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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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MsArdychan's bookshelf: read

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


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Saturday, July 28, 2018

Stacking The Shelves #129 & Sunday Post #93



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:
Just one blog post this week (still in vacation mode). 

Tuesday:  Kill The Farm Boy by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne

In Real Life:
This was a week of getting back into home life after being in Ireland for two weeks.  I read several books.  The one I liked the most was The Forest Queen, by Betsy Cornwall.  My review will be posted closer to it's release date on August 7th.  

New Books:
NetGalley:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/38491757-my-almost-flawless-tokyo-dream-life




Edelweiss:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40938559-the-cambodian-curse-and-other-stories

 

Public Library:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7945049-bury-your-dead?ac=1&from_search=true

 That's it for this week.  I hope you all are having a fun, relaxing summer!
 
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Tuesday, July 24, 2018

ARC Review: Kill The Farm Boy by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne

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

Synopsis (From Goodreads):
Once upon a time, in a faraway kingdom, a hero, the Chosen One, was born . . . and so begins every fairy tale ever told.

This is not that fairy tale.

There is a Chosen One, but he is unlike any One who has ever been Chosened.

And there is a faraway kingdom, but you have never been to a magical world quite like the land of Pell.

There, a plucky farm boy will find more than he's bargained for on his quest to awaken the sleeping princess in her cursed tower. First there's the Dark Lord who wishes for the boy's untimely death . . . and also very fine cheese. Then there's a bard without a song in her heart but with a very adorable and fuzzy tail, an assassin who fears not the night but is terrified of chickens, and a mighty fighter more frightened of her sword than of her chain-mail bikini. This journey will lead to sinister umlauts, a trash-talking goat, the Dread Necromancer Steve, and a strange and wondrous journey to the most peculiar "happily ever after" that ever once-upon-a-timed.


Review:
It's hard to categorize Kill The Farm Boy by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne.  Is this a fantasy?  A tall tale?  I don't know the official genre, but I think I would call this novel a fairy-tale parody.  

This makes it tough for me to review.  I know it is meant to be a tongue in cheek sort of book.  There are puns-o-plenty, and lots of spoofs of various fairy tales.  But this also made it difficult for me to empathize with the characters.  And I wasn't sure about how "worthy" the quest (which was at the center of this novel) was.

What I Liked:
Puns and parodies:
There were so many funny puns, and riffs from the names of the characters, such as the Sand Witch, to the chapter titles like, Under The Perilous Polar of Personal Problems.  This set the entire tone of the book.  

There were many funny bits that lampooned various fairy tales such as Rapunzel, and Sleeping Beauty, along with generous references to William Goldman's The Princess Bride.  All of these were very entertaining.

Characters:
While I had a hard time connecting to most of the characters, I did really enjoy Argabella, and Fia.  Argabella is a half rabbit, half woman, who has been stuck as the only awake person in a castle where everyone has fallen asleep.  She is shy, and anxious, rather like a rabbit (hmm).  Argabella also has daddy issues.  Fia is completely opposite.  She is a seven-foot tall warrior who is a confident killing machine.  But she is starting to develop a conscience, feeling bad about most of her killing ways.

I love how a relationship develops with these two.  I found it lovely that their personalities complimented each other.  I also appreciated that each character was fully-developed.  They weren't defined by just their sexuality.

Food:
I think the authors must have made a habit of writing on an empty stomach, because the descriptions of food are epic!  It helps that one of the characters seems to be a gourmand.   Every chance there is, the authors go out of their way to describe all the delectable dishes and delicacies.

What I Didn't Like:
Story:
While there were some fun characters, they kind  of meandered around.  They were on a quest of some kind, but there didn't seem to be a compelling goal to strive for.  The series of adventures the characters have don't seem to have much of a point, either.  They go somewhere, they get attacked by some colorful characters, and then they move on.  I wish there was more of a reason for the quest, for each of the characters.


Rating: 




Release Date:  July 24th, 2018

Author:  Delilah S. Dawson, and Kevin Hearne

Publisher:  Del Rey

Genre:  Fantasy

Page Length:  384 pages

Source:  NetGalley

Format:  E-Book 

Recommendation:
This is a fun, but very lighthearted, book.  I was hoping for a bit more gravitas.
 
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Saturday, July 21, 2018

Stacking The Shelves #128 & Sunday Post #92





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:

Not much has been going on with the blog as I have been on vacation for the past two weeks in...  Ireland!!!  Thankfully, I prepared several posts before I left.

Tuesday, July 3rd:  ARC Review:  Olympian Challenger by Astrid Arditi

Thursday, July 5th:  Audio ARC Review:  A Reaper at The Gates by Sabaa Tahir

Tuesday, July 10th:  ARC Review:  The Subway Girls by Susie Orman Schnall


In Real Life:

This past month has been full of highs and lows.  At the end of June, my very dear friend passed away from Breast Cancer.  This has been a very long and emotional goodbye.  The family has been so brave, but this is a devastating loss for many people.  In the midst of this, we were trying to prepare for our anniversary trip.  I was so distracted from the situation that my husband wound up making most of the plans.  He did a wonderful job, and I am so grateful that he took the wheel.

Our trip to Ireland was amazing!  This was a trip to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary, so it was just my husband and I, no kids!!!  We started our trip in Northern Ireland, flying in to Belfast.  We then spent three nights in a 19th century tower.  There were so many unique experiences that I can't name them all.

What was really great about our trip was experiencing all these moments with my husband.  Traveling has been one of our passions. But with kids, it has been a struggle to set aside enough funds to go anywhere.  Getting this opportunity to see the world has been so meaningful for us.  I'm just so grateful that our kids (all are young adults) were game to work together to run the house and be responsible.

New Books:

Public Library:


https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25733990-sleeping-giants
Bought:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18052169-age-of-war?ac=1&from_search=true

That's it for this week.  I hope you are making great memories this summer.  I know this past month has been life-changing, for me.

 
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Tuesday, July 10, 2018

ARC Review: The Subway Girls by Susie Orman Schnall

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36263210-the-subway-girls
Please Note:  I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  This did not influence the opinions of my review in any way.

Synopsis (From Goodreads):
In 1949, dutiful and ambitious Charlotte's dream of a career in advertising is shattered when her father demands she help out with the family business. Meanwhile, Charlotte is swept into the glamorous world of the Miss Subways beauty contest, which promises irresistible opportunities with its Park Avenue luster and local fame status. But when her new friend—the intriguing and gorgeous fellow-participant Rose—does something unforgivable, Charlotte must make a heart-wrenching decision that will change the lives of those around her forever.

Nearly 70 years later, outspoken advertising executive Olivia is pitching the NYC subways account in a last ditch effort to save her job at an advertising agency. When the charismatic boss she’s secretly in love with pits her against her misogynistic nemesis, Olivia’s urgent search for the winning strategy leads her to the historic Miss Subways campaign. As the pitch date closes in on her, Olivia finds herself dealing with a broken heart, an unlikely new love interest, and an unexpected personal connection to Miss Subways that could save her job—and her future.

The Subway Girls is the charming story of two strong women, a generation apart, who find themselves up against the same eternal struggle to find an impossible balance between love, happiness, and ambition.
  


Review:
I love historical fiction.  Books that immerse me in a different time are one of the pleasures of reading!  The Subway Girls, by Susie Orman Schnall, brings Post WWII New York to life with colorful characters, and impressive details of fashion and how people lived.

What I Liked:
Setting: 
New York in 1948 was still a city getting over WWII.  Most families were still struggling, and women had limited choices in life.  The pressure to finish high school and then quickly marry and make babies was intense.  Reading about the oppression Charlotte endured was, at times, infuriating!!!  Although she was twenty-one years old, her father had complete control over her life.  He could dictate whether or not she went to college, if she could get a job, and what activities she could do.  

The story also takes place in the present, with Olivia, an advertising executive, trying to land a big account with the New York Subway system.  I liked how the book showed the frantic pace of life in present-day New York.  Everything is focused on work, and success.  It's as if the pendulum has swung completely the other way from 1948!

Characters:
Charlotte is ambitious, rebellious, but also kind and thoughtful.  When I envision her, I think of my own aunt who was a very independent woman (but in the 1950's).  Although she is a very serious person, she still is very interested in how she presents herself, taking great care in her appearance.  This is perfect, as she enters this beauty contest.

Olivia is the present-day main character.  She is a thoroughly modern, no-nonsense kind of woman.  Even though work is her main focus, she is often drawn into her parent's marital drama.  I thought it was a bit of a cliche that she was in love with her boss.  But  I liked that she wasn't too love-struck to notice that she was being used.

Story:
The story of the Miss Subways contest was really fascinating.  Yes, it was totally sexist when we look back on it, but this was a real-life beauty contest held in New York City in order to encourage people to ride the subway.

The modern story of Olivia trying to land the advertising account for the New York Subways was fun.  There was a lot of tension.  Would she get the account?  Was someone trying to sabotage her efforts?

What I Was Mixed About:
Story:
I also found some of the twists in the story to be rather unbelievable.  I cannot say too much about this without giving away spoilers, but I think Charlotte was AMAZINGLY forgiving.  What she does for a person she barely knows was kind of unbelievable.

However, I did find that the ending redeemed this by not being too tidy.  Things don't resolve quickly for the characters.  I liked Charlotte didn't throw in the towel and surrender (as I had expected her to).


What I Didn't Like:
Character:
Given the times, I found Charlotte's ambition to work as an advertising executive somewhat unrealistic.  I'm sure women had such dreams in those days of breaking down those glass ceilings.  But Charlotte seemed surprised that she was getting so much resistance from advertising agencies.  I think she should have expected this.

Rating: 




Release Date:  July 10th, 2018

Genre:  Historical Fiction

Author:  Susie Orman Schnall

Publisher:  St. Martin's Press

Page Length: 320 pages

Source:  NetGalley

Format:  E-Book

Recommendation:  This would make a solid book club selection.  A wonderful novel, filled with women with big hearts and even bigger dreams.
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Thursday, July 5, 2018

Audio ARC Review: A Reaper at the Gates by Sabaa Tahir

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

Synopsis ( From Goodreads):
Beyond the Empire and within it, the threat of war looms ever larger.

The Blood Shrike, Helene Aquilla, is assailed on all sides. Emperor Marcus, haunted by his past, grows increasingly unstable, while the Commandant capitalizes on his madness to bolster her own power. As Helene searches for a way to hold back the approaching darkness, her sister's life and the lives of all those in the Empire hang in the balance.

Far to the east, Laia of Serra knows the fate of the world lies not in the machinations of the Martial court, but in stopping the Nightbringer. But while hunting for a way to bring him down, Laia faces unexpected threats from those she hoped would aid her, and is drawn into a battle she never thought she'd have to fight.

And in the land between the living and the dead, Elias Veturius has given up his freedom to serve as Soul Catcher. But in doing so, he has vowed himself to an ancient power that will stop at nothing to ensure Elias's devotion–even at the cost of his humanity.


Review:
A Reaper at the Gates, continues the series that began with the YA fantasy novel An Ember in the Ashes.  Author Sabaa Tahir immerses readers in a world of empires, wars, and star-crossed lovers, with non-stop action.  The audio book is a rich production that brings an epic quality to the novel, and comes with my highest recommendation.

What I Liked:
Setting:
The whole novel's setting is reminiscent of the Ancient Roman Empire.  I loved the society, obsessed with power plays, and military conquests.  The novel moves deeper into that structure, spending equal time with the vanquished peoples absorbed into the empire.  This created layers of social structure that brought characters with generations of background grudges to bear.

I also loved the spiritual setting of The Waiting Place, a purgatory where souls wait to "move on".  Elias, the new Soul Catcher, must learn how to help the ghosts move on.  But, in order to do so, will he have to let go of his humanity?

Characters:
The book is filled with characters who each struggle with their own cherished desires, against the larger backdrop of history. The story of Laia, and Elias, the star-crossed lovers, is especially swoon-worthy.  
                  
via GIPHY

Sabaa Tahir seems to enjoy putting obstacles in their way!  But we readers did get some intense romantic moments!

Helene, the Blood Shrike, is a military leader in way over her head. I could feel her panic as she gets out-maneuvered time and time again by the Commandant (who also happens to be Elias's mother).  She is also a leader who cares deeply for her sister (the only other surviving member of her family), and her people.  As the book progresses, Helene develops more and more compassion for others, which goes against much of her military training.

Story:
The Story is heavy on the action with several battle sequences and narrow escapes for the characters.  My one criticism for the story is that the quick pacing made it seem as though everything happened faster than it did.  Months (and possibly years?) do pass in the story, but I didn't really understand that until Helene mentioned that she finished her military training seven years prior!  

I thought the author did a very good job describing the action during battle scenes.  Often in books battle scenes are confusing and difficult to follow.  Not so with this book!  I could envision all the action in my head.  I think this is because the author takes care in these scenes to not gloss over important explanations of war tactics.  I haven't really read anything like this in other novels.

Audio Production:
With three points of view, this book utilizes the talents of three amazing voice actors:  Fiona Hardingham (as Laia), Katherine McEwan (as the Blood Shrike), and Steve West (as Elias).  There are also
two brief chapters at the beginning and at the ending featuring the deep, rich voice of Maxwell Caulfield as The Night Bringer.

I was struck, not only by the actor's performances of their primary characters, but also of the many other characters they had to portray.  Fiona Hardingham does an amazing job of voicing Cook, as a rasping old woman.  She did such a convincing job, I was actually worried for her vocal chords!  Katherine McEwan plays the conflicted Helene, but also the evil Commandant, and many of the male soldiers.  She does all these characters with conviction.  Steve West plays Elias, but also the many ghosts in The Waiting Place.  He makes for a creepy, and convincing ghost!  All three actors together really enrich the audio book experience.

Rating: 





Release Date:  June 12th, 2018

Genre:  YA Fantasy

Author:  Sabaa Tahir

Audio Book Publisher: Listening Library

Listening Length:  15 hours, 29 minutes

Book Publisher:  Razorbill

Pages:  464 Pages

Source:  Publisher

Recommendation:  A rich continuation of this action-packed fantasy series.  The audio book version has riveting performances by all the narrators.  But, definitely read the first two books before tackling this one.


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Tuesday, July 3, 2018

ARC Review: Olympian Challenger by Astrid Arditi

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/38104178-olympian-challenger
Please Note:  I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  This did not influence the opinions of my review in any way.

Synopsis (From Goodreads):
A hero’s tournament. A defiant contender. Does one girl have the courage to take on Mount Olympus?

Hope’s world doesn’t have room for heroes. She barely has time for schoolwork, swim team, and taking care of her ailing mother. But when she’s invited to a mysterious tournament, the all-powerful hosts won’t take no for an answer.

Transported to Mount Olympus, Hope comes face to face with her new trainers—the pantheon of Greek gods. While other contenders train hard to gain a fighting edge, Hope searches for a way out. Instead, she finds a gorgeous shadow god who may just convince her to stay…
As each round unfolds, the ultimate prize draws closer—the granting of her heart’s deepest desire. If she survives the final challenge, her mother’s cure would be within reach…but only if Hope can ignore the tournament’s dark purpose.  

Review:
As a fan of Greek mythology, I was drawn to Olympian Challenger (along with it's pretty cover art) by Astrid Arditi.  The book launches almost straight in with Hope, and every other seventeen-year old in New York, being invited to a mysterious challenge.  The challenge turns out to be a Hunger Games-style competition to see who will become the next Hero to fight on behalf of the gods.  One could enjoy this book for the retelling of many classic Greek myths, but there were also many flaws.

What I Liked:
Greek Mythology:
I enjoyed how the author wove various Greek myths into the story.  Each challenge is centered around a particular Greek myth. This gives the characters an opportunity to learn about each Greek story, and find a way to win the challenge.

What I Didn't Like:
"Missing Parent" Syndrome:
If you have read some of my other reviews, one of my most hated tropes is the "missing parent".  This book takes that trope to the extreme by making ALL the teen characters without at least one parent!  The book's explanation is that having the blood of Greek Gods makes people go insane.  I thought this was exploiting a painful situation for a teen to make it seem like some kind of badge of honor.  It's not.

Romance:
Hope is instantly drawn to a "bad boy" minor god, the son of (who else) Hades.  He "used to be bad", but he's changed and is now a great guy.  But he is haunted by his past.  This was such a cliche!
  
Lack of Originality:
Much of the book reminded me of The Hunger Games.  There was the competition where, after   learning about weapons, the challengers had to showcase their talents in order to attract "sponsors".  The competition, itself, seemed to be happening mostly for the entertainment of the gods, and residents of Panem, oops, I mean Olympus.  And most of the competitors die in gruesome ways.

And, until the very end of the book, Hope and the other teens don't seem very concerned or upset that other kids are getting killed as entertainment.  I found that very disturbing.

Characters:  
Most of the characters were two-dimensional, each having just one distinguishing feature.  There was the angry foster kid, the handsome, but evil, jock, and the one gay character.  All were mostly stereotypes.




Rating: 

Release Date:  July 3rd, 2018

Author:  Astrid Arditi

Publisher:  Self-Published?

Genre:  YA Fantasy

Pages: 348 Pages

Source:  NetGalley

Format:  E-Book

Recommendation:  Although this book was full of Greek mythology and adventure, it was quite unoriginal.

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