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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Thursday, September 27, 2018

ARC Review: Under My Skin by Lisa Unger

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

Synopsis (From Netgalley):
What if the nightmares are actually memories?

It's been a year since Poppy's husband, Jack, was brutally murdered during his morning run through Manhattan's Riverside Park. In the immediate aftermath, Poppy spiraled into an oblivion of grief, disappearing for several days only to turn up ragged and confused wearing a tight red dress she didn't recognize. What happened to Poppy during those lost days? And more importantly, what happened to Jack?

The case was never solved, and Poppy has finally begun to move on. But those lost days have never stopped haunting her. Poppy starts having nightmares and blackouts--there are periods of time she can't remember, and she's unable to tell the difference between what is real and what she's imagining. When she begins to sense that someone is following her, Poppy is plunged into a game of cat and mouse, determined to unravel the mystery around her husband's death. But can she handle the truth about what really happened?

A few years ago, quite by accident, I read another Lisa Unger book called, Ink and Bone.  I was actually looking for a book with the same title by a different author (Rachel Caine), requesting an e-book version.  I was going to return the book, but thought I should read a chapter, just to see what that book was about...  And I was hooked!

Under My Skin, Lisa Unger's latest book, is a thrilling trip into the mind of a woman who may, or may not, know why her husband was murdered.  Through the haze of alcohol and prescription drugs, Poppy must sort through which of her dreams are fantasy, paranoia, or memories.  This book was a wild ride, and I willingly called shotgun!

What I Liked:

Poppy is a wonderful character who is unsure of her reality.   Far from a perfect person, her life is so painful she is often tempted to lose herself in drugs, alcohol, or mindless hookups.  Everyone keeps telling her to accept that her husband's murder was a case of him being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  But she has a strong feeling that something doesn't feel right.  I love how she realizes that she is being manipulated and that she finds a way to regain control of her life.

Meanwhile, every time life presents a problem, well-meaning childhood friend, Layla, throws money around to solve it. At first she seems like an obnoxious, pampered lady who lunches.  But when we find out about her past of abuse and poverty, we can understand why security is so important to her.

Noah is one of the men that Poppy meets through online dating.  Is he the sweet guy that he appears to be, or a stalker who obsesses over women.  And did Poppy actually get with him before her husband's death?
Narrative Style:
This was a wonderful example of the unreliable narrator.  Is Poppy a depressed widow, an unfaithful spouse who's lover murdered her husband, a woman losing her mind to a steady diet of drugs and alcohol?  There are missing days and weeks that Poppy can't account for.  Part of the mystery is Poppy trying to piece together what happened to her, so she can understand what happened to her husband.  Right up to the end, we don't know know the whole story.

Easter Egg:
If you are a fan of the author's other books, there is a passing reference to The Hollows, the setting of several of her other novels.  While this book is a stand alone work, it seems as though it does take place in the same universe as Ink and Bone!  When I realized this I squealed in delight!

What I Was Mixed About:
Although the ending is very exciting, it is dependent on the reader believing that Poppy has no sense of self-preservation.  Throughout the book, she seems to have a death wish, putting herself in potential danger again and again.  While the author does show us a pattern of "inviting the dark", it's hard to believe anyone could be so reckless.  


Release Date:  October 1st, 2018

Author:  Lisa Unger

Publisher:  Park Row Books

Genre:  Mystery/Thriller

Page Length:  304 pages

Source:  NetGalley

Format:  E-Book

Recommendation: A page-turning mystery with lots of twists and turns.  
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Tuesday, September 25, 2018

ARC Review: The Kennedy Debutante by Kerri Maher

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):
London, 1938. The effervescent "It girl" of London society since her father was named the ambassador, Kathleen "Kick" Kennedy moves in rarified circles, rubbing satin-covered elbows with some of the 20th century's most powerful figures. Eager to escape the watchful eye of her strict mother, Rose, the antics of her older brothers, Jack and Joe, and the erratic behavior of her sister Rosemary, Kick is ready to strike out on her own and is soon swept off her feet by Billy Hartington, the future Duke of Devonshire. But their love is forbidden, as Kick's devout Catholic family and Billy's staunchly Protestant one would never approve their match. When war breaks like a tidal wave across her world, Billy is ripped from her arms as the Kennedys are forced to return to the States. Kick gets work as a journalist and joins the Red Cross to get back to England, where she will have to decide where her true loyalties lie--with family or with love . . .

The Kennedy Debutante has all the elements of a sweeping romantic novel:  a fiery heroine, a dashing young noble, and an almost impossible choice set among the backdrop of WWII.  What makes this book even more compelling is that it's based on a true story.  This is a truly enjoyable book of historical fiction.

What I Liked:
As an young, wealthy American, Kathleen "Kick" Kennedy is the toast of London in 1939.  Through Kick we see glittering nightclubs, posh country parties, and behind the scenes politics.  

Later, when WWII break out, the action takes place in both America and England.  There were wonderful details of fashion, food, and strict etiquette throughout the story.  Plus other members of Kick's famous family show up, such as Jack, Bobby, and Teddy.  These little glimpses of Kennedy life are very telling of how those famous brother behaved later in life (lots of dad's secret/not so secret mistresses).

Kick is a compelling character.  She craves independence, but also the elusive approval of her mother.  With her strict Catholic upbringing, she is conflicted about her choices when it comes to romance.  I also liked that she was a fiercely loyal friend who went out of her way for others.

Kick's mother, Rose, is also complicated.  While she is a strong woman raising nine children, you would think she would be all loving and nurturing, right?  Not so!  Rose was a staunch Catholic rule follower, and any female who deviated from that was mercilessly cut off.  Of course, her husband and sons broke the rules all the time.  But perhaps her tough love approach is a way of protecting her daughters reputations, as women who got out of line were outcasts in their world.

Billy is the dashing young noble who captures Kick's heart.  He is shy when we first meet him.  But as the war progresses, Billy begins to understand his duty to his family and his country.  Can he marry a Catholic? 

The main personal conflict for Kick is whether or not she should marry Billy who is a Protestant.  This may not seem like a big deal, but for a Kennedy, the world's most famous Catholics, it is earth-shattering.  Will she turn her back on her family for love?  Can she compromise her beliefs?  As a Catholic myself, I understand this problem only too well.  
Kick's faith is beautifully represented.  Prayer, church attendance, and seeking the advice of priests are integral aspects of her life.  Billy's family is also shown to be solid Protestants.  I love books where people are living their faith, whatever it may be.

The romance is sweeping in this book.  Just as Kick and Billy become serious, WWII breaks out and she is forced to move back to America.  Even though it seems impossible, both Kick and Billy yearn for each other over the years.  Without giving spoilers, I will say that there is some major heartbreak in this book.  I was crying by the end of this book.    

What I Was Mixed About:
The story was very slow at the beginning, focusing on the many parties attended by Kick  and the social connections she formed.  Maybe, I didn't respond to this because I didn't know who these people were.  But reading this left me with a feeling that Kick was a very superficial person as a teenager.  

Kick does mature and start to see the bigger picture as the story progresses.  Perhaps this was the goal of the first part of the story?

Even though I knew that Kick and her society friends were wealthy, I was surprised that the characters didn't seem to feel any of the pains of food shortages and the Blitz.  These were alluded to only briefly in the book, but I wish there would have been more on the civilian impact of the war.


Release Date:  October 2nd, 2018

Author:  Kerri Maher

Publisher:  Berkeley Books

Genre:  Historical Fiction

Page Length:  384 Pages

Source:  NetGalley

Format:  E-Book

Recommendation:  Despite it's slow start, this is a compelling fictionalized account of the Kennedy sister we never knew.

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Saturday, September 22, 2018

Stacking The Shelves #136 & Sunday Post # 100

I am combining two great blog hops:  Stacking The Shelves (a Saturday feature by Team Tynga's Reviews), and Sunday Post (a Sunday feature by the Caffeinated Book Reviewer).  Both of these features give people a chance to post about what books they received and also an opportunity to catch a glimpse of what others are excited about.  I really enjoy seeing everyone's version of these features!   All book covers are linked to Goodreads, if you want to check them out.  If you enjoy my blog, please consider following me via Bloglovin, Networked Blogs, GFC, or by email subscription.  If you leave a comment and tell me you are a new follower, I will follow you back! 

On The Blog:

I finally got some book reviews in!  

Tuesday:  Audio Book ARC Review:  Wildcard by Marie Lu

Thursday:  Audio Book ARC Review:  An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green

In "Real Life":
This has been a very exciting week in our house as my high school senior amps up her college search.  We went to a college fair in San Francisco that was specifically geared toward visual and performing arts.  There were so many great schools with several in England.  I would love for my kid to have that experience.  And, they are less than half the price of American schools, even for international students.  

New Books:
Public Library:




Books for Review:


 That's it for this week.  I hope you all have some great books to read this weekend.  Enjoy!
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Thursday, September 20, 2018

Audio ARC Review: An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green

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

Synopsis (From Goodreads):
The Carls just appeared. Coming home from work at three a.m., twenty-three-year-old April May stumbles across a giant sculpture. Delighted by its appearance and craftsmanship--like a ten-foot-tall Transformer wearing a suit of samurai armor--April and her friend Andy make a video with it, which Andy uploads to YouTube. The next day April wakes up to a viral video and a new life. News quickly spreads that there are Carls in dozens of cities around the world--everywhere from Beijing to Buenos Aires--and April, as their first documentarian, finds herself at the center of an intense international media spotlight.

Now April has to deal with the pressure on her relationships, her identity, and her safety that this new position brings, all while being on the front lines of the quest to find out not just what the Carls are, but what they want from us.

I have been a big fan of Hank Green ever since he made high school U.S. History entertaining with his Crash Course videos on YouTube.   As his brother John's fame as a writer increased, is it any wonder that Hank would have a go at writing a novel, himself?  Well, I'm an certainly thankful he did.   An Absolutely Remarkable Thing is filled with fun characters, out of this world situations, and lots to say about people who are "internet famous".

What I Liked:
I really liked all the characters, especially Andy, Mia, and Miranda.  Andy has been one of April's best friends since college.  He is smart, and infinitely patient with April.  Far from a pushover, he lets April know when she is being a terrible friend.  Mia is April's girlfriend.  When April is being awful, you can see how conflicted Mia is.  She loves her, but she also waits for April mature (it might be a long wait).  Miranda, a Physics student, meets April as she searches out what the Carls really are.  I liked how she represented a fangirl in this scenario.

The story of what the Carls were, and what it all meant, was highly creative.  I really didn't know what to expect out of this book, so I loved all the twists and turns of the story.  It also went from the superficial (insta-fame, insta-wealth) to the serious (harassment, mass-hysteria, terrorism) quickly.  This makes for a wild roller-coaster of a read. 

The book is narrated by the main character, April May.  Kristen Sieh does a great job portraying April as a snarky twenty-something who, outwardly, doesn't seem to care about anything.  She also conveys how sincere April is to fix the situation when she messes everything up.

Hank Green also makes a brief appearance at the end of the book as one of the characters.  It was fun to have him reading this section, and he did a credible acting job.

This book takes a look at how crazy internet fame can be.  When April and her friend Andy make a video showing their discovery of what they think is a cool art sculpture, the clip goes viral.  Soon millions of people have watched the video and now want to hear more from April and Andy.  Mere days later, they have an agent, and are making the rounds of news programs and late-night talk shows.  Strange, but not unlikely in today's society.

The book takes a darker turn when it explores how April evolves into a political pundit.  If you've watched CNN or MSNBC then you've seen these people who are trotted out to argue, and speak over each other.  They are basically being paid to be obnoxious.  The more outlandish their arguments are, the better for ratings.  It made me start to think about how networks manipulate news stories in order to scare viewers, and keep them watching their shows.

What I Was Mixed About:
I was very conflicted about April May, the main character.  On the one hand, she is one of those people who enjoys the spotlight so much that she doesn't seem to mind using others to keep her fame going.  But she is also creative, and has an optimism about the world (and the Carls) that compels others to follow her.  She also gains some perspective (albeit at the end of the book) that allows her to see her mistakes and own them.

Sometimes I really hated her, such as when she was obviously using someone.  At other times, it was heart-breaking to watch as she came to realize some uncomfortable truths about herself.  But, what redeemed it for me was how she never wavered in her belief that the Carls were good.  She also never gave up on the human race to do the right thing.

What I Didn't Like:



Release Date:  September 25th, 2018

Genre:  Science Fiction

Author:  Hank Green

Publisher:  Penguin Audio

Narrators:  Kristen Sieh, and Hank Green

Listening Length:  9 Hours and 25 Minutes

Page Length:  320 Pages

Format:  Audio Book

Source:  Publisher

Recommendation:  With much to say about our current culture of internet stardom and the 24-hour news cycle, this book was both highly relevant and entertaining.
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Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Audio ARC Review: Wildcard by Marie Lu

Please Note:  I received an advance audio book 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):
Emika Chen barely made it out of the Warcross Championships alive. Now that she knows the truth behind Hideo's new NeuroLink algorithm, she can no longer trust the one person she's always looked up to, who she once thought was on her side.

Determined to put a stop to Hideo's grim plans, Emika and the Phoenix Riders band together, only to find a new threat lurking on the neon-lit streets of Tokyo. Someone's put a bounty on Emika's head, and her sole chance for survival lies with Zero and the Blackcoats, his ruthless crew. But Emika soon learns that Zero isn't all that he seems--and his protection comes at a price.

Caught in a web of betrayal, with the future of free will at risk, just how far will Emika go to take down the man she loves?


What I Liked:

Emika continues to be a conflicted character.  She is still reeling from learning of Hideo's plans to control the minds of nearly everyone on the planet.  But she can't help but feel drawn to Hideo.  This is a classic conflict that I knew would happen.  But I also was surprised that Emika did trust her teammates so much.  She started out as such a loner that it was nice to see her let a few people get close to her.
I loved how the members of the Phoenix Riders took Emika into their ranks.  In the first book, Warcross, the team was full of tension between the players and Emika.  That is now gone, and they are a tight family.  Given how alone Emika has been, I really loved this.  This is also a nice contrast with the impersonal nature of all the faceless corporations and technology that saturates this universe.

I liked how the book explored how dependent we are on technology.  In the novel, everything is connected to the NeuroLink.  Many businesses and lifestyles are so couples with this tech, it would bring down entire economies.  This could happen in real life.  What if the internet suddenly shut down for everyone?  How would that change our lives?

Also, I liked that the book brought up the issue of what actually makes us human.  Is it possible to integrate technology to the mind so much that we lose our humanity?  Can we exist without a body?  Would we want to, or would it be a prison?

Nancy Wu did a great job with all the various voices and accents.  I particularly enjoyed how she voiced Hideo.  She played him as cautious, and genius-level smart.  I could feel his weariness as he tries to grapple with corporate intrigue and possibly finding her brother.

I'm obviously NOT going to spoil the ending, but I can say that it was very satisfying.  Warcross ended on a big cliffhanger, which I found annoying.  But in Wildcard, the ending wraps up all the loose ends nicely. 

What I Was Mixed About:
Need for a recap:
Wildcard picks up right where Warcross ends.  While I'm glad the action started so quickly, I wish there had been some exposition first, so anyone could pick up this book without first reading Warcross.  Also, as a reader, I would have liked a refresher.  I had to do a bunch of quick memory recall in order to remember the characters.  

I read many books per year, and I do not have time to re-read books in order to follow what happens in a sequel.

What I Didn't Like:
Some Plot Points:
Although I enjoyed the themes of this book, I found a few of the plot points to be implausible.  Without spoilers, I will attempt to explain.  If you've read Warcross, you will remember that someone wants to use the NeuroLink to control people.  This mind control technology is taken to ridiculous extremes in Wildcard.  I realize this is a work of speculative fiction, but I couldn't help but think of the SpongeBob Squarepants Movie where Plankton gives away chum buckets and then he can control everybody.  

I could understand controlling what people see, but not what they actually do.  As a reader, that was a step too far for me.


Release Date:  September 18th, 2018

Author:  Marie Lu

Publisher:  Listening Library

Narrator:  Nancy Wu

Genre:  Speculative Fiction

Page Length: 343 Pages

Listening Length:  10 Hours, 51 Minutes

Source:  Publisher

Format:  Audio Book

Recommendation:  A satisfying addition to Warcross.  Full of creative (if somewhat implausible) technology that will leave the reader hoping that some of it will come true.

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Saturday, September 15, 2018

Stacking The Shelves #135 & Sunday Post #99

I am combining two great blog hops:  Stacking The Shelves (a Saturday feature by Team Tynga's Reviews), and Sunday Post (a Sunday feature by the Caffeinated Book Reviewer).  Both of these features give people a chance to post about what books they received and also an opportunity to catch a glimpse of what others are excited about.  I really enjoy seeing everyone's version of these features!   All book covers are linked to Goodreads, if you want to check them out.  If you enjoy my blog, please consider following me via Bloglovin, Networked Blogs, GFC, or by email subscription.  If you leave a comment and tell me you are a new follower, I will follow you back! 

On The Blog:

I did not do any blog posts this past week except for last week's book haul.  Instead, I was busy writing several book reviews for advance reviewer copies of books that will post in the next few weeks.  So I'm starting to feel pretty good about getting ahead of my posts in order to free up my time for writing during November.

In Real Life:
In the past three months, so many awful things have happened to friends of mine, that I am having a hard time having a positive outlook on life.  When I go on Facebook, all I seem to read are people attacking each other.  So, with the exception of posting my book reviews, I am going to take some time off Facebook.  I need positivity in my life!

What do you do to stay positive?  I would love to get some ideas.

New Books:
Public Library:


Books For Review:


That's it for this week.  Take some time to find the joy in life this weekend!
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Saturday, September 8, 2018

Stacking The Shelves #134 & Sunday Post # 98

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:

All has been quiet on my blog these past few weeks, as I am assessing how active I can be while also working on other projects.  But there will be several new posts coming up.  I feel really satisfied that I have almost completed all of the ARCs that I have (and their reviews!).  I hate having a large backlog, so this is a big deal for me.

In "Real Life":
I continue to struggle with getting up early.  Well, I should say, I DO get up early, but I really hate it!  It seems that all I have time for after dinner each night is to get ready for the next day.

But, I feel really fortunate to have a job, and co-workers, that I love. 

New Books:
I fell off the book buying ban wagon and purchased several new books this week.  BUT, they were all really cheap at garage sales and from a thrift store (except one from Amazon).  So, I actually did pretty well...



Public Library:

Audio Books for Review:


Thank you, Listening Library!

That's all for this week.  Happy reading!
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2020 Reading Challenge
MsArdychan has read 2 books toward her goal of 120 books.


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