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Thursday, February 28, 2019

Song for a Whale by Lynne Kelly

*Today's review is part of the blog tour for Song for a Whale; an ARC of the book was provided by Random House Children's Books. All opinions and thoughts are honest and my own. Affiliate links are used in this post.*

Song for a Whale by Lynne Kelly
Middle Grade Contemporary, 320 pages
Delacorte Books for Young Readers (February 5, 2019)
Twelve-year-old Iris has never let her deafness slow her down. A whiz at fixing electronics, she's always felt at home in the world of wires and vacuum tubes.

School, on the other hand, isn't quite as simple. Between her frustrating teacher Ms. Conn and her overly helpful classmate Nina, Iris can't seem to catch a break.

But during science class, Iris learns about Blue 55—the loneliest whale in the world. Saddened by the animal's inability to speak to other whales, Iris uses her tech skills to come up with a plan communicate with Blue 55.

One small problem: the whale is swimming off the coast of Alaska, nearly 3,000 miles from her Texas home. But, nothing stops Iris, and with her Deaf grandmother by her side, she sets out on a road trip to meet the whale and make sure he's finally heard.

I feel like I've been talking a lot lately about craving middle grade, and how good and underappreciated middle grade is. I came across a thread on Twitter a few days ago about why people like YA — and making a distinction between adult and YA — because it generally deals with serious issues with sense of hope. I think this is even more true of middle grade stories, and while some may take a saccharine route, many, if not most, strip issues back to an unltimately honest core without sacrificing hope, which is no easy feat. Lynne Kelly's Song for a Whale is a good example of that.

Song for a Whale hits a lot of right notes*, succinctly capturing the frustrations and beauties of Iris' world, layered with a touch of adventure and coming of age, and built on the bones of a heartfelt family story. Iris is a dynamic protagonist, realistically flawed and lovely; she's got a thread of irritation and anger in her, an understandable chip on her shoulder, without ever falling into any kind of Angry Disabled Person™ trope. She's got a rich well of passions and skills that flesh her out, without falling into any kind of Magically Perfect Disabled Person™ trope. She's well executed and realistic, and it makes her easy to root for; she's deaf, but that's not all she is.

Iris also makes a great 'in' to the stories contained within the book — the story of different deaf people operating in different ways within a hearing world, the story of a whale who wants to be heard and known, the story of a family grieving and a woman wanting to live again, stories of science and technology and friendship and exploration. Iris' natural curiosity and spirit provide a good window into these tangled bits of people's lives in a really organic way, with Iris always remaining the central focus, but not the lone focus.

Readers will find a story of growth and connection that is thoroughly engaging and easily readable. Song for a Whale succeeds in letting in readers who may not be familiar with anyone deaf or hearing-impaired, without ever using deafness as a gimmick or condescending to the audience. The book as a whole is a good example of why middle grade books can be so enduring in our reading lives, and make such good tools for developing empathy and curiosity.

*Ha! This is a bit funny considering the subject of the book is a whale who can't hit the right notes. I swear I didn't plan this as some sort of godawful punnish thing, but here we are.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Backlist Love (14): Urban Fantasy, part 2

As promised, here is part 2 of my Urban Fantasy Backlist Love mini-series! Here are 3 urban fantasy-esque series that I love and recommend. If you want to weigh in on the first video, where I ask for your thoughts on 3 I own but haven't read, you can find that video here!

Also, SO. MANY. CAMEOS. from Catsanova.


MERCY THOMPSON series by Patricia Briggs
Moon Called is the novel that introduced Patricia Briggs’s Mercy Thompson to the world and launched a #1 bestselling phenomenon...

Mercy Thompson is a shapeshifter, and while she was raised by werewolves, she can never be one of them, especially after the pack ran her off for having a forbidden love affair. So she’s turned her talent for fixing cars into a business and now runs a one-woman mechanic shop in the Tri-Cities area of Washington State.

But Mercy’s two worlds are colliding. A half-starved teenage boy arrives at her shop looking for work, only to reveal that he’s a newly changed werewolf—on the run and desperately trying to control his animal instincts. Mercy asks her neighbor Adam Hauptman, the Alpha of the local werewolf pack, for assistance.

But Mercy’s act of kindness has unexpected consequences that leave her no choice but to seek help from those she once considered family—the werewolves who abandoned her...

MORGANVILLE VAMPIRES series  by Rachel Caine
College freshman Claire Danvers has had enough of her nightmarish dorm situation, where the popular girls never let her forget just where she ranks in the school's social scene: somewhere less than zero.

When Claire heads off-campus, the imposing old house where she finds a room may not be much better. Her new roommates don't show many signs of life. But they'll have Claire's back when the town's deepest secrets come crawling out, hungry for fresh blood.

FEVER series by Karen Marie Moning 
MacKayla Lane’s life is good. She has great friends, a decent job, and a car that breaks down only every other week or so. In other words, she’s your perfectly ordinary twenty-first-century woman. Or so she thinks . . . until something extraordinary happens.

When her sister is murdered, leaving a single clue to her death—a cryptic message on Mac’s cell phone—Mac journeys to Ireland in search of answers. The quest to find her sister’s killer draws her into a shadowy realm where nothing is as it seems, where good and evil wear the same treacherously seductive mask. She is soon faced with an even greater challenge: staying alive long enough to learn how to handle a power she had no idea she possessed–a gift that allows her to see beyond the world of man, into the dangerous realm of the Fae. . . .

As Mac delves deeper into the mystery of her sister’s death, her every move is shadowed by the dark, mysterious Jericho, a man with no past and only mockery for a future. As she begins to close in on the truth, the ruthless Vlane—an alpha Fae who makes sex an addiction for human women–closes in on her. And as the boundary between worlds begins to crumble, Mac’s true mission becomes clear: find the elusive Sinsar Dubh before someone else claims the all-powerful Dark Book—because whoever gets to it first holds nothing less than complete control of the very fabric of both worlds in their hands. . .

Friday, February 15, 2019

Backlist Love (13): Urban Fantasy, part 1

Today's video is part 1 of 2, in which I take a look at some Urban Fantasy titles that have been on my shelves for awhile that I *haven't* read. Let me know your thoughts on them in the comments, as well as any other UF recommendations you may have!


Dead Witch Walking by Kim Harrison (The Hollows series)
All the creatures of the night gather in "the Hollows" of Cincinnati, to hide, to prowl, to party . . . and to feed.

Vampires rule the darkness in a predator-eat-predator world rife with dangers beyond imagining—and it's Rachel Morgan's job to keep that world civilized.

A bounty hunter and witch with serious sex appeal and an attitude, she'll bring 'em back alive, dead . . . or undead.

Storm Front by Jim Butcher (Dresden Files series)
In the first novel in the #1 New York Times bestselling Dresden Files series, Harry Dresden’s investigation of a grisly double murder pulls him into the darkest depths of magical Chicago…

As a professional wizard, Harry Dresden knows firsthand that the “everyday” world is actually full of strange and magical things—and most of them don’t play well with humans. And those that do enjoy playing with humans far too much. He also knows he’s the best at what he does. Technically, he’s the only at what he does. But even though Harry is the only game in town, business—to put it mildly—stinks.

So when the Chicago P.D. bring him in to consult on a double homicide committed with black magic, Harry's seeing dollar signs. But where there's black magic, there's a black mage behind it. And now that mage knows Harry's name...

Halfway to the Grave by Jeaniene Frost (Night Huntress series)
Half-vampire Catherine Crawfield is going after the undead with a vengeance, hoping that one of these deadbeats is her father—the one responsible for ruining her mother's life. Then she's captured by Bones, a vampire bounty hunter, and is forced into an unholy partnership.

In exchange for finding her father, Cat agrees to train with the sexy night stalker until her battle reflexes are as sharp as his fangs. She's amazed she doesn't end up as his dinner—are there actually good vampires? Pretty soon Bones will have her convinced that being half-dead doesn't have to be all bad. But before she can enjoy her newfound status as kick-ass demon hunter, Cat and Bones are pursued by a group of killers. Now Cat will have to choose a side . . . and Bones is turning out to be as tempting as any man with a heartbeat.

Friday, February 8, 2019

FEBRUARY TBR + "Books of Chance" (??) Game!

I mention a few times in this that I'm giving up ARCs -- I WILL have a video about that decision soon, and what it means going forward, soon!

In this video, I do a little mini-game to choose one of the books, using a D-12.
Also, if you want to see me do TBR games every month / in the future, let me know in the comments!



Thursday, February 7, 2019

UPROOTED | #28DaysOfBookLove

Day Seven!
And a Plant Room photoshoot!

UPROOTED by Naomi Novik
HUGO AWARD FINALIST • NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY NPR | BuzzFeed | Tordotcom | BookPage | Library Journal | Publishers Weekly

Naomi Novik, author of the New York Times bestselling and critically acclaimed Temeraire novels, introduces a bold new world rooted in folk stories and legends, as elemental as a Grimm fairy tale.

“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”

Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.

WHY I LOVE IT: Why don't I love it? I've made no attempt to hide my absolute adoration of this book, which uses some of my all-time favorite, never-gonna-get-over-em tropes and themes (fairy tale vibes! surly heroes! fierce female friendships! plant magic!). I've been pushing this book on people consistently since I read it, and I will continue to do so for years to come.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

#28DaysOfBookLove Days 4 - 6

You may have heard about a massive internet/tv outage that happened during the Big Sports Thing this past weekend, and stretched into this week. And of course — of course! — I was one of the households affected.

But you may be saying to yourself: But, Misty, you knew you were doing 28 Days of Book Love this month — you should have had things ready in advance! To which I say

I've been doing this long enough; you should know me by now.
So here are days 4 through 6 of this month's 28 Days!

DARK TRIUMPH by Robin LaFevers
Sybella's duty as Death's assassin in 15th-century France forces her return home to the personal hell that she had finally escaped. Love and romance, history and magic, vengeance and salvation converge in this thrilling sequel to Grave Mercy.

Sybella arrives at the convent’s doorstep half mad with grief and despair. Those that serve Death are only too happy to offer her refuge—but at a price. The convent views Sybella, naturally skilled in the arts of both death and seduction, as one of their most dangerous weapons. But those assassin's skills are little comfort when the convent returns her to a life that nearly drove her mad. And while Sybella is a weapon of justice wrought by the god of Death himself, He must give her a reason to live. When she discovers an unexpected ally imprisoned in the dungeons, will a daughter of Death find something other than vengeance to live for?

WHY I LOVE IT: First of all, I'm so sorry to do light text on a dark background to you guys. But I kinda had to; I mean, just look at this book.
But as for reasons I love it... Oh, let me (Sybella) count the (Sybella) ways (Sybella). I loved the first book in LaFevers His Fair Assassin series, truly, I did. But I looove book 2. (And yes, I know, I know, I need to read book 3 already. I KNOW.)

THE REAL BOY by Anne Ursu
National Book Award Longlist * Bank Street Children's Book Committee Best Book of the Year

The Real Boy, Anne Ursu's follow-up to her widely acclaimed and beloved middle grade fantasy Breadcrumbs, is a spellbinding tale of the power we all wield, great and small.

On an island on the edge of an immense sea there is a city, a forest, and a boy named Oscar. Oscar is a shop boy for the most powerful magician in the village, and spends his days in a small room in the dark cellar of his master's shop grinding herbs and dreaming of the wizards who once lived on the island generations ago. Oscar's world is small, but he likes it that way. The real world is vast, strange, and unpredictable. And Oscar does not quite fit in it.
But now that world is changing. Children in the city are falling ill, and something sinister lurks in the forest. Oscar has long been content to stay in his small room in the cellar, comforted in the knowledge that the magic that flows from the forest will keep his island safe. Now even magic may not be enough to save it.

WHY I LOVE IT: I've talked a lot about Ursu's debut Breadcrumbs on this blog in the past (and for good reasons; it remains one of my favorite middle grade titles, ever); but I feel like I don't do enough evangelizing for her follow-up, The Real Boy, which is a shame, because it is also fantastic. She's very deft at layering fantastical elements on top of relatable, impactful stories, which is why I'm highly anticipating her newest book, The Lost Girl (hits stores next week!), and why I very much recommend adding her to classroom shelves, your kids shelves, and your shelves.

The CASTLE WAITING series by Linda Medley
(shown: volume 2)

Castle Waiting is the story of an isolated, abandoned castle, and the eccentric inhabitants who bring it back to life. A fable for modern times, it is a fairy tale that's not about rescuing the princess, saving the kingdom, or fighting the ultimate war between Good and Evil -- but about being a hero in your own home. The opening chapter tells the origin of the castle itself, which is abandoned by its princess in a comic twist on "Sleeping Beauty" when she rides off into the sunset with her Prince Charming. The castle becomes a refuge for misfits, outcasts, and others seeking sanctuary, playing host to a lively and colorful cast of characters that inhabits the subsequent stories, including a talking anthropomorphic horse, a mysteriously pregnant Lady on the run, and a bearded nun.

Linda Medley lavishly illustrates Castle Waiting in a classic visual style reminiscent of Arthur Rackham and William Heath Robinson. Blending elements from a variety of sources -- fairy tales, folklore, nursery rhymes -- Medley tells the story of the everyday lives of fantastic characters with humor, intelligence, and insight into human nature. Castle Waiting can be read on multiple levels and can be enjoyed by readers of all ages, especially young girls.

WHY I LOVE IT: My god. What don't I love about this series. I'm not kidding you when I say that, every time I think about this book, spot it on my shelves, or pick it up for any reason, I am overcome with the urge to read it, right then and there. So good!

So there are days 4 through 6!
I'm actually not mad at the idea of doing a multi-day post like this, rather than one every day, so let me know your thoughts in the comments!
And let me know, of course, what some of your favorite books are, and what you think of these three if you've read them!

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Death Prefers Blondes by Caleb Roehrig | Blog Tour

I've been flashing this drag queen caper at you in TBR videos for some time now, so it's time we sit down and take a look at my thoughts on Death Prefers Blondes by Caleb Roehrig! As an added bonus, please enjoy cameos by two rarely-seen cats; both are crazy in their own, special ways...

A quick note: I mention in the video that I found the book to be a bit too long, but Amazon informs me that the finished copy is some 45 pages shorter than the one I read. That may be a difference in formatting, but it also may mean it was tightened up, so maybe that complaint is now moot. Also (obviously), a copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher for review purposes; all thoughts and opinions are my own.
Anyway, onto my thoughts!

about DEATH PREFERS BLONDES by Caleb Roehrig
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends (January 29, 2019)
Publication Date: January 29, 2019; 400 pages
Teenage socialite Margo Manning leads a dangerous double life. By day, she dodges the paparazzi while soaking up California sunshine. By night, however, she dodges security cameras and armed guards, pulling off high-stakes cat burglaries with a team of flamboyant young men. In and out of disguise, she’s in all the headlines.

But then Margo’s personal life takes a sudden, dark turn, and a job to end all jobs lands her crew in deadly peril. Overnight, everything she’s ever counted on is put at risk. Backs against the wall, the resourceful thieves must draw on their special skills to survive. But can one rebel heiress and four kickboxing drag queens withstand the slings and arrows of truly outrageous fortune? Or will a mounting sea of troubles end them—for good?

The Pages in Between - http://thepagesinbetween.com/index.php/2019/01/29/blog-tour-for-death-prefers-blondes-by-caleb-roehrig-fiercereads/
YA Wednesdays
Bookcrushin' - http://bookcrush.in/blog-tour-review-death-prefers-blondes-by-caleb-roehrig/
The Book Nut
Jay G - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rNqa0hZSoUU
Adventures of a Book Junkie - https://www.toofondofbooks.com/2019/02/the-time-it-was-about-death-prefers-blondes.html
The Book Rat - you are here!

Sunday, February 3, 2019

LIPS TOUCH: Three Times | #28DaysOfBookLove

Day Three!

Three tales of supernatural love, each pivoting on a kiss that is no mere kiss, but an action with profound consequences for the kissers' souls:

Goblin Fruit
In Victorian times, goblin men had only to offer young girls sumptuous fruits to tempt them to sell their souls. But what does it take to tempt today's savvy girls?

Spicy Little Curses
A demon and the ambassador to Hell tussle over the soul of a beautiful English girl in India. Matters become complicated when she falls in love and decides to test her curse.

Six days before Esme's fourteenth birthday, her left eye turns from brown to blue. She little suspects what the change heralds, but her small safe life begins to unravel at once. What does the beautiful, fanged man want with her, and how is her fate connected to a mysterious race of demons?

WHY I LOVE IT: Goblins! Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed all three stories, and always love Laini Taylor's lush, evocative writing, but... Goblins!

Feel free to share a fave of yours in the comments or on instagram/twitter with the hashtag #28DaysOfBookLove!

Saturday, February 2, 2019

VESSEL | #28DaysOfBookLove

It's day 2 of 28 Days of Book Love, and today I'm featuring a fast and firm favorite. I don't think I've ever fallen in love with a world or its characters quite as quickly as with...

VESSEL by Sarah Beth Durst

This atmospheric fantasy is, “from the gripping first line, a fast-paced, thought-provoking, and stirring story of sacrifice” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review).

Liyana has trained her entire life to be the vessel of a goddess. The goddess will inhabit Liyana’s body and use magic to bring rain to the desert. But Liyana’s goddess never comes. Abandoned by her angry tribe, Liyana expects to die in the desert. Until a boy walks out of the dust in search of her.

Korbyn is a god inside his vessel, and a trickster god at that. He tells Liyana that five other gods are missing, and they set off across the desert in search of the other vessels. For the desert tribes cannot survive without the magic of their gods. But the journey is dangerous, even with a god’s help. And not everyone is willing to believe the trickster god’s tale.

The closer she grows to Korbyn, the less Liyana wants to disappear to make way for her goddess. But she has no choice: She must die for her tribe to live. Unless a trickster god can help her to trick fate—or a human girl can muster some magic of her own.

WHY I LOVE IT: As I said above, I became completely enthralled with this world, its characters, and its magic system. It has my very-much-prized slowburn romance (the chemistry!), and a complex plot that doesn't get bogged down in infodumps. And what's not to love about a trickster god? I mean, COME ON.

Have you read Vessel? What did you think?
And feel free to share a fave of yours in the comments or on instagram/twitter with the hashtag #28DaysOfBookLove!

FEED YOUR READER: February 2, 2019!

It's been aaaaages since we've taken a stroll through the bargain books section, but man, I am so ready to feed you reader!

Below you'll find a whole slew of books that are on super sale right now (likely for a limited time)! I've done things a little differently this time around, organizing by price, and giving brief descriptions on the selections (along with some bonus picks, in case you're still on the hunt for a deal). Let me know if you prefer this new format to previous Feed Your Reader posts!

These are affiliate links, which means this blog will make a small commission from Amazon, should you choose to purchase. Thanks for helping support this blog!

Less than $1.99

Friday, February 1, 2019

SUNSHINE | #28DaysOfBookLove

As some of you may recall, last year I challenged myself to share things I loved about book design every single day of February. I called it 28 Days of Book Love, and it was kind of amazing. So many great bookish details!
This year, I decided to do it again, but with a different approach. Though there are still plenty of awesome design bits and bobs I love and could talk about for the rest of this month, this time around, I decided to share 28 specific books that I love and want to push on everyone. Consider it a month-long Backlist Love fest. And I invite you to join me!

I really should have informed you of this by now. I'm sorta bad at blogging.

I'm kicking things off with a slow-burn fave, one I always find myself thinking about this time of year, for reasons. (Those reasons being: Constantine. I want Constantine to be my Valentine's date, mmkay?) And that book is:

SUNSHINE by Robin McKinley

A small-town baker uses her magic to confront a post–vampire apocalypse world in this award-winning urban fantasy Neil Gaiman called “pretty much perfect.”

Although it had been mostly deserted since the Voodoo Wars, there hadn’t been any trouble out at the lake for years. Rae Seddon, nicknamed Sunshine, head baker at her family’s busy and popular cafĂ© in downtown New Arcadia, needed a place to get away from all the noise and confusion—of the clientele and her family. Just for a few hours. Just to be able to hear herself think.

She knew about the Others, of course. Everyone did. And several of her family’s best regular customers were from SOF—Special Other Forces—which had been created to deal with the threat and the danger of the Others.

She drove out to her family’s old lakeside cabin and sat on the porch, swinging her feet and enjoying the silence and the silver moonlight on the water.

She never heard them coming. Of course, you don’t when they’re vampires.

Fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Sookie Stackhouse will cheer for this tough and quirky heroine. In Sunshine, which won the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature, McKinley has a vampire novel that is “a smart, funny tale of suspense and romance” (San Francisco Chronicle).

First of all, baking magic. You're never not gonna win me over with that.
But there is something so luscious about this world, and the writing. I've said this about one other of McKinley's books, but it's like honey: some may find the flow too slow, but man, the sweetness is worth it. Rae (aka Sunshine) is one of those characters that wormed their way into my brain and stuck with me, and Constantine... he is just *heart eyes emojis* all over the place.
Side note: I love basically every cover of this I've ever seen, AND this is currently on sale for kindle!

I'll be sharing these picks (28 of 'em) all month, both here and on insta (with the hashtag #28DaysOfBookLove) and I invite you to do the same!
What's a book that you love beyond all reason, and want to push on everybody?


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