Tag: YA (page 1 of 2)

Halloween Reads 2019

It’s time for another installment of spooky reads, folks! If you are looking to get some chills and thrills from your reading, look no further. However, note that I don’t do horror, so you probably won’t get any jump scares out of these selections.

If you’re counting, this is the ninth annual Halloween Reads list. I’ve been on the hunt since 2011. Since before this blog, when I posted on Examiner.com. Check the links at the bottom for the posts for previous years. This year, there seems to be a bumper crop of spooky reads! So without further ado, here is my list for your spoopy reading pleasure!

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier – Classic
This is the only book on the list that I have not read. I really meant to but what with my reread of Dracula and all, I just didn’t get to it. However, my understanding is that this is more in line with The Turn of the Screw – a psychological, gothic story that might leave you with shivers. This has been seeing a bit of a popularity boom on Instagram, and I can only conclude that it is deserved.

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo – Adult fantasy
A long-awaited new book from one of my favorite authors, and it did not disappoint. If you are up for a perfectly creepy story that delves behind the façade and is set at a contemporary college, then this is for you. It is a complex story with deep roots, and a hellacious ride. An expertly crafted paranormal mystery with more twists and turns than you can imagine, this is about secret societies, inexplicable happenings, those things you catch just out of the corner of your eye, the demons that reside in hell and sometimes inside of us, and the haunting that we get from behind the veil as well as our own past. Note that this is not YA, as are Bardugo’s previous titles. This is her first adult fantasy.

Last Things by Jacqueline West – YA Fantasy
I reviewed this here last May, but I want to be sure to give it its due and encourage you to pick it up this time of year. What could possibly be spooky about a dark forest, a little abandoned shack, a boy who suddenly writes hit songs, and a girl who is always being pursued? This is a great suspenseful read set in a small town in northern Minnesota, full of heavy metal music and characters who will shock you. Check out my full review to get more details.

The Daughters of Temperance Hobbs by Katherine Howe – Contemporary/historical fiction
A follow-up to The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, this is a loose sequel. I think you can safely read this without having read Physick. However, the first book is so good, why not treat yourself to both? In this book, Connie is a professor whose life is about to change a whole lot. The book shifts back and forth between Deliverance in 1661 and Connie in 1995 Boston. Connie is faced with a choice that relates to a centuries-old curse – does she risk her fiance’s life trying to break it? Or play it safe and let him go? It’s a little bit of a love story, but a whole lot of family dynamics and some hocus pocus too.

Sabriel by Garth Nix – YA Fantasy
I have read most of this series now and I can see that it is going to be an all-time favorite. Necromancers, walking into Death, and lands that are separated by a wall, where one side is magic and the other isn’t? Yes, sign me up. Add to that incredible heroines – we get to know Sabriel through her action-packed story, but then later we meet Lireal and Clariel. The mysteries of this world deepen and the magic is phenomenal. Excellent world building, including magical familiars and bells with different functions, and all kinds of nasty creatures. If you haven’t already, go back and resurrect this older series. You won’t be sorry. Also known as the Old Kingdom or Abhorsen series (don’t ask me why we can’t settle on one).

Endless Night by Agatha Christie – Mystery
This is not one of her detective series, but one of her psychological thrillers. I don’t typically like these, as I have fallen so in love with Miss Marple and Poirot over the years (particularly this year, when I am co-hosting a monthly Miss Marple readalong on Instagram, and participating in another readalong of various Agatha titles. I read this for that other readalong) that I miss them when they are not present. But this one was so full of foreboding, so twisty turny, and had such a great ending, that I have to say, if you haven’t tried Agatha yet, and you like mysteries, you may want to start here. It starts slow but I was absolutely gobsmacked at the end. If you are reading her detective series, I believe you should start at the beginning for those. The Mysterious Affair at Styles for Poirot, and The Murder at the Vicarage for Miss Marple.

Toil and Trouble by Augusten Burroughs – Memoir
This reads like one of those romcoms where one half of a couple tries to convince the other half of the couple to move from midtown Manhattan to a fixer upper in the fields of Connecticut. Oh wait. That’s kind of what it is. But the twist is that Burroughs has a family history of witchcraft, sees things before they happen, hears things no one else can hear (like trees groaning) and has uncanny premonitions that he can see in a kind of movie in his head. Until it goes white static. This is funny, heart wrenching, intriguing, thought-provoking and encouraging. It may open your mind up to things that you thought were myth, or reassure you about things that you experience. Overall, I enjoyed it, and while it’s not scary, it does give you a good witchy vibe. Like this, “What I am certain of is that there’s something wonky going on beneath the surface of what we call reality. Things are most definitely not as they appear. Things are much, much more.” I mean, isn’t that kind of what we all want? More?

You can always find my Halloween Reads from previous years as well. Check here and here and here, and find links to more. I’ve got two more years to add to this site, so I hope to do that this week. I so enjoy this time of year, and for me, nothing is better than curling up on the couch with the first blanket of the season and a spooky read on my lap, while the wind whips the leaves off the trees outside. I hope you find something you like here, and if you have any suggestions, please do share! I want to hear what your favorite spooky read is!

Book Review: Last Things by Jacqueline West

Last Things is the newest YA from New York Times bestselling author Jacqueline West. Her award-winning The Books of Elsewhere is one of my favorite MG series. I was excited to hear that she was writing another YA, especially after reading her most recent book, The Collectors, last fall.

This story simply hummed! This story kept me turning pages well past midnight. *cough 2am cough* Not that reading this in the dead of night is the best idea. Because no. It is creepy, it is heebie jeebie, it is deliciously spooky. It might make you rethink the wisdom of reading alone at night next to an uncovered window. Just me? Oh, okay.

I don’t want to give away too much about what makes it creepy, because the reveal in the story is part of the creep factor. If you’ve ever been alone in the woods at night, or even if you haven’t, you will feel all those feels reading this book. The setting of the northwoods is actually another character, and in ways you might not think.

It’s not a mystery, per se. It is simply a story of a boy. He’s got some skills, shall we say. He may have made a mistake. Everything is not as it seems, and neither is everyone.

I did love the rest of the characters too. Thea and Anders and even Frankie. I did not like Sasha, but that is not surprising. But the story! This book reverbed with the bass of metal. I loved all the song lyrics and the way that West describes Anders’ love of music. West’s poetic sensibilities (she has twice been nominated for a Pushcart) shine here.

Here is a bit of the synopsis from GoodReads:

“High school senior Anders Thorson is unusually gifted. His band, Last Things, is legendary in their northern Minnesota hometown. With guitar skills that would amaze even if he weren’t only eighteen, Anders is the focus of head-turning admiration. And Thea Malcom, a newcomer to the insular town, is one of his admirers. Thea seems to turn up everywhere Anders goes: gigs at the local coffeehouse, guitar lessons, even in the woods near Anders’s home.”

When things start to happen, everyone blames Anders. When he can’t control that, will he lose everything that’s dear to him? And what is going on with this Thea girl? Can he trust a girl who doesn’t seem to know the difference between dreams and reality? Does she?

Can he trust her? Does he have any choice? And what happens when he has to choose between her and someone he has known most of his life? I wasn’t sure about Thea. I wasn’t sure about Flynn. I wasn’t even sure about Aunt Mae. But that’s nothing to how shell-shocked Anders is when he finds out the truth.

And when they go into the woods, what will they find? Will they be in time? Light and dark, choices, and a serious dose of “We don’t know a damn thing” make this a story that will reverberate with you long after you’ve finished reading. What would you give up to get everything you ever wanted? What do you want more than anything? What do you really want?

A headbanger’s delight, or just for anyone who loves a good goose-bumpy story. Get ready for a wild ride. Happy Book Birthday to Jacqueline West! I think we have a winner here! Look for this in my Halloween Reads wrap-up come October, where you will find more creepy reads!

I received an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Hardcover, 416 pages
Greenwillow Books, 2019
ISBN 9780062875068

The Boy Who Steals Houses Book Blitz!

And now for something completely different! I am participating in the Book Blitz for the newest novel from one of my favorite bloggers and authors, C.G. Drews, aka Paper Fury. This is being put on by a group called the Aussie YA Bloggers, and I am so chuffed to be a part of it! Read on! And there’s a giveaway too!

But why, do you ask? Linda, you don’t even know Paper Fury. Why do you want to support an author halfway around the world? Well, man, let me tell you. I don’t know when I first began to follow C.G., but it was a few years ago. It started on Book Twitter (RIP Book Twitter, for the most part – this was Twitter before the 2016 election and other things crept in to spoil it). I followed her there, and she was just so NICE. And FUNNY. She was also kind of creepy how all her posts put into words how I felt. Then I found out she was writing a book. She shared so much! And I loved her blog, which sounded just like her tweets. Amazing.

Then three years ago I joined Bookstagram (yay, Bookstagram!), and followed her there. And so many chats! She answered all my DMs! I was in for a ride. I got to celebrate her first book with her, and I even created a swap photo for it (one of those where you sort of emulate someone else’s style as an homage). I mean, it wasn’t even close, but. Her pics are gorgeous!

Her books are not available in the US (what? I mean, come on!) but I was able to order her first book, A Thousand Perfect Notes, from Book Depository. And let me tell you – I cried! In public! Gah. But it was totally worth it. It was everything I was hoping for. Soft romance, awkward girl, damaged boy, lovely just lovely. I mean, I don’t usually read romance, and I hardly read any contemporary. But this was amazing.

Fast forward to The Boy Who Steals Houses! This is a genderbent Goldilocks retelling, and let me tell you, I am here for this! I don’t have a copy yet, but that lovely blogger group set this up, so I can participate in all the flailing anyway. Read on for more info. And go, follow Paper Fury on all the platforms you can find. Her content is STELLAR and she is a 100% awesome human bean.

The Boys Who Steals Houses is about…

Can two broken boys find their perfect home?

Sam is only fifteen but he and his autistic older brother, Avery, have been abandoned by every relative he’s ever known. Now Sam’s trying to build a new life for them. He survives by breaking into empty houses when their owners are away, until one day he’s caught out when a family returns home. To his amazement this large, chaotic family takes him under their wing – each teenager assuming Sam is a friend of another sibling. Sam finds himself inextricably caught up in their life, and falling for the beautiful Moxie.

But Sam has a secret, and his past is about to catch up with him.

About The Author

C.G. Drews lives in Australia with her dog, a piano, and the goal of reading every book in existence. Consequently, her brain has overflowed with words and she spends her days writing novel after novel. She blogs at Paper Fury, never sleeps and believes in cake for breakfast.

She believes in lots of cake. Find her on Twitter and Instagram @PaperFury and add this book on GoodReads!

You can buy The Boy Who Steals Houses by C.G. Drews on the following sites:
Australia and New Zealand:
Angus and Robinson, Booktopia, Amazon Australia, Fishpond
International:
Amazon US, Waterstones, Book Depository, Wordery

And if you see a copy in the wild, on a library or bookstore shelf, post it and tag her on social media, because she lives in a tiny town and hardly gets to see her book on shelves at all.

And now, for the international giveaway! Win a SIGNED and ANNOTATED copy of The Boy Who Steals Houses plus an official art print inspired by the book!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The Boy Who Steals Houses by C.G. Drews
Paper, 347p, ISBN 9781408349922
Orchard Books, 2019

Halloween Reads 2018

Need a good book that will send chills up your spine? I have a great selection this year! If you are not familiar with my Halloween Reads posts, I have been doing this since 2010 (first on Examiner.com, where I was the Minneapolis Books Examiner, and now on my own blog. Look for links at the end to these past posts for more recs!). I love it when the weather turns chilly and gloomy, leaves blowing across the grass, and a slight mist in the air. Join me! I’ll wait while you get your hot beverage of choice, a pumpkin latte? A hot cider? Good old hot chocolate? Mulled wine? Here we go!

Quick recap: these are not horror. I don’t have the nerves for that. I try to find a couple different genres, but really, I just post whatever I find that appeals to me!

Let’s start with a classic! Continue reading

Book Review: The Hazel Wood

Have I got something for you. There has been a lot of buzz in the past couple years about fairytale retellings, sure. But Melissa Albert takes it a step further yet. This is a newtelling (new-telling? New Telling?) – a wholly new world, The Hinterland, which we learn about from the character searching for the book within the book.

People. The booklove in this book! This is literally a bookfreak’s dream come true.

But I digress.

What is so arresting about this book is its immediacy. It is almost magical realism in its here-and-now-ness. We are in modern day New York City. Our MC has current problems. Her cell phone is dead. Her stepdad is a jerk. Her stepsister is a bitch (who makes her feel like “an awkward breadstick”). Okay. We’ve all been there. In bits and pieces, we get more of the story, more of her story – the midnight runs, the near misses. Her mother. The weird stuff that seems to explode around them. Why?

And her name… wait for it… is Alice.

I love it. Everything about this story felt so right on.

And while we are in modern New York City, yet… there is something, just a hair’s breath away, just over a slight border, one you cannot see, just waiting. The Hinterland. And that, my friends, is where Alice must go to find her mom. Whether the Hinterland is a place or a people, we aren’t sure.

There is unexpected help, there is unexpected danger. All around. It is endemic to the fairytale. Wait. The stories. Danger is endemic to the plurality of stories that exist in this other land.

I’m doing a bad job of explaining it, because it’s just that good. But you can get a synopsis from anywhere. What I’d like to tell you about is the beauty of the way this was put together, the intricacy of it, and the wild success of it. Albert has come up with a whole new realm, and folks, she’s going to take us there. I was excited reading this, excited like the first time-reading-Harry Potter excited. Because everything felt imaginative and whole.

As good as the storytelling is, the writing is even better. One of the things that I loved so much right away about Harry Potter was the wordplay. Albert scores hit after hit on that. Albert sings when she is putting us in Alice’s memories: the way a book is evocative of the place you first read it. The way that smells are colors and sounds are food. Waylan Jennings is whisky and a suit is an exhausted brown. This is what makes a story stick.

Things like this, one of the best list paragraphs I’ve read in a long time:

“Everyone is supposed to be a combination of nature and nurture, their true selves shaped by years of friends and fights and parents and dreams and things you did too young and things you overheard that you shouldn’t have and secrets you kept or couldn’t and regrets and victories and quiet prides, all the packed-together detritus that becomes what you call your life.

But every time we left a place, I felt the things that happened there being wiped clean, til all that was left was Ella, our fights and our talks and our winding roads.” – p130

Alice is worth our time, too. She climbs into bed with The Blind Assassin, “because if you’re not with the book you want, you might as well want the book you’re with.” She doesn’t like her stepdad because, among other things, he doesn’t read the right books. She tamps down an anger she doesn’t understand with “hippie shit” her mother teaches her, and once called, she is laser-focused on her goal.

And Alice has a friend. Finch wears an expression like armor, one that seals him off from the world and protects him from… what, exactly? He is a superfan, one of the few who has read the book Alice’s grandmother wrote, and who has a deep appreciation for story. (And he wants to go home at one point, “because that’s where my first editions are.” Don’t we love this sweet little cinnamon roll?) I was really getting a soft spot for Finch.

Let’s not forget Ella. Ella in all this is more than just the crazy mom who married up, the waitress who can beguile a rich guy. The daughter of the woman who wrote the tales of the Hinterland down. Ella has guts. Ella is bad-ass her damn self. But we don’t get much of her story.

The three of them do a kind of dance with The Hinterland, each for their own reasons. And along the way, we get bits and pieces of the stories of the Hinterland. Oh, by the way, we’re getting those in full, too. It has just been announced that Albert will be releasing two more books – one will be the actual Tales of the Hinterland (squeeee!) (presumably the book that Althea, Ella’s mother, wrote in the first place) and the other will be set in the same world, a follow-up to this one. So we have Hinterland for the next two years!

So yes, Leigh Bardugo wrote original, imaginative fairytales set in her fantasy world (The Language of Thorns was my top pick for 2017). And Lev Grossman gave us a doorway into a hidden world through an alleyway. But this is like Ravka meets Brakebills. Except that school is the least of our worries. And the world feels as real as your own backyard. So it’s not a retelling – it’s new. We get it first.

Go on, get this one. But a note here: the author posted that some bookstores had put the book out early, and asked people to hold off on buying it until Jan 30. Please, booksellers, don’t skirt a Strict on Sale date. And readers, if you know a book is out early, wait to buy it. I know, it’s hard. But it could make that small difference for where – or whether – a book lands on the New York Times bestseller list, among other things. And this one is sure to land there, somewhere. Help it land higher by buying it during release week. On-sale date is January 30. Set an alert.

Because I forgot to mention, in case you can’t tell from my Bookstagram photo above, that this book is gorgeous in and of itself! I have heard the final copy does not disappoint – gold foil, embossing, just everything. The ARC is easily one of the most beautiful I have ever seen. I can’t wait to get my final copy!

Oh, and five stars on GoodReads! I don’t usually give stars, but I think that I will start doing that for all my reviews on GoodReads this year. Just as an experiment. I wrestle with anything less than five stars. But maybe it will help people decide what to read, and help authors I love. Come find me there!

Happy New Year!

 

January Readathon and 2018 Challenges

I tackled a couple of reading challenges last year. And they really helped to start my year off right. In fact, they gave me such a huge spurt of accomplishment, I made my reading goal – and knocked out some books I’d been wanting to read for a long time, several of them five star reads. All this to say, I’m here to do it again.

This year, I thought I’d do the #RockMyTBR challenge again, but with a different tack. I’m doing #BeattheBacklist, which involves a little more accountability, a little more checking in. In fact, it looks like Austine put a heckuva lot of work into this!  There is a Bookstagram challenge, teams and prizes. I’m on the Story Sorcerors team. I fell off #RockMyTBR about halfway through, so I still have quite a pile of stuff here that I need to either read or just peruse and unhaul. Continue reading

Best Books of 2017

My year got hijacked. I started off strong, reading something like 20 books in January (thanks in large part to a part-time job as a warming house attendant, which essentially meant uninterrupted reading time on most days). Then I got a job at a bookstore. Sounds ideal, right? Well, it really cut into my reading time, I can tell you that!

However, I did manage to get close to my goal of 75 books. I might even make it. At this writing, I have two days left, and I’ve read 60 books. And there’s a readathon tomorrow!

But all that aside, I did manage to read some great books this year. Books that blew me away, and that made me think, that stayed with me. And that is always the best thing. The following are the ones I most heartily recommend. Continue reading

Dumbledore’s Army Diverse #DAReadathon Wrap-Up

I finished the #DAReadathon!

I had a great time reading these books. Oh my gosh. They were SO good. I didn’t complete my whole TBR but I made a sizable dent and I am very happy with that. You can see my original post here.

I started with The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi, which I had always heard was very beautifully written. Well, I’m here to tell you that it is not only beautifully written, but it is an utterly beautiful story. This book is gorgeous in every way. I gave it five stars on GoodReads (and I never give star ratings!). I had received this book back when it was released in May. I actually won it from a GoodReads giveaway – so thanks GoodReads and Griffin Teen!

I found this story to be breath-taking. I don’t want to say too much because Spoilers but just trust me. It envisioned a world bigger than imagination. This book takes place in a Persian-inspired world, and it is full of cultural references. I loved that, and I loved the world and the characters. There are themes of love, and life, and death and what it all means. The writing is LUSH. I am very glad that I finally read this one! This also Rocks My TBR because I’ve had it since May. This was for the Impedimenta prompt. Here’s a taste:

“Neither the secret whirring song of the stars nor the sonorous canticles of the earth knew the language that sprang up in the space between us. It was a dialect of heartbeats, strung together with the lilt of long suffering and the incandescent hope of an infinite future.”  p332

Then it was on to Labyrinth Lost, by Zoraida Cordova, which I had won in a chat on Twitter in early November. This fit perfectly into the Protego prompt – #ownvoices. I really had to be restrained waiting this long to read it. It takes place in Brooklyn, but the MC is a bruja, which is a sort of melded cultural group that has aspects of Santeria and pagan ideals coupled with the Mexican Day of the Dead rituals. I loved Alex, and I loved the way this story wove itself around a completely new world and claimed it as its own. It felt rich and satisfying.

I then picked up The Upside of Unrequited, which was fantastic. This is outside my typical oeuvre, because I rarely read YA contemporary, but I’m glad I read it. This was for the Reducto prompt. I had been talking with someone on Twitter – or some such thing – and Becky Albertalli chimed in and I liked her so much I moved this right up my TBR (I received my copy at the Heartland Fall Forum). It was funny and bittersweet, saved from being saccharin by amazing insights and deadpan humor. I found myself laughing out loud quite a bit! The young love aspect is enriched by the non-traditional family and Molly’s issues with her own body image and questions about life. I loved this book so much that I offered to trade it to another blogger so it could get more love, and in return I get a copy of History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera! I am so excited to read that, thanks to Kendice, who blogs with Emily at EmilyReadsEverything.

The books I didn’t get to were The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig (Expecto Patronum prompt) and The Forbidden Wish (which was my blogger rec under the Lumos prompt). And The Sun Is Also a Star, for the Stupefy prompt, which was buried in my Christmas booktree. I also didn’t get a book for the Expelliarmus prompt. I really should have thought more about this. I’d like to do it again!

I did a little bit of score-keeping, and here is what I came up with for House Points. Go Ravenclaw!

  • I read 913 pages so at 1 point per each 10 pages, that gives me 91.3 House Points. (I was on page 235 of Unrequited when the challenge ended.) 336 +342 +235
  • I completed two books so I get 5 points for each, which is 10 House Points.
  • I reviewed two books on GoodReads. I don’t know if that counts. But if it does, that gives me 10 House Points. If it only counts for blog reviews, then I did not get any of those posted yet, but look for my upcoming reviews!
  • I posted an image of my #DAReadathon ID on Twitter for 1 House Point.
  • I tweeted using the hashtag at least five times. That’s how I got the blogger rec (two different people recommended the same book!). I posted a picture of my TBR on Instagram for an additional point (with 70 Likes, tyvm). So that makes 6 House Points for social media (which is unbelievably low of the 20 points possible).

This gives me a Grand Total of 27 + 91.3 = 118.3

All in all, I’m pretty happy that I stuck to my TBR and got to read some really good, culturally rich books. I think this was a fantastic challenge from beginning to end. I loved the Harry Potter element and being a member of Dumbledore’s Army, as well as the spell prompts. I also loved that you had a specific prompt to get recommendations, and that it really made you think about what you were reading. Very fun, and I would do this again in a heartbeat!

This weekend I’m nibbling at the #24in28 Readathon, but I am really not doing a good job at that. I was all set to get in a good hunker-down reading day yesterday, but somehow it didn’t happen. Next up I’ve almost got my #RockMyTBR Challenge list. More reading today!

#DAReadathon + #RockMYTBR Challenge + #BoutofBooks Readathon + TBR

What better way to start the New Year than with a reading binge? I saw the announcement of the #DAReadathon Challenge on Twitter just before Christmas and while I had it in my head I simply couldn’t sit down to sort it all out. This is one of the more complicated challenges I have seen, but since it involves Harry Potter and reading more diverse books, I simply couldn’t pass it up without at least trying.

Many of you know that the diverse books movement has been a big thing throughout the past year. It would be nice if we could say that it wasn’t needed, or that it had been going on a lot longer than that. But judging from some major faux pas recently by major published books, it is still needed, and we need to realize that those from marginalized groups need to have their own voices, and need to have representation in the publishing industry.

Publishing is just telling stories, after all, and how can we say we are doing a good job of that when we aren’t telling all the stories – just select ones that are curated by one race, one gender or one worldview?

So in my own small little way, I’m going to be working on this. I’m doing this challenge, and I’m sad to say that for some of these prompts, I’m not sure what I will read. I wish I could readily answer each one. Clearly, I have some work to do.

The challenge began yesterday (oops!) and goes until January 15. Each of the books should fit in with one of the prompts, which are named after spells in the Harry Potter fandom. Since this is one of my favorite fandoms, I was very attracted to this idea. Also, for those of you who don’t know, the DA in the challenge name stands for Dumbledore’s Army. Well, we need this more than ever now, don’t we? I like everything about the way this is set up.

Here are some of my picks. I’ll need help with this one, so if you have suggestions, please let me know in the comments! Or find me on Twitter or Instagram. I want to hear recs, people!

Expecto Patronum – diverse book featuring issue of personal significance to you or a loved one – I’m going with The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig – because it deals with a girl’s relationship to her father. I imagine that Nix’s is more complicated than mine, since her father wants to return to where her mother died, and possibly could. And mine, well, can’t. But it sounds eerily familiar and I am sure this will bring up some long-buried feelings for me. Plus, all the cultures involved just sound fantastic. And I have an ARC of the sequel, so must read this first!

Expelliarmus – diverse book featuring a marginalised group you don’t often read about – So maybe this would be LBGTQIA? Because I’ve not read much in that area.

Protego – Read an #ownvoices book for this prompt – Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova – I won this in a Death Day chat back in early November. I really have been paying much more attention to the traditions of Day of the Dead lately and I am very excited to read a book by someone who grew up in that culture and has a story that centers around it. I had to resist picking this up earlier to save it for this challenge, so now it’s time!

Reducto – a book that empowers women from all different walks of life – Here we have The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli. I received an ARC of this at Heartland Fall Forum, and then I interacted with Becky on Twitter a bit, and well, bam, this shot up to the top of my TBR. This features an overweight teen who is a bit confused about her sexuality, and has a twin sister. I am going out of a limb a bit here to say that it empowers women, but if there is an Upside to Unrequited Love, it has to be empowering, right? This releases in April so I am excited to be reading it so early.

Impedimenta – a diverse book that has been on your TBR for far too long! – This has to be The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi. I have had this since it released and it is so beautiful, and I have heard so much about it, but I have only picked it up once. And now that the sequel is coming out, I really need to get on it. I love following her on Twitter and Instagram so I am really looking forward to finally reading this!

Stupefy – a diverse book that has stunned the internet with all its well-deserved hype – The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon – this is a contemporary, which I don’t often read, which is also good for me to do once in a while. This title has landed on many year-end best lists, and I have heard it compared to Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park, so of course that piqued my curiosity. Then I won a copy, and well, here it is!

Lumos – a diverse book that was recommended by one of your fellow book bloggers – I would like this to be the forthcoming History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera, recommended recently by the always-reliable Brittany at Brittany’s Book Rambles, but alas, it does not come out until January 17 and I don’t have an ARC. In her last BBTC chat, she featured this book and Adam took part. It was a delight. But I must find me something else so I’ll be asking my blogger friends!

From the website of Aente, Read at Midnight, the host of this challenge, here is her brief definition of what a diverse book is: “Any book that features a diverse experience such as LGBTQIA, ethnic, cultural, religious, gender diversity, indigenous, neurodiversity, people with disabilities.”

I still have two slots to fill, so I’ll be actively looking for those books which can fulfill these areas. I would love to find something with Native Americans (I really love all I’ve read by Louise Erdrich and Sherman Alexie), or something that I perhaps hadn’t thought about reading at all. I don’t know, it could be anything. The bottom line here is that this challenge is already a win for me, because it has me searching my book piles (and my booktree, because there is The Sun Is Also a Star, about halfway down! Which is why it is not pictured above!) for those stories.

There is a points component to this challenge too, but I won’t be worrying about that. I honestly have enough to do in the next two weeks. But this is a great start to my year and I’m really looking forward to it! What are your favorite diverse reads?

Bonus: For this challenge, I finally went to Pottermore and found out what my Patronus is! And while it was quite a process, I discovered that it is the “unusual” Patronus of a Leopardess!

I’m also going to try this year again to do the #RockMyTBR challenge from Sarah at The YA Book Traveler. I fell off the wagon on this one last year. And this week I’m doing the #BoutofBooks readathon (which is only one week, from Jan 2 to Jan 8). Here is the info on the #Bout of Books Readathon, for which I will be using the same books as for the #DAReadathon, and then if I run out of books, I will just add more! The stack helps me to put blinders on and means that I really will complete the books that I have listed.

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda Shofner and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, January 2nd and runs through Sunday, January 8th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 18 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog– From the Bout of Books team

 

 

Best Books of 2016, Part II

Here is part two of my Best Books post, in which I wax rhapsodic about another YA fantasy, some mysteries, some middle grade and a few children’s picture books! I hope you have a chance to check some of these out! And if you missed it, check out part one of my post of Best Books of 2016!

Now, if you know me, you know how much I love YA. And if you know how much I love YA, you know how much I love Leigh Bardugo. I didn’t miss the sequel to Six of Crows, and I didn’t leave it off my list! Here we go, making the world right:

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

Yes, this is one of my favorite reads. I am, however, still in a bit of huff because the series is over. This book is the second one in the Six of Crows series. I reviewed Six of Crows here. Have I told you lately how much I love these characters? I love them so much, it hurts to say goodbye. In fact, I had a really hard time getting into this book. I had to enact the buddy-read method to get me to keep moving forward – and so that I would have someone to cry with when it was over. Okay, I didn’t cry (much). But it was still very sad. Nevertheless, pain is a part of life, and I suggest you get your hands on all the Leigh Bardugo books you can carry, and just sit down and read them all straight through. You’ll have a helluva hangover, but it will be so worth it. This setting, the writing, the story, the characters – you will be in love. (Bonus: I did preorder this, and I did get the most coolest preorder swag ever! More on that later.)

Mystery

In the Moors, Unraveled Visions, Beneath the Tor (Shaman Mystery series)
by Nina Milton

I’ve recently discovered a series published by a Minnesota publisher, Flux, which has a mystery imprint called Midnight Ink. I was looking for books about shamans, and stumbled across the Shaman Mysteries series by Nina Milton, about a modern shamanic practitioner named Sabbie Dare. Not only is it fascinating to hear about how she plies her trade, but the mysteries are good too. They are set on the Somerset moors, which only adds to the overall appeal. There are three in the series and I read them out of order, which does not seem to matter too awful much. Each one of them pulled me in and kept me going late into the night. I love Sabbie and I am totally rooting for her, even if she does have a habit of sticking her nose in where it doesn’t belong. Bonus: this counts as research for my work in progress!

Middle Grade

Sticks and Stones by Abby Cooper

What a lovely, refreshing, too-true bit of magical realism! I met Abby while we were both working on a project last spring, and I was so happy to find that her debut novel is every bit as effervescent as she is. It is a story about bullying, but also about self-confidence, about being true to yourself, and about the rigors of junior high. The main character may have a made-up condition, but the challenges she faces are as real as anything you will ever read. I loved Elyse, and her chirpy voice is spot-on and feels like someone I know. I am looking forward to more from this author!

The Peculiar Haunting of Thelma Bee by Erin Petti

This is delightful. That is the first word that comes to mind. This was one of my top Halloween Reads this year (check the link for the full review). It is a bit creepy, yes, and in the way of children’s literature, involves giving the children a great deal of license to do as they wish. But it is a lovely story, a bit of a mystery, a love story and a ghost story all rolled into one. The construct of the main character being very curious and loving scientific method means that this is very literally used in the story, which is one way of slipping in exposure to that. But Thelma is so delightful, and her need is so dire, that we cannot help but root for her. There is even an online component. I received this at the Heartland Fall Forum book show.

Children’s Picture Books

I just got my first issue of Horn Book, which had a very cool subscription deal that I couldn’t pass up. And it reminded me again how much I love a really beautiful children’s book. I will highlight a couple here that came to me over the past year.

One North Star: A Counting Book
by Phyllis Root
Illustrations by
Beckie Prange and Betsy Bowen

This is flat-out gorgeous. I love the combined woodcut and watercolor illustrations, the deep colors, and the depiction of the natural world. It is a counting book, too, which is absolutely fun. It takes the reader deep into caves, under water, and into a bear’s den. The pages are lush and rich with detail, while at the same time being very simple. I also like that there is information in the back on the different habitats depicted. If you have not yet discovered Phyllis Root, also check out her Plant a Pocket of Prairie book, also illustrated by Betsy Bowen, or any of her other many titles. This is my top children’s book of 2016! I received a copy of this book from the publisher, University of MN Press.

 

Tinyville Town Gets to Work! By Brian Biggs

This book reminds me of the old Richard Scarry books I had when I was a kid (which, yes, I still have), with its busy bright pages full of people doing all kinds of things. This is the first in the Tinyville Town series by Biggs. I got to meet the author at the Heartland Fall Forum in the Moveable Feast, where he told us about this book. It describes a very big process (building a bridge) in a very simple way, and celebrates the idea of how people working together can make great things happen. I look forward to more in this series!

Wake Up, Island by Mary Casanova
Woodcuts by Nick Wroblewski

This details a similar landscape as One North Star but contrasts with its very delicate, lovely illustrations that also include woodcuts but with a softer palette. This book shows the whole world waking up – not just a sleepy bear scratching his back, but pine trees that stretch, and lichen that warms a rock. This is full of fun sounds – mallard wings “wuff-wuffing,” a chickadee calls, a red squirrel chatters and munches. Children will get a feel for the whole world that is contained in this tiny spot of the north woods. I received this book from the Minnesota publishers reception at the Heartland Fall Forum.

There are so many good books out there. This is a much longer list than I typically give. I keep thinking of more books I want to add. But hopefully, one of these will appeal to you, and you will find the book that you need at the time that you need it. Because books really do change lives, and they really do matter. I hope you have many great books come your way in 2017!

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