Monday, January 9, 2017

Book Review: A Corner of White

A Corner of White (The Colors of Madeleine, #1)

I picked up A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty because it was one of the contenders in the 2015 Battle of the Children's Books.  From the premise, I was prepared to love it.  Madeleine and her mother have run away to Cambridge.  Madeleine is doing home school with two other kids and missing her thrilling old life.  And then there's Elliott, who lives in the town of Bonfire in the Kingdom of Cello.  He also lives alone with his mother.  His father disappeared years ago, on the night his father was found dead.  Madeleine and Elliott begin writing letters back and forth to each other, through an accidental gap between the worlds that they believe hasn't been open for centuries.  There's all kinds of other crazy stuff in Elliott's world: a "Butterfly Child" that Elliott hopes to catch to change his family's luck, "color storms" that are both weather and can effect people's emotions, and a royal family that seems hopelessly out of touch with the people.  And on Madeleine's side, she and her peers seem to have an odd obsession with learning about Isaac Newton.

There was a LOT packed into this book.  And yet... it felt like not much happened.  Why?  Because basically the entire book was setup for the rest of the series.  I read a review that said that of the 375 pages of this book, about 370 of them were prologue.  That may be a slight exaggeration, but it pretty much captures my feelings.  When I look back on the book, I think, "Huh, yeah, there was some really good material in there."  But while actually reading it, I was just frustrated.  Madeleine and Elliott wrote to each other, but they repeatedly stated that they didn't believe in each other's existence, and their storylines didn't really intersect until the very end.

Really, that statement holds true for the entire book--it felt like a lot of disparate threads that didn't come together until the very end.  So if I were to read the sequel, I assume that would be better.  But reading this book was pretty frustrating.  Don't get me wrong; I enjoy guesswork and trying to stay one step ahead of the characters.  But this book just felt like so many separate threads to tie together, plus ineffective world building, plus so little action, that I couldn't wait to be done.  I have read several reviews from people who loved this book, so to each their own--but it wasn't my cup of tea, and I don't think I'll be picking up the sequel.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Book Review: What I Thought Was True

What I Thought Was True 
I was absolutely, completely, head-over-heels in love with Huntley Fitzpatrick's debut novel, My Life Next Door.  So I was extremely excited to get my hands on her second book, What I Thought Was True, which is set in the same idyllic small town of Stony Bay, but focuses on different characters.

Fitzpatrick's sophomore novel tells the story of Gwen Castle.  Her divorced parents both work hard for what they have, her dad managing a restaurant and her mom working as a maid.  Both have jobs that cater to the island's wealthy upper class and summer crowd.  Gwen's family has also raised her cousin Nick, who is the same age as Gwen, and a younger brother who has special needs.  Nick has big dreams and a serious work ethic, which will someday take him off-island.... but these seem to be in direct conflict with his longtime and committed relationship with his girlfriend Viv, who he hopes to marry, who plans to stay on the island and take over her family's business.

Gwen, meanwhile, has somewhat of a checkered past.  The guys in the book seem to view her as somewhat of a "bad girl" because she has been with three different guys.  But through hearing her story unfold, the reader feels sympathy for her, for how she felt made mistakes in past relationships and aches for the right relationship to develop.

And then there's Cass.  He's the handsome golden boy, son of a rich summer family, and part of Gwen's past.  But as their story unfolds, we learn that what's between them is far more than just a mistake, but has many layers of emotional depth.

The premise of this story could have felt cliché, but in Fitzpatrick's hands, was lovely.  Girls like Gwen are far too often judged and cast aside, but here she felt vulnerable and sweet, and I wholeheartedly rooted for her.  In that respect, the book was definitely a success.  Had I read this book as a standalone, I would have completely endorsed it.  However, comparing it to My Life Next Door, it felt like a letdown.  It just didn't have the same magic.  A good read, one I will even recommend, but not one I will rave about.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Book Review: This Girl

This Girl (Slammed, #3)

This Girl is the final book in the Slammed trilogy by Colleen Hoover.  Slammed told the story of Lake and Will's ill-timed meeting, and Point of Retreat took their relationship to the next level.  So what was left for This Girl?  Well, actually, it's a bit of a rewind.  I've heard This Girl described as "Slammed from Will's point of view."  I've even heard people say that they found it boring or skimmed parts of it because it was just a recap.  So I went into it feeling a little cautious.....

But was very happy to find that it was still overflowing with wonderful Colleen Hoover magic.  This Girl begins as Will and Lake get married.  And then, on their honeymoon (which is just an overnight at a hotel in their town), Will makes Lake swoon by telling her the story of their relationship from his point of view..... beginning as his parents died.  His version of events includes some things that we faithful readers (and Lake) definitely didn't know about before, including some wonderful insights into Lake's mother.  And, of course, more slam poetry.  While I really like Colleen Hoover's other books, I just won't ever love them as much as this series... because, slam poetry.

So while others have been lukewarm about this book, I butterflying loved it.  (Did you get that reference, loyal CoHo fans?  Good.)

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Book Review: The Boy Most Likely To


When I read Huntley Fitzpatrick's first novel, My Life Next Door, I fell in love. Ms. Fitzpatrick simply did everything right. I thought, "Now here is an author to watch."  I was 100% certain that she was going to be The Next Big Thing in YA Literature.  Move over, Sarah Dessen.  (Who I love, by the way.)  Huntley Fitzpatrick completely captured my heart with the romance of Sam and Jace, and with the entire Garrett family.

So I eagerly awaited her second release, which was What I Thought Was True.  I read it pretty much as soon as it came out, but that occurred during my Black Hole of Blogging, so I didn't review it here.  It was.... meh.  There was nothing wrong with it.  A friend and I discussed it and deemed it to be "a good beach read."  It was a good story with good characters.  Frankly, if I hadn't had such high expectations for it, I probably would have liked it a whole lot more.  But I came away feeling like it could have been any of half a dozen YA novels I read in that time frame.  And I was sad, wondering if the Fitzpatrick magic had just been a one-time fluke.

So it was with great trepidation that I picked up The Boy Most Likely To.  But oh my goodness, the magic is back.  Dare I say... this one *might* even be better than My Life Next Door.  I think I'll have to do a reread of the first book in order to confirm, but that's a challenge I'll willingly take on.  ;)  In any case, The Boy Most Likely To needs to be on your TBR list this year.

The Garrett family is back, and this time we get to see them from their own side of the fence.  While Samantha and Jace were the focus of the first book, they are minor (but still lovable) characters in this book.  The Boy Most Likely To focuses on Tim Mason, the eternal screw-up.  As the book opens, he is issued an ultimatum by his father: get out, and get your life cleaned up by the time you turn 18, or lose your college fund.  He needs somewhere to live, so Jace offers him the apartment over the Garretts' garage.  He moves in and proceeds to attempt to get his life together--in the face of a very unexpected complication.

I loved so many things about this book.  For one, I feel that dual narrators can either make or break a book.  When they are done well, they can be excellent.  And here, they are fantastic.  Tim Mason and Alice Garrett alternate narrations, and their voices are both so distinct and so well done.  I was so drawn into this book that I couldn't put it down for a second, so I did part of it on audio as I was driving my my kids around town, and the narrators were, I kid you not, EXACTLY like what I was imagining in my head.  So, so perfect.  I also love that this book hits that niche market of "new adult," the just-past-YA age group of those entering college and the real world.  There aren't a lot of quality books out there for that group, but this one definitely qualifies.

But mostly, I loved the characters.  I simply adored Sam and Jace in My Life Next Door.  And I have to say that I'm impressed by Fitzpatrick's ability to take characters that I adored and fade them to the background and give me new characters to fall in love with.  Well played, Ms. Fitzpatrick.  I am now 100% in love with Tim and Alice.  And Calvin.  Oh, Calvin.  There were definitely tears shed at the end of this book.  And no, I'm not telling you how it turns out, darn it.

Can I just end by saying that I want to be a Garrett?  They are just the best family ever.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Shhhh..... Quiet in the Library!

So it's been a while.....

In the past 11 months, I have been a very busy lady. I have knocked out a significant amount of library grad courses. I took two courses last spring (January through May), in what I then called my "hardest semester ever." I took another two courses over the summer, each in its own summer session. Then I took another two courses this fall (August through December), in what was ACTUALLY my hardest semester ever. The courses were the most time-intensive, challenging, hands-on that I have ever experienced (in either graduate or undergrad), and I learned more from each of them than I ever have before.

At the same time, I started a new full-time library job. In the last week of July, I returned to school with my kiddos as the school librarian at our local elementary school. In many, many ways, this is the ideal job for me. My background is in education, and although I loved my time as a public librarian, I have always envisioned myself working long-term as a school media specialist. The real surprise has been working at an elementary school, since my entire teaching background has been at the high school level. It's been quite an adjustment to get used to the "little people." I've obviously had some practice with the age group from my own four kiddos (currently 10, 8, 5, and 3), but being a teacher-librarian for a large group of these yahoos is a different ballgame. :)

This process has also involved transitioning myself slowly away from my usually heavy diet of YA literature (my favorite!) and reading more children's literature, both picture books and middle grade selections. I haven't managed to blog about it during this incredibly busy time, but I've been keeping careful notes for both my grad classes and the library, and I'm hoping to get those transferred over to the blog over the next few months.

Through both classes and work, I have learned a HUGE amount about Life in the Library--working with kiddos, reading quality literature, collaborating with teachers, balancing budgets, recruiting volunteers, running book fairs, creating displays, and so much more. So while the primary focus of this blog will still be book reviews, I'm hoping to include some other tidbits of wisdom for posterity as well.

In the meantime, happy reading everyone!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

ALA Midwinter: Books Galore: Ages 8-12

Once I got home from Midwinter, I divided my new stash of books into age groups.  Here's what I got for (roughly) the 8-12 age group:

The Quirks and the Quirkalicious Birthday by Erin Soderberg (for ages 8-12)

Gooseberry Park and the Master Plan by Cynthia Rylant (for ages 8-12)

The Sun (Sky Science series) by Michael E. Picray

Moonpenny Island by Tricia Springstubb (for ages 8-12)

Best Friend Next Door by Carolyn Mackler (for ages 8-12)

A Whole New Ballgame by Phil Bildner (for ages 8-12)

The Sign of the Cat by Lynne Jonell (for ages 8-14)

Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman (for ages 9-14)

Pip Bartlett's Guide to Magical Creatures by Jackson Pearce and Maggie Stiefvater (for ages 8-12)

Stick Dog Dreams of Ice Cream by Tom Watson (for ages 8-12)

Flying Cars: The True Story by Andrew Glass (for ages 9-12)

Searching for Super by Marion Jensen (for ages 8-12)

Image result for omega city diana peterfreund
Omega City by Diana Peterfreund (for ages 8-12)

Monstrous by MarcyKate Connolly (for ages 8-12)

Firstborn by Tor Seidler (for ages 8-12)

Hero by Sarah Lean (for ages 8-12)

The Trap by Steven Arntson (for ages 9-12)

Robots Rule! The Junkyard Bot by C.J. Richards (for ages 9-12)

The Book of Dares for Lost Friends by Jane Kelley (for ages 8-12)

Buckle and Squash: The Perilous Princess Plot by Sarah Courtauld (for ages 7-10)

Fort by Cynhia DeFelice (for ages 8-12)

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

ALA Midwinter: Books Galore: Ages 5-9

Once I got home from Midwinter, I divided my new stash of books into age groups.  Here's what I got for (roughly) the 5-9 year old age group:

Anna Banana and the Friendship Split and Anna Banana and the Monkey in the Middle
by Anica Mrose Rissi (these are printed as a 2-in-1)
(for ages 6-10)

Escape from Baxters' Barn by Rebecca Bond (for ages 6-9)

Completely Clementine by Sara Pennypacker (for ages 6-8)

The Amazing Stardust Friends Step Into the Spotlight by Heather Alexander (ages 6-8)
* note - I somehow ended up with 2 copies of this one, so if anyone wants the spare, let me know :)

Willy Maykit in Space by Greg Trine (for ages 7-10)

Judy Blume by Kathleen Krull (Women Who Broke The Rules series) (for ages 5-7)

Eva's Treetop Festival by Rebecca Elliott (for ages 5-7)