Monday, April 24, 2017

Things I've Read Recently (46): This is All Just Ms. Marvel

If you're new around here, Things I've Read Recently is a series of posts I do that are basically mini-reviews of books that I either forgot to review, didn't have enough to say for a full review, or just didn't want to do a full post about for whatever reason. In this case, I read four volumes of Ms. Marvel and kept trying to put them in individual issues, but it was getting a little ridiculous trying to make the scheduling work and I just kept moving things around so... this happened.

Ms. Marvel, Volume 2: Generation Why by G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona, and Jacob Wyatt

Published: April 7th, 2015 by Marvel
Genre: YA comic book, I guess
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: Goodreads says 136 pages. None of them have numbered pages.
Part of a series? This contains issues 6 through 11.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Who is the Inventor, and what does he want with the all-new Ms. Marvel and all her friends? Maybe Wolverine can help! If Kamala can stop fan-girling out about meeting her favorite super hero, that is. Then, Kamala crosses paths with Inhumanity -- by meeting the royal dog, Lockjaw! But why is Lockjaw really with Kamala? As Ms. Marvel discovers more about her past, the Inventor continues to threaten her future. Kamala bands together with some unlikely heroes to stop the maniacal villain before he does real damage, but has she taken on more than she can handle? And how much longer can Ms. Marvel's life take over Kamala Khan's? Kamala Khan continues to prove why she's the best (and most adorable) new super hero there is!

Thoughts: I've raved about Ms. Marvel already in a post I can't link to because it's not live yet and I've got two more volumes to read and review, so I won't go on for too long, but I have to say how much I love this series. These are so good, and now more than ever, so important. I absolutely love the direction this volume goes, and the messages it has through the lessons Kamala learns. Her family is featured a little less in this volume, but they are not less important.

So important, so good, and so recommended.

I'm going to go read more now.

Ms. Marvel, Volume 3: Crushed by G. Willow Wilson, Takeshi Miyazawa, and Elmo Bondoc

Published: June 23rd, 2015 by Marvel
Genre: YA comic book
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 112 pages
Part of a series? This volume contains Ms. Marvel #12-15 and S.H.I.E.L.D. #2
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Love is in the air in Jersey City as Valentine’s Day arrives! Kamala Khan may not be allowed to go to the school dance, but Ms. Marvel is! Well sort of--by crashing it in an attempt to capture Asgard’s most annoying trickster! Yup, it’s a special Valentine’s Day story featuring Marvel’s favorite charlatan, Loki! And when a mysterious stranger arrives in Jersey City, Ms. Marvel must deal with...a crush! Because this new kid is really, really cute. What are these feelings, Kamala Khan? Prepare for drama! Intrigue! Romance! Suspense! Punching things! All this and more!

Thoughts: The Valentine's Day issue was just adorable, guys. I know a lot of people really enjoy the Loki character in the Marvel movies, and I thought this was a really fun way to use that character. It's a great way to start out a really great installment in this series. This is the first time the series has really tackled romance, and gosh, the way they handle it is wonderful.

They talk about how gross the idea of the "friendzone" is - and a male character says that, which I think is incredibly important to show it's not just a thing that girls are saying. They talk about the family pressure Kamala deals with regarding romance, and both pros and cons are shown for that. Kamala's parents' expectations for her are treated with respect and dignity. Kamala's respect for her parents is shown to be incredibly important to her. They talk about victim blaming, and guilt when something bad happens, and they handle it so, so well.

I legit do not want to write anymore in this review because the next volume is staring at me and I want to read it now, but just know I recommend this series so much.

Ms. Marvel, Volume 4: Last Days by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona

Published: December 1st, 2015 by Marvel
Genre: YA Comics
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 120
Part of a series? This contains issues 16-19.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): From the moment Kamala put on her costume, she's been challenged. But nothing has prepared her for this: the last days of the Marvel Universe. Lucky she's got the help of Carol "Captain Marvel" Danvers! Between teaming up with her personal hero to rescue her brother and trying to keep her city from falling into an all-out frenzy, Kamala has barely had time to come to terms with the fact that the world is literally collapsing around her. But the truth will catch up to her, and soon. When the world is about to end, do you still keep fighting? Kamala knows the answer. Let's do this, Jersey City.

Thoughts: This might be my favourite set of issues yet. I've mentioned before that I think fans of Legend of Korra would enjoy Kamala, but I don't think I've ever mentioned that I like Season Four of that show best. Story arcs that deal with the aftermath of trauma are something I enjoy a lot, although that does kind of make me sound like a terrible person, but I think it can be really interesting and I like when that's given time and respect and not just ignored.

This volume opens with Kamala dealing with feeling betrayed and heartbroken from the events of the last volume. For a great deal of the arc, Kamala has no idea what to do, and even as she goes into the action, you can feel how terrified she is that things are out of her control. It's not just her fear, either. When Kamala tells her parents that something bad is happening to Manhattan, they assume there's been an attack, and you feel their fear. The comic shows people stepping up to help when it looks like the world is ending, and people who don't - and why. This takes the time to focus on Kamala's family as much as possible, and it's beautiful and I may have cried a little.

Possible spoilers ahead - I did a little googling because Ms. Marvel is the only Marvel comic I read, and this arc is part of a larger Marvel arc. This is the end of a story. This is the beginning of another. I can't wait to see what comes next.

Ms. Marvel, Volume 5: Super Famous by G. Willow Wilson, Takeshi Miyazawa, Adrian Alphona, and Nico Leon

Published: July 12th, 2016 by Marvel
Genre: YA comic
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: Goodreads says 144.
Part of a series? This contains issues #1-6 which are not the same as the ones in No Normal, and I totally don't understand comic books. I guess everything kind of restarted in the Marvel universe after Last Days? Don't ask me. I'm just here for Kamala.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): She's your new favorite. She's everyone's new favorite. And now she's joining the big leagues. Look out world, Kamala Khan is officially an Avenger! But will being one of Earth's Mightiest Heroes be everything she imagined? Or is life as a celebrity harder than she thought?

But while saving the world is important, Jersey City still needs its protector too. A development company that co-opted Ms. Marvel's face for its project might well have more in mind for gentrification than just real estate. Can Kamala take down the evil suits destroying her home without ruining her personal life? Speaking of which, who exactly is that with Bruno? Get back on board and cling on, Kamala Korps, the ride is about to get wilder than ever!

Thoughts: Okay I totally lied in that last review. This is totally my new favouite volume. Honestly, I won't lie, it's mostly because this volume introduces a new character and I love her so much. Beware spoilers (for the series - these pictures won't have spoilers for the issue really), but I need to post pictures.

(Sorry for the glare. The pages are reflective, so my flash really bounced back, and it was nighttime so I had to use it since the lighting in my room is not very good. BUT LOOK AT HER.)

This is Mike. She's chubby and she has blue hair, and I love her so much. I LOVE that she doesn't have a super plus-size model perfect hourglass shape, but is just... chubby. She's beautiful and I love her, and she looks like a real teenager. I love that they show her in pajamas and not only all glammed up, and there's nothing bad about that. I absolutely adore that when Kamala, Kamala (!!!), our protagonist, makes a fatphobic comment (and not to Mike's face - to someone else), she immediately gets called out for it, and it's very firmly said both by other characters and by the narrative that wasn't okay. And then it never happens again, which is nice. I like that they addressed it, but didn't make her entire narrative about it. She's also a geek and lovely and adorable, and I'm so happy about this character. Give me all the characters like this.

Also Mike has two moms, and that's awesome. There are several new characters in these issues that I think are awesome. Like, there's a teacher who I can't remember if she's showed up before, who's black and uses a wheelchair, and a few others who may not be giant characters who are constantly there, but they really add to the idea that the world is diverse and wonderful.

I just adore this series so much. I love this world they've created. I love Kamala. I love the other characters. I love how they talk about such real things that aren't just superhero things, like gentrification, and interracial and interfaith relationships, and that body-shaming isn't okay. I already have the next one out from the library, and I'm super excited to read this.

Okay! I believe that's everything. Thanks for reading.

Peace and cookies,

Monday, April 10, 2017

Things I've Read Recently (45): Easter

If you're new around here, Things I've Read Recently is a series of posts I do that are basically mini-reviews of books that I either forgot to review, didn't have enough to say for a full review, or just didn't want to do a full post about for whatever reason. Sometimes they're themed for holidays. I needed a bunch of these books for a thing, so I thought I'd shar with you guys.

If you're not an Easter person, check out whatever last week's post was! I'm scheduling this way in advanced so I have no idea yet what it is. I don't know how I got so many blog posts either. I'm a little frightened. Come, hide with me in the Easter candy.

Except not Peeps. Those are horrible. And I realize the irony of that considering:

This really bad joke I made like six years ago and has never stopped making me giggle. Seriously, though, I bought some candy cane Peeps on clearance (because, you know, it's January when I'm typing this) and they were absolutely disgusting. And it's not just the candy cane flavour, it's the whole texture and everything.

So gross.

Anyways, here's some Easter books!

Captain Awesome and the Easter Egg Bandit by Stan Kirby

Published: January 6th, 2015
Genre: Contemporary Middle Grade/Chapter book
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 117 in the paperback copy I have
Part of a series? I believe this is the 13th of the series.
Got via: The library
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): To celebrate Easter, Eugene and his classmates decorate some eggs at school. Eugene's is the most MI-TEE of all! But when he enters the classroom the next day-GASP!-they're gone! This is a case for Captain Awesome and the Sunnyview Superhero Squad. They sniff out the trail and round up the usual suspects, but the evil Easter egg bandit escapes them. Will Captain Awesome and his team of superheroes track down the villain before Easter is ruined?

Thoughts: I was ordering Easter books and saw this, and thought I'd order it for my Storytime graduate. There's lots of pictures, rather large font, and it's pretty easy, ages 5-9 suggested, but it's fun. There are some very gigglesnort inducing moments, and I think reluctant readers would enjoy it. I'm writing this in March 2015, and for a two month old book, it is pretty roughed up already, so either someone was a little bit careless, or some people have really enjoyed this one.

Not my favourite (and it's weird that a school would paint Easter eggs? What if you have Jewish students?) but it's fine for what it is.

Junie B., First Grader: Dumb Bunny by Barbara Park

Published: February 13th, 2007
Genre: Contemporary Middle Grade (Chapter book)
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 119 pages
Part of a series? Yes, there are 17 Junie B. Jones books, and then 18-28 are the "First Grader" ones, all under the "Junie B. Jones" series header. This is the 27th of the series.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): It's an Easter Egg-stravaganza! With over 50 million books in print, Barbara Park’s New York Times bestselling chapter book series, Junie B. Jones, is a classroom favorite and has been keeping kids laughing—and reading—for over 20 years! In the 27th Junie B. Jones book, Lucille is having an Easter Egg Hunt at her rich expensive mansion! And guess what? The winner gets a play date to swim in Lucille's heated indoor swimming pool! Only, here is the problem. How did Junie B. get stuck wearing a big dumb bunny suit? And how can she possibly find eggs when she keeps tripping over her huge big rabbit feet? Being a dumb bunny is definitely not as easy as it looks. Will Junie B. end up with egg on her face? Or will the day deliver some very uneggspected results?

Thoughts: I really love these books. I think they are absolutely hilarious, and parents will probably love them as much as kids. I got this for my Storytime graduate, who didn't bite at the Valentine's Day one, but is a bit older now and may enjoy Junie more. I seriously just really love these. They're ridiculously funny, and adorable, and I really enjoy them. I laugh a lot reading them.

Short review, but highly recommended. (And this is a RL 1.8, by the way, if you care about that kind of thing.) 2017 edit: Also, I'm not sure if this was true when I wrote this review and I can't even remember if I wrote this in 2015 or 2016 because this post does include multiple years of books, but when I was adding in the amazon link, I noticed that this has a slightly redesigned new cover! Check it out on amazon. I like it and I'm glad the books in general got a little spruced up, without completely getting rid of the original cover art.

Heidi Heckelbeck and the Tie-Dyed Bunny by Wanda Coven

Published: January 21st, 2014 by Little Simon
Genre: Fantasy MG/Chapter book
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 119 plus an excerpt of the next book.
Part of a series? Yes, this is book ten of the Heidi Heckelbeck series with sixteen books in the series currently published and at least two more expected.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Heidi brings home the class bunny over Easter weekend—and finds herself in a magical, colorful mess!

Easter is just a few days away and Heidi Heckelbeck can’t wait! The holiday weekend is even more special because it’s Heidi’s turn to take home Maggie, the school’s bunny. But when Heidi takes Maggie out of her cage, trouble follows. Maggie escapes from Heidi’s arms and runs through all of the Easter egg dye! Will Heidi figure out how to un-tie-dye the colorful bunny before she has to take her back to school?

Thoughts: I haven't read any of the other books in this series, but I think that's kind of representative of how kids read sometimes. They see a cool book, they want to read it, not read nine other books first, you know? I think this works well in the aspect, functioning as both a book of a series and one that is understandable unto itself (although I'd have to read more to say definitively about the series aspect). The only part that is a little sudden in this book is that it's kind of "BAM magic!". I honestly wasn't really aware going in she was a witch until about 70 pages in when it came up.

On a whole, though, I liked it. The magic aspect works well, and is very sweet in how it's used, and I'd be interested in learning more about the world and setting. I loved that kind of thing as a kid, and I think there's a wide appeal. This one also has a lot of appeal to young animal lovers. I know there are some kids where if I say there's a bunny (or cat, or puppy, or horse) in a book, they're automatically interested!

This is aimed at around ages 5-7, and I think the frequent pictures and larger, simple text are perfect for that age range. There's a little bit of a "mean girl" thing I wasn't a huge fan of, but otherwise, this was good. There's also a good lesson about pet care and responsibility, and while those have obviously been done a lot, it's done well here and they're repeated so often for a reason. (Although I heard you're not supposed to bathe rabbits because it can kill them, so that part of the book gave me a pause.)

And as for the actual Easter element, it's mostly limited to dyeing Easter eggs and chocolate bunnies. It's background, mostly, if you're not so into that element, and you're just looking for rabbit books.

Ogres Don't Hunt Easter Eggs by Debbie Dadey Marcia Thornton Jones, illustrations by John Steven Gurney

Published: February 1st 2004 by Scholastic
Genre: MG Fantasy-ish if you've read one of these, you know what I mean.
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 61 pages of story, with 17 pages of activities, plus about the authors and book listings putting it at about 96 pages.
Part of a series? Yeah, there are a lot of these. I said the whole thing in this post and I'm not doing it again.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Indiebound / Abebooks

Summary (from goodreads): There are some weird grown-ups living in Bailey City. But could the man fixing up the park for the town Easter egg hunt really be an ogre? It's been raining ever since Brutus Bigg arrived in town. And even though he's supposed to fix up the park, he seems to be messing it up so on one will go there and bother him. Is Mr. Bigg an ogre trying to claim the park as his home? The Bailey School Kids are going to find out...but will they be able to stop him in time for the Spring Festival? This special edition is full of super spring puzzles and activities, too!

Thoughts: I adored these books as a kid. If you had left me alone in a room with all of these for a week, I probably could have lived off them alone. I've only read a couple more recently, but they seem to have held up well. This one at least doesn't use any pop culture or technology references that would date the book. The Easter element is also limited to an egg hunt the town does and how much the kids want to win.

One question I do have - why are these kids so paranoid? Slightly weird new gardener = ogre! Then they convince a hoard of kids to chase this guy with cats. Can you imagine being this guy? You're just doing your job trying to make the local park look nice, fighting terrible weather, and suddenly a herd of children show up and randomly chase you with cats. How do you even explain that to people?

But this was fun, and that kind of silliness can be nice for kids who aren't quite ready for more scary books, or just aren't a fan of scary things in general. I also liked the extras/activities they included. I always think those are tons of fun, and this is just fun overall. Good stuff.

Okay, so. Hope the big Bunny treats you and yours well, or Happy Passover or have an awesome Ramadan, or if you don't do anything at all, have a good weekend!

Peace and cookies,

Monday, April 3, 2017

YA Review: On the Edge of Gone

On the Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyvis

Published: March 8th, 2016 by Amulet Books
Genre: YA Science Fiction
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 456 plus acknowledgements and an author's note
Part of a series? According to the author, no.
Got via: The Library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): January 29, 2035.

That’s the day the comet is scheduled to hit—the big one. Denise and her mother and sister, Iris, have been assigned to a temporary shelter near their hometown of Amsterdam to wait out the blast, but Iris is nowhere to be found, and at the rate Denise’s drug-addicted mother is going, they’ll never reach the shelter in time.

Then a last-minute encounter leads them to something better than a temporary shelter: a generation ship that’s scheduled to leave Earth behind and colonize new worlds after the comet hits. But each passenger must have a practical skill to contribute. Denise is autistic and fears that she’ll never be allowed to stay. Can she obtain a spot before the ship takes flight? What about her mother and sister?

When the future of the human race is at stake, whose lives matter most?

Review: My hand got so sore writing this. I had so much to say! I enjoyed this so much and I wanted to write a full review of it despite the lack of computer. Honestly I was half writing this just because I want to talk about how gorgeous the cover is, but also if I put this in a post with three other books, this one is so going to hog the whole spotlight. I liked this so much, guys. I just wanna make you all read it immediately.

Guys. I legit don't think I have anything to complain about. I read straight through Tangled and that is one of my favourite movies. That's saying a lot.

Plot Talk: This is one of those books where like the actual plot sounds like nothing when you - or at least when I try to explain it, but it's still, like, everything you would want in a book's plot. It's basically described in the summary. Denise needs to find her sister and save their family. Along the way she learns how to protect and advocate a little more for herself, and it's tight and exciting and I wish I could write plot this good. I can't even write plot descriptions this good.

Characters: If this is a sign of what other books by the author are like, Duyvis has a real talent for characters. Denise is so ridiculously relatable and I just wanted to give her all the cats she could ever want. She's wonderful. And she's black and autistic and that's awesome. The book is very frank about how those things intersect and when they make things harder for Denise, especially because of other people's bigotry. It's incredibly honest about these things, too. And I just can't help thinking of the kid who's going to see themselves in her and how happy I am for them. Her struggles are so heartfelt and I honestly can't even imagine how much it's going to mean to the kid who reads this and sees Denise stimming and having meltdowns and having limitations but still doing amazing, brave things. A great deal of the book talks about usefulness and which people would be saved in an apocalypse and how privilege would affect that, and I so, so love how the book handled that theme. Denise is valuable because she's Denise, not despite her autism. It's wonderful.

As are basically all the other characters. Seriously, so good at characters. I felt so conflicted about Denise and Iris' mother, and I think the balance Duyvis found was a very difficult one. Addiction is a disease, but it's not okay to hurt people, and it's important to protect yourself. It's a delicate line to walk, and I personally think the book did an excellent job portraying that dynamic while staying very respectful.

And the relationship between Denise and her sister is amazing. Spoilers ahead (but some of you are going to want to know this spoiler, and it's important), but I need to talk about this so much. The amount of nuance and how they both change and grow in their time apart is so amazing, and yet they still come back together and support each other. It's a beautiful relationship, and I loved how imperfect and sometimes hard it was. It worked so well, and dude. I've been wanting to write about sisters lately and this only made that worse. That's a mark of a good book.

Also, Iris is trans! (And bisexual! And doesn't die. I feel like this is an important spoiler because, yeah, context of the rest of the world and media out there.) And the book isn't about how hard it is for Denise to have a trans sister or anything. It's about the world ending and the people around for that. I can't find any reviews from trans reviewers talking about the representation (link me to any if you know of them and I'll add them to this post!), and keep in mind I'm cis, but I'll talk about why I think the rep is good. The book never, ever tells us Iris' deadname, almost like it's telling us it's not our business, and Denise is fiercely defensive of people treating her sister well. There's a flashback to when they were kids, before Iris transitioned, and it continues to use Iris' proper pronouns. Plus it's adorable, honestly. And kind of a middle finger to people who say you can't explain things like this to kids. I won't spoil that, but it's very sweet.

Iris also isn't a unicorn, by not being the only queer character. Another trans character shows up, albeit only briefly (and honestly that's still more than many books) plus a solid handful of other queer characters. There's a ton of non-white characters, Jewish and Muslin characters, fat (!) characters who are positive and prominent and don't just show up once and go away, other disabled characters mentioned. And the book talks a lot about how those characters would be treated differently, and it's so... honestly. It's super inclusive and doesn't gloss over harsh realities, but also avoids being exploitative of its characters' pain. This makes me want to do 100 times better as a writer myself.

PG-13 stuff: It's the end of the world (as we know it) so there's obviously some disturbing things. Not really violence, exactly, but death and disturbing images. Think post-disaster of your choice. I could also see Denise's meltdowns maybe being overwhelming to some readers as they feel, to me at least, very true to life. That's a personal choice, but I like to tell you guys these things so you can be ready and make your own choices.

Cons, complaints, bad stuff, etc.: I legit have nothing. I have no complaints. Me. What even? I guess an ace character would have been nice, but I don't expect that ever, so.

Cover comments: I adore this cover so much. First of all, this shade of blue is one of my favourites. It's so soothing. But all the detail is incredible. The little ships, the sky, the destroyed building. It's actually not 100% accurate to the book, I think, just like plot-wise, but it's beautiful and I love it.

Conclusion: Have I rambled enough or what? It's taken me like two hours because I'm doing this longhand (editing Laina: And like an hour to type - this is so long) and I even had to find another notebook because I ran out of pages in the other one. I'm extremely interested in reading more of the author's books, and I seriously want to share this back at everyone until they read it. If you liked Across the Universe or, heck, Wall-E (minus the blatant fatphobic - seriously, it's awful in that movie), try this. I loved it and I think you will too. It's a very interesting promise, fairly unique, too, compared to similar stories, incredibly inclusive, has an amazing main character, amazing supporting and side characters, and a really good message. I know it's only February, or maybe April when you're reading this, but so far this is one of my favourite books of the year. Highly recommend. Four and a half roses.

Other notes:

- I feel like Denise would appreciate that I wrote this review in a notebook with a cat on it. Technically two, because I bought the same one twice.

- The food stuff in this is so relatable oh my God. I have never read something I understood more and one of my favourite things is that Denise never "got over" it, even if it was the end of the world and food was scarce. It's not that easy. I get that so much.

I think that's - finally! - it. Thanks for sticking around.

Peace and cookies,

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Reading Challenges Check In: March

Okay, check in time! I had to go to the doctor today and I wasn't sure if I was going to be reading anything else so this is posting on the first. Not that it even matters!

So the March mini-challenge theme was disability and I chose:

Far From You by Tess Sharpe

Published: It was published in spring 2014, but my edition was released August 11, 2015 by Disney Hyperion.
Genre: YA Mystery
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 341 plus acknowledgements
Part of a series? Nope.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Sophie Winters nearly died. Twice.

The first time, she's fourteen, and escapes a near-fatal car accident with scars, a bum leg, and an addiction to Oxy that'll take years to kick.

The second time, she's seventeen, and it's no accident. Sophie and her best friend Mina are confronted by a masked man in the woods. Sophie survives, but Mina is not so lucky. When the cops deem Mina's murder a drug deal gone wrong, casting partial blame on Sophie, no one will believe the truth: Sophie has been clean for months, and it was Mina who led her into the woods that night for a meeting shrouded in mystery.

After a forced stint in rehab, Sophie returns home to a chilly new reality. Mina's brother won't speak to her, her parents fear she'll relapse, old friends have become enemies, and Sophie has to learn how to live without her other half. To make matters worse, no one is looking in the right places and Sophie must search for Mina's murderer on her own. But with every step, Sophie comes closer to revealing all: about herself, about Mina and about the secret they shared.

The part where I talk: I kind of loved this. I'm probably gonna write a whole review of it because I want to talk about it like a lot. Thumbs up, though, for sure.

And then the books I read for bingo were:

If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

Published: May 3rd, 2016 by Flatiron Books
Genre: Contemporary YA
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 273 plus two author's notes and acknowledgements.
Part of a series? Standalone.
Got via: The library. I really should read some books I bought just so I can type something different here once in a while.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Amanda Hardy is the new girl in school in Lambertville, Tennessee. Like any other girl, all she wants is to make friends and fit in. But Amanda is keeping a secret. There’s a reason why she transferred schools for her senior year, and why she’s determined not to get too close to anyone.

And then she meets Grant Everett. Grant is unlike anyone she’s ever met—open, honest, kind—and Amanda can’t help but start to let him into her life. As they spend more time together, she finds herself yearning to share with Grant everything about herself…including her past. But she’s terrified that once she tells Grant the truth, he won't be able to see past it.

Because the secret that Amanda’s been keeping? It’s that she used to be Andrew.

The part where I talk: I really liked this, too. I enjoyed it a ton. Will talk more about it at a later date.

The Life and Opinions of Amy Finawitz

Published: August 3rd, 2010 by Roaring Brook Press
Genre: Contemporary YA
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: I don't want to get up and check right now.
Part of a series? Nope, standalone
Got via: The library of course.
Amazon / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Amy Finawitz’s best friend Callie has moved away to the heartland, leaving Amy to cope with eighth grade all alone. So now, while Callie is going for hayrides with boys named Bucky, Amy is stuck eating Chinese food at a table for one, hanging out with geeky girls who knit, and crushing on hottie, John Leibler, all by herself. But then Amy finds a friend in Miss Sophia, the little old lady who lives down the hall. Miss Sophia introduces Amy to a Hasidic boy named Beryl. Beryl is no John Leibler, but perhaps he understands Amy and her problems better than she realizes?

Told in wry emails and brilliant little one-act plays, this laughout-loud debut novel offers quirky characters, a whimsical tour around New York City, and an appealing story about what it means to be a good friend.

The part where I talk: I mostly liked this. A lot of it is really great, but there were some parts I didn't love. I'll talk about it in a future post, too. Love the cover, though.

Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John

Published: November 11th, 2010 by Dial Books
Genre: Contemporary YA
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 338 plus an author's note and acknowledgements.
Part of a series? Nope.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): The Challenge: Piper has one month to get the rock band Dumb a paying gig.

The Deal: If she does it, Piper will become the band's manager and get her share of the profits.

The Catch: How can Piper possibly manage one egomaniacal pretty boy, one talentless piece of eye candy, one crush, one silent rocker, and one angry girl? And how can she do it when she's deaf?

Piper can't hear Dumb's music, but with growing self-confidence, a budding romance, and a new understanding of the decision her family made to buy a cochlear implant for her deaf baby sister, she discovers her own inner rock star and what it truly means to be a flavor of Dumb.

The part where I talk: Mixed feelings on this one. Blog post to come.

My Year of Epic Rock by Andrea Pyros

Published: September 2nd, 2014 by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Genre: Contemporary MG
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 195 plus a smoothie recipe, an author's note and acknowledgements.
Part of a series? I wish! I'd like to read more.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): If Life Was Like a Song

Nina Simmons’ song would be “You Can’t Always Eat What You Want.” (Peanut allergies, ugh). But that’s okay, because as her best friend Brianna always said, “We’re All in This Together.”

Until the first day of the seventh grade, when Brianna dumps her to be BFFs with the popular new girl. Left all alone, Nina is forced to socialize with “her own kind”–banished to the peanut-free table with the other allergy outcasts. As a joke, she tells her new pals they should form a rock band called EpiPens. (Get it?) Apparently, allergy sufferers don’t understand sarcasm, because the next thing Nina knows she’s the lead drummer.

Now Nina has to decide: adopt a picture-perfect pop personality to fit in with Bri and her new BFF or embrace her inner rocker and the spotlight. Well..

Call Me a Rock Star, Maybe.

The part where I talk: This was a lot of fun. I'll talk more about it in a future blog post but I really enjoyed it.

And here's my bingo card!

That's ten! Only twenty-six more to go. Am I actually on target to hit this buy the end of the year? Actually, no, don't answer that. I don't want to know. Although... I have three out from the library that I'm going to work on reading this weekend and like... a whole bunch ordered, like seventeen or something. Not all of them are out yet, though. So I think I'm okay.

What did you guys read this month?

Peace and cookies,

Monday, March 27, 2017

Things I've Read Recently (44): Sequels the Sequel!

That blog title is the worst pun I've ever made, isn't it?

If you're new around here, Things I've Read Recently is a series of posts I do that are basically mini-reviews of books that I either forgot to review, didn't have enough to say for a full review, or just didn't want to do a full post about for whatever reason. Since sequels have spoilers even in the summary, I like to dump them into one big post you can either binge or skip entirely. It took forever for me to get a bunch of sequels, though, so some of these are pretty old! They're been waiting very patiently, though.

Books in this post include Unmade by Amy Rose Capetta, Killer Instinct and All in by Jennifer Lynn Barnes, Ms. Marvel Volume 2, and Lumberjanes Volume 4. Let's get to it!

Unmade by Amy Rose Capetta

Published: January 13th, 2015 by HMH Books for Young Readers
Genre: YA Science Fiction
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 373 plus the acknowledgements
Part of a series? Yes, it is the sequel to Entangled, and you can find my mini-review of that here.
Got via: The library - I told you I was going to order the sequel!
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Cadence is in a race against time and space to save her family and friends from the Unmakers, who are tracking the last vestiges of humanity across the cosmos. As the epic battle begins, Cade learns that letting people in also means letting them go. The universe spins out of control and Cade alone must face the music in the page-turning conclusion to Entangled.

Thoughts: Re-reading my review of the first book to refresh my memory, it seems like one of my biggest complaints was the over-the-top worldbuilding. This definitely does not go that way. Honestly, if you go into this one having not read the first one, you are going to be so lost. But in a sequel, I think that works so much better. You get into the action right away. Most of the world-building is either immediate stuff, or is in a lot of the slang and casual language about spaceships and stuff, and it's so much easier to get into.

My other big complaint seemed to be Cade's lack of wanting stuff and motivation, and that is also done better in this one than the other. Cade has way more motivation in this one! She wants romance and family stuff and to keep her friends safe and to defeat the bad guys. I said in the review of the first book that I thought a lot of things would be done better in the second, and I was not wrong at all. Many things that are smoother, and tighter, and just better in this one. The character relationships are great in this - I especially love how there are some wonderful female friendship moments.

The romance again isn't overwhelming - romance fans will enjoy the romantic subplot, but if you're not one, it definitely isn't the main plot. I think it's a really different, unique romance, and I love that Cade has sex and isn't punished for it, or shamed for it, or treated badly for any reason related to sex. It's handled in a fairly realistic and very positive way, and I love that in YA books. There's also a queer couple as a side couple, and (SPOILER) the book does NOT go the Dead Lesbian route! Because, man, I would have taken off so many points for that. You get points instead, book! Good job.

Let's see... actually, again I have a couple notes where I was prepared to not be so happy about things, and then the book addresses those things in the narrative, so that's good. The language is a little more figurative in this one. There's a moment where literal bombs go off (that's not really a spoiler) and I didn't actually realize it, and had to go back and reread because I thought it was just a metaphor. That only really happens the once, but it can still get a little over the top at other times.

For the most part, though, I quite enjoyed this. It definitely improved on the first one, I didn't have any huge complaints, and I look forward to seeing what else the author comes up with in the future. I think her writing improved from the first book, and will continue to improve as her career goes on. This is thoroughly enjoyable. I'm not all five million stars, but it was definitely good. I also really enjoy that this is just a duo, and not a trilogy or more. It works perfectly as two books, and I don't think you see that too often. (Months later 2017 edit: I read at least two and maybe three different duologies in 2016! Is this a trend? I kind of enjoy it.) Definitely recommend giving these two a look!

I'm going to just put the next two as one review since my thoughts on both are pretty similar, and summarizing will be easier than writing essentially the same thing twice. I will post all the information and blurbs, though, before my thoughts.

Killer Instinct by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Published: November 4th, 2014 by Disney-Hyperion
Genre: YA Thriller
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 375 plus acknowledgments
Part of a series? Yes, this is the second book in the Naturals series, and you can read my review of the first book here.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Seventeen-year-old Cassie Hobbes has a gift for profiling people. Her talent has landed her a spot in an elite FBI program for teens with innate crime-solving abilities, and into some harrowing situations. After barely escaping a confrontation with an unbalanced killer obsessed with her mother’s murder, Cassie hopes she and the rest of the team can stick to solving cold cases from a distance.

But when victims of a brutal new serial killer start turning up, the Naturals are pulled into an active case that strikes too close to home: the killer is a perfect copycat of Dean’s incarcerated father—a man he’d do anything to forget. Forced deeper into a murderer’s psyche than ever before, will the Naturals be able to outsmart the enigmatic killer’s brutal mind games before this copycat twists them into his web for good?

All In by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Published: November 4th, 2015 by Disney-Hyperion
Genre: YA Thriller
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 376 plus acknowledgements
Part of a series?
Got via: The library again of course.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Three casinos. Three bodies. Three days.

After a string of brutal murders in Las Vegas, Cassie Hobbes and the Naturals are called in to investigate. But even with the team's unique profiling talents, these murders seem baffling: unlike many serial killers, this one uses different methods every time. All of the victims were killed in public, yet the killer does not show up on any tape. And each victim has a string of numbers tattooed on their wrist. Hidden in the numbers is a code—and the closer the Naturals come to unraveling the mystery, the more perilous the case becomes.

Meanwhile, Cassie is dealing with an equally dangerous and much more painful mystery. For the first time in years, there's been a break in her mother's case. As personal issues and tensions between the team mount, Cassie and the Naturals will be faced with impossible odds—and impossible choices.

Thoughts: I really, really enjoy these books. I read both of these in one day, and as close to in one sitting as you can get with over 700 pages. I mean, I had to get up to pee and stuff, but I read as much as I could, and had real trouble putting them down to make dinner. Pretty much all the good stuff I said in my review of the first book is still true. Everything is still exciting and creepy, and the FBI/crime elements are fascinating. The cover of both of these have the same quote comparing this to Criminal Minds, and it really is a good description, because it does totally have that vibe.

It's been a while since I read the Naturals, and it was easy to catch-up and remember what had happened, and there was a little bit of catching up done in Killer Instinct, but not so much as to be annoying. They're both super fast-paced, and I had such trouble putting them done while I was reading. A couples times I guessed what was going to happen, but it makes you feel good about guessing what was going on. It feels like you're really clever for figuring things out, not like things are predictable.

The characters are still pretty darn awesome. I like how in each book, we seem to be diving a little more into the other character's backstories, and found out a little bit more about them in each book. So far, each book seems to focus on a different character in a way that drives/is related to the plot, and I have a guess about who Naturals 4 will be about, but I won't say it because spoilers, but I have a theory! And if I'm right, I'm going to be really excited, because I really like that character. Cassie is also a great narrator and main character. She's great, and I really like hanging out in her head. The issues she deals with are super interesting, too.

Also, there is kind of a love triangle in this, but it doesn't annoy me. I think it has to do with how it's presented - there isn't this huge relationship that's all built up until another person showed up. Cassie met two people at once and was attracted to both of them, which is perfectly reasonable, and then dated neither until she figured out what she wanted. Nobody was in a committed relationship, or anything like that. I actually think it's more realistic for a young character to be attracted to multiple people, on average, than the one true love. The whole thing also isn't drawn-out forever over like six hundred books, so that works really, really well.

Also, the jokes the other characters make about it can be really funny.

On occasion I have a complaint (like certain characters should probably not be able to share foundation, and also what teenager calls foundation "base" anymore?, the characters are not described physically as well as they could be at times, the book is pretty darn white, and why do the girls always have to be the same size?), but they're rare enough that I really don't have much, and they don't affect my overall enjoyment.

Seriously, Hyperion, let's be friends. I NEED Bad Blood as soon as possible.

Lumberjanes, Volume 4: Out of Time by Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters, Brook Allen and Marta Laiho

Published: This bind-up was released July 12th, 2016 by BOOM! Box
Genre: Comic
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: Goodreads says 112
Part of a series? This is the fourth bind-up of Lumberjanes, containing issues 14-17
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): The mystery of history!

Jen just wants a normal lesson with her cabin, teaching Jo, April, Mal, Molly, and Ripley the basic survival skills needed without any supernatural intervention. But when a blizzard hits camp, Jen finds herself separated from the girls and in more trouble than ever... until a mysterious taxidermist swoops in to save the day. Who is she and what is her relationship to Rosie? Join Jen as she finds a way back to her girls, and a way to save the day!

Thoughts: I get like embarrassingly excited at the library whenever I get one of these. These are like balm to my soul. There are so many women in these, and it feels so good to read. I love how when, occasionally, the Scouting Lads show up, they are so much a statement against toxic masculinity. This volume goes into some of the history of the camp, and that is incredible and so cool.

So much good stuff happens in this one, and it's so queer, and I don't want to spoil it. Just know how much I adore these. I can't wait for the next one. It's soon, right? *googles* OH MY GOD IT COMES OUT ON MY BIRTHDAY. (2017 months later edit: I think I already have a hold on the next one from the library. They take a while to get here because they're so popular though. SO EXCITE.)

Okay, I think that's everything. Now I can finally get it posted! Poor Unmade has been waiting since like August or something.

Thanks for reading!

Peace and cookies,

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Things I've Read Recently (43): Memoirs!

Simon and Schuster sent me some books recently, and two of them are memoirs. Since memoirs don't remotely fit my usual reviewing style, and I don't actually know what I'm doing with them, I thought I would just shove them into a post together and see what happened.

Where I Live Now by Sharon Butala

Published: April 4th, 2017 by Simon and Schuster
Genre: Adult Memoir
Binding: ARC (and I'm actually putting the review up when it's still advanced!)
Page Count: 167 plus the acknowledgments and bibliography in the ARC, but it says there'll be 208 in the finished copy.
Part of a series? The author has several memoirs, so if you count her life as a series... but not really.
Got via: As I said, it was sent to me for review consideration.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): When Sharon Butala’s husband, Peter, died unexpectedly, she found herself with no place to call home. Torn by grief and loss, she fled the ranchlands of southwest Saskatchewan and moved to the city, leaving almost everything behind. A lifetime of possessions was reduced to a few boxes of books, clothes, and keepsakes. But a lifetime of experience went with her, and a limitless well of memory—of personal failures, of a marriage that everybody said would not last but did, of the unbreakable bonds of family.

Reinventing herself in an urban landscape was painful, and facing her new life as a widow tested her very being. Yet out of this hard-won new existence comes an astonishingly frank, compassionate and moving memoir that offers not only solace and hope but inspiration to those who endure profound loss.

Review: I don't read a lot of memoir or non-fiction in general besides research when I write books, and that's mostly mythology stuff, but I found this interesting. I live in Saskatchewan myself, and one of the places mentioned in the book is actually where I was born. Most of where she talks about is southwest Saskatchewan and I don't live exactly there, but it's a small province and I found it very interesting to read both about Butala's person history and what she had learned and shared about Saskatchewan's history. Like did you know in 1991 a nearly complete T-Rex skeleton was found in Saskatchewan? We named him Scotty. I've seen his head! A few years ago he was touring, and our musuem had him and I got to see him. (T-Rex heads are gigantic, by the way.)

I think my only complaint is just that the book can be a little disjointed. There's not really a strong narrative. I feel almost like it's a book meant to be read more as a chapter here and a chapter there than all in one sitting.

I'm also obviously not really the target audience for this either. I enjoyed it, but it's obviously aimed at different people than me, and that's not the fault of the book, so no points off for that. I actually think I might send a copy to my aunt - my uncle's not dead or anything, knock on wood, but it's probably a similar history to his family, and I think she'd enjoy readingit. Maybe her mother-in-law, too. The photos that Butala shared are also really neat.

So, a little disjointed in the narrative, but enjoyable still and I enjoyed it. It's a fairly quick read, but the Saskatchewan history is very interesting and I think the grief aspect would be very relateable to many. Glad I read this. Three out of four roses.

Gizelle's Bucket List by Lauren Fern Watt

Published: March 7th, 2017 by Simon and Schuster
Genre: Adult Memoir
Binding: ARC
Page Count: 239 plus the acknowledgements and about the author in the ARC, but it says 240 in the finished.
Part of a series? Nope.
Got via: It was also sent to me.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Lauren Watt took her 160-pound English Mastiff to college—so of course after graduation, Gizelle followed Lauren to her first, tiny apartment in New York. Because Gizelle wasn’t just a dog; she was a roommate, sister, confidante, dining companion, and everything in between.

Together, Gizelle and Lauren went through boyfriends, first jobs, a mother’s struggle with addiction, and the ups and downs of becoming an adult in the big city. But when Gizelle got sick and Lauren realized her best friend might not be such a constant after all, she designed an epic bucket list to make the absolute most of the time they had left.

Review: Like I said, two memoirs and they don't fit my full review style and I'm out of my depth a little, so we're going this. This is really enjoyable. I mean, I started crying like a baby at the end, but I kind of expected that when I started reading a book about a dog's bucket list. I saw Marley and Me. I know how these things end.

There's a lot of depth to this one and Lauren has a great voice. Apparently their story went viral and I can totally see why. Her voice is fun and relateable, and her memoir has a strong narrative carrying you through it. I thought it a strength that about half the book was about Lauren and Gizelle's life together so we could connect with them and really care about them, before getting to the actual bucket list and the sad parts.

I wasn't a real big fan of the running joke of one of Lauren's family's dogs being nicknamed "Fatty" because seriously thin people, you shouldn't. It's not funny from you. But otherwise I really enjoyed this, especially the time spent in New York and how vivid those descriptions were. And the pictures at the beginning of each chapter were a great addition, very cute and heart-warming.

I'm not actually a dog person - I don't really like them. But I still enjoyed this, and I think dog lovers would like it a lot. I have a friend, actually, I may give a copy of this to. I think she'd like it. Four out of five roses - points off for the fatphobia.

It's weird how both these kind of deal with grief, isn't it?? You okay, Simon? ;)

Peace and cookies,

Monday, March 20, 2017

YA Review: Under a Painted Sky

Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee

Published: March 17th, 2015 by G. P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Genre: Historical YA
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 370 plus an acknowledgement
Part of a series? Nope.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Missouri, 1849: Samantha dreams of moving back to New York to be a professional musician—not an easy thing if you’re a girl, and harder still if you’re Chinese. But a tragic accident dashes any hopes of fulfilling her dream, and instead, leaves her fearing for her life. With the help of a runaway slave named Annamae, Samantha flees town for the unknown frontier.

But life on the Oregon Trail is unsafe for two girls, so they disguise themselves as Sammy and Andy, two boys headed for the California gold rush. Sammy and Andy forge a powerful bond as they each search for a link to their past, and struggle to avoid any unwanted attention. But when they cross paths with a band of cowboys, the light-hearted troupe turn out to be unexpected allies. With the law closing in on them and new setbacks coming each day, the girls quickly learn that there are not many places to hide on the open trail.

Review: Oh, man this was fun. Don't get me wrong - there are some very serious things that happen in the book, but if I was going to pick one word to describe it, it would be adventure. I don't read a whole lot of historical fiction, but I really enjoyed this. The voice is wonderful. Sammy's voice is immediately compelling, and the relationships between the characters only make it more so. I don't even know how to tell you guys how much I enjoyed this. It was just so, so good.

Plot Talk: The summary really... sums... it up. Sammy and Andy run away dressed up as boys and try to survive and meet some dudes who they join up with. Western stuff happens. I hate doing plot stuff. The plot speed and tension is great, it never gets boring, not repetitive, it's awesome. Let's move on.

Characters: Sammy is so sweet, and you feel so sympathetic for her after all these bad things happen, and you feel so glad when good things happen to her. As the blurb says, she's Chinese American and in 1849, that obviously isn't exactly easy, and the book is very, very honest about that. At the same time, though, her connection to her culture, things her father has taught her and memories of him and their time together, are so important to her. They're cherished, really, and it's seriously beautiful, and I can see people connecting to it so much. It's so honest and heartfelt.

Meanwhile the relationship between Andy and Sammy is probably my favourite thing ever. They're supportive and incredibly close, and frankly I misunderstood a little reading about the book when I was picking it out and thought it was going to take them a queer place? It didn't happen, and that's my misunderstanding not anything the book did (no queerbaiting or anything), but the relationship between them is so close and beautiful that it totally could have gone there. Their friendship is amazing, and I would read like eight books about them, no joke.

There's some romance, too, and it's very sweet, but the book is more about Andy and Sammy's relationship. It's nice, though, because you want them both to be happy after everything they go through, and their romantic relationships are obviously things they're happy to have.

I also thought the supporting and side characters were great, too. There are obviously bigoted and dangerous people, but I love that their friends are honestly good people, and never purposely put them in danger and, while sometimes clueless, are never malicious. And I think it's nice that despite the time period, there are people too who are genuinely good people. There's a lot of depth and complexity to the characters, and characters have multitudes. Very serious things happen in the book, and these things aren't taken lightly, but because of things like this, it never feels bogged down by the bad things, or like the characters are suffering gratuitous abuse for absolutely no reason.

Oh and I'm pretty sure the author included a queer character? Like it's subtle and the character is only there for a moment, but it's also 1849. And one of the characters close to Sammy basically tells her at one point, while thinking she's a gay dude, that it's totally okay with him, so. It's kind of a nice touch from the author.

PG-13 stuff: Trigger warnings for attempted rape, death, suicide mention, slavery, racism, violence including racism motivated violence. I don't think these things ever become too graphic, as I said above, and I'm just coming off a book I thought was overly graphic and spent too much time making its characters unnecessarily suffer, but it is authentic to the time period in this. I can see parts of the book being upsetting, as they're meant to be, but I wouldn't think the book is going to leave you with a hangover because everything was awful. Bad things happen, but so do good things, and characters are allowed to be happy.

Cons, complaints, bad stuff, etc.: I don't really think I have anything. I seriously can't think of anything.

Cover comments: It's so beautiful, guys. I love that gradient from blue to purple to pink (which, yes, I know that from nail polish tutorials, what of it?) and the silhouettes are beautiful. I always like that art style of black silhouettes against sunsets. The kid I baby-sit actually likes making that kind of art, and it's always so striking. It stood out at the library when I was picking up my holds! And it depicts something important to the book. Great cover, seriously.

Conclusion: This is heartfelt, has funny moments but knows when to be serious, takes its subject matter to hard places without overwhelming the reader, and has a beautiful, amazing friendship between its two main characters. The ending made me happy cry a little, and I enjoyed it so much. Honestly this just worked so well for me. When a book can make you feel dusty and grimy because the descriptions are so vivid, something about that is just cool. Four and a half out of five roses.

Other notes:

- The book mentions periods. THE BOOK, STARRING TEENAGED GIRLS, MENTIONS PERIODS. It's amazing how rarely this happens.

- There's this little bookending thing the author does that I won't spoil but it's so sweet and it made me smile so much because it's just one of those adorable things. Very sweet.

I think that's it!

Peace and cookies,