Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday (231)

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:  Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson  (1/16/2018):

Description from Goodreads:
Something is wrong at Ellingham Academy: Its murderous past won’t stay in the past.

Ellingham Academy is an American institution. Students can’t buy admission, they have to earn it: these are the brightest of their generation, the thinkers, inventors, artists, dreamers, and schemers who will change the world. Ellingham is the brainchild of philanthropist and tycoon Edward J. Ellingham, who happened on a remote, idyllic spot outside of Burlington, Vermont in the 1920s, the perfect setting for his “dream school of the future.” For Ellingham, the dream ended a decade later, when his wife and child were kidnapped, then murdered, in what would become the crime of the century. Ellingham pledged everything to find the killer—he ended up giving his life.

It was an empty sacrifice: For years, the killer remained at large. He taunted the police, signing his letters Truly, Devious. Eventually, someone was caught, found guilty, and executed for the heinous crimes… but questions lingered. Why, for example, did Ellingham write these words on the day he died?

Where do you look for someone

who’s never really there?

Always on a staircase

but never on a stair.

Every institution has its ghost stories; every school imagines itself haunted. Ellingham Academy is, officially, beyond such silliness: it is devoted to greatness, and everyone accepted achieves it.

This includes Stevie Bell, who gained her fame by solving a murder when she was thirteen years old. Clever murders don’t happen along very often, and Stevie has been struggling to find her place in the competitive atmosphere of Ellingham. Then she finds out about the decades-old Ellingham riddle: Problem solved. She’ll solve the riddle, name the real killer, and prove herself exceptional. True Ellingham material.

Her investigation into the cold case is interrupted by a fresh one. When one of her classmates, internet superstar Hayes Major, turns up dead, Stevie is the first to question the official explanation. An accident? Really? Everyone else is convinced that Ellingham’s murderous past is just that, which leaves justice up to Stevie.
Why I’m Waiting:
I love Maureen Johnson. And it has been such a terribly long time since her last book came out. I added this to my TBR shelf on Goodreads before even glimpsing at that long book description. Reading that description though…I need this book in my life. It sounds awesome. It sounds like Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters mixed with A Study in Charlotte, mixed with The Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women. Basically, it sounds like a mix of all the “out there” but amazing boarding school stories. I can’t wait for this book to come out!
What are you waiting on this week?

Monday, July 24, 2017

A Good Week in Books (166)

I had another crazy, busy week at work. I probably say this every year, but it feels like my popular vacation spot town, has more tourists this summer than ever before. And the number of kids attending library programs this summer is astronomical. Needless to say, I’m exhausted. I didn’t get any books read this week. I’m more than halfway through an awesome fantasy (that will be getting back to my library super late…) And I’m on the last disc of the Douglas Adams book I’m listening to, so…soon. I’ll have plenty to review next week. My boyfriend and I also successfully had our first family get-together in our new place, so much of my free time was spent planning and cleaning up for that.
On to the new books. I did give in and buy a couple books online this week. I received two finished books for review thanks to Macmillan. And I received one ARC (unsolicited) from Sourcebooks. And it looks totally amazing. Yay for new books!
The books:

Mask of Shadows
by Linsey Miller
Amid Stars and Darkness by Chani Lynn Feener
Wesley James Ruined My Life by Jennifer Honeybourn
Coming Up for Air by Miranda Kenneally
Once and For All by Sarah Dessen
How was your week in books?

Friday, July 21, 2017

Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Angenda by Becky Albertalli

Summary from Goodreads:
Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.

With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.
I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to get to this book. I’m so glad I picked up the author’s newer book on my trip to England and read it relatively right away. Otherwise, who knows how long it would have been before I discovered this greatness? And greatness is what this is.
I knew I would love the writing style because I adored it in the Upside of Unrequited. I was right. I loved the writing style. Though, it was a full 180 degree difference from the other book. The voice was just so, so very different. It was just as honest, believable, and fantastic. It’s just that Simon is so different from Molly. And I wasn’t expecting it to be this different.
I also didn’t exactly fall in love with this book until the second half. I fell in love with Simon immediately. I loved his romantic sarcasm. I loved his honesty. I loved his relationship with his family. I loved his grammatically correct emails. I loved his love of theater and his loyalty to his friends. I just loved him. The whole blackmailing thing wasn’t exactly my favorite plot arc. In fact, I kinda hated it. And I hated all the times Simon almost became friends with Marty.
That being said, I was emotionally destroyed about half way through, like heaving sobs of despair and jaw-dropping astonishment -destroyed. And then I fell in love with the story. I could not believe what had happened. I thought I knew the direction the story was going, and I was wrong. It all got turned upside down, and that’s I guess when I became obsessed. I finished the book in 2 sittings. And I fell in love with Simon even more. He’s so strong, resilient, and loveable, I can understand why his friends can never stay mad at him.
This book is also just so smart, relevant, and powerful. It’s a coming out story, but more than that, it’s a growing up story. Or as Simon so eloquently puts it, “Why is straight the default? Everyone should have to declare one way or another, and it shouldn't be this big awkward thing whether you're straight, gay, bi, or whatever. I'm just saying.” He later explains too that, “But I'm tired of coming out. All I ever do is come out. I try not to change, but I keep changing, in all these tiny ways. I get a girlfriend. I have a beer. And every freaking time, I have to reintroduce myself to the universe all over again.”
This is a book about changing and learning about who you are, and what you can take and what you can’t. My favorite moment is one I don’t think I should quote because it would spoil a lot, but it involves Simon confronting the guy who’s blackmailing him. He stands up to him and really lets him know what exactly it is he’s doing. And I found myself saying out loud, “That’s right!”
This is a coming out story we haven’t exactly had yet. It’s a growing up story and a friendship story, and a falling in love story too. The writing is awesome. The wit and intelligence behind Simon and “Blue,” is just right. The characters were real. The story was heartbreaking and honest. I loved this book. I give it a 10/10.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

5 Worlds: The Sand Warrior by Mark Siegel, Alexis Siegel, and Xanthe Bouma

Summary from Goodreads:
The Five Worlds are on the brink of extinction unless five ancient and mysterious beacons are lit. When war erupts, three unlikely heroes will discover there’s more to themselves and more to their worlds than meets the eye. . . .

The clumsiest student at the Sand Dancer Academy, Oona Lee is a fighter with a destiny bigger than she could ever imagine.

A boy from the poorest slums, An Tzu has a surprising gift and a knack for getting out of sticky situations.

Star athlete Jax Amboy is beloved by an entire galaxy, but what good is that when he has no real friends?

When these three kids are forced to team up on an epic quest, it will take not one, not two, but 5 WORLDS to contain all the magic and adventure!
When I read a review for this one, I knew I’d have to get my hands on it. I ordered a copy for my library, and I was beyond excited to see a blurb on the front cover from Kazu Kibuishi (Amulet author) when it came in. I knew I was going to like it. I wasn’t expecting to love it.
Finally, a book worthy of recommending to kids who loved the Amulet books. There were undertones of Nimona and little nods to Avatar the last Air Bender. But, also, this was its own awesome story. I can't wait for more people to read it. The art in here is almost comparible to the art in the Amulet books, almost.
The story is fantastic. I loved the three very different points of view. The friendship bond that starts is pretty magical. I loved watching Oona come to turns with what her role it. I also loved An Tzu explaining to Oona and Jax how sad other parts of the world are. Jax had some twists to his character. None of them really surprised me, but I can see some kids being shocked in a good way. Also, here’s another made up sport.
There’s a background of war and politics I’m not quite sure of all of the details for. And that’s fine. I’m sure I’ll pick up what I need to as the story continues. The worlds, are all so interesting. There’s developed mythology, legends, and truths here and it’s so much fun reading about what each main character actually believes.
What really holds the whole fun, magical friendship story together though is the art. It’s beautiful. It’s sci-fi, and colorful. It’s bold and cute at the same time. I can see this style appealing to many reluctant readers. This was a fun, fast read. The plot was action packed. The world was fascinating. The characters are still developing and I can’t wait to read more about them. And the art is mesmerizing. I give this a 9/10.

Wednesday, July 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:  Tempests and Slaughter by Tamora Pierce  (2/6/2018):
Description from Goodreads:
Arram. Varice. Ozorne. In the first book in the Numair Chronicles, three student mages are bound by fate . . . fated for trouble.

Arram Draper is a boy on the path to becoming one of the realm’s most powerful mages. The youngest student in his class at the Imperial University of Carthak, he has a Gift with unlimited potential for greatness–and for attracting danger. At his side are his two best friends: Varice, a clever girl with an often-overlooked talent, and Ozorne, the “leftover prince” with secret ambitions. Together, these three friends forge a bond that will one day shape kingdoms. And as Ozorne gets closer to the throne and Varice gets closer to Arram’s heart, Arram begins to realize that one day soon he will have to decide where his loyalties truly lie.

In the Numair Chronicles, readers will be rewarded with the never-before-told story of how Numair SalmalĂ­n came to Tortall. Newcomers will discover an unforgettable fantasy adventure where a kingdom’s future rests on the shoulders of a talented young man with a knack for making vicious enemies.
Why I’m waiting:
I’ve only been waiting for this book since I was 13 and first read Tamora Pierce. You know, this is only like a 17 year wait –nothing big. Seriously though, I used to go to this author’s website and drool over all the books in her “future works” section. This book was there 13 years ago, and over the years I’d pretty much given up hope of a series about Numair. I just about lost it when I learned this was a for-sure thing, with a cover and everything.
Tamora Pierce is probably the reason I love fantasy so much today. Her books were the first ones I read during class (when I was definitely supposed to be doing something else for my education). I have fond memories of ditching school with a fellow book friend to find her at a signing. I’ve met her several times, and have possibly even asked her about when this book was coming. I cannot wait to read this. Hopefully, my wait is worth it.
What are you waiting on this week?

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

Summary from Goodreads:
Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?

Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.

The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?

Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.
I had a feeling I was going to love this one. And I was right. Can we take a moment to look at how adorable the cover is? Basically, I knew I would love this because of the cover. Also, looking at this makes me want Starbucks right now. I also read good review after good review.
I waited in line for 30 minutes to pick out 4 hardcover books that a certain publisher wanted to get rid of before packing up from ALA. I was crossing my fingers this book would be there. It was, and it was a well spent 30 minutes. I must have picked up 3 other books, but I don’t even remember what those were.
This book was a breath fresh air in a land of white YA novels. I loved getting a glimpse into the Indian American teen window. I also loved that the main character was a girl who loved coding. I loved that technology was a part of who she was and that she viewed this as more important than what she looked like. Basically, Dimple was awesome.
Dimple was a character meant to knock down walls. She was not girly enough for her mother. She was kind of picked on be her peers for being different (aka: not white and wealthy). She competed and worked so hard on an app that would actually help people as compared to just entertain them. She stands up to her fears about being on stage in front of people. She lets her friends know when they are being dumb. She lets Rishi know what she’s feeling and what she wants. Basically, I want to be friends with her.
I also loved the romance. I loved how sweet, loyal, and caring Rishi was. I loved how differently the two characters viewed their sense of family obligation. I loved how they both had some things to learn about what family obligation truly means. I loved everything about their hate, turned to friendship, turned to love story.
Both Dimple and Rish are flawed in believable ways. And this made them more loveable. This is a perfect summer read. It’s light, funny, and had me squeeling like a fangirl when things happened that I wanted to happen.
I would have liked to have read more about coding. I read about Dimple’s idea and how she worked on it, but I didn’t really get to see her coding and or find out what about it is so cool to her. I’m also not sure I believe the correlations of talent show winners and insomniacon winners. Like what does one have to do with the other?
All in all, this was a fun, fluffy, squeal inducing romance. I recommend it to all YA contemporary fans. I give it a 9/10.

Monday, July 17, 2017

A Good Week in Books (165)

I had a nice, little book week.
My July has been crazy, and I finally had a weekend off where I wasn’t moving or unpacking or organizing. And, I read a lot. I read 3 books this week. And I loved all of them! I feel like I was in a bit of a reading slump. And slump, no more. I moved in with my boyfriend on July 1st. We are both librarians. I have to say that living with someone who loves and appreciates books as much as I do is quite extraordinary. We spend at least one hour every night just reading together. That being said, it took us weeks to unpack all the books.
I also received 2 new books for review. Thank you, Macmillan for the first books sent to my new place. It was a memorable moment for me.
The lovelies:

Love and Other Alien Experiences by Kerry Winfrey
All the Ways the World Can End by Abby Sher
How was your week in books?

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday (229)

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 Case for Jamie by Brittany Cavallaro  (3/6/2018):

Description from Goodreads:
The hotly anticipated final book in the New York Times bestselling Charlotte Holmes trilogy, in which Charlotte and Jamie finally face their longtime enemy…and their true feelings for each other.

It’s been a year since the shocking death of August Moriarty, and Jamie and Charlotte haven’t spoken. Jamie is going through the motions at Sherringford, trying to finish his senior year without incident, with a nice girlfriend he can’t seem to fall for. Until strange things start happening to him. Strange things that might mean nothing at all—or that someone is after him again.

Charlotte is on the run, from Lucien Moriarty and from her own mistakes. No one has seen her since that fateful night on the lawn in Sussex. Charlotte wants it that way. She knows she isn’t safe to be around. She knows that her Watson can’t forgive her.

Holmes and Watson may not be looking to reconcile, but there is someone who wants the team back together. Someone who has been quietly observing them both. Making plans. Biding their time. Someone who wants to see one of them suffer and the other one dead.

In this final explosive book in the Charlotte Holmes trilogy, Holmes and Watson face the ultimate test: they must unravel the case of their lives without unraveling each other.
Why I’m Waiting:
I love these books. I love a girl Sherlock Holmes. I have a fictional crush on Jamie. I need to know what happens next! And wait, March is super far away. How am I supposed to wait that long? Also, I love that the cute covers have remained consistent. Thank goodness. And I love this author even more after hearing her speak in a panel at the Boston Teen Author Festival. I cannot wait for this next one.
What are you waiting on this week?

Monday, July 10, 2017

All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater

Summary from Goodreads:
Here is a thing everyone wants:
A miracle.

Here is a thing everyone fears:
What it takes to get one.

Any visitor to Bicho Raro, Colorado is likely to find a landscape of dark saints, forbidden love, scientific dreams, miracle-mad owls, estranged affections, one or two orphans, and a sky full of watchful desert stars.

At the heart of this place you will find the Soria family, who all have the ability to perform unusual miracles. And at the heart of this family are three cousins longing to change its future: Beatriz, the girl without feelings, who wants only to be free to examine her thoughts; Daniel, the Saint of Bicho Raro, who performs miracles for everyone but himself; and Joaquin, who spends his nights running a renegade radio station under the name Diablo Diablo.

They are all looking for a miracle. But the miracles of Bicho Raro are never quite what you expect.

Maggie Stiefvater has been called “a master storyteller” by USA Today and “wildly imaginative” by Entertainment Weekly. Now, with All the Crooked Saints, she gives us the extraordinary story of an extraordinary family, a masterful tale of love, fear, darkness, and redemption.
ALA seems to be made for Maggie Stiefvater ARCs. I always manage to pick one up there. My last exerpience was no exception. I just went up to the publisher’s booth, asked for a copy, and was handed one like it was no big deal at all. Needless to say, it was a huge deal for me. I read the two books I brought with me to Chicago, and I needed another one to start on my journey back home and well, this was it.
Maggie Stiefvater is a brilliant writer. She’s most definitely in my top 10 favorite author’s list, maybe top 5. Maybe top 3. She writes amazing character-driven stories. I wasn’t sure how I’d take this one because of all the religious/miracle stuff going on in the plot. But, I should have realized that miracles were just another form of magic. And Stiefvater knows how to write magic really well.
For the skeptics out there, there’s actually not a ton of religion in here.  The Soria family performs and discusses miracles on a regular basis. They refer to themselves as saints. And they are certainly capable of producing some magical feets. But, other than one character who likes to pray and one religious pilgrim, the book doesn’t have a lot of God, Jesus, or even prayer in it at all.  It’s almost as though the performance of miracles is in itself its own religon or belief system.
Add Stiefvater’s lyrical prose to a dark desert setting, and then fill in some top-notch/crazy interesting characters (developed like no other characters can be), and well, you have this book in a nutshell. There’s a little bit of magic, a little bit of love, a little bit of darkness, and lots of family drama.
I read this one slowly, on purpose. I wanted to savor these beautiful words in a savoring kind of way. It also was a slow story with not a ton of plot until the end. So, it’s not for everyone. If you’re a character/setting reader, this is perfect. If you’re a plot-driven reader, you may want to skip this one.
A lot of the main characters (besides the 3 cousins) were adults. It’s not the typical YA novel. I might even feel comfortable shelving this book with adult fiction. There’s physical laborers, radio dj’s, arguing twin sisters, dicey married couples, and so many other interesting characters that I couldn’t even begin to attempt to list them all.
I loved the characters. I loved the setting. I loved the darkness to all the magic/miracles. To achieve a miracle, a pilgrim has to first tackle their worst nightmare. And there are some seriously twisted fears out there. And most of all, I loved the words. I give this one a 10/10.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

The Upside of Unrequitted by Becky Albertalli

Summary from Goodreads:
Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love—she’s lived through it twenty-six times. She crushes hard and crushes often, but always in secret. Because no matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.

Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. Will is funny and flirtatious and just might be perfect crush material. Maybe more than crush material. And if Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back.

There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker Reid. He’s an awkward Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him. Right?
I have to admit that I have not read Simon Vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda yet. I came across this book in London (I did read a British paperback version). And now, I have the author’s first book waiting for me at the library. I can see why everyone loves this author. This book was fantastic.
I loved the main character. I loved how realistic she felt. She really read like an honest teen of today –with a little bit of anxiety. I totally related to her series of crushes. And I also related to her inability to get a boyfriend. That was me in high school. It was nice feeling represented in YA.
I loved Molly’s family too. I loved how different her twin was. I loved how diverse everyone was. This kind of reminded me of the diverse cast of the tv show, The Fosters (which I love). This was definitely a more character driven story than plot driven one. It was all about the characters, particularly Molly. And I loved that. I can see some people having trouble with it though. Not a tone happens. So much of it is in Molly’s head.
I love that there was a love triangle, but not really. It was always clear to the reader who the right guy was. And it was fun watching Molly learn it too. It also wasn’t just about crushes and the right guy. It was about growing apart from family, learning to deal with change, and just plain old growing up. Its simplicity was special and unlike a lot of other YA contemporaries that sometimes feel like authors just throw random plot arcs in for drama and not for any fluidity of the story.
This is the book I took with me when I traveled, and I read it while waiting in line places at ALA. I’m so glad I had this book with me. It felt like a friend who tagged along at all the right moments. Seriously, I can’t quite put words to it, but there’s something special and different here. And I can’t wait to see what everyone is talking about in her first book. I give this one a 9/10.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Shuffle, Repeat by Jen Klein

Summary from Goodreads:
When Harry Met Sally for YA romance readers. This opposites-attract love story is perfect for fans of Huntley Fitzpatrick, Stephanie Perkins, and Jenny Han.
June wants high school to end and real life to begin. Oliver is soaking up senior year’s glory days. They could have coasted through high school, knowing about—but not really knowing—each other.

Except that their moms have arranged for Oliver to drive June to school. Every. Single. Day.

Suddenly these two opposites are fighting about music, life . . . pretty much everything. But love is unpredictable. When promises—and hearts—get broken, Oliver and June must figure out what really matters. And then fight for it.
The author sent me this book in exchange for an honest review. And I loved it.  It read like a super cute, classic 80’s teen movie. In fact, I would watch this movie over and over again. I’ll probably end up reading this book again at some point too.
It does have one of my favorite YA romance tropes. I love a romance where the two characters start out not liking each other. I just love reading the slow, burning, learning to love and appreciate each other kind of story. And this book was all about that. I loved watching these two characters who had nothing to do with each other for years, become best friends, and then more than that.
And while I’m not sure I followed along with all the music talked about, I loved that it was music that kind of brought them together. I can see teens being pushed together because of transportation. In fact, I met one of my best friends in high school because of something similar; we rode the train home from school together every day.
This book has a classic, YA contemporary vibe that is seriously reminiscent of Sarah Dessen and Miranda Kenneally. I certainly read it as fast as I would a book by one of those authors. I think I finished it in a couple of days. There’s some good family stuff in there. I love that the main character has a good relationship with her mom. And while there’s a whole lot of stuff the main character has to figure out about herself, it never got dark. This was a fluffier, more romantic type of contemporary –just what I needed.
I also love that the main character could see her flaws and mistakes and learn from them. Maybe she didn’t do this so much in the beginning, but I love how she grew and who she became by the end. She knew Oliver was right about some things regarding high school. And she knew she was wrong about some other things. I love a character that grows.
All in all, this was a fun, easy, quick read. It would be perfect to take to the beach with you. It’s a great YA romance, especially if you love the slow to burn kind. I’m so glad the author sent me a copy. I give it a 9/10.

Friday, June 30, 2017

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams and read by Martin Freeman

Summary from Goodreads:
Facing annihilation at the hands of the warlike Vogons is a curious time to have a craving for tea. It could only happen to the cosmically displaced Arthur Dent and his curious comrades in arms as they hurtle across space powered by pure improbability and desperately in search of a place to eat.

Among Arthur's motley shipmates are Ford Prefect, a longtime friend and expert contributor to the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy; Zaphod Beeblebrox, the three-armed, two-headed ex-president of the galaxy; Tricia McMillan, a fellow Earth refugee who's gone native (her name is Trillian now); and Marvin, the moody android who suffers nothing and no one very gladly. Their destination? The ultimate hot spot for an evening of apocalyptic entertainment and fine dining, where the food (literally) speaks for itself.

Will they make it? The answer: hard to say. But bear in mind that the Hitchhiker's Guide deleted the term "Future Perfect" from its pages, since it was discovered not to be!
"What's such fun is how amusing the galaxy looks through Adams' sardonically silly eyes."
These books have been the light at the end of my incredibly hectic/busy days. They are probably hands-down the funniest books I’ve ever encountered. I wish I can say I loved this one as much as book 1, but I think I enjoyed it just a little bit less.
The humor, thank goodness, was still there front and center. And so were the fantastic characters. I again would occasionally find myself laughing so loud that it was almost embarrassing. I did have some strangers looking at me funny, though that could have been because my volume was rather high and not because I was alone in my car, heaving in laughter.
The story/plot was a little more loopy and not quite as fluid as I’d like. Granted, there is time travel and that tends to mess up a story’s fluidity. I’m of a mind at the moment to occasionally zone out and focus on something that’s not the story, and well, this doesn’t work with this book. You can’t zone out because the characters then can be millions of years in the future, or all of a sudden on planet Earth around the time of its creation. And I found myself hitting the back button a bit in this one. The transitions between chapters and sometimes different character arcs was a little sloppy and not well-defined, particularly for readers like me. However, this could just be me.
I like that important things from the first book are still in the background. What is the ultimate question? Why is Zafod so important? Why are these characters consistently thrown together? Will Marvin ever be happy? And I liked getting to know some of the other characters a little bit better. I found the whole concept of the restaurant to be fascinating. And I loved that the author spends a nice amount of time talking about grammar.
Also, in between the absurd humor, the sci-fi adventures, and the wonderful characters, was get some actual, deep philosophical stuff. Meeting the ruler of the universe was such a great scene. I find myself still thinking about that scene, days after finishing the book.
Overall, I loved this book. My only qualm was with the transitions, and frankly, that could be more a result of my state of mind right now than anything else. I loved it. I loved having something so funny to look forward to listening to every day.
It took me a little bit of time to get used to the new narrator. Martin Freeman is no Stephen Fry. He’s nowhere near as skilled in humor. And I kept picturing Watson reading the story to me…However, he grew on me. And I had no idea he could do so many different voices/accents. He really does a great job. I really enjoyed this one. Though, not quite as much as book 1. I give it an 8/10.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

A Good Week in Books (164) - ALA 2017 Edition

My life is a little chaotic at the moment. It’s my busy season at work. I just got back from ALA Annual (which was amazing). And I’m moving in with my boyfriend on Saturday. I’m super behind in my book reviews. I might get to them now, or I might get to them after I move.  But, I have 3 read books looking at me right now, laying on the guilt…
While I was away, I received 2 ARC’s (Thanks, Penguin!). I also received 3 books for review from Macmillan.
My regular haul:

Genuine Fraud
by E. Lockhart (ARC)
The Fashion Committee by Susan Juby (ARC)
Compass South by Hope Larson and illustrated by Rebecca Mock
Knife’s Edge by Hope Larson and illustrated by Rebecca Mock
Bubbles by Abby Cooper
I also picked up some books at ALA. I worked extra hard to not take home too many books because a) I’m moving on Saturday and already have 20+ boxes of books packed up, b) I needed them all to fit in my suitcase and one carry on, and c) I have a book problem. I could have easily have brought home twice or three times as many as I did…so, I did a relatively good job.
I did come home with a nice amount though. Trying not to pick up books where people are just handing you them for free is probably like what an alcoholic feels like at an open bar. A lot of them are signed too. I kept happening upon signings with short lines and I was like, “why not?” Though, I did intentionally wait in a long line for 2 authors: Angie Thomas (The Hate U Give) and Kristin Cashore (Jane, Unlimited). Most of time though, during my 4 days at ALA, was spent going to panels/sessions. Most of those dealt with things like library leadership, the future of libraries, technology for children, etc. Though, I did attend Booklist’s 50 Years of YA panel (with several YA authors in attendance). And I went to a middle grade panel about girls being funny writers, celebrating the book Funny Girl. Really, it was a conference to celebrate books, reading, and libraries. What could be better?
Any way, here’s my ALA haul:

The Glass Town Game by Catherynne M. Valente (ARC)
Scythe by Neal Shusterman
When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
Disappeared by Francisco X. Stork (ARC-Signed)
Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore (ARC)
The Inquisitor’s Tale by Adam Gidwitz and illustrated by Hatem Aly (Signed by author and illustrator)
If I was Your Girl by Meredith Russo (signed)
She, Myself, and I by Emma Young (ARC)
Little and Lion by Brandy Colbert (ARC)
There’s Someone inside your House by Stephanie Perkins (ARC)
Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart (ARC –I now have 2, and will give one away soon!)
Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu (ARC)
Spellbook of the Lost and Found by Moira Fowley-Doyle (ARC)
The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee
Nothing by Annie Barrows (ARC)
Frankie by Shivaun Plozza (ARC)
Funny Girl edited by Betsy Bird (Signed)
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (Signed)
The Inevitable Victorian Thing by E.K. Johnston (ARC)
Before She Ignites by Jodi Meadows (ARC)
Midnight Dance by Nikki Katz (ARC)
The Lost Girl of Astor Street by Stephanie Morrill
Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust (ARC)
At least 5 of those are books I’ve mentioned in my Waiting on Wednesday posts. Seriously, these books are so awesome. I both hate myself for being unable to resist them, and love myself because think of all the reading I have ahead!
How was your week in books?

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.