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Sunday, June 3, 2018

Review: The Upside of Iris by Helen Rose



Title: The Upside of Iris
Author: Helen Rose
Format: eARC
Pub. Date: September 9th 2015
Source: Netgalley


Book Description:



What does love look like to you?

For young Iris, the whole world looks upside down, and the only person who truly understands and appreciates her perspective is her new friend Charlie, who has his own unique trait: he cannot speak. His silence, her precociousness, and their acceptance of each other make the two a perfect match.

But happiness is fleeting, as Iris’s new stepsisters, skeptical and jealous (as conventional folks often are of those who dare to swim against the tide), manage to drive the two apart. Iris and Charlie are separated for the remainder of childhood.

Grown-up Iris never forgets about Charlie, though, and her love for him influences the charming art gallery she now owns. But despite the visually magical environment she inhabits, Iris finds herself doubting Charlie once again, thanks in no small part to those pesky stepsisters of hers.

Still, before she decides to give up hope altogether, she decides to do one small thing for the other lonely souls around her . . . with wonderful consequences.

The Upside of Iris is an illustrated love story for all ages, and for anyone who has ever felt misunderstood. It is a whimsical, touching reminder that perspective is truly everything, and that a change in perspective can make all the difference in the world.






Review:


★★★★

This book is so charming and cute, I loved it. The whole plot is summed up really nicely in the blurb, so thankfully I don't have to rehash it here.

The illustrations are absolutely beautiful. They are stunning to look through, and are really the heart of the book. It's what makes the book work, and make it worth reading. Between the quirky story line, and these illustrations, it very much put me in mind of the film Amelie. Surreal, bright and colorful, but ultimately lovable and endearing.

It's a story of being yourself, and being happy. A story that tells you not to give up on what you're looking for, and when you might find it. It encourages uniqueness and tells you that it's okay to be different, that some people just see the world differently. In Iris's case, literally.

This is a great book to read with your child together, to go over the lessons learned as well as the vibrant illustrations that perfectly match the corresponding texts.

I received a copy in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Review: I'm Not Missing by Carrie Fountain



Title: I'm Not Missing: A Novel
Author: Carrie Fountain
Format: Paperback ARC
Pub. Date: July 10th 2018
Source: Goodreads First Reads


Book Description:



When Miranda Black’s mother abandoned her, she took everything—the sun, moon, and stars—and Miranda found shelter in her friendship with Syd, who wore her own motherlessness like a badge of honor: Our mothers abandoned us. We won’t go begging for scraps.

When Syd runs away suddenly and inexplicably in the middle of their senior year, Miranda is abandoned once again, left to untangle the questions of why Syd left, where she is—and if she’s even a friend worth saving. Her only clue is Syd’s discarded pink leopard print cell phone and a single text contained there from the mysterious HIM. Along the way, forced to step out from Syd’s enormous shadow, Miranda finds herself stumbling into first love with Nick Allison of all people and learning what it means to be truly seen, to be finally not missing in her own life.






Review:


★★★★★

I was absolutely blown away by this book. I was shocked to learn that this is Carrie Fountain's first novel. It's beautiful, haunting, and just straight up well written.

However, I definitely wasn't surprised to learn that her first two publications are books of poetry. It's clear that Fountain has a way with words. The way that the writing flows is beautiful. It's a bit slow paced, but I liked that. This book is set in the desert area of the US, so for me the tempo of the writing matched the slow, low heat of the setting that the author drew me into.

I like that all of the characters were multi-faceted and had depth to them. You learn who Miranda is both at the side of her best friend Syd, and rediscover her along the way when Syd is no longer there. You learn who Nick is both through the eyes of Syd, who hates his guts, and through Miranda, who yearns for him even after he makes some questionable decisions. Even her father, who isn't really a main character, you learn to see the fatherly, put together side that Miranda sees and the scientific genius version that the rest of the world sees.

I like that Miranda was a little weird, and that she's relatable. She's flawed, like all of us. She respects prayer because of her family roots, but she isn't into the praying thing herself. So when she needs to sleep, she recites a historical speech to herself aloud instead. She breaks a romantic tension moment by laughing. She struggles with friendship and loss in a way that I think is just so human.

And then there's the case of the missing friend. Well, "not missing" friend. I actually wasn't sure where this plot arch was going, in a sort of a "who done it" type mystery style. I won't give spoilers, but I will say that I did not see the book taking the twists that it did, and it took me by surprise. But in a good way.

My only real criticism of this book has to do with the ending. I felt like there was still a few loose ends left frayed by the time the book was over. I'm a little disappointed that Miranda's mother wasn't a bigger part of the plot line. I would have really liked to have followed that path to learn more about what happened and why.

This book is gritty and emotional, but also full of twists and even quite a few laughs. Reading the slow paced, flowing language made it very relaxing and soothing to read, despite all of the drama and issues that are presented in the book. Be warned, there's some hard to swallow for some topics, like sex, abuse, and abandonment.

I hope this isn't the last novel by Carrie Fountain, and I recommend this to anyone who likes realistic fiction with a darker, problematic side to it.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. Thank you.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Review: Moribund by Genevieve Iseult Eldredge



Title: Morbund
Series: Circuit Fae #1
Author: Genevieve Iseult Eldredge
Format: Paperback, Print, 300 pages
Pub. Date: October 24th 2017
Source: Goodreads First Reads


Book Description:



Dark Fae. Romance. Evil Plots. High school.
Our heroines could be in for the greatest adventure ever.

If only they could decide whether to kill or kiss each other.

High school sophomore Syl Skye is an ordinary girl. At least, she’s trying to be. School photographer and all-around geek, she introverts hard and keeps her crush on sexy-hot glam-Goth star Euphoria on the down-low. But when a freak accident Awakens her slumbering power, Syl is forced to accept a destiny she never wanted—as the last sleeper-princess of the fair Fae.

Suddenly hunted by the dark Fae, Syl’s pretty sure things can’t get any worse. Until she discovers her secret crush, Euphoria, is really a dark Circuit Fae able to harness the killing magic in technology. Even worse, she’s been sent to destroy Syl. With mean girls and magic and dark Fae trying to kill her, it’ll take more than just “clap if you believe in fairies” to save Syl’s bacon—not to mention, her heart.






Review:


★★★

I wanted to love this book, really I did. It has a lot going for it, but unfortunately for me it just fell a bit fact.

Plus, the cover is beautiful. I would love to have a print of it on my wall.

I love books with gothic/punk characters. And this book definitely has one. Euphoria seems so cool. She's a gothic musician and a dark fae, and she's pretty bad ass. She has a great sense of loyalty and of sticking up for what she wants. Plus, she's LGBT. So, I absolutely love this character. I love the idea of taking faerie magic and combining it with technology and a cyber punk type style. It's an original idea, and I think it's a cool one.

The main character, however, fell flat for me. I found Syl pretty irritating and I didn't really care for her. I love that she loves girls. I love that she has a sense of fighting for what's right. But everything else about her just bugged me. She makes so many emo jokes, and self depreciating jokes about herself to the point of annoyance. There's a bunch of catty mean girl drama that's forced and eye-rolling. Her vocabulary also really bugged me- I'm not sure who this book is written for. The whole bad ass saving lives and being in love with rock stars in night clubs thing feels high school to me, but the way Syl talks is definitely more junior high, but it all seems confused. One quote is "so darn sexy".... So she's old enough to be thinking about sex and sex appeal, but can't say damn? It's weird. She can also "sure as heck try" and "holy cats". Not to mention she knows her true identity for all of 3 seconds before she somehow solves a problem that none of the other faeries have thought of.

It's also really hard to differentiate these voices at times. The chapters alternate, but the two characters are written very similarly to the point of confusion.

This book also has what I like to call Batman Syndrome. Remember all those old episodes of the Batman tv show, where while Batman was tied up, the villain would narrate his whole master plan while Adam West struggled to undo the ropes? And the whole time, you're thinking "Why are you telling him all this, just do the plan!" That's what happened here. There's a ton of dialogue and narration but not enough actual story telling and world building and actions. I got kinda talked out.

All in all, this book was a mixed bag for me. I totally understand why people love it, and I definitely love parts of it. But parts of it were just a bit too disappointing for me. I'd be willing to reread this in the future to see if I still feel the same way, but for now I'm going to hold off on continuing the series.

I received a copy in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Mini Review: James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl



Title: James and the Giant Peach
Author: Roald Dahl
Illustrator: Lane Smith
Format: Paperback, 144 pages
Pub. Date: April 1st 1996
Source: Goodwill


Book Description:



A little magic can take you a long way...

Roald Dahl was a champion of the underdog and all things little—in this case, an orphaned boy oppressed by two nasty, self-centered aunts. How James escapes his miserable life with the horrible aunts and becomes a hero is a Dahlicious fantasy of the highest order. You will never forget resourceful little James and his new family of magically overgrown insects—a ladybug, a spider, a grasshopper, a glowworm, a silkworm, and the chronic complainer, a centipede with a hundred gorgeous shoes. Their adventures aboard a luscious peach as large as a house take them across the Atlantic Ocean, through waters infested with peach-eating sharks and skies inhabited by malevolent Cloudmen, to a ticker-tape parade in New York City.

This happily ever after contemporary fairy tale is a twentieth-century classic that every child deserves to know. And Lane Smith's endearingly funny illustrations are a perfect match for the text.






Review:


★★★

I was feeling nostalgic, and what better way to cure that than to read books that you remember from your childhood. This book will always have a special place in my heart, but it is a wee bit more problematic than I remember it.

First, the illustrations. I love them. They're in that distinct style that I associate with Roald Dahl. It's dark, almost creepy. And yet somehow, endearing and charming. It's exactly how I remember it.

The story is just as silly and fantastical as I remembered, but it's a little bit darker than memory served. For example, the bugs have a casual conversation about killing James's aunts. There's also some questionable racism, which was probably okay in the 60s when it was published but reading it again in 2018 ho boy is that troubling.

All in all, I don't know that I'll read it again, but it still made me smile and it still holds its own from when I was young, albeit a bit more concerning.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Review: Goth Girl and the Fete Worse than Death by Chris Riddell!



Title: Goth Girl and the Fete Worse than Death
Series: Goth Girl #2
Author: Chris Riddell
Format: Hardcover, 218 pages
Pub. Date: September 25th 2014
Source: Half Price Books


Book Description:



Preperations are under way for the Full-Moon Fete and the Great Ghastly-Gorm Bake Off.

Celebrity cooks are arriving at the hall for the big event, and as usual Maltravers is acting suspiciously. On top of all this, Ada's elusive lady's made Marylebone has a surprising secret, and everyone seems to have forgotten Ada's birthday!






Review:


★★★★

So, my aesthetic and interests are definitely slanted more to the "goth" end of the spectrum. So when I see a book with goth in the title, especially about a goth girl, it's a big sell for me. Plus, there's illustrations and the binding is super pretty. I haven't read book one of the series but figured I'd give this one a try. I didn't feel like I was missing anything from the first book.

First, let's talk illustrations. They're super fun. They're done in a style that reminds me a bit of the Series of Unfortunate Events. Sort of dark, but well detailed and a bit whimsical. There's also fun little footnotes used to further explain things.

I think this is a book that works on two levels, sort of like Shrek. I know that's a weird comparison. But have you ever watched a movie or tv show for kids, and realized you and the kids are watching two different shows? Like they're laughing at a fart joke, but you're laughing at a more adult one? That's sort of how this book works. There are so many jokes and word play and references that I'm sure kids don't get. Not dirty ones, but for example there's a chef in this book named William Flake. His pet's name is Tyger, Tyger. As an English grad, I laughed. There's also a chef modeled after Gordon Ramsay whose signature dish is "A Nightmare in the Kitchen". I love Kitchen Nightmares. There's poodles named Belle & Sebastian, which is a band. The book is chockablock full of these sort of in-jokes, and I loved it.

It blends fantasy really well. There's vampires, there's a magical circus. There's pastries that defy physics. There's even a bear who's a housekeeper. I found it both silly and endearing, and I think that's good in a kid's book.

There's even a little mini-biography included in a sleeve on the back cover of the hardcover edition that helps to tie up the loose ends.

The only criticism I have is that the end scene is a bit sudden and rushed. It felt very "rips-off-the-mask-of-the-housekeeper I would have gotten away with it too if it wasn't for those meddling kids".

This is a fun read for kids or kids at heart. It's written in a similar vein to Series of Unfortunate Events or The 9 Lives of Alexander Baddenfield. It's a bit dark but a lot of fun, and I'd definitely read the other ones in this series.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Guide Review: The Fangirl's Guide to the Galaxy by Sam Maggs



Title: The Fangirl's Guide to the Galaxy: A Handbook for Girl Geeks
Author: Sam Maggs
Format: Hardcover, 208 pages
Pub. Date: May 12th 2015
Source: Quirk Books


Book Description:



Fanfic, cosplay, cons, books, memes, podcasts, vlogs, OTPs and RPGs and MMOs and more—it’s never been a better time to be a girl geek. The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy is the ultimate handbook for ladies living the nerdy life, a fun and feminist take on the often male-dominated world of geekdom. With delightful illustrations and an unabashed love for all the in(ternet)s and outs of geek culture, this book is packed with tips, playthroughs, and cheat codes for everything from starting an online fan community to planning a convention visit to supporting fellow female geeks in the wild.





Review:




Yikes. Let's get this over with, shall we?

This definitely wasn't the book for me, that's for sure. From the get-go, I'm not sure who the demographic for this is. It's written in a really juvenile tone, but it mentions getting fandom tattoos, so... Not sure the age that this is meant for. It says in the book that this guide isn't just for girls to learn from, yet that's what the title of the book is. The word fan isn't gendered in the first place, so it was a choice to market it to women. This book also says that no one can be classified and we're all special... Then proceeds to talk about labels of fans and what defines them.

It's supposed to be a relatively feminist text, based on the cover, title, and introduction to the series. But I didn't feel that way. The male casts of shows are described not as talented, but as "yummy". There's also a fair amount of discussion of shipping characters and having crushes (like Han Solo). There's nothing wrong with ships or having character crushes, but it shouldn't be a focus of why to watch a show. People watch for talented actors, good writing, and plot lines that keep you hooked.

There's also a section that addresses how annoying "fan speak" is, but the book is still full of it. Words like glomp, squee, and feels are all in play. There's even a textual representation of a .GIF in this book. Like.... why though? I can see including it in an ebook or digital copy but it seems silly in a hardcover. That said, there's some interesting word/reference origins here, but most of it isn't new to you if you spend as much time on the internet as I do.

It's been 4 years since this book was published, and it's already incredibly outdated. Ben Affleck as Batman is a reality. This is something that, in the book, hasn't happened yet. There's also a ton more Star Wars and Avengers films (which, Avengers is really the only love Marvel gets). No one thinks of Aquaman as a lame hero anymore, not since Momoa got cast. Slang is off, shows are no longer relevant. I'm sure it was better years ago, but it doesn't all hold up.

A lot of this book is common sense. "How do I convert a friend to my fandom?" Watch stuff together. Not that hard of a concept. "How do I bring fangirl to my life?" Wear merchandise and hang a poster. "How do I notice a Harry Potter fan?" I mean, talk to people? Also a Hogwarts shirt is a pretty clear sign. I don't know why things like this needed explaining.

Though I clearly have issues with this book, I do give credit where credit is due. There's a section on comic con etiquette and what to expect your first time that I think is incredibly helpful. There's a highlight of popular conventions and where they're held, and some good resources for finding meets and stuff in your area. For me though, that's all I enjoyed about this book.

Maybe it's just me. If you learn something from this book, great. Genuinely. But it wasn't for me, and I don't recommend it.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Review: Hollow Beauty by Khristina Chess



Title: Hollow Beauty
Author: Khristina Chess
Format: Paperback, 225 pages
Pub. Date: September 13th 2014
Source: Goodreads First Reads


Book Description:



When tall, gorgeous Brody asks Olivia to the prom, she’s ecstatic—until he suggests that she use the two months before the dance to lose some weight. Does he think she’s fat? His comment sends Olivia on a spiral of insecurity and dangerously rapid weight loss that borders on anorexia.

As her pounds vanish, her friendship deepens with Ross, the new prep cook at the diner where she works. Despite his mysterious limp, he doesn’t suffer crippling low self-esteem like Olivia does; usually, she can’t even look at herself in the mirror anymore. But when she’s riding dirt bikes and searching for caves with Ross, she doesn’t feel ugly or fat, just herself again—hanging out and having fun.

With Brody, instead of finding the romance and true love she had hoped for, she feels like a terrified rabbit that he’s going to devour. She refuses to think about that. She’s almost thin enough to be beautiful for the prom.

And then the unthinkable happens.






Review:


★★

I'm always interested in realistic young adult books. The ones that address the tough stuff: eating disorders, self harm, conversion therapy, depression. Those are the books that helped me the most when I was that age, and I still look to them in adulthood. This isn't the first book on eating disorders that I've read, and it's something that I've dealt with in real life as well. Unfortunately, I didn't think that Hollow Beauty did a very good job with this topic.

What bothers me the most, I think, is how quickly the eating disorder issue presents itself. The boy she has a crush on tells her she needs to lose weight on page 4 of the book. And she just clings to this and the disorder starts. Did she have self-esteem issues before? Is weight something she's struggled with before? Was she already thinking about slimming down? I don't know. In the first few pages up to that point, she is happy with some fries after a sports meet. And then like lightning, out of nowhere, it begins. I wish that there was more about Olivia at the beginning, because it is so instantaneous that it comes off as odd.

I also don't really think her weight loss seemed realistic. People noticed the second she lost even a tiny bit of weight, and felt the need to comment on it. No one notices a pound or two, especially for athletes, who are always getting into shape. Not to mention that she's super rude to anyone who even shows a little of concern.

Her version of love just makes me sad. That you need to be all oogly eyed and lovey dovey and holding hands. Her judge of character at one point is that the jerk she likes doesn't open her car door, but the friend who zomg she can't POSSIBLY have feelings for, does. Such an odd little thing to use as a measurement, but whatever floats your boat I guess?

Another thing that bugged me is that while Jerk is talking about sex with her, and she's clearly uncomfortable with all of it, she has the bright idea that maybe she should just drink first so she'll like it. I'm sure that some girls out there really think like that but GOOD GOD, NO. In another moment of oddness, Olivia- who gets upset when she is even just a few calories off of where she thought and can't eat much without hating herself- slams a hard lemonade without thinking about it. Alcohol is terrible for you, weight loss wise, especially something as sugary as a Mike's.

I know I have a lot of problems with this book, but it wasn't ALL bad.

I liked that at the start of each chapter, it gave Olivia's current weight, and her goal weight. It was a good way to organize where she is in the journey and to keep track of what's going on.

I loved Ross, the friend she makes at the diner. He has a scar and a limp and is always kind to her. He's patient when she asks a million questions about his hobby, he shows concern for her weight loss, and I think it's cute that, as he's a cook, he just wants to feed her. If he was in this story more, I would have liked it more.

The book also does a good job of showing how toxic the internet/online groups can be. She joins a weight loss site called Blubber Busters which has a forum. She realizes quickly that support isn't always helpful, and that some of these girls take the weight obsession too far. While I'm not on eating disorder/weight loss apps, I am in other communities that definitely have some cesspools. I think it was a good thing to include.

There's also discussion questions in the back, if you're reading this for a club or class or something.

Overall, I found this book problematic and it wasn't for me. But it wasn't a total loss. There were some parts that were well represented, and enough interesting points that kept me reading until the end of the book. This might be a case of "it's not you, it's me", since other people seem to really like it. But, it just wasn't the book for me. Perhaps it'll be a better read for you.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Review: Hades Speaks! by Vicky Alvear Shecter



Title: Hades Speaks!: A Guide to the Underworld by the Greek God of the Dead
Series: Secrets of the Ancient Gods
Author: Vicky Alvear Shecter
Illustrator: J.E. Larson
Format: Hardcover, 128 pages
Pub. Date: September 1st 2014
Source: Blog Win


Book Description:



Hades, god of the dead, welcomes readers on a dangerous tour of his underworld kingdom, filled with monsters, furies, giants, and vampire demons. Along the way, he reveals ancient death rites and sinister curses, tells hair-raising stories, and cracks jokes to die for. With his witty voice and ghoulish sense of humor, Hades is the perfect guide through this fresh and imaginative work of nonfiction that reads like a novel. Includes a glossary, bibliography, and index.





Review:


★★★★★

It's no secret that I love mythology. I have a degree in ancient civilizations and classics for a reason! No matter if they're historical texts or picture books, I'm always a sucker for myths. Of the Grecian pantheon, my favorite god is the often misunderstood and underrated Hades. So when I saw this book, I had to give it a go. I wasn't disappointed.

Hades Speaks! is a book that stands apart to me because it's actually written from the perspective of Hades giving the reader a tour of the Underworld. That's such a cool way to present this information, especially since it's a middle grade-ish age book. It makes learning fun, and makes it easy to forget that you're even learning at all.

I appreciated that Hades wasn't boring or cookie cutter. He had some depth and development as a character. He was bitter towards his siblings and a bit of a complainer- which if you've read anything about Hades, that's pretty accurate. But he cracks a few jokes and just wants to clear up his side of history that pop culture has gotten wrong. There's even a reference to Harry Potter & Fluffy.

The journey through the afterlife of the fallen Greeks is a very enjoyable one. There's a good flow. The information is explained by way of story telling, so it's not just an information dump of Greek facts. You're introduced to different monsters and underworld inhabitants that aren't really mentioned much, at least here in the US. (Shoutout to my girl Hecate who never gets much representation).

There's also illustrations throughout the book. They're well done, and really accentuate the texts.

If you, or your children, are interested in learning about Greek gods, this book is a great way to learn. Hades Speaks! should be a welcome addition to any classroom or library. I look forward to reading other books about the gods in this series.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Mini Review: Rebels: City of Indra by Kendall Jenner, Kylie Jenner, & Maya Sloan



Title: Rebels: City of Indra
Series: The Story of Lex and Livia #1
Authors: Kendall Jenner, Kylie Jenner, & Maya Sloan
Format: Hardcover, 352 pages
Pub. Date: June 3rd 2014
Source: Goodreads First Reads/Publisher


Book Description:



Kendall and Kylie Jenner, stars on the hit reality show Keeping Up with the Kardashians, present their debut novel—a thrilling dystopian story about two super-powered girls who embark on a journey together, not knowing they’re twins.

Two girls, two worlds apart.

Lex lives down below, close to rock bottom. She grew up in the orphanage, alone, and now is training to be a Special Op so she can finally destroy the rebels with her own hands. She needs no one.

Livia lives miles above everything on a floating island in the city of Indra. She is training too, but for a life that she doesn’t want. She wants to be free, to finally leave her floating island, and to run with her beloved horse until she can’t run any longer.

And then there’s Kane—Lex’s only friend, whom she would walk through fire for. And when she finds that Kane is in danger, she doesn’t hesitate to leave her post and blast her way to the top of Indra to save him. She just needs to get one stubborn, unexpectedly clever airgirl to tell her where he is first.

In this fast-paced, dystopian thriller, Lex and Livia reluctantly team up to save Kane after discovering that they share a mysterious identical mark—not realizing that their biggest danger is in each other.






Review:


★★

I want to start this off by saying I have no grudges, or opinions, about the Jenner/Kardashian clan. I didn't go into this to poke fun at the Jenner sisters for writing a book. I went into it because it sounded like something that I would enjoy. For reasons (almost) completely unrelated to the cache of the authors, I didn't care much for this book.

It felt forced. There are elements of so many other science fiction/dystopian tropes here, that it all becomes muddled and confusing. Mysterious underground civilization? Check. Weirdly affluent above ground kingdom? Check. Plastic surgery being almost required of the upper crust? Check. Orphanage? Check. Love triangle? Ugh.

That said, I thought the world building was okay. It was a bit overwhelming and overdone, but painted a pretty good visual picture.

I didn't care for either of the main characters. They seemed to be made from cardboard. They're boring, they're flat. They don't seem too developed or interesting, even. Because of that, I didn't care about the plot. I wasn't invested in the characters, so what happened to them was sort of a moot point.

I do think it's a little funny though (this is the one point where the authors mattered to me) that one of the lead girls poo-poos plastic surgery/body modifications because she doesn't need it to be herself. From a Jenner. I'm just saying, compare the author photo on the back of this book to their current faces.

I can see maybe where young teens would maybe like this, but if you've read good sci-fi or dystopia before, I feel like you're going to have some problems with this. Enter at your own risk.

I received a copy of this book from the Goodreads First Reads program in exchange for my honest review. Thank you.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Blog Tour Review & Giveaway: From the Earth to the Shadows by Amanda Hocking!



Title: From the Earth to the Shadows

Series: Valkyrie #2

Author: Amanda Hocking

Pub. Date: April 24th 2018



About the Book:


The epic conclusion to the thrilling Valkyrie duology by New York Times bestselling YA author Amanda Hocking, From the Earth to the Shadows.

While dealing with dark revelations about her life and her world, Malin finds herself with new allies--and new enemies. Her quest for the truth leads her to places she never thought possible, and she's never been one to shy away from a fight. But for all her strength and determination, will it be enough to save the world before it's too late?

Get It Here:


BAM | Powells | IndieBound | Amazon | B&N

About the Author:


Amanda Hocking is the author of over twenty young adult novels, including the New York Times bestselling Trylle Trilogy and Kanin Chronicles. Her love of pop culture and all things paranormal influence her writing. She spends her time in Minnesota, taking care of her menagerie of pets and working on her next book.

Blog | Website | Twitter | Facebook



Review:


★★★

I was very excited to get a chance to read this book. It's no secret that I'm a fan of Amanda Hocking's work. Plus, I had read book one in this series - Between the Blade and the Heart - earlier on in the year and I enjoyed it very much.

From the Earth to the Shadows contains the same lovable cast that were in book one. I appreciated the characters in this book as well, since even the ones that I didn't care for, I understood why I didn't care for them. Not all people in life are likable, so why would fictional people? I feel like I liked Malin a bit more this time around, she seemed more approachable. Maybe I'd just gotten used to her. Either way, it worked.

There is a lot of action packed into this book, as is true with the first one. There's a lot to take in, and a lot to follow. On the one hand, this is great because it feels like it could be an action movie. It keeps the pace quick, and it feels like you're flying through the story. I appreciate that- one of my least favorite feelings is when a book d r a a a a a a g s on forever.

But on the other hand, it is a lot to take in. There's a lot of characters to remember, and background/plot information to keep straight. Some times it felt a bit rushed, like it moved along too quickly, or like some plot steps were a bit too convenient.

Ultimately though, I enjoyed this book. It felt very similar to the first in tone and pace, and I loved a chance to go into the world that Hocking created. I definitely recommend reading book one before you read this one, though. If you've read book one and enjoyed it, then I'll think you'll like the second part of the duology as well. It mixes romance, mythology, and a kick butt heroine into one fast paced adventure through the underworld.

Giveaway:


- One (1) winner will receive a finished paperback copy of FROM THE EARTH TO THE SHADOWS, U.S. entries only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Review: Can a Princess Be a Firefighter? by Carole P. Roman



Title: Can a Princess Be a Firefighter?
Author: Carole P. Roman
Illustrator: Mateya Arkova
Format: Paperback, 36 pages
Pub. Date: March 25th 2016
Source: Author


Book Description:



Two little girls pepper their father with questions about whether or not they can be a profession and still be a princess. Motivated by her granddaughter's fascination with all things 'princess,' Carole P. Roman penned this adorable poem celebrating all the wonderful possibilities waiting ahead for them.





Review:


★★★★★

What a wonderful children's book.

First, I'd like to talk about the actual story. As the title suggests, the lead little girls ask the question, "Can a Princess Be a Firefighter?" I think all of us as little kids grow up with some version of this dream job that smooshes multiple jobs together. Maybe an astronaut who studies dinosaurs, or a ballerina veterinarian. When the world is our oyster, and we aim for the sky. This book reaffirms that girls can do anything they put their minds to. There's nothing wrong with wanting a stereotypically "girly" career- like a ballerina, a nurse, or a princess. But there is also nothing wrong with wanting to be in a STEM field, a doctor, an astronaut, a cop. The sky's the limit. It's a message worth repeating, and not just to our daughters but our sons too.

The book is written in a rhyming, nursery story way. It makes it more fun to read aloud, and also is a clever way of making the story flow. As a kid, my favorite stories were always the ones that rhymed!

And then there's the artwork. It's very fun and detailed, and very colorful. It'll hold a young reader's attention, and the pictures match well with the text on the page.

I recommend this to the parents and teachers of young children. This story has a great message, and goes about exploring it in a really fun way.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Review: Fun Home by Alison Bechdel



Title: Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic
Author: Alison Bechdel
Format: Paperback, 232 pages
Pub. Date: June 5th 2007
Source: Half Price Books


Book Description:



In this graphic memoir, Alison Bechdel charts her fraught relationship with her late father.

Distant and exacting, Bruce Bechdel was an English teacher and director of the town funeral home, which Alison and her family referred to as the Fun Home. It was not until college that Alison, who had recently come out as a lesbian, discovered that her father was also gay. A few weeks after this revelation, he was dead, leaving a legacy of mystery for his daughter to resolve.






Review:


★★★★

I didn't know anything about Fun Home when I saw it on Broadway in Chicago. My sister is a season pass holder to the theatre, and so we went. I was told, "I don't know, it's a musical about lesbians or something". Seeing as I'm LGBT, that was enough. I didn't expect to fall in love with the musical and the story, but I did. I was eager to get my hands on Bechdel's book to get a deeper experience out of it. I wasn't disappointed.

I wasn't expecting this book to be so smartly written. I know that sounds insulting, and I definitely don't mean it to be. I know Alison Bechdel is smart (understatement of the year, since I'm pretty sure she's a MacArthur grant recipient). But wrongly, I assumed that because it was a graphic novel, it wouldn't contain much.

I was wrong, and I stand corrected.

The amount of literary comparison and quotation and references in this book are insanely plentiful. Not to mention well done. As an English grad, it warms the cockles of my cold, cynical heart. I too speak of my life, and the people in it, in terms of literature. I related strongly. Sometimes I even, admittedly, had to go back and read again to make sure I understood the bookishness fully. It's not a fast read, despite the illustrations.

I also related strongly with the idea of loving one's father, but also hating them. It is confusing to people who don't understand. My father could be warm and charming in a room full of people. But home with us, he was cold, and he was cruel. I lived my life in a state of confusion, because which of these people was my father? I have people who don't believe he was abusive, because he was so fun. I have people who know how abusive he was at home, who have gotten angry at me for staying in contact with him. It is a very weird mix of feelings to even explain to myself, let alone to other people. Alison Bechdel, while having drastically different circumstances, managed to convey this perfectly. Far better than I could ever say. Alison, I feel your heart saying hi.

And then, there's the artwork. It's very odd to see such an emotionally driven biography in this medium, but it's super effective. At first I was disappointed that these illustrations aren't in color. But in a panel, she explains why she doesn't use color anymore.... And I unfortunately relate to that too. It no longer disappointed me. The art style is well done, familiar but with detail. I appreciated the many references to Sunbeam Bread throughout the course of the book.

I also liked that the book wasn't just somber all the way through. There are moments of humor. There are moments that as a young LGBT woman that made me smile, or upset me, or just hit home. Like when I first realized what it was like to be different. Like life, this book is filled with ups and downs and complications and emotions. It can be rough in spots, but it's worth it.

I'd absolutely recommend this to anyone who enjoys the musical Fun Home, who grew up queer, or who likes gritty, realistic autobiographies. It's so well done, both in text and in illustration. It will remain on my sexuality shelf for the foreseeable future.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Stacking the Shelves [110]



Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews where we get to show off the books we've won, bought, or otherwise received in the past week. If a book catches your eye, *click* the picture to go to the Goodreads page of that book.

I wish spring would come already!

In My Mailbox



Passion Ignites by Donna Grant


In My E-Mailbox



Theo and the Forbidden Language by Melanie Ansley
Dark Desires by Aja James
Pink by Stephanie Powell

Mini Review- Cave Kiddos: A Sunny Day by Eric Jay Cash



Title: Cave Kiddos: A Sunny Day
Author: Eric Jay Cash
Format: Paperback, 26 pages
Pub. Date: February 6th 2016
Source: Publisher


Book Description:



Cave Kiddos is a fun book about four Paleolithic children who share the experience of developing and learning important words and concepts. Join Alk, Haha, Lala, and Zee as they discover the world around them.





Review:


★★

I'll start off with the positive thing I liked about this book, and that is the illustrations. They're very cartoonish and animated, and they're very cute. They will certainly hold the attention of younger readers. They are colored well and can be appreciated without having text along the way in the book.

But there is text in the book: albeit very, very little. The book follows these four little cave children as they explore the world around them. They learn the word "water"..... And that's it.

This might be good for really, really, really early readers, or as the author's bio suggests, for kids with speech delays/problems. But for most kids, this won't hold interest for very long. I wouldn't recommend it.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Review: The Year of the Geek by James Clarke



Title: The Year of the Geek: 365 Adventures from the Sci-Fi Universe
Author: James Clarke
Format: eARC
Pub. Date: October 19th 2017
Source: Publisher


Book Description:



The Year of the Geek is a fascinating look into geek culture. Each day will tell a different story from the sci-fi universe, from famous franchises and figures such as Star Wars, The Matrix, Peter Jackson and Luc Besson, to lesser known stories, including the French cult classic City of Lost Children, the Japanese anime Akira and bestselling German novelist, Marcus Heitz. With text written by self-confessed geek James Clarke and accompanied by over 100 infographics that have been specially commissioned for this book, The Year of the Geek celebrates all things geek in a new and intriguing way.





Review:


★★★★

This is such a great little guide. It's the sort of a book that would make a really good Christmas gift or stocking stuffer.

As the title suggests, this book is a year long, with one page per day. Each day there's a fun little factoid. It might be an author or film star's birthday, or when a book was released, or something else like that.

Each day is written in a fun way that's educational, but without making it sound like it's a Wikipedia page or text book. The graphics are really well done. There's lots of charts and infographics that make it seem more fun and more engaging.

I was a bit worried that this book might be "too geeky" for me. What I mean by that is, I'm a huge fan of Fantasy and books, but I'm not really the biggest sci-fi buff, and I have a less than stellar interest in anime and comic books. But the information was interesting no matter the subject, and it was just enough to be a "fun fact" sized thing to learn. For me, it's a good way to start the morning.

If you or someone in your life is a lover of the Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, the SyFy channel, or any similar subjects, this is a cool book to have around.

I received a copy in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Review: Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman



Title: Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison
Author: Piper Kerman
Format: Paperback, 314 pages
Pub. Date: March 8th 2011
Source: Half Price Books


Book Description:



With a career, a boyfriend, and a loving family, Piper Kerman barely resembles the reckless young woman who delivered a suitcase of drug money ten years before. But that past has caught up with her. Convicted and sentenced to fifteen months at the infamous federal correctional facility in Danbury, Connecticut, the well-heeled Smith College alumna is now inmate #11187–424—one of the millions of people who disappear “down the rabbit hole” of the American penal system. From her first strip search to her final release, Kerman learns to navigate this strange world with its strictly enforced codes of behavior and arbitrary rules. She meets women from all walks of life, who surprise her with small tokens of generosity, hard words of wisdom, and simple acts of acceptance. Heartbreaking, hilarious, and at times enraging, Kerman’s story offers a rare look into the lives of women in prison—why it is we lock so many away and what happens to them when they’re there.





Review:


★★

It's worth saying up front that, yes, I do watch the Netflix series of the same name. However, I understand that the real life and the fictional life are two different things, so I will try my best not to compare the two: they are very different experiences.

This book is alright. It was a very slow read for me. I expected it to be faster paced, knowing that Piper has a history as a traveler and having been shipped around the prison system. But not much really happened.

There are so many different characters in the book, that it's really hard to keep everyone straight. Aside from a few reoccurring characters like Pop (Red) and Nora (Alex), not much depth is given to a lot of these girls. You don't get to know them very well as a whole. I also wasn't a fan of how she describes people. She often finds a way to insult them. Like, yeah she's pretty but she's super dumb, or she's ugly but she's so sweet. It was off-putting.

There was a lot of inner dialogue and not so much talking between characters. I think this is part of why it felt like nothing was happening. Her thoughts were sometimes interesting and almost always understandable. Questions like what is my fiance doing right now? Will I make it out of here? How did I end up here? But I was surprised by the lack of acknowledgement of her crimes. Towards the end she makes one flippant comment about how she committed a crime, but throughout the book there's definitely the implication of "I don't deserve to be here, I'm not like these people". There's no real growth or evolution. Although, she is on a women's prison board now, so some positivity has coming from it (not to mention those Netflix checks- genuinely, good for her on that front!).

That said, I do appreciate that she acknowledges her privilege often. While it does get annoying to hear about how much she has compared to others, I'm glad that she at least realized it. She had a job waiting for her on the outside. She received tons of mail and books and had a great lawyer. I do think that it's odd that no one seemed to care that she went to prison. By her own detail, she is waspy and she went to Smith. Yet her family and friends were just like "oh, okay, see you when you're out". It's great that they were so supportive.... Just seems odd for such an upper class family to not be appalled. Just an interesting observation.

The most interesting part of the book to me was the end section, which tells about her brief time in the Cook County jail system. She was held in the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Chicago, Illinois during her testimony for court. I'm from Cook County, and as she detailed how terrible the conditions were, I couldn't help but to feel like "yeah, that sounds right" based off of our news... And that's a damn shame.

I think what made this an odd read for me is that it reads sort of like a college application essay. A lot of it is personal, first hand experience. Who am I to say her stay was boring? It's her life, and I'm sure it was terrifying and awful. I certainly wouldn't want to be in her position. But there's strangely inserted facts and percentages and things that make it almost seem like it's a research paper. The two different writing styles don't mesh together very well, and makes the book seem rather disorganized, and interrupts the flow of the narrative.

I do appreciate that she includes a list of resources for jails, prisons, and the family/friends of those who are incarcerated in the back of the book. I hope I never need them, but I think it's a great thing to include.

And one brief comparison to the show: you can mostly tell which characters are based on who, even though the names have been changed. I did think it was cool that some quotes from the show were taken verbatim from the text.

Ultimately, I'm not mad at this book. I'm not sorry I read it. But I don't think that I'll have any urge to read it again, and I don't think I'd recommend it to a friend. Perhaps if you're more affluent than I am, or if you've done time (or are facing it presently), maybe you'll have more to gain from this book than I did. It's not a bad book, it just could have been done better.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Blog Tour & Giveaway: Esher by Felicity Heaton!

Esher (Guardians of Hades Series Book 3)

Felicity Heaton

Prince of the Underworld and Lord of Water, Esher was banished from his home by his father, Hades, two centuries ago and given a new duty and purpose—to keep our world and his from colliding in a calamity foreseen by the Moirai.

Together with his six brothers, he fights to defend the gates to the Underworld from daemons bent on breaching them and gaining entrance to that forbidden land, striving to protect his home from their dark influence. Tormented by his past, Esher burns with hatred towards mortals and bears a grudge against Hades for forcing him into their world, condemning him to a life of battling to keep a fragile hold on his darker side—a side that wants to kill every human in the name of revenge.

Until he finds himself stepping in to save a female—a beautiful mortal filled with light and laughter who draws him to her as fiercely as the pull of the moon, stirring conflict in his heart and rousing dangerous needs long forgotten.

Aiko knows from the moment she sets eyes on the black-haired warrior that he is no ordinary man, just as she’s no ordinary woman. Blessed with a gift, she can see through his stormy fa├žade to the powerful god beneath, and the pain and darkness that beats inside him—pain she grows determined to heal as she falls deeper under his spell and into his world.

When the daemon bent on turning Esher against his brothers makes her move, will Esher find the strength to overcome his past and fulfil his duty, or will the lure of revenge allow the darkness in his heart to seize control, transforming him into a god intent on destroying the world?

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Enter the grand tour-wide giveaway to win a $75, $50 or $25 Amazon Gift Card at the Esher book page. This giveaway is international and open to everyone, and ends at midnight on April 8th.

Enter now: http://www.felicityheaton.co.uk/guardians-of-hades-esher-paranormal-romance-book.php

Rain hammered the pavement around him, scoured the walls of the towering buildings that hemmed him in and stole the clouds from view with their bright neon signs, and saturated the two daemons gathering their wits around fifty feet from him in the narrow Tokyo alley. It mingled with the black blood that turned the air rank and coppery, a stench he wanted to erase from this world.

And he would.

Esher moved forwards, through the heavy droplets that began to gather and condense, responding to the hunger mounting inside him—a desire to eradicate the foul creatures stumbling onto their feet now.

At the far end of the narrow street beyond them, a mortal male tucked beneath a clear convenience store umbrella paused and glanced their way.

Big mistake.

The darkness was swift to rise, to pound in Esher’s blood like a tide that battered him, powerful waves that rolled over him and washed all the light away.

On a black snarl, he pressed the toe of his right boot into the wet pavement and launched forwards, little more than a blur as he closed the distance between him and his prey.

The male daemon swiftly turned his way and stepped in front of his comrade—a female. Protecting her? Valen had reported the daemons in Rome had done something similar.

As if the creatures were capable of feeling anything tender or sweet.

They were as devoid of softer emotions as he was.

But still the male reached behind him and shoved her in the hip, forcing her to stumble out of the firing line just as Esher threw his right hand forwards. The rain that had been gathering around him exploded towards the male, whipping into a spiralling spear as it zoomed away from Esher. It hit the male with the force of a tidal wave, sending him flying through the air. The wretched daemon hit the pavement near the far end of the alley and rolled to a halt next to the mortal.

Esher growled and spat on the pavement, the gnawing hunger growing stronger as he stared at the wretched human.

It would pay in blood for daring to remain near him, for daring to gaze upon him.

It would pay in its own blood.

His lips stretched into a cold grin, the lower one stinging as the cut on it pulled, filling his mouth with the metallic tang of his own blood.

He twitched as memories surged, wrapped around him and felt as if they were pulling him down into them with claws that shredded his insides—tore his heart to pieces.

Blood.

So much red.

He had never seen so much of it, had emptied his stomach more than once when they had been butchering the male in front of him, spilling crimson and flesh on the hay and dirt. Their sick laughter had prodded at him, ripping at his strength and dragging him down. He had been weak. Stripped of his powers. Left vulnerable. He had been an easy target for their fear, their rage. They had beaten him. Tore more of his strength from him. He had been weaker. Wounded. Bound and broken.

But fucking gods, he had shown them the error of their ways when his power had returned.

Just as he would show this human.

Esher reached his left hand out and focused on the mortal male. It took only a brief thought. One moment the male was standing, the next he was prone on the floor, blood leaking from his eyes, nose, mouth and ears. Weak. Humans were weak. Pathetic. Unworthy of the protection of the gods.

Thunder rolled overhead, golden lightning striking a split-second later, snapping at the buildings that loomed over him and tearing a fearful gasp from the daemons.

A warning from the king of gods.

His uncle could go fuck himself.

The mortals deserved death.

He wasn’t on this plane to protect them. He was here to protect one realm—the Underworld. His home.

This entire world could burn and he wouldn’t give a shit as long as his home was safe.

The male daemon picked himself up, pausing to look at the dead human, his dark eyes wide and a flicker of fear emerging in them as he turned them on Esher.

And the female.

The blonde staggered onto her feet, clutching her stomach, her limbs visibly trembling beneath her long black raincoat that matched the one the male wore. They had come prepared for the turn in the weather. It was almost a shame they hadn’t come prepared to win. It had been a long time since he had fought a worthy adversary.

Keras’s words rang in his ears.

An adversary was coming for him, one of the group bent on destroying the gates to the Underworld that he and his brothers protected, all in an effort to merge the worlds and claim dominion over both.

Esher just hoped they were worthy.

He wanted a good fight, one that would test him to his limit.

Fire tore through his right arm and he grunted and snapped back to the alley. The blonde bitch leaped away from him, her silver knife stained crimson.

With his blood.

It rolled down his forearm to his wrist beneath the sleeve of his long black coat and he raised his hand before him and watched it drip to the ground to dissipate in the water beneath his leather boots.

Water that began to vibrate, tiny droplets of it bouncing higher and higher into the air as he stared at the blood flowing along the side of his hand to bead at the tip of his little finger and fall.

Typical of inferior creatures to use weapons in a battle.

He had never understood why some of his brothers relied on them too, one or two of them even favouring mortal-made guns, when they were gods and wielded powers strong enough to defeat any adversary they might face.

Personally, he never used weapons.

His powers were more than enough.

Without even taking his eyes off the blood, he flicked his left hand towards the female as she launched at him again, her blade flashing in the neon lights and a battle cry on her lips.

It turned to a scream.

She dropped from the air, landing in a shaking heap on the wet pavement, her convulsions growing more and more violent as he slowly turned his gaze on her. Hatred seethed inside him as he looked at her, as he commanded every molecule of her vile blood to dance to his song. He despised using his power over water to end his prey in such a way, because it was just too easy, but she had brought it upon herself.

“No!” the male barked and sprinted towards her.

He sank to his knees at her side and grabbed her arm, pulling her onto her back.

Too late.

Black blood rolled from her eyes and her mouth, streamed from her nose and her ears.

Esher closed his right hand into a fist.

Her body lurched upwards as her heart exploded.

“Bastard.” The male daemon shoved to his feet.

Esher slowly smiled. Crooked a bloodstained finger.

Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.ca | Amazon.com.au

iBooks USA | iBooks UK | iBooks Canada | iBooks Australia | iBooks New Zealand

Barnes and Noble | Kobo Books | Google Play

Book 1: Ares

Book 2: Valen

Book 3: Esher

Book 4: Marek – Coming in 2018



Felicity Heaton is a New York Times and USA Today international best-selling author writing passionate paranormal romance books. In her books, she creates detailed worlds, twisting plots, mind-blowing action, intense emotion and heart-stopping romances with leading men that vary from dark deadly vampires to sexy shape-shifters and wicked werewolves, to sinful angels and hot demons! If you’re a fan of paranormal romance authors Lara Adrian, J R Ward, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Gena Showalter and Christine Feehan then you will enjoy her books too.

If you love your angels a little dark and wicked, the best-selling Her Angel series is for you. If you like strong, powerful, and dark vampires then try the Vampires Realm series or any of her stand-alone vampire romance books. If you’re looking for vampire romances that are sinful, passionate and erotic then try the best-selling Vampire Erotic Theatre series. Or if you prefer huge detailed worlds filled with hot-blooded alpha males in every species, from elves to demons to dragons to shifters and angels, then take a look at the new Eternal Mates series.

If you want to know more about Felicity, or want to get in touch, you can find her at the following places:

WEBSITE | BLOG | FACEBOOK | TWITTER | GOODREADS | INSTAGRAM

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Mini Review: Rutabaga the Adventure Chef by Eric Colossal!



Title: Rutabaga the Adventure Chef
Series: Adventure Chef #1
Author: Eric Colossal
Format: ARC
Pub. Date: March 31st 2015
Source: Won


Book Description:



A fantasy graphic novel series follows an "adventure chef" named Rutabaga, who travels to a fantasy land to find bizarre ingredients to cook in his enchanted cauldron. The books will include pages straight out of Rutabaga's cookbooks, with recipes that readers can make at home.





Review:


★★★★★

This is the cutest book. I was intrigued by it because I love stories to do with cooking and food. My dad was a chef and I grew up in the kitchen, so it's a nice relatable bit of nostalgia for me.

The artwork is adorable. It's fun for kids with good details and even better facial expressions. I could very easily see this as a fun anime-styled cartoon on the Cartoon Network or Nickelodeon, or even PBS Kids. It's a high adventure mixed with a lot of humor. Reading it made me smile even as an adult, and I think that says a lot for a book aimed at younger folks. My ARC was not a full color copy, though the finalized version is in full color I'm told. I think the color would certainly make it more fun, but even in black and white it was well received.

I think it's cool that there's little recipes and cooking steps throughout the book. Some of them are for fantastical ingredients that the chef finds on his culinary adventures, but others are things that kids can try to make at home.

It's a silly, funny quest that I think elementary school kids will love. Like a Baby Einstein's version of the show No Reservations. I'd definitely pick up the second book in this series.