Thursday, June 21, 2018

It's World Giraffe Day!


Photo credit: Nicolas Lotsos, YourShot National Geographic

You may or may not know that I am obsessed with giraffes. I have been in love with giraffes ever since I was a little girl, and they remained one of my absolute favorite animals. Ever. Because of that, I wanted to share that today is World Giraffe Day!

Photo credit: Manuelo Bececco,
fromYourShot with Naitonal Geographic

Before I dive into the book portion of this post, I just want to take a minute to share an organization that I somehow didn't know existed until a few months ago--the Giraffe Conservation Foundation. Somehow in all of my years of giraffe love, it never occurred to me that there might be a foundation that focuses solely on giraffes. It's also pretty neat because GCF is the only NGO organization that dedicates itself solely to the lives of giraffes in Africa. If you're at all interested in wildlife conservation or giraffes, then you should definitely head over to their website to find out more about them and what they do! They also have some of the cutest and coolest giraffe-themed clothing and the option to adopt a giraffe for the lowest tier of five dollars a month. (And no, I am in no way affiliated with GCF, I'm just super passionate about giraffes and I think they are awesome.)





Photo credit: Viktoras Dubinskas, YourShot National Geographic
In honor of World Giraffe Day, I'm taking a mini break from posting about books I usually read and am instead going to share some awesome books that feature giraffes These are mainly children's books because apparently giraffes aren't cool enough for adults to write about. I know, I know, I'm bitter about it, too. Now let's jump into the books!






 


What (if any) is your favorite animal? Have you ever had a chance to meet one? Share your animal thoughts in the comments! 
Photo credit: Craig Morrison,
YourShot from National Geographic


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Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Waiting on Wednesday: The Tower of Living and Dying by Anna Smith Spark & The King's Witch by Tracy Borman


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 Tower of Living and Dying by Anna Smith Spark
Publication Date: August 7th, 2018
Orbit
480 pages

From Goodreads: 

"
A powerhouse story of bloodshed, ambition, and fate, The Tower of Living and Dying is a continuation of Anna Smith Spark's brilliant Empires of Dust trilogy, which began with The Court of Broken Knives. 

Marith has been a sellsword, a prince, a murderer, a demon, and dead. But something keeps bringing him back to life, and now there is nothing stopping him from taking back the throne that is rightfully his. 

Thalia, the former high priestess, remains Marith's only tenuous grasp to whatever goodness he has left. His left hand and his last source of light, Thalia still believes that the power that lies within him can be used for better ends. But as more forces gather beneath Marith's banner, she can feel her influence slipping. 

Read the second book in this "gritty and glorious!" (Miles Cameron) epic fantasy series reminiscent of Joe Abercrombie and Mark Lawrence where the exiled son of a king fights to reclaim his throne no matter the cost."
This is the sequel to The Court of Broken Knives, which was easily one my favorite debut fantasy novels of last year. I absolutely loved Anna Smith Spark's writing style and I cannot wait to get back to her writing and the story.

and...
The King's Witch by Tracy Borman 
Publication Date: July 3rd, 2018
Atlantic Monthly Press
448 pages
Pre-order: Amazon Book Depository 


From Goodreads: 

"
In March of 1603, as she helps to nurse the dying Queen Elizabeth of England, Frances Gorges dreams of her parents' country estate, where she has learned to use flowers and herbs to become a much-loved healer. She is happy to stay at home when King James of Scotland succeeds to the throne. His court may be shockingly decadent, but his intolerant Puritanism sees witchcraft in many of the old customs--punishable by death. 

But when her ambitious uncle forcibly brings Frances to the royal palace, she is a ready target for the twisted scheming of the Privy Seal, Lord Cecil. As a dark campaign to destroy both King and Parliament gathers pace, culminating in the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, Frances is surrounded by danger, finding happiness only with the King's precocious young daughter, and with Tom Wintour, the one courtier she feels she can trust. But is he all that he seems? 

Acclaimed as a brilliant historian, Tracy Borman proves with this thrilling debut novel that she is also a born storyteller."

I've been really craving some good historical fiction lately, and this one sounds like it will be quite a captivating read. Witches, political intrigue, secret plots and schemes--sign me up!

What do you think about these upcoming releases? What are your anticipated upcoming releases?


Planning to purchase a book or two? Consider purchasing on Book Depository through my affiliate link! Book Depository has worldwide free shipping and millions of titles to choose from.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Tuesday Double Feature: A Discussion on Cliffhangers & Preview A Chapter of Munmun by Jesse Andrews

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 topic: Cliffhangers: Do they compel you to read more or steer you away? 


I think this is a great topic for discussion because people have such strong feelings on the issue of cliffhangers. Personally, I have very mixed feelings because I feel that cliffhangers require a fine level of skill to successfully pull them off.

On the one hand, I enjoy your general non-extreme cliffhanger (assuming, of course, that it's a series) because I like having something to keep me actively engaged in picking up the next book. I love having something that stays in the back of my mind and keeps up a little excitement until I can read the next book. I've always enjoyed a little suspense and delayed gratification, so I like that aspect and I'm okay with having some unanswered questions.

On the other hand... cliffhangers can get out of hand really quickly. I don't enjoy cliffhangers that are take the concept too literally and end at a moment when, say, a character is actually hanging off of cliff or something equally suspenseful. Those aren't cool. Any sort of sudden ending that feels jilted or as if it's only there as a marketing ploy to make you pick up the next book is where I draw the line. I don't like feeling tricked into reading a next book. I also don't enjoy really strong cliffhangers because sometimes I know I don't plan on picking up the ext book in a series, so it's nice to have some sort of decent ending to close out on and not feel like I'm just cutting off a story. I'm also someone who enjoys open endings sometimes, so uncertainty is fine, but not when it just takes away enjoyment and makes readers bitter. How do you feel about cliffhangers?




First Chapter Tuesday is hosted every Tuesday by Vicki @ I'd Rather Be at the Beach. This is meme in which bloggers share the first chapter of a book that they are currently reading or thinking about reading soon. Join the fun by making your own post and linking up over at Vicki's blog, or simply check it out to find more new books to read!

Today's excerpt is from:
Munmun by Jesse Andrews





"Being littlepoor is notsogood. 
I know I know, you think you know this already, howabout I just tell you though. 

I want to see if this makes you laugh. A middlerich kid stepped on our house and crushed my dad to death. Then that same year a cat attacked my mom at the dump and snapped her spine. Okay there. That’s it. Did you blurt a little giggly laugh? No you didn’t, okay good, ofcourse thanks for not laughing, sorry for being the Laugh Police. That story to me is just not super funny. But to other people, a littlebit funny. Mostly these are the people too big to worry about getting stomped, squashed, catcrippled, sewerdrowned, mudburied, any of your classic littlepoor terrors. 

We were as littlepoor as you can get, a tenth of middlescale, about as big as rats. We preferred to say squirrels, because a squirrel is a little bigger and ofcourse less disgusting. But squirrels are more like eighthscale and we were tenthscale, littler than squirrels, more exactly the size of average rats. We lived in the beachy capital of Lossy Indica, down in an alleyway near the docks. Our house was a onestory block of twinedtogether milkcrates, roofs and walls of smasheddown tincans, everynight the stovesmoke tickled our lungs and avored our skin."


This is my first time reading the first few chapters of this book as well, and I'm really intrigued and not sure what to expect. I was drawn to this book ecause it's aout a world in which wealth and poverty are directly porportionate to one's size, which is a concept that I've always oddly wanted to read about, so I jumped at this book when I saw it. I can't wait to finally pick it up and start it.
Buy the book: Amazon | Book Depository



What do you think? Would you keep reading this book? (And feel free to join in and make your own post!) 



I am also an Amazon affiliate, so if you'd prefer to shop through Amazon, just click the banner on the upper right hand side of my blog! (above the 'Follow by email' box, you may need to turn off adblock to see it!)

*Excerpts are taken from the novel itself; I do not claim to own any part of the excerpt.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Review: The Mermaid by Christina Henry


The Mermaid by Christina Henry
Berkley, 2018
Paperback. 336 pages.

The Mermaid is a quiet but powerful story, telling the tale of a beautiful mermaid who eventually journeys into the world of humans and discovers both positive and negative aspects about humans and herself.

There is a strong fairytale-like quality to Henry's writing that is reminiscent to her other books (Lost Boy, Red Queen, etc.) as well to traditional fairy tales as well. The opening chapters of The Mermaid completely drew me into the story and are probably what kept me so intrigued with our protagonist Amelia's journey. The story itself is on the slower side and there aren't really any intense, major events that occur, but instead minor events that work together to create a full, comprehensive story.

I really liked the process of how Amelia changed from mermaid to human, and I thought it was clever how it was worked into and pulled in the show and museum as well. I think one thing that really made this book particularly compelling was how realistic and plausible this entire situation was presented. It really felt like I was just reading a historical fiction book about a mermaid that made her way to New York and had a brief stint at Barnum's museum. It was beautiful and so fascinating to see how Henry incorporated a realistic world with strong magic and mythological elements.

Amelia is truly a beautiful and inspirational figure. Her confidence is contagious and I loved that she never once wavered in her wishes, but stood firm and stood up to the men and the world around her; she refused to cower before anyone. Despite this, I will admit that I did find myself annoyed by her on more than occasion. One reason in particular was because of her perceived disdain for humans. I understand, to an extent, how horrible human life was compared to that of a mermaid's, and I did like that way Henry showed the hypocrisy and silliness of so many aspects of how humans lived in that time period (and now). However, I felt that Amelia went overboard in her hatred and it started to feel as if she was simply judging humans for being different and doing things differently than she was used to. I would have expected her to be just a bit more open-minded, but instead she seemed to hate everything humans did, and it was frustrating to watch her refusal to accept anything. Similarly, once agreeing to work with Barnum, she complained about every idea he came up with. While I understand that a lot of Barnum's ideas were harmful or not humane, she is the one who agreed to come and work for Barnum, and at some point you usually just have to suck it up and do what you agreed to do. She had a problem with every aspect of any idea, and even when she finally agreed to something that she wanted, she still complained. On the whole, Amelia is a great character, but there were some aspects of her personality that rubbed me the wrong way and frustrated me.

Levi Lyman is P.T. Barnum's partner is a gentle character that basically acts as Amelia's 'guardian' throughout most of this book. His goal is to make sure that Amelia is treated with respect and dignity, and although his actions were a bit overmuch at times, it was nice to see someone with pure intentions in this book, especially compared to Barnum and the rest of the public depicted in this story. Barnum, for instance, was an incredibly unlikable character in this book, but I do understand why Henry enforced his avaricious side in order to fit the narrative and make this a more interesting and conflict-driven story. The relationships between Levi, Barnum, Amelia, and Barnum's wife, Charity, were often multi-faceted and left the reader with much to ponder and explore.

Despite the many positive aspects of this book, I did have a few minor issues with the plot where I felt there were small holes or things that could have been dealt with in a simpler manner, but these were only small things that did not interrupt the narrative too much. I feel as though some of these minor issues were glossed over and ignored in order to the story itself on the simpler side in order to focus more on the characters, their development, and their relationships to one another, which is something that I do understand and part of what makes me not want to dwell too much on those more negative aspects. I still really enjoyed this book and everything Henry created.

*I received an ARC of The Mermaid courtesy of Netgalley and Berkley Publishing. This has no effect on my rating of the book.*

Buy the book: Amazon | Book Depository


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Friday, June 15, 2018

Underrated Books I Read & Loved As a Kid


I've been thinking of doing an underrated books post for a while, but then when I was looking through some books I got the idea to focus it more on underrated books I read as a kid that I loved, but never saw people talk about. So we're taking a step back from current releases and books that I've been reading more recently and going back in time to look at some older books. I want to note that not all of these are categorized as kid's books, but are merely books that I read as a kid. I read these probably between the ages of nine/ten-fourteen or so, but I'm really just guessing on that. All I know for sure is I read these before high school. Let me know if you've read any of these and whether or not you liked them because I'm dying to hear other people's thoughts on these books!

   

Cathy's Book by Jordan Weisman
This book sort of blew my mind as a youngster. It was probably the first mixed media book I'd ever read and I just thought it was the coolest thing ever.
"Things weren't so peachy in Cathy's life before Victor broke up with her. Her father died unexpectedly, she's failing school, and her best friend is mad at her. But when Cathy decides to investigate Victor's reasons for ending their relationship, things suddenly go from bad to very, very, very bad as her findings produce more questions than answers. For instance, what does the death of Victor's co-worker, the strange mark that appeared on Cathy's arm, and the surreal behavior of several Chinese elders have to do with it?Through Cathy's unique and irresistible voice-and lots of proof in the form of letters, photographs, date book entries, telephone numbers readers can call, websites they can access, as well as secrets only a careful reader will be able to decipher-readers will enter a strange and fascinating world where things often aren't how they appear."
Amazon 

Dr. Franklin's Island by Ann Halam
This book was mental. I distinctly remember sitting weirdly curled up in like the doorway of my room (?) for hours while I read the entire thing. If I did that now, I wouldn't be able to walk for days. Regardless, it was phenomenal. It's one of those that as much as I want to re-read it, I don't know if I ever will because I don't ever want its memory to be lessened in my ind.
"Semi, Miranda, and Arnie are part of a group of 50 British Young Conservationists on their way to a wildlife conservation station deep in the rain forests of Ecuador. After a terrifying mid-air disaster and subsequent crash, these three are the sole survivors, stranded together on a deserted tropical island. Or so they think. Semi, Miranda, and Arnie stumble into the hands of Dr. Franklin, a mad scientist who’s been waiting for them, eager to use them as specimens for his experiments in genetic engineering."
Amazon

The Berlin Boxing Club by Robert Sharenow
I remember reading this and being so impressed with it, but I've never seen it mentioned anywhere. People are pretty crazy about WWII-era books, so I thought this one would for sure be a hit, but apparently not. If you like boxing and WWII books, then you should still check this one out.
"Sydney Taylor Award-winning novel Berlin Boxing Club is loosely inspired by the true story of boxer Max Schmeling's experiences following Kristallnacht."
Amazon | Book Depository

The End of Mr. Y by Scarlett Thomas
I don't remember a lot about this one to be honest, but I do remember it being a bit weird, but also really interesting. I actually wouldn't mind checking this one out again someday.
"A cursed book. A missing professor. Some nefarious men in gray suits. And a dreamworld called the Troposphere? Ariel Manto has a fascination with nineteenth-century scientists--especially Thomas Lumas and The End of Mr. Y, a book no one alive has read. When she mysteriously uncovers a copy at a used bookstore, Ariel is launched into an adventure of science and faith, consciousness and death, space and time, and everything in between."
Amazon | Book Depository

   

Severance by Robert Olen Butler
Okay, so.. this isn't a children's book. At all. But that's when I found it and that's when I read it. It's actually pretty interesting.  I was a weird kid, okay?
"The human head is believed to remain in a state of consciousness for one and one-half minutes after decapitation. In a heightened state of emotion, people speak at the rate of 160 words per minute. Inspired by the intersection of these two seemingly unrelated concepts, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Robert Olen Butler wrote sixty-two stories, each exactly 240 words in length, capturing the flow of thoughts and feelings that go through a person's mind after their head has been severed. The characters are both real and imagined: Medusa (beheaded by Perseus), Anne Boleyn, a chicken (beheaded for Sunday dinner, Alabama, 1958), and the author (decapitated, on the job, 2008)."

Pendragon: The Merchant of Death by D.J. McHale
I loved this series so much and I still never see anyone talking about it. Come on, guys, this was the best introduction to portal types of fantasy and I have no idea if it still holds up today, but middle school me loved it to death.
"Bobby Pendragon is a seemingly normal fourteen-year-old boy. But there is something very special about Bobby. He is going to save the world. And not just Earth as we know it. Bobby is slowly starting to realize that life in the cosmos isn't quite what he thought it was. And before he can object, he is swept off to an alternate dimension known as Denduron, a territory inhabited by strange beings, ruled by a magical tyrant, and plagued by dangerous revolution."

The Fall (The Seventh Tower Series) by Garth Nix
I think Nix fans were sleeping on this series, but I remember being totally into these books when I was in fifth grade. I also distinctly remember setting it out on my desk and for some reason thinking it was so cool (???) when honestly, it really wasn't (I was also a really shy child that didn't like to show people what I was reading, so that's also odd to me). I remember so many random images from this book and somehow I've never forgotten that the main character's name is Tal. Oh, and there's a tower. That's about it.
"Tal has lived his whole life in darkness. He has never left his home, a mysterious castle of seven towers. He does not see the threat that will tear apart his family and his world. But Tal cannot stay safe forever. When danger strikes, he must desperately climb the Red Tower to steal a Sunstone. He reaches the top... ...and then he falls into a strange and unknown world of warriors, ice ships, and hidden magic. There Tal makes an enemy who will save his life and holds the key to his future."

Comes a Horseman by Robert Liparulo
This was probably not at all appropriate for an eighth grader, but what are you going to do? I remember my eighth grade math teacher seeing it and asking me if I was reading that, me confirming, and him giving me an odd look and saying, "well, it's a really good book." I still wonder what he was thinking.
"The ancients saw Death as a blazing figure on horseback, swift and merciless. Those facing the black chasm often mistook their pounding hearts for the beating of hooves. Now, two FBI agents pursuing a killer from a centuries-old cult realize they have become his prey."

   

The Torn Skirt by Rebecca Godfrey
The description for this book seems to perfectly sum up young teen angst, but it was written in a really lyrical manner that completely drew me in as a young kid who hadn't really read anything like that before. It was also the first book I read that didn't use quotation marks and was written in that very 'literary' style, which was so crazy to me. I was definitely always surprised at how underrated this one is, but now that I'm older I can see how it's not exactly everyone's cup of tea. Regardless, it will always hold a special place with me.
"I was born with a fever, but it seemed to subside for sixteen years. . . . And then as I turned sixteen and stopped smiling, the fever returned though my skin stayed pale and sure, showing no sign of the heat inside me. 
At Mt. Douglas (a.k.a. Mt. Drug) High, all the girls have feathered hair, and the sweet scent of Love's Baby Soft can't hide the musk of raw teenage anger, apathy, and desire. Sara Shaw is a girl full of fever and longing, a girl looking for something risky, something real. Her only possible salvation comes in the willowy form of the mysterious Justine, the outlaw girl in the torn skirt. The search for Justine will lead Sara on a daring odyssey into an underworld of hookers and johns, junkies and thieves, runaway girls and skater boys, and, ultimately, into a violent tragedy."
Amazon | Book Depository

House of Dark Shadows by Robert Liparulo
This was a young adult-geared series by Robert Liparulo, so at least it was slightly more appropriate for my age. I loved how this took the regular 'haunted house' idea and turned it into so much more. 
"When the Kings move from L.A. to a secluded small town, fifteen-year-old Xander is beyond disappointed. But he, David, and Toria are captivated by the many rooms in the old Victorian fixer-upper they moved into--as well as the heavy woods surrounding the house. They soon discover there's something odd about the house. Sounds come from the wrong directions. Prints of giant, bare feet appear in the dust. And when David tries to hide in the linen closet, he winds up in locker 119 at his new school. Then the really weird stuff kicks in: they find a hidden hallway with portals leading off to far-off places--in long-ago times. Xander is starting to wonder if this kind of travel is a teen's dream come true . . . or his worst nightmare."
Amazon | Book Depository

City of the Dead by T.L. Higley
T.L. Higley wrote a lot of historical fiction novels that I just devoured as a kid. I have wonderful memories of T.L. Higley not only for her great, but also because I remember her posting something online about sending her an email and she would send you a souvenir from one of the places she visited while researching for her books. So, naturally, middle school me did just that and she actually this really neat little mini-pyramid figure from Egypt! I thought that was the neatest thing an author had ever done, and I still set it out on my bookshelf.
"Up from the sands of Egypt rises the Great Pyramid, where Hemiunu, Pharaoh’s Grand Vizier, commands the historic building project as he orders his life—with justice, truth, and precision. But when a series of murders at the site threatens chaos, Hemi must abandon his legacy to hunt down the killer who may be closer than he would like to think. Can he restore justice to the city before his careful life and work are destroyed, or will a mysterious people and their strange God uncover the secret past that Hemi has tried to forget?"
Amazon

Bottled Up by Jaye Murray
The thing that I loved about this book was how real it was and how it handled a lot of the issues that Pip dealt with. I don't remember specific aspects of this book, but this is definitely one that I think would still hold up fairly well today.
"Pip's desperate to escape his life - he's been skipping classes, drinking, getting high. Anything and everything to avoid his smug teachers, his sweet but needy little brother, his difficult home life. Now he's been busted by Principal Giraldi and given an ultimatum: either he shows up for all his classes and sees a counselor after school, or he's expelled. Pip's freaked out; not because he might get kicked out of school, but by the thought that Giraldi might call his father. Because Pip will do anything to avoid his father."
Amazon | Book Depository

Have you read any of these books? What underrated books did you read as a kid? Let me know (I'm very curious)!