Michelle Caamano is a member of Penguin’s Office Services department where she is better known as the keeper of the conference rooms. When she’s not doing that, she’s battling the forces of evil on the MTA with nothing but her wits and a good YA book to protect her. She takes her Goodreads yearly challenge a little too seriously and Disney music is constantly playing in her head.
Corduroy by Don Freeman
Corduroy, written and illustrated by Don Freeman was published in 1968 and is what I like to call a classic, and as they say, a classic never dies. Corduroy is a toy bear who sits on a shelf at a department store, waiting for someone to take him home. One day, a little girl named Lisa comes into the store and knows that he’s the bear she has always wanted, but her mother says no on account of his green overalls missing a button. This determined bear then sets out on an adventure through the mall after hours looking for a way to fix what’s wrong with him. Unfortunately, he never finds it, but it doesn’t matter because the very next morning, Lisa returns to buy him. She even sews on his missing button saying, “I like you the way you are, but you’ll be more comfortable with your shoulder strap fastened.” I remember reading this book as a kid and strongly believing that every stuffed animal I owned had their own personality. Some were not as new as others, but they all deserved to be loved and taken care of. This concept of home and acceptance along with the simple lines and poignant colors of the illustrations are some of the reasons why I think this book is still so popular today. Children can possess a fierce loyalty when it comes to their favorite toys and to them, the imperfections only make them more endearing.
One Cool Friend by Toni Buzzeo with Illustrations by David Small
I first read this 2012 Caldecott award winning book in a class I was taking and afterwards, I had absolutely no qualms about purchasing it for my own personal collection. Written by Toni Buzzeo with illustrations by David Small, this book made me laugh out loud so many times. Elliot is an adorable little boy who wears bow ties and is a very proper gentleman. One day his slightly eccentric looking dad proposes a family day at the aquarium and despite having to deal with loud kids, Elliot politely accepts. He becomes captivated with the Magellanic penguin exhibit and asks if he could take one home. His father, thinking Elliot is asking for a stuffed animal agrees to let him have one. What he doesn’t know is that Elliot decides to take home a live penguin as his very own pet and of course, hilarity ensues. Elliot has countless adventures with his penguin (who he names Magellan, of course) from ice skating in his room to luxurious dips in the bathtub. I don’t even know where to start with this clever book. Beyond the teachable moments with Ferdinand Magellan, the illustrations alone are amazing and do so much to bring the words to life. From Elliot’s red freckled face to his father’s green turtle attire, the color scheme is simple, but lends enormously to the plot and its surprising twist ending. Whether you’re eight years old or slightly older, One Cool Friend will delight you and have you dreaming of bringing home a wild animal of your own.
An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
I’m going to be really honest with you all. If the suspense in An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir doesn’t kill you, then the realization that a sequel isn’t available yet just might do it. Be prepared for this page-turner to spark some serious emotion in you. Tahir has created a world that is harsh and unforgiving, yet completely captivating, with complex characters that continued to surprise me through the end. The setting is akin to that of Ancient Rome; the Scholars, a once prosperous people have been taken over by the violent Martial nation. The story is split between two points of view. Laia is a Scholar who has lost most of her family to this devastation, and when her brother is accused of treason, she must go undercover as a spy for the resistance in order to save him. She is placed as a slave in the prestigious and extremely dangerous military academy, Blackcliff. Elias is about to graduate at the top of his class in Blackcliff and he would be the golden boy of the Martials if he didn’t secretly hate everything about them. These two characters must learn to survive in this vicious environment while battling both human and supernatural elements that will force them to question their own loyalties and the distinction between what is right and what is unjust. This book definitely doesn’t shy away from the realistic and brutal nature of these opposing peoples and I simply cannot wait to see what’s in store for the explosive sequel. Read an Excerpt.
Bloodlines Series by Richelle Mead
So technically I am recommending six books here instead of just one, but I dare anyone to tell me they’re not hooked on this Vampire Academy spin-off series after the second book. The alchemist Sydney Sage has a major role in protecting Queen Lissa’s little sister, Jill Dragomir by posing as her sister in an elite prep school in California. What follows is an immensely addicting story filled with magic, friendship, betrayal, conspiracy and forbidden love. Got your attention yet? One of Mead’s major strengths is her ability to create enticing secondary characters that you care about just as much as the main protagonists. The Scooby gang in Bloodlines certainly does not disappoint, with the return of both fiery Angeline from the Keepers and Eddie Castile (who, in my opinion, should have had a bigger role in the VA series, but Mead certainly makes up for that here).
But let’s face it: Sydney Sage and Adrian Ivashkov make this series. While Rose and Dimitri had their fair share of obstacles in Vampire Academy, it wasn’t quite so shocking that two dhampirs would fall in love with each other. However, could a vampire and an alchemist make it work? (Insert finger-snapping, West Side Story theme music here) Adrian is that classic bad boy character looking to redeem himself for the love of a good woman, and there is a major vulnerability to him that makes it impossible not to fall in love with him. Meanwhile, by-the-book Sydney undergoes a major character arc throughout the series, growing into a confident woman who is willing to fight for what she believes in, even if that means going against everything she has ever known.
Will the gang be able to keep Jill safe from harm? Will Adrian and Sydney be able to share their relationship with the Vampire/Alchemist communities? Will someone forget to feed the baby dragon? All important questions. Throw in some seriously steamy scenes and a touch of magical Latin incantations and you have yourself quite the addicting series.
The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
If I were you, I would put Renee Ahdieh’s The Wrath and the Dawn on top of your “to-read” list this month. I cannot even begin this recommendation without first bringing to your attention the absolutely gorgeous red cover that shows just a hint of the girl you are to meet within its pages. This story inspired by A Thousand and One Nights hits the shelves on May 12th, and it will attack all of your senses. Ahdieh not only weaves together an intricate story, but also creates a visually stunning painting, complete with colorful imagery and captivating characters. After her best friend is killed by the Caliph of Khorasan, Shahrzad volunteers to become his bride, secretly vowing to avenge the lives of all of the young girls who have inexplicably died at dawn. However, the more she comes to know Khalid, the harder it is to reconcile the image of the heartless monster she has in her head with the sad, hopeless king before her. Shrouded in mystery, this book will keep you guessing, all the while entertaining you with delightful secondary characters like Shahrzad’s opinionated Grecian handmaiden, Despina (I loved her and trust me, so will you), and her brave and loyal childhood friend, Tariq, who will stop at nothing to save her from this fate. As with Aladdin’s magical lamp, nothing is what it seems with this story and it leaves you with just a hint of magic that promises to explode off the pages in the sequel. And before you ask, yes- there is indeed a magic carpet. Read an Excerpt.
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