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.
Review:
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!
Review:
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.
Review:
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.
Review:
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?
Review:
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.
Review:
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.