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.