Thursday, February 20, 2020

What I Carry by Jennifer Longo
Synopsis (via Goodreads): For readers of Robin Benway's Far From the Tree, a powerful and heartwarming look at a teen girl about to age out of the foster care system.

Growing up in foster care, Muir has lived in many houses. And if she's learned one thing, it is to Pack. Light.
Carry only what fits in a suitcase.
Toothbrush? Yes.
Socks? Yes.
Emotional attachment to friends? foster families? a boyfriend? Nope!
There's no room for any additional baggage.
Muir has just one year left before she ages out of the system. One year before she's free. One year to avoid anything--or anyone--that could get in her way.

Then she meets Francine. And Kira. And Sean.


What I Carry was a brilliant, fantastic read, and I am so happy my #otspsecretsister sent it to me in one of my boxes! I wasn't aware this book existed, which is a tragedy, since it was absolutely perfect for me. I'm a fan of John Muir and his accomplishments, so all the snippets and quotes from his life and his works were like little gems. They weren't hidden, but there for the entire world to find and enjoy.

Muir and Muiriel made this story what it is, and the belief that you should do what you can to help those who can't help themselves. In Muir's case, trees (and nature in general) are defenseless and should be preserved. Muiriel was preparing herself to age out of the system, so she tried not to get attached to other people or places. She stopped caring about being adopted, but she still looked after the other foster kids that she shared homes with. Muiriel didn't keep in touch afterwards (with the exception of Zola), but she did what she could while she was there.

Adults have the power to really screw with a child's perception of the world and themselves, and some automatically assume foster kids are "trouble" or that they did something to get placed in foster care. A child does nothing to end up in foster care. The fact that they're there is partly due to a flawed system, and the blame should be solely placed on the adults in their lives. Adults have failed them in one way or another (either by family members and/or the government), and they shouldn't be blamed for being upset about it their circumstances. They have every right to feel angry, hurt, and betrayed.There's nothing wrong with them, they just don't have a cookie cutter family.

Jennifer Longo said she wrote this book because her daughter asked her to. Her daughter said she wanted a story that was realistic based on her experiences, and that not everyone was molested or abused in foster care. Sometimes, it just sucks. I think the author's personal experiences mixed with her daughter's really made this book something uniquely original. Muiriel's story will be something others can relate to, while also being informational for those with no experience with the subject matter.

I really loved the secondary characters! Francine, Joellen, Kira, Zola, Sean - - it was an amazing group of people that I thoroughly enjoyed reading about. The author manages to squeeze in other important topics throughout the book, and I never felt like she was beating me over the head with the information. Everything flowed from one thing to the next, and I took my time getting to the end.

There's a subtle romance in the book between Sean and Muiriel, but the book focuses on Muiriel and how her experiences in foster care have shaped who she is today. She doesn't want to let herself love or care too deeply, because she's afraid of what that would mean for her future. The plan has always been to get out and make it on her own. Somehow. However, she can't keep herself from caring about the new people in her life that seem to need her just as much as she needs them.

Natan was despicable. Tiana and Katrina were incredibly frustrating. Racist white people and just dumb adults in general made me want to throw things - - but this was all intentional. The author paints a realistic picture of what it's like growing up in foster care, and how broken the system can be. There are good people, like Joellen and Francine, that do what they can to make it better, but there are so many kids... it's impossible to make sure they all end up in a nice home with nice people.

When I finally caught on to why the book was titled the way it was, it added an entirely new layer to my experience with this story. It was well-written, exceptionally realistic, and beautifully rendered.

I could honestly go on and on about how much I loved this book and its characters, and I could probably keep typing about how well the author addressed certain issues, but I'll leave it at this: What I Carry was an amazing, thought-provoking read that I plan on reading again and again. There's something for everyone! Great characters, friendships, a subtle romance with a genuinely good guy, awesome parents and adults, and people fighting for what they believe in. You have characters overcoming obstacles and learning about themselves, school bullies and judgmental educators. It was practically perfect in every way.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

If... by Sarah Perry (via Goodreads): A diving board to creative wordplay, the fascinating picture book If... offers a surrealistic view of the natural world. The two-page spreads present artful watercolors paired with such strange possibilities as "If zebras had stars and stripes...," "If the moon were square...," and "If worms had wheels...." Although some of the ideas and pictures are whimsical to the point of being downright creepy ("If caterpillars were toothpaste...," "If toes were teeth..."), the hypotheticals will surely inspire flights of fancy for readers of all ages. What could be more appealing for a 5-year-old than imagining the silliest suppositions and seeing them come to life in realistic paintings?

Sculptor Sarah Perry creates a world to make us stop and think. One of her best illustrations depicts a large, hairy warthog with a sparkling crown and the text, "If ugly were beautiful...." With every if idea, the author encourages the kind of mental double take that comes naturally for children. (Ages 4 to 7, and adults, too) --Emilie Coulter


I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. Any quotes I use are from an unpublished copy and may not reflect the finished product.

If... is simple yet evocative. The first time I read through this book, I felt pulled in two different directions. On the one hand, I wanted to sit and stare at the pages without blinking. On the other, I was eager to discover what else this book had to offer. The illustrations are absolutely breathtaking, and I wish I could frame every single page and hang them around the house. It's like the author combined the silliness of Alice in Wonderland with the feeling of walking through a museum.

I recently learned this book celebrated it's 25th anniversary, and I'm really surprised I haven't stumbled across it before now. If... has profoundly impacted my perception of the world, and it's made me consider various other what ifs that are not addressed within the pages of this book. I am ecstatic that I get to share this wonderful work of art with my children, and introduce them to a new way of thinking that nurtures their imaginations.

My favorites: If dogs were mountains... & If caterpillars were toothpaste... They're all fantastic, but those would be my top two. My only complaint would be that I ran out of pages! Additionally, the Reader's Guide at the end was interesting and educational, but explained in a way that made you want to know and learn more. I cannot praise this book enough, and if it's something you haven't had the pleasure of experiencing, please do yourself a favor and borrow it from the library or just buy it outright. (★★★★★)

Monday, February 17, 2020

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
Narrated by Ariadne Meyers
Synopsis (via Goodreads): A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from New York Times bestselling author, National Book Award finalist, and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart.

Read it.

And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.


We Were Liars is one of the audiobooks I listened to while driving from Texas to Virginia (you'd think you'd get a lot of listening done, but you'd be wrong). I had to squeeze my audiobooks in when the monsters fell asleep, because they wanted to listen to the Frozen soundtrack on repeat (and I came very close to losing my mind). We Were Liars wasn't very long, and the narration was enjoyable. I had no expectations going into this one, but knew something twisty would happen at the end. While I caught on to certain clues throughout the story, other revelations were still surprising. I can't be more specific without giving something away, and you definitely want to go into this one without any prior knowledge.

One thing I'm still uncertain about is the title. Why were they the Liars? We don't see them actively lying to anyone in the book, and the main character only mentions something happening during this or that summer. If that was a focal point of the book, I would've liked more details surrounding the nickname. If anything, they were ridiculously helpful. They were always taking care of the younger siblings (the Littles, I believe), and going along with what their parents asked them to do (with the exception of a few things... which I guess they did lie about). Their mothers (all sisters) were fighting over who would inherit what, and they wanted to use their children in their "battles" against each other. They tried to pit the Liars against one another, but it didn't work. Their bond was solid.

It took me a few chapters to get used to the writing style. Initially, certain comments would be really confusing and pulled me from the story. I would re-read sentences before continuing, and then suddenly everything would make sense. The way the main character explains certain emotions and reactions... the wording was extreme but not always literal. The author would have me thinking something entirely different was happening before it clicked that it was just the main character's way of expressing her feelings.

Additionally, I would have liked learning more about the secondary characters, but I understand why the author chose to keep certain elements very superficial. It created a fog around particular events and people, which the author slowly and expertly navigated the main character (and me as the reader) through. I really enjoyed watching the events unfold with the main character, and not learning something new until she did.

We Were Liars had me ugly crying in the car, and my kids asking me if I was okay (I most definitely was not). If your sensitive about animals and their presence in books, be warned. I wish I had known certain details ahead of time, since that would have likely prepared me for at least one sob-worthy aspect of this story. I'm sorry if that spoils something for you, but there definitely should be a warning when something terrible befalls a furry friend within a book. This is me warning you.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the story and the narration. It was a quick listen, and one that was mostly age-appropriate for the monsters (when they were awake and not asking for Let It Go). It was definitely a step above Goosebumps, although some of those can be pretty freaky. They can also give your kids terrible ideas, like sneaking into the bathroom while you're taking a shower and saying, "I'm Slappy!" in a super creepy voice. It's a good thing I was already in the shower, because I definitely peed on myself a little.

If you like twisty, suspenseful books, We Were Liars is definitely worth looking into! (★★★⋆☆)

Sunday, February 16, 2020

My Weekly Pull [107-109] & Can't Wait Wednesday [77-79]

My Weekly Pull is something I do every Wednesday to show which comics I had pulled for me that week! If you're into comics, or you're looking to start, please join me! If you decide to do your own post, there's a link-up at the bottom. I would love to stop by and check it out!

(This list is going to be for the last three weeks, since we we've been traveling and had to find a new LCS! They should be in alphabetical order (with the exception of Ant-Man), but not the order in which they were released.)
Amazing Spider-Man Daily Bugle #1 by Mat Johnson, Mack Chater, Mark Bagley
Daredevil #17 by Chip Zdarsky, Jorge Fornes
Dungeons & Dragons Infernal Tides #2 by Jim Zub, Max Dunbar
Gwen Stacy #1 by Christos N. Gage, Todd Nauck, Jie Yuan
Hawkeye Freefall #2 by Matthew Rosenberg, Otto Schmidt, Kim Jacinto
Hawkeye #3 by Matthew Rosenberg, Otto Schmidt
Immortal Hulk Great Power One Shot by Tom Taylor, Jorge Molina
Jessica Jones Blind Spot #2 by Kelly Thompson, Mattia De lulis, Martin Simmonds
Jessica Jones Blind Spot #3 by Kelly Thompson, Mattia De lulis, Martin Simmonds
The Marked by David Hine, Brian Haberlin, Geirrod Van Dyke
Marvels X #2 by Alex Ross, Jim Krueger, Well-Bee
Miles Morales Spider-Man #15 by Saladin Ahmed, Javier Garron
Nebula #1 by Vita Ayala, Claire Roe, Skottie Young
Rising Sun #2 by Ron Marz, David Rodriguez, Martin Coccolo
Spider-Verse #4 by Taran Killam, Juan Gedeon
Spider-Verse #5 by Christos N. Gage, Juan Ferreyra
Star Wars: Rise of Kylo Ren #3 by Charles Soule, Will Sliney, Clayton Crain
Stranger Things: Into the Fire #2 by Jody Houser, Le Beau L. Underwood, Claire Roe
Tarot #2 by Alan David, Paul Renaud
Ant-Man #1 by Zeb Wells, Dylan Burnett, Eduard Petrovich

Jacob's comics for the last three weeks!
Amazing Spider-Man  #39 by Nick Spencer, Iban Coello, Patrick Gleason
The Clock #2 by Matt Hawkins, Colleen Doran
Conan Serpent War #1 by Jim Zub, Vanessa Del Rey, Stephen Segovia, Carlos Pacheco
Deadpool The End One Shot by Joe Kelly, Mike Hawthorne, Rahzzah
Doctor Doom #5 by Christopher Cantwell, Salvador Larroca, Tomm Coker
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers / Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #3 by Ryan Parrott, Simone Di Meo, Goni Montes
Ravencroft #1 by Frank Tieri, Angel Unzueta, Kim Jacinto
Savage Avengers #0 by Gerry Duggan, Chris Claremont, Greg Smallwood, John Romita
Savage Avengers #10 by Gerry Duggan, Patrick Zircher
Scream Curse of Carnage #3 by Clay McLeod Chapman, Chris Mooneyham, Nick Brandshaw
Spider-Man & Venom: Double Trouble #4 by Mariko Tamaki, Gurihiru
Symbiote Spider-Man Alien Reality #3 by Peter David, Greg Land
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #102 by Tom Waltz, Sophie Campbell, Kevin Eastman
Transformers 100-Page Giant Power of the Predacons by John Paul Bove, Corin Howell
Transformers Valentine's Day Special by Patrick Ehlers, Sara Pitre-Durocher, Jack Lawrence
Transformers #16 by Brian Ruckley, Anna Malkova, Bethany McGuire-Smith, Hal Laren
Usagi Yojimbo #8 by Stan Sakai
Venom #23 by Donny Cates, Mark Bagley
Yondu #5 by Lonnie Nadler, Zac Thompson, John McCrea

Can't Wait Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Tressa at Wishful Endings, that highlights upcoming releases that we're anticipating and excited to read. It's a spinoff of the feature Waiting on Wednesday that was hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.
The Summer of Impossibilities by Rachael Allen
Expected publication: May 12th 2020

Synopsis (via Goodreads): Skyler, Ellie, Scarlett and Amelia Grace are forced to spend the summer at the lake house where their moms became best friends.

One can’t wait. One would rather gnaw off her own arm than hang out with a bunch of strangers just so their moms can drink too much wine and sing Journey two o’clock in the morning. Two are sisters. Three are currently feuding with their mothers.

One almost sets her crush on fire with a flaming marshmallow. Two steal the boat for a midnight joyride that goes horribly, awkwardly wrong. All of them are hiding something.

One falls in love with a boy she thought she despised. Two fall in love with each other. None of them are the same at the end of the summer.
It Sounded Better in My Head by Nina Kenwood
Expected publication: April 7th 2020

Synopsis (via Goodreads): From debut author Nina Kenwood comes a tender, funny, and compulsively readable novel about first love and its confusions, and all of the awkwardness of teen romance.

When her parents announce their impending divorce, Natalie can’t understand why no one is fighting, or at least mildly upset. Then Zach and Lucy, her two best friends, hook up, leaving her feeling slightly miffed and decidedly awkward. She’d always imagined she would end up with Zach one day―in the version of her life that played out like a TV show, with just the right amount of banter, pining, and meaningful looks. Now everything has changed, and nothing is quite making sense. Until an unexpected romance comes along and shakes things up even further.

It Sounded Better in My Head is a compulsively readable love letter to teenage romance in all of its awkward glory, perfect for fans To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and Emergency Contact.
Don't Ask Me Where I'm From by Jennifer De Leon
Expected publication: May 5th 2020

Synopsis (via Goodreads): First-generation American LatinX Liliana Cruz does what it takes to fit in at her new nearly all-white school. But when family secrets spill out and racism at school ramps up, she must decide what she believes in and take a stand.

Liliana Cruz is a hitting a wall—or rather, walls.

There’s the wall her mom has put up ever since Liliana’s dad left—again.

There’s the wall that delineates Liliana’s diverse inner-city Boston neighborhood from Westburg, the wealthy—and white—suburban high school she’s just been accepted into.

And there’s the wall Liliana creates within herself, because to survive at Westburg, she can’t just lighten up, she has to whiten up.

So what if she changes her name? So what if she changes the way she talks? So what if she’s seeing her neighborhood in a different way? But then light is shed on some hard truths: It isn’t that her father doesn’t want to come home—he can’t…and her whole family is in jeopardy. And when racial tensions at school reach a fever pitch, the walls that divide feel insurmountable.

But a wall isn’t always a barrier. It can be a foundation for something better. And Liliana must choose: Use this foundation as a platform to speak her truth, or risk crumbling under its weight.

*Share your My Weekly Pull post! Please leave the direct link to your My Weekly Pull post and not just your blog's URL. Thank you for participating and happy reading!