History is All You Left Me

by Adam Silvera


Have you ever thought about how one typo can change the
narrative and perspective of an entire novel? Not even a 30139283large typo, just one number accidentally clicked instead of the adjacent key. Something so simple would typically be glossed over, forgotten within a page or two. But sometimes it is placed in just the wrong spot that it changes everything. *

It’s just like an event that never should have happened. It interrupts and rips you out of your expected future. That is exactly what is happening to Griffin.

I was lucky enough to receive an ARC of History is All You Left Me, which was perfect because I am fully intending on ordering it for the library.

Summary

When Griffin’s first love and ex-boyfriend, Theo, dies in a drowning accident, his universe implodes. Even though Theo had moved to California for college and started seeing Jackson, Griffin never doubted Theo would come back to him when the time was right. But now, the future he’s been imagining for himself has gone far off course.

To make things worse, the only person who truly understands his heartache is Jackson. But no matter how much they open up to each other, Griffin’s downward spiral continues. He’s losing himself in his obsessive compulsions and destructive choices, and the secrets he’s been keeping are tearing him apart.

If Griffin is ever to rebuild his future, he must first confront his history, every last heartbreaking piece in the puzzle of his life.

 

The first thing I have to say about this book has to be: YESSSS, GIVE ME THAT REPRESENTATION. At the core, we have our gay main character who suffers from compulsions and his bisexual ex-boyfriend. While it does mention the third in their squad is African-American, it never mentions the race of either Griffin or Theo. None of the characters come off as being token or thrown in there just to get the representation vote; they’re all very developed and real.

I have never been struck so much by a teenage narrator as I was by Griffin. He is most certainly seventeen, with the ounce of pretentiousness and geeky inclinations that remind me of myself as a teen. His voice is strong, as it is with the rest of the cast: Theo, Jackson, and Wade especially.
Wade, by far, was my favorite character. Even with Griff’s love for Cedric Diggory and Theo’s peculiar sundial watch, I really adored how genuine of a person Wade remained in the novel.

The pacing of this novel was perfect. It constantly swapped back and forth from when Theo and Griffin were together to the new reality of Griffin being single. These are easily distinguished because the date is written at the beginning of each chapter title. It made the three hundred pages fly by in two enjoyable sittings.

I’m certain teens will relate to Griff’s story, even with all the mistakes he makes. The character development is wonderful and left me satisfied. You may not be able to get this book by Christmas, but it releases early next year.

*if you want to know more about this typo, just let me know! It was an interesting situation.

Advertisements

Cure for the Common Universe

23656453by Christian McKay Heidicker
Review by KM

I’ll be completely honest; I was furious with this book when I read the back cover while checking it into my branch at the library for this first time. I was furious during the first twenty pages. But things started to get better. I’m left not absolutely loving this book, but definitely not feeling the rage I had when I read the description.

It’s no secret I’m a heavy gamer. I have over a thousand hours clocked on Guild Wars 2 alone, not to mention my hours spent playing BioShock or Portal. I have commissioned art work of my characters. I have the support of an amazing guild (shout out to the wonderful Skritt Kings). Even as I read this book and wrote this review, I was logged into TeamSpeak and listening to my guild play Overwatch.

Summary

Sixteen-year-old Jaxon is being committed to video game rehab…ten minutes after meeting a girl. A living, breathing girl named Serena, who not only laughed at his jokes but actually kinda sorta seemed excited when she agreed to go out with him.

Jaxon’s first date. Ever.

In rehab, Jaxon can’t blast his way through galaxies to reach her. He can’t slash through armies to kiss her sweet lips. Instead, he has four days to earn one million points by learning real-life skills. And he’ll do whatever it takes—lie, cheat, steal, even learn how to cross-stitch—in order to make it to his date.

If all else fails, Jaxon will have to bare his soul to the other teens in treatment, confront his mother’s absence, and maybe admit that it’s more than video games that stand in the way of a real connection.

From a bright new voice in young adult literature comes the story of a young man with a serious case of arrested development—and carpal tunnel syndrome—who is about to discover what real life is all about.

Musings

I have extremely mixed feelings about this book. I loved all of the gaming references. The metaphors were the best thing ever; I kept reading them aloud to my husband. There are some amazing insights made and there is some rocking character development. I guess I just don’t like the way gaming itself is depicted.

I can admit that gaming addiction is real. Back during our freshman year of college, when my husband and I were doing long distance, we’d spend hours playing Guild Wars together and prepping for the release of the second. When I wasn’t online, I was going to classes and getting on the Dean’s list. When he wasn’t online, he was playing Magic: The Gathering, skipping classes, and ended up on academic probation.

But the numbers in this don’t really make sense to me. “You’ve clocked more than two hundred and fifty hours in this past month alone,” Jaxon’s father had said. I can tell you that last Summer, while I was working forty five hours a week, I was clocking in 250 hours on Guild Wars 2 in a month. I do a lot less now, since I’m working on my MLIS and helping run our Summer Reading Program, but I still probably average in a hundred hours each month right now in gaming time (but a lot less in Guild Wars 2, unfortunately. Hope the next expansion actually offers what it advertises.).

While the book explains in some points that gaming itself isn’t the problem, it’s the prioritizing it over everything else that is the issue, I feel like that got lost in the shuffle often. It was buried under all these conversations about how the characters were using gaming to escape reality, to earn fake achievements to give them higher dopamine levels instead of facing the real world. I can say for my guild, despite the fact most of us have legendary weapons and clock a large number of hours each week, we don’t game for those reasons primarily. Most of us have degrees, work full time government positions, and have a giant group chat running through Kik for our lunch breaks. We game for our community. Our relationships aren’t false because they’re built online.

The most brilliant thing that redeems this entire book in my eyes is that, despite being the main character, Jaxon isn’t a hero. I certainly wasn’t rooting for him. He was the guy cursing you out in PvP, the one you ended up reporting for anger issues at the end of the match. When he finally realizes what a fedora-wearing dudebro he is, it is great. There is no immediate resolution over this. Life is a process of growth; you don’t hit a point and deem you’re done growing.

Overall, I enjoyed reading this. I loved the references, the lingo, and a lot of line had me cracking up. It was refreshing to have a book where the plot line didn’t end the way I expected it to.

To leave us off, the best quote I have to explain what kind of guy Jaxon is, is from the movie The Social Network:

0516d9329b3bc43017649b53d95d47db9a73a8-wm

The House of the Scorpion

51mqbohbfol-_sx331_bo1204203200_by Nancy Farmer
Review by KM

It’s no secret that I work in a library and I’ve spent the past month knee deep in preparations for our Summer Reading Program. For those who don’t know, the United States has this team called the Collaborative Summer Library Program. This organization arranges our awesome themes and compiles a ton of resources for us librarians. While not all libraries follow it, there’s a huge percentage that do. Why am I telling you this? Because it’s really likely that your local library’s Summer Reading theme is: On Your Mark, Get Set … Read! 

Our library has kind of transformed this theme into The Reading Olympics. We’re handing out additional prize tickets to all the people who read books from around the world, whether they be by a foreign author or the setting takes place in another country.

If you live in my town or if your library is doing anything similar, The House of the Scorpion is a great choice to grab an extra ticket.

Plus, it’s awesome. I’m so happy this theme came up this year; I was majorly overdue for a reread of this novel.

Summary

Matteo Alacrán was not born; he was harvested.
His DNA came from El Patrón, lord of a country called Opium–a strip of poppy fields lying between the United States and what was once called Mexico. Matt’s first cell split and divided inside a petri dish. Then he was placed in the womb of a cow, where he continued the miraculous journey from embryo to fetus to baby. He is a boy now, but most consider him a monster–except for El Patrón. El Patrón loves Matt as he loves himself, because Matt is himself.

As Matt struggles to understand his existence, he is threatened by a sinister cast of characters, including El Patrón’s power-hungry family, and he is surrounded by a dangerous army of bodyguards. Escape is the only chance Matt has to survive. But escape from the Alacrán Estate is no guarantee of freedom, because Matt is marked by his difference in ways he doesn’t even suspect.

Musings

I have to say, in my opinion and feel free to disagree, that House of the Scorpion is the best YA book about cloning. It takes place in this marvelously detailed futuristic world, but one where you can see how our current society changed into that. I loved the explanations, which weren’t laid out in a info-dump, but scattered through the narrative where you needed them.

As with most science fiction novels I encounter, my favorite part has to be the ethics of the entire situation. Clones aren’t meant to be people in this. They aren’t sitting on an island, living lives without the knowledge they’re clones. In this, they are not meant to ever have enough brain function to realize they’re missing out. But Matt does function. He realizes the intents and purposes of his creation. Whether that is more merciful or cruel is definitely a question.

Summer is a perfect time to pick up this book. You may be waiting each week for the next Orphan Black episode and this can certainly fill your time with more science-fiction fun.

More than that, please check out your local library to see what programs they’re running for this summer. We have awesome things for every age group and they’re all free.

The Brothers’ War

51wkpf6aryl-_sy344_bo1204203200_by Jeff Grubb
Review by KM

Let’s do a throwback here, okay?

I have been spending the last month buried in Magic: The Gathering cards as I try to catalog my collection. I own a lot more than I expected, that’s for sure.

I had heard a lot about the novels that they used to release in the Fat Packs of older sets, but I had never gotten a chance to read them — I got into Magic around 2010 (my husband had some of the books from previous blocks, but he’d gotten rid of them by the time we got together).

I decided a few weeks ago I was going to read all of the Magic books that were released, but I was immediately hit by a roadblock. All of these books that had once been in my library system had either been withdrawn or stolen. They’re from the 90’s, it’s not like I could easily walk into my local bookshop and pick one up. Hell, not even the gaming shops around here had the old ones I was looking for. It was awful trying to track down these books. I couldn’t even start at the first ones released; the furthest back I could get was The Brothers’ War. I have to say, I think this one may be the best of them all.

Summary

The Myth. The Magic.

Dominarian legends speak of a mighty conflict, obscured by the mists of history. Of a conflict between the brothers Urza and Mishra for supremacy on the continent of Terisiare. Of titantic engines that scarred and twisted the very planet. Of a final battle that sank continents and shook the skies.

The saga of the Brothers’ War.

Musings

There’s something so awesome about being familiar with the Magic cards and then finding all the lore about them in the book. I loved the discovery of the ornithopers, the history of the Koilios caves, and especially, the sibling rivalry between Urza and Mishra. The backstory is so in-depth and it’s one of the aspects I love most about Magic. For someone who has been playing a long time without reading these, it was great to link the original Phyrexian lore to what is happening currently with the Planeswalkers.

Before this trek into 90’s fantasy novels, I’d been spending a lot of time in current YA. In current YA, it seems there’s always a romance that is pushed. Always. Please contridict me; I was starting to lose hope. There isn’t romance in The Brothers’ War. There’s a marriage, yes, but I promise no romance. I actually believe that Urza is asexual, though it is never stated in the novel. It was kind of refreshing to see a story so hinged on battle and familial bonds, rather than anyone just wanting to be back with their girlfriend.

I did a casual Google search on the author too and I can say he clearly owns my life, even though he doesn’t know it. He was one of the people who established this lore than runs (mostly) true to the current story. After getting done with Magic, he moved onto Guild Wars and helped create the other game that takes up all my time. He’s moved past GW2 recently and I have no doubt his new project will end up controlling me as well.

Whether you’re an old Magic player or have no idea what tapping mana means, this book is awesome. It drags me into a new plane where artifacts, cyborgs, and magic all exist.

Placebo Junkies

25278470by JC Carlson
Review by KM
There are a lot of people who don’t like gritty stories, but I am certainly not among them. Scenes that leave you trembling, wincing, and slightly grossed out are totally awesome. When an entire book can do that to you? That’s even better.

Summary

Meet Audie: Professional lab rat. Guinea pig. Serial human test subject. For Audie and her friends, “volunteering” for pharmaceutical drug trials means a quick fix and easy cash.
Sure, there’s the occasional nasty side effect, but Audie’s got things under control. If Monday’s pill causes a rash, Tuesday’s ointment usually clears it right up. Wednesday’s injection soothes the sting from Tuesday’s “cure,” and Thursday’s procedure makes her forget all about Wednesday’s headache. By the time Friday rolls around, there’s plenty of cash in hand and perhaps even a slot in a government-funded psilocybin study, because WEEKEND!

But the best fix of all is her boyfriend, Dylan, whose terminal illness just makes them even more compatible. He’s turning eighteen soon, so Audie is saving up to make it an unforgettable birthday. That means more drug trials than ever before, but Dylan is worth it.
No pain, no gain, Audie tells herself as the pills wear away at her body and mind. No pain, no gain, she repeats as her grip on reality starts to slide. . . .*

Musings

I have to say that the first half of this novel leaves you with a lot of exasperated questions.
“Where are the parents at?”
“Who the hell would actually do this?”
“Argh. Is there a reason for any of this? Someone call friggin’ CPS already!”

Those reactions are totally legitimate, but, trust me, they end up solved. The second half is full of the twists and revelations that make the book so wonderful.

This isn’t the type of book that gets a sequel – the ending is clearly summed up, with only a few strings left hanging. Still, I would love to get into the depths of Audie’s mind and play around like it was my own personal sandbox.

If you’re into things like Requiem of a Dream or The Walls Around Us, you may enjoy this too.

*Thanks, Amazon!

UnBound

51gsurfcltl-_sx329_bo1204203200_by Neal Shusterman 
Review by KM

I spent last weekend reading the entire Unwind series. Five books — it took me forty eight hours (including the twelve that I spent sleeping). Seriously, these books are that addictive.

I remember reading Unwind for the first time as a fourteen year old. There is one particularly chilling scene that left me in pieces in homeroom. (Oh my gosh, I didn’t even mean to make that pun, but it’s perfect so I’m leaving it. Feel free to judge me.)

Last Friday, we received UnBound at the library. It was an insta-memory trip for me and I knew I had to read the entire series before I hit this book.

Summary

Find out what happens to Connor, Risa, and Lev now that they’ve finally destroyed the Proactive Citizenry in this collection of short stories set in the world of the New York Times bestselling Unwind Dystology by Neal Shusterman.

Connor Lassiter’s fight to bring down Proactive Citizenry and find a suitable alternative to unwinding concluded in UnDivided. Now Connor, Risa, and Lev are free to live in a peaceful future—or are they? Neal Shusterman brings back his beloved Unwind characters for his fans to see what’s left for those who were destined to be unwound.**

Musings

Now this summary that Amazon so kindly provided me? This summary is crap. I can actually understand the reviews on the book from readers who were left confused. UnBound is not at all about Connor, Risa, and Lev. Thankfully, the actual book revealed the true nature.

This is an anthology from the point of view of all different characters from the series, some that were mentioned a lot and some that were never mentioned at all.

To be honest, the best comparison I have for this is when you’ve finished a book series, but you’re still so in love with the universe that you write the stories of OCs on Archive Of Our Own. Except this is all canon; it’s Neal playing in his own sandbox because he loves that damned sandbox just as much as the rest of us do.

More than anything, this reveals the twisted mindset that wasn’t limited to only unwinding, but the mindset of other ethical issues that accompany it. The most heart-wrenching story had to be the one about a child who was rejected for unwinding, but I’d hate to give away the reason why.

Please, oh, please go read this book. It makes a hell of a lot more sense when you read the entire series, but I really need some more people to nerd out with me as I wait for the movie that will undoubtedly be made.

**Thanks for the summary, Amazon.

I (Don’t) Like Snakes

51m8vwnacml-_sx258_bo1204203200_by Nicola Davis 
Illustrated by Luciano Lozano
Review by KM

I’m spending a lot of my time around kids lately as I’ve taken on three different classes for library outreach. It is seriously a blast and makes Thursdays one of my most beloved days of the week, but I can admit it’s hard to find books that are going to be great and appeal to all the ages I come across. One thing that unites the interest of 96% of the kids I see? Animals. Especially Reptiles.

This book came into our library yesterday and I’m totally in love. My coworker saw it during processing and dropped it off to me, knowing that I bought a new snake last month. I’m definitely thinking of a library program using this book, my little python (when he gets a bit bigger), and the 50 wooden snakes we have over in our craft supplies.

Summary

This little girl has a problem. Her family doesn’t have dogs, or cats, or birds—they have snakes! And she really, really, really really doesn’t like snakes. Her family can’t understand her dislike, but they can help her understand why snakes do the things they do and look the way they look. And maybe once she knows more, she will start to like snakes a little . . . or even a lot. Packed with snake trivia, this clever story includes realistic illustrations and simple explanations of snake behavior sure to make even slither-phobic readers shed their misconceptions about these fascinating reptiles. Back matter includes a note about snakes, a bibliography, and an index.

Musings

I was totally expecting this to be a feel good story about how a girl meets a snake and ends up loving it after it doesn’t eat her. I was so happy to be wrong. (But I can admit it, that book would’ve made me smile too. I really love snakes.)

What this book does is take a bunch of typical reactions to snakes and debunk them or explain why they’re not so creepy as they seem. It confronts issues that make a lot of people fearful of snakes, like the lack of eyelids, the way they slither, and whether or not they’re slimy. It’s informational, definitely, but with the style that makes it seem fun and easily readable.

I love the illustrations too. They seem doodle-esque, but in a great way. There is one particular photo that reminds me a of a cheese pizza snake and I know the kids are going to love that.

Now that I have a new librarian who isn’t so into snakes, I wonder if this book is going to help her out. I sure hope so; I’m really hoping to bring Snoot into our kid’s area for a presentation sooner or later.

Way of the Shadows

51tpzpp5dsl-_sx290_bo1204203200_by Brent Weeks
Review by KM & DM

For about four years, my husband has been trying to get me to read Way of the Shadows. It’s his favorite book *of all time* and I’ve seriously feared reading it because I don’t want to disappoint him with my reaction. Now, he’s recently hacked my library card and requested the book through my account. I have a copy of it (and of other versions, such as the graphic novel).

Today’s going to be a bit different. Instead of me writing this review, he’s going to be convincing me (and you) to read it in the musings.  This may be our first guest post (SA, can you confirm?) Let’s go!

Summary

For Durzo Blint, assassination is an art-and he is the city’s most accomplished artist.

For Azoth, survival is precarious. Something you never take for granted. As a guild rat, he’s grown up in the slums, and learned to judge people quickly – and to take risks. Risks like apprenticing himself to Durzo Blint.

But to be accepted, Azoth must turn his back on his old life and embrace a new identity and name. As Kylar Stern, he must learn to navigate the assassins’ world of dangerous politics and strange magics – and cultivate a flair for death.*

Musings

KM: Husbeast, what makes these characters stand out from other books? What makes you love them?

DM: They’re terrible people. They have no moral compass or value of innocence. They’ll murder without cause. They are generally the scum of society.

KM: What about that one character that I think I’ll love? 

DM: She’s a prostitute who helps murder the elderly.

KM: Oh.

DM: These people could be in any setting and I’d want us both to read that book.

KM: Is there any character development that makes them better?

DM: Nah, if anything, they get worse. They lose what little respect for human life they had and some of them turn to black magic. The MC is a good person for a very brief time.

KM: What is your favorite scene in the book? Something that I’d latch onto and want to read?

DM: That’s a really hard choice. (To avoid the spoiler he just told me, we’ll rephrase and say the depth of religion and the magical torture within the book.)

KM: Are there any morals or lessons taught by this book?

DM: (answers in a way that makes me redact the question)

KM: Are there any other books or movies you’d find similar to this, so I know what I’m getting into?

DM: Nope, this is totally unique.

 

Welp. Not sure if I’m convinced. Maybe  I’m convinced that my husband is a terrible person, but not about reading this. How about you? Do you think I should give it a chance?

*thank you Amazon

*After this, we’ll see if guest reviews are a good choice after all.

 

 

Steampunk!

614hsqws58l-_sy344_bo1204203200_An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories

by Kelly Link and Gavin Grant
Review by KM

Wow, it’s been awhile since I’ve reviewed. Sorry about that, guys. Life has a way of spinning out of control and I tend to cower in bed until the ride stops. The best thing to do while waiting is to read, though.

And while life kept sending me interruptions like holidays, two jobs, and an overgrown child — I mean, husband — to entertain, I was finding it really hard to get past page fifty in any book.

There are only two things that I’ve found can combat this:

1.) Killing all distractions in brutally horrifying ways. (Not recommended — the jail time isn’t worth it.)
2.) Anthologies. The short stories are like petit fours, easily consumed in one sitting before someone realize you’re actually sitting for the first time in eight hours and demands you do some new task.

So, yeah, this is an anthology and a pretty frickin’ awesome one at that. It has a bunch of my favorite authors. Like, if someone could arrange a meet up of all these authors at the same convention or panel, I’d love to attend. I’ll bring the alcohol; it’ll be a blast.

Enough with my rambling, let’s move onto the book.

Summary

Imagine an alternate universe where romance and technology reign. Where tinkerers and dreamers craft and re-craft a world of automatons, clockworks, calculating machines, and other marvels that never were. Where scientists and schoolgirls, fair folk and Romans, intergalactic bandits, utopian revolutionaries, and intrepid orphans solve crimes, escape from monstrous predicaments, consult oracles, and hover over volcanoes in steam-powered airships. Here, fourteen masters of speculative fiction, including two graphic storytellers, embrace the genre’s established themes and refashion them in surprising ways and settings as diverse as Appalachia, ancient Rome, future Australia, and alternate California. Visionaries Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant have invited all-new explorations and expansions, taking a genre already rich, strange, and inventive in the extreme and challenging contributors to remake it from the ground up. The result is an anthology that defies its genre even as it defines it.*

Musings

Oh my gosh, I found this hard to put this down. It starts with an awesome story by Cassandra Clare, which was probably my second favorite story in the entire book. It’s hard to write much about the plot without giving away the story, but automaton dolls and a flowers-in-the-attic-esque idea of romance definitely make this story amazing.

The anthology includes a few graphic-novel type stories, which were awesome breaks between the texts, to be honest. I think they made the book 500x better, since it’s a little bit hard to jump from story to story, without any pause. It was like a fresh taste of wine in between courses, so none of the flavors got muddled together.

My favorite, favorite, favorite story in this that had me talking about it for days was Libba Bray’s. It involved poor, mutilated orphans who used to be skilled workers and their awful caretaker. It was just so well put together; It’s probably my second favorite short story of all time. I feel like I got a book-hangover after reading just this. If I was teaching a short story class, this would be on the curriculum. I know I’m lavishing praise without giving any details, but I’m trying so hard not to ruin it for anyone.

Please, go out and get this book. Even if Steampunk isn’t your cup of tea, you’re bound to find something that excites you in here.

Giveaway Winners!

Thank you to everyone who participated in our giveaway over this past month! We’ve loved getting your book recommendations and just chatting with you all.

The winners have been chosen and emailed, but we’ve gotten their permission to post their names.

Bundle Winners:

Bundle 1: Alice
Bundle 2: Shelley
Bundle 3: Sydney

Reviewed Books Winners:

Hardcover: Kay

Paperback: Lara and Jamie

All winners have already been notified. I’m super excited to say that two of the book winners chose Illuminae and the other chose A Darker Shade of Magic, both being my favorites this year!

Thanks for following us, guys! We love doing giveaways and we love books, so I hope you all don’t jump ship now that this is over.