Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Series I've Been Meaning To Start But Haven't

Apparently, I read a lot of books that are part of a series.  Now whether I've read the next book is a whole nother thing.  I also seem to have quite a few YA series that I'm hoping to read.   Here are ten that I've been meaning to start or one's I need to finish already.  

1.  I really love Maggie Stiefvater's The Raven Cycle series but have yet to start any of the books in the Mercy Fall's series.   

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2.  Megan Whalen Turner's The Queen's Thief series.  Now I've read the first book, The Thief but really need to get back to reading the rest.  

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3.  I've always liked the look of Danielle Paige's Dorothy Must Die series.  I know nearly nothing about this series, but that title has me really curious.  

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4.  Rachel Hawkins Rebel Belle series.  Aren't these covers intriguing and oh so gorgeous?  A Southern high school with sassy characters.  


5.  Evelyn Skye's The Crown's Game series.  Another series that I hardly know anything about, except that it's set in Russia and has a magical duel.  

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6.  From Goodreads:  "She’s more gunpowder than girl—and the fate of the desert lies in her hands."  I'm really interested in the setting and finding out more about that gunslinging girl.

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7.  My kiddo read the first book and enjoyed it.  I've been looking for a mystery and this seems like a good fit.  

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8.  Another series with strong female characters that I want to know more about.

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9.  I 've read the entire Percy Jackson and The Olympians series,  the first three of The Heroes of Olympus series, and only the first book in the Red Pyramid series.  After that, there were too many for me to keep up.   I have so many of his series that I need to get back to reading.  The Trials of Apollo is one that comes to mind. 

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9.  The Greenglass House seems like it's a book right up my alley.  From Goodreads: " A rambling old inn, a strange map, an attic packed with treasures, squabbling guests, theft, friendship, and an unusual haunting mark this smart middle-grade mystery in the tradition of the Mysterious Benedict Society books and Blue Balliet's Chasing Vermeer series."

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What series would make your list?  Feel free to leave your Top Ten Tuesday link in the comments and I'll check it out.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Historical Fiction Review: The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt

10263191The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Format:  Ebook

Number of Pages: 272
First Published:  June 1st, 2007
Source: Library
Why I wanted to read this:   I've always been intrigued by the cover and I was looking for a historical fiction book to read.  

Opening Lines: 
 "Of all the kids in the seventh grade at Camillo Junior High, there was one kid that Mrs. Baker hated with heat whiter than the sun.   Me.         And let me tell you, it wasn't for anything that I'd done."

The Wednesday Wars takes place during 1967 across nine months of Holling Hoodhood's school year at Camillo Junior High in Long Island.   Each Wednesday half of Hollings class goes to Hebrew School and the other half got to Catechism leaving Holling alone with his teacher, Mrs. Baker.  Mrs. Baker keeps him busy clapping erasers and cleaning up around the classroom, until the day she decides they should read William Shakespeare's plays together,  further confirming to Holling that Mrs. Baker hates his guts.   While at school, Holling also experiences teasing from his classmates, but nothing compares to the pressure he receives from his father to stay on Mrs. Baker's good side.  Otherwise, his father's business risks losing an architectural contract with Mrs. Baker's family.  Holling just wants to make it through the year in Mrs. Baker's class.

Holling's impression of Mrs. Baker is that she is an "evil genius,"  someone who hates his guts, but over the course of the story, his opinion of her begins to shift through their shared reading and discussions of Shakespeare.   Holling is a pretty bright kid and receptive to the idea of reading Shakespeare because he already loves to read books like Treasure Island, Kidnapped and The Call of the Wild.  Although, he can't fathom how Shakespeare could ever compare to those books.  But both Holling and Schmidt do demonstrate that Shakespeare's plays aren't boring, they actually have a lot more going on then even Holling first thought.   I must confess I've only read a few of Shakespeare's plays, so some of the characters names and quotes were new to me, but what I enjoyed most was Holling and Mrs. Baker's discussions about the play's.  How The Merchant of Venice was about becoming who you're supposed to be, how The Tempest is about how defeat helps us to grow.  Each play Mrs. Baker selected corresponded to something happening in Holling's life,  and through their discussions, Holling's character began to change and grow in some wonderful ways.  Holling's also learns that he made a lot of assumptions about Mrs. Baker and that he needs to be the person he wants to be, not who his father thinks he should be.  

The Wednesday Wars also incorporates historical events like the Vietnam War, the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy into the storyline through Mai Thi, a character who is a Vietnamese refugee, and Holling's interactions with Mrs. Baker, whose husband later in the story goes missing during the war.  Hollings sister also illustrates the protests that were going on during the war.   Just the kind of historical fiction that I like to read, it doesn't feel like I'm being told everything, rather seeing them through Holling's storytelling.  One not so surprising thing was how much things don't seem to have changed since the time being reflected.  How standardized tests and bomb drills were things Holling experienced growing up, and how even today's children have similar issues as those presented in the book with kids practicing active shooter drills, racism and bullying still occurring.   

Ahh, but Mrs. Baker, what a lovely teacher, she made me tear up in the same ways that reading Ms. Bixby's Last Day did.  One of my favorite parts of the book was when she and Holling went on a tour of sites around town like the Quaker Meeting House, a station on the underground railroad, and the Saint Paul's Episcopal School, where British Soldiers were housed during the American Revolution.  With the important point that " you see houses and buildings every day, and you walk by them on your way to something else, and you hardly see."    With Holling observing that he "saw his town as if I just arrived."  

This was truly a wonderful read, filled with laugh out loud moments, excellent character development, and so many memorable quotes I'd love to share, okay maybe just one more, but then go read it for yourself please.  :)

"But her nefarious plot to bore me to death failed again, because The Tempest was even better than the Merchant of Venice."

Did I pique your interest or have you read The Wednesday Wars before?  Feel free to leave a comment.  

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Father's in Middle grade books

Top Ten Tuesday is a Meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish  This week's Top Ten is all about those fathers. 

Most of the time the parents in the books I read are either whisked away, murdered, died or are off some place in need of rescue.  Which makes this Father's Day related Freebie a bit of a challenge, but I'm going to attempt to tackle it nonetheless.   

Pa from Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder  

I can't recall the number of times that I've read this series, probably as often as we watched the TV series.  Pa was the strong, silent, family man.  Always willing to help out in his community and loved his family dearly.   

Arthur Weasley from Harry Potter series Always intrigued by Muggle items and how they work.  Another father who is dedicated to his family and won't take anyone messing with them.   


Atticus Finch from To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Now I've heard that Atticus Finch is very different in the sequel to this book, which is why I haven't read it, but from what I recall of To Kill A Mockingbird he was a wonderful father.  He seemed to have strong convictions,  wanting his children to respect people while instilling honesty and integrity.  


Starr's father, "Big Mav" in The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

I got the sense that Big Mav loves his family and wants his children to be successful, with education being important.  This is a tight-knit family filled with humor and love, which is refreshing to see.  

Now if I was picking books for my father-in-law these authors would be at the top of the list.  



Know of any awesome dads that I've missed in my MG/YA list?  Feel free to leave a comment or link to your Top Ten Tuesday.  

Friday, June 9, 2017

Friday's Future Favorites

This is a new monthly feature on the second Friday of each month from Brandy at Random Musings of a Bibliophile   highlighting the excitement for upcoming books.  I have three books that I can't wait to read.

1.  Godsgrave is the continuation of the Nevernight series by Jay Kristoff.  Mia is a kick butt assassin who is out for revenge on the people who killed her family.  I really liked Mia the assassin and she's not to be trifled with.  

Due to release: September 5th, 2017

Assassin Mia Corvere has found her place among the Blades of Our Lady of Blessed Murder, but many in the Red Church ministry think she’s far from earned it. Plying her bloody trade in a backwater of the Republic, she’s no closer to ending Consul Scaeva and Cardinal Duomo, or avenging her familia. And after a deadly confrontation with an old enemy, Mia begins to suspect the motives of the Red Church itself.

When it’s announced that Scaeva and Duomo will be making a rare public appearance at the conclusion of the grand games in Godsgrave, Mia defies the Church and sells herself to a gladiatorial collegium for a chance to finally end them. Upon the sands of the arena, Mia finds new allies, bitter rivals, and more questions about her strange affinity for the shadows. But as conspiracies unfold within the collegium walls, and the body count rises, Mia will be forced to choose between loyalty and revenge, and uncover a secret that could change the very face of her world.

300253362.  I'm still eagerly waiting for Maggie Stiefvater's Ronan series, but there were a few things that struck me about All The Crooked Saints.  First the cover, I love the inclusion of owls and roses.  I also recalled hearing somewhere that she referred to this book as her dark creepy standalone and can't wait to see the doodle she made in my preordered copy.   I'm also curious about the setting of Colorado.  

Due to Release:  October 10th, 2017 

Saints. Miracles. Family. Romance. Death. Redemption.

The book takes place in the 1960s in Bicho Raro, Colorado and follows the lives of three members of the Soria family—each of whom is searching for their own miracle. There’s Beatriz, who appears to lack feelings but wants to study her mind; Daniel, the “Saint” of Bicho Raro, a miracle worker for everyone but himself; and Joaquin (a.k.a. Diablo Diablo), who runs a pirate radio station at night.

"The Soria family are saints as well, and the miracle they perform for pilgrims to Bicho Raro is as strange as most miracles are: They can make the darkness inside you visible. Once the pilgrims see their inner darkness face to face, it’s up to them to perform another miracle on themselves: banishing the darkness for good. It can be a tricky business to vanquish your inner demons, even once you know what they are, but the Sorias are forbidden to help with this part. They’ve all been told that if a Soria interferes with the second miracle, it will bring out their own darkness, and a saint’s darkness, so the story goes, is a most potent and dangerous thing." - Maggie Stiefvater, EW interview.


Lockwood & Co., Book Five The Empty Grave

I can't wait to read the next book in the Lockwood & Co. series:  The Empty Grave.  Things were kinda left unresolved and I can't wait to see what's in store for Lucy, Lockwood, and George.  

Due to release:  September 12th, 2017

The Empty Grave (Lockwood & Co. #5) by Jonathan Stroud   

Five months after the events in THE CREEPING SHADOW, we join Lockwood, Lucy, George, Holly, and their associate Quill Kips on a perilous night mission: they have broken into the booby-trapped Fittes Mausoleum, where the body of the legendary psychic heroine Marissa Fittes lies. Or does it? This is just one of the many questions to be answered in Book 5 of the Lockwood & Co. series. Will Lockwood ever reveal more about his family's past to Lucy? Will their trip to the Other Side leave Lucy and Lockwood forever changed? Will Penelope Fittes succeed in shutting down their agency forever? The young agents must survive attacks from foes both spectral and human before they can take on their greatest enemy in a climactic and chaotic battle. And to prevail they will have to rely on help from some surprising--and shadowy--allies. Jonathan Stroud once again delivers a rousing adventure full of danger, laughs, twists, and frights. 

What books are you looking forward to?  Feel free to leave a comment.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

MG Mystery/Adventure: The Door in the Alley (The Explorers #1) by Adrienne Kress

25268434The Door in the Alley by Adrienne Kress
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Format:  Hardcover

Number of Pages: 246
Published:  April 25th, 2017
Source: Library
Why I wanted to read this:   Looked to be a rousing adventure.

Opening line:  This story begins, like most stories do, with a pig wearing a teeny hat."  

12 yo Sebastian is literal, logical, and practical.  Each day he follows the same routine and likes it that way.   That is until he and his cousin Arthur get into a fight and Arthur huff's off, leading Sebastian to follow him down an alley with a mysterious sign for The Explorers Society.   Once Sebastian's home, he can't help thinking about the sign and his curiosity takes him past the alley again.  This time he rescues a pig wearing a hat, which he tries to return to the Explorers Society.   Once inside, he is questioned by the director and is sentenced for trespassing, despite being invited in.  His punishment, minding the society and cleaning.  Sebastian tries to set a good example, do all the right things because he feels like he's finally found a place that he fits in, but in order to stay, he's been tasked with breaking a rule.  Still eager to please, Sebastian tries to break a rule and finds a box with pictures of people referred to as the Fillipendulous Society, members who were thrown out of The Explorers Society.   Meanwhile, Evie"s across town attending another dinner away from the orphanage at the meek, boring Anderson's House, until some men barge in and demand that the Anderson's turn over a key.  Evie barely escapes with a letter from Mrs. Anderson and a request to find the Explorers Society, which is where she runs into Sebastian.   The two team up using the mysterious box of Sebastian's and the letter from  Evie's grandfather, the infamous Alistair Drake of the Fillipendulous Society.   What ensues is an adventure to locate the remaining members of the Fillipendulous Society and rescue Evie's grandfather.  

The Explorers is similar to The Name of This Book Is A Secret by Pseudonymous Bosch, with both books being filled with humor, adventure and a narrator that sneaks into the dialogue from time to time.  The Explorers has plenty of excitement, mystery and two likable characters who learn a lot from one another, despite being somewhat opposites in their personalities.  It's refreshing to have a character like Sebastian who enjoys education so much. So much so that when Evie suggests that he skip school to help her track down the Fillipendulous Society members, he almost has a panic attack.  It actually weighs on his conscience.  Evie does help him tremendously in loosening up and seeing that sometimes logic can't answer all of your question's and you're left with taking a risk.  Well, in Sebastian's case a calculated risk.  Evie and Sebastian also develop this sweet friendship, and how cute is Sebastian when "Evie looked at him with one of her totally unreadable expressions.  And then suddenly she smiled, and it felt like the sun breaking through dark stormy clouds, and Sebastian felt a wave of relief wash over him."    Adorable.  There's also a hint of magic with one of the members of the Fillipendulous Society seeming to control animals or communicate with them somehow, but it isn't really clear yet.  Overall, lots of adventure and perilous situations as the two try to outwit the bad guys who are after the key as well.    

Edited to add:  There are lovely illustrations throughout, with my favorite being the moment that Evie meets Sebastian in the alley.  

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Armchair BookExpo Day#4: ISO books

Image created by Boquilla's Window of Big Bend Productions

ISO Books: As readers, we are always looking for our next book to read or a stack to fill our TBR shelves. This is your opportunity to ask using our Armchair Book Expo Book Suggestion Generator (aka YOU!). Are you wanting to expand your horizons with minority characters? Are you in search of your next book club read? Do you want to explore your graphic novel or comic book options? Or, are you looking for a book that broaches a mental health or childhood issue to help you grow in understanding and knowledge in your personal life? YOU ask and YOU answer. 

Today's topic for Armchair BookExpo is books we're searching for.  In my case, I'm always in search of books for my kiddo.  Current favorite authors are Brandon Mull and his Fablehaven series, Enders Game by Orson Scott Card and Highly Illogical Behavior by John Correy Waley and I am Four. (edited to add books like Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children and Six of Crows, Rick Riordan was also a favorite). 

 Together that probably sounds pretty random, but I'm looking for Dystopian, Fantasy, more YA than middle grade.  

Now for myself, I'm always on the lookout for YA books with diverse characters or written by diverse authors and a good MG Historical Fiction set in Germany or Switzerland and not about WWI or WWII. 

Feel free to recommend some books and I'll check them out or leave your ArmChair link.    

Friday, June 2, 2017

Armchair BookExpo Day #3 Delving Into Diversity & Dining with Authors

Image created by Boquilla's Window of Big Bend Productions

  • Delving Into Diversity:  Book Expo sparked quite the controversy a couple years ago regarding diversity in books and authors. Where are we now? OR, let's take a different direction and explore the diversity of the format of a book. Do we judge a book by its cover and/or content (e.g.,, audio, digital, graphic, etc.)? 

While I think the number of books by diverse authors or with diverse characters is improving, I think it still has lots of room to grow.  My goal is to seek out those diverse authors and their books and explore new things.  It's not only fun to read books that reflect my own experiences, but I also enjoy reading about other cultures and seeing someone else's experiences, perspective.  Having a child, I want my kiddo to experience more than just what is around us, but to develop empathy and learn new things too.  I try really hard not to judge a book by its cover and give the book an opportunity to grab me.  That being said, if a cover is really poorly done I'm going to do a bit more flipping through the pages to see if it's a fit for me.  Otherwise, I'll never make it through the TBR.   Content to me matters in the sense that I don't want graphic detailed depictions of death or anything, but I'll take some swear words if it fits with the characters.    

  • Dining With the Authors: Every year at Book Expo, children and adult authors are featured during breakfast. Who would you dream of enjoying a meal with? Would it be breakfast, lunch, dinner, or simply coffee? What would your meal be? What would you discuss? 

I did a post for Top Ten Tuesday of all the authors that I want to meet, but hands down, top of the list would be J. K Rowling.   I've imagined this in many different ways, but definitely in England over tea with biscuits.  Even over a meal would be grand.  Maybe even at Universal Studio, chat about how it feels to have your book come to life in that way.  I'd love to discuss all things Harry Potter, developing her story, how she feels about the movies, favorite stories growing up.  Talk about the craft of writing, even just about daily life. You name it, and for as long as she has patience with me.    

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Armchair BookExpo Day #2 What Do Readers Want? & Lets Collaborate

Image created by Boquilla's Window of Big Bend Productions
Today's Day #2 of Armchair BookExpo and the topic is What Do Readers Want? and Lets Collaborate

What makes or breaks a book?

A character's voice and how well I feel immersed in the setting?  Reading a lot of fantasy, I really love a story where the world building takes me to this other place.    I love details like

"Seeds, drifting in from beyond the walls of Castle Gloom, had found fertile soil, and grown, undisturbed by mortals.  Ivy crept over the battlements, thick, black, and shimmering with ice.  Scarlet roses bloomed despite the snow, their heads hanging from worn statues like blood drops. Oak trees rose from the broken flagstones, their branches having brought down the walls and now spread out high and wide over the keep." (from Dream Magic by Joshua Khan). 

  I also want to be able to relate to the character in some way or just a character that stands out and is different from something that I've already read.  I love characters that have a sense of humor, are snarky or one's that take me back to a younger me.  There has to be a strong plot that I can follow. 

How do we rate the books?

A five-star book for me is one that I could read over and over, I absolutely loved the book and it's on my Goodreads favorites list.  These are the books that when the author has a new release coming out I'll preorder cause I have to have it.   After that, my rating really depends on my mood while reading the book, is it memorable?  Is it really geared toward middle grade or more YA?  Do the characters work for me?  Would this be something that my kiddo would want to read?  I think to determine whether it's great literature I'd need more formal education, but I can usually determine whether or not it's a good story to me.   
What do we want from an author event?

I'm not a very good judge of this because I' haven't been to an event in years.  Clive Barker and Stephen King were the only two that I went to and that was years ago.  Stephen King only did a reading and wouldn't sign books and Clive Barker was lovely, it was at the Tattered Cover in Downtown Denver (stores closed and moved since then).  As I recall it was a ticketed event so it went pretty smoothly.  I'd love to have more in my area.  

How does diversity representation fit into all of this? 

One of my reading goals for the year is to read books with more diverse characters and from diverse authors.  Stories that do all the things listed in this quote: 

“Books are sometimes windows, offering views of worlds that may be real or imagined, familiar or strange. These windows are also sliding glass doors, and readers have only to walk through in imagination to become part of whatever world has been created or recreated by the author. When lighting conditions are just right, however, a window can also be a mirror. Literature transforms human experience and reflects it back to us, and in that reflection we can see our own lives and experiences as part of a larger human experience. Reading, then, becomes a means of self-affirmation, and readers often seek their mirrors in books.” 
― Rudine Sims Bishop

Let's Collaborate & Listen:

 The online book community has changed so much over the years. How do we keep up within our own book-sphere as well as within the community as a whole (i.e., libraries, bookstores, authors, publishers, etc.)? 

My main resources for what is going on in the book sphere is Twitter and Goodreads.  I tend to follow my favorite authors, bloggers, a few publishing companies on Twitter and follow their blogs too.  Most of the authors that I know have all been very approachable and it feels like a community atmosphere.   I also read through the upcoming monthly releases on Goodreads or Barnes and Noble and check NetGalley or Edelweiss for review copies.  There's a used bookstore in town which I don't frequent as much as I used to, they just don't get much turnover.  However, my library is awesome!!  I've recommended books to them and they're pretty receptive to getting them.   

 What do you look for in a book?  What makes it special?  Feel free to leave your thoughts or a link to your post if you're participating in Armchair BookExpo.