that is Italy. It made me want to go there so much more. I want gelato, fairy tale landscapes, beautiful architecture, insane nightclubs, beautiful houses, and gelato. I know I mentioned gelato twice, but my want for it is just so strong.
I also loved the family mystery/drama. It was fun learning about Lina’s mother through the journal she was keeping. I hated how slowly Lina read it though. So many mistakes would not have transpired if she just read it in one sitting. But, still…I loved it any way.
I fell in love with Ren before Lina did. I love that he was there for her as a friend first. I loved watching Lina finally open up to someone. And he played such a great tour guide. Though, I love that Lina (and her mom) could teach Ren something about Italy too. They taught him about secret bakeries. I need to add secret bakeries to my list of reasons I need to go to Italy. Really, I just want to go to Italy and gain 20 pounds. That’s what I want.
I enjoyed the side characters in this book too. I loved Howard’s coworker. I loved Lina’s best friend at home, who always had her back and even worked to convince her parents to have her stay with them. But most of all, I loved Lina. I loved how she grew in this book. She was grieving so hard in the beginning, and was so closed off to everyone. I loved watching her let people in. And I loved watching her get to know Howard.
This book had it all: wonderful setting, interesting family drama, a little mystery, and good characters. It made me want to go to Italy. I can’t wait to get my hands on the author’s next book, set in Ireland. This was a perfect summer read. I give it a 9/10.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Brightly Burning by Alexa Donne

Summary from Goodreads:
Seventeen-year-old Stella Ainsley wants just one thing: to go somewhere—anywhere—else. Her home is a floundering spaceship that offers few prospects, having been orbiting an ice-encased Earth for two hundred years. When a private ship hires her as a governess, Stella jumps at the chance. The captain of the Rochester, nineteen-year-old Hugo Fairfax, is notorious throughout the fleet for being a moody recluse and a drunk. But with Stella he’s kind.

But the Rochester harbors secrets: Stella is certain someone is trying to kill Hugo, and the more she discovers, the more questions she has about his role in a conspiracy threatening the fleet.
I’m not going to lie; I was expecting to either love this or hate this. And I’m so glad I loved this. I kinda love Jane Eyre.  And I love sci-fi.  I just wasn’t sure how well they could fit together. Somehow, the author made this work.
I bought this book on a whim, even though I tend not to buy books so much any more unless I know I’ll re-read them again. It just kept calling to me. And I’m glad it did.
I like the little bonuses Donne added to Jane Eyre’s story. I like that she had already been in love before in this version and I loved her engineering life that happened before her governess life. I also love how eccentric Hugo was. He had to be on a ship that orbits the moon…(Spoiler sentence coming: I love that his crazy wife in the attack is actually his crazy mom that he’s protecting).
I was fascinated by the world this author created in space. The ships were fascinating to read about. The class divides and the politics of it all were so interesting. I guess my only complaint is that I wanted more of this. I wanted a little more world building, particularly in the beginning. It would have helped to have had more context to understand how there could still be a need for governesses.
I read it remarkably fast. So fast, that my boyfriend was confused when I was reading something else. He’s like, “I thought you were reading the space book with the purple flower on it. Was it not good?” And I was like, “Yeah. I finished it already. It was super good.” I guess I kept wanting to see more of the classic Jane Eyre connections and it was fun anticipating them and seeing them, and hoping to see more. And I had to know how closely the end would resemble the end of the classic.
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.  I would have appreciated a tad bit more world building. I can’t wait to see what this author comes out with next. I give this one a 9/10.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Summer of Salt by Katrina Leno

Summary from Goodreads:
A magic passed down through generations . . .

Georgina Fernweh waits with growing impatience for the tingle of magic in her fingers—magic that has been passed down through every woman in her family. Her twin sister, Mary, already shows an ability to defy gravity. But with their eighteenth birthday looming at the end of this summer, Georgina fears her gift will never come.

An island where strange things happen . . .

No one on the island of By-the-Sea would ever call the Fernwehs what they really are, but if you need the odd bit of help—say, a sleeping aid concocted by moonlight—they are the ones to ask.

No one questions the weather, as moody and erratic as a summer storm.

No one questions the (allegedly) three-hundred-year-old bird who comes to roost on the island every year.

A summer that will become legend . . .

When tragedy strikes, what made the Fernweh women special suddenly casts them in suspicion. Over the course of her last summer on the island—a summer of storms, of love, of salt—Georgina will learn the truth about magic, in all its many forms.
I’m a sucker for magical realism. I’m also a sucker for a good YA LGBTQ book. And then there’s the island (Cape Cod like) setting. And the main character is a twin…This book appeared on my radar like catnip.
I wish I loved it as much as I was hoping to. I didn’t hate it. It was just a strange one. I tend to like strange books, but this was a little out there, even for me. A twin sister who sometimes didn’t notice she was floating….Feathers left everywhere. And everything revolving around a magical bird. This was not the typical summer beach read.
I loved the setting. It felt very Cape Cod to me. Like the main characters, I live in a place that changes drastically every summer when the tourists come. I related to the locals in this book in a big way. It also kind of has this sisterly/women power/ Charmed tv show kind of feel. One of the characters is even named Prue…And I’m all about that.
I wish it was harder to put down. I read it kind of slowly, for me. Nothing like bird funerals and islands of depressed people to not motivate me to keep reading… I also never really fell for the love story. It felt a bit insta-love to me. And I never really liked Prue as much as I wanted to. I also wish it wasn’t quite so predictable. Georgina’s power was so clear to me from the beginning. I also knew something was wrong with Mary before her twin did…like, shouldn’t Georgina have figured that out sooner, when they are so connected?
All in all, I wanted a little more suspense, I guess, to mix with the uniquely interesting mystery. I loved that magic was a thing, but in a subtle way. I loved the Charmed-ish magical elements to the plot and characters. I really enjoyed the island setting. But, I wanted more to the love story than what I got. This was a weird book with lots of weird bird things going on. I read it a little too slowly. I give it a 7/10.

Monday, July 16, 2018

A Good Week in Books (186)

I had another nice book week. I’m a few discs into the last Harry Potter book on audio (and it’s so good!) I finished a YA magical contemporary (does that make it fantasy?), and I’m almost done with an awesome sci-fi retelling of Jane Eyre. I received 4 books this week for review (Thank you, Frist Second, Feiwel and Friends, Swoon Reads, and Henry Holt).            
The new books:

Wrong in all the Right Ways by Tiffany Brownlee
When Life Gives You Demons by Jennifer Honeybourn
Things Jolie needs to do Before she Bites it by Kerry Winfrey
Spill Zone: The Broken Vow by Scott Westerfeld and Alex Puviland
How was your week in books?

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Aru Shah ad the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi

Summary from Goodreads:
Twelve-year-old Aru Shah has a tendency to stretch the truth in order to fit in at school. While her classmates are jetting off to family vacations in exotic locales, she'll be spending her autumn break at home, in the Museum of Ancient Indian Art and Culture, waiting for her mom to return from her latest archeological trip. Is it any wonder that Aru makes up stories about being royalty, traveling to Paris, and having a chauffeur?

One day, three schoolmates show up at Aru's doorstep to catch her in a lie. They don't believe her claim that the museum's Lamp of Bharata is cursed, and they dare Aru to prove it. Just a quick light, Aru thinks. Then she can get herself out of this mess and never ever fib again.

But lighting the lamp has dire consequences. She unwittingly frees the Sleeper, an ancient demon whose duty it is to awaken the God of Destruction. Her classmates and beloved mother are frozen in time, and it's up to Aru to save them.

The only way to stop the demon is to find the reincarnations of the five legendary Pandava brothers, protagonists of the Hindu epic poem, the Mahabharata, and journey through the Kingdom of Death. But how is one girl in Spider-Man pajamas supposed to do all that?
I love that Rick Riordan is stepping behind other authors writing about different types of mythology. Before reading this, I had little to no knowledge of Indian mythology, and I’m so glad for this introduction. Indian mythology is fascinating! And I kind of want to go learn more about it now.
That being said, it did read a lot like a Rick Riordan book (filled with quests, mythological creatures, and battles against enemies). However, I didn’t find the over-arcing plot to be quite as compelling as the typical Riordan fare. For some reason, it was really easy to put the book down. Maybe too much ended at the end of a chapter and I needed more cliffhangers to push me forward? Or maybe the transitions weren’t very strong. Or maybe it was just too much plot in one book? It could have maybe been two books to finish this first part? I’m not really sure why it was so easy to put down.
I did love the flawed characters. I loved that this was a girl-centric story. No boys needed to rescue these female warriors to be. And I loved their flaws. Aru kind of reminded me of the hero of Mini’s favorite book: The Golden Compass. She’s a lot like Lyra when it comes to imagination and coming up with stories/lies. Yet, she’s not quite as endearing as Lyra. She starts the story off by doing something stupid for all the wrong reasons, so I guess she kind of had to earn her respect from me. And she did earn it. And Mini was an awesome character too. She’s kind of afraid of everything.
All in all, the characters were great, the mythology was super interesting, the girl power was fierce, and the concept was good. Something was missing in the plot for me and I can’t quite put my finger on it. I wish it was harder to put down. I’ll definitely keep reading these books. The next one already looks promising with the boy across the street. I give this a 7/10.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Eliza and her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

Summary from Goodreads:
Her story is a phenomenon. Her life is a disaster.

In the real world, Eliza Mirk is shy, weird, and friendless. Online, she’s LadyConstellation, the anonymous creator of the wildly popular webcomic Monstrous Sea. Eliza can’t imagine enjoying the real world as much as she loves the online one, and she has no desire to try.

Then Wallace Warland, Monstrous Sea’s biggest fanfiction writer, transfers to her school. Wallace thinks Eliza is just another fan, and as he draws her out of her shell, she begins to wonder if a life offline might be worthwhile.

But when Eliza’s secret is accidentally shared with the world, everything she’s built—her story, her relationship with Wallace, and even her sanity—begins to fall apart.
I’ve read so many positive reviews for this book. And I’ve always loved the sound of the plot. I knew I’d get to this book eventually. I actually saw it left behind on a table in a bookstore when I was in Chicago. So, of course I picked it up, totally planning on being a librarian nerd and finding it’s rightful home on the correct shelf….but then I read the beginning, and before I knew it, I was standing in line with it and couple of other books.
I devoured this book. I read it in two sittings (one day). I super related to Eliza. I loved reading a fresh perspective on fandoms (the good and the bad). I’m also in a relationship with someone who has an anxiety disorder, and I couldn’t help connecting Eliza to him, and feeling even more emotionally involved than is typical for me. And then of course there’s the awful thing her parents did. And it was like someone stabbed me in the heart and twisted the knife around for hours. I had all the feels.
I thought this book tackled so many important and under-discussed topics in YA. Number 1 being the internet. There’s a huge disconnect between Eliza’s generation and her parent’s generation and what amounts to an acceptable amount of time on the internet. As becomes abundantly clear right away, Eliza isn’t just messing around and watching cat videos. All her friends are online. But, also, so is her gigantic, profit making business and webcomic that generates millions of views.
I like that there is a line though. Even Eliza’s closest online friends were like, “It’s not normal to forget about Christmas.” She totally forgot about Christmas while working on her webcomic. And that goes into another thing not often talked about: appeasing fans. She has mantras she recites all the time to never read comments. She works so hard to provide high quality material every week and be in the same chats every week because her fans expect it. At the same time, she’s a student, a daughter, a sister, and an artist. One of my biggest loves about her seeking therapy toward the end of the book is that she finally has someone telling her that she needs to do what’s right for her –not her fans.
I was a wreck after her parents did the thing. And then I was more of a wreck when her brothers stood up for her. And then I was even more of a wreck when she fights with Wallace and he doesn’t forgive her as fast as he should. Like, I was sobbing into my pillows for a while…and had to collect myself before my boyfriend came home and would think someone died.
The book was a lot darker than I was expecting it to be. It tackled the tough topics of: depression, anxiety, and even suicide. There’s also a lot of family drama, first love stuff, and plenty of awesome geeky things too. There’s a cosplay Halloween party and lots of little snip bits of Monstrous Sea (the webcomic) layered throughout the novel.
I also loved Eliza. She’s such an amazingly good person, even if she doesn’t see herself that way. I mean she forgives her parents! She forgives them rather quickly, before they even know what they did. She sees where she messes up and apologizes for it. She tries to be there for those around her. I loved her.
I give this a 10/10. I’m already thinking about re-reading it. That’s how you know a book is amazing –when you are already daydreaming about reading it again. I hope this author writes more.

Monday, July 9, 2018

A Good Week in Books (185)

I had a nice book week. I finished Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince on audio. I also finished a fun new middle grade fantasy. And I purchased some new books I’ve had my eye on for a while.
The new books:

Love and Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch
The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert
Always Never Yours by Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegmund-Broka
How was your week in books?

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Dreamer by L.E, DeLano

Summary from Goodreads:
You’re still you no matter where you go.

Jessa has learned the hard way that traveling to alternate dimensions isn’t all delicious, glittering desserts and fancy parties: it also means accidentally running into people she thought she'd never see again. Still mourning a devastating loss, Jessa isn’t really prepared for the arrival of a reckless version of someone she once loved who is now bent on revenge. Add an increasingly complicated relationship with her best friend Ben, the reappearance of an old enemy, and the threat of the multiverse collapsing, and Jessa’s got a lot on her plate. She may be destined to help save an infinite multitude of worlds… but in the end, all Jessa really wants to do is save her friends.
I liked book 2 more than book 1. I certainly read it a lot quicker –almost in one sitting. I have to admit though that a plot where the main character has to save the universe is a lot more interesting than a plot where someone is out to get the main character. To be clear, that someone is still out to get Jessa. But, now, she also needs to save everyone.
I also may have thought a certain character who died in book 1 would somehow not be dead in book 2…But, points to the author for actually keeping a loved character down. And having Jessa need to learn how to handle grief on top of saving the worlds.
I love how much darker the story gets too. It’s not about tripping over handbags and wearing corsets any more. It’s about staying ahead of evil and surviving a seriously messed up dystopia version of the world. It’s scary. It went to some awful places in regards to her brother.
I love that both books give a kind of normalcy to autism in a way I don’t really see in YA books yet. Her brother is autistic, and I love Jessa’s very realistic and loving relationship with him. I was so scared for her brother at the end of the book.
This book gave me a little more to think about than the first one did. What if there were thousands of versions of me? What would make us all different, and what would connect us all? I love that Jessa does favors for other Jessa’s who are unlucky enough to live in realities without certain family members. I love that she knows who will be a good friend because she’s friends with them in other worlds. The concept gets a little more complicated and a lot more explained.
All in all, I really enjoyed this book. A lot of the clichés I hated about book 1 were gone entirely. The story was more intense. The concept was better explained. And I liked the characters more. I give this one an 9/10.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Traveler by L.E.DeLano

Summary from Goodreads:
Jessa has spent her life dreaming of other worlds and writing down stories more interesting than her own, until the day her favorite character, Finn, suddenly shows up and invites her out for coffee. After the requisite nervous breakdown, Jessa learns that she and Finn are Travelers, born with the ability to slide through reflections and dreams into alternate realities. But it’s not all steampunk pirates and fantasy lifestyles—Jessa is dying over and over again, in every reality, and Finn is determined that this time, he’s going to stop it…This Jessa is going to live.
This book has been on my radar for a while. The concept of it just sounded beyond cool. It actually kind of sounds like the stories I made up as a little kid. Yes, I made up stories about traveling to another world via the full-length mirror in my parent’s bedroom. I had to read this. It was one of the paperbacks I took with me to Chicago, but that I don’t think I actually read until I got back.
Despite my initial connection to the concept, it took me a little while to get into the story. It starts off like many a cliché YA novel. The main character is a klutz who almost dies on so many occasions. And I didn’t love Finn. I hate instant love stories and I hate stories where fate pretty much tells you who you have to love. If that happened to me in real life, I’d go with the other guy, just to go against what fate was saying. And I hate when the main character can’t see how clearly someone else is in love with them. I’m so tired of all these YA tropes/clichés.
I almost stopped my reading because of all the clichés. But, I’m super glad I kept reading because the story/concept only gets cooler as it goes. And I guess I kept hoping for more run-ins with the Steampunk pirate, and more other worldly travel. And well, I got both. I’m kind of confused reading reviews for this book on Goodreads because people keep referring this as a time travel story…It’s more about parallel worlds than any kind of history.
The adventure and action in the second half of the book almost overshadow all the things I didn’t like right away. There’s a serious cliffhanger at the end that made me grateful for already having book 2. And I have to admit to going right from book 1 to book 2. I give this one a 7/10.

Friday, July 6, 2018

A Good Week in Books (184)

I’ve had a busy couple of weeks. With holidays, protests, working like mad for Summer Reading season, and getting a terrible cold in the middle of it all, I feel exhausted. I’ve read 4 books. I’m almost done with the 6th Harry Potter on audio; it is such a help having an audio book when your head is pounding and reading normally is difficult. And I’m half way through a new middle grade book. I received two new books for review. Thank you, Hyperion and Freeform Books.
The new pretties:

The Darkest Legacy by Alexandra Bracken
#Murdertrending by Gretchen McNeil
How was your week in books?