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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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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Book Review: Tales From The Shadowhunter Academy by Cassandra Clare

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/28954137-tales-from-the-shadowhunter-academy

Synopsis (From GoodReads):
Simon Lewis has been a human and a vampire, and now he is becoming a Shadowhunter. But the events of City of Heavenly Fire left him stripped of his memories, and Simon isn’t sure who he is anymore. He knows he was friends with Clary, and that he convinced the total goddess Isabelle Lightwood to go out with him…but he doesn’t know how. And when Clary and Isabelle look at him, expecting him to be a man he doesn’t remember…Simon can’t take it.

So when the Shadowhunter Academy reopens, Simon throws himself into this new world of demon-hunting, determined to find himself again. His new self. Whomever this new Simon might be.

But the Academy is a Shadowhunter institution, which means it has some problems. Like the fact that non-Shadowhunter students have to live in the basement. And that differences—like being a former vampire—are greatly looked down upon. At least Simon is trained in weaponry—even if it’s only from hours of playing D&D.

Join Simon on his journey to become a Shadowhunter, and learn about the Academy’s illustrious history along the way, through guest lecturers such as Jace Herondale, Tessa Gray, and Magnus Bane. These ten short stories give an epilogue to the Mortal Instruments series and provide glimpses of what’s in store in the Dark Artifices.


Review:
When I read the first Shadowhunter book, City Of Bones, several years ago, I was not overly impressed.  I thought the writing was terrible!  My favorite worst line from that book was: 
"The Weapons room looked exactly like a weapons room should look like". 
 Huh?  But I loved the characters, particularly Simon and his friendship with the main character, Clary.  And the writing improved, vastly, over the course of the series.  I grew to love everything about these books but wished there was more about Simon in them.

This is a book centered around Simon, and I couldn't be happier!

                   
via GIPHY

What I Liked:
Simon:
Obviously, I adore Simon.  But he really got a chance to show even more of his ironic sense of humor, and his deep love of coffee!  Also, the book really showed that he was someone worthy of being a Shadowhunter.  He was always concerned for others, and made sure to stand up to those who treated the mundane students as inferior.

He also had to start over again with Isabelle.  At the end of the regular series, Simon loses him memories, in exchange for the lives of his friends.  He got some of them back from Magnus, but he really doesn't remember being friends with Clary, Jace,  and Alec.  And he has no memory of being Isabelle's boyfriend! He is filled with self-doubt over why Isabelle would have wanted to be with him?  Finding his value, Simon must trust that he is deserving of her love.

The School:
I liked that this Shadowhunter school was not a bit like Hogwarts.  The rooms are infested with critters, the plumbing is bad, and the food is gross.  This makes for lots of humorous moments as Simon and his fellow students must find ways to adapt to this school.  

I also liked the tension between the students who were born into Shadowhunter families, and those who were not.  This is kind of like Harry Potter, as the mundanes are treated as second-class citizens (much like the muggle-born wizards and witches in HP).  What I liked about this was that this changed by the end of the book.  

Also, in order to become a full Shadowhunter, students had to drink from the Mortal Cup.  This was dangerous, as sometimes the cup rejected the drinker and killed them!  So this created a lot of tension in the story as the time for the students (Simon included) to drink from the cup drew near. 

Isabelle:
Isabelle is depicted throughout the books as almost a warrior goddess, and one might wonder why she is with Simon.  As they try to find their way back to each other, we can see why she loves Simon, and what Isabelle gets out of the relationship.  I loved that Cassandra Clare delved into this.  It was wonderful to see how much Isabelle cared for Simon.  And what she does to get his attention is fun to read.  I laughed out loud several times due to the situations Isabelle and Simon get in as they try to date like a regular couple. 

What I Didn't Like:
Although I loved this book, I think many people who are only casual fans will miss all the little references that make this such a special book for Shadowhunter fanatics, such as myself.   

If you want to go to this academy, you'll need to do your homework!  

Here is your reading list:

The Mortal Instruments:
Book 1
Book 2
Book 3
Book 4
Book 5
Book 6




              

 The Infernal Devices:
Book 1
Book 3
Book 2


 And don't forget...

The Dark Artifices: 
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25494343-lady-midnight?from_search=true
Book 1
So if you want to get the full enjoyment out of Tales from The Shadowhunter Academy, I suggest you hit the books.  This book is a sweet treat at the end of a very satisfying feast.

Rating: 




Release Date:  November 15th, 2016

Genre:  YA Fantasy

Source:  Bought by me

Format:  E-Book

Recommendation:  Read this if you are a super fan of the Shadowhunter series.  Otherwise, you might need crib notes.


 










Overall, this book 

  
 
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Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Book Review: The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer

Synopsis (From GoodReads):
In The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo, Amy mines her past for stories about her teenage years, her family, relationships, and sex and shares the experiences that have shaped who she is - a woman with the courage to bare her soul to stand up for what she believes in, all while making us laugh.

Ranging from the raucous to the romantic, the heartfelt to the harrowing, this highly entertaining and universally appealing collection is the literary equivalent of a night out with your best friends - an unforgettable and fun adventure that you wish could last forever. Whether she's experiencing lust-at-first-sight while in the airport security line, sharing her own views on love and marriage, admitting to being an introvert, or discovering her cross-fit instructor's secret bad habit, Amy Schumer proves to be a bighearted, brave, and thoughtful storyteller that will leave you nodding your head in recognition, laughing out loud, and sobbing uncontrollably - but only because it's over.


Review:
Some people love reality television.  They enjoy peering into the lives of celebrities like the Kardashians, and seeing what goes on behind the scenes.  I don't watch those shows (actually, I don't watch much TV at all because I'm too busy reading), but I do the book reader's equivalent by devouring celebrity memoirs!  Yes, they are my guilty pleasure.  I particularly love listening to these kind of books as audio books, because the celeb usually reads their own book.

Now, I must say that I did not know much about Amy Schumer before I read this book.  I know she has (had?) a show on Comedy Central called Inside Amy Schumer, and that she was in a hit movie called TrainwreckIf it seems like I have been hiding under a rock for not knowing about this actress, it's probably a generation thing.  I am just not in the regular demographic that Amy Schumer aims for.  And yet, her book, The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo, was such a fun, honest account of how she sees life that I was charmed.

What I Liked:

Creative Process:
Although it seems as if she was an overnight success, Amy Schumer worked her tail off to get to where she is.  Amy goes into great detail about how hard it is to do stand-up comedy.  I appreciated how she explained the long hours and work needed to break through to stardom.  

Honesty:
This person is brutally honest about her life, particularly about sex.  Whey did this charm me?  I think it is because I come from a generation that just doesn't talk that freely about sex.  But it's more than that.  I think that I admire how Amy feels free to be a sexual person without the shame that women can feel.  While I would never speak so freely about these things (or use the same language), I liked that Amy was able to be frank about what she has learned over the years.  It makes me hopeful for younger women that they are demanding more equal relationships with their sexual partners.

She also speaks about the abusive relationships she has been in.  This couldn't have been easy for her to write about.  But it is important because it shows how ANY person can get caught up in these situations.  We can't judge people and smugly say to ourselves that it won't happen to us.  Abusers target anybody who doubts themselves, and we are all vulnerable.  

What I Didn't Like:

TMI:
While I appreciated Amy's honest talk about sex, I could have done without knowing about each individual act.  Again, I'm sure it's a generational thing, but I just don't need to know such details as how clean her nether parts were or what smells she associates with her vagina.  This book was unnecessarily crude.

This memoir was an empowering look at creativity, and a woman's acceptance of her body, her needs, and her worth.  It was an entertaining read.
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/29405093-the-girl-with-the-lower-back-tattoo?ac=1&from_search=true

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-girl-with-the-lower-back-tattoo-amy-schumer/1123499310?ean=9781501139888

https://www.bookdepository.com/The-Girl-with-the-Lower-Back-Tattoo/9780008172398

https://www.amazon.com/Girl-Lower-Back-Tattoo/dp/1501139886/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1480190749&sr=8-1&keywords=the+girl+with+the+lower+back+tattoo


Rating:  




Release Date:  August 16th, 2016

Genre:  Memoir

Source:  Public Library

Format:  Audio Book

Recommendation: Funny, and empowering, this book was a wonderful look into the life of Amy Schumer.

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Monday, December 5, 2016

Bay Area Book Events #24

This has become such a monstrously large list, that I have decided to only show events four weeks in advance.  The master calendar will continue to show all the events I can find that are listed on each bookstore's site.

Bookstores in this list may include:  
Barnes & Noble (various Bay Area Locations)
Book Passage (Corte Madera & San Francisco)
The Booksmith (San Francisco)

Books Inc. (various Bay Area Locations)
Pegasus Books (Berkeley & Oakland)
Hicklebee's Children's Books (San Jose)
A Great Good Place For Books (Oakland)
Kepler's Books (Menlo Park) 

I am attempting to make this a one stop place to find book signings in the San Francisco Bay Area! I will mostly focus on YA books, but I will also include some general fiction if I think it will be of interest. I think this is an extensive list, but there is always the possibility that I missed an event (Hey, I'm human). If you think there is an event that I should include, please leave me a note in the comments section. Thanks.

All  book graphics have links to GoodReads so you can check them out.

As always, it is a good idea to call the store a day or two before to confirm that the scheduled event is still on.  I have learned that these events change constantly.


If this list looks a little sparse, it's because bookstores don't seem to schedule many events between Christmas and New Year's Day.

December 6th,  2016 at 6:30pm

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23995336-the-tsar-of-love-and-techno?ac=1&from_search=true

Book:  The Tsar of Love and Techno: Stories
Author:  Anthony Marra
Location: Oakland Public Library-Montclair
Address:  1687 Mountain Blvd., Oakland

December 6th, 2016 at 7:30pm
Warren Ellis
In Conversation with Robin Sloan
author of
 Mr. Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20518817-normalhttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13538873-mr-penumbra-s-24-hour-bookstore?ac=1&from_search=true
This is a ticketed event:  $26.87 at Brown Paper Tickets includes a copy of the book.
 
Book:  Normal
Author:  Warren Ellis
Location:  Kepler's Books
Address:  1010 El Camino Real, Menlo Park  
Tel: (650) 324-4321  
 
December 7th, 2016 at 6:00pm
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18527675-what-lies-beyond-the-stars?ac=1&from_search=true
Book:  What Lies Beyond The Stars
Author:  Michael Goorjian
Location:  Book Passage (San Francisco)    
Address:  1 Ferry Building, San Francisco  
Tel: (415) 835-1020
 
December 7th, 2016 at 7:00pm
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/27272698-lodestar
Book:  Lodestar (Keeper Of The Lost Cities #5)
Author:  Shannon Messegner
Location:  Kepler's Books
Address:  1010 El Camino Real, Menlo Park
Tel: (650) 324-4321 
 
December 10th, at 9:00am
Silicon Valley Romance Writers Of America Book fair:
 
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23510439-lawyer-up?ac=1&from_search=truehttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/28219903-last-kiss-of-summer?from_search=truehttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/19104170-ten-steps-from-the-hotel-inglaterra?ac=1&from_search=true



https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30116784-west-coast-holiday-series-box-set?from_search=truehttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/29358231-the-christmas-tree?ac=1&from_search=true
 
Book:  Last Kiss Of Summer
Author: Marina Adair
 
Book:  Lawyer Up
Author:  Kate Allure
 
Book:  West Coast Holiday Series
Author:  Elisabeth Barrett
 
Book:  The Christmas Tree
Author:  Allyson Charles
 
Book:  Ten Steps To The Hotel Inglaterra
Author:  Linda S. Gunther
 
Location:  Barnes & Noble (San Jose)
Address:  3600 Stevens Creek Blvd
Tel:  (408) 984-3495 
 
December 10th, 2016 at 7:30pm
Grand Opening of The Bindery!
Ten percent of all party sales from both stores will benefit the Northern California ACLU.
 
This is a satellite event and gift marketplace of The Booksmith bookstore. 
RSVP appreciated but not required.

Event:  Christmas Mixer featuring live music, drinks, food, mingling, jingling, and an official tour of their new space.
Location:  The Bindery
Address: 1727 Haight Street, San Francisco 
Tel: (415) 863-8688
 
December 11th, 2016 at 12:00pm
 
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/24857263-the-escape?ac=1&from_search=truehttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17340300-rebirth?ac=1&from_search=true
 
Book:  The Escape
Author:  Hannah Jayne
 
Book:  Rebirth
Author:  Gayle Parness
 
Location:  Barnes & Noble (San Jose)
Address:  3600 Stevens Creek Blvd
Tel:  (408) 984-3495

December 12th, 2016 at 7:00pm
 
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/29901553-dark-fissures?ac=1&from_search=truehttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/28700206-pacific-homicide?ac=1&from_search=true

 
Book:  Pacific Homicide, A Mystery
Author:  Patricia Smiley
Book: Dark Fissures
Author:  Matt Coyle
Location:  Book Passage (Corte Madera)
Address:  51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera 
Tel: (415) 927-0960 or (800) 999-7909
 
December 13th,  2016 at 7:00pm
 
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/28818930-the-angel-of-history?from_search=true

Book:  The Angel Of History
Author:  Rabih Alameddine
Location:  Book Passage (Corte Madera)
Address:  51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera 
Tel: (415) 927-0960 or (800) 999-7909

 
December 17th, at 4:00pm
 
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26795307-moonglow?from_search=true
 
Book:  Moonglow
Author:  Michael Chabon
Location:  Book Passage (Corte Madera)
Address:  51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera 
Tel: (415) 927-0960 (800) 999-7909
 
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Saturday, December 3, 2016

Stacking The Shelves #58 & Sunday Post #21


I am combining two great blog hops:  Stacking The Shelves (a Saturday feature by Team Tynga's Reviews), and Sunday Post (a Sunday feature by the Caffeinated Book Reviewer).  Both of these features give people a chance to post about what books they received and also an opportunity to catch a glimpse of what others are excited about.  I really enjoy see everyone's version of these features! If you enjoy my blog, please consider following me via Bloglovin, Networked Blogs, GFC, or by email subscription.  If you leave a comment and tell me you are a new follower, I will follow you back! As always, all book cover images are linked to GoodReads so if you see a book you want to learn more about, just click away...

Happening This Week:
Well, it finally got cold this week.  Yes, I live in California and for us, cold is not real cold for most other people.  But it started to dip into the 30's at night and not get above 58F during the day.  Working in a school, we spend a portion of the day outside with the kids at recess, and I needed my coat all of the time now.  But it did give me a chance to break out some really pretty knitted scarves so that was nice...  


New Books This Week:
Kindle:

This was a set of 10 books that I pre-ordered a few weeks back.  And they were only $0.99!!!

Free from YA Reader Giveaway Blitz

This was part of a promotion for a large group of YA authors. 

Public Library:

I love Historical Fiction, so after my friend recommended this book, I quickly ordered it from my library.  

That's it for this week (I'm keeping it short and sweet because I am so very tired tonight).

I hope you had a great week.

 
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Thursday, December 1, 2016

ARC Review: The Odds Of Loving Graover Cleveland by Rebekah Crane

Please Note:  I received an advanced copy of this book from Amazon as part of their Kindle First Program.  This does not influence the opinions of my review in any way.

Synopsis (From GoodReads):
According to sixteen-year-old Zander Osborne, nowhere is an actual place—and she’s just fine there. But her parents insist that she get out of her head—and her home state—and attend Camp Padua, a summer camp for at-risk teens.

Zander does not fit in—or so she thinks. She has only one word for her fellow campers: crazy. In fact, the whole camp population exists somewhere between disaster and diagnosis. There’s her cabinmate Cassie, a self-described manic-depressive-bipolar-anorexic. Grover Cleveland (yes, like the president), a cute but confrontational boy who expects to be schizophrenic someday, odds being what they are. And Bek, a charmingly confounding pathological liar.

But amid group “share-apy” sessions and forbidden late-night outings, unlikely friendships form, and as the Michigan summer heats up, the four teens begin to reveal their tragic secrets. Zander finds herself inextricably drawn to Grover’s earnest charms, and she begins to wonder if she could be happy. But first she must come completely unraveled to have any hope of putting herself back together again.


Review:
I didn't know much about this book when I first got it from Amazon.  I knew it was a book about teens with emotional problems, and I was curious to see how the author would handl so many different issues that cause teens to be called "at-risk".  Though widely used today, the term "at-risk" itself seems like a cliche and I was concerned that the book would be full of stereotypes.  There were the requisite girls with eating disorders, kids who had tried to kill themselves, and such.  But I thought the author handled each issue with insight and just enough humor to keep things from getting too bleak.

What I Liked:
Characters:
I appreciated the way the author told each character's story slowly over the course of the novel.  We get to know each character as one's fellow campers would.  There are small nuggets of information scattered here and there, and then larger chunks are revealed.  I felt this lead to an authentic presentation of how teens interact with each other.  Each person used different devices to protect themselves from the judgement of others.  Some used humor, others pushed people away.  Madison, the main character, chose to not feel at all.  

Setting: 
Who doesn't like a book that takes place in summer camp!  The bad food, artificially bright camp counselors, camp fire sing-a-longs... Okay, I have never been to summer camp, but this book had most of what I imagined an experience like this would have, right down to the mosquitoes.  

Story:
I liked the relationship between Grover and Madison.  Grover is funny, endearing, and takes an immediate interest in Madison.  She finds him irritating, but slowly warms up to the way he genuinely wants to get to know her.  Although she has a boyfriend back home, Madison doesn't feel like anyone wants to know who she really is, until Grover.

When we finally get to the why of why Madison is at the camp, I cried.  Something similar happened with a family in California (where I live), and I never thought of how this would affect other kids in that family.  

What I Was Mixed About:
Setting:
Yes, I loved the setting, but I did wonder how realistic it would be, in this day and age, for any of the families to afford such a camp.  I have looked into the cost of a regular camp before and it was over $1000 per week.  While it was important to the story that the camp continue over the entire summer, I think it stretched reality that these kids could go to such a place for eight or more weeks.  

Cassie:
The character of Cassie is a difficult one to like.  She is rude, bossy, and self-centered, which is the point.  She pushes people away so she won't be disappointed with them when they let her down.  While I grew to like her, I wish she would have grown just a little bit more over the course of the book.  I thought she did some things in the book that were just appalling.  If I were Madison, I would not have forgiven her so easily. 

What I didn't Like:
The Parents:
What Madison's parents did in this story is horrible.  Why was it that Madison was considered the emotionally disturbed one and not her parents?  Why did they get a free pass?   Yes, they begin to make some progress on communicating over the course of the book, but not enough for me.  When the mom explains herself to Madison, she simply says, "When you're a parent, you'll understand".  Sorry, but a normal parent doesn't do that, and get to minimize their actions with the "One day you'll understand" card.  I was mad for Madison, and worried for her.  If the parents didn't really acknowledge what they did, or their current over-protectiveness towards Madison, how will anything change for her when she gets home?

As you can see, I really grew to adore Madison and felt protective of her by the end of the story.  That is why I enjoyed this book so much.  It made me care deeply about the characters.  This is what a novel should do.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30057557-the-odds-of-loving-grover-cleveland?ac=1&from_search=true

https://www.amazon.com/Odds-Loving-Grover-Cleveland/dp/1503939820/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1480552227&sr=1-1&keywords=the+odds+of+loving+grover+cleveland

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-odds-of-loving-grover-cleveland-rebekah-crane/1123799480;jsessionid=A11639F81487F66CD26530FDDD677474.prodny_store02-atgap11?ean=9781503939820

https://www.bookdepository.com/The-Odds-of-Loving-Grover-Cleveland/9781503939820


Rating: 




Release Date:  December 1st, 2016

Genre:  YA contemporary fiction

Source:  Amazon Kindle First Program

Format:  ARC E-Book

Recommendation:  Although cliched in parts, this is an entertaining book about teens facing their problems.  It was a quick and thought-provoking read.
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MsArdychan's books

The Importance of Being Earnest
To Kill a Mockingbird
The Age of Innocence
Days of Blood & Starlight
The Queen of the Tearling
Looking for Alaska
Ruin and Rising
Siege and Storm
One Last Thing Before I Go
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?
The Secret Life of Bees
It's Kind of a Funny Story
An Unexpected Guest
The Patron Saint of Butterflies
Shadow and Bone
Daughter of Smoke & Bone
This is What Happy Looks Like
OCD, the Dude, and Me
Yes Please
The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight


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