Thursday, June 28, 2018

Favorite Books of 2018 So Far....

As you can probably tell by how quiet it's been around here, this hasn't been the best year of reading for me as far as numbers go. There are a lot of reasons for this. The books I am reading though are great, and there have been some truly fantastic ones. Here are some of those:

What are your favorite books of the year so far?

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

The Lost Books: The Scroll of Kings

Sarah Prineas writes amazing books and I love and own them all. There are more than one copy of most of them in my house because my kids loved them too and need their own copies. I often get nervous when I read a new book from an author whose books I adore because there is the niggling worry that this will be the one I don't like. I'm becoming more and more convinced that's just never going to happen with Sarah's books. Her latest The Lost Books: The Scroll of Kings had me riveted from page one and made me feel real, true, unadulterated love for a book. Something I haven't felt in quite a while.

Disclaimer: This is a review of an early copy sent to me by the author who I am friendly with.

That was what a librarian was, he realized, and he wanted to curse himself for being so slow to figure it out. A librarian was not just a cataloger, a sweeper, a duster, a collector of grass, an alphabetizer, a keeper of keys. A librarian was a protector. Of books. 

Alex is a Librarian. He knows it deep in his heart. He has known it since the day he found his way into his father's library and began to read the Red Codex. As he read, the words marked him and he has never been the same. Alex's problem is convincing everyone else he is a Librarian. His father wanted him to be a soldier. The Librarian he apprenticed for did little to train him. When Alex finds that Librarian dead, Alex knows the book the man was reading at the time is responsible. Then Alex discovers a letter revealing the Royal Librarian died in similar circumstances. Alex travels to the Winter Palace pretending to be his dead master to take up the mantle of Royal Librarian and the mystery surrounding the deaths. Alex knows books are full of life. He knows they can be dangerous. The young queen, Kenneret, is not impressed with Alex but gives him a trial period to work in her library knowing she can easily get rid of him at the end of this time. She has more important things to deal with including her delinquent brother who has been kicked out of yet another school, her uncle who seems constantly disappointed in her, and the weight of ruling a nation of people on her young shoulders. When the dangers in the library and the dangers in the palace appear to be intertwined. Kenneret and Alex have to work together to solve the mystery that is threatening the books, their lives, and the fate of the Kingdom.

This book is so perfect for me it is rather hard to be objective about it. Alex is a snarky, rather arrogant, smart yet often oblivious boy. I mean. Check one on the list of things I love. Kennie is a prickly, pragmatic, determined and ambitious girl. So yeah. The two main characters of this book are my everything. There was no chance I wasn't going to love this. I wasn't also expecting to love Kennie's younger brother Charlie equally as much. He is a strong, soldier type, but a deep thinker who sees nuances Alex and Kennie miss in their more no-nonsense approach to everything. The three of them make a fantastic team once they manage to come together. The process of them dancing around each other to get there is fun too. So much snark.

The plot is well crafted and the action moves along at a brisk pace. I was not able to put this down or stop reading for even a minute until I was finished. The mystery of the books and what was happening with them was compelling as was the political intrigue part of the story. I was particularly impressed by how this part was there, but on exactly the level it needed to be for the intended MG audience. I'm not going to say much more to avoid spoilers, but this is definitely a page turner full of adventure, excellent dialogue, and plenty of action.

Of course, being me, I also appreciated the theme of the importance of books, reading, and the role librarians play. The fact that the books in this story are in danger while being a danger at the same time was quite brilliant.

I'm looking forward to book talking this one in the upcoming school year. It is one of those books that will be easy to spark kids' interest in.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Future Favorite Friday: June 2018

I take the 2nd Friday of every month to highlight some upcoming releases I am looking forward to that I hope are Future Favorites. Feel free to do your own post, just please link back to my blog and tell me about your post in the comments.

Two Naomis was one of my favorite reads of 2016 so I was understandably excited it's getting a sequel. 

In this sequel to Two Naomis, now that Naomi Marie’s mom and Naomi E.’s dad are married, the girls have learned to do a lot of things together, like All-Family Sunday dinners, sixth-grade homework, navigating the subway system by themselves, and visiting their favorite bakeries. Until sixth grade in a new school presents a whole new set of surprises and challenges.

Trusting her gut has worked for Naomi E. all her life, and she figures that it will be an asset to her role as a Peer Mediator—until she realizes how much of the job requires the Art of Compromise, which she’s only just starting to get used to at home.

Naomi Marie is excited about making new friends—but she wants to keep old ones too. And when she sees that some in the school community have a hard time with the realities of “diversity in action,” she wonders if the new members of her family can see those realities as well.

As the girls deal with the ups and downs of middle school and the mysteries of family dynamics, they learn that even when life and school try to drive you apart, it’s ultimately easier to face everything together.

Release Date: September 11, 2018 from Balzer & Bray

This is a new Angie Thomas book. No explanation necessary

Sixteen-year-old Bri wants to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. Or at least get some streams on her mixtape. As the daughter of an underground rap legend who died right before he hit big, Bri’s got massive shoes to fill. But when her mom unexpectedly loses her job, food banks and shut-off notices become as much a part of her life as beats and rhymes. With bills piling up and homelessness staring her family down, Bri no longer just wants to make it—she has to make it.

Release Date: February 5, 2019 from Balzer & Bray

I have been longing to feature this one since I first saw Emma talking about it on Twitter. I was waiting for it to have an official release date and now it does! (Also if you haven't read this series yet, you can order the "boxed set"of ebooks that include the first two novels an a novella plus extras. All the buy buttons are here on Emma's website. And you should read them. Earth Bound is my favorite romance novel of all time.)

Houston, Texas, 1965 

When an accident rocks the American Space Department, threatening the race to the moon, the agency is determined to eliminate distractions, including those in the bedroom. 

Astronaut Dean Garland, on track to become the first man to walk in space, is fine with putting a temporary hold on his love life. Except the directive comes too late to prevent the biggest distraction of all: Vivian Muller… Garland. But now that he’s married, Dean is determined to follow the rules until he makes history with his spacewalk. 

Vivy never expected to find herself pregnant or in a shotgun marriage, much less a sexless one. While her new husband might pretend to be perfectly happy sleeping alone, Vivy’s never believed in pretending or holding back. She’s determined to make her husband fall for her, even if it means bending—or breaking—the rules. 

Dean’s resolve to keep marriage and work separate hits another serious snag: the suit he’s supposed to wear in the killer vacuum of space isn’t reliable, and his new father-in-law manufactured it. As Dean unravels the technical problem and Vivy tries to win her husband’s love, their hearts and his life hang in the balance.

Release Date: July 31, 2018 self-published

What upcoming releases do you expect to be Future Favorites?

Monday, June 4, 2018

Love, Life, and the List

Kasie West is a must read author for me though a couple of her recently published books were not my favorites by any stretch. Her latest Love, Life, and the List is everything I fell in love about her books originally and is my favorite of her books so far.

Abby and Cooper have been best friends since 8th grade when Abby moved to town. Their group is rounded out by Rachel and Justin who are both leaving the country for the entirety of the summer. Abby and Cooper will spend a lot of time just the two of them. Abby doesn't consider this to be a problem even though she confessed her love to Cooper the previous year and then played it off as a joke when she saw the panicked look on his face. Having Cooper as a best friend is the best even with her unrequited love she can't get rid of. When Abby is rejected for an art show she has her heart set on because her work lacks depth and emotional maturity, Abby makes The Heart List-a list of things she will do over the summer to grow her heart. Cooper sees the list and joins in. What follows is a summer of new people and experiences which leads to confrontations, heart break, joy, and renewal.

Love, Life, and the List is a first person narrative (as is usual with West's works) from Abby's perspective. I was thoroughly engaged by Abby's voice from the first chapter. I find this interesting because I'm nothing like her so didn't have a common thread to latch on to, yet I was compelled to keep reading and wanted to know more about her and understand what motivated her. In a lot of ways she's lived an insular life. She has a tight knit small friend group. She moves between home, school, and the art gallery where she works with her friend time filling in the spaces. She leads a very regulated existence for an artist. Some of this has to do with her dad being in the Army. Some of this has to do with her mother's anxiety about leaving the house, which is getting worse and worse. A lot of it is that Abby is comfortable with the status quo and doesn't like change. Her list forces her out of her comfort zone in so many ways. I enjoyed  how the things she and Cooper were doing were realistically teenage activities too without either of them feeling the need to do anything stupidly dangerous (or dangerously stupid) and self-destructive. Cooper is an interesting character in his own right. Incredibly different from Abby, but they fit together well. He is a fundamental part of her life and she his, which makes Abby's feelings for him all the more complicated. Cooper isn't clueless. He knows how Abby feels. The way he interacts with her shows how much he values her in his life. The conflict that arises between the two of them in the plot is caused by factors both of them are responsible for. I don't want to spoil anything with details, but the way West handles this conflict is my favorite part of the book. It was so well done. Cooper ends up carelessly and unintentionally hurting Abby. Her response to that is extreme, but entirely necessary for where she is in her journey and her feelings for him. I was impressed by how strong she was in her convictions and how she stuck to what she knew would be best for her. Cooper also shows what a great guy he is by backing off and giving her the space she asks for. The resolution to this is exactly what you would expect from a romance, but the journey there is so well done. I'm not a huge fan of the unrequited love of one best friend for another for years trope, but it worked for me so well in this context and with how it played out.

Another aspect of Love, Life, and the List that makes it excellent is Abby's relationship with her family. Her grandfather, who she shares a lot of personality traits with, lives with them. Her father is deployed (as he often is). Her mother struggles with leaving the house and is only getting worse. Often that much conflict is too much, especially in a romance, but here it works so well. Each relationship  helps build Abby's character and is written in such a way that each character is fully formed and completely human, not just a plot device. Every adult in her life loves her despite the issues that keep them from being  100% there for her all the time. The reader sees that in all of their interactions. The balance of family conflict, relationship conflict, and work conflict in Abby's life is balanced perfectly in the narrative.

All of this isn't even mentioning the new friends Abby makes over the summer who are both good for her and expand her horizons.

I thoroughly recommend this for anyone who enjoys stories of relationships with excellent character development.

Friday, June 1, 2018

May Stats

Hey Everone! Here are my favorite May reads with general stats for the month. I didn't do a monthly stats report for March or April because I didn't read many new books and had no new favorites to add. But I seem to be getting my groove back this month. I even have TWO whole posts schedule for next week. GASP! One is the review for the favorite May read on the right and the other is the return of Future Favorites Friday. Hopefully I still have readers.