Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Frannie and Tru ~ Karen Hattrup (earc) review [@KarenHattrup @harperteen]

Frannie and Tru
Harper Teen
May 31, 2016
320 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depository/or Amazon


When Frannie Little eavesdrops on her parents fighting she discovers that her cousin Truman is gay, and his parents are so upset they are sending him to live with her family for the summer. At least, that’s what she thinks the story is. . . When he arrives, shy Frannie befriends this older boy, who is everything that she’s not–rich, confident, cynical, sophisticated. Together, they embark on a magical summer marked by slowly unraveling secrets.

Frannie gives us an idea of what we're - and she - are in for before we even meet Tru, before she sees him again, "Tru was bad, but people liked him."

Frannie has plans for Tru's summer stay with her family: he's going to save her summer, make it interesting and fun. It won't matter that she's starting a new school, where she knows no one, in the fall, that she and her three best friends are no longer friends.

As Frannie agrees to things and goes along with things, she realizes Tru is not who she made him out to be in her imagination or even who he seemed. But, maybe, Frannie isn't that same Frannie from the beginning of the summer, either.

The way we learn more about Frannie (and she learns about herself) as we also uncover some of the truths about Tru works really well. We know from the start that he's not everything he seems or everything Frannie wants, but all of the hows and whys and whats are not immediately clear.

Frannie and Tru deals with issues around race, religion, sexuality and money. They're so much a part of the characters' stories, though, such a true reflection of this time in their lives, who they are, where they live, that they're not 'issues' but facets of the characters.

Tru may not be who Frannie thought he was but his presence over the summer is still important to her and who she is. His visit does make for a remarkable summer, even if it's not how she expected.






received for review, from publisher, via Edelweiss

Monday, May 30, 2016

Memorial Day

Today is Memorial Day in the United States - a day for remembering those who've died in the country's armed forces. I thought I'd post some books that fit with the holiday.

In these titles either the main character or a secondary character has served in the military or has a loved one who has served or died in the military. (I planned to say who/how they fit with Memorial Day but realized it was spoilery so instead I'm just posting the book descriptions.)



I'll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios
review

If Skylar Evans were a typical Creek View girl, her future would involve a double-wide trailer, a baby on her hip, and the graveyard shift at Taco Bell. But after graduation, the only thing separating Skylar from art school is three months of summer…until Skylar’s mother loses her job, and Skylar realizes her dreams may be slipping out of reach.

Josh had a different escape route: the Marines. But after losing his leg in Afghanistan, he returns home, a shell of the cocksure boy he used to be.

What brings Skylar and Josh together is working at the Paradise—a quirky motel off California’s Highway 99. Despite their differences, their shared isolation turns into an unexpected friendship and, soon, something deeper.

Compelling and ultimately hopeful, this is a powerful examination of love, loss, and resilience.



Something Like Normal by Trish Doller
review
When Travis returns home from a stint in Afghanistan, his parents are splitting up, his brother’s stolen his girlfriend and his car, and he’s haunted by nightmares of his best friend’s death. It’s not until Travis runs into Harper, a girl he’s had a rocky relationship with since middle school, that life actually starts looking up. And as he and Harper see more of each other, he begins to pick his way through the minefield of family problems and post-traumatic stress to the possibility of a life that might resemble normal again. Travis’s dry sense of humor, and incredible sense of honor, make him an irresistible and eminently lovable hero.


Cracker!: The Best Dog in Vietnam by Cynthia Kadohata
CRACKER IS ONE OF THE UNITED STATES ARMY'S MOST VALUABLE WEAPONS:

a German shepherd trained to sniff out bombs, traps, and the enemy. The fate of entire platoons rests on her keen sense of smell. She's a Big Deal, and she likes it that way. Sometimes Cracker remembers when she was younger, and her previous owner would feed her hot dogs and let her sleep in his bed. That was nice, too.

Rick Hanski is headed to Vietnam. There, he's going to whip the world and prove to his family and his sergeant -- and everyone else who didn't think he was cut out for war -- wrong. But sometimes Rick can't help but wonder that maybe everyone else is right. Maybe he should have just stayed at home and worked in his dad's hardware store.

When Cracker is paired with Rick, she isn't so sure about this new owner. He's going to have to prove himself to her before she's going to prove herself to him. They need to be friends before they can be a team, and they have to be a team if they want to get home alive.

Told in part through the uncanny point of view of a German shepherd, Cracker! is an action-packed glimpse into the Vietnam War as seen through the eyes of a dog and her handler. It's an utterly unique powerhouse of a book by the Newbery Medal-winning author of Kira-Kira.


Duke by Kirby Larson
A poignant World War II story about a boy and his dog and his dad, and the many meanings of bravery, from Newbery Honor author Kirby Larson.

With World War II raging and his father fighting overseas in Europe, eleven-year-old Hobie Hanson is determined to do his part to help his family and his country, even if it means giving up his beloved German shepherd, Duke. Hoping to help end the war and bring his dad home faster, Hobie decides to donate Duke to Dogs for Defense, an organization that urges Americans to "loan" their pets to the military to act as sentries, mine sniffers, and patrol dogs. Hobie immediately regrets his decision and tries everything he can to get Duke back, even jeopardizing his friendship with the new boy at school. But when his father is taken prisoner by the Germans, Hobie realizes he must let Duke go and reach deep within himself to be brave. Will Hobie ever see Duke, or his father, again?
With powerful storytelling and gripping emotion, critically acclaimed author Kirby Larson explores the many ways bravery and love help us to weather the most difficult times.



Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Winter, 1945. Four teenagers. Four secrets.

Each one born of a different homeland; each one hunted, and haunted, by tragedy, lies…and war.

As thousands of desperate refugees flock to the coast in the midst of a Soviet advance, four paths converge, vying for passage aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship that promises safety and freedom.

Yet not all promises can be kept.

Inspired by the single greatest tragedy in maritime history, bestselling and award-winning author Ruta Sepetys (Between Shades of Gray) lifts the veil on a shockingly little-known casualty of World War II. An illuminating and life-affirming tale of heart and hope.


I Shall Be Near to You by Erin Lindsay McCabe
An extraordinary novel about a strong-willed woman who disguises herself as a man in order to fight beside her husband, inspired by the letters of a remarkable female soldier who fought in the Civil War.
Rosetta doesn't want her new husband Jeremiah to enlist, but he joins up, hoping to make enough money that they'll be able to afford their own farm someday. Though she's always worked by her father’s side as the son he never had, now that Rosetta is a wife she's told her place is inside with the other women. But Rosetta decides her true place is with Jeremiah, no matter what that means, and to be with him she cuts off her hair, hems an old pair of his pants, and signs up as a Union soldier.
With the army desperate for recruits, Rosetta has no trouble volunteering, although she faces an incredulous husband. She drills with the men, proves she can be as good a soldier as anyone, and deals with the tension as her husband comes to grips with having a fighting wife. Rosetta's strong will clashes with Jeremiah's while their marriage is tested by broken conventions, constant danger, and war, and she fears discovery of her secret even as they fight for their future, and for their lives. Inspired by more than 250 documented accounts of the women who fought in the Civil War while disguised as men, I Shall Be Near To You is the intimate story, in Rosetta’s powerful and gorgeous voice, of the drama of marriage, one woman’s amazing exploits, and the tender love story that can unfold when two partners face life’s challenges side by side.


The Mirk and the Midnight Hour by Jane Nickerson (Strands) 
review

A Southern girl. A wounded soldier. A chilling force deep in the forest.
All collide at night’s darkest hour.

Seventeen-year-old Violet Dancey has been left at home in Mississippi with a laudanum-addicted stepmother and love-crazed stepsister while her father fights in the war—a war that has already claimed her twin brother.

When she comes across a severely injured Union soldier lying in an abandoned lodge deep in the woods, things begin to change. Thomas is the enemy—one of the men who might have killed her own brother—and yet she's drawn to him. But Violet isn't Thomas's only visitor; someone has been tending to his wounds—keeping him alive—and it becomes chillingly clear that this care hasn't been out of compassion.

Against the dangers of war and ominous powers of voodoo, Violet must fight to protect her home and the people she loves.

From the author of Strands of Bronze and Gold comes a haunting love story and suspenseful thriller based on the ancient fairy tale of “Tam Lin.”




My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier & Christopher Collier

The classic story of one family torn apart by the Revolutionary War -- now with special After Words bonus features!

All his life, Tim Meeker has looked up to his brother Sam. Sam's smart and brave -- and is now a part of the American Revolution. Not everyone in town wants to be a part of the rebellion. Most are supporters of the British -- including Tim and Sam's father.
With the war soon raging, Tim know he'll have to make a choice -- between the Revolutionaries and the Redcoats . . . and between his brother and his father.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You ~ Lily Anderson (earc) review [@ms_lilyanderson @StMartinsPress]

The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You
St Martin's Griffin
May 17, 2016
352 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depository/or Amazon

Trixie Watson has two very important goals for senior year: to finally save enough to buy the set of Doctor Who figurines at the local comic books store, and to place third in her class and knock Ben West--and his horrendous new mustache that he spent all summer growing--down to number four.

Trixie will do anything to get her name ranked over Ben's, including give up sleep and comic books--well, maybe not comic books--but definitely sleep. After all, the war of Watson v. West is as vicious as the Doctor v. Daleks and Browncoats v. Alliance combined, and it goes all the way back to the infamous monkey bars incident in the first grade. Over a decade later, it's time to declare a champion once and for all.

The war is Trixie's for the winning, until her best friend starts dating Ben's best friend and the two are unceremoniously dumped together and told to play nice. Finding common ground is odious and tooth-pullingly-painful, but Trixie and Ben's cautious truce slowly transforms into a fandom-based tentative friendship. [Hiding the last sentence because it's spoilery]
The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You seemed to provide good evidence that wanting to read a book because Doctor Who and Whedon are mentioned in the description, the cover's awesome is more than good enough.

While it is true that you don't have to like Doctor Who or Buffy or Veronica Mars or Marvel (or DC) or Battlestar Galactica or any of the fandoms mentioned /referenced, you are definitely going to enjoy it if you do. (There's a character who doesn't get the other characters' references, so you won't be alone. You should watch, read them, though because they're good!)

and I really hope it's this kind of hair
Aside from being a book that can give us David Tennant's Doctor-y hair, Buffy references, Veronica Mars love (and remind me I wanted to read Saga), is an superb story. I didn't realize until after I'd finished it just how much I appreciated how the story unfolded and how true to the main character, Trixie, it was.

When her two best friends decide they want to have boyfriends, it's not something Trixie is ready to go along with. Not only does she not think that her love of comic books and sci-fi makes her, "like a twelve-year-old boy," (pg 18) no one would want to date, she wants to focus on her grades, graduating and going to college.

That's why I loved that, though there is a romantic storyline and it is a focal point, it's not absolutely front and center. There is still the friendship between Trixie, Meg and Harper; there's everyone's stress over grades and rank; an academic scandal and how it impacts everyone; and her friends possible romances.

Something romantic doesn't become all of Trixie's life and focus so I loved how that was reflected in the book.

The other, major thing I loved was how things changed between Ben and Trixie. You knew from the beginning - even without the book description - that something would happen between them. Their arguing and sniping, however, is not faux-dislike-that's-actually-flirting. There were a few instances where they seemed genuinely mean to each other and I worried how it would transform into something more amiable without seeming fake. That how was great and really fit the characters while letting readers be okay with the change, too.

(The school for geniuses aspect and all it entailed was a lot of fun, as well.)

Because how can I not?





received for review form publisher, via NetGalley

Monday, May 23, 2016

Devil & the Bluebird ~ Jennifer Mason Black (earc) review [@CosDrift @abramskids]

Devil and the Bluebird
Amulet Books
May 17, 2016
336 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depository/or Amazon

“Devil-at-the-crossro“Devil-at-the-crossroads” folklore finds its way to YA via this moody, magical tale

Blue Riley has wrestled with her own demons ever since the loss of her mother to cancer. But when she encounters a beautiful devil at her town crossroads, it’s her runaway sister’s soul she fights to save. The devil steals Blue’s voice—inherited from her musically gifted mother—in exchange for a single shot at finding Cass.

Armed with her mother’s guitar, a knapsack of cherished mementos, and a pair of magical boots, Blue journeys west in search of her sister. When the devil changes the terms of their deal, Blue must reevaluate her understanding of good and evil and open herself to finding family in unexpected places.

In Devil and the Bluebird, Jennifer Mason-Black delivers a heart-wrenching depiction of loss and hope.ads” folklore finds its way to YA via this moody, magical tale

Meeting the devil at a crossroads to make a deal isn't a new idea, especially not when the person doing that meeting is a musician. Famously there's the story of Robert Johnson, the blues singer who sold his soul to the devil for his musical talent:


he was even part of Supernatural with his crossroads demon/devil"



Devil and the Bluebird doesn't ignore that legendary history, instead Blue Riley is aware of Robert Johnson, of the story around meeting the devil at a crossroads. Still, knowing all of that, she makes a deal. Not for her own talent, though she takes her mother's guitar with her everywhere, but instead trying to save her sister's soul.

Deals with the devil are never easy and now Blue's left to try to find her sister Cass, but without the use of her voice.

Even once we hear the stipulations on Blue's deal - what she has to do, what she can and cannot do - I anticipated a different sort of journey for her. The author came up with unexpected hardships for Blue to encounter but also assistance from unexpected sources. Despite the 'devil-at-the-crossroads' beginning to it all, it was easy at times to forget there was something magical about Blue and her story - until you're reminded in a fantastic way.

The characters Blue encounters are unique and compelling. Some of them wish well for her while others threaten danger but they each play a part in Blue's quest to find Cass and in her discoveries about herself, life and the world.

There were a few parts of the story that I still don't know that I really get. How certain things worked, why they did or why the character(s) trusted that they would, who someone was, etc  If I stop and think, try to figure them out, it makes me question things. I enjoyed the book enough, who Blue is and was, what happened, (okay, who Lola was, honestly, too) that I am happy not contemplating every little thing but just enjoying it.

This really is a good, magical, thoughtful tale full of emotion and some unexpected twists.









review copy received from publisher, via NetGalley

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Gena/Finn ~Hannah Moskowitz & Kat Helgeson (earc) review [@hannahmosk @katmankat @ChronicleBooks]

Gena/Finn
Chronicle Books
May 17, 2016
287 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depository/or Amazon



The story follows the unlikely friendship of two young women forged via fan fiction and message boards, and is told entirely in texts, chats, and blog posts.

Gena (short for Genevieve) and Finn (short for Stephanie) have little in common. Book-smart Gena is preparing to leave her posh boarding school for college; down-to-earth Finn is a twenty-something struggling to make ends meet in the big city. Gena’s romantic life is a series of reluctant one-night-stands; Finn is making a go of it with long-term boyfriend Charlie. But they share a passion for Up Below, a buddy cop TV show with a cult fan following. Gena is a darling of the fangirl scene, keeping a popular blog and writing fan fiction. Finn’s online life is a secret, even from Charlie. The pair spark an unlikely online friendship that deepens quickly (so quickly it scares them both), and as their individual “real” lives begin to fall apart, they increasingly seek shelter online, and with each other.
I have always liked epistolary novels - you know, the ones that are told entirely through letters written by and/or between characters - so it seems natural that I now really enjoy books told through emails, IMs, blog posts, texts, etc. Even better with Gena/Finn, though, is that it is a fandom-having novel.

I loved that this was a book with fandom, fangirls, fanfic and even a con in it but especially that it felt real.

Obviously that's because it was: from author Hannah Moskowitz's Goodreads review of the book, "Once upon a time I met my best friend through fandom, and we wrote a book about two girls who meet their best friend through fandom."  But it was a more enjoyable read that the little parts like fanfic summaries) were what fanfic summaries are, not what some author who isn't in any fandom imagines them to be or sees while researching.

It really lets you focus on the characters and their friendship, which are great. There was a lot more to both of them - form Genevieve or Gena's ('pronounced like Jenna,' [pg 55] by the way) past and all that she's dealing with as she graduates from boarding school and heads to college to Finn and her attempts at being finished with college, finding a job, living with her boyfriend.

Things became much more stressful and complicated for the two of them than I saw coming but it made for a great read and really showed the extent of their friendship - and its trials. I loved that things got hard, they got messy and confusing but it was real and true and properly hard and messy and confusing. It made for a better read than the lighter one I thought I was getting. (I alos really liked Charlie once we got to see, well hear/read, more from him.)

With what the characters are dealing with (including starting college, starting life after college, Finn's relationship with Charlie, etc) this is more of a New Adult than a Young Adult book but great for both audiences.








received for review, from publisher, vai NetGalley

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

100 Days of Cake ~ Shari Goldhagen (earc) review [@sharigoldhagen @simonteen]

100 Days of Cake
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
May 17, 2016
352 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depository/or Amazon

Get well soon isn’t going to cut it in this quirky and poignant debut novel about a girl, her depression, an aggressive amount of baked goods, and the struggle to simply stay afloat in an unpredictable, bittersweet life.

There are only three things that can get seventeen-year-old Molly Byrne out of bed these days: her job at FishTopia, the promise of endless episodes of Golden Girls, and some delicious lo mien. You see, for the past two years, Molly’s been struggling with something more than your usual teenage angst. Her shrink, Dr. Brooks isn’t helping much, and neither is her mom who is convinced that baking the perfect cake will cure Molly of her depression—as if cake can magically make her rejoin the swim team, get along with her promiscuous sister, or care about the SATs.

Um, no. Never going to happen.

But Molly plays along, stomaching her mother’s failed culinary experiments, because, whatever—as long as it makes someone happy, right? Besides, as far as Molly’s concerned, hanging out with Alex at the rundown exotic fish store makes life tolerable enough. Even if he does ask her out every…single…day. But—sarcastic drum roll, please—nothing can stay the same forever. When Molly finds out FishTopia is turning into a bleak country diner, her whole life seems to fall apart at once. Soon she has to figure out what—if anything—is worth fighting for.

100 Days of Cake is very much a serious and weighty but also humorous tale. Author Shari Goldhagen gives readers a realistic, honest look at not only Molly's depression - the ups, the downs, the good days, the bad - but also how it's impacting her family.

Molly likes going to work at FishTopia, likes spending her days with Alex, eating lo mein and watching Golden Girls with him (they almost never have customers). She may not know how he actually feels about her or what their relationships is, but it works. More than what hse has with her sister Veronica or her mother (the not-quite-baker) who's making a new cake every day.

I liked that we saw Molly's different emotions and different 'moods' She is depressed and we do see points where that is painfully obvious - to both us and her - but also moments where she seems truly happy. Working at FishTopia, her mother's 100 days of cakes, her super eco-conscious best friend, Elle, and Elle's 'rabid possum' of a younger brother could all be too much, but it's not.

Molly's phrasing helps keep the story lighter and humorous. It was unique, fun and different. Though, at times it felt . . . maybe forced or something trying to be young rather than something that was. Mostly, I really liked it.

There's all of that going on around Molly, there's therapy with Dr B, days at the fist store, Elle and her brother, Molly's damaged relationship with V, her dropping the activities she seemed to love but it all works. In that it doesn't quite work as Molly is depressed.

There is no unnecessary drama here. Sure Elle yells at people about recycling, Molly's mother is trying to fix things with making a new cake every day though she can't bake, her sister is gorgeous and popular and perfect, who knows what she is to Alex - or what she wants to be. Somehow, though, even later when things are wrong or misinterpreted or a combination, it's not drama. It's complciated and real and emotional and confusing.

I liked Molly's character and her journey but also really liked Veronica and their mother. They're more in the background but as tings are more fully understood, their behaviors make perfect sense.

100 Days of Cake is a great read that is sad and anxious but hopeful and sweet, it is perfectly honest and real.







received for review, from publisher, via NetGalley

Monday, May 16, 2016

Summer Days & Summer Nights ~ Stephanie Perkins, et al (earc) review [@naturallysteph @StMartinsPress]

Summer Days & Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories
St. Martin's Griffin
May 17, 2016
400 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depository/or Amazon


Maybe it's the long, lazy days, or maybe it's the heat making everyone a little bit crazy. Whatever the reason, summer is the perfect time for love to bloom. Summer Days & Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories, written by twelve bestselling young adult writers and edited by the international bestselling author Stephanie Perkins, will have you dreaming of sunset strolls by the lake. So set out your beach chair and grab your sunglasses. You have twelve reasons this summer to soak up the sun and fall in love.

Featuring stories by Leigh Bardugo, Francesca Lia Block, Libba Bray, Cassandra Clare, Brandy Colbert, Tim Federle, Lev Grossman, Nina LaCour, Stephanie Perkins, Veronica Roth, Jon Skovron, and Jennifer E. Smith.

The contents of Summer Days & Summer Nights:

  • "Head, Scales, Tongue, Tail" by Leigh Bardugo (starts at 1%)
  • "The End of Love" by Nina LaCour (at 8%)
  • "Last Stand at the Cinegor" by Libba Bray (at 15%)
  • "Sick Pleasures" by Francesca Lia Block (at 25%)
  • "In Ninety Minutes, Turn North" by Stephanie Perkins (at 29%)
  • "Souvenirs" by Tim Federle (at 38%)
  • "Inertia" by Veronica Roth  (at 46%)
  • "Love is the Last Resort" by Jon Skovron (at 54%)
  • "Good Luck and Farewell" by Brandy Colbert (at 65%)
  • "Brand New Attractions" by Cassandra Clare (at 73%)
  • "A Thousand Ways This Could All Go Wrong"  by Jennifer E Smith (at 81%)
  • "A Map of Tiny Perfect Things" by Lev Grossman (at 90%)

This is the second season themed anthology edited by Stephanie Perkins, with the first being 2014's My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories (review). While I had previously read about the same percentage of the authors (ie all but a few) in this collection as the last, I had a larger number of books by My True Love Gave to Me's authors so this one felt a bit ore unknown.

One of the things I really love about anthologies, though, is the chance to read something new by authors I love but also (maybe even more so) to discover new authors. Summer Days & Summer Nights was fun because I got to do a sort of amalgamation of the two and see how I liked some authors I had only read one other thing by.

What I enjoyed most about this collection of a whole was its diversity. The tales ranged from sweet and realistic to horror-slash-comedy to near future, even the possibly autobiographical. The characters themselves and their relationships were more diverse than I anticipated: from ethnicity, sexual orientation, looks, past, whether they had money or didn't, were troublemakers or the 'good' one, they were unique and different. There were stories that dealt with mental health, with autism, with divorce, with death, and, you know, with demons.

As a whole, I really enjoyed this collection of short stories. Here are my ratings for them individually:


  • "Head, Scales, Tongue, Tail" by Leigh Bardugo 4/5 

  • "The End of Love" by Nina LaCour 4.5/5

  • "Last Stand at the Cinegor" by Libba Bray 4/5

  • "Sick Pleasures" by Francesca Lia Block 3.5/5

  • "In Ninety Minutes, Turn North" by Stephanie Perkins 4.5/5

  • "Souvenirs" by Tim Federle 3.5/5

  • "Inertia" by Veronica Roth 4/5

  • "Love is the Last Resort" by Jon Skovron 4/5

  • "Good Luck and Farewell" by Brandy Colbert 5/5

  • "Brand New Attractions" by Cassandra Clare 2.5/5

  • "A Thousand Ways This Could All Go Wrong"  by Jennifer E Smith 4.5/5

  • "A Map of Tiny Perfect Things" by Lev Grossman 4.5/5


  • The stories by Nina LaCour, Stephanie Perkins, Brandy Colbert, Jennifer E Smith and Lev Grossman were my favorite of the collection. It was a nice surprise that Stephanie Perkins contribution featured characters from her My True Love Gave to Me story. You do not have to have read that story to read this one, they are separate. But reading "It's a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown" can only be a good thing. (And you'll appreciate more what the furniture rearranging/Tetris entailed.)

    Brandy Colbert's story, "Good Luck and Farewell" was my favorite of them all and the only one I really, really wanted to continue and/or to be a full length story. I loved the characters we were introduced to, their backgrounds, the interaction we saw and what began. I really wanted more (though it is absolutely a satisfying, concluded short story).

    Cassandra Clare's tale, "Brand New Attraction," does get the lowest rating from me. I thought the world she imagined was great fun and unique. However, there was not enough characterization and (perhaps as a result) I never felt the 'romance' past. The characters said things but I didn't see or feel it.






    received, for review, from publisher via NetGalley

    Wednesday, May 4, 2016

    Shelter Dogs in a Photo Booth ~ Guinnevere Shuster (earc) review [@AndrewsMcMeel]

    Shelter Dogs in a Photo Booth
    Andrews McMeel Publishing
    May 03, 2016
    128 pages
    add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depository/or Amazon


    Man's best friend! What better way to showcase adoptable dogs than by letting their true personalities shine in a photo booth! In the tradition of the best-selling dog photography book, Underwater Dogs, Shelter Dogs in a Photo Booth wins the heart of all dog lovers.

    Often seen as sad, rejected, and behind cold metal bars, it's no wonder people would avoid images of shelter dogs awaiting forever homes. From talented photographer (and now public figure and adoption champion) Guinnivere Shuster comes Shelter Dogs in a Photo Booth, a guaranteed-to-make-you-smile photo book featuring shelter dogs in a brand-new light. Get ready to see the cutest canine portraits you’ve ever seen! Guinnevere’s fantastic photos went viral and have been featured on websites, in magazines, and on television programs all over the world: Good Morning America, NBC, ABC, MSNBC, The Huffington Post, Time, The Daily Mail . . . even celebrities have gotten in on the action: Amy Poehler, Cesar Millan, and Zooey Deschanel have made statements and posts declaring their love of Guinnevere’s work. After the adorable and up-for-adoption photos of these furry friends were seen and enjoyed by millions, adoption rates at Utah's Humane Society skyrocketed.

    The book features 100 dog photo booth style photographs, each accompanied by a short story about the dog's personality, how the dog ended up in the shelter, and the adoption date. A follow-up will conclude the book, with photos of some of them with their new families.

    A portion of the proceeds of this book will benefit the Humane Society of Utah and Best Friends Animal Society.

    If you love dogs and  looking at cute, funny, adorable, hilarious photos they can take and/or supporting animal shelters, Shelter Dogs in a Photo Booth is just for you.

    I heard a while ago that taking more flattering, attractive photos of dogs (and cats) up for adoption works much better than the standard, quick photo usually used. It's more endearing and the animals look more like who you'd want to be your new family member. I knew it but this was the first time I saw more than one or two examples.

    This is a book of fantastic pictures of dogs and you can really see how they helped the canines find new homes. Each page features four photos of the dog and a short paragraph about their personality, how they came to the Humane Society of Utah shelter, and when (sometimes how quickly) they were adopted. It's really only a few sentences but knowing just that bit more about the dog, usually including an age and breed/mix, was nice.

    (You can check out the Humane Society of Utah's Instagram to get an idea of what the photos look like - and maybe find yourself a new friend!)

    There are a few photos, at the end, of the dogs after they were adopted, some with their new families and a page about the Humane Society of Utah.

    It really is all about the dog photos, though - and supporting the shelter, of course.

    Shelter Dogs in a Photo Booth is the book to get if you like looking at dogs and supporting pet adoption.






    review copy received from publisher, via NetGalley

    Tuesday, May 3, 2016

    If I Was Your Girl ~ Meredith Russo (earc) review [@Mer_Squared @Flatironbooks]

    If I Was Your Girl
    Flatiron Books
    May 03, 2016
    272 pages
    add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depository/or Amazon

    A big-hearted novel about being seen for who you really are.

    Amanda Hardy is the new girl in school. Like anyone else, all she wants is to make friends and fit in. But Amanda is keeping a secret. She's determined not to get too close to anyone.

    But when she meets sweet, easygoing Grant, Amanda can't help but start to let him in. As they spend more time together, she realizes just how much she is losing by guarding her heart. She finds herself yearning to share with Grant everything about herself--including her past. But Amanda's terrified that once she tells him the truth, he won't be able to see past it.

    Because the secret that Amanda's been keeping? It's that she used to be Andrew.

    Will the truth cost Amanda her new life--and her new love?

    If I Was Your Girl is a universal story about feeling different--and a love story that everyone will root for.
    If I Was Your Girl is an emotional, thoughtful and fast read. In its focus on Amanda, a trans girl  who is moving in with her father and starting school in a new town where no one knows she was born a boy and named Andrew. It's her chance to start over, away form all of the bullying, violence and judgment.

    Things go even better than she expected and soon Amanda has her new life, new friends and a boyfriend. They all only know her as Amanda. Except, she's not sure she wants to keep such a big secret. Should she? Can she? And what would happen inf they knew the truth?

    I really enjoyed Amanda's story. The flashbacks to her life when she was still Andrew give us some great insight into who she is, how life was and some of the transition from Andrew to Amanda while allowing the main narrative - and Amanda - to stay focused on the now.

    I did find everyone in Amanda's new life maybe too accepting. Not because of her being trans, but simply her being the new girl. She seemed to have friends right away, guys interested in her right away and that immediate-best-friend(s)-for-the-new-girl is a thing for me.

    It also seemed like everyone was sharing their secrets incredibly quickly. The main narrative of the novel takes place over just a few months but Amanda seemed to find out/be told things by characters that they'd been keeping from everyone. It worked for deepening their relationships quickly, but sometimes felt a bit off. I know if this had been a book about any other main character I would have had a harder time with nearly every character having something that made them different. It was almost too much.

    Still, I loved Amanda's story, the way we saw how her being Amanda and not Andrew impacted hr parents and those relationships, the debates she had with herself (and others) over keeping her past a secret, how and what transpired. I liked that while the book skimmed over a lot of Amanda's transition to being Amanda, pieces were still included.

    If I Was Your Girl is a nicely done book, on an important subject that keeps itself about its characters and isn't just a 'message' book. You should read it.







    review copy received from publisher, via NetGalley

    Monday, May 2, 2016

    Traitor Angels ~ Anne Blankman (earc) review [@AnneBlankman @harperteen @BalzerandBray]

    Traitor Angels
    Balzer + Bray
    May 03, 2016
    400 pages
    add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depository/or Amazon


    Six years have passed since England’s King Charles II returned from exile to reclaim the throne, ushering in a new era of stability for his subjects.

    Except for Elizabeth Milton. The daughter of notorious poet John Milton, Elizabeth has never known her place in this shifting world—except by her father’s side. By day she helps transcribe his latest masterpiece, the epic poem Paradise Lost, and by night she learns languages and sword fighting. Although she does not dare object, she suspects that he’s training her for a mission whose purpose she cannot fathom.

    Until one night the reason becomes clear: the king’s man arrive at her family’s country home to arrest her father. Determined to save him, Elizabeth follows his one cryptic clue and journeys to Oxford, accompanied by her father’s mysterious young houseguest, Antonio Vivani, a darkly handsome Italian scientist who surprises her at every turn. Funny, brilliant, and passionate, Antonio seems just as determined to protect her father as she is—but can she trust him with her heart?

    When the two discover that Milton has planted an explosive secret in the half-finished Paradise Lost—a secret the king and his aristocratic supporters are desperate to conceal—Elizabeth is faced with a devastating choice: cling to the shelter of her old life or risk cracking the code, unleashing a secret that could save her father…and tear apart the very fabric of society.

    The beginning of Traitor Angels does a fantastic job introducing readers to both our main character Elizabeth Milton, that she is John Milton's daughter and who he is along with the time period. The novel is set in 1666 in England, a time and location combination I was mostly unfamiliar with. I liked how we're informed about the history of the English Civil War, John Milton's role, and the current state of things while still making it a part of the story. It is informative, but not an infodump.

    Elizabeth, with her different upbringing - sword fighting, learning multiple languages, being more educated than girls of the time - fits not only who is needed to put the clues together but also the right character for readers to understand the time period.

    The questions of science and religion that the characters, their different worlds and lives, and the events of the story bring up are interesting. They definitely fit well within the time period and what was believed then (scientifically and religiously) but many could still apply today. I thought that the characters and author did a nice job discussing things, coming to conclusions but not being offensive. (Judgmental maybe, but not offensive. Though, some more conservative Christians may take issue in a few places.)

    When it comes to the 'mystery' Elizabeth has to solve, I found some of the clues, their solutions and/or how the characters figured things out to be rather . . . convenient. It still made sense that Elizabeth be one of those piecing things together, and what she'd learned helped, but it was too easy for me.

    I'm still not that sure what I think about what that 'explosive secret' turned out to be. I did really like the characters, the questions and doubts they had about the workings of the world, each other, their role in society, science and religions. It really did take full advantage of the time period, recent events and the real (ie non-fictional) people included in the story.







    received from publisher, via Edelweiss, for review
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