Middle-Grade Gems: Interview with a Sixth Grader

About six months ago, I interviewed my oldest about books he was loving at the time. He devours books (not literally; that would be cause for concern) and I love hearing his opinions. I figure the time is ripe for round two. So, here are his current favorites:

The Ranger’s Apprentice series by John Flanagan

Why he liked it: “It’s a very good adventure and fantasy book with good characters. There’s a ton of books in the series so it doesn’t end super fast. There’s a lot of awesome action and it’s just a really good series.”

The Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordan

Why he liked it: “It’s awesome that it’s Egyptian: it’s got a good mythology behind it. It’s got some good comedy, but a lot of good action too.”

Star Wars: Alphabet Squadron by Alexander Freed

Why he liked it: “This book is full of great action, great characters, and a great story! My favorite character was Wyl Lark, a determined pilot with a knack for flying.”

Star Wars: Blackspire Outpost by Dlilah S. Dawson

Why he liked it: “This book is full of action, importance, and great, engaging characters that really drew me in. Ten out of ten.”

Loki’s Wolves by K.L. Armstong and M.A. Marr

Why he liked it: The book is about Matt, who is a descendant of Thor; Fen, a descendant of Loki; and Laurie, another descendant of Loki. Together, they must stop Ragnarok! My favorite character is probably Fen. He’s not like the other characters. He’s a bit more wild than the others, but he’s also a good brother, and I like that.”

Fuzzy by Tom Angleberger

Why he liked it: “One of my favorite things about this book was how believable the characters are. I haven’t read any other books like this. It’s really nice to see such a unique book. I really liked it.”

Devil’s Deal by Tessa Hastjarjanto- The Write Reads Blog Tour


Today is my stop on this blog tour, put together by the awesome Dave at The Write Reads. I’m excited to join other wonderful bookbloggers in discussing Devil’s Deal!

When two angels break their deal with the devil, he comes for the one thing they’re trying to protect.

All 16-year-old Nora wants is to graduate high school and visit her family in Italy. But when two boys transfer to her class, everything changes.

Danny steals her friends, Ben her first kiss.

When Nora finds out the boys are not who they claim to be, she faces a difficult choice.

Will she give her love or her life? (taken from Amazon)

I’ll be honest: I register a zero on the romance scale. It’s just not my thing. I was a bit hesitant to read this book because of it. However, this book seemed like it might have a bit of a Mortal Instruments vibe, and I have a weakness for that series.

I liked the supernatural aspects of this book. The opening, in particular, was very well written and drew me in. It was a very visual scene, which is always an intriguing start. It didn’t go where I expected, based on the opening, but that’s not a bad thing.

I really loved that the book is set in the Netherlands. The last few supernatural fantasy books I’ve read have taken place in the U.S. and it’s always cool to see a change. Nora did confuse me a bit: sometimes she was calm, reasonable, and mature ahead of her years. At other times, I struggled to understand why she was reacting in a certain way. However, both Dan and Ben were interesting characters, and Tessa Hastjarjanto has a very unique writer’s voice.

If you enjoyed TV’s Vampire Diaries, especially the relationship between the three main characters, you definitely need to pick this book up. It’ll be right up your alley.

There Will Come a Darkness by Katy Rose Pool

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The Age of Darkness approaches.
Five lives stand in its way.
Who will stop it . . . or unleash it?

For generations, the Seven Prophets guided humanity. Using their visions of the future, they ended wars and united nations―until the day, one hundred years ago, when the Prophets disappeared.

All they left behind was one final, secret prophecy, foretelling an Age of Darkness and the birth of a new Prophet who could be the world’s salvation . . . or the cause of its destruction. With chaos on the horizon, five souls are set on a collision course:

A prince exiled from his kingdom.
A ruthless killer known as the Pale Hand.
A once-faithful leader torn between his duty and his heart.
A reckless gambler with the power to find anything or anyone.
And a dying girl on the verge of giving up.

One of them―or all of them―could break the world. Will they be savior or destroyer? (taken from Amazon)

           Oh, I’m conflicted about this book! I’ll start right off by saying that I didn’t love it. I think I liked it, though. Told from five different points of view, switching from chapter to chapter, at times it felt disjointed. As much as each character was a part of the over arcing tale, having that many points of view seemed like an odd choice to me.

I feel like I should probably explain what a Grace is, since they’re a driving force in this book. Graces are gifts that improve a person’s ability in some way. There’s the Grace of Bloody, used to heal or hurt; the Grace of Heart, which makes one a better fighter; the Grace of Mind which can create magical items; and the Grace of Sight, which is basically scrying.

With a book like this, the easiest way for me to organize my thoughts is to take it character by character. First, there’s Hassan, a prince in hiding. His homeland has been overrun by a group of zealots known as The Witnesses, intent on destroying anyone with a Grace. A Grace is a special power, but more on that in a minute. Half the time I really liked Hassan, and the other half of the time I wanted to smack him. He was a very naive character, which I guess makes sense since up until he lost his kingdom he hadn’t seen much of life. Hassan is without a Grace in a bloodline that has strong powers. He feels powerless to help retake his homeland and it plays a large role in the choices he makes.

There’s the Pale Hand, a girl who can kill with a touch. She sounded a lot cooler than she ended up being in the book. In many ways, she was just sort of useless. I really can’t say much else about her because her story was less developed than others in my opinion.

Anton is a gambler who’s terrified and tries to hide it. He’s on the run from someone violent who has a vendetta against him. I really liked Anton. He was never boring, and the careless veneer he showed others made for a fascinating juxtaposition with his stressed, paranoid thoughts.

Jude is the young leader of The Order of the Last Light, a group of prophets who’ve returned in time to try to make sure their last prophecy is brought to light. He is so incredibly annoying! He’s wishy-washy, immature, and ditches the entire team he’s supposed to be leading without a second thought. Ugh!

Beru was another interesting character to me. Her secret was something I haven’t seen in YA yet, and it was refreshing to see an author doing something new in a genre that can sometimes seem to fit a very specific mold.

These characters did eventually weave into one narrative, but it took a while. In a way, they sort of circled each other in their separate parts of the story. The writing was solid, however, and it ended up coming together well. I just didn’t love it. This was an “pretty good, but nothing to write home about” book for me.

Girl at the Grave by Teri Bailey Black

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A mother hanged for murder.
A daughter left to pick up the pieces of their crumbling estate.
Can she clear her family’s name if it means facing her own dark past?

Valentine has spent years trying to outrun her mother’s legacy. But small towns have long memories, and when a new string of murders occurs, all signs point to the daughter of a murderer.

Only one person believes Valentine is innocent―Rowan Blackshaw, the son of the man her mother killed all those years ago. Valentine vows to find the real killer, but when she finally uncovers the horrifying truth, she must choose to face her own dark secrets, even if it means losing Rowan in the end. (taken from Amazon)

Not quite a mystery, not quite a historical fiction, this book was a combination of a few different genres. It wasn’t quite what I expected, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

Taken as a mystery, I wouldn’t have liked this book. When I read a mystery, I like going back and realizing the clues were there all along to reveal the “who dunnit.” The reveal in this book was a little too convoluted for that to be the case and there weren’t clues for the reader to follow. So…not a mystery. Maybe a historical fiction?

While the historical aspect was there, it really didn’t play too much of a role other than pointing out that the gentlemen visiting Valentine were pushing the bounds of propriety. So, I guess it wasn’t really a historical fiction. Gothic thriller with a hint of romance?

That’s probably the closest I can come to putting the book in a neat little box and it doesn’t really fit there either. Luckily, books don’t need to be categorized like that. Suffice it to say, it’s not the kind of book I normally read.

Valentine was an… interesting character. She went back and forth between wanting to solve the mystery of whether her mother was innocent of the murder that had cast such a shadow over Valentine’s life, to wondering if the boy she had a crush on felt the same way. I’ve never been able to switch gears like that, so I couldn’t connect with her at all, but I can’t deny that she was definitely a fully developed character.

I actually didn’t like the other characters much at all. Sam was a jerk, plain and simple. He was supposed to be a sweet childhood friend, but he was possessive and cruel. Rowan could have been very interesting, but fell a teensy bit flat. However, the story managed to draw me in anyway. Sometimes a book does that. I can’t put my finger on why I found it enjoyable since by all rights I’d normally dislike a book like this, but I did end up liking it. Go figure.

Would I suggest this book? Yes..maybe. I honestly have no idea. Ask me again in a month or two.

The Coffee Book Tag


I saw this tag on Stephen Writes. He has a fantastic blog. Check it out!

I have what is probably an unhealthy love of coffee. So, of course I just had to take part in this book tag. Excuse me while I make a cup of coffee first…

Black coffee: A series that’s tough to get into but has hardcore fans: A Court of Thorns and Roses. Sorry everyone, but this series is not for me. I struggled to finish the first book, and didn’t bother to read the rest. If you’re in love with this series, more power to you, but as for me…nope.

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Peppermint mocha: A book that gets more popular during winter or a festive time of year: Is it just me, or does everyone reread the Harry Potter series during the fall? It’s a great series, so I recommend giving it a go if you’ve resisted thus far.

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Hot Chocolate: Your favorite children’s book: I can’t pick just one! I have so many. I’ve always loved fairy tales and Arthurian legends, though, so I’m choosing The Kitchen Knight for this particular post.

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Double shot of espresso: A book that kept you on the edge of your seat from start to finish: The Seven and a Half Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle was impossible to put down. It was the best book I read last year and I highly suggest you read it. Do it now!

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Starbucks: Name a book you see everywhere: I’ve been seeing The Ten Thousand Door of January everywhere, and for good reason. It’s absolutely gorgeous. Don’t let this book pass you by. It’s effortlessly captivating.

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The hipster coffee shop: Give a book by an idie author a shout-out: Duckett and Dyer: Dicks for Hire by G.M. Nair is the funniest book I’ve read in a very long time. Read this book, but empty your bladder first so you don’t pee yourself while laughing too hard.

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Oops! I accidentally ordered decaf: Name a book that you expected more from: I loathed The Hunting Party. I’ve been kicking myself for wasting my time and actually finishing it. I hated the “motive” (or lack thereof) for the crime so much that I ended up taking a break from the thriller/mystery genre for a few months afterward. Ugh.

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The perfect blend: Name a book or series that was both bitter and sweet, but ultimately satisfying: The Perks of Being a Wallflower is not what you’d call a comfortable book, but it’s an important book. It’s one of my all-time favorite books. It’s difficult and touching, powerful in its honesty.

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Chai Tea: Name a book or series that makes you dream of far off places: Reading The Night Circus is like entering the best kind of dream. It’s exquisite.

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Earl Grey: Name your favorite classic: This is another question that doesn’t have just one answer. For this post, I’ll go with Twenty Years After by Alexandre Dumas. It’s a continuation of The Three Musketeers. If you haven’t read it, give it a go. You won’t be disappointed.

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I’m not going to tag anyone, but if you’re a coffee lover, pour yourself a mug and do your own. I’m curious to see other answers.

 

Teeth in the Mist by Dawn Kurtagich

Before the birth of time, a monk uncovers the Devil’s Tongue and dares to speak it. The repercussions will be felt for generations…

Sixteen-year-old photography enthusiast Zoey has been fascinated by the haunted, burnt-out ruins of Medwyn Mill House for as long as she can remember–so she and her best friend, Poulton, run away from home to explore them. But are they really alone in the house? And who will know if something goes wrong?

In 1851, seventeen-year-old Roan arrives at the Mill House as a ward–one of three, all with something to hide from their new guardian. When Roan learns that she is connected to an ancient secret, she must escape the house before she is trapped forever.

1583. Hermione, a new young bride, accompanies her husband to the wilds of North Wales where he plans to build the largest water mill and mansion in the area. But rumors of unholy rituals lead to a tragic occurrence and she will need all her strength to defeat it.

Three women, centuries apart, drawn together by one Unholy Pact. A pact made by a man who, more than a thousand years later, may still be watching…(taken from Amazon)

In the interest of full disclosure, I will say: I did not finish this book. However, since I made it over two hundred pages in before calling it, I’ve decided that I’m an expert on the subject of this book. Okay, maybe not, but I’m still about to spew my opinion. You have been warned.

This book reminded me of a less mature version of Penny Dreadful (basically, the author adios-ed the nudity) smashed together with The Blair Witch Project. It did not work for me at all.

First of all, the present day part of the story bored me. I couldn’t find it in me to care one iota about Zoey, or her friend. The whole video diary thing is been there, done that. I’m assuming that if I finished the book, there would be some reveal about who she is and how she’s involved in the hauntings (I’m assuming she’s related to Roan, one of the main characters from the 1851 storyline), but…so what?

The 1851 storyline, involving Roan, was so choppy that there were several occasions where I was convinced I’d skipped pages, only to find out that I hadn’t. There was one part where Roan told a character she needed to speak to him as all the other characters left the room, only for that talk to not happen until much later.

The switches between the different timelines were done in a way that felt very odd to me. Chapters didn’t seem to end naturally, as much as just stop almost mid-thought. Don’t get me wrong, the premise was interesting. I just didn’t enjoy the execution at all.

After I decided that there was no reason for me to continue reading a book that is most definitely not for me, I read the author bio in the back. It turns out that she’s the author of another book that I did read all the way through, and didn’t care for. So, I guess it’s just a matter of her writing style not working for me. And that’s okay. But, seeing as all the reviews I’ve read of this book are raves, I thought I’d post my flip-side thoughts, just to see if anyone else had the same experience.

Have you read this book? Did you think it lived up to the hype?

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Whisper At the Top of My Lungs by Jeremy J. Simmons- ARC Review

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book, in exchange for my honest opinion. This will be available on September 18th.

Korrian is struggling after losing his best friend a year prior to the events in this book. His grades are slipping, he’s pretty isolated, and his only real interaction is when he deals with the bullies at his school.

Heading home one day, he hears crying coming from the cemetery- but there’s no one there, except for the ghost of a girl named Sonnet. She becomes Korrian’s only friend, and is a bit of a sounding board for him as he tries to move on past his friend’s death. He blames himself, even though there’s nothing he could have done.

Eventually, after being suspended from school for fighting, Korrian finds his way into a music shop. There he meets Regan, Lin, and Aisley (aka, the girl of his dreams). Can Korrian find a way to move on and continue his life- even after losing his best friend?

This book was very sweet, and deals with issues of depression, guilt, and grief in a way that was very real, but never felt over-the-top. Korrian was a likable character, and life crapped on him a lot- usually when he was just trying to be a good guy. That can seem pretty freaking easy to relate to some days.  It was sad to see him so lost, but it also made me root for him as he started to learn to continue on after the tragedy he’d experienced.

In fact, most of the characters were just trying to do the best the could with the life they’d been given. I even felt bad for the bullies because it was easy to see that their anger was a misplaced way of dealing with their own hurt and fears. Because of this, I found this book very believable (minus the ghost).

The ending was solid, in that it had a tone of hope. My only gripe is that there were a couple of characters that just wandered into the narrative, stayed long enough to become part of it, then disappeared again. What happened to them? No idea.

That’s a very minor thing, though, and it doesn’t diminish this book in any way.  Well done, Mr. Simmons!

Pricked by Scott Mooney- ARC Review


Briar Pryce has the power to change the emotions of others by handing them a rose. It is a talent that has done surprisingly little for her, besides landing her a dead-end enchantment delivery job and killing any chance she had with her childhood-crush-turned-roommate. Worst of all, her ability might be responsible for getting her best friend transformed into a cat via a cursed muffin basket. Needless to say, Briar is nowhere near happily-ever-after. But that’s just life as a twenty-something in the Poisoned Apple, New York City’s lost borough of fairy-tale wonder and rent-controlled magic.

When Briar reluctantly agrees to help find a princess’s kidnapped boyfriend in exchange for reversing the curse on her friend, she gets the heroic quest she never really wanted. Unfortunately, the life of a noble heroine is not all it’s cracked up­­ to be – the hours blow, and Briar suspect that the Royal family employing her might be evil, Republican, or both. To complete the suckage, a killer smoke magician is stalking Briar as she searches both the Poisoned Apple and Manhattan for the missing boy. As tensions between the Poisoned Apple royalty ignite and civil war looms, Briar must figure out how to write her own happy ending–or she’ll just be ending. (Netgalley)

                   Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for an honest review. It will be available on August 13th.

I’m a bit confused, to be honest: the book described above and the book I read are very different. The description made it sound like this book was going to be a a satirical fantasy, one full of puns and witty names. Not so much. Let me write my own description below, and then compare and contrast. That sounds very “middle school book report”, but it’s the best way I can think of to sort my muddled opinions into a coherent post.

Briar Pryce lives in the Poisoned Apple, a fairy-tale version of NYC, with her three roommates. There’s Alice, who didn’t play into this book too much; Cade, her long-time crush that she sort of accidentally be-spelled, causing no end of drama; and Jacqui , her best-friend-turned cat. Briar has an unusual gift: she can enchant roses to change people’s emotions. She’s roped into helping recover a kidnapped boyfriend to a royal, in exchange for a reversal in the whole “my best friend is now a cat” issue. There’s also Antoine, a knight sent with Briar to help her in her quest.

It was much more straightforward storytelling, with less quippiness than I expected, given the description. I still enjoyed it, but I do wish the blurb had been worded differently so that I went into it without expectations of a certain comedic type.

I really liked Antoine. He had a great sense of humor underneath his serious demeanor, and he tried really, really hard to protect and aid Briar, even though at times she really was a brat to him. Of course he ended up having a crush on her, which resulted in a rather annoying love triangle, what with the whole Cade situation (by the way, Cade was incredibly one dimensional. He might as well have been a block of wood). Antoine also adapted to strange situations quickly and kept the story moving at a good pace.

I loved Briar’s magical ability! It was incredibly unique, and the uses the author put it to were incredibly creative. I didn’t love Briar all that much as a character, but she had her moments. Her need to finish a crossword puzzle before she died made me giggle. I’m curious about why her power was so different than any others in the magical kingdom. I’m guessing that will be explored more in the next installment.

The adventure was fun, if a bit predictable, the writing was solid, and it was well set-up for a sequel. All in all, it was pretty darn enjoyable, but expect a YA fantasy, as opposed to a fairy tale satire.

World Book Day: celebrating the reading highlights of the year so far

 

We all know there’s a “day” for everything: garlic, bread, talking like a pirate…the list goes on. It just so happens that today is World Book Day. Yeah, I was unaware this was a thing too. However, it gives me the perfect excuse to talk about my favorite reads of 2019 so far.

It’s been a stellar start to my reading year. I’ve managed to read a lot more than expected, considering how busy my life gets. I also have started getting ARCs to read and discuss, which my nerdy reader self is incredibly excited for. Some of the books below are ARCs, meaning they aren’t available to purchase yet. However, I highly recommend either pre-ordering them or grabbing them when you see them on shelves. Everything in this post is fantastic!

The Oddmire Book 1: Changeling by William Ritter

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I can’t rave about this book enough. Intended for a slightly younger crowd, it is still highly enjoyable for adults. Read my post explaining what makes it so special here.

Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

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I’d heard about this book constantly for a while before deciding to pick it up. I didn’t think it could possibly live up to all the hype. Trust me, it does. Here’s what I had to say about that.

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 like about the book is the ridiculously long title. The book itself is absolutely engrossing. If you’re a reader (and I assume you are if you take the time to read book blogs), this is one to read.

For a Muse of Fire by Heidi Heilig

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I was already a fan of Heilig after reading The Girl From Everywhere, but this book is above and beyond. A hardcore main character in a fantasy book who has a mental illnes? Yes please!

No Country for Old Gnomes (The Tales of Pell #2) by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne

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This book is hilarious. I laughed so hard at parts, it was dangerous (gothic sweaters!). Pick it up.

Crown of Feathers by Nicki Pau Preto

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This was fantastic! The world is so well-realized, and the characters so interesting, adding phoenixes just served to elevate this author even further in my opinion. You can read my review of it here.

There you have it, the best books I’ve read so far this year. There are so many others that I’m looking forward to, as well as the unexpected gems I’m sure to come across. Help me find more to add to my very long tbr list: what are your favorites so far?

A Map of Days: The Fourth Novel of Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

          Warning; this will contain slight spoilers for the previous three books.

I was originally interested in the series because it made use of odd- and sometimes creepy- old photographs. The idea of crafting an entire world around those old photos was incredibly creative. The plot-line of the first few books wrapped up pretty solidly in the third book (Library of Souls), so I didn’t know what to expect in A Map of Days. In this fourth installment, Jacob is back in his home state of Florida, surrounded by people who know nothing about peculiars or wights, and wouldn’t believe him if he told them. The peculiars that went through his adventures with him in the three previous books have shown up out of the blue, and Jacob is asked to give them lessons in “normalization,” so they can pass for children of the present day. What begins as a crash course in being a modern child soon turns dangerous as the peculiars learn secrets about Jacob’s grandfather that send them on a secret mission across the U.S., in and out of the different time loops. There are also several new characters introduced, one of whom is seriously cool.

I felt that Ransom Riggs becomes a better writer with each subsequent book, and this one is by far my favorite. It has a different feel than the others, and the fact that it takes place on a different continent opens Riggs’ world up and makes the stakes feel higher. I also like that it wasn’t just a rehash of the other three books: there are new villains to fight, and new problems to solve. In a lot of ways, it seemed like a treasure hunt: there were clues that needed to be put together, and a lot of second-guessing as far as whose motives were questionable.

This book split the peculiars into a smaller group, which meant each character was able to have more focus put on them. That had both good and bad points for me: Millard was given a lot more attention, which I love because he’s one of my favorites, but Horace wasn’t in it much, completely bumming me out. Millard had several new experiences, though, and there was at least one “aww!” moment for me involving him. The whole Jacob- Emma relationship thing kind of weirds me out, seeing as the third member of the unintentional love triangle involves Jacob’s deceased grandfather. I mean, come on Emma! Maybe try dating outside the family. Thankfully, all that is resolved without becoming the main focus of this book. All in all, despite a few odd moments here and there, I felt this was the best book in the series to date. It’s a fun read, and absolute one-of-a-kind. I’m looking forward to picking up the next book when it releases.

Have you read this series? What are your thoughts?