Read-A-Thon

#Cramathon TBR!!

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Yes, yes. Another readathon.

#CRAMATHON is hosted by  , , and ! It starts December 26, 2017 and goes through January 2, 2018.

Here are the challenges!

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I tried to pick smaller books this time around (I definitely learned my lesson with #MiniMoji) and I’m really happy with this TBR!

  1. A book under 200 pages: HIDDEN by Helen Frost (176). When Wren Abbott and Darra Monson are eight years old, Darra’s father steals a minivan. He doesn’t know that Wren is hiding in the back. The hours and days that follow change the lives of both girls. Darra is left with a question that only Wren can answer. Wren has questions, too.Years later, in a chance encounter at camp, the girls face each other for the first time. They can finally learn the truth—that is, if they’re willing to reveal to each other the stories that they’ve hidden for so long. Told from alternating viewpoints, this novel-in-poems reveals the complexities of memory and the strength of a friendship that can overcome pain.
  2. A book with LGBTQIA+ rep: 50 WAYS OF SAYING FABULOUS by Graeme Aitken (242). 12-year-old Billy loves food and Lost in Space. As the only son on a remote farm in New Zealand, he’s forced into farm chores that aren’t just abhorrent, but that leave him little time to indulge his theatrical bent. He gets by with the help of his tomboy cousin Lou and a rich fantasy life. The arrival of two outsiders — the freaky, pimply Roy and the sexy David Cassidy look-alike Jamie — changes everything. Billy is drawn to both Roy and Jamie, testing his friendships and loyalties in the process. Funny and engaging, this tale of a gay awakening resonates with anyone who endured an awkward adolescence. Billy struggles with his sexual identity, but also with his weight, in achingly familiar attempts to diet and camouflage his girth. Capturing the period when the adult world begins to impinge on the child’s, the book narrates the agonies of early adolescence with wit and tenderness.
  3. Read one of the host’s favorite books: LIVING DEAD GIRL by Elizabeth Scott (170). When Alice was ten, Ray took her away from her family, her friends — her life. She learned to give up all power, to endure all pain. She waited for the nightmare to be over. Now Alice is fifteen and Ray still has her, but he speaks more and more of her death. He does not know it is what she longs for. She does not know he has something more terrifying than death in mind for her. This is Alice’s story. It is one you have never heard, and one you will never, ever forget.
  4. Shortest book on your TBR: SPIDERWICK 2: THE SEEING STONE by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi (128). The Grace kids are just beginning to get used to Aunt Lucinda’s strange old mansion when Simon suddenly disappears. Jared and his sister have to rely on the help of a mischievous house boggart, a nasty bridge troll, and a loud-mouthed hobgoblin to get him back.
  5. A book that has your favorite color on the cover: THE WITCH BOY by Alice Ostertag (224). In thirteen-year-old Aster’s family, all the girls are raised to be witches, while boys grow up to be shapeshifters. Anyone who dares cross those lines is exiled. Unfortunately for Aster, he still hasn’t shifted . . . and he’s still fascinated by witchery, no matter how forbidden it might be.When a mysterious danger threatens the other boys, Aster knows he can help — as a witch. It will take the encouragement of a new friend, the non-magical and non-conforming Charlie, to convince Aster to try practicing his skills. And it will require even more courage to save his family . . . and be truly himself.
  6. A book that was gifted to you: BULL by David Elliot (200). Much like Lin-Manuel Miranda did in Hamilton, the New York Times best-selling author David Elliott turns a classic on its head in form and approach, updating the timeless story of Theseus and the Minotaur for a new generation. A rough, rowdy, and darkly comedic young adult retelling in verse, Bull will have readers reevaluating one of mythology’s most infamous monsters
  7. Read 7 books: THE KEY TO EVERYTHING by Pat Schmatz (208). Tash didn’t want to go to camp, didn’t want to spend the summer with a bunch of strangers, didn’t want to be separated from the only two people she has ever been able to count on: her uncle Kevin, who saved her from foster care, and Cap’n Jackie, who lives next door. Camp turns out to be pretty fun, actually, but when Tash returns home, Cap’n Jackie is gone. And Tash needs her — the made-up stories of dolphin-dragons, the warm cookies that made everything all right after a fight, the key Cap’n Jackie always insisted had magic in it. The Captain always said all Tash had to do was hold it tight and the magic would come. Was it true? Could the key bring Cap’n Jackie back? In a heartfelt and stunningly written story, Pat Schmatz introduces readers to a tenacious, fiercely loyal girl struggling to let go of the fantasies and fears of her childhood . . . and say yes to everything that lies ahead.

 

And that’s my TBR! It’s 1348 pages so my goal is to read around 200 pages a day… which isn’t that bad at all! (basically a book a day).

Are you participating in #Cramathon? What’s your TBR looking like? Let me know in the comments!

 

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January-March 2018 Releases

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

No, not Christmas (although, that is pretty wonderful, too).

It’s time to start looking ahead and preordering all the wonderful books that are coming out in 2018. I can only hope this year is less of a trash fire than 2017 and by the looks of all the great books releasing… that hope might be a reality!

This is my list of “Winter 2018” (January-March) releases that I am super looking forward to.

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1CHAINBREAKER by TARA SIM.

Release Date: 01/02/2018

Preorder here.

As soon as I finished TIMEKEEPER, I preordered this one. Listen, it’s amazing and I’m hoping the sequel is just as good.

Clock mechanic Danny Hart knows he’s being watched. But by whom, or what, remains a mystery. To make matters worse, clock towers have begun falling in India, though time hasn’t Stopped yet. He’d hoped after reuniting with his father and exploring his relationship with Colton, he’d have some time to settle into his new life. Instead, he’s asked to investigate the attacks.

After inspecting some of the fallen Indian towers, he realizes the British occupation may be sparking more than just attacks. And as Danny and Colton unravel more secrets about their past, they find themselves on a dark and dangerous path–one from which they may never return.

1PRETTY DEAD GIRLS by Monica Murphy.

Release Date: 01/02/2018

Preorder here.

Beautiful. Perfect. Dead.

In the peaceful seaside town of Cape Bonita, wicked secrets and lies are hidden just beneath the surface. But all it takes is one tragedy for them to be exposed.

The most popular girls in school are turning up dead, and Penelope Malone is terrified she’s next. All the victims so far have been linked to Penelope—and to a boy from her physics class. The one she’s never really noticed before, with the rumored dark past and a brooding stare that cuts right through her.

There’s something he isn’t telling her. But there’s something she’s not telling him, either.

Everyone has secrets, and theirs might get them killed.

1THE CRUEL PRINCE by Holly Black.

Release Date: 01/02/2018

Preorder here.

Jude was seven years old when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.

To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.

In doing so, she becomes embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, discovering her own capacity for bloodshed. But as civil war threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.

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NICE TRY, JANE SINNER by Lianne Oelke.

Release date: 01/09/18

Preorder here.

I fell for Jane Sinner the minute I started this book. You can read me gush about it here.

The only thing 17-year-old Jane Sinner hates more than failure is pity. After a personal crisis and her subsequent expulsion from high school, she’s going nowhere fast. Jane’s well-meaning parents push her to attend a high school completion program at the nearby Elbow River Community College, and she agrees, on one condition: she gets to move out.

Jane tackles her housing problem by signing up for House of Orange, a student-run reality show that is basically Big Brother, but for Elbow River Students. Living away from home, the chance to win a car (used, but whatever), and a campus full of people who don’t know what she did in high school… what more could she want? Okay, maybe a family that understands why she’d rather turn to Freud than Jesus to make sense of her life, but she’ll settle for fifteen minutes in the proverbial spotlight.

As House of Orange grows from a low-budget web series to a local TV show with fans and shoddy T-shirts, Jane finally has the chance to let her cynical, competitive nature thrive. She’ll use her growing fan base, and whatever Intro to Psychology can teach her, to prove to the world—or at least viewers of substandard TV—that she has what it takes to win.

 

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LOVE, HATE & OTHER FILTERS by Samira Ahmed.

Release date: 01/16/2018

Preorder here.

Maya Aziz is torn between futures: the one her parents expect for their good Indian daughter (i.e.; staying nearby in Chicago and being matched with a “suitable” Muslim boy), and the one where she goes to film school in New York City–and maybe, just maybe, kisses a guy she’s only known from afar. There’s the also the fun stuff, like laughing with her best friend Violet, making on-the-spot documentaries, sneaking away for private swimming lessons at a secret pond in the woods. But her world is shattered when a suicide bomber strikes in the American heartland; by chance, he shares Maya’s last name. What happens to the one Muslim family in town when their community is suddenly consumed with hatred and fear?

 

35378963THE JOURNEY OF LITTLE CHARLIE by Christopher Paul Curtis.

Release date: 01/30/2018

Preorder here.

Twelve-year-old Charlie is down on his luck: His dad just died, the share crops are dry, and the most fearsome man in Possum Moan, Cap’n Buck, says Charlie’s dad owed him a lot of money. Fearing for his life, Charlie strikes a deal to repay his father’s debt by accompanying Cap’n Buck to Detroit in pursuit of some folks who have stolen from him. It’s not too bad of a bargain for Charlie . . . until he comes face-to-face with the fugitives and discovers that they escaped slavery years ago and have been living free. Torn between his guilty conscience and his survival instinct, Charlie needs to figure out his next move—and soon. It’s only a matter of time before Cap’n Buck catches on . . .

 

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1YOUR ONE & ONLY by Adrianne Finlay.

Release date: 02/06/2018

Preorder here.

I LOVED this book about clones and scrappy humans!

Jack is a walking fossil. The only human among a sea of clones. It’s been hundreds of years since humanity died off in the slow plague, leaving the clones behind to carry on human existence. Over time they’ve perfected their genes, moving further away from the imperfections of humanity. But if they really are perfect, why did they create Jack?

While Jack longs for acceptance, Althea-310 struggles with the feeling that she’s different from her sisters. Her fascination with Jack doesn’t help. As Althea and Jack’s connection grows stronger, so does the threat to their lives. What will happen if they do the unthinkable and fall in love?

 

32702898ALL OUT (anthology) edited by Saundra Mitchell.

Release date: 02/27/18

Preorder here.

(Anna-Marie McLemore is in this and I would literally read her grocery list so…)

Take a journey through time and genres and discover a past where queer figures live, love and shape the world around them. Seventeen of the best young adult authors across the queer spectrum have come together to create a collection of beautifully written diverse historical fiction for teens.

From a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood set in war-torn 1870s Mexico featuring a transgender soldier, to two girls falling in love while mourning the death of Kurt Cobain, forbidden love in a sixteenth-century Spanish convent or an asexual girl discovering her identity amid the 1970s roller-disco scene, All Out tells a diverse range of stories across cultures, time periods and identities, shedding light on an area of history often ignored or forgotten.

32618983THE SERPENT’S SECRET by Sayantani DasGupta.

Release date: 02/27/2018.

Preorder here.

MEET KIRANMALA: INTERDIMENSIONAL DEMONSLAYER

(But she doesn’t know it yet.)

On the morning of her twelfth birthday, Kiranmala is just a regular sixth grader living in Parsippany, New Jersey… until her parents mysteriously vanish later that day and a rakkhosh demon slams through her kitchen, determined to eat her alive. Turns out there might be some truth to her parents’ fantastical stories—like how Kiranmala is a real Indian princess—and a wealth of secrets about her origin they’ve kept hidden.

To complicate matters, two crushworthy Indian princes ring her doorbell, insisting they’re here to rescue her. Suddenly, Kiran is swept into another dimension full of magic, winged horses, moving maps, and annoying, talking birds. There she must solve riddles and slay demons all while avoiding the Serpent King of the underworld (who may or may not want to kill her) and the rakkhosh queen (who definitely does) in order to find her parents and basically save New Jersey, her entire world, and everything beyond it…

 

First autumn frost on Stinging Nettle leaves - France  -  -  -

I STOP SOMEWHERE by T.E. Carter

Release date: 02/27/2018

Preorder here.

Ellie Frias disappeared long before she vanished.

Tormented throughout middle school, Ellie begins her freshman year with a new look: she doesn’t need to be popular; she just needs to blend in with the wallpaper.

But when the unthinkable happens, Ellie finds herself trapped after a brutal assault. She wasn’t the first victim, and now she watches it happen again and again. She tries to hold on to her happier memories in order to get past the cold days, waiting for someone to find her.

The problem is, no one searches for a girl they never noticed in the first place.

 

 

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IVY ABERDEEN’S LETTER TO THE WORLD by Ashley Herring Blake.

Release date: 03/06/2018

Preorder here.

In the wake of a destructive tornado, one girl develops feelings for another in this stunning, tender novel about emerging identity, perfect for fans of The Thing About Jellyfish.

When a tornado rips through town, twelve-year-old Ivy Aberdeen’s house is destroyed and her family of five is displaced. Ivy feels invisible and ignored in the aftermath of the storm–and what’s worse, her notebook filled with secret drawings of girls holding hands has gone missing.

Mysteriously, Ivy’s drawings begin to reappear in her locker with notes from someone telling her to open up about her identity. Ivy thinks–and hopes–that this someone might be her classmate, another girl for whom Ivy has begun to develop a crush. Will Ivy find the strength and courage to follow her true feelings?

Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World exquisitely enriches the rare category of female middle-grade characters who like girls–and children’s literature at large.  

 

35604686THE ASTONISHING COLOR OF AFTER by Emily X.R. Pan.

Release date: 03/20/2018

Preorder here.

Leigh Chen Sanders is absolutely certain about one thing: When her mother died by suicide, she turned into a bird.

Leigh, who is half Asian and half white, travels to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time. There, she is determined to find her mother, the bird. In her search, she winds up chasing after ghosts, uncovering family secrets, and forging a new relationship with her grandparents. And as she grieves, she must try to reconcile the fact that on the same day she kissed her best friend and longtime secret crush, Axel, her mother was taking her own life.

Alternating between real and magic, past and present, friendship and romance, hope and despair, The Astonishing Color of After is a novel about finding oneself through family history, art, grief, and love.

 

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LOSING LEAH by Tiffany King.

Release date: 03/20/2018

Preorder here.

Ten years after the tragic disappearance of her twin sister Leah, sixteen-year-old Mia Klein still struggles to exist within a family that has never fully recovered. Deep in the dark recesses of her mind lies an overwhelming shadow, taunting Mia with mind-splitting headaches that she tries to hide in an effort to appear okay.

Leah Klein’s life as she knew it ended the day she was taken, thrust into a world of abuse and fear by a disturbed captor―”Mother,” as she insists on being called. Ten years later, any recollections of her former life are nothing more than fleeting memories, except for those about her twin sister, Mia.

As Leah tries to gain the courage to escape, Mia’s headaches grow worse. Soon, both sisters will discover that their fates are linked in ways they never realized.

 

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TYLER JOHNSON WAS HERE by Jay Coles.

Release date: 03/20/2018

Preorder here.

When Marvin Johnson’s twin, Tyler, goes to a party, Marvin decides to tag along to keep an eye on his brother. But what starts as harmless fun turns into a shooting, followed by a police raid.

The next day, Tyler has gone missing, and it’s up to Marvin to find him. But when Tyler is found dead, a video leaked online tells an even more chilling story: Tyler has been shot and killed by a police officer. Terrified as his mother unravels and mourning a brother who is now a hashtag, Marvin must learn what justice and freedom really mean.

 

31689949 AND SHE WAS by Jessica Verdi.

Release date: 03/27/2018.

Preorder here.

Dara’s lived a sheltered life with her single mom, Mellie. Now, at eighteen, she’s dreaming of more. When Dara digs up her never-before-seen birth certificate, her world implodes. Why are two strangers listed as her parents?

Dara confronts her mother, and is stunned by what she learns: Mellie is transgender. The unfamiliar name listed under “father”? That’s Mellie. She transitioned when Dara was a baby, shortly after Dara’s birth mother died.

But Dara still has more questions than answers. Reeling, she sets off on a road trip with her best guy friend, Sam. She’s determined to find the extended family she’s never met. What she discovers—and what her mother reveals, piece by piece over emails—will challenge and change Dara more than she can imagine.

 

35238072NOT IF I SAVE YOU FIRST by Ally Carter.

Release date: 03/27/2018.

Preorder here.

Maddie thought she and Logan would be friends forever. But when your dad is a Secret Service agent and your best friend is the president’s son, sometimes life has other plans. Before she knows it, Maddie’s dad is dragging her to a cabin in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness.

No phone.
No Internet.
And not a single word from Logan.

Maddie tells herself it’s okay. After all, she’s the most popular girl for twenty miles in any direction. (She’s also the only girl for twenty miles in any direction.) She has wood to cut and weapons to bedazzle. Her life is full.
Until Logan shows up six years later . . .
And Maddie wants to kill him.

But before that can happen, an assailant appears out of nowhere, knocking Maddie off a cliff and dragging Logan to some unknown fate. Maddie knows she could turn back- and get help. But the weather is turning and the terrain will only get more treacherous, the animals more deadly.

Maddie still really wants to kill Logan.
But she has to save him first.

 

32056397HURRICANE CHILD by Kheryn Callendar.

Release date: 03/27/2018

Preorder here.

Twelve-year-old Caroline is a Hurricane Child, born on Water Island during a storm. Coming into this world during a hurricane is unlucky, and Caroline has had her share of bad luck already. She’s hated by everyone in her small school, she can see things that no one else can see, and — worst of all — her mother left home one day and never came back. With no friends and days filled with heartache, Caroline is determined to find her mother. When a new student, Kalinda, arrives, Caroline’s luck begins to turn around. Kalinda, a solemn girl from Barbados with a special smile for everyone, seems to see the things Caroline sees, too. Joined by their common gift, Kalinda agrees to help Caroline look for her mother, starting with a mysterious lady dressed in black. Soon, they discover the healing power of a close friendship between girls.

 

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OUT OF THE WILD NIGHT by Blue Balliett.

Release date: 03/27/2018

Preorder here.

From the New York Times bestselling author of Chasing Vemeer an unforgettable story about an island haunted by the past . . . and the ghosts who must help with the present.

Ghosts are alive on the island of Nantucket. You can hear them in the wind, and in the creaks of the old homes. They want to be remembered. And, even more, they want to protect what was once theirs.

The ghosts seem to have chosen a few local kids to be their messengers — and to help save the island. But in this mystery, the line between those who haunt and those who are haunted is a thin one — and the past and the present must come to terms with one another in order to secure the future.

 

35297272EMERGENCY CONTACT by Mary H.K. Choi

Release date: 03/27/2018

Preorder here.

For Penny Lee high school was a total nonevent. Her friends were okay, her grades were fine, and while she somehow managed to land a boyfriend, he doesn’t actually know anything about her. When Penny heads to college in Austin, Texas, to learn how to become a writer, it’s seventy-nine miles and a zillion light years away from everything she can’t wait to leave behind.

Sam’s stuck. Literally, figuratively, emotionally, financially. He works at a café and sleeps there too, on a mattress on the floor of an empty storage room upstairs. He knows that this is the god-awful chapter of his life that will serve as inspiration for when he’s a famous movie director but right this second the seventeen bucks in his checking account and his dying laptop are really testing him.

When Sam and Penny cross paths it’s less meet-cute and more a collision of unbearable awkwardness. Still, they swap numbers and stay in touch—via text—and soon become digitally inseparable, sharing their deepest anxieties and secret dreams without the humiliating weirdness of having to see each other.

 

Those are my most anticipated releases for the first quarter of 2018! What books are you looking forward to? Let me know in the comments!

 

 

Reviews

Review: THE LOVE LETTERS OF ABELARD AND LILY

1Title: THE LOVE LETTERS OF ABELARD AND LILY
Author: Laura Creedle
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Pages: 352
ARCS?: Yes, provided by HMH in exchange for an honest review.
TW/CW: Depression, medication abuse, mentions of suicide (MC is put on suicide watch), self-harm (LI hits his head on the table)
Rep: ADHD, Aspergers, broken families, single parent families, depression.
Rating: 3/5

When Lily Michaels-Ryan ditches her ADHD meds and lands in detention with Abelard, who has Asperger’s, she’s intrigued—Abelard seems thirty seconds behind, while she feels thirty seconds ahead. It doesn’t hurt that he’s brilliant and beautiful.

When Abelard posts a quote from The Letters of Abelard and Heloise online, their mutual affinity for ancient love letters connects them. The two fall for each other. Hard. But is it enough to bridge their differences in person?

This was another really hard book to rate.

First of all, I loved the characters. I think this is probably the most honest portrayal of how two sixteen year olds falling in love for the first time behave. Yes, it’s fast. Yes, it’s ridiculous. Yes, those are some extreme feelings… because that’s exactly how most teenagers react to their first love. And I enjoyed every second of it.

Creedle did a great job in fleshing out all of her characters. Not just Lily and Abelard but all of the side characters. I loved Lily’s little sister and her mom, and it was great to see Lily’s mom support her and still be frustrated with how Lily behaves. In a lot of stories, we see the parent be unconditionally patient but it was great to see Lily’s mom behave like a real human and respond to things that we’re hard for her to handle.

I’ve talked with a few people who have said the ADHD and autism rep were very good. The author herself has ADHD and apparently has done her research very well when it came to writing Abelard who has Aspergers.

The book lost two stars for me for two different reasons.

The first was when Lily said the phrase “-my personal spirit animal.” Y’all. This is 2017. No one, and I do mean NO ONE, should be including the phrase “spirit animal” in their book unless they are an Indigenous person whose tribe has spirit animals, and only if they are using the term in the proper context. Laura Creedle does not fit any of that criteria… nor does her book. That’s an automatic star loss, every single time.

The next thing that caused ABELARD AND LILY to lose a star was Creedle’s demonization of medication. Lily constantly goes on and off her meds and claims they don’t work. Fun fact: If you don’t take them regularly and get used to them, they do make you feel like a zombie! It was also very, very hard to read other characters encourage Lily to stay off her meds, too. But on the flip side of that, Lily was willing to have an electrode put in her brain. So, electroshock therapy and invasive surgery is good but medicine that you can change and adjust is… bad? It was also really concerning that leading up to the surgery, Lily kept referring to herself as a monster who needed to be fixed. I think this could have been handled very well if Lily had said this to someone and they corrected her. Anything on paper to show people in the same position as Lily that they are not broken monsters.

Again, this was a great book with some really problematic elements that I think probably would have been caught by some attentive sensitivity readers.

Reviews

Review: TIMEKEEPER

25760792Title: TIMEKEEPER
Author: Tara Sim
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Pages: 414
ARC?: No
Format: Hardback
Release date: 11/08/16
TW/CW: Death, blood, physical violence.
Rep: Queer, poverty.
Rating: 5/5

I was in an accident. I got out. I’m safe now.

An alternate Victorian world controlled by clock towers, where a damaged clock can fracture time—and a destroyed one can stop it completely.

A prodigy mechanic who can repair not only clockwork but time itself, determined to rescue his father from a Stopped town.

A series of mysterious bombings that could jeopardize all of England.

A boy who would give anything to relive his past, and one who would give anything to live at all.

A romance that will shake the very foundations of time.

Just like THE SERPENT KING, this book was pitched to me wrong.

“It’s kind of steampunk and it has clocks and Queer characters.”

Here’s a hint: I only like one of those things.

But after being browbeaten over it for a few months, I finally plopped it on my wish list to appease everyone and my dearest friend, Mason, was kind enough to send it my way. And getting this book was an adventure itself. After UPS delivered it to the wrong house and said we would have to contact Amazon, Amazon balked up a little on it and wouldn’t speak with me directly. Listen, calling them myself was hard enough and I wasn’t about to push someone with equal amounts of anxiety to do the same. I thought the book would just, you know, die and slowly fade from mind. So sorry, dear TIMEKEEPER, it just wasn’t meant to be.

But a week later, an elderly gentleman showed up on my front porch, package in hand. UPS had delivered it across town but now it was safely in my hands… and I still wasn’t sure that I wanted to read it.

But I did during #MiniMoji and I loved it.

It’s more historical than steampunk, and yes, there are clocks. Danny is our main character and he is a mechanic- a skilled clocktower repairman who can maintain time, a rare gift in this story. We meet Danny months after he’s had an incredibly traumatic accident involving a clock tower essentially exploding in his face. He’s lucky to be alive and still suffering from PTSD- something he deals with continuously throughout the book.

Sim does an incredible job of giving us a background story on Danny, his family, and the history of the mechanics without ever bogging the story down with information. I find it really hard to slog through info dumps but it’s also hard to care about a story if there isn’t enough backstory to make me feel for the characters and their positions. It’s a precarious line that runs between too much and not enough, and Sim toes that line perfectly. I loved hearing about the mythology behind the mechanics.

I was also surprised at how much she made us care for Danny’s father, a mechanic in a Stopped town (essentially frozen in time and can’t leave the town because the clock tower is irreparable), without us ever meeting him. She does this through glimpses of what it’s like when time skips and jumps and trembles, and several times I caught myself thinking, “If a small fracture in time is this awful… imagine what it’s like when it Stops.”

If you follow me on Twitter, you’ve already seen my jokes about the love interest. Spoilers inside the asterisks.

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I was both horrified and amused that the love interest is… a clock tower. He’s literally a clock who can present as a human and I just… I couldn’t stop laughing. Danny is literally clocksexual. I think that’s loving your job a little too much.

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Overall, this was a great read. When I finished, I immediately preordered the sequel, CHAINBREAKER, which comes out 01/02/2018.

If you like Queer characters, an interesting love interests, and some fancy clockwork, this might be the one for you!

 

CaptureTara Sim is the author of the TIMEKEEPER trilogy (Sky Pony Press) and writer of all things magic. She can often be found in the wilds of the Bay Area, California.

When she’s not writing about mischievous boys in clock towers, Tara spends her time drinking tea, wrangling cats, and occasionally singing opera. Despite her bio-luminescent skin, she is half-Indian and eats way too many samosas.

Tara is represented by Laura Crockett at TriadaUS Literary Agency.

She also sometimes blogs for Quirk Books.

Name pronunciation: “tar-ah” (not “terr-ah”).

Reviews

Review: NOT A DROP TO DRINK

1Title: NOT A DROP TO DRINK
Author: Mindy McGinnis
Publisher: Katherine Tegan Books
Pages: 309
Format: Paperback
ARC?: No.
Published date: 9/24/13
TW/CW: Blood, death of a parent, animal death, guns, sex trafficking, implied rape, childbirth.
Rating: 4/5

Lynn knows every threat to her pond: drought, a snowless winter, coyotes, and, most importantly, people looking for a drink. She makes sure anyone who comes near the pond leaves thirsty, or doesn’t leave at all.

Confident in her own abilities, Lynn has no use for the world beyond the nearby fields and forest. Having a life means dedicating it to survival, and the constant work of gathering wood and water. Having a pond requires the fortitude to protect it, something Mother taught her well during their quiet hours on the rooftop, rifles in hand.

But wisps of smoke on the horizon mean one thing: strangers. The mysterious footprints by the pond, nighttime threats, and gunshots make it all too clear Lynn has exactly what they want, and they won’t stop until they get it….

I bought this book back in January when I was buying a bunch of books for SE-YA fest. I ended up not reading it before the festivals and after I got it signed, I just stuck it back on my bookshelf and honestly… kind of forgot about it. McGinnis will be back at SE-YA in 2018, so I decided that maybe I should read it so that I either have the excuse to buy the next book in the series or can confidently say “Nah, this one isn’t for me.”

But I read it.

And it’s definitely for me.

I love dystopians. When YA and middle grade was saturated with them, I read every single one I could get my hands on. As that dystopian rush has dampened, though, I find that I’m not nearly as excited to pick up the ones I do find because they’re all written with heavy sci-fi elements, something I’m just not into.

NOT A DROP TO DRINK, however, does not have sci-fi elements. We’re introduced to a our very familiar world… albeit one without readily available water. I liked how McGinnis gave us little snapshots of what went wrong throughout the book. Water shortages, corporate and government greed, overcrowding and cholera. This is a world where people do terrible things, like shooting strangers too near the pond, in order to survive.

I loved Lynn. I think she was a great main character who was learning and unlearning the entire book. McGinnis gives us a whole cast of characters but she did a great job in making sure Lynn’s voice was well heard above the rest. It was interesting to see Lynn as the protected and Lynn as the protector, but McGinnis was very loyal to who Lynn was as a person. Her experiences changed but Lynn was still Lynn at the end of the days.

This lost a star for me because we lost a character very early on that I feel would have added a whole new layer of issues and conflict. It would have been great to see how Lynn would have reacted to everything that was going on around her if her mother had still been around during the events.

Overall, I loved this book and I can’t wait to read the sequel IN A HANDFUL OF DUST!

This book is perfect for dystopian lovers and anyone who roots for the underdog.

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Mindy McGinnis is an Edgar Award-winning author and assistant teen librarian who lives in Ohio. She graduated from Otterbein University with a degree in English Literature and Religion, and sees nothing wrong with owning nine cats. Two dogs balance things out nicely.

Mindy runs a blog for aspiring writers at Writer, Writer Pants on Fire, which features interviews with agents, established authors, and debut authors. Learn how they landed their agents, what the submission process is really like, and how it feels when you see your cover for the first time. Mindy does query critiques every Saturday on the Saturday Slash for those who are brave enough to volunteer.

Uncategorized

November Wrap Up!

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Merry Ultimate Christmas/Happy Holidays!

I know, I know. It’s December 5. It’s not Christmas, you’re thinking. But it is Christmas.

November was an, um, interesting reading month. I thought it would be slow because of NaNo and YallFest. But then I didn’t do NaNo so I thought it was would be a decent reading month. Wrong. Wrong.

Eight books isn’t that terrible but I’m used to reading a fair share more than that. Honestly, I feel like I had a giant hangover from YallFest. I had such a good time and got to meet people I’ve known exclusively on twitter in real life which was both fun and nerve wracking!

#MiniMoji helped me rack up a few extra books for the month… literally half of my wrap up was read during this readathon.

Despite not having a large reading month, I was super happy with the fact that all but 2 of the 8 books I read were 4 or 5 star reads. That’s huge! Not the best reading month number wise, but definitely a good month when you factor in quality and enjoyment.. which is what matters the most!

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  • THE SPIDERWICK CHRONICLES: THE FIELD GUIDE by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi. I think I read this either in early 2017 or late 2016 with my oldest goddaughter, but I honestly forgot the majority of it by the time I decided to pick the series back up. I thoroughly enjoyed this little gem and I can’t wait to read the rest of the series in 2018! Review coming soon!
  • TIMEKEEPER by Tara Sim. Everyone kept telling me I would love this book and I was so, so resistant to reading it. Even though the whole “He’s a clock” thing threw me off, I really enjoyed every minute of this book and I’m so excited for the sequel, CHAINBREAKER. I’ll have a review up this month!
  • CHICKADEE by Louise Erdrich. Louise never fails to touch my heart with her books and I knew this one, with it’s super cute and simplistic cover, would be a 5 star before I ever read it. It’s part of a series but each one can be read as a standalone. I’m looking forward to collecting and reading them all! You can read my review here!

 

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  • NOT A DROP TO DRINK by Mindy McGinnis. I’ve had this one on my shelf for a while (and even got it signed at Se-Ya Fest!) but didn’t pick it up until the #MiniMoji readathon. I loved this book and I will have a review up for it this month!
  • THE SERPENT KING by Jeff Zentner. Why, oh, why did I wait so long to read this book? Just like with TIMEKEEPER, I think THE SERPENT KING was just pitched to me wrong. I ended up loving this and you can read my review here!
  • MY BRIGADISTA YEAR by Katherine Paterson. This one was a hard rate for me. While I loved the writing and the story, I was a little concerned with how the opposition was portrayed. If anyone knows of a Cuban or Cuban American reviewer who has read this one, please let me know! I’d love to read and link their review! In the mean time, here’s my review.

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  • THE NINE LIVES OF CHRISTMAS by Sheila Roberts. This was a cute little Christmas read about a cat named Ambrose who is trying to earn back his ninth life by “saving” a human bachelor named Zach. While I enjoyed this, there were a lot of sexist comments in the book and Zach was your typical “he-man firefighter”. Review coming soon!

 

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  • WINTERSONG by S. Jae-Jones. This book almost had. Almost. I was fully prepared to give this a 4 or 5 star rating. I couldn’t understand why people were so iffy about it… and then the whole “we had sex and now I’m a woman and completely changed” thing happened. Big pass.

 

And that’s what I read in November! Thoughts on these books or my ratings? Read anything spectacular this month? Let me know in the comments!

Read-A-Thon

#MiniMoji Wrap Up!

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You can check out my original post here! This post contains all info about #MiniMoji, its creators, hosts, and my original TBR!

My original TBR contained seven book:

  1. WINTERSPELL by Claire Legrand
  2. NOT A DROP TO DRINK by Mindy McGinnis
  3. THE NINE LIVES OF CHRISTMAS by Sheila Roberts
  4. JANE UNLIMITED by Kristin Cashore
  5. TIMEKEEPER by Tara Sims
  6. WISHIN’ AND HOPIN’ by Wally Lamb
  7. SPIDERWICK 1: THE FIELD GUIDE by Holly Black

Of the seven, I finished 4.

  1. NOT A DROP TO DRINK by Mindy McGinnis (4/5)
  2. THE NINE LIVES OF CHRISTMAS by Sheila Roberts (3/5)
  3. TIMEKEEPER by Tara Sims
  4. SPIDERWICK 1: THE FIELD GUIDE by Holly Black

I also attempted to read JANE UNLIMITED by Kristin Cashore but decided to put it down 100 pages in. I don’t think this is necessarily a bad book, but I definitely was not in the mood for it. I started GOODBYE DAYS by Jeff Zentner at the end of the readathon, but definitely didn’t finish in the time frame.

A few stats from the challenge:

Pages read: 1349
Challenges completed: 16/20

This was a really great way for me to ease into readathons since I want to participate in more in 2018. It totally helped me see where I always mess up in readathons… picking books that are too big! I was doing great until I got to TIMEKEEPER. It didn’t really mess my pace up but after reading it, I was kind of done and felt like I wanted a break. I think the next reading challenge I participate in, I’m going to stick with shorter books.

But I had fun participating! Thanks to all the hosts and creators for a fun week of challenges!

TBR Beatdown

DECEMBER 2017 TBR

CaptureHappy Holidays, my bookish loves!

I originally hadn’t planned on doing a December TBR as I’m trying to focus on getting my 2018 TBR Takedown in order… but while I was organizing that, I realized that I had quite a few ARCs that I needed to go ahead and read since their release dates are approaching. I also have A LOT of books I need to read ahead of Se-Ya Fest. So, I put together a little TBR this month… and hopefully I’ll get to them all!

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1. THE LOVE LETTERS OF ABELARD AND LILY by Laura Creedle. When Lily Michaels-Ryan ditches her ADHD meds and lands in detention with Abelard, who has Asperger’s, she’s intrigued—Abelard seems thirty seconds behind, while she feels thirty seconds ahead. It doesn’t hurt that he’s brilliant and beautiful.

When Abelard posts a quote from The Letters of Abelard and Heloise online, their mutual affinity for ancient love letters connects them. The two fall for each other. Hard. But is it enough to bridge their differences in person?

This hilarious, heartbreaking story of human connection between two neurodivergent teens creates characters that will stay with you long after you finish reading.

2. YOU’LL MISS ME WHEN I’M GONE by Rachel Lynn Solomon. Eighteen-year-old twins Adina and Tovah have little in common besides their ambitious nature. Viola prodigy Adina yearns to become a soloist—and to convince her music teacher he wants her the way she wants him. Overachiever Tovah awaits her acceptance to Johns Hopkins, the first step on her path toward med school and a career as a surgeon.

But one thing could wreck their carefully planned futures: a genetic test for Huntington’s, a rare degenerative disease that slowly steals control of the body and mind. It’s turned their Israeli mother into a near stranger and fractured the sisters’ own bond in ways they’ll never admit. While Tovah finds comfort in their Jewish religion, Adina rebels against its rules.

When the results come in, one twin tests negative for Huntington’s. The other tests positive.

These opposite outcomes push them farther apart as they wrestle with guilt, betrayal, and the unexpected thrill of first love. How can they repair their relationship, and is it even worth saving?

3. INK by Alice Broadway. Every action, every deed, every significant moment is tattooed on your skin for ever. When Leora’s father dies, she is determined to see her father remembered forever. She knows he deserves to have all his tattoos removed and made into a Skin Book to stand as a record of his good life. But when she discovers that his ink has been edited and his book is incomplete, she wonders whether she ever knew him at all.  

4. ROSEMARKED by Livia Blackburne.

A healer who cannot be healed . . .

When Zivah falls prey to the deadly rose plague, she knows it’s only a matter of time before she fully succumbs. Now she’s destined to live her last days in isolation, cut off from her people and unable to practice her art—until a threat to her village creates a need that only she can fill.

A soldier shattered by war . . .

Broken by torture at the hands of the Amparan Empire, Dineas thirsts for revenge against his captors. Now escaped and reunited with his tribe, he’ll do anything to free them from Amparan rule—even if it means undertaking a plan that risks not only his life but his very self.

Thrust together on a high-stakes mission to spy on the capital, the two couldn’t be more different: Zivah, deeply committed to her vow of healing, and Dineas, yearning for vengeance. But as they grow closer, they must find common ground to protect those they love. And amidst the constant fear of discovery, the two grapple with a mutual attraction that could break both of their carefully guarded hearts.

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5. NOT A DROP TO DRINK by Mindy McGinnis.

Lynn knows every threat to her pond: drought, a snowless winter, coyotes, and, most importantly, people looking for a drink. She makes sure anyone who comes near the pond leaves thirsty, or doesn’t leave at all.

Confident in her own abilities, Lynn has no use for the world beyond the nearby fields and forest. Having a life means dedicating it to survival, and the constant work of gathering wood and water. Having a pond requires the fortitude to protect it, something Mother taught her well during their quiet hours on the rooftop, rifles in hand.

But wisps of smoke on the horizon mean one thing: strangers. The mysterious footprints by the pond, nighttime threats, and gunshots make it all too clear Lynn has exactly what they want, and they won’t stop until they get it….

6. GIRL MADE OF STARS by Ashley Herring Blake. This also an ARC.

Mara and Owen are about as close as twins can get. So when Mara’s friend Hannah accuses Owen of rape, Mara doesn’t know what to think. Can the brother she loves really be guilty of such a violent crime? Torn between the family she loves and her own sense of right and wrong, Mara is feeling lost, and it doesn’t help that things have been strained with her ex-girlfriend, Charlie.

As Mara, Hannah, and Charlie navigate this new terrain, Mara must face a trauma from her own past and decide where Charlie fits in her future. With sensitivity and openness, this timely novel confronts the difficult questions surrounding consent, victim blaming, and sexual assault.

7. Good-Bye Days by Jeff Zentner.

One day Carver Briggs had it all—three best friends, a supportive family, and a reputation as a talented writer at his high school, Nashville Academy for the Arts.

The next day he lost it all when he sent a simple text to his friend Mars, right before Mars, Eli, and Blake were killed in a car crash.

Now Carver can’t stop blaming himself for the accident, and he’s not the only one. Eli’s twin sister is trying to freeze him out of school with her death-ray stare. And Mars’s father, a powerful judge, is pressuring the district attorney to open a criminal investigation into Carver’s actions.

Luckily, Carver has some unexpected allies: Eli’s girlfriend, the only person to stand by him at school; Dr. Mendez, his new therapist; and Blake’s grandmother, who asks Carver to spend a Goodbye Day with her to share their memories and say a proper goodbye to his friend.

Soon the other families are asking for a Goodbye Day with Carver, but he’s unsure of their motives. Will they all be able to make peace with their losses, or will these Goodbye Days bring Carver one step closer to a complete breakdown or—even worse—prison?

8. IN THE AFTER by Demitria Lunetta.

They hear the most silent of footsteps.
They are faster than anything you’ve ever seen.
And They won’t stop chasing you…until you are dead.

Amy is watching TV when it happens, when the world is attacked by Them. These vile creatures are rapidly devouring mankind. Most of the population is overtaken, but Amy manages to escape—and even rescue “Baby,” a toddler left behind in the chaos. Marooned in Amy’s house, the girls do everything they can to survive—and avoid Them at all costs.

After years of hiding, they are miraculously rescued and taken to New Hope, a colony of survivors living in a former government research compound. While at first the colony seems like a dream with plenty of food, safety, and shelter, New Hope slowly reveals that it is far from ideal. And Amy soon realizes that unless things change, she’ll lose Baby—and much more.

9. THREE DARK CROWNS by Kendare Blake.

In every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born—three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions.

But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose…it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins.

The last queen standing gets the crown.

10. GEM & DIXIE by Sara Zarr.

Gem has never known what it is to have security. She’s never known an adult she can truly rely on. But the one constant in her life has been Dixie. Gem grew up taking care of her sister when no one else could: not their mother, whose issues make it hard for her to keep food on the table, and definitely not their father, whose intermittent presence is the only thing worse than his frequent absence. Even as Gem and Dixie have grown apart, they’ve always had each other.

When their dad returns home for the first time in years and tries to insert himself back into their lives, Gem finds herself with an unexpected opportunity: three days with Dixie—on their own in Seattle and beyond. But this short trip soon becomes something more, as Gem discovers that that to save herself, she may have to sever the one bond she’s tried so hard to keep.

And that’s my last 2017 TBR! Check back for my 2017 Wrap Up and my first 2018 TBR!

 

Read-A-Thon

#MiniMoji TBR

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Starting November 23 through November 30, I will be participating in the #MiniMoji Read-A-Thon! For information on the read-a-thon, including challenges and sprints, you can check out the hosts and the read-a-tons twitter account at the links below.

Dylan: https://goo.gl/mvZ96C

Julie: https://goo.gl/afWoXt

Chelsea: https://goo.gl/npexQu

Brittany: https://goo.gl/LyYuts

Emojiathon’s Twitter: https://goo.gl/kRmh1a

I haven’t been participating in much of anything this year, but I’m really hoping to do more read-a-thons in 2018 to help me crack down on my physical TBR. I thought this one would be a good jump start to get used to a more structured TBR (something I’m really, really terrible at doing).

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A Book You Received As A Gift.

25760792For this one, I picked TIMEKEEPER by Tara Sim. This was a gift from Mason… and it literally traveled all over my city before it actually reached me due to, uh, UPS incompetence.

This is a chunk of a book, so I’ll probably save this for last…

I was in an accident. I got out. I’m safe now.

An alternate Victorian world controlled by clock towers, where a damaged clock can fracture time—and a destroyed one can stop it completely.

A prodigy mechanic who can repair not only clockwork but time itself, determined to rescue his father from a Stopped town.

A series of mysterious bombings that could jeopardize all of England.

A boy who would give anything to relive his past, and one who would give anything to live at all.

A romance that will shake the very foundations of time.

 

 

 

 

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A Book Set During Winter

18475593WINTERSPELL by Claire Legrand is the first book I thought of that is set in the winter… and I actually believe it starts on Christmas Eve!

New York City, 1899. Clara Stole, the mayor’s ever-proper daughter, leads a double life. Since her mother’s murder, she has secretly trained in self-defense with the mysterious Drosselmeyer.

Then, on Christmas Eve, disaster strikes.

Her home is destroyed, her father abducted—by beings distinctly not human. To find him, Clara journeys to the war-ravaged land of Cane. Her only companion is the dethroned prince Nicholas, bound by a wicked curse. If they’re to survive, Clara has no choice but to trust him, but his haunted eyes burn with secrets—and a need she can’t define. With the dangerous, seductive faery queen Anise hunting them, Clara soon realizes she won’t leave Cane unscathed—if she leaves at all.

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Read A Book With Green On The Cover

1NOT A DROP TO DRINK by Mindy McGinnis. This one is also on my December TBR, so if I don’t get to it, I’m not sweating it that much.

Lynn knows every threat to her pond: drought, a snowless winter, coyotes, and, most importantly, people looking for a drink. She makes sure anyone who comes near the pond leaves thirsty, or doesn’t leave at all.

Confident in her own abilities, Lynn has no use for the world beyond the nearby fields and forest. Having a life means dedicating it to survival, and the constant work of gathering wood and water. Having a pond requires the fortitude to protect it, something Mother taught her well during their quiet hours on the rooftop, rifles in hand.

But wisps of smoke on the horizon mean one thing: strangers. The mysterious footprints by the pond, nighttime threats, and gunshots make it all too clear Lynn has exactly what they want, and they won’t stop until they get it….

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A Book That Has The Christmas Spirit

12219867In case you didn’t know, I am Hallmark Movie Christmas trash. Imagine my excitement when I found out that one of my favorite Christmas movies is a book! THE NINE LIVES OF CHRISTMAS by Sheila Roberts is an excellent book for all those cat and Christmas lovers out there.

When a guy is in trouble, he starts making deals with his Creator…and Ambrose the cat is no exception. In danger of losing his ninth and final life, Ambrose makes a desperate plea to the universe. He’ll do anything—anything!—if he can just survive and enjoy a nice long, final life. His prayer is answered when a stranger comes along and saves him—and now it looks like he has to hold up his end of the bargain.

The stranger turns out to be a firefighter named Zach, who’s in need of some serious romantic help. If Ambrose can just bring Zach together with Merilee, the nice lady who works at Pet Palace, it’s bound to earn him a healthy ninth life. Unfortunately for Ambrose, his mission is a lot harder than he ever thought. Merilee is way too shy to make the first move on a ladies man like Zach, and Zach thinks he’s all wrong for a nice girl like Merilee. Now it’s going to take all of Ambrose’s feline wiles—and maybe even a good old fashioned Christmas miracle—to make them both realize that what they’re looking for is right in front of their eyes.  

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A Book With A Reflective Cover

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Does any cover get more reflective than JANE, UNLIMITED by Kristin Cashore?

Jane has lived a mostly ordinary life, raised by her recently deceased aunt Magnolia, whom she counted on to turn life into an adventure. Without Aunt Magnolia, Jane is directionless. Then an old acquaintance, the glamorous and capricious Kiran Thrash, blows back into Jane’s life and invites her to a gala at the Thrashes’ extravagant island mansion called Tu Reviens. Jane remembers her aunt telling her: “If anyone ever invites you to Tu Reviens, promise me that you’ll go.”

What Jane doesn’t know is that at Tu Reviens her story will change; the house will offer her five choices that could ultimately determine the course of her untethered life. But every choice comes with a price. She might fall in love, she might lose her life, she might come face-to-face with herself. At Tu Reviens, anything is possible.

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A Book With Red & White On The Cover

8152697WISHIN’ AND HOPIN’ by Wally Lamb. This is probably the shortest thing Wally has ever written… and I love Wally.

Wally Lamb, the beloved #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Hour I First Believed, I Know This Much Is True, and She’s Come Undone, delivers a holiday treat with Wishin’ and Hopin’—an unforgettable novella that captures the warmth and joy of the holiday season. Poignant and hilarious, in a vein similar to Jean Shepherd’s A Christmas Story and David Sedaris’s The Santaland Diaries, Lamb’s Christmas tale focuses on a feisty parochial school fifth grader named Felix Funicello—a distant cousin of the iconic Annette!

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New Year, New Book! Start A New Series.

444304I have been meaning to read THE SPIDERWICK CHRONICLES by Holly Black and Tony DiTerilizzi. Seems like a good time to get started.

The Field Guide sets up the story of the Grace children—13-year-old Mallory and 9-year-old twins Jared and Simon—who with their mother move into the dilapidated Spiderwick Estate only to quickly find themselves sucked into a dark and fascinating world of faeries.

 

 

 

 

And that is my #MiniMoji TBR! Are you planning to join? If so, let me know what your TBR is!

I’ll also be doing updates as I read on my Insta story, so you can check out my progress there and on twitter!

 

Reviews

Review: THE SERPENT KING

22752127.jpgTitle: THE SERPENT KING
Author: Jeff Zentner
Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers/Random House
Pages: 384
Format: eBook
Release: 3/8/16
ARC?: No.
TW/CW: Death of a major character, mentions of pedophilia, religion (Christian/Pentecostal), snakes, mentions of suicide and suicide ideation, child abuse.
Rep: Poverty, religion (Christian/Pentecostal; believing differently than parents), depression, mental illness, first generation college student, single parent household, parent in prison, child helping provide for the family.

Rating: 4.5/5

Dill has had to wrestle with vipers his whole life at home, as the only son of a Pentecostal minister who urges him to handle poisonous rattlesnakes, and at school, where he faces down bullies who target him for his father’s extreme faith and very public fall from grace.

The only antidote to all this venom is his friendship with fellow outcasts Travis and Lydia. But as they are starting their senior year, Dill feels the coils of his future tightening around him. Dill’s only escapes are his music and his secret feelings for Lydia, neither of which he is brave enough to share. Graduation feels more like an ending to Dill than a beginning. But even before then, he must cope with another ending- one that will rock his life to the core.

Y’all. This book.

When this book first came in March 2016, I had a few friends who read and loved it. They also demanded I read it, too. But to be honest, between the synopsis and my friends’ descriptions of the book, I wasn’t that impressed and kept giving them that “Yeah, sure, maybe when my TBR isn’t so overwhelming.”

After YallFest, I decided to actually read it since I had purchased it months ago when it was on sale on Kindle. Plus, Zentner is going to be at Se-Ya Fest in March and I figured… maybe I’ll like it enough to want a hard copy signed. But in all honesty, I went in this with low expectations.

And I was so wrong.

It takes a lot for a book to immediately hook me. Like, unless you’re Becky Albertalli or Leigh Bardugo, I’m probably not going to be cheering at you on twitter until I’ve finished the book, but I was screaming THE SERPENT KING’s praises about 10 pages in.

The poverty rep in this book is probably the best I’ve ever read. Weeks earlier, I had threaded on twitter that poverty rep in YA was pretty meaningless to me because it generally involves someone who lives in a crumbling house but seems to have a fair amount of disposable income. I can only imagine that poor characters are written this way because the author has never been poor or had friends who were poor, but living in a crumbling house doesn’t equal poverty. There are plenty of impoverished people who live in decent houses. But the one thing nearly all poverty stricken people have in common is a lack of disposable income. Whenever I’m reading a book that is supposed to be poor but they have money for eating out with friends or expensive car repairs, I instantly disconnect from that character because I don’t know any poor person who has idle cash. Zentner does a great job in showing how valuable money is to Dill, how he faces struggles that his more privileged friends do not. There’s a great scene when Lydia asks Dill and Travis if they want to stop and eat somewhere. Dill makes a face and says “No, I’ll eat at home.” Another scene shows Dill through Travis’ eyes as he has to pay for a $70 car part and Travis notes that Dill looks physically pained to have to pay for it. Dill isn’t frivolous with money anywhere in the book. It’s mentioned several times that the food he and his mother eat are discards from the store, and in one scene, Dill makes a casserole with cheese that he had to scrape mold off of. THAT is poverty rep. That is what made this novel so real to me.

I also deeply enjoyed the religious rep in this book. While I don’t think Dill and his family were United Pentecostal, they were Pentecostal and that’s something that I rarely see. I enjoy stories where people grapple with the faith they grew up with and what they believe now, but Dill still believes in God throughout the book. It was interesting to see him fight with what he was taught (such as blindly obeying your parents) when he knows that his parents are leading him deeper into ruination. I liked that nothing was a simple answer for Dill and while worried for a while, I was glad that he chose what he chose for himself in the end.

The family dysfunction in this one is astounding and horrifying. Through the three set of characters, we get a wide variety of what life can be like between teenagers and their parents. Lydia’s parents are fully vested in her well being, Travis has an abusive relationship with his father and a deep bond with his mom, and Dill has basically been abandoned by both parents.

As mentioned above, there is a death that involves a main character.

If you like stories of friendship, dysfunctional families, and finding your way… THE SERPENT KING might just be for you!

 

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Jeff Zentner is the author of the William C. Morris Award winning and Carnegie Medal longlisted book The Serpent King (2016) as well as Goodbye Days (2017). He lives in Nashville, Tennessee. He came to writing through music, starting his creative life as a guitarist and eventually becoming a songwriter. He’s released five albums and appeared on recordings with Iggy Pop, Nick Cave, Warren Ellis, Thurston Moore, Debbie Harry, Mark Lanegan, and Lydia Lunch, among others.

He became interested in writing for young adults after volunteering at the Tennessee Teen Rock Camp and Southern Girls Rock Camp. As a kid, his parents would take him to the library and drop him off, where he would read until closing time. He worked at various bookstores through high school and college.

He speaks fluent Portuguese, having lived in the Amazon region of Brazil for two years.