The Bad and the Ugly

The Bad and the Ugly- January Edition

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January started off really, really well reading-wise. I mean, the first 8 books I read were all 3+ stars. But then… then things went downhill.

Just a quick disclaimer before I talk about these books: when I say “the bad and the ugly”, I’m being humorous. No, I didn’t enjoy these books but you might! Or maybe you did. It’s also not an attack on the author. I think it’s silly that we have to state this whenever we want to discuss books we didn’t like, but you’re entitled to your book feels just as I’m entitled to mine.

35721258TIME BOMB by Joelle Charbonneau.

Rating: 2/5

Why I didn’t like it: As I talked about in my review, I think this would have been a really nice read if it wasn’t for the microaggressions. It felt like the author was trying very hard to be inclusive and instead of it coming off well, it came off… really, really bad. This book definitely proves the case for writing in your lane.

 

 

22780816THE VINES by Christopher Rice.

Rating: 1/5

Why I didn’t like it: This book was so disappointing.

I absolutely loved Rice’s books A DENSITY OF SOULS and THE SNOW GARDEN, but this one isn’t on the same level. While the writing is good and the setting is magnificent, Rice’s characters in this one falls flat. I expected the story to pick up once we got into the “meat” of the plot… but there was no meat to this story. None.

 

31682017THE LIBRARY OF SOULS by Richard Denney.

Rating: 1/5

Why I didn’t like it: This read like a first draft. The grammar was atrocious, the characters were terribly unbelievable, and this needed an editor so badly. I had tried to give this author a chance last year when I read WHAT LIES BENEATH (another one that needed an editor), and I was hoping there would be growth in his writing since I really enjoy Denney’s Youtube channel. However, there was zero improvement.

 

7091411THE DEADLY SISTER by Eliot Schrefer.

Rating: 2/5

Why I didn’t like it: It just didn’t make any sense.

I mean, it was apparent what was going on right from the beginning, but I could have lived with that if we had seen any real motivation from either sister. This also would have worked much better as a NA thriller or an adult thriller. The ages of the sisters and the lack of parental involvement just didn’t make sense and added to the lackluster plot.

 

34518216THE WITCH DOESN’T BURN IN THIS ONE by Amanda Lovelace

Rating: 1/5

Why I didn’t like it: While there were a few feeble attempts to include trans and nonbinary people, this entire collection was terribly ciscentric and full of white feminist imagery. It reads a lot like the diary of a 13 year old girl who just discovered feminism and thinks misandry is, like, totally awesome. There was also a poem (that has supposedly been removed from the collection) that was a direct rip off of Rachel Wiley’s 10 HONEST THOUGHTS ON BEING LOVED BY A SKINNY BOY. While Lovelace tried to explain this by saying the thoughts are “used a lot” in the fat posi community… that’s not exactly a good reason to plagiarize.

 

And that’s my The Bad and The Ugly for this month! Thoughts on any of these?

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Flashback Friday ft. Anne Shirley

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At this point, my love for Anne Shirley is not a secret.

I’ve dedicated threads and posts and days of reading (and rereading) to my favorite redhead and her series. I try to reread ANNE OF GREEN GABLES once every year or two, but this year I decided that I wanted to reread the whole series. The plan was to read one book a month which would have the series finished in August.

But I read the first three this month. No shame.

Returning to Avonlea through the eyes of Anne Shirley, an 11 year old orphan with a huge imagination, always feels like coming home after a stressful day of work. I know the words, I know the story, I know Anne is going to bawl Rachel Lynde out, but it’s all so comfortable and cozy, like seeing an old friend and rehashing younger years. I should be tired of the same old story, but I’m not. I never will be.

adb2a22d7509fa17215ed2f51fedc1cfI did a lot of drunk crying this reread. Listen, I shouldn’t be allowed to have sangria, instagram, and Anne of Green Gables at the same time. It’s just not good. When my brain gets muddled with sangria, I totally forget that Anne and Gilbert are end game and I ended up just crying a lot. While they are definitely the best slow burn OTP, I just wanted them to hold hands and be cutesy with each other. Instead, we get pulled hair, a broken slate, and an Anne Shirley sized grudge. Which makes for a great story, but isn’t so easy on my fragile heart.

58051198d1ba77ba32b49fd87374ef0fAnd it’s not just the books I’ve been deeply into. While I love the 1980s series, Anne With An E on Netflix has stolen my heart. I just really enjoy the deeper look into Anne’s past, the PTSD, and, of course, the Anne/Gil tension. Matthew and Marilla are just a charming and wry as ever, and the host of girls and school bullies just makes the show a literal masterpiece.

Of course, my obsession can’t just be contained to rereading and watching a show. Oh no. No, I have to find a bunch of beautiful editions that I REALLY JUST NEED.

I’ll never be over Anne Shirley.

Read-A-Thon

#24in48 Readathon TBR

untitledYes, friends, it’s that time.

24 in 48. What’s that mean?

Taken from their website: Beginning at 12:01am on Saturday morning and running through 11:59pm on Sunday night, readers read for 24 hours out of that 48 hour period. You can split that up however you’d like: 20 hours on Saturday, 4 hours on Sunday; 12 hours each day; six 4 hour sessions with 4 hour breaks in between; whatever you’d like.

As I said when I participated in July, this one just feels much more manageable to me. While I would love to participate in the 24 hour readathons… I’m old and I need to sleep. Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I stayed awake for a full 24 hours (ah, to be in my late teens and early 20s again… ew, no thanks) but I just can’t do that now. 24 hours of reading in 48 hours, though? I have a better shot at that.

This round is January 27-28. You can check out their website (linked above) for all the deets, explanations, and sign ups.

As for my TBR…

Let’s be real here. I’m terrible at TBRs. That’s why I don’t do them anymore. I just can’t correctly guess what I’ll be in the mood for weeks in advance.

But here’s what I might get to.

27190613AND I DARKEN by Kiersten White.

I am currently reading this one so I might have it finished before #24in48 starts, but if I don’t, I will definitely be finishing this one.

From Goodreads: No one expects a princess to be brutal. And Lada Dragwlya likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland of Wallachia and abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival. She and Radu are doomed to act as pawns in a vicious game, an unseen sword hovering over their every move. For the lineage that makes them special also makes them targets.

Lada despises the Ottomans and bides her time, planning her vengeance for the day when she can return to Wallachia and claim her birthright. Radu longs only for a place where he feels safe. And when they meet Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, Radu feels that he’s made a true friend—and Lada wonders if she’s finally found someone worthy of her passion.

But Mehmed is heir to the very empire that Lada has sworn to fight against—and that Radu now considers home. Together, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed form a toxic triangle that strains the bonds of love and loyalty to the breaking point.

 

15944406DOLL BONES by Holly Black.

This is another one I have already started. Once I finish AND I DARKEN, this will be my next read.

From Goodreads: Zach, Poppy and Alice have been friends for ever. They love playing with their action figure toys, imagining a magical world of adventure and heroism. But disaster strikes when, without warning, Zach’s father throws out all his toys, declaring he’s too old for them. Zach is furious, confused and embarrassed, deciding that the only way to cope is to stop playing . . . and stop being friends with Poppy and Alice.

But one night the girls pay Zach a visit, and tell him about a series of mysterious occurrences. Poppy swears that she is now being haunted by a china doll – who claims that it is made from the ground-up bones of a murdered girl. They must return the doll to where the girl lived, and bury it. Otherwise the three children will be cursed for eternity . . .  

 

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THE BORROWERS by Mary Norton.

This is definitely an overdue reread! I found a copy of this last year for $.10 and it catapulted by need to reread my favorite childhood books.

From Goodreads: Beneath the kitchen floor is the world of the Borrowers — Pod and Homily Clock and their daughter, Arrietty. In their tiny home, matchboxes double as roomy dressers and postage stamps hang on the walls like paintings. Whatever the Clocks need they simply “borrow” from the “human beans” who live above them. It’s a comfortable life, but boring if you’re a kid. Only Pod is allowed to venture into the house above, because the danger of being seen by a human is too great. Borrowers who are seen by humans are never seen again. Yet Arrietty won’t listen. There is a human boy up there, and Arrietty is desperate for a friend.

 

259068SHUG by Jenny Han.

I had no idea Jenny Han had any middle grade books until I found this one at a library sale. This sounds adorable (and awkward) and I’m here for it!

From Goodreads: Annemarie Wilcox, or Shug as her family calls her, is beginning to think there’s nothing worse than being twelve. She’s too tall, too freckled, and way too flat-chested. Shug is sure that there’s not one good or amazing thing about her. And now she has to start junior high, where the friends she counts most dear aren’t acting so dear anymore — especially Mark, the boy she’s known her whole life through. Life is growing up all around her, and all Shug wants is for things to be like they used to be. How is a person supposed to prepare for what happens tomorrow when there’s just no figuring out today?

 

And that’s my very tentative TBR!

Are you participating? If so what, are you planning to read? And if not, tell me your weekend reading plans!

Reviews

Review: GIRL MADE OF STARS

2Title: GIRL MADE OF STARS
Author: Ashley Herring Blake
Publisher: HMH
Date Published: May 15, 2018
Format: Paperback
Pages: 304
ARC?: Yes, provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
TW/CW: Rape, sexual assault, sexual abuse of a child by an adult, victim blaming
Rating: 5/5

FROM GOODREADS: Mara and Owen are as close as twins can get, so when Mara’s friend Hannah accuses Owen of rape, Mara doesn’t know what to think. Can her brother really be guilty of such a violent act? Torn between her family and her sense of right and wrong, Mara feels lost, and it doesn’t help that things are strained with her ex-girlfriend, Charlie. As Mara, Hannah, and Charlie come together in the aftermath of this terrible crime, Mara must face a trauma from her own past and decide where Charlie fits into her future. With sensitivity and openness, this timely novel confronts the difficult questions surrounding consent, victim blaming, and sexual assault.

This book was a hard pill to swallow.

Beautiful, yes. Timely and well written, yes. Still, it’s never easy to take such a close, hard look at victim blaming, consent, the withdrawal of consent, and rape.

After a party, Mara’s twin brother Owen is accused of raping his girlfriend. No one can believe that Owen would do this- not his parents (who staunchly defend him), not his friends at school, and especially not Mara. But after her initial protectiveness wears off, Mara starts to see the holes in Owen’s story.

Hannah, Owen’s victim, is subjected to all manner of horrible treatment at school when she returns. In fact, the only people who seem to believe her are her parents and a core group of her friends… Mara included.

I don’t want to give too much of the story away as this is definitely something everyone needs to read. This book takes a good look at what it’s like to suffer in silence after a sexual assault, the things rape victims go through when trying to seek justice, and how it feels to love someone while knowing they did an awful thing. There are no easy answers in this book. Owen remains Owen and I think that’s an important part of this book- not every offender is going to come off as the creepy guy in the van or the violent, abusive boyfriend.

I sincerely recommend this book to everyone.

You can preorder here.

Reviews

REVIEW: TIME BOMB

35721258Title: TIME BOMB
Author: Joelle Charbonneau
Publisher: HMH
Date published: 3/13/18
Format: paperback
Pages: 352
ARC?: Yes, provided by HMH in exchange for a honest review.
Genre: YA Contemporary/ suspense
TW/CW: Death, blood, injury, talks of self-harm and suicide, death of a parent, Islamophobia, internalized fatphobia.
Rep: Pakistani- American, biracial, Queer, poverty.
Rating: 2/5

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS: A congressman’s daughter who has to be perfect. A star quarterback with a secret. A guy who’s tired of being ignored. A clarinet player who’s done trying to fit in. An orphaned rebel who wants to teach someone a lesson. A guy who wants people to see him, not his religion.

They couldn’t be more different, but before the morning’s over, they’ll all be trapped in a school that’s been rocked by a bombing. When they hear that someone inside is the bomber, they’ll also be looking to one another for answers.

TIME BOMB, I wanted to love you.

This wasn’t a book I was really intending to read. While I like thrillers, suspenseful YA, and people trapped in contained situations, I’m not overly fond of books that focus on school shootings and bombings. I think this comes from being a young child during the Columbine shooting and then living through the mass hysteria and prank school shooting/bombing calls that followed. After seeing several reviews that praised this book, I decided that I would probably try it once it came out… because I still wasn’t interested in it enough to request a review copy. Then I got a DM asking if I had read the book or if I would review the book because the reviewer had read it and found certain elements of the book really disturbing. I requested a copy and the reviewer who originally DMed didn’t tell me what they found troubling/problematic so that I would be able to go into this book completely unbiased.

Just to clear the air, this isn’t a bad book. If you’re not familiar with thrillers, this would be a great start. If you are a thriller reader… you’ll figure out who the bomber is pretty quick and it sort of kills the rest of the story. Even then, I would have given the book 3 stars.

But the microaggressions. Holy microaggressions.

I’ve already tweeted about this, so I’m just to put my tweets here:

  • Within the first 30 pages or so, our Muslim character, Rashid, talks about how his beard “others” him from his classmates… which is vaguely absurd. I knew lots of boys in high school who had full beards. It’s not uncommon.
  • There was a line where he worries about his little sister starting high school because she wears a hijab, but he says she likes wearing it because it draws attention to her. I talked to a few hijabi friends who were horrified that a white writer would make that assessment.
  • Of course, when the bombs go off, Rashid is the first person blamed and while the others generally catch the blame once throughout the book, Rashid is accused more than anyone else. (EDIT: I understand that the writer was trying to convey this is how it would be in real life, but it came off very poorly… especially since this was supposed to be speculative and “who done it” but only focused on one character)
  • Rashid also shaves his beard at school, something that he says is against his religion (and he is devout), in order to “fit in”.
  • Tad is our biracial gay character. When describing himself, he says he’s is “not black and not white” and the book talks a lot about how he’s “not quite black, not quite white”. I think this could have worked if written by a biracial person who actually+ (2nd tweet) +understands what it’s like being biracial. The way it’s presented is very dramatic and very “Who am I?” which is a trope assigned to us by non-biracial people. (EDIT: I had someone argue the point that many biracial people feel that they are neither one race or another, and that is true and valid but not the point I was trying to make. My point was that a white author is using someone’s race to other them and in the context of this story, it doesn’t make sense since Tad is popular and well-liked.)
  • Tad also hooks up with his football captain over the summer. It’s alluded to in the text that Tad filmed this and was going to use it to blackmail Frankie when Frankie stops talking to him. (EDIT: This bothered me a lot. Not only did he violate Frankie’s privacy, he was also planning to use the violation to further stalk Frankie and *force* him into a relationship he clearly did not want.)
  • And Frankie has a nice inner monologue where he says he’s “not going down the same path as Tad” because, as we all know, Queerness is a decision. (EDIT: And this is never dealt with in text.)
  • Frankie also plays into the hypersexual, flighty bisexual because he hooks up with lots of people and likes to “push the envelope” (which is how he explains his hook-up with Tad).
  • Cas is our depressed fat character and after she tries to kill herself at school (she’s stopped when the bomb goes off), she gets stuck in a doorway and laments that her smaller classmates squeezed right through.
  • Because, you know, fat people would definitely be thinking about how big their thighs look when trying to escape a bombed building, ok.
  • Moving back to Rashid, I find it interesting that he says he couldn’t find much empathy when he was in Pakistan and visiting places where his family and friends had died… but he does with a bunch of strangers who constantly harassed him. (EDIT: This enforces the whole “I just want to be NORMAL” trope.)
  • This book was filled with tropes. And not good ones. Again, I think some dedicated SRs would have helped this book out a lot.

In the end, I can’t recommend this book.

Reviews · Uncategorized

Review: WINTERHOUSE

29540876.jpgTitle: WINTERHOUSE
Author: Ben Guterson
Publisher: Henry Holt
Date Published: 01/02/2018
Format: Hardback
Pages: 384
ARC?: No
Genre: Middle Grade- Paranormal
TW/CW: Witchcraft, characters coming back from the dead, child neglect
Rep: Orphans, broken families.
Rating: 3/5

Goodreads synopsis: Orphan Elizabeth Somers’s malevolent aunt and uncle ship her off to the ominous Winterhouse Hotel, owned by the peculiar Norbridge Falls. Upon arrival, Elizabeth quickly discovers that Winterhouse has many charms―most notably its massive library. It’s not long before she locates a magical book of puzzles that will unlock a mystery involving Norbridge and his sinister family. But the deeper she delves into the hotel’s secrets, the more Elizabeth starts to realize that she is somehow connected to Winterhouse. As fate would have it, Elizabeth is the only person who can break the hotel’s curse and solve the mystery. But will it be at the cost of losing the people she has come to care for, and even Winterhouse itself?

I went into this with high expectations and honestly, I feel a little let down.

First, the cover is beautiful. Let me just get that out of the way. Yes, this was a TOTAL cover buy. I knew I wanted it before I even read the synopsis. But then I read the synopsis and I thought… yeah, this is going to be excellent.

And it was.

Almost.

I loved the characters. Elizabeth is a relatable heroine to any book nerd who has felt like they don’t belong. She’s also a sad figure, almost cut from the same cloth as my beloved Anne Shirley, as an orphan who has faced uncertain living conditions with her aunt and uncle who seem to think she’s more of a stray animal that hangs around that a niece who deserves to be taken care of. While the story certainly does hint that there is a reason why Elizabeth’s aunt is so cold towards her, we don’t get that story in this one (this is to be a trilogy, if I’ve understood right). As the story progresses, we meet more characters, all of them living or staying at Winterhouse which is where the bulk of our story takes place. Guterson has a way with characters and even the ones we’re supposed to hate have a sort of charm about them that made me care for their plotlines as well.

It was the pacing that lost me. I felt like there were huge chunks where nothing at all happened except average every day stuff that didn’t progress the story as much as it just made the book thicker. I read this one with my 10 year old goddaughter and a hundred pages in, she was ready to call it quits because nothing had happened. Sadly, nothing really does happen until the end of the book.

The book would have benefitted in having a subplot, honestly. I will be reading the second book, though, to see how the story progresses and how Guterson grows as an author… there’s so much potential there!

If a slower paced book doesn’t bother you, this might be the perfect winter mystery for you!

IMG_20170812_181234aBen Guterson was a high school and middle school teacher in New Mexico and Colorado for a decade before working for several years at Microsoft as a program manager. He and his family live near Seattle in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains.

You can check out his website here.

Reviews

Review: A DASH OF TROUBLE

29918993.jpgTitle: A DASH OF TROUBLE (LOVE SUGAR MAGIC #1)
Author: Anna Meriano
Publisher: Walden Pond Press
Pages: 320
Date published: 01/02/2018
ARC?: No.
Format: eBook
Rep: Latinx, single parent households (side characters).
Rating: 5/5

Goodreads synopsis: Leonora Logroño’s family owns the most beloved bakery in Rose Hill, Texas, spending their days conjuring delicious cookies and cakes for any occasion. And no occasion is more important than the annual Dia de los Muertos festival.

Leo hopes that this might be the year that she gets to help prepare for the big celebration—but, once again, she is told she’s too young. Sneaking out of school and down to the bakery, she discovers that her mother, aunt, and four older sisters have in fact been keeping a big secret: they’re brujas—witches of Mexican ancestry—who pour a little bit of sweet magic into everything that they bake.

Leo knows that she has magical ability as well and is more determined than ever to join the family business—even if she can’t let her mama and hermanas know about it yet.

And when her best friend, Caroline, has a problem that needs solving, Leo has the perfect opportunity to try out her craft. It’s just one little spell, after all…what could possibly go wrong?

I knew my first five star read of 2018 would be a middle grade, and I kind of had a feeling it would be this book.

And I was right.

Our book follows Leo, the youngest of five sisters, as she tries to find her place among her older sisters and prove she’s not just the baby of the family. I really enjoyed the family bonds and how real the family felt. I loved, loved, loved Marisol (the rebel of the family) and her gruffness with Leo but how her love for her little sister still came through.

This book also explores friendships and how their are some things that just don’t need to be meddled with- especially when it comes to other people’s feelings and emotions. I don’t want to get to into the plot (since the best part of the story is the little twists), but this is a great book to teach kids that sometimes you have to stop and ask for help when you make a mistake instead of pressing forward and possibly making things worse (as Leo does several times).

It was also nice to see that Leo was conscious that what she was doing (with the sneaking, stealing, and lying) was wrong and felt bad for actions and was willing to atone for it when she was caught.

And hello Halloween vibes! The majority of our story takes place on Halloween and Dia de los Muertos, and it launched me into some serious Halloween feelings (I made Halloween treats after reading this). This is going to be a great reread in October.

There’s also so much baking in this book and a few recipes at the end! I can’t wait to try them.

I loved this cute, magical book so much! Definitely recommend this to fans of Anna-Marie McLemore. If you like families, baking, and flying pig cookies… this might be the book for you!

 

 

Reviews

Review: SURVIVE THE NIGHT

23281665.jpgTitle: SURVIVE THE NIGHT
Author: Danielle Vega
Publisher: Razorbill
Date Published: 7/7/15
Format: Paperback
Pages: 263
ARC?: No.
Genre: Young Adult: Thriller/Horror
TW/CW: Drug abuse, underage drinking, death, descriptive gore.
Rep: MC has completed rehab for drug abuse.
Rating: 4/5

Goodreads Synopsis: We’re all gonna die down here. . . .

Julie lies dead and disemboweled in a dank, black subway tunnel, red-eyed rats nibbling at her fingers. Her friends think she’s just off with some guy—no one could hear her getting torn apart over the sound of pulsing music.

In a tunnel nearby, Casey regrets coming to Survive the Night, the all-night underground rave in the New York City subway. Her best friend Shana talked her into it, even though Casey just got out of rehab. Alone and lost in the dark, creepy tunnels, Casey doesn’t think Survive the Night could get any worse . . .

. . . until she comes across Julie’s body, and the party turns deadly.

Desperate for help, Casey and her friends find themselves running through the putrid subway system, searching for a way out. But every manhole is sealed shut, and every noise echoes eerily in the dark, reminding them they’re not alone.

They’re being hunted.

Trapped underground with someone—or something—out to get them, Casey can’t help but listen to her friend’s terrified refrain: “We’re all gonna die down here. . . .”

What a wild ride this book was.

Generally my ratings don’t stray too far from the average on Goodreads, but while this is sitting at a 3.2 average rating and most of the reviews talk about how bad it was… I really enjoyed this. Maybe it’s because I’m a fan of old, cheesy horror movies and this book reads exactly like an old, cheesy horror movie, but I wasn’t disappointed with it. (A lot of people also didn’t like The Merciless and I thought it was awesome, too).

Our story starts out with our MC, Casey, ditching her nice, safe soccer pals to hang out with her wrong side of the tracks pals, including Shana… the girl who got her landed in rehab. Right away the reader can see the dysfunction between Casey and Shana. Half-way through the night, Shana drags Casey, their two friends, Casey’s ex-boyfriend Sam, and his best friend to an underground rave called Survive the Night. When I say underground, I mean they literally go through a manhole to get to it. What starts out as a fun night turns sour when Casey realizes that Shana has drugged her… and that there’s a killer in the tunnels.

While I think I would have enjoyed this one more if it had stuck to a serial killer theme, I really didn’t mind the paranormal/supernatural aspect of the story… and it’s Danielle Vega, at this point I should know to expect the unexpected.

I liked how a lot of things played out in terms of the friendships and relationships as they are trying to escape this thing that’s picking them off one by one. I think the deal between Sam and Casey felt real and the fact that we don’t get closure with the two of them kind of made me like the book more. Again, this could be because I love cheesy horror movies.

The end was a nice twist and it felt very authentic to Vega’s writing style. Honestly, I’d read a sequel to this one.

I recommend this for anyone who likes B-rate horror movies, underground shenanigans, and some pretty awesome death scenes.

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Danielle Vega is the author of THE MERCILESS and SURVIVE THE NIGHT. She’s also the author of BURNING, under the name Danielle Rollins.

You can check out her website or find her on twitter @vegarollins.

Book Haul

December Book Haul!

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I bought way, way too many books this month. Since my haul is so large, I’m just going to list the books I got with a link to their Goodread page.

This month, I started buying ebooks! Last year, I bought a Kindle Fire 7… mainly because it was cheap and I wanted a bigger screen than what my phone offered. However, I don’t recommend using the Fires as an ereader. The glare is terrible and since you’re reading from an app (the Fire is a tablet), it sometimes has that weird app glitch. The Fire gave me a headache every time I used and my phone screen did, too. My wonderful girlfriend bought me a Kindle Paperwhite for Christmas and talk about a game changer. I love it! So this haul includes quite a few ebooks!

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EBOOKS

SUGAR by Deirdre Riordan Hall.

THE PERFECT STRANGER by Megan Miranda

STRANGER CHILD by Rachel Abbot

STILLHOUSE LAKE by Rachel Caine

UPROOTED by Naomi Novik

MY LIFE AS A WHITE TRASH ZOMBIE by Diana Rowland

FOXHEART by Clair LeGrand

THE STRANGE AND BEAUTIFUL SORROWS OF AVA LAVENDER by Leslye Walton

THE MYSTERIOUS HOWLING by Maryrose Wood

BEWARE THE WILD by Natalie C. Parker

TRUTHWITCH by Susan Dennard

THE DARK PROPHECY by Rick Riordan

THE MAGE AND THE MAGPIE by Austin J. Bailey

THE VINES by Christopher Rice

SUGAR PINE TRAIL by RaeAnne Thayne

 

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Book Outlet had a pretty fantastic Black Friday sale… and I got a lot of great books!

THE INN BETWEEN by Marina Cohen

FIG by Sarah Elizabeth Schantz

PALACE OF MIRRORS by Margaret Peterson Haddix (already unhauled)

JUST ELLA by Margaret Peterson Haddix (already unhauled)

THE TREASURE OF WAY DOWN DEEP by Ruth White

FURTHERMORE by Tahereh Mafi

HIDDEN by Helen Frost

THE INFINITY YEAR OF AVALON JAMES by Dana Middleton

DENTON LITTLE’S DEATHDATE by Lance Rubin

THE SLEEPWALKER TONIC by Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller

MOSTLY VOID, PARTIALLY STARS by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor

THE GREAT GLOWING COILS OF THE UNIVERSE by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor

THE SHADOW QUEEN by C.J. Redwine

DOWN WITH THE SHINE by Kate Karyus Quinn

A MADNESS SO DISCREET by Mindy McGinnis

THE DOLDRUMS by Nicholas Gannon

THE LAND OF FORGOTTEN GIRLS by Erin Entrada Kelly

IN A HANDFUL OF DUST by Mindy McGinnis

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REVENGE OF THE WITCH by Joseph Delaney

CURSE OF THE BANE by Joseph Delaney

NIGHT OF THE SOUL STEALER by Joseph Delaney

AMONG THE SHADOWS by L.M. Montgomery

ONLY LOVE CAN BREAK YOUR HEART by Ed Tarkington

AWFUL END by Philip Ardagh

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SNOW & ROSE by Emily Winfield Martin

BLOOD DRENCHED BEARD by Daniel Galera

THE GIRL WHO DRANK THE MOON by Kelly Barnhill

THE FIRST TIME SHE DROWNED by Kerry Kletter

THE DOLDRUMS AND THE HELMSLEY CURSE by Nicholas Gannon

LOVE AND FIRST SIGHT by Josh Sundquist

 

Reviews

ARC Review: THE KEY TO EVERY THING

36095357.jpgTitle: THE KEY TO EVERY THING
Author: Pat Schmatz
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Date Published: May 8, 2018
Format: Physical ARC
Pages: 208
ARC?: Yes, provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Genre: Middle grade- contemporary
Rep: Non-traditional families, parent in prison, Queer older adults.
Rating: 4/5

Goodreads Synopsis: 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.

I’m not going to lie, this was a pretty bleak middle grade.

When I started this, I thought it was going to be a lower middle grade read just due to the size and how young the narrator seemed. But the subject matter is definitely for upper middle grade readers… and as I said before, it’s pretty bleak.

The story starts off the day after Tash has had a fight with her best friend and elderly neighbor, Cap’n Jackie. While we later learn that Tash has abandonment issues and feels like she’s being abandon when her uncle and Cap’n Jackie encourage Tash to go to summer camp so her uncle (who is raising her while her father is in prison) can take a trip to New Zealand. Tash wants to stay with Cap’n Jackie and when that request is denied by Jackie herself, Tash throws a “rager” and throws the “magic key” Jackie gave her.

Once at camp, Tash makes friends and has a really great time. But she still holds a grudge and does not answer the letters Jackie sends her. When Kevin picks her up from camp and Tash tries to contact Jackie, they learn that Jackie broke her hip and was in rehab.

From that point on, the story just gets bleaker. Jackie is so mad that her deceased partner’s nephew had her taken to the hospital (Jackie is agoraphobic) that she stops talking or responding to anyone. She essentially gives up on life and even when Tash tries to apologize for her behavior, Jackie ignores her.

There’s not a happy ending in this book. However, I do think this would be a great book to give a child who may be going through a similar situation with an elderly grandparent, relative, family friend, or neighbor. Jackie does die in the end of this book, so if you’re child (or you) is sensitive to that sort of content, be cautious. I also think this is a great book to discuss how every action has consequences and maybe a good lesson about watching what you say, holding grudges, and how long you take to apologize.

 

676993Pat grew up in rural Wisconsin and has lived in Michigan, California, and Minnesota. In addition to writing, she’s interested in language study (ASL, Italian, Japanese and Spanish), drawing/cartooning, travel and anything outdoors. She occasionally teaches writing on-line and in person, and is always happy for a chance to visit a middle school or high school classroom. Her #1 favorite hobby, relaxation and adventure has been the same since she was little – stories. Stories in books, music, art, dance – it’s all about the story.