Wednesday, January 31, 2018

January Reading Stats

Here is what a snapshot of what I read and loved in January.

Not a bad start to the year I guess. (I am still behind on what my goals were. I got distracted by library books.)

Did you read anything you loved this past month?

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

TTT: Books I Really Liked But Can't Remember Much About

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly themed blog hop created by The Broke and the Bookish and now hosted at That Artsy Reader Girl.

This Week's Topic: Books I Really Liked But Can't Remember Anything (or Much) About

I laughed when I saw this topic, because I've had moments where I go through all my 5 and 4 star ratings on Goodreads and wonder...I remember vaguely most of these-almost like a fever dream though. I have fond, warm thoughts when see their covers but anything beyond basic plot you could get from the synopsis escapes me.

There is one I remember literally nothing of. Nothing.

Want to try and guess which one I blacked out on?

Does this happen to you? What is a book you have fond feelings for but don't really remember?

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Murder, Magic, and What We Wore

Regency Era. Spy Games. Magic. Fashion. If the title and cover of Murder, Magic, and What We Wore by Kelly Jones were not enough to snare me, those word would seal the deal. As soon as I found out this book existed (which was later than I'm comfortable with), I wanted to read it. It isn't a perfect book, and I have some quibbles, but the bottom line is this book is just delightful.

Annis discovers her father is dead and that she and her aunt are nearly penniless. They must seek genteel employment, but Annis does not wish to be a lady's companion or governess. When she discovers that her talent with alterations is more than a talent with needle and thread, but the magical ability to sew glamours, Annis decides she will make their fortune selling glamoured gowns. With her maid Millie at her side, Annis sets out to convince her Aunt Cassia she is capable of succeeding. Cassia reluctantly agrees to give her a chance. Annis is relieved because she needs to prove herself to more than just her aunt. Annis knows her father was murdered because he was a spy for the British in France. When she stumbles on to incriminating documents he left behind, Annis works to convince the War Office to take her on as well. They are less than impressed with her, but that doesn't stop Annis from continuing to try. Soon Annis has her hands full making gowns, masquerading as a French dressmaker, dodging dangerous operatives, and managing a social life. Fortunately she has all the help she could want from Millie. Both girls soon discover the power they have when they work together, and the rest of the world had better watch out.

Murder, Magic, and What We Wore is told in first person from Annis's point of view. Annis is smart and competent, but also naive and rash. She does several reckless, thoughtless things, but she has a determination and spark for life that make her irresistible as a heroine. All of the things she does that appear reckless and thoughtless can be explained by her age and generally sheltered life. Annis's determination and back bone are her greatest strengths. Her Aunt Cassia is no wilting flower, easily manipulated, or turned from her purpose without a great deal of effort. Annis has learned her strength from her aunt and earned her steel through years of dealing with her. When the time comes for Annis to decide what she wants from life, nothing is going to stand in her way. If she has to make it happen through sheer force of will, that's what she will do. She makes mistakes and missteps, learns from them, and moves on to the next challenge. Her voice is full of wit and sarcasm, but is also vulnerable in many ways. Annis can't get where she need to alone though. Millie is the perfect foil for Annis. Calm, collected, practical, and with more world experience. She is the most newly hired maid in the household and the one who stays to stand with Annis and Cassia as they lose almost everything. Not that she has much of a choice, but she makes the best of her situation. She sees great potential in Annis and together the girls work to make their visions of the future a reality. They are a true team, and Millie is as much the heroine of the story as Annis is. I love books that celebrate and hold up female friendships. This one does a  beautiful job with that. Annis and Millie are incredibly different and from separate worlds, but they are bonded by their purpose, experiences, and sympathies for each other. There is a cast of other great female secondary characters as well (including Aunt Cassia who is AMAZING and should have a whole book written about just her).

The world of the novel is Regency England but with magic. There are people who can sew glamours, sing enchantments, paint illusions, etc. It is post Napoleonic Wars, and Napoleon is in his exile on St. Helena. The plot revolves around this fact, a possible traitor, French plots, and sunken ships. Annis is attempting to investigate all this while starting her dress shop. Unfortunately being as young and inexperienced as she is, she is found out rather quickly and finds herself in a race against the murder she is trying to unmask. Her and Millie have to decide who to trust and who to tell what. Can Annis trust her father's man of business Mr. Harrington? How much can Aunt Cassia know? Who among the other member's of society can Annis turn to? The plot moves quickly. The mystery is interesting, if easy to figure out. (Nothing about the reveals in this novel surprised me, but that didn't make it any less fun for me to read.)

My favorite thing was definitely how much this book celebrated women and their friendships. There is no romance (though there is a small hint for a potential one in Annis's future). I know teens who are looking for fantasy adventures, but are a little tired of the focus on romance. This is the  perfect book for them.

I was hoping to discover that this is the first in a series, because I would love to read more. I haven't found any indication that it is, but I will live in hope.

Thursday, January 11, 2018


I enjoyed Ghost, the first book in Jason Reynolds' series about the new kids on an elite track team. It was excellent just as everything published so far by Reynolds has been. In 2017 I made his YA book my priority because I do tend to love his YA works slightly more. As a result, reading Patina got pushed into the start of 2018. I hate that I waited, but also I'm happy to start of a new year of reading on such a high note. This book is fabulous.

Patty is always running even off the truck. She runs from one thing to another as she tries to do all and be all to the people around her. She has to help take care of her sister because she always has, even though now they live with their aunt and uncle who are wonderful. She has to help take care of mom, because her mom lost both of her legs to diabetes. She has a group project at school and is doing all the work because someone has to. She has to win at her track meets because she ain't no junk, and that's what she's supposed to do. Win. Over a week when life blows up for her more ways than one, Patty learns a lot about community, relying on other people, and exactly what's most important.

One thing Jason Reynolds always excels at is voice. This is, I believe, the first time he's tackled a female narrator though. He got it right here too. One thing I'm appreciating about this series now there are two books out is also how much Reynolds is getting the middle school voice. Ghost was exactly the right combination of impulsive, aggressive, and skeptical. Patty is the right combination of attitude, superiority, and cynicism. Both are exactly as self-centered as middle schoolers often are in that they often don't see past their own noses. Everything is about them. These kids embody all the reasons people say they don't enjoy hanging out with or teaching middle schoolers. (And all the reasons I LOVE to do both of those.) The thing about middle schoolers is, with the right sort of guidance, that's when they start learning how to be not only themselves but part of a wider community too. Patty is struggling with a lot. Though she is loved (and knows it) and well cared for, her father is dead and her mother is gravely ill. Her aunt and uncle are wonderful, but this girl has experienced trauma and it shows. She has started a new fancy school where she is a black girl surrounded by white people-people have far more wealth than the people in her previous school. She is trying to figure out how and where to fit into that. She is one of the new kids on the Defenders and has just been chosen to race with some of the veterans on the 800 relay. She has put a lot of expectations on herself, and she refuses to accept failure of any kind-even if it isn't really failure and coming in second rather than first in a race.

The book begins at the first track meet where Patty comes in second and is none to happy about it. Then follows a week that would wear any person down. I really enjoyed what Reynolds did with the plotting here. This is a character focused work. We follow Patty through an incredibly stressful and intense week. There isn't any one major thing. It's all the vagaries of life we experience from one day to the next with the sudden unexpected punches that seem to come at the worst times. We live Patty's life with her  as she learns to appreciate the people around her in new ways through it all at home, at school, and at the track. The way Reynolds pulled it all together and packed every day life full of so much meaning and intensity in so few pages is really quite extraordinary.

Can I also say that I really like the way Reynolds is ending these so far? I won't go too much into the whys of that because spoilers. Suffice it to say that I think it's super clever and meaningful in so many ways.

This series is a must read for any kids who enjoy realistic stories featuring school, friends, and family. No other series comes close to touching all of these things as well and realistically as this one does. Even better, you don't necessarily have to read them in order. All told there will be four books, each featuring one of the newbies on the track team. The new one up is Sunny. His book releases April 10, 2018.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

TTT: Unread 2017 Books I Will Definitely Get to In 2018

This week's TTT topic: Unread 2017 Books I Will Definitely Get to In 2018

Man, 2017 was a year all right. There is no reason ANY of these should still be unread as they were all highly anticipated and more than half are by favorite authors of mine.

Are there any 2017 books lingering on your TBR you need to get to?

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

TTT: Best Discovered Authors of 2017

This week's TTT topic: New to Me Authors I Read in 2017

*The two Rogue anthologies this year, being anthologies, included several authors. Among them is Janie Lee Blaire who wrote stories in both. She is amazing and who I am including on this list.

 This was a good year for the debut authors I read. Every single author on this list other than Farrah Rochon was a 2017 debut.

What new must read authors did you discover this year?

Monday, January 1, 2018

Most Anticipated Releases of 2018

It is a new year, which means a whole new crop of books to look forward to. I'm sharing some of my most anticipated releases of the coming year. The books on this list have official release dates and covers. If a book I'm excited for is slated to come out this year, but doesn't have an official cover or release date yet, I will feature it at some other point.

The MG Books

A Sky Full of Stars by Linda Williams Jackson (January 2)

The Serpent's Secret by Sayantani DasGupta (February 27)

The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson (March 27)

Aruh Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi (March 27)

Sunny by Jason Reynolds (April 10)

The Penderwicks at Last by Jeanne Birdsall (May 15)

The YA Books

Beneath a Haunting Sea by Joanna Ruth Meyer (January 9)

 The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton (February 6)

R is for Rebel by J. Anderson Coates (February 20)

Dread Nation by Justina Ireland (April 3)

 Love & Luck by Jenna Evans Welch (May 8)

Furyborn by Claire Legrand (May 22)

From Twinkle with Love by Sandhya Menon (June 5)

What books are you especially anticipating this year?