Thursday, December 14, 2017

Foolish Hearts by Emma Mills

Summary from Goodreads:
A contemporary novel about a girl whose high school production of A Midsummer Night's Dream leads her to new friends—and maybe even new love.

The day of the last party of the summer, Claudia overhears a conversation she wasn't supposed to. Now on the wrong side of one of the meanest girls in school, Claudia doesn't know what to expect when the two are paired up to write a paper—let alone when they're both forced to try out for the school production of A Midsummer Night's Dream.

But mandatory participation has its upsides—namely, an unexpected friendship, a boy band obsession, and a guy with the best dimpled smile Claudia's ever seen. As Claudia's world starts to expand, she finds that maybe there are some things worth sticking her neck out for.
As I recently said on Goodreads, Emma Mills Is magic. Like if Sarah Dessen and Stephanie Perkins had a YA love child, it would be her. My heart melts just remembering what I put down. I loved this book.
The funny thing is it always takes me a little while to sink into these books. But once, I sink, I can’t manage to ever really escape out of them. I was on the first few chapters for a few days. But, today, on my day off, I just sat and read practically the whole thing –chores be damned. I could not put this book down.
The characters and the dialog just feel so real. They are all flawed in realistic and believable ways. I know and love someone who reminds me so much of Iris. And I saw myself so much in Claudia. To this day, I’m always underselling myself. Because of a few bad experiences, it’s always been super hard for me to believe that I deserve all the good things that I have. I understand not wanting to try something new because a part of you feels like you’re not worth it and it will eventually end because you’re not worth it.
There’s a lot of times in YA books where I get super annoyed with the angsty feelings of the main character. And I can see other readers maybe feeling this way here, but I don’t. I feel like I am Claudia in so many ways –in less brave ways. I wish I had an Iris to point me in the right direction when I was younger.
I also love Claudia’s family and small group of friends. I love that they all play an online game together. I love the sibling relationships. It’s weird saying this, but it’s always so refreshing to see nice, healthy families in YA books. Surprise surprise, a girl can have a lot to figure out and grow up about, while having a nice family supporting her.
I was also an English major. Aka: I love all things Shakespeare. So, having A Midsummer’s Night Dream in the background was pretty amazing. I especially loved how Claudia was able to break down the language for her fellow teens to understand. She ended up becoming a Shakespeare coach, and I loved it. I loved her interpretations of the play. And I loved the juxtoposition of the play with all the drama/romances of reality. That in itself is a lot like A Midsummer’s Night Dream, which had a play within the play –all to do with love, in various forms.
On top of that, one of my favorite tropes is the one where hatred (or a strong dislike) ends in love, or in this case, strong friendship. Iris and Claudia had such a great friendship that started in hate. They were kind of forced together in an assignment, which led to the play, which led to them becoming friends. I loved that Claudia introduced her online game to Iris. And Iris introduced her boy band obsession to Claudia. And neither girl judged the other too strongly for their respective obsessions.
What Mills probably excels at, above all else is her dialog. The snarky commentary and sass to her characters never came off as too much or too cheesy (as tends to happen a lot in YA). It came off as just right. And no two characters sounded the same. Iris’s sassiness was not the same as Claudia’s or Zoe’s. And Gideon is so charismatic and interesting, but not too much that he’s unbelievable. I guess what I’m getting at is that everything felt authentic. And I genuinely felt like I knew these characters like people.
All in all, I loved this. I read most of it in a few hours. I loved the play inside the story. I loved the characters. I loved the romances. I loved the banter and dialog. I loved the family relationships. And basically Emma Mills has proved herself to be a force in the YA contemporary world. I give this a 10/10.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Waitinf on Wednesday (248)

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: Willa of the Wood by Robert Beatty (7/3/18):

Description on Goodreads:
From #1 New York Times bestselling author Robert Beatty comes a spooky, thrilling new series set in the magical world of Serafina.

Move without a sound. Steal without a trace.
Willa, a young nightspirit of the Great Smoky Mountains, is her clan's best thief. She creeps into the homes of day-folk in the cover of darkness and takes what they won't miss. It's dangerous work-the day-folk kill whatever they do not understand. But when Willa's curiosity leaves her hurt and stranded in a day-folk man's home, everything she thought she knew about her people-and their greatest enemy-is forever changed.
Why I’m Waiting:
I loved the Serafina books. Seriously, the magical darkness, the setting, the characters, and the history of it all was just wonderful. I loved the sense of family in it too. This sounds like another great book with an interesting family too. I can’t wait to read what this author writes next. And it all takes place in the same world! I cannot wait to read this one.

What are you waiting on this week?

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: The Ship of the Dead by Rick Riordan and read by Michael Crouch

Summary from Goodreads:
Magnus Chase, a once-homeless teen, is a resident of the Hotel Valhalla and one of Odin's chosen warriors. As the son of Frey, the god of summer, fertility, and health, Magnus isn't naturally inclined to fighting. But he has strong and steadfast friends, including Hearthstone the elf, Blitzen the dwarf, and Samirah the Valkyrie, and together they have achieved brave deeds, such as defeating Fenris Wolf and battling giants for Thor's hammer, Mjolnir. Now Magnus and his crew must sail to the farthest borders of Jotunheim and Niflheim in pursuit of Asgard's greatest threat. Will they succeed in their perilous journey, or is Ragnarok lurking on the horizon?
I always think I’ve had enough of this author, but something pulls me back in with each book he writes. I have nothing against Riordan. In fact, I have nothing but respect for the worlds he’s created and the kids he’s inspired to read. He is very formulaic and I always think for some reason that there is no way for his formula to possibly appeal to me again, but it does.  And honestly, this is one of my favorite books he’s written so far.
I love Norse mythology. I had zero to no knowledge of it ahead of reading these books and I love that these books have introduced me to some stories I didn’t know. I love the Norse Gods and how different, yet similar they are to the Greek and Roman ones of Riordan’s other books. But more than the Gods, I love the other characters and creatures. I love the elves and dwarves, and even the giants.
I’m not going to lie; the major reason I loved this book so much was my ship sailed! I was shipping two characters that I really thought were not going to end up together. I shipped them because I sensed this spark between them from the beginning. I loved that they made each other better people –more understanding and kinder. And I totally would have understood if Riordan kept this as a friendship that worked in this way, but I was secretly hoping he’d take it further. And he did! I shipped them as much, if not more than Percy and Annabeth, and like I never shipped any of the characters in his last series (where everyone paired off).
There was this kiss that happened. I literally had to pause the disc (by this point I brought them all into my house from my car because I couldn’t stop listening). All I did for five minutes was squee like a fangirl and hug a pillow to my chest in unexpected happiness.
Romance aside, the story was epic. I loved the whole arc about the mead and needing to best Loki in a match of words. Some of Magnus’ speech almost read like an homage to Harry Potter for me. The whole thing about love and friendship being what makes him better than Loki, was just so classic JK Rowling that I had nostalgia tears in my eyes, in a good way.
I love Magnus. I love that he knows he’s not a warrior and I love having the main character not be a warrior. I love that he genuinely admires and respects his crew. He wants to know all of them, and through this book, he really gets to know them. I loved the continued back-stories for old friends. And I super loved getting more story for other characters too. There was another moment (in Norway) that had me thinking of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and I know that Riordan reads a lot of great books.
Some of the ending battle scenes with the undead and the cold literally had me pacing while listening. The suspense and action, as always, was spot-on. I love the mythology. I loved the characters. I incredibly adored the romance. All in all, this was possibly my favorite Riordan book to date (formula and all). I give it a 10/10

Monday, December 11, 2017

Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde

Summary from Goodreads:
Three friends, two love stories, one convention: this fun, feminist love letter to geek culture is all about fandom, friendship, and finding the courage to be yourself.

Charlie likes to stand out. She’s a vlogger and actress promoting her first movie at SupaCon, and this is her chance to show fans she’s over her public breakup with co-star Reese Ryan. When internet-famous cool-girl actress Alyssa Huntington arrives as a surprise guest, it seems Charlie’s long-time crush on her isn’t as one-sided as she thought.

Taylor likes to blend in. Her brain is wired differently, making her fear change. And there’s one thing in her life she knows will never change: her friendship with her best guy friend Jamie—no matter how much she may secretly want it to. But when she hears about a fan contest for her favorite fandom, she starts to rethink her rules on playing it safe.

Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde, chosen by readers like you for Macmillan's young adult imprint Swoon Reads, is an empowering novel for anyone who has ever felt that fandom is family.
I knew I was going to love this one. This book represents so much of what we are lacking in YA. It’s diverse. It tackles mental health. It covers fandoms in a way I’ve hoped and dreamed of in YA for some time. And it all takes place at a convention. Needless to say, the book would have to be all sorts of terrible if I didn’t like it. Thank goodness, I ate it up.
Reading it felt like attending my first con all over again –except maybe better. My first con was New York Comic Con –when I was in college and only just discovering fandoms and even what my fandoms were. Mine, was believe it or not, possibly more dramatic than the one in this book. It involved some serious ins and outs with my then boyfriend. And like Taylor, I’m not usually someone who loves giant crowds of people. It also involved me seriously taking a look at my life and what I wanted out of it, and realizing who my true friends were. So, I totally and 100% get how lives can change at these cons.
Also take note, when I went to Comic Con in New York, we bought tickets the day of…I’m pretty sure today you have to take a fan test to even qualify to get tickets –which are not sold at the door. And when I went, I had no idea what I was getting into and what I’d discover. It led to me going to other cons like Boston Anime Con and Leaky Con (my real fandom) and later ALA, Boston Comic Con, Walker Stalker Con, and BEA. And while there’s a lot of things I remember with a sour taste in my mouth from that weekend at my first con, I probably would never have had the courage to go into the big crowds I belonged to later, if I had never experienced it to begin with.
Needless to say, Taylor was like my spirit animal. And Jamie is like the dream guy all geeky girls dream about. But, weirdly, my favorite moments of the book were the ones that centered on Charlie. I became obsessed. I loved her character. I loved her star quality and her shine. And I super fell for her love story. Reading about her felt like guilty pleasure reading about the love life of Taylor Swift. It felt like celebrity gossip.
So, this book seriously had a lot going for it. It took place at a con and described the con in such a true to life way. The love stories were awesome. Sometimes it read like gossip magazines, in a good way. It was diverse and full of growing up moments. The one thing that did nag it me a little, throughout, was some of the cheesiness. Sometimes the snarky dialog came off as cheesy and not funny and sarcastic (like I think the author intended). There’s a lot of clich├ęs in the conversations between Taylor and Jamie and not enough substance. And a lot of her Taylor’s online postings were super cheesy too. I wanted more substance there also. Though, I guess, she did always sound like a teen.
All in all though, this was amazing. I loved the concept. I super related to everything. And I could not put it down. I give it a 9/10.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Knife's Edge by Hope Larson and art by Rebecca Mock

Summary from Goodreads:
At the end of Compass South, twins Cleo and Alex were been reunited with their father, Mr. Dodge, on the ship Anita after a battle with the pirate Worley. Now, Cleo explains to Dodge and Alex that the pocket knife and pocket watch they have are keys to a treasure. So begins Knife's Edge, the second installment in Hope Larson's Four Points series—another high-speed story of treasure, family, and of course adventure on the high seas.
So, I read this book even faster than I read the first one. Thank goodness, I had both books and didn’t have to wait for the sequel to come out because that would have been a hard wait. I read this in one sitting. I liked it even more than I liked book 1.
For starters, this read a bit more like a family book than the first one did. The first one had a separated family. This one starts with the family back together again. And I loved this! I missed the other set of twins, though, I have to admit, things weren’t quite as confusing without them. I wasn’t as confused by which twin I was reading, as I was before. Granted, they were together a lot.
I also like that there are no evil captains or kidnappers –for the most part the twins are on a ship with a good captain. They are reunited with another long lost family member. And basically, this book is more about finding the treasure than it is about surviving all the predators out there. There still are predators: bad pirates are still on their trail and there are sharks too, but it never feels quite as bleak as the first book did.

What is different is how the characters handle and address Cleopatra. She is known to be a girl now. And she has to manage a family that’s not used to her being so wild and free. She has to fight for the right to be taught to use a sword. It’s interesting to watch her and her twin bicker about protection and what not. She rightly knows she can protect herself. He wasn’t with her on her past adventures and it’s fun watching them re-acquaint themselves with their newer versions. I also like that they forgive another character that was unkind to them in the first book, and he becomes one of their family/crew pretty quickly.

I like that this one deals with native peoples and storytelling. I loved watching the artist handle the storytelling –she made the stories float above the characters. Visually, this was pretty awesome. I also enjoyed getting the evil pirate’s story. His background was so interesting. All the gaps were filled in about the twins’ background also. There was still lots of sword fighting, sailing, pirates, battles, and treasure. The adventures were just as fun, if not more so.
All in all, this was a great sequel. It reads super fast. I loved the added family dynamics. I love the emphasis on stories and forgiveness. I loved learning about the twins’ history. The artwork was beautiful. I loved this. I give it a 9/10.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday (247)

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: Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli (4/24/18):

Description on Goodreads:
Leah Burke—girl-band drummer, master of deadpan, and Simon Spier’s best friend from the award-winning Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda—takes center stage in this novel of first love and senior-year angst.

When it comes to drumming, Leah Burke is usually on beat—but real life isn’t always so rhythmic. An anomaly in her friend group, she’s the only child of a young, single mom, and her life is decidedly less privileged. She loves to draw but is too self-conscious to show it. And even though her mom knows she’s bisexual, she hasn’t mustered the courage to tell her friends—not even her openly gay BFF, Simon.

So Leah really doesn’t know what to do when her rock-solid friend group starts to fracture in unexpected ways. With prom and college on the horizon, tensions are running high. It’s hard for Leah to strike the right note while the people she loves are fighting—especially when she realizes she might love one of them more than she ever intended.
Why I’m Waiting:
I only just discovered Becky Albertalli this year. And I’ve already re-read one of her books –with plans to re-read the other. I’ve also given her books as presents to people and I’m eagerly anticipating the movie that’s coming next year/secretly hoping the movie does it justice. I was both shocked and unbelievably excited to learn that Simon was getting a sequel. It’s not often that greatness can be followed with more greatness. I remember really liking Leah, and I’m glad she gets a more flushed out story. I can’t wait to re-visit other characters too. Basically, I just can’t wait.
What are you waiting on this week?

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Compass South by Hope Larson and art by Rebecca Mock

Summary from Goodreads:
It’s 1860 in New York City. When 12-year-old twins Alexander and Cleopatra’s father disappears, they join the Black Hook Gang and are caught by the police pulling off a heist. They agree to reveal the identity of the gang in exchange for tickets to New Orleans. But once there, Alex is shanghaied to work on a ship that is heading for San Francisco via Cape Horn. Cleo stows away on a steamer to New Granada where she hopes to catch a train to San Francisco to find her brother. Neither Alexander nor Cleo realizes the real danger they are in — they are being followed by pirates who think they hold the key to treasure. How they outwit the pirates and find each other makes for a fast-paced, breathtaking adventure.
This is just what I needed; something light, fast-paced, and full of adventure. I’ve really gotten into graphic novels again this year. With books like this one, it’s easy to see why. The genre just keep expanding and pushing limits. And the artwork just keeps getting better.
The story kind of reads like a classic almost Charles Dickens orphan tale. There are twins with MIA parents. All they have of their parents are two items: a knife and a compass. A gang takes them in. They quickly betray the gang to save each other. Then they embark on an adventure to end all adventures. They want to get to San Francisco because of an ad in the paper from a father trying to find his twin red-headed sons. Cleopatra of course chops off her hair to disguise as a son and they want to go after the reward. The twins end up separated on two different ships, with pirates following them because apparently the compass and knife hold the key to a buried treasure. There’s sword fighting, pirates, secret codes, friendships, sailing, narrow escapes, kidnapping, and so much more.
It was hard to put the book down and I read it really fast. There was this old school vibe to the whole thing –like there were pieces of Charles Dickens and Robert Louis Stevenson. There were no fantastical elements, but it read a bit like a fantasy novel –with all the elements of a grand quest and all the high stakes sword fights one could possibly want.
The art was masterful. The illustrations really carried the plot along. I loved getting to see the sea, the ships, and the adventure through the artwork. Sometimes it was hard telling the two twins apart. I know this was intentional. But, really, it pulled me out of the story sometimes because I had to figure out who I was following.
There were some major gaps to the story about the twins’ background and how they get to be carrying the knife and compass. I had so many questions still at the end. Though, I know there’s a book 2. And by the time this posts, I’ll be long done with it, so hopefully those gaps get filled. All in all, this was a fun, easy to read distraction of a book. I’m definitely looking forward to reading book 2. This gets an 8/10.