Monday, May 10, 2021

Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly


In one day, four lives weave together in unexpected ways. Virgil Salinas is shy and kindhearted and feels out of place in his loud and boisterous family. Valencia Somerset, who is deaf, is smart, brave, and secretly lonely, and loves everything about nature. Kaori Tanaka is a self-proclaimed psychic, whose little sister Gen is always following her around. And Chet Bullens wishes the weird kids would just act normal so that he can concentrate on basketball. They aren’t friends -- at least not until Chet pulls a prank that traps Virgil and his pet guinea pig at the bottom of a well. This disaster leads Kaori, Gen, and Valencia on an epic quest to find the missing Virgil. Through luck, smarts, bravery, and a little help from the universe, a rescue is performed, a bully is put in his place, and friendship blooms.

I would have liked to have seen more growth in Virgil, one of the main characters, in the book as well as more of a resolution in the end. I wanted there to have been consequences for a certain character that was a complete bully. I enjoyed the other characters in the story and how it represented how children are capable and that girls are strong and intelligent. 

My main issue with the book was that it felt unfinished to me. Don't misunderstand me. It had a beginning, middle, and end but I wanted there to be more to it than there was. Perhaps it felt like a more surface level story and I wanted the author to add more depth to the book than there was. I wanted more of a message represented in the story because it felt like there wasn't one. 

Friday, April 23, 2021

Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes


In a sleepy seaside town in Maine, recently widowed Eveleth “Evvie” Drake rarely leaves her large, painfully empty house nearly a year after her husband’s death in a car crash. Everyone in town, even her best friend, Andy, thinks grief keeps her locked inside, and Evvie doesn’t correct them.

Meanwhile, in New York City, Dean Tenney, former Major League pitcher and Andy’s childhood best friend, is wrestling with what miserable athletes living out their worst nightmares call the “yips”: he can’t throw straight anymore, and, even worse, he can’t figure out why. As the media storm heats up, an invitation from Andy to stay in Maine seems like the perfect chance to hit the reset button on Dean’s future.

When he moves into an apartment at the back of Evvie’s house, the two make a deal: Dean won’t ask about Evvie’s late husband, and Evvie won’t ask about Dean’s baseball career. Rules, though, have a funny way of being broken—and what starts as an unexpected friendship soon turns into something more. To move forward, Evvie and Dean will have to reckon with their pasts—the friendships they’ve damaged, the secrets they’ve kept—but in life, as in baseball, there’s always a chance—up until the last out.

I appreciated how the author didn't make this book overly angsty or dramatic. It was very straight forward with flawed characters that were believable people who didn't always say or do the right thing. I really loved Evvie because I felt like I understood her and her journey to feel like she was enough. I thought that the author did a good job of portraying abuse in a subtle way and I respected how she had the reader look at verbal and emotional abuse. It was interesting to me how each of the main characters were grieving things in their lives in different ways. There were different feelings to each and I thought that the author's take was an intriguing one. It seems to me that many people feel that they aren't grieving right because they don't cry or aren't sad enough so I appreciated the author's approach. 

Monday, July 20, 2020

Beware the Kitten Holy (Lumberjanes (Collected Editions) #1) by Noelle Stevenson

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At Miss Qiunzilla Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet's camp for hard-core lady-types, things are not what they seem. Three-eyed foxes. Secret caves. Anagrams. Luckily, Jo, April, Mal, Molly, and Ripley are five rad, butt-kicking best pals determined to have an awesome summer together... And they're not gonna let a magical quest or an array of supernatural critters get in their way! The mystery keeps getting bigger, and it all begins here.

I wasn't sure if I would end up liking Lumberjanes because I thought that the story line might not interest me or that the art style might not be for me. 
I've never been so happy to be proven wrong! I started off reading the first pages on my own and my son ended up becoming interested when he began reading over my shoulder. We ended up reading it together which was a really fun experience for us. He tends to like books like Dogman or Captain Underpants which I can't seem to like no matter how hard I try. It was interesting to see him so taken with a group of girls who are goofy and end up being pulled into crazy situations with monsters. He is now begging me to read the rest of the series with him. 
If you are looking for something that is fun, light-hearted, and a little bit crazy at times than this is the graphic novel that you have been waiting for. The art style is so vibrant and beautiful! The jokes are funny and can be a bit on the childish side but enjoyable nonetheless. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

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While the Titanic and Lusitania are both well-documented disasters, the single greatest tragedy in maritime history is the little-known January 30, 1945 sinking in the Baltic Sea by a Soviet submarine of the Wilhelm Gustloff, a German cruise liner that was supposed to ferry wartime personnel and refugees to safety from the advancing Red Army. The ship was overcrowded with more than 10,500 passengers — the intended capacity was approximately 1,800 — and more than 9,000 people, including 5,000 children, lost their lives.
Sepetys (writer of 'Between Shades of Gray') crafts four fictionalized but historically accurate voices to convey the real-life tragedy. Joana, a Lithuanian with nursing experience; Florian, a Prussian soldier fleeing the Nazis with stolen treasure; and Emilia, a Polish girl close to the end of her pregnancy, converge on their escape journeys as Russian troops advance; each will eventually meet Albert, a Nazi peon with delusions of grandeur, assigned to the Gustloff decks.

I had heard that if I wanted to read more historical fiction that Ruta Sepetys writes books that are easily digestible in that genre. I have wanted to dive more into the historical fiction genre but haven't felt ready to read adult historical fiction quite yet. 
I had seen rave reviews for Salt to the Sea so I thought that I would read it first. I don't know why I felt intimidated by this novel and thought that I wouldn't like it. I loved it! I was amazed at how well the author was able to paint the picture of a war torn country and people that are fleeing in order to reach safety. I felt as if I were there. I was frightened at points and felt as if I understood the characters and their actions. 
I was surprised to find that I loved all of the characters in the book. I usually have issues with novels that have multiple points of view because I end up disliking at least one character. This can decrease my enjoyment and feel like the pacing has slowed. I found myself intrigued and enjoying each point of view in novel. Each character strengthened the book in some way because they were different nationalities and came from different backgrounds. The author was able to broaden the emotional impact and world view within the story by including the characters that she did. This is definitely a character driven story and normally I would want strong characters and plot but found that the characters were enough to drive the story forward. 

Friday, April 17, 2020

Shadow of the Fox (Shadow of the Fox #1) by Julie Kagawa

🌟🌟🌓 out of 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

One thousand years ago, the great Kami Dragon was summoned to grant a single terrible wish—and the land of Iwagoto was plunged into an age of darkness and chaos.

Now, for whoever holds the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers, a new wish will be granted. A new age is about to dawn.

Raised by monks in the isolated Silent Winds temple, Yumeko has trained all her life to hide her yokai nature. Half kitsune, half human, her skill with illusion is matched only by her penchant for mischief. Until the day her home is burned to the ground, her adoptive family is brutally slain and she is forced to flee for her life with the temple’s greatest treasure—one part of the ancient scroll.

There are many who would claim the dragon’s wish for their own. Kage Tatsumi, a mysterious samurai of the Shadow Clan, is one such hunter, under orders to retrieve the scroll…at any cost. Fate brings Kage and Yumeko together. With a promise to lead him to the scroll, an uneasy alliance is formed, offering Yumeko her best hope for survival. But he seeks what she has hidden away, and her deception could ultimately tear them both apart.

With an army of demons at her heels and the unlikeliest of allies at her side, Yumeko’s secrets are more than a matter of life or death. They are the key to the fate of the world itself.

I have had mixed luck with Julie Kagawa's books. I loved The Immortal Rules series but didn't like The Iron Fey series. I wasn't sure if I wanted to read The Shadow of the Fox series because of this but since I have so much time on my hands lately I decided to give it a shot. 

It took me some time to really think through what I thought of Shadow of the Fox because I knew that there was something that I didn't like but I had a hard time deciphering it at first. I will say this for the wasn't boring. It was a fun adventure story that involves samurai and creatures but that is pretty much where my praise ends. 

The story is told through two perspectives (Yumeko and Kage Tatsumi) which is interesting but would have been better if the characters weren't one dimensional and flat. I felt as if each of them repeated a few thoughts each over and over. Yumeko seemed to only think about making Tatsumi her friend and hiding the scroll and Tatsumi only thought about his mission and how he is so evil. 

Another issue that I found with this book was the lack of stakes. Every battle or obstacle that I thought would help to move the story along or have some excitement happen, fell flat due to things happening just right so that everything worked out for the protagonists. I don't tend to enjoy it when characters that I love die but I would love to see them fail at some point or become wounded to the point that they need to seek out help. With the lack of stakes, I cared a lot less about what happened in the story. 

I wanted to like this book but there were just too many obstacles to overcome with the flat characters, lack of stakes, and the plot that wasn't very engaging. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

The Hazel Wood (The Hazel Wood #1) by Melissa Albert

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Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the uncanny bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a cult-classic book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate, the Hazel Wood, Alice learns how bad her luck can really get: her mother is stolen away-by a figure who claims to come from the Hinterland, the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother's stories are set. Alice's only lead is the message her mother left behind: “Stay away from the Hazel Wood.”

Alice has long steered clear of her grandmother’s cultish fans. But now she has no choice but to ally with classmate Ellery Finch, a Hinterland superfan who may have his own reasons for wanting to help her. To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother's tales began―and where she might find out how her own story went so wrong.

I have a huge issue with magical realism and tend to dislike books that involve it. When I read The Hazel Wood it felt like magical realism so I think that is why I didn't love the book. I was still able to enjoy it which I would attribute to the element of fairy tales and a story within a story.  

I really liked the darkness of the story and how the hinterland tales were not the typical fluff /sparkly clean fairy tales. It was the element that kept me reading the story because plot itself felt fragmented and the characters were unlikable. I found Finch to be naive and selfish. I had liked him at first but I didn't like the changes in him as the story progressed. Alice was so rage-filled and didn't seem to care about anything or anyone except for her mother which could have redeemed her but she treated her mother poorly at times as well. 

Overall, the story was okay but nothing that I would say has to be read by everyone. If you like dark fairy tales then I think that you might enjoy this book. It is a quick and interesting read.  

Monday, April 6, 2020

Where the Lost Wander by Amy Harmon

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In this epic and haunting love story set on the Oregon Trail, a family and their unlikely protector find their way through peril, uncertainty, and loss.
The Overland Trail, 1853: Naomi May never expected to be widowed at twenty. Eager to leave her grief behind, she sets off with her family for a life out West. On the trail, she forms an instant connection with John Lowry, a half-Pawnee man straddling two worlds and a stranger in both.
But life in a wagon train is fraught with hardship, fear, and death. Even as John and Naomi are drawn to each other, the trials of the journey and their disparate pasts work to keep them apart. John’s heritage gains them safe passage through hostile territory only to come between them as they seek to build a life together.
When a horrific tragedy strikes, decimating Naomi’s family and separating her from John, the promises they made are all they have left. Ripped apart, they can’t turn back, they can’t go on, and they can’t let go. Both will have to make terrible sacrifices to find each other, save each other, and eventually…make peace with who they are.
*Advanced Copy through Netgalley*
I was excited to hear that Amy would be writing another book that would be coming out this year. I knew that I had to read it because I haven't disliked anything that she has written yet and knew that I would most likely enjoy this one as well. She is one of the few authors that can write a historical romance that I enjoy. Her writing is so beautiful and romantic that it brings the story alive. 
I thought that Where the Lost Wander was another great addition to the books that she has written. It has not usurped my favorite but I thought that it was an interesting take on pioneer life. I appreciated the way that she wrote about the struggles that the pioneers faced back then and the lives that they led. I loved that she relayed both sides of the issues like the tensions between Indian tribes and pioneers without the book becoming too political/preachy. 
This book reminded me heavily of Running Barefoot, an earlier book that Amy wrote that has an American Indian main character that struggles with fitting into a society that doesn't completely accept him. It also has a main character much like Naomi that is different from those around her. I found Running Barefoot to be more relatable and emotional for me but still thought that Where the Lost Wander was very emotional as well. I just found that I didn't connect quite as much as I would have liked with some of the hardships and characters as I would have liked. 
If you enjoy historical romance or just love anything that Amy Harmon writes then I highly recommend that you pick this book up!