Friday, February 14, 2020

Friday Fun Post: Top 3 TBF Authors I Can't Wait to Meet

Hi everyone! If you've been keeping up with the TBF website or their social media, you've probably seen the exciting author reveals for TBF 2020. Some familiar names are on the list, and so many new ones as well. Personally, I'm looking forward to meeting all of them, but my top three are Lisa McMann, Elizabeth Lim, and Stephanie MacKendrick!
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Lisa McMann (The Unwanteds)

McMann's The Unwanteds was one of the most memorable series I read during middle school. It was a time when I was exploring different genres and literary styles, and it was one of those books that transitioned me from middle grade to YA. I still remember which shelf the novels were located on in the school library, and while a lot of the details of the plot escape me today, I still remember falling in love with the world of Artimé, the magic and creativity, and the characters. I look forward to picking up where I left off, and I can't wait to meet McMann in person at TBF!

Elizabeth Lim (Spin the Dawn)

Lim is a new author for me, and while I haven't read her novel, Spin the Dawn (it's on my desk right now!), it instantly caught my eye. With its incorporation of magic, myths, and allusions to Ancient China, it struck me as an intriguing fantasy read. I love when authors tie in elements of their cultures into their writing, especially stories and legends they've grown up with; not only does it add a fascinating layer of complexity, but it contributes to greater representation in fiction as well.

On top of that, Elizabeth Lim just seems like someone I would love to have a conversation with. From her author profile, she loves music and has pursued music composition professionally, and I would love to talk with her and learn more about her decision to ultimately pursue writing!

Stephanie MacKendrick (In Good Hands)
Cover may not be final


MacKendrick is the author of the upcoming novel In Good Hands, which shares the stories of several female politicians and the pathway to politics. Besides fiction, I love reading memoirs and similar novels because I love real-world, empowering stories, and I believe In Good Hands will fulfill that well. I also recently took a government course and went on a trip to Washington, D.C. to meet with various agencies and Congressional staff, and In Good Hands seems like another way to connect politics with my everyday life.

Lastly, MacKendrick has an interesting perspective as a former journalist who is now focused on women's career advancement and nonprofit leadership, and I would love to hear more about her background and current work. In Good Hands comes out in April, and I can't wait to read it and meet her at TBF!

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I hope you're as excited as I am for the authors coming to TBF 2020! There are so many more I haven't mentioned, so I encourage you to look at the list here! Counting down the days!

-Amy

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Book Review: The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann


Hey all! Another new year, and that means another year of TBF! To start off the year of book reviews and blog posts I reread a book I remember loving when I was younger, which is The Unwanteds, the first book in the hit fantasy middle grade series by Lisa McMann. Here's a summary:


Image result for the unwanteds cover"


When Alex finds out he is Unwanted, he expects to die. That is the way of the people of Quill. Each year, all the thirteen-year-olds are labeled as Wanted, Necessary, or Unwanted. Wanteds get more schooling and train to join the Quillitary. Necessaries keep the farms running. Unwanteds are set for elimination.

It’s hard for Alex to leave behind his twin, Aaron, a Wanted, but he makes peace with his fate—until he discovers that instead of a “death farm,” what awaits him is a magical place called Artimé. There, Alex and his fellow Unwanteds are encouraged to cultivate their creative abilities and use them magically. Everything Alex has ever known changes before his eyes, and it’s a wondrous transformation.

The most incredible part of this book to me, is the immensely strong, riveting, and just breathtaking world-building that fills this book. The descriptions of magic and its system, the creatures and unique world and places, all just screamed originality which I loved. This book has a strong storyline regarding creativity which is so very present in this book which despite being described as "the Hunger Games meets Harry Potter," is like nothing else I ever read as a kid. The concept itself, almost reminiscent of the dystopian books that filled the early 2010s, stands out from the typical teenagers take down the government type of story. Despite the story being aimed for younger audiences, McMann did not shy away from darkness and heavier topics, something I know attracted me as a child and that I appreciated again on my reread. And with that concept came another thing I loved: McMann's characters.
Our main group of characters were easy to quickly become attached to and root for throughout the story and the rest of the series, but each with their own unique qualities, as well as interesting, humorous, or emotional interactions between them. And despite not remembering the rest of the series as it has been several years since I read them, I do remember the wonderful character development that occurs over the series, making the characters and McMann's writing even better. Besides our young heroes, come two of the best parts of the story: Mr. Today, who plays the role of the the older wise mentor, but is also just brilliant and good intentioned, easily winning your heart over, and Simber, an alive giant winged cheetah statue who is unexpectedly a large player in the story, as well as in tying it all together, and in further showing the diverse imagination of McMann and how fun, magical, and unique this story is.
This novel emphasizes the need for creativity in life, an incredible message of celebrating individual talents, interests and difference: a great thing for younger readers to grow up with. And right alongside that is a fun, yet dark and compelling fantasy tale.

See you next time,
Claire

check the book out here!amazon   barnes and noble (or your local library!)


Friday, February 7, 2020

Three TBF Authors That I Can’t Wait to Meet


Hey, everyone! It’s so exciting to be back and so exciting to be talking about one of my favorite subjects once again! This year’s TBF has a bunch of powerhouse guest authors and let me tell you, I am already dreaming about getting to meet them. However, there are three authors that I am particularly thrilled to meet…
Without further ado, here are the top three authors that I am counting down the days to meet:

  1. Sandhya Menon, author of When Dimple Met Rishi
Okay, so let me give a full confession. I read When Dimple Met Rishi on my phone in a day (I usually go for paper books, it takes a great book to hold my attention on the small screen of my phone). And that book caused me to fall in love. The romance between Dimple and Rishi is just so adorable. Their initial dislike, made so much more awkward by the fact that they are matched by their parents to be married, makes the story thrilling. And the melting of their initial dislike… it’s so adorable. I can’t wait to meet the author behind this genius book. And not only is she an incredible author, she's "mom" to an adorable dog and cat! I’m so excited to ask her how she breathed life into such a wonderful relationship as that of Dimple and Rishi and if her pets are ever going to make a cameo!

  1. Claire Legrand, author of Furyborn
So… I already met Claire Legrand back in the olden days of 2018. It might be cheating slightly to include her on this list, but I do it for good reason. I can personally attest that Clarie Legrand is an incredibly cool and incredibly kind person. I got to be the author assistant for Roshani Chokshi that year (best job ever, absolutely life changing, by the way) and she was partnered with Clarie Legrand. I can honestly say that Claire Legrand has a phenomenal sense of humor. And, since 2018, I have gotten a chance to read Furyborn, which is such an entrancing book. In fact, I might have to beg her to tell me the ending of that series because I have been on the edge of my seat with the wait. The way that the stories of Eliana and Rielle are woven together is truly amazing. The time travel and the romance and the magic make the book shine. I’ve also had the pleasure of reading Sawkill Girls (stay tuned for my thoughts on that) and, while it is completely different from Furyborn, it is bone chilling and phenomenal. Speaking as someone who generally avoids horror books like the plague, Clarie Legrand truly has the perfect dose of spooky threaded in the plot. I am so excited to get to see Claire Legrand again and, this time, beg her to let me in on what happens to Rielle and Eliana.

  1. Ryan La Sala, author of Reverie
I have not gotten the chance to read Reverie yet but I am looking forward to it. The dreamlike writing sounds fantastic. And the different places and times that the plot moves into seems quite riveting. Ryan La Sala himself says that the book is about what happens when a person gets lost in their head. As a compulsive dreamer, I can’t wait to see how he handles the peculiar world of the mind. One of my favorite classics is The Sound and The Fury because of its stream of consciousness narration, and it seems that this book might (in an incredibly different way) take a look at the consciousness. I'm so excited! And I have to say, he seems like a cool author. I certainly enjoyed reading his interview about Reverie

I can’t wait for May! TBF 2020 is coming quickly!

Stay warm this February (if possible in snowy Rochester)!
Until next time!

Laura

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Book Review: Dig by A.S. King

Hi everyone! I hope the new year has been treating you well. I’m so excited to start off the blogging season for TBF 2020! I recently read Dig, A.S. King’s latest novel, and I can’t wait to share it with you!

The Shoveler, The Freak, CanIHelpYou?, Loretta the Flea-Circus Ring Mistress, and First-Class Malcolm. These are the five teenagers lost in the Hemmings family's maze of tangled secrets. Only a generation removed from being Pennsylvania potato farmers, Gottfried and Marla Hemmings managed to trade digging spuds for developing subdivisions and now sit atop a million-dollar bank account--wealth they've declined to pass on to their adult children or their teenage grandchildren. "Because we want them to thrive," Marla always says. What does thriving look like? Like carrying a snow shovel everywhere. Like selling weed at the Arby's Drive-Thru window. Like first-class tickets to Jamaica between cancer treatments. Like a flea-circus in a trailer park. Like the GPS coordinates to a mound of dirt in a New Jersey forest.

As the rot just beneath the surface of the Hemmings' suburban respectability begins to spread, the estranged grandchildren gradually find their ways back to one another, just in time to uncover the terrible cost of maintaining the family name.

Dig is an inquiring, thought-provoking novel, uncomfortable but important. Through the raw, unfiltered lives of the grandchildren, Dig tells the story of decay spreading across a family tree, of senseless injustices disguised as love and good intentions, and of racism and prejudice seeping into lives and relationships. It confronts us with the price of success and survival, and questions our values and the tunnels we ourselves are running through. It is the story of five teenagers, told in each of their distinct voices, as they try to piece together fragmented worlds and questions without clear answers.

This is definitely a novel in which the plotlines are cast out early on and reeled in slowly as the story progresses. It can be confusing at first, but I promise that the pieces will fit together and the tangled yet disconnected relationships will begin to make sense. What ultimately drew me to Dig the most was the storytelling. The writing is incredible--sharp, humorous yet profound, marked with offhand comments packed with meaning. This novel explores the bitter side of generational divide--the repercussions of older generations' attempts to mold those younger into their idea of respectability--and the systems of wealth, race, privilege, and indifference that run concurrently with mainstream society. It shows us how each person is haunted, albeit by different things, how familiar people can be strangers, physically and ideologically, and how we have the capability to be different--be better--than those who came before us. 

I would strongly recommend Dig to anyone, and moreover, I would encourage you to read it twice. It is a story full of twists, layers, and hard truths, and I hope you take the time to check it out!

- Amy 

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Book Review: The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys

Hi everyone! Summer went by so quickly for me but I still managed to squeeze in a book before I was swept away by senior year. I’m so excited to share with you The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys.

Cover may not be final
Madrid, 1957. Under the fascist dictatorship of General Francisco Franco, Spain is hiding a dark secret. Meanwhile, tourists and foreign businessmen flood into Spain under the welcoming guise of sunshine and wine. Among them is eighteen-year-old Daniel Matheson, the son of a Texas oil tycoon, who arrives in Madrid with his parents hoping to connect with the country of his mother's birth through the lens of his camera. Photography--and fate--introduce him to Ana, whose family's interweaving obstacles reveal the lingering grasp of the Spanish Civil War--as well as chilling definitions of fortune and fear. Daniel's photographs leave him with uncomfortable questions amidst shadows of danger. He is backed into a corner of decisions to protect those he loves. Lives and hearts collide, revealing an incredibly dark side to the sunny Spanish city.

Master storyteller Ruta Sepetys once again shines light into one of history's darkest corners in this epic, heart-wrenching novel about identity, unforgettable love, repercussions of war, and the hidden violence of silence--inspired by the true post-war struggles of Spain.


Sepety's style of writing is just beautiful. It flows right from the beginning and builds with intensity, with every line feeling deliberate while still progressing naturally overall. And this writing style is what makes this novel distinct from other fiction- rather than having a very structured series of events, this novel ebbs and flows through different circumstances and perspectives, bringing a sense of authenticity to the story.

And although the story isn't dramatized, in each written snapshot there is striking intensity and a sense of finality- of “this is the norm." And this novel also brings with it a powerful feeling of "this was real"- that profound sense in historical fiction that can’t really be created by any other genre. The Fountains of Silence explores life in Spain following the Spanish Civil War through multiple lenses, providing a glimpse into a history often glossed over.

First is Daniel, travelling to Madrid from a wealthy American family. Through him, we see snapshots of 1950s America- the social circles, conformity, and conservatism- and also fascist Spain as an outsider. He tries to understand the complexities of a world and culture he feels somewhat connected to through his Spanish heritage but in reality is still worlds away. And most us of are like Daniel, seeing tragedies, horrors, and injustice secondhand, and being unable to truly understand another’s circumstances when they are so unlike our own, which is what I think makes this novel so compelling.

The world that Daniel is glimpsing is Ana’s reality. Her work in an American hotel in Madrid with the exuberant displays of wealth and power is a sharp juxtaposition to her circumstances at home, yet she can’t help but dream. And through her we see many other characters who complete the story: Julia, Rafa, Fuga, and Puri, who each respond in their own ways to lives overshadowed by fear and silence.

Ruta Sepetys has been referred to as a “cross over” author whose books are read by both young adults and adults, and this could certainly be the case with The Fountains of Silence. The style of writing is more solemn and mature, and the plot is more slow-build than action-packed, but her ability to fill the story with underlying tension, vivid imagery, and meaningful characters makes this a novel everyone would enjoy.

If you like historical fiction, or if you want to try something new like I did, check out The Fountains of Silence when it comes out on October 1st. You can find it on Goodreads, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon.

-Amy

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Book Review: The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Hey all! Today (or rather the day I'm posting this) is my first day back to school, meaning summer has officially ended. Summer seems to have flown by yet again this year, and as I was thinking back on the summer I remembered this incredible book I read last year that I still feel did not get enough praise.

The Inexplicable Logic of My Life
A "mesmerizing, poetic exploration of family, friendship, love and loss" - The New York Times Book Review. 
Sal used to know his place with his adoptive gay father, their loving Mexican American family, and his best friend Samantha. But it's senior year, and suddenly Sal is throwing punches, questioning everything, and realizing he no longer knows himself. If Sal's not who he thought he was, who is he? This humor-infused, warmly human look at universal questions of belonging is a triumph.


The Inexplicable Logic of my Life was Sáenz's highly anticipated next novel after the wildly successful Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. And as much as I loved Ari and Dante, I think I am one of the few who loved this novel even more. Sal and I are at similar points of life right now as I approach the end of high school in these next two years and begin to step out into an unknown territory.

Like many of Sáenz's novels this book is character driven which is exactly the reason I adore them so strongly. His characters are always so well developed and so strong, allowing me to feel as if I know them even if their story is nothing like my own. Unlike his more well known novel, this novel does not focus on a romantic relationship, but rather on the relationships between families and friends. The main friendship in this story between Sal and Samantha reminded me so much of my own best friend as we are also a boy and girl pair and I saw so much of us in them. Which is exactly why I love his novels so much, because of how real, personable and memorable every single part is.

This book is so beautiful, as are the words inside and it has impacted me so strongly that I can remember how it made me feel even a year later. It is a book focused on changes and real people yet is still so enjoyable to read, and I recommend it to just about anyone looking to read a book that will make them think and feel something.

Have a great September!
-Claire

check the book out here!
amazon barnes and noble goodreads

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Book Review: Not Even Bones by Rebecca Schaeffer

Hello everyone and happy summer! I’ve been super busy lately, but (of course) I made time to read some new books. And I can't wait to share with you Not Even Bones, a dark and action-packed novel by Rebecca Schaeffer.

Dexter meets This Savage Song in this dark fantasy about a girl who sells magical body parts on the black market — until she’s betrayed.

Nita doesn’t murder supernatural beings and sell their body parts on the internet—her mother does that. Nita just dissects the bodies after they’ve been “acquired.” But when her mom brings home a live specimen, Nita decides she wants out — dissecting living people is a step too far.

But when she tries to save her mother’s victim, she ends up sold on the black market in his place — because Nita herself is a supernatural being. Now Nita is on the other side of the bars, and there is no line she won’t cross to escape and make sure no one can ever capture her again. 

Nita did a good deed, and it cost her everything. Now she’s going to do a lot of bad deeds to get it all back.


I initially picked up this book for its interesting and unusual synopsis, but its compelling plot soon captured me entirely. Not Even Bones is a fast-paced novel full of action and conflict as the protagonist struggles for freedom while reconciling her conscience with her circumstances and needs. And this novel isn’t just about Nita and her misfortunes (or adventures- depends on how you look at it), it delves deeper into morally gray territory with the underlying theme of morals and their meaning and importance to different individuals. This was unexpected for me at least, but Not Even Bones ended up being a novel that I could really reflect upon and dissect (pun intended) with all the parallelism and connections that gave me those ah-ha moments after I was done reading. 

The world portrayed in this novel, as well as Nita's relationship with this environment, is also complex and unique. The genre is magical realism- Nita’s world resembles our own, just with the addition of supernatural beings. And while at first it might seem like she lives in a dark, unfamiliar world, the black markets, trafficking, and cartels are as much a part of our world today as they are of hers- only, unlike in our society, this underworld is very much present and visible in her life. Nita finds herself in situations that stretch and test her abilities and personality but her grit and determination ultimately push her through. In all, this novel shows us the ugliness underlying the world but also a girl who tries to overcome the darkness yet accept her role in it at the same time.
 
Overall, Not Even Bones is an unexpected and engaging novel. There are plot twists within plot twists- ones that like a magician’s sleight of hand diverted my attention while the other snuck up on me. The tables are turned multiple times, and the line between enemy and ally is so fluid that the characters you like, hate, and grudgingly admire would be better represented by a messy Venn diagram than anything else. And the ending- oh the story's only just begun...

As a disclaimer, there are some graphic and possibly disturbing scenes of violence in this novel. But overall, if you like stories with humor, action, charm, morally gray characters, and a touch of madness, Not Even Bones is the book for you!

Have a relaxing rest of your summer!

-Amy

Find Not Even Bones in the Monroe County Library System, Goodreads, Barnes & Noble, or Amazon.