The Summer of Re-Reads

When I was a kid, I looked forward to the Summer Reading Program at my local library. Each summer it had a theme and kids of all ages were challenged to read as many books as they could. As a voracious reader, making the preset “goal” was never an issue. Let's Talk Summer Reading!Usually we were given a flyer that had space to write down titles read on the back and on the front were spots for the librarians to add a sticker for each book read—the sticker, of course, matched that summer’s theme. I can’t remember how many weeks it lasted, maybe four? But at the end, there were prizes. I even remember winning tickets to Cubs and Sox games (not in the same summer!). I LOVED these programs when I was kid.

As an adult, I worked at a library and had the privilege of helping with the Summer Reading Program. It was a blast! And I miss those days.

So while thinking about all this and feeling nostalgic, I decided I really was in the mood to revisit some of the books from my home library. If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter, you may have already seen a few of my posts about what I’ve christened:

The Summer of Re-Reads. summer books

While I’m not going to ignore new titles, I do plan on re-reading several books/series. These include but are not limited to:

Percy Jackson & the Olympians by Rick Riordan

It’s been a least five years, probably more since I read this series and I’m really looking forward to having adventures with Percy, Annabeth, and Grover again.

The Diviners by Libba Bray

I plan to re-read the first book in the series, The Diviners and book 2, Lair of Dreams this summer. I need to go back and re-immerse into this world because I bought book 3, Before the Devil Breaks You and I’ve not read it yet.

The New Jedi Order (various authors)

It’s a long series—19 books. Yes, I do own them all, just a portion of my Stars Wars book collection. Trust me, the books, way better than any of the new movies (new movies = any Star Wars movie made after the original trilogy). Will I get to read all 19? Hard to say. I’ve already finished Vector Prime by R.A. Salvatore, so keep an eye out on a review coming soon.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Go ahead, roll your eyes. Are you done? Cool. Okay, so here’s the deal. It’s been at least seven years since I read this book. Yes, I’ve read the trilogy back in the day and I love the movies. But honestly, it’s been so long since I read the book that started it all, I’m curious to see if I’ll enjoy it again. I liked it enough the first time that I did read the rest of the series. I was a bit late to the party, only picking up The Hunger Games after Catching Fire came out. I may even review it here. Who knows? It’s summer, anything’s possible.

The Paranormalcy series by Kiersten White

This is a trilogy that debuted with Paranormalcy back in 2010. I own all three, have read them several times, but it’s been at least four years. I actually finished the first book, Paranormalcy the other day and have up my revised Goodreads review. I’m going to wait until after I read all three, and then I’ll put together a series review for here.

What are you reading this summer?

Book Review: Purple Hearts by Michael Grant

“But she has learned something about fear: you must always listen to it, but you need not give in to it.”

Rainy Schulterman, Purple Hearts, chapter 3, page 41

You can’t read Purple Hearts by Michael Grant and not feel anything. You can’t finish this book and not feel something. Likely you’ll run the gauntlet of feelings—horror, revulsion, admiration, anger, and yes, even joy. Because despite the heavy subject matter, at heart, it’s a story of three young women and Grant did a masterful job weaving it all together.

NewPurpleHeartsThis is the third book in Grant’s Front Lines series featuring Rio Richlin, Frangie Marr, and Rainy Schulterman. They are soldier girls of World War II in this unique series that combines actual history with a ‘what if?’—what if women were allowed to enlist and were drafted to serve on the front lines during the second World War.

What if these young women kicked ass alongside the men regardless of race, gender, and religion? A female, koummya-carrying platoon sergeant, why not? A female black medic, why not? A female Jewish intelligence agent, why not?

As Purple Hearts opens with D-Day, our three soldier girls most definitely are no longer the young recruits originally introduced in book one. They are war veterans. Soldiers.

They’ve seen the unimaginable, done the unthinkable, and are still standing despite injuries, imprisonment, and the nightmares of war that can never be forgotten. This book takes the reader from D-Day through the end of World War II (and beyond) including their first-hand experiences at the Dachau Concentration Camp.

Like the other two books in the Front Lines series, Purple Hearts is not for the squeamish. It’s brutal, graphic, and immersive. It’s also imaginative, hopeful, and filled with moments that I enjoyed.

Damn, I like these Soldier Girls and I am a bit sorry their story concluded.

The ending of Purple Hearts made me smile, chuckle, and yes, there were some tears. I thought it was a beautiful tribute to these amazing characters we’ve grown to love over the course of three books. Rio, Frangie, and Rainy—I love them for different reasons, but each found a place in my heart and I’ll happily add these young women to my list of favorite fictional characters I’d like to have a drink with.

For more about the author Michael Grant, check out his page at HarperCollins.

 

FrontLines trio

My Silver Stars review (book 2).

My Front Lines review (book 1).

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: The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg

“Remember that you are much different now than you were an hour ago, Ceony. Before you merely read about magic; now you have it.”

Chapter 2, page 27, (Mg. Thane)

The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg

The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg surprised me. This book has a unique magic system that I found intriguing as well as entertaining. I’ve not read another like The Paper Magician and it kept me engaged from start to finish. It’s book one of a trilogy and now I find myself wishing I had bought all three at the same time.

PaperMagician

Author Holmberg introduces readers to Ceony, a young magician embarking on her apprenticeship with Magician Thane. Ceony has selected to enter her post-graduate studies as an apprentice for paper magic. Quite the disappointment to Ceony who had desired something a bit more exciting. Things start out a bit rocky for her as Mg. Thane seems eccentric and not at all what Ceony expected in a Master. However, after a short time, she begins to settle into her new role even when Mg. Thane leaves her on her own for a few days.

Just when Ceony has begun to feel like maybe bonding with paper magic wasn’t the worst thing, her world and life are threatened. A mysterious woman shows up at the Thane home and assaults Mg. Thane, ripping his heart from his chest and stealing away with it. Ceony has to use all her newly developing skills as a paper magician as well as her intellect and bravery to find the woman holding Mg. Thane’s heart and stop her.

Charlie N. Holmberg doesn’t just give us another story with magic and a young apprentice. The Paper Magician is dark, imaginative, and beautifully written. It takes the reader on an intimate journey into one man’s actual heart. Ceony magically enters Mg. Thane’s heart and it’s not a place for the squeamish.

There are lighter moments as well and Fennel the paper dog was a favorite. I didn’t immediately like the character of Ceony, but I grew to admire her and appreciate her as the story unfolded. I am looking forward to reading more about her and this world that Holmberg has created.  

I highly recommend The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg. The next book in the series is The Glass Magician, followed by The Master Magician. You can check out blurbs for all three books here, on the website of Charlie N. Holmberg.

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.

TBR List: 2018 Edition

The #TBR List — every reader has one. It may be a stack of print novels a combination of garage sales finds, library borrows, and new release splurges. Your TBR (to-be-read) list of books may be list on your Good Reads account or a digital pile waiting on your e-reader. Whatever form the TBR list takes, I personally like to take stock of mine a couple of times a year.

My personal TBR List is a combo of digital reads and print books I’ve bought over the last several months, both new releases and used-book store treasures (that’s how I found my hardback copy of Imzadi).

tbr list

In no particular order, my current 2018 TBR List is:

The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg

Hidden Figures by Margo Lee Shetterly

Zoo by James Patterson

Aftermath: Empire’s End by Chuck Wendig

House of Furies by Madeleine Roux

Safe by Dawn Husted

The Woodcutter by Kate Danley

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

Imzadi (a Star Trek novel) by Peter David

Before the Devil Breaks You by Libba Bray (book 3 of The Diviners)

The Library Jumpers series by Brenda Drake

Purple Hearts by Michael Grant (book 3 in the Front Lines series)

This is not an exhaustive list, but these are the books that I plan on reading (hopefully) in the next six months. I find that I’m happiest when I’m actively reading. It makes me a better writer and I actually take more joy in writing when I’m reading. Besides I love stories.

I’d also like to read more mythology this year. I love Greek mythology (Josephine Angelini’s Starcrossed series is one of my favorite) but after recently reading Brenda Drake’s Thunderstruck with its Norse mythology, I’d like to learn a bit more about that. I’m going to add Norse Gods by Johan Egerkrans to my list as well.

Currently I’m reading Beyond the Edge of the Map (The Mapmaker Chronicles) by A.L. Tait. It’s the fourth book in this series, a series I highly recommend for mid-grade and YA readers. You can check out my thoughts on books 1, 2, and 3. — spoiler: I loved them all!

What are you reading? What’s your 2018 TBR List looking like so far?

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 Last Star by Rick Yancey

“Because love is the most dangerous weapon in the world. It’s more unstable than uranium.”

(The Last Star by Rick Yancey, Chapter 52, page 188)

Dystopian YA has always been a favorite of mine to read. I began reading The 5th Wave series by Rick Yancey because I saw the movie and the basic premise captured my attention. As it often happens, I did like the first book of this trilogy, the one the movie was based upon, way better than the movie. And I liked Cassie, named for Cassiopeia not Cassandra, a lot better in the book as well.

Last Star

Fast forward to book 3, The Last Star. (I’ve already written reviews of book 1 and book 2 if you need to catch up.)

So. The Last Star. For me, a solid 4 of 5 stars is how I rated it on Good Reads. It kept me entertained, continued to develop the remaining characters, and tied up loose ends fairly well. Yes, some of it was predictable, but so are many books and movies of all genres. However, there were several strong moments and ultimately, I liked how our main characters were left.

What I had mild issues with was what I felt was rambling. It felt like (in book 2 as well) that Yancey drones on a bit long in places as characters muse over the “why” of everything. After a while, it felt repetitive and I wanted to skip certain passages. Beyond that, I really liked the series. And I have every intention of rereading it again, maybe later in the year. I’m sure I missed some nuances and with a dystopian series like this told from multiple POVs, things can be misinterpreted or missed completely.

According to Den of Geek, author Rick Yancey has plans to publish three more books in the 5th Wave series. This was reported back in March 2017. If Yancey does publish more books in this series, I’ll read them.

As for The 5th Waves series, I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys YA end-of-the-world tales with strong female characters and very likable secondary characters.

Added “Everything, Everything” to TBR List

If you’ve been following my book review posts since Christmas, you know I’ve been reading the Rick Yancey YA series The 5th Wave. I’ve already posted my thoughts and reviews about book 1 and book 2 — yes, I liked both.

Currently, I’m reading book three, The Last Star. I had hoped to finish it this morning, but instead found myself sucked in and watching the movie “Everything, Everything” which is based on the book of the same name by author Nicola Yoon. The story held my attention and I loved Maddy, played by actress Amandla Stenberg.

I have not read Nicola Yoon’s YA book Everything, Everything, but now I want to and I’m adding it to my 2018 TBR list.

Wait, what? You’ve not made a TBR list for this year yet? That’s okay! I’m still working on mine and will post it (or whatever I have of it) later this week.

So, I guess that leaves us today with two things:

  1. Keep your eye out for my review of The Last Star by Rick Yancey, the last book in The 5th Wave trilogy.
  2. Share with me your book recommendations for 2018 so I can add them to my TBR list. Pop your number one favorite recommendation in the comments. Thanks!