Monday, October 24, 2016

Review: Life As We Knew It – Susan Beth Pfeffer

Life As We Knew It – Susan Beth Pfeffer

Miranda’s disbelief turns to fear in a split second when a meteor knocks the moon closer to the earth. How should her family prepare for the future when worldwide tsunamis wipe out the coasts, earthquakes rock the continents, and volcanic ash blocks out the sun? As summer turns to Arctic winter, Miranda, her two brothers, and their mother retreat to the unexpected safe haven of their sunroom, where they subsist on stockpiled food and limited water in the warmth of a wood-burning stove. 
Told in journal entries, this is the heart-pounding story of Miranda’s struggle to hold on to the most important resource of all—hope—in an increasingly desperate and unfamiliar world.

Review: Scientists didn’t think the meteor heading for the moon was a big deal, but they turned out to be very wrong. The meteor knocks the moon closer to Earth, which triggers a string of huge natural disasters. As society collapses, seventeen-year-old Miranda and her family stockpile food and camp out near their wood-burning stove. They have no idea how long they’ll have to wait for rescue.

“Here's the funny thing about the world coming to an end. Once it gets going, it doesn't seem to stop.” – Life as We Knew It

I wanted to read this book because it was pretty popular with kids during the whole YA dystopia madness a few years ago. I finally got around to reading it, and . . . I have the dreaded mixed feelings. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it, either.

The story starts quickly. A meteor hits the moon, and Miranda’s mother goes nuts. She gets the kids from school, empties all the money from the family’s bank account, and buys everything she can. After this initial rush of stockpiling supplies, the story slows down. There are natural disasters, but they all happen far away from Miranda’s family. The family just hangs out at home and hopes they have enough food and water to get them through.

Part of me likes the slowness because it’s realistic. The town tries to keep the schools open and everything functioning normally, but soon they can’t. The apocalypse doesn’t happen all at once, and the reader doesn’t know how bad things will get. Another part of me doesn’t like the slowness. I kept waiting for something to happen. I got bored with watching the family chop wood. I wanted something huge to happen that would force them to make big decisions, but nothing did.

“I guess I always felt even if the world came to an end, McDonald's would still be open.” – Life as We Knew It

This book is a bit unusual in the YA world because it features a strong, loving family. The parents do a (fairly) good job of behaving like responsible adults. But, all of the characters are flat. This might be because the story is told in diary entries, and Miranda mostly focuses on her own problems in the entries. All of the secondary characters are just names to me. They don’t have much personality. Even the major characters aren’t developed enough for me to care about them. Since none of the characters felt real to me, I had a hard time getting into the story.

There are some humorous moments. I actually laughed when the mother said she’s not desperate enough to watch Fox News, even though the world is ending.

I’m not a scientist, but I wondered about a lot of the science in this book.  Would scientists really not know the size of a meteor heading for the moon? And would the moon’s gravity really cause earthquakes and other giant natural disasters? I don’t know, but it’s terrifying if this stuff could actually happen.

I guess I feel pretty “Meh” about this book. It’s entertaining, but it didn’t give me much to think about, and it doesn’t do anything I haven’t seen in post-apocalyptic fiction before. Right now, I don’t plan on continuing with the series. 

Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Sunday Post #70

The Sunday Post is hosted by The Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a chance to recap the past week, talk about next week, and share news. It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? is hosted by Book Date. I get to tell you what I’ve read recently.

On The Blog Last Week

On The Blog This Week

  • On Monday I review Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer.
  • On Tuesday I tell you why I read horror.
  • I don’t have posts written for Wednesday and Thursday yet, but I’ll try to get something up.

In My Reading Life

I’m still sick. That’s why I’m behind on reading and blogging. Last week, I read Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk and Does My Head Look Big in This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah. Up next is Me Before You by Jojo Moyes.

In The Rest Of My Life

Five things that made me happy last week:

  1. Halloween decorations.
  2. I got my mail-in ballot. That means this election stuff is almost over. Then I won’t have to see campaign ads anymore.
  3. I’m still binge watching Game of Thrones.
  4. I think I may have written my last essay ever. No more essays. Ever. That sounds really strange.
  5. #TrumpBookReport. Twitter imagines how Trump would review famous books. The results are hilarious.

I hope you had a great week! See you around the blogosphere.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

The “Very Sci-Fi” Book Haul

Stacking the Shelves is hosted by Tynga’s Reviews. I get to show off all the books I’ve gotten recently.

I had a B&N gift card, so I decided to spend it on books with sci-fi elements. Here’s what I got:

This Savage Song – Victoria Schwab

Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city—a city where the violence has begun to breed actual monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the humans pay for his protection. All August wants is to be human, as good-hearted as his own father, to play a bigger role in protecting the innocent—but he’s one of the monsters. One who can steal a soul with a simple strain of music. When the chance arises to keep an eye on Kate, who’s just been kicked out of her sixth boarding school and returned home, August jumps at it. But Kate discovers August’s secret, and after a failed assassination attempt the pair must flee for their lives.

Angel Catbird – Margaret Atwood

On a dark night, young genetic engineer Strig Feleedus is accidentally mutated by his own experiment and merges with the DNA of a cat and an owl. What follows is a humorous, action-driven, pulp-inspired superhero adventure—with a lot of cat puns.

Children of the New World: Stories – Alexander Weinstein

Children of the New World introduces readers to a near-future world of social media implants, memory manufacturers, dangerously immersive virtual reality games, and alarmingly intuitive robots. Many of these characters live in a utopian future of instant connection and technological gratification that belies an unbridgeable human distance, while others inhabit a post-collapse landscape made primitive by disaster, which they must work to rebuild as we once did millennia ago.

Sleeping Giants – Sylvain Neuvel

A girl named Rose is riding her new bike near her home in Deadwood, South Dakota, when she falls through the earth. She wakes up at the bottom of a square hole, its walls glowing with intricate carvings. But the firemen who come to save her peer down upon something even stranger: a little girl in the palm of a giant metal hand. 
Seventeen years later, the mystery of the bizarre artifact remains unsolved—its origins, architects, and purpose unknown. Its carbon dating defies belief; military reports are redacted; theories are floated, then rejected. 
But some can never stop searching for answers. 
Rose Franklin is now a highly trained physicist leading a top secret team to crack the hand’s code. And along with her colleagues, she is being interviewed by a nameless interrogator whose power and purview are as enigmatic as the provenance of the relic. What’s clear is that Rose and her compatriots are on the edge of unraveling history’s most perplexing discovery—and figuring out what it portends for humanity. But once the pieces of the puzzle are in place, will the result prove to be an instrument of lasting peace or a weapon of mass destruction?

Smoke – Dan Vyleta

If sin were visible and you could see people's anger, their lust and cravings, what would the world be like? 
Smoke opens in a private boarding school near Oxford, but history has not followed the path known to us. In this other past, sin appears as smoke on the body and soot on the clothes. Children are born carrying the seeds of evil within them. The ruling elite have learned to control their desires and contain their sin. They are spotless. 
It is within the closeted world of this school that the sons of the wealthy and well-connected are trained as future leaders. Among their number are two boys, Thomas and Charlie. On a trip to London, a forbidden city shrouded in smoke and darkness, the boys will witness an event that will make them question everything they have been told about the past. For there is more to the world of smoke, soot and ash than meets the eye and there are those who will stop at nothing to protect it . . .

Underground Airlines – Ben H. Winters

It is the present-day, and the world is as we know it: smartphones, social networking and Happy Meals. Save for one thing: the Civil War never occurred. 
A gifted young black man calling himself Victor has struck a bargain with federal law enforcement, working as a bounty hunter for the US Marshall Service. He's got plenty of work. In this version of America, slavery continues in four states called "the Hard Four." On the trail of a runaway known as Jackdaw, Victor arrives in Indianapolis knowing that something isn't right—with the case file, with his work, and with the country itself. 
A mystery to himself, Victor suppresses his memories of his childhood on a plantation, and works to infiltrate the local cell of an abolitionist movement called the Underground Airlines. Tracking Jackdaw through the back rooms of churches, empty parking garages, hotels, and medical offices, Victor believes he's hot on the trail. But his strange, increasingly uncanny pursuit is complicated by a boss who won't reveal the extraordinary stakes of Jackdaw's case, as well as by a heartbreaking young woman and her child who may be Victor's salvation. Victor himself may be the biggest obstacle of all—though his true self remains buried, it threatens to surface. 
Victor believes himself to be a good man doing bad work, unwilling to give up the freedom he has worked so hard to earn. But in pursuing Jackdaw, Victor discovers secrets at the core of the country's arrangement with the Hard Four, secrets the government will preserve at any cost.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Autumn Reading Tag

This is The Autumn Reading Tag. I think it started on BookTube, but I’ve seen it around the blogosphere lately, so I’m considering myself tagged.

The Autumn Reading Tag

1. Are there any books you plan on reading over the autumn season?

Um, yes. I’m always planning on reading books. Here’s what’s on my TBR list for the fall months.

2. September brings back to school nightmares memories: What book did you most enjoy studying? And what were your favorite and least favorite school subjects?

I did a whole post on forced school reads that weren’t (too) painful. The best book I studied in school was The Giver by Lois Lowry. I read it in middle school language arts. 

I hated pretty much everything about school, but if I had to pick a favorite subject, it would be either English or history. My least favorites were math, science, music, and P.E. Art class was also a disaster. Basically, child-me was a hot mess. (Teenage-me wasn’t much better.) 

3. October means Halloween: Do you enjoy scary books and films? If so, what are some of your favorites?

I don’t have much patience for movies, but I love scary/creepy/bizarre books. The best one I’ve read this year is Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick. A ranking of my favorite Stephen King books can be found here.

4. With November, it's time for bonfire night and firework displays. What's the most exciting book you've read that really kept you gripped?

I’m not sure what the most exciting book I’ve ever read was, but The Hunger Games kept me riveted. No matter how many times I reread it, it’s always exciting.

5. What book is your favorite comfort read?

This may sound odd, but Stephen King books are my comfort reads. I’ve read a lot of them and usually know what to expect. It’s pretty rare for me to be super-disappointed in them.

6. Curled up with a good book, what is your hot drink of choice?

Hot chocolate is the only hot drink I like. Coffee and tea both make my stomach hurt. No idea why. Hot chocolate is awesome and never hurts me.

7. Any plans you’re looking forward to over the next few months?

Yes! I’m graduating from graduate school at the end of November. When I graduate, I will have been in college for 11 years, attended 4 different universities, and earned 3 degrees. I’m so ready to be done with my education.

What are your fall plans?

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Review: A Gathering Of Shadows – V.E. Schwab

A Gathering Of Shadows – V.E. Schwab

It has been four months since a mysterious obsidian stone fell into Kell's possession. Four months since his path crossed with Delilah Bard. Four months since Prince Rhy was wounded, and since the nefarious Dane twins of White London fell, and four months since the stone was cast with Holland's dying body through the rift–back into Black London. 
Now, restless after having given up his smuggling habit, Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila, who disappeared from the docks as she always meant to do. As Red London finalizes preparations for the Element Games–an extravagant international competition of magic meant to entertain and keep healthy the ties between neighboring countries–a certain pirate ship draws closer, carrying old friends back into port. 
And while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrills of the Games, another London is coming back to life. After all, a shadow that was gone in the night will reappear in the morning. But the balance of magic is ever perilous, and for one city to flourish, another London must fall.

Review: This is a review of book #2 in a series. The review is as spoiler-free as I can make it, but you might want to check out my review of the first book.

Usually, I struggle with the middle books in a series. They’re often slow, saggy beasts that exist solely to set up the end of the series. But, that’s not the case with this one. I actually like the second book more than the first. When I finished it, I wasn’t ready to leave the four Londons. When does the next book come out? I’m pretty sure I need it right now.

A Gathering of Shadows picks up four months after A Darker Shade of Magic. Lila is working on a ship while Kell deals with the fallout of accidentally killing about a zillion people. Meanwhile, Kell’s brother, Prince Rhy, is planning the Element Games. If the games aren’t a success, the peace of the kingdom could be in jeopardy.

“Kell would say it was impossible. What a useless word, in a world with magic.” – A Gathering of Shadows

This book is longer and slower paced than the first. The first is nonstop action, and this one has all the character development. The slowness didn’t bother me very much because I love every single character in this series. They’re all smart and snarky. Their personalities really shine in this novel. I especially like watching Kell and Rhy navigate their changed relationship. In the first novel, they’re both thrill-seekers in their own ways. Since they’re magically bound together in this book, what one brother does impacts the other brother. They’re forced to grow up and reconsider their recklessness, but they still manage to get themselves in plenty of trouble.

“Rhy held Kell's pain in his hands, while Kell held Rhy's life in his.” – A Gathering of Shadows
“Look, everyone talks about the unknown like it's some big scary thing, but it's the familiar that's always bothered me. It's heavy, builds up around you like rocks, until it's walls and a ceiling and a cell.” – A Gathering of Shadows

Most of the characters seem to be searching for an identity. Almost all of them are antiheros who have made mistakes in their lives. This story is about how tempting it can be to run from your past instead of facing it. At this point in the series, the characters would rather put on masks and pretend to be someone else rather than dealing with life as it is. I’m interested to see how things change in the next book.

I love this series because of the escapism it provides, but I do have a few problems with A Gathering of Shadows. I like the slow pacing, but I think the plot starts a little too slowly. Lila is unique, but she’s not my favorite character, and she isn’t doing much at the beginning of the book. I was eager to get to Kell and Rhy’s points-of-view.

I also had trouble picturing the setting at times. The floating arenas were especially problematic for me. I imagined a football stadium hovering over a river, which looks ridiculous in my head.

Finally, parts of the plot are predictable or convenient. For example, Lila needs to hear a conversation that’s happening inside a house. The windows are conveniently open so she can hear, even though it’s February and freezing.

This series is so much fun that I can easily overlook the problems. I’m excited for the next book. More Rhy and Kell, please!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Review: All The Bright Places – Jennifer Niven

All The Bright Places – Jennifer Niven

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.

Review: It took me days to write this review because All the Bright Places required a lot of mental processing time.

Violet and Finch meet at the top of a bell tower, where they are both contemplating jumping. They quickly become friends and pair up to work on a “natural wonders” school project. As they travel around Indiana in search of wonders, they learn more about themselves and each other than they do about the state.

So . . . I love this book. For me, it’s relatable. It’s about kids who are struggling with mental illness and don’t understand what’s going on in their minds or how to ask for help. It’s about kids who are failed by all the systems that are put in place to protect them. Sometimes, teachers and parents fail to see something that’s right in front of them. The book is about searching for an identity that will make you happy. Most importantly, it’s about how love can’t cure illnesses (thank you, Jennifer Niven, for addressing that stupid trope). Finally, it’s about moving on after a loss. It's for all the people who have been left behind and are trying to find a way to move forward. There’s a lot going on in this story.

“I know life well enough to know you can’t count on things staying around or standing still, no matter how much you want them to. You can’t stop people from dying. You can’t stop them from going away. You can’t stop yourself from going away either. I know myself well enough to know that no one else can keep you awake or keep you from sleeping.” – All the Bright Places

The characters and writing style remind me a lot of a John Green novel, so if you like his work, you’ll probably like this book. The writing is thought-provoking and emotionally hard-hitting. The teenage characters are so sweet and precocious that they’ll make you throw up in your mouth a little. Seriously, they sit around quoting Virginia Woolf at each other. Even though college forced so many of Woolf’s awful books down my throat that I have heartburn just thinking about them, I can forgive the characters. Finch is obsessed with suicide, so he has a reason besides annoying precociousness to be thinking about Woolf. Normally, I’m not a fan of quirky, ultra-intelligent characters (because they’re overdone in YA), but there’s enough going on in this book that I could overlook it.

The writing is excellent. The story is told from two points-of-view, and both characters have very distinct voices. Finch’s chapters are my favorite. I think the author did a great job of showing his slow climb into mania and quick drop into depression. The reader knows the manic state can’t last, so it’s like watching a devastating, slow-motion train crash. You desperately want to reach through the pages and save him, but you can’t. You can’t do anything except wait to see how bad it gets.

“It's my experience that people are a lot more sympathetic if they can see you hurting, and for the millionth time in my life I wish for measles or smallpox or some other easily understood disease just to make it easier on me and also on them.”  - All the Bright Places

I do have a few problems with the book. First, some parts of it dragged, especially toward the end. Second, I know it’s possible to miss a kid’s health issues, but it seems like Finch’s were pretty obvious, and nobody did anything. The kids at his school even voted him “most likely to commit suicide” in their secret newspaper (which the teachers knew about). Since Finch’s problems are so public, I think someone would have made a bigger deal about them.
Those are tiny critiques. All the Bright Places is probably going to be one of my favorite books I read this year. I love thought-provoking stories, and this one was still stuck in my brain days after I finished it. I’m looking forward to Jennifer Niven’s next book.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Sunday Post #69

The Sunday Post is hosted by The Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a chance to recap the past week, talk about next week, and share news. It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? is hosted by Book Date. I get to tell you what I’ve read recently.

On The Blog Last Week

On The Blog This Week

  • On Monday I review All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven.
  • On Wednesday I review A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab.
  • On Thursday I do The Autumn Reading Tag.
  • On Saturday I haul some sci-fi books.

In My Reading Life

It felt like I was reading really slowly last week. I was sick and in a terrible mood and fell asleep whenever I tried to read. I did finish two books, though. They were Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer and Fake ID by Lamar Giles. Up next is Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk.

In My Blogging Life

Elliptical Man reminded me that the Blogging from A to Z challenge is a thing I want to do. I’ve watched bloggers attempt the challenge for years, but it takes a lot of planning, and I’ve never gotten myself together in time to do it. The challenge isn’t until April, but I’m brainstorming ideas now. I think my theme is going to be “bookish memories.” It’ll probably be the most self-indulgent thing I’ve ever done on the blog. But, the posts will be short, so you won’t have to put up with too much me-me-me. Is anybody else going to do this challenge?

In The Rest Of My Life

Five things that made me happy last week:

  1. I went to the bookstore.
  2. My final giant grad school assignment is done and approved.
  3. Binge-watching Game of Thrones.
  4. I’ve done a lot of blogging and scheduling posts lately. Future-me will be thrilled about this.
  5. Authors finding my reviews of their books and tweeting links. I’m glad they like my reviews, but this also massively freaks me out.

I hope you had a great week! See you around the blogosphere!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Discussion: I Don’t Review ARCs

Feed Your Fiction Addiction and It Starts At Midnight host the 2016 Discussion Challenge.

I guess it’s time to admit it: I’m kind of a hipster. I’m a broke liberal arts student who shuns material possessions, researches the ethics of food, and perks up every time I hear the word “Vintage.” If something is popular, I tend to ignore it. If something can be (mis)construed as a status symbol, I ignore it with every fiber of my hipster being.

Feel free to hate me.

I’ve noticed that my hipster-ish tendencies extend to the blogosphere. Many bloggers seem to be obsessed with acquiring ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies). Even though it’s completely irrational, seeing this obsession in other bloggers makes me not want ARCs. I’ve had my blog for three years now, and I’ve never reviewed an ARC. It’s rare for me to even review a new release. Almost all of my reviews are of backlist books.*

Since I’m very familiar with reviewing publishers’ backlists, I thought I’d share the pros and cons of sticking to the oldies.

*I’m defining “backlist books” as books that were published at least six months ago.

So You Want To Review Backlist Books? 



No ARC drama: ARC envy? Selling ARCs? Greedy bloggers at conferences? Constant ARC-related whining on Twitter? I can just sit back and roll my eyes (in that smug hipster way) at all the people behaving badly. The ARC drama does make bloggers look unprofessional, and it has hurt some of my blogger friends (which fills me with rage), but since I don’t review ARCs, it’s never had a huge impact on me personally. 

No pressure or deadlines: I don’t have to worry about NetGalley percentages or getting reviews up on time. I also don’t feel any pressure to keep up with the new books that are coming out. I read what I want, when I want. If I don’t post a review of a certain book, nobody cares.

Individuality: Sometimes, when I’m scrolling through Bloglovin’, it seems like every post is a review of the same super-hyped ARC or new release. There aren’t many hyped books on my blog.

Financially supporting authors and bookstores: I know that reviewing ARCs does support authors and bookstores, but when I pay money for a book, I know that my dollars are helping keep the things I love alive.


Forever alone: One of the most common comments on my blog is, “I’ve never heard of that book.” Since I usually don’t read what everybody else is reading, I miss out on a lot of excellent bookish conversations.

No “free” books: Books are expensive. Almost all of my books are used or scratch-and-dent, so they’re cheaper than new books, but they still cost money. I understand that ARCs aren’t really free because you have to put a lot of time and effort into your blog before publishers even consider you for ARCs, but still, reviewers aren’t supposed to pay money for ARCs. ARCs are given away in exchange for reviews. 

Pageviews? What pageviews? If you want a lot of people to visit your blog, don’t review backlist books. I put a stupid amount of time into my book reviews. Seriously, those things take me days to write. A review of a new release on my blog gets way more attention than a review of a backlist book. Since I rarely review new releases, my reviews don’t get many views. The backlist reviews I post on Goodreads usually get 0-1 “Likes.”

I don’t get to help build hype: Hype is actually a good thing. (My hipster brain exploded slightly when I typed that.) Hyped books make the money that allows authors, publishers, and booksellers to keep doing what they do. The hype for backlist books is either already over or never happened, so I don't get to be part of it.

Let’s discuss: Do you review ARCs, new releases, backlist books, or all three? Do you have any pros or cons to add to the list?

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Review: The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil – Stephen Collins

The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil – Stephen Collins

On the buttoned-down island of Here, all is well. By which we mean: orderly, neat, contained and, moreover, beardless. 
Or at least it is until one famous day, when Dave, bald but for a single hair, finds himself assailed by a terrifying, unstoppable . . . monster*! 
Where did it come from? How should the islanders deal with it? And what, most importantly, are they going to do with Dave? 
(*We mean a gigantic beard, basically.)

Review: You know you wanted to read this book as soon as you saw the title. Who wouldn’t want to read about an evil beard?

The main character, Dave, lives on an island called Here, where beards are not tolerated. Everything on Here needs to be neat, orderly, and changeless. Then, one day, Dave grows a giant beard. He doesn’t mean to grow it. It just happens. The beard grows so fast that it starts taking over the island. The residents of Here have to figure out what to do about it.

The art in this graphic novel is done in gray pencil drawings. The drawings aren’t always super-detailed, but they do a great job of capturing the bland sameness of Here. They get the point across.

The plot and characters have the humor and quirkiness you’d expect, but the story is surprisingly deep. Since I’d seen this book described as a “modern-day fable,” I knew the theme would go deeper than evil beards, but I didn’t expect it to resonate with me so much. I had planned on reading a few pages of this book before bed, but I ended up reading the whole thing in one sitting. It was too weirdly important for me to put down. I needed to finish it.

The story is about xenophobia, distrust of the “other,” and fear of change. The novel starts with Dave, but as the plot progresses, the residents of Here seem to forget that Dave exists. They only see his problematic beard. They don’t take the time to understand that Dave is embarrassed by his beard and just wants to fit in on the island. The islanders have a lot of “What to do about the beard” discussions, but Dave isn’t invited to the conversations. They forget that Dave is a human and not just a problem. Even though the plot of The Gigantic Beard that was Evil is silly, there are a lot of parallels between it and the real world. I guess that’s what makes a good fable, right?

“The job of the skin is to keep things in” – The Gigantic Beard that was Evil

My only criticism of the book is that the layout is choppy. Sometimes, one sentence is chopped up and scattered over a whole page of panels. For me, this layout disrupts the flow of the story because I kept getting distracted by the pictures while hunting for the next part of a sentence. The writing does have a nice, poetic rhythm to it, once you locate all the words and read them together.

If you’re ever in the mood for a bizarre fable about out-of-control facial hair, check this one out.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: YA Books Goodreads Thinks I Want To Read

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is all about recommendations.

I’ve never paid much attention to the Goodreads recommendations robot, but I’ve reviewed over 100 young adult books on that site, so I thought I’d look at it. Turns out, it’s not very accurate. I wasn’t interested in the overwhelming majority of the books it recommended. Most of them seemed too romancey, or too high school melodrama-ish, or too tropey. But here are some Goodreads recommendations that actually sound like books I’d read.

YA Books Goodreads Thinks I Want To Read (And I May Actually Want To Read)

The Raven Boys – Maggie Stiefvater

Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue never sees them—until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks to her. 
His name is Gansey, a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble. 
But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can't entirely explain. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul whose emotions range from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher who notices many things but says very little. 
For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She doesn't believe in true love, and never thought this would be a problem. But as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she's not so sure anymore.

Chains – Laurie Halse Anderson

As the Revolutionary War begins, thirteen-year-old Isabel wages her own fight . . . for freedom. Promised freedom upon the death of their owner, she and her sister, Ruth, in a cruel twist of fate become the property of a malicious New York City couple, the Locktons, who have no sympathy for the American Revolution and even less for Ruth and Isabel. When Isabel meets Curzon, a slave with ties to the Patriots, he encourages her to spy on her owners, who know details of British plans for invasion. She is reluctant at first, but when the unthinkable happens to Ruth, Isabel realizes her loyalty is available to the bidder who can provide her with freedom.

Black Helicopters – Blythe Woolston

Ever since Mabby died while picking beans in their garden—with the pock-a-pock of a helicopter overhead—four-year-old Valley knows what her job is: hide in the underground den with her brother, Bo, while Da is working, because Those People will kill them like coyotes. But now, with Da unexpectedly gone and no home to return to, a teenage Valley (now Valkyrie) and her big brother must bring their message to the outside world—a not-so-smart place where little boys wear their names on their backpacks and young men don’t pat down strangers before offering a lift. Blythe Woolston infuses her white-knuckle narrative, set in a day-after-tomorrow Montana, with a dark, trenchant humor and a keen psychological eye.

Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War – Steve Sheinkin

From Steve Sheinkin comes a tense, exciting exploration of what the Times deemed "the greatest story of the century": how Daniel Ellsberg transformed from obscure government analyst into "the most dangerous man in America," and risked everything to expose the government's deceit. On June 13, 1971, the front page of the New York Times announced the existence of a 7,000-page collection of documents containing a secret history of the Vietnam War. Known as The Pentagon Papers, these documents had been commissioned by Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. Chronicling every action the government had taken in the Vietnam War, they revealed a pattern of deception spanning over twenty years and four presidencies, and forever changed the relationship between American citizens and the politicians claiming to represent their interests. A provocative book that interrogates the meanings of patriotism, freedom, and integrity, Most Dangerous further establishes Steve Sheinkin as a leader in children's nonfiction.

Out Of Darkness – Ashley Hope Pérez

“This is East Texas, and there’s lines. Lines you cross, lines you don’t cross. That clear?” 
New London, Texas. 1937. Naomi Vargas and Wash Fuller know about the lines in East Texas as well as anyone. They know the signs that mark them. 
“No Negroes, Mexicans, or dogs.” 
They know the people who enforce them. 
“They all decided they’d ride out in their sheets and pay Blue a visit.” 
But sometimes the attraction between two people is so powerful it breaks through even the most entrenched color lines. And the consequences can be explosive. 
“More than grief, more than anger, there is a need. Someone to blame. Someone to make pay.” 
Ashley Hope Pérez takes the facts of the 1937 New London school explosion—the worst school disaster in American history—as a backdrop for a riveting novel about segregation, love, family, and the forces that destroy people.

Ashfall – Mike Mullin

Under the bubbling hot springs and geysers of Yellowstone National Park is a supervolcano. Most people don't know it's there. The caldera is so large that it can only be seen from a plane or satellite. It just could be overdue for an eruption, which would change the landscape and climate of our planet. 
For Alex, being left alone for the weekend means having the freedom to play computer games and hang out with his friends without hassle from his mother. Then the Yellowstone supervolcano erupts, plunging his hometown into a nightmare of darkness, ash, and violence. Alex begins a harrowing trek to search for his family and finds help in Darla, a travel partner he meets along the way. Together they must find the strength and skills to survive and outlast an epic disaster.

Black Dove, White Raven – Elizabeth Wein

Emilia and Teo's lives changed in a fiery, terrifying instant when a bird strike brought down the plane their stunt pilot mothers were flying. Teo's mother died immediately, but Em's survived, determined to raise Teo according to his late mother's wishes—in a place where he won't be discriminated against because of the color of his skin. But in 1930s America, a white woman raising a black adoptive son alongside a white daughter is too often seen as a threat. 
Seeking a home where her children won't be held back by ethnicity or gender, Rhoda brings Em and Teo to Ethiopia, and all three fall in love with the beautiful, peaceful country. But that peace is shattered by the threat of war with Italy, and teenage Em and Teo are drawn into the conflict. Will their devotion to their country, its culture and people, and each other be their downfall or their salvation?

A Brief History Of Montmaray – Michelle Cooper

Sophie FitzOsborne lives in a crumbling castle in the tiny island kingdom of Montmaray with her eccentric and impoverished royal family. When she receives a journal for her sixteenth birthday, Sophie decides to chronicle day-to-day life on the island. But this is 1936, and the news that trickles in from the mainland reveals a world on the brink of war. The politics of Europe seem far away from their remote island—until two German officers land a boat on Montmaray. And then suddenly politics become very personal indeed.

Have you read any of these? What did you think? Should I add any of them to my TBR list?