The Audacity by Laura Loup

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Rocket racing can be deadly, but working in food service is worse.

May’s humdrum life is flung into hyperdrive when she’s abducted, but not all aliens are out to probe her. She’s inadvertently rescued by Xan, an “I Love Lucy” obsessed alien with the orangest rocket ship in the universe.

But you still have to eat in space, and rocket racing is a quick, if life-threatening, way to make a living.

Finally, May has a career she loves and a friend to share her winnings with. Until a Chaos goddess possessing Xan’s ex decides to start a cult on Earth and threatens to turn the planet into her den of destruction. The Audacity is the only ship fast enough to stop her, but May’s no hero. She doesn’t even particularly like Earth.

Are we screwed? (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to the author for giving me this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This is available now.

With a tagline like “Where rocket ships run on coffee and dumb luck,” how could I not fall in love with this book? Poor May works (slaves?) at a convenience store- until she is beamed up into a spaceship, launching her on an intergalactic adventure.

This book was absolutely bonkers, in the best way. I loved the witty humor, especially when the narration would include the reader briefly. When Xan’s ship was described as something from the BBC, I laughed out loud. I’m a big fan of tongue-in-cheek humor, and this book had it in abundance.

Xan, by the way, is hands-down the best alien ever created. There’s something endearing about him. His I Love Lucy obsession, and his oddball taste, made him a blast to read.  May reminded me of Dante from the movie Clerks (“I wasn’t even supposed to be here today”), which made me laugh.

This book is light-years ahead of many others, in terms of comedy. The prose is quippy without being over-the-top, the characters are fun and different. It’s funny without trying too hard to be, if that makes sense.

Basically, this book is a blast to read, and I highly recommend it. If you want a good belly-laugh, this book is for you.

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas: Adult Nonfiction

I’ve already uploaded posts with some suggestion for great picture, middle-grade, and YA books (click on the colored word to read those posts). Now I’m moving on to nonfiction. It’s a genre that I’m just dipping my toes in, but I’ve come across several nonfiction books that I enjoyed. Here goes:

For the Love of Books: Stories of Literary Lives, Banned Books, Author Feuds, Extraordinary Characters, and More by Graham Tarrant

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The only thing I don’t love about this book is its ridiculously long title. It’s full of the most interesting facts about everything literary. For example: apparently, Norman Mailer feuds with almost everyone. This is a book I’ll come to again and again. It would make an excellent gift for any reader.

The Monk of Mokha by Dave Eggers

This is the story of a Yemeni man who learns the history of coffee and how his people are involved. He leaves the U.S., traveling to Yemen, to see the roots of this history with the end goal of becoming a coffee entrepreneur. However, he becomes trapped in Yemen as war engulfs his homeland. This book read like a thriller and I was engrossed. This is one worth reading!

The Library Book by Susan Orlean

In 1986, the Los Angeles Public Library caught fire. Thousands of books were destroyed, including one-of-a-kind treasures. This book examines the tragedy. What happened? Was it purposeful? While the book-lover in me winced over the loss of all those wonderful books, it was an absolutely fascinating book. It was written with such enthusiasm that I couldn’t tear myself away. This would be a great gift.

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life: a Sortabiography by Eric Idle

This book is so much fun! It’s full of possibly-true reminiscences by the hilarious Eric Idle. He does drop names liberally, but it’s very true to brand. If you want a nonfiction that will give you a laugh, this is a good choice.

Dragon Art: Inspiration, Impact, and Technique in Fantasy Art by Graeme Aymer and John Howe

In case this book doesn’t give it away, I love dragons. If you have a fantasy-lover in your life, this would be an amazing gift. The art is incredible and many fantasy art greats have been included in this book: John Howe and Larry Elmore, to name a few.

Well, here you have it. Are you planning on giving some nonfiction books this year? Do any of these catch your fancy?

The Tale of the Three Beautiful Raptor Sisters, and the Prince Who Was Made of Meat by Brooke Bolander

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Have you ever read a fairy tale about three raptors? Yeah, me neither. I must say, I was missing out. This short story was fantastic.

This is the story of three raptors, an intelligent princess, and an incredibly stupid prince. One day, the prince stumbles across a raptor. The rest of the village knows to avoid these beasts, since they don’t much fancy being eaten. The prince seems to think he’s come across a horse, and decides to ride it back to his castle. The raptor, hoping to gather more information about the fearless man, goes along with it. That ends up being a mistake, as the prince soon holds the raptor captive. This story continues from there.

While decidedly odd, this short story was also a ton of fun. It was well-written, full of humor and heart (and a wee bit of viscera). As with most fairy tales, it ends with a “happily ever after.” The question is: who gets the happy ending?

I loved the way the raptors thought, and the princess was awesome. Yes, this is a weird concept, but I recommend you give it a go. It is very short; it only took me fifteen minutes or so to finish it. You can easily read it in that amount of time but, if you’re like me, you’ll read it more than once.

Dreamland by Nancy Bilyeau- ARC Review

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The year is 1911 when twenty-year-old heiress Peggy Batternberg is invited to spend the summer in America’s Playground.

The invitation to Coney Island is unwelcome. Despite hailing from one of America’s richest families, Peggy would much rather spend the summer working at the Moonrise Bookstore than keeping up appearances with New York City socialites and her snobbish, controlling family.

But soon it transpires that the hedonism of Coney Island affords Peggy the freedom she has been yearning for, and it’s not long before she finds herself in love with a troubled pier-side artist of humble means, whom the Batternberg patriarchs would surely disapprove of.

Disapprove they may, but hidden behind their pomposity lurks a web of deceit, betrayal and deadly secrets. And as bodies begin to mount up amidst the sweltering clamour of Coney Island, it seems the powerful Batternbergs can get away with anything…even murder. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This will be available to purchase on January 16th, 2020.

I was first drawn to this book because of the cover. It spoke of danger and thrills. I can say with certainty that this book delivered.

Peggy Batternberg is part of a wealthy, snobbish family. They throw their money around and thinks it exempts them from the same treatment as the working class. Unfortunately, in many cases they are correct. Peggy herself hates the way her family acts. When the book opens, she’s working in a bookstore. Not for the money, which she doesn’t need, but for a sense of freedom. She’s pulled away to spend the summer on Coney Island with her family, and her sister’s fiance, who is an absolute jerk.

While in Coney Island, Peggy falls for an artist, but when women are found murdered, he’s the main suspect. Peggy has to prove he’s innocent- provided he actually is. Her efforts show the disparity between how the wealthy and working class are treated. The more Peggy pries, the more dangerous things become.

Peggy herself annoyed the living snot out of me at first. She looked down on her family’s privilege, but was perfectly okay with enjoying them herself. Her hypocrisy really bugged me. However, as the story went on, she began to change and mature. I liked her much more by the end of the book.

The story itself was really good. I liked the wealth of detail the author provided, and the pictures she painted with her words. I was able to picture every part of Coney Island, and it made the book incredibly enjoyable.

While I could see the ending from a mile away, it didn’t dull my enjoyment of the book in the slightest. This is one of the better mysteries I’ve read this year, and I’ll happily read more of Nancy Bilyeau’s books.

 

Dawn of Dreams by Brownwyn Leroux- Blog Tour

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Lost family heirlooms. Sinister mutants. An ancient book hiding legendary secrets. Such mythical things should not exist in the futuristic world of 2073.

Yet, this reality is forced on two strangers. Jaden and Kayla are blissfully unaware their world is about to be invaded. When a relentless, age-old force casts them together, the shocking truth is revealed. They are hunted by the hideous, malevolent monster prowling their community. Worse, it’s invisible to everyone but them.

Forced down a dark and dangerous path, the pair discover their stalker isn’t the only thing they have in common. As they quest for solutions while trying to survive, their unique abilities surface. They team up with other-worldy allies. After deciphering an enchanted tool, they get their first answer. But knowledge comes at a price.

In a world on the verge of destruction, can Jaden and Kayla solve the puzzles and find a way to save it, all while trying to make sense of this inexplicable connection they feel for each other? (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to the author for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion. Also, thank you to Emma at http://www.damppebbles.com for including me in this blog tour.

I can honestly say I haven’t read a book like this one before. It has several disparate parts that shouldn’t work together, but somehow they do. Both Jaden and Kayla are able to see a monstrous beast that others can’t. Both of them have to try to figure out what it means, and if they can use it to save their world.

I have to say, I didn’t have a favorite character. I didn’t dislike either main character, but I also didn’t love them. There was a lot of setup, which made parts of the book move more slowly than I expected, but the concept of the book is really interesting. I think that the characters will become more individualized as the series continues.

I’m a big fan of fantasy in general, and I loved that the angst was kept at a minimum, which let the world Bronwyn Leroux created shine through. Her world was a unique blend of both the fantastical and the futuristic. I think the beast itself was my favorite aspect of this book.

Altogether, I recommend this book, but keep in mind that it’s the first in a series and parts of it move rather slowly.


About Bronwyn Leroux:
Born near the famed gold mines of South Africa (where dwarves are sure to prowl), it was the perfect place for Bronwyn to begin her adventures. They took her to another province, her Prince Charming and finally, half a world away to the dark palace of San Francisco. While the majestic Golden Gate Bridge and its Bay views were spectacular, the magical pull of the Colorado Rockies was irresistible. Bronwyn’s family set off to explore yet again. Finding a sanctuary at last, this is Bronwyn’s perfect place to create alternative universes. Here, her mind can roam and explore and she can conjure up fantastical books for young adults.

Follow her at https://bronwynleroux.com or https://www.facebook.com/AuthorBronwynLeroux/
Social Media:
Twitter: https://twitter.com/bronwyn_leroux
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/AuthorBronwynLeroux/
Website: https://bronwynleroux.com/
Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/bronwyn.leroux/
Purchase Links:
Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B0749CF9R9/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i2
Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0749CF9R9/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_tkin_p1_i1
Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/dawn-of-dreams
Nook: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/dawn-of-dreams-bronwyn-leroux/1126280949?ean=2940154907122

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Teddy Bear of the Year by Vikki Vansickle, illustrated by Sydney Hanson- ARC Review

Teddy Bear of the Year by Vikki VanSickle

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This will be available on January 21, 2020.

When I was young, my local library hosted a “teddy bear’s picnic.” Each child brought their own stuffed animal, and read books about bears while eating animal crackers. It was very cute. So, filled with nostalgia, I was happy to read an updated take on The Teddy Bear’s Picnic to my toddler.

In this book, Ollie the bear is invited to a teddy bear’s picnic. There are games and sweets, and stuffed animals are given awards for their service to their humans. Ollie thinks that he’s not a good stuffed friend, but is given an award for his kindness and compassion with his human. The lesson in this story is that even small acts of kindness matter.

It’s a very cute story-line, and the illustrations are adorable. Unfortunately- possibly because this was an ebook copy- the illustrations and words were out of order. It was more difficult to follow than my little guy expected because we’d see pictures for things that didn’t happen for another couple of pages. I’m assuming that was just an upload error and that the final version will be in the proper order. If so, then this would pair up nicely with a teddy bear picnic for your youngster.

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas- YA Edition

I’ve now done lists of books that I think would make great gifts for both children and middle-grade (click on the colored words to read those posts). Now I’m moving on to YA. I didn’t read a ton of YA this year, but I did come across some gems that would make excellent gifts. Without further ado, here are some of my suggestions:

Three Dark Crowns series by Kendare Blake

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This series started with a roar and ended with a bang. It’s everything a darker fantasy should be. These will make a great gift for anyone who likes their fantasy to have a darker edge. I rave about it at length here.

Two Like Me and You by Chad Alan Gibbs

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This book was absolutely charming. It’s about two teens and the elderly man they help ‘escape’ from a retirement home. They get into some hilarious hijinks, but the book itself is heartwarming and sweet. Two Like Me and You would be an excellent gift for any YA reader who enjoys contemporary fiction. Read my original post here .

The Dragon’s Banker by Scott Warren

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I’m not sure whether to classify this as general fiction, or YA, so I’m putting it here. This book is excellent. It’s about a dragon who realizes that everyone is switching to paper money and his gold hoard is suddenly less impressive. To remedy the issue, he hires a banker. The story follows the banker as he tries to figure out how to invest when your client is of the draconic nature. It sounds odd, but it is absolutely fantastic. Read my original review here.

Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan

I adored this gothic fantasy! Full of morally grey characters, dirty politics, and a twisting story-line, this book is epic. Wicked Saints would be an awesome gift for anyone who likes complicated and dark books. Check out my review here.

For a Muse of Fire and A Kingdom For a Stage by Heidi Heilig

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I love, love, love these books! Jetta is a performer, traveling with her parents from place to place. She has a gift, though: she can use souls to make her puppets come to life. It’s a talent she is supposed to keep secret but, as she and her family get drawn into a rebellion, can she do that and still survive? What makes me love these book so much is that Jetta has bipolar and it is represented in an accurate and tasteful way. As someone who has bipolar, I appreciate this so much. Heidi Heilig is an excellent author, and these books (the third isn’t out yet) would be a great gift. I have yet to post my review of A Kingdom for a Stage, but you can find my review of For a Muse of Fire here.

Are you planning on gifting any YA books in the coming months? Do you have any thoughts on these books? Let me know what you think!

Frozen Secrets by Myles Christensen

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He has trouble following the rules on Earth. But this trip to Jupiter’s moon could kill his curiosity for good…

Thirteen-year-old Max Parker is a grounded Earthling with the soul of a space explorer. So when he learns his family is relocating to Jupiter’s moon, Europa, he readily agrees to stay out of mischief. But his promise is soon forgotten, and his snooping lands him on a shuttle doomed for a fiery disintegration.

Convinced someone sabotaged the craft to cover up the theft he witnessed, he digs into the incident. Why was this robbery worth attempted murder? Dodging a series of deadly accidents, he follows the clues to an abandoned outpost and discovers a secret that could blow the lid off a moon-wide conspiracy…

Can Max solve the mystery before his interplanetary escapade gets him killed? (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to the author for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This book will be available in January.

Funny story: I couldn’t find this book one afternoon. I looked in all the usual places that I “lose” things, but I still couldn’t find it. Guess where it was? In the hands of my sixth grader, who was very interested in reading it. That’s a pretty high recommendation for the book just right there. I have a feeling he’ll be curled up with it soon.

This book follows Max and his best friend Jonathan. They’ve just moved with their families to Europa, as part of a colonization. The two best buds manage to get themselves into trouble on a pretty regular basis, but their usual hijinks give way to the possibility of real trouble when they notice that things seem a little off. What did they stumble on? More importantly: will they survive?

Max was a fun character to read about. Trouble follows him, but he’s not a bad kid. He was actually really sweet. Both he and Jonathan were very believable and- I’m sure- easy for middle-graders to relate to. Their relationship was a joy to read.

This book is full of action, very rarely pausing to explain things. This is perfect for someone like my son, who is able to glean any background information that is included among other things that are happening, and prefers his stories to be action-packed. There’s never a dull moment.

Frozen Secrets is the beginning of what I think will be a highly enjoyable series. If you’ve got a middle-grade/YA reader who likes sci-fi, this is not one to miss. Keep this book in mind if you’re looking for something fun to give as a gift.

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas 2019- Middle-Grade Books


The other day I listed some picture books that would make fantastic gifts (you can find that post here.) In this post, I’m moving on to upper elementary and middle-grade books. After all, it’s good to continue to cultivate a love of reading.

The Origami Yoda Files by Tom Angleberger

My oldest has read this series multiple times. He loves these books! They’re fun stories, and have directions to make cute and simple origami Star Wars characters.
Cool side note: my son has written two fan letters to Tom Angleberger- and received two handwritten notes back! I’m more than happy to support authors who not only write quality books, but take the time to answer their fan mail. My oldest was over the moon.

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Not so long ago, in a middle school not so far away, a sixth grader named Dwight folded an origami finger puppet of Yoda. For class oddball Dwight, this wasn’t weird. It was typical Dwight behavior. But what is weird is that Origami Yoda is uncannily wise and prescient. He can predict the date of a pop quiz, guess who stole the classroom Shakespeare bust, and save a classmate from popularity-crushing embarrassment with some well-timed advice. Dwight’s classmate Tommy wonders how Yoda can be so smart when Dwight himself is so clueless. With contributions from his puzzled classmates, Tommy assembles this first case file in the blockbuster bestselling Origami Yoda series, hailed bySchool Library Journal as “honest, funny, and immensely entertaining.” (taken from Amazon)

Oddmire #1: Changeling by William Ritter

I’m hoping to grab this one for my oldest this Christmas. It’s the perfect blend of adventure and excellent character development. The story follows two brothers- one of which is a changeling- as they brave the Wild Wood to become magical heroes. What sets this story apart from many other fantasies is the subtle themes of friendship, loyalty, and learning to be proud of who you are. I loved it and I know my oldest will too (find my review here.)
Incidentally, William Ritter is also the author of the fabulous adult Jackaby series.


Magic is fading from the Wild Wood. To renew it, goblins must perform an ancient ritual involving the rarest of their kind—a newborn changeling. But when the night arrives to trade a human baby for a goblin one, something goes terribly wrong. After laying the changeling in a human infant’s crib, the goblin Kull is briefly distracted. By the time he turns back, the changeling has already perfectly mimicked the human child. Too perfectly: Kull cannot tell them apart, so he leaves both babies behind.

Tinn and Cole are raised as human twins, neither knowing what secrets may be buried deep inside one of them. When they are thirteen years old, a mysterious message arrives, calling the brothers to be heroes and protectors of magic. The boys must leave their sleepy town and risk their lives in the Wild Wood, journeying through the Deep Dark to reach the goblin horde and uncover who they truly are. (taken from Amazon)

The Return of King Lillian by Suzie Plakson

This absolutely wonderful book tells the hero’s journey from the perspective of a female. It’s charming, and has life-lessons subtly woven in. I recommend this to anyone who likes a good adventure. Find my review here.


When Lillian, the one and only heir to the throne, is cast out of her kingdom by malevolent forces, she accidentally wanders into the Forest of Forgetfullness, where she is rescued by wolves and raised by an eccentric old wise woman. When she comes of age, she is called by Destiny to return home. The trouble is, when Lillian steps out of the Forest, she has no memory of who she is or from whence she hails. Undaunted, the spirited, self-reliant young woman sets off into the unknown, determined to rediscover her long lost self and to reclaim her stolen birthright. Most of the tale is told by Lillian herself as she chronicles her extraordinary adventures. (taken from Amazon)

The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry

Full of a delightful cast of characters, this madcap mystery/cover-up is great for any age. It’s perfect for upper elementary students as the macabre level is extremely low (nothing like a tasteful corpse, ha ha!), and this book is as far from creepy as a book can get. In fact, it’s pretty stinking funny. Find my review here.

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There’s a murderer on the loose – but that doesn’t stop the girls of St. Etheldreda’s from attempting to hide the death of their headmistress in this rollicking farce.

The students of St. Etheldreda’s School for Girls face a bothersome dilemma. Their irascible headmistress, Mrs. Plackett, and her surly brother, Mr. Godding, have been most inconveniently poisoned at Sunday dinner. Now the school will almost certainly be closed and the girls sent home – unless these seven very proper young ladies can hide the murders and convince their neighbors that nothing is wrong. (taken from Amazon)

Galaxy’s Edge: Black Spire by Delilah S. Dawson

My son loves this book! He devoured it and highly recommends it to anyone who likes Star Wars.
Interesting side-note: this author also wrote Kill the Farm Boy, an adult book that I really enjoy.


After devastating losses at the hands of the First Order, General Leia Organa has dispatched her agents across the galaxy in search of allies, sanctuary, and firepower – and her top spy, Vi Moradi, may have just found all three, on a secluded world at the galaxy’s edge.

A planet of lush forests, precarious mountains, and towering, petrified trees, Batuu is on the furthest possible frontier of the galactic map, the last settled world before the mysterious expanse of Wild Space. The rogues, smugglers, and adventurers who eke out a living on the largest settlement on the planet, Black Spire Outpost, are here to avoid prying eyes and unnecessary complications. Vi, a Resistance spy on the run from the First Order, is hardly a welcome guest. And when a shuttle full of stormtroopers lands in her wake, determined to root her out, she has no idea where to find help.

To survive, Vi will have to seek out the good-hearted heroes hiding in a world that redefines scum and villainy. With the help of a traitorous trooper and her acerbic droid, she begins to gather a colorful band of outcasts and misfits, and embarks on a mission to spark the fire of resistance on Batuu – before the First Order snuffs it out entirely. (taken from Amazon)

Are you planning on buying any books for your middle-grade reader in the next month? What are some middle-grade books that you’d suggest?

The Manor House Murder by Faith Martin

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Monica Noble and her husband Graham, the local vicar, are invited to participate in a high-flying church conference being held at a swanky manor house hotel in their village.

At the Saturday night dinner, the ambitious female cleric Celia Gordon tragically dies, seemingly of a peanut allergy.

But when Chief Superintendent Jason Dury arrives on the scene he quickly discovers that it’s a case of murder.

AND MONICA’S HUSBAND IS THE PRIME SUSPECT

Other suspects include an eminent bishop, an archdeacon viciously opposed to female clergy, and his wife, the curator of a local museum, who is definitely up to something.

But if Monica is to find out who killed Celia, and free her husband from suspicion, she must grapple with a very ruthless — and increasingly desperate — killer, putting herself and those around her in mortal danger. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This is available to purchase now.

Disclaimer: I haven’t read the first two books in this series. I was able to pick up on things very easily, however.

This is one of those fun and cozy mysteries that are good to pull out on a rainy day. A simple read, it held my attention and made me smile. The characters aren’t all that developed, and I called the ‘who dunnit’ before the reveal, but it didn’t dim my enjoyment of the book. In a story like this, the fun is how you get to the end.

I didn’t love the setup: the multiple uses of the words “whore” and “prissy bitch” in the prologue grated on me. I do understand that the whole purpose was to point out how bad the baddie was. It still irked me, though. It didn’t jive with the feel of the rest of the story.

It’s a small complaint, and the rest of the book was highly enjoyable. I kind of loved the glossary of English terms that was added for us Americans. I found it helpful and a ton of fun to see the differences in language.

Have you read this? What did you think?