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

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Thought Corner: Power Rangers (2017)

Title: Power Rangers (2017)
Produced by: Haim Saban; Brian Casentini; Marty Bowen; Wyck Godfrey
Directed by: Dean Israelite
Story by: Matt Sazama; Burk Sharpless; Michele Mulroney; Kieran Mulroney 
US Release Date: March 24, 2017
Viewing Format: Redbox DVD Rental
Going into Power Rangers (2017), I honestly didn’t know what to expect. All I remember of it was the old series I used to watch when I was a kid during—or was it after? Before?—the Saturday morning cartoon block. Still, I’ve heard nothing but good things about the film and was excited to watch it. And you know what? Power Rangers was actually really good. I was surprised by how much I liked the film.

I was prepared for a certain level of cheesiness. Instead, what I got was a well-thought out movie with aliens, superpowers, and Zords (cause you can’t forget about the Zords). But that wasn’t all. This movie also explored the complicated and often messy side of life from the perspectives of characters from different and diverse backgrounds. I liked how this film was made, and the action sequences and training scenes were interesting to watch. The characters are worth making mention of because they were my favorite part of the movie. They weren’t perfect, squeaky clean hero characters who never did or got anything wrong. No, they were allowed to make mistakes and grow from them, all the while learning how to be Power Rangers. The individual and collective character development was spot on. They were great individually, but I liked when they worked together as a team.

I didn’t think I’d say it, but this movie was pretty awesome. I’ve come to one conclusion: I need a sequel. I don’t know if there will be one, but hey, you never know.

What about you? Have you seen Power Rangers? If so, tell me what you thought about the movie in the comments down below.

Friday, August 11, 2017

ARC Review: The Library of Fates by Aditi Khorana

The Library of Fates
Title: The Library of Fates
Author: Aditi Khorana
Source/Format: First to Read; eARC
More Details: Young Adult; Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: Razorbill; July 18, 2017

Goodreads     Amazon     Barnes & Noble     Book Depository

Synopsis from Goodreads...

A romantic coming-of-age fantasy tale steeped in Indian folklore, perfect for fans of The Star-Touched Queen and The Wrath and the Dawn...

No one is entirely certain what brings the Emperor Sikander to Shalingar. Until now, the idyllic kingdom has been immune to his many violent conquests. To keep the visit friendly, Princess Amrita has offered herself as his bride, sacrificing everything—family, her childhood love, and her freedom—to save her people. But her offer isn't enough. The unthinkable happens, and Amrita finds herself a fugitive, utterly alone but for an oracle named Thala, who was kept by Sikander as a slave and managed to escape amid the chaos of a palace under siege. With nothing and no one else to turn to, Amrita and Thala are forced to rely on each other. But while Amrita feels responsible for her kingdom and sets out to warn her people, the newly free Thala has no such ties. She encourages Amrita to go on a quest to find the fabled Library of All Things, where it is possible for each of them to reverse their fates. To go back to before Sikander took everything from them. Stripped of all that she loves, caught between her rosy past and an unknown future, will Amrita be able to restore what was lost, or does another life—and another love—await?
You guys know I loved The Star-Touched Queen (TSTQ) and its sequel, A Crown of Wishes. So, when I saw that The Library of Fates was being compared to TSTQ, I was just like “yes” and also “Where can I sign up for this one?” Low and behold, I got the chance to get an eARC of The Library of Fates and was beyond excited to start it. What makes this hard is that I do like this book, but there are some things that I was a little on-the fence about.

I’m going to start with what I liked about The Library of Fates. The beginning was very interesting. There was some world building going on and I loved all the details about the scenery, old myths, and creatures specific to the book. I also liked the initial direction of the story and was interested in seeing how the political conflicts would playout—especially concerning the main character, Amrita, her father, and the fate of their kingdom. There were a lot of scenes that I thought were interesting. They were creative and took full advantage of the previously established myths as well as the setting.

For the most part, I was a big fan of the characters. Amrita’s initial reaction to the sudden changes to her situation was great, and I enjoyed the fact that part of The Library of Fates focused on her journey. She was helped along the way, and the parts where she was forced to face her past, present, and the possibilities of her future were incredibly emotional and pretty awesome. Thala was pretty interesting. I liked her character mainly because of her strong motivation to be free of her own set of circumstances.

However, as the story progressed I began to notice some things that were kind of similar to TSTQ. Since TSTQ is one of my all-time favorite books, I remember a lot of how the story went down. I know that the synopsis for The Library of Fates makes the comparison, but there was a point when those similarities got a little uncomfortable. Mainly because I felt like I was reading parts of Maya, from TSTQ’s, story again.

That being said, there were a lot of things I still liked about this book. And overall, I basically enjoyed the story and will definitely check out more books by this author. (Actual rating is 3.5 out of 5)

This copy of the book was provided by First to Read (publisher) for this review.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

ARC Review: Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor

Akata Witch (Akata Witch, #1)Title: Akata Witch
Author: Nnedi Okorafor
Source/Format: First to Read; eARC
More Details: Young Adult; Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: Speak; July 11, 2017

Goodreads     Amazon     Barnes & Noble     Book Depository

Synopsis from Goodreads...

Sunny Nwazue lives in Nigeria, but she was born in New York City. Her features are West African, but she's albino. She's a terrific athlete, but can't go out into the sun to play soccer. There seems to be no place where she fits in. And then she discovers something amazing—she is a "free agent" with latent magical power. And she has a lot of catching up to do. Soon she's part of a quartet of magic students, studying the visible and invisible, learning to change reality. But just as she's finding her footing, Sunny and her friends are asked by the magical authorities to help track down a career criminal who knows magic, too. Will their training be enough to help them against a threat whose powers greatly outnumber theirs?
I’ve been hearing about Akata Witch for a couple of years now and was excited to get a chance to read an eARC of it. On the surface, it appeared to have all the elements I look for in a fantasy. However, I had some reservations about approaching a book that had a substantial amount of hype. That being said, I really enjoyed Akata Witch. There was so much about the story that just clicked for me. So, I’ve seriously had to stop and wonder why I haven’t read any of Nnedi Okrafore’s novels before. Obviously, I’ve been missing out!

The synopsis of this book promises magic, and it fully delivers on that and more. I’d like to just say that I liked this book and you should read it too, but that doesn’t explain why. I’ll start with the story. The story of this book moves at its own pace, and honestly, I didn’t mind because there were a lot of details to take in. There was magic, lots of it actually. That being said, Okrafore put such a fresh and imaginative spin on it that the premise of the story felt entirely new. In that way, I enjoyed the world building a lot and found Okrafore’s version of a magically inclined society interesting and unique. It’s probably one of my favorites thanks to how the characters interacted with each other and the places around them. There were so many cool elements to the story and setting, and I can’t talk about them for fear of accidently spoiling the story. Just know that they were cool.

Before I end this review, I want to mention the characters. Let me just say that they were amazing, especially the main character, Sunny. From the start, I instantly loved how Okrafore portrayed her character. While the core of Akata Witch was arguably Sunny’s journey as she learned how to handle her abilities as a “free agent,” it was also about learning, teamwork, and friendship. The friendship between Sunny and her new friends was one of my favorite things about Akata Witch.

At the end of the day, I’m really looking forward to reading more books by Nnedi Okrafore, especially Akata Warrior. Also, I’ve heard a lot of praise for her Binti series. So I’ll eventually read those books too.

(Actual rating 4.5 out of 5 birdcages)

This copy of the book was provided by First to Read for this review.
About the author...

Nnedi Okorafor is an international award-winning novelist of African-based science fiction, fantasy and magical realism for both children and adults. Born in the United States to two Nigerian immigrant parents, Nnedi is known for weaving African culture into creative evocative settings and memorable characters. In a profile of Nnedi’s work titled, “Weapons of Mass Creation”, The New York Times called Nnedi’s imagination “stunning”. Nnedi Okorafor’s books include Lagoon (a British Science Fiction Association Award finalist for Best Novel), Who Fears Death (a World Fantasy Award winner for Best Novel), Kabu Kabu (A Publisher's Weekly Best Book for Fall 2013), Akata Witch (an Amazon.com Best Book of the Year), Zahrah the Windseeker (winner of the Wole Soyinka Prize for African Literature), and The Shadow Speaker (a CBS Parallax Award winner). Her latest works include her novel The Book of Phoenix and her novella Binti (a finalist for a Nebula and British Science Fiction Award). Nnedi is an associate professor at the University at Buffalo, New York (SUNY). Learn more at Nnedi.com...

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Revie: The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

The Invisible Library (The Invisible Library, #1)Title: The Invisible Library
Author: Genevieve Cogman
Source/Format: Blogging for Books; Paperback
More Details: Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: Roc; June 14, 2016

Goodreads     Amazon     Barnes & Noble     Book Depository

Synopsis from Goodreads...

Collecting books can be a dangerous prospect in this fun, time-traveling, fantasy adventure from a spectacular debut author...

One thing any Librarian will tell you: the truth is much stranger than fiction...

Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, a shadowy organization that collects important works of fiction from all of the different realities. Most recently, she and her enigmatic assistant Kai have been sent to an alternative London. Their mission: Retrieve a particularly dangerous book. The problem: By the time they arrive, it's already been stolen. London's underground factions are prepared to fight to the death to find the tome before Irene and Kai do, a problem compounded by the fact that this world is chaos-infested—the laws of nature bent to allow supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic to run rampant. To make matters worse, Kai is hiding something—secrets that could be just as volatile as the chaos-filled world itself. Now Irene is caught in a puzzling web of deadly danger, conflicting clues, and sinister secret societies. And failure is not an option—because it isn’t just Irene’s reputation at stake, it’s the nature of reality itself...
The Invisible Library is one book I’ve been meaning to read for a while. I mean, it sounded like the kind of book I would enjoy anyway since its main theme is a mysterious library, librarians who double as spies, and of course books—lots and lots of books. In a lot of ways this one reminded me of The Librarians (the movies and TV series). Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean that comparison in a bad way, because I actually enjoyed this book.

The Invisible Library was a pretty interesting story. It had a lot to do with one librarians search for a “particularly dangerous book.” This book was heavy on the mystery aspect. The majority of the book was spent building up the characters and the mystery surrounding the books’ disappearance and ultimate fate. Another thing worth noting was the library. I liked the fact that the library wasn’t just a library, but a place that connected to a lot of different realities. The individual realities were kind of interesting in that they could share common features and names, but were still different at the same time. So, there was a bit of a time-travel-y element to the story. I also found the librarians themselves to be a point of interest, because of how the library affected them and the roles they took on. Because hey, it’s just part of the job description, right?

Now before I end this review, I want to talk about the characters. The librarians were already kind of mysterious, especially the more higher ranking ones above where the MC, Irene, currently worked. Irene was pretty cool. I’m always a sucker for characters who are librarians—but Irene gets bonus points for working for a magical library, and being a spy. She was intuitive and had a love for books, and honestly, it was just kind of fun to read about the adventures she had. In the synopsis it’s mentioned that Kai—Irene’s assistant—had secrets. That part was alright, but I found his secrets easy to guess. However, I still have some questions about his character. So, guessable secrets aside, Kai was still interesting.

So, The Invisible Library was entertaining, and I look forward to seeing what comes next in this series.

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

Genevieve Cogman got started on Tolkien and Sherlock Holmes at an early age, and has never looked back. But on a perhaps more prosaic note, she has an MSC in Statistics with Medical Applications and has wielded this in an assortment of jobs: clinical coder, data analyst and classifications specialist. Although The Invisible Library is her debut novel, she has also previously worked as a freelance roleplaying game writer. Genevieve Cogman’s hobbies include patchwork, beading, knitting and gaming, and she lives in the north of England...

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Review: The Screaming Statue by Lauren Oliver & H.C. Chester

The Screaming Statue (The Curiosity House, #2)
Title: The Screaming Statue
Author: Lauren Oliver; H.C. Chester
Source/Format: Borrowed from the library; Hardcover
More Details: Middle Grade; Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: HarperCollins; May 3, 2016

Goodreads     Amazon     Barnes & Noble     Book Depository

Synopsis from Goodreads...

In this second book in the exceptional Curiosity House series by bestselling author Lauren Oliver and shadowy recluse H. C. Chester, four extraordinary children must avenge their friend’s death, try to save their home, and unravel the secrets of their past . . . before their past unravels them. Pippa, Sam, Thomas, and Max are happy to be out of harm’s way now that the notorious villain Nicholas Rattigan is halfway across the country in Chicago. But unfortunately their home, Dumfreys’s Dime Museum of Freaks, Oddities, and Wonders, is in danger of closing its doors forever. But their troubles only get worse. The four friends are shocked when their beloved friend, famous sculptor Siegfried Eckleberger, is murdered. As they investigate, they find clues that his death may be tied to the murder of a rich and powerful New York heiress, as well as to their own pasts...
Oh man, lately I’ve just had a string of very average reads, and unfortunately The Screaming Statue by Lauren Oliver & H.C. Chester is another one of them. When I saw that The Screaming Statue was available at my local library I thought I would give it a try even though it was the second book in the series. I mainly picked this one up because it had Lauren Oliver’s name on it. Like with every average read I’ve had, there were things I liked and didn’t like about the story. Since I skipped the first book, I did kind of worry about the things I missed. However, I didn’t find that to be a problem because a lot of what happened in book one was mentioned by the main characters. The story was just alright, but despite that, The Screaming Statue was a quick read, and the setting was nice. I liked that the story mainly took place in a museum and the city surrounding it. The one thing I absolutely loved about The Screaming Statue was the characters. Sam, Pippa, Thomas, and Max were fantastic. It was clear to me why they felt the way they did, and it was easy to see the clues about how their past later affected them. I also liked how the character’s behaved around each other. While their situation and platonic and not platonic relationships weren’t perfect, it was nice to see that they still cared about one another. While The Screaming Statue was just an average read, that doesn’t deter me from reading another one of Lauren Oliver’s books. However, that being said, I don’t think I’ll specifically come back to this series.

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

Goodreads     Amazon     Barnes & Noble     Book Depository


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

Goodreads     Amazon     Barnes & Noble     Book Depository

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

Goodreads     Amazon     Barnes & Noble     Book Depository

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

Goodreads     Amazon     Barnes & Noble     Book Depository

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
Goodreads     Amazon     Barnes & Noble     Book Depository

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

Goodreads     Amazon     Barnes & Noble     Book Depository

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

Goodreads     Amazon     Barnes & Noble     Book Depository

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

Goodreads     Amazon     Barnes & Noble     Book Depository

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.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...