Serena’s ALAAC17 Experience: Books I Got

Over this past weekend, we had the honor to attending the Annual American Library Association Conference in Chicago, Illinois. ALAAC17 was a get together of librarians from all over the country (and in some cases the world) to come together and celebrate libraries, literacy, books, and information sciences. This week we are going to share with you the things that we saw, the things we did, and the books that we got that we are the most excited for.

Serena’s Top 5 Books from ALAAC 2017

33158525“Wishtree” by Katherine Applegate

As we all know, I am a massive fan of Applegate’s Animorphs series, and for a long time, that’s all I ever knew here as. It wasn’t until I was in library school and her Newbery Medal award winning book “The One and Only Ivan” was assigned as a reading requirement that she came back on my radar. It was pretty shocking to me, in a lot of ways. I mean, I always knew she was a great author, but the Animorphs books, rightly and not rightly, were not thought of as “high literature” for kids and teens. So it was thrilling to see her literary talents on display in KIMG0622a manner that couldn’t be poo-pooed away as just all that sci-fi nonsense. All of that said, once I knew she’d be at ALA, I gathered up my favorite Animrophs book and got in line. The book she was signing is her latest middle grade novel, “Wishtree,” a story told from the perspective of “Red” an ancient oak tree that has come to be known as the wishtree by those in its neighborhood. When a new family moves into the area, Red learns how important wishes are for those who aren’t always welcomed everywhere they go. Also…I got a picture with her and it was so exciting! I was at my all time most fangirling state ever.

83067411“Thick as Thieves” by Megan Whalen Turner

I got to meet Megan Whalen Turner twice, not counting the third time when I got to listen to her present at a panel! It was all super exciting for me, a long-time fan of her “The Queen’s Thief” series. It’s been around 5 years since her last book came out, and there’s typically a rather lengthy period between the publication dates of her novels. To me, this just builds the anticipation. But I felt so bad for her! Both at the book signing and at the YA Coffee Klatch where I met her a second time, she was busy apologizing for the long wait for her book and I just wanted to hug her and be like “Stop apologizing! We’d all wait forever for your next book! They’re THAT good, and if it takes longer to write them to maintain the ridiculous level of quality to storytelling that you have, don’t apologize for it!” Her latest story features Kamet, who we met several books ago, and who is the personal slave to a Mede diplomat. Slave or not, Kamet sees a bright future of power and control coming his way, as he is soon to be given to the heir to the emperor. All of this goes out of the window when his master is murdered and he is blamed for it and must go on the run with an Attolian soldier, fleeing to the backwards kingdom of Attolia itself with its ridiculous thief-made-puppet-King, Gen. Expect a review for this one coming up soon, as I’ve already dived in!

32991569“Jane, Unlimited” by Kristen Cashore

I’ve been a fan of Kristen Cashore since devouring “Graceling” many years ago. I then proceeded to read the next two novels in the series, and have been waiting for a new story from her since! It’s been a while since she’s written anything or appeared anywhere, so meeting here at ALA was very exciting. She also spoke on a panel I attended and had some interesting thoughts on what it means to write YA and whether young adult readers are really that different from adults. At the same panel, one women asked (rather inappropriately since the panel was a general session, not a meet and greet with the specific authors there….conference 19429839_10154357686492757_3387062802618176631_netiquette lesson!) whether the ARC version of “Jane, Unlimited” had the chapters in the right order (yes, ARCs are uncorrected but not THAT bad!), and Kristen said she wasn’t surprised to be asked. So, now I’m very curious about this book! From the description, it seems like a fairly straight forward story of a girl who is in mourning for the loss of her caretaker and Aunt who died several months ago, when she gets caught up in the glamours, and dangerous, lives of a wealthy family. Excited to read it and find out what’s what!

29246020“Skythe” by Neal Shusterman

The story behind this one was of me walking past a super short line for a signed copy of this book, thinking to myself, “Man, I shouldn’t, I already have too many,” then meeting Neal Shusterman at the YA Coffee Klatch and hearing all about this book which sounded amazing and having all the regrets. I then went back to the booth and was lucky enough to snag a copy, but I missed out big time on that signature opportunity! Shusterman described the idea of this book as his desire to right about what the world would look like after we’ve solved many of the problems we struggle with today. Notably, we’ve cured ageing and it is possible to live forever. To deal with population control, scythes came into existence: an organization dedicated to randomly killing off people. The story follows Citra and Rowan who have been apprenticed to a scythe and are now facing the challenge of what it means to take on this role. Definitely sounds intriguing, so big points to Shusterman for a successful book talk that snagged my interest!

29749085“Wonder Woman: Warbringer” by Leigh Bardugo

Take a guess as to what book on this list was the one that Kate teased up yesterday? Shocking no one, it is “Wonder Woman: Warbringer.” This book has been on my list ever since I heard about it and when I saw a massive crowd gathering around a booth at ALA, I wandered over and was not at all surprised to see that it was this book inciting the hysteria. I snuck my way in and was able to nab a copy for both me and Kate. I don’t think I need to go into much detail about why I’m excited for this book, cuz…obviously. It’s an added perk that this one is written by Leigh Bardugo. This book is the first of a foursome of DC heroes who are getting novel adaptations in a “DC Icons” run, and I have some feelings about the authors chosen to write the other books (notably “Catwoman”s author being Sarah J. Maas whose books have left me pretty frustrated in the past.) But Bardugo is a solid choice, and I’m excited to see what angle she takes for Diana’s tale.

And that’s it, folks! Our week of ALA-related posts has come to an end. Next week we’ll be back to our regularly scheduled programming with our July Highlights post and more book reviews! Have a happy Fourth of July weekend to all of our U.S. readers!

Kate’s ALAAC17 Experience: Books I Got

Over this past weekend, we had the honor of attending the Annual American Library Association Conference in Chicago, Illinois. ALAAC17 was a get together of librarians from all over the country (and in some cases the world) to come together and celebrate libraries, literacy, books, and information sciences. This week we are going to share with you the things that we saw, the things we did, and the books that we got that we are the most excited for.

Kate’s Top 5 Books from ALAAC 2017

15797848“There’s Someone Inside Your House” by Stephanie Perkins

This book is being described as “YA meets “Scream””, so you know that I am one hundred percent here for it. Students at a high school called Osbourne High are being picked off one by one and murdered in increasingly horrific ways. New girl Makani finds herself in the middle of it all, wondering if she will be next. But Makani has secrets of her own that she is trying to forget. Now she may have to confront her past as well as a killer. I went looking for horror and thrillers at this convention when it came to to the books that I wanted to come home with, and I feel like I found it and then some with this book. It’s been on my personal radar for awhile, and I was absolutely stoked when I was able to get a copy of it to take home. It’s not easy to find slasher horror that translates well to the page, so I am really hoping that Perkins can make it work.

24974996“Dear Martin” by Nic Stone

I really, REALLY enjoyed “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas, and when I heard that she had really good things to say about “Dear Martin”, I knew that I needed to keep an eye out for it. It’s a story that feels all to real and relevant, with more and more stories in the news of African Americans being victimized by the police, which means it’s all the more important. Justyce is an A student filled to the brim with extracurriculars and a bright future. But all the police officer to puts him in handcuffs sees is the color of his skin. While Justyce is released without charges, he’s completely shaken up by his experience. He starts to feel the derision and contempt from his classmates and those around him at school, and so to cope he starts a diary in which he writes letters to Martin Luther King Jr. Given that here in Minnesota we are still feeling the fallout from the Philando Castille/Jeronimo Yanez verdict, this feels like a book that I need to read ASAP.

32957193“When I Am Through With You” by Stephanie Kuehn

When I asked the publisher rep about “There’s Someone Inside Your House”, one of them said that if I wanted that one she had another one in mind for me. When she handed me Stephanie Kuehn’s new book “When I Am Through With You” I started jumping up and down. As you all know, I LOVE Stephanie Kuehn’s novels, as they take gritty and dark thriller lit and expertly make it seamlessly YA. And this one is a CAMPING TRIP NIGHTMARE!! ONE OF MY FAVORITE THINGS! When a group of teenagers go camping, something goes terribly wrong. Now Ben is in jail, and while he isn’t claiming it to be a confession, he is saying he will say what happened to Rose, even though he isn’t sorry about what he did. He tells the tale of what happened on the camping trip, who lived, who died, and potentially why. Kuehn is so good at exploring the psyches of messed up and tragic people, and I am very excited to have this one on my shelf.

31123250“Ravenous” by Amy Lukavics

If you recall, I absolutely LOVED Lukavics’ book “Daughters Unto Devils”, but was a bit underwhelmed by her other book “Women in the Walls”. That said, I know that she has a serious talent for writing straight up horror for teenagers, and so I’m more than willing to give “Ravenous” a try. The Canes are a seemingly put together and loving military family, but the reality is the sisters hate each other, their father is always gone, and their mother is lost in her own world of sadness and addiction. But when Rose Cane, the youngest sister of the bunch, dies tragically, the sisters are completely ruined… Until Rose comes back to life, and has a need to eat human flesh. Now the Cane sisters need to figure out how badly they want to keep their family together. ZOMBIES, GUYS.

30251972“Strange Weather” by Joe Hill

As I am sure you guys can imagine, when I saw that “Strange Weather” by Joe Hill was available at ALA I practically screamed. Hill is one of my favorite authors writing today, and I have been aching for this book since I finished “The Fireman” last year. In this book Hill is kind of taking a page from his father’s work structure wise, as it’s four novellas combined into one book. They sound like they run the gamut from the bittersweet to the scary, the surreal and whimsical to the disturbing and finite. A camera erases memories. A cloud is solid and traps a skydiver. The sky rains nails. A man stops a mass shooting but loses his sanity. I just know that Hill is going to write all of these stories with a deft hand and deep insight, and that I will no doubt end up curled up on the floor rocking back and forth either because I’m so freaked out, or because it’s so damn good.

Tomorrow Serena will be giving her book highlights. Keep an eye out, because there is one on there that I got as well and that I’m VERY excited for along with these. Suffice to say, ALAAC17 was a success all around, and I am so glad that we were able to go and experience all parts of it.

 

 

Serena’s ALAAC17 Experience: What I Saw

Over this past weekend, we had the honor of attending the Annual American Library Association Conference in Chicago, Illinois. ALAAC17 was a get together of librarians from all over the country (and in some cases the world) to come together and celebrate libraries, literacy, books, and information sciences. This week we are going to share with you the things that we saw, the things we did, and the books that we got that we are the most excited for.

Serena’s Top 3 Events from ALAAC 2017

As Kate said, this wasn’t our first rodeo at the massive library festival that is the ALA annual conference. In many ways, I feel like this fact allowed me to more fully enjoy this experience. If anything, knowing the ins and outs of things saved me a lot of time standing in lines when I knew better the tips and tricks for when to get where and how early. This was also my first trip to Chicago, and other than the nightmare traffic (thank God Kate was driving and handled all the challenges of massive city driving with aplomb), I very much enjoyed experiencing the culture the city had to offer. As Kate also mentioned, we went with largely the same group of library friends this time around. And, again, being the second go-around I think this opened up more pathways for everyone to pursue panels/speakers/author signings as they wished rather than needing to move in a massive, terrified-by-Vegas-and-the-crazy-convention-crowds group that we did before. I had a great time hanging out with all of my library friends at these various events! But, as I can’t highlight them all, here are my top three! (My phone takes awful pictures, so you’ll have to excuse the lack of photography for my post, unlike Kate’s!)

“Generation Gap: Science Fiction and Fantasy Authors Look at Youth and Technology” Panel

19510464_10154357686052757_2124766542408213575_nSo, I’ll be honest, the main reason I slotted this panel into my schedule was because I discovered that this would be the one and only place where V.E. Schwab would be signing copies of her books. But, that less-library-oriented-than-it-should-be reason for attendance aside, I was pleasantly surprised by the content of the panel itself and the variety of topics related to technology, libraries, and publishing that were covered. Open access, gaming, and publishing challenges with DRM (digital rights management) were all topics that were brought up and discussed, both from the perspective of the authors on the panel, and through comments by the librarians in attendance. Many of these questions didn’t have clear answers, which was part of what made this panel stand out in my mind. The authors on the panel were:

“Problem Solving: Teaching STEM with Comics” Panel

audubon-cover-rgbOn Friday, before the true madness began, there was a whole day of sessions targeted towards different subjects having to do with comics and graphic novels. While I went in mostly interested in a later panel that had to do with how graphic novels can be catalysts for change in society, looking back, this panel focusing on non-fiction graphic novels really stood out. I’m not a huge non-fiction reader myself, but coming from that perspective, I can see the huge potential for using graphic novels as a way to introduce non-fiction topics in a way that will appeal to readers who may feel intimidated by traditional non-fiction publishing. Specifically, it was noted how graphic novels allow authors to deep-dive into a very specific topic, but leave them free to not provide an entire history of other elements that may surround it, as many non-fiction biographies and histories are almost required to do. I unfortunately failed to take good notes this early in the conference, but “Audubon” and “Inconegro” and “The United States Constitution: A Graphic Adaptation” were a few that were mentioned.

2017 Alex Awards Panel

29093776Kate and I ended up at this one purely based on the unadulterated fun that we had at the Las Vegas conference when we got the sheer pleasure of hearing John Searles present (supposedly) about his book “Help for the Haunted.” What we got instead was, in his own words, “reckless gossip!” and it was amazing. So, while we knew that this previous experience was probably an outlier from what Alex Award panels are typically like, we knew we’d have to slot this one in anyways. There were shockingly few slide shows that involved Zumba instructors in giant Jack-o-lantern tank tops, but it was still quite interesting all the same. I hadn’t heard of many of the authors on the panel, and now have an even longer reading list due to this event. One common feature that became clear was the need for honesty in young adult literature. Teens aren’t looking for the harsh truths of life to be glossed over for them, and many of these authors’ works tackled serious topics in an upfront manner, presumably a trait that contributed to their winning this award. The authors on the panel were:

Next up, Kate’s top five books that she nabbed while at the conference!

 

 

Kate’s ALAAC17 Experience: What I Saw

Over this past weekend, we had the honor of attending the Annual American Library Association Conference in Chicago, Illinois. ALAAC17 was a get together of librarians from all over the country (and in some cases the world) to come together and celebrate libraries, literacy, books, and information sciences. This week we are going to share with you the things that we saw, the things we did, and the books that we got that we are the most excited for.

Kate’s Top 3 Events from ALAAC 2017

Ah, ALAAC (American Library Association Annual Conference). The conference where librarians come together to mingle, educate, and get a sneak preview of books that are coming out in the near future, as well as meet the authors who write them. This isn’t my first ALA experience, as in 2014 I went with Serena and our friends from library school. That time it was in Las Vegas, a city that seems like a strange choice for librarians. The good news is that we got into some odd shenanigans at the Pepper Mill and have many stories to tell. This time, however, it was in Chicago, and the deep dish pizza was far more appetizing than the desert scorch. It was mostly the same group that went again this year, though since it was the second time for most of us we knew the ins and outs of the convention and what to expect. In this post I will talk about the three things I saw that I liked the most.

Gene Luen Yang Speaking

genluenGene Luen Yang is a pretty formidable guy. Not only does he write acclaimed comics such as “American Born Chinese”, “Boxers and Saints”, and “The Shadow Hero”, he is also the current National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. His big project with this is the ‘Reading Without Walls Challenge’, in which he encourages young people to go outside their usual comfort levels when it comes to reading and to try reading 1) a book about someone who doesn’t look or live like you, 2) a book about a topic you don’t know much about, or 3) a book in format you don’t normally read for fun. He is an inspired speaker and absolutely charming, and hearing him talk about how he started writing comics was heartfelt and inspirational. Plus, he totally passed me during a panel and said a polite ‘hello’ to me, which seriously made my day. He had a lot to say about the need for diversity and windows and mirrors in children’s literature, and he also had some really fun and insightful things to say about Superman vs Batman. Basically, I love this guy and loved that I got to see him. 

The Young Adult Author Coffee Klatch

yacoffeeThe last time we went to ALAAC we participated in the YA Coffee Klatch, in which YA authors visit your table for five minutes and talk about their most recent book. I basically had a heart attach when Marcus Sedgwick sat at our table last time. This time, not only did I have one heart attack, I had multiple, because we got some SERIOUSLY AWESOME authors to sit with us. When the first one to sit down was Neal Shusterman to talk about his book “Scythe”, it was already worth it. But then we also got to hear from Kwame Alexander and Nnedi Okorafor, two other really big authors. Seeing as I LOVED the book “Akata Witch” and am excited for Alexander’s upcoming “Solo”, it felt like we had hit the jackpot with this coffee klatch this year. Though we only scratched the surface of the people that we got to see, we still got some good titles to look forward to, or to pick up already (I still need to get my hands on “Scythe,” and this just reminded me of that). And plus, I’m never going to say no to free coffee, especially when we have to get up early.

The Booklist 50 Years of YA Panel

yapanelOkay, so yeah, it’s all pretty YA oriented for me, but that is my passion as a librarian, and once again there was a great panel about the topic. Daniel José Older, Kristin Cashore, Brandy Colbert, Nicola Yoon, Neal Shusterman, Deborah Heiligman, and Megan Whalen Turner all gave their insights into the genre that they write, past, present, and future. Given that I LOVE Shusterman and Yoon, this was bound to be a winner from the get go. But everyone had some really good things to say about teens, the genre as a whole, and where it should go (as in to keep striving for diversity). It was a very good opportunity to see some of the best in the business.

Next up from me is hearing about the five top books I got at ALA that I’m most excited for. Because yes, this is also the kind of event where not only do you get free books, you get books that haven’t even come out yet. But before that, Serena is going to tell you the cool things that she did while at ALAAC 2017!!

Not Just Books: June 2017

While we do love us some books, believe it not, we do have a life outside of reading. So to highlight our other pop culture interests, on the last Monday of each month, we each will highlight three other “happenings” from the last month. Big events on favorite TV shows, new movies we’ve watched, old movies we’ve “discovered,” etc. Pretty much whatever we found of particular interest outside of the book world during the last month. Share your own favorite things in the comments!

Joint Pick

mv5bndfmzjgymtetytk5mc00nmy0lwjhzjktowy2mzi5yjkzodnlxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymda4nzmyoa-_v1_sy1000_sx675_al_Movie: “Wonder Woman”

We bought tickets to this super in advance because we knew, WE KNEW, it was going to be awesome. So just imagine our smug self-satisfaction when we walked out of the theater knowing that the DC flop fest had ended at last. And with a female superhero’s story none the less! The hype is real with this one, folks. Not only is Diana Prince/Wonder Woman fabulous, her supporting cast of characters all fit together perfectly. Want to feel empowered, ladies? Go see this movie.

 

Serena’s Picks:

 mv5bmwy3ntljmjetyzrimi00nwm2ltkznjitztvmzje0mtdjmjjhl2ltywdll2ltywdlxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvyntq4ntc5otu-_v1_TV Show: “Sherlock”

While I will admit that “Elementary” is my preferred go-to Sherlock Holmes TV show (mostly because I love Johnny Lee Miller and Lucy Lu’s Watson is a unique element to the tried and tru duo), my husband and I started watching the BBC “Sherlock” this month on Netflix. We’re now on the third season, and I’m warming up to the series as Sherlock becomes less of a jerk and Mycroft’s snarky British greatness really comes to the forefront. Though we did just finish the historical piece that re-imagines the series set back in the books’ original time period, which, for a historical fiction junky like me, just made the transition back to modern times all the more painful! Why did they have to torture me with “what ifs” and an historical version that I probably would have preferred?!

mrhpdh-cover-819x1024Blog: Mark Reads “Harry Potter”

The obsession with this blog continues! Last month I obsessively read Mark’s growing horror at the “Twilight” books all while muttering to myself “It gets even worse! Just wait for the next book!” So this month I got to experience the opposite side of book-feelings while reading Mark’s growing love affair with the “Harry Potter” series all while muttering to myself “It gets even better! Just wait for the next book!” I know it’s kind of a cop out to highlight the same blog twice in a row, but the reviews of these two series were such complete opposite ends of the spectrum that it felt like a completely different beast this second time around. And the one thing better than reading about someone hate-read a series you disliked, is reading about some fall in love with a series you adored.

Kate’s Picks:

p13713169_b_v8_aaTV Show: “Twin Peaks: The Return”

Remember how I said I hoped I’d be able to finally put this on my highlights? Thanks to my Mom and her generosity with her Showtime Anytime password, I CAN! “Twin Peaks” is back, and it’s crazier than ever. While it’s definitely feeling more “Eraserhead” than the original “Twin Peaks” at this point, I’m already hooked if only because of getting to see such favorites as Dale Cooper, Bobby Briggs, Albert Rosenfield, and (hopefully soon) Audrey Horne, aka my muse, back on my screen. It’s bananas and I just love it. We finally get to see where all of these characters have ended up after all these years, and while in some cases it’s very confusing (what is happening with Coop?!), in others it’s bittersweet and lovely (Bobby Briggs made me cry and I’m not ashamed).

e1c2bd0b5aa0a8d2fff1fe4aeb2ce4157761d9c2Netflix Show: “Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Return”

Another ‘return’! So I was pretty well obsessed with “Mystery Science Theater 3000” when I was in college. I liked the snark, the retro trash movies they watched, and the characters (at least for awhile. I’m solidly a Joel girl and once the Mads leave I’m not interested anymore). So when I heard that Netflix was going to revive it, I was nervously hopeful. The good news is that while the revival isn’t going to live up to the golden days of Joel, the bots, and the Mads, it still has so much heart, great nerdy humor, and terrible movies to make fun of. Plus, while the new people (including Patton Oswalt and Felicia Day) are good, it’s fun seeing some of the original people pop up in cameos. If you like the original “MST3K”, this is a worthy revival!

 

 

The Great Animorphs Re-Read #11: “The Forgotten”

363392Animorphs #11: “The Forgotten”

Publishing Info: Scholastic Paperbacks, October 1997

Where Did I Get this Book: own it!

Book Description: There’s been an accident. Someone crashed-landed a Yeerk Bug fighter. And the Yeerks have been trying to cover it up – quickly. But not before Tobias spots it. So the Animorphs and Ax decide to steal the ship to show the world that Earth has been invaded. That’s when things go terribly wrong. Before they know it, Jake, the other Animorphs, and Ax find themselves in another place. Another time. And there’s no way home…

Narrator: Jake

Plot: Jake is having bizarre flashes of scenes involving him and the others in the rain forest of all places. Thinking he’s going insane, he must plow forward in spite of it all as the faithful leader of the group when Tobias notifies them all of a downed Bug fighter being hidden and worked on in an empty strip mall. The Animorphs decide to go check it out and, in a bizarre and rapid-fire sequence of terrible decision making, sneak aboard and fly off with the hopes of landing it at the White House and outing the Yeerk invasion once and for all. Surprising no one, this plan fails and fails big.

Losing control of the ship, they end up in outer space participating in a space battle with the Yeerks’ Blade ship. They cross laser fire and both ships end up damaged and plummet to earth, landing in the Brazilian rain forest. But not only are they now miles and miles from home with a broken space ship and Visser Three and his minions sweeping the forest looking for them, but they realize that they’ve traveled back in time several hours.

Ax, of course, wasn’t paying attention in school that day, but he theorizes that the space battle/laser intersection created a Saario Rip, a break in the space time continuum resulting in there now being two Jakes, two Cassies, etc etc all existing at once in different locations. And if they don’t re-set the whole thing in time, both groups will be wiped out. This portion of the plot was just as confusing as most time travel plotlines are and at a certain point I just threw up my hands and went with it.

Ultimately, the group spends a ridiculous amount of time acquiring jungle morphs (monkeys and jaguars) and generally getting a thorough lesson on why the rain forest is deadly. Rachel (of course it’s Rachel) almost gets eaten alive by a colony of ants. They’re almost poisoned by a variety of frogs and snakes. And they make friends with the local people who aren’t too thrilled with the Hork Bajir and other aliens now wandering around on their turf.

Jake and co. come to the obvious conclusion that they must return to the ship and hope to sneak on and hop a ride with Visser Three back to the U.S. and their own time period. Unfortunately for them, Visser Three seems to be smarter in this time period than he usually is and anticipates this move. He morphs some strange tree tentacle creature (how is that he has all of these super specific morphs ready at hand that seemingly would only work in these exact scenarios?) and captures and eats them all when they show up. Jake’s death then snaps his consciousness back to before they stole the Bug Fighter and he quickly calls off the whole thing, leaving him as the only member of the group remembering any of it.

I still don’t quite understand how Jake is the only one to remember all of this and why any one of the Animorph’s deaths wouldn’t have done the same. Maybe the others who were eaten weren’t dead yet? So Jake technically dies first and then stops the whole thing? I dunno, it was all quite confusing, but a blast anyways! I loved the changed setting of having the story take place in the rain forest, and it was fun seeing Visser Three not be a complete idiot. After the nonsense in Cassie’s book with his reaction to the skunk spray, he had begun to lose some of his fear factor and validity as a legitimate threat, so it was nice to see him back on form, even if it all gets wiped away anyways.

Our Fearless Leader: Jake’s books are always interesting due to his unique position as leader of the group. Through the others’ eyes and narratives, we always hear about how much they all respect and appreciate the fact that he takes on this role. But it’s only through his POV books that we truly understand how crushing this load must be in every single book. This whole story essentially revolved around the types of life and death calls that Jake has to make at every moment and how easily any one decision could go terribly wrong. He’s not operating with any more information than the rest of them, but it’s still up to him to choose whether to risk the safety of the group or of individuals.

At multiple points in this story, Jake has to send individuals into dangerous situations on their own (leaving Ax to retrieve a piece of the Bug fighter while they’re in the rain forest to prevent Visser Three and the rest of the Yeerks from leaving without them, and then later leaving Rachel behind as she struggles to navigate the paths through the forest in her bulky bear morph). Not only does he have to make these decisions, but he has to live with the anger and fear of the others for doing it at all. Tobias is angry that Ax is being left to fend for himself, and the whole group struggles with the close call Rachel has with her bear morph being almost eaten alive by ants.

Towards the end of the book, it is clear that Jake has made all of the wrong decisions that lead to their “deaths.” But, as we’ve seen through his eyes, at the time, he made the best decisions he could, which just makes their ultimate “fate” all the harder for Jake. This book is a good look at how easily things could go wrong for the group, even when making the best decisions they can. And man, poor Jake. He has to be the strongest member of the group to deal with this type of pressure every day.

Xena, Warriar Princess: Other than the horrifying ant scene, there were a few moments with Rachel that I found notable. One was the opening scene which was a comedic little bit where Jake and Rachel are square dancing. It’s always fun when we get moments like this between Jake and Rachel when we’re reminded that they’re related and have a unique relationship to and knowledge of the other. Secondly, Jake has a very astute understanding of Rachel. After she’s almost killed by the ants, Jake notes that whenever she’s scared she reacts by getting mad, and that this anger can often express itself in recklessness. It’s a nice reminder of how completely Jake must know and navigate the different personalities that make up the Animorphs so that he can best lead the group.

A Hawk’s Life: As usual, Tobias is the one that starts off this mission as he has nothing but time to fly around and notice strange things like downed Bug fighters. But, for once, he actually gets to come along on this trip. Obviously a hawk doesn’t do well in the rain forest, especially not a rain forest full of Controllers who are on the look out for animals that don’t belong. Jake also notes that an extra challenge with Tobias is that hawks don’t deal with hunger as well as humans, so Tobias’ situation is even more perilous the longer they are there.

Peace, Love, and Animals: Cassie’s animal knowledge is, of course, useful. She is able to identify where they are in the world by recognizing the types of monkeys swinging in the trees. I just don’t get it. Cassie is so much more sane and likable in other character’s books! It’s almost like she’s out-of-character in her own when she reacts so ridiculously to things. For example, in this book the Yeerks end up killing a lot of the local animals and trees in their attempts to flush the Animorphs out. When she’s asked if she’s upset about this she says that of course she is, but the best way for her to save the planet is to not die, get back to their own timeline, and beat the Yeerks. Not get bogged down in trying to save some specific trees. This! This makes sense! But we just got done seeing her have the completely opposite thought process in her own book when she essentially prioritized a small bit of forest, a nest of baby skunks, and a termite colony above the safety of the group! I don’t get it. She’s so much more relatable, rational, and sympathetic in books like this than her own.

The Comic Relief: Marco doesn’t do much in this book. He’s good for his quips, as always, but his usual contributions (smarts and planning) aren’t used much in this book.

E.T./Ax Phone Home: As always now it seems, the group wouldn’t get far without Ax’s knowledge of technology. But I think Applegate made a very good decision with his re-occuring “I wasn’t paying attention in school that day” routine. Obviously he’s way more technologically advanced than the rest, allowing them to even think about trying to fly the Bug fighter. But it’s good that he doesn’t have a complete understanding of things like Saario Rips and so forth, otherwise he’d be a bit too close to a deus ex machina in all of these stories.

Best (?) Body Horror Moment: The ants! The ants! Why is it always ants?!?! The whole scene where Rachel is being eaten alive in bear morph by an ant colony was probably one of the most horrifying scenes in the series to date, and that’s really saying something. There were unnecessarily vivid descriptions of ants carrying off pieces of flesh and crawling into mouths and eyes and..,.nope, just nope.

Couples Watch!: There’s a cute scene in the beginning when Cassie comes to watch Jake and Rachel square dance and Jake is super embarrassed by it all. But at least he has a healthy outlook on it and is relieved to see that she’s laughing her head off at him, rather than pitying him.

If Only Visser Three had  Mustache to Twirl: Visser Three has a smart plan! He has a smart plan, guys! He also has a couple good snarky lines that were pretty funny, especially when his underlings went crazy and started shooting up the forest and he questioned the thought process that lead them to destroying the trees…cuz obviously the “Andalite bandits” morphed trees…

Adult Ugly Crying at a Middle Grade Book: There really wasn’t anything too soul crushing in this book. Lots of action, less feels. I mean, I guess I should have gotten upset about then all “dying” and everything…but we all knew that wasn’t going to happen so I couldn’t get too worked up about it.

What  a Terrible Plan, Guys!: The whole thesis statement of this book was “Jake has terrible plans and it sucks to be the leader.” I really feel that the whole “let’s steal the Bug fighter and fly it to the White House” had some glaring flaws from the start. Beyond the fact that none of them knew how to fly it, Ax’s techy knowledge aside, the whole thing was a massive gamble that was going to get their cover blown with them having no control of the actual outcome beyond the point where they landed. Not only would the Yeerks be trying to shoot them down, but I’m pretty sure the U.S. government would have something to say about an alien aircraft approaching the White House.

Favorite Quote:

More proof for my “Marco follows (loves??) Rachel” theory!

“We didn’t vote,” Rachel said. “But if we had, you’d have voted yes.””How do you know how I’d have voted?” Marco demanded. Rachel smiled. “Because I’d have voted yes.”

And a good Marco quip about their terrible planning:

<Oh, good,> Marco said sarcastically. <Another rushed, unplanned, last-minute mission. Those always turn out so well.>

Scorecard: Yeerks 3, Animorphs 5

I’m giving this one to the Yeerks, since if it weren’t for convenient timey-whimey tricks, Visser Three pulled off 1.) an actually well-thought out plan, 2.) a useful and appropriate morph, and 3.) killed all of the Animorphs. Further, even after Jake closes the Saario Rip, the Animorphs still fail to take advantage of the massive opportunity that was the downed Bug ship.

Rating: It’s not furthering the overall plot at all, but it was a great stand alone story! The change of scenery to the rain forest added for a lot of unique fun!

Note: I’m not going to rate these books since I can’t be objective at all! But I’ll give a one sentence conclusion and you can take from that what you will!

Kate’s Review: “Into the Water”

33151805Book: “Into the Water” by Paula Hawkins

Publishing Info: Riverhead Books, May 2017

Where Did I Get This Book: The library!

Book DescriptionA single mother turns up dead at the bottom of the river that runs through town. Earlier in the summer, a vulnerable teenage girl met the same fate. They are not the first women lost to these dark waters, but their deaths disturb the river and its history, dredging up secrets long submerged.

Left behind is a lonely fifteen-year-old girl. Parentless and friendless, she now finds herself in the care of her mother’s sister, a fearful stranger who has been dragged back to the place she deliberately ran from—a place to which she vowed she’d never return.

With the same propulsive writing and acute understanding of human instincts that captivated millions of readers around the world in her explosive debut thriller, The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins delivers an urgent, twisting, deeply satisfying read that hinges on the deceptiveness of emotion and memory, as well as the devastating ways that the past can reach a long arm into the present.

Beware a calm surface—you never know what lies beneath.

Review: A couple years ago I got the book “The Girl on the Train” from my library, a spoil of war known as the ‘New Items Wall’. I had been waiting for it to be up for the allotted amount of time employees have to wait before it’s up for grabs, and as soon as that time was up I grabbed it and claimed it as my own. It didn’t take me long to read it. I found it pretty okay. I was entertained, even if I guessed the big twist long before the reveal was meant to happen. Though it’s gotten a bit of backlash as of late, I knew that anything else that Paula Hawkins wrote would get a lot of attention, and that I would be interested in reading it. So enter “Into the Water”, the newest book by Paula Hawkins. Like “The Girl on the Train”, I had to wait for this one to pass the time limit. And then I grabbed it for myself.

When “Into the Water” took me in, it took me in pretty hard. The book is told through multiple perspectives, each of them slowly giving tiny pieces of the overall puzzle as to what exactly happened to the two dead ladies who drowned in the local pond. The first is Katie, a teenage girl who jumped to her death from the cliff above the drowning pool. The second is Nel, a single mother whose daughter, Lena, was best friends with Katie. No one knows what happened to Nel. She was writing a book about the large number of women who died in the drowning pool over the years, either by suicide, witch craft trial, or straight up murder. Various perspectives include the eyes of Jules, Nel’s sister, Lena, Nel’s daughter, Sean, a detective and a man with his own connection to the pool, and Erin, Sean’s partner on the force. These four voices were the strongest of the bunch, as others either felt overdramatic (the mother of Katie was especially grating, even though I did feel sympathy for her), superfluous (a local psychic who has her own beef with Sean’s family), or just downright yucky (Mark, a teacher who may have had an improper relationship with one of his students). While they all added their own important pieces, it was hard to keep track of all of them at times at first. You add in chapters from Nel’s book about the other women who died in the drowning pool and you get a lot of information to process as you are paging through quickly because it’s so enthralling.

I had a few theories about what was going on this book, and unlike “The Girl on the Train” I wasn’t totally convinced about what had happened very early one. While I liked that it kept me guessing pretty well, I did take issue with the fact that this book is the kind of story that likes to keep yanking the rug out from under you. I am okay with twists and turns, but I get really sore when a solution is presented, a conclusion is presumed, and then in the last paragraph, NAY, the last SENTENCE, the solution is completely thrown out the window and a new reality is set in place. That’s not clever to me, that’s not inventive or an ‘ah ha!’ moment. That’s a cop out, and I am not impressed with cop outs.

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I think that I need to just start to accept the fact that while I am definitely going to keep up with Paula Hawkins books in the future, I’m going to have to accept that for me it’s going to be less about the solution and more about the journey getting there. I would definitely say that “Into the Water” kept me entertained and captivated well until the final pages were turned, but on the other side of the coin the ending was a huge let down. What I will say is that Hawkins knows how to construct a mystery and a thriller, and just because the endings have disappointed me it doesn’t mean that I will completely overlook the experience as a whole.

Rating 6: Incredibly engrossing and addictive, but with a dud of an ending, “Into the Water” kept me going but left me frustrated.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Into the Water” is included on the Goodreads lists “2017 Crime Books You’re Excited For!”, and “2017 Suspense and Thrillers”.

Find “Into the Water” at your local library using WorldCat!