all ages · Fantasy · Middle Grade

The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge by M.T. Anderson and Eugene Yelchin

assasinationOnly a middle grade book can successfully disguise itself as a spy thriller wrapped in fantasy and still educate its reader about the value of perspective and the importance of cultural awareness. The hilarious (or tragic!) story of The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge by M.T. Anderson and Eugene Yelchin pays homage to the famous travel writers of history while poking fun at the experiences of trying to bring your own ideals to a new land.

At first glance the book appears to mimic Brian Selznick’s work with the story alternating between written and illustrated sections. But, unlike the art in The Invention of Hugo Cabret, the illustrations in Spurge tell a completely different story then the narration. And this insanely clever trick beautifully demonstrates how a different perspective and upbringing can result in two entirely different experiences even when two people are in the same place at the same time.

In Spurge the elfin historian Brangwain Spurge has been sent on a mission to spy on the goblin city. Unfortunately, Goblin archivist Warfel thinks he is hosting an emissary and plans for the two to become great friends! As Warfel proudly shows Spurge around his beloved neighborhood and city and introduces him to important people he becomes more and more discouraged by Spurge’s attitude. And then he discovers Spurge’s underlying plan! What will Warfel do with the spy?

Warfel is the foreign host we all hope to have when we travel into unknown lands. He is kind and proud and willing to put his good name, reputation and even his life on the line to keep his guest comfortable. Sadly, even without the spying Spurge is the annoying and judgmental guest who comes into a land already prepared to hate everything he sees. Still, watching the characters grow and change was an absolute delight.

This book was a finalist for the 2018 National Book Award and it shows. In addition, I can only imagine how useful this story would be to parents and teachers for explaining how perspective, culture, and history (especially of conquered peoples) vastly alters our present experiences. And, more importantly, how without frank dialogue and an open mind, neither side will be able to see from the other’s point of view.

If you aren’t already convinced by my glowing review, please check out the funny book trailer by the authors here.

Tell me, please!

Do you find that YA and Middle Grade books are often more poignant in delivering messages than adult books?


WWW Wednesday: February 20, 2019

It’s Wednesday so, of course, I am participating in the WWW meme. It is hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words and you only need to answer the three W’s.

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

I do them chronologically so I always deal with my past before my present and future reading is considered. I can’t help myself! Feel free to link or add yours to the comments below and make sure and check out the other participants because this is where I find all of my books!

What did you recently finish reading?

I had just a teeny bit of The Arctic Incident to finish listening to at my last WWW and the ending did not disappoint! If you get a chance, check these out in audiobook format – the narrator Nathaniel Parker is incredibly talented and brings each character fully to life. I haven’t done a review because I hope to do a full series review when I finish all of the books.

I also could not resist purchasing and reading 99 Percent Mine by Sally Thorne. I absolutely adored her first book The Hating Game and I have been anxiously awaiting this book for months. I was ridiculous while reading it and I need to go back and read it again. I am ashamed of the way I consumed it. It was like inhaling a whole box of Godiva chocolates without stopping to taste the flavors. I will let you know my thoughts when I go back and savor the story more carefully.

The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge I picked up solely for the cute cover and I was delighted to find that it is told through both written word and illustration. However, unlike Hugo Cabret the illustrations tell a different story than the written word. This cleve tactic emphasizes the different perspectives of the two main characters and it is a perfect middle school story for explaining how to look at things through someone else’s eyes. I finished it this morning and I loved it! Full review coming soon.

My Plain Jane is a book plucked off my own bookshelf that had languished since OwlCrate sent it in July! I didn’t want to like it but I did and I could not put it down. You can read my full thoughts here.

I also had technical difficulties and my reviews for Springfield Confidential and The Con Artist were both delayed but you can click on the title and find my reviews if you are interested.

What are you currently reading?

Is this the smallest current listing you have ever seen from me?!? With finishing a book this morning and having serious trouble settling into an audiobook I find myself with only two books currently in play. The Wonderling is still sweet and I am digging myself deeper and deeper into Arthur and Sherlock as part of my Learn Something New Challenge. If you have an audiobook recommendation – please, let me know!

What do you think you’ll read next?

I want to continue my Sherlock reading with one of my own books, The Sherlock Holmes Handbook by the awesome Ransom Riggs. I need to keep reading Harry Potter as well. Finally, I can no longer resist digging into I Owe You One by one of my favorite authors, Sophie Kinsella.

Tell me, please!

What’s on your WWW list?


fiction · Over 18

The Con Artist by Fred Van Lente

I picked up Fred Van Lente’s first books Ten Dead Comedians because I was searching for books for my annual Frighteningly Good Reads. The cover was adorably intriguing. I was pleasantly surprised by the caliber of the writing and subsequently not surprised at all to discover that Van Lente is a heavily published and popular comic book writer. I am always in awe of a comic book writer’s ability to tell a whole story in so few words. When I saw that he had a second book out I could hardly wait to read it. I finally had the chance to enjoy it last week and it was everything I was hoping it would be and more!

conartistFirst of all, again, how fantastic is this cover? If I didn’t know better, I would have guessed it was a graphic novel. Second, this book was published by Quick Books and I am absolutely obsessed with everything they have to offer. I found myself on their website for more than an hour just scribbling an extended birthday wish list for myself and everyone I have ever met. Check it out and I dare you to not find a dozen things you want.

On to the review! Much like Ten Dead Comedians Van Lente does a masterful job at blending fantasy and reality. I loved spotting points he made in Comedians and attempting to figure out who he was referencing. I had the opportunity to play the same fun game with The Con Artist. And, since Van Lente is a comic book artist and has sat on artist’s alley himself, the whole book felt grounded in reality. Well, hopefully the multiple murders haven’t been something he has experienced…

In The Con Arist, veteran comic book artist Mike Mason finds himself at San Diego Comic-Con ready to work artist alley, make some money, and give the lifetime achievement award to his mentor. But Mike’s mentor, the comic book genius Ben K, has died. Ben’s death is just the first of many during the con and as the bodies pile up so does the attention on Mike as he becomes the prime suspect. As he copes with obsessive fans, protestors, old friends, enemies, and his ex-wife, Mike will have to solve more than the murders to clear his name and help finally resolve a seedy comic secret.

If you have never been to a con, this book will bring it to life for you. If you have attended one you will absolutely recognize many of the background characters. I have only been to my local con and I still felt like a total insider reading this book. The book just painted the experience so well. Meanwhile, Van Lente cleverly slips the ins and outs of what it means to be a published comic book writer both during a con and while trying to stay a published author. Much like Mike Reiss’ insider perspective in Springfield Confidential, I was shocked at the amount of work and the apparent speed that these artists can produce a finished product. It always looks so laid back when I see them drawing at cons that it never occurred to me that they were rapidly working under a deadline. I can only hope that the industry is marginally less cut throat than in this story but I suspect this aspect is also grounded in reality.

This multi-layered mystery was just as much fun as Ten Dead Comedians with the added bonus of being at a con. If you are a comic book nerd, you want to write comic books, or you just like trying to solve clever mysteries this book is a perfect pick!

Tell me, please!

Have you ever been to a comic book con?


historical fiction · YA

My Plain Jane by Hand, Ashton and Meadows

I will freely admit that my hatred for Jane Eyre is as long as the endless night I was forced to read the entire novel. Of course, perhaps I would have enjoyed it more had I not procrastinated myself into an all-nighter but what is done is done. Since that horrible incident I have had a massive chip on my shoulder for all things Bronte. But, I am constantly shocked by how differently I feel about the books I hated being forced to read when I pick them voluntarily (hello Great Gastby). So, when I received My Plain Jane from my OwlCrate subscription (in July) I vowed to read it with a fresh unbiased mind. And then I promptly shelved it for more than six months. But, when I cracked into it this weekend I did so with an open mind!

MyplainjaneMy Plain Jane is written by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton and Jodi Meadows and is their second collaboration. Their first, My Lady Jane received rave reviews everywhere but I had not yet read it. Typically I enjoy formulating my own synopsis of the book but this particular novel has me stumped on just how to do so. There is a lot of adventure squeezed into this story! Therefore, I give you the official blurb:



You may think you know the story. Penniless orphan Jane Eyre begins a new life as a governess at Thornfield Hall, where she meets one dark, brooding Mr. Rochester—and, Reader, she marries him. Or does she?

Prepare for an adventure of Gothic proportions, in which all is not as it seems, a certain gentleman is hiding more than skeletons in his closets, and one orphan Jane Eyre, aspiring author Charlotte Bronte, and supernatural investigator Alexander Blackwood are about to be drawn together on the most epic ghost hunt this side of Wuthering Heights.

Alright, Jane doesn’t marry Rochester – color me intrigued! This has always been the worst part of Jane Eyre for me. Rochester is stupid. And the way My Plain Jane handles that gave me no end of joy. I also really loved both Charlotte Bronte and Alexander Blackwood and the cast of supporting characters that all came together to crate a fantastic collection of personalities.

I will admit that I had difficulty getting into the book which is most likely due to my previous experience reading Bronte. Also, there were times when I was slightly frustrated when the authors constantly broke the fourth wall and the ever present commentary about the corsets became a small annoyance. Typically I don’t mind a fourth wall peek-through but it was done a bit inconsistently and it threw me off. Still, I consumed this 450 page book in a little over two days and I just couldn’t put it down! There were enough twists and turns and those together with the lovely female friendships meant that I ended up having a great time reading this book.

I read Jane Eyre in high school and my memory of it contains only my disgust for Mr. Rochester. So, you do not need to have read Eyre to enjoy My Plain Jane at all, nor, does it seem do you need to check out My Lady Jane before picking up this book. But, if you are interested in a paranormal historical fiction this is an absolutely fun read!

Tell me, please!

Am I the only one that hated Rochester?



NonFiction Friday: Springfield Confidential by Mike Reiss

springfieldconfidentialI grew up in one of the many Springfields scattered across the United States. Nearly all Springfield natives get asked the same questions immediately after naming their hometown, “Oh, like The Simpsons?” And we try to explain that no Springfield is the Springfield. Then the conversation continues until we are forced to identify the part of The Simpsons that is our Springfield. It is a testament to the joy and hilarity of the show that any Springfield kid still loves it and, in our heart, we are a little proud to have the connection.

When I saw Springfield Confidential, Jokes, Secrets and Outright Lies from a Lifetime Writing for The Simpsons by Mike Reiss I knew I had to read it. I love good natured backstage information about popular shows, especially one I grew up watching. And this book did not disappoint!

Mike Reiss is talented and funny and this book was well organized, easy to read and full of anecdotes for major fans and general comsumers fans alike. Even if you have never watched a single episode of The Simpsons you have probably seen Mike’s work as a television writer and script doctor (Despicable Me and more!). He is also a children’s book author, a four time Emmy award winner, and a former President of the Harvard Lampoon. He has all the qualifications of a comic and the rare gift of delivery as well.

Mike walks us through the early days of The Simpsons, how it came to be on the fledgling Fox channel, and how it has successfully maintained the popularity required to be on the air for thirty years. I may have picked the book up for the annecdotes and behind the scenes scoops but I found myself blown away by the amount of manpower that goes into a single episode! If you have ever wanted to write for television, especially illustrated television, make sure and look at Mike’s 23-step, 9 month process that is used for each of the twenty-two episodes. It sounds like a Herculean feat to me!

And, while the book’s main focus might be The Simpsons, the book is at least half a story of what it is like to work as a writer in Hollywood. I was fascinated to see Mike’s attempts (successful and failed alike) to become and stay a working writer. Mike also took two years off of The Simpson’s and tried to retire. During that time he worked as a script doctor, a children’s book illustrator and travelled extensively. In the end, though, he found himself right back with his Simpson’s crew.

If you are pondering a career writing for television I highly recommend this book. Likewise, if you are a Simpson’s fan, you will enjoy all the funny and interesting bits of trivia Mike discloses here. Either way, this was a fast and fun read.

Just in case you were wondering, my Springfield has the nuclear power plan directly on the man made lake. As a kid I was never allowed to swim in that water. Also, it is the home of Abraham Lincoln so we also claim (probably erroneously) that Homer’s Dad is named for our Abe.

Tell me, please!

How weird is it that The Simpson’s has been on for 30 years?!

WWW Wednesday

WWW Wednesday: February 13, 2019

It is time for my favorite meme of the week: WWW Wednesday! Hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words this has become my go-to for staying organized and making sure my TBR on Goodreads is always growing. So, if you want, join! Just answer the following three questions.

What Did I Recently Finish Reading?

What Am I Currently Reading?

What Will I Read Next?

And, make sure to hop over to our host’s site and check out all of the other participants. I have found some of my best books (and favorite bloggers!) through this weekly check-in.

What Did I Recently Finish Reading?

I had a very up and down week. I had books I absolutely adored and others that infuriated me. I hate to speak poorly of books but In Praise of Wasting Time was just a short book about how you should walk around in nature more and get off your phone. Ash Princess (which I honestly thought was part of the Red Queen story arch) was an audiobook I finished that felt like a 13 hour inner monologue by someone with terrible Stockholm Syndrome.

BUT, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone saved my sanity this week. As part of the read-a-long this year that is hosted by the fabulous Noura at The Perks of Being Noura I have friends to help me with that 2019 total HP re-read through goal. I got a bit behind by not finishing the first book in January so I need to read two this month. I have the illustrated copy and I was flat out obnoxious about making people look at the illustrations. I cannot wait to read The Chamber of Secrets next!

My library also delivered on getting me a copy of The Wicked King. This is the second in The Folk of the Air series by Holly Black following The Cruel Prince. I really enjoyed the first book but I loved the second one! My full review is here.

Finally, I read Con Artist by Fred Van Lente. This is a fantastic murder mystery that takes place at San Diego’s Comic Con. I finished it last night around 1:00 in the morning so the full review will be posted tomorrow. I couldn’t sleep until I finished it and then I re-read the ending this morning.

What Am I Currently Reading?

Well. I think we can see by my list that I am keeping any seasonal sadness away with the help of middle grade books! I find them perfect for when I need a pick-me-up.

I am 90% of the way finished with Artemis Fowl, The Arctic Incident as an audiobook. The narrative does an absolute divine job with all the different accents! I am loving it.

I am a few chapters into my other three books. The Wonderling by Mira Bartock I picked up because of the gorgeous cover and I am really enjoying the story of the little orphan animals. Similarly, The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge I chose for the cover and was delighted to find that it is almost half told through drawings. Very Brian Selznick but with elves and gnomes and historians. Finally, I have decided to learn more about Sherlock and Arthur Conan Doyle for my 2019 Learn Something New Challenge. This Challenge is hosted by Kathleen at SMS Nonfiction Books and I am excited to get started on it.

What Will I Read Next?

Obviously I need more Harry Potter. I also received a physical copy of The Field Guide to the North American Teenager from my library and a notification that The Man Who Would be Sherlock is ready for me to enjoy as an audiobook. This week – only ONE audiobook at a time!

Tell me, please!

What’s on your WWW list?


Fantasy · series · YA

The Wicked King by Holly Black

wicked kingThe Wicked King, the sequel to Holly Black’s fascinating dark faerie tale, debuted just after the New Year but because of my self-imposed book buying restrictions I had to wait until the library saved me a copy. Thankfully, my library is the best so I didn’t have to wait too long for the second in The Folk of the Air series.

I had a few complaints about The Cruel Prince, mostly in regards to the occasionally slow pacing. Like so many first in a series books, The Cruel Prince had to lay an extensive foundation for the entire series in book one and the action suffered as a consequence. However, as Holly Black had given me some truly remarkable and unusual characters all was forgiven. Not to worry, there were no such problems with pacing in the second book!

If you have not read the first book and you are interested in the series you can check my review here. It is nearly impossible to review a series book without spoiling the prior publications and so I must warn you: there are spoilers for The Cruel Prince below!

The Wicked King begins a few months after the Cruel Prince dramatic ending. Jude Duarte’s brother Oak may be the heir of the Faerie but Cardan has been crowed King. In return Cardan has sworn to follow all of Jude’s directions for a year and a day. That gives Jude a limited amount of time to ensure her brother’s safety and manipulate herself into a position of greater power. While she finds her human ability to lie invaluable, she can never forget that truth and lies often come in subtle shades of grey and the Fey live in a world of secrets. Between her attempts to control Cardan, her investigation into Maddox’s plots, and a threat that comes from the surrounding Oceans, is it any wonder that a traitor could tip the balance of power so completely? But who is plotting against Jude?

This second book was action packed! I consumed the book and, unlike the first one, I could hardly wait to see what would unfold. I also enjoyed that Jude was more confident which I enjoyed tremendously. Holly Black paints a perfect picture of having a crush on someone you despise as Jude attempts to ignore her feelings for Cardon.

If I had one (very minor) complaint it would be that all of this action and focus on Jude meant that nearly everyone else was a static background character until the last few pages. Still, I cannot imagine how the author could have given me such an explosive and surprising ending as she did without leaving me in the dark as to the other character’s movements and secret desires.

All of my childhood I wished that Fairies were real. Holly Black has convinced me of two things: I would hate these Fairies and I cannot wait to see what happens next.

Tell me, please!

If you could only pick one is the pace or the characters more important?

WWW Wednesday

WWW Wednesday: February 7, 2019

I had a long weekend absolutely stuffed full of ridiculousness and so arriving at this moment – beautiful Wednesday – feels even better than usual. Make sure and check out Sam’s website, Taking on a World of Words, as she graciously hosts this meme each week. There you will find so many other wonderful blogs all listing the three W’s for the week: What did I just finish reading? What am I reading now? and What do I think I will read next?

What did I just finish reading?

I had a weird week. I read two very short books, Drawn Together and …And Then You Die of Dysentery. I requested and received Drawn Together from the library but I didn’t realize it was a children’s book until I picked it up. It is short but has breathtakingly gorgeous illustrations. Just stunning. I could have flipped through the whole thing in 2 minutes but I spend more like 20 marveling at the details of the drawings.

…And Then You Die of Dysentery is an extremely short book about adulting as told through the lens of the Oregon Trail. This was an extremely popular game when I was a kid and has found a second surge of popularity lately (much to my joy). This book looks like a fun gift but has very little substance and is really only funny if you’re a huge fan of both the struggles of “adulting” and the Oregon Trail. As much as I love the Oregon Trail, this was just too short. Like, I brewed a cup of coffee in my Tassimo in the time it took me to read it cover to cover.

I had to put Before Tomorrowland into my DNF pile because a character in chapter two has a brain tumor. This is a no fly zone for me since I lost my sister to a brain tumor in 2015.

I also finish Un Lun Dun. This is an odd book. I’m still processing all of my thoughts but as I closed the final pages and placed the book into my finished pile I found myself saying aloud, “oooooooookay, then.”

Finally, I thoroughly enjoyed Mike Reiss’ Springfield Confidential which will be featured this coming week for NonFiction Friday! If you’ve seen The Simpsons, you’re interesting in television writing, or you just want to laugh, this is the book for you.

What am I Reading Now?

Last week I had three (three!) audiobooks that I thought I would be listening to but none of them struck my fancy. It happens sometimes with audiobooks doesn’t it? Or, maybe it is just me. Either way, I scrapped that plan and started listening to Artemis Fowl, The Arctic Incident by Eoin Colfer and Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian. I am loving them both! I am 24% of the way into The Arctic Incident and more than 50% through Ash Princess.

I am also reading the delightful In Praise of Wasting Time which is fairly self-explanatory and the library came through for me this week with The Wicked King. YES!

What Will I Read Next


I won’t let anything get between me and my trip back to Hogwarts this coming week!

Tell me, please!

What do you have on your WWW list?

Audio Book · funny

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Library by Robin Sloan

I am always going to pick up a novel that has the word, “book,” “bookstore,” or “library” in the title. So, when Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan popped up as immediately available through my library borrowing app, I had to check it out. Serendipitous joy! This book is everything you could want; a quest, old friends, new friends, foes and a mystery 500 years in the making.

mr.penumbraClay Jannon needs a job. The Great Recession has caused his bagel company to rebrand and subsequently fold. When Clay sees an opening at the mysterious Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore he applies. Clay’s only goal is to avoid living in a tent and, even though this job will not develop any connections or skills for future jobs, it will keep him in rent money. That is no small feat for someone living in San Fransisco.

Mr. Penumbra is as mysterious as his store. He asks Clay only, “What do you seek here?” before hiring him and forbidding him from looking in the books. More curiously, no one buys anything at this bookstore. Elderly people scurry in and out while exchanging huge tomes. Day after day Clay keeps track of the visitors in the log book and fetches books from the way-back list high up on the vertical shelves. After about a month, he can no longer resist. He peeks. The mystery he finds will take him across America, through time, and tax the combined efforts of all Clay’s resources to solve.

This book is epically entertaining. A unique mixture of history, computer science, cryptology, mystery, coding and humor all swirl together to paint an absolutely riveting story that transcends expectations. And, except for a very few references to sex, boobs and the bookstore’s proximity to a strip joint, the book could be for all ages. Because at its heart the book tells a tale of what happens at the intersection of old and new.

If you had asked me how it all ended when I was half-way through the book I would have guessed and I would have been wrong. At three-quarters of the way through I thought I knew with a certainty the ending and I was still wrong. Not only is the ending surprising but the writing is sharp with interesting characters at every turn. Some reviews have complained that this book is full of exceptional people but I think Clay was able to see where people were exceptional and employ their skills in that manner. The audiobook was extraordinarily well read and really brought the characters and action to life.

This book was a surprise that I didn’t even know it existed until it showed up on my Libby app. It is odd then that my love of books and my use of technology brought me to this wonderful story about the overlap between the two.

Tell me, please!

Do you have any subjects or cover art that will make you always pick up the book?


Nonfiction Friday, February 1, 2019: Ikigai by Ken Mogi

The self-help section of a bookstore can be overwhelming. Occasionally, I will just bring a whole shelf home from the library and flick through them looking for something inspirational. I am always looking for something that feels realistic but doesn’t overwhelm me.  Ikigai really caught my eye. According to the jacket description Ikigai is a Japanese idea commonly understood as “your reason to get up in the morning.” I was curious as to whether this would support my some of my New Year’s goals.

ikigaiAwakening Your Ikigai, How the Japenese Wake Up to Joy and Purpose Every Day by Ken Mogi is a basic primer in what is Ikigai and how to cultivate it in your own life. Even my elementary understanding of the history of the Japanese people would lead one to believe that joy is a struggle for them to find. After all, Japan has experienced all the disasters Mother Nature has to offer and has repeatedly been ravaged by war. How could a culture with so much tragedy and one which prizes homogeny experience daily joy? After all, Americans are raised on the idea that individuality and success pave the road to happiness. It turns out, Ikigai is not far from my Mother’s own advice. Joy comes from within.

According to author Ken Mogi, Ikigai is the discovering, defining, and appreciating of life’s pleasures that have meaning for you. You can do this through the five pillars of Ikigai: starting small, releasing oneself, finding harmony and sustainability, finding joy in small things, and being in the here and now. Mr. Mogi explains that Japanese tea ceremony and Sumo wrestling as activities which contain all five pillars but emphasizes that anything that grows your Ikigai is going to result in a happier and more fulfilled life. He cites Jiro Ono making sushi and Hayao Miyazaki’s movies as examples of Ikigai in action. And he addresses the Japanese culture of conformity by explaining that our private joy does not need to be worn on the outside but rather can be kept close to our hearts.

I know people have used the idea of hygee to decorate their homes. It just did not resonate with me. That is just far too many candles and cozy blankets for my sanity. And, I know people adore KonMari method which empathizes minimalism and a tidy home as the path to happiness. But, while I could see what Marie Kondo was trying to accomplish, I don’t have that level of interest in tidiness to see it through. I felt like Goldilocks, this one was too cozy and this one was too cold.

However, Ikigai resonated with me as a way to find my own unique path to joy. A just right for me approach if you will. And, the most poignant part of the book for me was the selection which discusses “focusing illusion” or the grass-is-greener mentality. Ken Mogi emphasizes that happiness is accepting yourself today and finding joy in your path for tomorrow rather than believing happiness will happen when something occurs or if a goal is met.

This short book has really inspired me to accept who I am and be happy with that person. That doesn’t mean I need to live in stasis. Rather, developing my Ikigai will help me grow into the best version of myself.

Tell me, please!

Have you ever read a self-help book that really resonated with you?