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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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Saturday, December 8, 2018

Stacking The Shelves #143 & Sunday Post # 107




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 seeing everyone's version of these features!   All book covers are linked to Goodreads, if you want to check them out.  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! 

On The Blog:


No reviews posted this week.  But I am gearing up to post several reviews in January, so I am busy reading and analyzing about seven books!

In Real Life:

This week flew by!  I've been busy doing my online shopping for Christmas, and making several trips to Oakland to buy books at my favorite bookstore, A Great Good Place for Books.  Okay, several of the books were for me...

On Friday evening my daughter and I attended a beautiful holiday choral concert with the Pacific Boychoir Academy. of Oakland, California.  So many talented signers and a wonderful Brass group provided accompanying music.  This concert really got me in the holiday spirit.

New Books:
Bought:
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22609453-crazy-love-youhttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30312855-the-last-magician?ac=1&from_search=true

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/9986977-fragile?ac=1&from_search=truehttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/31453592-the-dark-calling?ac=1&from_search=true

 Public Library:
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11408650-the-unbecoming-of-mara-dyerhttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15768409-the-retribution-of-mara-dyerhttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13643567-the-evolution-of-mara-dyer
 For Review:
Penguin Audio / Listening Library:
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39402961-stronger-faster-and-more-beautiful

 I heard about this book from an Instagram post of Amie Kaufman, who sang it's praises.  This is a series of short stories that are truly riviting!  I am really enjoying this audio book.

              
via GIPHY

That's it for this week.  I am looking forward to losing myself in books when the holidays get too crazy!  Is that also your escape?  What books are you reading to relax this week?

 
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Saturday, December 1, 2018

Stacking The Shelves #142 & Sunday Post #106



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 seeing everyone's version of these features!   All book covers are linked to Goodreads, if you want to check them out.  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! 

On The Blog:


Monday:  Book Review:  From Twinkle, With Love by Sandya Menon

In Real Life:

It was great to be back with the students at school, and it made the week fly by!  On Wednesday, I went to my book club at the amazing little bookstore, A Great Good Place for Books, in Oakland, California.  I love Indie bookstores, and this place has such a warm, welcoming vibe.  They were even mentioned on Good Morning America on their story about Small Business Saturday!

My daughter has been in the thick of college applications.  Friday was a big deadline and it has been hectic.  My sole job was moral support.  But it is hard to see my kid stressed out.

New Books:

Purchased:
So many sales on Cyber-Monday!  I couldn't resist! 

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25372801-all-the-birds-in-the-sky?ac=1&from_search=truehttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/10429045-shatter-me?ac=1&from_search=true


https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36698152-society-of-wishes?ac=1&from_search=true

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25169886-the-banished-of-muirwood?ac=1&from_search=truehttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34728667-children-of-blood-and-bone?ac=1&from_search=true

For Review:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/41150486-montauk?ac=1&from_search=true

 Thank you, St. Martin's Press!

That's it for this week.  If you are preparing for holiday celebrations, good luck!  I will be jumping in to shopping this weekend.

 
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Monday, November 26, 2018

Book Review: From Twinkle, With Love by Sandya Menon

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36373464-from-twinkle-with-love
Synopsis (From Goodreads):
Aspiring filmmaker and wallflower Twinkle Mehra has stories she wants to tell and universes she wants to explore, if only the world would listen. So when fellow film geek Sahil Roy approaches her to direct a movie for the upcoming Summer Festival, Twinkle is all over it. The chance to publicly showcase her voice as a director? Dream come true. The fact that it gets her closer to her longtime crush, Neil Roy—a.k.a. Sahil’s twin brother? Dream come true x 2.

When mystery man “N” begins emailing her, Twinkle is sure it’s Neil, finally ready to begin their happily-ever-after. The only slightly inconvenient problem is that, in the course of movie-making, she’s fallen madly in love with the irresistibly adorkable Sahil.

Twinkle soon realizes that resistance is futile: The romance she’s got is not the one she’s scripted. But will it be enough?

Told through the letters Twinkle writes to her favorite female filmmakers, From Twinkle, with Love navigates big truths about friendship, family, and the unexpected places love can find you.


Review:
Author Sandya Menon came to my attention when I read When Dimple Met Rishi.  It was such a fun teen rom-com that incorporated a sweet romance, fun friendships, and a glimpse of Indian-American culture.  Her newest novel, From Twinkle, With Love, has many of the same elements.  I loved those.  But, there were some major issues that made this book hard to enjoy.


What I Liked:

Narrative Style:
I really enjoyed that all of Twinkle's chapters were journal entries addressed to actual female directors.  Of course I know who Sofia Coppola and Jane Campion are.  But the author also mentions several other directors such as Ava DuVarney, and Valerie Faris, who I am not familiar with.  Now I really want to watch a lot of movies by all these directors!

I also liked that all of Sahil's chapters were text messages to his friends.  This was a fun way to show Sahil's personality, and his friendships.

Depiction of Male Friendships:
It is a rare thing to see such strong male friendships portrayed in a YA book.  In YA books, male friendships consist mostly of guys saying to each other, "Bro..."  or guys goading each other to score with girls.  So it was refreshing to see Sahil and his friends texting each other and having actual conversations about their problems and feelings.

Romance:
The romance between Twinkle and Sahil is very sweet.  I love that Sahil pursues Twinkle, his crush since middle school!  It is his idea for her to direct a movie, and he selflessly offers himself as her producer to enable him to spend more time with Twinkle.  Smart guy!  

The obstacle for this couple is Twinkle's fantasy that Neil, Sahil's twin brother, perhaps also likes her.  Even though Sahil is perfect for her (he totally gets who she is and adores her for it), Twinkle can't push aside this idea that popular Neil will offer her the chance to also be part of the In crowd.

Audio Book Performances:
I really enjoyed the performances of both Soneela Nankani, as Twinkle, and Vikas Adam, as Sahil.    Not only do they both do a lovely job with the main characters, but they also must bring to life all of the other characters.  Nankani's portrayal of her grandmother, Daadi, is so filled with grace and wisdom.  Adam's changes his voice subtly to embody not just Sahil, but his friends, Aaron and Skid.  I really enjoyed the character of Skid!

What I Was Mixed About:

Family Relationships:
Twinkle lives in a multi-generational household consisting of her parents and her grandmother.  All of her interactions with her Daadi (grandmother) are really endearing.  Daadi is quirky, but wise, and accepts Twinkle for who she is.

Her relationship with her mother is more complicated.  Twinkle feels her mother doesn't care about her. But her mother is depressed since the death of her own mother in India.  This causes her mother to be distant and uninvolved with Twinkle's life.  While the author acknowledges this, she still has Twinkle being less than understanding of it.  

This could have been a very substantial part of the story, but perhaps the author felt it didn't fit with the light, rom-com vibe she was going for.  But the impact of parental depression on their children is an important topic that either should have been more fully developed, or dropped entirely from the book.


What I Didn't Like:

Twinkle:
It is hard to enjoy a book when the main character is so hard to like.  I found Twinkle to be incredibly shallow.  She begins the book with a crush on Neil, Sahil's brother.  She seems to be under the illusion that being his girlfriend will elevate her social status and make her former friend, Mattie, like her again.  While I understand that Twinkle is devastated that Mattie has left her behind, Twinkle's obsession with social cliques is foolish.  Do teens really get so worked up over which group they hang out with?  Why is Twinkle so bent on leaving her own group of friends behind?  This is the main story line, and it causes Twinkle to do many unpleasant things throughout the novel.  Although many of her mistakes are resolved by the ending, I still didn't like her selfishness.

Rating: 



Release Date:  May 22nd, 2018

Genre:  YA Rom-Com

Author:  Sandya Menon

Audio Publisher: Simon & Shuster Audio

Narrators:  Soneela Nankani and
Vikas Adam

Audio Length:  9 hours, 37 minutes

Print Publisher:  Simon Pulse

Page Length: 330 pages

Source:  Public Library

Format:  Audio Book

Recommendation:  If you are looking for a fun YA romance, and don't mind a really annoying lead character, this book is for you.  If you want to see a better example of the author's work, read When Dimple Met Rishi.



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Saturday, November 24, 2018

Stacking The Shelves #141 & Sunday Post #105





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 seeing everyone's version of these features!   All book covers are linked to Goodreads, if you want to check them out.  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! 

On The Blog:

I've been taking a break from blogging, lately.  With travel, and getting ready for Thanksgiving, there has been no time to blog.

Also, I just haven't had much to say!  I really want to put out posts that are meaningful, and I am starting to second-guess my writing skills (thanks NaNoWriMo).  I have started writing again, but it is slow going.

In Real Life:
While I have had the week off, it has been super busy.  With my daughter getting ready to apply to college, we set off on a road trip to Southern California to check out both UCLA and USC.  Both schools have wonderful art programs and the tours gave us plenty to think about.  

We got home just in time for me to rush through Thanksgiving dinner preparations.  But I think the actual dinner was a success.

New Books:
These are the books I acquired over the last three weeks.
 
Public Library:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40389527-the-woman-in-the-window?ac=1&from_search=truehttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36373464-from-twinkle-with-love?ac=1&from_search=truehttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/12000020-aristotle-and-dante-discover-the-secrets-of-the-universe?ac=1&from_search=true


Purchased:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33916024-sourdough?ac=1&from_search=truehttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/32620332-the-seven-husbands-of-evelyn-hugo?ac=1&from_search=true


https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39306049-mississippi-vegan?ac=1&from_search=true




Books for Review:
NetGalley:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36621586-the-winter-of-the-witch?ac=1&from_search=truehttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36146624-you-d-be-mine?ac=1&from_search=truehttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33952377-brief-chronicle-of-another-stupid-heartbreak?ac=1&from_search=truehttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35707080-bloodleaf?ac=1&from_search=truehttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35105833-the-girl-king?ac=1&from_search=true



That's it for this week.  I hope you had an amazing Thanksgiving (or regular week, if you are outside the United States). 
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Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Book Review: The Heart Forger by Rin Chupeco

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33918881-the-heart-forger

Synopsis (From GoodReads):
 

In The Bone Witch, Tea mastered resurrection―now she's after revenge...

No one knows death like Tea. A bone witch who can resurrect the dead, she has the power to take life...and return it. And she is done with her self-imposed exile. Her heart is set on vengeance, and she now possesses all she needs to command the mighty daeva. With the help of these terrifying beasts, she can finally enact revenge against the royals who wronged her―and took the life of her one true love.

But there are those who plot against her, those who would use Tea's dark power for their own nefarious ends. Because you can't kill someone who can never die...

War is brewing among the kingdoms, and when dark magic is at play, no one is safe.


Review:
When I read The Bone Witch, by Rin Chupeco, about a year ago, I was struck by how flawed the main character was.  Tea is a Dark Asha, which means she can raise the dead.  She is also prone to go insane if she tries to use too much magic.   There's that old saying, "Absolute power corrupts, absolutely."  In The Heart Forger, As her magic becomes increasingly powerful, Tea walks a thin line between helping her friends and going fully dark.  While I thoroughly enjoyed this book, there were some things I wasn't fond of.

What I Liked:
Setting: 
The world of The Heart Forger is lush with magic, enchanted objects, various kingdoms, and people with different supernatural professions. 

The Asha are women who are a combination of entertainers (like Japan's Geisha) and magicians.  While they mostly entertain men in tea houses, they also are healers.  As a Dark Asha, The main character, Tea, is called to destroy monsters.

Deathseekers are men who can do magic.  They are mostly soldiers who use their magic to protect a kingdom.

A Heartforger is an artisan who creates heartsglass.  These vessels hold a person's essence.  I could go on to explain how this all works, but I won't.  Discovering all the intricate parts of this world is one of the joys of this series.

Characters:
The main character, Tea, is very complex.  While one can cheer her on, the reader also must contend with the fact that she walks on the edge of evil.  Her decisions are often risky and affect all the other characters.  Sometimes I caught myself being angry with her for being selfish.  But she is also manipulated by those in power.  I did root for her as I wanted her to break free from being used.  

I loved the complicated relationship between Tea and her brother, Fox.  Fox is technically her familiar, as Tea has raised him from the dead.  But she doesn't control him.  They can read some of each other's thoughts, which can be awkward when Fox is secretly romancing a princess, or when Tea is thinking about a man she likes.  But Fox also acts as her conscience.

I also enjoyed the diversity of genders and sexuality among the characters.  There is Likh, a transgender character who was born a boy but wishes to become an Asha.  Other Asha, such as Zoya and Shadi, are lovers.  And there are male gay characters, too.  These characters all strive to live their authentic life, free from the expectations of society.

Story:
The story is full of intrigue among the Asha, the Faceless (dark magicians who have gone bad), and several kingdoms.  There are plots that are decades in the making, as well as newer rivalries and forbidden romances.  These were complicated storylines to follow, but the payoff at then end was worth it.


What I Didn't Like:
This book was extremely confusing!!!  This occurred in two ways: lack of exposition, and the narrative structure of the book itself.
 
Exposition:
The Bone Witch came out in March 2017.  Given the complicated array of characters and plots, could we PLEASE have some kind of recap?  There is no way I can remember who everyone is and how they are related to each other.  It took me a long time into reading before I felt confident that I knew who everyone was.  As frustrating as this was, the confusion was ultimately worthwhile.  But I was often worried that I had missed important information.

Narrative Style:
As with the first book, the narrative alternates between Tea (The Bone Witch), and an unnamed Bard who is following Tea in order to chronicle what is happening.  This has good and bad points.  One the one hand, I like that the action could be seen from another point of view (and one that is more objective than the main character).  

However, due to this there is a lot of jumping around between parts of the story, and timelines.  Incidents are sometimes repeated from the two viewpoints. This makes me unsure about when things are happening.  

Lack of Resolution:
Although I was satisfied with the ending of the book, one of the main plot points was unresolved.  Throughout the book, hints are given that one of the characters is dead, and that Tea has resurrected them.  Yet at the end, I still didn't know if this person was dead or alive!  Considering this plot point is given so much attention in the book, it is unfair to keep dangling this question in front of the reader.

Rating: 




Release Date:  March 20th, 2018

Author:  Rin Chupeco

Publisher:  Sourcebooks Fire

Genre:  YA Fantasy

Page Length:  528 Pages

Source:  Public Library

Format:  E-Book

Recommendation:  I loved the intrigue and complicated plot.  But to truly enjoy this book, you need to read The Bone Witch just before reading The Heart Forger
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Saturday, November 3, 2018

Stacking The Shelves #140 & Sunday Post #104




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 seeing everyone's version of these features!   All book covers are linked to Goodreads, if you want to check them out.  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! 

On The Blog:


Monday:  Book Review: Two Dark Reigns by Kendare Blake

In Real Life:

With Halloween this week, I have barely had time to prepare for NaNoWriMo.  I think I will still participate, but I am not going to worry about rigid timelines.

Although my children are too old to go trick-or-treating, we did carve pumpkins and decorated the house.  We even made caramel apples.

The day after, we set up a memorial for our relatives who have passed away. In Spanish, this is called an ofrenda.  If you've seen the movie, Coco, then you may understand.  While I have a Mexican heritage, we didn't do this growing up.  I do have strong memories of my grandma with a small alter in her bedroom that contained prayer candles, religious cards, and rosaries. 

Our first Ofrenda!
 

New Books:

Public Library:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35820656-only-human?ac=1&from_search=truehttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34842042-the-light-between-worlds?ac=1&from_search=truehttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35820656-only-human?ac=1&from_search=true
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33918881-the-heart-forger?from_search=truehttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25446343-muse-of-nightmares?ac=1&from_search=true

NetGalley:
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40702156-i-owe-you-one?ac=1&from_search=true

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Monday, October 29, 2018

Book Review: Two Dark Reigns by Kendare Blake

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/37486213-two-dark-reigns
Synopsis (From Goodreads):
Queen Katharine has waited her entire life to wear the crown. But now that she finally has it, the murmurs of dissent grow louder by the day. There’s also the alarming issue of whether or not her sisters are actually dead—or if they’re waiting in the wings to usurp the throne.

Mirabella and Arsinoe are alive, but in hiding on the mainland and dealing with a nightmare of their own: being visited repeatedly by a specter they think might be the fabled Blue Queen. Though she says nothing, her rotting, bony finger pointing out to sea is clear enough: return to Fennbirn.

Jules, too, is in a strange place—in disguise. And her only confidants, a war-gifted girl named Emilia and her oracle friend Mathilde, are urging her to take on a role she can’t imagine filling: a legion-cursed queen who will lead a rebel army to Katharine’s doorstep.

This is an uprising that the mysterious Blue Queen may have more to do with than anyone could have guessed—or expected.


Review:
This series is one I have really enjoyed, and I wondered how this next installment could possibly compare to the suspense of the other novels.  As with Three Dark Crowns, and One Dark Throne, Two Dark Reigns is a page-turner.  Filled with twists I didn't see coming, this was highly entertaining.

What I Liked:
Setting:
I find the world where these books are set to be enthralling.  The four gifts (that only seem to be bestowed on females) are elemental, poisoner, naturalist, and war-gifted.  These gifts are explored even more in this book.  I like that when they leave the island, the queen's gifts are weakened, suggesting the strong connection Mirabella and Arsinoe have to the land, itself.

There are also spirits at work in this book.  Katherine gets her power from the dead queens.  And Arsinoe is visited by the ghost of the Blue Queen.

Each book brings a further layer to the island.  The most interesting feature in Two Dark Reigns is The Mist.  The Mist is literally a thick fog that protects the island.  Mainlanders cannot find the island unless The Mist decides to let them through.  In this novel, The Mist begins to kill.  It appears to be random, with some people who hit The Mist brutally murdered while others pass through it unharmed.  The burning question is why is it behaving this way?  Is it to oppose Queen Katherine?  Can it be stopped?

Characters:
All of the four main female characters, Katherine, Mirabella, Arsinoe, and Jules, are trying to understand how they fit into their world.  Most of the older people who would usually try to shelter them are gone.  In their place are a strange mix of new faces who all want something from them.  What the characters face is the decision of whether or not to let others manipulate them, or to think for themselves.

Even in a book of high fantasy, universal themes arise.  As the young women transition into adulthood, they must begin to make their own decisions, figuring out who they can trust, and what they stand for.  Although Katherine tries mightily to blame others for her mistakes, she is ultimately in control of what she does.  The same goes for Mirabella, Arsinoe, and Jules.  Others can lead them to a choice, but the decision to cross the line into selfishness, conceit, or even murder, is their own. 

Story:
As Katherine struggles to maintain control as the crowned queen, her other two sisters, Mirabella and Arsinoe, begin the novel trying to find their place in a new reality not as queens.  This isn't easy on the Mainland where women are subservient to men, and their gifts are weak.  With the help of Billy (Arsinoe's secret fiance), they are making a valiant effort to fit in.  But Arsinoe begins to dream of a queen from long ago, the Blue Queen.  Are they just dreams?  Is the Island trying to lure them back?

The story seems to say that they cannot deny who they really are.  Even though they both should be dead, they have a responsibility to the Fennbirn.

The story also focuses on Jules, who has the "Legion Curse".  The previous book reveals that Jules has two gifts.  She is both a Naturalist, and War gifted.  The rumor is that a Legion-cursed person will be driven insane by that much power.  But her War gifts have been curtailed by Jules' mother.  If her gifts are allowed to flow freely, will she lose her sanity?

Jules is also involved in another element in the story.  Rebels are promoting her as the Legion Queen to rally the people against Queen Katherine.  Do they really believe she can be a Queen to the island?  Or are they merely manipulating her to further their own plans?

It seems to me that all four young women are being used by others for political gains.  The people around Katherine seek to maintain their wealth and power.  Mirabella and Arsinoe are being lured by the Blue Queen to do her bidding.  And Jules is being elevated by the rebels to change the political landscape entirely.  I found this fascinating.

What I Didn't Like:
Lack of a Recap:
Although the author does do small retellings of the events in the other books, there needs to be more of an effort to re-introduce the characters.  I had to really rack my brain to remember some of the supporting characters.  This is a very minor criticism, as I truly loved this book.

Rating: 




Release Date:  September 4th, 2018

Author:  Kendare Blake

Publisher:  Harper Teen

Genre: YA Fantasy

Page Length:  464 Pages

Source:  Public Library

Format:  E-Book

Recommendation:  If you are a fan of this series, what are you waiting for???  Read this and be thoroughly entertained.  Do read the other two books first, if you haven't read them.


 
 
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