The Hate U Give

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The Hate U Give

By Angie Thomas

Genre: Contemporary

Publication Date: February 21, 2017

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb 1/4

Review

Starr leads a double life.  In one life she’s a sixteen year old who lives in a gang/drug infested neighborhood with her mother, her ex-con father, her younger brother, and sometimes her older brother with whom she shares a father.  In her other life she’s a high school junior at Williamson Academy, a predominately White school, with a White boyfriend, an Asian friend, and a White friend. Starr struggles with her identity between her two worlds especially after her best friend, who was Black, was shot and killed by a White police officer.

The incident happens quite early in the book which I believe was a brilliant idea because it causes the reader to adopt assumptions about Khalil, the boy who was killed.  As the story progresses we learn more about Khalil and his circumstances thus creating the conversation about race, poverty, and privilege.  Many of us have prejudices about people who sell drugs or are gang members and Thomas sheds a light and may cause some readers to reevaluate the way they think the next time an unarmed Black youth is shot.

One of the reasons why this story is good is because Starr is relatable to many people, not just Blacks.  Starr struggles with the way she changes her behavior when she’s among certain people.  In her circumstance, she changes the way she speaks and she doesn’t discuss her home life around her school friends and she gets persecuted by her “sister” because she doesn’t act Black enough.  I think lots of people struggle with this in their workplace or perhaps they have family with different political/religious beliefs from their friends, etc. Starr shares her inner monologue and her rationality which a lot of other book characters don’t do and I think this enhances the reading experience because we get to understand the choices she’s making.

Every character was essential to the plot including the seven year old little brother to the grandmothers but I think the stand out, other than Starr, was Starr’s father.  Marv had the most significant character arc.  He was sent to jail for gang activity and he continues to have a gang mentality while caring for his family.  Although his actions are terrible most of the time you can see why he thinks a certain way because Thomas explains his logic quite well.

As someone who didn’t grow up in a neighborhood like Starr’s or knows someone who was shot by a police officer or who has never been in a protest, I think this book gave me a glimpse into the Trayvon Martin incident.  Overall, I thought The Hate U Give was insightful and honest.  My only issue was the dialogue among the characters.  There were several pages and situations of conversations about The Fresh Prince and cereal and other trivial teenage things that really didn’t impact the plot.  I know Thomas was showcasing Starr’s interactions among her different groups of friends but there were too many, they were too long, and I wish they could have been a bit deeper.  I’m not trying to say they had to talk like John Green characters but I think it dragged down the book and made it longer than it needed to be.  I think length is important because if I try to give this book to my Black or Hispanic reluctant readers, they’ll take one look at this 450 page book and say no thanks.

 

Valiant

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Valiant (The Valiant #1)

By Lesley Livingston

Genre: Fantasy/Historical Fantasy

Published: February 14, 2017

Bang Bang Rating: bombbomb

Review

Fallon is in love and is preparing for the announcement of joining her father’s war band when her father announces her betrothal instead of her new membership.  Disgusted by her father’s decision and disappointed to not be following into her fallen sister’s footsteps, Fallon runs away only to be captured and sold into slavery.  Proving that she’s a skilled fighter, Fallon finds herself training to be a female gladiator in Julius Ceaser’s army.

Valiant opens with Fallon and her boyfriend professing his love but Fallon wants to join her father’s war band and she knows she can’t have both.  Her sister died in battle with Julius Ceaser ten years prior and Fallon desperately wants to step in as the sole female warrior and avenge her sister’s death.  None of the above happens and Fallon’s only out is to run away to only be captured by slave traders.  All of this happens in the first fifty pages.  Actually a lot more happens in those first pages including a whole lotta info dumping.

While on the boat to the seller block, Fallon meets another captive named Elka.  Elka is a fighter and a smart mouth and is the best character in this entire book.  Fallon and Elka are chained together most of the time and if it weren’t for Elka, Fallon would not be where she ended up.  One would assume that if Fallon was about to join her father’s army she would be a skilled fighter but one would be wrong.  Fallon constantly gets her ass handed to her and I understand that Livingston is trying to write a flawed heroine but don’t make her army ready, make her a trainee.

Fallon also meets a sympathetic man named Charon who is her capture yet her savior.  He’s initially mysterious but his motive becomes quite predictable much like most of this novel and that was the major problem.  Livingston is not a debut but she make some serious rookie mistakes.  I predicted all the major plot twists thus the reason for my rating.

Fallon meets a handsome young gladiator, Cai,  who happens to work for Ceaser and of course after the first meeting he’s in love.  Fallon knows this is a bad idea and she does hold him off for a while but eventually relents.  The instalove is not as bad as other books but my issue is that Fallon is not special.  Sure she’s perseverant and strong but Cai is surrounded by A LOT of girls like that.  I just wasn’t feeling the heat.

Valiant has a great premise of female gladiators and the time period is refreshing to YA but the pacing, the predictable plot, and the bland characters are why this novel falls short of epic.

Daughter of the Pirate King

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Daughter of the Pirate King (Daughter of the Pirate King #1)

By: Tricia Levenseller

Publication Date: February 28, 2017

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb

Review

Alosa is the daughter of the pirate king and to prove to her father that she’s capable of being a true pirate, she volunteers to get an important map by allowing herself to become a captive of a rival captain.

Alosa has been training her entire life for this-get on an enemy ship to find treasure.  Her father finally has faith that she can pull off this difficult heist of finding a map.  Alosa must use brain, brawn, and a particular gift to find the hidden map all the while avoiding love.

Daughter of the Pirate King is a debut novel and Levenseller writes a refreshing fantasy about a strong yet flawed heroine who desperately wants validation from her father.  Alosa is the captain of a divers female crew who are all badass.  She’s got a smart mouth, a curvy body and she knows how to use both of them.

Pirate King has a great love interest in Ridan who is honorable yet conflicted.  Levenseller takes her time to build a relationship between Alosa and Ridan-in other words, no instalove!

There are a couple of good villains including Alosa’s father and Ridan’s brother who also has his own daddy issues.

Daughter of the Pirate King is a good debut with a diverse cast of characters, a great heroine, and strong writing.

Hunted

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Hunted

By: Meagan Spooner

Genre: Fantasy/Beauty and the Beast Retelling

Expected Publication Date: March 14, 2017

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbomb 1/2

I received this ARC from Harper Collins at ALAMW

Yeva, or Beauty as her father calls her, is the youngest of three daughters of a merchant. Yeva is tired of sitting around with the baroness circle of ladies and would rather be hunting and when her father loses his fortune and must return to the woods, Yeva is ready to help the family. When her father doesn’t return from a hunting trip, Yeva searches the snow clad forest only to be captured by a beast.

I know the basic story of Beauty and the Beast but I’ve never seen the Disney movie (don’t judge me) so I did have to Wikipedia the story to familiarize myself with the plot.

This is the first book I’ve read by Spooner.  I didn’t finish These Broken Stars because something else came along and I didn’t go back.  I think Spooner is a very vivid writer and she captures loss and grief quite well. But I had some issues.

Hunted moves quite fast as far as story development.  Yeva’s family is quite wealthy with servants in one chapter and in the next they are destitute.  I know Yeva is bored with the social scene but she’s totally fine with being suddenly poor and in fact she favors it.  There is nothing necessarily wrong with this but many people would have some sort of selfish opinions and none of Yeva’s family does, including her father.

Hunted is only 374 pages and it was both too long and not long enough.  The middle bits were consumed with Yeva’s hatred/non-hatred of the beast because he killed her father and she constantly waffles.  I know Spooner was setting up a romance and Yeva should suffer this internal conflict, I just wish Spooner had have found a way to convey that without repetition.

There was a lack of character development.  The father loves his family and he seems to have it together but he quickly becomes obsessed with hunting the beast and turns mental.  This happens too quickly to be believable.  The sisters, the love interest, and the servant, Albe, were underdeveloped.  I honestly don’t know the purpose of Albe and Solmir, the love interest, was a basic plot device-Yeva would rather be a hunter than a wife.  With the exception of Beauty and the Beast, none of the other characters drove the plot and if they weren’t in the book it wouldn’t have impacted the story.

The beast has an agenda and you nor Yeva knows what it is until the last 20 pages.  Meanwhile, the forest was magical which was very interesting but once again it was underdeveloped. The ending was too quick-Yeva found the answer in two pages.

I liked the weaving of Vasalisa the Beautiful and how Yeva questioned the traditional fairy tale.  I also liked that Yeva didn’t question a talking beast and a magic forest because she’s obviously in a fairy tale-duh.  Spooner has potential to write an epic fantasy but the story was too rushed and too predictable.

Strange the Dreamer

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Strange the Dreamer

By: Laini Taylor

Expected Publication Date: March 28, 2017

Genre: Fantasy

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb 1/2

Review

Lazlo Strange is a dreamer and he has been ever since he was found parentless and raised by monks.  Fueled by stories from a cantankerous monk, Lazlo pretends he’s a warrior from a fairy tale city named Weep.  Determined to find this city, Lazlo becomes a librarian apprentice and studies hard until he gets his chance to visit the doomed Weep.

If you are looking for a light fun filled fantasy, Strange the Dreamer is NOT for you.  This book is not only dense with LOTS of information, it is dark and is quite metaphorical and jam packed with vivid imagery and beautiful prose.  Taylor has written a new world complete with many characters, myths and beasts so get your pencils ready to keep up.

Strange the Dreamer is told in 3rd person and centers mostly around Lazlo Strange and Sarai.  I won’t say who Sarai is because it is a spoiler and the exciting part is discovering who she is as the story progresses.  Taylor plays mind games with the reader because I am used to a clear villain and a clear hero but in Strange the Dreamer, these lines are blurred.  This is story about war and revenge and the greater good.

It’s very difficult to review this book in detail because I don’t want to spoil anything.  What I liked about this book is that Taylor took her time to develop the world and to explain the conflict. If you read the Smoke and Bone series, you know that Taylor likes to through curveballs.  Strange the Dreamer is multi-themed, has strong characters, and is often sad.

My only issue is the length-560 pages.  I have read longer books but every scene had a purpose to the plot and I felt 90% of this book was purposeful to the plot.  Taylor has the gift of conveying a message in a paragraph but I felt there were instances when she took several chapters to say something that could have been done in two pages.  The length was the reason this book wasn’t a 5/5.

Spoiler Edition of Strange The Dreamer

January Read Pile. Any Bangs?

 

I read everything I said I was going to read except Conjuring of Light by VE Schwab because I thought it came out in January but it comes out in February, so I read a The Careful Undressing of Love instead.

I can say that January was really busy.  I went to ALA Midwinter for four days in Atlanta and I couldn’t enjoy the exhibit hall too much because I was in committee meetings most of the time.  My committee, Best Fiction for Young Adults, was tasked with choosing the top ten YA fiction of 2016 and it was VERY DIFFICULT to narrow it down to 10.  If you’d like to see what our top 10 of 2016, please click here.

I was able to sneak in 6 books and it was a mixed bag-I could have read 7 if I hadn’t have read Order of the Phoenix-LOL. I gave a couple of fours but they were barely fours so that means that there were no bang.

Not counting The Order because this is a reread, the best of the month was The Last of August and the worst was The Undressing of Love

Click the titles for full reviews, except Harry Potter.

The Last of August

Wintersong

Carve the Mark

The X-Files

The Careful Undressing of Love

Onto February where I will try to read 8 books but I can’t make any promises.

The Careful Undressing of Love

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The Careful Undressing of Love

by Corey Ann Haydu

Genre: Magical Realism

Bang Bang Rating: bombbomb

Review

Are the women on Debovairre Street cursed?  According to the wise old Angelika, any woman who falls in love on this fated Brooklyn street is destined to lose her lover to death.

Undressing is set in 2008 post 9/11 where the women on this particular street are Affected or have lost a man in the terrorist attacks, to cancer, and other varied circumstances.  This story is about LornaCruzCharlotteDelilahIsla with Lorna as the main character.  According to Lorna these girls, minus Cruz because he’s a boy, are special not just because of their address but because of their long hair.  Yes, you heard me correctly.  Most of the girls think the curse is stupid and they just go along with it to amuse their old neighbor but after some strange events, some of them start to believe.

This is a semi-unique take on love.  I say semi because this is not a new concept but the setting makes it special.  Brooklyn and this street are also characters.  The women on this street have customs and traditions and they help each other.  Although this is the sixth book I’ve read about Brooklyn and their bodegas, I can’t say it’s getting old yet.  Besides the setting, I didn’t feel as if Haydu was adding anything new too the conversation about love.

As stated above, these girls are special because of their long hair.  They travel in a pact indicated by their mashed names and everyone stares.  They probably stare because men can are gross and ogle women with no shame-that doesn’t make you special.  At some point, Lorna sounded a bit self centered because every where they went people stared.  I’m assuming the author is saying they caught attention because of their confidence but she didn’t expound on this.

Unfortunately, Undressing was formulaic.  I anticipated every turn.

The characters were underdeveloped.  Lorna was the main character and she was flat.  She was mopey most of the time.  Her best friend, Delilah, was only interesting because she was Black with an afro and dated a wealthy white guy.  Isla was in the novel to make a point and I’ll explain below. Charlotte and Cruz were not special.  The only round character was Angelika, the wise old Russian lady.

Undressing had a lot to say about teen girls and love.  The older ladies on the block didn’t like the way they dressed and their cavalier attitude about sex.  Isla was the youngest but she also dressed provocatively and danced on the subway pole while men leered and women scoffed.  This is why I felt Isla was just used to make a point and she didn’t drive the plot.  I think Haydu’s message was clear and I liked it but it wasn’t enough to save this book.

Haydu is a good writer and this is my first book by her.  The language was beautiful and metaphorical and it’s clear she has a lot to say.  She wrote about an interesting street with diverse characters but Undressing was a bit too didactic, formulaic, and it never seemed to pick up steam.

Carve the Mark

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Carve the Mark (Carve the Mark #1)

By Veronica Roth

Genre: Science Fiction/Space Travel

Bang Bang Rating: bombbomb 1/2

Review

Akos, son of an oracle, lives on the farthest planet from the son-Thuvhe.  His life along with many others is fated yet, he doesn’t know his fate until all the fates are announced space-wide.  Now that all the fates have been revealed, all the fated including Akos and his family are in danger.

Cyra is the youngest daughter of the Shotet’s elite family.  The Shotets live on Thuvhe but are at war with Akos’ people.  Cyra’s family will stop at nothing to rule their planet including kidnapping and killing to change their fates.

I also forgot to mention that there’s a current or something and all the people in this book have powers and Cyra has chronic pain and I know a lot of people are upset at how that’s portrayed.

This is a brand new world set in space so of course it’s going to take some time to world build but I felt like this book was about 100 pages too long.  The pacing was incredibly slow and considering how vast the Divergent world was, I expected Roth’s world building to be great.  The farthest planet from the sun is the coldest-seen that before.  Colorful festivals-seen that before. Marking your skin after a kill and fighting to the death in an arena-just read that in The Cursed Queen by Sarah Fine. People have varied powers that are a gift or a curse-seen that before.   Then again, Divergent was similar to Hunger Games.

There are two major characters Cyra and Akos and you know they are eventually going to fall in love.  I applaud Roth for trying to avoid the instal-love-trope but I would have preferred it to what we got here.  There was no heat between the two.  I think Roth should consult Bardugo or Maas on how to write a hot romance.

I had a problem with Akos.  In the beginning of the book, he’s very soft spoken and kind of invisible.  I thought he was eight years old until the text told me he was fourteen.  In one chapter, he talks about how no one can hear him because he’s so soft spoken an on the next page, he’s yelling and threatening and defending his family-totally uneven.  I feel like this is a rookie writing mistake and Roth is not a Rookie.

The big villain is Ryzek and he wasn’t developed enough to be the awful person he was.  We only received two brief instances that turned him into a villain but it wasn’t enough to explain how HORRIBLE he was.

This book had a lack of urgency.  There were two instances when I felt there was a big reveal.  The major plot point was the reveal of a certain person’s fate and it was glossed over for a couple of chapters.  The other was the revelation of a character and no one seemed upset about what this character did even though it was f’ed up.  Because the book didn’t seem to think it was important, I didn’t either which make the book anti-climactic.

Now to address the big issue of race.  I purposely avoided reviews because I didn’t want to be tainted so I had no idea this book made the brown people savages/bad guys.  The first instance is when Cyra’s mother’s hair is described as hard to run your fingers through.  I didn’t equate that with kinky hair/black hair because I know that some white people have really curly hair.  However when Cyra is visiting a doctor on a different planet and the Shotet are described as brown, I thought, “Oh damn!”  I can’t believe that people still make this mistake.  Writing brown people as the savages/scavengers/killers is not diversity; it is perpetuating a stereotype.  Black people are still fighting this stigma.  I still get followed around stores because the employees think I’m going to steal and it’s only because I’m black.  The Black Lives Matter movement is because brown people are unfairly targeting for their skin color. I can’t believe no one at Harper saw this as a red flag. I’m sure Roth didn’t mean for this to happen.  This is what editors and beta readers and reviewers are for.  They are meant to catch this.

I think Roth just tried too hard.  This is a simple plot and all she had to do was add a new spin on it.  She’s a good writer and that’s most of the battle.  The problem with this book is that there was just too much going on and the main characters weren’t written well.

Here are a couple of quick spoilers that really bothered me in this book.

The Last of August

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The Last of August (Charlotte Holmes #2)

By Brittany Cavallaro

Genre: Sherlock Reimagination/Mystery

Expected Publication Date: February 14, 2017

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb

Review

Picking up from The Last Study in Charlotte, it’s winter break and Holmes and Watson plan to spend their vacation with Watson’s family in London then Holmes’ family in Sussex.  Everything at the Holmes estate is expectedly weird when Charlotte’s uncle mysteriously goes missing.  With the assistance of Charlotte’s brother and August Moriarty, Holmes and Watson find themselves deep in the art forgery world as they travel all over the European art scene to find the beloved uncle.

Last of August is book two in the series with the Last Study in Charlotte being Cavallaro’s debut.  Cavallaro is an exceptional writer.  In book two, Holmes has shut down as the result of a sexual assault in book one all the while trying to figure out her feeling for Watson. The first two chapters reveals a compassionate Watson who is trying to help Holmes open up but he’s met with mixed signals.  Because most of the book is from Watson’s POV, we only see his struggles with their relationship.  The beginning of the novel is a bit slow but Cavallaro is taking her time setting up the extremely complicated relationship between the friends. We eventually get Holmes POV for a couple of chapters and I felt it was honest and quite heartbreaking.  Their relationship could have been predictable with petty jealousy and immature arguments but Cavallaro’s characters are quite mature and behave accordingly.

In true Sherlock fashion, there are several mysteries happening at once which keeps the pacing fast.  Once again, the story is told from Watson’s POV and Holmes intentionally doesn’t share vital information with him but Watson wants to be useful and gets himself in some sticky situations.  Holmes is always five steps ahead of everyone else but she’s so intuitive, you totally buy it.  The running question in this novel and the TV show is why Holmes needs Watson when he, or in this case she, could figure it out on his own.  Last of August explores this and the reader learns why Watson is so vital.

The main mystery is the lost uncle and the art forgery.  I will admit that I’m not an art lover and as a teen librarian, I know that not many teens are either.  I’m worried that the art part of the book will lose some teens because I found myself much more interested in the other mysteries.  With that being said, I think this mystery was written well.  I also loved Cavalarro’s vivid imagery of Berlin and the Wall and Prague.  I Google mapped Prague so I could see the fairy tale city.

We finally get to meet Milo, Holmes’ brother, and August Moriarty.  Moriarty is torn between his family and wanted to end this endless feud.  Although Milo is only on the page for brief moments, you really know who he is which is a compliment to Cavallaro who writes a strong character that doesn’t appear on the page for most of the novel.  I really hope we get to see more Milo in book three.

The ending might leaving you thinking, “Yeah, right.” but if you are a fan of the TV show, you’ll understand that all of this is incredibly plausible.

It’s quite clear that Cavallaro is a BIG Sherlock Holmes fan. Cavallaro takes inspiration from the original Sherlock Holmes stories complete with easter eggs.  If you are a big Sherlock fan, you will have fun finding all of the eggs.  The Last of August is jam packed with complex characters, beautiful cities, and What the Hells!  I highly recommend it for fans of Sherlock and perhaps upper level teen readers.

The X-Files: Agents of Chaos

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The X-Files: Agents of Chaos (The X-Files Origins #1)

By Kami Garcia

Genre: Mystery/Paranormal

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb

Review

The X-Files Origins is based on the popular 90’s TV show and it’s written from the perspective of Fox Mulder and Dana Scully as teens.  Because Mulder and Scully didn’t meet until their late 20’s, they each have their own book.  If you are thinking about getting into The X-Files by binging on Netflix, I don’t suggest you read these books first because there are A LOT of spoilers.

Although I was in high school when the show was on TV, I didn’t watch it.  I love scary and paranormal stuff so I don’t know why I didn’t watch it but anyway I started binging it on Netflix last year and now I Want to Believe.  I LOVE Mulder and especially Scully because she was a great character.  She was never sexualized and there was never any gender discrimination.  She was an FBI agent and a medical examiner and no one ever questioned her gender-AWESOME!!

Now on to Agents of Chaos.  Book one is about Fox (David Duchovny is sexy as hell on the TV show) Mulder and his turbulent relationship with his father.  At this point in the story, Fox’s sister Samantha has already been abducted thus beginning his obsession.  Because he can’t do much investigation into his sister’s disappearance, he satiates his passion by trying to solve a string of kidnappings. Fox, I’m sorry, Mulder is joined by his new best friend Gimble and his old best friend Phoebe. The trio enlist the assistance of Gimble’s paranoid father and a variety of colorful characters to solve the seemingly ritualistic crimes.

Garcia does a great job of including small details about Mulder as a teen-his wit, his love of sunflower seeds and naked ladies, his insomnia, and his choice to sleep on a couch.  Garcia includes pivotal characters who eventually make Mulder the man we see on the TV.  The other set up is his respect for women.  Although teen Mulder likes half naked ladies which sets up adult Mulder’s fascination with porn, he has tremendous respect for his equally intelligent friend-Phoebe.  This story takes place in the late 70’s when women/girls weren’t so equal but Mulder always trusts Phoebe’s theories and ideas.  He’s in love with her and he fantasizes about her but there’s never any tropey groping or blue balls.  I think this is Garcia’s way of setting up Mulder’s relationship with Scully.

If you are a fan of the show, you’ll see a bit of Dana in Phoebe and an amalgamation of Frohike, Fritz, and Ringo in Gimble.  And my least favorite character on the TV show is in the first chapter-The Smoking Man! This guy will never go away!

The mystery is solid and a bit creepy which is great.  The police are total idiots and you believe that these seventeen year olds totally found this serial killer all by themselves. The character development is pretty good but the intensity could of been better considering the subject matter.  My major issues was the fictional novel everyone was obsessed with.  It got a bit convoluted during the revelation of the motive.  I also didn’t like Phoebe all that much.  She was a strong smart girl but she was a bit of a bitch and not in a good way.

Otherwise, as a BIG fan of the TV show, I thought this was spot on and I’m excited to read book 2 which is Scully’s story.

 

Wintersong by S. Jae Jones

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Wintersong

By: S. Jae Jones

Genre: Fantasy/Reimagination

Expected Publication Date: February 7, 2017

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbomb

You can listen to our podcast or read the review.

Review

Wintersong is a loose reimagination of the 1986 film Labyrinth starring David Bowie.  I have not seen the movie so I cannot comment any further.

Liesl, the plain sister, is our main heroine who permanently lives in the shadow of her attractive younger sister and a musically gifted even younger brother and she constantly reminds you just in case you forgot.  Liesl’s father is a drunk leaving the mother to be the bread winner and Liesl to basically raise her siblings so when her sister Kathe gets taken by The Goblin King, Liesl stops at nothing to get her back.  Pretty simple plot, yes? Well, hold on to your pants because it’s about to get bonkers.

Everyone around Liesl is either incredibly beautiful or immensely talented leaving Liesl to have some series self esteem issues.  As a child, she made friends and composed music for the Goblin King thinking he’s just a fairy tale made up by her eccentric grandmother but Liesl SLOWLY realizes that The Goblin King has been in love with her since childhood for her internal beauty.  Liesl sees the thin austere young man in the market and although she’s seriously insecure, her body is on fire for the King.  Lot’s of things happen but most of the time the Goblin King is testing Liesl all the while falling in love.

Jones is a debut and I think she is a wonderful world builder  with quite an imagination but  I wish she had put more effort into her character development.  All of the characters are toeing the stereotype line. Liesl is the dowdy sister who’s over looked because she a girl; Kathe is the desired one but not that bright, the brother is doted upon because he’s a boy, the father is a sexist drunk, the mom works hard and ignores the kids, and the grandma is an eccentric.  There are some small nuances among all the characters which make them somewhat special but they aren’t archetypes. Jones used too much repetition to develop characters rather than expanding on their foundation.  The Goblin King was also a missed opportunity to develop a great new villain.  He had secrets which was great but once again, his character development was repetitious.  I liken him to The Darkling but The Darkling was a well developed misunderstood manipulative villain while he Goblin King was sort of a manipulator and sort of misunderstood.

I also felt Wintersong could have used a better editor.  There was way too much going on and it took away from the romance between Liesl and The Goblin King.  I know it’s a labyrinth and there are supposed to be layers of weird and there were with Wintersong but the layers seemed to be detached and not cohesive. There was a lot of explaining and not enough opportunities for the reader to figure out the clues.  The pacing also could have been better.

As I began reading, I was picturing Asian characters but slowly realized that this was 19th century Germany (?).  Not that the characters had to be minorities but I come to expect the characters to resemble the author and I should probably stop doing that.

Overall I think Jones has potential and I will probably read subsequent books by her.  Cruel Beauty is quite similar to Wintersong but what sets it apart is the strong character development in Nyx, Ignifex, and Shade.  But if you like a strong theme that focuses on love and music, you’ll enjoy Wintersong.

TBR: January 2017

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I read 118 books in 2016 and although I’m proud of that, I’m exhausted so therefore I set my 2017 goal for a modest 95 books.

I’ll be at ALA Midwinter for five days and I won’t be able to read and a couple of these books are 500 pages so I’m shooting for five books for January.

Wintersong by S. Jae Jones-I’ve been seeing this book all over the bloggerverse but I didn’t look into it.  I recently had to write a blog post about diverse debuts and after reading this description, it jumped up to the top of the TBR list.  I think it’s a retelling of Beauty and the Beast but seeing as I don’t like Disney movies, I don’t know this story.  I have read the original tale though so don’t judge me.  YA Interrobang recently did an interview with Jones where she discusses how she had to cut out the erotica scenes to make it YA-WHAT?  Now I’m intrigued.

Conjuring of Light by VE Schwab-This is the final book in the Shades of Magic Series and although I’ve enjoyed this series immensely, I’m excited to see how it ends.  My only complaint is that I don’t like Lilah but I know she’s going to save the day and I know she and Kell are going to get together so…UGH

Last of August by Brittany Cavalarro-I’m a fan of everything Sherlock and I like Cavalarro’s reimagination of Sherlock as a teen girl.  Cavalarro’s writing in honest and gritty and if you are a Sherlock fan (maybe not that first episode of season 4) I highly recommend Cavalarro’s take.

Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth-Although I wasn’t a fan of the Divergent Series, I think Roth’s world building is worth me reading a new series.  Goodreads has it at 3.83 which is scary because loyal fans usually rate high regardless of anything.  I know there weren’t many ARCs so maybe these ratings are from literary critics. 

The X-Files Origins: Agents of Chaos-I was in high school when The X-Files was on TV (yes, I’m old) but I didn’t watch it.  I’m not sure why because I love scary stuff.  Anyway, I binged all 1o seasons last year around this time and I loved it so I’m really excited to see Mulder and Scully as teens.  Let’s hope this doesn’t suck.

Alchemists of Loom

alchemists-of-loom

Alchemists of Loom (Loom Saga #1)

By Elise Kova

Genre: Fantasy/Steampunk

Expected Publication Date: January 10, 2017

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb 1/2

Review

Arianna is a Chimera or is she? That’s the big question that doesn’t get answered at the end of this huge cliffhanger.

Alchemists of Loom takes place in a world where dragons, who look like people with varied Crayola colored skin tones, have taken over Loom and dictate their unfair laws from above the clouds.  Loom residents were fine until the dragons learned how to come down from the clouds and now they are forced and branded into specialized sectors (Harvesters, Riviters, Alchemists, & Ravens) which are BRIEFLY described in the novel. Loom residents receive little education and if you don’t pass your tests, you are killed.   Of course Loom residents think this is unfair and they retaliate by killing dragons and selling their organs on the black market.  Since dragons have powers, if you consume their organs you absorb their specialized powers and become a Chimera. And of course many the Loom people have become rebels and are determined to rid Loom of the dragon tyranny.  I also forgot to mention that Arianna is a hired thief who encounters a rogue dragon and instead of killing him, she helps him for a price- one wish. Does this sound like a lot of story? Well it should because it is.

Chapter one drops you right in the middle of the action with little to no explanation about the world or Arianna. Nova slowly explains the world of Loom which includes numbers instead of city names; Arianna’s background; and it’s steampunk so they have airships and goggles and unorthodox guns.  Loom is told from the perspective of four different characters and they are all FASCINATING. I loved every character in this book including the villains because they all have their own motives their own backstories and their own voice.  The majority of the characters are female and they are all incredibly driven and strong.  There’s also a hint of a romance and it’s very sweet.

Loom’s main theme is imbalance of power and disenfranchisement but at the same time race, gender, and sexuality are not focal points. No one is coffee colored or caramel colored; they are crimson and gray and blue.  There are women in powerful positions throughout the novel but no one says, “OMG, you’re a woman!”

When writing new worlds, there are two types of authors.  One author will over share with info dumping and the other type leaves out information because they’ve been living with their world for months and think the reader has too. Nova, however, gives the reader just enough information about her world to keep you satisfied and she spreads it out so that the reader is never overwhelmed.

The only reason I gave Loom a 4.5 instead of a 5 is because I prefer a character driven plot and Loom had more action than I like.  I have a difficult time visualizing action sequences so I don’t enjoy an action packed story.  The action wasn’t bad; I just prefer character and wold building.  If you like action, adventure, world building, and character development, you will love Alchemists of Loom.

P.S. While writing this review, I discovered what/who Arianna is-YaY

Did you like Alchemists of Loom as much as I did? Let’s talk about it.

Gilded Cage

gilded-cage

Gilded Cage (Dark Gifts #1)

By Vic James

Genre: Science Fiction/Alternate Universe/Fantasy

Expected Publication: February 14, 2017

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb 3/4

Review

In this contemporary alternate universe London, all citizens who are not an Equal (wealthy, influential, magical) are required by law to participate in slavedays-serving ten years as a slave.

Abi Hadley was able to get her parents, her seventeen year old brother, and her ten year old  sister to complete their slavedays at the house of one of the most wealthiest families in London, the Jardines. Although two of the Jardine boys are powerful and mean, the third brother is kind and has caught the eye of Abi.  While servitude in the Jardine house is peaceful, there’s an uprising in one of the slave towns and the Jardine’s and the other wealthy families who make the laws will do anything to keep slavedays law.

Gilded Cage is an allegory to what our world could have looked like if slavery had not been abolished.  In this book, the lawmakers are Skilled and have immense magical powers and although our lawmakers do not posses magic; they still posses the power to oppress.  The powerful ones on the outside think slavedays are not that bad because the slaves have jobs and are fed so therefore life is good for them until someone sheds light on reality-hunger, police brutality, and sloven conditions.  Similar to the start of the Civil Rights Movement where the North witnessed the fire hoses on TV, people began to take action to end slavery and this where Gilded Cage begins.

In addition to the politics, there are feminist themes and themes of unconditional love. Wonderful character development considering there are a lot of characters and James has created an interesting world.  Gilded Cage was thrilling and exciting and I can’t wait to see what happens in book two.

My only issue was the family tree.  The Parva-Jardine family is quite extensive and confusing so a glossary or a simple family tree would be a helpful addition to the final book.

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

caraval

Caraval (#1)

By: Stephanie Garber

Genre: Fantasy

Publication Date: January 31, 2017

Bang Bang Rating: bombbomb

Review

Scarlett has dreamed of the Caraval circus since she was a little girl. She mailed the ringleader, Legend, every year hoping to get a ticket only to learn that the Caravel was no longer touring.  Days before her wedding, which she reminds us of 30 times, Scarlett finally receives an invitation for three.  While Scarlett sees this as an adventure before her wedding, her sister Dontella sees this as a way to escape their abusive father.

Because Caraval will coincide with Scarlett’s wedding (are you tired of me mentioning the wedding? Well get over it because you’ll hear about it 50 times if you read this book) she’s reluctant to go but Dontella and her new guy friend (who’s extremely hot) force Scarlett to attend.

Once at Caraval, Scarlett is mesmerized by the tents, the hot brown guy she’s traveling with, winning the game to get the wish, her clothes that change for some reason, trading with things other than currency, her flimsy gown that she always seems to be wearing around all the men, secret passages, and the hot brown guy who’s constantly flirting with her.

Caraval had such potential to be cool and mysterious but it’s weighed down with tropes-the girl who thinks a man will save her, her sexual sister who knows otherwise, her hot guy, and the villainous father.  The uneven writing is also a problem. The dialogue was not particularly dynamic but it was peppered with metaphorical language.  This book also failed the Bechdel test-every conversation between two women were about men. This was a shame because the sisters had a great relationship but it was never explored.  Finally, the info dumping at the end didn’t help.

Listen to the full podcast

Poison’s Kiss

poisons-kiss

Poison’s Kiss (Poison’s Kiss #1)

By Breeana Shields

Genre: Fantasy/ Indian Folklore/Cultural

Expected Publication Date: January 10, 2017

Bang Bang Rating:

Review: bombbombbomb

Marinda is a visha kanya, a killer with one touch, who works for the Raja.  She’s been a visha kanya since she was five and she rationalizes her job by believing she is killing bad men.  Marinda also takes care of her seven year old brother, forgot his name, who has a lung infection and needs medication to survive.

Of course everything is okay until Marinda meets a hot nice guy-Deven. And of course she is ordered to kill him.  This is not a spoiler; it’s on the book jacket.  I’m not mad at this because this just means that the book is not about her order to kill Deven but about what Marinda does to save him and what she does isn’t necessarily the problem I had with the book.

My major issue was Marinda-she was a dumb dumb. This girl works for an evil man, can’t remember his name, who is a sadist. Marinda is a blind believer of an evil system.  She asks questions but she only asks one and believes everything people tell her. SHE WORKS IN A BOOKSTORE; READ A FUCKING BOOK!

The folklore is interesting and everyone is brown which is great.  The relationship between Marinda and Deven was sweet and believable.  The book’s flow was okay; it was never boring. The character development, however, is what killed this book.  It’s only 300 pages and I believed the villain and the best friend could have been developed better with more pages.

Did you read Poison’s Kiss? What did you think?

Dreamland Burning

dreamland-burning

Dreamland Burning

By Jennifer Latham

Genre: Historical Fiction

Expected Publication Date: February 21, 2017

Bang Bang Rating:bombbombbomb

Review

Rowan Chase found a body during the renovation of her house in contemporary Tulsa.  With a DA for a mother and an interest in medicine, Rowan (half Black half White) and her best friend James (self proclaimed asexual half Black half Native American) decide to investigate.  In alternating chapters, we meet William Tillman (half White half Native American) who sells victrolas in Tulsa in 1921. William befriends a Black teen and his younger sister who is the only interesting character in the entire novel.  In the days after William meets his new Black friends, a race riot breaks out changing Tulsa forever.

In Rowan’s chapters, we meet a teen whose lived in a privileged home and has little knowledge of the Tulsa race riots of 1921.  Rowan attends the good high school in the good part of town and is interning to get into a good college and although she knows about racism; she isn’t exposed to it in her daily life but James is and makes her aware of her bubble existence.  Rowan gets a taste of the wrong side of the tracks while interning in a clinic thus beginning her slow and boring growth.

In William’s chapters, we meet a meek boy who learns lessons about doing business with Negroes from his father.  His father deals with the situation the best he can but his decisions later in the novel are uneven to the majority of his presence.  Considering he has a wife that’s Native American, you’d think he’d be more sensitive to the plight of the Black man in 1921.  William has lots of growing to do but in the meantime, he is not a dynamic character.  He’s not witty or smart or remotely interesting.

Dreamland Burning read more like a history book and would have worked better as a mystery. Instead of giving the reader a chance to solve the mystery with Rowan and James, we are just told information and eventually the identity of the dead body by other characters.  Latham seemed to try too hard with all the diverse characters.  William’s mother was Native American and her story in relation to the time period was interesting but because the focus was heavily on Blacks, her story seemed like an after thought and had little to no impact on the plot.  Latham should have left that out and made William White.

In the author note, Latham who is from Tulsa said that this part of history in not discussed which makes it all the more interesting but the parallels to today’s race struggles with #blacklivesmatter (which was mentioned) was too on the nose.  Coupled with the weak character development and the telling rather than showing, Dreamland Burning was a missed opportunity to tell an important story.

I will buy it for my collection because it’s about a little known time in American history (I didn’t know anything about it) but I won’t give it to a teen who’s looking to be challenged.

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

crooked-kingdom

Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows #2)

By Leigh Bardugo

Genre: High Fantasy

Publish Date: September 27, 2016

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb 1/2

Overview

Kaz and his gang return from their heist with their precious cargo only to find that the person who hired them won’t pay up.

The Good (THIS IS THE SPOILER FREE REVIEW.  CLICK HERE FOR THE SPOILER EDITION)

  • Ketterdam.  Ketterdam is the world the Six of Crows series is based in and it’s a horrible and fantastic place.  It’s reminiscent of Vegas if Vegas exploited the young and the female.

Ketterdam is also very diverse culturally and sexually but it’s never part of the story.  People are who they are regardless of what they look like or who they share their bed-  power is what matters in Ketterdam.  I enjoyed this quite a bit because it’s RARE to see brown and LGBTQ characters in fantasy novels.  I hope readers don’t get hung up on that because this book is about their relationship and survival and their race has nothing to do with the mentioned themes.

  • Kaz & Inej.  They are my FAVORITE couple of all time and they didn’t even touch in the first book.  How Bardugo managed to create such a dynamic couple without so much as a hug is beyond me but it’s all fabulous. I’ll explain more in the spoiler edition.
  • Characters.  This series is completely character driven and there are six main characters that all require backstory.  We received everyone’s story in book one with the exception of Wylan who didn’t have his own chapters in book one-very clever Bardugo.  We get to learn more about Wylan because his father plays a major role in Crooked.  Crooked is more about how the main six deal with their issues and if and when they will find their happiness.
  • Pacing.  Although the series is character driven, there’s a lot of action for all of those readers who need things to happen between all the dialog.  Just like Six of Crows, Kaz was always ten step ahead of everyone else and several times during the story you weren’t sure if they were done for of if it was part of the plan.

The Bad

  • Nothing.  I liked everything in this book so I have nothing to add in the bad portion.  Because Six of Crows was so new and different and refreshing, I couldn’t give Crooked Kingdom five stars.  I know it sounds weird but one of the reasons why I gave Six of Crows five stars was because it was different and since Crooked was similar in story and writing, it’s no longer different.

Overall

Crooked Kingdom stayed true to book one in characterization, writing, and plot.  I envy the friendships in Crooked Kingdom but I thank the lord I do not have to survive the way they all do.  The character development and the world are top notch and I’m excited to see what Bardugo will come up with next.

To see the spoiler edition of Crooked Kingdom, click here.

Review of Nevernight by Jay Kristoff

nevernight

Nevernight (Nevernight Chronicles #1)

by Jay Kristoff

Genre: High Fantasy

Published

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb 1/2

Overview

Set on revenge, Mia Corvere trains to be a blade so that she can repay the Luminatii who killed her family and left her for dead.

The Good (THIS IS THE SPOILER FREE REVIEW.  CLICK HERE FOR THE SPOILER REVIEW)

  • World Building, obviously!  So this is “Italy” and I’ve seen a lot of maps and I have to say, this is my favorite map.  You can even see little houses and streets.  This world is RICH with backstory and religion and tradition and politics and geography and internalized racism and classism and mythology.  This is what I love about new worlds. If you are going to write something new, go for it and I think Kristoff did a great job.
  • Story.  Let me begin by saying that I’ve never read a Kristoff book. (I tried to read Illuminae three times but it was information overload for me and I couldn’t get passed page 50).  Secondly, I thought this was YA until I got to the sexy part mid way through and had to do some investigating.  Barnes and Noble has this as adult fiction and even though the main characters are teens, I agree with B&N.

 Back to the writing.  There was A LOT of information but Kristoff managed to avoid the dreaded info dump with footnotes-GENIUS!  I will drop a whole star if a book info dumps-that’s how much I hate it.

Kristoff drops you right off in the middle of the story and works his way back and then forward and I was never confused.  Kristoff’s writing is very descriptive and although I struggle with vivid novels, I was able to picture it.  I would love to see the ending in a movie.

There is a great villain and some wonderful mentors.  There are a lot of characters and there’s a competition to be the best but the characters were archetypes and well developed. I liked the use of shadows as characters.

There were several subplots and characters with mysterious backstories that kept the book intriguing. Even Mia’s backstory was a mystery for most of the novel.  There were enough unanswered questions for the next book but it didn’t leave you with a huge hangover.

Can’t say too much without spoilers but clearly I enjoyed this book.  If you want to read the spoilers, click here.

The Bad

  • Midway Slump. There was a point in the middle where I got a bit bored-about 50 pages or so.
  • Mia and Tric. I got a bit angry at how she handled something in the end.  I just didn’t think her reaction was realistic.
  • There was a major part in the end that bothered me.  I explain in the spoiler edition.

Overall

This book was great.  It’s a well rounded fantasy and we don’t get that very often.  The world and the characters were very refreshing.  I’m extremely bummed that this isn’t YA but overall, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND NEVERNIGHT!

Empire of Storms

Empire of Storms (Throne of Glass Series Book 5)

By Sarah J. Maas

Fantasy

Published: September 6, 2016

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb1/4

 

Overview

Aelin, Rowan, Aedion, Lysandra, and Evangeline are making their way to Terrasen for Aelin to take the throne.

THIS IS THE SPOILER FREE EDITION.  CLICK HERE FOR THE SPOILER EDITION

The Good 

  • Writing.  I think we all can agree that Maas’ writing has grown tremendously since books 1 & 2 and it remains in book 5.

There seems to be homages to several novels including Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, and Harry Potter to name a few.  I haven’t read LOTR so I can’t speak on this (my coworker pointed out the LOTR references) but I can speak of the similarities of GOT & HP.

Aelin is kind of the Daenerys of the group.  She’s trying to claim her throne and her entourage has similarities to GOT.  There’s a king of the north and large family dynasties.  They also travel quickly in this book much like in GOT.  There’s no fight for the throne from a bunch of people like in GOT but I see Aelin as a Daenerys.

As for Harry Potter, there’s strong good vs. evil theme and Erawan has been called the Dark King.

I wasn’t bothered by all the homages and I actually commend Maas for creating vast landscapes and families.

  • A Certain Ship but that’s a spoiler so I’ll save it for the spoiler edition.
  • Separate Storylines.  Maas is great at creating separate storylines within her books.  Some people don’t like to be taken out of a storyline but I don’t mind it.  I really like the anticipation of the inevitable convergence.
  • Characters.  I liked all the characters that you are supposed to like and hated all the characters that you are supposed to hate.
  • Manon. No explanation needed.

The Bad

  • OMG, I WAS SO CONFUSED!  My biggest complaint is the convoluted execution to a very simple plot.  The plot is basically to find a lock and all three keys to stop Erawan.  Simple right?  NOPE!!! I was hanging in there and then something happens to Aelin (won’t say here) and then I got confused again but then I was okay until an old character resurfaced but I was kind of getting it until the last 20 pages.  Maas seemed to try to cram in too much into a 700 page book.  I know, right?
  • My other big complaint was all the hooking up.  That’s all I’ll say about that.

Overall

I didn’t quite get the prologue and I ended the book confused and the book references events from book 1 and .5 and I forget a book as soon as I put it down so I my memory is shotty.  Although it’s my responsibility to remember stuff I still felt this book tried a bit too hard.

Queen of Shadows is by far my favorite of this series.

 

10 Things We Hate About YA Fantasy

If you are like us and read A LOT of YA fantasies, there are probably several reoccurring things that bother you about them.  Elise from Roulette Reader and I listed our top 10.  These are in no particular order.

Check out our podcast.

  1.  The Waffle House-Make a decision already, GEEZ!
  2. Deus Ex Machina- Fight your own battles, dammit!
  3. The Lonely Island-Get yourself some girlfriends, girlfriend.
  4. The Guinevere Complex-Brown eyes are beautiful too.
  5. Good Morning Info Dump-Spread the wealth.
  6. Tale of a Million Cities-I can’t keep up with all these dang names!
  7. The Evil Plan-Thanks for telling me your plans so I can now defeat you.
  8. I Would Walk 500 Miles-I hope your journey is a long (and interesting) one.
  9. The War Strategist- You were a pickpocket and now you are winning wars? Nope
  10. Empty Affirmation-I’m a good person. People like me.

Join us on September 1st as we talk about our book hangovers.

https://plus.google.com/events/c9tvbcrfqh9igau6m3dnuodh5u4

Beauty of Darkness

beauty of darkness

Beauty of Darkness (Remnant Chronicles #3)

By Mary E. Pearson

Genre: High Fantasy

Publication Date: August 2, 2016

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb 3/4

Overview

Lia and Rafe have barely escaped Venda and Rafe must get his entire entourage to Dalbreck before Kaden and the Komizar finds them.

The Good

  • Team Lia. One of the campaign slogans is Team Lia and if you go to a tour stop, you can get a sticker that says such.  Basically it means that there is no Team Kaden or Team Rafe and that Lia is strong enough to bring down the Komizar, the Dragon, and the traitors in Morrighan.  What’s good about this is that Lia is the same strong heroine she was since book one.  Yes, she has grown but Kaden and Rafe don’t save the day; Lia saves it.  I won’t say how she saves it; you’ll have to read the spoiler edition.
  •  Never Predictable.  We know going in that Venda is going to storm Morrighan and that Lia has to sacrifice herself and that the Chancellor is a traitor. But even though we know all of this, there are several twists to the plot and you never quite know who the bad guys are until the end.
  • Relationships. Lia and Rafe have their squabbles but their arguments are mature.  I think some authors feel pressure to create tension between lovers and their disagreements become immature shouting matches.  I thoroughly enjoyed the relationship between Lia and Rafe and Lia and Kaden.
  • All the other stuff I liked about the first 2 books.  Kiss of Deception Heart of Betrayal. My coworker and I also podcasted a reread of books 1 and 2 so check it out of you are interested in breaking them down chapter by chapter.

The Bad

  • Very Long. 670 Pages Long. The only problem I had was that it was a bit too long.  In the first two books I felt everything drove the plot at 80 MPH but there were parts of this book where the chapter was driving the plot but it was at 30 MPH.  I know Mary was trying to tie up all the storylines but after awhile I just wanted to get to the battle.
  • I actually had one other problem but you read about it in the spoiler edition.

Overall

The Remnant Chronicles is my fourth favorite series of all time and I enjoyed every word of it.  The world building and the characters and the intense plot was one of a kind and although I’m sad to see it end, I’m glad I discovered this wonderful series.

Spoiler Edition

 

A Torch Against the Night

torch against the night

The Torch Against the Night (An Ember in the Ashes #2)

By Sabaa Tahir

Genre: Fantasy

Publication Date: August 30, 2016

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbomb 3/4

Overview

Torch picks us immediately after Elias and Laia are on the run from the Commandant and the masks to get to Kauf to rescue Laia’s brother.  Now that Elias is an enemy to the empire, it is up to Helene the Blood Shrike to find him and publicly execute him but can will she be loyal to the crown or loyal to her best friend?

The Good

  • Action Packed. From the first page, this book is non stop action. This is basically a “road trip” book and Elias and Laia have several encounters on their way to the prison.
  • Helene. Helene becomes a more developed character.  As Blood Shrike she has to get her men to respect her as a woman and she has to do the bidding of Marcus and the Commandant even when she doesn’t agree with their motives and methods.  We also meet her family and learn more about her backstory.  I really like Helene because she’s strategic and logic and honorable.
  • World Building & Mythology. I enjoy Tahir’s vast, diverse world. We are introduced to the tribe that raised Elias and alternate worlds.  There’s also some good war strategy going on.
  • New characters.  There are a couple of new characters that are interesting-Harper and the warden.  I hope they make an appearance in book 3.

 

The Bad

  • Laia. I do not like this girl.  I didn’t really like her in book one but I was hoping she grew a bit more since the end of book one but I don’t think that’s the problem.  She’s just not a very dynamic character.  Yes, she’s driven to find her brother and that’s admirable but that’s all she’s got going for her. Unfortunately, that’s not an original plot line and there isn’t much that makes Laia’s plight stand out.  There are moments when she’s incredibly brave but at the same time she’s flighty. I know that makes her flawed but not in a good way.  I’ll explain further in the spoiler edition below.
    • I don’t understand why every man she meets falls in love with her. What does Elias see in her? Helene is a MUCH better woman.
  • Marcus. He was terrible in the first book but he’s worse now I feel like there was no character development to make me hate him.  In book 1, the commandant was a great villain and we got some of her backstory and perhaps a reason why she was a psychopath but unless I missed Marcus’ backstory in book 1, I don’t understand why he is the way he is.  I feel like Tahir is turning him into Ramsey Bolton from Game of Thrones and if you are familiar with the series you know what I mean. If you are unfamiliar, Bolton is by far the most vile person I’ve every read/seen in a fictional story.
    • I know Marcus doesn’t have his own chapter so it’s difficult for the reader to learn more about him but something must to be done to develop him because the way it’s written, I can’t hate him if I don’t know him.
  • Info Dumping. Yes, this happened a couple of times which sucks because Tahir writes such great story lines.  I just wish she would write it so the reader can figure it out or spread it out through out the novel and not dump all the major reveal in one chapter.
  • Helene’s Family. I’ll explain in the spoiler edition.

Overall

I gave Ember a 5 so I was really bummed that I didn’t like this book more.  The unlikable heroine and the lack of a meaty story blew out the torch in this book.

Spoiler Edition

The Raven King

raven king

The Raven King (Raven Cycle Book 4-Final Book)

By Maggie Stiefvater

Genre: Paranormal

Published

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb 1/2

Overview

The appearance of Gwenllian and Artemus brings new hope of finding Glendower to Blue and the Raven Boys but when something deadly seeps into Cabeswater and with Gansey’s impending death premonition, the teens now fear they are running out of time.

The Good

  • Characters-Stiefvater is a master at the character development.  I personally feel like the reason why this series is so successful is Gansey, Ronan, Adam, Blue, and Noah.  Even the supporting characters are weird and funny and amazing.  Piper could have easily been a vapid self absorbed character but she’s so over the top it’s not a stereotype; she’s comic relief.  And what the hell was Laumonier?  I don’t know but he was fantastic and I wish there was more of him (them?).
    • There are 20 characters that are mentioned several times and or have their own chapter and ordinarily this would be an issue but because they all have distinctive personalities, I was never confused and they all contributed to the plot.
  • Themes-Everyone will come away with their own interpretation of the plot and according to Ruta Sepetys, it’s not what the author is trying to tell you it’s about what you got out of it.
    • I loved the friendship the main five characters shared and we would all be lucky to have friends like these.
  • Against Tropes– I hope editors are reading this series because insta-love, fight scenes, jealousy and infighting isn’t essential and this entire series proves that.
    • All the characters have common issues-abuse, mortality, sexual identity, depression, retribution, unrequited love, and greed. But it’s told unconventionally.
  • YA at it’s Finest-If there is someone who has disparaging opinions about YA and we all know someone, this series is the perfect starter book to present to them.  Bravo to Stiefvater for writing a book full of character development and world building and folklore and not being afraid to tell a dense story.
    • I read Raven Boys three years ago when I was new to YA and I gave it three stars.  As I reflect back on the series, I don’t think I was fully aware of what YA could be and I found the book confusing.  Dream Thieves changed my mind (after I read it a second time) and besides Harry Potter and Hunger Games this became one of my favorite series of all time.
    • I think Maggie should teach a master class in this series because I know I miss A LOT!

The Bad

  • I had an issue with one of the romances, I won’t say which one but you can read about it in the spoiler edition.  It just seemed out of the blue.
  • I wasn’t sure why Henry was there.  It brought some diversity to the series but other than that, not quite sure I needed him. I liked him but I didn’t need him.

Overall

As I sit on a selection committee whose job is to pick the top ten YA books of the year, I’ve learned how to read with a critical eye.  I’ve also learned what journals are looking for when they assign starred reviews and what the upper crust selection committees are looking for when they select the NBA (National Book Award) and the Printz.  Raven King is an example of a book that should and deserves to receive all the stars and all the awards.

Selection committees look for archetype vs. stereotype characters and Gansey and Ronan would be considered archetypes. Ronan could have been the brooding bad boy stereotype but instead he has secrets and he deeply loves his family and friends and he’s wounded.  The plot is original as opposed to hackneyed (overdone plot). We’ve all read a story about a girl who’s cursed or people seeking that one wish but the Raven Cycle adds a new paranormal twist.  Raven also has many themes and conflicts which is essential for a great book.

Although Raven King will get many starred reviews and accolades, it may not win awards because it is a book 4 as opposed to a book 1 which is unfortunate.  If you are reading this review to decide if this series is for you, I strongly suggest you read this series as I believe this is one of the best series of the decade. This was a wonderful ending to wonderful series and I’m sad to see it end. 

If you’ve already read this book and love it as much as I do, please share your love with me.

I must talk about this book in depth, so please read the spoiler edition and discuss The Raven King with me.

Raven King Spoiler Edition

Born Again BEAer

I’m so excited that BEA will be in Chicago this year! I know a lot of the NY people are miffed but you guys get it every year; let us have it for once.

You’d think Chicago would have lots of author festivals because it’s…Chicago but sadly no.    Yes, there’s Anderson’s Bookstore but that is a suburb and not even a Chicago suburb and you can’t get there easily by train like you can Chicago so I don’t count Anderson’s.

Anyway, I went to BEA in 2014 but it was only one day and I didn’t get the full experience so I don’t count that.  So I’m referring to myself as a born again BEAer.

My coworker/copodcaster Elise and I are going together. Check out our podcast all about what we are excited for.

We will be there by 8am on Friday & Saturday for the wristband line so Elise can meet Maggie but I want Ghosts by Telgemeier.  She’s basically the only graphic novelist I’ll read.

Here is my schedule!  

Dawn’s Schedule

If you are going to see any of these people, let’s meet.  I’m black and I’ll have a big braided bun on the top of my head. Or stop me in the exhibit hall and say hey!  I’m awkward too so don’t be shy.

I’m a little bummed by the author list.  It seems like YALLWest had better authors but I’ll stop complaining now.  Based on the list, there will be two authors that I’ll be able to scratch off my bucket list-Jennifer Neilsen & Amy Lukavics.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Sarah Fine, April Genevieve Tuckolke, Julie Berry,  and Jeff Zentner will show up.

Hope to see you there! 

If this is your first time in Chicago:

McCormick Place:  It’s huge and I believe it’s one of largest exhibit hall facilities in the country.

  • It’s easy by cab. Just say “McCormick Please.”
  • Just like the Javits, good luck finding an outlet.
  • Unlike the Javits, the wifi is great.
  • I’ve never had a problem with the floor. I hear the Javits has a concrete floor which is quite uncomfortable but I’ve been to many a conference at McCormick as well as other exhibit halls and my foot pain has been consistent.
  • Plenty of places to eat inside and outside the exhibit hall including Connie’s Pizza, Starbucks, and McDonalds.

Food

  • Portillos-Looks like a little village with great burgers.
  • Garretts-It’s popcorn and it good.
  • Lou Malnati’s or Giordano’s-If you must get deep dish.
  • Eli’s or Cheesecake Factory-Cheesecake, enough said.
  • The Weiner Circle-You want the staff to tell you to go fuck yourself? Order ketchup on your hotdog.  It’s okay, getting cursed out by the staff is part of the experience.

Shopping

  • Remember at the end of every Oprah Show when she said the Magnificent Mile? You can go there.
  • American Girl Store: It’s Huge!
  • Water Tower-It’s an 8-story mall.

The Sites

  • Navy Pier-It’s more than just the Ferris Wheel where they filmed Divergent.
  • Millenium Park-That’s where The Bean is.
  • The Sears Tower-Well, it’s actually called the Willis Tower now but Chicagoans still call it Sears Tower and we always will dammit!
  • Grant Park-That’s where the big fountain AKA Buckingham Fountain is.
  • Museums-Shedd Aquarium; The Museum of Science & Industry & Field Museum

buckingham

Chicago is a great city & I hope you enjoy it!

Have other questions about Chicago or McCormick? Ask below.

Top Ten Tuesday

Ten of the most recent five star ratings (or bang). As I went back through my GR, I realized that I don’t give a lot of bangs so I had to go back pretty far to get ten-fascinating. I do give a lot of 4.5s and 4.75s and I haven’t given any bangs so far this year.

Click on the titles to read my full review.

  1.  Queen of Shadows-By far my favorite of the series.
  2. The Walls Around Us-This is a dark magical realism tale of a ballerina who stops at nothing to be the best.  There’s also a slight nod to Orange is the New Black.  If you like creepy yet empowering books, read this NOW!
  3. Six of Crows-This was my number 1 read of 2015.  If you are waiting to read it, don’t.
  4. More Happy Than Not-This was the first debut I think I’ve ever given 5 stars to.  Adam Silvera is also my favorite author.
  5. Challenger Deep-It deserves the NBA; great book

6.  Bone Gap-This was my second fave of the year and it was my fave when I read it February ’15 and I didn’t think anything was going to top it.  Bone Gap is magical realism with a large dose of feminism.  If you are tired of fluffy books and are ready for a thinker, grab this one quickly.  It just won the Printz award which is awarded to the best YA book of the year and it’s well deserved.

7.  Wolf by Wolf-I hate historical fiction but this book was fantastic.  I think this is an incredibly under rated book so if the idea of Hitler’s plan for an Aryan race prevailed past WWII and a Jewish girl who can skin shift to look like anyone is tasked with assassinating Hitler intrigues you, READ IT NOW.

8. Grasshopper Jungle-I know a lot of people didn’t like this but I usually love books that are extremely different from what I’ve ever read.  If you didn’t like GJ, I encourage you to hear Smith speak, he’s dynamo!

9. Winner’s Curse-I liked this so much I read it twice and I RARELY reread books.  Kestrel has become my favorite heroine and is second only to Hermione.  If you are waiting to read it for all three books to be published, today is your lucky day b/c Winner’s Kiss came out today and when I’m done with this post; I’m off to BAM to buy it!!!

10. Kiss of Deception-This was my favorite read of 2014.  This is 2/4 books I’ve ever reread. Coincidently, my coworker Roulette Reader and I are podcasting a reread of KOD so scroll down for details.  Anyway, the world building and storytelling is AMAZING! I think many people got caught up in the supposed love triangle, but this book is SO MUCH MORE.  If you want to know how much more, I encourage you to check out the first episode of the reread.

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Below are podcasts Roulette Reader and I have done.  Please listen and enjoy.  We’ve since changed our format. You can now find The Small Print Podcast on SoundCloud and iTunes. You can also follow us on Twitter at @smallprintpod.  Feel free to ask us questions to us to answer on our weekly podcast-every Wednesday.  

25 Bookish Things About Me

25 Bookish

I saw this tag on Arctic Books and it looked like fun so here goes…

  1. Before I read any book, I always check to see the page length.  I don’t know why. Whether the book is 700 pages or 150 pages, if I want to read it; I will.  All I know is that I’ve done this my entire chapter book reading life.
  2. I hate sad stories so I avoid realistic fiction like the plague.  I’ll only read it if I have to.
  3. I like a happy ending.
  4. I always read the book before I see the movie however, I won’t read the book if it’s a TV show.
  5. I do not buy books sight unread.  I will only buy a book after I read it and loved it and…
  6. Plan on getting it signed by the author.  I only want…
  7. Hardcovers signed by authors-no ARCs or paperbacks.
  8. I usually try to have the author write a quote from their book or BLANK loves BLANK IMG_1503forever.
  9. After reading a book I really liked, I check the author’s site to see if they are speaking in the area.  I also look to see if they live in the Chicago area so I can invite them to my teen book club.
  10. If I only liked one book from a series, I will only buy that book to have the author sign.  I won’t buy the entire series.  For example, I only own and have Stiefvater’s signature on Dream Thieves and I probably won’t buy Raven Boys or Blue Lily.  Don’t judge me.
  11. I am deeply ashamed of this but I don’t buy a lot of books.  Because I’m a librarian, I get free books hand over fist. I’m not bragging, just stating the facts.  I’ve probably only purchased 10 books in the past 2 years. If I kept all the free books I’v obtained over the past three years, I’d own over 300 books. But…
  12. I only own about 30 books. I just bought a bookshelf two months ago.
  13. I prefer to read hardcovers over paperbacks because they lay better but…
  14. I really like eBooks because I can read them in the dark and I seem to get through them faster and I can take notes and I can look up vocab easily.
  15. I always take the jacket off when I first get a book to see if there are any surprises. IMG_1754
  16. I don’t like to read backwards. That means I don’t like to read books from the previous year and prior so I try to read as many books as I can from the current year so I don’t miss anything.
  17. I’m trying to collect every edition of Harry Potter.  This will be an expensive endeavor seeing as there’s a new edition every year.  I’m still working on first editions, so if anyone has any they’d like to trade, let me know. Thanks!
  18. I can only read one book at a time.  I don’ t know how people can read multiple books at once-fascinating.
  19. I have an author bucket list.
  20. Exhibit halls are my sport.  I leave the day in pain and dehydrated but it’s worth it.  I also love to see my coworker’s face the first time they experience an ALA exhibit hall.
  21. I don’t judge books by their cover.
  22. I’ve been told that I’m very picky about the books I read.
  23. I don’t read crappy books-that’s my personal motto.  I ALWAYS check the GR rating.IMG_1611 If it’s under 4.0, it’s highly unlikely I’ll read it.  I check Edelweiss for “much loves” and I check to see how many star ratings a books has.  If it has 20 or more “much loves” or at least 3 star reviews, I WILL read it.  I know this is sad but I make no apologies.
  24. I read an ARC as soon as I get it. I read Winner’s Crime 6 months before it was published so I’ve had to wait a year and a half for the last book.  I don’t wait until all the books are published although I see the appeal.
  25. Bookmail is the highlight of my day.

 

So what do we have in common?

This Week in Libraryland: Eyebrows on Fleek

this week in libraryland

This week in libraryland is my weekly post about life as a YA Librarian.  I have been a YA “librarian” for three years and for two of those years I have been working with Elise.  Being a YA librarian means you are a reader, a programmer, a techie, a listener, a venter, a friend, and so much more.  Everyday is never the same.

Monday: Bring on the Funkos

IMG_1611I bought two new Funkos! I like to buy one every pay period but I splurged this time and bought two.  I also received my Gathering of Shadows pre-order.  (Click the title for my review).

A couple of months ago, a teen came into the office and told us that a book Elise recommended had turned her into a reader.  She was currently working her way through Kasie West books and I told her that she should Tweet Kasie to express her love of her books. Of course she didn’t so I did it for her and Kasie sent the teen some signed postcards in the mail.  The arrived Monday and I gave them to the teen who promptly went home to fangirl to her mother.  This doesn’t happen too often, but when it does it’s a great feeling.

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Tuesday: Bookmail

As I’ve said in previous posts, I am not doing ARC reviews this year because I am on the Best Fiction For Young Adults Committee and we read nominated YA books and pick the top ten titles at ALA.  Because I’m to remain unbiased, I cannot do reviews.  One of the perks of being on the committee is the books.  Sorry, can’t show the titles.  If you’ve read a book in 2016 that you think should be nominated as the best of the year, click here to fill out the nomination form.

As you can imagine, books are constantly coming into the library to be shelved for the public.  Today was a particularly busy book mail day. Here is the tower of boxes from Baker and Taylor.

Wednesday: Pranks and Presentations

IMG_1624Tuesday was Elise’s birthday and we walked into the office to see all of her stuff mysteriously missing and in its place were a bunch of Nick Cage pictures.  So the prank war continues.

Elise and I will presenting at ALA in Orlando with two librarians from Vernon Area in Lincolnshire, IL.  Our presentation is called The Art of the Con and we’ll be presenting on Saturday, June 25th at 8:30-10:00 am.  If you are a library worker and you’re interested in hosting a comic con, maker con, or author con at your library, join us.

IMG_1625

Thursday: Eyebrows on Fleek

IMG_1614This is my Thursday-Good Grief!

Today we went to our district high school to check out mangas to the students.  While we were waiting for the students, we noticed a bald mannequin with stunning eyebrows and we had to take pictures of those fabulous brows.  Incidentally, her name is Beatrix.

 

It was a bit of a long week and we used Elise’s birthday to go out for pizza and Long Islands.

 

Friday: Renaissance Art Walk

The same high school we visited the previous day holds their annual art walk at our library.  This is an world history class assignment where the students make original art based on a classical piece of art in history.  It’s set up like a gallery and parents come to see their students’ work.  The pieces are also judged.  It’s always amazing to see the talent of teens.

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This was supposed to be my short work week but that’s the life in libraryland, you never know what the day holds.

Getting ready to watch the last episode of Downton so see ya next week.

This Week in LibraryLand: President Snow is Dead…Again

This week in libraryland is my weekly post about life as a YA Librarian.  I have been a YA “librarian” for three years and for two of those years I have been working with Elise.  Being a YA librarian means you are a reader, a programmer, a techie, a listener, a venter, a friend, and so much more.  Everyday is never the same.

Monday: New Blog Launch

IMG_1576Today I officially launched my other blog called Teen Services Depot for teen/youth library workers.  It’s a place for program ideas and reader’s advisory. I am looking for a co-blogger because this is a pretty daunting task so if you work in a library and you do programming for teens and you would like to blog on TSD, email me at dawnabron@gmail.com.

I also got some book mail!

Tuesday: Cover Lust

Elise and I podcasted book covers today.  Check out the Small Print Podcast to find out what covers we’re lusting after.

The prank war continues.  Elise and I hid pictures of photoshopped Nicholas Cage all over Madelynn and Rosa’s desk.  Rosa is the other adult librarian in on the prank war.

Wednesday: Smells Like Teen Reading

On April 9th, we are hosting our third annual author event.  Each year we match the theme with the books and this year the theme is 90’s grunge.  We invited local authors: Adam Selzer, Jessie Ann Foley, and Julie Halpern.  We like to use our teen patrons in the publicity so we took pics around the library of Annie and her pics will be on the invites and posters.  This is what they look like-pretty good if I must say so.

ARC Box! The ARC box from Baker and Taylor came today and that’s always a bright spot to our week.

Our grant funded tech program starts next month and we are proofing the flyers before they are sent out to schools.  What do you think?

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Thursday: Minecraft Club

Today is our monthly Minecraft Club and today the teens had to do The Hunger Games challenge.  Instead of the challenge being the last one standing, they had to defeat President Snow.  Elise was our Gamemaker and in the video, she was dropping spiders and lava on the tributes.

We have a volunteer who is redecorating our teen room with some original art.  Isn’t she talented?

This was a very long week and I felt the need to enjoy some hard lemonade.

Saturday: Black History Month

So that everyone will feel welcome, we like to mask our Black History Month programs as something else.  Our BHM program was an ice cream social in honor of the invention of the ice cream scoop that was invented by a black man.

Top Ten Tuesday

I Can’t Believe I Enjoyed This Book!

I don’t like sad stories and I don’t know what made me pick this up but I’m REALLY glad I did because it was one of my favs of 2015.  If you haven’t read it, I strongly recommend it.

more happy

I don’t read adult fiction because I try to read as much YA as possible so that I can recommend as many books to my teen patrons as possible.  Many of my coworkers were raving about this book as well as the book world and I don’t like to miss the bus or…train, on book trends so I gave it a go.  This is a polarizing book and I really liked it.  I always enjoy an unreliable narrator and a psycho.

girl on the train

I’d heard of magical realism but decided that it wasn’t for me and then about a year ago I had nothing to read; so I picked it up.  This book got weird real quick and because I’ve decided to not DNF books anymore, I kept going and I’m so glad I did.  This book was amazing and Ruby is a lovely person and it was my 2nd fav or 2015.  I’m also happy to say that it won the Printz award for best YA fiction of 2015.  If you like mysteries; feminism; and a thinker, read Bone Gap.

bone gap

I had to read this for a book club but I’ve always wanted to read it anyway because I’m fascinated by the story.  I thought the writing was beautiful and although it wasn’t the story I’ve seen in the movies, I’m glad I read it.

frankenstein

Once again, I don’t read adult fiction and this falls in the new adult category.  I don’t know what possessed me to read this but because of it, Schwab has become one of my new favorite authors.  Her writing is so creative.

A Darker Shade final for Irene

I loathe historical fiction and I’ll only read it if I have to.  And I didn’t really like Graudin’s first book but because this was speculative, I read it.  It was a good book and I recommend it all the time.

wolf by wolf

 

Because I’ve been told that I’m very critical of books, I can only come up with 6 books.  Did any of these make your list?

This Week in Libraryland: The Runaway Chips Have Lost the Battle

this week in libraryland

This week in libraryland is my weekly post about life as a YA Librarian.  I have been a YA “librarian” for three years and for two of those years I have been working with Elise.  Being a YA librarian means you are a reader, a programmer, a techie, a listener, a venter, a friend, and so much more.  Everyday is never the same.

Monday:  Yes, We’re Open

IMG_1552Today was President’s Day and it’s a federal holiday but we were still open-YaY.  When there’s no school, we don’t have a lot of teens in the teen room so I guess it’s sort of like a holiday.

Elise and I usually podcast today but Elise called in so we postponed it.

I found out today that one of our teens who’s been coming to the library since she was 5 is going into the Navy.  Not sure what to get someone going into basic training, I took it to Twitter and was told stamps and stationary was appropriate.

Tuesday:  Bookmail

BOOKMAIL! I’m on the Best Fiction For Young Adults (BFYA) committee for 2017 and that IMG_1553means I have to read books nominated by the public and pick the top ten YA books of the year.  Because of this, I cannot do ARC reviews for the year but it could be seen as biased.  The perk, however, is that I get lots of books to read. Here’s my first shipment but unfortunately I can’t show you the titles.

Today was our weekly craft series called Designernoons and today teen could design and print their own tattoos.  This is Nate’s and I forgot what it says.

Elise’s happy dance is the Cabbage Patch but she didn’t know that was the title.  I gave her a brief history of it, since I’m A LOT older than her, and she decided to look up an informative Youtube video. She didn’t know I was taking the photo.

Wednesday: #podcastfail

IMG_1557Today was podcast day and we attempted to do our first Soundcloud podcast but Elise’s computer is a bit shitty and it deleted somehow.  Then the Google Hangout wasn’t working because her Java needed an update and my Mac wasn’t recognizing my password.  She got her Java updated and we did a Hangout but I accidentally said some stuff that needed editing and I did edits in Windows Movie Maker and NOBODY accepts Movie Maker so to make a long story short, we recorded two OTP podcasts but were unable to get it to Soundcloud.  We were however able to get out Kiss of Deception Reread: Chapters 14-27 recorded. You’re welcome.

Thursday:  I Am Malala

I mentioned this last week but our Community Reads this year is I Am Malala and all of our bookclub read and discussed it.  This week was our Millennials bookclub’s turn.

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Saturday: Runaway Chips

IMG_2989Today was our first annual Battle of the Books.  This is when teens read from a list of books and schools create their own teams to compete in a trivia contest.  Only one school could gather a team and they competed against the library team-Runaway Chips.  (The name is meaningless. I just didn’t want a bookish name). Three of our teens texted me the night before to say they couldn’t make it and one girl didn’t show up so we ended up with two team members and that is why we came in last place.

We had a watercolor Shakespeare quote program and I like both of those things. Here’s what I created.

The prank war continues! This was a picture of lady who used to work at the library and her picture ended up in my drawer-highlight of my week.

Our third annual author festival, Authors After Hours is in early April, and we are starting the promotion.  Our theme is Smells Like Teen Reading, 90’s grunge, and we get our teens to pose for our promotional materials.

This was kind of an uneventful week but this happens sometimes.  Hope you had an enjoyable week. See ya next time.

Top Ten Tuesday: Authors

I like music but I don’t think about it when it comes to books so I decided to deviate from the music and books topic and go with the top ten authors I’d like to meet and the top ten authors I have met.

Top Ten Authors I’d Like to Meet

  1.  JK Rowling-It will never happen but one can dream
  2. John Green-I had my chance a couple of months ago but it was a bad snow storm and I don’t wanna talk about it.  (quietly sobbing)
  3. Marie Rutkoski-I love The Winners Trilogy and she’s from Illinois and it should be easy to meet her but it hasn’t happened yet.  She’ll be in the Chicago land area in April but it’s so far. Hopefully she’ll be at BEA or ALA.
  4. VE Schwab-Love her books and she’s also one of those authors that I haven’t been able to meet.
  5. Rainbow Rowell-She was in Chicago a couple of months ago but I didn’t want to go by myself so I didn’t go.  She doesn’t do a lot of appearances so I doubt I’ll see her at BEA or ALA
  6. Barry Lyga-Loved the I Hunt Killers series
  7. Becky Albertalli-She’s been touring a lot but not at any of the places I’ve been.  I’m sure I’ll see her somewhere-not worried about it.
  8. Robin LaFevers-Loved His Dark Assassin Series
  9. E. Lockhart-I liked We Were Liars and I know I’m in a small club
  10. Patrick Ness-No explanation needed

Top Ten Authors I’ve Met and if you get a chance, grab it ’cause they are awesome

  1. Adam Silvera-I was going to see him at a conference and he happened to be at a Julie adam silvera signingMurphy visit the night before. I was just going to say hi and tell him I’d see him the following day but he stopped and talked to me and Elise (my copodcaster/coworker) for about 15 minutes.  He was so funny and cool and the best author I’ve ever met.  Even if you haven’t read More Happy Than Not (which you should BTW; it’s amazing) I implore you to meet Adam.
  2. Leigh Bardugo-I met her at a teen author conference and I was able to sit at a table with her for the entire day.  (I got there early and got lucky b/c her table was one of the popular ones.) She’s so down to earth and she remembered that I was one of the early reviews of her book!
  3. ava annie sabaaSabaa Tahir-Sabaa probably thinks I’m a stalker but I’m not. I was the second person in line of her signing at ALAMW 2015 when Ember wasn’t even released yet and I fangirled hard.  I had lunch with her the following day for a speed dating teen event. The following day, Elise and I were invited by her publisher for a private lunch with her and 6 other book people.  I passed her several times in the exhibit hall that weekend.  Then in May, she came back to Chicago for a different conference and she was sitting a couple rows in front of me.  She happened to turn around to scan the room and she mouthed, “Hi Dawn.” SHE REMEMBERED MY NAME!  My coworker, not Elise, who was sitting next to me was pissed because she also loves Sabaa and Sabaa didn’t say hi to her-HA!
  4. Judy Blume-I had to present at ALA 2014 and she was signing 2 hours before my presentation.  I didn’t care; I stood in her line for 1.5 hours and then hauled ass to my presentation.  I met my childhood hero!
  5. Maggie Stiefvater– I met her a couple of times and she’s always an engaging speaker.
  6. Andrew Smith-I heard him speak and this man is a hoot. He doesn’t give two shits what anyone says or thinks and I love it.
  7. Mary E. Pearson-The Remnant Chronicles is one of my faves and I got the pleasure to meet her at ALA 2014.  Once again, I had to haul ass across 114 degree Vegas weather to see her but it was worth it.
  8. Julie Berry-You know that time when an author’s line is short and you didn’t really like their book enough to gush but it’s a short line so you get a book signed and then two years later you read their second book and freaking love it and you feel bad because you met them but because you half assed your fangirling you don’t count it as meeting them? Well that’s me with Julie.  Hopefully I’ll get to fangirl properly the next time I meet her.
  9. Adam Selzer-Adam is a Chicago author and I see him at these local events.  He’s notTop ten tuesday pic 1 necessarily as big as the above authors but he’s such an engaging man.  I had two teens with me when I met him and they still remember him.  He’s such a cool person and he’s also one of those speakers who could give two shits.
  10. James Dashner-I met him at the same conference as Bardugo and I liked the Maze Runner but not enough to fangirl.  But then I met Dashner. That man is the life of the party.  I was expecting some boring fogey who took himself too seriously but Dashner was the exact opposite.  If you get to meet him, do so. You’ll have a great time.

This Week in Libraryland: I Totally Schruted That!

This week in libraryland is my weekly post about life as a YA Librarian.  I have been a YA “librarian” for three years and for two of those years I have been working with Elise.  Being a YA librarian means you are a reader, a programmer, a techie, a listener, a venter, a friend, and so much more.  Everyday is never the same.

Monday-Tax Season, Yay?

IMG_2946Today was an 11 hour day for me and it began with visiting the Adult Services work room. For those of you who don’t work in a libraryland of your own, behind the scenes of the library; there are magical offices that contain all our projects.  I used to work in the adult department and it is tax season.  You’re a librarian, not the IRS office you say? Well, tell that to the hundreds of patrons who yell at us because we don’t know what form they need to claim their tractor.  So, the government sends tax forms and workbooks to libraries for people and they seem to think we are also tax accountants.  I now work in the teen department so I don’t have to deal with that, YAY!!!

The picture of that sneak is Madelynn. She is the prankster who I mentioned last month.  I’m keeping my eye on her.

Monday jumped off Anti-Valentine’s Week and today, teens made anti love valentine conversation hearts.

RUTA SEPETYS! We went to a local bookstore to meet Ruta as she talked about her newIMG_2949 book, Salt to the Sea.  It’s always interesting to see the demographic of book visits and this one was 97% senior citizens, 2% under 40, and 1% teen.  Salt to the Sea takes place in WWII Europe so that explained the audience.

After Ruta’s speech, which was awesome, one gentleman asked why she’s always a 16 year old girl in her books.  It never amazes me how ignorant adults are about YA fiction. (I’m not using ignorant as the negative connotation as we use it now. I mean it as it appears in the dictionary-lack of knowledge).  Adults still think that YA fiction is fluff and useless and does not contribute anything worthwhile to society.  They still think teens (and adults) only read about vampires and wizards.  Anyway, if you ever get the chance to see Ruta speak, I highly advise you to make the trip.

Tuesday-Lockdown

We live in the 21st Century where we must do lockdown drills instead of atomic bomb drills.  I won’t go into it but we had to go into lockdown and usher about 100 people into safe rooms. Two hours later, the police was called again to remove a woman who was shouting in the adult department.  Fun Times!

Today was open mic night and we normally get about 15 teens but because of all the police activity, we only had 5.  We always get some very talented and brave teens so enjoy Sarah and Phillip’s brief cover of Hello.

Wednesday-Target Practice

This day was a bit mild compared to Tuesday. It was VERY busy in the teen room because The Boys and Girls Club down the street is going through some management changes this week.  They reopen on Monday-Praise the Lord!

To continue Anti-Valentine’s Week, teens took shots at hearts with a suction gun.  I highly recommend a suction cup gun for anyone because it is a rush.  It’s a good time and if you are a librarian, teen LOVE it!

C2E2. I got approved to attend C2E2 in March!  This is a comic/entertainment convention in Chicago.  Professionals get a free pass on Friday and discounted for the weekend.  So, if you are going, I’ll see you there!

Thursday-3D Printin’

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We purchased a 3D printer a couple of months ago and we are just now getting to learn how to use it.  It’s not as difficult as I thought it was going to be.

Elise attempted to make a constellation of her astrological sign and it didn’t work out so well-She totally Schruted it.  Elise loves The Office so these random quotes happen often. I on the other hand, quote Seinfeld but she never gets them. My print is in the video. Can you guess what it’s going to be?

We visit our local high school to promote teen programming and today, their teachers who have a band called, Teacher Band, did some cover music during lunch. That’s cool.

We got a new 58″ TV! 

Once a month, our teen book discussion group meets at Culver’s and this month we discussed Nimona and I Am Malala.  I Am Malala was our community reads book this month.  Everyone loved Nimona as we knew they would.

Well, I’m officially exhausted. See ya next week.

Top Ten Tuesday

Ships that Pass & Crash in the Night

My Top Ten subject is five ships that I LOVE and five ships that I LOATHE

LOVE

  1. My Favorite Ship in a Long TimeKaz & Inej (Six of Crows)
  2. She Completes HimMagnus & Cleo (Falling Kingdoms)
  3. Steamiest ShipAelin & Rowan (Throne of Glass)
  4. They Better Get Together ShipGansey & Blue (Raven Cycle)
  5. Fav New ShipEli & Oskar (Impostor Queen)

 

LOATHE

  1. Oh God, Please No!Kell and Lila (ADSOM)
  2. The Snooziest Ship in TownSafi & Merik (Truthwitch)
  3. Pick the Bad Boy, Please-Feyra & Tamlin (ACOTAR) I like Rhy better.
  4. Not Feelin’ ItKhalid & Shahrzad (Wrath and the Dawn)
  5. This Ship Made no SenseDumplin’ & Will (Dumplin)

 

This Week in Libraryland: Super Batch

this week in libraryland

This Week in Libraryland a weekly post about life as a YA Librarian.  I have been a YA “librarian” for three years and for two of those years I have been working with Elise from Roulette Reader.  Being a YA librarian means you are a reader, a programmer, a techie, a listener, a venter, a friend, and so much more.  Everyday is never the same.

This was a very quiet week for us because we didn’t have many programs or school visits. But we aren’t complaining.

Monday

We started the week with our bi-monthly podcast called The Small Print Podcast.  For the next several weeks , we will be

hosting a reread of Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson.

 

IMG_1468My last package from my secret sister came.  Mariah from @readeradventure was an amazing sister and Elise and I get to look at Benedict Cumberbatch for a whole year!

I am also getting ready for our Anti-Valentine’s Day Week of activities.  Most teens don’t have a valentine so anti-Valentine’s Day activities are always a big hit.  I also prepared valentines for our regular teen participants to say thank you for being an awesome patron and supporter of their local public library!  We will also send valentines to all the district IMG_1456teachers who support the library.

I also walked into the office to see that someone had been messing around with my Funko Pops.  Danaerys and her dragon were missing from my shelf.  I found Danaerys in my desk but the dragon went missing for two days only to find that a coworker, Madelynn, has started a prank war-IT’S ON!

Tuesday

The first Tuesdays of every month is our Digiminds Engineering Club but the last couple of months have been a bust.  Unfortunately, no one came and I had to cancel it for the rest of the year.  This happens sometimes and it’s important to not let it affect your programming.  Most librarians are now forced to do programming without any education and the important thing to remember is to do some research and try again.

I started giving our avid readers information on BookCon since it will be in Chicago this year.  Last year we took nine teens to ALA and they still talk about it being the best day of their life.  We are a poor district and there are teens who won’t be able to afford the ticket so Elise and I are trying fund raise to get them to BookCon.  If you have any fund raising ideas, please tell me in the comment box.

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Wednesday

IMG_1475Today was retro gaming day.  We set out a vintage Chutes and Ladders game and Operation that we borrowed from a co-worker.  It’s nice to see that Chutes and Ladders never gets old.

Elise and I like to stay current on popular technology and we were recently able to purchase four Raspberry Pi’s but neither one of us know how to use it.  We don’t have the luxury of having an IT dept. that knows all this techy stuff so we have to teach ourselves or go to Tinker- a networking group of librarians who share techy know how.  Ask librarians in your region if there is a Tinker-like group near you.  Anyway, a 5th grade boy showed us the website he created and we wondered if he new how to use a Raspberry Pi.  He did and he was able to give us some direction.

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Thursday

Found out that Madelynn has been on a prank rampage and it was time for payback.  IMG_1492Before she came in for the day, I took everything out of her desk drawer except one piece of gum and a paperclip.  I now fear for my life.

I had to kick out three boys from the teen room for 3 months for being disrespectful.  Of course all the other teens got quiet because they are nosy and I took the opportunity to inform them that being disrespectful to adults gets you nowhere in life.

It’s Harry Potter World Book Night and I didn’t realize it until 10pm the previous night-#librarianfail.  We always have HP stuff laying around so I found our old Azkaban mug shot photo prop and gave out chocolate galleons as prizes.

Saturday

We had a Madden Super Bowl program.  It was going to be a big deal with themed chips and a big screen but sadly we only had five participants.

madden superbowl

This is a week of program fails and pranks but next week will be different.

The Read Pile

the read pile logo

January was a good reading month as far as quantity but I didn’t read all the books I said I was going to read. Sadly there were no bombs this month (bomb is a good thing).  There was one close call but January was mostly duds.

There’s No Excuse

Illuminae: This is my third try with this book and this time I tried to listen but I couldn’t do it.  It’s not that it’s bad; it’s just that it’s overwhelming with all the names and dates and “Wikipedia.”

Game of Thrones: It took me 45 minutes to read the prologue and I watch the show and I know what happens and it still took me a long time because I wanted to get all the names and little details.  I gave up because I have other books to read and this would have sucked two weeks of my reading time.

My Accomplishments

A Gathering of Shadows

A Gathering of Shadows Final

A Gathering of Shadows (A Darker Shade of Magic #2)

By: VE Schwab

Genre: High Fantasy

Expected Publication: February 23, 2016

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb 1/4

Overview

It is four months after Lila left Kell to explore the world but she’s back with her new crew just in time for the Elemental Games.

The Good

  • Characters. This book is completely character driven and nothing really happens until the final quarter of the book. Ordinarily, this could be considered boring but because of the brilliance of Schwab’s writing, I actually preferred the first three quarters.  This book is not about the elemental games like most books post Hunger Games; it’s about Kell, Rhy, and Lila and their desire to find out who they are.  Schwab added a new character and storyline with Alucard, the captain of Lila’s new crew. He’s very mysterious-just how I like it.
  • Multiple Conflicts. I believe it’s very important for books to have more than one storyline/conflict otherwise the story becomes one note and boring.  As I mentioned above, everyone is struggling with their identity. For Kell, he wants to know where and/or who he comes from and also how he fits in with the crown.  For Rhy it’s about his future as king and for Lila it’s about what she is.
    • There’s a new villain and I won’t go into that.
    • There’s also something going on in Grey London and once again, that’s all I’ll say.
    • Alucard, as I said above, is mysterious and he has a prominent storyline but I’ll leave it at that.
  • What an Imagination. Schwab has quite an imagination when it comes to world building and magic.  There is a mirror Lila picks up that was VERY cool and I hope it makes a comeback in books three.  It reminded me of the mirror of Erised. Kell’s coat has some new features too. I like to think that the coat is a character all by itself.  I wonder if there’s an animation of Kell’s coat somewhere.

The Bad

  • Delilah Bard.  I think I’m in the minority here but I didn’t like Lila in book 1 and dislike her even more in book 2.  She has no moral fiber.  I know she’s had a hard life and I know it’s tough for a woman and I know she’s saved Kell and Rhy but in my eyes, this doesn’t redeem her for all the shit she’s done to people who didn’t deserve it.
    • She steals from people and it’s out of sport not necessity. When she gets caught, she kills them and there are no consequences. She’s always rewarded somehow.
    • She wants to enter the Elemental Games because she wants to.  She’s got what ever the equivalence is for a Napoleon Complex in regards to being a woman.  She must always prove that she’s a strong woman but being strong doesn’t mean being a liar, a thief, and a cheater.  She prides herself on being a thief and she steals throughout the novel yet she’s NEVER punished for it.
      • I don’t think thievery makes a person strong; it makes them weak.  I understand sometimes one needs to steal out of necessity and she talks about how cold she was at one point in her life but she’s not destitute anymore.  Stealing out of sport is cowardice. If she’s so strong, why can’t she work an honest job and get herself a ship to captain? No, she’s planning to steal a ship and kill the entire crew and she never feels remorse.
        • I don’t find people like this honorable; I find them deplorable.  She’s flawed and I get that but her comeuppance is taking too long and I fear if and/or when she gets it; it’ll be too late.
    • Alucard and Kell point out her recklessness and her lack of consequences so I’m hoping this is foreshadowing for book 3.  I really hope Lila grows in book 3 because as of now, she’s the reason why the rating is lower than I would have given it.
    • She got herself into a couple of jams and I was hoping she would die. That’s how much I dislike her character.  I don’t think this is a Young Elites/Adelina situation where she’s a super villain.  I think the reader is supposed to root for her. SMH.

Overview

Schwab is a fantastic story teller, world builder, and character developer but Lila is one of the worst heroine’s I’ve ever read and she’s the reason why AGOS is not 5 stars.

Side Note: I read this as an egalley and at the end, it took me several fruitless swipes to realize that that was the ending-noooooo! 

This Week in Libraryland: Everyone Benefits from the Weed

this week in libraryland

This Week in Libraryland a weekly post about life as a YA Librarian.  I have been a YA “librarian” for three years and for two of those years I have been working with Elise from Roulette Reader.  Being a YA librarian means you are a reader, a programmer, a techie, a listener, a venter, a friend, and so much more.  Everyday is never the same.

MONDAY

I hate Mondays because it’s my 11 hour work day-UGH and this Monday was filled with glorious meetings.  Meetings about the after school crowd and their not-so-great-behavior and meetings about grant writing for summer reading.

My post about mental health and working with teens went live on the School Library Journal website.

Being a YA librarian requires you to be current on popular technology. Technology? That’s not book related.  Nope but libraries are no longer book warehouses; they are enrichment centers and often the only large facility in town where people gather.  As a YA librarian, we view ourselves as an extension of school curriculum and with the reduction of tech ed in schools, we try to supplement.  Today, I taught myself to code with Ozobots.

TUESDAY

Today was part two of teaching myself tech and today’s project was wearable LEDs. This is the process of sewing LEDs into fabric to make something fashionable.  In March, in honor of Batman vs Superman we are having the teens make their own superhero logo.  We will try to get them to sew LEDs in their creation but hand sewing is a lost art among many teens.  Here’s my logo of a diamond with a lightening bolt. There’s not backstory-I’m not that creative.  We get all our LED stuff from Adafruit. Check them out for videos on wearable LEDs.

ARC Box! Once every two months, Baker and Taylor sends us a box of ARCs for us to read and review.  As you can imagine, we always get REALLY excited when the ARC box comes.  I’m excited for Passion of Dolssa and I’ll read Star Touched Queen despite my boycott on debut fantasies.  If you are a librarian and you would like to receive ARCs from B&T, contact your local rep.

WEDNESDAY

I began my morning by mailing books for #1000BlackGirlsBooks initiative.  For more info, please check out this article in School Library Journal.

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Time for Valentine’s Day displays. It’s still January you say? Yes, but once V-day is over we take the display down and we want to have it up as early as possible.  Many libraries do the blind date with a book where we’ll wrap a book and it’s a surprise for the patron.  This year, I added a Cosmo like quiz for teens to pick the genre they should read.  They can also rate their date and if they return their rating sheet, they receive candy-woohoo.  This is always a fun display at libraries, so visit your local library to see if there are some fun V-day displays.

A teen began an intense debate with Elise when Elise said she said she would not vote for Trump.  We had a room full of teens and everyone got quiet.  We have a large Hispanic community and the teen voiced some disparaging comments about illegal immigrants. There were several Hispanic teens in the room to hear their debate and in the end, Elise was able to stress the damage of generalization.  I think most of the teens in the room learned a valuable lesson.

THURSDAY

Today was weeding day!  Weeding is when librarians clear the shelves of books that don’t circulate. It is important to keep collections current, make room for new books, and to replace worn books.  I weed books a couple times of year and I clear out books that havn’t been checked out in one year.  This can be a painful process because we often see a book we love on the weed list but the silver lining is that local school librarians and teachers get first dibs to add to their collections.  After schools finish, library staff can raid the shelf and whatever is left over goes to the book sale where proceeds go back to the library.

Our monthly Minecraft Club met today and this club is the bane of my existence.  Not only am I not a gamer (I tried to get into Minecraft but I just got frustrated) but this program’s attendance is a roller coaster.  Last month we had two teens and I was about to cancel the program but this month we had fifteen teens-UGH.  Today’s challenge was the tower of terror. Teens had to race to the top while avoiding traps and PVP (player vs player).  We some technical difficulties but overall, they had fun. On to the next.

January is over and it was exhausting.  On to February!

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My last Secret Sister package came today and my sister, Mariah from @readeradventure, sent me two Funkos to add to my collection-Daenerys’ dragon and Irene Adler.  Thanks to Mariah for all the great boxes; I loved everything.

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THREE DAY WEEKEND!

I’ll be finishing A Gathering of Shadows and hopefully completing Symptoms of Being Human.

I’ll also be reading the first 13 chapters of Kiss of Deception for our Remnant Chronicles Reread.  If you’d like to join the reread, click here for the schedule and join us on our live podcast where we will break it all down.

HAVE A GREAT WEEKEND!

This Week in Libraryland: Sewin’ & Bowlin’

this week in libraryland

This week in libraryland is my weekly post about life as a YA Librarian.  I have been a YA “librarian” for three years and for two of those years I have been working with Elise.  Being a YA librarian means you are a reader, a programmer, a techie, a listener, a venter, a friend, and so much more.  Everyday is never the same.

Monday

Elise and I do a bi-monthly podcast about YA book reviews.  For the past six months, we’ve podcasted books that are to be released the following Tuesday.  We will be changing our focus for the next year because I am on a selection committee and I must remain unbiased.  Reviewing certain books would look like favoritism.  If you are a follower of my blog, you may notice that I won’t be doing a lot of ARC reviews as this is because of my committee involvement.

Our final ARC podcast was for Shallow Graves by Kali Wallace.  Elise and I both gave this book 4.5 stars and we HIGHLY recommend it!

We also announced our Remnant Chronicles Reread-Join Us.

It’s summer reading club time!  Librarians begin planning for their summer reading club program months in advance so if you or your children participate in the summer reading club at your library, you’ll know that they’ve put in months of work.

Tuesday

We did emoji pouch/pillows with the teens.  We showed them how to sew and for many teens, this was the first time they’d ever used a sewing machine.

Wednesday

We started our volunteer/career readiness program for teens.  They volunteer once a week and they assist with programs and displays. Today, two middle schoolers worked on our I Am Malala display for our community reads program.

We registered for ALA Annual Conference!  ALA is a conference for library workers and this year it will be in Orlando.  I’ve already looked at tickets for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  I know many bloggers are interested in attending ALA.  If you’ve never been and don’t know what to expect, please check out my ALA for Noobs post.

I got the eGalley of Gathering of Shadows-YAY! I’ve been trying to get this for weeks.

Thursday

Our teen book club, The Hardcover Society, is part of a galley review program and this month, they will be reviewing The King Slayer, Poisoned Blade, and Every Exquisite Thing.

One of our numerous jobs is to try to get teens to read.  Elise recommended a book to a non reader and once a week she comes in and tells us she’s now a reader.  On Thursday, she said she hasn’t watched TV in three months because all she does is read.  She asked for War and Peace and said she was going to read it but we talked her out of it (she’s in the eighth grade). Currently, her favorite author is Kasie West.

The Hardcover Society went bowling! Because The Mortal Instruments is a popular series at our library and is now a TV show, we wanted to attract new teens to join our book club with a bowling party.

After our bowling party, I went to another book club for adults where we discussed Game of Thrones.  Sadly, I didn’t make it past the prologue but I enjoyed listening to the convo.

And I concluded my long day by finishing Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum.

Friday

Our library isn’t open on Fridays!!

Saturday

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Teens rather sit in our office than the much larger teen room.

We had a Zine program.  A Zine is a magazine all about the creator.  It is folded with paper and created with text and graphics.

Tell Me Three Things

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Tell Me Three Things

By: Julie Buxbaum

Genre: Contemporary

Expected Publication: April 5, 2016

Bang Bang Rating: bombbomb

Overview

Jessie’s mother died two years ago and her father has remarried but this is the only the start of her troubles.  She’s moved to a LA to a posh new school, she doesn’t get along with her new family, and she has no friends. Her only saving grace is her anonymous friend, Somebody Nobody.

The Good

  • Nothing

The Bad

  • Jessie. Jessie is the protagonist and she was likable but she was also a snoozefest.
    • Her Head.  This is written in first person and for the first 25% of the book, she doesn’t know or really talk to anyone so we are stuck in her head and she’s not particularly interesting or witty or insightful.
      • We all know a Jessie and some of us might be her.  I explained her problems in the overview and although they are relatable, they are not new so the only way to make Jessie and her story interesting is to make her interesting.  Simon, from Simon vs. Homo Sapiens Agenda, had relatable issues but Simon was witty and charismatic.  Pudge, from Looking for Alaska, was just a skinny kid going to a new school but he was quirky and insightful.
    • Not Much Growth.  Jessie does grow but she did have far to go.  She’s got some issues with her dad but they talk twice in this entire novel-there’s one fight and one make up.  She constantly complains that she flirts better on text than in person. I guess by the end she’s able to flirt in person?  I don’t know if this earth shattering problem was resolved.
  • Basic Writing.  Buxbaum is an adult fiction author and this is her first YA novel and it shows.  Her writing had bones and the story as a whole had potential but it was missing depth.
    • Jessie would have these run-of-the-mill experiences with boys and then we had to suffer through them again when she texted her friends.  The dialog was stilted and juvenile.  Jessie is a reader. She was reading T.S. Elliot as a freshman and you would think her inner monologues and her exchanges with Ethan who is also incredibly smart would be profound but you’d be wrong.
    • The writing seemed forced.  Jessie had a run in with the mean girl and she had an unlikely rescuer but his explanation after the fact was formulaic. She also had a conversation with her reacher after an incident with the mean girl and once again-formulaic and lacking depth. I even felt the title and it’s part in the book was straight out of a bad rom com.
    • Theo and Ethan were very interesting characters that had potential to be great but they weren’t developed.  I won’t say too much about Theo because I don’t want to spoil it but I’ve never read a character like him and I wanted more.  Ethan was mysterious which added to his character and once again I wanted more of him.  I’d actually rather read a story about Theo or Ethan than Jessie.
    • There was a dropped storyline with Agnes, Jessie’s new friend.  I felt like there was something going on but it wasn’t resolved.
    • Predictable. I knew what was going to happen throughout most of the novel. I guessed the identity of Somebody Nobody mid way through. Buxbaum tried to deflect but it wasn’t fooling me.  SPOILERISH-One of the potential suspects recently broke up with his girlfriend but Jessie’s friend, Dri, has had a kiddie crush on him since kindergarten so he’s off limits. BTW, he doesn’t even know Dri exists.  This was the biggest conflict in this book.
  • The Romance.  There’s a rom com that reminded me of this book so this was why I was able to guess who the mystery boy was.  I won’t say the movie because I don’t want to spoil it.  I kind of skipped through the end pages because I just wanted to know who SN was and I didn’t care about the other parts.  This is not a good thing; I should care about the other storylines.
    • Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda is very similar to this book but it’s far better and this is why.  In Simon, there were other characters and stories happening simultaneously that were interesting.  There was the issue with his emo friend and then there was the blackmail situation and his parents.  In Tell Me Three Things, the other storyline, the relationship with her father, was not developed and thus I didn’t care about anything else but the reveal.

Overall

I feel like this book was a turkey sandwich on marble rye.  The bread’s okay and the meat is kind of tasty but there’s no creamy gouda no romaine lettuce no sun dried tomatoes and no fancy mayo.  It’s a turkey sandwich we’ve all made at home and not the artisanal sandwich we can get at a nice restaurant.

Tell Me Three Things is a good book for a teen who’s outgrown Sarah Dessen but isn’t quite ready for John Green. It lacked depth and interesting characters.

This Week in Libraryland

this week in libraryland

This week in libraryland is my weekly post about life as a YA Librarian.  I have been a YA “librarian” for three years and for two of those years I have been working with Elise.  Being a YA librarian means you are a reader, a programmer, a techie, a listener, a venter, a friend, and so much more.  Everyday is never the same.

Monday

IMG_1273I set may alarm at 7am so I can watch the YMAs (Youth Media Awards) where they announce the Newbery, Caldecott, and the Printz award.  I’m a little bummed by the Printz awards.  I predicted Bone Gap as the winner and I’m VERY happy it won because it was a wonderful book but the honorees were a shocker.  Watching the YMAs, there was an audible gasp for the audience when the announcer said there were only two honorees.  I felt there were many wonderful books this year that were overlooked.  More Happy Than Not, The Walls Around Us, Challenger Deep,  and Alex Crow were all wonderful books.  The two honorees weren’t on any Mock Printz lists I saw and that doesn’t mean they aren’t worthy but the committee couldn’t have come up with two more honorees?

I posted my review of Darkest Corners while I watched the YMAs. Please click here to see the full review.

My post for Diverse Debuts went live on The Hub.

Monday was National Clean up Your Desk Day!  I didn’t clean up my desk because it was a very busy week but I thought I’d take pics of my desk and Elise’s desk.

Tuesday

My colleague went to ALAMW and brought us back these badges and this Dr. Who
bag.  ALA is really stepping up their badge game!

We have a teen room and we often set out technology for the teens to explore. This week, we set out Little Bits and one of our teens discovered she can charge her phone with them-Cool!

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Wednesday

My colleague is going on a six month sick leave so we went to a pancake house to celebrate her last day.  I had red velvet pancakes but I forgot to take a picture.

My teen book discussion group has been chosen to be a part of a galley program from Little Brown Books.  We will be mailed ARCs and our teens get to read them and fill out a review form-AWESOME.  This box included: The Memory Book; Girl in the Blue Coat; The Loose Ends List; The New Guy; and Silence is Goldfish.  Getting a box of ARCs never looses its luster.

Thursday

Woke up to the horrible news of the passing of Alan Rickman.  Besides the main three, Snape was my favorite character and he will be missed.

Part of being a YA librarian is visiting schools.  Today, we sat outside the lunch room of our local high school and we bribe teens with candy to take our literature.  It’s finals week and they appreciated a little pick me up.

We have a Minecraft club and we need to keep it fresh every month so today we learned how to make a tower of terror challenge.

 

Next week we have an emoji pillow/pouch craft.  We will teach teens how to use a sewing machine but we have to learn how to use it first.  I took home ec in middle school and that was the last time I used a sewing machine.  Elise has never used a sewing machine and she did great!

Our Thursday concluded with helping two of our teens complete their application for a super duper private high school.  Their application was 10 pages each is was due the following day-teens…

Saturday

Tonight we have our annual murder mystery and this year’s theme is a pajama party. This is one of three parties we host after the library is closed and teens LOVE to run and scream and play hide and seek-even the high schoolers.

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It was a long but fun week. On to the next.

Have any questions for a YA Librarian?

 

End of Year Survey

end of year survey

Thanks to Jamie over at Perpetual Page Turner for providing this survey.  This is my first year doing this, so without further ado…

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  • Number of books I read: 73. My initial goal was 91 but I discovered Frasier on Netflix and I didn’t read for 2 whole months, so I dropped it to 70. #lifegoals
  • Number of ReReads: 1-Winner’s Crime because I had to for a tournament of books.  I don’t reread books.
  • Genre I Read Most From: Fantasy

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 1. Best Book I Read in 2015: Six of Crows. Sat at a table with Leigh for an entire day, it was awesome. The girl next to her is one of our teen patrons.leigh's table

2. What Book Was I Excited about & Thought I was Going to Love More But Didn’t: Dumplin’. I didn’t like the boy she chose.

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3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book I read?  The Rose Society by Marie Lu.  I didn’t like Young Elites but after I realized I the protag was also the antag,  I loved it.

 

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Marie Lu Signing my Book

 

4. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did)? An Ember in the Ashes.

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Some of my teen patrons met Sabaa!

 

5. Best series you started in 2015? Best Sequel of 2015? Best Series Ender of 2015? 

  • Ember in the Ashes
  • The Rose Society
  • None (I read Winter but I didn’t like it)

6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2015? Adam Silvera.  We went to a Julie Murphy event and he magically walked it.  I approached him to just fangirl for one minute because I was going to see him the following day.  He talked to us for 15 minutes and he’s so approachable and engaging.

adam silvera signing

7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone? Salt of the Sea by Ruta Sepetys. I don’t like historical fiction but this book was beautiful.

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Skyping with Ruta over a year ago where she showed us the manuscript for Salt to the Sea.  She even asked the teens for title suggestions.

8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year? Six of Crows by Bardugo

9. Book You Read In 2015 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year? Heart of Betrayal by Mary E. Pearson

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10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2015? Beautiful cover; horrible book

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11. Most memorable character of 2015? Yael from Wolf by Wolf by Graudin

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2015? Challenger Deep by Shusterman

13. Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2015? None

 14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2015 to finally read? This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales.  Awesome Book!

 15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2015? “Count your blessings…And if you count less than ten, cut off the remaining fingers.”-Challenger Deep

16. Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2015?

  • Shortest: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
  • Longest: Winter

17. Book That Shocked You The Most– Little Peach by Peggy Kern-It’s too shocking to say why.

18. OTP OF THE YEAR (you will go down with this ship!) Kaz & Inej from Six of Crows and Magnus & Cleo from Falling Kingdoms

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19. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The YearFeyra & Rhys from ACOTAR

20. Favorite Book You Read in 2015 From An Author You’ve Read Previously-Six of Crows (I love this book, can’t you tell?)

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21. Best Book You Read In 2015 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure: The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes was recommended by a colleague and I really liked it.

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2015? Oskar from Impostor Queen

23. Best 2015 debut you read? More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera

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He spelled Damn instead of Dawn

24. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year? Heart of Betrayal by Marie E. Pearson

25. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read? Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2015? Alex Crow by Andrew Smith

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Annie & Andrew Smith

27. Hidden Gem Of The Year? Daughters Unto Devils by Amy Lukavics

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28. Book That Crushed Your Soul? More Happy Than Not (I feel like I keep repeating myself)

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We were so mesmerized by Sabaa, I didn’t realize Adam was at ALAMW until now.

29. Most Unique Book You Read In 2015? Bone Gap by Laura RubyCHwL-lkUcAAOHyX

30. Book That Made You The Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)? An Ember in The Ashes because when we read it, 7 months prior to its release, there was not a book 2.  So many unanswered questions!

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My colleague Elise & Sabaa

 

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1. New favorite book blog you discovered in 2015?

YA Interrobang & Roulette Reader (I have to plug my co-podcaster)

2. Favorite review that you wrote in 2015? Bone Gap because I took lots of notes and I was excited to blog about my theories.

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3. Best discussion/non-review post you had on your blog?

My teen discussion group took a road trip around WI like All the Bright Places. Jennifer Niven saw it and put it on Germ Magazine.

4. Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)? ALA Midwinter in Chicago.  We took 9 teens to their first library conference and to see their little faces…aw.  We were also invited to a publisher event with Sabaa Tahir and nothing was going to stop us not even the worst snow storm of the year.

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They couldn’t believe they got free books. Fun train ride home.

5. Best moment of bookish/blogging life in 2015? I went to an author event that I planned to blog about and Sabaa Tahir, who I met three months prior, was sitting in the audience about two rows up.  She turned around and mouthed, “Hi, Dawn.” OMG, she knew my name.

 

Also, at the author visit with Leigh, she recalled my review being one of the earliest for Six of Crows when I told her my blog name.  WHAT!?

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6. Most challenging thing about blogging or your reading life this year? Launching my podcast series with my colleague.  It’s been difficult to get listeners. I think people prefer booktube but I think that market is saturated so we wanted to podcast.

7. Most Popular Post This Year On Your Blog (whether it be by comments or views)? So, I did a post on an author visit I went to where the authors were doing a little author-bashing-fun.  The post was meant to be light but some bloggers took it badly. I was nervous about backlash.

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I think the girls have a crush on Adam Selzer-Chicago YA Lit Fest

9. Best bookish discover (book related sites, book stores, etc.)? We got BAM at my mall! YES!

10.  Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year? I had a goal to read more contemporary and realistic fiction and I did.

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1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2015 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2016? Vicious by Schwab

2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2016 (non-debut)? Beauty of Darkness by Pearson

3. 2016 Debut You Are Most Anticipating? Honestly, none because I’ve read several debuts and they haven’t been great.  One debut I did read and enjoyed IMMENSELY was Shallow Graves by Kali Wallace.

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 4. Series Ending/A Sequel You Are Most Anticipating in 2016? Raven King by Stievfater

MAggie Stiefvater at ALA

5. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging Life In 2016I go to a lot of conferences so I’d like to do more Periscopes and posts about them.

6. A 2016 Release You’ve Already Read & Recommend To Everyone: I recommended Shallow Graves in Q3 but A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro is also very good.

study in charlotte

 

Now it’s your turn

 

Top Ten of 2015

Here are my top ten books of 2015.  To see the full review, click on the picture.  Some books have Printz next to them.  The Michael L. Printz Award is given to the best YA book of the year in January 2016.  These are my predictions.

What are you top ten books of the year so far?


walls around us#10-The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma

Haunting look at how our lives are affected by the choices we make.

PRINTZ CONTENDER

 

 

rose society#9.  The Rose Society by Marie Lu

Love the world building and Lu’s daringness to make the protagonist the antagonist.

 

 

 

heart of betrayal#8-Heart of Betrayal by Mary E. Pearson

LOVE the Komizar.  SPECTACULAR STORYTELLING. Cliffhanger….UGH

This is my favorite series of all time.  If you haven’t read it, READ IT NOW.  Some advice, this series is FAR more than a love triangle/love story.  It has some of the best world building I’ve read since Harry Potter. Pearson is a great storyteller and she allows the reader to figure it out!

 

winner's crime#7-Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski

One of my favorite heroines of all time.  Beautiful love story. Another cliffhanger…UUGGHH.

 

 

challenger deep#6-Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman

This is how you tell a story. No kumbayas. He has parents!

PRINTZ CONTENDER

 

 

queen of shadow#5-Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas

Very well written which we’ve come to expect from a Maas novel nowadays.  Great new characters. Epic tale.

 

 

an ember in the ashes

#4-An Ember in The Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Not predictable. Best villain in a long time. Excited to see what’s going to happen with the new Emperor and Blood Shrike.

 

 

more happy than not#3-More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera

Great writing. Heartbreaking. Insightful.

PRINTZ CONTENDER

 

 

bone gap#2-Bone Gap by Laura Ruby

ANOTHER GREAT STORYTELLER. Finn. Pro women.

PRINTZ CONTENDER

 

 

six of crows#1- Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

FREAKING LOVE KAZ AND INEJ.  Page turner.  NOT predictable.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

six of crows

Six of Crow (Book 1 of Six of Crows)

By: Leigh Bardugo

Genre: Fantasy, Thriller

Expected Publication: September 29, 2015

Bang Bang Rating: bang

Overview

Kaz, a member of the Dregs gang, has scored a big heist but he needs help.  He enlists five others to help him break into the unbreakable Ice Court to steal some precious cargo. 

The Good

  • Characters. This story is completely character driven and is told from 5 different POVs in third the person. Kaz is the main character and if you’ve read The Infernal Devices, he reminds me of Will.  Kaz purposely pushes people away and it makes him seem callus but as the reader; you get to know his reasons for the way he behaves. Each character has a hardship story and they are all victims of their environment. This book is 460 pages because Bardugo takes her time to fully develop each character and it’s magnificent. 
  • World Building. SOC takes place in the same world as the Shadow and Bone series. If you’ve seen the map, you’ll see other nations such as Shu Han, Novyi Zem, and Kerch.  SOC takes place in Ketterdam and its characters are from the aforementioned nations. Kettledam resembles Atlantic City with it’s gambling halls and pleasure palaces.  There’s gang territory, sex slavery, poverty, and corruption. Once again, Bardugo takes her time to develop her world.
  • Serious Themes. Racism takes the form of Grisha vs. non-Grisha or witches vs. non-witches. The Fjerds are witch hunters and they mercilessly kill Grisha.  The Grisha who aren’t murdered are captured and made into indentured servants. Matthias is a witch hunter and hates Grisha. He’s been trained to believe that his god hates Grisha and so he also has these strong opinions.  Nina, a Grisha who saved his life, forces Matthias to think about his god and question his people and his beliefs.  These theme is similar to the black vs. white issue we have in the US. 
    • Sex slavery is also prominent in SOC as it is in the US.  Other themes include, revenge, patriotism, and friendship. 
  • WeNeedDiverseBooks. There are brown people of varied shades and it’s not a theme of the plot which I consider to be a good thing.  They are just people in the story who happen to not be white. 
  • Never Boring. This book is huge, not only in pages but in size.  It’s bigger than a normal YA book but it was NEVER boring. Even when the action slowed, we were learning more about the characters.  Sometimes I feel like books have fight scenes just to break up the dialogue and that it doesn’t move the story along but SOC had smart action.  Every action sequenced moved the plot along and contained vital information for the heist to be successful. 
  • Romance. SOC isn’t thick with romance but there’s feelings and smiles and shoulder brushing and it’s frustrating because you kind of want more but you appreciate the courtship. 
  • The Ending. There is an ending so you’re aren’t left with this huge cliffhanger. 
  • Grisha. I like that Bardugo didn’t totally abandon Ravka and the Grisha world we grew to love in the Shadow and Bone series.  You don’t have to read Shadow and Bone to understand SOC. 

The Bad

  • My only issue was that I struggled to believe that Kaz, a seventeen year old, could pull all this off but I had to keep reminding myself that he grew up on the street and he worked very hard to be where he was so I forced myself to let it go.

Overall

Six of Crows is my new favorite book of 2015.  I think it’s WAY better than the Shadow and Bone series which I also enjoyed. It’s got new and beautiful characters, wonderful world building, and it’s very well written.  I wish books like this were considered for the Printz award. 

Top Ten Tuesday-June 16: Summer Reading List

My first Top Ten Tuesday!

Since I’m participating in the Summer Reading Club at my library, and you should too (wink, wink), my goal is to read 5000 minutes between June 6 and August 8th so that I can score Blue Man Group Tix!  Yes, that is a prize for reading. Here is my summer list of books I plan to read this summer or so I’m hoping.

Most of these are ARCs and I’m basically crossing my fingers.

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

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Dumplin

By: Julie Murphy

Genre: Contemporary

Expected Publication Date: September 15, 2015

Bang Bang Rating:bombbombbomb 3/4

Overview

Willowdean “Dumplin” Dickson is a Texan, daughter of the Miss Teen Beauty Pageant’s coordinator, and overweight.  She has best friend issues, boy issues, mommy issues but she decides to honor her aunt by entering the pageant.

The Good

  • Will is a great character. Many of the decisions she makes and the feelings she has are honest and realistic.  From having a skinny beautiful best friend to body image, I felt like her inner monologue is something teens in all weight classes can relate to.
    • Even though her weight could have easily made her an introvert or the extreme-the extremely extroverted trying to get people to ignore her weight, she was neither of those things.  Will had this wall of confidence but she was insecure and once again, a lot of us are like this.  She didn’t take crap from the bully, she didn’t take crap from the hot guy, she didn’t take crap from her mom-I thought she was an awesome heroine.
    • There are many girls and women who think they are fat when they are not and I think these girls and women can relate to Will.  She doesn’t want the boy to touch her back fat, she’s envious of her “skinny” friend, she doesn’t think she’s good enough to date an attractive boy.
    • Will also has honest conversations with her mother about her weight. Anyone who has a passive aggressive mother knows what I’m talking about.  Will initially bites her tongue but she slowly expresses her feelings toward her mom.
  • All of the supporting characters were important to the plot and well developed.
  • The ending was good.

The Bad

  • So I had one major issue with the book concerning the love interest but it’s a spoiler so scroll to see.

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  • Will has a crush on the hot guy and of course he brooding and sensitive and they have a secret make out fest all summer.  When he doesn’t tell her that he’s transferring to her school, she gets upset understandably so because it seems as if he only wanted to be seen with the her in the summer.  She doesn’t even speak to him at school.
  •  So a heavy set football player likes Will and they date.  This guy isn’t boring, he’s also sensitive and very respectful.  Although he is a “jock,” he doesn’t pressure her to have sex.  Will is still hung up on the hot guy because she saw him first.  That was crap.  If the tables were turned and the boy chose the hot skinny girl over the fat one, we would call him a pig.  Was Murphy trying to make the point that fat girls can date the hot guy? Perhaps but she shouldn’t have made the other boy so likable. 

        Because of this, I gave this book a 3.75

The Girl of Midnight

girl at midnight

The Girl of Midnight (Girl and Midnight Book 1)

by: Melissa Grey

Genre: High Fantasy

Expected Publication Date: April 28, 2015

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb

Overview

Echo is an adopted human member of the Avicen, a magical race of people with feathers for hair. When she is sent out to find the mythical firebird to end the war with the Drakharin, she inadvertently partners with the Drrakharin Dragon Prince and his captain of the guard.

Dang, That was Good

  • Writing. Grey is a debut and the story she creates is quite interesting.  Echo can travel between countries by way of shadow dust. Grey captures the beauty of Japan, France, and New York.
    • Grey invents two new races-Avicen who have feathers for hair and the Drakharin who have colorful dragon scales.  It’s always a pleasure when authors create something different.  It was difficult to picture at first, but I got over it.
    • The story was never predictable.  It had a simple plot.  There’s a war between two races and whoever finds the firebird can end the war.  However within its simplicity, Grey managed to avoid formulaic plot twists and the dreaded love triangle.
    • POV. it’s written in third person but Grey writes several chapters that overlap.  For example, an interesting moment happens between Jasper and Dorian in one chapter and the next chapter is Ivy’s reaction to their conversation.  This of course isn’t new but it doesn’t happen very often and it’s a nice change.
    • Themes.  There were deeper themes under the surface.  Identity and feeling belonged were present throughout the novel.  All Avicen’s names have meanings.  Echo’s name and Caius’ name also had deeper meanings.  I don’t want to spoil anything so I’ll leave it at that.
  • Characters. There are several interesting characters in Midnight.  I think the best are Caius-the Dragon Prince and the Oracle.
    • Caius is deep and introspective. He loves others and cares about his people and of course he’s gorgeous. I thought Grey did a great job of developing this character and the love he and Echo share.
    • The Oracle was only in the book for a couple of chapters but I loved her wit.
    • I thought all the characters were well developed.  The villains weren’t the focus and this was refreshing because I’ve read enough evil queens to last me a lifetime.

That’s Too Bad, Dang

  • This book was on its way to a 4.5 until page 349/360.  Throughout the novel, Grey writes a wonderful thinker.  It’s one of those books where you have to pay attention to maps and buildings and the wise words of elders and nicknames because it all comes full circle.  It’s one of those books that you have to write notes because you’ll have to reference them to understand what’s going on.  At least that was the case until about eleven pages from the end.  Grey did a great job of showing and not telling but on page 350, she begins to tell.  It ruined it for me! I like having to figure things out on my own and discussing it with other readers and realizing that you missed something and having to go back and see where you went wrong.  I don’t like it when an author lays it all out for you.  DAMN!!!
  • Echo. She was annoying in the beginning. She was the human antithesis of the magical Avicen and Drakharin but she wasn’t funny or witty.  Her character improved a lot by the end but her voice put me off in the beginning. I almost gave up on page 25.
  • Some people have been comparing it to Daughter of Smoke and Bone and Mortal Instruments.  I agree about DOSM to a degree but I think it was different enough to be on a level of its own.  I couldn’t get passed City of Bones so I have no opinion on MI.
  • SPOILERISH SPOILERISH SPOILERISH
    • I don’t know if this will develop in book 2 but the name thing wasn’t answered.  If you read the book, please tell me if I missed something because part of the puzzle was someone’s name and that didn’t happen.
    • Also, in my opinion, I think the title is a bit of a spoiler.

Overall

This was a very enjoyable read.  It had new types of characters and an unpredictable plot.  The characters were well developed and the mixing of contemporary themes with a fantasy plot was a nice vacation from the norm.

I think Grey is a great debut and I’m excited to see what happens in book 2.

The Wrath and the Dawn

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The Wrath and the Dawn

by Renee Ahdieh

Genre: Fantasy/Re-Telling

Expected Publication Date: May 12, 2015

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbomb

Overview

This is a retelling of A Thousand and One Nights. King Khalid kills all his brides by dawn. When Shazi’s best friend dies by dawn, she vows to avenge her death by becoming Khalid’s bride and killing him.

That Was Good, Dang

  • #weneeddiversebooks
  • It was written well. Ahdieh managed to create some mystery surrounding Shazi and her father. The dialogues were witty.

Dang, That’s Too Bad

I had some major issues with this book. I wanted to like it and I kept reading it hoping it would get better but…

  • Writing. I said earlier that it was written well and it was for the most part. My problem was that all the characters had the same voice. Shazi, Despina, Rahim, Tariq, and Jalal all had the same quick witted sense of humor. It was difficult to tell the difference between the characters. That’s a MAJOR problem that I couldn’t get over it. Ahdieh is a debut author and she’s a good writer but her editor should tell her to write different characters.
  • Love Story. I’m not familiar with the original story but that shouldn’t matter. Shazi hates the king because he killed her best friend. She intends to kill but she inevitably falls in love but she falls in love might quick. They have sex twice and she’s in love. Khalid must have the bomb penis because if my best friend was killed by someone; I doubt I’d fall in love after a month-COME ON! It’s not that I didn’t buy the love between Shazi and Khalid, I did and I was rooting for them but it should have taken longer.
  • Nothing Happens. Sure there are some close calls with Shazi’s life and their venture into town and the preverbal grand ball at the end but the stuff that happens between these events are minute. It’s a lot of talking and I don’t mind a slow moving plot if the story or the dialogue is good but as I mentioned above; everyone has the same voice. There was a good storyline with Shazi’s father but nothing was answered because he will probably play a big role in book 2. I felt like that was a big let down. I wish there was one small reveal with the father.
  • The Problem with the Boring Story. There was a major plot reveal in the preface. It’s the one where the audience knows the truth but the main character doesn’t. When this is done correctly, the audience/reader should be on the edge of their seat the entire book. We should be yelling at the protag because she’s wrong and she’s making a big mistake but she doesn’t know it. This book, however, didn’t do it correctly. We have to suffer through Shazi inability to make a decision and do anything of significance. She just keeps going back and forth-should I have killed the king at this time? Do I love him? He’s evil, no he’s misunderstood. MAKE A DECISION ALREADY, DAMMIT! She doesn’t do anything but tell stories-OMG!
    The story would have been better if it was the type of plot where the reader nor the protag knows the truth.
  • That Cover. It looks like the publishers are still doing that thing where they try to hide the brown skinned girl/boy on the cover. Either show her face or don’t put a person on the cover at all.

Overall

I was rooting for this story so badly because Middle Eastern teens are all but non-existent in YA literature. The writing in terms of the words written on the page were passable but the writing in terms of story development was lacking.

I will recommend it to my teens because I think they will like it and we need diverse characters.

ALA for Noobs 2.0

What is ALA?

The American Library Association (ALA) is the oldest and largest library association in the world, providing association information, news, events, and advocacy resources for members, librarians, and library users.-ala.org

There are two conferences every year, Annual and Midwinter.  Annual takes place in June/July and Midwinter is in Jan/Feb.

What Happens at the Conferences?

The conferences are about 4 days long-Friday through Monday and is held at a big conference center.  You may notice that the conference repeats cities: Chicago, Vegas, Florida, Boston, Philly.  This is because 8,000-20,000 librarians attend and these cities have facilities large enough to accommodate us. This year, annual is in San Francisco on June 25-30.

During the conference there are educational sessions for members and an exhibit hall. You must be an ALA member to attend the sessions but anyone can visit the exhibit hall. An exhibit hall ticket costs about $60 for all three days.  Visit ala.org for more info.

The Exhibit Hall

The exhibit hall is divided into two sections, vendors and publishers.  Vendors are usually selling library products but you can score some great free stuff such as: lip chap, bags, t-shirts, candy, buttons, hand sanitizer, etc.  I know it doesn’t seem very exciting but when it’s free, it’s like winning the lottery.

Now for the Important Part-Publishers Row!!!

Almost every publisher is there from HarperCollins to indie publishers.  They bring ARCs to give away and the beauty is that you don’t have to stand in line unless it’s a highly coveted ARC.  For example, I ran and stood in line for 30 minutes to get the ARC of Cress.  This rarely happens.  They sit the ARCs on tables or the floor and you walk by and grab one.  If you are greedy, you might even be able to walk back a couple of minutes later to get a couple of them.  No judging, I do it sometimes.  Extra Tip: Bring a work mule such as a husband, boyfriend, wife, girlfriend, or friend to carry more books and to get those books that publishers only allow one per person.

There is usually no schedule for ARC releases; you just have to walk back and forth.  You can frequently pass the big publishing houses or you can ask the reps.  They will tell you what ARCs they are giving away and when. Extra Tip: Do your homework.  If there is a specific ARC you are looking for such as Six of Crows, know who the publisher is and ask if they are giving it away. Sometimes they keep the really good ARCs under the table.

There is other coveted stuff that publishers only release at certain times such as a bag.  I stood in line for the Throne of Glass bag.  Extra Tip: Publishers usually have bags sitting out and up for grabs. Bags are HIGHLY desired and quickly gone.  If you see they are all gone or if there is a bag you’ve had your eye on for a long time, such as Scholastic’s I read YA bag, ask the rep.  Sometimes they are hiding under the curtained table.  Extra Extra Tip: If you see someone with an awesome bag, ask them where they got it.  Sure they’ve been asked 100 times already but they get numb around 52.

How Am I Supposed to Carry all These Books?

The exhibit hall usually has a coat check for $2-$3.  Since you technically aren’t allowed to bring a wheeled bag on the floor, check your bag and dump your books throughout the day.  It doesn’t cost extra to do this.

When you hit the exhibit hall floor, head for the DEMCO booth.  DEMCO is on the vendor side but they give out a huge blue bag.  Vendors give bigger bags than publishers.  If you are lucky, you can score that big red Scholastic bag.

Take a backpack to give your shoulder a break.

Don’t forget your work mule!

There is a post office on the exhibit floor.  The books pictured below cost about $50 to ship from Vegas to Chicago with the media rate.  The bad news is that I stood in line for a total of 4 hours throughout the conference.  Extra Tip: If you are staying at a hotel, use the hotel’s post office. Sometimes the convention center has a FedEx, use this one instead.

This is my haul from Annual in Vegasala haul

This is my haul from ALA Midwinter in Chicago

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Authors and Signings

I had this same post for ALA Midwinter. There were not a lot of authors at midwinter but annual is DIFFERENT. The last annual I went to I met, Maggie Stievfater, Judy Blume, Marie Lu, Neal Shusterman, David Levithan, Mary Pearson, and Laini Taylor. If an author has a book coming out in summer or fall, they will be there.

There is a schedule for author signings.  It’s not up yet but if you visit alaac15.ala.org there will be a list. If you are serious about it, you can print a map of the exhibit hall with publisher booths.  There’s usually an app that allows you to create a schedule.  Search 2015 ALA Meeting or alaac15. I usually create a schedule on the calendar on my phone, it works just as well.

More popular authors will have lines.  I think the longest line I stood in at a conference was for Judy Blume-1.5 hours and Mary E. Pearson-1 hour.  If you bring a work mule, they can stand in another line if there are two authors signing at the same time. When you are finished, take your mule’s place in the other line.

At ALA, some publishers will give the book the author is signing for free (the published books).  The most notorious publisher that makes you pay for books is Scholastic-$3 paperback; $5 hardcover.  These are great prices but come on Scholastic, you can spare a free book!

Make sure you have cash.  Some publishers don’t accept credit/debit.

You can have authors sign a book you already own.  They’ll sign anything. Extra Tip: I know sometimes we get excited about meeting authors but please don’t take a long time to gush.  There’s a line, people!  Extra Extra Tip: Get a book signed by that author that only have two people in their line.  You never know, they might be famous one day and the book is free.  This happened to me with Joelle Charbonneau and my coworker with Pierce Brown (Red Rising).  

The Exhibit Hall is More Than Just Books

Book Buzz Theater

Pop Top Stage

Check #alaac15 for updates on authors and special events.

Two Final Thoughts

If you stay ’til Monday, publishers don’t want to carry all those book back so they give books away by the butt load.  They also sell books for a fraction of the cost but you will need cash. HarperCollins and Penguin give all their books away for free even HC. They usually let everyone take 5 books but there is ALWAYS a long line. Hover around their booth around noon.

THERE’S NO BOOKCON.  Look, I’m a teen librarian associate and I thought it was wonderful to see teens excited about books but DAMN, that was ridonculous.  There will be a lot of people in the exhibit hall but you will be able to navigate your way without having to raise your hands to make room to get by.

Have Fun!

Heart of Betrayal

 heart of betrayal

 Heart of Betrayal (Book 2 from the Remnant Chronicles)

By Mary E. Pearson

Genre: High Fantasy

Expected Publication Date: July 7, 2015

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb 1/2

Overview

The story leaves off from book one where Lia and Rafe are taken to the Sanctum, Venda, to see the Komizar.  Loyalties are made and hearts are betrayed.

The Good

  • Pearson’s writing is consistent with book one.  The world building is beautiful (If you figured out the setting, you’ll be able to see Venda perfectly).

New characters are introduced and they all serve the purpose of which  they were intended-villain, love interest, bitchy servant.

tomaniPearson’s writing isn’t dumbed down for teens.  You really have to pay attention to every conversation, every poem, every location, and every character if you want to be able to keep up and figure things out.  HOB is a thinker and you also have to be able to recall important facts from KOD so have it by you.  I had to Google The Song of Venda to reference it.

Two men are interested in Lia thus the love triangle.  I think the triangle is done well because Lia doesn’t go back and forth between Kaden and Rafe.  She picks one and uses the other one to get what she wants which is freedom.

We finally get to meet the Komizar and he’s awesome.  I won’t say anything else b/c I don’t want to spoil anything.

Lia is a wonderful protagonist.  She’s constantly thinking and asking questions.  She makes allies and every decision she makes has a purpose.  She’s strong but there are understandable moments of weakness that were quite heart breaking.  I think the days of Bella Swan are over and we’re getting more smart protags like Lia, Kestral, and Celaena.

The Bad

  • The Pacing.  I think for some people, especially teens, this is a very slow moving book.  I personally don’t mind it if the book is written well which this is. More than half of book one was slow and in HOB, I’ll say 95% is slowly paced.  Pearson is building a story and characters so if you are expecting sword fighting and chase scenes, this is not the book for you.

Overall

The Remnant Chronicles is not black and white but filled with several shades of gray. You really have to pay attention and go back to book one to make connections.  A book that makes you think and recall information makes for an enjoyable read and discussion.  I didn’t like it better than book one (which was my favorite book of 2014) but if you are a high fantasy fan, I HIGHLY recommend this series.

Strange the Dreamer Spoilers

That prologue is an evil genius.  I kept referencing it because I was hoping it was Isogal but as the story progressed, I knew it was Sarai.  I don’t think it hit until I knew she was actually dead and I cried when Eril-Fane broke down.

I was about 80% through when I realized that Strange was also orphaned fifteen years prior just like the survivors.  It didn’t occur to me that he was Skathis’ son because he wasn’t blue-duh!  I knew there was something special about him when his spirit was the key and his hands didn’t turn blue and if I’m not mistaken, Cixtante’s hands didn’t turn blue either.  I’m not upset that he’s a god and thought that ending was great.

Minya was a great villain.  To have a twenty year old in a six year old’s body just made her better.  I was hoping that Sarai could be resurrected because I don’t want her to be a ghost but I’m interested to see how they are going to get rid of Minya. I’m sure one of the other long lost orphans can resurrect Sarai.

What did you think of the ending?