Showing posts with label five birdcages. Show all posts
Showing posts with label five birdcages. Show all posts

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, 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.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Rivals in the City by Y.S. Lee

Rivals in the City (The Agency #4)Title: Rivals in the City
Author: Y.S. Lee
Source/Format: Borrowed from the Library; Hardcover
More Details: Young Adult; Historical; Mystery
Publisher/Publication Date: Candlewick Press; March 10, 2015

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

In a tale steeped in action, romance, and the gaslit intrigue of Victorian London, Mary Quinn’s detective skills are pitted against a cunning and desperate opponent...

Mary Quinn has a lot on her mind. James Easton, her longtime love interest, wants to marry her; but despite her feelings, independent-minded Mary hesitates. Meanwhile, the Agency has asked Mary to take on a dangerous case: convicted fraudster Henry Thorold is dying in prison, and Mary must watch for the return of his estranged wife, an accomplished criminal herself who has a potentially deadly grudge against James. Finally, a Chinese prizefighter has arrived in town, and Mary can’t shake a feeling that he is somehow familiar. With the stakes higher than ever, can Mary balance family secrets, conflicting loyalties, and professional expertise to bring a criminal to justice and find her own happiness?
Rivals in the City is one of those books that I’ve been meaning to read for what seems like forever. I’ve read the rest of the series, and I even had time to reread them last year to kind of refresh my memory about what happened. So, this has been a long time coming. I have finally read Rivals in the City, and it was everything I hoped it would be and more. The same things that made me love the first three books were here too—the agency, Mary, James, and the rest of the cast of characters, just to name a few.

What I liked most about this book is simple: the mystery, how Mary handled her new case, and the developing relationships between the characters. I won’t say too much about the villain of this case, but I felt they were worth mentioning. Their role cast a shadow on the lives of the characters. They were more than just something to talk about. They were ruthless and cunning and had the motivation, plan, and means to make them a convincing—and not to mention dangerous—villain.

This is one of the few historical series that I’ve actually finished reading. I liked how the setting was thoroughly explained, and it never seemed like the characters came from modern times. The way many of the characters behaved fit with what was considered to be the societal norm.

Mary’s come a long way from the orphan at the beginning of the series, she’s learned a lot, and it shows. Mary was, by far, my favorite character. Her life has undergone so many changes, yet she managed to handle it. I also loved her relationship with James. It was a slow-burn kind of romance, and it took three books to get to the point they were at in Rivals in the City.

All in all, Rivals in the City was pretty awesome. I’m glad I finally got around to reading it, and look forward to Y.S. Lee’s next book.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Review: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (Extraordinary Voyages, #6)Title: Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea
Author: Jules Verne
Source/Format: Purchased; Paperback
More Details: Science Fiction; Classics
Publisher/Publication Date: ; March 20, 1869

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

French naturalist Dr. Aronnax embarks on an expedition to hunt down a sea monster, only to discover instead the Nautilus, a remarkable submarine built by the enigmatic Captain Nemo. Together Nemo and Aronnax explore the underwater marvels, undergo a transcendent experience amongst the ruins of Atlantis, and plant a black flag at the South Pole. But Nemo's mission is one of revenge-and his methods coldly efficient...
Its official, I think I’ve gotten a pretty good start on my year. At least, I feel like I’m going in the right direction.

I have finally read 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea Jules Verne. It’s the first book I tackled this year and the first book I’ve read by Verne. There were a lot of things I enjoyed about the story, including the characters, setting, and technology.

The book was told from the perspective of Pierre Aronnax who was a relatively interesting character. His internal monologue was particularly great. It was interesting to see how the situations were viewed from his perspective and how his conflicted feelings about his new circumstances effected his thought process. The rest of the characters were just as wonderfully developed. They each had their distinctive traits and the development they underwent shed light on their histories, motivations, and personalities.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is one of those books that involves a lot of travel, but by no means was this a boring book. It’s as much about the characters as it was the setting and how the two ultimately effect one another. There were a lot of clues cleverly placed throughout the story. So, when I actually got to those pivotal moments the pieces just fit together. In some ways, this book reminded me of The Martian. Of course, they’re two very different books and aren’t very comparable—since one is set on Mars and the other takes place on or underwater. What I mean is that they’re both heavy-handed when it came to the science and terminology, which is actually one of the things I really enjoyed about 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

The writing was very descriptive and I could envision all the cool places the characters got to visit.  I loved all the details that Verne included, and at times, the underwater setting was vivid and surreal. And as cool as the setting was, my favorite part of the story was still the Nautilus. Clearly, I’m a sucker for cool technology.

So, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was a very entertaining read. I can finally cross this one off my list.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Review: The Lost Lullaby by Jason Segel & Kristen Miller, illustrated by Karl Kwasny

The Lost Lullaby (Nightmares!, #3)Title: The Lost Lullaby
Author/ Illustrator: Jason Segel & Kristen Miller; Karl Kwasny 
Source/Format: Borrowed from the Library; Hardback
More Details: Middle Grade
Publisher/Publication Date: Delacorte Books for Young Readers; September 13, 2016
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Synopsis from Goodreads...

Charlie Laird has a very bad feeling...

1. There’s a NEW GIRL at school, and Charlie and his friends have DEFINITELY seen her before.
2. He’s been hearing strange noises after dark, which is NEVER a good sign.
3. The nightmares are back, and they’re WEIRDER THAN EVER.

Not since he faced his fears has Charlie had so many bad dreams. Whenever he falls asleep, he finds himself in a Netherworld field, surrounded by a flock of CREEPY BLACK SHEEP.
They're not counting sheep. They refuse to jump. In fact, they don't do much at all. EVEN EERIER, THOUGH, is that it’s not Charlie’s nightmare. Somehow he’s trapped in someone else’s bad dream. And he’s pretty sure the twins ICK and INK are responsible.
Charlie and his friends thought they’d put the twins out of business, but it seems they didn’t quite finish the job. Now the WOOLLY NIGHTMARES are closing in, and INK has shown up at Cypress Creek Elementary! Charlie’s convinced that INK is up to NO GOOD. And if he’s right, it could be a very long time before anyone’s dreams are sweet again...
After finishing The Lost Lullaby, I can firmly say that Nightmares is just one of my favorite middle grade series. I love the ideas behind the stories and the lessons that the characters inevitably learn. Plus, the nightmares were some of the coolest things I’ve read about. I liked how they were incorporated into the story each and every time.

As for The Lost Lullaby, I’m glad I read it. After the end of the last book, I was curious to see where the story was going, and how the conflict would eventually be solved.

The Lost Lullaby picked up right after the end of The Sleepwalker Tonic with Charlie Laird and his friends immediately stuck knee-deep in another problem. INK is in town, the nightmares are back, and Charlie’s been hearing noises in the middle of the night. The Lost Lullaby is a fast paced story and there was a lot going on. The little clues and details placed throughout the story played into the plot, and I liked the end result.

One thing that I have especially enjoyed about this series is how involved Charlie’s father and stepmother are. It’s always nice to see the family so present in the story, and I liked how it was portrayed across all three books. The setting was also very nice. Of all the locations, the purple mansion that Charlie and his family called home was my favorite place. At first glance, it would be kind of spooky or even a bit mysterious, but its secrets made the house cool rather than anything else.

Another thing that this book got right was the characters—from the main cast to the secondary, and even the villains. There were a lot of moments where characters had to listen and learn and look past their own fears, assumptions, and biases. Those moments were gold. The end of The Lost Lullaby was fantastic. I loved how everything came together and it felt like a proper ending.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to wait over there (**points to the left**) until Jason Segel and Kristen Miller write another book.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Review: The Sleepwalker Tonic by Jason Segel & Kristen Miller, illustrated by Karl Kwasny

The Sleepwalker Tonic (Nightmares!, #2)Title: The Sleepwalker Tonic
Author/Illustrator: Jason Segel & Kristen Miller; Karl Kwasny
Source/Format: Borrowed from the library; Hardcover
More Details: Middle Grade; Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: Delacorte Books for Young Readers; September 8, 2015
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Synopsis from Goodreads...

Nightmares! The Sleepwalker Tonic is the sequel to the hilariously scary New York Times bestselling novel Nightmares! by multitalented actor Jason Segel and bestselling author Kirsten Miller. You thought the nightmares were over? You better keep the lights on!

Charlie Laird has a dream life.

1) He has a weirdo stepmom who runs an herbarium.
2) He lives in a purple mansion with a portal to the Netherworld.
3) Since they escaped from the Netherworld, he and his best friends have been sleeping like babies.

But Charlie can’t shake the feeling that something strange is afoot. Charlotte’s herbarium used to be one of the busiest stores in Cypress Creek. Now her loyal following is heading to Orville Falls for their herbal potions.
Weirder, though, Orville Falls is suddenly filled with . . . zombies? At least, they sure look like the walking dead. Rumor has it that no one’s sleeping in Orville Falls. And Charlie knows what that means. Things are getting freaky again...
After reading Nightmares I was pretty excited to get my hands on a copy of The Sleepwalker Tonic by Jason Segel & Kristen Miller. I mean, Nightmares was surprising in all the best ways. The ideas introduced were fantastic and the execution was spot on. And oh man, this series just keeps getting better and better. The Sleepwalker Tonic was so good. All the things I loved about the first book were brought back and incorporated into the continuation of Charlie Laird’s story.

Charlie Laird was pretty much enjoying life after the events of the first book. It made me happy to see how his life had changed for the better, but that peace doesn’t last long when strange things start happening. The plot was fantastic. I loved how all the dream and nightmare aspects were incorporated. There were a lot of imaginative ideas introduced in The Sleepwalker Tonic, and I loved how they were ultimately presented.

Once again, I really liked the characters. There were some new faces, but even if they were secondary, they had their place in the story. Charlie was a great narrator, and I enjoyed reading from his perspective. I liked how his character was developed, the growth that he went through, and the lessons he learned. I also enjoyed how involved his stepmother was. It’s always nice to see one or more of the characters parents involved in some way or another.

One thing that The Sleepwalker Tonic gets right is the conflict. I liked how it was set up and how it ultimately played out. The villains were suitably creepy in their own right.

The Sleepwalker Tonic was a fantastic addition to the series, and yet I have so many questions left unanswered. Needless to say, I’m definitely looking forward to the next book, The Lost Lullaby.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Review: The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

The Star-Touched Queen (The Star-Touched Queen, #1)Title: The Star-Touched Queen
Author: Roshani Chokshi
Source/Format: Borrowed for the Library; Hardcover
More Details: Young Adult; Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: Martin's Griffin; April 26, 2016

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

Fate and fortune. Power and passion. What does it take to be the queen of a kingdom when you’re only seventeen?

Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of death and destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father’s kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: As Akaran’s queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar’s wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire. But Akaran has its own secrets—thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger. Yet who, besides her husband, can she trust? With the fate of the human and Otherworldly realms hanging in the balance, Maya must unravel an ancient mystery that spans reincarnated lives to save those she loves the most…including herself...
I’m late to the ban-wagon for this one…

You know, The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi has all the elements I like about fantasy, so I really don’t know why it took me so long to get to this one. Now that I have read it, I can firmly say that The Star-Touched Queen is one of my favorite books of 2016. From the characters to the plot, I adored everything about this story.

The world was just awesome. The customs and traditions of the society in The Star-Touched Queen were woven with the fantasy elements in the story, and the effect was really cool. I loved all the little details that Chokshi put into the world building. It was complex and layered, and added depth to the story.

The plot itself was also good. I do like that Chokshi took some time to introduce the key players and the society that Mayavati (Maya) lived in, as well as establishing the relationship between the MC and the secondary characters. The style of writing in The Star-Touched Queen is very descriptive. I could picture the various scenes as they were happening. In the end, I liked the descriptiveness because it was easy to picture the setting as the characters moved from place to place, and the various scenes as they were happening.

I really liked Maya as a character, and that’s a good thing since The Star-Touched Queen is primarily told from her perspective. I enjoyed her story, and liked how Chokshi portrayed her character and the circumstances she was subjected to. Amar wasn’t a bad character. He was mysterious and he kept secrets from Maya, but the two did have some chemistry.

The Star-Touched Queen was a story rich with detail, a cast of awesome characters, and a story that had me hooked from page one. And now, I just have to wait until the second book comes out.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Review: Nightmares! by Jason Segel & Kristen Miller, illustrated by Karl Kwasny

Nightmares! (Nightmares!, #1)Title: Nightmares!
Author/Illustrator: Jason Segel & Kristen Miller; Karl Kwasny
Source/Format: Borrowed from the Library; Hardback
More Details: Middle Grade; Paranormal
Publisher/Publication Date: Delacorte Books For Young Readers; September 9, 2014
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Synopsis from Goodreads...

Sleeping has never been so scary. And now waking up is even worse!

Charlie Laird has several problems.
1. His dad married a woman he is sure moonlights as a witch.
2. He had to move into her purple mansion, which is NOT a place you want to find yourself after dark.
3. He can’t remember the last time sleeping wasn’t a nightmarish prospect. Like even a nap.

What Charlie doesn’t know is that his problems are about to get a whole lot more real. Nightmares can ruin a good night’s sleep, but when they start slipping out of your dreams and into the waking world—that’s a line that should never be crossed. And when your worst nightmares start to come true . . . well, that’s something only Charlie can face. And he’s going to need all the help he can get, or it might just be lights-out for Charlie Laird. For good...
It seems like forever since I first saw Nightmares! by Jason Segel & Kristen Miller. I think what really got my attention was the book trailer for it—which was fantastic, and now that I’ve actually read the book I can see how fitting it truly was. And since it was October, I decided to go ahead and give Nightmares! a try.

Nightmares! was a fantastic book, and from start to finish I was drawn in by the story. I already had high expectations and wasn’t disappointed in any way. I got what I was looking for—a slightly spooky Halloween story with nightmares—and then some.

Charlie Laird is having a problem, and that idea alone made for an interesting story. Part of the reason I liked the book so much was the message—everyone has something they fear. It was incorporated nicely into the story, and felt like a natural part of the plot. It was definitely one of my favorite aspects of the book. I liked Charlie as a character. He was grouchy, but that was understandable when his nightmares and subsequent lack of sleep were factored in. The secondary characters were fantastic. To me, it seemed like they were developed. Their roles were essential to the story and their personalities were different, which made them seem like individuals.

I could really sit here all day and talk about all the things I liked about Nightmares!, like, how fantastic the story was, or how much I liked the writing and world building. Instead, I’m going to end the review here. But, before I go, I just want to say that I’m glad that Nightmares! was just the beginning of a series. I’m really looking forward to checking out the next two books when they become available at my local library.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Review: Burning Emerald by Jamie Reed

Burning Emerald (The Cambion Chronicles, #2)Title: Burning Emerald
Author: Jamie Reed
Source/Format: Purchased; Paperback
More Details: Young Adult; Paranormal
Publisher/Publication Date: Dafina; May 29, 2012

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

Dating the most popular guy in school is every girl's fantasy. But to Samara Marshall, he's a dangerous force come to rekindle their tangled past. Only it's not her past. Samara faces a challenging senior year. Controlling her inner demon is a struggle, even with help from her Cambion boyfriend, Caleb. But her life takes a turn for the worse when the hottest jock in school begins pursuing her--especially since Malik's anything but what he seems. They share a connection from a forgotten past--a secret that could destroy her and Caleb. As the attraction becomes harder to resist, Samara is now at the mercy of the demon within her. To break free, Sam must fight a battle where she is the enemy and the prize...and victory will come at a deadly price...
The Cambion Chronicles is one of my all-time favorite paranormal series, yet, oddly enough, I never got around to getting the second book. However, all that has changed. I have finally read the second book, Burning Emerald, and I’ve been thoroughly reminded why I love this series so much.

The plot picks up after the end of Living Violet, and Samara must deal with the drastic changes in her life. Really, Burning Emerald had a lot going for it, with character and story development that I initially missed. This is just one of those series that kind of requires a full read, or else pieces will be missing. So even though I loved the third book, reading Burning Emerald added a lot of context and clarity to what ultimately ended up happening. So, if you ever read this series, don’t do like I did. Don’t skip the second book; go straight through from start to finish.

Also, the writing in this series is just one of my favorite styles. Reed knows what she’s doing, and expertly applied her skills where they were necessary. Samara’s perspective was unique, to say the least.

Reed knows how to write and develop characters. I think that’s one of the reasons why I keep coming back to this series. Samara Marshall is one of my favorite characters for a number of reasons—her resilience, personality, and individuality. Plus, her relationship with her boyfriend, Caleb, is just awesome. I loved their individual moments, but I also enjoyed the scenes they shared together. Samara’s friends and parents were my favorites of the secondary characters. I especially loved how involved Samara’s parents were in her life.

Burning Emerald answered a lot of questions for me, and I am glad that I finally got a copy. After all, finishing The Cambion Chronicles was long overdue on my end.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

ARC Review: The Reader by Traci Chee

The Reader (Sea of Ink and Gold, #1)Title: The Reader
Author: Traci Chee
Source/Format: First to Read; eARC
More Details: Young Adult; Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: Putnam; September 13, 2016

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

Sefia knows what it means to survive. After her father is brutally murdered, she flees into the wilderness with her aunt Nin, who teaches her to hunt, track, and steal. But when Nin is kidnapped, leaving Sefia completely alone, none of her survival skills can help her discover where Nin’s been taken, or if she’s even alive. The only clue to both her aunt’s disappearance and her father’s murder is the odd rectangular object her father left behind, an object she comes to realize is a book—a marvelous item unheard of in her otherwise illiterate society. With the help of this book, and the aid of a mysterious stranger with dark secrets of his own, Sefia sets out to rescue her aunt and find out what really happened the day her father was killed—and punish the people responsible...
One word folks: more. I want more of this book—this series—this world that Traci Chee has created. I have one reason for that: The Reader was awesome. The synopsis had a lot of promise—a society that was widely illiterate by custom, a mysterious book, a girl out for revenge against those who have wronged her and those she loves. I went into this book with high expectations, and boy does The Reader deliver.

The primary focus of The Reader was Sefia and her journey to get revenge, and unlock the secrets of the book. She had a thirst for information, and strived to understand things that were never taught to her. Part of The Reader focused on her progress and growth as a character. There were other characters that also had narratives just as strong as Sefia’s, and their stories were just as important—I had my favorites and tolerable secondary characters—but for the most part, the characters were one of the strongest aspects of The Reader. There were just so many compelling and layered pieces of the plot that I found myself easily invested in the story!

The story gets started on strong footing. The setting, society, and problems are quick to show their faces—promptly setting up the main conflict. And while the book was long—almost five hundred pages—there was something gripping about the story. I was never bored. There was always something going on with the characters, and their adventures were fun to read about. The story was also pretty balanced with a solid mystery, action, and a hint of romance.

The writing was also good. The prose was descriptive and straight-forward. There were a lot of POVs but it showed different parts of the fictional world, and painted a broader picture of the circumstances, mindsets, and habits of the main characters.  I actually liked reading from so many perspectives because of that. It kept the story going at a good pace and answered questions while raising others—it also gave background to parts of the story.

All-in-all, The Reader was a solid debut. I liked these characters and their story, and the society they were a part of was fascinating. I still have so many questions—I wasn’t ready for the story to be over, but it was—as such, I will definitely continue on with this series.
This copy of the book was provided by First to Read (Publisher) for this review, thank you!
About the author...

Traci Chee is an author of speculative fiction for teens. An all-around word geek, she loves book arts and art books, poetry and paper crafts, though she also dabbles at piano playing, egg painting, and hosting potluck game nights for family and friends. She studied literature and creative writing at UC Santa Cruz and earned a master of arts degree from San Francisco State University. Traci grew up in a small town with more cows than people, and now feels most at home in the mountains, scaling switchbacks and happening upon hidden highland lakes. She lives in California with her fast-fast dog. The Reader is her YA debut...

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Review: Visual Reference Guides Architecture by Jonathan Glancey

Architecture (Visual Reference Guides Series)Title: Architecture
Author: Jonathan Glancey
Source/Format: Purchased; Paperback
More Details: Nonfiction; Reference; Architecture 
Publisher/Publication Date: Metro Books; March 15, 2010

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

Visual Reference Guides: Architecture, the definitive visual guide, allows you to discover 5,000 years of architectural design, style, and construction, from airports to ziggurats. You'll be able to explore the world's great buildings through amazing illustrations that take you right to the heart of the world's landmark buildings. Look beyond the façades and examine the materials and technology that shape buildings, and identify the key elements and decorative features of each architectural style. It's the perfect addition to any architecture enthusiast's library, whether expert or novice...
When I sat down to give Visual Reference Guides: Architecture a read, I really had no expectations except one: a visual trip around the world and through the ages of architecture. That’s what this book was about, architecture, and how it changed or stayed the same over time, or even fluctuated backwards to a more classical style and forwards to something new.

What this book does is give a small profile on different examples of architecture as well as architects who worked on specific buildings—if the information was available. It’s also divided into clear sections that focused on a specific architectural style that sometimes depended on region/culture/country, and available building materials—everything from Classical Revival to Baroque & Rococo, and even Gothic Revival and Modernism. Some styles had similarities, but others were noticeably different. My favorite types of architecture were found in the sections that discussed Baroque, Rococo, Greecian, Indian, and Southeast Asian styles.

Since this was a visual reference guide, photos made up a lot of the book—there was almost one for every profile, give or take a few. So, there were some blank spots in the information provided, but it didn’t detract from my overall enjoyment. The photos also served as visual examples of the types of architecture being described. Another aspect I liked about this book, was that there were pages dedicated to summaries of information that gave a little history about each style, which was cool since the explanations were handy.

I like architecture in its many forms. Since, after all, it is a part of everyday life and the source of modern convenience and comfort—really handy when it’s over a hundred degrees outside, just saying. So, I really enjoyed this book and the way it highlighted my favorite architectural features as well as those that were new to me. My money was well spent on this one.

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