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 30, 2017

Stacking The Shelves #109 & Sunday Post #73

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! 

I am participating in the Amazon affiliate program, so if you click on any of the book covers it will take you to Amazon if you want to buy the book.  I will be getting a small fee for each purchase.  

On The Blog:

Thursday:  Audio Book Review:  Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

The blog took a backseat to Christmas preparations, so I only had one post all week.  I was able to read several books, but now I need to write all the reviews.  So that's how I am spending the last weekend of 2017!

In Real Life:

Although we go to my aunt's for Christmas dinner, I am always in charge of the desserts.   I love doing lots of baking for the holidays!  My family always jokes that I am not allowed over unless I bring the Bailey's cake!  But actually, that project was the easiest of them all.

Bailey's Cake, Mince Pies, Brownies, White Holiday Fudge, Earl Grey Cupcakes with Strawberry Buttercream Icing.

My daughter and I also went to see the Pixar movie Coco.  It was amazing and not really a kids movie at all.  Many of the characters reminded me of relatives on the Mexican side of my family!  So yes... I cried and cried at the end.

If you haven't seen this masterpiece, you need to!


New Books:
Public Library:


 I'm still catching up on all the library books I got last week.  Why do all these books that I place on hold always have to become available all at the same time?  But really, I am looking forward to reading all these wonderful books!

That's it for this week.  I hope the new year brings happiness and peace for us all.

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Thursday, December 28, 2017

Audio ARC review: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Please Note:  I received an advance audio copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  This did not influence the opinions of my review in any way.  Also, I am in the Amazon Affiliate program.  If you buy the book using the link on this page, I will get a small fee.

Synopsis (From Goodreads):
In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned -- from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.

Enter Mia Warren -- an enigmatic artist and single mother -- who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.

When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town--and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia's past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs.

I wasn't sure, at first, what to make of Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng.  With its dual plot of teens, and of their parents, it's part YA, part women's fiction.  It did take me a while to delve in to this book.  But once I did, I was engulfed!  With a huge cast of characters, and a twisty story line, this book would be a wonderful choice for a book club, and will surely be the next big movie.  If you liked Big Little Lies by Lainey Moriarty, you will adore this book.

What I Liked:
I really like all the teens in this book (except for Moody).  As the title suggests, each of them have small (and large) fires going on in their lives.  It reminds me that, even when people seem all perfect, everyone has something going on!

Mia, the artist/photographer who moves into the Richardson's rental unit with her daughter Pearl, is a very complex character.  She also seems to have everything figured out.  She moves randomly from city to city just on a whim.  But there is also more going on...  I had very mixed feelings about her, and her choices.  She is actually quite selfish, and doesn't think about how all of their moving around affects Pearl. 

There is so much going on in this book!  Little fires and big fires all converge to ignite the (actual) house fire that consumes the Richardson's home.  This is not giving anything away, as this happens at the beginning of the book.  The rest of the story is about everything that leads up to it.

This is also a story about pregnancy, adoptions, and a custody battle.  Of people desperate to have a baby, and people desperate once they have them.  My heart went out to both mothers in the custody battle over an Asian baby who is being adopted into a Caucasian family.  Is it right to place a child into an environment where they will surely lose their cultural identity?  Or should a person who is skirting the edge of poverty be allowed to raise her own child?

I think the narrator, Jennifer Lim, did a fine job with the characters in this story.  While she does do an accent with the Asian character, she does so subtly, and with respect.  She is versatile, performing as a teenage boy one minute, and a scared middle-age mother the next.

What I Didn't Like:

I really disliked Mrs. Richardson!  What a busybody.  Not only does she interfere in the lives of several people, but she doesn't really pay any price for it.  I really wanted her to get caught and have some consequences for her actions, but she doesn't.  I know this is probably how things would turn out in "real life",  but I was itching for her to pay for what she had done.  The author tries, somewhat, to have one result that will haunt her, but I didn't see it as much of one.  She doesn't have much regard for the person who eventually leaves, so I didn't see it as much of a loss for her.

I also thought Moody's character wasn't given much to do beyond mooning over Pearl.  I wish the author had gone a little deeper into being the rejected friend.   But he only seems angry, not hurt, about Pearl not liking him.  All he does is trash-talk her, he doesn't even act on his anger.  So this made me feel like he was just a filler character.



Release Date:  September 12th, 2017

Publisher:  Penguin Random House Audio

Genre:  General Fiction

Listening Length:  11 hours, 27 minutes

Page Length:  352 pages

Narrator:  Jennifer Lim

Recommendation:  This would make a wonderful selection for a book club.  The actions of the characters will make for some heated discussions!

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Saturday, December 23, 2017

Stacking The Shelves #108 & Sunday Post #72

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! 

I have begun to participate in the Amazon affiliate program, so if you click on any of the book covers it will take you to Amazon if you want to buy the book.  I will be getting a small fee for each purchase.  

On The Blog:

In Real Life:
Thankfully, I have had the week off of work.  With lots of shopping, gift-wrapping, and cooking to do, it was a busy week.  But I got a lot done, and was even able to go see Star Wars with my whole family last weekend!

My Southern California Family has been through the ringer with these massive wild fires!  Nearly all of my relatives had to be evacuated at one time or another.  My In-laws were finally able to go home yesterday!  Thankfully, no one lost their home, but everyone I talked to was very stressed out by the whole experience.  So I think we will postpone our visit until sometime in January.  I think they all need time to relax and I don't think it would be helpful to descend on them with six people for house guests!

New Books:

Public Library:


Received as a Gift:

Audio Book For Review:

That's it for this week.. I hope everyone has a wonderful last few weeks of the year. 
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Thursday, December 21, 2017

Book Review: The Heartbreakers by Ali Novak

Please Note:  I am part of the Amazon Affiliate program.  If you buy the book through the links on this page, I will get a small fee.  This did not influence the opinions of my review in any way.

Synopsis (From Goodreads):

"When I met Oliver Perry, I had no clue he was the lead singer for The Heartbreakers. And he had no idea that I was the only girl in the world who hated his music."
Stella will do anything for her sick sister, Cara—even stand in line for an autographed Heartbreakers CD...for four hours. She's totally winning best birthday gift this year. At least she met a cute boy with soft brown hair and gorgeous blue eyes while getting her caffeine fix. Too bad she'll never see him again.
Except, Stella's life has suddenly turned into a cheesy love song. Because Starbucks Boy is Oliver Perry – lead singer for the Heartbreakers. And even after she calls his music crap, Oliver still gives Stella his phone number. And whispers quotes from her favorite Disney movie in her ear. OMG, what is her life?
But how can Stella even think about being with Oliver — dating and laughing and pulling pranks with the band — when her sister could be dying of cancer?

I started out reading this series out of order.  First, I read Paper Hearts, which focuses on Alec's life.  Once I read and really enjoy a book, I like to learn more about the author and the series (if there is one).  That is how I learned about The Heartbreakers and that is was a sensation on the Wattpad platform.  I really enjoyed both books for the love stories and looks into the lives of a popular fictional boy band.  Can someone famous have a relationship with a regular person?  How will that person handle the weirdness that is celebrity?  I loved how Ali Novak explored all these situations.

What I Liked:
I love Stella.  She comes off, at first, as a tough girl with a Punk vibe.  With a nose piercing, and a blue streak in her hair, she is a far cry from the usual teeny-boppers who worship The Heartbreakers.  And she kind of hates their music!  She's not exactly winning points with Oliver, the lead singer of the band, who she meets at Starbucks.  She doesn't know who he is, so their meeting is without the awkward expectations a fan might have.

Stella's passion is her photography yet she is very insecure about the quality of her work.  When the band's publicist hires her to work full time photographing the band, she must face her fears or risk passing the opportunity of a lifetime.

Oliver is also a fun character.  While he is living his dream of making it as a singer, he compromises significantly to make it to the top.  He can't play the kind of music he wants, and he must behave himself at all times.  I like that he has some insecurities that motivate him to submit to this manipulation.  He is not all about fame, but is very concerned that he will lose his band "family" if things don't go well.

What I Didn't Like: 
The boys in the band are a little too good to be true.  I find it hard to believe that four young male rock stars aren't hooking up with groupies or doing other wild things on tour.  The most they do is drink a lot of alcohol.  There is a reference to a crazy party, but it all seems like innocent fun.  A lovely fantasy for fans, but I think the reality would be far different.  Most highly successful musicians are under intense pressure, and often, they need to escape.  Many do this with alcohol, others do drugs.  It is a dark side of the music business and I wish the author had delved more into this aspect of being superstars.

At times, the book was like a fun, but predictable, romantic comedy. Girl gets boy, girl loses boy, girl gets him back.  Some of the misunderstandings that lead to heartache are things that would not have been an issue if they had talked it out.  

And I really didn't like that Stella's twin sister has Cancer.  Here come the scenes with Stella feeling guilty that she is healthy and Cara is not.  Then Stella doesn't want to leave home because she is worried that Cara will die.  Have we heard of Skype? Telephones?  Airplanes?  I just felt that this was a bit melodramatic.  I was surprised Stella's parents weren't doing more to ensure that Stella and her brother Drew didn't wallow in misery because Cara was ill.  It's what most parents would do.



Release Date:  August 4th, 2015

Genre:  YA Contemporary

Publisher:  Sourcebooks Fire

Page Length:  336 Pages

Source:  Public Library

Format:  E-Book

Despite the overused tropes, this book was light,  fun and entertaining like a catchy pop tune. 

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Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Audio Book Review: The Clockwork Dynasty by Daniel H. Wilson


Please Note:  I am in the Amazon Affiliate program.  If you buy this book with the links on this page, I will get a small fee.  This did not influence the opinions of my review in any way.

Synopsis (From Goodreads):
Present day: When a young anthropologist specializing in ancient technology uncovers a terrible secret concealed in the workings of a three-hundred-year-old mechanical doll, she is thrown into a hidden world that lurks just under the surface of our own. With her career and her life at stake, June Stefanov will ally with a remarkable traveler who exposes her to a reality she never imagined, as they embark on an around-the-world adventure and discover breathtaking secrets of the past...

Russia, 1725: In the depths of the Kremlin, the tsar's loyal mechanician brings to life two astonishingly humanlike mechanical beings. Peter and Elena are a brother and sister fallen out of time, possessed with uncanny power, and destined to serve great empires. Struggling to blend into pre-Victorian society, they are pulled into a legendary war that has raged for centuries.

The Clockwork Dynasty interweaves past and present, exploring a race of beings designed to live by ironclad principles, yet constantly searching for meaning. As June plunges deeper into their world, her choices will ultimately determine their survival or extermination.

I wanted to read this book because I liked the idea of automatons and the meaning of consciousness. These are essential questions we must ask as machines become smarter and inch closer to self awareness.  While I liked the characters, the narrator's performances, and some of the action, I was not thrilled with this book.  I found parts of it confusing, and I didn't feel it addressed some of the most obvious issues that would be present in this situation.

What I Liked:
Narrative Style:
I really enjoyed how the narration alternated each chapter between June (in the present day), and Peter (in eighteenth century Russia).  It was fun to anticipate how these two stories would converge.

Narration Performances:
The performances of David Giuntoli (as Peter), and Claire Coffee (as June), were wonderful.  I especially enjoyed how David Giuntoli expressed the angst that Peter experiences.  He is passionate about serving Honor, but begins to question the causes he is asked to defend.  Claire Coffee also brings the sassy June to life with gusto.

June is a strong woman who's career is centered on her fascination with automatons.  She is kind of like Indiana Jones, searching the globe for artifacts that support her obsession.  I liked that she is so independent, but has flaws, and is strongly influenced by her Grandfather (a Jewish survivor of WWII).

Peter is one of the ancient automatovs (living machines). He struggles to understand his purpose in life.  He feels a deep need to serve Pravda (honor), but also has a sense of self-preservation that is very human.

What I Didn't Like:
There were a lot of passages that went on too long, and listening to the audio book made me sleepy, at times.  Not a good sign in a book!  I had to rewind several times in order to understand what happened.

While the story was interesting, I found it confusing at times, and I couldn't feel invested in the outcome of the events.  How ancient are the automatovs?  Who originally created them?  Even when this is revealed, I didn't get the significance. 

It was also kind of creepy that June seems to be attracted to Peter.  He really is a machine.  I wish that June didn't need to romanticize Peter's situation.  If I were her, I would be more drawn to why he was created, and what his purpose is.

While the book was somewhat entertaining, I just couldn't get excited by the plot.



Release Date:  August 1st, 2017

Genre:  Science Fiction

Publisher:  Random House Audio

Listening Length:  10 Hours, 45 Minutes

Page Length:  320 Pages

Source:  Public Library

Format:  Audio Book

Narrated by:  David Giuntoli and Claire Coffee 

Recommendation:  While the idea of automatons is fun,  I was not bowled over by this book.  Other people may like this book, but it was not for me.


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Monday, December 18, 2017

Bay Area Book Events #77

Due to the enormous size of this list, I only show events about four weeks in advance.  There is also a master calendar that has all listings.

Bookstores in this list may include:  
A Great Good Place For Books (Oakland) 
Barnes & Noble (various Bay Area Locations)
Books Inc. (various Bay Area Locations)
Book Passage (Corte Madera & San Francisco) 
Borderlands Books (San Francisco) 
Copperfield's Books (Various Locations) 
East Bay Booksellers (Oakland)   
Green Apple Books (San Francisco) 
Hicklebee's Children's Books (San Jose) 
Kepler's Books (Menlo Park)   
Mrs. Dalloway's (Berkeley) 
Orinda Books (Orinda)   
Pegasus Books (Berkeley & Oakland)   
Point Reyes Bookstore (Point Reyes) 
Rakestraw Books (Danville)
The Booksmith (San Francisco)
Town Center Books (Pleasanton)  

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 do not list non-fiction books (There are simply too many events of those to list).  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 seems sparse, it's because bookstores don't seem to schedule many book events during the holidays (I'm guessing authors don't often go on book tours at this time of year).

Friday, January 5th, at 7:00pm

Book:  Chainbreaker
Author:  Tara Sim
Location:  Kepler's Books
Address:  1010 El Camino Real, Menlo Park
Tel:  (650) 324-4321 

Tuesday, January 9th, at 1:00pm

Book:  The Immortalists
Author:  Chloe Benjamin
Location:  Book Passage (Corte Madera)
Address:  51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera
Tel: (415) 927-0960 

Tuesday, January 9th, at 7:00pm

Book:  Warrior Genius
Author:  Michael Dante DiMartino
Location:  Hicklebee's Children's Books
Address:  1378 Lincoln Avenue, San Jose
Tel:  (408)  929-8880

Tuesday, January 9th, at 7:30pm

Book:  The Immortalists
Author:  Chloe Benjamin
Location:  Green Apple Books on the Park
Address:  1231 9th Avenue, San Francisco
Tel: (415) 742-5833

Wednesday, January 10th, at 7:00pm


Book:  Batman:  Nightwalker (D.C. Icons #2)
Author:  Marie Lu
Location:  A Great Good Place For Books
Address:  6120 LaSalle Avenue, Oakland
Tel:  (510) 339-8210

Wednesday, January 10th, at 7:00pm


Book:  Unearthed
Authors:  Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner
Location:  Kepler's Books
Address:  1010 El Camino Real, Menlo Park
Tel:  (650) 324-4321 

Wednesday, January 10th, at 7:00pm


Book:  The Immortalists
Author:  Chloe Benjamin
Location:  Rakestraw Books
Address:  3 Railroad Avenue, Danville
Tel:  (925)  837-7337

Thursday, January 11th, at 7:30pm


Book: A Reckoning in the Back Country
Author: Terry Shames
Location:  Mrs. Dalloway's
Address:  2904 College Avenue, Berkeley
Tel: (510) 704-8222 

Saturday, January 13th, at 1:00pm

Book:  Bloodstains With Bronte
Author:  Katherine Bolger Hyde
Location:  Book Passage (Sausalito)
Address:  100 Bay Street, Sausalito
Tel: (415) 339-1300 

Saturday, January 13th, at 5:00pm

Book:  Keeper of the Pond
Author:  Margaret Stawowy
Location:  Book Passage (Sausalito)
Address:  100 Bay Street, Sausalito
Tel: (415) 339-1300

Saturday, January 13th, at 7:00pm


Book:  The Day You Love Me
Author:  Jay Humphrey
Location:  Book Passage (Corte Madera)
Address:  51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera
Tel: (415) 927-0960
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Thursday, December 14, 2017

Book Review: Murder In The Marais by Cara Black

Please Note:  I am in the Amazon Affiliate program.  If you buy the book through the links I have, I will get a small fee.  This did not influence the opinions of my review in any way.

Synopsis (From Goodreads):
Aimée Leduc has always sworn she would stick to tech investigation—no criminal cases for her. Especially since her father, the late police detective, was killed in the line of duty. But when an elderly Jewish man approaches Aimée with a top-secret decoding job on behalf of a woman in his synagogue, Aimée unwittingly takes on more than she is expecting. She drops off her findings at her client’s house in the Marais, Paris’s historic Jewish quarter, and finds the woman strangled, a swastika carved on her forehead. With the help of her partner, René, Aimée sets out to solve this horrendous murder, but finds herself in an increasingly dangerous web of ancient secrets and buried war crimes.

I read this book because I kept hearing about the author (who I think lives in the Bay Area).  I have not been a fan of the murder mystery genre, yet I found Murder In The Marais, by Ara Black to be  highly entertaining.   I may need to re-evaluate my choices so I can read the whole series.

What I Liked:
Aimee is a French detective with a host of problems.  She drinks too much, is behind on her taxes, and seems drawn to bad boys.  I loved that she wasn't perfect.  She makes mistakes and learns from them.  And she is still traumatized by the violent death of her father, a prominent police investigator.  

But she is also very good at her job as a private detective.  Aimee is willing to do almost anything to get information, including posing as a white supremacist.  She uses wigs, make-up and costumes to look authentic.  All her disguises were fun to read about, and I was on the edge of my seat hoping she wouln't get caught.

I also loved following the German character, Hartmuth, as he returns to Paris many years after the war.  How does he feel about facing the ghosts of his past?  Does he have any remorse?  I really found it interesting that his recollection of what happened during the war is vastly different from how other remember it.

I loved the clothing details for Aimee.  She has fabulous taste in French couture, but doesn't have the funds to buy them.  No problem!  She works the second had shops (and even uses the five finger discount!) to snag Chanel suits, and lethal heels!

If you love Paris, you are in for a treat.  The author obviously has spent a lot of time in France and she gets the mood and tempo of the city just right.

It's also fun to go back in time with this book.  The book is set in 1993, when computers were just beginning to be relied on.  There were still modems that one had to use to hook up with the internet, and most people couldn't access information as we can now.  But for Aimee, a smart computer hacker, cracking into protected databases is a puzzle she seems to relish.

The central murder in this story involves incidents that start during WWII.  France went through tremendous hardships because they were occupied by the Nazis.  The population were being starved out, and anyone who cooperated with soldiers was labeled a collaborator.  This story shows the many moral compromises people had to face during the war.  All this comes to a boil forty years later as the characters must confront their pasts and decide how to proceed.  

This was a page turner!  There were many twists and turns and I did not know who the murderer was until the end.  But, I loved that there were plenty of clues that I could follow.  The resolution did not come out of left field.

What I Didn't Like:



Release Date:  1999

Genre:  Murder Mystery

Publisher:  Soho Crime

Page Length:  354 Pages

Source:  Public Library

Format:  Paperback

Recommendation:  This was a highly entertaining book with a flawed main character.  If you start with this book, I think reading more in the series will be a given.
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2019 Reading Challenge
MsArdychan has read 10 books toward her goal of 120 books.


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