Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Top Ten Books I Recently Added To My To-Be-Read List

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's Top Ten Tuesday asks bloggers to list their top ten books few recently added to our to-be-read list. The following books are in no particular order.

1. This Ordinary Life by Jennifer Walkup is about a high school radio host named Jasmine Torres. Her brother has epilepsy which causes Jasmine to miss out on interviews and school in order to take care of her brother. She meets a guy names Wes who also suffers from epilepsy. Wes lives a normal life despite his medical problem which gives hope for Danny.

2. I Crawl Through It by A.S. King is a contemporary novel about four teenagers dealing with real life problems like coping with grief and facing the anxiety of standardized tests. The only way to escape real life problems is to face it head on. I am looking forward to this book. It definitely sounds like a novel right up my alley. I have test taking anxiety and I would love to read about the character who faces this issue everyday.

3. Signs Point to Yes by Sandy Hall is an contemporary novel about a girl name Jane. She takes on a babysitting job to avoid working at an unpaid internship. It so happens that she ends up babysitting the siblings of her childhood friend and crush, Teo. This book sounds like a cute romance. The novel is only 240 pages and will be a nice fun read.

4. Monstrous by MarcyKate Connolly is a middle grade fantasy about Kymera who is misunderstood and rescues girls from an evil wizard at night. Girls go missing in the city of Bryre because of a curse. Kym rescues them but she looks different with her wings, bolts on her neck and her spiky tail. However, despite her father telling her not to be seen by humans, she befriends a boy. This book sounds like a great story. I can't wait to pick this one up.

5. A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab is a fantasy about Kell who is a Traveller. Kell is a rare magician who can travel between parallel universes. This books sounds pretty intriguing and I hope I end up enjoying it. I heard amazing things about this particular book and I cannot wait to start reading it.

6. Touch Me Not by Stacey Lee is a magical realism novel about a 16-year-old aromateur who is the last in a long line of witches and tries to reverse effects of a love potion that was administered to the wrong person. I don't know too much about the book but I love Lee's writing in Under a Painted Sky. I look forward to reading this book.

7. Stealing Snow by Danielle Paige is a Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale of The Snow Queen meets Frozen retelling. The story is set in modern day New York. Snow, a 17-year-old girl, has no idea she is a snow queen and escapes from a mental institution only to find Algid, an ice-covered place that mirrors her own dreams. Even though I did not like Frozen, I am looking forward to the retelling of this classic fairy tale. 

8. Very Good Lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination by J.K. Rowling includes Rowling's words of wisdom and inspiration. Her 2008 Harvard University commencement speech is included in this book. According to Goodreads, "Sales of VERY GOOD LIVES will benefit both Lumos, a charity organization founded by J.K. Rowling, which works to transform the lives of disadvantaged children, and university-wide financial aid at Harvard University."

9. Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt and Coloring Book by Johanna Basford is an adult coloring book with intricate designs. I can't wait to pick up my own copy! I find coloring is very relaxing. What a great way to unwind at night and to de-stress. 

10. Dream Things True by Marie Marquardt is a contemporary modern-day Romeo and Juliet novel. A wealthy southern boy falls in love with a undocumented Mexican girl in Georgia. I love Romeo and Juliet retellings so I am definitely looking forward to reading this novel.

Monday, March 30, 2015

March 2015 Challenge Recap

This month I had a small reading slump and I read less fantasy books than February. I am hoping to increase my fantasy reads for next month but I am right on track with the challenge. You can check my intro post about Flights of Fantasy here. You can check out January's recap here and February's recap here.

Flights of Fantasy books I've read in March 2015


I have been doing pretty well with the Dive into Diversity challenge over the past few months. I never plan to read "diversity" books. It just happens that books I end up wanting to read have diversity in them. Please check out my intro to the Dive Into Diversity challenge here. You can check out January's recap here and February's recap here

Dive Into Diversity books I've read in March 2015


Thursday, March 26, 2015

Harry Potter Illustrated Edition Cover Reveal


Our favorite wizard is a back with a bang and this time in flying vibrant colors. The illustrated version of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone will have a publication date of October 6, 2015. The illustrated editions will be published, one title for each year, by Scholastic and Bloomsbury. It's crazy how this is the first time where the US and the UK editions will share the same cover image. Make sure you save up your Galleons to purchase these illustrated beauties! You might as well collect them all!

Besides the gorgeous illustrations by Jim Kay, "the hardback edition will include a ribbon marker, head and tail bands, illustrated endpapers and color artwork on every spread." The book will include around 100 illustrations. Information was taken from a Bloomsbury e-mail blast and from Scholastic.

Also, check out this amazing image by Jim Kay of Flourish & Botts. I love this illustration. You can find this image on the Bloomsbury UK catalog. Images are from Bloomsbury UK.

The magic continues because Harry Potter lives on forever! Do you currently own multiple editions of any of the Harry Potter books? If so, which ones do you own?

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Top Ten Books From My Childhood to Revisit

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's Top Ten Tuesday asks bloggers to list their top ten books from our childhood (or teen years) that we would love to revisit. I included a mix of standalones and series. The following books are in no particular order.

1. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling is a no brainer for a revisit. I always make sure I do rereads of this amazing series. Not only is Harry Potter my favorite series of all time but Harry Potter is pretty much half of my life. I am not sure if everyone knows by now but I attend Harry Potter events all the time whether it be a convention, Harry Potter balls, wandering around Salem in costume, etc.

2. The Tales from Dimwood Forest series by Avi is one of my favorite series from 6th grade. I still need to read at least one more book in the series but I have fond memories of Poppy and friends. Avi will be making an appearance at the Newburyport Literary Festival in April. I am super excited to meet Avi because how often do you get to meet your favorite authors from childhood?

3. The Redwall series by Brian Jacques is one of my favorites series when I was in elementary and middle school. I haven't read all the books in the series but I hope to read all the books in the series in the future. To this day, Mossflower is still my favorite Redwall book. There are a total of 22 books in the series.

4. Matilda by Roald Dahl is one of my favorite children's standalone books. The fact that Matilda loves to read and how she builds a loving relationship with Ms. Honey melts my heart. It's such a cute read.

5. The Giving Tree and poetry books by Shel Silverstein. I love everything that Silverstein writes. His works are simple yet memorable. RIP Shel Silverstein.

6. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson is one of my favorite books I've read during my teenage years. Anderson writes abut difficult topics very well. During the early 2000's, there weren't a lot of YA literature geared toward subjects like rape, suicide and etc. She writes about real life and real struggles. Anderson still remains one of my favorite authors to this day.

7. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky is my favorite book of all time. I first read it sometime during 10th grade. I love love this book. I haven't reread it for a long time but it will be a quick read for me. I would love to reread the book and rewatch the film adaptation back to back.

8. 1984 by George Orwell is one of my favorite books I've read in school. I remember writing a paper about the glass paperweight and it's probably my favorite essay I've written. I would love to do a reread of this book and compare 1984 with current dystopians.

9. Teen Angst? Naaah... by Ned Vizzini is a book I've read in high school when I was looking for a random summer reading book. My school had mandatory books to read for the summer but I wanted to get some "fun" reads. The YA genre wasn't as diverse as it is today. I read many of Vizinni's books and I had the pleasure of meeting him at New York Comic Con with Christopher Columbus when both were promoting House of Secrets. RIP Ned Vizzini.

10. All Souls: A Family Story from Southie by Michael Patrick MacDonald is a powerful book. My high school required everyone to read this book for summer reading. Because the whole school read the book, I was fortunate enough to hear MacDonald speak at an assembly. Unfortunately, I was not able to attend his book signing since I had a conflict at the time.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Harry Potter Conventions

I am sure many of you are Harry Potter fans. I'm not sure how many people have heard of conventions that are based on the amazing fandom but there are plenty of Harry Potter conventions for all ages. I have been to two HP conventions in the past which include Ascendio in 2012 at Orlando, Florida and MISTI-Con in 2013 at Laconia, NH. I will be attending MISTI-Con again this year in May and I plan to attend Leviosa in 2016.

MISTI-Con is right around the corner and I seriously cannot wait for this amazing event. I loved MISTI-Con in 2013 and once I heard MISTI-Con was coming back in 2015, I knew I wanted to attend again. This year's theme is the Wizarding World's Fair. MISTI-Con is hosted at The Margate Resort in Laconia, NH from Thursday, May 21, 2015 to Monday, May 25, 2015. Not only is the venue near a lake, a cemetery, a market and many restaurants, but only MISTI-Con attendees will be at the resort during the time of the convention. No more worrying about bothering Muggles. MISTI-Con is an intimate convention with less than 500 attendees. Some of the events that I am looking forward to is the Opening Gala, the Bewitching Bazaar and Author's Alley, Merlie Awards and Costume Showcase, Wrock in Wizengamont, the Masquerade Ball and the many fabulous panels. I love the literary track at MISTI as well. No information is posted about the schedule but it should be up soon. The late registration is $165 for the 5 day convention. Day passes are available as well.

The Harry Potter Education Fanon (HPEF) has been hosting HP conventions since the early 2000's. Unfortunately, the last convention they hosted was Ascendio in 2012. Some of the volunteers from HPEF are spearheading a new convention called Leviosa which will be hosted at the Green Valley Ranch Resort in Las Vegas from Thursday, July 7, 2016 to Sunday, July 10, 2015. Leviosa has 6 programming tracks which include academic, fandom, creativity, slash & queer track, YA lit and a writing track. I am already excited about the YA lit track. You can check out some of the guests who are attending Leviosa here. So far Leviosa has some wonderful events planned such as a Magical Ball, Game Night, Fashion Show and Karaoke Night. The early bird registration is $150 until April 1, 2015. The cost will increase to $175 afterwards.

What I loved about the Ascendio and MISTI is the quality presentations and variety of programming. Unlike LeakyCon, the HPEF conventions and MISTI provide more educational programming. It is not all about meeting celebrities. Potter fans are running a convention for other Potter fans. There is always something do whether it be playing Quidditch, browsing at the craft fair, rocking at a Wrock concert, immersing yourself in a panel, dancing all night long at the ball or even hanging out in the common room. A Harry Potter convention is a great place for Harry Potter fans to get together and to share the magic of what the wizarding world has to offer.

I hope to see you at one of the Harry Potter conventions. If you are planning to attend MISTI-Con or Leviosa, please let me know. I would love to connect with other Potterheads. 

My sister and I at MISTI-Con 2013

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds

Title: The Boy in the Black Suit
Author: Jason Reynolds
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Publication date:  January 6, 2015
Pages: 272
Source/format: Library/Hardcover

Rating: ☆☆☆1/2

Synopsis (from goodreads.com):

Just when seventeen-year-old Matt thinks he can’t handle one more piece of terrible news, he meets a girl who’s dealt with a lot more—and who just might be able to clue him in on how to rise up when life keeps knocking him down—in this wry, gritty novel from the author of When I Was the Greatest. 

Matt wears a black suit every day. No, not because his mom died—although she did, and it sucks. But he wears the suit for his gig at the local funeral home, which pays way better than the Cluck Bucket, and he needs the income since his dad can’t handle the bills (or anything, really) on his own. So while Dad’s snagging bottles of whiskey, Matt’s snagging fifteen bucks an hour. Not bad. But everything else? Not good. Then Matt meets Lovey. She’s got a crazy name, and she’s been through more crazy than he can imagine. Yet Lovey never cries. She’s tough. Really tough. Tough in the way Matt wishes he could be. Which is maybe why he’s drawn to her, and definitely why he can’t seem to shake her. Because there’s nothing more hopeful than finding a person who understands your loneliness—and who can maybe even help take it away. 

My Thoughts: 

Matthew Miller is in his senior year. He just lost her mother and his father hits the bottle daily. Matt does well in school and leaves at noon everyday to do a work study job. Mr. Ray offers him a position and it's at the last place anyone expects Matt to work at. Matt dresses in his black suit for his job at a funeral home.  It's better than working at the Cluck Bucket. In fact, Matt enjoys attending funerals. Everyone copes with death in different ways.

The male POV is compelling. I love the voice of Matt and I love how genuine he is. The Boy in the Black Suit is definitely a book I recommend my students to read. Jason Reynolds does an amazing job with creating a novel that is relatable. Reynolds tells how an urban city really is. He doesn't sugarcoat anything which I like. Reynolds writes with honesty. He tells it how it is. The emotions are conveyed throughout the novel extremely well. I feel like I am with Matt when he talks about his life.

Mr. Ray is more than his neighbor or his boss. He becomes sort of a uncle to Matt. Mr. Ray is one of my favorite characters in the book and I would love to know about him. Lovey is somewhat different than Matt. I was surprised that Matt actually meet Lovey earlier on in the book but he didn't know at the time. The pacing of the book is perfect. We see how Matt is coping with her mother's death before Lovey is introduced into the story. When Matt has learned to cope with death, there is a bright light at the end of the hallway. Life to something new. Life to a new beginning.  Life is too short to dwell on. Matt realizes he needs to enjoy his life to the fullest. And with Lovey, he lives life.

The relationship between Matt and Lovey is something special. Because both Matt and Lovey have lost their mothers, they understand what it means to have loss. They both understand what it means to live. Both of them are like Sempervivum. They won't live forever but they are the strongest. They know how valuable life is and will cherish it. They will make it through good and bad times and it's because they know about what it means to live.

I love the typography for this novel. The text treatment is well done and I love the text gradient for the cover art. Most books don't focus on the typography. The focal point is usually the central image of the cover art. Everyone raves about how beautiful the cover design is. However, I think it's important to incorporate typography as well. In a later post, I will talk about some of my favorite cover designs.

Overall if you are looking for a contemporary about grief, young love and a collection of recipes titled THE SECRET TO GETTING GIRLS, FOR MATTY, definitely check The Boy in the Black Suit.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Top Ten Books On My Spring TBR List

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's Top Ten Tuesday asks bloggers to list their top ten books on our spring TBR list. The following books are in no particular order.

1. P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han is probably one of my top books I must get my hands on for spring. I absolutely loved To All the Boys I've Loved Before and I cannot wait to read the second book in this amazing contemporary duology. If you plan to attend BEA or are in the New York City area on May 26, 2015, definitely stop by Powerhouse Dumbo for Han's PSISLY release party!

2. Renegade by Kerry Wilkinson is the second book in the Silver Blackthorn series. I read Reckoning last year and enjoyed it. It's probably one of my favorite dystopian books I've read. I cannot wait to see what Wilkinson has in store for his readers.

3. Half Wild by Sally Green is the second book in the Half Bad Trilogy. If you are interested in paranormal fantasy involving witches, give this series a try. Bonus points for the series taking place in England.

4. The Heir by Kiera Cass is the fourth book in The Selection series. We heard about America's story about the Selection. Now, we get to hear from Eadlyn while she tells her story about the Selection. The book takes place 20 years after The One. Also, how stunning is this cover art? Check here to see if Kiera Cass will be visiting a city near you.

5. The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey is a debut urban fantasy novel. Echo is a clever pickpocketer who uncovers a secret race of magical people with feathers as hair. I am definitely intrigued by the synopsis of the book. Grey will be at the Boston Teen Author Festival come this Fall in Cambridge, MA. I am excited to read the novel and to meet Grey.

6. Simon vs. The Homo Sapien Agenda by Becky Albertalli is a debut novel about a not-so-openly gay 16-year-old male named Simon Spier. An e-mail falls into the wrong hands and now Simon is being blackmailed. Albertalli will join Melissa Grey at the Boston Teen Author Festival as well. I am also super excited to read this novel and to meet Albertalli.

7. Becoming Jinn by Lori Goldstein is a debut novel about genies. It is the first novel in the Becoming Jinn series. Goldstein will be present at the Newbury Literary Festival with authors such as Avi and Heather Demetrios. She will also be having her release party at Porter Square Books in Cambridge, MA. Both events will occur in April.

8. Black Dove, White Raven by Elizabeth Wein is a historical novel about a girl named Emilia and a boy named Teo in the 1930's. Teo's mother dies in a plane crash and Emilia's mother raises Teo. However, Emilia and her mother are White and Teo is Black. Emilia's mother tries to find a country in order to raise both children where Teo won't be discriminated because of his skin color. The synopsis sounds wonderful and I cannot wait to dive into this book.

9. The Bane Chronicles by Sarah Rees Brennan, Cassandra Clare and Maureen Johnson is a compilation of Magnus Bane novellas. This bind up has been sitting next to by bed since its release. I cannot procrastinate any more and should read it soon. Let's see if I will read about the adventures of Magnus Bane by the end of June.

10. I'll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios is definitely on my TBR list for the spring. Everyone has been raving about this contemporary book. I own this book and I want to read it by the end of April. Demetrios will make an appearance at the Newburyport Literary Festival and I would love to meet her.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee

Title: Under a Painted Sky
Author: Stacey Lee
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Publication date:  March 17, 2015
Pages: 384
Source/format: e-ARC from Netgalley

Rating: ☆☆☆

Synopsis (from goodreads.com):

A powerful story of friendship and sacrifice, for fans of Code Name Verity 

Missouri, 1849: Samantha dreams of moving back to New York to be a professional musician—not an easy thing if you’re a girl, and harder still if you’re Chinese. But a tragic accident dashes any hopes of fulfilling her dream, and instead, leaves her fearing for her life. With the help of a runaway slave named Annamae, Samantha flees town for the unknown frontier. But life on the Oregon Trail is unsafe for two girls, so they disguise themselves as Sammy and Andy, two boys headed for the California gold rush. Sammy and Andy forge a powerful bond as they each search for a link to their past, and struggle to avoid any unwanted attention. But when they cross paths with a band of cowboys, the light-hearted troupe turn out to be unexpected allies. With the law closing in on them and new setbacks coming each day, the girls quickly learn that there are not many places to hide on the open trail. 

This beautifully written debut is an exciting adventure and heart-wrenching survival tale. But above all else, it’s a story about perseverance and trust that will restore your faith in the power of friendship.

My Thoughts: 

I am not a big fan of westerns but this one works. Under a Painted Sky is historical fiction novel about two girls, Samantha and Annamae, traveling west of Missouri on the Oregon trail. Samantha and Annamae run for their lives after an accidental murder. Being a girl, especially one of color, is hard in the mid-1800's so the girls disguise themselves as boys with the names Sammy and Andy. Sammy is looking for her father's friend, Mr. Trask, who is traveling to California. Andy is looking for her brother.

I enjoy following their journey and I love the character development in this novel. Sammy and Andy end up meeting Cay, West and Peety along their way on the Oregon Trail. They all become family and will do anything to save each others' lives. There were several instances where I thought someone was going to die or the girls were going to be caught for running away. Stacey Lee weaves music, friendship, family, tradition, romance and history in Under a Painted Sky. Her writing is absolutely beautiful. She definitely paints images with her words. I seriously had tears of happiness after reading the novel. Under a Painted Sky is definitely one of my favorite reads of the year.

Can I say that the cover art is absolutely stunning! The silhouettes of Sammy and Andy look fantastic against the gorgeous painted sky. Also, the squiggles around the title is actually Chinese zodiac animals. These animals correlate with characters in the novel.

The character development in the book is excellent. I absolutely love the friendship and family values in the novel. I love how the girls encountered Cay, West and Peety. All five of them make a great team. At first Sammy doesn't click well with West but after awhile she grows very fond of him. I was sad when she lost her dad and Lady Tin Yin. Thank goodness Andy is with her during the trip to the west. I don't think Sammy would have survived without Andy. The two girls bond and stay strong while they travel with the guys. Sometimes friendship matures into family. And sometimes family is more than blood. What I love is the diversity within the group. The cultural differences and childhood upbringings help create a bond between the five. The knowledge each one has contributes to their survival.

I highly recommend this book if you like historical fiction and/or are interested in a coming-of-age story about friendship and survival.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Insurgent by Veronica Roth

Title: Insurgent
Author: Veronica Roth
Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books
Publication date:  May 1, 2012
Pages: 525
Source/format: Purchased/Hardcover

Rating: ☆☆☆

Synopsis (from goodreads.com):

Insurgent is a 2012 science fiction young adult novel by American novelist Veronica Roth, the second book in the Divergent trilogy. As the sequel to the 2011 bestseller Divergent, it continues the story of Tris Prior and the dystopian post-apocalyptic version of Chicago. Following the events of the previous novel, a war now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. While trying to save the people that she loves, Tris faces questions of grief, forgiveness, identity, loyalty, politics, and love.

The book was first published on May 1, 2012 by the HarperCollins imprints Katherine Tegen Books in the U.S. and HarperCollins Children's Books in the U.K, a "Collector's Edition" was published on October 30 in the United States. Insurgent received mostly positive reviews from critics, with reviewers praising Roth's writing.

My Thoughts:
I wanted to reread Insurgent before the film adaptation comes out on March 20th. The first time I read it was in 2012. I was fortunate enough to meet Veronica Roth back in 2012 at Ascendio, a Harry Potter convention located in Orlando, Florida. It's crazy how extremely popular she has become over a few years.

Roth does an excellent job with the world building in the Divergent series. Insurgent starts right where Divergent left off. However, it is a slower paced book than Divergent but it doesn't mean that it's bad. I actually liked how Tris and Tobias travel through multiple factions. I enjoyed learning more about each faction's values and customs. We've only heard mostly about Dauntless in Divergent with a smattering of Erudite and Abnegation. Insurgent goes into depth about the leaders of the factions and gives hints to what some of the initiation trial tasks are. Reading about faction members transferring into other factions is quite interesting. To hear why they transferred to other factions intrigues me the most. There is wide variety of reasons why one will transfer to another faction instead of staying in his/her own faction.

Insurgent dives deeper under the surface compared to Divergent. We find out about secrets that characters have been hiding from their friends, families and loved ones. Insurgent plays with the characters emotions. The reader feels the anger, the betrayal, the regret, the grief and the love Insurgent has to offer. The novel is more complex and is darker than the first in the series.

Tris is haunted by her decisions she made in the past. However, she knows she needs to keep moving forward to protect herself, her faction and her loved ones. Time is ticking and Tris is desperate to find out what her parents were protecting. Can we trust each faction? Will they betray Tris and her friends?

If you enjoyed reading Divergent, you will love Insurgent.