Category Archives: clean reads

The Betrothed by Kiera Cass

the betrothedLady Hollis, like many other girls who grew up in and around the castle, was brought up with the goal of marrying well.  Even if she didn’t win the favor of King Jameson, it was assumed that she would be matched with a high ranking lord of the court. And yet, it still seemed to come as a surprise when she discovered that the king intended to ask for her hand in marriage.  Suddenly, she was not so sure that being a queen was really what she wanted for her life. With money and power, it was assumed that she would want for nothing.  But could she handle raising children who might be used as political pawns?  And wouldn’t she rather have a husband who valued her opinions instead of one who would encourage her to silently fall in line?  Though her parents seemed to think her self-discovery had impossibly terrible timing, she felt it may have been just in the nick of time… Especially since she recently met another young man, Silas, to whom she could easily imagine being wed.

If you enjoyed The Selection, you should probably check this one out too.  Though you may want to wait for the second book in the duology to come out [it’s expected to be out sometime in 2021] if you can’t handle perching on the edge of your seat for quite that long…  The last bit of this book had quite the unexpected twist, and I am dying to know how it will all end!

Happy Reading!

It’s the End of the World as I Know It by Matthew Landis

it's the end of the world as i know itAs I was preparing to spend A LOT of time at home for #SocialDistancing purposes (because of #COVID19), I saw this book in the new YA section at my library and just knew I had to bring it home with me.  Based on the cover art, I had a feeling it would not be super heavy and actually stress me out.  Luckily, it seems I am pretty good at judging books by their covers!  😉  Though this book discusses potentially heavy topics like death, grief, and #MentalHealth, it handles them all in such a way that it manages to be lighthearted and often humerous.

Ever since his mom died in the line of duty in Iraq, Derrick has been prepping for the end of the world. He even saved up money from building decks all summer and built himself a shed/bunker in his backyard. Derrick is nearly ready, as he has filled his shelter with emergency supplies like food, first aid supplies, HAZMAT suits, and gas masks. And even though nobody else around him seems to believe that it’s coming, Derrick just *knows* it will be happening soon — on September 21st, to be exact. Not only does he have a gut feeling, but he’s been following special apocalypse preparation websites (like a blog/app called “Apocalypse Soon!”). Derrick’s dad has tried bringing him to a therapist, but it isn’t like therapy can halt the apocalypse, so he didn’t see the point.

The closer it gets to the end, the more Derrick is having trouble controlling his feelings of panick and desperation. His dad pretty much ignores his weird behaviors, and his older sister Claudia doesn’t really know how to help either. His best friends, Tommy and Brock, don’t really get it and just want to hang out and play sports or video games while Derrick is certain that they are only wasting time he needs to use more wisely to be ready. The only person who seems to be willing to help is Derrick’s neighbor Misty, who has been out of school for the last year with a life-threatening medical problem of her own. Derrick isn’t sure why Misty was out of school last year, but he is glad that she seems to be doing better and that, while she doesn’t necessarily believe that the end of the world is coming, she is willing to help him get his shelter ready.  But… What will happen once it’s ready?

Happy Reading!

The Giver: Graphic Novel by Lois Lowry, adapted/illustrated by P. Craig Russell

The GiverI often credit one of my adjunct professors from grad school, Joyce Laiosa, with helping me discover my love for YA books.  Every book on her syllabus was carefully chosen to represent its genre so that we would have an appreciation for the depth and breadth of YA Literature.   In fact, I routinely tell people that I consider Joyce to be my Fairy Godmother in Libraryland because she is also the person who first got me involved with the Youth Services Section (YSS) of the NY Library Association (NYLA).  And though she has technically retired from librarianship, Joyce remains active in YSS/NYLA (and ALA), and I do my best to attend all of the webinars and local workshops she teaches because I want to soak up everything she has to share. I am definitely more of a novel reader, but I appreciate the need to be aware of graphic novels and do my best to stay aware of popular titles and publishing trends, so I recently attended Joyce’s continuing education workshop about graphic novels.  I am so grateful for the extensive list of graphic novels she provided and will do my best to work my way through that list over the next year.  I am happy to report that this graphic novel, the first I chose from her list,  was simply amazing.

Not only did the artist, P. Craig Russell, do a wonderful job of staying true to the original story, but his artwork was absolutely stunning.  There is a note at the end of the book that explains the very conscious choices he made with regard to color palette and style, and I think these choices, though seemingly subtle, made a huge impact on his telling of the story.  The way that he gradually introduced colors, for example, was a great visual representation of the way that Jonah’s perception changed as a result of receiving memories.  This was a fantastic way to revisit the story, and I think it is so well fleshed out that readers who haven’t read the novel will still be able to immerse themselves in the story without missing anything Lois Lowry intended.

Happy Reading!

The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys

fountains of silenceAlthough this book was only published about a month ago, it has already received a Listening Library Earphone Award for the full cast audio recording.  And I am going to assume that there are all sort of awards that just haven’t been given yet, because Sepetys has received over 40 awards for her other books, like Between Shades of Gray and Salt to the Sea.  Set in Madrid in 1957, this books tells the true story of Spain under the fascist dictatorship of General Francisco Franco. After the Spanish Civil War, many Spainiards were living in both poverty and fear, especially those whose family members had been outed as Republicans, aka Reds.  The American tourists either turned a blind eye or simply didn’t even notice the disparity between their lavish lifestyle, full of parties and shopping sprees, and the abject poverty and subsistence living of the locals.

Daniel Matheson traveled to Spain with his parents; his father, who was a Texas oil tycoon hoping to make a deal with Franco, and his mother, who had grown up in Spain and wanted to visit her home country. Daniel, a photographer and aspiring photojournalist, hoped he might use this opportunity to get some photos that could help with a contest entry. Though his mother supported his love of photography, his father refused to pay for journalism school and insisted that he go to business school instead.  If he won this contest, though, he could win enough money to attend j school without his father’s help. Little did Daniel know the opportunities he would find…

Once again, Sepetys has taken a time and place in history that oft goes neglected in US history classes and written a novel that will stick with readers far better than any simple lesson. Interspersed with vintage media reports, oral history commentary, photos, and more, this book is sure to both educate and entertain.

Happy Reading!

I Love You So Mochi by Sarah Kuhn

1565373728433Though Kimi has been accepted to a prestigious school of fine arts, she finds that she is having a bit of an artistic block during her senior year.  Instead of starting her portfolio and working on developing her style, as her mother keeps urging, she finds herself drawn more to “distractions” like designing and creating original fashion pieces for herself and her friends.  Kimi is so stalled, in fact, that she even dropped out of her studio art class — but can’t find the courage to tell her mother.  In an act of desperation, after her mother finds out that she has been lying about the art class, Kimi decides to take up her estranged [maternal] grandparents on their out-of-nowhere invitation to visit them in Kyoto, Japan, during her spring break.  Not only will this trip give Kimi a bit of a break from her mom, but it will afford her the opportunity to get to know her grandparents, to learn more about how her mom grew to become the woman she is today, and a chance to explore the Japanese half of her heritage.

As you would expect, based on the title, Kimi finds a love interest when she travels to Japan.  She met Akira in the market as he was working for his uncle’s mochi stand — dressed up and dancing around in a mochi mascot costume!  I really liked how Akira was such a fun-loving and spirited guy despite the fact that he was a medical student, since so many people assume that all medical students are very serious all the time. I also liked that he chose to be a doctor or his own volition, which goes against the stereotype even Kimi believed about overbearing Asian mothers/parents always pressuring their children to be successful and to take on elite career paths.  Aside from the plot of the story itself, I loved that readers were given such a great primer on Japanese culture — whether it was about expected behaviors in public or traditional familial relationships.  My only complaint about this story, to be honest, was how Kimi could be *SO* smart and yet oblivious to the obvious realities of where her future could lie…  Still, I think this is a cute story and that it would be a fun poolside/beach book to add to your #SummerReading list.

Happy Reading!

All-American Muslim Girl by Nadine Jolie Courtney

1564091712746Far too many people in America today don’t seem to know much about Muslims/Islam aside from the fear-driven news reports of Muslim terrorists.  And when people are both uninformed and fearful, there is sure to be trouble.  You have probably heard stories about people reporting harmless airline passengers as suspected terrorists because they were overheard saying “Allah,” which is a very common word in Arabic.  Well, that is exactly what happens to Allie Abraham’s dad in the beginning of this book.  I really liked how Allie’s narrative includes asides detailing her frustration in having to put on a happy face and just deal with bias throughout her life — and especially how her own light skin, reddish-blond hair, and hazel eyes have often helped her to “pass” for a non-Muslim.

Although her parents are non-practicing and have always encouraged her to keep her religious background to herself (for safety reasons), the growth of Islamaphobia, in America and even in her local area, helps Allie to realize that she wants to learn more about her Muslim roots and to start practicing Islam.  Making the transition from being seen as an “all-American girl” to acknowledging her identity as a Muslim-American girl might seem brave in and of itself, but it’s especially brave when you consider the fact that her boyfriend’s dad is a conservativ tv pundit who has even written a book about “radical Islam” and its war on America.

I really appreciate how this author is using YA literature as a conduit for education so that she can help to challenge uninformed stereotypes and to build understanding between the Muslim community and people who don’t know much about Muslims/Islam.  The second section of her Goodreads “about the author” really says it all — Nadine is a Circassian-American, a Muslim, and a believer that compassion and education can make the world a better place.  Here’s to hoping this book helps her in that endeavor.

Happy Reading!

Switchback by Danika Stone

41711283[1]Whoa!  It’s a really good thing this book didn’t come out *before* my husband got suddenly interested in hiking a few years ago.  Between my anxiety creating its own “worst case scenarios” and the crazy situations in this book, I may not have been able to handle him heading out into the wilderness!  So, what is so crazy about this story?!?  Well, let’s start off with the fact that a PE teacher is taking an entire class of high school seniors, many of whom have no hiking/camping experience, out into the Canadian wilderness for an overnight hike.  Though I am sure there are probably teachers and students who have had such experiences, thinking about that kind of a scenario just makes me nervous to begin with.  Of course, two of the students end up separated from the rest of the group.  And the weather suddenly turns, bringing both rain and snow.  Without proper gear and with hardly any food between the two of them, they need to manage long enough to be found or to get themselves back to town.  Gah!!!!!!!

There were a few things that I really loved about this story, despite all the anxiety it caused me.  😉  First was the story of the friendship between the two main characters, Ash and Vale.  Although they had been best friends as kids, the two had drifted apart.  And, even worse, Ash didn’t stick up for Vale when she became a bit of a social outcast and was being bullied; he felt bad but didn’t want to make himself a target.  There’s nothing quite like an emergency, nevertheless, to bring people together.  Second is that this story was a little crash course, in and of itself, into wilderness survival.  Since Vale had experience in the outdoors and Ash was a complete beginner, she taught him (and readers) a bunch of survival tactics and hacks.  The third thing I particularly loved was the fact that Vale was open with Ash about her identification as ace/aro (asexual and aromantic) and explained what that meant (feeling neither sexual or romantic attraction towards anyone, regardless of their gender).  Although this book was published right before #PrideMonth, I am not sure whether it was intention or kismet.  Either way, I hope readers will take away both wilderness survival hacks and a little understanding of and empathy for the ace/aro contingent of the GLBTQ+ community.

Happy Reading!

Batman: Nightwalker (DC Icons #2) by Marie Lu

batmanAlthough I am not nearly as big a geek as my husband, I definitely enjoy my fair share of geeky stuff like superhero stories.  And though I tend to be more of a fangirl for Marvel than DC, Batman is one of my favorite DC characters.  I think it’s probably because of the fact that anyone could technically become Batman.  I mean, Bruce Wayne doesn’t have any special powers or anything.  He just has the time and money to both physically train and to pay for the development of gadgets that support his compulsion to fight for justice.  I am still waiting for a real-life billionaire or two to use their money and influence for such altruistic means, but I digress…

I really liked how Marie Lu imagined Bruce Wayne’s first time taking on the mantle of the caped crusader.  In this story, Bruce is turning 18 and about to inherit his parents’ fortune.  He is torn between the excitement of turning 18 and graduating from high school and the grief of entering adulthood without the guidance of his beloved parents.  Bruce is also on edge because billionaires in Gotham City are being targeted by a group called the Nightwalkers — who funnel the money from their bank accounts and then use their home security systems to trap and kill them.  He knows it is likely only a matter of time before the Nightwalkers come for him and the fortune his family has made from Wayne Industries.  And when a misunderstanding between Bruce and the police leads to his serving community service time at the Arkham Asylum, he finds himself drawn to one of the inmates.  This young woman, Madeleine Wallace, is no older than him and seems to be somehow framed for the murders she supposedly committed. But will Bruce be able to get her to open up?  And, even if she is willing, will the police allow Bruce to help?

Happy Reading!

Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly

41473840Are you someone who watched Maleficent or Wicked and felt like you’d been lied to your whole life?  After I so enjoyed reading the back-stories in Marissa Meyer’s Fairest (an origin story for the evil Queen Levana from The Lunar Chronicles) and Heartless (an origin story for the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland), I started to hope for origin stories of some more “wicked” characters.  I think that showing readers how even well-known characters can be misunderstood will help them to consider the hardships and circumstances that have shaped some of the “bad” people they know in real life.  By even the middle of this story, I felt like I got where the ugly stepsisters were coming from and how their actions, though not excusable, could be understandable.  If you’re up for a feminist continuation/retelling of Cinderella that will challenge your pre-conceived notions, this book will not disappoint.

Happy Reading!

The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen

12432220[1]I hadn’t before heard of The Ascendance Trilogy, but I stumbled upon it doing an advanced search for YA audiobooks that were “available now” on OverDrive.  (Man, I love that search feature!)  As it turns out, I so enjoyed this book — and had so much yard work to do in recent days — that I managed to listen to the *entire trilogy* in under two weeks!  When an audiobook is filled with so much action and adventure, after all, it can be hard to shut off the story and return to real life.  😉

One of my favorite things about this series was that there were just so many mysteries to unravel.  There were layers upon layers of secrets and lies.  Just when I thought I finally had things figured out, there would be another twist and yet another secret revealed.  Looking back through what had happened, these secrets always made sense… but they were just so darn well hidden that it sometimes floored me to think the author got me YET AGAIN!  Aside from the action and mystery, I was also a big fan of Nielsen’s character development.  Even the secondary characters were so well developed that it felt almost as if they were new friends with whom I was becoming acquainted.  And whether it was a friendship, a romance, or a rivalry that was forming, the interactions between characters were very compelling.  Even better?  These tales of knights, kings, warring kingdoms, conspiracies, and deceit are perfectly suited for advanced middle grade and young YA readers.

Happy Reading!