Welcome to Night Vale

night-vale-final-uk-coverby Jeffrey Cramer and Joseph Fink

Review by KM

Welcome to Night Vale has a special place in my heart. That place is probably hard to find and filled with monsters that could kill you on sight, but what part of my heart isn’t filled with those?

I’ve been eagerly awaiting the release of this book since it was announced. Of course, with most things that I eagerly await the release of, I totally forgot about it once it was released. I was only reminded when the book came into the library a few days ago and was dropped into my lap by a kind coworker, who had ordered the book when I requested it months ago.

It was worth the wait.

Summary

Located in a nameless desert somewhere in the great American Southwest, Night Vale is a small town where ghosts, angels, aliens, and government conspiracies are all commonplace parts of everyday life. It is here that the lives of two women, with two mysteries, will converge.

Nineteen-year-old Night Vale pawn shop owner Jackie Fierro is given a paper marked “KING CITY” by a mysterious man in a tan jacket holding a deer skin suitcase. Everything about him and his paper unsettles her, especially the fact that she can’t seem to get the paper to leave her hand, and that no one who meets this man can remember anything about him. Jackie is determined to uncover the mystery of King City and the man in the tan jacket before she herself unravels.

Night Vale PTA treasurer Diane Crayton’s son, Josh, is moody and also a shape shifter. And lately Diane’s started to see her son’s father everywhere she goes, looking the same as the day he left years earlier, when they were both teenagers. Josh, looking different every time Diane sees him, shows a stronger and stronger interest in his estranged father, leading to a disaster Diane can see coming, even as she is helpless to prevent it.

Diane’s search to reconnect with her son and Jackie’s search for her former routine life collide as they find themselves coming back to two words: “KING CITY”. It is King City that holds the key to both of their mysteries, and their futures…if they can ever find it.

Musings

Alright, I have to admit I wasn’t that impressed in the beginning. I spent a lot of 2013 reading Welcome to Night Vale fanfiction. I am well-versed in certain popular headcanons involving Cecilos or Desert Bluffs. I went into this book not thinking of Night Vale, but thinking of Carlos and Cecil. This was a mistake.

Night Vale is much more than Carlos or Cecil. It’s Old Woman Josie, the Glow Cloud, Dana, Maureen, and so many more. It’s just normal that I tend to center on Cecil and Carlos when Cecil is the narrator for
most of the episodes (although my husband will insist that Kevin is an even better one).

The novel centers around Jackie Fierro, Diane, and Josh. It is filled with the same uncanny language that makes the podcast so amazing. I had to read a lot of it aloud, to get the full impact (even though my voice is definitely not as pleasing as Cecil’s).

It took me longer to read because I was insistent on reading aloud, so that eliminated lunch breaks at work. Overall, it left me wanting to catch up on the episodes of Night Vale I missed. It wasn’t what I was expecting, but it was still brilliant.

My favorite quote has to be, “The search for truth takes us
to dangerous places,” said Old Woman Josie. “Often it takes
us to that most dangerous place: the library. You know who
said that? No? George Washington did. Minutes before librarians
ate him.”

Self-Help

by Miranda Sings
Review by KM

I realized that, while we are giving away a copy of Miranda Sing’s Self-Help, we have yet to review it. What an oversight! Many of you will recognize Miranda Sings from her Youtube channel, but if you don’t, check her out here.

Summary

In this decidedly unhelpful, candid, hilarious “how-to” guide, YouTube personality Miranda Sings offers life lessons and tutorials with her signature sassy attitude.

Over six million social media fans can’t be wrong: Miranda Sings is one of the funniest faces on YouTube. As a bumbling, ironically talentless, self-absorbed personality (a young Gilda Radner, if you will), she offers up a vlog of helpful advice every week on her widely popular YouTube channel. For the first time ever, Miranda is putting her advice to paper in this easy-to-follow guide, illustrated by Miranda herself. In it, you’ll find instructions on everything: how to get a boyfriend (wear all black and carry a fishing net), to dressing for a date (sequins and an orange tutu), to performing magic (“Magic is Lying”), and much, much more! Miranda-isms abound in these self-declared lifesaving pages, and if you don’t like it…well, as Miranda would say…“Haters, back off!”

Musings

This isn’t a standard book — there is no plot line to follow. It reminds me a lot like the Amelia’s Notebook books that were always checked out from the library in elementary school — but meant for young adults.

The entire book is supposed to look like a scrap book, with taped items and scribbly handwriting. The grammar and spelling are awful, but intentional, and made it a bit hard for me to read. The disclaimer says to buy two books, since there are suggestions to color or cut out pages of the original copy (and you always want a perfect one, right?)

Miranda offers awesome advice on dancing moves, how to apply make up, and even wedding vows (which were a lot more fun than the ones I said at my wedding). It had me cracking up throughout and only took a little while to read.

All in all, fans of her videos will get a kick out of this book. It’s fun and something to enjoy flipping through when you’re not craving a serious read.

An Anniversary Giveaway!

Wow, guys! It has been nearly a year since we launched Readcommendations and we really want to celebrate! As a thank you to all of our lovely followers, we’re going to be giving away some marvelous prizes!

World Wide Giveaway!

This one is available to anyone living anywhere in the world:
Three people will be winning their choice of any book we’ve reviewed in the past year! (Or, if you plead your case, any book, ever, within reason.)

The first winner will be getting a hardcover and the other two will be receiving paperbacks.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

National Giveaway
This giveaway is only for those in the continental United States, simply because we don’t have the funds to ship anywhere at this time. Sorry about that, folks. I’ll be posting pictures of the bundles tomorrow, but we have descriptions for now.

Bundle #1
John Green’s An Abundance of Katherines paperback
Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor and Park hardcover
A wooden book box painted with a book cover
A reading themed mug
A bookmark signed by Lindsey Leavitt
A bookmark signed by Victoria Schwab

Bundle #2
Maureen Johnson’s Name of the Star hardcover
Cassandra Clare’s Clockwork Prince hardcover
A reading themed mug
A bookmark signed by Lindsey Leavitt
A bookmark signed by Victoria Schwab

Bundle #3
Miranda Sing’s Self-Help hardcover
Lili Wilkinson’s The Zigzag Effect paperback
A reading themed mug
A bookmark signed by Lindsey Leavitt
A bookmark signed by Victoria Schwab

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Both giveaways end on November 27th – the one year anniversary of our first ever post! We shall contact the winners and let them know which prize pack they have received.

We have the same posts on Tumblr, and will count recommendations there are extra entries! US giveaway – International giveaway

Good luck everyone! And I have to say, you really are fantastic readers. Thank you for making these 11 months so awesome.

Ashes

Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick
Review by KMWhen a book is attempting to instill fear in me, there is one thing that always works: being realistic. Werewolves, vampires, and zombies aren’t going to send shivers up my spine, but the idea of nuclear war or science gone wrong will leave me aching for a nightlight and my teddy bear. Ashes made me want more than a nightlight and it totally beat out the monsters hiding in my closet. In fact, it made the monsters under my bed want to crawl underneath the covers to hide with me!

Alex is just trekking across a mountain and trying to come to terms with her parents’ deaths when an electromagnetic pulse destroys all the technology that the world has become used to. Some people crash down to the ground, dead on the spot, others turn into malicious cannibals that have lost their humanity, and the rest are spared. Except being spared doesn’t make life any easier. With all electronics disabled, communications are down and so are chances of survival.

Musings

As a firm fan of the Saw movies, Ashes freaked me out. There were a few scenes that were described in such detail that I started to worry that I’d be eaten next. During these scenes, I’d try to put the book down and watch something cheerful, but the plot would beckon me to the next point, urging me forward, despite my dismay at the gore.

Alex is everything I’d hope to be in a desperate situation. She thinks rationally and makes decisions that the reader can understand and sympathize with. While she tries to blot out her emotions entirely, she cannot achieve it and it makes the book a touch more realistic to see her suffer because of contradicting feelings. Partnered with eight year old Ellie, who has been forced to mature quickly, and a young soldier, Tom, the characters remain dear to your heart while reading.

Be warned, Ashes is the beginning of a trilogy. While I’m looking forward to both Shadows and Monsters, waiting has never been my strong point. If you’re like me and will end up begging the author for hints, small passages, and leaks from the next book, you might be better waiting to read the whole series in one go.

With so many new dystopian-esque novels being released, Ashes cuts away from the cloth to reveal something that is so authentic that you’ll find yourself wandering online to order a stockpile of supplies.

*Review originally posted on The Magic Hoodie Lit Society

Cinder Edna

by Ellen Jackson and Kevin O’Malley
Review by KM

For someone who helps run the children’s program at my library, I really don’t review many kid books. I tend to hang near the classics, like The Very Hungry Caterpillar and The Monster at the End of the Book. I definitely take notes on books that I like when they enter the library and make sure to read them during story time. But I’ve been missing out on reviewing them and I want to correct that immediately.

Cinder Edna is a book introduced to me last year while I was working at Barnes and Noble. It’s not even in my library’s collection yet (which I hope to fix next week) and none of the parents I’ve mentioned it to have heard of it. This is, frankly, an outrage. Cinder Edna has quickly become my favorite Cinderella retelling.

Summary

The famous Cinderella and her neighbor Cinder Edna each worked sunup to sundown for their wicked stepmother and stepsisters. But while Cinderella had the good fortune to be rescued by her fairy godmother, Edna was strong, self-reliant, spunky—and she lived happier ever after!*

Musings

Cinderella is a tale full of magic and true love, which is awesome. But I think it’s just as awesome, if not more so, to be teaching little kids self-reliance.

Cinder Edna is a gal I can believe in, with a personality I’d want in a friend. She pushes her limits and achieves her goals through her own work.

(Here’s a bit of spoilers) Instead of day dreaming in the cinders, she finishes her chores for her wicked step-family and goes on to earn money by doing chores for neighbors. She rides the bus instead of making a carriage. And her prince? He broke his glasses; he doesn’t just randomly forget her face.

This book has to be in my top five for children’s books, one that I try to give to every friend that is expecting. It’s wonderful and funny; it’s a great break from the classic fairy tales that can quickly dominate a bookshelf. More than that, it shows that you can make your own happily-ever-after; you don’t need a fairy godmother to do it for you.

*Thank you, BN.com.

H2O

by Virginia Bergin

Review by KM

I remember seeing H2O on an endcap at Barnes and Noble last Fall. The cover is astounding and it stuck out among all of YA Romances it was surrounded by. I didn’t get a chance to grab it then; I had hardly a thought about it within the past year. Two days ago, I saw the sequel sitting on the new shelf, pretty as a book about the apocalypse could be. Without delay, I grabbed H2O, bought a frappuccino, and spent the next three hours chowing on the book. I only wish I’d had enough time to do the same with the sequel.

Summary

.27 is a number Ruby hates.

It’s a number that marks the percentage of the population that has survived. It’s a number that means she’s one of the “lucky” few still standing. And it’s a number that says her father is probably dead.

Against all odds, Ruby has survived the catastrophic onset of the killer rain. Two weeks after the radio started broadcasting the warning, “It’s in the rain. It’s fatal and there’s no cure,” the drinkable water is running out. Ruby’s left with two options: persevere on her own, or embark on a treacherous journey across the country to find her father-if he’s even still alive. **

Musings

I absolutely love this plot. There are a million and one dystopian teen novels out there, but this is the first one I’ve encountered that really left me thinking. I can make plans on how I’d survive The Hunger Games or the Divergent series, but I really have no idea how I’d survive without water. My husband and I spent the night discussing how we know how to purify water with Iodine and how to make 2 liter water systems to clean salt water, but we have no idea how to compete against a bacterium that can’t be boiled out of water.

In the end, I said I’d have drank some contaminated water within the first few weeks; I am so not suited for the apocalypse.

Ruby has a lot of faults. As a character, I didn’t like her, but I felt sympathetic for her at the same time. I kept thinking to myself, “Wow, I wouldn’t be friends with this chick if I was fifteen,” but then I’d stop and think, “Well, I probably wouldn’t want to be friends with my fifteen year old self now that I’m twenty two.” I think she has a strong personality, with all the self-absorption and teenage angst that belongs to a fifteen year old. Her voice is solid and believable. I’m hoping she remains the narrator of the second book.

H2O is a great start to what I hope remains to be a great series. And OH MY GOSH, apparently the sequel, The Storm, isn’t actually out until October 6th. But I know for sure that it was out at my local Barnes and Noble last night, so hopefully I can head up there tomorrow and it’s still there. I’m not sure I’ll be able to wait otherwise.

**Thanks for the summary, Amazon.

Lair of Dreams

by Libba Bray

Review by KM

A few weeks ago, I posted my The Diviners review. It was a repost from years ago when I originally got the book. My friends Laura and Kelly had gone to Book Expo America that year and picked me up a copy; I couldn’t be more grateful. The historical setting of the series mixes well with the supernatural elements. In the years since the first book came out, I have still only found a few historical novels that I truly love, but Libba makes it easy for me to add Lair of Dreams to the list.

Summary

After a supernatural showdown with a serial killer, Evie O’Neill has outed herself as a Diviner. With her uncanny ability to read people’s secrets, she’s become a media darling, and earned the title “America’s Sweetheart Seer.” Everyone’s in love with the city’s newest It Girl…everyone except the other Diviners.

Piano-playing Henry Dubois and Chinatown resident Ling Chan are two Diviners struggling to keep their powers a secret–for they can walk in dreams. And while Evie is living the high life, victims of a mysterious sleeping sickness are turning up across New York City.

As Henry searches for a lost love and Ling strives to succeed in a world that shuns her, a malevolent force infects their dreams. And at the edges of it all lurks a man in a stovepipe hat who has plans that extend farther than anyone can guess….As the sickness spreads, can the Diviners descend into the dreamworld to save the city?

Musings

I loved Evie in The Diviners and while she has a spot in my heart, it was certainly the other characters that kept me in love with Lair of Dreams. Evie takes a backseat role in this book (which is good because I really couldn’t have tolerated her being the main right now) and lets Ling take the spotlight. Ling is wonderful, in my opinion. I want more of her and I want more of her now.

Okay, now just a complaint that doesn’t have to do with the writing: The cover of The Diviners was something I had never seen before. It was an artistic style that looked stunning and original compared to everything else on the YA shelf. Lair of Dreams lost that. I don’t think this cover expresses the book at all and actually did a double-take when it came into the library. I’m so sad they couldn’t stick with the original art theme.

To be completely honest, I wasn’t as enraptured by Lair of Dreams as I was by The Diviners. While the first book was fast paced, this one went much slower. It was just as large, but I  found myself putting it down often, which was something I never could have done with The Diviners. It still had the same lovely 1920’s slang, the same wonderfully horrific monsters, and the characters I loved. It was just missing the action. I’ll definitely be preordering both the third and fourth novels in this series, but I’m hoping it didn’t peak with the first book.

The Demon’s Lexicon

by Sarah Rees Brennan

Review by KM

I spent this week rereading some of my favorite books. It’s not a luxury I typically get. Just trying to stay on top of the new releases and generate ideas for YA programming at the library is tough, so this week was just wonderful. 

I noticed a horrifying gap in my YA section that needs to be rectified immediately. We’re missing Sarah Rees Brennan’s The Demon’s Lexicon series. How wrong is that? I feel like I’m committing a heinous act. These three books need to be available at my library (for those in town who want to get ’em out this week or they don’t have them at your local library? Ask about interlibrary loans. They’re fantastic and should be used often.)

Alright, I’m going to save my gushing for the musings section. Be prepared.

Summary 

Sixteen-year-old Nick and his brother, Alan, are always ready to run. Their father is dead, and their mother is crazy—she screams if Nick gets near her. She’s no help in protecting any of them from the deadly magicians who use demons to work their magic. The magicians want a charm that Nick’s mother stole—and they want it badly enough to kill. Alan is Nick’s partner in demon slaying and the only person he trusts in the world. So things get very scary and very complicated when Nick begins to suspect that everything Alan has told him about their father, their mother, their past, and what they are doing is a complete lie.

Musings

My warning didn’t put you off. I’m glad.

*takes a deep breath and gets ready to explode her love all over the place*

This book is everything I love about Urban Fantasy. The lore is magnificent and the characters are even better. There is a constant struggle on Twitter between my friends and I on whether we’re Nick-girls or Alan-girls. (I am, by far, a Nick girl. Which is amusing because I think my boyfriend is probably more like Alan.)

But the best part isn’t the demons or the magicians or the curvy pink-haired girls. The best part is the dialogue. SRB characters just have this snarkiness that makes me want to tattoo the quotes to my body and wish I was cool enough to use them in real life. Especially Nick’s. In fact, if I could be a character, it would be Nick. Can I just be Nick? Please, Sarah?

Now, I hesitate to bring this up because I know how irritated I get when people insinuate that this book stole some plot from a certain tv show. What I’m saying here is: The Demon’s Lexicon isn’t a rip off from Supernatural, but I think a LOT of Supernatural fans would love to read this book. They share a lot of awesome elements (the same way that Grey’s Anatomy shares a lot with ER. Same genre, neither being a rip off).

While I work on getting the trilogy into my library, you guys should work on getting it into your hands or onto your eReaders. Don’t miss out; it’s fantastic.

The Unfortunate Decisions of Dahlia Moss

by Max Wirestone
Review by KM

I walked into yesterday with a huge grin on my face. There was no containing my excitement. “Guild Wars 2: Game of Thorns has a release date,” I said to my coworker with glee, “October 23. It’s right before my birthday. I’m pumped!”

None of my coworkers are geeks, but they all know I am. I’ve never been mocked for it and I wave my geek flag proudly. It’s really no surprise that I leaped on a book like The Unfortunate Decisions of Dahlia Moss. With a d20 on the cover and a summary that referenced some of my favorite videos and shows, I was elated to get approved for the eARC. I couldn’t wait to bust in and poor SA had to listen to be ramble on about how much I loved the beginning.

 Summary

For fans of The Guild, New Girl, Scott Pilgrim, Big Bang Theory, Veronica Mars, or anyone who has ever geeked out about something.

The odds of Dahlia successfully navigating adulthood are 3,720 to 1. But never tell her the odds.

Meet Dahlia Moss, the reigning queen of unfortunate decision-making in the St. Louis area. Unemployed broke, and on her last bowl of ramen, she’s not living her best life. But that’s all about to change.

Before Dahlia can make her life any messier on her own she’s offered a job. A job that she’s woefully under-qualified for. A job that will lead her to a murder, an MMORPG, and possibly a fella (or two?).

Turns out unfortunate decisions abound, and she’s just the girl to deal with them.

Musings

I had to take a full day off to review this book. I spent the last day reviewing my own expectations, analyzing what exactly I liked and what exactly I didn’t. I polled others, both geeks and non-geeks, to get a reference for this review. So, here it goes:
My unfortunate decision was assuming that since they mentioned my favorite shows, they were going to cater to the geek market. They did, somewhat.I felt vaguely insulted and primarily let down. It was like Diet Geek, similar to how the Big Bang Theory makes fun of the geekiness.

I think I felt this way because Dahlia Moss was always offended when people assumed she was a geek. She didn’t want to be labeled as such and tried to pretend she wasn’t. And while this felt annoying by itself, the way people determined her geekiness were so friggin’ fake. The two examples that came up multiple times: Star Wars and Pokemon. Pretty much everyone you encounter in life is going to know where the line, “Use the Force, Luke,”  came from. They’re going to be able to identify Pikachu and, yes, most of them can identify Jigglypuff. This is even more so since the 90s generation that spent their childhoods with Pokemon are now adults.

I do think there is a legitimate language barrier between geeks and non-geeks (in this specific case: gamer geeks. There are like 1 million different species of geek, but for the sake of the book, let’s stick to the gamers). I don’t expect everyone to know what I mean when I say, “Yeah, I was peeved when the Queensdale zerg was nerfed in the last patch.”  It’s slang, a dialect specific to the internet. This book did use some terms that it kindly defined for those unfamiliar, like AFK (away from keyboard) and Vent (short for Ventrillo, a voice chat software). But then it’d go back to Star Wars and Pokemon.

I can’t tell you how many times the same examples of Pokemon and Star Wars were used. I can tell you there was *one* reference to Magic the Gathering (despite the d20 on the cover and the chapter notices, which are used in tabletop and MtG, neither of which were featured in this book). I can tell you that I didn’t notice any Doctor Who references. There may have been one superhero one, but if there was, I missed it. There was a DOTA reference around page 50, which was the first remark of Dahlia doing anything that could be considered geeky on her own.

Then came the question: Am I being an elitist geek? How does one define geek? And, no, I don’t think I am. Because I think you’re a geek if *you* consider yourself to be a geek. But if you don’t consider yourself to be a geek and the only two things that could identify you are Star Wars and Pokemon, I’m really thinking you’re just an average 90s kid.
I think I would’ve been satisfied with this book back in 2010 before I watched The Guild or Scott Pilgrim. I think this book could be entirely satisfying for someone unfamiliar with the gaming world, which I don’t believe is a bad choice. For marketing, this book is easily consumed by the masses. But for the niche that it appealed to in that first sentence of the summary? Nah. It took the top layer of our world and ignored anything deeper than that.

All the Rage

by Courtney Summers

Review by KM

Okay, we have to start here: there’s rape in this novel. It’s not something you can skip; it’s not a singular scene that can be ignored. It’s harsh and unforgiving; it’s not going to sugarcoat anything. This is your warning.

Courtney Summers is one of my favorite authors. If you haven’t read This is Not a Test, I totally suggest you run to your nearest bookshop or library and take it out now. And then get this one. It’s not a sequel or anything, but the other one has zombies. Zombie books always come first.

Summary (thanks, Amazon!)
The sheriff’s son, Kellan Turner, is not the golden boy everyone thinks he is, and Romy Grey knows that for a fact. Because no one wants to believe a girl from the wrong side of town, the truth about him has cost her everything-friends, family, and her community. Branded a liar and bullied relentlessly by a group of kids she used to hang out with, Romy’s only refuge is the diner where she works outside of town. No one knows her name or her past there; she can finally be anonymous. But when a girl with ties to both Romy and Kellan goes missing after a party, and news of him assaulting another girl in a town close by gets out, Romy must decide whether she wants to fight or carry the burden of knowing more girls could get hurt if she doesn’t speak up. Nobody believed her the first time-and they certainly won’t now-but the cost of her silence might be more than she can bear.

Musings

If I could have as much writing talent as Courtney Summers does in her left pinkie nail, I would be elated. Her style is just remarkable; I’ve never seen anything similar. All the Rage doesn’t deviate from this trend and the ending of this novel is probably my favorite of hers.

In fact, let’s talk about endings. Endings that wrap everything up into tight little bows like Christmas presents are great, but life doesn’t work that way. Stories and situations end abruptly, just like a Courtney Summers novel and that’s marvelous.

Now that one of my author crushes has been exposed to all of you, let’s get into the beef of the novel:

All the Rage is hard to read. It’s hurtful and it’s aching and it’s desperation and feelings of worthlessness. It embraces what it feels like to be a girl and how some of us live in fear. It shows girls putting other girls down, girls defending each other when they aren’t friends, and just the way misogyny can be internalized after traumatic events.

It was a hyper realistic novel, one that I could unfortunately pull out many news stories in the past year that would sound eerily similar. It discusses how worth is defined in both a biological sex point of view, as well as a social hierarchy point of view. Women are just valued less in the small town presented; they’re expected to take the fall for men’s mistakes and keep each other quiet.

My absolutely favorite choice in this novel was the fact Summers chose to use the word slit instead of slut. I hadn’t realized until today how desensitized we are to the word slut. Teenage boys scream it down halls, girls use it as insults and then call their best friends sluts with affection in their tone. It has lost its sharpness. Slit, however? That just felt dirty and degrading and oh my gosh. It was the impact that slut should be getting.

Overall, I’d recommend this book so highly, in my top 10 that have come out in 2015. I want everyone to go into this with wide-eyes though because 1 in 6 American women has been the victim of attempted or successful rape.