Friday, December 29, 2023

2023 Rewind

Apparently, writing and posting one whole book review this year has motivated me to do a whole year rewind post. 😂 Let’s go!

2023: A Totally Insane Year. Am I Right?

It feels like the world has been living in some alternate universe the past few years, so I’m not trying to sound special when I say, 2023 has been a completely crazy year. Like, the kind where one year feels like three, and you hardly recognize your life anymore.

On the personal side, in 2023 I: went back to NYC for the first time in 10 years, got married, left my job of almost 10 years, started a business, ate some incredibly delicious food, drank a lot of coffee, cried a lot, and otherwise tried to keep my shit together. And again, I’m sure many of you can relate.

I Read Some Books, Too!

I actually completed my Goodreads Reading Challenge for the first time in TEN years! There’s that number 10 again, lol. I even OVERACHIEVED by reading 24 out of 23 books- YEAH! As I write this post, I might even SUPER OVERACHIEVE by squeezing in another book before 2023 ends. I can’t even!

I read a steady diet of self-help and business books this year, which is a very good indicator of how 2023 went. I was actually in the mood for a Christmas-y book this year, so I picked up The Twelve Days of Dash & Lily, which ended up being one of my favorite books of 2023. I only read 2 fiction books, Dash & Lily being one of them. Getting back into fiction made me realize how much I’ve missed it and that I need to read more of it in 2024.

I also attended a local bookstore event with Chloe Gong in September. She did a Q & A and then very graciously signed everyone’s books. It was a lot of fun to listen to her talk about her books and writing, and she was super sweet chatting with everyone while signing their books.

Dear 2024: Please Be Kind to Everyone

Seriously. 😂 I hope 2024 brings everyone peace, happiness, and lots of good books!

Monday, December 25, 2023

Review: The Twelve Days of Dash & Lily by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan

The Twelve Days of Dash & Lily (Dash & Lily #2)
By Rachel Cohn & David Levithan
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased

To Sum It Up: It’s Lily’s absolute favorite time of the year, but the Christmas season just isn’t the same with all of the changes happening in her family. As much as Dash has tried to be there for her, Lily worries that things just aren’t right between them. Now it’s up to Dash, not exactly the biggest Christmas fan, to try and revive Lily’s holiday spirit.

Review: It’s been a hot minute since I read a YA book. It’s been an even hotter minute since I wrote a book review. And just to belabor the point, I last read a Christmas book in 2018.

So what prompted 2023’s sudden burst of motivation to do all the things? A strong possibility is the steady diet of self-help and business books I’ve been reading all year. It was time to switch gears, and what better way to do so AND get into the holiday spirit by catching up with some familiar fictional characters?

I loved Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares and felt a bit dismayed when I saw meh reviews for the follow-up, The Twelve Days of Dash & Lily. But it’s been such a strange year that I summoned some optimism and dove in.

First, let me say how wonderful it was, indeed, to read about these two characters again. I didn’t realize how much I’d missed Dash’s snark and Rachel Cohn and David Levithan’s gift for capturing New York City’s incomparable character, especially during the holiday season.

I get why some readers viewed the book with mixed feelings. We quickly learn that Lily’s beloved grandfather has suffered a heart attack and is still undergoing a challenging recovery, with Lily insisting upon being his primary caregiver. All the time she’s been spending with her grandfather has not only meant seeing less of Dash, but it’s also put a huge damper on Lily’s normally indomitable Christmas spirit. Dash is trying to support his girlfriend as best he can, but sometimes Lily longs for more from him, especially with expressing his feelings.

I admit that at first, Lily wishing that Dash fit the perfect boyfriend mold prompted a small eyebrow raise from me because it came across kind of petulant in a, “Why can’t Dash just do X?” “Why can’t Dash be more Y?” way. But Lily learns from some older and wiser adults in her life that Dash can’t read her mind. That’s when I also called myself out for also being guilty of the same expectation. So then I applauded Lily’s character growth for its realism.

While Lily is understandably not the ebullient Lily from the first book, that’s not to say there’s not lots to love about this sequel, like anatomically correct gingerbread men, glitter-related injuries, the logic (or lack thereof) of Dash’s friend, Boomer, and the sage observations of Lily’s great-aunt, Mrs. Basil E. If you enjoyed Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares, go ahead and give this one a read.

All in All: Just what Santa ordered in a Christmas read.

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Review: Ghost Girl by Ally Malinenko

Ghost Girl by Ally Malinenko
Ghost Girl
By Ally Malinenko
Katherine Tegen Books
Format: eARC
Source: Sparkpoint Studio

To Sum It Up: In the small town of Knobb’s Ferry, not far from the famous Sleepy Hollow, Zee Puckett stands out, and not in a good way. All Zee wants is to tell her spooky stories and hang out with her best friend Elijah, but her shock of white hair makes her an easy target for teasing at school. It also doesn’t help that it’s just Zee and her older sister, Abby, having lost their mother when Zee was born and their father now gone in search of work elsewhere. As long as Zee has her stories and her friendship with Elijah, though, she can weather anything until a storm rolls through Knobb’s Ferry and seems to bring something very sinister with it. Zee soon learns that while she may love spinning scary tales, it’s a completely different thing to actually find herself living in one.

Review: With Halloween not that far away, now is the perfect time to start getting into the ghostly groove with a chilling read like Ghost Girl that also manages to warm your heart. Zee Puckett is a sixth grader in the small town of Knobb’s Ferry, which the book mentions is near the fabled Sleepy Hollow. Ally Malinenko does a great job of establishing a setting where everybody knows everybody and their business, the type of place where a girl like Zee, with her white hair, unusual name (Zee is short for Zera), and love for telling scary stories, attracts unwanted attention from other kids. It’s a good thing Zee has her best friend Elijah, the only person in Knobb’s Ferry who really gets her. Their friendship is one of the book’s standout parts.

The paranormal aspect starts creeping in when a fierce storm rocks the town and little by little begins affecting its residents. Zee and Elijah quickly realize that something is very amiss and that they are central to whatever is going on. While the identity of the villain isn’t all that hard to figure out, there’s still a good amount of mystery surrounding what exactly is happening in Knobb’s Ferry. Malinenko builds just the right amount of suspense, punctuated by some wonderfully frightening moments.

Ghost Girl also focuses on some very human elements, such as standing up for yourself and not assuming that you know everything that another person may be going through based solely on outward appearances. Perhaps the most important point that the book addresses is that no one can take something away from you that is not given freely. Although these may sound like heavier themes for a middle grade read, Malinenko incorporates them in a manner that’s subtle yet powerful.

With an ominous atmosphere, deep character development, and ample thrills, Ghost Girl more than lives up to the expectations of its eerie title. I definitely hope to see more adventures featuring Zee and her friends.

All in All: A perfect read for the fast approaching spooky season that will appeal to readers of all ages!

Monday, February 8, 2021

Review: Game Changer by Neal Shusterman

Game Changer
By Neal Shusterman
Quill Tree Books
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
Publication Date: February 9, 2021

To Sum It Up: Ash Bowman is a high school football player with a seemingly normal life until a hard hit during a game leaves him with the feeling that things aren’t quite right—and they aren’t. Ash, however, appears to be the only person who fully realizes that the world has changed, and not necessarily for the better. Whatever is happening around him also awakens Ash to the fact that he truly hasn’t been seeing what life is like for people who aren’t as privileged as he is. As the world continues to shift, Ash discovers that he may be able to bring about positive change, but even the smallest slip could create a new, bleak reality that is permanent.

Review: Neal Shusterman’s Arc of a Scythe trilogy blew me away with its unique premise and brilliant writing, and so I was thrilled to dive into his newest release, Game Changer. One of my favorite things about the Arc of a Scythe series was its deft, multilayered storytelling, and Shusterman doesn’t disappoint in that department here with Game Changer.

At first Game Changer appears to be a novel about an archetypal All-American high school football player named Ash Bowman. But when Ash takes a particularly hard hit on a play during a game, it literally shakes his entire world. Blue stop signs are now the norm. Ash knows something is amiss, but most of his family and friends do not. As he maneuvers this seemingly new world, Ash begins to discover that blue stop signs are the least alarming aspect.

Finding out the impact of that single event during the football game as Ash does makes for compelling reading. What exactly is going here to cause these shifts in the world? The answer involves a sci-fi twist that I thought was well done, and I’m not much of a sci-fi reader. This book reminded me a bit of David Levithan’s excellent Every Day. As he did with Arc of a Scythe, Shusterman is so great at immersing you in a world that, sometimes very eerily, isn’t too farfetched from what we know.

The heart of this book, though, lies in its timely exploration of some of the most pressing social issues we face, including racism, homophobia, and sexism. At the beginning of the novel, the extent of Ash’s social awareness is his diverse circle of friends. As he finds himself thrown into alternate universes, his white, heterosexual male privilege becomes more and more glaringly apparent to him.

While some readers may feel that the novel tries to take on too many weighty topics at once, and granted, each of them individually could absolutely be the subject of their own book, for me the takeaway here was the overall development of Ash’s realization of just how privileged and comfortable his life was back in his original world. And although his attempts to effect sweeping change and correct the injustices he can now see more clearly are sincere, they can come off seeming a bit of a simplistic approach to extremely complex problems. On the whole, though, this is a thought-provoking read that challenges how we often view the world only through the lens of our own experiences and demonstrates the need to continue the work of truly seeing and listening to the multitude of perspectives that exist.

All in All: This is the fourth Neal Shusterman book that I’ve read, and I love how he blends an impactful look at societal issues with a sci-fi/alternate universe twist. I find that his books leave me thinking about them for some time after I’ve read the last page, and Game Changer will definitely be staying with me for a while.

Monday, August 3, 2020

Review: The Enforcer Enigma by G.L. Carriger

The Enforcer Enigma by G.L. Carriger
The Enforcer Enigma (San Andreas Shifters #3)
By G.L. Carriger
Gail Carriger
Format: eARC
Source: Author

To Sum It Up: After spending many years of his werewolf existence searching for a pack where he felt he truly belonged, Judd seems to have finally found a home with the San Andreas Pack. And then there’s Colin—Judd’s pack mate and the person whom Judd can picture himself being with for the rest of his life. Colin, however, is used to being invisible and doesn’t feel he has anything to contribute to his pack, let alone to a relationship. As the pair attempt to work through the obstacles in the way of their happiness together, they also find themselves caught up in some intrigue involving selkies who also happen to gangsters as well as a rather unwelcome figure from Colin’s past.

Review: The San Andreas werewolf pack has returned, and not a moment too soon! The Enforcer Enigma is the third book in Gail Carriger’s paranormal romance San Andreas Shifters series, this time centering around Judd, one of the pack’s enforcers, and Colin, the pack’s quietest member who was basically abandoned by his parents and as a result, struggles with finding a sense of worth not only to the pack, but also to himself. Kind and patient Judd would love nothing more than to call Colin his mate for the rest of their lives, but Colin’s insecurity and Judd’s hesitation over their age difference pose challenges to a possible future together. The book follows their burgeoning relationship while also featuring a subplot with an otter shifter/barista, a country music superstar/Alpha werewolf, and selkie mobsters. Intrigued? You definitely should be!

One of the hallmarks of this series is how much you find yourself rooting for the main character pairing to get together and get their happily ever after. Judd and Colin could not be sweeter as a couple. The development of their relationship is just so wonderfully written, with neither wanting to pressure the other into moving too quickly or making a long-term commitment. Seeing Judd, who has lived a long life as a werewolf, perhaps finally find love at last, and Colin, who has been starved of affection for the majority of his young life, become the center of another person’s universe will melt your heart.

As in the previous two books, the deep bond between the members of the San Andreas Pack shows its strength here. Not only does the pack have each member’s back, but it also embraces an extended family of supernatural friends. That circle widens with each book, and it’s simply lovely to see familiar faces from the other novels pop up.

I absolutely love, love, love the humor that Gail Carriger incorporates into all of her books, and The Enforcer Enigma won me over on the first page with a café named Bean There, Froth That. I’m still chuckling typing that! And who wouldn’t welcome some laughs right now? Not only that, and more significantly, there’s also a sweet story about finding acceptance, love, family, and home and learning that everyone unconditionally deserves a family who loves and accepts them for who they are.

All in All: An excellent follow-up to The Omega Objection! And yes—still giggling over Bean There, Froth That!