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

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

15783514. sy475 Title:The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Series: n/a
Author: Neil Gaiman
Source/Format: Borrowed from the library; Hardcover
More Details: Fantasy; Horror
Publisher/Publication Date: William Morrow Books; June 18, 2013

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn't thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she'd claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy. Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.
When I first started reading Neil Gaiman books again, I had a list of stories I really wanted to read. The Ocean at the end of the Lane was one of them. It was good, but it wasn’t my favorite book by this author. So while there were some parts I genuinely liked about the book—like the Hempstock’s and the fantasy elements (namely the duck pond that’s also an ocean)—the story, unfortunately, was one that didn’t click all the way with me.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a story about a middle-aged man recounting memories of his childhood from a time when he was about seven. I didn’t realize at first that the character remained nameless throughout the whole story, and looking back, I didn’t carefully read the synopsis. However, the main character not having a name didn’t bother me in the slightest, due in part to the writing, which was excellent. There was a somber tone to much of the story, because the pivotal events were always somewhat sad and definitely frightening. It was a story about memories, and there was horror and fantasy.

I think my main problem with this one was parts of the story itself. Given that the events are being recounted by the character when he’s older—and how short the book was—the stakes in the story sometimes seemed low. Because I always knew, in the back of my mind, that everything would turn out okay.

Other than that, The Ocean at the End of the Lane was an interesting tale. I liked it, and I will likely read other books by Gaiman in the future.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Review: Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan

36118682Title: Wicked Saints
Series: Something Dark and Holy #1
Author: Emily A. Duncan
Source/Format: Borrowed from the library; Hardcover
More Details: Young Adult; Fantasy 
Publisher/Publication Date: Wednesday Books; April 2, 2019

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
A girl who can speak to gods must save her people without destroying herself. A prince in danger must decide who to trust. A boy with a monstrous secret waits in the wings. Together, they must assassinate the king and stop the war. In a centuries-long war where beauty and brutality meet, their three paths entwine in a shadowy world of spilled blood and mysterious saints, where a forbidden romance threatens to tip the scales between dark and light. Wicked Saints is the thrilling start to Emily A. Duncan’s devastatingly Gothic Something Dark and Holy trilogy....
There was a lot of hype for Wicked Saints, but I was still immensely excited about it. It was one of my most anticipated releases of 2019 and sounded like a story that would appeal to my love of fantasy novels. I mean the synopsis talks about an interesting dynamic between magic, gods, and religion with contrary beliefs to act as an antagonistic foil to the MC’s cause. And while there were a lot of interesting ideas here as well as action and magic, I just didn’t enjoy this book as much as I thought I would. Parts of the story felt a little vague, and I never really got a good sense for the setting beyond a few key locations. That being said, the overall plot was good, the hints of history behind the central conflict were interesting enough, and the story was fast paced. So Wicked Saints was by no means bad. It was still a good story.

Blood was one of the big themes used in Wicked Saints since it was tied to the magic of the Tranavians. There was a lot of death and morally gray character in the book from both sides of the conflict. Nadya was kind of interesting, particularly how her magic worked and the relationship she had to the gods who spoke to her. However, at time I felt like her character got a little lost once she met Malachiasz. I mean everything he said she just believed it when she didn’t even really know him. Ironically enough, my favorite parts of the story were actually from the prince’s perspective. Despite his faults, I preferred his overall character arc to Nadya’s.

On the other hand, you have the gods, who were enigmatic and omnipresent when they wanted to be. I would have liked to see more of them, because they were interesting. They did make comments here or there, but they remained mostly in the background for much of the story, even during some of the scenes when they were around to help Nadya. There was a demand for such absolute, unquestioning devotion to the point where Nadya initially came off as extreme and close-minded. The same could also be said about the Tranavians.

Like I said, everyone was more or less morally gray in this story.

I’m still a little conflicted about how I feel about the ending of Wicked Saints. There were some really good parts to it when the momentum picked up and stuff was happening, but then there were others scenes that left a “meh” feeling. The clues were there, but man, Nadya just…let me not. Still, the ending, had its high points, and I have so many questions about the gods and Nadya's origins.

Ultimately, Wicked Saints was a promising opening to this series, and I want to read the next book to see what fallout the characters will face for what happened.

Have you read Wicked Saints? Do you plan to read it?

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Review: Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

25667918Title: Binti
Series: Binti #1
Author: Nnedi Okorafor
Source/Format: Borrowed from the library; Paperback
More Details: Science Fiction; Fantasy; Novella
Publisher/Publication Date: Tor.com; September 22, 2015

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
Her name is Binti, and she is the first of the Himba people ever to be offered a place at Oomza University, the finest institution of higher learning in the galaxy. But to accept the offer will mean giving up her place in her family to travel between the stars among strangers who do not share her ways or respect her customs. Knowledge comes at a cost, one that Binti is willing to pay, but her journey will not be easy. The world she seeks to enter has long warred with the Meduse, an alien race that has become the stuff of nightmares. Oomza University has wronged the Meduse, and Binti's stellar travel will bring her within their deadly reach. If Binti hopes to survive the legacy of a war not of her making, she will need both the gifts of her people and the wisdom enshrined within the University, itself - but first she has to make it there, alive....
I’ve read a couple of books by Nnedi Okorafor before—namely Akata Witch and its sequel, Akata Warrior. I liked both of them, and since then Binti has been on my TBR list. I liked Binti. It was a quick read, and a pretty unique take on a coming-of-age story. It was one girl’s journey to a university while struggling with the expectations placed on her by family. And while the story was an interesting one, I was conflicted about parts of the ending. It was good, but after everything that happened, there were aspects about it that were almost too neatly done. I did like the technology here, particularly the descriptions of the ship—“Third Fish”— which Binti boarded toward the beginning of the novella. I liked what Okorafor did with the Meduse, especially their unique appearance. I also liked Binti’s character, and that’s a good thing since the novella was from her perspective. Her hesitation and doubt about the decisions she was making were clearly illustrated in the narrative: she was chasing her dream while trying to maintain a feeling of being connected to the traditions of her family. At the same time she was going against their wishes while having to leave them behind on earth. Overall, Binti was an interesting read. I’m looking forward to eventually reading the rest of the trilogy.

Have you read Binti? If so, what did you think about it?

Monday, March 26, 2018

Review: Elevate by Joseph Deitch

35827183Title: Elevate, An Essential Guide to Life
Series: n/a
Author: Joseph Deitch
Source/Format: Bookish First; Hardcover
More Details: Self Help; Nonfiction
Publisher/Publication Date: Greenlead Book Group Press; March 27, 2018

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

A modern world that is bursting with data can often make us feel even more lost as we struggle to find meaning and look for the answers to life’s mysteries. Joseph Deitch shares his lifelong pursuit of wisdom and growth in an accessible, practical, down-to-earth gift to his readers. Elevate is a celebration of life and the potential that exists for all of us. It provides both answers and insights as it links awareness and action, East and West, ancient and modern, spiritual and scientific. It offers a formula for turning frustration into fascination and provides a universal framework for what works and why, what to do . . . and why we don’t...
I don’t typically read self-help books unless there’s something about them that not only get but keeps my interest, and that’s exactly what happened with Elevate. I read an excerpt and liked the initial pages. So, I was pretty excited when I got the email indicating that I was getting an early copy. Suffice it to say, I liked Elevate. It was the kind of book that took time to read and made me really think about the information as I went along. Like every book claiming to give advice about life—how to live it and win at it—I always take it with a grain of salt, because implementing changes are never as simple as it’s presented on paper. That being said, Deitch presents some interesting ideas. This book is divided into two sections: Awareness and Action. In Awareness, Deitch talks about perception, learning, and growth among other things. In Action, he discusses 10 different skills such as ask, listen, motivate, energize, structure, leverage, and even love. He often used his own experiences—personal and lessons learned while owning and operating his business—as evidence to back up the validity of his advice. All in all, not a bad read. I plan to keep this one on my shelf for future reference...

Disclaimer: This copy of the book was provided by Greenleaf Book Group Press via Bookish First. 

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

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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.

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.

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.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Review: A Dash of Magic by Kathryn Littlewood

A Dash of Magic (The Bliss Bakery, #2)Title: A Dash of Magic
Author: Kathryn Littlewood
Source/Format: Purchased; Paperback
More Details: Middle Grade; Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: Katherine Tegen Books; February 12, 2013 

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

This second helping in Kathryn Littlewood's Bliss series combines hilarious magic and daring adventure to make one delectable reading treat...


Rosemary Bliss will do anything to get back her family's magical Cookery Booke. That's why she challenges Aunt Lily to an international baking competition in Paris: If Rose wins, Lily agrees to return the cookery Booke that she stole. If Rose loses...well, the consequences are too ugly to think about. But Lily isn't playing fair--she's using a magical ingredient to cheat. The only way for Rose to compete is for her to find magical ingredients of her own. Together with her long-lost grandpa, his sarcastic talking cat, and a turncoat French mouse, Rose and her brothers race around Paris to find essential--and elusive--magical ingredients that will help her outbake--and outmagic--her conniving aunt. She has to win or the Bliss Cookery Booke will be lost to her family forever...
A Dash of Magic picks up shortly after Bliss left off. After the theft of the Cookery Booke, the Bliss family had to make some changes, and their home town seemed worse-off because of it. The contrast to what the town was before and what it was presently in A Dash of Magic, really did kind of set-up part of the characters motivation for trying so hard to get the Cookery Booke back. That was honestly great. I loved that about the story. I enjoyed the fact that the characters were so motivated to do what they thought was right and that it wouldn’t only benefit them but most everyone around them.

The sense of family was great. I liked how involved the parents and Rosemary’s siblings were. I also liked how more of the Bliss family was included. It was interesting to see how Rosemary’s “long-lost grandpa” ran his bakery. On the other hand, Lily was a manipulative character. She was also selfish and power-hungry, contradicting her earlier claims. Those were the things I was kind of expecting from her character given her antagonistic role in the story.

The cooking and the magic were fantastic and happened to be what I liked most about A Dash of Magic. I still like the idea of having the ingredients being a source of magic. Part of the process was collecting those special ingredients, and the methods that the characters employed to do just that were pretty creative. It was just a really cool idea.

Like Bliss, I had one main problem with this story. This is kind of a pet peeve of mine, but I hate it when a character has no confidence in their obvious capabilities. They constantly reiterate that they can’t do something while actually doing it. Not just doing the thing they say they can’t, but also excelling at. Really, in this one, Rosemary falls prey to this mindset. The first time she says it, I can honestly understand and relate, because she, at that moment, fully realized the magnitude of the task that she had undertaken. However, after the second time, the third, and the fourth time these doubts were brought up, it got kind of repetitive.

Other than that one issue, A Dash of Magic wasn’t a bad story. Unfortunately, I’ve reached the end of the books I currently have for this series, but I would be open to reading the next installment.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey

The Girl at Midnight (The Girl at Midnight, #1)Title: The Girl at Midnight
Author: Melissa Grey
Source/Format: Borrowed from the Library; Hardcover
More Details: Young Adult; Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: Delacorte Press; April 28, 2015

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

Magic lives in our darkest corners...

Beneath the streets of New York City live the Avicen, an ancient race of people with feathers for hair and magic running through their veins. Age-old enchantments keep them hidden from humans. All but one. Echo is a runaway pickpocket who survives by selling stolen treasures on the black market, and the Avicen are the only family she’s ever known. Echo is clever and daring, and at times she can be brash, but above all else she’s fiercely loyal. So when a centuries-old war crests on the borders of her home, she decides it’s time to act. Legend has it that there is a way to end the conflict once and for all: find the firebird, a mythical entity believed to possess power the likes of which the world has never seen. It will be no easy task, though if life as a thief has taught Echo anything, it’s how to hunt down what she wants…and how to take it. But some jobs aren’t as straightforward as they seem. And this one might just set the world on fire...
Yo, this is one of those books I’ve been hearing about for what seems like forever. At first glance, The Girl at Midnight sounded like a book I was almost guaranteed to enjoy, but it just didn’t work out that way. This story had its great moments, but overall, it was just an average read for me.

There was nothing particularly bad about The Girl at Midnight, but I wasn’t very surprised by the story. That was really the biggest problem I had with this book. There were a lot of things that I personally found predictable about how the story actually did turn out, just based off of incredibly early foreshadowing. In some ways, the story strongly reminded me of Daughter of Smoke and Bone, and the magic and characters' backstories seemed similar to things I’ve already read.

There were a lot of perspectives that showed the different sides of the story from POV's outside of Echo’s. One thing I did like about this book was the dialogue. The conversations that happened between the characters were especially great, and some of the internal monologue turned out to be relatively entertaining. So, in that regard, The Girl at Midnight nailed it.

Echo was a mystery, and by the end of the book I still didn’t know very much about her character. There were hints about her circumstances, but the book focused on her interactions with the Avicen that she considered family and the role she played in their war. The synopsis describes her as a pickpocket, brash but fiercely loyal, and that about sums up Echo in a nutshell. I did like Echo’s friend a lot, she was a great character, and I particularly enjoyed the interactions between the two. Their conversations were nice, and they just seemed like good friends. I do have a lot of thoughts about the love interests, but that would be a lot to unpack in this review. I will say that they were just alright, but I didn’t really prefer either of them.

I’m still kind of conflicted about this story. I liked it, and there were some great moments. However, I just don’t know if I want to continue on with this series. Of course, that decision has to be mine, but I need more time to really think about it. I might wait till the third book comes out and then make a decision.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Review: Bliss by Kathryn Littlewood

Bliss (The Bliss Bakery, #1)Title: Bliss
Author: Kathryn Littlewood
Source/Format: Purchased; Paperback
More Details: Middle Grade; Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: The Inkhouse; February 14, 2012

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

Kathryn Littlewood’s culinary caper blends rich emotional flavor with truly magical wit, yielding one heaping portion of hilarious family adventure...

Rosemary Bliss’s family has a secret. It’s the Bliss Cookery Booke—an ancient, leather-bound volume of enchanted recipes like Stone Sleep Snickerdoodles and Singing Gingersnaps. Rose and her siblings are supposed to keep the Cookery Booke under lock and whisk-shaped key while their parents are out of town, but then a mysterious stranger shows up. “Aunt” Lily rides a motorcycle, wears purple sequins, and whips up exotic (but delicious) dishes for dinner. Soon boring, non-magical recipes feel like life before Aunt Lily—a lot less fun. So Rose and her siblings experiment with just a couple of recipes from the forbidden Cookery Booke. A few Love Muffins and a few dozen Cookies of Truth couldn’t cause too much trouble . . . could they?
Bliss by Kathryn Littlewood is one of those books I’ve been meaning to read for a very long time. I’ve known about it since it came out back in 2012 and always thought the premise of a magical backery sounded like an interesting idea. It wasn’t until recently that I finally read the book and can firmly say that while Bliss had some brilliant moments, it was more of an average read for me. 

There was nothing inherently bad about the story. My main problem, my one complaint, is that there were some scenes that I just didn’t like. Other than that, I read the book in just a couple of hours. For the most part I liked the story, characters, and magic. There were a lot of pretty neat details that led to some really...uh...interesting situations that were produced by magical baking mishaps. What I liked most about this book was how the magic worked as an ingredient for cooking. The prologue of Bliss opens with lightning being folded into batter, which I thought was pretty cool. Another thing that appealed to me was the bakery. I love to bake, and knowing that a lot of cooking gets done in Bliss is what originally drew me to this book.

Rosemary, the main character, felt like she was underappreciated, and I could agree with that. Littlewood took the time to show some of the things Rosemary was tasked with, which I appreciated because it provided a reason for why the character was feeling that way. I also liked Rosemary's siblings—Parsley, Sage, and Thyme. 

Overall, Bliss wasn't half bad. The end of the story was kind of a cliffhanger. Since I already have the second book on my shelf, I will likely read it just to see how the situation is resolved.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Review: A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess

A Shadow Bright and Burning (Kingdom on Fire, #1)Title: A Shadow Bright and Burning
Author: Jessica Cluess
Source/Format: Blogging for Books; Hardcover
More Details: Young Adult; Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: Random House BFYR; September 20, 2016

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

I am Henrietta Howel. The first female sorcerer. The prophesied one. Or am I?

Henrietta Howel can burst into flames. When she is brought to London to train with Her Majesty's sorcerers, she meets her fellow sorcerer trainees, young men eager to test her powers and her heart. One will challenge her. One will fight for her. One will betray her. As Henrietta discovers the secrets hiding behind the glamour of sorcerer life, she begins to doubt that she's the true prophesied one. With battle looming, how much will she risk to save the city--and the one she loves?
It took me around a week to finally sit down and write this review. That’s a long time in my book, but I needed the extra time to really think about what I read and what I wanted to say about it. A Shadow Bright and Burning wasn’t that bad of a book. However, it was just an average read for me.

There was nothing particularly bad about this story. It was fantasy set in a time period where women were expected to remain in certain roles. There was magic, a prophecy, and a main character who wasn’t the chosen one. The synopsis basically told me a lot about the plot. So when I actually got to that part of the book, I just kind of shrugged at Henrietta’s reaction because I was already expecting it.

Now, I did like that Henrietta wasn’t the prophesied one—as indicated in the synopsis. I feel like I haven’t seen enough of that, so it was a nice touch. Another thing I liked was the magic. For the most part, the magic was pretty cool. Henrietta was a pretty good character, but like the rest of the cast, she was just alright for me. I didn’t mind reading from her perspective, and there were parts of her personality and actions that were interesting.

The last couple of chapters of A Shadow Bright and Burning were the best, and my favorite part of the book. The story moved a lot quicker, there was action, and sufficiently surprising twists that were A+ in my opinion.

While A Shadow Bright and Burning had some great elements to it, there were some parts that weren’t as good. Still, the end left the characters in an interesting place, and I could kind of see hints of where this series could be headed. As such, I might consider picking up the next book.
This copy of the book was provided by Blogging for Books (Publisher) for this review, thank you!
About the author...

Jessica Cluess is a writer, a graduate of Northwestern University, and an unapologetic nerd. After college, she moved to Los Angeles, where she served coffee to the rich and famous while working on her first novel. When she's not writing books, she's an instructor at Writopia Lab, helping kids and teens tell their own stories...

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Monday, October 10, 2016

ARC Review: Cloudwish by Fiona Wood

CloudwishTitle: Cloudwish
Author: Fiona Wood
Source/Format: The NOVL; Paperback ARC
More Details: Young Adult; Contemporary
Publisher/Publication Date: Poppy; October 18, 2016

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

For Vân Uoc, fantasies fall into two categories: nourishing or pointless. Daydreaming about attending her own art opening? Nourishing. Daydreaming about Billy Gardiner, star of the rowing team who doesn't even know she's alive? Pointless. So Vân Uoc tries to stick to her reality--keeping a low profile as a scholarship student at her prestigious Melbourne private school, managing her mother's PTSD from a traumatic emigration from Vietnam, and admiring Billy from afar. Until she makes a wish that inexplicably--possibly magically--comes true. Billy actually notices her. In fact, he seems to genuinely like her. But as they try to fit each other into their very different lives, Vân Uoc can't help but wonder why Billy has suddenly fallen for her. Is it the magic of first love, or is it magic from a well-timed wish that will eventually, inevitably, come to an end?
After reading the synopsis for Cloudwish by Fiona Wood, I decided to give it a fair chance. I read it, and it was an okay read. This book certainly had its strengths and weakness—elements that I liked, and others that were just sort of meh. So, yeah, I had some mixed feelings about it.

Cloudwish was about Vân Uoc and how she makes a wish for her crush to notice her. Sounds fine, right? Well, the idea itself wasn’t bad, and there were so many ways that kind of concept could have gone. And, for the most part, the plot was okay. The story wasn’t bad. The writing was fine and the pacing was good, but I did have some problems with it.

One thing I didn’t like was Billy Gardiner’s character. The way he behaved just sort of left a bad taste in my mouth, and at some points I wondered what it was about him that Vân Uoc found so appealing. He was described as being something along the lines of model-worthy handsome, an outstanding athlete, and smart. But he was also kind of a jerk. There was character growth, but in my eyes, it didn’t really redeem him much. There were also some parts that seemed a little stereotypical in terms of expectations and family/home life for Vân Uoc.

What I did like was Vân Uoc’s skepticism about Billy’s sudden attention. There was something refreshing about seeing her resist his advances—especially when they were otherwise without good reason—rather than just give in and accept her sudden unexplained stroke of luck. There wasn’t much of a magical aspect to it, but I did like the wish part. It was simple, nothing flashy about it, but still nice. Plus, Vân Uoc’s friends were interesting, and I especially enjoyed the scenes when they were present.

So, Cloudwish wasn't all bad. I haven’t read anything else by Fiona Wood so there is a possibility that I would consider giving another one of her novels a try, only if it seems like something of interest to me.
This copy of the book was provided by The Novl (Newsletter; Publisher) for this review, thank you!
About the author...

Fiona Wood is the author of young adult novels, Six Impossible Things and Wildlife. Her third book,Cloudwish, will be published in the US in October. Before writing YA fiction, Fiona worked as a television scriptwriter for twelve years, writing everything from soap, and one-hour adult drama, to children’s drama. Prior to this she dropped out of law and completed an arts degree, both at Melbourne University, worked in marketing and in arts management, did some freelance journalism, and studied screenwriting at RMIT. She has served as a judge for the AWGIE Awards (Australian Writers’ Guild) and is an ambassador for The Stella Prize Schools Program. She has two YA children, and lives in Melbourne with her husband...
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