Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Third Grade Mermaid by Peter Raymundo

Book Summary
Cora is a small mermaid with a BIG personality. But like so many mermaids in the third grade, she is struggling to truly be herself. 

She wants to be like the Singing Sirens, the most glamorous swim team in the sea. Unfortunately, an annoying road--er, seablock--keep getting in her way.

When Cora fails her spelling test, her coach says she can’t be on the team unless she gets an A on the next one!

Can Cora conquer her spelling test, make the swim team, AND stay true to herself at the same time?

Flo's Review
Happy book birthday to Third Grade Mermaid! This little book was simply adorable. The illustrations were a lot of fun and did a great job complementing the text. Cora has a boisterous personality, just as you might expect from a third grade mermaid. Hearing her tell the stories of her adventures are true to how any child might tell stories, but these are extra fun because they are all about life under the sea. What a magical little story! I can't wait to give this to my niece!

Thank you to Scholastic for providing me with an Advance Reader's Copy in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, January 30, 2017

The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

The Raven King (The Raven Cycle, #4)

 Jacque's Review

The Raven King is the fourth and final book in the Raven Cycle series.  As the search for Glendower continues, time is running out for most of the characters.  Cabeswater is losing its power, Ronan's dreams are getting darker, and Gansey's days are numbered.  

I felt like this book remained true to the series.  I'm sure every reader was hoping for a happily ever after, but that was never going to be the case.  Maggie did a remarkable job of giving readers most of what they hoped for without changing the course of fate.  

There is a new romance that developed that I never saw coming.  It would be interesting to go back at some point to see if there were clues in the previous novels that I missed.  There was also the introduction of a new character, Henry, and his magical RoboBee.  His presence added a new element of magic and explained some of the history of the "art collectors" coming to town, but it was a bit too convenient for me.  Maggie needed a way to track Gansey, so here is a new character with the ability to do so.

The ending was very chaotic and confusing.  How the magic worked to reach the end result was vaguely explained.  I also didn't feel like Blue and Gansey's relationship received the level of attention it deserved.  Ronan and his family history was exciting to read about and the interactions between Ronan and Adam were touching, but the two main characters were often ignored for secondary plot twists.

Overall, this was a unique and entertaining series with lovable characters I will not soon forget.  The pacing could have been a bit quicker, but I was satisfied with how the series concluded.  

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak

Book Summary
A dazzling debut novel—at once a charming romance and a moving coming-of-age story—about what happens when a fourteen-year old boy pretends to seduce a girl to steal a copy of Playboy but then discovers she is his computer-loving soulmate.

Billy Marvin’s first love was a computer. Then he met Mary Zelinsky.

Do you remember your first love?

The Impossible Fortress begins with a magazine…The year is 1987 and Playboy has just published scandalous photographs of Vanna White, from the popular TV game show Wheel of Fortune. For three teenage boys—Billy, Alf, and Clark—who are desperately uneducated in the ways of women, the magazine is somewhat of a Holy Grail: priceless beyond measure and impossible to attain. So, they hatch a plan to steal it.

The heist will be fraught with peril: a locked building, intrepid police officers, rusty fire escapes, leaps across rooftops, electronic alarm systems, and a hyperactive Shih Tzu named Arnold Schwarzenegger. Failed attempt after failed attempt leads them to a genius master plan—they’ll swipe the security code to Zelinsky’s convenience store by seducing the owner’s daughter, Mary Zelinsky. It becomes Billy’s mission to befriend her and get the information by any means necessary. But Mary isn’t your average teenage girl. She’s a computer loving, expert coder, already strides ahead of Billy in ability, with a wry sense of humor and a hidden, big heart. But what starts as a game to win Mary’s affection leaves Billy with a gut-wrenching choice: deceive the girl who may well be his first love or break a promise to his best friends.

At its heart, The Impossible Fortress is a tender exploration of young love, true friends, and the confusing realities of male adolescence—with a dash of old school computer programming.

Bonus content: Play the "The Impossible Fortress" video game at http://www.jasonrekulak.com/game/

Flo's Review
This absolutely had a Ready Player One feel to it. Which is great, because RPO is a great book. I was asked as I was reading this one if it's a YA (young adult) book. It's not. The main characters are teenagers, but I think that the teenagers today would not get the fun in about half the book. Because the fun was all in the throwback. One reviewer called The Impossible Fortress "a love letter to the 1980s" and I think that is a great description. All kinds of great pop culture and political references had me saying to myself, "Oh yeah! I remember that!" (And now that I have dated myself, let's move on with the review.)

The fun in it also comes from the fact that the boys are putting together this whole elaborate scheme to get a magazine. I really enjoyed the main trio for a few reasons. First -- they are all boys. So many books have done the "two boys and one girl" thing, and so many more books have done the four girls, so it was nice to have a unique set of protagonists. Rekulak also did a great job of establishing the deep bond between the boys. 

It was also great to see Billy start falling for Mary because of her brains and her personality. He was in awe of the fact that she was a better programmer than he was, and he wanted to spend more time with her. From there, he started noticing things he liked about her -- the way her hair smelled, etc. He didn't reject her because she was fat, so good job Billy! 

I was talking with one of the Simon publicists at the recent American Library Association Meeting and telling her about how I was currently reading the book. While I explained to her how it is a cute but predictable story she said, "There's actually a twist in there that I wasn't expecting." True story! Not a huge deal, but just a little reminder that things aren't always as they seem and you never know what another person is going through.

The Impossible Fortress had a happy and realistic ending. It does well as a standalone, because I feel that I left all the characters in a good place. This book comes out February 7th and if you are a child of the 80s,  a video game aficionado, or just looking for a cute, awkward love story, I'd recommend you pick it up. I'm going to go play the game now (what a cool perk! Props!!)

Thank you to Simon & Schuster for providing me with an advance reader's copy in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick

Book Summary
A collection of humorous autobiographical essays by the Academy Award-nominated actress and star of Up in the Air and Pitch Perfect.

Even before she made a name for herself on the silver screen starring in films like Pitch PerfectUp in the AirTwilight, and Into the Woods, Anna Kendrick was unusually small, weird, and “10 percent defiant.”

At the ripe age of thirteen, she had already resolved to “keep the crazy inside my head where it belonged. Forever. But here’s the thing about crazy: It. Wants. Out.” In Scrappy Little Nobody, she invites readers inside her brain, sharing extraordinary and charmingly ordinary stories with candor and winningly wry observations.

With her razor-sharp wit, Anna recounts the absurdities she’s experienced on her way to and from the heart of pop culture as only she can—from her unusual path to the performing arts (Vanilla Ice and baggy neon pants may have played a role) to her double life as a middle-school student who also starred on Broadway to her initial “dating experiments” (including only liking boys who didn’t like her back) to reviewing a binder full of butt doubles to her struggle to live like an adult woman instead of a perpetual “man-child.”

Enter Anna’s world and follow her rise from “scrappy little nobody” to somebody who dazzles on the stage, the screen, and now the page—with an electric, singular voice, at once familiar and surprising, sharp and sweet, funny and serious (well, not that serious).

Flo's Review
There's nothing better than an audiobook that is read by the author, so I was very excited to have the opportunity to listen to Scrappy Little Nobody. I don't follow Anna Kendrick on Twitter, but I've seen a few of her tweets as they've been retweeted here and there, so I was kind of familiar with her style of humor. This was a fun book. Anna is very down to earth - she sounds like the kind of gal you'd want to go to the bar with for happy hour and throw back a few $2 local brews. It was refreshing and eye-opening to hear her experiences with big fame events like the Oscars, press junkets, and Twilight

Some parts of her life were definitely glossed over, and I'm guessing that was intentional? For example, she was in New York and then suddenly she's in L.A. with no real explanation on how? And then toward the end, there is a whole section on party planning that just straight up felt like, "this book isn't long enough because you're really not that old and we need some filler material." Same with the story about Buccaneer Days. I understand the significance of the experience, but it seemed like a really long story for the little point she makes about it. But these are minor quips. Overall, I really enjoyed hearing about Anna's life and Anna's philosophy on her life. After reading this, I'll continue rooting for her to do awesome things, and maybe win the Oscar this time.

I definitely recommend doing the audio if you can. Anna is expressive when she talks, and I think hearing how she says things placed them differently in my mind that my own reading voice would have done.

Thank you to Simon & Schuster for sending me a copy of this audiobook in exchange for my honest review.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Happy New Year ! Happy New Books!

Welcome to 2017! We looking forward to lots of bookish fun here at Book Nerds Across America and can't wait for you to join in! Let's start the year with 3 books that will be published on Tuesday, January 3rd that we are looking forward to:

Almost Autumn by Marianne Kaurin

It's October 1942, in Oslo, Norway. Fifteen-year-old Ilse Stern is waiting to meet boy-next-door Hermann Rod for their first date. She was beginning to think he'd never ask her; she's had a crush on him for as long as she can remember. 

But Hermann won't be able to make it tonight. What Ilse doesn't know is that Hermann is secretly working in the Resistance, helping Norwegian Jews flee the country to escape the Nazis. The work is exhausting and unpredictable, full of late nights and code words and lies to Hermann's parents, to his boss... to Ilse. 

And as life under German occupation becomes even more difficult, particularly for Jewish families like the Sterns, the choices made become more important by the hour: To speak up or to look away? To stay or to flee? To act now or wait one more day?

In this internationally acclaimed debut, Marianne Kaurin recreates the atmosphere of secrecy and uncertainty in World War II Norway in a moving story of sorrow, chance, and first love.

The Book Jumper by Mechthild Glaser

Amy Lennox doesn't know quite what to expect when she and her mother pick up and leave Germany for Scotland, heading to her mother's childhood home of Lennox House on the island of Stormsay.

Amy's grandmother, Lady Mairead, insists that Amy must read while she resides at Lennox House—but not in the usual way. It turns out that Amy is a book jumper, able to leap into a story and interact with the world inside. As thrilling as Amy's new power is, it also brings danger—someone is stealing from the books she visits, and that person may be after her life. Teaming up with fellow book jumper Will, Amy vows to get to the bottom of the thefts—at whatever the cost.

Wayfarer by Alexandra Bracken

All Etta Spencer wanted was to make her violin debut when she was thrust into a treacherous world where the struggle for power could alter history. After losing the one thing that would have allowed her to protect the Timeline, and the one person worth fighting for, Etta awakens alone in an unknown place and time, exposed to the threat of the two groups who would rather see her dead than succeed. When help arrives, it comes from the last person Etta ever expected—Julian Ironwood, the Grand Master’s heir who has long been presumed dead, and whose dangerous alliance with a man from Etta’s past could put them both at risk.

Meanwhile, Nicholas and Sophia are racing through time in order to locate Etta and the missing astrolabe with Ironwood travelers hot on their trail. They cross paths with a mercenary-for-hire, a cheeky girl named Li Min who quickly develops a flirtation with Sophia. But as the three of them attempt to evade their pursuers, Nicholas soon realizes that one of his companions may have ulterior motives.

As Etta and Nicholas fight to make their way back to one another, from Imperial Russia to the Vatican catacombs, time is rapidly shifting and changing into something unrecognizable… and might just run out on both of them.

What January 2017 releases are you looking forward to? Let us know in the comments.