Thursday, March 23, 2017

YA Realistic Fiction, Romance: The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Number of Pages: 352
Publishing:  April 11th, 2017 

Why I wanted to read this:  This one is YA and is from the author of Simon Vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda, which I loved. 
Source:  In exchange for an honest review, an  EARC was received from the publisher for free via Edelweiss Above the Treeline

From Goodreads:  "Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love. No matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.

Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly's totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie's new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. If Molly can win him over, she'll get her first kiss and she'll get her twin back. 

There's only one problem: Molly's coworker, Reid. He's a chubby Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there's absolutely no way Molly could fall for him." 

Seventeen-year-old twins Molly and Cassie are really polar opposites.  Cassie is outgoing, fearless and has no problems dating.   Whereas,  Molly is on her twenty-six crush with no kiss in sight.    Molly's crushes are like when "you just finished running a mile, and you have to throw up, and you're starving, but no food seems appealing, and your brain becomes fog, and you also have to pee.  It's this close to intolerable.  But I like it.  More than I like it.  I crave it. Because there's nausea and fog, but there's also this:  an unshakable feeling that something wonderful is about to happen."  Molly is the kind of teenager that feels awkward, self-conscious about their weight, and anxious.  She's struggling with wondering what's wrong with her and what she needs to change in order to be found lovable, or even to be asked out on a date.   She also begins feeling like an outsider in her group of friends when they start talking about waxings and birth control, things she has nothing to contribute on.   Everything for Molly begins to change when her sister meets and begins to date Mina.   But, Molly's life is also changing. She begins to realize that she needs to put herself out there, take risks and to be less cautious. I loved her inner dialogue as she navigates her way around the two boys (Middle Earth Reid and Will) that she's become interested in and how we get to see her feelings/struggles "I'm probably paranoid, but now I can't stop thinking about this.  I get locked in this cycle sometimes.  I develop counterarguments in my head. Actually, gentlemen, I'm intrigued, not enchanted.  And I'm anxious, not sad."  The beginning of the book initially had a lot of moving pieces in introducing all the various characters, but then there was this point where I really began to empathize with Molly and wanting to know how things turn out for her.  The Upside of Unrequited is very diverse, with two moms, talk of sperm donations, Mina, who is pansexual, many POC, and gay/lesbian characters and I loved how Albertalli presents everything in a sort of matter of fact way.  The story covers everything from first jobs, crushes, the wanting of a boyfriend, to first kisses and loves.  But, what touched and saddened me the most was the way the two sisters were beginning to grow apart.  Overall, this was a very heartfelt, amusing, relatable story which I adored.   Heck, there's even talk of eggless cookie dough, grocery store competitions including one for the worst frosting flavor and all in all it was just a fun read.  

Favorite line:  
"Certain nights have this kind of electricity.  Certain nights carry you to a different place from where you started."  

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

TTT: Ten of the shortest books I've read

Top Ten Tuesday is a Meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish  This week's Top Ten Tuesday is a read in one sitting theme.  I chose ten of the shortest books I've read in one sitting.  Classics are perfect for this very reason, usually they average under 200 pages and  it's fun to re-read a favorite.  I'm also trying to catch up on those classics that I might've missed growing up.  


1.  Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary 1  92 pages    &     2. Charlotte's Web by E.B. White 
184 pages


3.  Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary 186 pages    &    4.  The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner   154 pages


5.  The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis 186 pages     &   6.  Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt 139 pages


7. Bink & Gollie Best Friends Forever by Kate Di Camillo and Alison McGhee 96 pages 
 & 8.  Timmy Failure Mistakes Were Made by Stephan Pastis 294 pages


9.  Fortunately the Milk by Neil Gaiman 113 pages   &    10.  Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer by Kelly Jones  224 pages

Does the length of a book influence whether you'll read it or not?   War and Peace's length (1225 pages) still seems like a challenge to me.  I am curious whether the length affects children's perception of whether they'll read a book or not.  Feel free to leave a comment or link to your TTT.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Top Ten Books On My Spring TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is a Meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish  This week's Top Ten is all about the books on my Spring TBR.   This will be a mix of books that I've had holds on, books up for review and books that I've been waiting on for sometime.  I only have six books on my list, but I think it will keep me busy for the next several weeks.   

Dragonwatch (Fablehaven Adventure #1) by Brandon Mull
Publisher: Shadow Mountain
Number of Pages:  384
Publishing:  March 14th, 2017

Why I want to read this:  I pre-ordered Dragonwatch as soon as I heard there was going to be a new book.  Fablehaven is my kiddo's favorite series and has been read multiple times, I'm so excited for us to read the same book together again.  

30653902Miss Ellicott's School for the the Magically Minded by Sage Blackwood
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Number of Pages:  368
Publishing:  March 21st, 2017

Why I want to read this: There's a dragon, magical school and it seems that the children are going to save the day.  


Dream Magic (Shadow Magic #2) by Joshua Khan
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Publishing:  April 11th, 2017

Why I want to read this:  This is cheating a bit cause I've already read an eARC of Dream Magic, but I plan to read this again for the review and just cause it's so good.  

Extraordinary by Miriam Spitzer Franklin
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
29435168Number of Pages: 268
Publishing:  April 11th, 2017 (paperback)

Why I want to read this:  Contemporary middle grade, friendship story.  I received a request for a review and this seems like a heartfelt story.  

30653853The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Number of Pages: 352
Publishing:  April 11th, 2017 

Why I want to read this:  This one is YA and is from the author of Simon Vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda, which I loved.  As soon as it hit Netgalley, I requested it.  Lucky for me they said yes.    

31371695Posted by John David Anderson
Publisher: Walden Pond Press
Number of Pages:  384
Publishing:  May 2nd, 2017

Why I want to read this:   I really enjoy the voice of Anderson's characters, how he tackles tough topics but always interjects just the right amount of humor too.  I'm thinking Posted will be along the lines of Mrs. Bixby's Last Day and I can't wait to read this.  

Looks like the first day of Spring isn't until March 20th, but what's on your Spring TBR?  Feel free to leave a link in the comments. 

Monday, March 13, 2017

Hello There, Do You Still Know Me? By Laurie B. Arnold

31212906Hello There, Do You Still Know Me?  by Laurie B. Arnold
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Prospecta Press
Number of Pages:  192
Published:  March 7th, 2016

Review copy provided by the author in exchange for an honest review. 

Hello There, Do You Still Know Me is the second book in the Hello There series.  I didn't read the first book, Hello There, We’ve Been Waiting For You!, but it was easy enough to follow along. 

11-year-old Madison lives with her grandmother, Florida Brown, in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico.  At the moment, it's summer and Madison and her friends (Noah and Violet) are spending their vacation in Costa Rica with a family friend, Rosalie Claire.  It's a break Madison really needed as her relationship with her grandmother has been kind of rocky.  Florida has high expectations for Madison and can be very demanding.  Also, Florida really wants Madison to be more girly and not so tomboyish, which causes lots of friction between the two.  When Florida suddenly shows up ill in Costa Rica with a mysterious illness, Madison's feelings about her grandmother turn completely around.  Suddenly, she is desperate to help find a cure so she won't loose her like her mother.   At times it was difficult to like grandma Florida for the way that she was treating her granddaughter, and how she treated her own daughter in the past.  I'd like to think that she'll change her ways for the next book in the series.  In order to save Florida, the trio must first find the remote for the MegaPix 6000, a television that will zap them to the past so they can find a Baltic amber to recharge Rosalie Claire's magical fanny pack and she can make the cure to save Florida.  Madison and her friends go on an adventure to the Amazon rainforest to track down the remote and then travel back in time to 1994 to talk to Rosalie Claire's Grandma Daisy.  The time travel was my favorite part of Hello There, Do You Still Know Me?  Time travel for me has to have certain rules, kind of like in Back to the Future, you aren't supposed to change any of the events because there could be consequences in the future. Which is even more challenging for Madison, because she really misses her mom.   I really liked the way in which Arnold gives Madison the opportunity to spend time with her mother as a teenager and share some fun heartfelt moments together.  Reminds me of when Marty McFly runs into his own father.  The story is full of magical fanny packs, a time-traveling television and lots of adventure making for an overall fun, quick read.  

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

If the Magic Fits (100 Dresses #1) by Susan Maupin Schmid, Lissy Marlin (illustrator)

If the Magic Fits (100 Dresses#1) by Susan Maupin Schmid, illustrations by Lissy Marlin
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Number of Pages:  304
Published:  October 25th, 2016

Source:  Library

Why I wanted to read this: That cover is gorgeous and I wanted to know more about the dresses.  

Opening lines:  "I wasn't born in a tower or in a golden chamber.  I wasn't born a princess or even a lady.  But I was born in a castle built by dragons."

Darling Dimple has lived with her adoptive mother Jane in the kingdom of Eliora ever since her own mother passed away shortly after she was born.   Jane works in the castle's kitchen slicing vegetables until an accident causes her to be transferred to picking flowers in the garden. With nowhere else to go, Darling soon finds that everyone who stays in the castle must perform some job, and her first one is scrubbing the pots and pans for the Supreme Scrubstress.  That is until Darling's storytelling and daydreaming cause her to splash dirty water all over the Supreme Scrubstress and lead to her getting reassigned to the upper attics ironing the princesses linens for the Wardrobe Mistress.  Darling's new position comes with an unusual task, removing Princess Mariposa's canary from her chambers and finding a safe place to keep it nearby.  When Darling chooses to put the canary into one of the many wardrobe closets, she inadvertently finds a room with one hundred dresses that once belonged to Princess Mariposa's grandmother.  The dresses become magical when the canary begins to sing and each dress Darling tries on disguises her as someone else.  While disguised, Darling is able to pass as the castle staff and is how she overhears Prince Baltazar plans to marry Princess Mariposa and wreck havoc on the kingdom by releasing the stone dragons being held in the castle spire.   With a little help from her friends and a white mouse, Darling will do everything she can to protect Princess Mariposa and keep the castle safe.  

If the Magic Fits has many of the fairy tale components that I enjoy, a beautiful princess, magical castle,  a helpful white mouse, and dragons.  Although in this case, the dragons have been encased in stone and are for the moment secure in the castle spire.  I really liked the premise of the magical dresses being able to disguise Darling, but somehow still have questions about the magic.  It's the canary that selects which of the hundred dresses that Darling tries on and then the dress transforms her into someone from the castle, but how and why she turns into that particular person I'm not sure.  It's also interesting how the dresses seem to have a mind of their own once Darling is wearing them, they grab at her ankles and "extend their sleeves to shake hands."  While Darling is wearing these dresses, she does retain her own personality and an eagerness to help the princess.  She also works really hard at trying to figure out what to do.  She's not perfect and makes mistakes, but her heart always seems to be in the right place.   At the beginning of each chapter,  there is a drawing of one of the dresses and I really enjoyed the detailed descriptions of each of the dresses designs.  I guess it speaks to the younger girl in me who enjoyed playing dress up with her Barbie's.  There's also somewhat of a mystery as to who is helping Prince Baltazar, with lingering questions about Darling's father who was lost at sea and a special family heirloom. The second book, Ghost of a Chance has a planned release for July and looks promising as well.  


Thursday, March 2, 2017

MG Fantasy: The Crooked Sixpence (The Uncommoners #1) by Jennifer Bell

19370891The Uncommoners by Jennifer Bell
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers
Number of Pages:  320
Published:  January 31st, 2017

Source:  Library

Why I wanted to read this: That cover and Soman Chainani's description "Part Tim Burton, part J.K. Rowling!  A terrific debut-"

Opening line:  "Ivy rocked forward as the ambulance turned a corner. Everything inside rattled."

Following their Granma Sylvie's  fall at home,  Ivy Sparrow (11yo) and her brother Seb (14yo) are riding in an ambulance with her to the hospital.  Ivy is concerned for Granma because of a car accident Sylvie had on the Twelfth Night in 1969, that resulted in her having amnesia and a loss of memory for any of the events that occurred to her prior to the injury.  While Ivy and Seb wait in the ER for their parents, a suspicious man begins lurking in the hospital, so Ivy and Seb plan to return to their Granma's house just as their parents directed.  Once there, they find the house has been ransacked and a mysterious note has been scratched into the wall, "we can see you now."  Even stranger are the men who show up in a funeral coach, scaring them and chasing them until a boy (Valian) helps them to escape through a suitcase that sucks them into a secret London.  Once in Lundinor, Ivy and Seb are thrust into finding a mysterious item their Granma may have hidden from an ancient sinister guild called the Dirge or risk having their parents killed.   But what it is and where to find it are not the only challenges the siblings face.  

The first thing that really struck me while reading The Uncommoner's was the cover,  I really love the color scheme and how it alludes to some darkness.  It's also easy to notice the similarities it shares to the Harry Potter series, invisibility item, a manor that will reveal itself only to a member of the family and maps that show you the location of people to name a few. Yet, there are differences as well.  There's no Hogwarts School of Magic, and really no wands or magic per se.  There is a world of Uncommon objects that have certain abilities, like a button that can heal you, and bells that can speak and give directions.   I also like the premise that uncommon objects hold a piece of a person's soul and certain Uncommon people, Whisperers can sense these uncommon objects.  There's also a bit of a mystery to solve linked to Ivy and Seb's Granma's car accident and their families past in Lundinor.  Of all the characters, Scratch, the bicycle bell with his back-to-fronted speaking problem was one of my favorites, he adds much of the humor. I also really want to learn more about Valian, and about his scouting abilities and what other uncommon objects are out there in Lundinor.  There's even some delightfully creepy characters amongst the Dirge, and action that kept the story moving along nicely.    An excellent introduction to this new series.    

Monday, February 13, 2017

YA Science Fiction: Scythe by Neal Shusterman

28954189Scythe by Neal Shusterman
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers
Number of Pages:  448
Published:  November 22nd, 2016

Source:  Library

Why I wanted to read this:  Scythe won a Printz honor and I've been looking for some more YA books my child might like to read.  The premise piqued my interest:   

 " Thou shalt kill.   

 A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery. Humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control.   

Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe—a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure
 could mean losing their own."  (From Goodreads)

Scythes have ten rules that they live by, rules that were designed to help control the population and guide them in the process of their "gleanings" (killing of others.)  The manner in which they choose to take someone's life defines what kind of Scythe they are. Scythes are supposed to be moral, just, and ethical, but not all follow the same rules.   Citra and Rowan are two teenagers who encounter Scythe Faraday as he is performing one of his gleanings, he becomes intrigued by the way they interact with him and see's potential for them to become scythes.  Enough to choose them both to be his apprentice, something that neither of them is interested in doing.   But, no one can refuse a scythe.  Faraday will train each of them, but only one of them can go on to be a scythe.  Shusterman creates this fascinating world where there is no aging or disease, and natural deaths don't occur anymore.  People have nanites which can heal you, you can wind back your age and even if you try to kill yourself (or "splat", which is a horrible image),  you get healed and are returned to your normal life.  Then there are the scythes, who are skilled in the art of killing.  They are supposed to randomly choose their targets, yet sometimes they make the choice of who and why they are going to kill someone. There's also a lot of power politics going on within the Scythedom, partial because Faraday should have never taken on two apprentices and because another scythe is scheming in the background.  Scythes also keep a daily journal, which Shusterman shares entries from between each chapter.  The entries pose some of the moral questions that scythes have about their work and give an insight to the various teachers of Rowan and Citra's thoughts about their work.  I really enjoyed Citra and Rowan's characters as they were navigating their way through their classes and training in the use of poisons, weapons etc.  Especially when the story takes a turn and the two are pitted against each other in a competition where the winner must glean the other. Way to raise the stakes. There's even this computer, algorithmic "conscious" mind called The Thunderhead that is sort of like the cloud and holds all sorts of information.  Quite an entertaining and unique read.    

Favorite Line:  "I feel bad for you,"  said Citra.  "Even when you're food shopping, death is hiding right behind the milk."