Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Book Review: Hollow City by Ransom Riggs

Hollow City (Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children, #2)

Goodreads Overview:

This second novel begins in 1940, immediately after the first book ended. Having escaped Miss Peregrine’s island by the skin of their teeth, Jacob and his new friends must journey to London, the peculiar capital of the world. Along the way, they encounter new allies, a menagerie of peculiar animals, and other unexpected surprises.

Jacque's Review:

This is such a unique series that I hardly know where to begin.  The story is written around a number of vintage photographs the author has acquired from various sources.  For example, we are introduced to a number of new peculiars in this novel such as the one on the cover of this book.  How else could someone explain a photo of a girl with a hole in her torso that appears to be completely healthy?  She is most definitely "peculiar".  All of the peculiars have unusual abilities that did not meld well into society, so they have been living in "loops" where they live out one day over and over again and never age. 

There are evil creatures known as hollows and wights who have been raiding the loops and taking their caregivers known as ymbryne, such as Miss. Peregrine.  In order to save their peculiar world they must first rescue their ymbryne.  

The majority of this novel is spent traveling through WWII bombings in 1940 and escaping the constant chase of hollows and wights.  The children travel from their island off the coast of England to London and beyond in order to help Miss. Peregrine, who was injured during the raid at the end of book 1.  They meet not only peculiar people, but also animals along the way who assist them with their quest.  The cleverness of Ransom Riggs is remarkable as he weaves a tale with unusual abilities around photographs that would otherwise be inexplicable.

The constant chase was exhausting for the children and it felt like an end was never in sight the majority of the book.  Jacob is beginning to come to the realization that he may have already accomplished what he set out to do and should return to the safety of his home in present day America, when he is thrown an unbelievable twist.  (Of course there had to be a twist...we already know there are two more books in the series.)  Now I can hardly wait to read the next book, Library of Souls, to see what happens next.  I already picked up a copy when I was at BEA in 2016 and spent the better part of two days trying to catch up with Ransom to get it signed, which I was able to accomplish on the final day.

If you enjoy YA fantasy, I would recommend giving this series a try.  On a side note...I read a physical copy of the first book and an ebook copy of the second.  It is worth getting the hard copy because the pictures are larger and can be viewed in better detail.  I tried increasing the font size on my kindle to see a larger copy of some of the pictures, but it only increased the font size and not the size of the photos.  I will definitely read the physical copies of the remaining books in this series.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Miami Book Fair 2018 Preview: Ally Connie and Brendan Reichs, The Darkdeep

It's pretty much November, which means we are almost up to one of my absolute favorite events of the year -- Miami Book Fair! The Fair goes from November 11th to the 18th this year, but you can bet I'm already getting ready for it. As a lead up, I'll be doing a few preview posts where I share a review of a book by an author that will be presenting at the Fair. So let's get started! 

First up, is Ally Connie and Brendan Reichs, who will be discussing their new book The Darkdeep

Flo's Review
What a creative story! I don't want to give away details, but so many elements are so unique and quirky. I can definitely see a kid exclaiming, "Cool!" as he experiences some of the supernatural things in the story. But there's also so much more to the Darkdeep than I think we learned in this first book. I was impressed and intrigued with the back story and I am so curious to learn more about its history. 

The Darkdeep also does so well with character relationships and development. Everyone has that super enthusiastic friend like Emma. Tyler's comments made me laugh at several points in the story, because, dude, Tyler is me! He reacted to the Darkdeep probably how I would react. But he will drop everything for Emma and that is just adorable and I love it. I also thought the relationship between Opal and Nico was well done, especially for a middle grade novel. It's true to the age group, but there's definitely more to it that I hope will be uncovered in future Darkdeep novels. I can't say too much about Logan's character arc and remain spoiler-free, but I appreciate his journey and contribution.

If you're looking for a creative, easy-to-read middle grade novel, I'd recommend you check this out. But I have to know....what's the thing in the jar??!?

Ally and Brendan at the Fair
The Plot Thickens: Secret Adventure Stories
Sunday, November 18 at 3:00 p.m.
Wemby Wordsmith's Storytorium (in Upper Plaza of Children's Alley)
300 NE Second Avenue, Miami, Florida 33132

In this rollicking adventure by comics sensation Molly Brooks, Sanity & Tallulah must save their space station from a science experiment gone wrong before it’s too late. Ally Condie & Brendan Reichs will have your pulse racing with The Darkdeep, home to something ancient that can detect your brightest wishes and your darkest secrets.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Book Review: Take the Key and Lock Her Up by Ally Carter

Take the Key and Lock Her Up (Embassy Row, #3)

Goodreads Overview:

Centuries ago, the royal family of Adria was killed…or so everyone thought.

Now Grace Blakely knows the truth: There was one survivor, and that survivor’s blood runs through her veins. This simple fact could cause a revolution—which is why some people will stop at nothing to keep it from coming to light.

There is only one way for Grace to save herself, save her family, and save the boy she loves. She must outmaneuver her foes, cut through the web of lies that has surrounded her for years, and go back to the source of all her troubles, despite the risk.

If she wins, she will inherit a throne.

And if she loses, she will inherit the fate of all the dead princesses who came before her.

Jacque's Review:

This is the third and final book in the Embassy Row series.  While it isn't my favorite series by Ally Carter, it is still an entertaining read that kept me interested throughout.  

Adria is an island country that is centuries old and has been secretly controlled or manipulated by generations of women.  They refer to themselves as The Society.  They took it upon themselves to save the baby princess when the gates of the palace were stormed 200 years ago and the royal family was murdered.  They hid the princess and raised her as one of their own, but records were lost.  Over the years they lost track of who the princess was and where her descendants went.  

As children, Grace's mom and her two closest friends became obsessed with uncovering the mystery of the lost princess and putting her descendant in her rightful place on the throne.  They thought they had the perfect plan and set the wheels in motion, but they were wrong about one very important fact.  

The pace of this book was too slow for me and at times I wondered if this could have been consolidated into two books instead of three.  I really enjoyed when Noah, Megan, Rosie, Alexei, and Grace were all together because it combined their unique abilities and really increased the pace of events.  I also enjoyed the addition of the 15 year old Prince of Adria to their team towards the end of the book.  Those were by far the most enjoyable sections of this book and are what propelled the story forward.  The rest of the time, I felt like there was a lot of filler that could have been eliminated.

I was also annoyed by all of the older women from The Society operating as a dictatorship.  While they thought they were doing what was best for Adria, they certainly weren't taking into account the well being of those impacted by their scheme.  Their actions weren't even rational the majority of the time.  What could have been a very entertaining aspect of this series, with Grace working together with this ancient society her mother was once a part of, turned into a solo mission with these very powerful women constantly working against Grace and her friends.  

While it felt like it took a long time to reach a conclusion in this series, the ending was very abrupt.  Everything reached a boiling point and then in one chapter it was over.  This is how things will pan out for the characters....done.  Overall, I was happy with the conclusion, but it felt very rushed and incomplete compared to the lengths the characters went through to reach that point.  

I gave this book 3 stars on Goodreads, but it was probably closer to a 2.5.  

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Book review: Kids of Appetite by David Arnold

Book Summary

Victor Benucci and Madeline Falco have a story to tell.
It begins with the death of Vic’s father.
It ends with the murder of Mad’s uncle.
The Hackensack Police Department would very much like to hear it.
But in order to tell their story, Vic and Mad must focus on all the chapters in between.

This is a story about:

1. A coded mission to scatter ashes across New Jersey.
2. The momentous nature of the Palisades in winter.
3. One dormant submarine.
4. Two songs about flowers.
5. Being cool in the traditional sense.
6. Sunsets & ice cream & orchards & graveyards.
7. Simultaneous extreme opposites.
8. A narrow escape from a war-torn country.
9. A story collector.
10. How to listen to someone who does not talk.
11. Falling in love with a painting.
12. Falling in love with a song.
13. Falling in love.

Flo's Review
I finished Kids of Appetite and immediately wanted to read everything else David Arnold has ever written. I picked this one up because I'm meeting the author at YALLFEST next month, and I'm so glad I did! I even had the KOA wristband that I will 100% be wearing at the time. (Stay tuned to our social media accounts for pictures and details!) 

David Arnold's writing is absolutely beautiful. He doesn't just tell you a story straight. He looks at every aspect of the situation from various angles and then again through different lenses. This leads to a story that is deep and layered. On the surface, you might be able to summarize it in a sentence or a paragraph. But then you can just keep going deeper and deeper and bringing more up from it. Social issues, society, justice, family issues -- I could go on. So many things are faced directly, with open eyes, and addressed. And it's through these characters who have all seen and lived so much and so differently coming together to create their own unique unit.  So many of passages had me thinking, "Wow..." 

I cannot praise this book highly enough. 5 out of 5 stars from me. I can't wait to read anything else from David Arnold. In the meantime, if you can read Kids of Appetite -- do it.

Book review: The Last Boy and Girl in the World by Siobhan Vivian

Book Summary
What if your town was sliding underwater and everyone was ordered to pack up and leave? How would you and your friends spend your last days together?

While the adults plan for the future, box up their possessions, and find new places to live, Keeley Hewitt and her friends decide to go out with a bang. There are parties in abandoned houses. Canoe races down Main Street. The goal is to make the most of every minute they still have together.

And for Keeley, that means taking one last shot at the boy she’s loved forever.

There’s a weird sort of bravery that comes from knowing there’s nothing left to lose. You might do things you normally wouldn’t. Or say things you shouldn’t. The reward almost always outweighs the risk.


It’s the end of Aberdeen, but the beginning of Keeley’s first love story. It just might not turn out the way she thought. Because it’s not always clear what’s worth fighting for and what you should let become a memory.

Flo's Review
This was one of those books I've had sitting on my shelves for years. The author's appearance at the upcoming YALLFEST inspired me to push it up my TBR. I am so glad I did. I thoroughly enjoying seeing the last days of Aberdeen through Keeley's eyes.

Keeley is a unique main character. She is not the popular girl, but she has friends. She is sassy, but she doesn't get all the boys. In fact, she lags behind her two best friends in that area. She is fiercely loyal to her family and friends, though she screws up things a lot. Her way of dealing with deep things is to make a joke or try to have fun. This helps get her and her loved ones through hard times, but also closes her off in a way. Ultimately, it causes estrangement in her relationship with her best friend Morgan and has her falling for and doing things for the wrong boy, Jesse Ford. Morgan has a great line about Jesse and Keeley. I can't find it, exactly, but she says something along the lines of: "I used to think you two were perfect for each other, but you're just broken in the same ways." 

The characters in this story and their relationships were so interesting to witness. Along with Keeley and Morgan, there's also an interesting dynamic with their third best friend Elise. And along with Keeley and Jesse, there's Keeley and Levi Hamrick. I won't get into them in this review, but they are all so nuanced, layered, and fun to read. The storyline, of course, was unique as well. How do you say goodbye to your hometown, and not in a, "I'm off, but will be back for the holidays," kind of way? In a Forever way. This story as inspired by true events and I am curious to learn more about what actually happened. 

The Last Boy and Girl in the World was such an enjoyable surprise. If you have the opportunity to read it or listen to the audiobook, I would recommend it.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Anna and the Apocalypse ... and how to prepare yourself for the zombies.

Book Summary
School’s out for the end of the world.
Anna and the Apocalypse is a horror comedy about a teenager who faces down a zombie apocalypse with a little help from her friends.
Anna Shepherd is a straight-A student with a lot going on under the surface: she’s struggling with her mom’s death, total friend drama, and the fallout from wasting her time on a very attractive boy. She’s looking forward to skipping town after graduation—but then a zombie apocalypse majorly disrupts the holidays season. It’s going to be veryhard to graduate high school without a brain.
To save the day, Anna, her friends, and her frenemies will have to journey straight to the heart of one of the most dangerous places ever known, a place famous for its horror, terror, and pain…high school.
This novel is inspired by the musical feature film, Anna and the Apocalypse.
Prepare thyself!
Okay, if you're like me, you're reading this book description and thinking two things. First: Oh, that sounds like fun! and Second: But what will I dooo when the zombie apocalypse finally hits?! Well, for the first, you can buy Anna and the Apocalypse from Macmillan here. For the second, don't worry -- I got you. ;-)
I did some research on the CDC website and found out that I would need the following items to survive: bottled water, emergency contacts, cell phone, non-perishable food, flashlight, first aid kit, blanket, sleeping bag, radio, batteries, candle with matches, cash, and a map. Apparently once I gather all those, I'm set. Consider this scenario they present:

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

EXCLUSIVE: Susie Orman Schnall discuss "The Subway Girls"

I was very excited to hear that Susie Orman Schnall was having an event in my backyard to promote her latest book The Subway Girls. The event was at this cute little shop called Coco and Co. and was complete with books and wine -- two of my favorite things!

Susie was absolutely lovely and very graciously took a few minutes out of her time to speak with us about The Subway Girls, women in her books, the what's up next for her. Take a look!

Book Summary
In 1949, dutiful and ambitious Charlotte’s dream of a career in advertising is shattered when her father demands she help out with the family business. Meanwhile, Charlotte is swept into the glamorous world of the Miss Subways beauty contest, which promises irresistible opportunities with its Park Avenue luster and local fame status. But when her new friend―the intriguing and gorgeous fellow-participant Rose―does something unforgivable, Charlotte must make a heart-wrenching decision that will change the lives of those around her forever.
Nearly 70 years later, outspoken advertising executive Olivia is pitching the NYC subways account in a last ditch effort to save her job at an advertising agency. When the charismatic boss she’s secretly in love with pits her against her misogynistic nemesis, Olivia’s urgent search for the winning strategy leads her to the historic Miss Subways campaign. As the pitch date closes in on her, Olivia finds herself dealing with a broken heart, an unlikely new love interest, and an unexpected personal connection to Miss Subways that could save her job―and her future.
The Subway Girls is the charming story of two strong women, a generation apart, who find themselves up against the same eternal struggle to find an impossible balance between love, happiness, and ambition.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Book review -- Paperback Crush: The Totally Radical History of '80s and '90s Teen Fiction by Gabrielle Moss

Book Summary
Every twenty- or thirty-something woman knows these books. The pink covers, the flimsy paper, the zillion volumes in the series that kept you reading for your entire adolescence. Spurred by the commercial success of Sweet Valley High and The Babysitters Club, these were not the serious-issue YA novels of the 1970s, nor were they the blockbuster books of the Harry Potter and Twilight ilk. They were cheap, short, and utterly beloved.

PAPERBACK CRUSH dives in deep to this golden age with affection, history, and a little bit of snark. Readers will discover (and fondly remember) girl-centric series on everything from correspondence (Pen Pals and Dear Diary) to sports (The Pink Parrots, Cheerleaders, and The Gymnasts) to a newspaper at an all-girls Orthodox Jewish middle school (The B.Y. Times) to a literal teen angel (Teen Angels: Heaven Can Wait, where an enterprising guardian angel named Cisco has to earn her wings “by helping the world’s sexist rock star.”) Some were blatant ripoffs of the successful series (looking at you, Sleepover Friends and The Girls of Canby Hall), some were sick-lit tearjerkers à la Love Story (Abby, My Love) and some were just plain perplexing (Uncle Vampire??) But all of them represent that time gone by of girl-power and endless sessions of sustained silent reading.

In six hilarious chapters (Friendship, Love, School, Family, Jobs, Terror, and Tragedy), Bustle Features Editor Gabrielle Moss takes the reader on a nostalgic tour of teen book covers of yore, digging deep into the history of the genre as well as the stories behind the best-known series.

Flo's Review
This book was just completely fun. I knew from the second that I read about it that I would adore it -- and I did. Reading this was basically a trip back into my childhood, and I enjoyed every second of the journey. I got to see familiar and expected old friends like Sweet Valley High (and Twins...and University) and the Babysitters Club. But I also got to see familiar titles that I'd forgotten about until I saw them in this volume and remembered reading and loving them. For example: Pen Pals. I was all over that series. And the book Megan the Klutz? Had it. And remember The Fabulous Five? See, I bet you didn't until you just now read my last sentence! That's what this book was like for me.

The author kept reiterating the same point though: these books weren't diverse, these books weren't diverse, oh-- and guess what? These books weren't diverse! Yes, we know. I feel like she could have just mentioned that in the introduction and that would have been enough, instead of mentioning this observation, like, every single chapter. 

Hubby mentioned that boy books weren't really covered in this one, and I think it would be interesting to see that perspective in another volume. Because, honestly? I bet I would have read a lot of those, too. 

Overall, Paperback Crush brought me lots of smiles and nostalgia for a time where I loving reading and devouring basically anything I could get my hands on. Wait. That's pretty much now, too. But, oh what a fun blast to the past this was!

Thank you to Quirk Books for providing me a review copy in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Book Review: Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry

Pushing the Limits (Pushing the Limits, #1)

Jacque's Review:

This is a book that I picked up at a book convention several years ago.  I was actually pretty excited because I had heard great things about it, so I'm not quite sure why it took me so long to read it.  It probably has something to do with the 400+ books that are constantly on my TBR list.  Deciding what to read next is always a challenge.

Pushing the Limits is told from both Echo and Noah's points of view.  Echo was involved in a traumatic event involving her bipolar mother, but she doesn't remember what happened.  The only evidence she has are the scars on her arms and the constant nightmares that have been plaguing her ever since.  Noah is equally as troubled.  His parents were killed in a house fire and he has bounced around the foster care system.  His younger brothers are living with another family and he wants nothing more than to be involved in their daily lives. 

Noah was once a star basketball player with excellent grades who was on track for a college scholarship.  Since the fire, he hasn't had the resources or the motivation to continue...until the new guidance counselor convinces him that improving his grades and getting into college may be his only shot at eventually being able to take care of his brothers the way he wants to.  The same guidance counselor is working with Echo to help her remember her past and hopefully get her past the nightmares.  Echo needs money, so the counselor suggests she tutor Noah, which is how the two of them connect.  

While they may appear to be complete opposites based upon their social circles, they actually had far more in common than you could imagine.  Their study sessions quickly turn into plotting sessions to get information about their cases from the counselor and their relationship slowly begins to develop.

This was a highly engaging story with great characters that you couldn't help but root for.  They have already lost so much in their young lives that you want them to finally come out on top.  They hit a few rough patches along the way, but I really enjoyed the story and how it ended.  I know Katie has several additional books in this series, so I sincerely hope we will get a glimpse into their future post graduation.  I know they aren't the main characters in the additional books, but a cameo would certainly be nice.  If you have read any of the companion novels...please leave a comment to let me know if I can expect to see Echo and Noah again :)

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Audiobook review: Dumplin' by Julie Murphy

Book Summary
Self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson (dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom) has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked…until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back.

Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Clover City beauty pageant—along with several other unlikely candidates—to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any twiggy girl does. Along the way, she’ll shock the hell out of Clover City—and maybe herself most of all.

With starry Texas nights, red candy suckers, Dolly Parton songs, and a wildly unforgettable heroine—Dumplin’ is guaranteed to steal your heart.

Flo's Review
I cannot wait for this on Netflix! It is going to translate so well to film. I look forward too seeing Willowdean's house with the broken front door, all the people in their Harpy's uniforms, and the insanity of everything around the pageant. 

Dumplin' was one of those books that was a cute and fun read, but also brought deep issues to the forefront in a relatable way. Willowdean is such a great character. Her thought spirals are so real and honest. There's kick-ass in there, but there's also doubt and vulnerability. There's toughness, but also fragility. This reads to me like the thesis statement of the book and is spelled out pretty well toward the end when Willowdean thinks:

Sometimes figuring out who you are means understanding that we are a mosaic of experiences. I'm Dumplin'. And Will and Willowdean. I'm fat. I'm happy. I'm insecure. I'm bold. 

Amanda, Hannah, and Millie were all fantastic secondary characters and I loved watching the friendship build among them. The narrator was also 100% on point. I flew through this audiobook in no time and am looking forward to continuing the journey in Puddin'.