book review

More May/June Quick Reviews

A little bit Matilda, a little bit Secret Garden, I’m a fan of magical kids finding and using their powers!

A four word description-Secret Garden only better.

At the beginning of the Summer sensible Piper is very sure that there is nothing magical about any place or person she knows. She lives with her Dad, sees her Grandmother on holidays and never sees her Mom at all. When she has to go and stay with her Mother and Grandmother at their estate she is shocked that her Mother barely acknowledges her and that there are foster children living there. Obviously, that’s extremely hurtful and a lot to unravel for a Middle School girl.

Piper finds out that the other kids have some magical powers, there is a cat that seems to spy on them, and well, anything else is too spoilery.

I like that this book gives some doubt that things will turn out okay. Kids know that in real life, everything doesn’t always work out for the best, and reading about other kids who have a bit of turmoil is a good thing. Piper and her friend Teddy say the funniest things to each other, and again I’m all in for magic saving the day. 5 stars. You can pre-order this one before you forget Release date- May 26, 2020

Hint- I think this is The OwlCrate Jr selection for June.

From just a couple pages in I was hooked into this story. I feel like I needed the brain candy. I continue to be super pleased with all the new Harlequin Special Edition books. The story is a typical boy meets girl plot with the twist of opposite pets. It was light, and sweet. It also set up some other characters to star in future books if this is a series. You know I loved the cat vs. dog owner trope the most.

The paperback is out June 16 and the Kindle version on July 1.

Nora Roberts knows how to spin a tale. I was sucked into the drama of this big Irish American family and this book doesn’t let you go until the end. You get to know them all just enough to understand their dynamic before tragedy strikes. Beginning in 2001 and continuing to the present, it reads like an epic spanning the time span between Caitlin Sullivan’s kidnapping at age ten until adulthood. The close-knit Sullivan family is a family of actors. Living their lives in the public eye is hard enough without the infamous kidnapping, never really fading away. I loved them so much. This is a long story, and it could have been even longer, and I wouldn’t have minded at all- I’ll miss these characters. The only spoiler I’ll tell you is that you do get closure on the entire mystery.

I would normally say that this would be a great airplane book- but. You”ll get to read it at home this Summer. This ranks as one of Nora Roberts best Romance/Mystery novels.

I got a copy of this one right after it’s the release date. This is the second book in The Royal Wedding Series, and I did not read the first book. There seemed to be enough backstory missing for me that if this is your genre, you should probably read them in order. That said, I liked the setting and historical references (which to me seemed correct). The wedding is beautiful; the conflict between characters believable and best of all the love scenes are delightfully steamy. Leo and Caroline grew to be better people together (the first half of the book I didn’t like Caroline at all), and that’s a pretty good outcome for a story like this one. If you have some bias toward Harlequin based on reading them in the 80’s you should try them again.

book review YA fiction

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

I like to think of myself as a reader who also reviews books. Therefore, this book existing in any way, makes me happy. It’s not that I love Panem or their ideas. I do like the feeling of sinking deep into a world that is already familiar. I have purposefully not read any reviews of this title, so I have no idea of I’m going against the grain or not.
I read a lot of comments before the release, which complained that this title centers on the early life of eighteen-year-old Coriolanus Snow. Instead of say, a good guy. No person alive or fictional lives in a vacuum. If you want to understand The Panem of The Hunger Games Era, then you’ll need to see inside it’s past. I won’t post any real spoilers- but I will provide general non-spoiler plot points below.
At this point in his life, he is living in the Capital, pretending to be something he is not. He is already a man filled with ambition and is prideful of his family heritage. His family, though, has fallen on hard times and he doesn’t have enough to eat, worries about paying their taxes, and thinks that if he can just make it into the University, he will be on the path to success and put The Snow Family back in good standing. At the start of the book, the reader isn’t supposed to “like” him, but you can already see why, as an adult, he is the way he is.
By the end of the story, you won’t like him as his circumstances and choices prove that he is well on his way to transforming into President Snow that we loathe. You’ll also get answers to many of the pesky mysteries that were never entirely explained before.
The War was ten years ago, and Snow and his classmates were about eight years old at the end of it. They and the tributes were children during the War, and none of them remember anything other than the life they lead now and the trauma of war times. The senior student class of District One becomes the first set of mentors, and the story takes us through the games that year. The game making industry is in its infancy, along with all the bioengineered animals that we know already.
We also get a view into the districts- especially district twelve.

The minute I finished this book, I wanted to reread the trilogy. If you haven’t read The first three books, I wouldn’t until you start here. I think the author/publisher was correct in naming this book zero. I’m so intrigued that I’d even read a Book -1 that centered on the War and how it all began.

book review

New And Upcoming Releases

First some business: I barely wrote any reviews in April. I am sorry about that as I know people are reading more than ever these weird long days… I’m sort of back on Amazon as an affiliate (said in a way that you can be sorta sober) If I get three sales in 90 days then I’ll be back in their good graces. I hope that three of you will click one of these book links cause although I tried both Bookshop and Indie no one actually bought anything. I’m hoping to make enough affiliate change to pay the WordPress fees this year.

The links from this post forward are the ones that count. I could go back and update all the links for the last 3 years… But, no, that’s not going to happen. Without further delay here are some books that I loved that are available now or in June: I think I’ve got something for everyone MG- Adult. I’ll have another batch post before June. I’m hoping to write two a month and see if I can keep up at that pace.

This June 2, 2020 release is so weird. Like in all the best ways. I struggled for a few days about how to describe it. This is the kind of book you either love or hate. It’s quirky in all the best ways. It’s completely YA, I’d say no readers under say 14, because there are age appropriate sexual situations. I will tell you that this book reps main characters that are biracial, LGBTQ, and dragon. I’m probably biased about the premise of slapping a fantasy premise into historical fiction since my own book does something similar, but I found it wonderfully refreshing. Entering into our world in the 1950’s when tensions are running high between the United States and The Soviet Union made me think I knew where it was all going and I was completely wrong. Don’t read the synopsis or any reviews with spoilers if you can help it. This is one of those stories best enjoyed on an empty stomach.

Hood by Jenny Elder Moke is another early June 2020 release that I adored. This story of Isabelle of Kirklees grabbed me from the start. Isabelle is Robin Hood and Marien’s daughter! The atmosphere is exactly what you’d want it to be and it’s filled with intrigue and lines like, Find Thomas at the Inn and tell him “The Wolf is coming.”

Isabelle has grown up in a priory so traveling, meeting The Merry Men and fighting for her life could easily overwhelm a weaker character. This is a Robin Hood retelling and it did not disappoint me in any way. I found the story line chock full of spaces for discussions about our family values and what humans sometimes have to do in tough times.

If you have a reluctant reader or one who loves historical fiction this story will suit them both. This is designated YA but although there is some violence it isn’t gory or unjustified and I’d read it to Middle Graders on up. I read this pre-publication on Kindle, and am ordering it for our next go around through Middle Age Literature in our homeschool.

Sal and Gabi are back! This is the sequel to Sal and Gabi Break the Universe and it picks up right where the first one leaves off. It’s pretty important that you read the first book or this one won’t make much sense. I like this new series because it does not fall into the typical Riordan method of demi gods etc. This is pure Middle grade SciFi that can be read aloud to younger kids and would be a great goofy entire family listen on Audible. The science can provide you with tons of rabbit trails, and there is silly bathroom humor. How many books can boast both of those?

Wonder Woman origin stories are always at the top of my TBR stack. This one is a complete treat. I read it in little bits every night to stretch it out. Diana is thrust into the outside world and rises to the challenge of leaving the Utopia of the Amazons for our very challenged civilization as you’d hope she would. Happy sigh. The story includes a diverse cast, beautiful artwork, and I am ordering a paperback copy for our shelves- even though I was gifted an electronic copy to review. 5 stars!

This is another new graphic novel from DC. They are really on it last few months. I’m having a blast reading these on my Kindle Fire. It took a bit of trial and error, but now that I’ve got it, I’m pretty happy reading on Comixology. This story centers on racism, which is a complicated topic, and I thought that this novel (aimed at the YA crowd) handled all of the complicated aspects well. I’m adding it to our high school reading list, and I’d recommend it to adults as well. I found that when Superman says,

“We are bound together by the future. We all share  the same tomorrow.”

that he could be speaking to all of us in 2020.

Ah, tempting to get on my why we homeschool soapbox. Instead I’ll direct you to this book which explains in detail the very flawed unfair system of who qualifies for the best education in the United States. The author focused on big city school districts (zip code determines your school choice in most areas) and I’d add that rural areas see the same discrepinacies. You don’t have to be fluent in Edu-Speak to understand and exactly why our system needs a revamping. In other words, if you think the system is fair, you are probably white, urban, and upper income. That isn’t to say that poor people don’t have other problems, but education is a valid way to improve society as a whole.

I am loving these new generation Harlequin mystery/romance novels. We all need escapism these days, and this gives you that and a bit of brain exercise as you weigh the facts to decide if you can figure out the mystery. This might be the book that gets you out of your reading slump. There isn’t as much back story as I would have liked, but that makes it a quick and satisfying read—another great one for the backyard lawn chair.

Victim to Villain. I didn’t think I’d go for it, but it was a hit for me. This story was very dark and very twisty. Eleanor finds out that her father isn’t her biological dad from him on his deathbed. She ends up searching out her real dad and befriends his daughter. I could never decide whether she was insane with anger and grief, or if she was always a bit twisted. Either way, I read this one night. It’s a solid four stars.

Graphic Novel YA fiction

Lost Carnival

Before he met Batman, Dick Grayson discovered the power of young love–and its staggering cost–at the magical Lost Carnival.

Haly’s traveling circus no longer has the allure of its glamorous past, but it still has one main attraction: the Flying Graysons, a family of trapeze artists featuring a teenage Dick Grayson. The only problem is that Dick loathes spending his summers performing tired routines for dwindling crowds.
When the Lost Carnival opens nearby and threatens to pull Haly’s remaining customers, Dick is among those drawn to its nighttime glow. But there are ancient forces at work at the Lost Carnival, and when Dick meets the mysterious Luciana and her nomadic family, he may be too mesmerized to recognize the danger ahead.

Beneath the carnival’s dazzling fireworks, Dick must decide who he is and who he wants to be–choosing between loyalty to his family history and a glittering future with new friends and romance. Writer Michael Moreci and artist Sas Milledge redefine Dick Grayson in The Lost Carnival, a young adult graphic novel exploring the power and magic of young love.

DC Comics May 5, 2020

What did I think?

If you loved The Night Circus this will be in your wheelhouse. Or the wheelhouse of any reader who loves Robin. There are a few nods to Batman, but this is a stand alone Middle Grade series centering on Dick Grayson and I am all in. I love that DC has these new series, it can be intimidating to begin reading a well known and loved series and this lets kids (and adults!) start at the beginning.

I’m hoping to obtain this beauty IRL, I adore Art Deco and this is the kind of cover that would be face out on my shelves. In fact, all the artwork is beautiful, I especially enjoyed how the artist used a different color palette with each circus. (Yes, there are two) This glimpse into Dick’s life as a teenager is an awesome origin story. Even if you don’t know much about Batman you’ll want to continue into the next volume for sure.

I’m giving this one 4 1/2 stars.