Book Review – Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin

Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin

I received this ARC from Netgalley.

First Line – My dear friend, Roz Horowitz met her husband online dating, and Roz is three years older, and fifty pounds heaver than I am, and people have said not as well preserved, so I thought I would try it even though I avoid going online too much.

Summary – Aviva Grossman, an ambitious congressional intern in Florida, makes the mistake of having an affair with her boss–and blogging about it. When the affair comes to light, the beloved congressman doesn’t take the fall. But Aviva does, and her life is over before it hardly begins: slut-shamed, she becomes a late-night talk show punch line, anathema to politics. She sees no way out but to change her name and move to a remote town in Maine. This time, she tries to be smarter about her life and strives to raise her daughter, Ruby, to be strong and confident. But when, at the urging of others, Aviva decides to run for public office herself, that long-ago mistake trails her via the Internet and catches up–an inescapable scarlet A. In the digital age, the past is never, ever, truly past. And it’s only a matter of time until Ruby finds out who her mother was and is forced to reconcile that person with the one she knows.

Highlights – Zevin has a way of writing about peoples flaws that feels very natural. You find yourself rooting for all the characters, and it doesn’t matter if you like them or not.

Lowlights – There were times where the story felt like it was being drawn out more than it needed to be.

FYI – Sexual situations and some strong language.

Book Review: Hunger

Hunger by Roxane Gay

First line: Every body has a story and a history.

Summary: A memoir told by Roxane Gay. It is a letter to and about her body. She looks back over her childhood and young adult life to see what led her to love her body. As an overweight woman in a culture that sees beauty in being skinny, she tells her story and how she has coped with the invisibility that is incorporated with it.

Highlights: The author’s writing style is very simple and easy to follow. She is very candid about her life and the tragic events that have happened to her. She is comfortable in who she is and she portrays this in her writing. She is unapologetic and outspoken. The chapters are very short and the book is a quick read but not always and easy one.

Lowlights: Many points that she makes become repetitive. And I had a tough time listening to her read and talk. You feel terrible for her but at the same time applaud her for being true to who she is. I have mixed feelings about this book. I understand being comfortable in your body but at the same time being healthy and taking care of yourself is important too. I liked that she was very upfront about her life and struggles.

FYI: Very open. Some language. All the feels.

Book Review: Leia, Princess of Alderaan

Leia: Princess of Alderaan by Claudia Gray

First line: The Day of Demand had been announced months before.

Summary: Leia Organa, the princess of Alderaan, has just turned sixteen. In order to be named heir to the throne she must complete three challenges. One for the body, the mind and the heart. As she sets off on humanitarian missions or working in the Apprentice Legislature or climbing mountains her mind is still on her homeland and her parents. Things have not been the same between herself and her family in last few months and she wants to know why. As her life in politics continues to expand, she is seeing the galaxy is fracturing and she has to decide which side she will be on.

Highlights: I have been a big fan of Star Wars since I was a child. Leia has always been a favorite of mine because she is a strong and independent woman. She fights her own battles. This look into her years before the start of the saga gives insight into where this princess learned how to shoot blasters and learned the politics of the Empire. There are many easter eggs and name drops that tie into the all the movies. It is easy to see the time that it takes place in the timeline. It was nice to be introduced to Leia’s mother The author did an amazing job of bringing to life the back story of one of the greatest female characters.

Lowlights: It is very much YA. There is romance between teens. Conflict with parents. Teenage angst.

FYI: Perfect for any Star Wars fan.

Harry Potter

2017 marks the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter!  As a person who loves all things Harry Potter this is a big year.  But this has not always been the case.

When the books were first released my dad bought them in the hope that they would get my younger sister interested in reading.  She has never been a reader and he had heard that this was something that was getting kids to read more.  But try as he might he never got her to pick one up.  He read the first four in quick succession.  I can remember listening to him laugh while he read the scene where Mad-Eye Moody turned Malfoy into a ferret and bounced him around the halls of Hogwarts.

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry at Universal Studios Orlando

I was not very interested in the stories of a young wizard because I preferred historical fiction.  They seemed silly to me until the day that one of my friends started reading them.  She started telling me how much she liked them and I decided to break down and try them out.  I was hooked from the first page.  I was a sophomore in high school when I started Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and the first movie was coming out in November.  In a month I had read books 1-4 and then the wait began for book 5 (in which I cried my eyes out at the end).  Then 6.  Then 7.  But the wait was worth it.

Fire breathing dragon above Gringotts at Universal Studios Orlando

Ever since I picked up that first book I have been a devoted fan.  I have pre-ordered all the books, went to the theaters for all the movies and visited the theme parks in Orlando.  When I visited the Wizarding World of Harry Potter I was instantly transported into the books.  The shops, actors and rides were breathtaking.  I spent Thanksgiving morning eating an English breakfast at The Three Broomsticks.  I downed multiple glasses of butter beer outside the Hog’s Head Inn.  I rode the Hogwarts Express.  I battled dragons, escaped from Gringotts and flew on a broom through the grounds at Hogwarts.  I even got myself a wand.  This is every Harry Potter reader’s dream!

Ashley in front of the Knight Bus at Universal Studios Orlando

I thank my dad (and my friend) every day for introducing me to the world of Harry Potter.  I found something that made me even more passionate about reading and expanded my world.  I love that still today I have kids come into the library looking for the books I read and love.  They are experiencing them for the first time and I envy them.  I re-read/re-listen to the books regularly and each time find something I missed before.

And now I have to go to London to visit the Harry Potter Studio Tour and see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child on stage at the Palace Theater.


Book Review: Origins

Origins by Dan Brown

First line: As the ancient cogwheel train clawed its way up the dizzying incline, Edmond Kirsch surveyed the jagged mountaintop above him.

Summary: Robert Langdon is back in his newest adventure. While attending a special screening at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, he witnesses the murder of his former student and friend, Edmond Kirsch. Kirsch, an outspoken atheist and billionaire scientist, is unveiling his most recent discovery that is going to rattle the religious communities around the world. Before he is able to reveal his research, he is shot on live television. With the help of the future Queen of Spain, Ambra Vidal, Robert has to evade the police and find out how to release Kirsch’s presentation before the killer finds him.

Highlights: As with all the Robert Langdon books this one is fast paced and filled with codes and twists. I would love to have his eidetic memory and knowledge. My favorite parts of Dan Brown’s novels are that he takes you to real places and uses facts for his story. I was constantly Googling the locations and facts to find out more and to see pictures. I have never visited or studied much about Spain but now I am very interested. I love the way the suspense builds throughout the novel. He keeps the reader invested and itching to learn more.

Lowlights: I struggled at the end when the science behind everything is explained. I skipped around during this chapter in order to keep myself interested. Since I have read all the other Robert Langdon books, I was looking for the shocking ending. I was able to guess some of the twists because I look for them. However, I was satisfied.

FYI: Book 5 in the Robert Langdon series.

Fantasy Series for Magic Tree House Fans

The Kingdom of Wrenly Series by Jordan Quinn

If you’ve ever stepped onto the grounds of a Renaissance Faire, you know the thrill of seeing armored knights jousting on war horses, kings and queens reveling in court gossip, and sacred fairies and elves shouting at you from treetops. All of this and more can be found in the amazing young reader series, The Kingdom of Wrenly by Jordan Quinn!

I am a sucker for a good middle-grade series, especially one that captivates the imagination while still being both accessible to new readers and not watered down in plot or character development for the sake of younger audiences. The Kingdom of Wrenly series is as rich as the fantasy worlds of Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones, but with a tone that is both exciting and comforting.

Prince Lucas is the son of the King and Queen of the realm of Wrenly, a land of wizards and mermaids, fairies and gnomes. Along with his best friend Clara and his pet dragon, Riskin, Lucas has many adventures in Wrenly from battling a giant sea monster to stopping a witch’s curse.

Each book contains a map of the realm of Wrenly!!

The series has 12 books so far (we have 11 and the 12th one is on its way) and while the books are best read in order, readers can jump around without missing too much. Each book is like an “episode” in the world Wrenly and follows Lucas and Clara on an adventure that shows a new part of the fantastical realm. The books are on average 100 pages in length and each page has an amazing illustration or graphic to break up the text. The books are in the same writing style and format as the Magic Tree House Series by Mary Pope Osbourne and excellent for readers who are ready for both chapter books and a beginner level fantasy series. If your reader is looking for a series that is both accessible and entertaining, I would highly recommend the Kingdom of Wrenly series!

P.S. If you would like additional activities about the Kingdom of Wrenly, check out the publisher’s website for the series, for coloring sheets, a word search, quizzes, and more!


November new releases

There’s definitely a chill in the air and we’ve seen our first forecast for possible snow (already?! it’s far too early for snow!). Break out the hot cocoa and some marshmallows, find a soft blanket to curl up in, and grab a good book! If you’re looking for something new, here are a few books scheduled for release this month (all of them before Thanksgiving!) that we recommend.

Nov. 7: Now is Everything by Amy Giles (young adult)
Hadley Macauley is at the center of this debut novel, told in alternating then and now chapters. Hadley’s family may look like a perfect family from the outside, but they are hiding a dark secret. Hadley is doing everything she can to keep her sister safe from their father, but after Hadley’s relationship with Charlie deepens, a violent incident at home changes everything. After Hadley attempts suicide, everyone wants to know what happened that day at home, and Hadley’s not saying a word.

Nov. 7: Renegades by Marissa Meyer (young adult)
From the author of the Lunar Chronicles comes the first in a new series about a syndicate of good guys who rose after society crumbled and chaos ruled—the Renegades. As champions of justice, they’ve brought about peace and order, which is appreciated by everyone but the villains they’ve vanquished. Nova is on a mission of vengeance for a villain who has the power to crush her, and when she meets Adrian, they both end up in danger.

Nov. 14: Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson (The Stormlight Archive #3)
Brandon Sanderson does epic fantasy with the best of them, and the third installment in The Stormlight Archive series is no different. Humanity is facing a new Desolation in the Voidbringers. The violent Everstorm is sweeping the world with destruction. But nestled in the mountains above the storms, Shallan Davar unearths dark secrets in the ancient stronghold of the Knights Radiant. Previous books in The Stormlight Archive: The Way of Kings (#1), Words of Radiance (#2), and Edgedancer (#2.5).

Nov. 14: Artemis by Andy Weir
New science fiction from the bestselling author the The Martian is set in the near future in a city on the moon. Life in Artemis is pretty rough if you aren’t one of the rich tourists, so a little smuggling won’t hurt anything and certainly helps pay the bills. But when Jazz gets the chance to pull of a perfect crime, what could go wrong? Until she finds herself in the middle of a conspiracy for control of the city itself.

Nov. 21: The Magic Misfits by Neil Patrick Harris (middle grades)—this book is on order so is not available yet on the catalog
Carter is a street magician. When he runs away to a sleepy New England town, he finds friends and more magic. After a greedy boss and some crooked carnies move into town, Carter teams up with five more kids who think like he does. They set out to rid the town of the bad guys, using magic and teamwork, and in the meantime, find friendship, adventure and their own self-worth.

Nov. 21: The Story of Arthur Truluv by Elizabeth Berg
From Goodreads: “A moving novel about three people who find their way back from loss and loneliness to a different kind of happiness. Arthur, a widow, meets Maddy, a troubled teenage girl who is avoiding school by hiding out at the cemetery, where Arthur goes every day for lunch to have imaginary conversations with his late wife, and think about the lives of others. The two strike up a friendship that draws them out of isolation. Maddy gives Arthur the name Truluv, for his loving and positive responses to every outrageous thing she says or does. With Arthur’s nosy neighbor Lucille, they create a loving and unconventional family, proving that life’s most precious moments are sweeter when shared.”

Book Review: Mr. Dickens and His Carol

Mr. Dickens and His Carol by Samantha Silva

First line: On that unseasonably warm November day at One Devonshire Terrace, Christmas was not in his head at all.

Summary: Charles Dickens had instant success with his first books but his most recent one was a flop. When the publishing firm begins to lose money, they devise an ultimatum. Write a Christmas story or pay back the advance. With less than six weeks left between the notification and Christmas Eve, Dickens has very little time to figure out his biggest success, A Christmas Carol.

Highlights: This was a very cozy little novel about one of my favorite stories. I have watched many adaptations of Dickens’ novel with my favorites being The Muppet Christmas Carol and Scrooge (with Albert Finney). The fact that this story was written in such a short period is shocking. I liked the Easter eggs in the story that tie in with A Christmas Carol. While reading I wanted it to be Christmas time and have a cup of tea. Very good debut novel!

Lowlights: There was a lot of buildup but not enough bang at the end. It was cozy and not as gripping as I hoped.

FYI: Spoilers! I have not read all of Dickens work but now I know how some of them end. Its okay. I guess after 150+ years everyone should know the stories and their endings.

#dinovember Dinosaur Bios Part Two

Name: Bob
Species: Dimetrodon
Temporal Range: Permian Period, 295-272 million years ago
Bio: The other dinos keep reminding me that I’m not a real dinosaur. It’s true. I’m not. But they still let me hang out with them.
Favorite Book: The Magnificent Book of Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Creatures by Tom Jackson

Name: Stella
Species: Triceratops
Temporal Range: Cretaceous Period, 70-65 million years ago
Bio: The other girls keep telling me I should put a big purple bow on my neck frill, but I’d rather use it to play soccer.
Favorite Book: Charge of the Triceratops (Dinosaur Cove #2) by Rex Stone

Name: Birdie
Species: Dilophosaurus
Temporal Range: Jurassic Period, 201-189 million years ago
Bio: Do you like my pretty pink crests on my head? I’m a dainty little Dilophosaurus that likes to eat sushi and do crafts, but not at the same time.
Favorite Book: Origami Dinosaurs by Anna George.

Name: Dewey
Species: Brachiosaurus
Temporal Range: Jurassic Period, 150-145 million years ago
Bio: My name is Dewey. My neck is long. That’s all I have to say.
Favorite Book: I Want to Be a Brachiosaurus by Thomas Kingsley Troupe

#dinovember Dinosaur Bios Part One

Name: Junior
Species: Tyrannosaurus Rex
Temporal Range: Cretaceous Period, 67-65 million years ago
Bio: Rex means King, and that’s me! My favorite thing to do it brush my huge, sharp teeth. My real name is Thesaurus Rex, Jr., but you can call me Junior.
Favorite Book: Rex Wrecks It! by Ben Clanton

Name: Crag
Species: Stegosaurus
Temporal Range: Jurassic Period, 155-144 million years ago
Bio: Don’t mess with me! I might whack you with one of my spikes. I’m named after a rock, and I’m tough like one too.
Favorite Book: Oona Find an Egg (Oodlethunks #1) by Adele Griffin

Name: Story
Species: Apatosaurus
Temporal Range: Jurassic Range, 154-145 million years ago
Bio: I used to be called a Brontosaurus, but those silly paleontologists changed my name. My favorite thing in the world to do is read and eat salads at the same time.
Favorite Book: Dinosaurs Before Dark (Magic Tree House #1) by Mary Pope Osborne

Name: Marie
Species: Allosaurus
Temporal Range: Jurassic Period, 150-145 million years ago
Bio: A lot of people think I’m a T. Rex, but I’m an Allosaurus. They call me that because I eat ALL the other dinosaurs. Get it?!
Favorite Book: Linus the Vegetarian T. Rex by Robert Neubecker

Check out what our dinosaurs are up to on Facebook and Instagram. Just look for the #dinovember hashtag!