January 31, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Picture Books

I grew up on picture books, of course. They were what hooked me on reading. My parents read to me when I was still an infant, and I was reading on my own by the time I was three and a half. Of course, my mom is fairly certain my "reading" was just me repeating the stories I'd memorized since they'd read certain books to me so many times, but it still counts. 

1. Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin
I actually didn't know about this book until my sophomore year of college. I was wondering around our curriculum lab and found it and loved it.

2. Virginia Wolf by Kyo Maclear
My modern novel prof read this to us one day for part of our class session. It was great fun.

3. Degas and the Little Dancer by Laurence Anholt
I love La Petite Danseuse. I actually have a small copy of her in my bedroom at home.

4. Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans
Madeline is forever my favorite.

5. Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey
So cute.

6. The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
Truth be told, I prefer the movie, but still.

7. Little Bear by Else Holmelund Minarik
Did y'all know Suzanne Collins worked on this one's TV show production team?

8. The Berenstain Bears by Stan and Jan Berenstain
I have a ton of these still.

9. The Jolly Pocket Postman by Allan and Janet Ahlberg
Books with things you can pull out are so much fun.

What are your favorite picture books?

January 30, 2017

So You Like... #42

How many of y'all read the American Girl books when you were younger? Do any of you remember the history mysteries, the whole series about girls who weren't the dolls? I loved those books; in fact, they're probably the reason I love historical fiction to this day. Well, if you liked those books, you'll like this So You Like... post.

If you liked...



(For the treasure hunts.)

If you liked...



(For the San Francisco earthquake.)

If you liked...



(For the pirates.)

If you liked...



(Since they're both set during World War II.)

If you liked...



(For the villains in common.)

If you liked...



(For the wild, wild West.)

If you liked...



(For the newspaper writing.)

(Got any suggestions for So You Like... topics? Let me know! I'd love to try them. They don't call me the Book Recommender for nothing.)

January 29, 2017

Rewind & Review #78

~A lot of nothing happened.
~I suffered through writing a history book review for a class. I've done these before for this prof, but this was by far the hardest. I think it was partially because the book was a lot shorter than previous ones I've read for his classes and there just wasn't a lot that could be discussed about the content.
~I may have bought the same lipstick Taylor Swift owns and has worn on occasion...

Books I Received for Review
The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord (from Bloomsbury)
Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham (from Little, Brown via NetGalley)

Books I Bought
The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson
Pies and Tarts by Culinary Institute of America

Books I Read
The Geek's Guide to Unrequited Love by Sarvenaz Tash (reread)
The Education of Margot Sanchez by Lilliam Rivera (DNF)
Barefoot in Paris by Ina Garten (4 stars)
Talking as Fast as I Can by Lauren Graham (3 stars)
Poisoned Blade by Kate Elliott (2 stars)
Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett
When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead (4 stars)
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen (reread)
Some Kind of Happiness by Claire Legrand (reread)
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli (reread)
Once Was a Time by Leila Sales (3.5 stars)
The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord

Blog Posts You Might've Missed in the Last Few Weeks
   (from 1/16-1/21)

   (from 1/22-1/28)

January 27, 2017

Random Friday: Signed Books

Want to participate in Random Fridays? Just do the following: 
  • Include the above image in your post and link back to my post.
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  • Add the link to your Random Friday at the bottom of this post.
I think one of my favorite things about signed books is that, generally, I get to meet the author when I get the books signed. I talked about autographed books back in, like, 2015, but I thought it would be fun to highlight them again, particularly the authors' signatures.

Gwenda Bond

Anne Blankman

A.C. Gaughen

Emily Henry

Miranda Kenneally

Marie Lu
Sara Raasch

Jasmine Warga

Sarah J. Maas

Marissa Meyer

I think it's also interesting to see if authors' signatures change any. Observe below, in the case of my hardcover copy of The Start of Me and You, which was signed in June 2015, and my paperback copy, which was signed in September 2016.

The "Live Your Life" part looks pretty much the same (except for how she wrote "Live" and the r in "Your"), but the main difference I notice is that she only signed her first name in the most recent copy. She also only signed her first name in my copy of When We Collided. Interesting, isn't it?

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go practice my author signature.

January 26, 2017

Review: Yours Truly

Yours Truly by Heather Vogel Frederick
Grade: B+
Release date: January 31, 2017
An e-galley was provided by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for review consideration.
Summary: Even Truly Lovejoy has to admit that teeny-tiny Pumpkin Falls, New Hampshire, has its charms—like the annual maple festival, where tourists flock from all over to sample the local maple syrup, maple candy, maple coffee, and even maple soap! But when someone tries to sabotage the maple trees on her friend Franklin’s family farm, Truly has to rally the Pumpkin Falls Private Eyes to investigate.

Meanwhile, she uncovers another, more personal mystery under the floorboards of her very own home—a diary written centuries ago by her namesake, the original Truly Lovejoy…and it might just prove her family’s ties to Pumpkin Falls run deeper than anyone ever could have imagined.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: This is the type of middle grade I would've loved when I was 10 to 13. It's fun and lighthearted, yet still delivers on some good themes. Yours Truly picks up not long after Absolutely Truly and takes place over the course of a week. Truly's cousin Mackenzie has come for a visit, and she's eager to join the Pumpkin Falls Private Eyes.
I loved how family was so important to Truly. Even if she is annoyed by her younger sister and doesn't always want to do chores, she's concerned about her dad and she grudgingly does things with her mom and she doesn't think her older brothers are too annoying. In contrast, her friend group didn't feel quite as fleshed out. There's four boys and two other girls, and I had trouble remembering most of them from Absolutely Truly and I didn't feel any of them got extra characterization in this book. Finally, character-wise, there seemed to be a bit more coupling up/matchmaking in this book - not just with the young characters but also the adults (Aunt True and her guy, Belinda has a prospective suitor, Lucas's mom...). It was interesting to have such a focus on romance...without romance really mattering to the plot.
Speaking of plot, there's two mysteries the PFPE are trying to solve: who's tampering with the maple tree tapping and the original Truly Lovejoy's diary. I solved the first mystery fairly quickly, but the second had some fun secrets and really pulled in history. I didn't like the original Truly's diary entries, just because they sounded kind of fake. But they definitely introduced a lot of plot, and I'm sure middle grade readers would have a harder time puzzling things out than I did.
Yours Truly was super clean, just like Absolutely Truly. While Truly definitely worries more about boys, the most that happens is she gets an unexpected kiss.

The Verdict: Such a fun middle grade series! If you haven't read Absolutely Truly yet, get your hands on a copy and then give Yours Truly a try.

P.S. There's another Mother-Daughter Book Club character cameo from a more recognizable secondary character who makes a big appearance in Home for the Holidays.

Will I be adding this book to my library?: Probably.

January 25, 2017

Writing Prompt #13

Ready for another writing prompt? This one is brought to you by a prompt set I found on one of my favorite prompt blogs on Tumblr. The prompt was thus:

"It's what it looks like but with..."
(And then you choose something from this list.)

“Ugh, this TV show looks so lame,” says my best friend, Dora.
“Give it a chance,” I plead.
“Look at the promo picture,” she says, pointing at her laptop screen. The main character, Jules, is posed between two attractive guys, and they all look like the type of actors you’d find on the CW. They’re all supposed to be teenagers, but they’re clearly in their twenties.
“Okay, it is what it looks like,” I admit. “But with Shakespearean references! The show isn’t a direct retelling of any of his plays, but there are a ton of name drops, plot references, and quotes. You’re a drama club kid; you’ve gotta be a sucker for Shakespeare.”
“I am,” she concedes before sighing. “Okay, I’ll give it a chance. Is it on Netflix?”
“No, the first season is still airing. But most of the early episodes are still on the channel’s website.”

Dora goes to grab snacks, and I pull up the website and get comfy on her futon while I wait. This is going to be fun.

So what word/phrase would you choose from the list?

January 23, 2017

Review: The Secret of a Heart Note

The Secret of a Heart Note by Stacey Lee
Grade: B-
An ARC was provided by the author as a giveaway prize; this in no way affected my review.
Summary: An evocative novel about a teen aroma expert who uses her extrasensitive sense of smell to mix perfumes that help others fall in love while protecting her own heart at all costs

Sometimes love is right under your nose. As one of only two aromateurs left on the planet, sixteen-year-old Mimosa knows what her future holds: a lifetime of weeding, mixing love elixirs, and matchmaking—all while remaining incurably alone. For Mim, the rules are clear: falling in love would render her nose useless, taking away her one great talent. Still, Mimosa doesn’t want to spend her life elbow-deep in soil and begonias. She dreams of a normal high school experience with friends, sports practices, debate club, and even a boyfriend. But when she accidentally gives an elixir to the wrong woman and has to rely on the lovesick woman’s son, the school soccer star, to help fix the situation, Mim quickly begins to realize that falling in love isn’t always a choice you can make.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: It's always interesting to me when authors switch genres, particularly when they write their first genre so well. Stacey Lee is one of my favorite historical fiction authors, a status that was cemented with her debut novel, Under a Painted Sky. I was very interested to see how this contemporary/magical realism/sort-of-fantasy novel would work. 
The protagonist, Mim, is only fifteen, which was nice to see in YA. Lots of younger teens could definitely relate to her. Up until the events of the book, Mim was homeschooled, so she's socially awkward and struggling to keep up in school - both features I wasn't keen on as a former homeschooler. I know both characteristics also had to do with how her mother isolated her and the workload at home, but I felt homeschooling got blamed for parts of it. 
I liked that romance wasn't the only plot; Mim is struggling to do things right by her best friend, Kali, and she wants to prove herself as an aromateur. I felt like I needed to see more of why Mim and Kali worked as best friends, though, before the story got into all the drama that threatened to ruin their relationship. 
I liked the plot twist. I won't go into detail about it, so as not to spoil the book, but it involves Mim's Aunt Bryony, who is definitely an awesome character. The whole book is full of women. There's probably only three guys total that matter, which is such a change from most of today's films and books. 
Mild language. Mild sexual references.

The Verdict: Pretty good, but it wasn't my favorite Stacey Lee book.

Will I be adding this book to my library?: Already did.

January 22, 2017

Review: The Sun Is Also a Star

The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
Grade: C+
Summary: Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.

Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.

The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: I'm gonna tell y'all a secret. I was more interested in this book than Yoon's debut novel, Everything Everything. But honestly, neither ended up being what I wanted them to be.
I loved the frank descriptions of Natasha's and Daniel's cultures and their parents' expectations. I liked that Daniel didn't hate his parents for expecting him to pursue a certain life. I really liked how their story played out and, while the ending was a teeny bit cliche, it worked well. (Although it was all a bit instalovey, especially on Daniel's end. Natasha needed to be nopeing it the heck out of there.) Sometimes the two teens got a bit too unrealistically pretentious for me.
I felt like we got to know few characters beyond Natasha, Daniel, and Daniel's brother. Everyone else - the parents, Natasha's brother, Peter, and her best friend, Bev - were as flat and static as could be. For the few mentions Bev gets, I wanted waaaaayyyyy more of her. If she wasn't important, than she shouldn't have even been in the story.
I didn't enjoy the bits from other characters' POVs or the explanations about different concepts or things. They felt out-of-place, and they interrupted the flow of Daniel's and Natasha's narratives too much. 
A fair amount of foul language. Kissing, making out, and one passing thought about sex.

The Verdict: This book isn't a star.

Will I be adding this book to my library?: No.

January 21, 2017

So You Like... #41

It's been quite a long time since I did a specifically diverse books-only So You Like... post. I've been trying to match books well, though, and that takes time. But hopefully with all the great books due to release this year, I'll have several more of these queued over over the next few months. And as always, if you liked the book I'm recommending you try but haven't read the other, then you should give that one a try instead. (Also covers link to the books' Goodreads pages.)

If you like...



(for the fantastical elements)

If you like...



(for the female protagonists who take charge of their destiny)

If you like...



(for the murderous heroines)

If you like...



(for the action and plot twists)

Hope I helped y'all find some new reads today! And if you ever have a topic you'd like me to use for a So You Like... post, just let me know in the comments below.

January 20, 2017

Review: Wait for Me

Wait for Me by Caroline Leech
Grade: B
Release date: January 31, 2017
Summary: It’s 1945, and Lorna Anderson’s life on her father’s farm in Scotland consists of endless chores and rationing, knitting Red Cross scarves, and praying for an Allied victory. So when Paul Vogel, a German prisoner of war, is assigned as the new farmhand, Lorna is appalled. How can she possibly work alongside the enemy when her own brothers are risking their lives for their country?

But as Lorna reluctantly spends time with Paul, she feels herself changing. The more she learns about him—from his time in the war to his life back home in Germany—the more she sees the boy behind the soldier. Soon Lorna is battling her own warring heart. Loving Paul could mean losing her family and the life she’s always known. With tensions rising all around them, Lorna must decide how much she’s willing to sacrifice before the end of the war determines their fate.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Y'all have no idea how good it was to read a World War II story not about pilots or girls on the front lines. I liked that Lorna was just trying to live life as normal, while also expressing concern for her brothers who were involved in the war.
The writing wasn't the strongest at times. It felt a bit too simple and like it could use some polishing.
I think one of my biggest problems with Wait for Me was a plotline that was dropped by the wayside. Early in the novel, Lorna's teacher encourages her to pursue an education that would help her become a secretary or something along those lines. That plot thread seems like it should've been more significant than it ended up being, and I wanted more of Lorna coming of age and figuring out what she wants with her life. The book has plenty of familial dynamics, friendship problems, and romance, but Lorna is at a perfect age to be questioning what she wants to do with her life.
I don't remember much foul language, if any. Romantic content never goes past kissing (although there is an assault scene that could be a bit triggering).

The Verdict: Pretty good.

Will I be adding this book to my library?: Maybe.