Saturday, June 24, 2017

Becoming Jinn by Lori Goldstein

Summary from Goodreads:
Forget everything you thought you knew about genies!

Azra has just turned sixteen, and overnight her body lengthens, her olive skin deepens, and her eyes glisten gold thanks to the brand-new silver bangle that locks around her wrist. As she always knew it would, her Jinn ancestry brings not just magical powers but the reality of a life of servitude, as her wish granting is controlled by a remote ruling class of Jinn known as the Afrit.

To the humans she lives among, she’s just the girl working at the snack bar at the beach, navigating the fryer and her first crush. But behind closed doors, she’s learning how to harness her powers and fulfill the obligations of her destiny.

Mentored by her mother and her Zar “sisters”, Azra discovers she may not be quite like the rest of her circle of female Jinn . . . and that her powers could endanger them all. As Azra uncovers the darker world of becoming Jinn, she realizes when genies and wishes are involved, there’s always a trick.
I was hoping to like this a lot more than I did. I just feel kind of meh about the whole thing. I didn’t love it. I guess I didn’t’ hate it either. Basically, the concept was super cool and interesting. But, the execution was kind of sloppy and needed some more work. I never really understood or cared too much for the main character. Characters, overall, weren't very developed and I’m definitely a character reader.

The world building and genie details were super cute and fun to read about. I loved that they all loved sugar and were supposed to be a part of this everlasting sisterhood. The power of women comes off really strong here. I loved the friendships and the secret gossip of the older generation of jinn.
Not a lot happens though. Basically, Azra becomes a jinn on her 16th birthday as she knows she will. And then she makes one mistake after another. All her mistakes are kind of stupid, and easily could have been avoided if she listened to her mom and did her research. And instead of learning from past mistakes, she seems to continuously make them. Ugh.
There’s also a love triangle. But, I don’t actually ship her with either of the guys. I just don’t feel like I know either them enough to make a ship. One guy is super cute and likes saving people. And the other has basically been in love with the main character since childhood. But, I’m not really sure what he does for fun, or what he’s about. Ugh. I was hoping for more emotional connections and sparks.
The major twist at the end was totally predictable. The main character is super powerful, more so than anyone else and well, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out why…I do like the family mystery/drama though. I wanted to know more about her parents. And I found the whole magic book and talisman thing to be super fun to read.
I did read this relatively quickly. It had a cutesy/Sabrina the teenage witch type of feel. The magic and family drama was fun. I never felt like I understood really why the main character was so angsty and pushed everyone away. I never really believed her rebellious act. And I never felt like I got to know the two love interests that well either. I wish I had more time with other Jinn because they seemed super interesting.  I give it a 5/10.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Seeking Mansfield by Kate Watson

Summary from Goodreads:
Sixteen-year-old Finley Price has perfected two things: how to direct a world-class production, and how to fly way, way under the radar. The only person who ever seems to notice Finley is her best friend, the Bertram's son Oliver. If she could just take Oliver's constant encouragement to heart and step out of the shadows, she'd finally chase her dream of joining the prestigious Mansfield Theater.

When teen movie stars Emma and Harlan Crawford move next door to the Bertram's, they immediately set their sights on Oliver and his cunning sister, Juliette, shaking up Finley and Oliver's stable friendship. As Emma and Oliver grow closer, Harlan finds his attention shifting from Juliette to the quiet, enigmatic, and thoroughly unimpressed Finley. Out of boredom, Harlan decides to make her fall in love with him. Problem is, the harder he seeks to win her, the harder he falls for her.

But Finley doesn't want to be won, and she doesn't want to see Oliver with anyone else. To claim Oliver's heart—and keep her own—she'll have to find the courage to do what she fears most: step into the spotlight.
I kind of pounce on all Jane Austen retellings, particularly of the YA variety. That being said, Mansfield Park was never my favorite. And I knew going into this that I probably wouldn’t love the main character. I wasn’t sure though because I don’t recall ever having read a retelling of this particular Austen story.
So, did I hate the main character? Yes, yes I did. And I kind of understand why people don’t do a lot of retellings of this story. What’s the modern version of taking in a poor ward with no income and raising her alongside your family, but not quite alongside them? I guess this is the modern equivalent (mixed with movie stars) and it wasn’t really working for me.
Fanny Price was never my favorite character because she was too good. She was a lot like Cinderella without the dream of going to the ball, without any dreams at all. In fact, she believes she deserves all the terrible stuff her “step-family” pushes on her, and that she should have no wants of her own. I can’t stand this character. I need a good main character who knows she deserves the best, no matter her social/economic standing. I need Elizabeth Bennet. And Finley was almost worse than Fanny Price. Imagine a teen girl who works as a janitor, who only accepts hand-me-downs, who doesn’t own a smart phone, who never stands up for herself. I almost stopped reading on many occasions.
The weird thing though is I never stopped. I read this story super quickly. I knew that Fanny Price eventually grew to be a stronger character and I knew there was no way Finley could get any worse. And I was right. She learns to apply for what she wants and to accept that she deserves dreams and respect too. It just takes an awfully long time to get there.
I know this sounds super cheesy, but I loved the teen celebrity element of the plot. I loved that the neighbors were stars. I think their characters (which weren’t the greatest) held my attention a lot better than the main character did. It’s kinda weird to be more invested in the story by the bad guys than by the main character, but I was. It was like reading a super dishy magazine and not being able to stop.
I liked how the author tied in the theater element. I liked the volunteering thing too. Because of course a modern day Fanny Price would reserve any free time to helping others. I loved making all the connections to the original Austen work, which I remember a lot more strongly than I thought I did.
I read this book super fast. I hated the main character. I knew I’d hate her, and I did. But, I kept reading because I kind of fell for the bad characters and the whole teen movie star sideline. I loved making the old Austen connections. And I like that Finley did eventually become a somewhat stronger main character. I give this a 6/10.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Real Friends by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham

Summary from Goodreads:
When best friends are not forever . . .

Shannon and Adrienne have been best friends ever since they were little. But one day, Adrienne starts hanging out with Jen, the most popular girl in class and the leader of a circle of friends called The Group. Everyone in The Group wants to be Jen's #1, and some girls would do anything to stay on top . . . even if it means bullying others.

Now every day is like a roller coaster for Shannon. Will she and Adrienne stay friends? Can she stand up for herself? And is she in The Group—or out?

Newbery Honor author Shannon Hale and New York Times bestselling illustrator LeUyen Pham join forces in this graphic memoir about how hard it is to find your real friends—and why it's worth the journey.
This was way better than I was expecting. I already know Shannon Hale can write excellent YA, and the occasional excellent graphic novel. I had no idea she had this tough middle grade graphic novel to bring to the world. This book is so true to the mindset of middle school girls, I almost had to put it down because of memories it had me recalling.
I’ve never seen the use of cliques handled and told so truthfully. I’ve often in life gone over when and why I lost connections with friends. It’s something I’m sure we all do as we get older. We don’t stay in touch with everyone (even with Facebook). And this book really had me look backwards to where a lot of my dissolved friendships started: middle school.
I felt for Shannon because I’ve been Shannon. I’ve lost and gained friends to cliques. I’ve also been hypnotized by the appeal of cliques and been in them and I’ve seen their inner awfulness and left them (despite some pretty terrible consequences). I was 100% relating to this story. And just the idea that someone went through this almost exactly as I did, empowered me, as an adult. Can you imagine what this book could do for a 10 year old girl experiencing this now?
Girl friendships are so complicated. And sometimes it can be incredibly difficult to discover who your true friends are. I was extraordinarily lucky to have found some amazing friends in high school, college, and graduate school –true friends I’m still in touch with and love today. But, middle school was just the worst. I don’t think I’m in touch with anyone from those years. Kids can be evil villans in their own right. I can honestly see this book helping people.
I guess I just loved how honest this book was. It didn’t sugar coat the group dynamics. I also love that the head of the group never came off as the stereotypical queen bee you often see in tv and books. She looked normal (not even blonde). The head of the group could end up being anyone. I love how this book touches on the fact of friends moving away and changing everything too. What do you do when you’re one good friend leaves?
The one thing I did no love about the book was how it all wrapped up at the end. For such a truthful story of how awful middle school can be, the ending seemed so fake and unnecessary. I like that Shannon found new friends, but I hated how everything had to be tied up with the old ones. Sometimes old friends and old non-friends just stay old and in the past, and I was kind of hoping for a more realistic end for that.
All in all though, the art is was bright and fun. The characters and group dynamics were authentic and intense. I loved how honest this book was (at least until the ending). I wish the ending wasn’t so perfect –it was the one unbelievable aspect to me. I give it an 8/10.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday (228)

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:  Mr. Lemoncellos’ Great Library Race by Chris Grabenstein  (10/10/17):

Description on Goodreads:
On your marks. Get set. Lemon, cello, GO!

Everyone's favorite game maker, Mr. Lemoncello, is testing out his new FABULOUS FACT-FINDING FRENZY game! If Kyle can make it through the first round, he and the other lucky finalists will go on a great race--by bicycle, bookmobile, and even Mr. Lemoncello's corporate banana jet!--to find fascinating facts about famous Americans. The first to bring their facts back to the library will win spectacular prizes! But when a few surprising "facts" surface about Mr. Lemoncello, it might be GO TO JAIL and LOSE A TURN all at once! Could Kyle's hero be a fraud? It's winner take all, so Kyle and the other kids will have to dig deep to find out the truth before the GAME is OVER for Mr. Lemoncello and his entire fantastic empire!

Filled with brand-new puzzles and games (including a hidden bonus puzzle!), this fast-paced read will have gamers and readers alike racing to the finish line because, like Mr. Lemoncello's commercials say, IS IT FUN? . . . HELLO! IT'S A LEMONCELLO!
Why I’m Waiting:
I have to admit I came into these books a little later than most Youth Services Librarians. However, I absolutely adore them. I was so excited to learn about another book in this series. I love the characters, the games, the riddle solving, and of course the unbelievably amazing library. I can’t wait to read what happens next!
What are you waiting on this week?

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare

Summary from Goodreads:
A Shadowhunter’s life is bound by duty. Constrained by honor. The word of a Shadowhunter is a solemn pledge, and no vow is more sacred than the vow that binds parabatai, warrior partners—sworn to fight together, die together, but never to fall in love.

Emma Carstairs has learned that the love she shares with her parabatai, Julian Blackthorn, isn’t just forbidden—it could destroy them both. She knows she should run from Julian. But how can she when the Blackthorns are threatened by enemies on all sides?

Their only hope is the Black Volume of the Dead, a spell book of terrible power. Everyone wants it. Only the Blackthorns can find it. Spurred on by a dark bargain with the Seelie Queen, Emma; her best friend, Cristina; and Mark and Julian Blackthorn journey into the Courts of Faerie, where glittering revels hide bloody danger and no promise can be trusted. Meanwhile, rising tension between Shadowhunters and Downworlders has produced the Cohort, an extremist group of Shadowhunters dedicated to registering Downworlders and “unsuitable” Nephilim. They’ll do anything in their power to expose Julian’s secrets and take the Los Angeles Institute for their own.

When Downworlders turn against the Clave, a new threat rises in the form of the Lord of Shadows—the Unseelie King, who sends his greatest warriors to slaughter those with Blackthorn blood and seize the Black Volume. As dangers close in, Julian devises a risky scheme that depends on the cooperation of an unpredictable enemy. But success may come with a price he and Emma cannot even imagine, one that will bring with it a reckoning of blood that could have repercussions for everyone and everything they hold dear.
This book was intense. Book 1 ended in such a dramatic spot that I could not wait to dive into this one. And dive I did. I read this 699-page monster in a couple of days. That being said, the beginning was almost painful to read.  After how Emma made a terrible decision in the end of book 1, I had to watch the separation of my ship. And ugh, it was painful. Painful to watch Emma with Mark. And painful to watch all the pain Julian continued to go through.
On top of that, there is everything else! The L.A. Institute is invaded by the worst shadow hunters in training. More and more sea monsters are popping up. And soon it becomes clear that a certain evil warlock from book 1 is not in fact actually dead. There is a ton of animosity between the shadow hunters and the fey.  This however, does not stop our favorite characters from venturing into the land of fairy to rescue someone. It also doesn’t’ stop a big deal from being made.
It soon becomes evident that another big downworlder war is on the horizon. It’s not clear what side the shadowhunters will be on: that of the ignorant and hateful new group of shadowhunters who want to cut all ties with all downworlders, or the right side (which involves making allies with past enemies.
There’s a lot of parallels between this installment and current American politics. I couldn’t help but compare the ignorant, hateful shadowhunters to ignorant, hateful Americans…but also, this book really opened my eyes as to why the series couldn’t have ended where I initially wanted it to. Things cannot be left this way between shadowhunters and fairies. And stuff needs to seriously change for the better in shadowhunter politics.
Why was this book intense? Mostly, the last hundred or so pages destroyed me emotionally. Clare is not afraid to kill off characters I love. And I was not prepared for that ending at all. This wasn't just a sad ending and a cliff hanger. This was an ending in the middle of utter insanity, chaos, and destruction. How long until the next book?

Also, Clare improves and gets better with each book. Her character development is above and beyond anything I've read so far this year. I feel like these characters are my friends. They are so real. I loved getting to see Alec and Magnus’s matured relationship. I loved learning about the L.A. tutor and seeing her get her own love story. I loved watching Julian and Emma try to stay away from each other. Clare knows how to write forbidden love, really, really well. I love how Clare touches on the topic of autism. She now has bisexual characters, mentally ill characters, gay characters, characters from institutes around the world, and a shadowhunter with autism. Keep bringing the diverse casts, please.
All in all, I was impressed with this volume. I loved the politics. I loved the character growth. I loved re-visiting old friends. I loved getting to know new friends. The action, especially at the end, was beyond crazy. There’s also this depth to the characters and sadness to them that wasn’t there with the generation before them. These main characters are already survivors of so much war and loss. And knowing more is coming for them, is just so intense and hard to read, but also addicting. I give it a 10/10.

Monday, June 19, 2017

A Good Week in Books (163)

I’ve been a little MIA lately, and I’m sure to be again. I’m moving July 1st so most of my free time is spent packing. I have been getting a nice amount of reading accomplished somehow (4 books!). I guess it always takes me a long time to unwind from late work nights and late packing nights, and books are just the best for unwinding. Later this week, I’ll be attending the ALA Annual conference in Chicago, so I will definitely be MIA for that. I have a feeling I’ll have a lot of catching up to do here in July.
I received two new books for review. Thank you, Macmillan! And the lovely boyfriend of mine (who I’m moving in with!) picked up a signed copy of a YA book I’ve wanted to read at his library’s book sale. Yay.
The new books:

Highly Illogical Behavior by John Core Whaley (signed)
Bad Romance by Heather Demetrios
The Square Root of summer by Harriet Reuter Hapgood
How was your week in books?

Friday, June 9, 2017

The Trials of Apollo Book 2: The Dark Prophecy by Rick Riordan

Summary (from Goodreads):

Zeus has punished his son Apollo—god of the sun, music, archery, poetry, and more—by casting him down to earth in the form of a gawky, acne-covered sixteen-year-old mortal named Lester. The only way Apollo can reclaim his rightful place on Mount Olympus is by restoring several Oracles that have gone dark. What is affecting the Oracles, and how can Apollo do anything about them without his powers?

After experiencing a series of dangerous—and frankly, humiliating—trials at Camp Half-Blood, Apollo must now leave the relative safety of the demigod training ground and embark on a hair-raising journey across North America. Fortunately, what he lacks in godly graces he's gaining in new friendships—with heroes who will be very familiar to fans of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians and Heroes of Olympus series. Come along for what promises to be a harrowing, hilarious, and haiku-filled ride.
I love this series. I love getting a whole series in the point of view of Apollo. What this book has (and book 1) is loads and loads of humor. While Percy Jackson had it’s funny moments, this whole series promises to be one giant, funny moment. And I love that it stands out for this.
That being said, it still reads like a classic Rick Riordan story. He has his formula, and I do admit there were times I grew a bit bored with it. I could never be allowed to be bored for more than a few seconds ever though because of all the action. Riordan excels at writing action-packed battle scenes, monster-fighting, and high-stakes quests. And I guess I get so consumed in the action, that I don’t have time to think about how familiar the formula is. I do know that it’s there, in the back of my head.
I love how diverse Riordan’s books are becoming. His cast is made up of uniquely diverse characters. I also think it’s great that Apollo, himself, is interested in both men and women. He recognizes the beauty in men, women, in the young and the old, and in art and music. He’s more than the full of himself, conceited God who writes haikus at the beginning of each chapter. He sees the beauty in things other characters can’t see.
He’s also becoming more and more likable as the series goes on. He has grown so much over the course of his punishment. He is capable of realizing his own mistakes. He can understand why two women turned away from a gift he once gave them. He even is willing to risk his life for his closest friends! The Apollo at the beginning of book 1 was not like this at all.
I also loved a few reunions that happened in this book. I don’t want to spoil things but it was nice seeing a certain character from the first series again. And I love the character that was brought back at the very end. 
I love how much Apollo has grown over the course of these two books. As always, I loved Riordan's humor, suspense, and action. And it was fun seeing old friends from past series too. The ending promises a super, fun couple of books ahead. The book did at times feel a bit formulaic, though the humor and everything else tended to make up for this. All in all, I give this an 8/10.