What’s Ashley Reading?: Evermore

If you have not listened to our library podcast, Novel Ideas: The Library Podcast, you are missing out.  We discuss so many different things and love to chat books.  Recently Alyssa, Hannah and I spent an hour discussing our love of young adult books and the tropes that are found within them.  Most of the time they are easily dismissed because the book is so good.  How do you feel about the typical YA tropes?

Evermore by Sara Holland

First line: Tonight, I will make the Alchemist’s blood—Jules Ember’s blood—into a weapon.

Summary: Jules Ember was raised listening to stories of the Alchemist and the Sorceress. When she learns that she is the Alchemist and Caro, a lady in waiting to the queen, is the Sorceress, she must learn how much of the stories are really true. Jules is blamed for the murder of the queen and is on the run from Caro and the rest of the kingdom. With the help of Liam and Elias she is able to piece together her past and decide how to save her country.

Highlights: This cover is stunning. It is very eye catching and filled with little details from the story. I really enjoyed the first book and the idea of blood being a source of currency. Even though it is mentioned and a known entity the blood currency is rarely discussed in the sequel. But I did like that when we meet Elias we learn that other countries do not have the same issue with blood. It is only Sempera. Very interesting!

Jules is one of those characters that falls into the savior trope.  It is a commonly used idea but it can be a lot of fun. She has a secret that means she is the only one who can change the world. While Jules is searching for answers I really enjoyed the story. She takes looks back into her past lives as the Alchemist to see how her conflict with the Sorceress came about.

Lowlights: The insta-love is what brought this down for me. She loved Roan. He gets killed. She was kind of scared of his brother Liam. However, shortly after spending a little time with him they are in love. Okay. Sometimes the story needs to move along but it happened really quickly.

FYI: This is a sequel. Read book one, Everless, before picking this one up.

What’s Ashley Reading?: Warcross

I am not much of a gamer unless you count Lego games on the Wii?  My sister and I have spent many an hour playing Lego Harry Potter, Indiana Jones and Star Wars.

However, for the more intense gamer there is quite a selection here at the library.  We have several hundred games for seven different systems (Wii, WiiU, Nintendo Switch, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3 and PS4).  If you are interested in checking out a game it just requires a library card.  Each patron can check out two games per card for a week each time.

Warcross by Marie Lu

First line: It’s too damn cold of a day to be out on a hunt.

Summary: Everyone plays Warcross, the virtual reality game invented by a fourteen year old boy, Hideo Tanaka. It is a global sensation. When Emika Chen, a struggling bounty hunter, glitches into the Opening Ceremonies for the annual Warcross games she becomes an instant sensation. She is invited to come to Tokyo. Fearful that she is going to be arrested for tampering with the game she is surprised to learn that the game’s inventor wants to hire her to find the person who has been threatening to bring down the game and himself. What appears to be a normal bounty hunt becomes much more when Emika is chosen to be one of the players in the championship games.

Highlights: I really enjoy Lu’s writing style. It is simple but fast paced. I recently watched the movie, Ready Player One, and was surprised how much I liked it. I found this to be very similar in themes and feel. The idea of having these virtual reality worlds is amazing but does not seem like it will be too far in the future. I would love to be able to feel like I am in another world even though I am sitting at home on the couch. How cool is that? I always dreamed of having a holodeck, like on Star Trek. I want to live inside my books and virtual reality appears to be a solution for this.

Emika is a fun character to follow. She is intelligent, determined and resourceful. She has a funny side as well. When she meets Hideo she is shy but handles it well, even throwing out a few jokes. Even the romance is very nicely done. Emika has a followed Tanaka’s career since he became a global superstar. Their scenes together were always fun and filled with romantic tension. So cute!

I like that Lu has a very diverse cast of characters. Hopefully we will get to know her fellow team mates in the next book. One character I hope we get lots more of is Tremaine. He has several key moments in the book but at the end we learn more about him and his role in everything.

I already have book two, Wildcard, on my desk. I am itching to start reading it and see where Lu takes us next!

Lowlights: Several of the twists were a little predictable. However, with Lu’s writing and the pacing of the novel it can be easily overlooked. I thoroughly enjoyed reading/listening to this story and would highly recommend it.

FYI: Check out Lu’s other series, Legend, and her standalone novel about Bruce Wayne (a.k.a. Batman), Batman: Nightwalker.

What’s Ashley Reading?: Two Can Keep a Secret

Do you like true crime novels?  We have a really good selection here at the library.  I have not personally read many from this genre but they are constantly being checked out.  Authors like Ann Rule are the leaders in this area.  If you are looking for a true crime book we would be happy to help you find one or browse the 364.1 section of the non-fiction.

Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen M. McManus

First line: If I believed in omens, this would be a bad one.

Summary: Ellery and Ezra move to live with their grandmother in the small town, Echo Ridge. This idyllic little town has a dark past. The twins’ aunt disappeared here more than 20 years ago. Another girl was murdered at the local theme park. Now there is a stalker bringing back the old memories and threatening the homecoming court. Ellery, a true crime enthusiast, is determined to get some answers. However, there everyone has a secret making it even harder to unravel the mysteries of Echo Ridge.

Highlights: I was really excited to get an advance copy of this book. I really enjoyed the author’s debut novel, One Of Us Is Lying. From the very beginning the mystery and intrigue presented to the reader. I loved how fast paced everything was. I liked all the little twists and turn throughout. I kept considering all different angles and was shocked when the killer is revealed. Great job, Karen! The characters were a lot of fun. I really wish we could have gotten more of Sadie, the twins’ mom. I want to visit Fright Farm, the Halloween theme park. Who doesn’t want to have Halloween all year around?

Lowlights: There are lot of characters and the chapters bounce back and forth between Ellery and Malcolm. I had a hard time keeping track of who was saying what. I think I needed to pay more attention to the chapter titles. So this may be more my fault rather than the books.

FYI: Perfect for fans of Sara Shepard’s, Pretty Little Liars series.

What’s Ashley Reading?: Sadie

Did you know that we have a podcast?!  It is called Novel Ideas: The Library Podcast. You can find it on Sound Cloud, iTunes and Google Play.

It has been a lot of fun being able to sit down with Alyssa and several of our staff and talk about books.  I have learned a lot about my fellow librarians through our chats and listening to the podcasts.  Each of us have a wide range of interests and thoughts.  We have chatted about things ranging from cookbooks, re-reading and David Sedaris.  We always bring along a nice hot beverage and some snack to enjoy while we are talking.  So grab yourself a cup of tea and listen with us!

Sadie by Courtney Summers

First line: It’s a beautiful day in the city.

Summary: Sadie has had a tough life. Her mother abandoned her at a young age. She took care of her younger sister, Mattie, until the day that she was found dead. Sadie is determined to seek revenge for her sister’s murder. She leaves town in search of the man she believes to be the culprit. When word of Sadie’s disappearance reaches the ears of West McCray, a radio personality doing a serial podcast, he starts to look into what happened to Sadie.

Highlights: I loved the way this story was constructed. It is very different than any other book I have read. It alternates between Sadie’s story and point of view to a podcast detailing the search for Sadie. It was a great book to listen to which is how I would recommend it. There is a full cast for all the characters. This brought the story to life and gave it a more realistic feel.

The story is heartbreaking. Sadie had a hard life with a mother who was not very involved. She brings home men including Keith. Listening to Sadie’s determination to find him is fascinating. With every little twist and turn I was continually nervous and cheering her on. The ending is hard. Be warned you will feel all the feelings with this book.

Lowlights: I struggled in the beginning while the story is building. It was a little slow moving until the story reached the halfway point it picked up and took off.

FYI: Trigger warning: child abuse and language.

What’s Ashley Reading?: An Assassin’s Guide to Love and Treason

Some of the classics are hard to read.  Either we do not understand the language or the story is not as fast paced as the latest thriller.  However, there are so many great things about them.  They have survived the times.  The stories still speak to readers today.  One of greatest is the bard, William Shakespeare.  I read several plays during high school English, my favorite being Hamlet.  Do you have trouble with Shakespeare?  Trust me sometimes I do too.  Check out Alyssa’s blog post about her recent interest in the works of Shakespeare.

An Assassin’s Guide to Love and Treason by Virginia Boecker

First line: It is not the usual interrogation.

Summary: When Katherine’s father is killed in front of her she vows that she is going to take revenge on the person responsible, Queen Elizabeth I. She travels to London dressed as a boy to meet with fellow Catholic conspirators to hatch a plan to kill the Protestant queen. Toby, an agent of the queen, is on the lookout for any assassination plots. When he teams up with William Shakespeare and his company of players, he sets a trap for the would-be assassins. However, Katherine and Toby are drawn to each other complicating both of their missions.

Highlights: Assassination plots and William Shakespeare?! Yes please! I found the story to be lots of fun from the very beginning. I enjoyed both of the main characters. Katherine is a strong willed young girl who is determined to avenge her father. Toby is a heartbroken playwright working as a spy for the queen. I loved watching Katherine throwing off her inhibitions as she took on the role of a man. She gets to see things that women would not be privy to normally. As their relationship progresses I got more and more nervous about how the story would end. This story was fit for Shakespeare with the mistaken identities, daring murder attempts and tragic love.

Lowlights: I would have loved more Shakespeare. Any time he entered the story it became even better! His patron even mentioned how he liked to make up words, which he does throughout the story. Such a nice little historical tidbit to add into the dialog.

FYI: Perfect for fans of A Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee.

Book Review: Catwoman: Soulstealer

Catwoman: Soulstealer by Sarah J. Maas

First line: The roaring crowd in the makeshift arena didn’t set her blood on fire.

Summary: Selina Kyle lives in the slums of Gotham City. In order to take care of her ailing sister she enters the underground-fighting ring of Carmine Falcone. However, when the chance for a better life for her sister comes along she takes it even if it means she has to sacrifice everything. Two years later, she returns to Gotham in order to bring her own brand of justice to the city that let her down.

Batwing, the secret identity of Luke Fox, is doing his best to keep the streets of Gotham safe for its people. When a new villain arrives and starts wreaking havoc on the city, he realizes that he may have met his match in Catwoman.

Highlights: Sarah J. Maas is one of my favorite young adult authors. She writes great stories with interesting characters and lots of action. I have never been a big fan of Catwoman (other than in the show Gotham) but since Maas was writing her story, I decided to give her a try. I am glad I did.

We get a backstory for Selina that helps flesh out her character and give her a reason for her villainy. This is one of the reasons I have enjoyed the TV show Gotham because we get to see how our villains came to be. I loved the inclusion of Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy as her sidekicks/cohorts. Their brand of chaos and camaraderie was fun to read.

I had never heard of Batwing and therefore had to Google his character. Even though I have seen most of the movies and TV shows in the DC universe there is still so much I do not know. I am slowly wanting to pick up some of the graphic novels and comic books here at the library and get to know the stories better. I am looking forward to the next in the DC Icons series, Superman: Dawnbreaker, coming out in March 2019.

Lowlights: I wish we could have gotten more of the Joker. He is mentioned several times and Selina met him once. He is such an iconic DC villain and with Harley in the story, it would make sense. But maybe one day we will get a Joker book?!

FYI: If you like this try Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo and Batman: Nightwalker by Marie Lu.

Book Review: Grace and Fury

Grace and Fury by Tracy Banghart

First line: Serina Tessaro stood on the steps of the fountain in Lanos’s central piazza flanked by nine other girls her age, all in their finest gowns.

Summary: In Viridia girls are not allowed to read, they must be subservient and bend to the will of men. When sisters, Serina and Nomi, are sent to the palace with a chance of being a Grace and her handmaiden, Serina sees this as a chance to take care of her family. However, when the Heir chooses her younger rebellious sister, Nomi, as a Grace instead, their worlds are changed forever. When Nomi breaks the rules, being able to read, and her sister is the one who takes the blame and is sent to the women’s prison on the isolated island of Mountain Ruin. Nomi has to learn to be a Grace while living under the roof of the Superior while Serina is forced to fight for survival.

Highlights: I found this very enjoyable. I would classify it as a dystopian novel. Going into it, I thought there would be an element of fantasy to it. To tell the truth I was fine without it. It was good straightforward story. I liked the relationship between the two sisters. They truly care about each other and are willing to sacrifice themselves to save the other one. So many stories are centered on romance but this was sisterly love. Each sister had their own strengths that sets them apart. The action was well done. Not overly gruesome or gory. The cover art is beautiful. I enjoyed the supporting characters such as Maris, Malachi and Jacana. I am hoping that we get to see more of them as the story goes on. I raced through the ending. It was fast and gave a cliffhanger that leaves me wanting more!

Lowlights: Several plot lines were predictable. There were similarities between other books of this genre. Even with the similarities, I did not feel like I was reading a rewrite of another novel.

FYI: Perfect for readers of The Selection by Kiera Cass and Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard.

Book Review: Love & War

Love & War by Melissa de la Cruz

First line: Forget Paris.

Summary: As the Revolution is coming to a close Alexander Hamilton and his new bride, Eliza Schuyler, are learning that being married is not always easy. Alex is setting up his law offices and Eliza is establishing their home. The long hours at the office defending Loyalist clients puts a strain on the young couple. Will they be able to continue their love story or will it crumble?

Highlights: I enjoyed the story of their early marriage. De la Cruz does a good job of portraying how hard it would be to try to find a balance in this new country. I particularly liked the struggle of a young patriot having to defend the wife of a Loyalist. He must have faced lots of ridicule from other members of his party.

Lowlights: This is young adult and it feels like it. The love and feelings are very immature. However, it does as good job of bringing the history to a young audience.

FYI: Book 2 in the Alex & Eliza series.

Book Review: Dark Tracks (Book 4 in the Order of Darkness series)

First line: There was an angry bellow from inside the woodcutter’s hovel; the woman, struggling up from the stream with a heavy bucket of icy water in each hand, raised her head and shouted back.

Summary: In the fourth installment of Philippa Gregory’s young adult series we follow Luca, Isolde and their companions on their journey. As they stumble into a small village, they find the townspeople besieged by a troupe of dancers. However, these are no ordinary dancers. These dancers seem to be possessed. What is causing this dance sickness and how can it be cured? These are just a few of the questions Luca wants to find out. But when Isolde is taken by the dancing fever the need to find a cure becomes even more important.

Highlights: I have really enjoyed Gregory’s young adult novels. She is my favorite author. Her historical fiction is amazing. She does a great job of describing the time. This is a great way to get younger readers interested in the past. Even as an adult, I learn new bits of information with each story. I also really like the covers. But if you have read my other reviews you know how much I love a good cover!

Lowlights: These are definitely for young adult. They are not as in-depth and detailed but still gets the story told in a fun and interesting way.

FYI: This is book 4 in the series. Check out her other books (Changeling, Stormbringers, and Fool’s Gold) before reading this one!

Early April new releases

Cover of The Female Persuasion by Meg WolitzerApril 3: The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer
From Goodreads: “Greer Kadetsky is a shy college freshman when she meets the woman she hopes will change her life. Faith Frank, dazzlingly persuasive and elegant at sixty-three, has been a central pillar of the women’s movement for decades, a figure who inspires others to influence the world. Upon hearing Faith speak for the first time, Greer- madly in love with her boyfriend, Cory, but still full of longing for an ambition that she can’t quite place- feels her inner world light up. And then, astonishingly, Faith invites Greer to make something out of that sense of purpose, leading Greer down the most exciting path of her life as it winds toward and away from her meant-to-be love story with Cory and the future she’d always imagined.

Cover of Dread Nation by Justina IrelandApril 3: Dread Nation by Justina Ireland (young adult)
Zombies, Gettysburg, and combat schools to put down the dead. What’s not to love? It’s the Civil War, and at the battles of Gettysburg and Chancellorsville, the dead begin to walk, completely derailing the war and changing the country forever. The safety of the country’s citizens lies in the hands of a relatively few people. New laws require certain people to attend combat schools where they learn to put down the dead. And for Jane McKeene, this means more opportunity than she would have had otherwise as she studies to become an Attendant, and trains in weaponry and etiquette to prepare to protect the well-to-do.

Cover of A Necessary Evil by Abir MukherjeeApril 3: A Necessary Evil by Abir Mukherjee
In this followup to A Rising Man, Captain Sam Wyndham and Sergeant “Surrender-Not” Banerjee are called upon to solve the mystery of the assassination of the heir to the throne of the kingdom of Sambalpore. Prince Adhir was a moderniser, but his attitudes and romantic relationship may have upset the religious elements of his country. But the new heir, Prince Adhir’s brother, appears to be an irresponsible playboy. As Wyndham and Banerjee work to untangle the mystery of the murder, they find themselves in a race to find the murderer before the murderer finds them.

Cover of Macbeth by Jo NesboApril 5: Macbeth by Jo Nesbo (Hogarth Shakespeare)
Famed crime writer Jo Nesbo tackles the classic story of Macbeth. From Goodreads: “Set in a dark, rainy northern town, Nesbo’s Macbeth pits the ambitions of a corrupt policeman against loyal colleagues, a drug-depraved underworld and the pull of childhood friendships. Get ready to helter-skelter through the darkest tunnels of human experience.

Cover of Circe by Madeline MillerApril 10: Circe by Madeline Miller
Circe is the daughter of a Titan, but without the powers of either her mother or her father. Because she is such a strange child, she turns to the mortal world for companionship, where she learns she is not powerless. She discovers that she possesses the power of witchcraft, which allows her to transform her rivals into monsters. Threatened by this discovery, Zeus banishes Circe to a deserted island, but this just allows Circe to hone her craft.

Cover of Love and Other Words by Christina LaurenApril 10: Love and Other Words by Christina Lauren
A then-and-now story of love. Macy is a pediatrics resident who is busy planning her wedding to a financially secure older man. She has a plan — keep her head down and her heart tucked away. Then she runs into Elliott, the love of her life, around whom her whole world used to revolve. From the teenage Elliott and Macy who grow from friends to much more, to the adult Elliott and Macy who have become strangers until their chance reunion, this story explores what happens when love gets a second chance.