Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Making Friends by Kristen Gudsnuk

Summary from Goodreads:
Sixth grade was SO much easier for Danielle. All her friends were in the same room and she knew what to expect from her life. But now that she's in seventh grade, she's in a new middle school, her friends are in different classes and forming new cliques, and she is completely lost.

When Danielle inherits a magical sketchbook from her eccentric great aunt Elma, she draws Madison, an ideal best friend that springs to life right off the page! But even when you create a best friend, it's not easy navigating the ups and downs of relationships, and before long Danielle and Madison are not exactly seeing eye-to-eye.

To make matters worse, Danielle has drawn the head of her favorite (and totally misunderstood) cartoon villain, Prince Neptune. He's also come to life and is giving her terrible advice about how to make people like her. When she rejects him and he goes on a rampage during a school pep rally, Danielle and Madison have to set aside their differences to stop him!
Basically this book was all my geeky teenage dreams coming true. The main character draws her anime crush to life…And then makes the perfect friend for herself. Of course things go wrong, in a fun Sabrina the Teenage Witch kind of way –loaded with embarrassing humor. And then Danielle and her friends “morph” into Sailor Scout versions of themselves to save the school, and kind of the world.
Okay, so forget geeky teenage me dreams. This is like my dream right now. I want to draw fictional characters into existence. And I certainly want a ring that can make me fly, and superpowers. Yes, please. And I’d love to pull in my closest friends to the magic also. The best is when she includes everyone on the magic. It was just amazing.
I love that this book, at its core, is about friendship and the hardships of middle school. Making friends at that age is just the worst. And I related to Danielle on so many levels. I also like that it was kind of a fresh, graphic novel take on bullying. Oh, and the adults in this novel were awful! (Awful and believable) I’m glad they didn’t tell the adults about the magic.
But, the best part of the book is that it’s also this amazing fantasy come to life book. I read it in one sitting, with one, giant, goofy smile on my face the whole time. I could see this as a tv series. I could see this being so many people’s dreams turned reality. Overall, this was just one, goofy, fluffy, middle grade graphic novel. I also loved the colorful art. It was reminiscent of Raina Telgemeier and Jennifer L. Holm. I can see fans of those authors, jumping to read this. I give it a 10/10.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Love and Luck by Jenna Evans Welch

Summary from Goodreads:
Addie is visiting Ireland for her aunt’s over-the-top destination wedding, and hoping she can stop thinking about the one horrible thing she did that left her miserable and heartbroken—and threatens her future. But her brother, Ian, isn’t about to let her forget, and his constant needling leads to arguments and even a fistfight between the two once inseparable siblings. Miserable, Addie can’t wait to visit her friend in Italy and leave her brother—and her problems—behind.

So when Addie discovers an unusual guidebook, Ireland for the Heartbroken, hidden in the dusty shelves of the hotel library, she’s able to finally escape her anxious mind and Ian’s criticism.

And then their travel plans change. Suddenly Addie finds herself on a whirlwind tour of the Emerald Isle, trapped in the world’s smallest vehicle with Ian and his admittedly cute, Irish-accented friend Rowan. As the trio journeys over breathtaking green hills, past countless castles, and through a number of fairy-tale forests, Addie hopes her guidebook will heal not only her broken heart, but also her shattered relationship with her brother.

That is if they don’t get completely lost along the way.
I loved getting to see and love Ireland this way. Stopping at the stops in a guidebook called “Ireland for the Heartbroken” I thought was pretty genius. It was like a self-help book guide to the beautiful setting. I want to see all the things in person. This book definitely hiked up Ireland on my Need-to-See list.
Also, I loved that this was a YA novel that focused more on a sibling relationship than a romantic one. The fight between brother and sister was more the focal point than any heartache seemed to be. I found that kind of refreshing. I liked that the journey here was to bring back this amazingly close brother/sister friendship.

However, I hated not knowing the secret about the main character until the end. I 100% think this was an unnecessary plot device that took away from my overall enjoyment. I couldn’t grow with the main character or watch her learn things because I didn’t know what she was growing from. All the stops that the guidebook took them to, could have been better for me if I new the source of Addie’s heart ache. Sometimes not knowing a big secret could keep me more interested because I’d keep reading to find out what it is. But, sometimes, this has the opposite effect, and with each coming chapter I just get more and more annoyed for not knowing. And unfortunately, this book falls into the annoying category.
 Not knowing took me out of the story. I kept pausing my reading to think, “when will they just tell me?”  And while the secret Addie was keeping was terrible, I was expecting way worse after such a build-up. I can’t help but feel let down by the whole story. And the sibling argument really felt more like a giant misunderstanding than anything that needed to span months…Like, if you’re not going to tell me something for an entire book, I expect that something to be monumental at the end.
This book had a fantastic setting. I loved the focus on brother/sister stuff. I loved the humor in it. I didn’t love the plot device of keeping the reader in the dark. And I really didn’t love what the secret ended up being. I felt a little cheated. I definitely like Love and Gelato more. I still read this pretty quickly. And it did make me want to go to Ireland super badly. I give it a 7/10.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Royals by Rachel Hawkins

Summary from Goodreads:
Meet Daisy Winters. She’s an offbeat sixteen-year-old Floridian with mermaid-red hair; a part time job at a bootleg Walmart, and a perfect older sister who’s nearly engaged to the Crown Prince of Scotland. Daisy has no desire to live in the spotlight, but relentless tabloid attention forces her to join Ellie at the relative seclusion of the castle across the pond.

While the dashing young Miles has been appointed to teach Daisy the ropes of being regal, the prince’s roguish younger brother kicks up scandal wherever he goes, and tries his best to take Daisy along for the ride. The crown–and the intriguing Miles–might be trying to make Daisy into a lady . . . but Daisy may just rewrite the royal rulebook to suit herself.
I don’t know why I’m surprised by how much I enjoyed this one. I kind of love all of Rachel Hawkins’ books. I guess maybe I’m that one weirdo that’s not into the whole royal thing. Like I did not get up early and watch the wedding. I did watch “The Crown” on Netflix, but it was a total learning experience for me because I did not have the context and knowhow that people obsessed with this stuff do. I did really love The Princess Diaries books when I was younger, and I guess this book falls more into that category. It’s silly, fluffy, and full of bantering-type entertainment. What’s not to love?
This book reminded me a lot of the movie, “What a Girl Wants,” with Amanda Bynes. But instead of it being about an ignorant. MIA father, it’s about a girl whose sister is having a royal wedding. It has all the comedic timing of the Bynes movie, and all the romcom moments too. I loved Daisy. Though, it took me a surprisingly long time to understand that Dais, was short for Daisy….I was literally like what’s a dais?
I loved her best friend. I loved all the drama with the “royal wreckers.” I loved the love interest and shipped them from the beginning. I loved the family of the sisters. Every time the dad spoke, I could kind of hear John Goodman from Coyote Ugly playing the good dad card. Sorry for all the 90’s references in this review. To be fair, I’m writing this in the morning without my caffeine yet….so bear with me.
The only character that felt super under-developed to me was the sister. There was a ton of sibling rivalry/angst, but I never really felt anything for the sister and I kind of wanted to understand her more. They had this important sisterly moment together and I was kind of confused. I didn’t get their connection because this whole book followed Daisy’s loathing of her…
I also kind of wish it was longer. I kind of wanted to be there at the wedding. I felt a little gypped only getting the pre-wedding things. And this is coming from a girl not obsessed with royal weddings. I can imagine those reading this book who are obsessed with weddings feeling much worse about it. Maybe there will be a sequel?
All in all, this was a fun, quick, fluffy read. I read it very quickly. I loved the setting, the characters (minus the under-developed sister), and the idea of it. It gave me some serious 90’s nostalgia, and definitely left me with a big smile. I hope there is at least one more book to follow because I want to see the wedding. I give this an 8/10.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

We'll Always Have Summer by Jenny Han

Summary from Goodreads:
Belly has only ever been in love with two boys, both with the last name Fisher. And after being with Jeremiah for the last two years, she's almost positive he is her soul mate. Almost. Conrad has not gotten over the mistake he made when he let Belly go even as Jeremiah has always known that Belly is the girl for him. So when Belly and Jeremiah decide to make things forever, Conrad realizes that it's now or never--tell Belly he loves her, or lose her for good. Belly will have to confront her feelings for Jeremiah and Conrad and face a truth she has possibly always known: she will have to break one of their hearts.
I read this in one sitting (like I did book 2). But, I did not love it as much as I did the second one. For starters, I hate YA books with teenage weddings….Ick. I’m not really sure that was necessary. Though, I get that a big plot device had to happen to spur the actions of everyone involved.
I also kind of hated Jeremiah in this one. And stuff about his character just seemed so wrong. It felt like the author was really trying so hard to make one boy come off better than the other. And I kind of liked the previous books because there wasn’t one true better guy (there was the social butterfly and the moody one). I liked that it had to be up to Belly. One guy isn’t always going to be a cheating jerk, who drinks too much and doesn’t listen to his partner’s needs. My image of Jeremiah is ruined. Couldn’t Belly have figured out her heart without all the bad stuff in Jeremiah’s corner?
I did love the family dynamics in this one. I found the arguments between mother and daughter to be so true and believable. I loved seeing Belly in college. I loved finally getting Conrad’s point of view. I loved his relationship with Belly’s mom. They have this sentimental moment the day before the wedding that had me practically dry sobbing.
I liked how much further Belly had grown up. I liked her relationship with her best friend and her new friendships she made at school. And I’m not going to lie: I lived for all the moments Belly and Conrad had alone at the beach house. My heart melted at the letters at the end. My heart melted when Conrad laid it all on the table like he did. And my heart melted for Belly, when she finally figured herself out.
This installment was probably the most dramatic. And it certainly focused more on the love triangle than on anything else. I have to say that I love this love triangle. I just wish the author had more faith in her fans for understanding Belly’s final choice. She didn’t have to make one brother as bad as she did.  I give this an 8/10.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

It's Not Summer Without You by Jenny Han

Summary from Goodreads:
Last year, all of Belly’s dreams came true and the thought of missing a summer in Cousins Beach was inconceivable. But like the rise and fall of the ocean tide, things can change-- just like that. Suddenly the time she's always looked forward to most is something she dreads. And when Jeremiah calls to say Conrad has disappeared, Belly must decide how she will spend this summer: chasing after the boy she loves, or finally letting him go.
It’s a rarity when the second book in a series is my favorite, but that happened here. I love book 2! I read it so quickly (probably in a few hours). And that’s not because this was as fluffy a book as book 1 was. It wasn’t. This one had me crying, frequently… There’s death, grief, and heartbreak. But, oh, have I come to love these characters. I love them all for different reasons.
I truly got to know the characters in this installment. The character development was just right. I loved seeing the ups and downs of Belly and Conrad. I loved getting Jeremiah’s perspective. I came to care for him in a way I wasn’t expecting to. And oh my goodness, did my heart break for everyone when I read about the funeral. I know what losing a parent is like, and there’s so much I related to here. And it was hard watching the characters I have come to love, go through this.
I also like that Conrad had a good reason for leaving school and going to the beach. I remember feeling so relieved that there was a logical reason to his behavior. The one thing that bothered me a little was that so much was so clear to me about Conrad, and I hated that Belly didn’t see it. Or I guess I hated that she was so quick to believe him when he pushed her away.
Belly has grown up a lot in this book. She’s smarter. She sees what she deserves and doesn’t deserve. She still will do anything for her boys, but she knows herself in a way she did not before. However, there’s still so much she doesn’t see. And I guess that makes her all the more believable.
There were moments when I gasped out loud at events that happened. I was shocked by a drunken phone call. I was shocked by what Belly yelled at Conrad at the funeral. I was shocked at prom. I was shocked at a moment in the car. I was shocked in a motel room. And I guess that’s the power of a good book. It shocks you. It makes you cry. It has you laughing. And it really just has you feeling. I had all the feelings. This book did all of that and more. I’m so glad I decided to read this series.  I give this one a 10/10.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Catwoman: Soulstealer by Sarah J. Maas

Summary from Goodreads:
When the Bat's away, the Cat will play. It's time to see how many lives this cat really has. . . .

Two years after escaping Gotham City's slums, Selina Kyle returns as the mysterious and wealthy Holly Vanderhees. She quickly discovers that with Batman off on a vital mission, Batwing is left to hold back the tide of notorious criminals. Gotham City is ripe for the taking.

Meanwhile, Luke Fox wants to prove he has what it takes to help people in his role as Batwing. He targets a new thief on the prowl who seems cleverer than most. She has teamed up with Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn, and together they are wreaking havoc. This Catwoman may be Batwing's undoing.
This is my least favorite book by this author, so far.
To put my cards on the table, I was an early fan of Throne of Glass, and I have come to really enjoy that series. I’m beyond looking forward to the last installment that is due to come out this fall. On the other hand, I really did not like her other series that started with A Court of Thorns and Roses, and with each installment of it, I’ve liked it less and less –I don’t think I even read her latest one in that series…
So, I knew going into this one that there was a 50/50 chance. I happen to really like the character of Selina Kyle. And I kind of have a soft spot for all the ladies of the DC universe. They’re all so fierce, independent, and powerful, and since I was a kid, I craved girl superheroes (and villans).  I know Maas can write a fierce, independent, and powerful main character, so I thought I’d give this a chance –despite some negative reviews that were popping up.
To be fair, I loved the beginning of the book. I got super into Selina’s fighting lifestyle. I even thought her sister brought into the story, something new and interesting. I liked that Selina had something to fight for, besides herself. I let it slide that she was not so independent as she’s supposed to be. The whole thing with the League of Assassins was surprising for me. Again, Selina Kyle, is not known for teaming up with anyone –she is the most independent of female comic book characters…But, I thought this brought an interesting new viewpoint to her, and I guess I wanted to see what the League would inevitably bring out of her.
And that’s kind of when it all went downhill for me. The majority of the book was one heist after another with Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn. Selina comes back after 2 years with the Assassins (of which readers don’t get to see except in a few flashbacks), with a secret agenda that she doesn’t share with the rest of the gang (or the reader).  And I guess this is what led me to making all of my Throne of Glass connections. There’s the obvious: the names Selina/ Celaena, the fact that both main characters are trained assassins, and both strong ladies have close to the same personality... Then there’s the not-quite-as-obvious connections: Both Selina and Celaena had hidden agendas from their squads of friends and the reader, both had torturous flashbacks to bad times they survived, both had convenient weapons that could do almost anything at their disposal (magic for Celaena and a helmet that could do just too much for Selina), both had strong friendships with people who forgave them too fast, both seemed to learn an extraordinary amount in a short period of time, and both fall for the wrong guy.
There’s actually even more similarities, but I was getting exasperated thinking of them all and had to stop. I get that some similarities were inevitable and possibly out of Maas’s hands, like the name. But, this was just too much. Like, was she really writing about Selina Kyle, or was this just an extra side project to spend more time with Celaena, who she still can’t get out of her head?
My other problem with this book is probably my connection to the women of the DC universe. If I didn’t know what I did about Catwoman, Ivy, and Harley, I’d probably have enjoyed this a whole lot more. Like if I didn’t know Poison Ivy would rather die a slow, painful death than embarrassingly run away from Batwing for no apparent reason….Like she could have taken him so, so easily. Or that Harley would suggest blowing up a kids beauty pageant….and it’s Ivy that says that’s too far? It just felt like this author did not know these characters well….
Weirdly, I ended up liking Ivy more than I ever have. Maas made her so much more redeemable, and I guess that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It’s just strange…And again, maybe I would have loved this book, if I wasn’t so attached to these existing characters already.
I was hoping to get something totally different from Maas. I liked the idea of a stand-alone from her. And I gave her a fair chance going in. This just was too repetitive; too similar to her other books, and my beloved characters of the DC Universe were stretched out in ways that didn’t really make sense. All in all, this was a major disappointment. It was a good idea and the beginning was interesting, but I don’t recommend this to fans of Catwoman or to people who know the DC universe much at all. I give it a 4/10.

Friday, August 17, 2018

The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han

Summary from Goodreads:
When each summer begins, Belly leaves her school life behind and escapes to Cousins Beach, the place she has spent every summer of her life. Not only does the beach house mean home away from home, but her favorite people are there: Susannah, her mother's best friend, and her sons, Conrad and Jeremiah. Belly has been chasing Conrad for as long as she can remember, and more than anything, she hopes this summer will be different. Despite distractions from a new guy named Cam and lingering looks from Conrad's brother, Jeremiah, Belly's heart belongs to Conrad. Will he offer his to her? Will this be the summer that changes everything?
This was just the summer read I was looking for. Technically, I have a bunch of other books I’m supposed to be reading because they are due back to my library soon, and I own this one, so there’s no timeline…but I wanted a paperback to take with me to comic con, and this was perfect. I started it while waiting in line for the Weasley twins photo. And I finished it this morning (the next day). I just love Jenny Han.
Jenny Han just captures the essence of being a teen girl better than most. The insecurities, the fear, the attraction, the bravery, and the acceptance. All of her main characters feel so real. I loved Belly. I understood her feeling left out from the boys. I was the youngest sibling to two big brothers, and I routinely felt like I was missing out on things. I loved her relationship with the boys. And I loved it even more with Susannah. I have family/friends like her. I also know what it’s like to live for the summer time and always go to the beach.
This was a light, coming of age, summer book. But there were a few deeper/darker elements in the background. The one thing I really didn’t like about this book was that I caught on to the deeper/darker elements, but Belly didn’t. She did not see what was coming, even though it was so clear to me. I kept wanting to slap some sense into her a bit. On the other hand, I’m not sure I would have noticed things if I were in her position either. She was in teenage brain denial. And aren’t we all, at 15?
I loved watching her figure out her heart too. Just because she’s had this everlasting crush, doesn’t mean she’s un-open to other love and other possibilities. I love how brave she is. I love how she stands up for herself. And I love how deeply she cares for her family (blood or no blood). I’m seriously considering blowing off my library books for another week, and just binging the whole series. I need to know what the next summer brings. I need to know how things resolve.
I really enjoyed this book, more than I was even expecting to. I did wish to slap the main character a couple of times. And I also am a little tired of the tall, dark, and brooding love interest trope. I wished Conrad was nicer and less into the girl with the baseball cap. And I wished Belly was less naïve. Maybe that happens in book 2. All in all, I give this one an 8/10.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Smoke and Iron by Rachel Caine

Summary from Goodreads:
To save the Great Library, the unforgettable characters from Ink and Bone, Paper and Fire, and Ash and Quill put themselves in danger in the next thrilling adventure in the New York Times bestselling series.

The opening moves of a deadly game have begun. Jess Brightwell has put himself in direct peril, with only his wits and skill to aid him in a game of cat and mouse with the Archivist Magister of the Great Library. With the world catching fire, and words printed on paper the spark that lights rebellion, it falls to smugglers, thieves, and scholars to save a library thousands of years in the making...if they can stay alive long enough to outwit their enemies.
Sometimes there are so many books to keep track of that one forgets when the next installment in a beloved series pops up into existence. I love this series so much. The first book was my favorite book of 2015. It’s hard to believe I’ve been reading these books for that long. I also hate that I didn’t realize this installment came out when I did.  I made up for that by reading this book super quickly.
This was the perfect read for a mid-summer power outage rainstorm. There was never a good moment to put this down. So much happens. Things really ended in a crazy place in the previous book, and I knew stuff would go down in this book. I just had no idea how much stuff would go down. I felt like something new and terrible would transpire with each new chapter. My jaw kept dropping. Between, the spy work, the mechanical dragons, the kidnapping, the double-crossing, the weapons, the imprisonment, the rebellion, the power, and the books, this book just had everything!
Rachel Caine has become a master at suspense. Normally, when authors switch to varying points of view in a story like this, I get frustrated. I hate not knowing where something leaves off for one character and being thrust into a new story with another character. In this book, it worked. I was just as nervous for Wolfe ad I was for Jess, as I was for Morgan, as I was for Dario, as I was for Santi, as I was for Khalia.  I have grown to love these characters so much, and the idea of any of them not making it or being tortured had me practically pulling my hair out. Thanks for that, Rachel Caine…
I’m also just crazy invested in this world. I’m dying to know how things can change for the better. I want the changes to come, but I’m so afraid for them too. I’m excited beyond belief for the next and final book in the series.
These books are also just so smart. A lot of flaws I’m noticing in YA fantasy and dystopias lately is just how easy they are. Nothing is easy here. All the characters are like masterful chess players, 10 steps ahead. And I have to work so hard to keep up with them. I love this. I love not knowing what’s going to happen, and who’s tricking who, and what’s real and what’s an act. I love it all.
This was probably my favorite book in the series so far. I love the inkling of hope that is left in the aftertaste of it. I love how far all the characters have come. And I love seeing how powerful, intelligent, quick, and resourceful they have learned to be. I give this one a 10/10.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Always Never Yours by Emily Wibberly and Austin Siefmund-Broka

Summary from Goodreads:
Megan Harper is the girl before. All her exes find their one true love right after dating her. It’s not a curse or anything, it’s just the way things are, and Megan refuses to waste time feeling sorry for herself. Instead, she focuses on pursuing her next fling, directing theatre, and fulfilling her dream school’s acting requirement in the smallest role possible.

But her plans quickly crumble when she’s cast as none other than Juliet–yes, that Juliet–in her high school’s production. It’s a nightmare. No–a disaster. Megan’s not an actress and she’s certainly not a Juliet. Then she meets Owen Okita, an aspiring playwright who agrees to help Megan catch the eye of a sexy stagehand in exchange for help writing his new script.

Between rehearsals and contending with her divided family, Megan begins to notice Owen–thoughtful, unconventional, and utterly unlike her exes, and wonders: shouldn’t a girl get to play the lead in her own love story?
What a charming, wonderful debut! I loved this book and ate it up like ice cream. I had a surprise day off when the air conditioning at works stopped working on the hottest day of the year. And after a very hot, stressful morning, I went home and read this book in one cool, central a/c sitting. Seriously though, this book has all the makings of Jenny Han, Stephanie Perkins, and Becky Albertalli. It’s YA contemporary gold.
There’s a main character who’s openly flirty and confident in her sexuality! Yes. Finally, a main character who’s not afraid of relationships. Yes, I relate to the teen girls who are hesitant and afraid because I was…but it’s so refreshing to have a confident, flirty heroine too.
I loved all the theater drama (aka: the hookups, parties, love triangles, etc). It was like catnip for me. Add in the spunky, confidant Megan, and I was hooked from page 1. I love that friendships were more if not equally important to Megan as her romantic relationships. She worked so hard to keep things going with her best friend. And I loved that she was so close to her ex even though he pretty much explains that she is the one who really made him realize he’s gay. She fights for her friends. And she fights with them. Everything about this felt so real.
I loved watching Megan become Juliette and excel at acting too. She deserved to be center stage sometimes too. And I loved that the people in her life wanted her to have that spotlight. I found the family drama interesting too. It may have been the only part of the book I felt needed a little more time…but still I was hooked on that too.
And I loved the romance. I loved Owen. I shipped them from the beginning. I love romances that start off in the friend zone. I loved their banter and open communication. I love that they both could tease each other and knew just what to say to embarrass one another. I loved them. All in all, this is the perfect binge-worthy summer contemporary romance. And I’m so glad I picked this up when I did. I give it a 10/10.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Bob by Wendy Mass and Rebecca Stead

Summary from Goodreads:

It’s been five years since Livy and her family have visited Livy’s grandmother in Australia. Now that she’s back, Livy has the feeling she’s forgotten something really, really important about Gran’s house.

It turns out she’s right.

Bob, a short, greenish creature dressed in a chicken suit, didn’t forget Livy, or her promise. He’s been waiting five years for her to come back, hiding in a closet like she told him to. He can’t remember who—or what—he is, where he came from, or if he even has a family. But five years ago Livy promised she would help him find his way back home. Now it’s time to keep that promise.

Clue by clue, Livy and Bob will unravel the mystery of where Bob comes from, and discover the kind of magic that lasts forever.

Wendy Mass and Rebecca Stead, two masterminds of classic, middle-grade fiction come together to craft this magical story about the enduring power of friendship.
I had a feeling I was going to love this one. How could I not a love book written by two of my favorite middle grade authors? I love when two people you love come together and work on something magical. And Bob was magical.
I loved Livy and Bob. Livy felt like such a real person. I love that she was flawed, but also so good. She kept her promise to Bob, even though she didn’t remember making it. I loved how it made me nostalgic for my childhood. It really made me remember things I thought were long forgotten. I remember placing outside, playing with dolls, and having so much freedom to do what I wanted. I remember walking like a chicken, and bumping down the stairs, too.
Besides just putting me in a nostalgic, happy mood, this book was also a fun mystery. I had to know where Bob came from. I needed answers. I love how everything in the story is connected. The water, Bob, the farms, the chickens, the neighbors, the books, and the community. Everything is connected.
This is a short book, but for some reason I didn’t think I’d read it this quickly. I read it in one sitting. And it was hard to put down. I stayed up past my bedtime finishing this and I’m glad I did. It gave me happy dreams. This is a fast-paced endearing read. It was charming, mysterious, magical, and real all at the same time. I loved the characters, the setting, and the story. I can’t really come up with anything negative to say. This gets a 10/10.

Monday, August 13, 2018

A Good Week in books (188)

This may be the only time I’ve ever written one of these posts without receiving any new books for review or purchase. Why am I doing this then? Two reasons. 1: I had to share that I read 4 books this week. It was maybe one of the most stressful workweeks I’ve ever had, so I was a reading frenzy in any spare time. I read one middle grade, two YA contemporaries, and one YA fantasy. 2: I went to Boston Comic Con this past weekend. Actually, I guess they changed the name to Boston Fan Expo….but we all still call it Comic Con. And purchased a bunch of super geeky/bookish related things.
The highlights of this year’s Comic Con for me were: meeting James and Oliver Phelps (the actors who played the Weasley twins in the Harry Potter movies), attending a Buffy the Vampire “Once More with Feeling” live sing-along with the boyfriend, and going to a Q&A panel for Freddie Prinze Jr, with my good friend (and fellow librarian), Casey.
Meeting and getting my photo taken with the Phelps twins was surreal….I asked them to give me bunny ears, and of course they did. They were so polite, and British. And also, they just seemed genuinely kind and excited to be there (for what was day 3 for them). Being in a room filled with Buffy fans singing their hearts out was also pretty surreal. And I guess that’s what makes these cons as special as they are really –being surrounded by people who love the same things you do. And I have to own up to the fact that I was kinda obsessed with Freddie Prinze Jr. when I was a kid. He may have been my first celebrity crush, and I may have had a giant collage of him….It was cool to see how he’s a part of the comic con culture too (with his voice work in Star Wars Rebels and popular video games). And his stories about growing up were surprisingly fascinating and hilarious.
On to the other awesome thing about Comic Con, the shopping! Here’s all the geeky loot I purchased. I also have to mention that I’m super proud of myself for not buying any artwork because Nick and I finally finished getting frames and hanging all the stuff we have already had.

-Free Newbury Comics glass (we were in the right place at the right time for that!)
-Dementor Repellant soap dispenser
-First set of geeky earrings: Pride and Prejudice books, Thomas the Tank Engine, Totoro, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows books
-Photo of me and the Weasley twins!
-Star Wars bathroom hand towels: “I love you,” and “I know.”
-Set of four coasters from four fictional places: Three Broomsticks, Milliways: The Restaurant at the end of the Universe, Upside-down, and Luke’s Diner
-Second set of geeky earrings: R2-D2, Hedwig, and Kiki’s Delivery Service
-Third set of geeky earrings: Harry Potter glasses/lightning bolts and Buffy the Vampire Slayer

How was your week in books?

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

The Trials of Apollo: The Burning Maze by Rick Riordan

Summary from Goodreads:
The formerly glorious god Apollo, cast down to earth in punishment by Zeus, is now an awkward mortal teenager named Lester Papadopoulos. In order to regain his place on Mount Olympus, Lester must restore five Oracles that have gone dark. But he has to achieve this impossible task without having any godly powers and while being duty-bound to a confounding young daughter of Demeter named Meg. Thanks a lot, Dad.

With the help of some demigod friends, Lester managed to survive his first two trials, one at Camp Half-Blood, and one in Indianapolis, where Meg received the Dark Prophecy. The words she uttered while seated on the Throne of Memory revealed that an evil triumvirate of Roman emperors plans to attack Camp Jupiter. While Leo flies ahead on Festus to warn the Roman camp, Lester and Meg must go through the Labyrinth to find the third emperor—and an Oracle who speaks in word puzzles—somewhere in the American Southwest. There is one glimmer of hope in the gloom-filled prophecy: The cloven guide alone the way does know. They will have a satyr companion, and Meg knows just who to call upon.
The weird thing about Rick Riordan books is that I always have to talk them up to make myself excited for them. I’ve never not finished one of the books. And they always keep me riveted in suspense. So, I’m not really certain as to why I don’t just jump into them right away. Maybe it’s the need to remember all the stories that came before (there are a lot of them), or maybe it’s the formula I’ve gotten so used to. Regardless, I almost always love his books, and this was no exception.
Riordan definitely has the whole suspense thing down. There were moments I literally had to postpone plans, so I could keep reading. I love the introduction to new mythological creatures and characters also. I was fascinated by the bad guy this time around: Caligula. Oh, and I also loved the prophetess who spoke in crossword puzzles. I feel like I might have actually survived the high stakes adventures here because I love crossword puzzles.
And I guess what I love even more than Riordan’s introductions to new mythology and high stakes, suspenseful adventures, are his characters. I have grown to love Apollo, and I never really thought I would. I was always entertained by him, sure. But, I never expected to love him. He has won me over. And with each book, as I’m sure is intended, he becomes more human, more loveable, and more endeering.
I also love all the connections in this series, to series of the past. Past characters return, help out, and battle. Spoiler sentence ahead: One past loved character even dies. As I said on Goodrads, I wasn’t expecting to feel such sadness in a humorous book. Again, this is Riordan at his best. He has me laughing out loud one moment, jaw literally dropping in shock another moment, and tears of sadness another moment.
I did feel like there were a few preachy kind of moments about the environment. And I guess they mostly made sense in the context, but I didn’t like that. I never feel like books for this age group should be preachy. Maybe one or two mentions of mass climate change and human destruction is okay…but more than that, and I can see some young people putting this down. We don’t read these books for that.  We read them for adventure, mythology, suspense, great characters, magic, and love.
All in all, I really enjoyed this one. I can’t wait to keep reading Apollo’s story. Hopefully, the next one is a little bit happier? I’m excited to reunite with the characters who will come (mentioned at the end). I give this a 9/10.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

Summary from Goodreads:
Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the uncanny bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a cult-classic book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate, the Hazel Wood, Alice learns how bad her luck can really get: her mother is stolen away―by a figure who claims to come from the Hinterland, the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother's stories are set. Alice's only lead is the message her mother left behind: “Stay away from the Hazel Wood.”

Alice has long steered clear of her grandmother’s cultish fans. But now she has no choice but to ally with classmate Ellery Finch, a Hinterland superfan who may have his own reasons for wanting to help her. To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother's tales began―and where she might find out how her own story went so wrong.
So, I think my expectations were too high for this one. I didn’t hate it. Other librarians recommended it to me. And I kept reading positive review after positive review for it. I guess I was expecting a dark, fantastical mystery with plenty of fairy tale elements and suspense. I kind of got that, I guess, at least in the second half.
The first half was extraordinarily slow. I kept waiting for something to happen to draw me in, and it took way too long. I almost stopped reading the book entirely a couple of times. But, then, half way through, it finally picked up and I’m glad I continued to read this.
I think my biggest problem with the book was the lack of character development. I never really got to know Alice all that well. And what I did get to know of her, I never really liked. She was angry and judgmental of everything and everyone. She had a weird and unfair upbringing, sure….but I never really had the chance to agree with her or feel sorry for her. There wasn’t a lot to her-besides hostility and a strange addiction to her absent mother.
I also never really got to know Alice’s mother. She defended her over and over to the point of overkill and all I really got to see of their relationship was a few brief flashbacks, none of which were that pleasant…Why was such an angry girl so devoted to a mother that chose terrible men over her all the time? I just didn’t get the characters…I certainly didn’t get Alice’s motivations.
There is a reason you can use to describe Alice’s two dimensional-ness, and I’d even let it slide (spoiler ahead); she’s supposed to have the characteristics of a dark character from a story. It just wasn’t enough for me.
Where Melissa Albert excelled brilliantly though was in her setting and mystery. I felt like I was in the Hazel Wood with Alice. I also loved the NYC setting too. And the mystery of it all with the generations of women and the stories, and the recluse author, and the fairy tale characters come to life was just spot on. The vibe was creepy. And these elements of the stories could almost make up for a total lack of character development.
Unfortunately for me, I’m a character reader and not having the development got in the way of my enjoyment of the whole thing. I did appreciate the dark ending. Honestly, I loved the setting and the darkness of it all. I enjoyed the mystery to it too. The lack of character development though is why I’m giving this a 7/10 (and if I even got to know just Alice a little more, it could have been a 10/10).

Monday, August 6, 2018

A Good Week in Books (187)

I have reached the point of summer when Youth Services Librarians tend to refer to themselves as zombies. I love Summer Reading and summer programming, and I’m always super excited for it to start. But, now I am very much an exhausted zombie. The end is in sight though, so all is good. 2 more weeks is totally doable.
To handle the craziness, I have definitely been reading a lot. I finished 1 YA fantasy and 1 MG fantasy this week. I also finished a whole adult audio book. I am on a roll! Never am I more grateful for books than in summer. I received 2 new ones for review (thank you, Henry Holt and Swoon Reads). And I may have needed a little retail therapy…after the week I had and bought myself 6 new books….
The new pretties:

We’ll Always have Summer
by Jenny Han
It’s not Summer Without You by Jenny Han
The Summer I turned Pretty by Jenny Han
The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James
Royals by Rachel Hawkins
Love and Luck by Jenna Evans Welch
Dance of Thieves by Mary E. Pearson
Between Frost and Fury by Chani Lynn Feener
How was your week in books?

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Invisible Ghosts by Robyn Schneider

Summary from Goodreads:
Rose Asher believes in ghosts. She should, since she has one for a best friend: Logan, her annoying, Netflix-addicted brother, who is forever stuck at fifteen. But Rose is growing up, and when an old friend moves back to Laguna Canyon and appears in her drama class, things get complicated.

Jamie Aldridge is charming, confident, and a painful reminder of the life Rose has been missing out on since her brother's death. She watches as Jamie easily rejoins their former friends--a group of magnificently silly theater nerds--while avoiding her so intensely that it must be deliberate.

Yet when the two of them unexpectedly cross paths, Rose learns that Jamie has a secret of his own, one that changes everything. Rose finds herself drawn back into her old life--and to Jamie. But she quickly starts to suspect that he isn't telling her the whole truth.

All Rose knows is that it's becoming harder to choose between the boy who makes her feel alive and the brother she isn't ready to lose.
This was another remarkably quick read for me. The premise intrigued me because I’m currently writing my own ghost story book. I decided to read it because of how similar a concept it was to my own story. But, I think I kept reading this book actually because of how insanely different it is.
As I said on Goodreads, I liked this a lot more than I thought I would. It's my first book by this author. And I think I own her other two and am super tempted to read everything now. But it's definitely one of those YA books where I wish I could slap the main character and be like, "You have to see this!""
Her brother’s ghost was controlling, manipulative, and holding her back back in so many ways. Now that I think about it, I didn’t really see too many redeeming qualities to Logan. And maybe that’s more of my problem. I get that Rose was harboring some serious guilt for his sudden death. And I get that Logan was harboring his own guilt and need to stay and watch out for her. But….their relationship was so one-sided and not healthy.
I guess it’s a different experience for me to read about an unhealthy brother/sister relationship versus a romantic one. And it’s actually the romantic interest that is like, “He’s no good for you.” That difference in YA tropes made this book stand out for me in a good way. It also kind of made the sibling relationship the center of it all, not the romantic relationship. And I liked that some things were more important than romance, things like family.
That being said, I wish I got to see more of the connection between Rose and her brother. Logan just always appeared as a nuisance or a bully. I didn’t really feel like Rose’s guilt was enough for her to be fighting for Logan as hard as she was. I needed to see the positives of the sibling relationship more than I was able to.
I liked the side plots with the school play and the two friend groups at school. I found that all to be super real and relatable. And I loved the romance. I used to dream about an old crush returning to the neighborhood and admitting his love for me. Who hasn’t?
I like that Rose finally understands some things at the end. But, it took her sooooooo long, and maybe invisible slaps from me. And then she kind of comes to terms with it all super fast. She goes from 0-60 in a second. And I’m not sure that felt real to me. I kind of think she should have gradually come to her decision over time. That would have been more believable to me.
Still though, I did enjoy this one a lot. I read it super fast. I liked the side plots. I like the ghost story. I loved the romance. I kind of wanted to like Rose more than I did. And I maybe internally slapped her while reading. I still give this an 8/10.