Top Ten Books I Don’t Talk About Enough

This week’s Broke and Bookish Top Ten is the books that aren’t talked about enough.  I can’t believe there are any books I shut up about but I’m going to list 10 books that I love and that I haven’t reviewed.  Now I can ease my conscience about not having posted about them in detail and everyone should go read them now!

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  1. Beach Music by Pat Conroy.  Read this at the right time and it definitely changed the path of my life!
  2. The Wrath & The Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
  3. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
  4. Tell The Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt
  5. The Royal We by Heather Cocks adn Jessica Morgan
  6. Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
  7. China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan – Yes they’re so good they should be on here separately
  8. Seraphina/Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman
  9. The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde – I adore this series
  10. Bridget Jones’ Diary by Helen Fielding.  Silly – but I swear this got me back into reading after college gradation.  Thanks Pat for sharing it with me!

What’s on your list today?

Review: The Serpent King

The Serpent King, Jeff Zentner

Published: March 8th 2016 by Crown Books for Young Readers/Random House

Kindle Edition, 384 pages

Source: e-ARC from NetGalley

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Dill has had to wrestle with vipers his whole life—at home, as the only son of a Pentecostal minister who urges him to handle poisonous rattlesnakes, and at school, where he faces down bullies who target him for his father’s extreme faith and very public fall from grace.

He and his fellow outcast friends must try to make it through their senior year of high school without letting the small-town culture destroy their creative spirits and sense of self. Graduation will lead to new beginnings for Lydia, whose edgy fashion blog is her ticket out of their rural Tennessee town. And Travis is content where he is thanks to his obsession with an epic book series and the fangirl turning his reality into real-life fantasy.

Their diverging paths could mean the end of their friendship. But not before Dill confronts his dark legacy to attempt to find a way into the light of a future worth living.

I’m soon going to have to revise my feelings on reading YA contemporaries if I continue to get so lucky with my reading choices.  Generally if I’m reading something contemporary I want adult but I kept seeing buzz about The Serpent King on Twitter – thanks to Eric Smith in particular – I was convinced to request a copy.  The Serpent King joins some other excellent YA reads like All the Rage, Made You Up and Dumplin’.  This book had me smiling and then crying within pages.  

Dill, Lydia and Travis stand out from the other kids in their small Tennessee town, and though they are none too alike themselves they are the best of friends.  Lydia has a popular fashion blog and supportive family that have her ready to head to New York for college, Travis has a Game of Thrones-like fantasy world to escape to and an online community for friendship. Then there’s Dill; Dill has to visit his father in prison and a plan to go full time at the local grocery store after graduation.  Dill’s father was a snake handling preacher before he was sent to prison on the worst of charges and he and Dill’s mom- along with nearly everyone else- blames Dill for his sentencing.

The Serpent King begins as these friends are starting their senior year of high school both with dread and an eagerness to be done.  Zentner’s excellent storytelling put me right into a cruel high school experience in rural Tennessee.  I cringed as Dill and Lydia approached the parking lot each day.  But he wrote this beautiful friendship as well so the terrible was balanced with humor.  I loved how Zentner took the story right up to the edge of hopelessness and then showed how brave you have to be to move forward.  These three friends made me cry and they made me hope.

As a side note, absent or terrible parents are par for the course in YA, which made Lydia’s amazing parents stand out all the more.  I loved them!  Even if they were a bit over the top, it felt good to read about a real and loving parent-child relationship; especially to hold up against the other parents in this book.   

If you’re going to live, you might as well do painful, brave and beautiful things

This book was all of those things – painful, brave and beautiful.  Read it!

5 stars!

Thank you Crown Books for Young Readers and NetGalley for this advance edition in exchange for an honest opinion!

Quotes taken from unedited copy in advance of publication.

 

 

Review: Into the Dim

Into the Dim, Janet B. Taylor (Into the Dim #1)

Published March 1st 2016 by HMH Books for Young Readers

Hardcover, 432 pages

Source: e-ARC from NetGalley

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When fragile, sixteen-year-old Hope Walton loses her mom to an earthquake overseas, her secluded world crumbles. Agreeing to spend the summer in Scotland, Hope discovers that her mother was more than a brilliant academic, but also a member of a secret society of time travelers. Trapped in the twelfth century in the age of Eleanor of Aquitaine, Hope has seventy-two hours to rescue her mother and get back to their own time. Along the way, her path collides with that of a mysterious boy who could be vital to her mission . . . or the key to Hope’s undoing.

I’m so sad to say that Into the Dim was, well in a word, dim.  When I first read that this book involved a secret society in Scotland and time travel I was ready to eager to dive in.  A book about a smart girl going back eight centuries to find her mom – awesome. Unfortunately I found Into the Dim to be pretty flat and predictable rather than the romantic adventure it was supposed to be.

Hope could have been amazing!  Instead she was really pretty disappointing.  For all that she was supposed to be so smart with her photographic memory she surely missed all the clues I saw dropping.  Honestly, I love a good plot twist as much as the next girl – but don’t give me a genius main character who can’t see a setup as it’s happening.  

None of the characters had much depth to them unfortunately so Hope had nothing to be propped up with besides the time travel.  I liked the idea of the travelers moving throughout history and preventing others from messing with treasures that might otherwise be lost to history – but again the execution was just off.  I think if Taylor had kept the time travel simpler rather than adding complicated machinery to lay lines it would have been better.  Don’t make the reader think too hard about the implausibility of your story – just go with it and I will follow you!

Where Taylor’s work shone through was in the research.  You can tell she really loves the time period and Eleanor of Aquitaine.  When Hope lands in the past Taylor really brought the scene to life. The smells and the dress, the class distinctions and the royal pageantry were all so well done.   But still, Hope and her companions felt too wrong footed for all the research and experience they were supposed to have.  The research just wasn’t enough to carry the book.  

2 stars

Thank you HMH Books for Young Readers and NetGalley for this advance copy in exchange for an honest opinion.

Top Ten Books on My Spring TBR

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday from the Broke and the Bookish is the Top Ten Books on your Spring To Read List.  As usual my list is totally cracked out and random.  This is clearly how my mind works.  This should be a good mix of murdery, interesting, fun and heartbreaking! 

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  1. Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye “Reader I murdered him.” WHAT – My next read I think. 
  2. Man Tiger by Eka Kurniawan
  3. Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink
  4. June by Miranda Beverly Whittemore (I loved Bittersweet so much!)
  5. The Bad Ass Librarians of Timbuktu by Joshua Hammer
  6. Down with the Shine by Kate Karyus-Quinn
  7. Roses & Rot by Kat Howard 
  8. Britt Marie was Here by Frederik Backman
  9. Every Heart a Doorway  by Seanan McGuire
  10. Happy Family by Tracy Barone 

What’s on your TTT?  Any amazing books I need to add to my list?

Blog Tour: Bug Zoo

Bug Zoo, Illustrated by Andy Harkness, Words by Lisa Wheeler

Hardcover, 40 pages

Published February 16th 2016 by Disney-Hyperion – Walt Disney Animation Studios Artist Showcase Series

Source: From the publisher for the blog tour

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Ben loves bugs: armored, teeny, leggy, greenie, floaty, wingy, jumpy, springy bugs! After a trip to the city zoo, Ben collects all of the bugs he can find and sets up a bug zoo. He couldn’t be happier–but what about his bugs?

Welcome to my stop along the blog tour for Bug Zoo, hosted by The Irish Banana Review!

I found this treat in the mail just days after visiting the Butterfly Haven at the Peggy Notebart Nature Museum with my 5 year-old.  The timing could not have been better!  We are big into insect talk at my house right now.  The bugs in Bug Zoo look ready to come off the page at times and you can almost feel the texture to the wings, bodies and antennae on the page.  Andy Harkness actually is a Disney Animation artist and so it makes sense that his bugs look like they’re about to take flight.

After a visit to his zoo Ben has the idea to start his own zoo right in his bedroom for his beloved bugs.  I shudder in sympathy for Ben’s mother.  He is one ambitious kid!  I love the variety of bugs he collects and the emotions Harkness can convey on the face of a moth.  This is a book that kids will love most for the pictures, but the message comes through for my preschooler to understand.  We could count bugs, talk about the colors – but then talk about just what might make a moth or a boy feel sad.  

This short and sweet story is a perfect bedtime read.  The fun cadence to the armored, teeny, leggy, greenie etc bugs gets Babycakes reciting along with me for now, but I know she’ll be reading it to me soon!  

My daughter gave this Bug Zoo the highest praise for a 5 year-old: She’s asked me to bring Bug Zoo into school to read to the class.  I think the boys and girls will both love these bugs.  Babycakes also really likes the front and end pages with all kinds of bug catching tips.  I know that as soon as Spring has officially sprung in Chicago we’re going to be outside catching whatever critters live in our yard.

Thank you Disney-Hyperion and Hannah for this copy!

Check out the rest of the blog tour at:

3/7: Reads All the Books

3/8: That Artsy Reader Girl

3/9: Gun In Act One

3/10: Such A Novel Idea

3/11: Reading Is Better With Cupcakes

Sisterly Thoughts: The Bollywood Bride

Click here for our first conversation on The Bollywood Bride, Sonali Dev’s second Indian/American romance novel. We finished up this quick sister read-along, and we’re hoping to jump into the 3rd Comoran Strike book next!

Holly:

Okay, I didn’t love this one as much as The Bollywood Affair, but it was still pretty fun. And I’d still like to go to a legit Indian wedding! The first book had this running theme of Indian food, with mouth-watering descriptions. This book, with Ria’s super-stardom, had more of a wardrobe theme, with all of Ria’s designer clothes.

 

 

Amanda:

I really loved the wardrobe theme to be honest.  I loved picturing the colors and the fabrics.  And truly, I just loved the wedding setting.  You know I’m still a little sad you didn’t ride to your wedding on an elephant.

I do agree though sister, The Bollywood Bride didn’t completely capture my heart the way that The Bollywood Affair did – but I still enjoyed it!  I liked that with the wedding setting Dev was able to explain all the customs and the amazing outfits and the importance of the steps in a way that just flowed with the story.  

I will say I didn’t love the mental-health related story line in this book, and the violence portrayed.  I don’t want to give too much away, but I’ll say that was a plot line that does more harm than good.  It fits in with the Bollywood style if that makes sense – but this could have been done much differently.

Holly:

Hey, but look! Sonali Dev’s next novel has a synopsis now in Amazon, and it will bring back some characters from this one. So that’s happening.

Amanda:

Yes please! Gimme, gimme, gimme the new one!  The Bollywood Bride I’d give a solid 3 stars.  This was overall an entertaining romance I’d pick up again.  

Thank you Kensington and NetGalley for this advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

Review and Giveaway: Locally Laid

Locally Laid: How We Built a Plucky, Industry-changing Egg Farm – from Scratch, Lucie Amundsen

Published March 1st 2016 by Avery

Hardcover, 336 pages

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When Lucie Amundsen had a rare night out with her husband, she never imagined what he’d tell her over dinner—that his dream was to quit his office job (with benefits!) and start a commercial-scale pasture-raised egg farm. His entire agricultural experience consisted of raising five backyard hens, none of whom had yet laid a single egg.

To create this pastured poultry ranch, the couple scrambles to acquire nearly two thousand chickens—all named Lola. These hens, purchased commercially, arrive bereft of basic chicken-y instincts, such as the evening urge to roost. The newbie farmers also deal with their own shortcomings, making for a failed inspection and intense struggles to keep livestock alive (much less laying) during a brutal winter. But with a heavy dose of humor, they learn to negotiate the highly stressed no-man’s-land known as Middle Agriculture. Amundsen sees firsthand how these midsized farms, situated between small-scale operations and mammoth factory farms, are vital to rebuilding America’s local food system.

With an unexpected passion for this dubious enterprise, Amundsen shares a messy, wry, and entirely educational story of the unforeseen payoffs (and frequent pitfalls) of one couple’s ag adventure—and many, many hours spent wrangling chickens.

Let me say I am firmly a city girl.  We sold my car, we take the el, we walk to the grocery, and we walk to school.  I may have shrieked when I had to pick up a baby chick for my daughter at the petting zoo last year.  Maybe.  Why I thought I should read a book about a chicken farm I really don’t know – but let me tell you I am so glad that I did!  I enjoyed it so much that along with Avery I’m giving away a copy – so read all the way down!

Lucie tells a great story of how her husband convinced her to go from a small backyard flock of 5 egg laying chickens to owning thousands on a rented Minnesota farm.  She was not an easy sell (I don’t blame her).  I enjoyed reading about their small triumphs and was frustrated at the bureaucracies and stumbling blocks on the way to production.  Locally Laid is a labor of love for Lucie’s family and that shines through their story.  

Lucie talked not just about her own story but how the industry has changed over decades and how poultry is treated.  She pointed out that most of the egg laying birds in this country NEVER GO OUTSIDE.  In their whole lives – how scary is that?  So aside from an entertaining personal story, Lucie got me thinking about where my food comes from and why buying local food is important.  It’s scary to think about all the mileage behind some of the food we eat!  

I may not be a farmer, but I do live in the Midwest and I love it here. This was an eye opening read for me about small agriculture vs. middle vs the giant ag corporations out there.  I think as things like genetically modified crops become more common and water and land run out these are really important things to think about and talk about.   I even put my money where my mouth is and tried a dozen LoLa eggs this weekend – they were delicious!  I’m very curious to follow Locally Laid and see how they do – and I am seriously tempted to order a t-shirt.   In the meantime I’m going to think a lot harder when I shop and I’m going to be counting down until it’s CSA and Farmer’s Market season in Chicago!  

Do you want to read Lucie’s story?  I’m giving away one copy of Locally Laid and a fun LoLa button.  Here is a Rafflecopter link to the giveaway.  Must be US based and no spam giveaway accounts!

Don’t you want to get Locally Laid?