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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I Owe You One
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Love, Hate & Other Filters
The Wartime Sisters
The Belles
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Hey, Kiddo
Blackberry and Wild Rose
Queen of Air and Darkness
The Retribution of Mara Dyer
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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

ARC Review: The Fifth Avenue Artists Society


Please Note:  I received an ARC Copy of this book through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.  This does not influence the opinions in my review in any way.


Synopsis (From GoodReads):

The Bronx, 1891. Virginia Loftin knows what she wants most: to become a celebrated novelist despite her gender, and to marry Charlie, her best friend, neighbor and first love. Yet when Charlie proposes to another woman, Ginny is devastated; shutting out her family, she holes up and obsessively rewrites how their story should have gone.

Though Ginny works with newfound intensity, success eludes her—until she attends a salon hosted in her brother’s handsome author friend John’s Fifth Avenue mansion. Amongst painters, musicians, actors, and writers, Ginny returns to herself, even blooming under John’s increasingly romantic attentions. Just as she has begun to forget Charlie, however, he throws himself back into her path, and Ginny finds herself torn between a lifetime’s worth of complicated feelings and a budding relationship with a man who seems almost too good to be true.

The brightest lights cast the darkest shadows, and as Ginny tentatively navigates the Society’s world, she begins to suspect all is not as it seems in New York’s dazzling “Gay Nineties” scene. When a close friend is found dead in John’s mansion, Ginny must delve into her beloved salon’s secrets to discover her true feelings about art, family, and love.



Historical Fiction is my favorite genre.  Reading it can transport me to a time and place I cannot possibly experience anyplace other than books.  When I saw the description and beautiful cover for The Fifth Avenue Artists Society, by Joy Callaway, I jumped and requested it from  Edelweiss (my first approval from them!).  I have very mixed feelings about this book.  There were things I loved about it, but also I felt there were flaws that made it seem inauthentic.  

What I Liked

I did enjoy the setting of 1890's New York.  I thought that the author did a wonderful job of showing the hustle and bustle of the city and the varying degrees of living standards. While some people were enormously wealthy, others were freezing and starving just blocks away.  I think it must have been terrible to be one of the "have nots" in this world.  One could easily see the luxury some people had, and yet you might be struggling to have  enough food for your children.  

The author also showed the immense disparity between men and women of that time.  The main character is a budding author but is rejected time and time again because she is a woman.  Her sister faces similar discrimination as a musician.  She cannot join an orchestra due to her gender, even though she plays better than the men.  When Ginny finds the Fifth Avenue Artists Society, a Friday evening gathering of male and female artists, she feels like has gone to heaven.  Men and Women did not usually mingle so freely, plus men often regarded women's artistic endeavors as inferior.  But at these gatherings, Ginny feels respected and thrives.

What I Didn't Like:

The book is based on the author's ancestors.  This is important to note because I think this is why most of the characters are not allowed to have any real faults.  The author soft-peddles their flaws to the point that everyone has a good heart, even if they have done despicable things.  Ginny, the main character, is hurting from being blind-sided with her childhood sweetheart marrying a different (and wealthy) girl.  Yet, she still seems to love him.  Her brother, Franklin,  also makes some very bad choices, but since he would never intentionally hurt someone, all is forgiven.  Ginny even gets mad at her family members when they become angry with Franklin.  Although Franklin goes through a lot of difficulties, I thought he (and others) just weren't allowed to be actually bad people.

I also thought Ginny continuing to love Charlie was problematic.  Charlie visits Ginny and (and kisses her on the street in full view of the neighbors) despite being married.  This would have caused a scandal in 1892.   But there are no consequences for their open affection of each other.  Also Ginny doesn't seem to feel bad that she is interfering in Charlie's marriage.  I was waiting for a juicy confrontation between Ginny and Charlie's wife, Rachel.  It would have been much more realistic if Rachel paid Ginny a little visit and told her to stay away from her husband.  This would have given Ginny reason to pause and consider the implications of what she was doing.

There were also several scenes where Ginny is getting very physical with men.  She doesn't seem to feel any Victorian guilt or worry that she is being intimate without a ring on her finger.  I thought this was out of place for the time period.  Even if Ginny didn't feel guilty, there should have been some explanation in the book about her being a free spirit, or something else to account for her behavior. 

While I liked the setting and the story of struggling artistic sisters, I just felt that this book could have used more authentic personal dilemmas and been more honest about the darker side of the character's personalities.


Release Date:  May 31st, 2016

Source:  Edelweiss

Format:  ARC E-Book

Recommendation:  I think if you love historical fiction, you will like it well enough.  But I would wait for it to come out in paperback or get it from the library.

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Monday, May 30, 2016

Monday Musts #18

Monday Musts is a weekly feature hosted by Jessica from Lovin' Los Libros.  Each week we share what we are excited to read, listen to, and see.  Come join the fun!

Must Read:

I know I have probably recommended this before, but I am going to re-read this book, soon.  I lived out of the country when Nirvana was tearing up the music charts, so all of this music was new to me when I read this book the first time.  And here is how I am going to remedy this...

Must Listen:


I am a new convert to Spotify!  One of the features I love most about it is the ability to create playlists!  So I created this playlist to go with the book, Save me, Kurt Cobain, by Jenny Manzer.  Each chapter in the book is titled with a song from Nirvana.  This list is in order, and I plan to listen to each song a few times as I read each chapter.   I think it will really give me a feel for what the author was trying to convey. 

Must See:

I'm gearing up to go to this festival next weekend!  Other than author events at bookstores, I don't usually have the chance to see & meet writers.  So I am excited to go to this event.  The authors I am hoping to meet are: Nicola Yoon, Sherman Alexie, Veronica Rossi, and V.E. Schwab!

What are you excited to Read, Listen to, and See this week?  Let me know in the comments.
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Saturday, May 28, 2016

Stacking The Shelves #32

Stacking The Shelves is a weekly feature hosted by Team Tynga's Reviews.  Go to their website for a complete list of all the participants.  Each week, nearly 100 bloggers post about what books they got and read.  It is really fun to hop from blog to blog and see what everyone is excited about.

It's been another busy week for me as school winds down.  I can't wait for summer and all the reading opportunities it affords.  I have been listening to several audio books on my commute lately, so that is why my book count is remaining steady at three books a week.

Books Read This Week:

I loved Crenshaw.  This is an important book for middle grade readers.  I listened to All The Bright Places with my teen daughter.  It was as good as I remember, but a little embarrassing for both of us during the sexy scenes!  I wasn't overly fond of The Fifth Avenue Artists Society.  I'll post a review of this book soon.

From NetGalley:


Having lived in Japan for several years, I was very interested in this book, about a family in Japan.  I really want to like this as I hope it induces me to think about my wonderful memories of this country.

Sunday Street Team Blog Tours:

I'm looking forward to this one (and what a cute cover!).

What did you get this week?  What are you dying to read?  Let me know in the comments.
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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Book Review: Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate


Synopsis (From GoodReads):

In her first novel since winning the Newbery Medal, Katherine Applegate delivers an unforgettable and magical story about family, friendship, and resilience.

Jackson and his family have fallen on hard times. There's no more money for rent. And not much for food, either. His parents, his little sister, and their dog may have to live in their minivan. Again.

Crenshaw is a cat. He's large, he's outspoken, and he's imaginary. He has come back into Jackson's life to help him. But is an imaginary friend enough to save this family from losing everything?


I love my library, especially the audio book section.  I can download books to my phone and listen to them as I do housework, cook,  or drive around in the car.  So when I saw that this book was available I thought I would give it a try. 

The book is about a young boy who is dealing with very grown-up problems.  His family is struggling to stay afloat.  They had been homeless once, living in their car for several months.  Now they may need to do it again.  Jackson begins to see his old imaginary friend, Crenshaw, and wonders if he is going insane.  How could he need a crutch like an imaginary friend?

Even though this story is aimed at middle grade readers, it spoke to me in so many ways.    As a kid, my family was always one step away from financial disaster.  I have vivid memories of my parents telling us that our belongings would be taken away.  We didn't need all this stuff anyway, right?  It would be just like camping.  We were not fooled.  We saw the bill collectors yelling at my mom.  We sometimes went to bed without enough to eat.  The uncertainty of knowing something bad was happening, and our parents not being honest about it, is what I remember the most.  This novel captures what those feelings are like for Jackson and his sister, Robin.

This story deals with hard truths that most middle grade readers know nothing about.  It is not preachy, but does show a side of life that may by unimaginable to kids.  I think it is well written and uses the imaginary friend, Crenshaw, to show how stressful this situation is on kids.  

It also shows how parents can be so reluctant to ask for help in these circumstances.  As Jackson says, homelessness is like a cold.  It doesn't come on all of the sudden.  It gradually creeps up on you as you get behind on your bills, you have a health problem that means you can't work, or you get laid off from your job.  Then you can't make your rent, and you get evicted.  Now that I am older and a parent myself, I can understand how mortifying it would be to go to a homeless shelter, or a food bank.  It would be a bitter pill to swallow to have to need such assistance.   This book does not judge the parents, but shows how challenging it is to be living paycheck to paycheck.

The only criticism I have of this audio book is that the producer should have hired a younger performer to read this book.  The narrator, Kirby  Heyborne, is a young man who I have enjoyed listening to on other audio books such as All The Bright Places.  But the story is about an eleven year old boy.  It would have a much bigger emotional impact if the narration matched the story.

I hope that many young readers will pick up this book.  It has enough whimsy to keep it entertaining while helping kids understand what some of their peers may be going through.


Release Date:  September 22nd, 2015

Source:  Public Library

Format:  Audio book

Recommendation:  For middle grade readers and up.  This is not a book for very young children.  But it will be thought-provoking and spark conversations about poverty and it's challenges.

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Monday, May 23, 2016

Monday Musts #17

Monday Musts is a weekly feature hosted by Jessica of Lovin' Los Libros.  Go to her blog for a complete list of all the participants.

It's been a few weeks since I have done Monday Musts.  I have been sick and also busy on the weekends (my normal time to write all my posts for the week).  Here are my Musts for this week:

Must Read:


I am on a street team for this book so I was able to get an early copy.  It takes place in 1906 at the time of the great earthquake of San Francisco.  I was really moved by this book, as my great-grandmother was a teen in 1906 and lived through that tragedy.  This book made me have a better understanding of what San Franciscans went through.  It is also a story of the Chinese-American experience at the turn of the last century.  It may be hard for many of us to appreciate just how oppressive the laws against Asians were at that time.  But this book gives us a glimpse of what it must have been like. 

Go to my blog post for a longer review and three fabulous giveaways for this book!

Must Listen:

Okay, I know I'm late to the party, but I finally started using Spotify and I love it!!!  I really like how you can use playlists and can find playlists from other people!  Case in point:  I discovered a user called Wbdteenfest who has made playlists to go with all kinds of YA books from authors such as Morgan Matson and Nicola Yoon!  Go to Spotify and look this person up!!!  I am currently listening to a playlist called "Maggie Stiefvater's Music for writing to".  Awsome sauce!

Must Watch:


I really enjoyed 2010's Alice In Wonderland and I have high hopes for this sequel.  Tim Burton is a genius with visual movies (I also can't wait for the movie version of Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children in October). 

What are you excited to read, listen to, or watch this week?  Let me know in the comments.

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Sunday, May 22, 2016

Sunday Street Team Review and 3 Great Giveaways!



Please Note:  I received an ARC copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  This does not change the opinions of my review in any way.

Synopsis (From GoodReads):

San Francisco, 1906: Fifteen-year-old Mercy Wong is determined to break from the poverty in Chinatown, and an education at St. Clare’s School for Girls is her best hope. Although St. Clare’s is off-limits to all but the wealthiest white girls, Mercy gains admittance through a mix of cunning and a little bribery, only to discover that getting in was the easiest part. Not to be undone by a bunch of spoiled heiresses, Mercy stands strong—until disaster strikes.

On April 18, an historic earthquake rocks San Francisco, destroying Mercy’s home and school. With martial law in effect, she is forced to wait with her classmates for their families in a temporary park encampment. Mercy can't sit by while they wait for the Army to bring help. Fires might rage, and the city may be in shambles, yet Mercy still has the 'bossy' cheeks that mark her as someone who gets things done. But what can one teenaged girl do to heal so many suffering in her broken city?


What does it take to give a book a five-star review?  For some it's a compelling story, for others, memorable characters and settings are the reason.  For me, a five-star book will get me so emotionally involved that it will get me crying at some point.  

So, yup: This book got a big old 

I must start out by telling you that I also have a "text to self connection" with this story.  My great- grandmother was also a teen and lived through the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906.  I remember her telling us stories of how she sat with her family on a hill and watched as the city was destroyed by a huge fire.  They lost everything (including her birth certificate).  We never did know exactly how old she was.  So when I saw the sign ups for this book, I had to jump in.

The story tells the tale of Mercy Wong, a Chinese-American who lives in the Chinatown section of San Francisco.  Wanting a better education, Mercy talks her way into an exclusive school for young women that she hopes will teach her business skills so she can become her own boss.  What she gets instead are lessons in elocution and social graces.  This was typical for women's schools of the time.  She butts heads with her roommate and others who are prejudiced.  But all of this is put aside as the ground begins to shake and the girls must work together to survive.

I was very struck by the details of the earthquake, and it's aftermath.  Apparently many people took refuge in Golden Gate Park (one of my favorite places!).  But with no food or shelter, it must have been chaos.  Was my own great-grandmother there?  She must have thought the world was ending (I'm in tears as I write this).  I think the book captures how frightening this time must have been.

But (without giving anything away) even in the most dire of circumstances, people will rise to the occasion and perform acts of kindness.  I loved how the book showed the hopeful aspect of this tragedy.

The book also brought to life much of the injustice that people of Chinese descent endured during that time.  It's one thing to read about this in a history book, but quite another to see how strongly this affected people.  Laws were specifically targeted to make life difficult.  After 1882, Chinese were barred from immigrating to the U.S.. That meant that there were very few Chinese women around.  Since it would have been unthinkable to marry someone outside their race, this was a serious problem.  There were also laws designed to just make life hard, such as the Sidewalk Ordinance that said one couldn't carry laundry on a pole.  This book showed how this community was just trying to get by.  Much of Chinatown was destroyed in the Great Fire.

I loved this book.  I think it should be read by anyone who wants to read about this time in our history.  With a great story and wonderful characters, this is a must read.


Release Date:  May 24th, 2016

Source:  Sunday Street Team Blog Tour (Thank you Nori from ReadWriteLove and Rachel Lodi of Penguin Young Readers).

Format:  E-book ARC

Recommendation:  An historical fiction that will leave you feeling like you were actually in San Francisco in 1906.  Wonderfully detailed.



 And now for some amazing giveaways!

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Saturday, May 21, 2016

Stacking The Shelves #31

Stacking The Shelves is a weekly feature hosted by Team Tynga's Reviews.  Each week, nearly 100 bloggers share what books they got!  It is so much fun to hop from blog to blog looking at all the goodies and adding recommendations to my TBR pile!  Go to Tynga's website for the complete list of bloggers.

As far as book acquisitions went, it was a pretty slow week.  I have buyer's hangover from all the purchases I made earlier in the month, so I am trying not to buy new books... Hello, Library!

Read This Week:


I LOVED Outrun The Moon, By Stacey Lee!  I was able to get an ARC copy of this book, and I'm so glad I did.  I will post a review of it on Sunday!   

From The Library:


I had to get back in line for the audio book of A Darker Shade Of Magic, as I checked it out a while back but didn't get to it. I'm also listening to audio books on my way to work, so I will be listening to these at a faster than regular pace for me.  

What books did you get this week?  Which ones are you frantic to read Right Now?

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Thursday, May 19, 2016

ARC Review & Giveaway: Spark


Please Note:  I received an ARC copy of this book as part of Hannah The Irish Banana's Blog Tour, and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  This does not influence my opinions in my review in any way.

Synopsis (From Publisher):

The local Avery Theater was just a run-down building to Quin—until her mother told her the tragic love story of Nick and Emma that played out on the theater’s stage all those years ago. Quin is convinced it’s the perfect story to rewrite for her drama class, but when she goes searching for more information, she makes a startling discovery—the Avery is rapidly regaining its former splendor and setting the stage for her classmates Dylan and Cass to relive Nick and Emma’s romance. Quin can see the spark between them, but it’s up to her to make sure her friends—and the Avery—can both be saved this time around.


"Theater Geeks, Unite!"  That's what I thought when I read the synopsis for this book.  I was a total theater kid in high school.  I performed in nearly every show, was co-president of the Drama Club and co-directed the senior show!  I actually met my future husband in a production of Fiddler On The Roof (he was the Rabbi's son), and worked in an old , spooky theater!So, saying I understood the topic would be an understatement.  I really enjoyed this book!  It was fun, nostalgic, and very imaginative.

I was a bit confused at the beginning of the book because I didn't realize this book was a fable.  Quin has heard stories about the Avery Theater all her life.  She begins to see parts of the story come alive as she prepares to direct her Senior Show, Anything Goes.  I wasn't sure, at first, if Quin was having a hallucination, or if there was a magical element to the story.  Once I understood the premise about the "magic of the theater", I bought in.

Most of the story revolves around a town square that has lost its luster.  The Avery Theater sits, abandoned, amid empty store fronts.  The few businesses still around are a music store, a second hand clothing shop, and the purfumery run by Quin's mom.  It's only a matter of time before these shops, relics of a time gone by, will be gone as well.

Quin's mom is also the theater teacher at the local high school.  She assigns the Advanced Drama class to put on the show, Anything Goes.  This was also the last production of The Avery...

As Quin becomes more troubled by how she will direct the show, she begins to see flashes of how the theater looked back in 1947, when a tragedy unfolded and two young lovers died.  These flashbacks help tell the story of the couple and mirror the budding romance of Quin's two friends.  I found the love story realistic and sweet.  I enjoyed how performing transformed the teens from awkward and self-conscious to strong and fearless.  

Theater is a great way for people who are not athletic to become involved in a large group activity.  If one is shy or has self-confidence issues, acting and singing can bring them out of their shell.  It can also help others to see them in a different light.  Everyone has a talent.  Sometimes it takes a spotlight on a stage to illuminate it for others to see.  That is the beauty of the performing arts.  And this is what is celebrated in this book.

Holly Schindler’s work has received starred reviews in Booklist and Publishers Weekly, has won silver and gold medals in ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year and the IPPY Awards, respectively, has been featured on Booklist’s Best First Novels for Youth and School Library Journal’s What’s Hot in YA, and has been a PW Pick of the Week. She is owned by a Pekingese named Jake, and can be found working on her next book in her hometown of Springfield, Missouri. She can also be found at hollyschindler.com. 


Release Date: May 17th, 2016

Source: From Hannah the Irish Banana, and the publisher.  Thank you!

Format:  E-book

Recommendation:  This is a must read if you love theater shows and performing.  For others, it is also very enjoyable, but you may not get some of the references.



Now time for a giveaway:

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Saturday, May 14, 2016

Stacking The Shelves #30

Stacking The Shelves is a weekly feature hosted my Team Tynga's Reviews.  Go to their blog for a list of all the participating bloggers.  I love this blog hop because nearly 100 blogs get in on the fun!

Read This Week:

I finally got to finish the audio book of Capital Dames!  I got this from the library and had to get back in line when I couldn't finish it.  Re-reading The Raven Boys was a treat and I was delighted that I could see some clues in the book to future events.  Spark was a fun book, once I understood the premise.  But, I wasn't super impressed with Summer Of Supernovas.  Oh well...

 Bought for my Kindle:

I now have a print version and a digital version of Illuminae.  I want to buy the audio book version as well.  I love, love, love this book!  I bought I Am Malala for my daughter as she is reading this for school.  I will read it, too.

From Harper Teen:

I actually got a digital version of this from Hannah, The Irish Banana for a blog tour, so I was surprised and delighted to receive a print copy of this fun book!  


Anything having to do with Jane Austin and I'm in!  Though clearly fiction this book looks like an intriguing look into the author's life.

What did you get this week?  Which books are you itching to read?  Let me know in the comments.
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Tuesday, May 10, 2016

ARC Review: Summer Of Supernovas


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

Synopsis (From GoodReads):

When zodiac-obsessed teen Wilamena Carlisle discovers a planetary alignment that won’t repeat for a decade, she’s forced to tackle her greatest astrological fear: The Fifth House—relationships and love.

But when Wil falls for a sensitive guitar player hailing from the wrong side of the astrology chart, she must decide whether a cosmically doomed love is worth rejecting her dead mother’s legacy and the very system she’s faithfully followed through a lifetime of unfailing belief.


Summer Of Supernovas starts with a fun premise: a girl tries to find her perfect mate using astrology.  I thought that sounded kind of fun, so I requested it from NetGalley.  I enjoyed the elements of the story (the romance, the friendships), but I thought the author forced the main problem of the story.  Would a girl really be so stuck on a promise made to her mother when she was six year old?  Perhaps at the beginning.  The main dilemma of the story: which brother Wil liked more (Seth or Grant) was interesting all by itself.

What I Liked:


I enjoyed almost all of the characters, from the fiercely protective Gram to Wil's older friend Irina.  The book was populated with interesting people.  I thought that the brothers Seth and Grant were also fun and different enough that each had something unique to offer Wil.  Seth was a grand romantic, while Grant expressed his emotions through his music.  Since Wil's only family was her Gram, I could see how each guy would apeal to her.


I thought that the relationship between Gram and Wil was complex.  There had to be a lot of regrets and second-guessing on Gram's part since Wil's mother had her at seventeen and then died when Wil was six.  I could see why Gram was so protective and concerned about Wil dating.

Wil had good things going with both Seth and Grant.  I could see why she was so torn between them.  

What I didn't Like:

The astrology "problem":

The main issue preventing Wil from being with Grant is that he is a Pisces.  Really?  Apparently, Wil made a promise to her mother just before she died to never get involved with one - when she was six!  

I don't know about you, but I barely remember anything that happened to me when I was six years old.  I honestly don't think such a promise would hold such sway.  I think just being attracted to two brothers, alone, is enough of a plot twist.  The book didn't need such nonsense.

If you can get past this plot device, I think you may like this book.  It has fun characters and a fun romance.  But just as a summer fling isn't serious, neither is this book.


Release Date:  May 10th, 2016

Source:  NetGalley

Format:  E-book ARC

Recommendation: A fun book for summer if you can get past the silly plot device.




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2019 Reading Challenge
MsArdychan has read 10 books toward her goal of 120 books.


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