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: The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey

“That’s the lesson they taught us, Razor. What matters and what doesn’t. The one truth at the center of all the lies.”

(The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey, Chapter 82, page 292)

Starting off the New Year by finishing The Infinite Sea, the second book in Rick Yancey’s The 5th Wave series. The opportunity to tuck in with a good book for some quality reading time during the hectic holiday season has been pure bliss. I received the boxed set of The 5th Wave series for Christmas and have been making my way through this action-packed, end-of-the-world trilogy that combines just the right amount of YA angst with gritty fight scenes, layers of lies, and relatable characters.

Infinite Sea

The Infinite Sea continues the story of Cassie and Sam Sullivan, Ben “Zombie” Parish, Evan Walker, and the Others who’ve decimated the human the race in five distinct waves. The 5th Wave (book one) ends after the destruction of Camp Haven. Book two picks up shortly after with Cassie, Zombie, Sam, Ringer, Poundcake, Dumbo, and Teacup regrouping, healing, and coming to terms with the revelations they’ve uncovered regarding the Others.

While The Infinite Sea continues along with the storylines for Cassie and Zombie, it also gives readers more Ringer—and believe me, that’s a very good thing. Ringer’s story in book two was my favorite. Loved the insight into her background and Yancey’s development of her character was interesting, riveting, and revealing. In addition to Ringer’s backstory, we also get a deeper look at Poundcake and since I won’t do spoilers I will only say, Poundcake now has to rate as one of my favorite characters of the story.

New characters also are introduced, including Razor. I’m still making up my mind if I like him or not. I think Ringer may still be trying to make up her mind as well. Or not. Hard to say.

What I will say is that there’s a lot to contemplate in this book. Who are the Others really? Why the five waves? Why not just drop a big-ass rock on the planet and be done with it?

Like any good second installment of a trilogy, The Infinite Sea not only moves the story along, but it also leaves it with unresolved conflict and a questions that must be answered in book three.

Overall, I like The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey and I’m anxious to begin book three The Last Star.

Goodreads 2017 Reading Challenge: How’d You Do?

Goodreads 2017 Reading Challenge By the Numbers:

Participants—3,064,552

Books pledged—138,755,909

Books finished (as of 12/10/17)—42,456,838

Average books pledged—45

Challenges completed (as of 12/10/17)—14,675

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The Goodreads 2017 Reading Challenge has just 21 days left (as of this writing).

Never heard of the Goodreads annual Reading Challenge? No worries. It’s pretty simple. It’s free and open to all Goodreads members. All you do is choose or “pledge” how many books you want to read for the year. It can be any amount.

According to the Goodreads Reading Challenge statistics, which I’ve posted above, the average number of books pledge is  45 or a little less than one book a week.

Seems doable, right? For many readers, absolutely!

For others, myself included. I opt for a lower number. And I feel no shame. Pledge whatever you want. Slow reader? Make your challenge 5 or 10 books for the year. If you make that easily, then increase the number in the next year.

My 2017 Goodreads Reading Challenge was 25 books. I completed my challenge on November 30. You can see my list of completed books and their reviews here.

In looking over the list, I’ve been trying to decide which one would be my favorite read of the year. There are so many books that I read in the last year that I really, really liked. I’d have to say my absolute favorite on this list is “Silver Stars” by Michael Grant. It’s book two in his Front Lines series.

I also read a middle-grade series written by A.L. Tait, The Mapmaker Chronicles—all three of those books appear in my Goodreads Reading Challenge list. Loved this series and highly recommend it for your young readers.

So what am I reading right now? Well, I’m still working my way through the Harry Potter series. I’m on book two but am first going to finish up reading the new Nora Roberts book “Year One”. As soon as I have “Year One” finished, I’ll post a review—but I’ll tell you right now, I’m LOVING it!

Did you do the Goodreads 2017 Reading Challenge?

How many books did you pledge?

Did you make your goals or are you still in a race to finish before the clock chimes midnight on December 31?

Book Review: The Mapmaker Chronicles: Prisoner of the Black Hawk, by A.L. Tait

“I guess that’s the secret then,” he said.

“As long as someone has hope for you, there’s a chance things will turn out okay.”

(Quinn Freeman, The Mapmaker Chronicles: Prisoner of the Black Hawk by A.L. Tait)

 

Quinn, Ash, Zain, and the crew of the Libertas are back in The Mapmaker Chronicles: Prisoner of the Black Hawk by A.L. Tait. The Mapmaker Chronicles gives readers the exciting adventures of 14-year old Quinn Freeman as he sales far away from home on a quest to map the world, a race against time and two other ships and their mapmakers.

ALTait Mapmaker 2

Book two, Prisoner of the Black Hawk, picks up with Quinn and the Libertas crew regrouped after a near-deadly encounter with the Gelynions. Captain Zain has taken young Kurt on board, a former prisoner of the Gelynions and someone that Quinn doesn’t fully trust. As the crew continues to keep a wary eye out for the violent Gelynions, land is sighted. A visit to port is the beginning for Quinn’s newest adventure, although he may have preferred something a bit less exciting than running into a giant serpent and being kidnapped and taken prisoner aboard the Black Hawk, a Gelynion ship.

Author A.L. Tait gives readers another fast-paced story set on the high-seas in a fantastical world filled with terrifying creatures, pirates, and loyal friends. If you’re looking for a story that you can lose yourself in, grab this book. Since I was a kid, I’ve loved adventure stories — from Pippi Longstocking books to the Indiana Jones movies. I have no problem throwing myself right into the adventure along with the main characters, and I really like both Quinn and Ash because I can see myself reacting the same way in some of the situations these two face.

The Mapmaker Chronicles: Prisoner of the Black Hawk is a delightful combination of action, whimsy, and moments that made me thoughtful. My favorite quote from the book is the one I placed at the top of this review. I believe these words are exceptionally true. My other favorite quote comes from Zain,

“But remember this: the only man who is truly trapped is the man who does nothing. If you do something — anything — then you force change.”

I highly recommend The Mapmaker Chronicles series from A.L. Tait. Start with book one because you don’t want to miss out on early Quinn — his growth has been fun to read.

Exactly one month ago today, I posted my review for the first book in The Mapmaker Chronicles series by A.L. Tait. You can read it here. And be sure to hop on over to A.L. Tait’s website and check out all her books and more.

Book Review: AFTERMATH: LIFE DEBT, a Star Wars novel by Chuck Wendig

“Life Debt” from Chuck Wendig is the second book in his Star Wars series “Aftermath”. The Aftermath series takes place a long time ago in a galaxy far away (okay so I felt the NEED to say that) and after the battle of Endor, the explosion of the second Deathstar, and the death of the Emperor. However, the timeline of “Life Debt” is several years before “The Force Awakens”.

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Life in the galaxy after the fall of the Empire is less than awesome. The New Republic is working for order, while the remaining Imperial remnant is struggling to keep their grip after their devastating losses. Readers met Norra Wexley and the Halo crew in the first “Aftermath” book, and this motley group is back, this time pursuing Grand Admiral Rae Sloane. Norra and the crew are diverted from their pursuit of Sloane when they answer the call of Leia Organa Solo — seems her husband Han has gone missing while helping the Wookiee Chewbacca liberate his homeworld of Kashyyyk.

Norra Wexley, her son Temmin, and the rest of their crew face many challenges and hardships throughout “Life Debt”. Doing the right thing, isn’t always easy. Everyone is put to the test, even the scoundrel smuggler Han Solo. In the meantime, Leia finds herself having to make difficult decisions both as a politician, wife, and former Rebellion leader.

“Aftermath: Life Debt” has a great pace, memorable characters, and effortlessly continues the saga of Star Wars without breaking stride. It’s a nice balance of new and traditional Star Wars, and I can’t say enough how much I love Mister Bones. And Sinjir — he remains my favorite character in this series.

I’m looking forward to Book 3: “Empire’s End” and if you’re any level of Star Wars fan, I highly recommend this series by Chuck Wendig.

You can find a link to the book here. And you can find all things Chuck Wendig over on his blog terribleminds. If you’re a writer, I highly recommend Wendig’s books on the craft of writing — awesome stuff there. My personal favorite is “The Kick-Ass Writer”.

New Book from Author Suzie Jay

My dear friend and fellow Writing Wench, author Suzie Jay has released a new children’s book: “Princess Matilda’s Miracle”. It’s a very special book dealing with illness, but this fairy tale shines with hope, love, and light. You don’t want to miss it.

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You can find “Princess Matilda’s Miracle” on Amazon here and at Goodreads here.

Go visit Suzie Jay at her author page and see what else she’s been up to recently. She’s got some fun books out and new ones on the way.

Book Review: Bay of Sighs by Nora Roberts

I’ve been reading Nora Roberts for more than 20 years and she never fails to entertain and delight me as a reader. Bay of Sighs is book 2 of her Guardians Trilogy — and a Nora Roberts trilogy that mixes supernatural, fantasy, romance, and mystery is my favorite kind of trilogy!

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In a trilogy set up like The Guardians, Roberts gives us three couples. In book 1, Stars of Fortune, we were introduced to Sasha and Bran, Annika and Sawyer, and Riley and Doyle. While book 1 focused on the relationship that developed between Sasha and Bran, book 2 brings us the romance of Annika and Sawyer.

If you haven’t read book 1 yet, then mini-SPOILER ALERT. Each of the six guardians, tasked with locating and protecting three magical stars created long ago by three goddesses, are unique and not all are entirely human. These chosen six must find the stars and keep the dark goddess Nerezza from claiming the stars and killing/capturing any of their group.

Bay of Sighs features the search for the second star and the blossoming romance between Annika the mermaid and Sawyer the traveler. Yes, Annika is a mermaid (which you knew if you read book 1). I adore the character of Annika. She’s so sweetly innocent and yet quite sage. Sawyer is a darling and one of the most honorable male characters I’ve ever read. For me, they are the perfect couple.

Nora Roberts does a masterful job interweaving romantic interludes, heart-stopping action sequences, fun and witty dialogue (LOVE the multiple pop culture references — Hulk Smash), and a magical story that entrances the imagination. There are a few disturbing scenes including one with torture but Roberts writes with power and strength that swiftly move the action and the plot forward.

Bay of Sighs: Book 2 of The Guardians Trilogy was fantastic and I highly recommend to any fan of Nora Roberts or any reader who enjoys romance/fantasy/action all in one book.

BUT, reading Book 1: Stars of Fortune is a must.

Look for Book 3 of The Guardians Trilogy: Island of Glass to hit bookstore shelves in December 2016.

I also had to share just how gorgeous the inside flap of the book is. Check it out.

To see other great books by Nora Roberts, please visit her website here.

Book Review: Bloodline by Claudia Gray

I have officially added Bloodline by Claudia Gray to my collection of Star Wars books. Being a huge Expanded Universe fan (Expanded Universe is now known as Legends), I admit to having a few reservations about this book — I bought it anyway and I have no regrets.

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Claudia Gray’s book Bloodline is a prequel story to the film Star Wars: The Force Awakens and is set about six years before we meet Rey, Finn, Poe, and BB-8. It’s Leia’s story and Gray did a great job with Leia Organa — princess, senator, wife, mother, and granddaughter of Darth Vader.

Bloodline follows Leia while she’s serving in the New Republic Senate. There’s conflict between the Populists and the Centrists as well as a greater threat to the star systems lurking just around the corner. Han is off doing his thing, Leia is trying to save the New Republic (no surprise there) and Gray even teases readers with a hint of the great Luke Skywalker who’s busy training the Solo’s son in the Jedi arts.

Bloodline gives readers a classic Star Wars adventure with heroes to cheer for, bad guys to boo, politicians with an agenda, starship pilots not afraid to take chances, and a nicely balanced combination of familiar faces mixed with new, exciting characters. Bloodline has intrigue, some great dialogue, a solid story that helps set up some of the events in the movie The Force Awakens, and quite a bit of action. It’s great to see Leia getting her hands dirty and kicking ass. There’s also a poignant moment as Leia comes to a startling realization about her father, Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker — you’ll have to wait for it, as it comes almost at the end, but it’s good.

I like author Claudia Gray’s style for moments like this:

Someday was the sun disappearing behind a cloud, a morning lost to darkness long before night should have come.”

And

“They lifted their glasses and clinked them together, and the darkness in their pasts seemed farther away than it had before.”

And my favorite:

“The sun is setting on the New Republic. It’s time for the Resistance to rise.”

I recommend Star Wars: Bloodline by Claudia Gray to any fan of the Star Wars books and/or movies. You can check out more Star Wars books here. My personal favorite is the X-Wing series.

Find out more about author Claudia Gray here.

Book Review: Starstruck by Brenda Hiatt

Starstruck by Brenda Hiatt is a YA fantasy/sci-fi/romance and the first book in a series. I picked this book up as free Kindle read because the blurb caught my attention. Author Hiatt gives readers a slightly nerdy astronomy lover named Marsha — called M by her best friends. She’s not overly popular (actually she has a school nemesis by the name of Trina) and her home life is less than conventional. M has never known her parents, she was adopted, and then her adopted parents died so she’s being raised by an aunt and uncle in tiny Jewel, Indiana.

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Things are boringly ho-hum for M until the day the new guy shows up a school. He’s good looking, the new quarterback, and M finds herself drawn to him despite the fact it seems at first that he has eyes for Trina. Surprise! New guy Rigel actually is interested in M and they discover they share a strange “spark”.

Starstruck asks the question, what if aliens from another planet were living in our town and even part of some of the most important industries in the nation — like NASA? What happens if a princess from another planet was hidden on Earth and she alone may be the difference between a peaceful immigration or a violent invasion?

There were several things I liked about Starstruck, including its basic premise and characters like M’s friends and Rigel’s parents. However, there were also a few things I didn’t like. I found myself cringing a bit every time I read the name of the planet from which the aliens came. I don’t know why, but this bugged me — purely one reader’s opinion. I was able to get past it to overall be entertained by the book. I also found some of the repetitiveness of the dialogue and text tiring. I got it: Rigel was hot and they hold hands a lot.

Overall, I liked the book enough to give it 4 stars on GoodReads, but for me, it was really about a 3.5 star read. Will I read Starcrossed, the next book in the series? Possibly. My TBR list is large, but I think I’ll add it for a future read. Go ahead, give Starstruck by Brenda Hiatt a read because it is entertaining and I did like how M evolved. I’m curious to see what she does in the next book.

You can find about more about author Brenda Hiatt and her books via her website.