Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Audiobook review: Warcross by Marie Lu

Book Summary
For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. Needing to make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation.

Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire.

Here's my reppin'' with my Warcross shirt!
Flo's Review
Ooooh man! I finished this audiobook right before I arrived home, and I immediately wanted to sit down and write this review while everything was still churning in my mind. It's now a few hours later (domestic duties called), but I'm pretty much still reeling.

I am the reader who never gets the twist and is always surprised. So I was completely floored with the last few chapters of this book. I was listening to it on audio, so I kept saying to my CD player, "What?!?! Wait a minute!!! What?!?!" 

But the ending wasn't the only engaging part of this story. Warcross started strong and kept the momentum throughout. There was never a lag or a dull point at any part in the story. The world building in this book is incredible! Marie Lu put so much imagination into creating a world where anyone can create worlds. That is the thing about this novel -- it seems so fantastical, but also so realistic at the very same time. The bridges, the steps that it would take to get from our world to the world of Warcross do not seem very far at all. But seriously. I loved seeing Tokyo through the neurolink lenses. I loved the idea that you can save your memories and enter into them -- and that you can bring other people into them with you. I was intrigued with the way that Hideo communicated with Emika by pulling up a screen and showing her things, instead of just describing them with words.

There were a few circumstances that made me go, "Really though?" Emika kept bailing on her teammates and the scene would shift before we, the reader, got to see anything else about it. 

Hideo is such a complex character. Emika makes a comment at the end of the book about how she is still trying to figure him out -- and I am, too! I have some more to say about that and about Sasuke (and Tremaine), but I will do it under a spoiler tag on my Goodreads review, so as not to spoil the book here for anyone who hasn't read it. Side note: I definitely would have been pronouncing Sasuke wrong if it wasn't for the audiobook. The reader, Nancy Yu, read it as SAS-EW-KAY.

Nancy Yu did a great job narrating this audiobook. I felt all of Emika's emotions as she was reading them -- the drive, the nerves, the anger, the disbelief, and everything else on the spectrum. 

I've had several people tell me how good this book is, and I have to agree. I am eagerly awaiting the second installment and will be adding this book to the top of my Recommend Reads list.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Book review: Paris for One & Other Stories by Jojo Moyes

Book Summary
From the #1 "New York Times" bestselling author of "Me Before You" and "After You," a sensational collection featuring the title novella and eight other stories. Quintessential Jojo Moyes, "Paris for One and Other Stories" is an irresistibly romantic collection filled with humor and heart. 

Nell is twenty-six and has never been to Paris. She's never even been on a romantic weekend away to anywhere before. Everyone knows travelling abroad isn't really her thing. But when Nell's boyfriend fails to show up for their romantic mini-vacation, she has the opportunity to prove everyone including herself wrong. Alone and in Paris, Nell uncovers a version of herself she never knew existed: independent and intrepid. Could this turn out to be the most adventurous weekend of her life? Funny, charming, and irresistible, "Paris for One"is vintage Moyes as are the other stories that round out the collection."

Paris for One
Between the Tweets
Love in the Afternoon
A Bird in the Hand
Crocodile Shoes
Holdups
Last Year's Coat
Thirteen Days with John C.
The Christmas List

Flo's Review
I love to travel. So I was absolutely delighted by the idea of a weekend jaunt to Paris. (Oh, to live in Europe and be able to do that!! But I digress...) As always happens when I read about Paris, I fell in love a little more with the city as I read about it. Moyes descriptions feel alive: Paris is living, breathing, feeling. In a Q&A at the end of the book, JoJo Moyes talks about living there and visiting every few months, and her knowledge of the area shines through in her prose.

Nell was a hard character to relate to at first because she is so timid, structured, and reserved. But it was a delight seeing her come out of her shell as she experienced everything. Her personality made the situations seem all the more risyk and adventurous, which read more powerfully. It was fun rooting for her at the end of the story, as you hoped she would do what you wanted her do, and as everything transpired.

I really enjoyed the Q&A at the end, because it gave me some insight into the short story process for Moyes. She explained how each one took her about a month and how each one had some kind of twist. Also, Moyes talked about how writing short stories is harder for her than novels because you have less time to convey a lot of information; thus, every word counts especially. And though the stories all had similar themes, that wasn't planned. Finally, Moyes said this about travel:

"...it's the one thing that allows you step outside your own life. I have the clearest view of may own life when I'm thousands of miles away from it. In certain circumstances, people can always be someone else, too, freed from the constraints of what everyone around you already knows about you."

The short stories were nice, because I could read one really quickly here and there. The aforementioned general theme around the collection was women who had been married awhile and were dissatisfied in their relationships. While I understand that this is inevitable, this was not the best collection of stories for me to read as a newlywed. It was story after story of women who were unhappy with what their lives had become. I'm still in "just married" bliss and want to foolishly believe as long as I can that my entire life will be one "happily ever after." This is saying nothing negative about the stories, but is a reason I tend to fantasy, dsytopian, sci-fi, etc. stories as much as I do: they are more escape than reality.

The twists in all the stories were very creative. The end of Between the Tweets had me going, "Oh my gosh!" Last Year's Coat had a reference to "a resurrected boy band last popular fifteen years ago," which, as a hardcore New Kids on the Block fan, I loved. In Holdups, the main character says, "I realized pretty quickly I couldn't marry a man without a bookshelf," which is my #truth.

My favorite of the short stories was Crocodile Shoes. It reminded me of a song I love, "Red High Heels" by Kellie Pickler. The feeling of putting on a pair of shoes that make you feel more powerful is one I can definitely relate to.

I had fun with Paris for One & Other Stories, and I think that you will as well.


Thank you to Penguin Books for sending me a copy in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Throwback Thursday: Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

Top: My original version, published in 1981.
Bottom: The new Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition, published November 2017.

I love Anne of Green Gables. It's such a sweet story, full of light, fun, and the feeling of home. I remember reading it as a child and soaking it up. I remember watching the original movies and loving them, too. And, more recently, I have been enjoying the Netflix version, Anne With an E.

So when I discovered that Penguin Classics was publishing a new edition, I was pretty excited. And with good reason! Look how adorable this is:
I love the bright colors, the drawings, and all the quotes. This cover truly captures the essence of Anne Shirley.

The new edition includes: a foreword by the New York Times bestselling author J. Courtney Sullivan (Maine, Commencement, The Engagements) and an introduction by L.M. Montgomery scholar Benjamin Lefebvre. This new publication also features reviews and a selection of early writing by Montgomery about the process of creating the book, along with stunning cover art by Siobhán Gallagher, whose artwork has been featured in US Weekly, Lenny Letter, Bustle, and more.

I love this new edition and am so glad to have it. If you want to have your own #throwbackthursday, be transported back to your childhood, or discover this great story for the first time, I encourage you to open up this book and take a journey to Green Gables.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Book Excerpt: Before I Let Go by Marieke Nijkamp

Book Summary
Best friends Corey and Kyra were inseparable in their snow-covered town of Lost Creek, Alaska. When Corey moves away, she makes Kyra promise to stay strong during the long, dark winter, and wait for her return.

Just days before Corey is to return home to visit, Kyra dies. Corey is devastated―and confused. The entire Lost community speaks in hushed tones about the town's lost daughter, saying her death was meant to be. And they push Corey away like she's a stranger.

Corey knows something is wrong. With every hour, her suspicion grows. Lost is keeping secrets―chilling secrets. But piecing together the truth about what happened to her best friend may prove as difficult as lighting the sky in an Alaskan winter...
 

About the Book












Book Excerpt
I open the door and jump out of the plane as soon as we land on the narrow strip. The concrete shocks my knees and I stretch in the freezing cold air. I expect to find Mr. Henderson’s 4x4 waiting for me, or Sheriff Flynn, maybe. Instead, a lone figure stands against the rising sun. With the light at her back, I can only see her silhouette—-a tall, gangly figure whose long hair dances in the wind. She raises a hesitant hand.
My heart skips a beat. Kyra. Without thinking, I start toward her, her name on the tip of my tongue.
Then the light clears. Her nose is smaller. Her hair lighter.
And the shout of recognition dies in my throat.
Piper Morden.
Not Kyra.
I forgot. Now I ache to forget again.
Behind me, the pilot disembarks. He grabs my backpack and hands it to me. “Your return flight is booked. Be here on time. See you in five days.”
So little time, but it has to be enough. “I’ll make sure of it. Thank you.”
The man hesitates, then says, “Be careful in Lost Creek. Not everything is as it seems here.”

Read the rest of the excerpt after the page break:

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Book Review and Trailer: Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Book Summary
Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.

With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.

Flo's Review
5 out of 5 Double Stuff Oreos for this book! I was seriously thinking to myself, "Awww!" pretty much the entire time I was reading this. It is adorable. Becky is adorable, and Simon is adorable, and Blue is adorable, and this book is adorable. I just love it so much! I am left with all the warm fuzzies after reading this one. (As you can tell. I just finished it today and so far instead of giving a "review" of it, I've just been gushing. Let me try to say something other than, "I loved it so much!!" But I did, though. Love it so much.)

Who is Blue?!? For a good chunk of the second half, I was literally suspecting every single person mentioned. Lol. I was happily surprised with how it all turned out. 
Of course this book is adorable, because Becky is adorable!
One thing I really liked about this book was the role of Simon's family. In that, they were main characters. They weren't background, secondary, or just around in the beginning or when Simon was at home. They were an integral part of the story and of how Simon acted and reacted to things. Which is real. So real. I love it! 

This story takes place in Atlanta, which was fun for me because that's a city that I have spent a lot of time in and know well. So the roads and places mentioned were familiar and therefore easy to picture.

I listened to this one on audiobook, and the narrator was fantastic. He sounded exactly like I would imagine a 17-year-old boy sounding. He sounded exactly like I would imagine Simon sounding. I made sure to finish listening to it today because the audiobook was due back to the library -- but little did I know that today was also the day that the first trailer for the movie based on the book was revealed.

Love, Simon comes out on March 16, 2018 and here is the trailer that was released today:


Thursday, November 23, 2017

Book review: Dear Martin by Nic Stone

Book Summary
Raw, captivating, and undeniably real, Nic Stone joins industry giants Jason Reynolds and Walter Dean Myers as she boldly tackles American race relations in this stunning debut.

Justyce McAllister is top of his class and set for the Ivy League—but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. And despite leaving his rough neighborhood behind, he can't escape the scorn of his former peers or the ridicule of his new classmates.

Justyce looks to the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for answers. But do they hold up anymore? He starts a journal to Dr. King to find out.

Then comes the day Justyce goes driving with his best friend, Manny, windows rolled down, music turned up—way up, sparking the fury of a white off-duty cop beside them. Words fly. Shots are fired. Justyce and Manny are caught in the crosshairs. In the media fallout, it's Justyce who is under attack.


Me and the completely lovely author, Nic Stone
Flo's Review
Now this is a book that I would definitely recommend to a reluctant reader. The chapters are short and the writing is straight and to-the-point. It reads so easily, you can reach the end of it and not even realize that you actually just did read a full book.

I had the pleasure of meeting Nic Stone at YALLFEST, and I read this one in various lines throughout the day. All day I had people asking me about it, because they'd heard about it and wanted to read it. I enthusiastically recommended it to all of them, and I will enthusiastically recommend it to all of you.

There was so much #truth laid out in this one, in a clear, simple, and direct way. It takes a complicated topic and explores it deeply, but not in a way that bogs the reader down. It encourages the reader to think about how he or she would react in a situation and what his or her opinions on different topics are, but it doesn't do it in a way that feels like a college lecture class.

I found myself underlining and highlighting several passages in the book. 

Justyce was open, honest, and relatable. He felt like someone you could just hang out with and play video games (if that's your thing) or just chill and chat somewhere. SJ is my favorite. She is awesome and just very real. Not pretty and perfect, but she is a woman who has beliefs and convictions and practices what she preaches. 

The end of Part One of the book completely took me by surprise! I was so not expecting that, and did the reading double-take, where you go back and re-read the last few sentences like, "Wait...did that just happen....? Does this mean....?"

In conclusion, go read this book! It's a powerful one, and I'm so glad I read it. 

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Audiobook review: There's Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins

Book Summary
Love hurts...

Makani Young thought she'd left her dark past behind her in Hawaii, settling in with her grandmother in landlocked Nebraska. She's found new friends and has even started to fall for mysterious outsider Ollie Larsson. But her past isn't far behind.

Then, one by one, the students of Osborne Hugh begin to die in a series of gruesome murders, each with increasingly grotesque flair. As the terror grows closer and her feelings for Ollie intensify, Makani is forced to confront her own dark secrets.

Flo's Review
This is going to be an interesting review to write, because my thoughts on this book are not completely in line with each other. I think the headline is that I liked it, and it's a good book, but I didn't love it only because it's not really a genre I usually and thoroughly enjoy? It was clever and I had fun talking about it with my friends, but I definitely didn't love it.

Let's start with the romance. Makani and Ollie are perfect for each other. Both are broken, but they are similarly broken; and their cracked and hollow spaces are filled by each other. Stephanie reassured her readers that this was still a Stephanie Perkins book, with all the romance involved, and she was right. Ollie is no Etienne St. Clair, but let's be honest -- no one can compare to Etienne St. Clair. (Rhyme on purpose.)

The mystery was laid out in a interesting way. I don't want to spoil it, but Stephanie set it up the plot line uniquely, and I respect that. It worked. It definitely threw me off and had me questioning. Actually, she did that twice. You go, girl!

It's weird, even though it starts off with the action right away, I still felt like it took awhile for me to get into. I felt like there was such a gap between the first and second murders. I understand that you needed some context and story building ... but maybe because I was listening to this on audio, it felt like that part went on a little long.

Makani has a secret of her own in this book. When I finally learned what it was, it felt a little....anticlimactic. But literally as I am typing, I am realizing that it's supposed to be that way. The whole 'how you see yourself versus how other people see you' thing, and the ensuing character growth for Makani.

So...yeah. I probably wasn't going to read this one on my own, so I am happy that I listened to it with friends while road tripping to YALLFEST. If mysteries are your thing, you should definitely give this one a read. 


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Audiobook review: Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore

Book Summary
If you could change your story, would you?

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.
 

Flo's Review
Though I have never read the Graceling books, I was very excited to get my hands on a copy of the Jane, Unlimited audiobook. Even better, it's read by one of my favorite narrators, Rebecca Soler. And the concept is really, really cool -- it's sort of like a 'Choose Your Own Adventure,' except you get to experience all the options, and each option is a different genre.

The thing is...I didn't end of up loving this as much as I thought I would. I know I am like an old track on repeat as far as my feelings on connecting with characters, but on the off chance you haven't heard this hitch of mine before: in order to enjoy a book, I find that I have to like at least one character. It doesn't have to be the main character. But I've got to be rooting for somebody. Here, I was not. I found Jane to be extremely annoying. She reminded me of Thomas in The Maze Runner. I didn't enjoy that book as much as many others did because I didn't like Thomas. He and Jane have similar personalities -- they come in from the outside and then just ask demanding questions of everyone already established in the situation. And then Jane would be rude, snarky, and short with her answers whenever someone asked her something. She seemed to form quick opinions of people that were often non-flattering, and then she reacted to those people based on how she felt about them. It felt to me that she didn't really respect the others in the house, outside of Kiran, Ravi, and Ivy.

Ivy is a good transition to the next thing that left me feeling disconnected from this book. I felt there were several storylines that weren't covered in enough detail or simply left hanging. (A conversation about this book with one of my bookish friends brought to light that she felt similarly.) I know you can end a book leaving a lot to the reader's imagination of how the story should continue and end, but in some instances here it just felt unfinished. 

The five different genres in the book were Mystery, Spy Thriller, Horror/Gothic, Science Fiction, and Fantasy. I'm giving Jane a pass for asking too many questions and being annoying in the Mystery story because I received an accompanying reading guide for the story that discusses each genre. For Mystery, it notes, "Protagonist discovers a mission to uncover the truth." So, overall, the Mystery wasn't bad. It gave us information and moved the story forward. The Spy Thriller was next, and that one filled in the gaps. Honestly, I felt like the story was essentially completed with those two. 

Next up was Horror/Gothic, and I just didn't like that one. This is probably because I don't read this genre. But I also felt it didn't really connect much with the storyline and nothing really happened. I was happy to move on the Science Fiction. Surprisingly, the Sci-Fi was probably my favorite. I wish we had gotten more of it! I would have liked to see other dimensions, and/or more inside the dimension Jane visited. However, I also felt like this one didn't advance or contribute to the storyline in any way. Finally, the Fantasy. This one tied everything together and brought the story to a satisfying conclusion, actually.

But back to the narration. I love Rebecca Soler and will pretty much listen to anything she reads. However, I think her reading of this story might have contributed to my not enjoying it as much as I thought I would. Her read of Jane was often irritable and snippy, and so was how she portrayed Mrs. Vanders. Kiran came off sounding like an airhead. I felt like listening to a conversation between Jane and Mrs. Vanders was just one big fight, and it was exhausting.

Jane, Unlimited was such a creative and unique story, read by one of my favorite narrators. I think a lot of my dissatisfaction came from personal preferences and dislikes, so overall, I would recommend that if you are interested, you give me a try. 

If you have read it, what was your favorite genre?

Friday, November 17, 2017

Unboxing video: Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

I did it! I attempted to join the world of vlogging. Here is my very first, very awkward video -- an unboxing of the book Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi. Thank you so much to Macmillan for sending it along. Without further ado....(and remember, be gentle....)

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Book review: The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

Book Summary
Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men.

But as Monty embarks on his Grand Tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy.


Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, he vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.



Flo's Review:

I'd been itching to read this one since I first heard about it. Interestingly enough, I was able to pick this up from the library at the same time I got I See London, I See France, so I read two books about traveling around Europe back to back.

It's taken me a few days to write my review, because I'm not exactly sure how I felt about it. I always have trouble with books where I don't like the narrator or MC. Monty is a character, for sure, but the first part of the book just felt like a lot of, "And here's a scene with Monty being ridiculous. Followed by another scene with Monty being ridiculous. Then, Monty will continue being ridiculous." By the time I got to the scene about the party where Monty went full monty, I was kind of over him. I continued reading, but not so closely. It was more like a skim.

The thing that kept me going on with the story was Percy. Ohhh Percy! I adore that boy and see why Monty does. Felicity also kicked @$$. As the story went on, we got to see more of Monty's past and understand the burdens he's living with that make him the way he is. And it was nice to see his character growth. 

Jacque's Review:


I started out reading the book, but I got busy and the library snatched my ebook. I switched to the audio version about 1/3 of the way through because it was available, so this is a combined book/audio review.
 
The description of this book was very catchy from the start.  1700's historical fiction, England, Paris, reckless rich boys...  In fact, I really enjoyed the concept along with the characters and their travels.  I loved listening to Monty's accent, the vocabulary, and reliving their lack of innovation.  I also enjoyed hearing about some of the places I have visited in Paris, such as Versailles when it was at its finest and still the home of the royal family.  
 
On the other hand, I felt like this book would never end.  If some of the nonsense Flo mentioned above was removed and the important elements were condensed, the story would have been far more entertaining.  I also felt like some of the major plot points were a bit far fetched towards the end, which contributed to the dragging feeling.
 
Overall - I ended up giving it 3 out of 5 stars.  It was better than okay, but it never captivated my attention.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Book review: The Silver Mask by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

Book Summary
A generation ago, Constantine Madden came close to achieving what no magician had ever achieved: the ability to bring back the dead. He didn't succeed . . . but he did find a way to keep himself alive, inside a young child named Callum Hunt. Now Call is one of the most feared and reviled students in the history of the Magisterium, thought to be responsible for a devastating death and an ever-present threat of war. As a result, Call has been imprisoned and interrogated. Everyone wants to know what Constantine was up to-and how he lives on. But Call has no idea. It is only when he's broken out of prison that the full potential of Constantine's plan is suddenly in his hands . . . and he must decide what to do with his power. In this spellbinding fourth book of Magisterium, bestselling authors Holly Black and Cassandra Clare take us beyond the realm of the living and into the dangers of the dead.

Flo's Review
So, true to Holly Black and Cassie Clare style, the Magisterium book #3 left us with a devastating ending. Book 4 starts us about 6 months after the events at the end of the last book. Call is still gauging his thoughts and actions based on if they will put him in the Evil Overlord category  Unfortunately, there may be more mages who believe him to be an Evil Overlord than who do not. 

Romance starts to brew and it's middle grade romance, so it's just cute. I think it might largely be based on the circumstances the two characters find themselves in, but it was a fun way to bring some levity into what could be a pretty heavy story. Speaking of levity -- Jasper for the win! I laughed every time he complained to Call about Celia, but I also found myself surprisingly touched (as Call was) by a confession that he makes in the book.                                    

The comparisons of this series to Harry Potter are inevitable, and I feel this book is akin to The Order of the Phoenix.  Phoenix, to me, is when I felt things started to get really dark really fast, and Master Joseph and Alex Strike took it to that level here. 

Of course, I have to discuss the ending. (Of course, I will do so in a spoiler-free way.) So, there was something good followed by something really, really bad. I think the next book will be the last book in the series, so it will hopefully answer the unanswered questions that Call pondered about himself, his abilities, Constantine Madden's actions, chaos magic, and more in this book. The dynamic between the characters has changed again, so I wonder what that will mean for the romance. I do hope it's addressed.

I listened to this one on audiobook and absolutely loved it! I popped it into my CD player after a bad experience with another audiobook, and it was exactly what I needed. The reader did a great job of reading well the pacing that kept the story moving. I never felt stuck in the plot. And it went by so fast! The only thing that threw me -- and this is a little thing -- is the way he pronounced Callum's name. I have been reading it as Cal, rhyming with Al. But he read it as Call, pronounced like "phone call." Who knew?! But overall, if you like audiobooks and you like this series, then The Silver Mask audiobook is the way to go.

Thank you to Books on Tape for sending me a copy of this audiobook in exchange for my honest review.

Our other reviews of the Magisterium series:

The Iron Trial: http://www.booknerdsacrossamerica.com/2015/02/the-iron-trial-by-cassandra-clare-and.html

The Bronze Keyhttp://www.booknerdsacrossamerica.com/2016/10/the-bronze-key-by-holly-black-and.html

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

Book Summary
Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis.

Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.

Flo's Review
Well, I just flew through that one! But, I mean, it's a John Green book, so not surprising. Actually, it did take a little bit to get into at first. I'd forgotten about John Green's style of writing, where you are intimately learning the characters more so than following an action-packed plot. But there was so much to love about Turtles. I'll probably be more articulate if I go with list form, so here we go:

1. The portrayal of mental illness: This is something I cannot relate with, but while reading this book I could understand how it happened for Aza. John Green did such a good job going into her mind, that I could clearly understand how the thought spirals worked and how she ended up where she was every time. It will be interesting to see if they try to make a movie out of this one, though, because so much of it takes place in Aza's thoughts. I'm not sure how that would translate on-screen.

2. It reminded me of The Fault in Our Stars: It did. Davis and Aza are both introspective characters, like Augustus and Hazel. Both couples are broken individuals who find their way to each other and are learning how to be broken together. The dynamics of how the two couples found each other aren't similar, but at the same time they are. I absolutely see this as its own distinct story, but it did remind me of Fault, and I was okay with that. It gave me a similar feeling.

3. The ending: I'll be spoiler free, but I will say that the ending wasn't necessarily happy or sad. It was just real. It was just life. At the end of the period, everything does not tie up with a perfect bow and all the loose ends cut off. Because people go on living, continue with all the parts of their lives. And that's how this ended. The story "ended," but it didn't close. It became part of the continuing life of the characters. Some might have even found it anti-climactic, but I liked the realness and the honesty of it.

4. Daisy: What did you guys think about Daisy? I'm trying to decide. I didn't necessarily like her? I see how she is a good friend for Aza, because she is "out there" and Aza is internal. So she makes sense. But nothing really attracted me to her character. I guess in order for the story to start, though, you needed an impetus, and Aza wasn't in a place where it could have been her. So it had to be Daisy. Like I said, I understand Daisy's role in the plot, but I just wasn't enamored by her character. Thoughts??

Overall, Turtles is another signature John Green masterpiece and I enjoyed reading it. 

Book review: Across Oceans by Kelsey Gietl

Book Summary
Tragedy, unrelenting guilt, and hostile hallucinations of his dearly departed sister — that’s just typical life for Reuben Radford. 

That is until one atypical May Day. In the most unlikely of places — the cemetery of their quiet Hampshire town — Reuben meets Maggie Archer. Quirky and spontaneous, she’s like no other woman he’s ever met. By the time they part ways, in a promise not to meet again for a year, he knows she could be the love of his life.

There’s just one problem. Reuben and Maggie’s families have left them both with enough emotional baggage to fill a steamship. 

Not to mention one other little complication. Reuben has a secret. It’s not pleasant. It’s not pretty. And it’s one he’s determined to keep buried at all costs.

But if there’s one word to describe Maggie, it’s headstrong. Once she resolves to uncover the truth, she’ll stop at nothing to find it. After all, what does she have to lose? Unlike Reuben, Maggie never believed in love.

Spanning five years of England's Edwardian era, Across Oceans is the captivating story of first love, lost innocence, and the unexpected moments that change everything.

Flo's Review
Across Oceans tells the love story of Reuben Radford and Maggie Archer. It will be a delight for those who love historical fiction. I actually really enjoyed reading the Author's Note at the end of the book as she talked a bit about what was real, what was made up, and the inspiration behind the story.

I also enjoyed reading about everything surrounding the May Day festivities in a couple of the towns where this story took place. And when I first saw the name of a well-known ship mentioned, my heart started pounding faster as I debated the implications of what this could mean for the story.

Reuben and Maggie both have issues. It's understandable, based on the hand that life has dealt them both, but if I got a penny for every time I was screaming in my head for Maggie to be reasonable and for Reuben to not go down a dark path in his thoughts, I would have no voice. The banter between Maggie and Reuben was mostly fun, though when they tended to have the same conversation over and over (as commitment-phones might do), I rolled my eyes and was ready to move on.

I adored Tena and Charles! They are adorable both individually and together. They are perfect best friends for Maggie and Reuben, and they are perfect for each other. They did a great job of being foils for the main characters -- while Maggie worried about being trapped in marriage, Tena embraced it without hesitation. While Reuben worried that people would think him crazy if they knew his secrets, Charles wanted to be open about his relationship with Tena and never turned his back on Reuben. 

The story ended not so much on a cliffhanger, but on a question. Same effect though. I'm all kinds of curious about the answer to the question left in the air. 

Thank you to the author for providing me a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Book review: Kindred Spirits by Rainbow Rowell

Book Summary
'Everybody likes everything these days. The whole world is a nerd.'
'Are you mad because other people like Star Wars? Are you mad because people like me like Star Wars?' 
'Maybe.' 

If you broke Elena's heart, Star Wars would spill out. So when she decides to queue outside her local cinema to see the new movie, she's expecting a celebration with crowds of people who love Han, Luke and Leia just as much as she does. What she's not expecting is to be last in a line of only three people; to have to pee into a collectible Star Wars soda cup behind a dumpster or to meet that unlikely someone who just might truly understand the way she feels. Kindred Spirits is an engaging short story by Rainbow Rowell, author of the bestselling Eleanor & Park, Fangirl and Carry On, and is part of a handful of selected short reads specially produced for World Book Day.

Flo's Review
I've been reading this 96 page book for months. That's because it was my purse book. Do you have one of those, ladies? The wise Lemony Snicket once said, "Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them." You never know when you're going to end up in a situation where you have much more time to kill than you planned. I always try to have a book. In a larger purse, most regular sized books will fit. But in my small crossbody bags, I had to carry something tiny. Enter Kindred Spirits!

This was such a cute little story, and I've been reading it at the right time. As you might have recently seen on the blog, I'm going through a phase of reading books about finding love at cons. This is not exactly that story, but it's pretty close. Elena and Gabe were fun to read. And so was Troy! I understood the nerdiness, the idea of fun that comes with camping out, the having to pee when you're sleeping outside in a line...I've been there. This book might me smile and nod and laugh. It won't take most of you several months to read -- in fact, it might only take you several hours, if that. So I definitely recommend you give yourself the slight detour of your current read and take this one in.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Book review: In Real Life by Cory Doctorow & Jen Wang

Book Summary
Anda loves Coarsegold Online, the massively-multiplayer role-playing game where she spends most of her free time. It's a place where she can be a leader, a fighter, a hero. It's a place where she can meet people from all over the world, and make friends. 

But things become a lot more complicated when Anda befriends a gold farmer--a poor Chinese kid whose avatar in the game illegally collects valuable objects and then sells them to players from developed countries with money to burn. This behavior is strictly against the rules in Coarsegold, but Anda soon comes to realize that questions of right and wrong are a lot less straightforward when a real person's real livelihood is at stake. 

From acclaimed teen author (Little BrotherFor the Win) and Boing Boing editor Cory Doctorow and Koko Be Good creator Jen Wang, In Real Life is a perceptive and high-stakes look at adolescence, gaming, poverty, and culture clash.

Flo's Review
I've been meaning to get a chance to read one of the great YA Comics offerings from First Second Books, so I was glad when I remembered to stash In Real Life in my purse before going off to the hair dresser today.

In Real Life starts off with an introduction that is pretty intense. I was thinking, "Wow, this is heavy right off," but I came to appreciate it. For one, it gave me the reader necessary background to the story I was about to read. I would have still understood and enjoyed the story without it, but it definitely helped. Secondly, it set the tone for the comic. This is not just a light picture story. This is a deep narrative that does a good job of social commentary of our modern time, and it shows that everything is not always just what meets the eye.

Jen Wang's drawings are bright, happy, and engaging.

Many years ago, I did some research into Second Life for an article I was writing. I set myself up in the world with an avatar and tried to navigate around. I was completely floored by everything I saw in there and by what I learned. The idea that things that were happening in virtual reality could actually impact my real reality was mind boggling. I couldn't believe it when I learned that real money was exchanged between Second Lifers -- and more. Admittedly, I have not kept up with Second Life since then, so I have no idea what it looks like or how it operates in 2017.

Because of my experience with Second Life, I could sort of understand Anda's introduction to the world of Coarsegold Online. But this story was also completely completely unique, and I enjoyed the exploration of economy, gaming, girl power, identity, growth, and more that this graphic novel showed me.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Audiobook review: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

the hate u give, Angie Thomas

Book Summary
Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil's name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

Flo's Review
I was lucky enough to get an ARC of this and have it signed at YALLFEST back in 2016. I made sure to choose it from the HarperTeen table because I heard it was the "Black Lives Matter" book and I was intrigued.

I then sat on it for almost a year.

But I have been seeing it sitting pretty on the New York Times Bestseller list for weeks now. When I discovered that my local library had an audiobook copy on CD, I jumped on it.

My Goodreads post after finishing? "Officially my favorite book of 2017." There was so much to love about this book:

1. I laughed: I was seriously laughing out loud at "breadcrumbs"! And Starr's reactions to parents at several points is great, as are her interactions with her brothers.

2. I cried: So much though! This was interesting to listen to on audiobook, because I spent so much of it legit crying. I've basically been driving around town crying for the past few weeks. The movie is going to destroy me.

3. I related: Was my upbringing like Starr's? It wasn't. But there were definitely some things she felt and was going through that I totally went through myself. She would describe a situation and I thought, "Preach!" They were things I felt and was going through in high school and my teenage self would have really liked to read this book at that time.

4. I learned: There were some good history tidbits and things I didn't know that Maverick and Starr educated me on. 

5. I want to recommend it: As I was listening to it, I was already thinking of a friend of mine that I'm going to recommend it to. (Not a YA reader at that!) 

In conclusion: I'm going to recommend it to YOU! Go read this book! Don't wait, like I did!