Reading Re-Cap

I’d love to tell you that my absence of posts from this blog has been because I’ve been off on exotic travels, but nope. There’s been adventure—domestic, not exotic. But thrilling (and time-consuming) nonetheless. This adventure has brought many changes to our schedules and has reminded me how important it is to be able to bend and adapt.

That said, I have been reading. It has been and always will be my number one choice of escape. I’ve been trying to get caught up with books off my TBR list, both print books from my home library and those that I’ve been collecting on my ereader. 

I do keep track of the books I read during the calendar year through Goodreads and I participate in the annual reading challenge. This year I am aiming for 65 books read in 2022. Currently, I’ve read 48, so I’m ahead of schedule and that’s okay by me. If you’re interested in seeing my full Goodreads 2022 Book Challenge the link is below. 

https://www.goodreads.com/user_challenges/31397664

But, I’d like to share a few of my thoughts about some of the books I’ve read recently. Maybe you’ll find something in my list that will spark interest or a new-to-you author that you can get to know. 

Middle Grade Books

Wretched Waterpark by Kiersten White

Perfect for summer! Spooky but not too creepy, and I absolutely liked the 12 yr old twins, Alexander and Theo and their big sister Wil. Likeable characters, an interesting mystery, and a few chills made this book very enjoyable and I’m definitely going to pick up the next book when it’s available.

Premeditated Myrtle by Elizabeth C. Bunce

This book was a serious delight for me and kid-Barb would have savored every word and then quickly reread it, but it’s exactly the kind of mystery I loved at that age. I also enjoyed immensely as an adult. Premeditated Myrtle is smart, funny, and is written to keep you guessing. Another series that I will continue reading. 

Witchlings by Claribel A. Ortega

If you’re looking for a magical middle grade fantasy adventure with smart, fun, relatable characters who capture your heart, then Witchlings is a book you don’t want to miss. 

Claribel A. Ortega has created an immersive and imaginative world. It’s not without its problems, but her trio of witchlings have the moxie to set some very disturbing things right. I loved the world-building and was completely enchanted, but it’s the characters and how their friendships develop that won my heart. Unlikely friendships, strong family ties, and plenty of twists and turns are just a few of the elements that made this book a winner for me.

Drew Leclair Gets a Clue by Katryn Bury

Katryn Bury has created a more than likable character who is smart, relatable, flawed, loyal, and funny. If I were a kid, I’d want to be friends with Drew. I thought the mystery was solid with clues for the reader to follow, plus it touched on issues many kid readers can relate to: bullying, body shaming, chronic illness, and divorce. While some of the issues/themes are most definitely heavy, the story never sags and it’s infused with humor and hope in just the right places.

Young Adult

Bravely by Maggie Stiefvater

Bravely continues the story of Merida as originated in the Disney film “Brave”.  The book is a whimsical yet poignant fairy tale steeped with historical tidbits (be sure to read the author’s notes at the end) and filled with what I like to think of as Merida-moments. It’s YA but there is no language or sex, and really no romance plot. While it’s about growth and change and stagnation, the book is filled with heart, hope, and family—both blood and found.

Hail, Hail Camp Timberwood by Ellen Conford

Hail, Hail Camp Timberwood was one of those books from my childhood/preteen years that I read multiple times. So many times, actually, that I wore my copy out. A couple of weeks ago, I found a copy in decent shape in an antique shop and it had to come home with me.

It’s a quick read, a fun summertime story about a young girl at camp for the first time. You get to experience her fears, first love, and even how she learns to stand up for herself against a bully cabinmate. It was fun to reread it after all these years and I’m really happy to have a copy for my bookshelf, purely for nostalgia-sake.

Killing November by Adriana Mather

It’s an action-packed read filled with intrigue, suspense, and humor at just the right moments. I went into the book expecting a school-for-assassins/spies type story and was thrilled to find so much more.

November, for me, was a likable character. Her cluelessness of her true situation gave me just the right level of anxiety and it was fun watching her develop and learn her place while figuring out what the hell was going on. November has a lot to unpack—not only the “why” of her dad sending her away to this remote/hidden boarding school, but his connection to the school, her family history, and how everything she thought were games were actually training for who she’d one day have to become.

Hunting November by Adriana Mather

Hunting November was the perfect sequel to Killing November. If you’re looking for a spy-style adventure with deceptions, action, and a bit of romance, this is the book to pick up. Definitely read Killing November first. The books should be read in order. 

The Agathas by Kathleen Glasgow and Liz Lawson

As a life-long fan of Agatha Christie, I had looked forward to The Agathas and was excited to start reading. The authors didn’t disappoint with the Christie references and I particularly enjoyed the quotes from Christie’s books at the beginning of the chapters.

It’s whodunit, complete with murder, lies, red herrings, and clues the reader can pick up if they’re looking. The contemporary mystery is set amid the haves and have-nots of a California high school and it’s told in dual POV, which I enjoyed. We get multiple subplots, teen angst, and maybe a bit too much about the adults who do play an integral role in the story and the overall mystery.

Adult

Nightwork by Nora Roberts

Nightwork is a suspenseful thriller-mystery told from the perspective of a very talented thief. If you’re a fan of Nora Roberts’ suspense novels, this one won’t disappoint. 

Hide by Kiersten White

Definitely horror. Definitely dark. The book is set in an extremely creepy, abandoned amusement park where contestants on a reality/game show have been brought to compete. Except, nothing is as it seems. It was a page-turner and I really liked it. 

Nine Lives by Peter Swanson

I picked up Nine Lives because it was recommended to me by another mystery book lover. It’s a well-woven mystery with multiple threads, a solid plot, and the right amount of well-placed clues but balanced with twists to keep you guessing.

As an avid mystery reader, in particular Agatha Christie, I immensely enjoyed the references and because of my Christie knowledge I had a fair idea of the “who” and even a general idea of the “why”—but I wasn’t sure at all on the “how”. This made it a fun read for me.

Finding My Voice by Nadiya Hussain

It’s rare for me to read non-fiction and I’m so glad I picked up Finding My Voice by Nadiya Hussain. First, I absolutely loved her on GBBO and I have watched and re-watched her show on Netflix because I find her not only smart and funny, but calming. And in the chaos of this world, it’s been exactly what I needed.

This book was a fast read for me because it felt like I was sitting down and chatting with Nadiya Hussain over a cup of tea (or coffee for me). It’s charming, heartbreaking, eye-opening, and a book I’m just happy that I read.

The Book of Answers by A.L. Tait

“Gabe didn’t always agree with the method the girls employed in their assistance, but he couldn’t argue with the results.

They always acted out of kindness, love and charity—

but they always acted.”

(Chapter 9, page 178, The Book of Answers by A.L. Tait)

The Book of Answers by A.L. Tait is the second book of the Ateban Cipher duology and an action-packed adventure filled with intrigue, suspense, friendship, and fun. Author A.L. Tait takes readers on a journey they won’t soon forget.

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Gabe, Gwyn, Merry, Scarlett, and Midge are on the run again. Along with Eddie, the son of the king, the group journeys to a remote place named Haydon’s Mont where they hope to uncover the secret behind the mysterious book Gabe must protect at all costs. Hunted by their enemies, they face terrible dangers and must use all their cunning and bravery to get Eddie the documents he needs to regain his crown and survive long enough to rescue Merry and Scarlett’s dad from execution. Gabe discovers the truth about his own birthright and pushes himself to new levels of valor to help save his friends, their families, and the king while protecting the precious Book.

I really enjoyed The Book of Answers from start to finish, and then wished there was more. It’s a great escape from our modern world and I love being swept into a story that takes me on a journey. From our band of heroes trek to Haydon’s Mont to the outlying villages and the great courtyard at Rothwell Castle, author A.L. Tait delivers exciting action sequences, witty dialogue, and characters to like, love, and even detest—because you can’t have an adventure story without a few bad guys giving chase.

If you’re a regular reader of my book reviews, you know I don’t do spoilers. I will tell you that the secret behind the Book is pretty cool and how the book can be read, is even better.

Pick up the Ateban Cipher duology today. I highly recommend The Book of Answers and loved how the two books effortlessly merged into one grand adventure.

Please visit author A.L. Tait at her website for links to The Book of Secrets and The Book of Answers as well as her not-to-be-missed books: The Mapmaker Chronicles.

You can find reviews on all four of the Mapmaker books here on my site as well as my review of The Book of Secrets.

The Book of Secrets: An Ateban Cipher Novel by A.L. Tait

“Your head can be turned, your heart can be wooed, but your gut never lies.”

(Merry, chapter 4, page 61 of The Book of Secrets by A.L. Tait)

The Book of Secrets by A.L. Tait is book one in a duology titled the Ateban Cipher. Fourteen year old Gabe, an orphan living in the Oldham Abbey, finds himself the protector of a a special book. It’s thrust upon him by the dying Brother Benedict, who tells him to “take it to Aidan.” Gabe’s perilous journey begins, book in hand, as he flees the only home he’s ever known. With the help of a group of rebel girls, Gabe takes on a quest to find the mysterious “Aidan” and assist the girls in rescuing a wrongfully imprisoned family member.

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This book is so much fun! As a kid, I loved books like The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood and the swashbuckling stories of the Three Musketeers. The Book of Secrets has a similar feel, in my opinion. It’s packed with action, adventure, danger, and an intriguing mystery.

I loved the wit and whimsy of the dialogue and the pacing of each scene. As for characters, Gabe is very likable and you’re cheering him on from the start. The girls are amazing and I loved each of them—smart, brave, loyal, and caring. And they save Gabe more than once. You want Merry, Gwyn, Scarlett, and Midge on your side.

There’s a lot happening in The Book of Secrets, but the story flows effortlessly with a comfortable balance of action, exposition, and dialogue. While not set in modern day, author Tait makes it easy to envision the times through her vivid descriptions and dialogue. I’d recommend The Book of Secrets for mid-grade readers through teens, but adults will enjoy this adventure as well.

Please visit author A.L. Tait at her website and check out The Book of Secrets and more. I also highly recommend her Mapmaker Chronicles series.

Book Review: Analiese Rising by Brenda Drake

“I can’t be weak now. I’m a human in a god’s war and I will surely die if I don’t get the hell out of here.”

(Analiese, chapter 39, page 312 of Analiese Rising by Brenda Drake)

I love mythology and some of my favorite books incorporate mythological characters, creatures, and tales so when I read the blurb for Analiese Rising by Brenda Drake, I knew I had to read the book.

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The story follows Analiese Jordan, a teen who lost her parents when she was very young. She’s been adopted by her uncle and his family that includes her cousin Dalton who over the years has become more like a brother. When Analiese and Dalton witness a hit-and-run, her life begins to change. The dying old man gives her his bag and asks her to get it to his grandson. How can she refuse? But when he calls her by name and tells her she’s in danger and needs to run, Analiese is confused and a bit scared. Then she finds a list of names in the bag. On the list and crossed out are the names of her parents and recently deceased uncle. The list also has her name on it.

Analiese Rising catapults the reader into a world where ancient gods walk among mortals and the Risers can bring the dead back to life, controlling them, but at a terrible cost. Analiese is a Riser, a descendant of the God of Death. When she learns of her true nature, the stakes become even higher. She places her trust in Marek Conte, the old man’s grandson. Together they’ll meet others like Analiese, form alliances, battle enemies, and ultimately be forced to take a stand in the long-simmering war between the immortals.

I enjoyed Analiese Rising from start to finish. Told in first person, present tense from Analiese’s perspective, author Brenda Drake drew me in and I found myself invested in the character and her story. It was fun being in Analiese’s head, from her introspection regarding the reality of gods and the supernatural to her growing romantic feelings for Marek.

In addition, I liked both the characters of Analiese and Marek because their personalities meshed well yet still offered enough conflict to keep me interested. The overall concept of the gods lost powers and their fight to get them back worked well, but it really was the chase that was my favorite part of the story. The journey from the U.S. to Italy and France takes readers on an epic journey and includes many sites you’ll want to put on your bucket list.

There’s a lot to like about Analiese Rising and I recommend picking up a copy today. It’s a fast-paced adventure that effortlessly blends romance, intrigue, and mythology.

Please head over to author Brenda Drake’s website and check out her books as well. Analiese Rising is a stand-alone but if you’re into series, she has those as well. Also, you can read my review of Drake’s other stand-alone book, Thunderstruck here on my site.

Book Review: Hawking’s Hallway, Book 3 of the Accelerati Trilogy by Neil Shusterman and Eric Elfman

“People have souls; organizations do not. But organizations have more power than any one person does. The best we can hope to do is apply our individual humanity to the wielding of an organization’s power.”

Edison. Hawking’s Hallway, Chapter 14, page 83

Hawking’s Hallway is the third book in The Accelerati Trilogy by Neil Shusterman and Eric Elfman. It’s faced-paced, funny, and a delightful blend of science and action-adventure. If you want to read my reviews of the first two books in the series please check them out: here.

Hawkings Hallway

The third and final installment of The Accelerati Trilogy places 14-year old Nick Slate at the secret science organization’s headquarters. Nick has agreed to work with their uniquely old and obsessed leader to help the Accelerati assemble Tesla’s F.R.E.E. device. Nick intuitively knows where each of the objects that make up the device fit, but they’re still missing three.

Everyone is back, Caitlin, Mitch, undead Vince, Petula, and of course Nick’s dad and brother—except the Accelerati have wiped the memories of Nick’s family and they no longer remember him.

There’s a lot going on in this book. It’s more than just a group of young teens that need to save the world, again. Nick’s story is an interesting look at technology, historic inventors, and the impact that had/have on our modern world. And it’s funny, often laugh-out-loud funny.

I enjoyed Hawking’s Hallway a lot. It’s skillfully written and just as engaging as the first two books. The ending did not disappoint either. For readers who have enjoyed books like Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series, this trilogy hits the spot.

Book Review: Tesla’s Attic, Book One of the Accelerati Trilogy by Neal Shusterman & Eric Elfman

“In theory, they had moved here to start a fresh, shining new life. But even the most promising theories can be impossible to prove.”

Tesla’s Attic: Chapter 1, page 3

I love that this book is completely accessible for kids but a totally fun and intelligent read for adults as well. Tesla’s Attic is Book One in the Accelerati Trilogy written by Neal Shusterman and Eric Elfman. It effortlessly combines comedy, adventure, magic, and science to create a unique story that centers around fourteen-year-old Nick and several random household items he finds in the attic of his family’s new home—items enhanced by the inventor Nikola Tesla.

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Nick along with his younger brother and dad move to Colorado from Florida after a tragic fire. When Nick opens the door to his attic room in the old home his dad has moved them to, he’s hit in the head with a toaster. This is just the start to Nick’s problems. The room has a lot of junk so the logical thing for Nick to do is have a garage sale. It’s a great idea, until he realizes that the junk actually does extraordinary things.

From the camera that takes pictures of the future to a baseball glove that can pull objects from the sky, these seemingly mundane items are quite the opposite.

Nick, along with his new friends Mitch, Vince, and Caitlyn, will begin to piece together the significance of these items and come together to help stop the end of the world. They’ll also discover the secret society of physicists known as the Accelerati who are very interested in the Tesla items.

Tesla’s Attic is fast-paced and kept me entertained from start to finish. Plenty of witty dialogue, quirky characters, and science-y moments to delight my inner geek.

I checked this book out from my local library on a whim and I’m so glad I did. I’ll admit it was the title that drew me to the book—I have an interest in Tesla. I also checked out Book 2 at the same time and have also finished reading that one as well. If you’d like to see what I have to say about Edison’s Alley, please check out my short review on Good Reads.

Book Review: Beyond the Edge of the Map by A.L. Tait

“There are times when facts are helpful and times when a little bit of fanciful thinking goes a long way.”  (Jed)

Beyond the Edge of the Map: The Mapmaker Chronicles, chapter 6

Quinn Freeman has set sail again! It’s another adventure for the young mapmaker as author A.L. Tait presents readers with Beyond the Edge of the Map, the fourth book of The Mapmaker Chronicles.

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The story opens six moons after Quinn wins the race to map the world. His family has settled into the Manor, the prize earned for his accomplishments at sea. While Quinn’s beautiful and incredibly accurate map is now in current use by the Verdanians, there is still more out there. However, Quinn is relegated to staying on land and making copies of the map, per orders of the king. When there’s an attempt on Quinn’s life by another land who wants the mapmaker and his skills, everything changes. It’s decided Quinn would be safest back out at sea and he sets sail taking his brothers Jed and Allyn with him.

Unfortunately for Quinn, he’s not to sail aboard the Libertas with Captain Zain, but the Freeman brothers must board the Rose of the North as per King Orel’s request. They are now at the mercy of Lord Thornton who has assured the King that he’ll do everything in his power to protect Quinn. When Quinn discovers Lord Thornton has plotted against Quinn, the brothers escape from the Rose of the North only to find themselves lost on an island.

Quinn, Jed, Allyn, and the little pup named Leif face many life-threatening obstacles in their quest to find their way back home. They encounter new wildlife, suffer from hunger, and go on the run from the Peatlanders determined to find Quinn and take him to their land. Quinn also meets an old enemy and must decide if he’s to be trusted in this new situation.

I really enjoyed Beyond the Edge of the Map. Like the first three books in the series, it held my attention page after page. Quinn has rapidly become one of my favorite young fictional heroes. He’s definitely evolved over the course of the series, and it was nice to watch him take charge a bit more. This time he didn’t have Zain to offer sage advice or to save him from peril. Quinn had to make several difficult decisions and convince his two older brothers that he knew what he was doing.

Author A..L. Tait brings back all our favorite Mapmaker Chronicles characters, from the sassy, smart Ash to the Libertas crew and even a few pages of Zain (one of my favs from the first three books). There’s plenty of action, including several heart-stopping moments as the Freeman brothers battle for their lives.

I recommend Beyond the Edge of the Map by A.L. Tait as a very entertaining mid-grade/younger YA read. It’s an action-adventure that can be enjoyed by all ages and would make a great read-aloud book for families or in the classroom/library. You could read it as a stand-alone, there’s just enough background from the first three books shared, but I think it’s best to read the entire series. You really don’t want to miss out on getting to know Quinn Freeman and experiencing his adventures at sea as a young mapmaker charting unknown territories.

Please head over to A.L. Tait’s website and check out her entire Mapmaker series as well as her other books.

Book Review: Thunderstruck by Brenda Drake

“There are more than two choices. Always another way we cannot see for our minds are too close to the heart.”

(Thunderstruck by Brenda Drake)

This weekend I dove into Thunderstruck by Brenda Drake, a YA novel that effortlessly combines Norse mythology, action-adventure, and sweet romance.

Thunderstruck

As a kid, my mom introduced me early to Greek mythology because it was one of her passions. And I fell in love with those stories. Now as an adult, I’ve discovered the Norse myths and they hold me equally entranced. I enjoyed reading Thunderstruck a lot. I had zero preconceptions regarding the story and it’s my first time reading Brenda Drake — so glad I picked up this book!

Quick synopsis (or read the full one on Brenda Drake’s website):

Blake Foster is not your average high school kid. He’s actually Einar, the son of Norse god Thor. He’s been sent to retrieve the powerful horn of Heimdall before all the worlds fall into chaos and destruction. Stevie Moon is your average high school kid, well mostly. She does have a heart condition and a secret identity as well. She’s not a Norse god but she is Comic Cam, a vlog celebrity who unknowingly has ties to Asgard. Blake and Stevie, along with Blake’s brother Kyle/Lajos will work together to prevent Ragnarok and save both Midgard/Earth and Asgard.

Overall, Thunderstruck had a nice balance between the mythology and modern world. I loved watching Blake learn about being a Midgard teen and the distinct contrasts between him and Kyle. There were several little moments throughout the book that made me chuckle and smile. I loved some of Blake/Einar’s observations and thoughts about Midgard. Things like,

“He tugged at the gray tie around his neck. He hated the contraption and wondered why it was a style on Midgard. Was it a leash for lovers to keep their men at bay?” (page 92)

I also enjoyed Stevie’s character. She’s not a damsel in distress — she’s smart, funny, and a good friend. Her parents were slightly absent, but their absence was plausible and offset by the presence of Dr. May Hompluem, a veterinarian who has firsthand knowledge of Norse gods and Asgard.

Thunderstruck is a stand-alone read, not super long, and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys engaging characters, a fast-paced plot, and a bit of romance while battling trolls and evil gods.

Discover more Brenda Drake books here. She’s the author of the Library Jumpers series and The Fated series as well.

Book Review: The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

“Luck had carried us through the first three waves. But even the best gambler will tell you that luck only lasts so long.”

(The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey, Chapter 16, page 75)

Author Rick Yancey packs pages of twists and turns into an epic tale of survival during and after a cunning alien invasion. Told from multiple points-of-view (POVs), The 5th Wave is book one in a trilogy. The 5th Wave offers readers a fast-paced, action-adventure wrapped in paranoia and sprinkled with a range of deep emotions—from fear to love and horror. It’s all there.

5th WaveWith the first wave they took out all power. No lights. No motors. No cell phones. All grids down, just a taste of what was to come.

The second wave hits differently. Tsunami. Coastal cities across the globe wiped out. Still, the survivors press on. There is always hope, right?

The third wave decimates. A plague that kills almost everyone it touches. There’s no hiding from the pestilence they’ve unleashed.

Then comes the fourth wave. The Silencers emerge.

What’s the fifth wave? It’s the unthinkable.

Readers ride the waves of the world’s decimation with a variety of characters that include high school kids Cassie Sullivan and Ben “Zombie” Parish. Then there’s Evan Walker, a bit older and definitely different. He saves Cassie’s life, but can we really trust him? Author Yancey weaves a distinctive dystopian story that resonates because it’s just enough to have a reader thinking, hmmm, what if and yes, I could see this, crap—what would I do if I were Cassie or Ben or any other human trying to survive this invasion?

I found The 5th Wave to be a great escape book. It swept me away into its world, and that’s exactly what a good book should do. I didn’t want to put it down and I’m so happy that I have the boxed set so when I finished I was able to grab book two and soldier on with story.

You can find out more about author Rick Yancey here. And I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a well-written end-of-world story told from multiple perspectives and that doesn’t lose its sense of reality.

Book Review: The Mapmaker Chronicles: Breath of the Dragon by A.L. Tait

“But after that, it all came down to the map.

Which meant it all came down to Quinn.”

The crew of the Libertas has been out at sea for months. They’ve faced thieves, pirates, strange creatures, and near-death multiple times. Now it’s hunger and the looming deadline to get back to Verdania and win the race to map the world that threatens them. A.L. Tait gives readers a fast-paced, exciting conclusion to her series The Mapmaker Chronicles with the third book Breath of the Dragon.

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The race to map the world is almost at an end as the third book in this series opens. Our young hero Quinn has faced many challenges and life-threatening dangers. Unfortunately, Quinn’s unique ability to remember, well everything, has been muddled due the head injury he suffered while trying to escape from the Black Hawk. Without his infallible memory, he’s struggling with mapmaking and worries about his friend and crew members learning of his loss.

The crew of the Libertas doesn’t have an easy time finishing this race. At every turn it seems as if they’re being thwarted — from pirates to erupting volcanoes and old enemies, each day brings a new challenge.

Like any good adventure story, author A.L. Tait gives readers exciting action sequences, exotic lands, priceless treasure, and heart-stopping heroics by the characters we’ve grown to love since first introduced in book one: Race to the End of the World.

Breath of the Dragon concludes with a pleasant twist and a satisfying wrap-up for each character. As a reader, I was very happy to meet Zain’s family and I’m quite intrigued — I’d love to read more about them. As for Quinn, I loved how he evolved over the course of all three books and cheered for him all the way. It’d be fun to see the character a few years down the road as an older teen or early twenty-something.

Overall, I heartily recommended Breath of the Dragon and the entire Mapmaker Chronicles by A.L. Tait.

I’ve collected a few links for you. You can watch A.L. Tait via YouTube talk about the Mapmaker Chronicles series and visit her website here. In addition, I encourage you to head over to Kane Miller Publishing and check out the whole series.