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My name is Ardis and I am an avid reader and budding writer. I want to share my love of books with others. I work with kids and am interested in finding and creating books that will ignite the reader in everyone. Contact me at: ardis.atkins@gmail.com

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MsArdychan's bookshelf: read

I Owe You One
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Love, Hate & Other Filters
The Wartime Sisters
The Belles
The Gilded Wolves
Hey, Kiddo
Blackberry and Wild Rose
Queen of Air and Darkness
Firestarter
The Retribution of Mara Dyer
The Evolution of Mara Dyer


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Tuesday, February 18, 2020

ARC Review: Ten Days Gone by Beverly Long

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/45422558-ten-days-gone?from_search=true&qid=C9lJ4hQfQa&rank=1

Please Note:  I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  This did not influence the opinions in my review in any way.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
They know exactly when he'll strike... They just have to find him first.In all their years working for the Baywood police department, detectives A.L. McKittridge and Rena Morgan have never seen anything like it. Four women dead in forty days, each killed ten days apart. With nothing connecting the victims and very little evidence, the clock is already counting down to when the next body drops. A.L. and Rena will have to act fast if they're going to find the killer's next victim before he does.But identifying the killer's next likely target is only half the battle. With pressure pushing in from all sides, a promising breakthrough leads the detectives to Tess Lyons, a woman whose past trauma has left her too damaged to appreciate the danger she's in. Unwilling to let another woman die, A.L. and Rena will put everything on the line to keep Tess safe and end the killer's deadly spree once and for all--before time runs out again.

Review:
Ten Day Gone, by Beverly Long, is a highly entertaining mystery/thriller.  It has a great, small town setting filled with many interesting characters.  The two main characters are complex which makes me want to get to know them more.  And the plot is fast-paced, with plenty of twists and turns.

What I Liked:
Setting:
The setting, a small town in Wisconsin, is the perfect backdrop for the many characters that the author has in the story.  Everybody knows everyone (and everything) in this community.  And yet, there are also many secrets that people keep hidden.  Many of those secrets are revealed in the novel, which makes the people highly interesting.

I also liked that the author highlighted people with lots of family connections.  Often characters are shown in a vacuum, never showing family obligations or gatherings.  I loved that both of the main characters had complicated lives outside of their jobs.

Characters:
The two main characters, A.L. McKittridge and Rena Morgan, are police detective partners.  Their relationship is purely professional, yet they do occasionally talk with each other about their private lives.  I liked the realistic presentation of these two people.  They both have strengths and challenges.  But they always respect each other.

The supporting characters are also very realistic and interesting.  From the various suspects reluctance to speak to the police, to the detectives respective families, they all were characters I wanted to know about.

Plot:
The plot centers around a serial killer who is killing women every 10 days.  I liked learning how the detectives could deduce who the possible suspects were and following them along as they close in on the killer.

As the novel progresses, McKittridge and Morgan figure out who the next victim could be.  I loved learning who this person was and how they dealt with learning they were a target.

The resolution of the story was well executed with lots of roadblocks to make the outcome uncertain.  This kept me reading and wanting know who the killer was and if they could stop them!

This is the first book in a new series by the author, Beverly Long.  I enjoyed this book and really look forward to seeing the characters again in the next novel in the series. 

Take Note:  There is an explicit sex scene in this book.  If you are looking for a "clean" novel, you may not want to read this.


Rating: 




Release Date:  February 18, 2020

Author:  Beverly Long

Publisher:  Mira Books

Genre:  Mystery/Thriller

Page Length:  384 Pages

Source:  NetGalley

Format:  E-Book

Recommendation: Complex characters in a small town setting make this a highly enjoyable start to this crime series.

 
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Saturday, February 15, 2020

Stacking The Shelves & Sunday Post #7




I am combining two great weekly blog hops:  Stacking The Shelves by Team Tynga's Reviews, and Sunday Post by Caffeinated Reviewer.  I hope to read as many of the blogs from these two hops as possible because I love to see what everyone is reading!

If you enjoy my blog, please consider following me at Bloglovin, Goodreads, or Twitter.  Let me know you're a new follower so I can follow you back!


Happenings:
What a busy, fun week at work!  Our team (now known as The Fabulous Five) put on the Valentine's Day party and it was super fun.


We put on an English High Tea, complete with scones and clotted cream!  I made chocolate covered strawberries, created a playlist, and put on one of the games.  



For The game, I chose a Valentine's edition of Name That Tune.  I was pleasantly surprised by how everyone participated and were rather competitive!

Here's my playlist, if you want to check it out:
                                 

Reading:
With all the preparation for our party, I didn't get much reading done.  I did finish an ARC, that was very entertaining called Ten Days Gone, by Beverly Long.  



I'm starting to really enjoy crime novels!  I'll have a review up sometime this weekend.

New Books:
This was a great week for new books, particularly ARC approvals:

For Review:
Edelweiss:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/50623242-love?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=CP13Asjf7y&rank=4https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/47804536-verona-comics?from_search=true&qid=h09gaSv3J6&rank=2

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/48895793-the-lions-of-fifth-avenue?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=NBhxaLrE1X&rank=1

I rarely get approved for review copies on Edelweiss.  I have no idea why, but for some reason this week I suddenly got three approvals from them!  Weird, but wonderful...

Bought:
I pre-ordered this book from Owlcrate a long time ago and it's finally here!

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40234899-heart-of-flames?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=ydGzZKWpzS&rank=1

That's it for this week!  Have a wonderful weekend.
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Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Book Review: Almost American Girl by Robin Ha

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40030311-almost-american-girl?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=UeBgwye1hR&rank=1

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
A powerful and timely teen graphic novel memoir—perfect for fans of American Born Chinese and Hey, Kiddo—about a Korean-born, non-English-speaking girl who is abruptly transplanted from Seoul to Huntsville, Alabama, and struggles with extreme culture shock and isolation, until she discovers her passion for comic arts.

For as long as she can remember, it’s been Robin and her mom against the world. Growing up in the 1990s as the only child of a single mother in Seoul, Korea, wasn’t always easy, but it has bonded them fiercely together.

So when a vacation to visit friends in Huntsville, Alabama, unexpectedly becomes a permanent relocation—following her mother’s announcement that she’s getting married—Robin is devastated. Overnight, her life changes. She is dropped into a new school where she doesn’t understand the language and struggles to keep up. She is completely cut off from her friends at home and has no access to her beloved comics. At home, she doesn’t fit in with her new stepfamily. And worst of all, she is furious with the one person she is closest to—her mother.

Then one day Robin’s mother enrolls her in a local comic drawing class, which opens the window to a future Robin could never have imagined.


Review:
In the past, I hadn't read many graphic novels.  This was mostly due to my perception that they were glorified comic books that would be filled with superheroes and scantily-clad women.  But since my daughter has become an Art student, I've been exposed to many wonderful graphic novels about a wide variety of topics.

Almost American Girl, written and illustrated by Robin Ha, is a memoir.  Aside from the wonderful drawings, it is a powerful story of the immigrant experience and the tensions between and mother and a daughter.  I was blown away by the story and teary-eyed at the end.

What I Liked:
Illustrations:
The artistic style is really beautiful with delicate watercolors and detailed drawings of both South Korea and the United States.  I liked that strong emotional moments were highlighted with brighter colors.  She also had a clever way of distinguishing between when the characters are speaking Korean versus English.  She had two different colors for each type of dialogue.  This made it easy for the reader to understand.

Characters:
Chuna, who changes her name to Robin when she starts school in Alabama, is overwhelmed by the sudden move to America.  I appreciated seeing her struggles and frustrations with learning English.  I could really identify with that as I lived in Japan for three years, and found it difficult to learn the language.  I also think back on my own grandmother who came to America as a child and had to learn English.  It is a tremendous challenge that most people cannot fathom.  This book shows all the challenges, and also the rewards, with learning English.

Robin's mom is force of nature.  As a single mother in conservative South Korea, she had to be resilient.  But as a child, Robin only sees her mom as the person who disrupts their lives again and again.  She doesn't know all the reasons why they left South Korea, and resents her mother for putting her through such turmoil.  Since her mom tries to shelter Robin from such difficulties, I can see why Robin felt so betrayed.

What I appreciated was that the story eventually shows Robin's mom as a complex person who is trying to what's best for her and her daughter.  She doesn't always get it right, but by the end of the book, you understand where she's coming from.

Story:
The Story centers around Robin's struggles to assimilate into life in America.  It's not easy.  She must learn English, try to do well in school when she can't understand a thing, and find a way to deal with a new family.  All the while, she misses her friends, and the culture of South Korea.  

This was a powerful story that showed how determined people must be to come to the United States.  Most people do learn English eventually, and become contributors to their community.  I hope when people read Almost American Girl they come away with a strong admiration for what immigrants bring to our diverse American culture. 

Rating: 




Release Date:  January 28th, 2020

Author & Illustrator:  Robin Ha

Publisher:  Balzer + Bray

Genre:  YA Graphic Novel Memoir

Page Length:  240 Pages

Source:  Public Library

Format:  E-Book

Recommendation: An important book that I would recommend to teens and adults who want to understand the immigrant experience.
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Saturday, February 8, 2020

Stacking The Shelves & Sunday Post #6




I am combining two great weekly blog hops:  Stacking The Shelves by Team Tynga's Reviews, and Sunday Post by Caffeinated Reviewer.  I hope to read as many of the blogs from these two hops as possible because I love to see what everyone is reading!

If you enjoy my blog, please consider following me at Bloglovin, Goodreads, or Twitter.  Let me know you're a new follower so I can follow you back!


Happenings:
Love is in the air and our office team is in charge of a Valentine's Day celebration.  We've been having a lot of fun planning decorations, food, and games.  I've even created a playlist on Spotify!

                                     

Reading:
I got a surprising amount of reading done this week, finishing three books.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/45897568-a-long-petal-of-the-seahttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/45449811-almost-american-girl?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=WPrF3A4ld3&rank=1


https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/37969723-the-silence-of-the-girls?from_search=true&qid=0yViEYuQRy&rank=1


I think I liked A Long Petal of The Sea, by Isabel Allende the most.  It was such an epic story of refugees making a new life for themselves in South America in the 1940's.  I loved the characters, and learning more about historical events I knew little of, such as the Spanish Civil War.

New Books:
Bought:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/41473805-the-boy-who-became-a-dragon?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=JcEvjAHYSj&rank=1
 This was a pre-order.  I really admire the author and illustrator of this graphic novel, Jim Di Bartolo.  Each page is filled with the most amazing artwork.  And the story is about the early life of Bruce Lee!

Library:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25526296-every-heart-a-doorway?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=qxqLkt3Ppc&rank=1

For Review:
This was an amazing week for ARC's!!!

Edelweiss:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/46139175-be-not-far-from-me?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=lRx1y6gA0w&rank=1



Blog Tour:
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/47590364-more-than-maybe?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=UzpG5EDV4J&rank=1
  
NetGalley:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/45046743-only-mostly-devastated

St. Martin's Press:
 
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/47590200-we-came-here-to-shine?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=I19fM7Ulm7&rank=1

Listening Library:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25985242-the-king-of-crows?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=tVfiBEyVqt&rank=1
This is one of my most anticipated books of 2020!  The audiobooks of this series have been incredible due to the stellar performance of the narrator, January LaVoy.  If you've been following this series, read the audiobook versions.  They are a special treat.

Oh boy!  Have I bitten off more than I can chew???

What are some of your most anticipated books for 2020?  Let me know in the comments.



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Thursday, February 6, 2020

ARC Review: Far Away Bird by Douglas A. Burton

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/48381373-far-away-bird?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=DqySmVU4oa&rank=1

Please Note:  I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  This did not influence the opinions in my review in any way.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Inspired by true events, Far Away Bird delves into the complex mind of Byzantine Empress Theodora. This intimate account deftly follows her rise from actress-prostitute in Constantinople's red-light district to the throne of the Byzantine Empire. 

Her salacious past has left historians blushing and uncomfortable.
Tales of her shamelessness have survived for centuries, and yet her accomplishments as an empress are unparalleled. Theodora goes on to influence sweeping reforms that result in some of the first ever Western laws granting women freedom and protection. More than a millennium before the women's rights movement, Theodora, alone, took on the world's greatest superpower and succeeded. Far Away Bird goes where history classrooms fear to tread in hopes that Theodora can finally take her seat among the greatest women in history.

Theodora seems impossible--yet her transcendence teaches us that society can't tell us who we are deep down. Before there was a legendary empress, there was a conflicted young woman from the lower classes.


Review:
I was really interested in Far Away Bird, by Douglas A. Burton, because it was centered around an historical figure I knew little about, Theadora of Byzantine.  This book concerns her early life (she later became an Empress).  Although it was brutal to read, I thought it gave some deep insights into the lives of women living in the 6th century.  

What I Liked:
Setting:
I knew nothing of Constantinople going into this book, nor of what life was like for women in the sixth century.  But the author's vivid descriptions brought this time to life.  The sights, sounds, clothing, and food of the city paint a picture of a thriving place with wealthy Romans living blocks away from people in dire poverty.

Characters:
Theodora begins the story as a precocious young teen who's life changes drastically when her father dies.  At first, I had a tough time understanding Theodora's reactions to her situation.  But as the story continues, we see a deeply drawn character trying to cope with a life-altering incident.  

I also liked that Theodora was a survivor.  She was strong for others, even when faced with awful, humiliating situations.

I also liked one of the other female characters Macedonia.  She showed Theodora an alternate way to gain control of her life.   But she also accepted others as they were.  Her mentorship of Theodora was wonderful to read about.

Justinian was a Roman soldier who Theodora meets again and again in the story.  He is one of the few men who sees her as a person, and not just a sexual plaything.  His characters seemed a little too good to be true.  But then the author surprised me by throwing in several moments where he makes some questionable decisions.  Can Theodora respect him when he can harm others without much thought?  Or is he trying to make the best of several terrible choices?

Story:
While not getting too much into what actually happens (I do not want to get all spoiler-y on you), I valued the progression of Theodora's life.  She goes from having much, to having nothing, and then to rebuilding her world.  

The story shows what few choices women had in that time period.  If you're not born into a wealthy family, don't lose your family's patriarch!  If you do, your doomed to a life of prostitution, or hard labor.

The author didn't sugar-coat that life at all.  He showed just how violent, and de-humanizing that life was.  It was difficult to read, at times, because it was so brutal.  But I think it painted a realistic portrait of what a challenging life that would be.

Effects of Rape:
This is one of the few books I have ever read that delves deep into the psychological harm that rape inflicts.  Theodora doesn't just have some bad memories of what happened.  She has some serious damage to her self-worth.  The book shows how women cope with such trauma through self-medicating, and even promiscuity.  All of it is an attempt to try and regain some control of your destiny, after having zero control during the rape.  This made me cry several times in the book.  But I hope people who read about this will come away with a better understanding of the life-long consequences of being raped has on a person.

What I Was Mixed About:
Violence:
There's no way to get around how violent rape is.  I would not want the author to skim over what happens.  That would be a disservice to anyone who has experienced this firsthand.  But, it was difficult to read about something so vicious.

Sexual Content:
I was mixed about the sexual content in the book.  Of course there will be sex in a book about a notorious prostitute.  But the author goes out of his way to vividly describe sexual situations that included orgies and bestiality.  I didn't need to read about that!

Trigger Warning for Rape & Violence

 
Rating:




Release Date:  February 6, 2020

Author:  Douglas A. Burton

Publisher:  Silent Music Press

Page Length:  394 Pages

Source:  NetGalley

Format:  E-Book

Recommendations:  Although the extreme violence was hard to get past, the outcome is a book with deep insights into the difficult lives of women in the 6th century Byzantine Empire.
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Tuesday, February 4, 2020

ARC Review: All The Stars and Teeth by Adalyn Grace

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/38325332-all-the-stars-and-teeth?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=Kgsc5DXj2m&rank=1

Please Note:  I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  This did not influence the opinions in my review in any way.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Set in a kingdom where danger lurks beneath the sea, mermaids seek vengeance with song, and magic is a choice, Adalyn Grace’s All the Stars and Teeth is a thrilling fantasy for fans of Stephanie Garber’s Caraval and Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass series.

She will reign.

As princess of the island kingdom Visidia, Amora Montara has spent her entire life training to be High Animancer—the master of souls. The rest of the realm can choose their magic, but for Amora, it’s never been a choice. To secure her place as heir to the throne, she must prove her mastery of the monarchy’s dangerous soul magic.

When her demonstration goes awry, Amora is forced to flee. She strikes a deal with Bastian, a mysterious pirate: he’ll help her prove she’s fit to rule, if she’ll help him reclaim his stolen magic.

But sailing the kingdom holds more wonder—and more peril—than Amora anticipated. A destructive new magic is on the rise, and if Amora is to conquer it, she’ll need to face legendary monsters, cross paths with vengeful mermaids, and deal with a stow-away she never expected… or risk the fate of Visidia and lose the crown forever.

I am the right choice. The only choice. And I will protect my kingdom.


Review:
All The Stars and Teeth, by Adelyn Grace, is full of many of the elements I love in Fantasy novels.  It is set in a world rich with magic and folklore.  There are lots of fun characters.  And the story is one where the main character must question their beliefs, and wrestle with how they perceive themselves.  And it's basically a "road trip" book, set on the high seas! 

What I Liked:
World-Building:
In the Kingdom of Visidia, everyone has some type of magical ability.  There are people who can manipulate the elements, people who can create illusions, and people with many other abilities. But the Montara royal family of Visidia has the most influential magic of them all: soul magic.

The author did an exceptional job of explaining the types of magic and then using them at different points in the story.  She also went into the world's history and how these magics came about.  This made for a world with tremendous depth, and gave it an epic quality.

Characters:
Amora, the main character, is facing many challenges all at once.  She must redeem herself after a terrible public failure, while confronting several uncomfortable truths about her father's reign as King.  All the while, she is being chased by almost everyone!  I liked that she learns from her mistakes, and doesn't make excuses for her flaws.  As she travels throughout the kingdom, she begins to realize that her kingdom is not the paradise she thinks it is.  Seeing the larger picture is one of the cornerstones of transitioning into thinking as an adult.  The author does a wonderful job showing this transformation.

One of the people sharing her adventures is Bastian, a pirate who helps her escape prison, but has his own motives for doing so.  I liked that he was more than a stereotypical pirate.  His own story is compelling and full of twists and turns.


Story:
As I said, this is basically a road trip novel.  As the story progresses, Amora and her friends must travel to various islands in the kingdom.  This creates many opportunities for the characters to meet encounter many different types of people, customs, clothing, foood, and magic.  I loved that there was such variety in the kingdom.  They all had positive and negative elements that made each place unique. 
  
Through the road trip format, the different strengths (and weaknesses) of each character are revealed.  By working together, the characters overcome lots of obstacles.  I loved how this make everyone a valued member of the crew.

Rating: 




Release Date:  February 4th, 2020

Author:  Adalyn Grace

Publisher:  Imprint

Genre:  YA Fantasy

Page Length:  384 pages

Source:  NetGalley

Format:  E-Book

Recommendation:  A must-read for fans of YA Fantasy.  Lots of fun, but meant for older teens and adults due to many violent scenes. 


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Saturday, February 1, 2020

Stacking The Shelves & Sunday Post #5



I am combining two great weekly blog hops:  Stacking The Shelves by Team Tynga's Reviews, and Sunday Post by Caffeinated Reviewer.  I hope to read as many of the blogs from these two hops as possible because I love to see what everyone is reading!

If you enjoy my blog, please consider following me at Bloglovin, Goodreads, or Twitter.  Let me know you're a new follower so I can follow you back!


Happenings:
This week, we took a very quick trip across the country to see our sweet kid in Providence, Rhode Island.  Her professor put some of her work in the Triennial show for their department, and we wanted to support her!
 
While it did not snow, it was really cold!  The temperature was mostly in the 20's (Fahrenheit), and we did a lot of walking around those hills.  But it was so worth it.

We got to see my daughter working on a project, loving the moment it all came together to look like what she envisioned.  The class theme is Monsters...



We also helped her move this giant sculpture from the dorm workroom to the classroom (several blocks away).  While decidedly NOT fun, I was happy to assist. 

The next day was her show.  It was so fun to see, not only her work, but those of many of her friends.



She also got to get a glimpse of what her professors might assign next semester! 

We had to leave the next day, but I loved that we got to spend this time with our kid.

Reading:
With all that travel time, I read two books and enjoyed them both very much.
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/48381373-far-away-bird?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=PVX4xWPiJ7&rank=1https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/38325332-all-the-stars-and-teeth?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=0NooJFPZ9X&rank=1
 Reviews will be posted this week on the blog, and on Goodreads.

New Books:
Library:
 
I'm currently reading Almost American Girl, by Robin Ha.  

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/45449811-almost-american-girl?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=YlHg1WOIju&rank=1

This is a graphic novel by an alum of RISD (where my daughter goes to school).  It is quite emotional, and I am loving it.

I am happy to be back in sunny California!  Stay warm and I hope you read something wonderful this week!
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