Monday, September 30, 2019

Reading Roundup: August 2019

Well, I'm finally caught up on these monthly reading roundups! At least until tomorrow:)

1. SKYLARK AND WALLCREEPER by Anne O'Brien Carelli An informative MG historical set in a small French town during World War II. Certainly worth a read.

2. ALL THAT MAKES LIFE BRIGHT by Josi S. Kilpack A novelized account of the early years of Harriet Beecher Stowe's marriage to Calvin Stowe. This story was hard to read at times, as, in Calvin's mind, Harriet never seemed to measure up to his late wife's legacy, but I appreciated their keep-trying attitude. I also appreciated Harriet's preference for writing over cooking and cleaning:)

3. EVER THE HUNTED by Erin Summerill The first in Ms. Summerill's YA fantasy duology, EVER THE HUNTED follows the outcast daughter of the king's favored--and recently murdered--bounty hunter. When the king's adviser tells her that the crown's prime suspect is her father's longtime apprentice--and Britta's longtime crush--she sets off to hunt him down. This could have gotten bogged down in a flat journey motif, but Britta's main objective shifted relatively often, so it kept things interesting.

4. MISS WILTON'S WALTZ by Josi S. Kilpack The last in my most recent flurry of Josi S. Kilpack requests, this sweet historical romance was also the hardest to remember. I read it as quickly as the others, though, so I must have enjoyed it:)

5. THE LAND OF FORGOTTEN GIRLS by Erin Entrada Kelly Ms. Kelly is the queen of heartbreaking MG reads, and this one was no different. It might not be the right book for kids who've grappled with abandonment or verbal abuse, though.

6. BLOODLEAF by Crystal Smith I liked this one a lot more than I expected to. The first chapters reminded me of Mary E. Pearson's THE KISS OF DECEPTION, but even though the twists were easier to see coming, the plot diverged enough from THE KISS OF DECEPTION's that it very much held my interest. I'll have to keep an eye out for its sequel, GREYTHORNE, which comes out next year.

7. VOW OF THIEVES by Mary E. Pearson Speaking of Mary E. Pearson, her sequel to DANCE OF THIEVES came out this month, and it didn't disappoint! I very much enjoyed this duology.

Did I really only read seven books in the month of August? Clearly, I've been slacking!

Monday, September 16, 2019

Reading Roundup: July 2019

Here's the second installment in my reading roundup catch-up!

1. INSIGHTS FROM A PROPHET'S LIFE: RUSSELL M. NELSON by Sheri Dew Russell M. Nelson, the current president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has been in the spotlight for as long as I've been in alive. Still, Ms. Dew managed to compile a pretty vast collection of lessons and anecdotes I'd never heard (or just forgotten). I liked learning more about his early career as a pioneering heart surgeon and the Christlike service he's performed in the United States and around the world. (Interesting side note: Ms. Dew is the president and CEO of the book's mainstream publisher. I wish I were the president and CEO of a mainstream publisher:) )

2. ONE DARK THRONE by Kendare Blake The cliffhanger ending--almost literally--of THREE DARK CROWNS sent me scrambling for this book, but I ended up liking it a little less than I liked the first. That might have been because my favorite of the triplets, Katharine, was wildly different in this sequel. (She had a very good reason to be different, and yet I, along with Pietyr, still missed the old Katharine.)

3. TWO DARK REIGNS by Kendare Blake Perhaps unsurprisingly, I liked this third book in the series a little less than I liked the second. Whereas the first book's plot felt tight and expertly crafted, I thought this one's plot meandered. It made me wonder if the books were victims of their own success (i.e., if the publisher asked Ms. Blake to stretch them out).

4. ARCHENEMIES by Marissa Meyer A fitting sequel to RENEGADES. These books are super long, but the world is detailed enough--and the characters and their relationships are conflicted enough--that their overall page counts just let you sink into them.

5. WE HUNT THE FLAME by Hafsah Faizal I'd been looking forward to this YA fantasy for months (at least in part because Ms. Faizal designed this website!), and the opening chapters were super promising. But once the book settled into its unfortunately generic journey motif, it had a harder time holding my interest.

6. HER GOOD NAME by Josi S. Kilpack A Christian romantic suspense that reminded me of the sorts of books I read as a young teenager. Hooray for nostalgic reads!

7. DIPLOMATIC IMMUNITY by Brodi Ashton A YA contemporary that poses an intriguing question: what shenanigans do diplomats' children get away with in our nation's capital? Ace reporter Piper Baird, who just won a scholarship to one of DC's top prep schools, is determined to find out. I thoroughly enjoyed Piper's voice and read this one pretty fast.

8. THE LAST WORD by Samantha Hastings I got to hear Ms. Hastings and several of her fellow Novel Nineteens talk at my local B&N, and this book sounded so fun that I had to pick it up. It didn't disappoint!

9. UNDER LOCKER AND KEY by Allison K. Hymas This MG contemporary was a rollicking read about a self-described retrieval specialist and a job gone wrong. I thought it was reminiscent of DON'T VOTE FOR ME in both setting and tone, and I think David and Jeremy would be the best of friends:)

10. THE LADY OF THE LAKES by Josi S. Kilpack A novelized account of Sir Walter Scott's in-real-life romance(s) that I quite enjoyed. (Did you know Walter Scott was knighted after discovering a cache of long-lost Scottish jewels? Because I sure didn't!) The book included chapter notes that separated fact from fiction, but I returned the book without remembering to read them. Still, the general premise made for a compelling story.

Have you read any of these, and if so, what did you think?

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Reading Roundup: June 2019

I've fallen woefully behind in these reading roundups, but I'm going to try to catch up over the next couple of weeks. Read on for June's reviews!

1. TURTLES ALL THE WAY DOWN by John Green If John Green wrote a mystery, it would sound just like this book. *pauses to listen to earpiece* Ladies and gentlemen, I've just been informed that John Green did write this book, so there you have it. I was right. I know Mr. Green is sometimes criticized for writing teenage characters who are far wittier and engaging than, say, actual teenagers, but I'd rather read a book with characters who say cool stuff than characters who, you know, don't.

2. STELLA BY STARLIGHT by Sharon M. Draper A delicate MG historical with a message that's still timely (since we can't seem to figure out how to treat one another with kindness and respect). Ms. Draper mentioned that this book was loosely based on her grandmother's childhood, which is super sweet, but the storytelling may have suffered because she was trying to be true to a factual account instead of a made-up one.

3. THREE DARK CROWNS by Kendare Blake I FLEW through this book. Though the premise seems far-fetched--three triplet princesses with competing supernatural powers must kill each other off if they want to take the throne--Ms. Blake totally sold it.

4. THE BEAUTY OF DARKNESS by Mary E. Pearson I LOVED Ms. Pearson's DANCE OF THIEVES, so imagine my delight when I learned she'd penned other books in the same well-thought-out world. The first half in particular completely sucked me in, and I must admit that I fell for Ms. Pearson's trickery hook, line, and sinker.

5. THE EMPEROR'S OSTRICH by Julie Berry No one does MG absurdity quite like Ms. Berry. Though I probably enjoyed THE SCANDALOUS SISTERHOOD OF PRICKWILLOW PLACE a little more, this was still a ton of fun.

6. THE KINGDOM by Jess Rothenberg One of my local librarians loves to talk books with me every time I check out, and this was one of her recent recommendations. I probably didn't love it quite as much as she did, but it was a diverting read.

7. FIELD NOTES ON LOVE by Jennifer E. Smith A contemporary romance with a ripped-from-the-headlines high-concept hook, this one's right up there with THE COMEBACK SEASON, THIS IS WHAT HAPPY LOOKS LIKE, and HELLO, GOODBYE, AND EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN on my list of Ms. Smith's favorites. (What can I say? I have a LOT of favorites...)

8. RENEGADES by Marissa Meyer This was a blind pickup at my local library, and it turned out to be a hit! Though the plot does move methodically, especially at first, I found both the characters and the world to be wonderfully developed. A much more nuanced look at a world controlled by superheroes than your average summer blockbuster.

What have you been reading lately?