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.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Give the Dark my Love by Beth Revis

Summary from Goodreads:
When seventeen-year-old Nedra Brysstain leaves her home in the rural, northern territories of Lunar Island to attend the prestigious Yugen Academy, she has only one goal in mind: learn the trade of medicinal alchemy. A scholarship student matriculating with the children of Lunar Island's wealthiest and most powerful families, Nedra doesn't quite fit in with the other kids at Yugen, who all look down on her.

All, except for Greggori "Grey" Astor. Grey is immediately taken by the brilliant and stubborn Nedra, who he notices is especially invested in her studies. And that's for a good reason: a deadly plague has been sweeping through the North, and it's making its way toward the cities. With her family's life--and the lives of all of Lunar Island's citizens--on the line, Nedra is determined to find a cure for the plague.

Grey and Nedra continue to grow closer, but as the sickness spreads and the body count rises, Nedra becomes desperate to find a cure. Soon, she finds herself diving into alchemy's most dangerous corners--and when she turns to the most forbidden practice of all, necromancy, even Grey might not be able to pull her from the darkness.
No matter what I end up thinking about a Beth Revis book, I always admire her creativity. She never ceases to amaze me, and make me go, “How on earth did she come up with that?”
I finished reading this book when I was on vacation, and I’m actually grateful for the extra time to think about this before reviewing it. It’s kind of a strange book, in that it starts off one way, and ends in a completely different zone. The first half felt like an amazing classic fantasy novel. I was comparing it to Tamora Pierce and Sherry Thomas. I was recommending it to my fantasy-loving friends.
Then, the second half of the book happens, and I guess stuff takes a seriously darker turn. It kind of goes from classic fantasy to dark horror in a blink of any eye. At first, I did not appreciate the shift. Mostly, I love a good fantasy story and I was saddened to say goodbye to the magical alchemy school and romance of it all. I had to say hello to death, necromancy, cut off limbs, suffering rats, political battles, and sadness. And well, it was kind of like being pulled out of Alanna the First Adventure and thrown into Frankenstein. It was a major shift of genre I was not anticipating. So, I was a little unhappy.
However, I rushed through the second half, on the edge of my seat the whole time. I had to know how stuff would resolve. And I kind of love dark stories…I guess my negative feelings was more of a shock thing than a dislike thing. I was not warned.
I 100% loved the end. I loved it so much I took a deep sigh, and smiled for like 10 minutes. I loved watching Nedra’s character descend into darkness. I loved her character arc. It’s kind of the character arc I hope for in all YA books about evil villains. I want to see how they become who they become in a believable way –and this usually doesn’t happen for me. Nedra was so believable and intelligent, and scary. I believed her story.
I literally just read a review for this book on Goodreads where the reviewer wrote about her slow progression of hatred for the main character…Like she didn’t get that her decline was intentional. It was so intentional. I love the moral ambiguity of this book. I love the main character’s “decline” in morality. I loved, loved, loved that. And the more I think about it, the more I realize the master Revis is at character development. It’s weird how one person’s misunderstanding can lead to a further appreciation from me, but it works that way.
All in all, upon further reflection, I really enjoyed this book. I’m happy to hear there will be a sequel. My qualms with the story were more for a lack of warning of what the story was about than for anything wrong with the book. I guess I just wish the summary or blurbs prepared me for it. The characterization of Nedra was amazing. The fantasy elements were amazing. And the darkness was addictive and suspenseful. I give this a 9/10.

Friday, October 12, 2018

A Good Week in Books (192)

I had a wonderful week. Every couple of years, my amazing librarian friends and I get together for a vacation. Last week, we had a very Fall vacation in upstate New York. I met some of my best friends in library school, and I’m so glad we are able to take a trip together every now and then. We stayed in Lake George. We “hiked” in the Adirondacks (aka: we went on one easy trail after hanging out at the Wild Walk at the Wild Center). We tasted wines and ciders and beers. And we went to an apple orchard and we went to an outlet mall. But, really the best part was just catching up with everyone, and of course talking about books too.
Happy Fall!

I finished reading two books. And I started a new one that is so good, I’m savoring it slowly. I also received 3 new books for review (Thank you, Swoon Reads, First Second, and Feiwel and Friends).
The new pretties;

Carols and Chaos
by Cindy Anstey
Last Pick by Jason Walz
Blanca Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore
I want to read all the books! How was your week in books?

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

The Golden Tower by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

Summary from Goodreads:
The final, thrilling installment in this extraordinary series from bestselling authors Holly Black and Cassandra Clare.

A generation ago, powerful mage Constantine Madden came close to achieving what no magician had ever achieved: the ability to bring back the dead. He didn't succeed . . . but he did find a way to keep himself alive, inside a young child named Callum Hunt.

Facing up to what he is, Callum has battled chaos and evil across four years of magical training at the Magisterium, eventually defeating the armies of chaos in an epic battle.

It came at a cost.

Now, triumphant and heartbroken, Callum Hunt has just about had enough, and is ready to complete his training. But the evil Callum faced has not given up just yet.
I have seriously enjoyed this series over the years. Holly Black and Cassandra Clare working together on a magical Middle Grade series was like one of my dreams coming true. I loved the magical world they created. I loved the characters. I loved the good guys and the bad guys. And I loved all the twists that never ceased to surprise me.
That being said, this last installment was probably my least favorite in the series. It felt like stuff really resolved in the book before this one, but the authors couldn’t leave us readers with such a tragic ending...They wrote this to give a certain character a better ending. I kind of get why that needed to happen. I even like that everything ended with the last year at the Magisterium…
It’s just that the villain and over-arcing storyline felt a little silly. The bad guy spoke like a bad guy from a bad 90’s cartoon. And Cal’s master plan for everything was no big shocking surprise. It was the only thing that made sense. Like, maybe this book could have just been a normal school year without a stupid additional villain? Or maybe if something like that was needed, it could have been something entirely new? It just felt off to me. The adults in the book felt really stupid too. They weren’t honestly handling the situation as I think they might have in books previous. It felt kind of sloppy.
I did still love seeing the characters again. I loved seeing my ship sail. I loved watching Cal truly figure out where he belongs. I loved getting a happier ending for another loved character. I loved that the father/son relationship was handled well here too, and not just as an afterthought. It just did not live up to my expectations. It was not as good as the previous books. I give this one a 7/10.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Amulet: Supernova (book 8) by Kazu Kibuishi

Summary from Goodreads:
Emily has lost control of her Amulet and is imprisoned in the Void, where she must find a way to escape the influence of the Voice. Meanwhile, Emily's brother, Navin, travels to Lighthouse One, a space station where the Resistance is preparing to battle the approaching Shadow forces that would drain planet Alledia of all its resources. Emily and Navin must be smarter and stronger than ever to ensure Alledia's survival.
I feel like there are certain books every Youth Services Librarian and teacher of children needs to read. At the top of the list is Harry Potter. This series makes that list too. There is something so unbelievably special about these books. The art in them is beautiful. The adventure storyline and the way everything is connected is just masterful. These books have a little bit everything to please anyone. There’s high-stakes action, space travel, magical powers, family drama, Jedi-style training/learning, kid power, and just everything.
This was the first Middle Grade graphic novel series to ever fully engross me. I remember checking out book 1 at my library, and the next day, picking up books 2-5 (6-8 weren’t out yet). They are the graphic novels I tell parents to read, who just don’t get why their kids are interested in such a format. And I may have sneakily read this latest installment before it’s pub date because I got it in a little early…It’s that good.
This installment did not disappoint. The art was just as amazing. The suspense and action were just as good. I read it in one very short sitting. We learn more about the voice in Emily’s head –more about the power she has in general. I found this fascinating. I feel like a lot has come so easily for her character, so watching her struggle with things was actually kind of refreshing. And Navin had a little learning and growing also. I like how far his character has come. I can’t wait for their reuinion!
There’s some interesting Back to the Future moments in this plot too…I won’t say too much because I don’t want to spoil things. Oh, and an amazing new power makes the ending of this installment pretty epic. You also learn that the next book will be the last!
The bad thing about these books being so good and going through them so quickly is that then you have to wait forever for another installment. I am so beyond excited for the last book in the series. Hopefully, it won’t take another 2 years. How can I wait that long?All in all, this was a great addition to the series. I give it a 9/10.

Monday, October 1, 2018

A Good Week in Books (191)

I had a nice week. My cold is finally gone, and I was finally able to go out and enjoy my favorite season’s weather for a bit. I finished only one book this week, and I ended up giving up on another book. I started a new one that I’m currently very addicted to. I also received 3 new books for review from Macmillan, and one ARC for review from HarperCollins. I have so many amazing looking books to read all of a sudden. Hello, fall! I feel like the fall is YA prime time.
The new books:

This is Kind of an Epic Love Story by Kheryn Callender
On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden
Boneless Mercies by April Genevieve Tucholke
History VS Women by Anita Sarkessian and Ebony Adams

I cannot wait to get started on these! I wish I could just take a week off of work, and do nothing but read!