Summertime slacking

Summertime, and the living is easy… or so I’ve heard.

And although I’m not lazing away my summer days on tropical beaches, I am trying to do a bit of relaxing and refreshing. Between my time away in early June for family matters, work craziness, and lots of upcoming projects and planning, I find myself in desperate need of more down time.

And so…

I’m planning to slack off a bit and cut back on my blogging commitments. Specifically, I’m putting the two memes I host each week, Shelf Control and Thursday Quotables, on a bit of a break. Have no fear — they shall return! Meanwhile, I’m looking forward to reading whatever I feel like, posting on my blog according to my whims, and living commitment-free for a couple of months…

Okay, not exactly commitment-free. I still have a job and a family, places to go and people to see. But for July and August, I’m letting myself off the hook in terms of the need to stick to a weekly posting schedule.

Aaaaah. I can practically feel the sun on my face and the wind in my hair!

Welcome back, glorious summer!

Take A Peek Book Review: Coming Up For Air

“Take a Peek” book reviews are short and (possibly) sweet, keeping the commentary brief and providing a little peek at what the book’s about and what I thought.

 

Synopsis:

(via Goodreads)

Swim. Eat. Shower. School. Snack. Swim. Swim. Swim. Dinner. Homework. Bed. Repeat.

All of Maggie’s focus and free time is spent swimming. She’s not only striving to earn scholarships—she’s training to qualify for the Olympics. It helps that her best friend, Levi, is also on the team and cheers her on. But Levi’s already earned an Olympic try out, so she feels even more pressure to succeed. And it’s not until Maggie’s away on a college visit that she realizes how much of the “typical” high school experience she’s missed by being in the pool.

Not one to shy away from a challenge, Maggie decides to squeeze the most out of her senior year. First up? Making out with a guy. And Levi could be the perfect candidate. After all, they already spend a lot of time together. But as Maggie slowly starts to uncover new feelings for Levi, how much is she willing to lose to win?

 

My Thoughts:

Miranda Kenneally excels at showing a straightforward view of the complicated lives of teens. Her lead characters tend to be strong, dedicated young women, almost always hard-driving athletes, who are not afraid to go for what they want, no matter the resistance they meet along the way. And while the athletic achievements of her characters might be super-special, their inner lives keep them grounded and relatable.

In Coming Up For Air, Maggie is a girl who has spent her whole life in a pool. She adores swimming, and devotes herself to it, almost to the exclusion of everything else, because she loves it so much. She pushes herself to be her best, takes her coach’s rules about training and non-swimming behavior seriously, and drives herself forward toward her dream of getting an Olympic trial.

At the same time, Maggie depends on her three best friends for their Friday burger nights to keep her grounded — but she starts to realize how much she’s missed out on by giving so much of her life over to training. She’s never hooked up, has only had one real kiss, and is starting to feel like she’s the last high schooler left who’s so inexperienced. She asks her best friend Levi to teach her how to hook up, but isn’t prepared for how intensely they connect physically, and neither knows how to deal with the fall-out when their no-strings fling starts to feel like it could be a relationship.

As in all of this author’s books, the characters deal with sex in a very down-to-earth way. It’s not needlessly graphic, but it does get into details of what they do together and how it makes them feel. It’s not prettied-up sex, and doesn’t pretend that every encounter is full of fireworks. I appreciate the healthy attitude toward sexual exploration, protecting oneself, and owning one’s own sexual desires and needs.

It’s always refreshing to read Miranda Kenneally’s stories about determined, talented young women, and I think teen readers will appreciate seeing how universal feelings of self-doubt and insecurity can be, even for people who seem to have it all. It’s also refreshing to see the portrayal of the different home lives and coping mechanisms the various main and secondary characters have, and to get pretty good solid advice about life in general by paying attention to the words of the characters’ coaches.

As with the author’s earlier books, the storyline is set in Hundred Oaks, Tennessee, and familiar characters from other books pop up in cameo roles. While all of the Hundred Oaks books work perfectly well as stand-alones, it is pretty fun to read several (or all) and see the connections and shout-outs.

I heartily recommend Miranda Kenneally’s books for teen readers and for adults who like realistic, optimistic, honest depictions of young adult life.

Interested in this author? Check out my reviews of other books by Miranda Kenneally:
Racing Savannah
Breathe, Annie, Breathe
Jesse’s Girl
Defending Taylor
Catching Jordan

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The details:

Title: Coming Up For Air
Author: Miranda Kenneally
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Publication date: July 4, 2017
Length: 320 pages
Genre: Young adult contemporary fiction
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

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Top Ten Tuesday: My ten favorite books (so far!) in 2017

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Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is Top Ten Favorite 2017 Releases So Far This Year.

I’m not reading a whole lot of new releases these days, so this list will be about my favorite books read in 2017, regardless of publication date. In no particular order, my top ten are:

1) Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel (review)

2) The Finishing School series by Gail Carriger (review)

3) Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire

4) Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

5) Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey (review)

6) The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden (review)

7) Unequal Affection by Lara S. Ormiston (review)

8) Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty (review)

9) Miniatures by John Scalzi (review)

10) Spaceman by Mike Massimino (review)

What are your top books read so far in 2017? Please share your TTT links!

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Do you host a book blog meme? Do you participate in a meme that you really, really love? I’m building a Book Blog Meme Directory, and need your help! If you know of a great meme to include — or if you host one yourself — please drop me a note on my Contact page and I’ll be sure to add your info!

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The Monday Check-In ~ 6/26/2017

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

Life.

Between marathon TV binges and a crazy week at work, I just haven’t had the focus to sit down and write reviews. I’ve barely been reading!

What did I read last week?

Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire: Absolutely loved it. Such beautiful writing. I may still get my act together enough to write a mini-review, but meanwhile, do yourself a favor and read this book (and Every Heart a Doorway) ASAP.

The Best of Adam Sharp by Graeme Simsion: One of those books that leaves me saying “it was fine”, with nothing much else to add. It was an okay read about marriage, relationships, and regrets, but left pretty much zero impression on me.

And oh yeah, I read a few graphic novels:

See below. Obsessed…

Pop culture goodness:

My Walking Dead binge continues — I just finished season 5. Can’t stop. Won’t stop.

Fresh Catch:

I was so excited to receive an ARC in the mail:

It looks like a great read!

No other new books… unless you count library books, in which case I went a teensy bit overboard, coming home with about 10 books from my hold list. Needless to say, I suspect at least a few will go back unread.

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:
 

Trying to get a jump on some upcoming July releases, starting with these two ARCs:

  • Coming Up For Air by Miranda Kenneally: I haven’t been reading as much YA lately, but I do always love this author’s books.
  • South Pole Station by Ashley Shelby: I’ve been looking forward to this one for a while now. I hope it lives up to my expectations!
Now playing via audiobook:

Arabella by Georgette Heyer: Light-hearted, silly fun — so enjoyable.

Ongoing reads:

None at the moments. It’s so nice to be able to read commitment-free.

So many books, so little time…

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Thursday Quotables: Down Among the Sticks and Bones

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Welcome to Thursday Quotables! This weekly feature is the place to highlight a great quote, line, or passage discovered during your reading each week.  Whether it’s something funny, startling, gut-wrenching, or just really beautifully written, Thursday Quotables is where my favorite lines of the week will be, and you’re invited to join in!

Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire
(released 2017)

This book is simply beautiful and brilliant, and a perfect companion to Every Heart A Doorway. I can’t help gushing over the writing throughout the book. For this week’s selection, I’m going with a couple of passages from the earlier parts of the book, before the storyline enters a more magical domain. Here, the focus is on parenting and the damage so easily inflicted on the souls of children.

This, you see, is the true danger of children: they are ambushes, each and every one of them. A person may look at someone else’s child and see only the surface, the shiny shoes or the perfect curls. They do not see the tears and the tantrums, the late nights, the sleepless hours, the worry. They do not even see the love, not really. It can be easy, when looking at children from the outside, to believe that they are things, dolls designed and programmed by their parents to behave in one manner, following one set of rules. It can be easy, when standing on the lofty shores of adulthood, not to remember that every adult was once a child, with ideas and ambitions of their own.

It can be easy, in the end, to forget that children are people, and that people will do what people will do, the consequences be damned.

Another little heartbreaking snippet, when the main characters’ only source of adult comfort and caring is kicked out of their lives:

Louise Wolcott slipped out of her granddaughters’ lives as easily as she had slipped into them, becoming a distant name that sent birthday cards and the occasional gift (most confiscated by her son and daughter-in-law), and was one more piece of final, irrefutable proof that adults, in the end, were not and never to be trusted. There were worse lessons for the girls to learn.

This one, at least, might have a chance to save their lives.

What lines made you laugh, cry, or gasp this week? Do tell!

If you’d like to participate in Thursday Quotables, it’s really simple:

  • Write a Thursday Quotables post on your blog. Try to pick something from whatever you’re reading now. And please be sure to include a link back to Bookshelf Fantasies in your post (http://www.bookshelffantasies.com), if you’d be so kind!
  • Add your Thursday Quotables post link in the comments section below… and I’d love it if you’d leave a comment about my quote for this week too.
  • Be sure to visit other linked blogs to view their Thursday Quotables, and have fun!

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Shelf Control #84: Peter & Max

Shelves final

Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! Fore more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

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My Shelf Control pick this week is:

Title: Peter & Max: A Fables Novel
Author: Bill Willingham
Published: 2010
Length: 400 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

The critically acclaimed first-ever prose novel published by DC/Vertigo — now in trade paperback.Set in the imaginative realm of the award-winning comic book series FABLES, the book takes place long ago, in the deepest dark of The Black Forest. Two brothers — Peter Piper and his older brother Max — encounter ominous forces that change them both irreparably. Thus begins an epic tale of sibling rivalry, magic, music and revenge that spans medieval times to the present day, when their deadly conflict surfaces in the placid calm of modern day Fabletown.

PETER & MAX: A FABLES NOVEL features the prose of award-winning comic book writer Bill Willingham and the lush ink drawings of FABLES artist Steve Leialoha. The novel also reveals secrets of some of the regular FABLES series cast members including Bigby Wolf, Frau Totenkinder and Bo Peep. Also included is an 8-page sequential story by Willingham and Leialoha that serves as a bridge to the FABLES titles.

How I got it:

I bought it.

When I got it:

A few years, in the midst of my Fables obsession.

Why I want to read it:

Hello? Fables? Only one of the most amazing graphic novel series ever? I was heartbroken when Fables came to an end. Somewhere in the middle of my binge-reading extravaganza, I picked up a copy of Peter & Max. Because it’s a prose novel and not a graphic novel, this book hasn’t called to me in quite the same way as the rest of the Fables body of work, but I do intend to read it eventually.

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Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments!
  • If you’d be so kind, I’d appreciate a link back from your own post.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!

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Top Ten Tuesday: Top ten series I NEED to READ

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is the Top Ten Series I’ve Been Meaning To Start But Haven’t. I’m pretty series-averse these days, trying not to start new series unless all volumes are already published and available. I just don’t have the patience (or attention span) to get involved in any more ongoing series with no end in sight!

Here are some series that I’ve yet to start (but want to), and some that I’ve started but not finished.

 

On the new to me side:

1) Old Man’s War by John Scalzi

2) Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery

3) Temeraire by Naomi Novik

4) The Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss

5) Rosemary & Rue by Seanan McGuire

6) And speaking of Seanan McGuire, I still need to read the Newsflesh series by Mira Grant

 

And for series that I’ve started and need to get back to:

7) The Dark Tower by Stephen King – I’ve read 3 books so far.

8) Locke & Key by Joe Hill – I’ve read all but the last volume! How crazy is that?

9) The Expanse by James S. A. Corey – I’ve barely made a dent, but I love what I’ve read (2 books) so far.

10) Poldark by Winston Graham – I think I’ve read 5 out of 12.

What book series are you dying to read? Share your link, please, and I’ll come check out your top 10!

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Do you host a book blog meme? Do you participate in a meme that you really, really love? I host a Book Blog Meme Directory, and I’m always looking for new additions! If you know of a great meme to include — or if you host one yourself — please drop me a note on my Contact page and I’ll be sure to add your info!

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The Monday Check-In ~ 6/19/2017

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

Life.

I’ve been away, and now I’m back! It’s been a hectic couple of weeks — but on the plus side, I did do a lot of reading.

What did I read last week?

Spaceman by Mike Massimino: I loved this audiobook. My review is here.

Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King: It seems like I always need to read some King while I travel. I FINALLY gave Mr. Mercedes a try, and couldn’t put it down. My review is here — bring on Finders Keepers!

What else did I read while I was away? Check out my mini-reviews for all of the books below in my wrap-up post, here.

Pop culture goodness:

I saw a few movies while I was away, one in an amazingly comfortable theater with reclining seats and two at home on my sister’s equally comfy couch:

And in other pop culture indulgences… my son and I are totally obsessed with The Walking Dead. Our binge continues — we’re now about midway through season 4.

Fresh Catch:

I bought myself a present!

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:
 

Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire: SO excited to be reading the follow-up to Every Heart A Doorway, one of my faves.

After that, it’s time for a book group book: Commonwealth by Ann Patchett

Now playing via audiobook:

Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann: This should be fascinating, but I’ve listened to about 30% so far, and the audiobook just isn’t holding my attention. I may need to switch to print and find something else to listen to. I’m taking a little break for a few days to listen to…

Arabella by Georgette Heyer, which is a total delight so far. So, yay me for making the switch from an audiobook that wasn’t working to one that’s just so much fun!

Ongoing reads:

MOBY

Written in My Own Heart’s Blood by Diana Gabaldon: DONE!!! After 145 chapters and 18 months of group reads and discussions, Outlander Book Club has finished this massive book. Next up will be a group read of Diana Gabaldon’s Lord John books and stories, starting in the fall. (Ask me if you want more info.)

Meanwhile, I have actually ZERO ongoing reads happening at the moment, and it’s pretty nice to be completely free from a reading schedule.

So many books, so little time…

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Travel reading wrap-up: A big batch of mini-reviews — mothers, sisters, dogs, hippos, and more!

I can’t call the last two weeks a vacation. Yes, I was away from home. No, it wasn’t relaxing. And while there were plenty of fun moments spending time with my sisters and friends, for the most part, it was stress, work, and exhaustion that ruled the day.

Side note: When we imagine our adult lives, I’m sure none of us think about caring for elderly parents and the hard decisions that involves, but sooner or later, if we’re lucky enough to have parents that live that long, it’s something that we inevitably have to deal with.

Meanwhile, I did a lot of reading while on airplanes and sitting around hospital rooms and nursing homes. Here’s a quick wrap-up of what I read while I was away… everything from feral hippos to church ladies to war stories.

 

The Mothers by Brit Bennett: Contemporary fiction about teen lovers and the impact on an entire congregation, as told (mostly) through the eyes of the older women who form the backbone of their close-knit church community. The story is engaging, but at times the actions of the characters made me so angry I wanted to hurl the book at the closest wall. (Since I was reading on an airplane, this would not have been a good idea.) Still, I enjoyed the character development, the look at the impact of the characters’ decisions and how these set the course of the rest of their lives, and the intricate weaving of connections, friendships, and family loyalty.

 

 

 

 

The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan: If you’ve ever checked out the Bookshelf Porn website, you’ll know what I mean when I say that this book is booklover porn. No, there’s nothing graphic or dirty or illicit here — but it’s sure to touch the fantasies of every devoted bookworm who ever dreamed of owning her own bookstore. Here, the 29-year-old main character, a downsized librarian, buys a big van, stocks it with every book she can get her hands on, and drives around the Scottish Highlands selling books to people who clearly need them. Lives are changed. Quirky villagers abound. And there’s even a love story! This is a sweet, lovely book, perfect for vacation reading or really, for any time you want to get away from the daily grind and wallow in the fantasy of finding a perfect life that combines reading, handling books, and being madly in love.

 

 

 

 

Sisters of Shiloh by Kathy & Becky Hepinstall: A beautiful yet devastating story of sisters, love, and sacrifice set during the Civil War. When Libby’s husband Arden is killed on the battlefield, Libby vows to get revenge by joining the Rebel army herself and killing one Yankee soldier for every year that Arden lived. Libby’s older sister Josephine can’t talk her out of it and can’t stand the idea of Libby going off alone, so the two sisters disguise themselves as teen boys and enlist. Sisters of Shiloh shows the savage butchery of the Civil War battlefields and the horrible deprivations suffered by the soldiers, but above all, it’s a story about courage and sisterly devotion. While I occasionally wanted to just shake some sense into Libby, I loved Josephine and found her part of the story deeply affecting and inspiring. I’d consider this book must-read historical fiction.

 

 

 

 

Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley: Warning: If you can’t handle sad dog stories, walk away now. Lily and the Octopus is the story of a lonely man whose life revolves around his beloved dachshund Lily. He constructs elaborate fantasies to narrate their life together (including interactive games of Monopoly and pizza nights), and simply can’t face reality when he spots what he calls an “octopus” on her head — his make-believe image for a tumor. As the story progresses, his battle against the octopus to save Lily’s life becomes increasingly complex — but ultimately, this is the story of a man slowly losing his steadiest, truest companion, and it’s a tearjerker. The octopus and other pieces of the fantasy were a little too much for me at times, but other than that, this is a moving story of love and connection.

 

 

 

 

River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey: Oh my. Feral hippos in the Mississippi River marshlands! In this alternate version of US history, the government has solved the country’s meat shortage by importing hippos to be bred in the bayou. Hippo ranches are huge moneymakers, and cowboys ride exotic breeds of hippos known for their overland speed. Meanwhile, feral hippos haunt the criminal-run riverboats — a handy punishment for those who get caught cheating at cards. A ragtag band is assembled to stop a dastardly plot, and this gang is loads of fun, and full of people representing all the shades of the gender rainbow — all without blinking an eye. This novella is oodles of entertainment, and its underlying silliness absolutely hit the spot on a stressful day. I can’t wait for the sequel, Taste of Marrow, due out in September.

 

 

 

 

The Deep by Nick Cutter: This is a quick page-turner, but I found myself weirdly unengaged. An odd global virus starts the book on a promising note, but the virus piece is soon overshadowed by the malevolent goings-on deep in the sea at a research lab at the bottom of the Marianas Trench. There are lots of icky and creepy things in a setting that should be terrifying… but it just wasn’t scary, there’s no pay-off for the initial premise, and ultimately, the conclusion simply wasn’t satisfying. There is, however, tons of yuck and ick, so definitely not a book for the squeamish.

 

 

 

 

 

We Stand On Guard by Brian K. Vaughan: A graphic novel limited series (consisting of six installments) that tells the story of a US invasion of Canada and the scruffy resistance team that fights back. It’s quite fun, and a quick read. Fans of Saga and Y: The Last Man will absolutely want to check this one out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And that’s what I read while I was away! I covered a lot of ground — horror, historical fiction, comics, and dogs, to name a few — and that’s just the way I like it. Give me a stack of books with a lot of variety, and I’m a happy camper, no matter where I may find myself.

And now that I’m home, I’m looking forward to diving back into my bookshelves and seeing what odd array of books I can come up with next!

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