Monday, April 17, 2017

Duo Review: The Crown of Embers & The Bitter Kingdom (Rae Carson)

The Crown of Embers (Fire and Thorns, #2)The Bitter Kingdom (Fire and Thorns, #3)

Titles: The Crown of Embers | The Bitter Kingdom
Series: Fire & Thorns Trilogy, Books 2 & 3
Author: Rae Carson
Publisher: Greenwillow Books (HarperCollins)
Release Date: September 18, 2012 | August 27, 2013
Genre: Young Adult Action-Adventure Fantasy
Told: First Person (Elisa), Present Tense
Content Rating: Older Teen (violence, minor gore, sensuality)
Format Read: Paperbacks (purchase)
Find & Purchase Book 2 OnGoodreadsAmazon | B&N | Book Depository
Find & Purchase Book 3 On: Goodreads Amazon | B&NBook Depository
Book 2 Summary:

She does not know what awaits her at the enemy's gate.

Elisa is a hero.

She led her people to victory over a terrifying, sorcerous army. Her place as the country's ruler should be secure. But it isn't.

Her enemies come at her like ghosts in a dream, from foreign realms and even from within her own court. And her destiny as the chosen one has not yet been fulfilled.

To conquer the power she bears, once and for all, Elisa must follow a trial of long-forgotten—and forbidden—clues, from the deep, hidden catacombs of her own city to the treacherous seas. With her go a one-eyed spy, a traitor, and the man whom—despite everything—she is falling in love with.

If she's lucky, she will return from this journey. But there will be a cost.


*          *          *

In a Sentence: A thrilling two-part travel adventure that expands the world of the first book and concludes a stellar fantasy trilogy.

After really enjoying Book 1, The Girl of Fire and Thorns (see my review here), I was excited to continue what I thought of as "the further adventures of Elisa" with the rest of the Fire & Thorns trilogy. As Books 2 & 3 turned out to be rather Parts 1 & 2 of the same story - with a cliffhanger at the end of Book 2 that slid almost immediately into Book 3 - I decided to review them together.

Where Book 1 was about Elisa finding the strength in herself to rule, Books 2 & 3 are the story of a girl who would be queen, struggling to rule and protect her people as best she can while dealing with court politics and trying to solve the mystery of her power. Set mainly on an epic road trip that expands the fantasy world into unknown reaches above and below by visiting lost islands and abandoned tunnels and venturing deep into enemy territory, these books are definitely travel adventures at their heart as Elisa and friends are almost constantly on the move rescuing people and places and saving the day even as they dig themselves deeper into danger and intrigue.

STRENGTHS
  • While Book 2 most certainly connects and continues the first book, due to the "further adventures of Elisa" aspect there was absolutely no Middle Book Syndrome!
  • The immersive writing style I loved in Book 1 continued in these and brought the world and movement to life with vivid description that didn't shy away from the grit and sweat of real living.
  • Main character Elisa remained the amazing and highly relatable young woman I came to know and root for in Girl of Fire and Thorns. Also highly relatable and interesting were the secondary characters, and I grew to love every one of them (especially Red, but who couldn't love Red I mean c'mon).
  • The romance was a strong thread woven through the two books but it didn't dominate in any way, instead acting as a kind of breather here and there amidst all the action and an emotional undercurrent for Elisa and Hector. When it finally came to its climax it was (to my happiness) rather mild and faded to black at the proper moments.
  • The end was strong and sweet and fitting. Even with a lot of tragedy weighing them down most got a happy ending, and their lives continued right past the last page into greater adventures.

WEAKNESSES
  • The story was 90% action, 7% romance, and 3% emotional depth, which left little time to ponder the emotions and intelligence that drove the action. While so much action made for a fast-paced and thrilling read, I really would've liked a bit more depth to the otherwise straight adventure story.
  • While I knew Elisa was smart and resourceful based on the first book, in these I was told instead of shown the thought process behind her brilliant plans. It made me feel left out, and left the story with very little depth to hold the string of miniature adventures together.
  • Several times in passing there was mention of Elisa's people coming to planet Inverno after theirs was destroyed, hinting that there is a sci-fi origin story to the fantasy setting. I was thrilled with the hope that it would be expanded, and highly disappointed when it wasn't. Sequel series?

Conclusion: While I would've liked more depth, The Crown of Embers and The Bitter Kingdom were adventurous reads with lots of exciting action and magic and a sweet romance. If you enjoyed The Girl of Fire and Thorns and wanted more, these are most definitely worth picking up.

Series Conclusion: As a whole, the trilogy is a solid fantasy adventure read with highly relatable characters, vivid description, and a thrilling story. If you enjoy fantasy, you cannot miss this series.

Scribble Rating
4 of 5 Scribbles


Monday, April 10, 2017

Review: The Girl of Fire & Thorns (Rae Carson)

The Girl of Fire and Thorns (Fire and Thorns, #1)
Title: The Girl of Fire and Thorns
Series: Fire & Thorns, Book 1
Author: Rae Carson
Publisher: Greenwillow Books (HarperCollins)
Release Date: September 20, 2011
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Told: First Person (Elisa), Present Tense
Content Rating: Older Teen (violence)
Format Read: ARC (EpicLibrarian)
Find OnGoodreads
Purchase OnAmazon | B&N | Book Depository
Summary:

Once a century, one person is chosen for greatness.
Elisa is the chosen one. 

But she is also the younger of two princesses, the one who has never done anything remarkable. She can't see how she ever will. 

Now, on her sixteenth birthday, she has become the secret wife of a handsome and worldly king—a king whose country is in turmoil. A king who needs the chosen one, not a failure of a princess.

And he's not the only one who seeks her. Savage enemies seething with dark magic are hunting her. A daring, determined revolutionary thinks she could be his people's savior. And he looks at her in a way that no man has ever looked at her before. Soon it is not just her life, but her very heart that is at stake.

Elisa could be everything to those who need her most. If the prophecy is fulfilled. If she finds the power deep within herself. If she doesn’t die young.

Most of the chosen do.


*          *          *

In a SentenceAn engrossing read with a relatable main character, vivid description, diverse world, and intense religion, even if the magic was rather weird. 

With the entire Fire & Thorns trilogy sitting on my shelf, I randomly grabbed this last year without really recalling what it was about and dove right in. Happily I was rewarded with a dazzling adventure!

STRENGTHS:
  • Elisa. Elisa was one of the best main characters I've ever read. While she could be material and self-deprecating, she had a strong and caring heart and a sharp mind. Her flaws made her highly relatable and real, one of the most real characters I've read, and her strengths made her admirable and worth rooting for.
  • The diversity. Although a fantasy, it seemed to be based around a kind of Hispanic culture, especially in language and religion. So refreshing!
  • The religion. The heavy religious aspect was also a pleasant surprise, and I loved how it was front and center through it all without being heavy-handed.
  • The setting and description. The story took place in desert and jungle regions which made for raw description that wasn't afraid to get real with sweat and grit and the discomfort of it all. It pulled me into the story so deep I felt like I was there, and I had a hard time pulling out when I had to put the book down. 

WEAKNESSES:
  • The romantic emotion. Elisa struggled with her feelings for two men in this book, but I never really felt her affection for either of them. While her feelings for her friends and family came through, there was an emotional disconnect with romantic matters for me. I personally didn't consider this a bad thing, but my indifference did considerably lessen the thrill and tension of several romantic and tragic moments in the story.
  • The magic. I love all kinds of magic and revel in new forms of it, but this... it was just weird. I mean, a power stone in her bellybutton? I eventually came to terms with it, and loved how it reacted to her prayers, but the more she learned about the Godstones the weirder things got until the end saw me reading with one eyebrow raised through the entire climax. I think it was a matter of elegance: the world, the writing, even the raw but carefully crafted description had a sense of elegance to them. The magic did not, climaxing in the category of ridiculous for me that did not balance with the most definitely elegant religion it was paired to. The idea of the stone was elegant - how it was used was not.

Series Note: This book encompasses a full story arc with resolution, and could be read alone without needing to continue the series. The prospect of more adventures with Elisa definitely interested me though, and I immediately reached for the next book: The Crown of Embers.

Conclusion: An engrossing fantasy of diversity and religion that I highly recommend for fantasy fans!

Scribble Rating
4.5 of 5 Scribbles


Friday, April 7, 2017

The #FridayReads Review (4/7/17)



Welcome to The #FridayReads Review, a regular Friday segment where I share what I've been reading the past week, and what I'm planning to read next! Want to join the Friday fun? Post your own #FridayReads Review and leave the link in the Comments below, or just Comment with what you've been reading!


>> CURRENTLY READING <<
Blood Rose Rebellion (Blood Rose Rebellion, #1)
Blood Rose Rebellion by Rosalyn Eves (ARC)
The author's coming to my local indie next week so I started this beauty this morning - so far so good!


>> JUST FINISHED <<
Geekerella: A Fangirl Fairy TaleThe Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing

Geekerella by Ashley Poston (HBK)
4 StarsA fun and fannish Cinderella retelling with great characters and a sweet romance that no geek should miss! Review to come.

The Live-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo (HBK)
4 Stars. As I am currently in the process of seriously tidying, this was a highly inspiring read! Although I'm not following The KonMari Method to the letter, I am taking a lot of her tips to heart. Excited to read the sequel next.


>> [POSSIBLY] READING NEXT <<
(subject to change with my ever-shifting reading whims)
Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying UpAnonymous Noise, Vol. 1

Anonymous Noise vol. 1 by Ryoko Fukuyama (PBK)
Just picked this up from the library this morning - I loved Ryoko's Nosatsu Junkie (or at least the volumes that were released in America), so I'm looking forward to this new series.

Spark Joy by Marie Kondo (HBK)
Just finished the first book and excited to start the second today!


So what are you reading this week?

Friday, March 31, 2017

The #FridayReads Review (3/31/17)



Welcome to The #FridayReads Review, a regular Friday segment where I share what I've been reading the past week, and what I'm planning to read next! Want to join the Friday fun? Post your own #FridayReads Review and leave the link in the Comments below, or just Comment with what you've been reading!


>> CURRENTLY READING <<
Geekerella: A Fangirl Fairy TaleThe Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing

Geekerella by Ashley Poston (HBK)
Although I always forget I'm not much for Cinderella retellings until I start reading them, this has been a fun read with great characters and fandom and I'm quite enjoying it! Especially love Darien (heartthrob actor on the outside, geek on the inside), and the witty texts.

The Live-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo (HBK)
I'm currently on a woman-possessed spring-cleaning binge (which is why I haven't been blogging the past few weeks), and this has been a great inspiration. Not following it to the letter (we differ in opinion on some things), but I'm still getting a lot from it and look forward to reading the sequel directly after.


>> JUST FINISHED <<
The Good, the Bad, and the Uncanny (Nightside, #10)
The Good, the Bad & the Uncanny by Simon R. Green (MMP)
2.5 Stars. A transitional, almost prologue-esque volume that was less a coherent book and more a collection of random acquaintance interactions sandwiched between two brief adventures with only a very flimsy thread of a rumor to string them together. Still, the writing is finally up to snuff and the world and characters remain highly engaging and entertaining, so while this volume was probably the worst so far I do look forward to continuing the series.


>> [POSSIBLY] READING NEXT <<
(subject to change with my ever-shifting reading whims)
Blood Rose Rebellion (Blood Rose Rebellion, #1)
Blood Rose Rebellion by Rosalyn Eves (ARC)
The author's coming to my local indie next month so this jumped to the top of my pile!


So what are you reading this week?

Friday, March 17, 2017

The #FridayReads Review (3/17/17)



Welcome to The #FridayReads Review, a regular Friday segment where I share what I've been reading the past week, and what I'm planning to read next! Want to join the Friday fun? Post your own #FridayReads Review and leave the link in the Comments below, or just Comment with what you've been reading!


>> CURRENTLY READING <<
The Good, the Bad, and the Uncanny (Nightside, #10)
The Good, the Bad & the Uncanny by Simon R. Green (MMP)
I found I was in desperate need of a dime novel read, so I decided to grab my next Nightside. But while the world and characters continue to be such fun, this has been a rather painful read. The writing is finally up to snuff, but this volume feels more like a collection of random acquaintance interactions sandwiched between two brief adventures, all unconnected except for a thread of coincidence and with generally no coherence at all. I suspect this is a "prologue" volume, which I can never stand under any circumstance. But despite the pain, I really had needed a Nightside fix and am otherwise enjoying the general read immensely.


>> JUST FINISHED <<
Yona of the Dawn, Vol. 4
Yona of the Dawn vol. 4 by Mizuhu Kusanagi (PBK)
4.5 Stars. Now this was more like it! After three rather middling volumes I wasn't sure how much longer I could stick with this lackluster series, but as we got to see more of the characters' personalities and with the addition of magic in the last volume, this volume was really good. Here's hoping the series only continues to get better!


>> [POSSIBLY] READING NEXT <<
(subject to change with my ever-shifting reading whims)
The Marked Girl (Marked Girl, #1)
The Marked Girl by Lindsey Klingele (ARC)
Put this on hold for a while but hoping to finally finish it after Nightside. About 70% through.


So what are you reading this week?

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

ORGANIZE YOUR WAY: Simple Strategies for Every Personality Type (Katie & Kelly McMenamin) + Giveaway!

I'm a bit of an organizing nut, so when Hannah of Irish Banana Tours asked for bloggers to help pimp a book on organizing by personality type, of course I had to share it with my readers! Check out the book below, along with the McMenamin sisters' Top 10 Pixie Tips, and enter to win a copy at the end!

~*~                    ~*~                    ~*~

ABOUT THE BOOK

Organize Your Way: Simple Strategies for Every Personality
Title: Organize Your Way: Simple Strategies for Every Personality Type
Author: Katie & Kelly McMenamin
Pub. Date: March 14, 2017
Publisher: Sterling
Summary:

Stressing over the mess? Discover YOUR personal organizing style—and stay organized forever!

Organization isn’t one-size-fits-all. Different people need different solutions. Fortunately, Katie and Kelly McMenamin—the organizing gurus behind PixiesDidIt!®—have found the key to making organization stick, with strategies that work for every personality.


Whether you’re OCD or a little less fastidious, Katie and Kelly will help you discover your organizational style, using unconventional approaches or sticking to what already works. Along with personality-based solutions for every space in your home, they offer advice on solving strife between different “PixieTypes.” So you can keep the stuff you love . . . and the peace!

THE AUTHORS

Katie McMenamin and Kelly McMenamin are sisters, professional organizers, personality-type experts, and founders of PixieDidIt! Their business is an outgrowth of buttoned-up hedge fund analyst Kelly spending 30-odd years trying and failing to get her messy older sister Katie, a writer, to be more organized. Countless fights ensued until they had an idea: What if there is more than one way to organize? Today, they spend the bulk of their time organizing for clients, writing for their website, and giving talks on how to organize according to your personality type. Kelly lives in NYC with her husband and three sons and Katie lives in their hometown, the Land of Champions, aka Cleveland, OH, with her husband and three daughters.



TOP TEN PIXIE TIPS

1. Knowing who you are is the key to organization mainly because if you’re pretending to be someone else, it’s hard to remember where that pretend person put something!

2. Change is hard, so be honest about organizing tasks. People who never hang up their coats in a closet, probably never will; get a coat rack and call it a day.

3. Perfect isn’t real. Magazine perfection is styled by a professional whose job it is to make everything perfection for the millisecond it takes to snap a photo.

4. No shame, no blame! You liking clear, spotless surfaces doesn’t make you OCD (it’s not a personality disorder), it’s your personality type.

5. Later Box It. When you can’t part with a useless item, store it away in a box and revisit that box in a few months (a year), whatever you missed keep, whatever you forgot … dude, let it go.

6. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Change is hard (see #2!) so if storing TP right next to the toilet works for you, do it, but for heaven’s sake try to make it look nice—unless you live alone on Antarctica then who cares.

7. Organizing at its core is about retrieval. Period. Can you easily find and get things when you need them. Everything else is an argument about aesthetics.

8. One-step solutions are golden. Hanging up your coat is a five-step process whereas popping it on a hook is one-step. Light bulb (at least it was for us!)

9. Be loud & proud. So, you write important To Do’s on your hand in a pinch. Who cares? Don’t apologize, defend it and tell any scolds where they can go.

10. There’s no best way to organize—just the best one for you!

What's your Pixie Type? Take the quiz here!

GIVEAWAY

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, March 13, 2017

Paragraph Review: Duels & Deception (Cindy Anstey) | #famous (Jilly Gagnon)

Duels and Deception
Title: Duels & Deception
Series: standalone
Author: Cindy Anstey
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Release Date: April 11, 2017
Genre: Young Adult Mystery Romance
Told: Third Person Omniscient, Past Tense
Content Rating: Teen (kidnapping, misadventure, kissing)
Format Read: ARC (trade)
Find OnGoodreads
Purchase OnAmazon | B&N | Book Depository
Summary:

Miss Lydia Whitfield, heiress to the family fortune, has her future entirely planned out. She will run the family estate until she marries the man of her late father's choosing, and then she will spend the rest of her days as a devoted wife. Confident in those arrangements, Lydia has tasked her young law clerk, Mr. Robert Newton, to begin drawing up the marriage contracts. Everything is going according to plan.

Until Lydia—and Robert along with her—is kidnapped. Someone is after her fortune and won't hesitate to destroy her reputation to get it. With Robert's help, Lydia strives to keep her family's good name intact and expose whoever is behind the devious plot. But as their investigation delves deeper and their affections for each other grow, Lydia starts to wonder whether her carefully planned future is in fact what she truly wants…


*          *          *

In a SentenceA lighthearted Austen-esque mystery romance with entertaining characters and an engaging whodunit.

Duels & Deception was an easy and enjoyable read with writing reminiscent of Jane Austen's gentle yet playful tone that makes even the most mild of subjects engrossing. Although it could get a little too quiet on occasion such is the way with these kinds of stories, and the sedate times made the exciting moments all the more thrilling. The main mystery had me guessing at every turn, although I was all but certain of the correct culprit about halfway through. Several vocal gasps and giggles were easily elicited throughout, and I was grinning broadly by the end. The romance was sweet and perfectly proper, and the characters all unique and engaging from the main players to the villainous henchmen. Overall a pleasant read that I highly recommend for Austen fans, and I look forward to reading more by Anstey soon.

For fans of: Jane Austen

Scribble Rating
4 of 5 Scribbles



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#famous
Title: #famous
Series: standalone
Author: Jilly Gagnon
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (HarperCollins)
Release Date: February 14, 2017
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Told: First Person (Rachel & Kyle), Past Tense
Content Rating: Older Teen (innuendo, language, bullying, minor sensuality)
Format Read: ARC (trade)
Find OnGoodreads
Purchase OnAmazon | B&N | Book Depository
Summary:

Debut author Jilly Gagnon bursts onto the scene with a story equal parts bite and romance, perfect for fans of Jenny Han and Jennifer E. Smith, about falling for someone in front of everyone. 

In this modern day love story: Girl likes boy. Girl snaps photo and posts it online. Boy becomes insta-famous. And what starts out as an innocent photo turns into a whirlwind adventure that forces them both to question whether fame—and love—are worth the price…and changes both of their lives forever.

Told from alternating points of view, #famous captures the sometimes-crazy thrill ride of social media and the equally messy but wonderful moments of liking someone in real life.


*          *          *

In a Sentence: A cliche and somewhat dispiriting #awkward contemporary romance about unexpected fame, bullying, and self-realization that was not the mood lifter I anticipated.

With its adorable cover and "modern day love story" premise I expected a lighthearted romance about finding love through a brush with fame. What I got, however, was an #awkward romance I could barely read due to a lot of cringing, eye-rolling, and sighing over misinterpretations, false assumptions, and the fact that I did not think the two made a good couple. About two-thirds through I did eventually come to understand why they felt they were attracted to each other, but in my opinion while they would make really good friends, they would not make long-lasting romantic partners. As far as the fame aspect, it was a somewhat dispiriting tale of expectations, self-realization, and for me badly handled bullying that soured the story. Thankfully it was a very quick read, and despite an overused misunderstanding of a resolution, the end was sweet and full of promise for the characters' futures. Overall #famous was not the fluffy love story I'd been looking forward to, but if you enjoy more drama in your contemporary romances then perhaps give it a try. 

Recommend if you liked: Broken Hearts, Fences, & Other Things to Mend by Katie Finn

Scribble Rating
2.5 of 5 Scribbles