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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


MsArdychan's favorite books »

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Monday, October 29, 2018

Book Review: Two Dark Reigns by Kendare Blake

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/37486213-two-dark-reigns
Synopsis (From Goodreads):
Queen Katharine has waited her entire life to wear the crown. But now that she finally has it, the murmurs of dissent grow louder by the day. There’s also the alarming issue of whether or not her sisters are actually dead—or if they’re waiting in the wings to usurp the throne.

Mirabella and Arsinoe are alive, but in hiding on the mainland and dealing with a nightmare of their own: being visited repeatedly by a specter they think might be the fabled Blue Queen. Though she says nothing, her rotting, bony finger pointing out to sea is clear enough: return to Fennbirn.

Jules, too, is in a strange place—in disguise. And her only confidants, a war-gifted girl named Emilia and her oracle friend Mathilde, are urging her to take on a role she can’t imagine filling: a legion-cursed queen who will lead a rebel army to Katharine’s doorstep.

This is an uprising that the mysterious Blue Queen may have more to do with than anyone could have guessed—or expected.


Review:
This series is one I have really enjoyed, and I wondered how this next installment could possibly compare to the suspense of the other novels.  As with Three Dark Crowns, and One Dark Throne, Two Dark Reigns is a page-turner.  Filled with twists I didn't see coming, this was highly entertaining.

What I Liked:
Setting:
I find the world where these books are set to be enthralling.  The four gifts (that only seem to be bestowed on females) are elemental, poisoner, naturalist, and war-gifted.  These gifts are explored even more in this book.  I like that when they leave the island, the queen's gifts are weakened, suggesting the strong connection Mirabella and Arsinoe have to the land, itself.

There are also spirits at work in this book.  Katherine gets her power from the dead queens.  And Arsinoe is visited by the ghost of the Blue Queen.

Each book brings a further layer to the island.  The most interesting feature in Two Dark Reigns is The Mist.  The Mist is literally a thick fog that protects the island.  Mainlanders cannot find the island unless The Mist decides to let them through.  In this novel, The Mist begins to kill.  It appears to be random, with some people who hit The Mist brutally murdered while others pass through it unharmed.  The burning question is why is it behaving this way?  Is it to oppose Queen Katherine?  Can it be stopped?

Characters:
All of the four main female characters, Katherine, Mirabella, Arsinoe, and Jules, are trying to understand how they fit into their world.  Most of the older people who would usually try to shelter them are gone.  In their place are a strange mix of new faces who all want something from them.  What the characters face is the decision of whether or not to let others manipulate them, or to think for themselves.

Even in a book of high fantasy, universal themes arise.  As the young women transition into adulthood, they must begin to make their own decisions, figuring out who they can trust, and what they stand for.  Although Katherine tries mightily to blame others for her mistakes, she is ultimately in control of what she does.  The same goes for Mirabella, Arsinoe, and Jules.  Others can lead them to a choice, but the decision to cross the line into selfishness, conceit, or even murder, is their own. 

Story:
As Katherine struggles to maintain control as the crowned queen, her other two sisters, Mirabella and Arsinoe, begin the novel trying to find their place in a new reality not as queens.  This isn't easy on the Mainland where women are subservient to men, and their gifts are weak.  With the help of Billy (Arsinoe's secret fiance), they are making a valiant effort to fit in.  But Arsinoe begins to dream of a queen from long ago, the Blue Queen.  Are they just dreams?  Is the Island trying to lure them back?

The story seems to say that they cannot deny who they really are.  Even though they both should be dead, they have a responsibility to the Fennbirn.

The story also focuses on Jules, who has the "Legion Curse".  The previous book reveals that Jules has two gifts.  She is both a Naturalist, and War gifted.  The rumor is that a Legion-cursed person will be driven insane by that much power.  But her War gifts have been curtailed by Jules' mother.  If her gifts are allowed to flow freely, will she lose her sanity?

Jules is also involved in another element in the story.  Rebels are promoting her as the Legion Queen to rally the people against Queen Katherine.  Do they really believe she can be a Queen to the island?  Or are they merely manipulating her to further their own plans?

It seems to me that all four young women are being used by others for political gains.  The people around Katherine seek to maintain their wealth and power.  Mirabella and Arsinoe are being lured by the Blue Queen to do her bidding.  And Jules is being elevated by the rebels to change the political landscape entirely.  I found this fascinating.

What I Didn't Like:
Lack of a Recap:
Although the author does do small retellings of the events in the other books, there needs to be more of an effort to re-introduce the characters.  I had to really rack my brain to remember some of the supporting characters.  This is a very minor criticism, as I truly loved this book.

Rating: 




Release Date:  September 4th, 2018

Author:  Kendare Blake

Publisher:  Harper Teen

Genre: YA Fantasy

Page Length:  464 Pages

Source:  Public Library

Format:  E-Book

Recommendation:  If you are a fan of this series, what are you waiting for???  Read this and be thoroughly entertained.  Do read the other two books first, if you haven't read them.


 
 
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Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Book Review: Sadie by Courtney Summers

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34810320-sadie?ac=1&from_search=true
Synopsis( From Goodreads):
Sadie hasn't had an easy life. Growing up on her own, she's been raising her sister Mattie in an isolated small town, trying her best to provide a normal life and keep their heads above water.

But when Mattie is found dead, Sadie's entire world crumbles. After a somewhat botched police investigation, Sadie is determined to bring her sister's killer to justice and hits the road following a few meager clues to find him.

When West McCray—a radio personality working on a segment about small, forgotten towns in America—overhears Sadie's story at a local gas station, he becomes obsessed with finding the missing girl. He starts his own podcast as he tracks Sadie's journey, trying to figure out what happened, hoping to find her before it's too late.


Review:
I picked this up from the library when I heard Sabaa Tahir recommend it on Instagram.  All I knew about it was the author raving about how she couldn't put it down.  I agree.  This mystery was a full of suspense and tension.  It was also a searing look at how addiction affects all members of a family.  I would also say that if you have triggers for child sexual abuse, you may want to steer clear of this novel.

What I Liked:
Narrative Style:
The book has an alternating narrative style with some chapters from the point of view of Sadie (the missing girl), and other chapters in the style of a journalist's podcast.  The reporter is trying to piece together how Sadie went missing, and where she might be.  This style showed enough of what was happening to fill out the story.  But there are still lots of information that neither narrator has access to.

Characters:
The characters fall into two categories, children and adults.  The tragedy of Sadie and her sister is difficult to read at times.  But the reader really gets an understanding of how children of addicts are forced into survival mode.  The older ones take care of the younger siblings, and even cover for their addicted parent.  The younger siblings never get just how much their parent has messed up.  In this book this dynamic leads to Sadie hating her mother, and Mattie resenting Sadie.

The adults are also covering up for the addict, making endless excuses for the mom's behavior.  I think it's because they just don't want to actually take responsibility for these kids.  And that's the tragedy.  If some adults stepped up, much of the kids' misery could have been avoided.

Story:
The story takes place a year after the death of Mattie, Sadie's younger sister.  The murder still hasn't been solved and now Sadie is missing.  We soon learn that Sadie has a good idea of who did this, and is seeking her own justice.

As the novel progresses, we learn about the parade of boyfriends the mother had in her home.  Each one has a story.  Could one of them had been abusing the girls?  Will the reporter be able to figure it all out?

Portrayal of Addiction:
This book is heartbreaking because it shows the terrible price that children of addicts pay.  They are so vulnerable to neglect and abuse.  The lingering effects can last a lifetime, or cut a young life short.  There is often mentions of this kind of situation in books.  But I can only think of one recent YA book (Girl in Pieces, by Kathleen Glasgow) that has ever presented such raw realism.


Trigger Warning:  Child sexual abuse, Violence, Drug addition.


Rating: 




Release Date:  September 4th, 2018

Author:  Courtney Summers

Publisher:  Wednesday Books

Genre:  YA Fiction

Page Length:  311 Pages

Source:  Public Library

Format:  E-Book


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Saturday, October 20, 2018

Stacking The Shelves #139 & Sunday Post #103






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:


Tuesday:  ARC Review:  The Cambodian Curse by Gigi Pandian

Thursday:  Audio Book ARC Review:  A Map of Days by Ransom Riggs

In Real Life:
NaNoWriMo will be happening soon, and I am spending my time thinking about the novel I will write.  I think I have a solid idea, and am fleshing out the details.  I've also started using Scriviner (a writing software), and am taking some time to learn how to use it.  Even with all this preparation, I don't know if I will actually participate in NaNoWriMo.  Too much pressure!  But I will start the process.

New Books:

Riveted by Simon Teen:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30312855-the-last-magician?ac=1&from_search=true

Free Read!

For Review:

Edelweiss: 

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25761057-firestarter?from_search=truehttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36222190-blackberry-and-wild-rose?ac=1&from_search=true


NetGalley:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39863498-the-gilded-wolves?ac=1&from_search=true

 That's it for this week.  Are you going to participate in NaNoWriMo?  Let me know in the comments.

 
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Thursday, October 18, 2018

Audio ARC Review: A Map of Days by Ransom Riggs

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/32943032-a-map-of-days?ac=1&from_search=true
Please Note:  I received an advance audio book of this novel from the publisher, Listening Library, in exchange for an honest review.  This did not influence the opinions of my review in any way.

Synopsis (From Goodreads):
Having defeated the monstrous threat that nearly destroyed the peculiar world, Jacob Portman is back where his story began, in Florida. Except now Miss Peregrine, Emma, and their peculiar friends are with him, and doing their best to blend in. But carefree days of beach visits and normalling lessons are soon interrupted by a discovery—a subterranean bunker that belonged to Jacob’s grandfather, Abe.

Clues to Abe’s double-life as a peculiar operative start to emerge, secrets long hidden in plain sight. And Jacob begins to learn about the dangerous legacy he has inherited—truths that were part of him long before he walked into Miss Peregrine’s time loop.

Now, the stakes are higher than ever as Jacob and his friends are thrust into the untamed landscape of American peculiardom—a world with few ymbrynes, or rules—that none of them understand. New wonders, and dangers, await in this brilliant next chapter for Miss Peregrine’s peculiar children. Their story is again illustrated throughout by haunting vintage photographs, but with a striking addition for this all-new, multi-era American adventure—full color.


Review:
When the book, Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children, came out, I was dazzled by the author's creativity.  How can someone look at vintage photographs and come up with such a rich story?  With the addition of A Map Of Days, the series now has four novels.  This one is an action-packed road trip, full of surprises and revelations.  I loved it!

Please Note:  One of the enormous pleasures of this book series is seeing the vintage photographs that adorn the print version of these books.  While I love the audio book version, I will also be buying the print version, in order to get the full experience of this story.

What I Liked:
Setting/Premise:
What would happen if Miss Peregrine's Peculiar children, stuck in the 1940's, were suddenly thrust into the present?  How would they react?  Would it be exciting, or upsetting?  I loved reading about all the various reactions of the characters to things such as television ("Why is everyone so rude?"), pizza delivery, and shopping malls.  It was really fun, but also eye-opening what we take for granted in our modern times.

I also enjoyed having the characters on an extended road trip through parts of America.  This gave the author many opportunities to introduce different characters, and aspects, of American culture.

Characters:
The story is narrated by Jacob, who has to consider the level of stress that modern life can have on people not used to the fast pace of our society.  He is also struggling with his grandfather Abe's legacy.  Was Abe a hero or a more complex person who had to make terrible choices?  Is Emma (Jacob's girlfriend) always going to compare him to Abe?

I also liked how the other Peculiar children grew.  Since they are no longer in the time loop, they are starting to age and truly become teenagers.  This brings on confusion, hormones, and defiance.  This manifests as resentment towards Miss Peregrine, and a willingness to take big risks.  

Story:
The story takes the teens from Jacob's home in Florida to a road trip that includes several time loops throughout America.  I love road trip books, so this was a really entertaining aspect of the book.

There was also an exploration of who Abe really was, and what other types of organizations were part of this universe.  While Europe has a society centered around Ymbrynes (caretakers such as Miss Pereegrine), American Peculiars are grouped into gangs.  I liked that the novel showed the issues with both arrangements.  In the European model, many Peculiars are fed up with not having a say in decisions.  Meanwhile in America,  Peculiars are mostly fending for themselves.  Being in a gang gives them a level of protection, but also forces them to work for leaders who could either be benevolent, or corrupt.

Narration: 
Kirby Heyborne gives an excellent performance with his narration of this book.  The many voices and accents must have been a challenge.  But he performs with such ease, I forgot this was only one person speaking.

What I Was Mixed About:
Setup:
Even though it's likely the reader has read the other books in the series, I still think the author has an obligation to summarize what happened, and re-introduce the characters.  Yes, this is a pet peeve of mine.  I just think it is unrealistic to assume a reader remembers all the details of a book that came out nearly two years ago!

Rating: 




Release Date:  October 2nd, 2018

Author:  Ransom Riggs

Audio Publisher:  Listening Library

Audio Length:  13 Hours, 54 Minutes

Narrator:  Kirby Heyborne

Print Publisher:  Dutton Books for Young Readers

Page Length:  496 Pages

Genre:  YA Fantasy

Source:  Listening Library

Format:  Audio Book

Recommendation:  A worthy addition to this series.  Full of new characters, and adventures.




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Tuesday, October 16, 2018

ARC Review: The Cambodian Curse and other Stories by Gigi Pandian

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40938559-the-cambodian-curse-and-other-stories?ac=1&from_search=true

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

Synopsis (From Goodreads):
A treasure trove of nine locked room mysteries from USA Today bestselling and Agatha Award-winning author Gigi Pandian, all set in the Jaya Jones world.

Appearing here for the first time, novelette The Cambodian Curse:

When an ancient and supposedly cursed Cambodian sculpture disappears from an impenetrable museum, and the carving's owner is killed by an invisible assailant while a witness is a few feet away, historian Jaya Jones and her old nemesis Henry North team up to solve the baffling crime.

Stories included: "The Cambodian Curse," "The Hindi Houdini," "The Haunted Room," "The Library Ghost of Tanglewood Inn," "The Curse of Cloud Castle," "Tempest in a Teapot," "A Dark and Stormy Light," "The Shadow of the River," plus bonus novella Fool's Gold.


Review:
Over the past few years I have started to enjoy reading mysteries.  When I think of why I am starting to like this genre, author Gigi Pandian's writing may be the reason.  She is a master of what is known as the locked room (or puzzle) mystery.  This is a situation where a seemingly impossible crime occurs in a locked room with no way out.  This collection on short stories, all set in the world of Pandian's beloved mystery-solving historian Jaya Jones, is a fun sampling of this specific type of mystery.

What I Liked:
Characters:
Throughout the stories, two characters appear again and again:  Jaya Jones, and her magician friend Sanjay.  Jaya and Sanjay always seem to be where a murder has just occurred.  Using her wits, and historical knowledge, Jaya is always able to find the culprit.  Sanjay is also able to look outside the box at any situation to find clues that are hidden in plain sight.  I enjoyed learning more about these two characters through these short stories.

Settings:
The author is able to quickly establish various scenarios for each story.  In "The Library Ghost of Tanglewood Inn," we find our characters in a haunted house on a dark and stormy night.  One of the longest stories is called, "Fool's Gold", which takes place at the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland.  I got a kick out of location since this arts festival is happening as I write this, and I have been following it closely. 

Mysteries:
Before I read this book, I couldn't say why I enjoyed the mystery genre.  But the forward explaining what a puzzle mystery is helped me to understand why.  I like mysteries where the reader is given all the information needed to solve the case.  I hate it when the crime is solved with information that the reader can't possibly know.  But I also don't like it if the crime is too easy to figure out.  The author does a masterful job of hitting the right balance between the two.

What I Was Mixed About:
One of the stories was truly short in length, making it hard to feel like the characters were established before the crime was solved.  This only happened in once in the book.

Rating: 




Release Date:  October 16th, 2018

Author:  Gigi Pandian

Publisher:  Henery Press

Genre:  Mystery

Page Length:  270 Pages

Source:  Edelweiss

Format:  E-Book

Recommendation:  A fun collection of puzze mysteries, this is a must-read for fans of the character, Jaya Jones.
 
 
 
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Saturday, October 13, 2018

Stacking The Shelves #138 & Sunday Post #102





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 only got one post in this week, but it was for a book that I really loved!  I am being more selective about what I blog about.  Part of the reason is that I don't have lots of time to devote to blogging.  But also, I only want to review books that I have a high interest in.

Tuesday:  Book Review:  Summer At The Garden Cafe by Felicity Hayes-McCoy

In Real Life:
I've started really being careful with what I eat with the goal of losing some weight.  I am doing this solely because I want to be healthy, not because I don't like the way I look.  But it's up to me if I want to be more healthy.  No one can do it for me.

New Books:
Public Library:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18667906-goodnight-june?ac=1&from_search=truehttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/24586590-the-nature-of-the-beast?ac=1&from_search=true


https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/37486213-two-dark-reigns?ac=1&from_search=true


Purchased:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/19561922-the-long-way-home?ac=1&from_search=true

Even though I had this on hold from my library, I couldn't wait (the next book in the series came up for me to borrow before this one!).  I really love narrator Ralph Cosham's narration of these audiobooks.

That's it for this week.  Have a great week of reading.

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Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Book Review: Summer at the Garden Cafe by Felicity Hayes-McCoy

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35216442-summer-at-the-garden-caf?ac=1&from_search=true
Synopsis (From Goodreads):
A heart-warming story about secrets between four generations of women and the healing power of books, love and friendship.

The Garden Café, in the town of Lissbeg on Ireland's Finfarran Peninsula, is a place where plans are formed and secrets shared ...

But Jazz - still reeling from her father's disclosures about the truth of his marriage to her mother, Hanna - has more on her mind than the comings and goings at the café. Now isolated from friends and family and fixating on her new job at a local guesthouse, she's started to develop feelings for a man who is strictly off limits . . .

Meanwhile Hanna, Lissbeg's librarian, is unaware of the turmoil in her daughter's life - until her ex-husband Malcolm makes an appearance and she begins to wonder if the secrets she's carried for him might have harmed Jazz more than she'd realised.

As things heat up in Lissbeg, can the old book Hanna finds buried in her own clifftop garden help Jazz?


Review:
The Library At The Edge Of The World, by Felicity Hayes-McCoy, was one of the most enjoyable books I read last year.  I loved the sense of community and all the characters in the fictional Irish village of Finfarran.  Where the first book centered around a community crisis, it's sequel, Summer At the Garden Cafe, was more about individual relationships and some of the downsides of living in a town where everyone knows your business.

What I Liked:
Characters:
There are so many wonderful characters in this book.  I was particularly pleased with the introduction of two characters who are immigrants, Ameena Khan, and her mother Saira.  The author stayed away from stereotypes and made these characters very relatable.  We also see more of the older generation in the village.  The past is represented as well with diary entries from Maggie Casey, whom Hannah inherited her home from.


Story:
The novel is broken down into several smaller stories that spanned generations.  There is the young couple, Conor and Aideen, who are trying to see if they want to make a deeper commitment.  Divorced Hannah is still unsure about starting a relationship with Brian, but will her indecision drive him away?  Jazz, Hannah's daughter, is dealing with the aftermath of her car accident, and her growing attraction to a married man.   
The plot point I found most enjoyable was about Mary Casey, (Hannah's mother) and  Hannah's ex-mother-in-law, Louisa.  Both widowed, they both are trying to figure out how to restructure their lives.   

Themes:
While The Library At The Edge of The World, celebrates the upside of small town life, this book shows there are some downsides, as well.  News of arguments, ailments, and amorous adventures are spread faster than wildfire.  And in this little village, many of the older citizens are eager to chime in with advice. 

What I Was Mixed About:
While I liked the story, I wish there would have been a larger plot point that could have tied all the individual stories together.  As it was, I found the smaller stories a bit disjointed.

I also felt that it was a bit unrealistic that everyone (even the young people) wanted to live in such a small town.  I would think that there would be at least a few young adults who would feel stifled and be eager to venture forth and tackle the big city.
 

Rating: 





Release Date:  May 18th, 2017

Author:  Felicity Hayes-McCoy

Publisher:  Hachette Books

Genre:  General Fiction

Page Length:  400 Pages

Source:  Public Library

Format:  E-Book 

Recommendation:
A satisfying sequel to The Library At The Edge Of The World.  Full of small town drama.

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Saturday, October 6, 2018

Stacking The Shelves #137 & Sunday Post #101




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:


Monday:  ARC Review: The Little Shop of Found Things by Paula Brackston

Tuesday: ARC Review:  The Spy With The Red Balloon by Katherine Locke

In Real Life:
I've been trying to eat healthier and get more sleep.  While I have lost weight by cutting out carbs, I don't know how sustainable eating no rice or pasta is for me.  But, my goal for this health journey is to prevent diabetes, so I am highly motivated to get my weight down.  But honestly, I am crabby right now!

Thankfully I acquired several wonderful books in the last two weeks to take my mind off of food.  I have gotten back into the joy of reading.

I've also been able to go to some wonderful outings with my friends and my daughter in the past two weeks.  Besides a fun book event, I also went to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art to see the Magritte exhibit.  It was so great to visit with a group of friends (and my teenager), and view stunning works of art. 


 

New Books:

Public Library:
 
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17167084-how-the-light-gets-in?ac=1&from_search=truehttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34810320-sadie

For Review:

Netgalley:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40530049-the-last-year-of-the-war?ac=1&from_search=true
 
I'm really please that I was pre-approved for this book by one of my go-to historical fiction writers, Susan Meissner!
 
Listening Library:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/32943032-a-map-of-days?ac=1&from_search=true

Bought:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26856502-vengefulhttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40874032-vicious?ac=1&from_search=true

 I was so fortunate to attend a book event for Victoria Schwab!!!  I went the extra mile and bought her a travel sized bottle of whiskey and some dark chocolate, which she seemed to appreciate.  I read Vicious a long time ago (from the library) so I wanted to get both books and have her sign them.  




That's it for this week.  I hope you have a wonderful week of reading ahead.

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Tuesday, October 2, 2018

ARC Review: The Spy With The Red Balloon by Katherine Locke

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/38650956-the-spy-with-the-red-balloon?ac=1&from_search=true
Please Note:  I received an advance copy of this book from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.  This did not influence the opinions of my review in any way.

Synopsis (From Goodreads):
Siblings Ilse and Wolf hide a deep secret in their blood: with it, they can work magic. And the government just found out.Blackmailed into service during World War II, Ilse lends her magic to America’s newest weapon, the atom bomb, while Wolf goes behind enemy lines to sabotage Germany’s nuclear program. It’s a dangerous mission, but if Hitler were to create the bomb first, the results would be catastrophic.

When Wolf’s plane is shot down, his entire mission is thrown into jeopardy. Wolf needs Ilse’s help to develop the magic that will keep him alive, but with a spy afoot in Ilse’s laboratory, the letters she sends to Wolf begin to look treasonous. Can Ilse prove her loyalty—and find a way to help her brother—before their time runs out?


Review:
Reading The Girl With The Red Balloon last year, I was struck by how the author, Katherine Locke created both an historical novel, and an imaginative fantasy novel.  Her newest book, The Spy With The Red Balloon, takes place in the same universe of magic, but with a different historical setting and characters.  Once again, I am blown away by the intricate plot, suspense, and historical details.  Once I started reading, I could not put it down!


What I Liked:
Setting/Historical Details:
The book takes place during the second world war.  The race is on to see who will create the first atomic bomb: The Americans, or Hitler.  I loved all the details of that time that the author includes.  From food shortages, and horrible beer to the institutional sexism and racism of the era, I felt these characters were definitely of that time.

Characters:
The book centers on Jewish siblings, Ilse and Wolf.  They both have magical blood which enables them to perform enchantments.  But younger sister Ilse has the added talent of being a intellectual genius.   At sixteen, she is already a university student when the military calls on her (forces her) to use her magical abilities in the war effort of WWII.  Wolf, being a few years older, is also pushed into magical service.

I really liked Ilse.  She is so young and immature to be thrown in with adults much older than she.  Not only is she trying to solve an almost impossible puzzle, wrestling with the ethical implications of war, but she is also trying to navigate her attraction for another girl.  Being the 1940's, this is fraught with taboos, and danger.  I loved her spirit, and her conscience.

Wolf also grapples with the ethics of war.  He would much rather not kill anyone.  But when he faces the realities of what Jews are dealing with in Europe, can he turn a blind eye to their suffering?  He is also feeling conflicted about his romantic feelings toward his childhood friend, Max.  Again, we are reminded that being Gay was not just frowned upon back then, but illegal.

Diversity:
I loved that there were not one, but several gay characters, as well as African-American characters, in this book.  These were multi-faceted people who were not solely defined by one trait. 

Plot:
The plot has many twists and turns that kept me reading well past my bedtime!  Like any good mystery, there were clues and foreshadowing that the reader could glean.  But, when some of the twists were revealed, it was yell-worthy (which I did do, loudly)!

Suspense:
The book had a sense of urgency throughout that I thought worked really well to convey how all encompassing the war was for everyone.  Not only life, death, and freedom hung in the balance, but also ethics, at both a personal and national level.  Are we willing to kill for our country?  Are we okay with creating weapons that can kill millions?  What are our responsibilities?

Ending:
As I looked over other reviews of the first book on Goodreads, I was not alone in feeling that The Girl With The Red Balloon ended abruptly.  Not so with The Spy With The Red Balloon.  The author takes time to really explain what happens to the characters.  Since I was so fond of Ilse and Wolf (plus their various love interests) by the ending, I was really pleased to know how most of the characters ended up!  This was so satisfying.

What I Didn't Like:
                
via GIPHY


Rating: 





Release Date:  October 2nd, 2018

Author:  Katherine Locke

Publisher: Albert Whitman Company

Genre:  Magical Realism/Historical Fiction

Page Length:  368 Pages 

Source:  Edelweiss

Format:  E-Book

Recommendation: You do not need to read the first book in the series to enjoy this suspenseful, fun historical novel set during WWII.  Filled with  magic, espionage, and lesbian and gay romance. 
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Monday, October 1, 2018

ARC Review: The Little Shop of Found Things by Paula Brackston

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/31450585-the-little-shop-of-found-things?ac=1&from_search=true
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):
Xanthe and her mother Flora leave London behind for a fresh start, taking over an antique shop in the historic town of Marlborough. Xanthe has always had an affinity with some of the antiques she finds. When she touches them, she can sense something of the past they come from and the stories they hold. So when she has an intense connection to a beautiful silver chatelaine she has to know more.

It’s while she’s examining the chatelaine that she’s transported back to the seventeenth century. And shortly after, she's confronted by a ghost who reveals that this is where the antique has its origins. The ghost tasks Xanthe with putting right the injustice in its story to save an innocent girl’s life, or else it’ll cost her Flora’s.

While Xanthe fights to save her amid the turbulent days of 1605, she meets architect Samuel Appleby. He may be the person who can help her succeed. He may also be the reason she can’t bring herself to leave.


Review:
I'll be honest.  I requested this book, not just for it's description, but for it's pretty cover and charming title.  I was so happy that my instincts were on target with this book.  This novel has it all: a great story, suspense, romance, and tons of historical details.  Once I started it, I could not put it down!

What I Liked:
Historical Details:
The author must have done extensive research because the historical details of daily life in the seventeenth century are impressive.  Everything from what people wore, to how one asked to use the restroom ("Where is the necessary room?") are a part of the story.  These authentic details are what make me feel like the characters are really in that time, and are one of the pleasures of reading historical fiction.

Characters:
I really liked the main character, Xanthe, who has seen her share of injustice.  This helps her to identify so strongly with Alice who is wrongly accused of stealing back in the seventeenth century.  In order to save her (and her own mother in modern times), Xanthe must use her ingenuity to solve the mystery of why Alice is accused, and what has become of the stolen items.  Xanthe is both practical and impulsive, which I find endearing.
  
Xanthe's mother, Flora, also has many challenges.  She is in the middle of a divorce, and is fighting to maintain her independence despite having a chronic illness.  I loved Flora's determination and how she rooted for Xanthe.  

In fact, the mother/daughter relationship in this book is one that I liked very much.  There are very few depictions of healthy adult parent and child relationships in fiction.  While Flora does depend on Xanthe's help, she never takes advantage of her daughter or guilts her into helping out.  Their obvious mutual affection and respect are what I will strive for with my own children.

Time Travel:
Any book about time travel risks losing the reader due to it's implausibility.  This book solves that by taking time to really map out the logic in this universe.  How does this work?  How can Xanthe realistically pull off going back in time without being found out (and risk being deemed a witch)?  Won't people in her own time question where she has been?  The author answers all these issues, and that keeps the reader in the story.


                   
via GIPHY

Story:
The novel itself is has several parallels between the story in the present day and in the past.  In both, Xanthe is an outsider trying to make her way.  Xanthe has been seriously ill-used by her modern-day boyfriend, and has trouble trusting men.  She also must decide if she can trust Samuel in the past.  Xanthe was wrongly accused of a crime in the present, and Alice faces the same thing in the past.  Of course, the consequences of being branded a criminal in 1600 were far more severe than they are now.  But the idea of losing control of one's own life to a nameless judicial system is the same.

Despite all the exposition, the story was fast-paced and I could not stop reading.  I was constantly worried that Xanthe would be caught out in both time periods.  

I also really appreciated that, even though this is the first book in a series, the story line was wrapped up in this book.  It is one of my pet-peeves that series books stop mid-scene without any resolution to the main problem!  Thankfully, this did not happen in this book.

Romance:
There are moments where I could not stop but to draw comparisons to the Outlander series by Diana  Gabaldon.  The romance between Xanthe and a man from the seventeenth century is believable and heart-wrenching.  But I also wanted to know if there would possibly be some heat between Xanthe and a certain young man in the present.  After such an epic romantic experience, will Xanthe be able to love anyone else?  Is she destined to pine away for a man long dead?  This may be answered in future novels, as I am happy to say that this is the first book in a series!

                    
via GIPHY

Rating: 




Release Date:  October 2nd, 2018

Author:  Paula Brackston

Genre:  Historical Fiction/Fantasy

Publisher:  Thomas Dunne Books (St. Martin's Press)

Page Length:  320 pages

Source:  NetGalley

Format:  E-Book

Recommendation:  Not as steamy (or violent) as Outlander.  Nevertheless, this romantic time travel series will keep you reading late into the night. 




 
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