It’s a Wonderful Death

February 3, 2016 by

It’s a Wonderful Death

Sarah J. Schmitt

Seventeen-year-old RJ always gets what she wants. So when her soul is accidentally collected by a distracted Grim Reaper, somebody in the afterlife better figure out a way to send her back from the dead or heads will roll. But in her quest for mortality, she becomes a pawn in a power struggle between an overzealous archangel and Death Himself. The tribunal presents her with two options: she can remain in the lobby, where souls wait to be processed, until her original lifeline expires, or she can replay three moments in her life in an effort to make choices that will result in a future deemed worthy of being saved. It sounds like a no-brainer. She’ll take a walk down memory lane. How hard can changing her future be?
But with each changing moment, RJ’s life begins to unravel, until this self-proclaimed queen bee is a social pariah. She begins to wonder if walking among the living is worth it if she has to spend the next sixty years as an outcast. Too quickly, RJ finds herself back in limbo, her time on Earth once again up for debate.
RJ is a snarky, unapologetic, almost unredeemable, very real girl. Her story is funny and moving, and teens will easily connect with her plight. Prepare to meet the Grim Reaper, who’s cuter than you’d expect; Hawaiian shirt–wearing Death Himself; Saint Peter (who likes to play Cornhole); and Al, the handler for the three-headed hound that guards the gates of Hell. This cast of characters accompanies RJ through her time in the afterlife and will do their best to gently shove her in the right direction. (taken from Goodreads)

Why I picked it up: Ok, I confess, I’m a big fan of It’s a Wonderful Life with Jimmy Stewart, so this title caught my attention.  When I saw that Mike Mullin, author of the Ashfall trilogy (and one of my favorite authors) said it was “a snarky joyride of a book with a deep moral core: long after you’ve finished laughing you’ll still be thinking about RJ’s journey and perhaps asking yourself: What defines a life well lived?” I knew I wanted to read this book!

 Why I finished it: Ok, I’ll be honest – at first I had a difficult time getting drawn into the story, which could have been because RJ isn’t a very likeable girl.  I kept reading though, and I am SOOO glad I did! I really enjoyed the humor, and the bantering/bickering between RJ and her otherworldly friends was very enjoyable. The story definitely had a serious side, when RJ had to make choices that were morally right but cost her the popularity she so desperately wanted.

 I’d give it to: Anyone who likes books that are a bit different.  This read is both fun and thought provoking. Enjoy!

 I’d give it:  4 Stars

 Reviewed by:  Melanie, Parr Library

January 29, 2016 by

22231820Are You Seeing Me?

By Darren Groth

Summary: It’s been more than a year since nineteen-year-old twins Justine and Perry watched their dad lose his battle with cancer, leaving Justine as the sole caregiver for her brother, who is prone to what Justine calls “inappropriate behaviors.” But now their reliance on each other is set to shift. Before they go their separate ways, the twins want to create the perfect memory.
For Perry, the trip is a glorious celebration of his favorite things: mythical sea creatures, Jackie Chan movie and the study of earthquakes.
For Justine, it’s a chance to “free” her twin, to see who she is without her boyfriend, and to offer their mother the chance to atone for past wrongs. (From book jacket)

I loved this book for the characters, and the humor was spectacular. The book switches in perspective from Justine to Perry, and I think that Groth did an excellent job making these characters real, and people we actively cared about. The writing in some of Perry’s scenes reminded me of the slight surrealism in Challenger Deep.

But I need to be honest with this review: I do not think this book was perfect. There were scenes in the book that presented Perry’s condition as a mental disorder, something to be cured, something mysterious and inherently wrong. Many in the neurodiversity movement have strong objections to that kind of mentality, and I would have preferred the book to be more accepting of variations in neurological functioning, rather than seeing those variations as problems.

That said, I think #WeNeedDiverseBooks not just to be perfect examples, but also to open up dialogues about what we as a society can do to change our perceptions of those different from us. And that does include non-neurotypical protagonists.



Out on the Wire: the Storytelling Secrets of the New Masters of Radio

January 27, 2016 by

on the wireOut on the Wire: the Storytelling Secrets of the New Masters of Radio

by Jessica Abel with a foreword by Ira Glass

I love stories. Not just the stories found in the books on our shelves, but the stories of the community around me. I spend quite a bit of time listening to podcasts: Serial, The Moth, This American Life, and a few others. I even have a few friends who have created their own podcasts. This book is a great general manual of professional storytelling over the radio – the curating of individual, personal stories to reveal the universality of the human experience.

Out on the Wire is separated into sections that together make up a logical work flow: ideas, character and voice, story structure, sound, and the edit. The graphic novel format helped me process the technical information more easily. I appreciated that Abel shared different podcast creators’ perspectives and philosophies. Some podcast creators don’t agree on structure or how to incorporate sound into their pieces, but those differences are what make each podcast stand out and shine.

Interested in creating your own podcast? We have classes at the Plano Public Libraries’ Digital Creation Spaces:

Haggard Library (13-18yrs only)  – Thursday, April 7th, 7-8:30pm

Parr Library (13 yrs and up) – Sundays, February 7th and April 3rd, 1:30-3pm

Walk on Earth a Stranger

January 25, 2016 by

Walk on Earth a Stranger

By Rae Carson

Lee Westfall has a strong, loving family. She has a home she loves and a loyal steed. She has a best friend—who might want to be something more. She also has a secret.

Lee can sense gold in the world around her. Veins deep in the earth. Small nuggets in a stream. Even gold dust caught underneath a fingernail. She has kept her family safe and able to buy provisions, even through the harshest winters. But what would someone do to control a girl with that kind of power? A person might murder for it.

When everything Lee holds dear is ripped away, she flees west to California—where gold has just been discovered. Perhaps this will be the one place a magical girl can be herself. If she survives the journey. (Summary from book cover flap)

Why I picked it up:

I love the cover!  That wasn’t the only reason, however.  I also enjoy historical fiction about the Western expansion, the Gold Rush and the pioneer experience.  Top it off with a bit of fantasy and I’m definitely picking it up!

 Why I finished it:

As I previously mentioned, I have read many novels from this time period but this one definitely brings the pioneer experience to life. 15-year-old Leah Westfall is disguised as a boy (Lee) for her own safety and journeys with a very diverse group of travelers from varying backgrounds and beliefs.  As they head west, they face extraordinary challenges – illness, injury, hunger, extreme weather and buffalo stampedes to name just a few. Interpersonal conflicts and hints of romance help to bring the well-researched plotline to life.  Last but definitely not least is Lee herself – a strong female heroine holding her own in a man’s world.  Her resourcefulness and determination bring her to life and make you feel as if you are traveling every excruciating mile by her side.  This is the 1st book in the Gold Seer Trilogy with Book 2 scheduled for publication in 2016.  It is already on my To Read list!

I’d give it to:

Fans of Rae Carson and anyone who enjoys an engrossing adventure based on the Gold Rush and life on the Oregon Trail.

I’d give it: 5 stars


Reviewed by: Connie (Parr Library)


Favorite Books of 2015

January 22, 2016 by


I read quite a few books in 2015 and of all kinds of genres, but the books below were my favorites:

The Carnival at Bray by: Jessie Ann Foley–Combine the 1990s, grunge music, Ireland, a family tragedy, and living life as an adventure, you get this book as a result. Loosely deemed as historical fiction with its setting in the 1990s, music is at the heart of this 2015 Morris Award finalist.

Echo by: Pam Muñoz Ryan–Magical realism meets historical fiction in this story about a harmonica that travels in and out of the lives of those who play it. The story was also a Newbery Honor Book for 2016.

Bone Gap by: Laura Ruby–Out of all the books I read this year, this was by far the most interesting and unique. Bone Gap combines magical realism, the supernatural, and subtle references to mythology. This is one read I could read over and over. This book was also the 2016 winner of the Printz Award.

Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future by: A.S. King–I listened to this story via audiobook (thanks to YALSA’s list of 2015 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults list) while driving around in my car. Glory is trying to figure out her future by looking into clues from her tragic past (which she discovers by drinking a disintegrating bat in a jar with her friend Ellie), I found myself also wondering what would happen if you got a glimpse into the future?

The Hired Girl by: Laura Amy Schlitz–I normally gravitate towards historical fiction and found myself liking the main character, Joan, for running away from her farm life to become a servant in the big city. She is hired by the Rosenbach’s, a wealthy Jewish family in Baltimore, and she chronicles her days (and strife) in her diary. What makes this story particularly enjoyable is Joan’s ridiculously naive romanticism that she has borrowed from books such as Jane Eyre and Ivanhoe.

Ms. Marvel (2, 3, and 4!) by: G. Willow Wilson–Throughout 2015, I read these 3 volumes of Ms. Marvel. I enjoyed reading about Kamala Khan’s struggles to be both a normal teenager, a proper daughter to her parents, and a superhero. Meanwhile, adding to the fun, are other characters from the Marvel universe, which appear sporadically throughout the volumes.

Now, to discover more favorite reads this year!

Reviewed by: Diana (Harrington Library)

Six of Crows

January 20, 2016 by

sixSix of Crows
by Leigh Bardugo

If you loved the Grisha series, head back into that fantasy universe with Six of Crows, the first book in a new series by Leigh Bardugo. There is something ominous going on among the Grisha in Ketterdam, and one of the merchants knows what it is. He wants Kaz Brekker to help stop it with one ridiculous heist, and he’s willing to pay a lot to make it happen. To pull it off, Kaz has to put together a dangerous crew, with each member bringing a specific skill set to the table. But it’s still a nearly impossible task.

I enjoyed this book even more than the first in the Grisha series. The character building is fantastic, with each crew member’s history and personality slowly coming into focus. And there are enough reminders about the politics of the area that you don’t have to read the other series to know what’s going on. I love the characters (particularly the wraith), and I just hope that the rest of the series lives up to the bar set by this first book!

Reviewed by: Nina (Haggard library)

Wendy Darling. Volume 1, Stars

January 18, 2016 by

Adventure, intrigue and excitement, welcome to Coleen Oakes new book, Wendy Darling. Volume 1, Stars.  If you enjoy a good fantasy or were ever a fan of Peter Pan you have to read this book.  The adventure begins just as you might expect with Peter flying into their bedroom just as they are settling down for the night.  Astonished  they watch this red-haired boy fly around and give them courage to leave their secure lifestyle with promises of exciting adventures.   All three of the Darling children are captivated by Neverland and find their days filled with new friends and more freedom they they have ever experienced.   You might imagine they were living in utopia but the longer they stayed the more restless and homesick Wendy became.  She began to observe this new lifestyle filled with greed, anger and selfishness.   She also watches her older brother turn into a rebellious, self-righteous young man as well as Peter who is not quite what he seemed to be. Wendy decides to take matters into her own hands along with her younger brother.  She finds her attempt to escape from Neverland an exhausting and futile effort that lands her into a perilous predicament.

Why I picked it up:  I loved Peter Pan growing up so the title pulled me in immediately.

Why I finished it:  Finishing the book was not a problem for me.  I enjoyed the continuation of Peter Pan even though its a harsher and more realistic view of Peter Pan and the boys of Neverland.
I am already looking forward to the next volume.

I’d give it to:  It’s a teen book which is perfect for this age group.

Promises I Made by Michelle Zink

January 15, 2016 by


In the thrilling sequel to Lies I Told, Grace learns that the most difficult thing about pulling off the perfect crime is living with the consequences. Fans of Ally Carter, Cecily von Ziegesar, and Gail Carriger will love this thrilling, high-stakes novel, which deftly explores the roles of identity and loyalty while offering a window into the world of the rich and fabulous.

Grace Fontaine was trained to carry out perfect crimes. But when a mistake was made the night her family tried to execute their biggest heist yet, her world fell apart.

Haunted by the way she betrayed her brother, her friends, and Logan—the only boy she’s ever loved—Grace decides she must return to the place every thief knows you should avoid: the scene of the crime.

Returning to Playa Hermosa as a wanted criminal is dangerous. But Grace has only one chance to make things right. To do it, she has to use everything she’s been taught about the art of the con to hunt down the very people who trained her: the only family she’s ever known.  (taken from



My Faves of 2015

January 13, 2016 by

PicMonkey Collage

2015. Man, what a great year!!! As you can see from the image above, there were A LOT of books that I absolutely adored last year, and this isn’t even all of them, just my most favorite of faves (I tried, I swear, but I just couldn’t narrow it down any further)!

Stand Off by Andrew Smith // Nimona by Noelle Stevenson // Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman // The Hollow Boy by Jonathan Stroud // The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma // All the Rage by Courtney Summers // Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli // The Alex Crow by Andrew Smith // Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff // The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough // I Crawl Through It by A.S. King // Archivist Wasp by Nicole Kornher-Stace // Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick

Which ones did you love?

Hope 2016 is just as wonderful—happy reading!

Lara (Haggard Library)


January 11, 2016 by

LongbournTitle: Longbourn

Author: Jo Baker

If Elizabeth Bennet had the washing of her own petticoats, Sarah often thought, she’d most likely be a sight more careful with them.   In this irresistibly imagined belowstairs answer to Pride and Prejudice, the servants take center stage. Sarah, the orphaned housemaid, spends her days scrubbing the laundry, polishing the floors, and emptying the chamber pots for the Bennet household. But there is just as much romance, heartbreak, and intrigue downstairs at Longbourn as there is upstairs. When a mysterious new footman arrives, the orderly realm of the servants’ hall threatens to be completely, perhaps irrevocably, upended.

Jo Baker dares to take us beyond the drawing rooms of Jane Austen’s classic—into the often overlooked domain of the stern housekeeper and the starry-eyed kitchen maid, into the gritty daily particulars faced by the lower classes in Regency England during the Napoleonic Wars—and, in doing so, creates a vivid, fascinating, fully realized world that is wholly her own.  (Taken from cover).

Why I picked it up: I love Jane Austen’s books and have read many prequels, and spin-offs of her original classics.

Why I finished it: Author, Jo Baker, turns Pride and Prejudice on its head. The Bennets, Darcys, and Binglys all become minor characters. The drama in this story centers on the maids, housekeepers, and footmen. This is not really a retelling of a classic, but rather a wholly original work.

I’d give it to: Anyone who enjoys Jane Austen books.

Star Rating:   Four stars

Reviewer: Renee (Parr library)