not a review

My Top Ten Tips from BookCon 2019

For the last six months I have been hoping and planning to attend BookCon in New York City. Life has been chaotic this year so until I sat down on the plane I wasn’t certain I was going to make it – but I did! What an experience. I have never been to a Book Conference of any kind and I found myself transported to this crazy world inhabited by book enthusiasts for two whole days. I had a wonderful time and it has made me excited to either go again or attend a different book conference. I had the opportunity to meet Jen Calonita, Danielle Paige, the editor of the Fablehaven series, and more and each and every one of them was kind and lovely.

Before attending, I researched BookCon and I thought I knew what to expect, but nothing could have prepared me for the thousands of people and hundreds of exhibits. The number one piece of advice you get before going to BookCon is this: plan. Well, I had a plan! It started with me getting in line to get a book signed at 10:30. The doors opened at 10:00 and I was one of the first people through. At 10:06 the line to get a ticket to get in line for my author had closed. And the line to get the ticket was nowhere near where the map said the event would be located. The rest of the morning was the same. I was a natural at finding the end of a closed line. By 12:00 I gave up and just enjoyed walking from booth to booth, admiring the books and book related merchandise, and chatting with other beautiful bookish people.

It was clear I had no idea what I was doing. But, if I ever get to go again I wanted to be ready. So I chatted with everyone I could and I asked for advice. Loads of them just kept telling me to “plan” but when you don’t know where to go it is nearly impossible to plan. Outside of that tip, here are the most useful pieces of advice I learned the hard way or received from other people.


Tip #1

When you get your badge, open it, register it, and read the directions. If I had done this I would have know that a full month in advance I could have requested two tickets for two different author autographs. Instead, I carefully put them away in my suitcase and only opened them the night before I left. By then, everything was sold out. Two free author tickets, wasted.

Tip #2

Download any apps, follow everyone and everything you can on social media, and pour over the website. I had downloaded the app but neglected to use the website to the fullest and I certainly could have done so much more on social media. Saturday night I went back to my hotel and just 30 minutes of cruising around on Instagram and Twitter opened my eyes to what was possible for me on Sunday.

Tip #3

Find one thing everyday that matters to you and go there first. If you want to be part of an event at 3:00 in the afternoon at Penguin, go over to their information booth and ask about it. They will tell you exactly when and where to get in line or to wait for tickets. I found that most people’s complaint was that the lines and booths change every year so even repeat BookCon participants were confused.

Tip #4

Don’t have your heart set on being able to do anything. By that, I mean, don’t have your heart set on meeting an author or attending a panel. There are far more people in attendance than there are seats and tickets. I had to console someone outside the building on Saturday because she was devastated didn’t get to meet Eoin Colfer. Rides break down at Disney and events get full at BookCon. Don’t let one missed thing ruin your day.

Tip #5

bookcon3If you have time, go to a variety of events. Many people are I it for the free books or author autographs. But, if you have a break or you just don’t know what to do don’t forget the panels. My favorite was how audiobooks are narrated and it featured some wildly popular narrators. It was fascinating, it was the last thing that day, and I wouldn’t have gone (necessarily) except I missed the tickets for something else. Every missed opportunity could be something else amazing! The woman pictured here is Saskia Maarleveld who narrator Ash Princess! It was actually one of my favorite things about this conference.

Tip #6

If the line is short you are probably cutting the line. I can’t tell you how many times I thought I had found the end of the line but instead it was a line break to keep the isle open. I would have been embarrassed if it wasn’t so common. On Sunday there seemed to be more “Mind the Gap” signs and “Middle of the Line” signs to guide people. Saturday was chaos.

Tip #5

A conference this large is not dissimilar to couponing. If you try to jump right in and organize coupons at every store you shop in you will become quickly exhausted. Instead, focus on one store / publisher. On Sunday morning I went directly to Penguin’s information booth and they walked me through the rest of the day. Doing this, at even this popular a publisher, meant that I got five signed ARCs and tons of ridiculous swag.

Tip #7

Read the rules. I knew that I couldn’t bring a wheelie bag into the conference but I didn’t know that I could check it downstairs. That means I could have just walked downstairs every once in a while and deposited all my lovely new books. Instead I walked miles and miles carrying everything. I slept like a baby but I really staggered home.

Tip #8

Ask questions. There is absolutely nothing wrong with asking people, “What are you in line to do?” This will prevent you from waiting in line for thirty minutes to spin a wheel and win a wristband you didn’t really want. Or cutting.

Tip #9

Have a way to get all of your new books safely home. I thought I would be walking away with, perhaps, ten new books. I planned on buying a couple and hoped to grab some new ones. Instead, this happened.

bookcon4

You may not be able to see but some of these books are even in piles because the publisher gave me duplicates and triplicates. I turned some books away! Of all of these books, I only bought five.

Tip #10

If you can, take a friend. Many wonderful events, signings, and give aways happen at the same time or the tickets for the events are given out at the same time. Having a friend doubles your chances of getting into more lines. If you have to go alone, there were whole groups that formed at the event to work together or just walk around together. Even if you go alone and talk to no one, you won’t be lonely because every three feet is a new wonderful book to read.


There you have it! My top ten tips from BookCon.

Tell me, please!

Have you ever been to a Book Conference? Do you have any tips or tricks?


 

WWW Wednesday

WWW Wednesday: May 22, 2019

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and is alive and well at Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to view. I plan on spending a chunk of today blog hopping and discovering new books so I would love to see what everyone is reading!


What Did You Recently Finish Reading?

I had a wonderful time finally understanding how to successfully use my bullet journal thanks to Dot Journaling, A Practical Guide. If you have ever been interested in bullet journaling but you were either overwhelmed or confused, this book is a fantastic way to begin! You can read my full review here.

I also finished the pulse pounding thriller, The President is Missing. My full review is here. It wasn’t at all what I expected and I enjoyed every minute of it.

Finally, I read The Power by Naomi Alderman. Many people are referring to this as the Handmaid’s Tale for men and while it included some fascinating ideas, overall I had some major problems with the book. Foremost, I would like to believe that if women were the more physically powerful gender we wouldn’t quickly turn into the worst version of men. Still, it is one of those books that is perfect to discuss with other readers. I don’t regret reading it but I don’t think that I will be reviewing it here.


What am I Currently Reading

The only two books I am counting as “currently reading” this week are Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy and Hamlet. I would really like to get these both into my “finished” pile so I am going to focus on them.


What Will I Read Next

These are all stories that have landed in my Kindle this week due to some over-zealous requesting. I will probably start The Vanishing Stair today because it is an audiobook. Otherwise, if anyone has any tips on the other books I would love them!


Tell me, please!

What’s on your WWW?


 

Audio Book · Thriller

The President is Missing by Bill Clinton and James Patterson

According to my Apple Watch this book is exactly what my Mom assured me it would be,  a, “heart pounding thriller to the last page.” I realize I am not acclimated to reading action packed books but I literally scrubbed my walls while listening to this book because I could not sit still. This audiobook is not safe for listening to while operating heavy machinery.

thepresident is missingPresident Bill Clinton and bestselling novelist James Patterson have written a spellbinding thriller, The President is Missing.

As the novel opens, a threat looms. Enemies are planning an attack of unprecedented scale on America. Uncertainty and fear grip Washington. There are whispers of cyberterror and espionage and a traitor in the cabinet. The President himself becomes a suspect, and then goes missing…

Set in real time, over the course of three days, The President Is Missing is one of the most dramatic thrillers in decades. And it could all really happen. The President Is Missing is Bill Clinton and James Patterson’s totally authentic and spellbinding thriller. Goodreads.

The audiobook version features the narration of Dennis Quaid, January LaVoy, Peter Ganim, Jeremy Davidson and Mozhan Marno. The majority of the book is read by Dennis Quaid. While he has an occasional unevenness to his delivery I genuinely enjoyed his narration of the story. It certainly helps that you could easily picture Dennis Quaid as President Duncan.

Perhaps that is because President Duncan is the type of President only fiction and Hollywood can bring us. President Jonathan Duncan was a Marine who was captured during a mission in the Middle East but never broke under torture. He has survived the loss of his adored wife to cancer while in office and remains a loving father to their daughter, Lily. Just to pile on sympathy (and an additional pressure facet), the President has a chronic blood condition which has flared and has to be constantly monitored by physicians. On top of everything else, the President is being investigated by the Speaker of the House for his dealings with terrorists and the word “impeachment” is being thrown around.

All of that is background for the stunning news that there is an imminent threat to the safety and security of the entire nation. President Duncan has received word that a cyber attack is coming that will return the United States to the Dark Ages. The question is, who is attacking? He should be able to turn to his well-stocked cadre of government officials but there is only one thing he knows for certain: there is a traitor in his inner circle.

I know that nothing I read in the book actually happened. Even though hour after hour I could not figure out how they would undo the damaging cyber attack or work around the need for secrecy, I thought that the resolution of the story would bring me an alleviation from the adrenaline rush this book provides. Instead, the story has stayed with me and I will admit to eyeballing books on preserving food and figuring out how much water I would need to stockpile for the end of modern times.

This espionage story has caught the attention of many readers who wonder, “How much did President Clinton really contribute to the book?” I don’t actually care what percentage belongs to each author but it was clear to me that certain passages can only come from a President. The insight into the office and the personal perspective of President Duncan just felt too accurate to not come from President Clinton. Not to mention that large portions of President Duncan’s impeachment troubles remind me of Benghazi. There is an excellent article about this subject from The Guardian if you are curious. Regardless of individual effort, this heart pounding thriller was non-stop action from the first page to the last!


Tell me, please!

Have you ever read a book that left you exhausted from the action?


 

nonfiction · Uncategorized

Non-Fiction Friday: May 17, 2019 Dot Journaling, A Practical Guide by Rachel Wilkerson Miller

I have always been a paper person. Writing lists and keeping a physical calendar is the only method that keeps me organized. While my digital calendar is wonderfully sharable and does a fabulous job of checking for conflicts, I cannot seem to retain the information I put into it. I hate putting to do lists on there and wandering around with my phone out all of the time. Don’t get my started on how frustrating it is when you finish on an electronic to-do list and it just disappears. Crossing things off is the only reason to make a list in the first place! I just can’t let go of my pen and paper. Also, I j’adore office supplies.

When I first saw The Bullet Journal Method by Ryder Carrol I thought, “I love this idea.” An analog method for a digital world? Yes please! I immediately bought a notebook and special pens and tried it.

Except it was too complicated. Why do I have to number all the pages? Why am I constantly re-writing things? These analog repetitions are exactly the wonders that my phone does for me. The symbols made no sense to me. Then the gorgeous Instagram and Pinterest pages started to appear. My bullet journal looked nothing like either of these two extremes! So, I quit.

But I still wanted to be a bullet journal person. Desperately. This weekend I spotted Dot Journaling, A Practical Guide by Rachel Wilkerson Miller. The sub-title was “How to Start and Keep the Planner, To-to-list, and Diary That’ll Actually Help You Get Your Life Together.” More importantly, the intro identified the author as a fellow bullet journal wanna be who became confused and overwhelmed by the actual process. She writes for Buzzfeed and has a great little blurb about starting a bullet journal here.

dotjournalingDot Journal is the ideal starting point for people who, like me, love the pen and paper method but do not have the time, energy, or inclination to spend an hour a day copying and recopying to-do lists and calendar items. Dot Journaling also gives clear instructions on how to set-up the journal, something I still couldn’t figure out even after watching the youtube video by Ryder Carrol.

Here is how Goodreads describes the book.

 

Organize your life, record what matters, and get stuff done!

What the heck is a dot journal? It’s a planner, to-do list, anddiary for every aspect of your life: work, home, relationships, hobbies, everything.

Early adopter Rachel Wilkerson Miller explains how to make a dot journal work for you—whether you find the picture-perfect examples on Pinterest inspiring or, well, intimidating. You decide how simple or elaborate your journal will be, and what goes in there:

– Lists of your to-dos, to-don’ts, and more
– Symbols that will make those lists efficient and effective
– Spreads to plan your day, week, month, or year
– Trackers for your habits and goals (think health, money, travel)
– Accoutrements such as washi tape, book darts, and more!

Dot Journaling is only about 200 pages but still manages to give you an overview of the basics, tips, and tricks, and the details you need on how to use the “special pages.” The special pages are the ones I love – the financial planner, the book reading list and the habit trackers! This is the stuff that feeds my Instagram. The book even includes how to cope with a page that the antithesis of Insta-worthy (glue them together and pretend it never happens is my favorite).  With photos and short explanations of yearly, monthly and daily spreads as well as cute and simple examples of for special uses for your journal this book finally accomplished what countless other sources couldn’t: helping me understand this blended use journaling.

I read this book at the beginning of this week. I suppressed my first desire, to buy a brand new journal, and instead unearthed a previously purchased journal with a grand total of 15 pages used. One of the points the author makes it that it doesn’t need to be perfect. This is revolutionary to me. I need to get over the idea that every page will be a work of art. Sometimes I just need to embrace that “good enough is good enough” and let go of perfectionism. I’m honestly surprised that I was able to force myself to start in the middle of the month – it wasn’t even a Monday!

Let me tell you, the combination of to-do list, diary, and calendar make for a complete look at how my day went. Adding a short little note to each day turns what is an ordinary calendar into a keep-sake diary without the pressure of coming up with a long pontification of my typical Tuesday. No more will I look back and wonder why I got nothing accomplished all day. I’ll know I was sick because I wrote it down! And the joy of all those crossed off to-dos…

After reading Atomic Habits by James Clear I wanted to increase my positive habits and decreased my negatives ones. I also want to use Gretchen Rubin’s time tracking system to see how much time I actually have in a day. And, you know what, life is short and I don’t want to look back and wonder, “What did I accomplish?” This journaling is perfect for all of these needs. Realizing that has been like that first day of spring after a long winter. I feel powerful, organized, and positive about myself and my future. Ah, the power of paper.


Tell me, please!

Do you keep a journal? Have you tried bullet journaling? Any tips?


 

fiction · Over 18 · Romantic · YA

The Joy of Romance Books and the Struggle with Recommending Them

I’ll be honest. I have a hard time recommending romance books to a general audience. If someone asks me for recommendations, I have many.  But I have questions first. That’s because romance is personal. One person’s romantic gesture is another individual’s suffocating display of affection. Furthermore, what appeals to a reader at one point in their lives may not appeal at all later. I don’t want to speak for all women but I can certainly attest to the fact that what I found romantic at 20 is nothing like what appeals to me now.

Ultimately, though, there are some factors that are universally romantic. Kindness is necessary. Admiration for another individual’s true self (which leads to total acceptance and unconditional love) is so much more than ogling a single body part. A willingness to put another person’s happiness before your own is a foundation in romance. On top of that, most quality romances add a problem or misunderstanding to test the strength of the new couple. Realistically, what we are looking for in a romance is the same thing we look for in most books – good people making morally sound choices which results in unconditional love. One of my favorite romance authors, Jennifer Crusie said this,

“My feeling on this, which I have expressed loudly and often, is that the romance novel is based on the idea of an innate emotional justice in the universe, that the way the world works is that good people are rewarded and bad people are punished. The mystery genre is based on the same assumption, only there it’s a moral justice, a sense of fair play in human legal interaction: because the good guys risk and struggle, the murderers get punished and good triumphs in a safe world. So in romance, the lovers who risk and struggle for each other and their relationship are rewarded with emotional justice, unconditional love in an emotionally safe world.”

If I were being honest, what I find fun to read in a romance book is not at all the same as what I am looking for in real life romance. I will read any book or watch any movie featuring a love triangle. I sit and sigh imagining inspiring two people to fight for my attention. I’ll remain riveted to the story until the “right one” is chosen. I love those stories. In real life, I would absolutely die if I had to handle more than one person at a time. How dishonest is it to cling to two people simultaneously? Talk about leading a person on….

Similarly, I love an enemies to lovers story. Watching the characters challenge their understanding of another person as they slowly fall in love can be so enjoyable. In real life, once a guy does something unforgivable the chances of me looking at him romantically fall to zero. “Oh, you loved me all this time but you were just behaving terribly….? Well in that case no I will never date you.” I have become friends with people who made terrible first impressions but never dated one. I do not find real life bad behavior attractive. Now, fictional bad boys, those are just fine.

Romance books are no different than thrillers – they put you in positions that are fun to think about but would be a nightmare to deal with in reality. They are a beautiful escape from everyday life. Let’s take a look at some romance books I have enjoyed this month.


What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera

whatifitsusArthur is only in New York for the summer, but if Broadway has taught him anything, it’s that the universe can deliver a show stopping romance when you least expect it.
Ben thinks the universe needs to mind its business. If the universe had his back, he wouldn’t be on his way to the post office carrying a box of his ex-boyfriend’s things.
But when Arthur and Ben meet-cute at the post office, what exactly does the universe have in store for them?
Maybe nothing. After all, they get separated.
Maybe everything. After all, they get reunited.
But what if they can’t quite nail a first date . . . or a second first date . . . or a third?
What if Arthur tries too hard to make it work . . . and Ben doesn’t try hard enough?
What if life really isn’t like a Broadway play?

But what if it is?

This book had me sighing all the way through. First loves are always fun to watch unfold and Arthur and Ben were uniquely likable both individually and as a possible couple. I don’t know what magic spell Becky Albertalli weaves through her stories but they always manage to stay with me long after I turn the last page. Adam Silvera is new to me but I cannot wait to acquaint myself with his other works. This books features some closed door romance which makes it perfect for YA audiences (and those that enjoy YA books).


A Bride Test by Helen Hoang

bridetestKhai Diep has no feelings. Well, he feels irritation when people move his things or contentment when ledgers balance down to the penny, but not big, important emotions—like grief. And love. He thinks he’s defective. His family knows better—that his autism means he just processes emotions differently. When he steadfastly avoids relationships, his mother takes matters into her own hands and returns to Vietnam to find him the perfect bride.

As a mixed-race girl living in the slums of Ho Chi Minh City, Esme Tran has always felt out of place. When the opportunity arises to come to America and meet a potential husband, she can’t turn it down, thinking this could be the break her family needs. Seducing Khai, however, doesn’t go as planned. Esme’s lessons in love seem to be working…but only on herself. She’s hopelessly smitten with a man who’s convinced he can never return her affection.

With Esme’s time in the United States dwindling, Khai is forced to understand he’s been wrong all along. And there’s more than one way to love.

This is the second in Hoang’s popular The Kiss Quotient series and features Micheal’s cousin Kai. Many readers have complained that Esme is unlikable because she leaves her child behind in Vietnam. This didn’t bother me. Countless families are often forced to make difficult decisions in an effort to secure a more promising future for their children. I felt Esme was doing exactly that. After all, back home, Esme, her mother, her grandmother and her daughter all share one room. Convincing Kai to marry her would provide them all with a better life. But the more she tries to win him over the more she find herself falling in love with him.

I sucked this book down like a delicious milkshake. In reality would I want to leave my child behind to travel with a stranger I met in the bathroom to marry another stranger? Nope. But I enjoyed watching Esme take that chance on a better life. More lovely was that Esme grows tremendously as a person. As does Kai. This book, like many contemporary romances, has some open door sex scenes that feel slightly gratuitous. This book has less sex than The Kiss Quotient and I was glad that the author established a basic relationship before including physical romance. I don’t consider myself a prude but I will say, if I am prudish it is when reading stories of characters I don’t know having sex with each other. It makes me feel like a Peeping Tom. Books with sex scenes are the most difficult romance books for me to recommend because sex is even more complicated than romance. With that said, the book was ridiculously enjoyable.


Meet Cute by Helena Hunting

meetcuteTalk about an embarrassing introduction. On her first day of law school, Kailyn ran – quite literally – into the actor she crushed on as a teenager, ending with him sprawled on top of her. Mortified to discover the Daxton Hughes was also a student in her class, her embarrassment over their meet-cute quickly turned into a friendship she never expected. Of course, she never saw his betrayal coming either…

Now, eight years later, Dax is in her office asking for legal advice. Despite her anger, Kailyn can’t help feeling sorry for the devastated man who just became sole guardian to his thirteen-year-old sister. But when her boss gets wind of Kailyn’s new celebrity client, there’s even more at stake than Dax’s custody issues: if she gets Dax to work at their firm, she’ll be promoted to partner.

The more time Kailyn spends with Dax and his sister, the more she starts to feel like a family, and the more she realizes the chemistry they had all those years ago is as fresh as ever. But will they be able to forgive the mistakes of the past, or will one betrayal lead to another?

I did a full review here so just a quick overview is needed here. I picked this book up because I thought it was Helen Hoang’s new book. It’s yellow and the alliteration of their names confused me! This is an adorable book and vastly different than the other books I saw by the author available on Amazon. This one really focused on character development and watching each of them change their lives as their relationship develops was more fun than any solo sexy time scene. This has some open door sex scenes but they are not graphic and are romantic in nature. Oddly, I already had another of her books on my Kindle that I had DNFed. I returned to The Good Luck Charm after enjoying Meet Cute.


The Good Luck Charm by Helena Hunting

thegoodluckcharmLilah isn’t sure what hurt worse: the day Ethan left her to focus on his hockey career, or the day he came back eight years later. He might think they can pick up just where they left off, but she’s no longer that same girl and never wants to be again.

Ethan Kane wants his glory days back. And that includes having Lilah by his side. With her, he was magic. They were magic. All he has to do is make her see that.

Just when Lilah might finally be ready to let him in, though, she finds out their reunion has nothing to do with her and everything to do with his game. But Ethan’s already lost her once, and even if it costs him his career, he’ll do anything to keep from losing her again.

Helena Hunting has a series of romance novels that don’t appeal to me but both Meet Cute and The Good Luck Charm are standalone books and each has a very sweet theme. Furthermore, like Meet Cute, the most enjoyable part of this book is the character development of the the main character, Lilah. I feel like there is open door scenes but honestly, I was all about Lilah in this book and less interested in her relationship with Ethan than her own personal transformation.


Each of these books has all the hallmarks of an enjoyable romance story. Two people trying to make morally sound choices so that they are deemed deserving of true love. There is also a problem for them to overcome either together or alone that puts the strength of their new love to the test. And, of course, kissing!


Tell me, please!

Do you read romance books? If so, what do you look for in a “good romance?”


 

WWW Wednesday

WWW Wednesday: May 15, 2019

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and is alive and well at Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. It is my favorite way to stay on top of my reading!


What Did I Just Finish Reading?

This week I had the joy of reading One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus and The Bride Test by Helen Hoang. Both books were addictive reads. One of Us is Lying took my completely by surprise – I didn’t expect to enjoy it and found I could not put it down! You can read my full review of this YA thriller here.

The Bride Test by Helen Hoang is the second in her series following The Kiss Quotient. As a contemporary romance this was an enjoyable read. I am still mulling over my feelings about the main character, Esme, but I can say for certain that I thoroughly enjoying this book.


What am I Currently Reading?

Ummm…oops. Six books is too many but I can’t put any of these down. Well, to be honest, I still haven’t finished Hamlet because I put it somewhere very safe (meaning: I lost it in my house). Similarly, I had to return The Color of Magic to the library but I purchased a copy this weekend – nothing comes between me and my Terry Pratchett! So, I suppose the universe has temporarily shaved my active list to four. Four is much more manageable.

I am about 40% of the way into The President is Missing as an audiobook. Dennis Quaid is a little uneven in his delivery but I forgive him because picturing him as the President is quite fun. This book has me furiously cleaning while I listen. It is an intense action-packed story.

I am half-way through Dot Journaling: A Practical Guide and will probably finish it today. It is an easy read that has really helped me understand the mystery around bullet journaling. I always want to bullet journal but when I try is feels uselessly complicated! Re-writing my to-do list makes me feel like I am in grade school being punished for something. I Will Pay My Bills. I Will Pay My Bills. I Will Pay My Bills. This book has helped me simplify the idea while still allowing it to be creative. That’s the exact balance I am trying to achieve!

I picked up a copy of Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy on a whim this weekend and I’m more than 100 pages in. This is middle grade story has nine books and features a dead skeleton and a teenage girl who have teamed up to thwart evil. I always like to keep on top of middle grade books so I am ready with the recommendation for kids and this one is excellent so far.

I am also reading The Power by Naomi Alderman. I stayed up for hours reading it the other night. I am only 30% into the story but I can already tell you that it is intense. The idea that all girls have the power of electricity that comes from their own bodies has me really wishing for our own super powers. I have relegated this to day-time only reading because I can not calm down while reading it.


What Will I Read Next?

I’ve made the mistake of requesting too many books from my library so I have these three audiobooks waiting for me. I will probably choose only one because I really need to attack my massive TBR as well. Any suggestions would be appreciated!


Tell me, please!

What is on your WWW?


 

Fantasy · Middle Grade · SeriousSeriesLove · Uncategorized

Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard Trilogy: A Series Review

I have been enjoying Rick Riordan’s books since I first read The Lightning Thief almost 15 years ago. Through the years I have followed the adventures of Percy, Annabeth, and Grover and then became equally swept up by the Heroes of Olympus Series. I grew to adore Jason, Piper, and Leo! For months, I highly anticipated the first Kane Chronicles book….but that series just didn’t grab my attention. Truthfully, I wondered if perhaps I had just outgrown my love for mythology based adventures. But then I read Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard. Of all of Riordan’s books, this series is easily my favorite. Read these blurbs from each book and it will be easy to see why the action-packed Norse mythology appealed to me.

Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, The Sword of Summer

Magnus Chase has seen his share of trouble. Ever since that terrible night two years ago when his mother told him to run, he has lived alone on the streets of Boston, surviving by his wits, staying one step ahead of the police and the truant officers.

One day, Magnus learns that someone else is trying to track him down—his uncle Randolph, a man his mother had always warned him about. When Magnus tries to outmaneuver his uncle, he falls right into his clutches. Randolph starts rambling about Norse history and Magnus’s birthright: a weapon that has been lost for thousands of years.

The more Randolph talks, the more puzzle pieces fall into place. Stories about the gods of Asgard, wolves, and Doomsday bubble up from Magnus’s memory. But he doesn’t have time to consider it all before a fire giant attacks the city, forcing him to choose between his own safety and the lives of hundreds of innocents. . . .

Sometimes, the only way to start a new life is to die.

Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, The Hammer of Thor

“Magnus Chase, you nearly started Ragnarok. What are you going to do next?”

It’s been six weeks since Magnus and his friends returned from defeating Fenris Wolf and the fire giants. Magnus has adjusted to life at the Hotel Valhalla—as much as a once-homeless and previously alive kid can. As a son of Frey, the god of summer, fertility, and health, Magnus doesn’t exactly fit in with the rest of Odin’s chosen warriors, but he has a few good peeps among his hallmates on floor nineteen, and he’s been dutifully training for Ragnarok along with everyone else. His days have settled into a new kind of normal.

But Magnus should have known there’s no such thing as normal in the Nine Worlds. His friends Hearthstone and Blitzen have disappeared. A new hallmate is creating chaos. According to a very nervous goat, a certain object belonging to Thor is still missing, and the thunder god’s enemies will stop at nothing to gain control of it.

Time to summon Jack, the Sword of Summer, and take action. Too bad the only action Jack seems to be interested in is dates with other magical weapons. . . .

Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, The Ship of the Dead

Magnus Chase, son of Frey, the god of summer and health, isn’t naturally inclined toward being a brave warrior. Still, with the help of his motley group of friends, he has achieved deeds he never would have thought possible. Now he faces his most dangerous trial yet.

Loki is free from his chains. He’s readying Naglfar, the Ship of the Dead, complete with a host of giants and zombies, to sail against the Asgardian gods and begin the final battle of Ragnarok. It’s up to Magnus and his friends to stop him, but to do so they will have to sail across the oceans of Midgard, Jotunheim, and Niflheim in a desperate race to reach Naglfarbefore it’s ready to sail. Along the way, they will face angry sea gods, hostile giants, and an evil fire-breathing dragon. But Magnus’s biggest challenge will be facing his own inner demons. Does he have what it takes to outwit the wily trickster god?

Beyond the fantastic storytelling and action Riordan has put together an all-star cast of diverse characters that everyone dreams of having as friends.

Magnus Chase himself is not the son of a powerful god. Rather he is the son of Frey, god of summer and health. He is the epitome of that healing character we all want on our journeys but no one actually wants to play. By making him the main character and the protagonist in this series, Riordan has put forward a powerful statement about the different kinds of strength we all need to succeed.

Then there is Samirah al Abbas. Not only is Sam a Valkyrie while still in high school, she is also the daughter of Loki and a devout Muslim. Her unwaivering allegiance to her family and her faith reminds me of growing up in an equally devout Irish Catholic family.

Blitzen the Dwarf is a talented tailor who cares almost as much about his appearance as he does his best friend, Hearthstone the Elf. Hearthstone is Deaf and together these two adopt Magnus when he is first homeless in Boston. It is here that I believe the diversity in this series really shined because Hearthstone’s Deafness is not talked about as a disability but just one aspect of him. Everyone uses American Sign Language around Hearthstone and the culture and history of Deaf people has clearly been researched and explored by the author.

In book two we meet Alex Fierro who is also a child of Loki and is gender fluid. Like Hearthstone this aspect of Alex’s person is talked about, accepted for what it is, and just becomes woven into the story.

Halfborn Gunderson, Thomas Jefferson, Jr, and Mallory Keen all live on Magnus’s floor in in Hotel Valhalla. Along with Frey, Loki, Thor and the Sword of Summer (a.k.a. Jack) the books have an enviable cast of characters. I only wished I had peeked at these wonderful drawings of the characters before I had read the books – they are better than I imagined them!

This is a middle grade book just like Riordan’s other series. But this is the first of his that feels like it was cast from an actual sampling of people living in the world. I would love for parents and teachers to read this book with their students or children and have an open discussion about the wonderful differences that exist between people and how, in the end, we are much more the same because of our shared experiences. I highly recommend this series!


Tell me, please!

Have you read this series? If not, which book do you love for its diverse characters?


YA

One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus

This book cost me four hours of sleep. I could not put it down or rest my eyes until I finished the last page. I have seen the book around and heard the buzz but, honestly, I didn’t expect to enjoy it. I certainly didn’t think I would become completely obsessed and compelled to finish it in one sitting. Save this one for when you have time because it is excellent!

oneofusislyingThe Breakfast Club meets Pretty Little Liars, One of Us Is Lying is the story of what happens when five strangers walk into detention and only four walk out alive. Everyone is a suspect, and everyone has something to hide.

Pay close attention and you might solve this.

On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.
Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.
Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.
Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.
Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.
And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app.

Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention, Simon’s dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose?
Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them. Goodreads.

There were two things that kept me from reading this book for so long. The first is the reference to The Breakfast Club. I’ll be honest, I despise The Breakfast Club. Second, the book is described as a YA thriller and I couldn’t quite tell what this meant. I suppose I guessed that it would be a little grosser or a little sexier than the average thriller.

Let me lay these two concerns to rest. First of all, the only thing this book and The Breakfast Club have in common are the are kids in detention. If Simon hadn’t died they would all have happily gone their separate ways. This was more like Jumanji than The Breakfast Club. And what “YA Thriller” really means is a highly addictive crime story set inside a high school featuring high school aged kids.

The story is told through the vantage point of all four major characters but this book stops just short of giving you the omniscient point of view. I constantly felt that I was just around the corner from solving the mystery (and I fell for two red herrings) and I was still shocked when the big reveal finally happened. The shifting narratives also gave me the opportunity to see these characters inside of school, at home, and watch them change as the impact of Simon’s death rippled deeper and deeper into their lives.

It is also important to note that I am always affected by tragedies in our schools. I think I avoided reading this book because I didn’t want to picture any of the high school aged students I knew having a life and death experience. Truthfully, the story is amazing but so ridiculously outside of the norm that the connection to the real world just didn’t happen. It was simply addictive reading. This is going to be my thriller to beat this year!


Tell me, please!

Have you read this? If not, what is stopping you?


 

WWW Wednesday

WWW Wednesday: May 8, 2019

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and is now hosted by Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to admire. Then, take some time (or, if you are me, all of your spare time on Wednesday) to check out everyone else’s list. Let’s begin!


What Did You Just Finish Reading?

Well, I’ve been home sick for the past three days and up a lot in the night so I have gotten a lot of reading done in the past week. This is why I have an unusually large “just finished” pile. This is also why I have so few reviews in the past week – reading is comforting but I am not sure about my editing abilities with this virus still pumping through my system.

I finally finished The Wonderling by Mira Bartok and it was such a sweet story. I just loved the whole world the author created with hybrids called groundings. The main character, a one eared fox called Arthur, and his best friend Trinket are orphans. Trinket is just so full of positivity and hope and watching her give the gift of hope to Arthur was absolute perfection. The slight tinge of magic that covered the whole world is just a bonus. I loved this book and I’m only sorry it languished on my bedside table for so long.  I can’t wait to feel better and review it.

I also finished listening to / reading Magnus Chase and the Ship of the Dead by Rick Riordan. I’m a huge fan of this series because Riordan does such a good job with diversity representation without sacrificing the action. A full series review is coming soon!

I finished A View to a Kilt by Wendy Holden and it was a nice light diversion. Holden’s books always have fantastic casts of characters and this group didn’t disappoint. I hated the romance but it was such a small part of the story that it was easy to overlook. However, I wonder if I would be so forgiving if I wasn’t already a dedicated fan of the author…

My library came through for me in full force this week and I picked up a bunch of graphic novels and books to keep me company. I checked out and finished What If Its Us by Becky Albertini and Adam Silvera very quickly. I was reluctant to read this because I love Becky Albertini but I was concerned that writing with a partner would make it, I don’t know, less Becky somehow. I was so wrong! It was excellent. I don’t know much about Adam Silvera but I am intrigued now. If anyone has any recommendations – let me know!

As for the graphic novels, Likely Stories by Neil Gaiman was too violent and dark for me but Sweet Tooth by Jeff Lamare was weird and intriguing. I have only read volume one but I can hardly wait to get my hands on the next books. I have to know what is going on in this story!!


What am I Currently Reading?

I am quickly working my way through Hamlet. I am in Act Four and I am trying to finish it before the weekend. I want to have plenty of time to tuck deeply into The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett. It is the first of his Discworld books. I thought that Pratchett might be too weird for me but after reading Good Omens I think he might be just the right kind of weird. I am only a few chapters in and I am really enjoying it.


What Will I Read Next?

I have finally received my pre-ordered copy of The Bride Test by Helen Hoang. I am sure this contemporary romance will help balance out my library picks – The President is Missing, The Power, and One of Us is Lying. It is interesting the books I pick out when I am sick versus the ones I buy when I feel healthy isn’t it? I’ll need to add back more nonfiction and an audiobook to my stack this week – again, if you have a recommendation please let me know!


Tell me, please!

What’s on your WWW?


 

Readathon · Uncategorized

2019 OWLs Readathon Results

Happy May 1st! I find it fitting that today is locally Law Day since I worked all last month to try and take enough OWLs to qualify for a cushy Ministry of Magic job in the legal department. Now, I tried to make a plan at the beginning of April. Here were my goals:

Charms (Age-line: read an adult book): The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp by Rick Yancey

Defense Against the Dark Arts (Reducto: Title Starts With an “R”): RoseBlood by A.G. Howard

History of Magic (Published at Least 10 Years Ago): Hamlet by William Shakespeare

Potions (Next Ingredient: Sequel): Arch Enemy by Frank Beddor

Transfiguration (Prayed Edges or Red Cover): Eon by Alison Goodman

Muggle Studies (Contemporary): Blue Lily: Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater.


Half-way through the month it was clear that I wasn’t doing well sticking precisely to my reading list and I just gave in and went with the books that called to me. Thankfully, I read enough variety that I made it! I have come to the realization that as much as I want to think of myself as a Hermione, it turns out I am more of a Ron. If I reviewed the book, the link is in the title.

Charms (Age-line: read an adult book)Meet Cute by Helena Hunting, Last of the Summer Moet by Wendy Holden and Highland Crown by Mary McGoldrick.

Defense Against the Dark Arts (Reducto: Title Starts With an “R”): Red Rising, Sons of Ares by Pierce Brown

History of Magic (Published at Least 10 Years Ago): Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

Potions (Next Ingredient: Sequel): Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, The Hammer of Thor by Rick Riordan.

Transfiguration (Prayed Edges or Red Cover): Eon by Alison Goodman

Muggle Studies (Contemporary): Blue Lily: Lily Blue, by Maggie Stiefvater.

In the end, I read so many more books in April than I would have because of this delightful readathon. I have never participated in a readathon that was this well designed or had so much work and love clearly poured into it. If you get a chance, make sure and check out Book Riot’s channel on Youtube and follow all the Harry Potter love on Twitter – this woman deserves and award (and a vacation)!


Tell me, please!

What is the best readathon you have ever participated in? Why?