Happy August! Another month gone, another handful of books read and gallons of coffee sipped. I’ve been busier on Bookstagram than on my blog as of late, especially with the awesome, inspiring Booktubeathon happening last week. I’m still pretty new to this online book-loving community, and I’ve been learning so much! Most specifically, not to take myself so seriously. (Seriously though. I haven’t posted on here in a while because I’m kiiiiind of an anal perfectionist and don’t want to post unless it’s PERFECT. Which is insane.) I’ve also been inspired by “norms” of the Bookstagram community, like #shelfies (I bought a real bookshelf and the comfort level of my new abode skyrocketed), TBR (to be read) lists, and end-of-the-month wrap-ups that neatly tie all one’s reading together at the end of each month. What tidy concepts for my perfectionist brain to contemplate! I’m excited to get started, so let the wrap-up begin!
Here’s what I read this month, in the order that I read them:
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan ★★★★☆
A down-on-his-luck ex-startup millennial, Clay Jannon, embarks upon an epic adventure fueled by equal doses of ancient books and Google technology.
Have you ever walked into an old bookstore and thought, “What ancient adventures await me here?” (Or is that just me?) Mr. Penumbra’s is that adventure; quirky and absurd and full of great characters. I listened to this as an audiobook and never wanted it to stop. If you’re a book nerd or a Googler (or by some divine providence, both), READ IT NOW!
America Is Under Attack: September 11, 2001: The Day the Towers Fell by Don Brown ★★★☆☆
An illustrated homage to the heroic people who saved lives across the country on 9/11.
I picked this up because my 6th graders and I had an intense discussion about 9/11, after which I realized that none of them were actually alive during that time. This book does justice to one retelling of that story, for perhaps a younger audience than the 11-year-olds I had in mind.
A Million Junes by Emily Henry ★★★★☆
Young Adult Literature
June, a high school senior, remembers her childhood and her father like they’re magical, out of a storybook. Her family’s longstanding feud with the neighboring Angerts only makes it that much more fabled. Then June meets Saul Angert, and he’s actually nice (and funny, and cute, and only slightly older than her…), and she starts wondering what that feud between their families was really about…..
…Okay, it’s impossible to sum up this story without giving too much away or setting it up quite right. There is just something mythical about this read, and something about the characters and their world of Five Fingers, Michigan that pulled me in. Best friends, departing from familial expectations, leaving home, and loss are all explored (and divinely so!). Longer review to come, but this book had me aching in the best way. I’d highly recommend it to any young person dealing with an incredible loss. Or everyone on the planet. Read it NOW!
Fablehaven, vol. 5: The Keys to the Demon Prison by Brandon Mull ★★★★☆
Middle Grades Literature
Kendra and her brother Seth are young teenagers, but for the past two years, they’ve been apprentices to their grandparents at their secret preserve of magical and mythical beasts in Connecticut. In this 5th installment of the series, the fate of the world is in Seth and Kendra’s hands as they try to stop the Society of the Evening Star from opening the Demon Prison, Zzyzx.
Very Hercules-sounding, I know. Reading books like this is usually not my style (Harry Potter is as deep into fantasy as I get). BUT! A student I really like recommended the Fablehaven series to me, and though I’d never pick up a book that looked like this on my own, I did it. And I was hooked. The first book enters into the high fantasy realm slowly, so I think that helped my reading taste buds acclimate. There are a lot of good things I can say about this series, so I may have to write a longer review, but let me leave you with this: The characters grapple with such raw human issues throughout the entire series, and have such mature, good influences helping them along the way, that this became really pleasurable (and intensely action packed!) to read. Even though my boyfriend made fun of me because of the cover. (You gotta admit, the cover is totally ridiculous.) Also, if I had kids in whom I wanted to install a good moral compass, I’d read this series with them.
Cinder by Marissa Meyer ★★★★★
Young Adult Literature
Cinder is working as a mechanic in the marketplace with her android companion when Prince Kai of the Eastern Commonwealth drops by with something for her to fix. He jokes that it’s a “matter of national security”, but can an old android really help the country stop the letumosis pandemic? Or stop the Lunar Queen from her decades-old quest to take over the Earthen Union?
My audiobook game has been on point this month (I listened to this one too, and like Mr. Penumbra’s Ari Fliakos, Rebecca Soler is an awesome narrator.). I didn’t expect to like this book, especially since I feel like I can too easily predict the course of fairy tale retellings. However, Cinder is so different. The world that Marissa Meyer creates is astounding, and the extra complications she gives cyborg Cinder’s character are compelling and empowering, especially compared to the Cinderella I grew up with. I couldn’t put this one down. Read it NOW!
Nameless City by Faith Erin Hicks ★★★★★
Middle Grades Literature
Kai chooses to move from the Dao homelands to Nameless City to both meet his father and become trained as a Dao soldier. Protecting the city from its two rivals is a constant job for its latest conquerers. But Kai doesn’t mix with the other Dao kids very well, and on his own, he soon realizes that keeping control of the city is much more complicated than his people believe.
I picked this one up at a library book sale because my students are obsessed with graphic novels, but I hadn’t given it a read until now. I was seriously missing out. What a story! The characters hit me in my soft spot – teens trying to figure out their place in the world – and the pace of the tale kept me hungry for more. A tightly woven and heartwarming book about coming together, whatever our differences. Put it on your TBR!
When Penny Met POTUS by Rachel Ruiz ★★★★☆
Penny’s mom works for POTUS. Penny imagines what a POTUS looks like (a big, fuzzy, friendly monster) as she roams the White House hoping to find her mom’s boss. But when she actually does meet POTUS, who is… it?
This book is so heartwarming. I read it at a local bookstore because the cover caught my eye, and the minute I got to the end, I yelped with joy and just HAD to buy it… for my future child? I don’t know why I do these things… I don’t actually know any small ones who need this book read to them right now. But I DO know that EVERY CHILD needs this book in their repertoire as they grow up. It’s earth-shattering! Read it NOW!
The Crossover by Kwame Alexander ★★★★★
Middle Grades Literature
Josh Bell has dreadlocks, a wicked crossover, and a reputation as a game-changer on his school basketball team. He’s got basketball in his blood – his dad played for the pros, and his twin brother is on Josh’s team, too. His family is hilarious and tight-knit… until his brother starts becoming more interested in girls than basketball. And when Josh starts piecing together clues about his dad’s early exit from basketball, Josh feels the world as he knew it spinning out of control.
I have been recommending this book to my 6th grader students for a year (it’s a co-worker’s favorite) but hadn’t read it yet. WHAT WAS I WAITING FOR?! This book lives up to the hype. BEYOND the hype, in fact. I was so impressed that a book written in verse could create such real, funny, complex characters and kept me turning pages. It employs really clever devices, too, like the poem titled “Second-Person” that is both written in the second person, and describes the feeling of being alone when, as a twin, Josh has always had a “second person” (!!!). I highly recommend this book to EVERYONE, but especially boys in middle school who might just believe in the power of literature after reading this book.
Phew! That was much longer than I thought it would be, but I read a lot of really great books this month and want to make sure I do them justice! I’m also realizing that my genre and age range tastes are all over the board. Thank you for reading!
Have you read any of these books? What did you think? What should I add to my August TBR? Should I be less random in the types of books I review?! Leave me a comment!