Saturday, December 31, 2016

Johnny and Jamaal by K.M. Breakey - Review


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I received a free ecopy of this novel from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Johnny and Jamaal are both up-and-coming sports players from entirely different worlds - Johnny is a white Canadian ice hockey player and Jamaal is an African-American basketball player from the ghetto. When they meet, the clash ignites a powder keg of racial conflict to rival Ferguson. Johnny's best friend's African-American girlfriend, Chantal, sets them on a quest for truth and justice in the racial landscape of America in 2016. As the chaos intensifies an MLK-like figure that may be able to help heal, but will society be able to return from the brink of disaster?

Johnny and Jamaal by K.M. Breakey is not at all my usual type of read (it's New Adult (or possibly older YA), features sports, and deals with incredibly difficult contemporary topics), but it's definitely worth reading. It's couldn't be more timely and Breakey draws out the issues of racism and white privilege from all angles very well. At times it's difficult to read, and that's not a criticism on the author's writing, but, simply put, the heavy subject matter. I've never read a novel that discusses present day racial issues in America like this, let alone one that discusses the matters at hand so openly. Although, this novel is not a fun read in the least, it's incredibly important.

This book does a fantastic job of opening up a dialogue and attempts to present some possible solutions to various issues discussed. At times, the situations made me so angry and frustrated, that I wanted to toss my Kindle across the room - that's how close to real life things get. It touches on quite a few real people, movements, and events, for example President Obama, Black Lives Matter, and Ferguson, MO. I found myself able to connect well with both Luke and Chantal, and able to learn and grow along with them over the course of the story. I also realized that due to the author's good character development, I could understand where these characters were coming from. The only real issues I had with the novel are that I wish we could have seen more from Jamaal's perspective than we did as he holds one of most pivotal roles, plus I wish that everyone wasn't written so dramatically in dialect. That's one aspect that slowed me down and took me out of the story - trying to work out the phonetic spellings.

Overall, Johnny and Jamaal by K.M. Breakey deserves to be read by people from all sorts of backgrounds, and not just Americans and Canadians either. That being said, it's definitely not for everyone, and I can easily understand why. Many of the issues presented here may just be far too close to home for some readers. Ultimately, this up-to-the-minute cautionary tale presents a glimpse of hope for the future.


I read this ebook from December 21 - 23, 2016 and my review is also on Goodreads.

One Lovely Blog Award, Pt. 5


So...Ages ago, Emily @ Ink, Inc. nominated me for the One Lovely Blog Award.  Thanks so much, Emily - if you haven't heard me talk about her blog before, it's one of my favorites!  Anyway, sorry for putting this off for five months, I accidentally forgot about it.  Sorry!

Anyway on to the tag, here are seven facts about me:

1. I got my cat a new scratching post for Christmas and it's quite a bit bigger than his old one and has a couple of added toys to it.  He played with it once before going back and laying on the carpeted based of his old one which I had moved to the other room.  He hasn't even looked at his new one since then... *sigh*

2. I received probably 15 lbs worth of candies, chocolates, and other goodies over the course of the holidays - and I probably polished off 1/3 of it by the day after Christmas.  That can't have been healthy, but it was so delicious!


3. The next two movies I plan on seeing at the movie theater are A Monster Calls (January 6) and The Lego Batman Movie (February 10).  I should probably stock up on tissues for A Monster Calls... if it's as good of an adaptation as it looks like it will be, I'll definitely want to be prepared.


4. I've recently binge-watched two tv shows - both of which turned out to be totally engrossing.  I just recently finished the second season of Peaky Blinders which continued to be awesome and featured some great performances from the returning cast as well as new players (hello, Tom Hardy).


Before that I watched the first season of Mr. Robot, which isn't my normal type of show in the least, but I was hooked right off the bat - Rami Malek gives an excellent performance as Elliot Alderson.  I highly recommend both shows, and I need to get my hands on the next seasons of each show soon!


5. This coming year I plan on participating in Book Riot's Read Harder Challenge which looks like it will be a wonderful way to help myself read more widely and broadly, and force me out of my comfort zone.


6. I managed to get myself on the Blog Tour for The Alchemists of Loom by Elise Kova, hosted by Rockstar Book Tours!  My stop is coming up on January 11th and I'm super excited for it - I've heard so many great things about her Air Awakens series that I just have to try out her writing.


7.  Several favorite tv shows are coming back this January that I can't wait to start watching again - Sherlock (January 1), Shadowhunters (January 2), Grimm (sadly, it's going to be the final season) and Sleepy Hollow (January 6)!


Thanks again for the nomination, Emily!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Friday 56 (With Book Beginnings): The Trial (Pulse #1) by R.A. Crawford + 50/50 Friday


Welcome to The Friday 56, a weekly meme hosted by Freda's Voice.

These are the rules:
1. Grab a book, any book.
2. Turn to page 56, or 56% on your eReader.
3. Find any sentence (or a few, just don't spoil it) that grabs you.
4. Post it.
5. Add the URL to your post in the link on Freda's most recent Friday 56 post.


I'm also taking part in Book Beginnings, a weekly meme hosted by Rose City Reader.  The rules are pretty simple - you share the first sentence or so and your initial thoughts, impressions, or whatever else it inspires.  Don't forget to link up your post's url with Rose City Reader.


This week I'm spotlighting one of my upcoming reads, The Trial (Pulse #1) by R.A. Crawford.  I just received a free ecopy by the author of this action-packed sci-fi novel starring an all female cast in exchange for an honest review.  I'm really looking forward to starting in on as it sounds like it will be epic.

Beginning: 

The most important day in the life of a girl hoping to become a Soldier is Trial Day.  Today each girl would either become the soldier she had so long dreamt of becoming, or die and be nothing more than a name on a list, somewhere in the addendum of a report of failed Academy students.  Success or death.  These are the margins of a life as a PULSE Soldier.

56:

Placing her hand firmly down, she yanked herself upwards, elevating her head over what appeared to be the top of a cliff, and seeing only an area of flat land around her.  For the first time in hours, there was no more mountain.  They had reached the peak.



This week I'm also taking part in a brand new linkup called 50/50 Friday, which is hosted by Carrie @ The Butterfly Reader and Laura @ Blue Eye Books.  Every week they'll have a new topic featuring two sides of the same coin - this week the topic is Best/ worst food in a book (that you'd want to eat).

Best: 



Pumpkin pasties from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling - I actually made these from The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook by Dinah Bucholz and they were great!

Worst:


Stoat sandwiches from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling - Hagrid serves the Trio this during a visit, but they turned them down.  At first, I didn't realize that a stoat is a kind of weasel... Yeah, good thing they take up Hagrid on his cooking with that one!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Stars Above (The Lunar Chronicles #4.5) by Marissa Meyer - Review


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Marissa Meyer's Stars Above is a collection of nine stories from the world of The Lunar Chronicles, some of which had been previously released. I had already ready "Glitches", "The Queen's Army", and "The Little Android" before I listened to this audiobook of short stories. All were very good, but my favorites of the rest include "The Keeper", "Carswell's Guide to Being Lucky", and "Something Old, Something New".

"The Keeper" focuses on how Michelle Benoit comes to take care of Princess Selene before she becomes the Cinder we know and love. Plus, we also get to see young Scarlet develop her relationship with her grandmother. I love all four of our leading ladies, but admittedly Scarlet is my least favorite of the group. However, I enjoyed this quite a bit more than I expected, especially since we get see Michelle and Scarlet forming their strong bond. Of course, we find out quite a bit more about Michelle which just made me appreciate her all the more.

In "Carswell's Guide to Being Lucky", we have a thirteen year old Thorne and we learn about his family life, his big plans involving a spaceship, and leaving his home for good. I'll admit that aside from "Something Old, Something New" this story is the one that I was most excited to read. If you don't already know, Carswell Thorne is my favorite of the guys in this entire series. Honestly, he steals pretty much every scene from the moment he was introduced in Scarlet all the way through to the end of the series. Let me just say that young Carswell definitely has his moments, too.

Finally, in "Something Old, Something New", we get an epilogue as everyone gathers together for a wedding. Essentially, this is the story that I was hands down the most excited for - and luckily it lives up to the hype. I expect you can imagine why - I mean, we get to spend a little more time with these great characters that we've come to love over the course of four novels. It's just a little bittersweet, but still a very satisfying story. It's wonderful seeing everyone when they're not all in some kind of mortal danger. Like I said, it wraps up everything very well, but I wouldn't say no more from these characters in the least.

Overall, Stars Above is a must-read for fans of The Lunar Chronicles. You don't have to read these stories to understand the main series, but they definitely add to the experience. It's great to see more of my favorites before and after the series takes place - ahem, young Thorne and the rest of the cast in that perfect epilogue. I'm really looking forward to seeing more of this world with Meyer's upcoming graphic novel, Wires & Nerve, Volume 1 which will focus on Iko and features appearances by the Rampion crew.



I listened to this audiobook from December 2 - 4, 2016 and my review is also on Goodreads.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Best Debut Books Of 2016


Happy Tuesday and welcome back to Top Ten Tuesday, a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish!  This weeks topic is Best Books of 2016 - it gives us a bit of choice if we want to narrow it down any more, so I'm narrowing it down to Best Debut Books Of 2016.  Each title is linked to my review, so here we go in order of release date:


The 13th Continuum by Jennifer Brody - Release date: January 1, 2016 - I really lucked out when I won this series opener during this fall's YASH!  It's a great YA dystopian that's set in an underwater totalitarian community a thousand years after some kind of apocalyptic event occurred.  Definitely for fans of Divergent and the tv series, The 100.


Revenge and the Wild by Michelle Modesto - Release date: February 2, 2016 - If you're looking for a fast-paced and action-packed YA steampunk with sci-fi, fantasy, and western elements, you can't get much better than this!


These Vicious Masks by Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas - February 9, 2016 - Jane Austen meets X-Men - what more can I say!  I can't wait to read the sequel, These Ruthless Deeds.


Where Futures End by Parker Peevyhouse - Release date: February 9, 2016 - Five intricately written novellas that seem separate, but are surprisingly connected.  It's Donnie Darko plus Cloud Atlas with a dash of The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell!


The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig - Release date: February 16, 2016 - As a blogger (and librarian), I've been shoving this book at everybody!  It's amazing - I mean, time travelling pirate ship, magical maps, 1880s Hawaii!  Exactly what everyone needs in their life!


Kill the Boy Band by Goldy Moldavsky - Release date: February 23, 2016 - If you read this, you have to listen to it on audiobook - the dark sense of humor comes across so well!


A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro - Release date: March 1, 2016 - If you know me, you know I can't resist a good Sherlock Holmes story, especially one like this that features the modern day descendants of Holmes and Watson!


Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton - Release date: March 8, 2016 - Middle Eastern inspired fantasy western.  Need I say more?


Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel - Release date: April 26, 2016 - I was absolutely hooked on this first in a new series!  If you like The Iron Giant, Fringe, Power Rangers, Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, The Fold by Peter Clines, and Agent Smith from The Matrix, I bet you'd like this too.  I can't wait until Waking the Gods comes out!


The Summer That Melted Everything by Tiffany McDaniel - Release date: July 26, 2016 - This is what literary fiction novel with a dash of magical realism is what Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird would be like if written by Neil Gaiman.  Plus, the author is a fellow Ohioan and the story is set in a fictional Ohio town!


What do you think of my list this week?  Have you read any of these 2016 debuts?  If so, did you enjoy them?  Do you have any recommendations for me?  As always, thanks for visiting my blog, and perhaps even commenting!

Monday, December 26, 2016

The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis - Review


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When the murderer of Alex Craft's sister walked free, she made sure he wouldn't get off scot-free. She knows how to kill a man. She doesn't get caught, but she knows she can't trust herself around other people even in her small Ohio hometown. She tries to become invisible and go unnoticed, just make it through the rest of the school year. However, Jack does just that - he's the guy everyone wants to be, or be with, as the future valedictorian and a football star - he hasn't been able to forget her considering his role in her sister's death years ago. He doesn't just notice her, he wants to really get to know her. Peekay, the Preacher's Kid whose identity is wrapped up in her father's profession, does too as both girls volunteer at the local animal shelter. The two slowly become friends and Peekay begins to see that Alex is much more than she would have expected. Over the course of senior year, Alex, Peekay, and Jack begin to come together, and only one thing is for certain, they will not come out the same.

Mindy McGinnis's newest release, The Female of the Species can be best described as dark, gritty, chilling, brutal, and intense. The author doesn't pull any punches with this absolutely enthralling tale. Her prose is captivating and her character development is top notch. The Female of the Species is a must read YA Contemporary. I don't say that often about contemporaries, but this one certainly earns it in every way. It addresses tough subjects including drinking, sex, and drugs. However, it most prominently features an unflinching look at rape culture, double standards, and abuse - it holds a mirror up to the worst parts of our society. I'd say it pushes the envelop more than any YA novel I've read, especially one that's lead by a female character. It's surprising and refreshing to see how much Alex gets away with or takes in and how much that is actually addressed.

On a similar topic, and as I mentioned above, the character development here is excellent, especially when it comes to Alex. She is absolutely filled with rage for what has happened to her sister, along with other horrible things that she witnesses over the course of the novel some of which have been practically normalized, and shes uses that rage to claim justice. However, she isn't confined to just being a rage filled psychopath or sociopath, she's much more and can't be boxed in or labelled. She fearless, not afraid to call people out, protective of her friends (and cute shelter animals), and willing to do what it takes to get a job done. The novel alternates between point-of-view chapters of Alex and her friends, Jack and Peekay, which does cut down on some of the near nonstop intensity, but does give us a great look at Alex through their eyes. Like I mentioned before, all of the characters are really well developed including the secondary and supporting cast. and we get fascinating views into their lives and just how much Alex has influenced them for better or for worse.

Overall, The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis is an incredibly important novel that must not be missed. I highly recommend all of her novels, but this one in particular needs to be read - but be forewarned that, depending on the maturity of the reader, is meant for older teens ages 16 and up. McGinnis expertly handles difficult topics that are often just not discussed openly at all. If you're interested in the character of Lisbeth Salander from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson, I believe you'll also want to meet Alex Craft. It's easy to see why Mindy McGinnis has quickly become one of my favorite YA authors and I am eagerly awaiting her next book, Given to the Sea, which is due out on April 11, 2017.



I read this novel from December 1 - 3, 2016 and my review is also on Goodreads.  You can also read about that time I met Mindy McGinnis here!

Music Monday: Frank Sinatra Christmas


Happy Monday everyone and welcome back to Music Monday! Let's share some songs we've been enjoying lately!  If you would like to play and I really hope you do, please see the rules and link up below.

Rules:

Every Monday share one or two of songs you've been enjoying lately.  It doesn't have to be a specific genre, new, or one of your favorites - just something you'd like to share with others.  If possible, share a music or lyric video of the song and your thoughts on the song(s), artist(s), and/or music video(s).

If you would like to participate in Music Monday, please join the link up by sharing your post's url.

It's already the day after Christmas - wow!  Time sure has flown this month!  Since this is the last week of the month, I'm sharing two of my favorite Christmas songs by Frank Sinatra.  Sinatra is easily one of my favorite vocalists, but somehow I've never featured him on Music Monday (although I have mentioned him on my blog before at least).  Both of these songs, "Jingle Bells" and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas", are my favorite covers of each and were originally featured on his Christmas album called A Jolly Christmas from Frank Sinatra which was originally released in 1957.  By the way, I think this is the most creative version of "Jingle Bells" that I've ever heard!





Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas!


I can't believe Christmas is already here!  Merry Christmas to everyone who celebrates it!  I hope everyone will have a safe and happy holiday season, and a great weekend.  Maybe Santa will leave some great new books under your tree!  


Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from Finn, The Cat in the Santa Hat!

Friday, December 23, 2016

The Friday 56 (With Book Beginnings): The Sword of Summer (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard #1) by Rick Riordan + 50/50 Friday


Welcome to The Friday 56, a weekly meme hosted by Freda's Voice.

These are the rules:
1. Grab a book, any book.
2. Turn to page 56, or 56% on your eReader.
3. Find any sentence (or a few, just don't spoil it) that grabs you.
4. Post it.
5. Add the URL to your post in the link on Freda's most recent Friday 56 post.


I'm also taking part in Book Beginnings, a weekly meme hosted by Rose City Reader.  The rules are pretty simple - you share the first sentence or so and your initial thoughts, impressions, or whatever else it inspires.  Don't forget to link up your post's url with Rose City Reader.


This week I'm spotlighting a book I'm just about to start, The Sword of Summer (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard #1) by Rick Riordan.  I'm really excited to start in on this novel - Rick Riordan's take on Norse mythology!


Without further ado:

Beginning:

Yeah, I know.  You guys are going to read about how I died in agony, and you're going to be like, "Wow!  That sounds cool, Magnus!  Can I die in agony too?"

No.  Just no.

56:

"Luggage," he repeated.  "Do you have any?"

"Um..." I reached for my shoulder strap.  My backpack had apparently not been resurrected with me.  "No."

Hunding grunted.  "No one brings luggage anymore.  Don't they put anything on your funeral pyre?"



This week I'm also taking part in a brand new linkup called 50/50 Friday, which is hosted by Carrie @ The Butterfly Reader and Laura @ Blue Eye Books.  Every week they'll have a new topic featuring two sides of the same coin - this week the topic is a sidekick who deserves a spinoff/ a sidekick who is better as a part of a group.


Deserves Spinoff:

Mr. Gray aka The Grey Man aka Dean Allen from The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater - I would have said Ronan Lynch, but it sounds like he will be getting a companion trilogy!! Otherwise, I would love to see the Grey Man before (and after) this series takes place.


Better as a Part of a Group:

Lying Cat (and/ or The Will) from Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Watt - I can't imagine these two apart - they make such a good team! However, I wouldn't say no to a spinoff featuring both of these characters.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Wouldn't Mind Santa Leaving Under My Tree


Happy Tuesday and welcome back to Top Ten Tuesday, a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish!  This weeks topic is Books I Wouldn't Mind Santa Leaving Under My Tree.  Here we go, in no particular order:


Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, The Illustrated Edition by J.K. Rowling - As a huge fan of this series, I need to add this to my collection.


Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, The Illustrated Edition by J.K. Rowling - So many scenes I'd like the illustrations from - this'll be a great addition to my collection.


Replica by Lauren Oliver - I've never tried Lauren Oliver before, but this sounds like a great place to start.


Yesternight by Cat Winters - Winters has quickly become a must read author, and I can't wait to try her newest novel.


Jeremy Poldark (The Poldark Saga #3) by Winston Graham - After completing season two of the new adaptation, I'll have to read the two books comprising it.  I'd like to see how similar the books are to the show.


Warleggan (The Poldark Saga #4) by Winston Graham - I'm really looking forward to how much the second half of season two compares to the adaption especially!


Jericho (Lauren Reardon #2) by Alex Gordon - Gideon was amazing - I need to read the sequel!


The Star-Touched Queen (The Star-Touched Queen #1) by Roshani Chokshi - This sounds like a real must-read.


Armada by Ernest Cline - As much as I enjoyed Ready Player One, I'd love to get my hands on a copy of this!


Welcome to Night Vale (Night Vale #1) by Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor - I'm currently midway through year two of the podcast and I'm hooked - I need more!

What do you guys think of my list this week?  What books would you like to find under your tree?  Have you read any of these yet?  Thanks as always for visiting my blog, and for perhaps even commenting below!