Top Ten Things on My Reading Wishlist

Rx

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish!

Top 10 Things on My Reading Wishlist

If I could enlist authors to do the following things in 2014, all of my readerly wishes would come true!

10. Putting romance in where it doesn’t fit.

Is it just me, or does every single YA book right now, regardless of genre, seem to feature a romance between characters?  I realize that books in all formats/categories often build their plots from universal experiences related to love and relationships, but things have gotten out of hand. To me, some problems, settings, and casts of characters just don’t lend themselves to romance. And YET, in a romance must go. An epic battle breaks out between an evil alien race and human teenagers. Just as one badass chick is about to off an alien dude…she sees something in his eyes, a sparkling that tells her he’s not all bad.  Maybe she can save him–after all, he just needs a girl who understands his extraterrestrial ways. Bleh! Or…a high schooler discovers he has special powers that can be used to stop an impending terrorist plot. But first, he absolutely must ask that hot cheerleader out; you know, the one who had never noticed him before but that improbable circumstances have made her see his true boyfriend potential. Ugh.  Romances, especially unrealistic, insta-love ones, should not be forced into every YA novel published. I know from working with middle school kids, even the hormone-crazed teenage ones, that they want more from a book than just a love story. And sometimes they don’t want that at all. Also, stop the love triangles. Just stop.

One last thing I have to get off my chest about romance in YA books. I would love to read more books in which authors don’t set their MCs up to rely on the love interest to overcome their conflicts. I wanna see more strong, independent characters who don’t need a significant other to prevail.

Romance-free novels I already love (links go to Goodreads):

step from heaven      speak     endangered

9. Bring on the historical fiction!

I looked through my list of books read recently, and the number of those falling in the historical fiction category is abysmally low. The same is true of most of my students. Historical fiction can be an amazing genre but, for some reason, many teens (and adults, clearly!) are scared off by it. I don’t know my students’ reasons, but I know that I’m sometimes hesitant because of the risk that the author hasn’t done his/her research. So in 2014, I would love to see more quality historical fiction. (Or just fun, fluffy, but accurate, historical fiction—ahem, Anna Godbersen novels!) 

Historical fiction I already love (links go to Goodreads):

book thief     mares war     byt

8. I will devour all food-themed novels…

I love food, especially junk food, and I recently realized that I also love to read about junk food. Authors, can we please work more storylines around cupcakes and pizza?

Foodie books I already love: 

candyfreak     candy     everything

7. Horror audiobook + Keith Morrison = AAAAAGGHHHHHH!

Keith Morrison of Dateline fame must start narrating for audiobooks. Especially if the story he’s telling is in the horror genre. Here he is telling The Night Before Christmas – not horror, but I think you’ll see the potential. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Jo4r46476o

6. Sports novels…about those less popular sports

Of course, my students are always asking for books about sports. Mike Lupica, Carl Deuker, and Chris Crutcher have more than satisfied many of their requests.  However, my students enjoy more than just football and baseball. I have a lot of hockey players…where are the books about hockey? What about golf? Tennis? These sports just aren’t represented enough. And at the hands of the right author, I think even I could get in to a book about golf. 🙂

Sports novels I already love (links go to Goodreads):

knights     DQ     leverage

5. More humor, please

“Do you know of any funny books I can read?” is something I hear a lot from my students. I have to think that humor is one of the toughest emotions to elicit in readers. I’m sure most authors don’t set out to write a “humor” novel; that’s not really a genre. Complicating this further, I think a lot of my teen students expect the kind of constant, laugh-out-loud moments they get in a slapstick comedy movie. I have definitely laughed so hard I’ve cried when reading (read: Bossypants), but it’s always a completely different experience than watching and listening to something that’s funny. Either way, I would love for more YA authors to incorporate those laugh-out-loud moments in their books.

Humorous books I already love (links go to Goodreads):

This-Song-Will-Save-Your-Life-     looking     EvilGenius.FINAL.CVR.indd

4. Characters overcoming chronic diseases

I realize this one sounds very morbid. The thing is, I’ve read some really fantastic YA fiction with characters coping with cancer (or cancer with loved ones). It can be very inspiring to see characters deal with and overcome something that is both very frightening and very real. What I would love to see some authors tackle is characters conquering chronic, life-changing, but maybe not fatal, conditions.  I have students who have things like Type 1 diabetes and Crohn’s disease. It would be nice to see their problems reflected in literature.

Books with characters who cope with disease that I already love (links go to Goodreads):

deadline     wintergirls      the fault

3. Age appropriate thrillers

My students love a good thriller, and so do I. For middle schoolers, though, I feel like horror novels fall into one of two camps: low-level, low-threat ghost stories, a la Mary Downing Hahn or graphic, sadistic YA for older readers like Barry Lyga’s “I Hunt Killers” series.  Can we get something that is slightly in-between? 

Horror novels I already love (links go to Goodreads):

The-Waking-Dark     panic     monstrumologist

2. Natural disasters and environmental problems and climate change, oh my!

Some of the most frightening fiction I’ve read is not in the horror genre at all: It is about natural disasters. I was paranoid for weeks after reading Life As We Knew It! Despite the anxiety well-written apocalyptic books can cause, I love reading them! I’m also ready for YA trends to shift from dystopian to apocalyptic. Specifically, apocalyptic fiction centered on natural disasters. On the topic of the environment, I would also love to see more books with a problem related to environmental issues (think Carl Hiaasen). 

Science fiction books I already love (links go to Goodreads):

life     the age     ashfall

1. Narrators, of the Unreliable Variety

Anyone who knows anything about my reading tastes knows I am a sucker for an unreliable narrator. I don’t care if the narrator is lying to me, suffering from amnesia, too immature to understand, or inflicted with a mental disability – I just love the natural mystery that is built in when the author makes you really think about the validity of that perspective.  I also like the reading challenge it provides for my students. The concept of the unreliable narrator is really new to them at eighth grade; so those who usually don’t have to work at inferring or constructing meaning have to with an unreliable narrator (wa ha ha ha ha!).

Books with unreliable narrators I already love (links go to Goodreads):

room      17     tighter

I would love to hear any recommendations you have of books that may fit my wishlist!

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Top Ten Anticipated 2014 Debuts

Rx

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish!

Top 10 2014 Debuts

I interpreted this as 2014 debuts by debut authors. It’d definitely be a challenge for me to read these, because I tend to stick to my comfort zone – my favorite authors in my favorite genres, or new books I’ve relied on others trying and loving before me. 🙂

SteeringTowardNormal10. Steering Toward Normal by Rebecca Petruck

Really Brief Synopsis: Drama abounds at the Minnesota State Fair when Diggy and Wayne discover they are half brothers.

Why I Want to Read It: This story looks to be a great combination of silly/humorous and dramatic.  I hate to put too much (or any) faith in a book based on its cover, but c’mon. Look at that thing. I love it!

ninja9. The Ninja Librarians by Jennifer Swann Downey

Really Brief Synopsis: Middle grade novel about siblings who inadvertently discover a secret society of ninja librarians who protect free speech.

Why I Want to Read It: I mean, ninja librarians. NINJA librarians.

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breakfast8. Breakfast Served Anytime by Sarah Combs 

Really Brief Synopsis: A teen girl goes to a camp for talented and gifted high schoolers after her grandmother passes away.

Why I Want to Read It: Well, it has ‘breakfast’ in the title is one. Also, it features a protagonist who is labeled as ‘talented and gifted’; for several years, I’ve taught gifted students, and I’m always looking for more books with characters they can relate to (in this aspect, anyway)..

caminar7. Caminar by Skila Brown

Really Brief Synopsis: A novel in verse about a boy trying to survive Guatemala’s civil war.

Why I Want to Read It: I’d like to read more novels in verse; the more I try written in this style, the more I like and the more I like poetry in general. History and poetry are two genres I want my students to try out more, as well.

doll6. Dollbaby by Laura Lane McNeal

Really Brief Synopsis: A girl moves in with her grandmother during the Civil Rights era and discovers her family has many unexpected secrets.

Why I Want to Read It: I feel like I don’t read enough historical fiction. I’m not sure why because many of my favorite books of all time come from that genre.  Although this is more of an adult historical fiction novel, those that tell more of a coming-of-age story sometimes translate to teen readers.

pointe5. Pointe by Brandy Colbert

Really Brief Synopsis: Theo, a serious ballerina, is conflicted about how to help her friend Donovan when he comes back into her life after being abducted.

Why I Want to Read It: I used to dance but don’t really anymore. I have yet to find a really fantastic book that features a dancer. Maybe this will be the one! Also, I have tons of students who are really serious about dance, and I think they would appreciate a good dance-focused fiction novel as much as me.

falconer4. The Falconer by Elizabeth May

Really Brief Synopsis: In 19th century Scotland, Lady Aileana Kameron balances her social life with faery slaying.

Why I Want to Read It: For some reason, I’m eagerly anticipating multiple books that have some strong similarities (or at least it seems that way) to Graceling by Kristin Cashore. But that makes sense because I loved that book, my girl and boy students loved that book, and I haven’t read anything like it in quite a while. Hopefully The Falconer lives up to the high bar that story set.

end times3. End Times by Anna Schumacher

Really Brief Synopsis: Strange things are happening in Daphne’s new Wyoming town. Locals claim it’s the end of the world. Is there another explanation?

Why I Want to Read It: The setting, a Wyoming boomtown, is one that would be totally new to me. I’m also intrigued by the idea of a town taken with the idea of the Rapture approaching. There is something about religious extremism in fiction that fascinates me. My students and I love dystopian and apocalyptic fiction, too.

 Night and Fog2. Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman

Really Brief Synopsis: A teen girl growing up in 1930s Germany finds out there may be more to the story of her father’s death: Was he really sacrificing himself to protect Hitler?

Why I Want to Read It: I have a DRC of Prisoner of Night, and the first few chapters have me really impressed.  I have some other titles I have to read first, but I can’t wait to get back to it. Blankman is a pretty obviously talented writer. My students read any and everything dealing with WWII that they can get their hands on. I like Blankman’s unique angle, and I hope she’s pulled it off!

Cruel Beauty1. Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

Really Brief Synopsis: Nyx and Ignifex are characters in a twist on Beauty and the Beast, but with romance and assassins!

Why I Want to Read It: Publishers are touting this as, “Graceling meets Beauty and the Beast.” I loved Graceling, and Beauty and the Beast happens to be my favorite Disney movie. 🙂 Mostly, what grabbed my attention is that Nyx, the “Belle” of the story, is a trained assassin who is expected to seduce then murder the “Beast” character. Love a good badass chick story, and I sure wouldn’t mind having more titles with these types of protagonists for my students to read.

What debuts are you or your students looking forward to this year? Any of these that you’ve already read?

Top Ten Resolutions for 2014

Rx

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish!

Top 10 Resolutions for 2014

To liven this post up, I’ve exploited my dog enlisted the help of my dog, Beau.

Photo on 2011-02-21 at 16.13

10. Blog at least once per week

I’m really new to blogging, and I think I’m off to a decent start. However, winter break is now over and grad school will start up again, too. Things will get crazy-busy fast, and I’d like to keep this thing going.

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9. Read more physical books that I already own

I know this probably sounds like kind of a strange goal, but here’s the thing: I have a big classroom library. I have not even come close to reading everything I offer my students. Instead of constantly buying new books, checking out books from the library, or reading stuff I only have on my Kindle, I’m going to make an effort to get through more of the stuff I already own. In fact, I joined a reading challenge where I’ll track it!

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8. Spend less money on books!

I think I’m just a few novels shy of being a full-on book hoarder.  I own many, many books that are just sitting, waiting to be read. I will focus on avoiding Half Price Books and Amazon for awhile.

7. Work out more

This should be an easy one, since my workout tally from the last few months has been…zero. Yikes. I’m going to aim for completing at least three workout classes per week.

6. Eat healthier

I will cook more often, and use more veggies and lean meat. And less cheese and butter (as much as it pains me to write that!)

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I love fruit, so more of that, too. 🙂

5. Drink more water

I seriously dislike drinking water. I know that’s weird and I don’t know why, but I’ve always been that way. I will shoot for that ‘8 glasses a day’ goal this year.

4. Keep my life balanced

At times this last semester, it was really difficult for me to juggle school-related work, grad school, family life, social life, and personal time. I can’t let myself neglect my family or friends. I’ve heard of actually writing out a social schedule and keeping to those things like one would to appointments or important meetings. I might need to do that!

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3. Chip away at my TBR list!

324 books and counting. Seriously. It is out. Of. Control!  I joined a TBR reading challenge to try to focus on whittling this down to a more manageable and less insane number.

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2. Read 100 books in 2014

I’m a pretty slow reader, so this is a pretty big number for me to shoot for.  But I think it’s important for me to read as much as I can as an English teacher and possible future librarian. I need to know what titles are out there for recommendations and instructional ideas.

1. Help my students set and reach reading goals.

I had students set independent reading goals for first semester, but we got a late start on it, and there were lots of details that weren’t ever totally hammered out. I didn’t end up liking how it turned out, and we didn’t do much with the goals. I think for second semester that I’ll help my students set goals related to the number of books they will read. For next year, I’d like to expand the goals to incorporate reading skills, wide reading, or other reading traits that students want to gain.

I would love to hear what your goals are, and if you have any great advice for me in reaching my goals! 🙂

Top Ten Books I Read in 2013

Rx

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish!

Top 10 Books I Read in 2013 (in no particular order)

princekingThe Ascendance Trilogy (The False Prince The Runaway King) by Jennifer Nielsen

Jennifer Nielsen’s Ascendance Trilogy books are so much fun. They read quick, have cliffhangers at the end of most chapters (I don’t care what anyone else says – that is a selling point for me!), and the protagonist is smart and sarcastic. Nielsen also writes a good plot twist. 😉

Note for use with students: My middle school students love these books, too: reluctant readers to avid readers, alike.  I don’t know if the appeal would go much beyond 8th grade (sadly, I think most of the problem is the juvenile-looking cover art), and I’ve heard these used as read-alouds in elementary classrooms.

soldiersThe Good Soldiers by David Finkel

I’m a big fan of narrative nonfiction, and, frankly, I just don’t read it enough. The Good Soldiers, about the war in Iraq, is an excellent example of narrative nonfiction. And that is a gross understatement, but I can’t think of any other adjectives right now to describe how outstanding it is. However, here are a few others one could use to describe Finkel’s book: Sad. Eye-opening. Graphic. Hopeful. Inspiring. Real.

Note for use with students: This is an adult book, obviously, but students interested in learning more about war, especially the Iraq war, military, etc. would really appreciate Finkel’s reporting on his observations with one battalion.  There is a lot of cussing (duh?) and a lot of really disturbing violence.  But it is nonfiction, after all – that’s what really happened.

Eleanor and ParkEleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

If you haven’t already heard about Eleanor & Park, you might be living under a rock. Or you’re one of those teachers who scoffs at anything not in the classical literary canon. Either way, shame on you. Go check this title out and be whisked back to that magical and painful first time you fell in love. Because Rowell captures it perfectly.

Notes for use with students: Shortly after I finished reading Eleanor & Park, and I was still wandering around in my book hangover, this news story came out about Rowell’s book being banned. (I found out through this blog post I stumbled upon.) It made me really sad, and actually kind of outraged. It’s one thing to protest a book because of profanity (and Eleanor & Park does have a lot of it) or sex (Eleanor & Park does not have that, despite the group’s claims) or whatever, and I get that. But I honestly think, sometimes, that people pick up a book and read with metaphorical blinders on and miss the author’s whole point. Which is what happened in this case. Anyway, don’t self-sensor because of this one sad case: high school teachers should offer this to their students as choice reading, and feel good about doing so.

The_Scorpio_RacesThe Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

So, I’d picked this book up back in 2012, read a few pages, and tossed it aside because I wasn’t interested. Yep: that happened.  Thankfully, I was assigned the book for grad school this year and it became a case where an assigned book resulted in a wonderful reading experience. 🙂 You guys, the characters! And the setting! Give this one a try and if, like me, you’d originally passed The Scorpio Races up, forgive your initial lapse in judgment and give it another go.

Note for use with students: In two years, I’ve had one student check out The Scorpio Races, and he finished it but said it was boring. Sigh. This novel takes a patient reader, and one who loves a character-driven story. I don’t recommend it to all of my students, but I think some would love it as much as I did..

JoylandJoyland by Stephen King

So Joyland is not even Stephen King’s best work. He’s just that good that his coming-of-age thriller is still brilliant. And by the way, more authors should write coming-of-age thrillers; that is an under-represented genre. 🙂 Anyway, loved the characters of this book and loved the retro amusement park setting.

Note for use with students: I read this during grad school, specifically as an adult book that may have teen appeal. Unfortunately, I don’t know if that’s the case. As far as content goes, I think high school librarians and teachers could stock this without too much worry. However, the protagonist is telling this story as an older man looking back, and I don’t know if that nostalgic approach would resonate with many teens.

The-Waking-DarkThe Waking Dark by Robin Wasserman

This has been the grittiest, most horrifying, downright evil book I have ever read in the YA category. I think it was marketed as being a good pick for fans of Stephen King, and I couldn’t agree more. I think Wasserman’s premise is genius: a town gone completely bat-sh** mad. I only wish she would have expanded on the causes of that more.

Note for use with students: I told my students about this when I first started reading it…and then I didn’t really mention it again. Guys and gals, it is bru-tal. I think I had nightmares. 🙂 Not only is it scary and violent, but Wasserman incorporates some other conflicts that are ‘adult’. Not gonna offer it to my eighth graders but that does not mean it would not appeal to some. .

spectacularThe Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp

It seems like readers either love The Spectacular Now or they hate it. I am in the former category, but I will admit that I was, at times, frustrated, heartbroken, and depressed by the decisions Tharp made about the plot and his main characters.  I will say, though, that since I read this book over the summer, I still have not been able to stop thinking about the alcoholic protagonist Sutter Keely and his charity case/girlfriend/enabler, Aimee Finecky. It takes a pretty incredible author to accomplish this (especially with a reader like me who jumps from book to book without stopping for much reflection)…despite the frustrations, heartbreak, and depression. 🙂

Note for use with studentsThe Spectacular Now is a painful read, and due to a lack of the right kind of maturity, I will not have this in my eighth-grade library.  I can’t say much else without spoiling the book, but the depiction of alcoholism is all-too-real, and I don’t think younger, immature readers would be able to grasp what Tharp was getting at. Teachers and school librarians, definitely read this one before offering it to your students. (And also read it because it’s just really, really good.)

endangeredEndangered by Eliot Schrefer

Animal lovers, reluctant readers, teens, adults…I can’t imagine a reading audience that would not become absorbed by Schrefer’s story of bonobos and war in Congo. This title belongs in any middle grade or high school library.

Note for use with students: Do any other teachers and librarians out there struggle to get your students to read books featuring other cultures and/or set in other countries (not counting fictional countries/worlds)? I do, and it frustrates me to no end, but I think this book will sell itself. I don’t have it for my classroom yet (I get cheap about buying hardcovers sometimes), but I think the intense action and bonobos will draw readers in once I do buy it.

This-Song-Will-Save-Your-Life- This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales

I just recently read This Song Will Save Your Life and, people – believe the hype!  It is so good! Like, every contemporary YA writer needs to take a lesson from Leila Sales because this book has everything but feels like it was written effortlessly. It made me laugh, cry, laugh some more, swear audibly… Just outstanding.

Note for use with students: Some language and sexual references are used, but this book is so good (have I said that yet?) and the message is such a great one for middle and high school students. Bullying is depicted in a pretty realistic way, and the things the main character does to cope with it, both good and bad, are true to life, too. Of course I can only speculate, but I think a lot of teens who read this would feel not so alone and also, maybe, think about how they treat others. High school classrooms and libraries should definitely stock this book, and mature upper middle school readers would like this one, too.

story  how to saveTie between Story of a Girl & How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr

I didn’t think it would be right to have more than one Sara Zarr book in my top 10, so I’m kind of cheating and calling Story of a Girl, which was actually a reread for me, and How to Save a Life a draw. I love the accessibility of protagonist Deanna Lambert from Story and the painfully realistic problems she faces. But I think Zarr really hit her writing stride in How to Save a Life, and the dual perspectives in that book quicken the pace more than was done in Story.

Note for use with students: I haven’t put How to Save a Life out in my classroom yet. I was a little hesitant because of, you know, the whole ‘teen pregnancy’ thing. When deciding age appropriateness, I always try to weigh the questionable content against the quality of writing, development and message of the theme, and authentic nature of the content (i.e. Does it reflect real teens’ experiences? Or is it a shock tactic?). I think that formula, unscientific as it is, tells me that book should be made available to eighth graders.  Story of a Girl also contains conflicts that stem from teen sex, but Zarr handles them so realistically and gracefully. Quite a few of my female students have read this one and adored it.

Top Ten Books I Wouldn’t Mind Santa Bringing Me

Rx

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish!

Top 10 Books I Wouldn’t Mind Santa Bringing Me

grimm10. A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz

I haven’t read this series yet, but it sounds creepy and gross and awesome. Definitely something that would have appeal for my middle school students.

And me.

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vortex9. Vortex by S.J. Kincaid

I’m in the mood for a good sci-fi adventure, and this sequel to Insignia may be just what I’m looking for. Plus my library doesn’t carry this book (!!!).

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book of blood and shadow hc8. The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman

Wasserman’s The Waking Dark creeped me out like no other book has this year. I’ve seen mixed reviews for The Book of Blood and Shadow but it sounds like something that would be right up my alley.

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Six_Gun_Snow_White_by_Catherynne_M_Valente_200_3117. Six-Gun Snow White by Catherynne Valente

Read this synopsis on Goodreads and I dare anyone to not want to read this novella. Plus it’s Catherynne Valente, who is amazing.

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Doctor_Sleep6. Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

I’d forgotten how much I love Stephen King’s writing until I read Joyland not too long ago. I didn’t read much in high school [insert cringe] but I do remember reading The Shining and being both awed and completely freaked out. Also, I know my husband will actually read Doctor Sleep, so I’ll be able to read and talk to him about a book…for once. 🙂

golem5. The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker

My last foray into adult fantasy, The Night Circus, was pretty successful, so I’ll be giving this one a try at some point. Plus it’s gotten rave reviews.

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dreamland social club4. Dreamland Social Club by Tara Altebrando

I recently read Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando, and I loved it. I really liked Tara Altebrando’s writing voice and style, so I definitely plan to read something else she’s written. Dreamland Social Club sounds like a good place to start.

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hounded3. Hounded: The Lowdown on Life with Three Dachshunds by Matt Ziselman

This memoir caught my eye because I have a mini-dachshund. And I feel like I can safely assume that anyone who’s had a dachshund as a pet has a ton of great material for a memoir! I can’t wait to read this memoir, which I’m sure will be a riot.

This-Song-Will-Save-Your-Life- 2. This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales

Actually, I can’t believe I haven’t read this book yet. It’s gotten such amazing publicity and it sounds like something I’d love. Full disclosure: I’ve stingily renewed this book the max number of times from my library. I obviously need my own copy so that the library one will be available for other patrons!

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godsandmonsters

1.Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor

So I know this one hasn’t been released yet. But if it’s Santa we’re talking about, I figure he and his elves can finagle some sort of early-release ARC or something for me. 🙂