Showing posts with label Review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Review. Show all posts

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Review: Colored Pencil Painting Portraits: Master a Revolutionary Method for Rendering Depth and Imitating Life by Alyona Nickelsen

33866626Title: Colored Pencil Painting Portraits: Master a Revolutionary Method for Rendering Depth and Imitating Life
Author: Alyona Nickelsen
Source/Format: Blogging For Books; Paperback
More Details: Nonfiction; Art
Publisher/Publication Date: Watson-Guptill; June 20, 2017

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

Colored pencil painter Alyona Nickelsen reveals how to use the medium to push the limits of realistic portraiture...

Colored Pencil Painting Portraits provides straightforward solutions to the problems that artists face in creating lifelike images, and will prime readers on the intricacies of color, texture, shadow, and light as they interplay with the human form. In this truly comprehensive guide packed with step-by-step demonstrations, Nickelsen considers working from photo references versus live models; provides guidance on posing and lighting, as well as planning and composing a work; discusses tools, materials, and revolutionary layering techniques; and offers lessons on capturing gesture and expression and on rendering facial and body features of people of all age groups and skin tones...
This was a book I was honestly interested in reading from a purely learning viewpoint. Colored pencils aren’t a medium I typically use often. So, it was only a given that I wanted to know more about what could and couldn’t be done with them from the perspective of someone passionate about the medium. When I saw Alyona Nickelsen’s new book available for review, of course I signed up for it. I’m glad I did, because Colored Pencil Painting Portraits: Master a Revolutionary Method for Rendering Depth and Imitating Life was a comprehensive look at the art of creating portraits not with paint, but with colored pencil. Alyona’s process—techniques and paper preference among other things—was truly interesting to read about.

I’ve always liked colored pencils, but after reading this book I’ve got a new respect for the medium. Nickelsen is truly a pioneer in colored pencil art. She didn’t just learn how to create amazing pieces, but she also studied her medium too. Her writing showed her enthusiasm and technical know-how on the subject in a concise and organized manner. One of my favorite quotes was from the afterword of this book:

“Making and implementing a goal (in art and beyond) is sometimes not that straightforward, but if you know what you like, you are already halfway there. The other half is just figuring out how to get there.”(p.172).


There’s just something I find so inspiring about the above passage. I think it has to do with the fact that advice like that can apply not just to art, but writing (and blogging, Etc.) as well. And while I will use colored pencils more, my focus is still on working with watercolor and gouache. However, this book still had a lot of good advice, and gave me a lot to think about in terms of how I layer and mix my colors. Suffice it to say, I will definitely keep this one on my shelf for future reference.


Disclaimer: this copy of the book was provided by Blogging For Books (Publisher) for this review, thank you!
About the author...

Alyona Nickelsen, born and raised in Ukraine, immigrated to the United States in 1999, where she pursued a successful career as a professional artist. Alyona has dedicated her life's work to advancing colored pecvil painting techniques and promoting her favorite medium. To do this, she had developed a range of methods and materials that allow the once-limited colored pencil medium to challenge such traditional favorites as oil paints in most performance aspects. Alyona's art has received numerous awards and recognitions, and has been featured in a number of national and international publications, including The Artist's Magazine, International Artist, and Colored Pencil magazine. Alyona is the author of the bess-selling book Colored Pencil Painting Bible, which is highly praised by artists at all levels of expertise, has an impressive base of fans and followers, and has been translated into Chinese and Korean languages. Alyona Nickelsen currently resides in the state of Texas with her family and continues researching, teaching, creating, and inspiring.  Visit her website at www.BrushAndPencil.com...

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Review: Starflight by Melissa Landers

Starflight (Starflight, #1)Title: Starflight
Author: Melissa Landers
Source/Format: Purchased; eBook
More Details: Young Adult; Science Fiction
Publisher/Publication Date: Disney Hyperion; February 2, 2016

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

Life in the outer realm is a lawless, dirty, hard existence, and Solara Brooks is hungry for it. Just out of the orphanage, she needs a fresh start in a place where nobody cares about the engine grease beneath her fingernails or the felony tattoos across her knuckles. She's so desperate to reach the realm that she's willing to indenture herself to Doran Spaulding, the rich and popular quarterback who made her life miserable all through high school, in exchange for passage aboard the spaceliner Zenith. When a twist of fate lands them instead on the Banshee, a vessel of dubious repute, Doran learns he's been framed on Earth for conspiracy. As he pursues a set of mysterious coordinates rumored to hold the key to clearing his name, he and Solara must get past their enmity to work together and evade those out for their arrest. Life on the Banshee may be tumultuous, but as Solara and Doran are forced to question everything they once believed about their world—and each other—the ship becomes home, and the eccentric crew family. But what Solara and Doran discover on the mysterious Planet X has the power to not only alter their lives, but the existence of everyone in the universe...
Melissa Landers is one of those authors who has been on my radar for a while. So, back when Starflight was on sale I went ahead and bought a copy with every intention to read it. Well, I have finally accomplished that, and let me tell you, this story surprised me in a good way. I’m going to be honest. The first couple of chapters of Starflight were just okay. I didn’t have the easiest time getting into the book, but once everything was set up and the characters were introduced, the story got really interesting.

Before starting Starflight, I never really read the full synopsis. What I knew about it came from the praise I saw around the time of the books initial release. The fact that it was set in space was enough to get my attention, because I haven’t read enough young adult science fiction outside of the Illuminae Files series. So, I was looking forward to Starflight.

The space travel aspect was a lot of fun to read about. Part of Starflight’s charm is the characters, especially the mc, Solara Brooks. Her backstory was a point of interest, and her POV was a definite highlight. I liked the fact that she was willing to take risks to protect herself. She made mistakes, but was given the capacity to own up to them. Then there was Doran Spaulding. Doran started off as a stereotypical rich guy who also happened to be a conceited jerk. He was intentionally mean and the friction between him and Solara wasn’t easily solved, but that’s what made the story interesting. The crew of the Banshee was amazing. They were kind of eccentric and kept their secrets, but it was hard not to like them and the dynamics aboard the Banshee.

Starflight was really good, and I look forward to reading more works by Melissa Landers.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Review: A Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi

A Crown of Wishes (The Star-Touched Queen, #2)Title: A Crown of Wishes
Author: Roshani Chokshi
Source/Format: Borrowed from the Library; Hardcover
More Details: Young Adult; Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: St. Martin's Griffin; March 28, 2017

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

An ancient mystery. An unlikely union. For one young princess in a state of peril, a dangerous wish could be the only answer…

She is the princess of Bharata—captured by her kingdom’s enemies, a prisoner of war. Now that she faces a future of exile and scorn, Gauri has nothing left to lose. But should she trust Vikram, the notoriously cunning prince of a neighboring land? He promises her freedom in exchange for her battle prowess. Together they can team up and win the Tournament of Wishes, a competition held in a mythical city where the Lord of Wealth promises a wish to the victor. It seems like a foolproof plan—until Gauri and Vikram arrive at the tournament and find that danger takes on new shapes: poisonous courtesans, mischievous story birds, a feast of fears, and twisted fairy revels. New trials will test their devotion, strength, and wits. But what Gauri and Vikram will soon discover is that there’s nothing more dangerous than what they most desire...
Last year, I read The Star-Touched Queen and it was magical. I was thoroughly enamored by the story, characters, and the world that Roshani Chokshi created. Obviously, A Crown of Wishes was one of my most anticipated 2017 book releases. And you know what? The wait was worth it. A crown of Wishes was fantastic. It surpassed all of my expectations in the best way possible. It also made a clear return to places like Bharata and took another look at the politics and continued conflict that have so thoroughly influenced the lives of the characters.

Honestly, this was just a great story. There was magic, myth, danger, and wishes—all things I happen to like reading about. I can’t forget about The Tournament of Wishes since it was one of my favorite parts of A Crown of Wishes. It was kind of amazing. There was magic, but there was also danger partially in the form of the trials and fellow guests. Chokshi was successful at portraying a vivid picture of the scenery that made up the tournament grounds, the challenges, and the guest who were present. But all of that was combined with characters that were at once charming, cunning, dangerous, and determined.

There are so many characters I could choose to talk about, but I’m just going to focus on the main two: Vikram and Gauri. Vikram was interesting, but I don’t want to say too much about him. What I will say is that he was intelligent and cunning, as promised by the synopsis, but there was more to him than that. What truly got me excited for this book was the fact that one particular character from The Star-Touched Queen was going to get her own story. I remember Gauri from the first book. I always liked her character. Even though her scenes were few they were meaningful to Maya, and more importantly, memorable. Gauri was such a layered and complex character. She went from being introduced back in the first book as just a child, to someone hardened by circumstances and experiences. She was strong but haunted by her past and also vulnerable. I particularly liked her determination to do right by the people of Bharata. I have to admit though that I preferred when Gauri and Vikram were together. Their banter and interactions with one another were priceless.

Well, I could just keep gushing about A Crown of Wishes all day. There were so many things I loved about this story, but I just don’t want to spoil anything. Needless to say, I will just be over here waiting for Roshani Chokshi’s next book.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Review: The Gauntlet by Karuna Riazi

The GauntletTitle: The Gauntlet
Author: Karuna Raizi 
Source/Format: Borrowed from the Library; Hardcover
More Details: Middle Grade; Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: Salaam Reads; March 28, 2017

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

A trio of friends from New York City find themselves trapped inside a mechanical board game that they must dismantle in order to save themselves and generations of other children in this action-packed debut that’s a steampunk Jumanji with a Middle Eastern flair...

When twelve-year-old Farah and her two best friends get sucked into a mechanical board game called The Gauntlet of Blood and Sand—a puzzle game akin to a large Rubik’s cube—they know it’s up to them to defeat the game’s diabolical architect in order to save themselves and those who are trapped inside, including her baby brother Ahmed. But first they have to figure out how. Under the tutelage of a lizard guide named Henrietta Peel and an aeronaut Vijay, the Farah and her friends battle camel spiders, red scorpions, grease monkeys, and sand cats as they prepare to face off with the maniacal Lord Amari, the man behind the machine. Can they defeat Amari at his own game…or will they, like the children who came before them, become cogs in the machine?
Whenever I see a book that has a dangerous board game of some kind mentioned in the synopsis, I only approach them with just one tiny expectation: Jumanji vibes. That’s it, that’s all I’m looking for. And The Gauntlet by Karuna Riazi delivered all that in the best way possible. This book was a whole lot of fun.

Despite what happened to the characters and the challenges they faced, The Gauntlet was a quick-paced and very entertaining book. One big draw was the characters. Not much time was spent on the everyday life of the characters, but I loved all the details about Farah’s family. Since The Gauntlet takes place in a world contained inside of an unpredictable board game, it had a very Jumanji/Zathura feel to it—with the added bonus of a steampunk flare that I happened to like. All the bits of machinery mixed in with the rest of the scenery gave the story an eerie atmosphere. That brings me to another thing I liked: the scenery. The descriptions of the actual game were among my favorite paragraphs from this book. Riazi created a vivid picture of what the Gauntlet was, what it looked like, and how the rules of the game worked. The challenges were neat, and I liked how much of the story resembled an actual game.

There were just a couple of things that I felt mixed about, but talking about them here would spoil the story. But I will say that it wasn’t really a fault, more of a pet peeve of mine. Other than that, I loved everything else about the story.

The Gauntlet is one of the best books I’ve read so far this year. I’m really looking forward to what Karuna Riazi writes next. Actual rating 4.5 Birdcages.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Review: Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Strange the Dreamer (Strange the Dreamer, #1)Title: Strange the Dreamer
Author: Laini Taylor
Source/Format: Borrowed from the Library; Hardcover
More Details: Young Adult; Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: Little Brown Books for Young Readers; March 28, 2017
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Synopsis from Goodreads...

The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around—and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance or lose his dream forever. What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving? The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries—including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo’s dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? And if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real? Welcome to Weep...
I still haven’t finished the Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy, but I was excited for Strange the Dreamer since it wasn’t a spin off. There was a lot to like about Strange the Dreamer, but I didn’t enjoy the book as much as I thought I would. There was nothing fundamentally bad, but at times I did find myself checking out of the story. Still, the book was very readable with a sort or cliffhanger-ish ending.

The first chapter was an incredibly strong start to the story, because it set up the mystery surrounding the ultimate fate of the lost city known simply as Weep. Taylor certainly knows how to weave a layered story with rich scenery and myths brought to life by impressive prose. There was an almost lyrical and dream-like quality to the story, which is one of the things I liked about Strange the Dreamer. One of the reasons I kept reading was because I wanted to know more about the magic—what the limitations were, and how it worked. The abilities were creative and pretty cool even though some were slightly more morbid than others.

Some parts of the beginning didn’t necessarily grab me. I did like what I read. However, I kept setting the book aside because at times I did get a little bored while waiting for something to happen. A lot of time was devoted to developing Lazlo Strange’s character and the world around him. After a certain point the plot picked up, and I was able to get into the story and stay in that mindset long enough to get through the book. At times, I got a sense of déjà vu. Some of the details that turned out to be essential to the story almost felt like bits and pieces from Daughter of Smoke and Bone. It wasn’t exactly the same, but the themes were almost too similar. I can’t really specify because it didn't come up until pretty late in the story. Some of the secondary characters bugged me. They were there, but mostly their story was viewed through Lazlo's eyes. This was mainly concerning the party that was traveling with Lazlo, and by the end of Strange the Dreamer, I still felt like I didn't know much about most of them.

The end is one of the things I was conflicted about. The last part of the book was, at some points, awesome with plenty of action and twists that were surprising. However, others parts were just okay—mainly because it lacked an element of surprise. Still, the end was the start of something new for some characters. There were a lot of questions left and some new ones that were presented at the very end, which was clearly setting up the story for the next book.

So, Strange the Dreamer was good, and it’s highly likely that I’ll read the sequel once it comes out. Have you read this book? What did you think of it?

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Review: Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith

WindfallTitle: Windfall
Author: Jennifer E. Smith
Source/Format: Blogging For Books; Hardcover
More Details: Young Adult; Contemporary
Publisher/Publication Date: Delacorte Press; May 2, 2017

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

Alice doesn’t believe in luck—at least, not the good kind. But she does believe in love, and for some time now, she’s been pining for her best friend, Teddy. On his eighteenth birthday—just when it seems they might be on the brink of something—she buys him a lottery ticket on a lark. To their astonishment, he wins $140 million, and in an instant, everything changes. At first, it seems like a dream come true, especially since the two of them are no strangers to misfortune. As a kid, Alice won the worst kind of lottery possible when her parents died just over a year apart from each other. And Teddy’s father abandoned his family not long after that, leaving them to grapple with his gambling debts. Through it all, Teddy and Alice have leaned on each other. But now, as they negotiate the ripple effects of Teddy’s newfound wealth, a gulf opens between them. And soon, the money starts to feel like more of a curse than a windfall. As they try to find their way back to each other, Alice learns more about herself than she ever could have imagined . . . and about the unexpected ways in which luck and love sometimes intersect...
I read This Is What Happy Looks Like back in 2013. So, it’s been a couple of years since I read anything by Jennifer E. Smith. Needless to say, I was more than excited to get the chance to review her latest book. Windfall was an engrossing read, and I ended up finishing it in one sitting. Obviously, I really enjoyed this book a lot.

Windfall was a lovely story—that’s the only way I know how to describe it in a few words—and there was something refreshingly simple about it that I really enjoyed. I haven’t read anything in the young adult contemporary side in a while, so maybe that’s why I feel that way. Windfall was just right. It was everything I was hoping it would be and reminded me why I got into Smith’s stories in the first place.

When I saw the synopsis, I was kind of interested to see what Smith could do with something like a lottery win of $140 million, and how that could change the relationship between characters—who were ordinary—for better or for worse. It turned out to be an interesting story. Sure, Teddy does what any winner would do—he goes on extravagant spending sprees, and yeah, it goes right to his head. But Windfall also takes a look at the smaller things in life, the consequences of strained relationships, and unexpected losses—and the emotional repercussions. It was also about making mistakes and growing. I felt like the characters were given the space to learn from their mistakes, and discover where they want to be, and what truely makes them happy.

Windfall is one of the best YA books I’ve read so far in 2017. I haven’t really kept up with Jennifer E. Smith’s books, but now I want to go back and check out some of the other stories that I’ve missed. (Actual Rating 4.5 birdcages out of 5)

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review, thank you!
About the author...

Jennifer E. Smith is the author of eight books for young adults, including WINDFALL and THE STATISTICAL PROBABILITY OF LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT. She earned her master's degree in creative writing from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, and her writing has been translated into 33 languages...

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Review: Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova

Labyrinth Lost (Brooklyn Brujas, #1)Title: Labyrinth Lost
Author: Zoraida Córdova
Source/Format: FIREreads; ibooks eBook
More Details: Young Adult; Fantasy 
Publisher/Publication Date: Sourcebooks Fire; September 6, 2016

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

Nothing says Happy Birthday like summoning the spirits of your dead relatives...

Alex is a bruja, the most powerful witch in a generation...and she hates magic. At her Deathday celebration, Alex performs a spell to rid herself of her power. But it backfires. Her whole family vanishes into thin air, leaving her alone with Nova, a brujo boy she can't trust. A boy whose intentions are as dark as the strange marks on his skin. The only way to get her family back is to travel with Nova to Los Lagos, a land in-between, as dark as Limbo and as strange as Wonderland...
Labyrinth Lost is one of those books I’ve been looking forward to reading since it came out in September of last year. I have finally read the book, and oh man, I’m glad that I did because it was an amazing story. From the magic and its ties to traditions, I loved everything about the book. Labyrinth Lost was very much a story about self-discovery and told from the perspective of Alejandra (Alex) Mortiz. Zoraida Córdova created a truly lovely story about magic, family, and the consequences of one’s actions.

From the start, Labyrinth Lost had a premise that seemed kind of awesome. I mean, come on, we’ve got Deathdays, Brujas, and Brujos. Luckily Córdova takes full advantage of the themes that influenced the core plot. There was something about the story that seemed so vibrant, and the characters came alive on the page because of it. Parts of the story had a wonderland vibe, but Córdova created a darkly enchanting atmosphere that was full of danger and magic—it made the story wholly unique.

There were lessons to be learned, and Alex learned them the hard way…

Alex was a tough character to like at the beginning of the story. She was rough around the edges, and her mindset was relatively unreasonable. She did a lot of things that were against better judgment and acted kind of bratty. However, the gradual character development she went through was noticeable because of where she started out. So, I did like the friendships/relationships between the characters. Then there was Nova. Even though I didn’t like his character that much, he had an air of mystery to him that did make his backstory interesting.

Los Lagos—oh man, it’s been a while since I read a fantasy novel that had such a cool and highly imaginative setting. The only other book that really comes to mind is Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi. Still, Las Lagos is definitely one of my favorites.

Labyrinth Lost is one of the best books I’ve read so far in 2017—right up there on the list with The Hate U Give. Now, I’m really looking forward to the sequel.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Review: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Hate U GiveTitle: The Hate U Give
Author: Angie Thomas
Source/Format: Borrowed from the Library; Hardcover
More Details: Young Adult; Contemporary
Publisher/Publication Date: Balzer + Bray; February 28, 2017

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed. Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil's name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr. But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.
I have so much to say about The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. Yet, I hesitate to say anything at all, because I really don’t want to accidently spoil this book. You have to read The Hate U Give to fully understand and grasp the story that Angie Thomas wrote, which is a much better option than if I tried to explain it in this review. The Hate U Give deals with a very contemporary and relevant topic, and that’s why I was excited to read this book.

The Hate U Give kept it real in the best way possible.

This was the kind of book I wish I’d gotten the chance to read back when I first started blogging—when I was still a teen. This book deals with its main themes—racism, prejudice, and police brutality—told from the perspective of a character who lives through that experience, a firsthand POV. There was something about the story that seemed authentic and honest. In that way, The Hate U Give more than lives up to the hype.

And I’m going to be honest, I almost never cry while reading. I can read about the demise of a favorite character—or characters—and have a case of extremely dry eyes. But, there was just something about The Hate U Give that made me tear up more than once. I can’t say that I’ve never encountered this kind of emotional depth before, but the circumstances, the characters, and Starr’s perspective is what ultimately got to me.

One of the highlights of this book was Starr Carter and her family. I’m not going to say too much about them, but just know that I absolutely loved them! I especially liked how Starr still had a life. While the above mentioned themes were the primary focus of the book, there was also time to examine the other parts of Starr’s life. And, I really liked how Thomas handled the emotional repercussions and how it directly affected Starr.

Okay, I could go on and on about how much I loved The Hate U Give, and why it was such an important read for me. However, I’m going to end the review here by saying that I’m looking forward to Angie Thomas’ next book.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Review: The Crooked Sixpence by Jennifer Bell

The Crooked Sixpence (The Uncommoners #1)Title: The Crooked Sixpence
Author: Jennifer Bell
Source/Format: Borrowed from the Library; Hardcover
More Details: Middle Grade; Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: Crown Books For Young Readers; January 31, 2017
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Synopsis from Goodreads...

Welcome to a world where nothing is quite as it seems…

When their grandmother Sylvie is rushed to the hospital, Ivy Sparrow and her annoying big brother Seb cannot imagine what adventure lies in store. Soon their house is ransacked by unknown intruders, and a very strange policeman turns up on the scene, determined to apprehend them . . . with a toilet brush. Ivy and Seb make their escape only to find themselves in a completely uncommon world, a secret underground city called Lundinor where ordinary objects have amazing powers. There are belts that enable the wearer to fly, yo-yos that turn into weapons, buttons with healing properties, and other enchanted objects capable of very unusual feats. But the forces of evil are closing in fast, and when Ivy and Seb learn that their family is connected to one of the greatest uncommon treasures of all time, they must race to unearth the treasure and get to the bottom of a family secret . . . before it’s too late...
The Crooked Sixpence by Jennifer Bell was just one of those books that I don’t really have too much to say about. There are a couple of reasons for that. There’s a lot that goes on and much of it starts in the first couple of chapters. I’m going to quickly go over what I did and didn’t like about the story.

I’m going to start with what I didn’t like about The Crooked Sixpence. Some of the situations seemed almost too convenient and easily solved. These things and situations were supposed to be dangerous, but didn't quite get there.  Also there were a couple of offhand comments made by Ivy and Seb that I disliked. Since the character isn’t mentioned in the synopsis, I won’t give a name. However, I will say that there are more imaginative ways to describe brown skin than with a food analogy,

There were some things that I liked about The Crooked Sixpence, namely the plot and the magic. The story moved along pretty quickly, and the questions introduced at the beginning set up a relatively interesting conflict. The conflict is what kept me reading more than the interactions between the characters. The magic was pretty neat and I liked the idea surrounding ordinary objects that weren’t quite what they initially seemed to be. There was something fun and whimsical about them that was almost humorous but also kind of dangerous given what some of them could actually do.

While I did have a couple of problems with this one, the end left the characters at an interesting place. As such, I would still consider checking out the next book in the series.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Review: The Wrath & The Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

The Wrath & the Dawn (The Wrath & the Dawn, #1)Title: The Wrath & the Dawn
Author: Renee Ahdieh
Source/Format: Borrowed from the Library; Hardcover
More Details: Young Adult; Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers; May 12, 2015
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Synopsis from Goodreads...

One Life to One Dawn...

In a land ruled by a murderous boy-king, each dawn brings heartache to a new family. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, is a monster. Each night he takes a new bride only to have a silk cord wrapped around her throat come morning. When sixteen-year-old Shahrzad's dearest friend falls victim to Khalid, Shahrzad vows vengeance and volunteers to be his next bride. Shahrzad is determined not only to stay alive, but to end the caliph's reign of terror once and for all. Night after night, Shahrzad beguiles Khalid, weaving stories that enchant, ensuring her survival, though she knows each dawn could be her last. But something she never expected begins to happen: Khalid is nothing like what she'd imagined him to be. This monster is a boy with a tormented heart. Incredibly, Shahrzad finds herself falling in love. How is this possible? It's an unforgivable betrayal. Still, Shahrzad has come to understand all is not as it seems in this palace of marble and stone. She resolves to uncover whatever secrets lurk and, despite her love, be ready to take Khalid's life as retribution for the many lives he's stolen. Can their love survive this world of stories and secrets?

Inspired by A Thousand and One Nights, The Wrath and the Dawn is a sumptuous and enthralling read from beginning to end...
Lately, I’ve had a string of books that I was really looking forward to, but they just ended up being okay for me. The same can be said about The Wrath & The Dawn by Renee Ahdieh. There was nothing particularly bad about the story I just didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would. 

After reading The Star-Touched Queen I was like “yes, give me more fantasy books that don’t clearly have medieval-like themes.” So, of course I was kind of excited to see what Ahdieh could do with a story like A Thousand and One Nights. I wanted to know what kinds of twists there would be, and how Shahrzad would be portrayed.

Hmm. I read this book relatively quickly, but had to take a couple of days before I decided on what rating I wanted to put up on even Goodreads. Like I stated above, The Wrath & The Dawn wasn’t a bad story. There were some things that I genuinely liked about the book, especially the stories that Shahrzad told to Khalid and Ahdieh’s writing. However, I felt like there was something missing from the whole reading experience. My main problem with this one was that as I was reading the story, I didn’t feel much. I didn’t have much of an emotional response to the story or the situations the characters happened to be in outside of a few scenes. That’s what made writing this kind of hard. Now that I’ve gone back and looked at the synopsis while setting up this blog post, I’ve kind of realized that it tells a lot about the actual story. I just wish that it didn’t do that, because as these things were actually happening in the book, I was already kind of unconsciously expecting them.

Okay, with that out of the way, I’m going to talk about some of the others things I liked. It mainly included the setting and a few of the side characters. The descriptions of the scenery were pretty close to amazing. While much of the story revolved around Shahrzad, the parts where more of the society outside of royal life was shown were some of my favorite scenes. Now, there were a handful of side characters that kind of made the story. At times, I was more interested in what they were doing instead of Shahrzad.

So, I don’t know. I might read the last book in this duology, but I don’t really know when that’ll actually happen.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Review: Ghostly Echoes by William Ritter

Ghostly Echoes (Jackaby, #3)Title: Ghostly Echoes
Author: William Ritter
Source/Format: Won; Hardcover
More Details: Young Adult; Historical; Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: Algonquin Young Readers; August 23, 2016

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

Jenny Cavanaugh, the ghostly lady of 926 Augur Lane, has enlisted the investigative services of her fellow residents to solve a decade-old murder—her own. Abigail Rook and her eccentric employer, Detective R. F. Jackaby, dive into the cold case, starting with a search for Jenny’s fiancé, who went missing the night she died. But when a new, gruesome murder closely mirrors the events of ten years prior, Abigail and Jackaby realize that Jenny’s case isn’t so cold after all, and her killer may be far more dangerous than they suspected.

Fantasy and folklore mix with mad science as Abigail’s race to unravel the mystery leads her across the cold cobblestones of nineteenth-century New England, down to the mythical underworld, and deep into her colleagues’ grim histories to battle the most deadly foe she has ever faced...
This is another one of those books that I really had to stop and think about what I’d read before trying to write out the review. Except, this time it took me a lot longer than usual to finally get back to Ghostly Echoes. I read Ghostly Echoes back in early February, and I've just now gotten around to talking about it on the blog. I don't normally start with the third book in a series. However, I already had this book on my shelf, and I wanted to see if this was a series I would be interested in continuing before getting the other books. Honestly, there were some things about the story that I have some mixed feelings about, but the mystery and paranormal elements were actually pretty interesting.

Going into this book, I didn’t know much about the series or Ghostly Echoes. But, the idea of a ghost playing a part in trying to solve her own cold case murder was enough of an incentive to get me to read this book. This sounded like the kind of mystery I would actually enjoy reading. If I think about Ghostly Echoes as a whole, it wasn’t bad at all. And that mystery I was so interested in was the focus of the story. While the mystery was one of the more important aspects of the book, there were also others scenes that illustrated the relationship dynamics between the characters. I particularly liked those more personal scenes.

Since I got such a late start in the series I didn’t know much about the history of the characters. However, there was enough dialogue and bits and pieces of experiences recounted by the characters that I didn’t have any trouble getting into the story. The characters were okay. Jackaby was fine, but I don’t have much to say about him other than the fact that he had a very interesting ability. Abigail’s role in the story was, just like Jackaby’s, fine. I didn’t mind reading from her perspective.

Now, there is one more thing I want to make mention of before I end this review, and that’s the villains. You can’t have a good mystery without good villains to be in that antagonistic role. And Ghostly Echoes had villains that were cunning, ruthless, and coldhearted—which is what made the mystery so good.

So, Ghostly Echoes was a pretty good book. Now that I’ve read it, I would be interested in eventually going back and reading the rest of the series.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Review: Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi

FurthermoreTitle: Furthermore
Author: Tahereh Mafi
Source/Format: Borrowed from the Library;Hardcover
More Details: Middle Grade; Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: Dutton Books For Young Readers; August 30, 2016
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Synopsis from Goodreads...

A captivating and colorful adventure that reads like a modern day fairy tale, from the bestselling author of the Shatter Me series...

Inspired by her childhood love of books like The Secret Garden and The Chronicles of Narnia, bestselling author Tahereh Mafi crafts a spellbinding new world where color is currency, adventure is inevitable, and friendship is found in the most unexpected places...

There are only three things that matter to twelve-year-old Alice Alexis Queensmeadow: Mother, who wouldn’t miss her; magic and color, which seem to elude her; and Father, who always loved her. The day Father disappears from Ferenwood he takes nothing but a ruler with him. But it’s been almost three years since then, and Alice is determined to find him. She loves her father even more than she loves adventure, and she’s about to embark on one to find the other. But bringing Father home is no small matter. In order to find him she’ll have to travel through the mythical, dangerous land of Furthermore, where down can be up, paper is alive, and left can be both right and very, very wrong. It will take all of Alice's wits (and every limb she's got) to find Father and return home to Ferenwood in one piece. On her quest to find Father, Alice must first find herself—and hold fast to the magic of love in the face of loss...

So, a couple of years ago I read Shatter Me and didn’t enjoy it. I didn’t think I would ever pick up another book by Tahereh Mafi after that, but obviously that has changed. I recently read Furthermore and was surprised by how much I actually enjoyed the book. It was fun, the writing was very descriptive, the setting was magical and colorful, and the story gave me some serious Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland vibes.

The synopsis states that this is a story about a girl trying to find her father, and the adventure she goes on to do just that. I can agree with that since that’s basically what happens. My only complaint was that it took a while for anything to really happen. However, I can overlook that because I thought it was nice to see what Alice’s life was like before she had her grand adventure. It also set up the ground rules of how the magic worked.

As for the characters, I did like the majority of them, and there was no one that I really considered to be an antagonist. Alice Alexis Queensmeadow was pretty interesting. Unlike the rest of her town, she had no color except for in her eyes and sometimes her cheeks. Part of why I picked up this book was that I wanted to see how her colorless condition was going to work with the rest of the story, and what her ability would be. Alice felt sorry for herself in the beginning, so, it was nice to see her grow as the book progressed. Oliver, like Alice at the beginning of the book, was just alright but his character did eventually grow on me.

Now, the setting and magic were two of the more interesting parts of the book, and there were clear differences between Furthermore and Ferenwood. Ferenwood was a place that thrived on color, because color was a sign of magic. While there were some minor inconsistencies, I thought that it was an interesting idea that turned out to be pretty cool. Furthermore was just as interesting of a place as Ferenwood. It was also kind of dangerous and ruled by something that was undeniably random, which is why it kind of reminded me of Wonderland.

Overall, I really liked Furthermore. It turned out to be an interesting story. Now that I have read this book, I’m curious about how the Shatter Me trilogy actually ended. So, it’s highly likely that sometime in the near future, I’ll go back and read those books.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Review: Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

Truthwitch (The Witchlands, #1)Title: Truthwitch
Author: Susan Dennard
Source/Format: Borrowed from the Library; Hardcover
More Details: Young Adult; Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: Tor Teen; January 5, 2016

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

In a continent on the edge of war, two witches hold its fate in their hands...


Young witches Safiya and Iseult have a habit of finding trouble. After clashing with a powerful Guildmaster and his ruthless Bloodwitch bodyguard, the friends are forced to flee their home. Safi must avoid capture at all costs as she's a rare Truthwitch, able to discern truth from lies. Many would kill for her magic, so Safi must keep it hidden - lest she be used in the struggle between empires. And Iseult's true powers are hidden even from herself. In a chance encounter at Court, Safi meets Prince Merik and makes him a reluctant ally. However, his help may not slow down the Bloodwitch now hot on the girls' heels. All Safi and Iseult want is their freedom, but danger lies ahead. With war coming, treaties breaking and a magical contagion sweeping the land, the friends will have to fight emperors and mercenaries alike. For some will stop at nothing to get their hands on a Truthwitch...
Truthwitch by Susan Dennard is another one of those books I’ve been meaning to read. I’ve heard a lot about it. I’m also aware of the hype that surrounded the book around the time of its initial release, but Truthwitch was still a book I wanted to read. Low and behold, more than a year after it came out, I have finally read Truthwitch. I haven’t read anything else by Dennard, so I don’t have any other reference to go on besides what I’ve just read, but Truthwitch, man, it was just an average read. This is the second book I’ve recently read where I’m not sure if I want to continue on with the series. Despite that feeling, this book was a quick read. I read it in less than a day, and there was nothing egregiously bad about the story.

Truthwitch had its great moments, but more often than not, I found myself kind of bored and not because  there was a lack of action. Believe me, there was a lot of action. The bulk of the book involved action of some kind—whether that was in the form of a chase scene, one of the character having to sneak around, or a fight scene of some kind.

The magic was mostly cool. I liked how threads were used to explain emotions and relationships, but I didn’t really care for Safiya’s ability. The specialness of her ability was kind of lost on me, because early on she got duped, easily. I think my problem with this one was actually the main character. The beginning didn’t give me a good impression of Safiya, and the rest of the story didn’t do much for me either. Now, the characters weren’t all bad. I did like Iseult. She was by far my favorite character from Truthwitch, and I kept reading to see where her side of the story would ultimately end.

For me, the best part of Truthwitch were the friendships and the last couple of chapters where the story got a little more interesting. However, my meh feeling toward Truthwitch remained intact by the time I was done with the book. So, just like with The Girl at Midnight, I might wait until the last book comes out before I make a decision about whether I’ll continue reading this series or not.
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