Review: Crave by Tracy Wolff

When my oldest was born, I gave up reading for a bit because who has the time? Twilight is what brought me back to my old passion. Paranormal romance was pretty much all I read for years. When I reread Twilight before the last movie, I suddenly realized there were much better-written vampire books with much stronger heroines, but it still holds a special place in my heart.

Over time, I got vampire-d out and broadened my reading horizons. I didn’t realize how much I missed my vampires until I picked up Crave.

You can definitely feel the Twilight influence in this one, but it’s taken the serious issues with creepy, unhealthy relationship boundaries and a submissive heroine and fixed them. And it’s definitely not just a retelling of that book. It is its own thing, but it will fit well with that audience, or anyone you want to recommend it to today but think it might be outdated for.

Essentially, Grace moves up to a boarding school in Alaska where her uncle is the headmaster shortly after the sudden death of her parents. It turns out to be full of paranormal beasties, but Grace doesn’t know that. She just knows something is very weird and she keeps almost dying.

Crave has all of my favorite things: vampires, dragons, heroine who thinks she’s not anything special but definitely is even if we don’t know how but still manages to have decent self-esteem, flirty hot guy in the friendzone, no parental oversight, human sacrifice, sass, and So. Much. Steam.

Also, the hero is very, very flawed. I hesitate to even call him the hero. The male love interest? I love that. I love when the guy doesn’t come in and make everything right.

This one is definitely for fans of Marked, Twilight, and You Slay Me. Crave is due to publish April 7, 2020, and Tracy Wolff will be signing it at Katy Budget Books on April 9.

Disclosure: Links are Bookshop affiliate links. I was given an ARC of this title to review in my job as a bookseller.

Review: The Light in Hidden Places by Sharon Cameron

For those of you thinking, “Aren’t they ever going to stop publishing YA novels about the Holocaust?”, I feel you. I think this pretty much every time I see one, right before I buy it, read it, and feel like it was an important book.

The Light in Hidden Places is, in fact, a YA novel set during the Holocaust. While I do always end up glad that I’ve read those books, it always helps to note what makes them different from each other.

This book is based largely on the unpublished memoir of Stefania Podgorska, a young Catholic girl who hid thirteen Jews in her attic in Poland during World War II, with Nazis living in the apartment part of that time. Sharon Cameron worked from that, as well as personally interviewing her family and remaining members of the families who lived in the attic.

Also, this story is largely focused on life in Poland just before and during World War II, rather than the atrocities of the camps. Don’t mistake me, there are allusions to things in the camps and descriptions of horrors in the city streets. Overall, though, you get much more of a feel for the general terror of being an ordinary citizen in that time, trying to figure out what your role is in the face of a horrific mob mentality.

There is an author’s note at the end explaining what was from sources and what was fictionalized and why, and giving some follow-up on the real people after the scope of the story.

This book is for readers of Between Shades of Gray and young people interested in WWII history. It is appropriate for the full YA age spectrum.

Disclosure: Links are Bookshop affiliate links.

Review: Of Curses and Kisses by Sandhya Menon

First of all, Of Curses and Kisses is Beauty and the Beast-inspired, and who doesn’t love a fairy tale retelling? Second, it’s YA that doesn’t have insta-love. Go, Sandhya Menon!

I have not been reading a lot of YA, lately, although my TBR just got taken over by it. But this was next on my reading list, and that’s my system for audiobooks. I am so glad.

This book has everything you could want: romance, intrigue, a curse (maybe), arranged engagements, well-developed main and side characters. If you’re looking to read more diversely, it also has an Indian princess and a British nobleman as its main characters.

I loved Of Curses and Kisses from the beginning. It was easy to get into, and it never let me down. I love that there’s just the hint of a curse, but in general it’s contemporary fiction. I loved the main couple, and I’m very excited there are plans for a series so some of the side characters should be getting stories. The HEA is totally appropriate for the age of the characters, and while there’s some cussing, there’s no sex and not a ton of language, so it’s appropriate for most of the YA age spectrum.

I got a free download of this book from in my job as a bookseller. A note on the narrators: They were both good, but odd together. The female narrator’s voice is very soothing, so everyone it switched from her to the much louder male narrator, it was jarring.

This book is for fans of Cruel Beauty, The Paladin Prophecy, and Splintered.

Disclosure: Some links are Bookshop affiliate links.

Review: The Authenticity Project by Clare Pooley

I downloaded The Authenticity Project for a myriad of reasons, one of which is that a couple of the characters are at least possibly alcoholics. As a recovering alcoholic, I’m always interested in the fictional portrayal of them. Addiction is shown very realistically in this book. What’s maybe not done so realistically is recovery. The definite addict seems to get better on sheer willpower, which in my experience with the disease, rarely works. If this is a pet peeve for you, skip it; otherwise, it really is a delightful read.

Because I listened to the digital audiobook, a note on the narrator: She is fantastic and can read to me anytime. The British accent helps.

The basis of this story is that Julian, an artist, starts the Authenticity Project by writing some hard truths about himself in a notebook, then leaves it for someone to find, instructing them to do the same. We follow the first several people to come across the book as their lives become entwined.

I loved that we really got to see all walks of life through the various characters who came across the notebook. I really enjoyed how their lives coming together didn’t feel forced at all, which it easily could have. There’s romance and postpartum depression and the challenges of small business and hanging out in a cemetery; really something for everyone.

I definitely recommend this book for fans of multiple POVs, Adequate Yearly Progress, and Get a Life, Chloe Brown.

Disclosure: I was provided a free audiobook of this title by for my honest review. Some of the links in this blog are Bookshop affiliate links.

Meet the Teacher

There are a lot of things I love about being a bookseller and a lot of things I love about being a reader, and the biggest place these intersect is author signings. I am the events coordinator for my bookstore, which means I pitch for, organize, and am usually staff on hand for visiting authors. I always read the book, because how awful would it be as an author to show up and no one in the store really even knows what you wrote?

Sometimes, this means I’m reading outside my comfort zone. I’ve read a lot of books I wouldn’t ordinarily but ended up loving because the author was coming through. Adequate Yearly Progress is not exactly outside my comfort zone, but because it is so heavily focused on education, I may not have picked it up at random. Roxanna Elden came to the store Friday, which was a really fun event for a myriad of reasons. We had an Educator’s Cocktail Hour before the signing, which is definitely a thing we’ll be doing more of. Teachers loosening up at the end of the week are really entertaining.

This book is contemporary fiction told in six points of view, set in a public high school in Texas. Having met the author, I can tell you that the novel is partly based on her years teaching in Houston. It is funny, but also very eye-opening about what educators are dealing with in public education. As a person who works occasionally at book fairs in schools and therefore knows teachers in a capacity other than a parent, it felt very true to life, and the educators who had already read the book at the signing seemed to agree. As a general reader, I just really enjoyed the story. The six main characters are very different and coming at this story from all angles, and I was invested in every one of them.

As a note on having met the author, she is a fantastic speaker, and if you have the chance to meet her, do it. If not, get the book from your local, independent bookstore.

Review: Emily’s Tiger by Miriam Latimer

I went to Baltimore for a work conference, and in my downtime, I checked out Charm City Books, because how can you not visit an indie bookstore? It’s an adorable little store with very sweet store pups, and I recommend it for anyone while they are in the city.

I bought one of the Edgar the Raven board books for Little Brother, because Baltimore, but I decided to get Emily’s Tiger for Middle Brother instead of something locally-themed because he is obsessed with tigers and yet we had no books featuring them. We do have An Ambush of Tigers, which I adore, but there’s only one page with actual tigers on it, and now he only wants to see that page.

This book was an excellent choice. There is a tiger on almost every page, which is why I bought it without really reading it. It turns out, it’s about a little girl who turns into a tiger and ruins things when she’s angry. Middle Brother, being a toddler, is experiencing some anger management problems right now, so this is great for him. It gives us a new, age-appropriate way to discuss when he starts acting out. Also, he does seem genuinely interested in it, and the illustrations are adorable.

This book is definitely for those looking for a less literal version of When Sophie Gets Angry- Really, Really Angry. A caveat, though, it is kind of a lot of words for a two year old, so unless your kid happens to love tigers, this may be for a slightly older child.

Disclosure: Links are Bookshop affiliate links.

Review: The Big Bang Book by Asa Stahl

For those of you looking for a book on the universe for toddlers (you know who you are), I have located one for you. I was a bit hesitant about this, but they really have distilled the story of the universe into a book fit for a two-and-a-half-year-old in The Big Bang Book.

The writing is sparse and to the point, which you’re going to want with a toddler attention span. The illustrations, though, and I cannot stress this enough, are gorgeous. As an adult, I was blown away, and Middle Brother was entranced. You need this book in your life, if nothing else as an object of art.

For the audience it’s intended for, though, this book is for fans of The ABCs of Space, definitely, or any other space books for little ones. It comes out April 7, 2020.

Disclosure: Links are Bookshop affiliate links.

Review: Little Monster Trucks Go by Doug Cenko

If you’re looking for a fun rhyming picture book that’s the right length for short attention spans, Little Monster Trucks Go is the book for you.

This one comes out April 7th, but it’s worth the preorder. Middle Brother and I sat down for storytime last night and he immediately started asking what the trucks were. The pictures are bright and engaging, with little details like reflections of the trucks in puddles that the toddler was very curious about.

The text is perfect for toddlers. It rhymes, and it’s one verse per page. So many picture books have too many words for my two year old to stay interested, but this one was just right.

I definitely recommend this one, although maybe for a morning storytime rather than bedtime. It’s a little high energy for just before bed.

Disclosure: Links are Bookshop affiliate links.

Review: Hunting for a Highlander by Lynsay Sands

So, fun story: Hunting for a Highlander is really my first Highlander romance. I’ve read several of the Outlander books, but those are really time travel romances that happen to have Highlanders.

Generally, I am not a huge historical romance reader. But my Mommy Book Club picked a few in a row, and I enjoyed all of them, so I figured I’d read more.

I listened to the digital audiobook of this one, so a note on the narrator: He seemed to be an actual Scottish person, brogue and all, which was delightful. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Overall, I really liked this book. I feel obliged to mention there are a lot of references to rape, but I feel like that’s probably pretty standard for this subgenre. There’s no actual rape on page for this story.

Things I loved: The hero didn’t think he wanted to get married. He wasn’t looking for a bride, and when he found out his family was seeking one for him, he still thought he’d blow it off. The heroine was not desperate for a husband, but she wasn’t fiercely independent, either. I feel like in most historicals, they tend to go one of those two ways, and it was nice to see some middle ground. There were some family flaws to deal with, which added some shenanigans, but no great tragedy.

Things I loved less: There was a lot of emphasis on how plain the heroine was. It’s nice to see a not-gorgeous heroine; it’s not so nice to see everyone giving her a hard time about it. Also, mental illness is the bad guy here. The antagonist is clearly psychotic. As a person who suffers from mental illness in a society that stigmatizes it, I hate that depiction in literature.

Overall, though, I enjoyed this book enough to overlook the things that bothered me. I would recommend it unless those happen to be big pet peeves for you.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this review are Bookshop affiliate links.

Review: Everyone’s Awake by Colin Meloy

I picked Everyone’s Awake up for storytime for the first time tonight, and Middle Brother made me read it three times in a row, so I’d say it’s a pretty great picture book.

The illustrations are bright and eye-catching. They’re also unusual. There was a whole lot of pointing and “What’s that?” happening. I always enjoy that in our reading together.

It’s a rhyming book, and unsurprisingly, since the author is a musician, it’s very rhythmic. But the words will surprise you. There’s mention of someone on the phone with the cops, and a coup d’etat. As an adult, I also really enjoyed this book.

Everyone’s Awake comes out March 3, 2020, and I definitely recommend it to everyone for bedtime reading.

Disclosure: Links in this post are Bookshop affiliate links.