Friday, July 21, 2017

Book Recommendations: It's Hot Outside! Part Two

A couple weeks ago I created a post inspired by the hot weather that featured books in which large bodies of water played some sort of role in the story. My second post inspired by the hot weather is for books set in -- you guessed it -- hot weather!

What Is the What

What is the What by Dave Eggers: This is the story of Achak Deng, a young boy (now a refugee in the United States) who sets out to escape from the civil war in Sudan. To do this, he walks through hot African deserts to Ethiopia. This book will leave you both parched and wanting to help out other war refugees who have suffered like this. (Review)

The Dragon’s Legacy (The Dragon's Legacy, #1)

The Dragon's Legacy by Deborah A. Wolf: If you'd like some epic fantasy to celebrate the summer heat, then you should give The Dragon's legacy a shot! The heat isn't the most prominent aspect in this novel, but the fact that this is set in a large desert-like setting really gives it that desert-like atmosphere. (Review)

Dune (Dune #1)

Dune by Frank Herbert: Okay, confession: I don't even like Dune - please don't throw things at me! I've tried, I honestly have. Three times I've tried to read this book. And three times I've given up. However, this is still a perfect desert book (you know, since it is set on the desert planet Arrakis and all) and it is a sci-fi classic for a reason, so I still want to recommend it to people who do love sci-fi, because most people seem to love it. It would have been remiss of me to leave it out.

Girl in Pieces

Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow: If you need something contemporary, here's one for you! This was one of the few contemporary books I read last year (I'm really not a huge fan of contemporary YA most of the time) and guess where it's set? That's right, the hot summer of Arizona. Get your water ready. (Review)

Walk on Earth a Stranger  (The Gold Seer Trilogy, #1)

Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson: This is set during the time of the Gold Rush and tells the story of a young girl named Lee who embarks on a journey to California. Needless to say, the sun and dirt are main characters. The second book in this trilogy, Like A River Glorious, has a similar hot setting! (Review)

Holes (Holes, #1)

Holes by Louis Sachar: I've saved the best for last. If you still feel like you need something to really make you sweat, Holes is your book. I mean, it's digging holes in the desert. What more do you need? The movie version is also fantastic and I will always love it.

What are some of your favorite books with hot settings? Have you read any of these?

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Black and Blue: Inside the Divide Between The Police and Black America by Jeff Pegues

Black and Blue: Inside the Divide Between The Police and Black America by Jeff Pegues. Prometheus Books, 2017. Hardcover, 279 pages.

Black and Blue centers on the tough, complex issue of the conflicts between the black community and police in America, and I commend Jeff Pegues for the in-depth and extremely careful work he has done with this book. Frankly, I was a bit worried before diving into this book: would this be objective? would it be fair? is it legitimate? From what I've read, the answer to all of these questions is 'yes,' along with the fact that this is an extremely well-written book. Pegues presents his research in a flowing, gripping manner that is highly engaging and readable.

Pegues is a CBS News Justice and Homeland Security Correspondent with many years of experience as a reporter, skills which he has used to construct an informative, staggering account of a major problem in the United States. Pegues really did an exemplary job providing fact and statistics regarding those in law enforcement, the black community, and issues of violence and conflict that occur. His many observations and facts regarding conversations he has with those involved in these issues were plentiful and thorough, which I feel provided much invaluable information and insight into why and how this issue has only seemed to have gotten worse over the years.

I greatly appreciated that Pegues presents arguments from both sides, which leads to a broad understanding of the struggles that exist on both of those sides and even how there are not even enough resources available to help tackle some of these issues. He describes how many law enforcement areas do not receive adequate funds to properly train police officers, which leads to many issues. Officers then do not have the ability -- or do not realize the need -- to get to know the community they police in. In addition, he expands on the fact that there is also an extreme lack of discipline among many law enforcement agencies, and much too much leniency regarding the bad cops.

One of the most important points that Pegues notes, however, is the fact that black communities are often neglected and left to fend for themselves, creating a bad cycle of poverty and inability to reach the opportunities and lifestyles of other communities.

This is a hard, frankly depressing read. What I really liked about Pegues' presentation was that although he did provide necessary commentary to bring ideas together, he also largely presented his conversations with people and observations in a manner that really lets the reader draw their own conclusions and understandings (which should be fairly obvious). Pegues was incredibly thorough, touching on every detail that he could think of. The only downside to this was that certain things felt a bit repetitive at times, but hey, I'd rather have repetition than a lack of information. There is no real conclusion that I can deduce from this as far as how to overcome these issues, however.

This book is definitely an eye-opener; even if you, like me, think that you know quite about this situation, there is a lot more to learn and be aware of. Overall, I've given Black and Blue  four stars!

*I received a copy of Black and Blue in exchange for an honest review. This has no bearing on my sentiments towards the book itself.*

You might also like:
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
What is the What by Dave Eggers

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday: The Clockwork Dynasty by Daniel H. Wilson

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights exciting upcoming releases that we can't wait to be released!

This week's upcoming book spotlight is:
The Clockwork Dynasty by Daniel H. Wilson
Publication Date: August 1st, 2017

From Goodreads:

The Clockwork Dynasty
"An ingenious new thriller that weaves a path through history, following a race of human-like machines that have been hiding among us for untold centuries, written by the New York Times bestselling author of Robopocalypse.

Present day: When a young anthropologist specializing in ancient technology uncovers a terrible secret concealed in the workings of a three-hundred-year-old mechanical doll, she is thrown into a hidden world that lurks just under the surface of our own. With her career and her life at stake, June Stefanov will ally with a remarkable traveler who exposes her to a reality she never imagined, as they embark on an around-the-world adventure and discover breathtaking secrets of the past...

Russia, 1725: In the depths of the Kremlin, the tsar's loyal mechanician brings to life two astonishingly humanlike mechanical beings. Peter and Elena are a brother and sister fallen out of time, possessed with uncanny power, and destined to serve great empires. Struggling to blend into pre-Victorian society, they are pulled into a legendary war that has raged for centuries.

The Clockwork Dynasty seamlessly interweaves past and present, exploring a race of beings designed to live by ironclad principles, yet constantly searching for meaning. As June plunges deeper into their world, her choices will ultimately determine their survival or extermination. Richly-imagined and heart-pounding, Daniel H. Wilson's novel expertly draws on his robotics and science background, combining exquisitely drawn characters with visionary technology--and riveting action."

This book sounds so unique and I really have no idea what to expect from it, but I'm pretty excited to read it! It sounds like there is a lot going on, and I love how mysterious it sounds -- especially since  history and and secrets are involved!

What do you think about this upcoming release? What are your anticipated upcoming releases?

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Tell Me Something Tuesday: Is It Easier to Read and Review Books That You Picked Up Yourself?

Tell Me Something Tuesday is a weekly discussion post hosted by Rainy Day Ramblings where a wide range of topics from books to blogging are discussed. Weigh in and join the conversation by adding your thoughts in the comments. If you want to do your own post, grab the question and answer it on your blog.

This week's discussion question is:

This is a great question that really made me stop and think. In general, for me the reviews that are easiest to write are those I have the strongest feelings about -- whether good or bad. If a book was mediocre, than I don't usually have as much to say, and it's often more difficult to craft something that conveys my thoughts.

For those reasons, sometimes I think it is easier to read and review books that I choose because I usually have some sort of desire to read that specific book. A majority of the time I do end up liking a book and therefore a review flows from me much easier. At the same time, books that are presented to me as a review request or that show up at my door have also proved to be great books for reviews as well, so I'd say that, overall, the ease of writing a review really just depends on the book itself. Sometimes it's actually harder for me to write a review for a book I've been highly anticipating or really love because it's too intimidating and I don't know how to accurately capture my thoughts.

I will confess, however, that reviews are often not the easiest thing for me to write. I have the hardest time putting my thoughts into words, especially when it's about something as large as a book and I'm trying to avoid spoilers. I try to capture the main aspects of how the book is written and what its strong and/or low points are, and that's easiest to do when I have some idea of what I'm expecting from a book. But then, just to contradict myself, I also try not to have too many expectations about a book before diving in also.

So now I pose the same question to you: Are books easier to review if you chose to pick up? Or do you prefer reviewing books that you have less attachment to?

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Apprentice Witch by James Nicol

*The Apprentice Witch is available Tuesday, July 25th!*

The Apprentice Witch by James Nicol. Chicken House, 2017. Hardcover, 336 Pages.

As most of you probably know by now, my book taste is fairly wide-ranging and I always have my eye out for great middle grate fantasy. Thus, when The Apprentice Witch arrived in the mail one day, I was understandably excited to see this one arrive int he mail. The Apprentice Witch centers on a young girl named Arianwyn who wants nothing more than to pass her exam to become a witch. Unfortunately, things don't quite as planned and she is sent to a remote town called Lull as an apprentice - still.

I think my favorite thing about this book was the setting and the story set-up. I love the little town of Lull, which was a nice small town, but also equally dark, mysterious, and somewhat creepy at times. Everything felt magical and there seemed to be many layers within each spell and creature introduced. The magic system itself was a very unique one that I haven't really seen, consisting of the drawing of glyphs to cast spells. I was somewhat reminded of Brandon Sanderson's The Rithmatist, which uses a similar idea of drawing spells -- this actually made me really excited, largely because I find the entire concept really interesting, and Nicol executed it in a fascinating manner. I really hope that the next book explores this entire notion even further.

I really loved Arianwyn's character. Her youth and inexperience definitely showed, which led her to making some mistakes, and this is also what endeared me to her so much. Arianwyn felt that she had to prove herself (and she sort of did), and thus she had to work extra hard to be mature and take care of both herself and pretty much the entire town from the dangerous spirits and creature the inhabit it.

I also really appreciated Arianwyn and Salle's friendship. It was lovely and felt like an authentic relationship, full of ups and downs and, ultimately, loyalty. I actually found her relationship with all of the character's entertaining. Lull is full of a wide array of people, some of whom are glad to see Arianwyn and some who are not - such as the mayor himself. The way Arianwyn navigates her job and her desires to become a full-fledged witch is a journey that takes the reader through the struggles and insecurities that we all face and strive to overcome. Arianwyn is a wonderfully stubborn girl who, despite the odds often being stacked against, doesn't really let herself every truly give up, and I think that notion is at the core of this book, alone with the importance of friendship and looking out for others.

I'd also like to give a little shout out to Bob, Arianwyn's moon hare, who made me fall in love with it from the moment it appeared in the story.

The only qualms that I had with this book was that I just wanted a bit more in the development area. I wanted more about the magic system, the dark creatures, the history. More character development and narrative. Regardless, I definitely plan to continue with the next book to see what's in store - I feel as though this will only get better.

Overall, I give four stars to The Apprentice Witch!

*I received a physical ARC of The Apprentice Witch courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This is no way impacts my enjoyment of the book.*

You might also like:

Friday, July 14, 2017

Blog Tour: Review + Giveaway - First We Were IV by Alexandra Sirowy

Hello everyone! I am happy to welcome you to today's stop on the First We Were IV blog tour, hosted by Brittany's Book Rambles! On this stop you will find my review for First We Were IV, along with a giveaway to win a copy of the book and slew of other fun swag - be sure to check it all out and enter the giveaway!
Huge thanks go out to Brittany from Brittany's Book Rambles, Alexandra Sirowy, and Simon and Schuster for allowing me to be a part of this wonderful tour!

First We Were IV by Alexandra Sirowy
Publication Date: July 25th, 2017
Publisher:Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers 
Goodreads Link:


A group of friends start a secret society in this out-of-control thriller from the author of The Telling and The Creeping that examines the all-consuming love of lifelong friendship—and what someone is capable of when they’re afraid of losing it.

Izzie loves nothing more than her three best friends, Viv, Graham, and Harry, and the bond the four of them share. And she’s terrified of their friendship falling apart next year when they go off to college. To bind them together, she decides to create that will belong only to them, a special thing that they’ll always share between the four of them. And so they dream up the Order of IV, a secret society devoted to mischief that rights wrongs and pays back debts. At first, it works like a charm—but when the Order of IV’s escapades get recognition beyond their wildest expectations, other people start wanting in. And soon, what started as a game of friendship is spiraling into something dangerous and beyond their control—and before it’s over, they’ll pay the ultimate sacrifice.

Buy Links:  Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository 

Author Bio:

Alexandra Sirowy is the author of the young adult thrillers THE CREEPING, the Bram Stoker Award® Nominated THE TELLING, and the upcoming FIRST WE WERE IV. Alexandra attended a women's college as an undergrad and received her graduate degree in International Studies. When she isn't writing, she loves to travel, read, eat, and get into mischief. She lives with her husband in Northern California.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest

This book is a fantastic summer thriller. If you are at all interested in secret societies, as the characters in this book actually go about creating their own secret society, and let's just say things get a little... intense. I don't want to go into any plot details in this review because so much of the success of this book lies in the sheer surprise of what is going to happen next. 

The four mains characters are Izzy, who is also our first-person narrator, Viv, Harry, and Graham. They are quite an interesting bunch, very diverse in personality but they fit together extremely well. None of them are particularly likable to me, but I think that that worked really well for the story. There was really no black or white in this story -- everyone is some sort of shade of grey, and it's fascinating.

I found myself frustrated with some of their actions or feeling nervous and uncertain about the morality of things they were planning to do -- and honestly, that only enhanced my enjoyment of this book. This isn't a nice, happy book; this is a book that pushes boundaries, will keep you on the edge of your seat, and will make you think hard about what is right, what is wrong, and what you would truly do if situations were reversed. 

Sirowy's prose is beautifully, devastatingly vivid and descriptive and paints a raw picture of teenage years and all that they include, such as betrayal, bullying, heartbreak, and anger. At times, I felt that the actions of some of the character were overly dramatic, but then I remembered my own teenage age years, my own rage and passions about certain experiences and I realized that it was perfect for the story. These are teenagers who want to not only feel as if they are a part of something bigger than they are, but they want to rectify all the wrongs and evils that have taken place in their life, and I think this book was a heartbreakingly accurate depiction of how this occurs and the consequences that can result.

First We Were IV is a perfect mix of fast-pace and thoughtful, which together form a strikingly sharp and captivating narrative. Overall, I've decided to give it four stars!

1 signed hard cover copy of FIRST WE WERE IV
Fujuifilm instax mini 9 Polaroid camera in smoky white (& film) like the one in the book!
Strand of gold stars
FIRST WE WERE IV swag (temporary tattoos & bookmarks)
Evie Seo Designed Tote Bag

FTC disclaimer: US entires only. No purchase necessary to enter, giveaway items provided by Alexandra Sirowy.

Tour Schedule: 

Week 1
July 10:  Bookish Lifestyles - Review + Tote Design
July 11 Brittany's Book Rambles - Guest Post
July 12 Emily Reads Everything - Review
July 13   Biscotto's Books - Moodboard
July 14 Forever Lost in Literature - Review

Week 2
July 17 My Friends Are Fiction - Guest Post
July 18 Literary Legionnaire - Review
July 19 The Reader and the Chef - Review
July 20:  Novel Novice - Guest Post
July 21:  Dark Faerie Tales - Interview

Week 3
July 24:  YA and Wine - Review + Guest Post
July 25 YA Book Central - Spotlight
July 26 Tales of the Ravenous Reader - Review
July 27:  A Perfection Called Books - Guest Post 

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Throwback Thursday #1: The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly

I've never done a Throwback Thursday themed post, so this week I figured - why not? I thought I'd kick it off with a book that immediately became one of my favorites when I read it way back in the day and will always remain special to me: 

The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly

I'm not entirely sure when I read this book - I feel like it was somewhere between the ages 12-14, but it could have been younger. All I know is that this was one of those books that just completely blew me away and shocked me in the best way. I remember relating so much to some of the ways in which David felt concerning his mom's death, as my dad had, at the time, just recently died when I was eleven. I hadn't ever felt quite so connected to a book, and the way he let his books envelop him and the journeys that resulted just meant so much to me. This book was dark in ways I didn't expect, but that I very much appreciated as someone who was tired of reading books that never seemed to go quite dark enough for how I felt. (Of course, now finding dark books is not difficult at all, but it was then!) I just loved this book and I always recommend it whenever I have the chance! (Also, can we mention how entirely enchanting that cover is!?)


"High in his attic bedroom, twelve-year-old David mourns the death of his mother, with only the books on his shelf for company. But those books have begun to whisper to him in the darkness. Angry and alone, he takes refuge in his imagination and soon finds that reality and fantasy have begun to meld. While his family falls apart around him, David is violently propelled into a world that is a strange reflection of his own -- populated by heroes and monsters and ruled by a faded king who keeps his secrets in a mysterious book, The Book of Lost Things.

Taking readers on a vivid journey through the loss of innocence into adulthood and beyond, New York Times bestselling author John Connolly tells a dark and compelling tale that reminds us of the enduring power of stories in our lives."

Have any of you read this book? Are there any books you read as a kid that have stuck with you like this one?