Monday, April 24, 2017

A Good Week in Books (159)

I had a nice, little book week. I finished one masterful fantasy novel. I also finished an adorable middle grade audio book that I loved. I received one book for review from Macmillan and one ARC from Penguin Teen (First in Line). I’ve also already started reading that ARC. So far, so awesome.
I also just bought my plane ticket for Chicago, and booked my registration for ALA Annual in Chicago this June. I’m so excited to attend this conference. I haven’t attended this one since I was in library school. I’m skipping BEA this year (one giant book conference at a time for me). I have so many books in my future!
This week’s books:

The Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdeih (ARC)
Sunkissed by Jenny McLachlan
How was your week in books?

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday (230)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that allows bloggers to share which books we are most anticipating.
This week I am waiting on The Inevitable Victorian Thing by E.K. Johnston (10/3/17):

Description on Goodreads:
Set in a near-future world where the British Empire never fell and the United States never rose, That Inevitable Victorian Thing is a novel of love, duty, and the small moments that can change people and the world.

Victoria-Margaret is the crown princess of the empire, a direct descendent of Victoria I, the queen who changed the course of history two centuries earlier. The imperial practice of genetically arranged matchmaking will soon guide Margaret into a politically advantageous marriage like her mother before her, but before she does her duty, she'll have one summer incognito in a far corner of empire. In Toronto, she meets Helena Marcus, daughter of one of the empire's greatest placement geneticists, and August Callaghan, the heir apparent to a powerful shipping firm currently besieged by American pirates. In a summer of high-society debutante balls, politically charged tea parties, and romantic country dances, Margaret, Helena, and August discover they share an unusual bond and maybe a one in a million chance to have what they want and to change the world in the process —just like the first Queen Victoria.
Why I’m Waiting:
First off, what a gorgeous cover! Second, this story sounds super amazing. I don’t think I’ve read anything quite like it. Also, it has so many things I tend to love in stories: princesses, Victoria I, friendship, pirates, balls, politically charged tea parties, and romance. I can’t wait to read this one.
What are you waiting on this week?

Monday, April 17, 2017

Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith

Summary from Goodreads:
Alice doesn’t believe in luck—at least, not the good kind. But she does believe in love, and for some time now, she’s been pining for her best friend, Teddy. On his eighteenth birthday—just when it seems they might be on the brink of something—she buys him a lottery ticket on a lark. To their astonishment, he wins $140 million, and in an instant, everything changes.

At first, it seems like a dream come true, especially since the two of them are no strangers to misfortune. As a kid, Alice won the worst kind of lottery possible when her parents died just over a year apart from each other. And Teddy’s father abandoned his family not long after that, leaving them to grapple with his gambling debts. Through it all, Teddy and Alice have leaned on each other. But now, as they negotiate the ripple effects of Teddy’s newfound wealth, a gulf opens between them. And soon, the money starts to feel like more of a curse than a windfall.

As they try to find their way back to each other, Alice learns more about herself than she ever could have imagined . . . and about the unexpected ways in which luck and love sometimes intersect.
I received this ARC for review from Penguin Teen (First in Line). The book comes out in May, and I’m so proud of myself for actually reading an ARC before it’s pub date. Go me. Also, I was pretty excited to see this one waiting on my doorstep. I love Jennifer E. Smith. True, her books are extraordinarily fluffy and sometimes Disney channel original movie-esque, but I love them. Sometimes I want a formulaic YA contemporary. And basically, she had the formulaic YA contemporary down.
This was the perfect book to take with me on vacation. I wanted something light and fun, and romantic to take with me on my light, fun, and romantic trip to London. It was the perfect book for me at the perfect time. That being said, I don’t think it will be everyone’s right book at the right moment like it was for me.
I can see a lot of people not liking the main character. Sometimes it’s hard to like a character that is so good. She’s not chosen one, Harry Potter good or super hero Spider-Man good. She’s the classic, do-good type personality. She seems to volunteer all of her free time at soup kitchens and other charitable organizations. And because of this she has an almost judgmental personality when it comes to normal people who don’t do that much good.
That being said, I think it’s good to have this character in YA. It’s important for readers to see that volunteering and helping people can be a normal part of life. I can even see Alice inspiring certain types of readers to do more for their communities. It was just a tiny bit hard at times to read about her not liking what her crush was doing with his newly won lottery millions.
I did ship her and her crush. There’s something about an unrequited, almost hopeless crush/first love that I super relate to. I get not being able to help who you fall for. And I loved that the two characters are so different, yet still somehow work enough for me to ship them. I also loved how believable Teddy was. He had a lot of learning and growing to do throughout this novel.
Watching him go from the kid everyone wants to succeed to the kid who “doesn’t deserve it” was hard. His peers handled him winning in a way that was to be expected, but was still harsh. I also loved Leo (the third best friend/cousin). I loved his long distant relationship with his boyfriend and how much importance was put on college decisions. I loved his family. I loved Alice learning to think of them as her family too. I found her grief relatable and redeeming.
All in all, this was a light book. It was just the right amount of fun (with a rags to riches element). I loved the characters, though Alice at times was a little much. I loved the location (Chicago). And basically it was the right book at the right moment for me. I give it a 9/10.

Friday, April 14, 2017

A Good Week in Books (158) - A Good Week in London

So, I was MIA last week…I was on vacation in London! Because I’m a giant Potter nerd, and because I can, I thought I’d share some of my book-tastic vacation with you. If you’d like to see more photos, please leave me a comment (and maybe we can connect via Facebook –there are hundreds of photos on my personal Facebook page).
I sealed the deal for this vacation almost two and a half years ago. Basically, I purchased tickets for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in 2015…I missed the first round of tickets, but got tickets in the second round (this was before any news of the play even coming out in book format). I figured I had 2+ years to save up for a London trip. I’d been to London before (9 years ago) with a theater class. I saw 25 or so plays on that trip, but I didn’t get as much time to play tourist/aka: do the literary/HP things I wanted. This trip was all about playing tourist and doing literary/HP things. I traveled with my boyfriend, who is also a librarian, and we geeked out completely.
We went to the Tower of London, the London Eye, The Warner Brothers Studio Tour: The Making of Harry Potter, The British Museum, several British bookstores (of course) including Forbidden Planet and Foyles, The West End (including the Palace Theater –where the play happened), the Sherlock Holmes Museum, the British Library, King’s Cross Station, the Victoria and Albert Museum, and Harrod’s. Basically, we went to everything on my super organized itinerary. Go us! Touring the Harry Potter Studios was my favorite thing. It was so incredible, I feel like I’m still in a Harry Potter daze. I would go back to London in a heartbeat just to experience that again. Also, the play was probably the best play I’ve ever seen. Some pictures:

Now, I’m exhausted and jet-lagged. But, it was so, so worth it. I didn’t do much reading on this trip. I did read one book (mostly at airports). And I came home with several books (some of which are signed). I also received one for review while I was away (Thank you, Macmillan).
The books:

Meg and Linus by Hanna Nowinski
Rebel of the Sands (signed) by Alwyn Hamilton
Traitor to the Throne by Alwyn Hamilton
The Lies of Locke Lamora (signed) by Scott Lynch
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (wanted a British copy) by J.K. Rowling
The Up Side of Un Requitted by Becky Albertalli
Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor (the British copy is so pretty and blue!)
Some souvenirs:

How was your week in books?

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Hunted by Meagan Spooner

Summary from Goodreads:
Beauty knows the Beast’s forest in her bones—and in her blood. Though she grew up with the city’s highest aristocrats, far from her father’s old lodge, she knows that the forest holds secrets and that her father is the only hunter who’s ever come close to discovering them.

So when her father loses his fortune and moves Yeva and her sisters back to the outskirts of town, Yeva is secretly relieved. Out in the wilderness, there’s no pressure to make idle chatter with vapid baronessas…or to submit to marrying a wealthy gentleman. But Yeva’s father’s misfortune may have cost him his mind, and when he goes missing in the woods, Yeva sets her sights on one prey: the creature he’d been obsessively tracking just before his disappearance.

Deaf to her sisters’ protests, Yeva hunts this strange Beast back into his own territory—a cursed valley, a ruined castle, and a world of creatures that Yeva’s only heard about in fairy tales. A world that can bring her ruin or salvation. Who will survive: the Beauty, or the Beast?
Side note: this is my one thousandth blog post….I have posted to this blog 1000 times! I will have to do a giveaway to celebrate soon (once I’m back from England).  I’m in shock though. I never thought I’d be doing this for this long.
I am a huge Beauty and the Beast fan. I may have already seen the latest movie in theaters twice…Needless to say, I’ve been anticipating this book for some time. My favorite fairytale combined with one of my all time favorite YA sci-fi authors was sure to make for a hell of a good book.
I was not disappointed. The main character is a dream. She’s a Beauty who hates society and secretly loves it when her father ruins their family fortune and moves the family back to the cottage in the woods. She’s an excellent hunter and overall kick-butt main character. She has her own version of Gaston. And he’s actually a super nice guy who likes that she is so interested in hunting and going “against the grain.” Her only issue with him is that she doesn’t love him and actually doesn’t think much about marriage in general. I love her.
Beast is pretty much a wolfy werewolf who never turns back to his human self. I also love werewolf stories. I love the brief schizophrenic chapters in his point of view. They let the readers know right away that the beast was more than he appeared. He seemed to be two creatures; wolf and cursed man. I love that the romance element was almost nonexistent till the end. Beauty wanted to murder Beast for so much of the book that romance just wouldn’t make sense.
I loved all the interwoven Russian folklore and fairy tales throughout the fairy tale. The firebird is a big part of the story (and I love the ballet, The Firebird). In the Disney version, Belle and the Beast fell in love over a mutual appreciation of books. And in this one, they bonded over storytelling, almost like the characters in the The Wrath and the Dawn (though, books are there too).
I like that it takes a while for Beauty to realize she loves Beast. She has to see love in her sisters and talk about love with her best friend to understand what she is missing and feeling. I love the importance of family in this book. I’m not used to books (especially fantasies) where the sisters are all actually friends who get along. I do wish I saw more of the family dynamic in the beginning. Beauty kept missing her family when she was gone, but I didn’t really get to know them until she returned to them. In other words, I didn’t see why she missed them quite that much till a lot later.
This was also a slow-moving book. It wasn’t full of action and plot arcs. It was more about character and storytelling than anything else. It’s not for everyone. I could easily see readers putting it down because of it’s slow pace. Also, it’s hard to see how Beauty can fall in love with Beast for a lot of the book and I can see some people giving up before they can see how this progresses. That being said, it reads like a fairytale. And the slow pace didn’t bother me too much.
I loved the retelling. I loved the two main characters. I loved the background of magic and Russian folklore. I loved how it all resolved. I don’t think this book is for everyone though. I highly recommend it to fans of Beauty of the Beast and people who like character driven stories versus plot driven ones. I give it a 9/10.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Mr. Lemoncello's Library Olympics by Chris Grabenstein and read by Jesse Bernstein

Summary From Goodreads:

Welcome, boys and girls, readers of all ages, to the first-ever Library Olympiad! Kyle and his teammates are back, and the world-famous game maker, Luigi Lemoncello, is at it again!

This time Mr. Lemoncello has invited teams from all across America to compete in the first ever LIBRARY OLYMPICS. Will it be fun? Like the commercials say. . . HELLO? It’s a Lemoncello! But something suspicious is going on . . . books are missing from Mr. Lemoncello’s library. Is someone trying to CENSOR what the kids are reading?! In between figuring out mind-boggling challenges, the kids will have to band together to get to the bottom of this mystery.

Now it’s not just a game—can Mr. Lemoncello find the real defenders of books and champions of libraries?
I love these books! I honestly feel like they were written for me. They mix my love of children’s literature, game shows, trivia, friendship stories, and competition. This one kind of had the feeling of the fourth Harry Potter book. It was a Tri-Wizard Tournament of sorts. And I loved every moment of it.
It was so nice to love an audio book again. It was so hard getting through my previous audio book that I almost waited a little extra before starting this new one. I’m so glad I did though. I never wanted to leave my car. I even took the last disc out of my car to listen to in my house because I wanted to know what would happen and also because I don’t want to go on vacation for a week and not know what happened.
I thought I’d be able to pack my suitcase and listen at the same time. I was wrong. I found myself sitting on my couch, with the story being my sole focus. I felt like the pressure to win was even higher for Kyle and his friends. They didn’t want the world to think they didn’t deserve all that they had already won.
I got a little annoyed with Kyle at one point. The pressure was seriously getting to him and he kind of snapped at a few of my favorite characters (one in particular: Sierra). However, I guess this made him more believable. No one is nice all the time. And while he’s the Harry Potter of chosen team leaders, he’s not perfect.
I loved that a lot of this book was also about censorship and banned books. What a fantastic way to educate the kiddos of the world about banned books. There were a few things that were maybe a little too over-the-top, but then even that over-the-topness was talked about and handled in a unique way…I can’t really explain this better without spoiling.
The book was loaded with new games, challenges, riddles, and book trivia. I got more glimpses into the amazing fictional library of my dreams. I reunited with old friends from the previous book. And I got to meet new characters too. I loved some of the deeper messages presented about book banning and censorship. All in all, this was awesome. I give it a 10/10. I highly recommend it to reluctant readers, gamers, children’s literature fans, and of course all librarians everywhere.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

The Immortal Heights by Sherry Thomas

Summary from Goodreads:
In a pursuit that has spanned continents, Iolanthe, Titus, and their friends have always managed to remain one step ahead of the forces of Atlantis. But now the Bane, the monstrous tyrant who bestrides the entire mage world, has issued his ultimatum: Titus must hand over Iolanthe, or watch as his entire realm is destroyed in a deadly rampage. Running out of time and options, Iolanthe and Titus must act decisively to deliver a final blow to the Bane, ending his reign of terror for good.

However, getting to the Bane means accomplishing the impossible—finding a way to infiltrate his crypt in the deepest recesses of the most ferociously guarded fortress in Atlantis. And everything is only made more difficult when new prophecies come to light, foretelling a doomed effort…

Iolanthe and Titus will put their love and their lives on the line. But will it be enough?

With The Immortal Heights, Sherry Thomas brings the acclaimed Elemental Trilogy to its breathtaking conclusion.
I kind of think of these books as YA ice cream. I love them. I devour them. They don’t quite fill me like a YA steak would. Yet sometimes, all you really need want more than anything is a little ice cream.
I guess what I’m trying to say (while hungry and thinking about dinner and or ice cream) is that these books don’t have a ton of substance to them. They don’t make me think, or have me remembering them days after I complete them. There’s nothing so remarkable about them that they stand out from all other YA. Yet, there’s this classic, old school fantasy vibe to them. If I read them as a teenager, even though they didn’t exist then, I probably would have considered them up there with my favorites. But now, I know there is better out there.
I really enjoyed this last installment. And I plan on giving it a really positive review. I love how loose threads were tied up. I loved how certain side characters played a much stronger role. I loved the interpretations of the prophecies. And I loved how freaking scared I was during the final chapters. I had some serious nail-biting moments.
I also loved where the book started: right in the middle of an all-out war. Seriously, this book was all action. There was never a good point to put the story down. I loved this about it. It read kind of like a more YA version of Percy Jackson, in that respect. I loved the beginning, I loved the middle, and I loved the end. I was a little confused at the end, due to some more memory spells, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. It was magical and everything about it fit with the rest of the story.
I guess the book was a little formulaic for a fantasy, but again I read it expecting that. Sometimes you want a new flavor of ice cream to try, and sometimes you really want nothing more than cookie dough, you’re go-to.
The one thing that did bother me a little was that a lot of things came rather easily. Like you learn one character has the ability to shape shift right at the exact moment you need a shape-shifting character more than anything else.  I kind of wish I knew about this character earlier in the series or even in this book and then it wouldn’t seem so convenient. Sometimes, it just felt like the author was making stuff up about the world she created as she went, and when it conveniently made sense with what she needed. I guess I wanted more world-building in the traditional sense.
All in all though, this was a magical, fun, addicting fantasy series. It’s the ice cream I needed in a month full of not so tasty healthy food. It was a little formulaic, but the author excelled at it’s formula. I loved how it all tied together so nicely at the end. I loved the characters and I loved the non-stop action. I wished there weren’t so many convenient plot elements, and just a little more world-building. But all in all, I loved this series. I give this one an 8/10.