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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, November 30, 2016

Book Review: Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake


Synopsis (From GoodReads):
Every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born: three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions.

But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose…it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins. The last queen standing gets the crown.

If only it was that simple. Katharine is unable to tolerate the weakest poison, and Arsinoe, no matter how hard she tries, can’t make even a weed grow. The two queens have been shamefully faking their powers, taking care to keep each other, the island, and their powerful sister Mirabella none the wiser. But with alliances being formed, betrayals taking shape, and ruthless revenge haunting the queens’ every move, one thing is certain: the last queen standing might not be the strongest…but she may be the darkest.


Review:
I love books about queens and royal intrigue!  This book had political alliances, strange powers, and a brutal concept:  Royal Triplets are born and raised together until they are aged six. Then they are raised separately to develop their powers (and become the pawns of various political factions).  They meet again when they are sixteen and then have a year to KILL EACH OTHER!  The survivor is crowned the queen.  Talk about sibling rivalry! 

What I Liked:

Characters:

Each queen is a unique person with strong qualities that make them easy to  root for.  They also each have faults that are impossible to look past.  I love how each queen is complicated.  There is no clear person to root for.  It is kind of like politics itself, in America.  Each party has its good parts and its distressing issues.  

World Building: 
I enjoyed how the island had three distinct kingdoms.  Again, each place had positive and negative aspects.  One of the main problems with this society is that each realm demeans the other.  They don't seem to value the contributions of each other.

I also loved all the powers on display in this book!  There are poisoners, those who control the elements, and others who can command nature.  And they all seem to be women!  This is a refreshingly matriarchal society.  When men come from the "mainland" they are baffled by this.

Plot:
While I do not believe in spoilers, I will say that they plot has many twists and turns.  I enjoyed these and found them so surprising that I shouted out loud when some of these things happened!  I love a book where I can be genuinely caught off guard by a plot twist.

What I Didn't Like:
                     
via GIPHY
 
I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  It was original, suspenseful, and full of complex characters.  I look forward to more books in this series.


https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23207027-three-dark-crowns?from_search=true


http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/three-dark-crowns-kendare-blake/1123178046?ean=9780062385437https://www.amazon.com/Three-Dark-Crowns-Kendare-Blake/dp/0062385437/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1480186387&sr=8-1&keywords=Three+Dark+Crowns

http://www.bookdepository.com/Three-Dark-Crowns-Kendare-Blake/9780062564122?ref=grid-view



Rating: 


 
Release Date:  September 20th, 2016

Genre:  YA Fantasy

Source:  GoodReads Group Read With Tessa!

Format:  E-Book

Recommendation:  A complex, gory, story of political intrigues and self-discovery.  I highly recommend this book.
 

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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

ARC Review: Beethoven's Skull by Tim Rayborn

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/28695569-beethoven-s-skull?ac=1&from_search=true

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

Synopsis (From GoodReads):
Beethoven’s Skull is an unusual and often humorous survey of the many strange happenings in the history of Western classical music. Proving that good music and shocking tabloid-style stories make excellent bedfellows, it presents tales of revenge, murder, curious accidents, and strange fates that span more than two thousand years. Highlights include:

A cursed song that kills those who hear it
A composer who lovingly cradles the head of Beethoven’s corpse when his remains are exhumed half a century after his death
A fifteenth-century German poet who sings of the real-life Dracula
A dream of the devil that inspires a virtuoso violin piece


Review:
I am an avid lover of all kinds of music and am the daughter of a professional musician.  So when I saw this non-fiction book, Beethoven's Skull, by Tim Rayborn, I was excited to read some strange and quirky stories of my favorite composers of old.  There certainly were some gems, but I found I had to dig through quite a bit of filler to find them.

What I Liked:  
The best stories come from the section on The Romantic Era.  Composers such as Liszt, Paganini, and Berlioz have compellingly strange lives and the author does a good job of narrating them.  I think this is due, in part, to the fact that there are well documented accounts about these people's lives. 

What I Didn't Like:
Fillers:
Most of the book had stories that had a tenuous link to the premise of the book (quirky anecdotes  of composers through the ages).  I realize it is nearly impossible to have any stories of people who lived thousands of years ago at the dawn of music.  So why not admit that and skip ahead?  Instead we are asked to trudge through a lot of stories that are rather boring.  I'm sorry, but it just wasn't entertaining.

Missed Subjects:
Although his name pops up here and there, Richard Wagner doesn't get a separate mention.  I find this strange, and even went back through the book and checked.  Wagner had a very strange career as one of his patrons was King Ludwig II of Bavaria (often called Mad King Ludwig).  It was well known that the King was infatuated with Wagner and took advantage of this.  He knew he could string the King along and get him to back him financially.   Later, the King became obsessed with Wagner.  I would have loved to have read even more about that.

In all, I found that the book did have entertaining parts, but not enough for me to recommend it.  The book's premise was supposed to be composers, Classical music, and beyond.  I think this book has a great deal of the "and beyond" parts.  There are sections on nursery rhymes, and modern pop stars that, while interesting, seem like filler.  Perhaps if the book had been marketed as a book about strange things in the music world as a whole, I could have been more open-minded about reading this book.  But my expectation was set at learning hidden aspects of the world of Classical music.  There just wasn't enough here to warrant an entire book. 

Rating: 




Release Date:  November 15th, 2016

Genre:  Non-Fiction

Source:  Edelweiss

Format:  ARC E-Book

Recommendation:  This book missed the mark with me, but you may enjoy it as a light library read.

 
 
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Monday, November 28, 2016

Bay Area Book Events #23

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.

November 29th, 2016 at 7:00pm
The JCCSF Presents:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26795307-moonglow?from_search=true
This is a free event, but advanced reservations are required.  Click on the link here to do this.

Book:  Moonglow
Author:  Michael Chabon
Location: The Jewish Community Center
Address:  3200 California Street, San Francisco
Tel:  (415) 292-1200


December 1st, 2016 at 6:00pm

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30109305-a-time-for-redemption?ac=1&from_search=true

Book:  A Time For Redemption
Author:  T.J. Reilly
Location:  Book Passage (San Francisco)
Address:  1 Ferry Building, San Francisco
Tel: (415) 835-1020 
 

December 2nd, 2016, at 6:30pm
Presented By Book Passage:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23267873-prince-lestat-and-the-realms-of-atlantis?ac=1&from_search=true
This is a ticketed event:  $20 includes admission to the aquarium and a $5 voucher towards book purchase.
 
Book:  Prince LeStat & The Realms Of Atlantis
Author:  Anne Rice
Location:  Aquarium Of The Bay
Address:  Pier 39, 2 Beach Street, San Francisco
Tel: (415)  835-1020
 
December 3rd, 2016 10:00am to 6:00pm
Book Passage's 40th Anniversary Celebration
 
Various events throughout the day to celebrate the anniversary of this iconic Bay Area Indie bookstore.  See website for details
 
Location:  Book Passage
Address:  51 Tamal Vista Blvd, Corte Madera
Tel: (415) 927-0960 or (800) 999-7909 

December 3rd, 2016 at 12:00pm
Silicon Valley Romance Writers Of America Book fair:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15715864-accidental-seal?from_search=truehttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/28133451-nashville-seal?from_search=true
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25316766-lover-s-intuition?from_search=truehttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25471017-sailor-s-warning
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18667087-never-marry-a-warlock?from_search=truehttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17340300-rebirth?from_search=true




Books:   Accidental SEAL, Nashville SEAL Author: Sharon Hamilton

Books: Lover's Intuition, Sailor's Warning
Author:  Noelle Greene

Book: Rebirth: Rogues Shifter series
Author:  Gayle Parness

Book: Never Marry A Warlock
Author:  Marilyn Vix 

Additional readings from:
Nadine Mutas, and Jennae Vale

Location:  Barnes & Noble (San Jose)
Address:  3600 Stevens Creek Blvd. 
Tel:  (408) 984-3495

December 4th, 2016 at 4:00pm

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/27851034-the-boundary-stone?from_search=true

Book:  Boundary Stone
Author:  Gail Halverson
Location:  Book Passage (Corte Madera)
Address:  51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera 
Tel: (415) 927-0960 (800) 999-7909
 
December 6th, 2017 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 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, November 26, 2016

Stacking The Shelves #57 & Sunday Post #20


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:
It's been a relaxing Thanksgiving week for us!  I am happy (and thankful) to say that my plan of shared labor in cooking the Thanksgiving meal was mostly a success.  I say mostly because a few things didn't happen as I had wanted, such as our meal being about two hours later than I had planned, but overall I was really please that everyone took their tasks to heart and we had an enjoyable meal that we all created.  I think this will be a continuing tradition next November!

I also got to get down to a lot of reading!  I finished three books today, alone!!!  So much better than fighting crowds on Black Friday, don't you think?

New Books This Week:

From Read With Tessa's
GoodReads Group:
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18584855-heartless?ac=1&from_search=truehttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/28260587-empire-of-storms?from_search=true


https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26156203-the-crown-s-game?ac=1&from_search=truehttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23299512-this-savage-song?from_search=truehttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/28763485-the-sun-is-also-a-star?ac=1&from_search=true





 I am so in love with this reading group!  Every month this group reads all the wonderful YA books I have been yearning to read.  


Free on Kindle:
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/29064737-slave-warrior-queen?ac=1&from_search=truehttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25599162-tapas-carrot-cake-and-a-corpse?ac=1&from_search=true

These were books that I found out were free by looking at other people's Stacking The Shelves last week!  I've already read both of these books.  They were fun and just what I wanted to read on vacation!


Kindle First Program:
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30057557-the-odds-of-loving-grover-cleveland?ac=1&from_search=true
 This is a program that is part of Amazon Prime.  You get access to one of six books per month that you can read for free before they are released!  I will be reading and review this book soon.

Penguin/Random House
First In Line Program: 

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30320008-the-valiant?ac=1&from_search=true
I received this in the mail and it was a happy surprise!  I love the marketing for this book.  The cover has a band around it that reads:
This Book Contains:
  • The untold story of Rome's female gladiators
  • A lack of destressed damsels
  • A steamy kiss by page 8

I love this!!!


That's it for this week.   How was your Thanksgiving?  Did you read any good books this week?  

For my international readers, here is a video of Irish People tasting Thanksgiving food for the first time.   This might explain what all the fuss is about:


            
 
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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Book Review: Love, Loss, and What We Ate: A Memoir

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25816693-love-loss-and-what-we-ate?ac=1&from_search=true 
Synopsis (From GoodReads):
Long before Padma Lakshmi ever stepped onto a television set, she learned that how we eat is an extension of how we love, how we comfort, how we forge a sense of home—and how we taste the world as we navigate our way through it. Shuttling between continents as a child, she lived a life of dislocation that would become habit as an adult, never quite at home in the world. And yet, through all her travels, her favorite food remained the simple rice she first ate sitting on the cool floor of her grandmother’s kitchen in South India.

Poignant and surprising, Love, Loss, and What We Ate is Lakshmi’s extraordinary account of her journey from that humble kitchen, ruled by ferocious and unforgettable women, to the judges’ table of Top Chef and beyond. It chronicles the fierce devotion of the remarkable people who shaped her along the way, from her headstrong mother who flouted conservative Indian convention to make a life in New York, to her Brahmin grandfather—a brilliant engineer with an irrepressible sweet tooth—to the man seemingly wrong for her in every way who proved to be her truest ally. A memoir rich with sensual prose and punctuated with evocative recipes, it is alive with the scents, tastes, and textures of a life that spans complex geographies both internal and external.
 

Review:
I have a fondness for audio books of celebrity memoirs.  They are almost always read by the author, and so there is the fun of hearing, first hand, about the person's life.  I really liked Padma Lakshmi before I read this book.  I knew of her from Top Chef, and as the ex-wife of Salman Rushdie, the famous author.  So I was eager to learn more about this stunning Indian beauty.  While I enjoyed this book, I was left with a tarnished opinion of the author.

What I liked:
Family Ties:
Lakshmi pays homage to the strong women in her life: her mother, aunts, and grandmother.  Food memories are interspersed with examples of the love and support Padma received from these amazing women.  Whenever she was ill, and she had numerous issues with Endometriosis, a wonderful female would be on hand with comforting meals from her native India.  I loved that recipes for these dishes were included in this book.  I wish there had been a way to covey this better in audio, but, this means I need to get the print version from my local library.

Culture Clash:
Padma also writes about her challenges trying to straddle two different cultures.  Throughout her childhood, she lived alternately in India and the United States.  She had to navigate wearing jeans and eating hamburgers in New York and then returning to India to a vegetarian diet and strict codes of conduct.  I found this fascinating.

Advocacy for Endometriosis:
Although Padma is one of the most beautiful people on the planet, she has had serious health problems all her life.  After being misdiagnosed time and again, she finally was found to have Endomitriosis.  I really could relate to her issues, and was saddened that her husband, Salman Rushdie, was so unsupportive in her time of need.

What I Didn't Like:
Lack Of Self Awareness:
As I have said, I am a fan of Padma Lakshmi.  But I was surprised at her descriptions of her relationships with men.  She has had numerous relationships with much older men throughout her life.  She seemed to crave men with power and more life experience than she had.  There's nothing wrong with that.  Who am I to judge.  But she wrote off this aspect of her life as just having "Major daddy issues".  Ya think?

I feel this would have been a more honest book if she delved more deeply as to why she had these daddy issues, and how these men met her need to be "taught" by these lovers.

She also doesn't really seem to get just how entitled and fortunate she is.  It didn't appear that she has any regular people in her life, other than her family.  I get that she probably is weary why of people want to be friends with her.  I think most celebrities have legitimate concerns about being used.  But she came off as only wanting to associate with A-list celebrities and intellectuals.

If you are curious about the life of Padma Lakshmi, I would definitely recommend this book.  While I wish she had addressed some parts of her life more, I found the book to be an engaging memoir of culture, celebrity, and food.
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25816693-love-loss-and-what-we-ate?ac=1&from_search=true

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/love-loss-and-what-we-ate-padma-lakshmi/1122135615?ean=9780062202611
https://www.amazon.com/Love-Loss-What-We-Ate/dp/0062202618/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1478836666&sr=1-1&keywords=love+loss+and+what+we+ate

https://www.bookdepository.com/Love--Loss--and-What-We-Ate/9780062202611


Rating: 



Release Date:  March 8th, 2016

Genre:  Memoir

Source:  Public Library

Format:  Audio Book

Recommendation:  Filled with recipes, exotic places, and intriguing relationships, this book was entertaining but had a surprisingly unflattering view of Padma Lakshmi's relationships with men.  If you want to know about this celebrity, it would be well worth your time to read/listen to this book. 


 

 
 
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2017 Reading Challenge

MsArdychan has read 2 books toward her goal of 180 books.
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MsArdychan's bookshelf: read

The Hummingbird's Daughter
Joseph Anton: A Memoir
The Most Beautiful Walk in the World: A Pedestrian in Paris
The Help
The Fry Chronicles
A Clash of Kings
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
A Game of Thrones
The Hunger Games
Catching Fire
Mockingjay
The Giver
Savvy
The Red Pyramid
Anne of Green Gables
The Complete Novels
Slam!
Slam
Hatchet
Scorpions


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