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
The Retribution of Mara Dyer
The Evolution of Mara Dyer

MsArdychan's favorite books »

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Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Audio ARC Reivew: Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful by Arwen Elys Dayton

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):
Set in our world, spanning the near to distant futures, Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful is a novel made up of six interconnected stories that ask how far we will go to remake ourselves into the perfect human specimens, and how hard that will push the definition of "human."

This extraordinary work explores the amazing possibilities of genetic manipulation and life extension, as well as the ethical quandaries that will arise with these advances. The results range from the heavenly to the monstrous. Deeply thoughtful, poignant, horrifying, and action-packed, Arwen Elys Dayton's Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful is groundbreaking in both form and substance.

Usually, a book of short stories would be having me express mild interest, but I would not start reading.  In the case of Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful, by Arwen Elys Dayton, I heard a bit about it from an Insta-story of author Amie Kaufman.  Coincidentally (or perhaps not), the book became available on my reviewer page of Random House.  Well, I am certainly glad I listened to this book.  It was thought-provoking, and eerie in its exploration of what the future holds for genetic engineering.

What I Liked:
Each short story has a different narrator and has different settings and characters.  But all are interconnected.  You know how people will try to win an argument by saying, "If this happens, then something even worse will happen"?   You know, the domino effect?  Well, that is kind of what this book is like.  A scientific breakthrough that occurs in the first story expands the types of medical procedures that can occur, and each subsequent story builds on that to the extreme.  I liked this as it compelled the book forward, and built up the suspense as the book reached its ending.

Each story has a different narrator and I was impressed by the variety of voices overall in the book.  There are stories of confused teens, younger children dealing with the strangeness brought on by adults, and adults who are often too eager to use this new technology to dominate others.  Each performer did a commendable job of conveying the uncertainty of each new situation.

Each of the six stories is wildly creative.  As the novel opens, we learn of a teen who is a twin.  His sister and he are both very ill.  There is a new medical procedure that will save one sibling.  But in order to do it, the other must be sacrificed.  My first thought when reading this was, "What terrible parents to even consider this!" But both will die if they do nothing.  I, myself, would still not entertain the idea of killing one child to save another.  But I'll bet some parents would certainly think about it.

The stories move on from there, exploring more and more what it means to be human.  Is it all right to modify our bodies to the point that we don't even look human anymore?  Do others have a right to tell us how much we can modify our appearance?  What are the unintended consequences of all of these interventions?  All of this was riveting to read. 

This was a highly entertaining (and often frightening) look at a future I hope never happens.


Release Date:  December 4th, 2018

Author:  Arwen Elys Dayton

Genre: YA Speculative Fiction

Audio Publisher:  Listening Library

Audio Length:  10 Hours, 2 Minutes

Print Publisher:  Delacorte Press

Page Length:  384 Pages

Source:  Publisher

Format:  Audio Book

Recommendation:  This highly entertaining science fiction book is filled with ethical dilemmas, and characters that will haunt you.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Book Review: Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosoczka

Synopsis (From Goodreads):
Hey, Kiddo is the graphic memoir of author-illustrator Jarrett J. Krosoczka. Raised by his colorful grandparents, who adopted him because his mother was an incarcerated heroin addict, Krosoczka didn't know his father's name until he saw his birth certificate when registering for a school ski trip. Hey, Kiddo traces Krosoczka's search for his father, his difficult interactions with his mother, his day-to-day life with his grandparents, and his path to becoming an artist. 

I have seen this graphic novel, Hey Kiddo, by Jarrett J. Krosoczka, around for several months.  But I always thought, "I'm too old to be reading this kind of book".  Not that I thought it was meant for young kids (it isn't).  It's just that I felt too set in my ways to try graphic novels, as a whole.  Well, low and behold, my book club picked this book and I thought I would give it a go.  I'm so glad I did.  This book is a powerful story of the effects of drug addiction on several generations of a family.   The characters are compelling, as was the story.  And the art work has a beautiful style that befits a memoir.  I was very moved by this book.

What I Liked:

The novel succinctly establishes the many characters in Jarrett's life.  There's his quiet, supportive grandfather, his obnoxious, racist grandmother, and his very troubled mom who is addicted to heroin.  I was in awe that so much can be conveyed so few words.

Jarrett, himself, feels loved by his grandparents, but bitter about how his mother is never around.  She is in and out of prison, and is inconsistent with her attentions.  But I loved Jarrett's resilience in the face of such a tumultuous childhood.

I think the theme of this book is that there are many types of families.  Multi-generational households, grandparents raising children, they are all strong families.  The challenges when a person has an addiction are to help the person without enabling them, to love them despite getting nothing in return, to not hate what they have become because of addiction.  These are such powerful notions, but readers will see a full picture of the lives of these families.  I hope when people read this that it puts a face to this issue that so many are dealing with.

The artwork, with its limited palette, is joyous.  As this is a story told as a recollection, I loved that the art had flash-back quality.  There are also many small details that are straight out of the author's life.  Sketches from his early childhood peek out of the pages, as do other mementos such as ticket stubs, and even the wallpaper from his grandparents home.  These are delightful and bring an authenticity to the book.  The reader knows this is drama from a real life.  A comic book, this is not.  Rather, this is a powerful look at a problem that is urgent right now.


Release Date:  September 25th, 2018

Author:  Jarrett J. Krosoczka

Publisher: Graphix

Genre:  YA Graphic Novel Memoir

Source:  Bought

Format: Hardcover Book

Recommendation:  A moving novel that will get a reader excited about graphic novels (if they aren't already).  A tear-jerker! 

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Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Book Review: The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

Synopsis (From Goodreads):
Camellia Beauregard is a Belle. In the opulent world of Orléans, Belles are revered, for they control Beauty, and Beauty is a commodity coveted above all else. In Orléans, the people are born gray, they are born damned, and only with the help of a Belle and her talents can they transform and be made beautiful.

But it’s not enough for Camellia to be just a Belle. She wants to be the favorite—the Belle chosen by the Queen of Orléans to live in the royal palace, to tend to the royal family and their court, to be recognized as the most talented Belle in the land. But once Camellia and her Belle sisters arrive at court, it becomes clear that being the favorite is not everything she always dreamed it would be. Behind the gilded palace walls live dark secrets, and Camellia soon learns that the very essence of her existence is a lie—that her powers are far greater, and could be more dangerous, than she ever imagined. And when the queen asks Camellia to risk her own life and help the ailing princess by using Belle powers in unintended ways, Camellia now faces an impossible decision.

With the future of Orléans and its people at stake, Camellia must decide—save herself and her sisters and the way of the Belles—or resuscitate the princess, risk her own life, and change the ways of her world forever.

I really wanted to like this book.  It had a colorful society twisting the notion of beauty, palace intrigue, and romance.  Yet, like the superficial nature of the fictional Orléans, this book was all style, and no substance.

What I Liked:
I did really enjoy the universe of this society.  In a world where beauty is held in such high esteem, it was  fitting to have such richly painted descriptions of clothing, food, and surroundings.  All my senses were activated as I read about the lavish desserts, elaborate clothes and heady perfumes of the characters.

I also liked the abilities and mythology of the Belles.  As I learned more about them, the Belles almost seemed like magical creatures.  And they are treated as such.  But they are also all too human with friendships, jealousies, and loneliness.

I liked Camille and her sister Belles.  They trained all their lives for the opportunity to use their abilities to influence and assist their society.  Since beauty was revered above all else, this would be powerful positions to be in.  But the reality of when they got in their posts was very different.  I liked how each of them handled this in a sightly different way.  Some accepted it, some rebelled, others became depressed.  The author did a wonderful job of making each Belle unique.

What I Didn't Like:
I feel very conflicted about the overall story.  I think this is because it is entirely about beauty and cruelty, and not much else.  

While the novel did make some very good points about how the society of Orléans was obsessed with beauty, and gossip, I was disappointed that this wasn't presented in a larger context.  Shouldn't there have been a segment of people who would be rejecting this nonsense?  Why isn't there a lower class of people revolting over this wasteful use of resources? Where are the wealthy getting their money, anyway?  I was expecting some kind of rebellion of the masses, but there was just deafening silence.

I also didn't like the repeated scenes of Princess Sofia's dark nature.  Sofia clearly is a disturbed person.  She is cruel, and tortures everyone, from her pets, to her "friends".  Whenever Camille was summoned by the princess, you knew there would be yet another of these creepy scenes where Camille is forced to use her powers to maim or torture someone who the princess is mad at.  This slowed the pacing of the book.  I think some editing of these scenes would have made the action of the novel more compelling.

Passive Main Character:
Aside from Camille back-sassing Princess Sofia, she doesn't do much to move the story.  Everything happens to her, but she doesn't make much happen.  This was frustrating.  I wanted Camille to take charge and move against Sofia.  It's a good thing she had so many people helping her, from servants to soldiers to other Belles.   Otherwise, the plot wouldn't have moved at all.

One of my pet-peeves is when a book feels like a massive set up for a series.  Very little gets resolved in The Belles.  The main problem isn't clearly resolved, and we don't even get the satisfaction of having Camille confront the person who betrays her.

Overall, I found this book falls short.  It was full of unrealized potential.


Release Date:  February 6th, 2018

Author:  Dhonielle Clayton

Genre:  YA Fantasy

Print Publisher:  Disney-Hyperion 

Page Length:  440 Pages

Audio Book Publisher:  Blackstone Audio Books

Audio Book Length:  12 hours, 57 minutes

Source:  Public Library

Format:  Audio Book 

Recommendation: Despite the imaginative world-building, and characters, the story didn't go anywhere.  I would get this from the library, or skip it all together.
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Tuesday, January 22, 2019

ARC Review: The Wartime Sisters by Lynda Cohen Loigman


Please Note:  I received an advance 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):
Two estranged sisters, raised in Brooklyn and each burdened with her own shocking secret, are reunited at the Springfield Armory in the early days of WWII. While one sister lives in relative ease on the bucolic Armory campus as an officer’s wife, the other arrives as a war widow and takes a position in the Armory factories as a “soldier of production.” Resentment festers between the two, and secrets are shattered when a mysterious figure from the past reemerges in their lives. 

I love historical fiction, particularly when it's about the 1940's and WWII.  I guess it's because it's hard to imagine such a colossal event as a worldwide war.  I honestly can't imagine this happening now.

The Wartime Sisters, by Lynda Cohen Loigman, is full of fascinating details about life at that time.  It's also a dark family drama about the animosity between two sisters.  Which war are they fighting in:  World War II or their own private conflict?  Their story was riveting.

What I Liked:

The novel begins in 1930's Brooklyn.  The two sisters, Ruth and Millie, are constantly being compared by their parents.  Millie seems to be favored due to her stunning looks, which causes resentment in Ruth.

Both Brooklyn, and later Springfield, Massachusetts, are shown in positive and negative light.  On the one hand, Brooklyn seems like a place of lively comradeship among the neighbors.  People look out for each other.  But people must also watch out for nosy busybodies.  Springfield also has it's share on helpful and troublesome residents.  With the war going in the 1040's, paranoia makes everyone a suspected saboteur. 

Historical Details:
The details of life at this time are so plentiful.  One can tell the author worked hard to make the Springfield Armory come to life, with all the frantic activity of thousands of people coming together to support the war effort.  One scene of an Armory dance was particularly memorable.  The fact that the organizers had to have various start times to accommodate all the shift workers really brings home how hard these people were working.

At first, I found Ruth to be really petty, getting so upset about how people fawned over Millie.  But later, I came to see how boxed in Ruth must have felt.  Ruth, the responsible older sister, felt she had to be perfect.  She could see how Millie wasn't held accountable for anything simply because of her looks.  I would probably resent being the responsible child, too!

But Millie did have expectations thrust upon her.  Her mother assumes that Millie will find a rich man to marry.  Being so pretty, men assume that she will be sexually eager when they go on dates.  When Millie rebels and starts seeing a handsome (but disreputable) man, her mother is livid.  With so many people telling her she is only valuable for her looks, it's no wonder Millie feels so helpless.

The story revolves around Ruth and Millie's relationship.  Both have a hard time connecting with each other due to many misunderstandings.  There are several moments when the sisters could have made choices to support each other, but there would be no story, right?  I do think this was pretty realistic, albeit frustrating as a spectator to read.


Release Date:  January 22nd, 2019

Author:  Lynda Cohen Loigman

Publisher:  St. Martin's Press

Genre:  Historical Fiction

Page Length:  304 Pages

Source:  Netgalley

Format:  E-Book

Recommendation:  A great choice for a book club.  The historical details are fascinating and the story of the conflict between the two sisters will create lots of discussion among the members of a book club.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Book Review: Queen of Air and Darknes by Cassandra Clare


Synopsis (From Goodreads):
What if damnation is the price of true love?

Innocent blood has been spilled on the steps of the Council Hall, the sacred stronghold of the Shadowhunters. In the wake of the tragic death of Livia Blackthorn, the Clave teeters on the brink of civil war. One fragment of the Blackthorn family flees to Los Angeles, seeking to discover the source of the blight that is destroying the race of warlocks.

Meanwhile, Julian and Emma take desperate measures to put their forbidden love aside and undertake a perilous mission to Faerie to retrieve the Black Volume of the Dead. What they find in the Courts is a secret that may tear the Shadow World asunder and open a dark path into a future they could never have imagined. Caught in a race against time, Emma and Julian must save the world of Shadowhunters before the deadly power of the parabatai curse destroys them and everyone they love.

Queen of Air and Darkness is a mammoth of a book.  At over 900 pages, this book is a gift for fans of the Shadowhunters series.  All the major characters are back, from Julian and Emma, to Jace and Clary.  And they are not just making cameos!  I really enjoyed all the characters, the plot, most of the romance, and the overall message of acceptance.

What I Liked:
The Blackthorns:
I love that we get to really get to know all the Blackthorn children.  Each sibling is mourning the death of Livvy, but also has other big issues.  Helen is finally back with her family, but struggles to connect with her siblings.  Mark is torn between the fairy prince, Kieran, and Emma's best friend, Christina.  Julian is struggling with his romantic feelings toward Emma.  Drusilla desperately wants to be valued by anyone.  And Ty is deeply in denial over Livvy's death.  Only Tavvy (who is maybe six years old?) seems to be doing all right, but his older siblings are constantly concerned for Tavvy's safety.

Other Beloved Characters:
Jace, Clary, Alec, and Magnus are back baby!!!  I would say that a tiny criticism of the other two books in The Dark Artifices series is that author Cassandra Clare would pop these characters into her books, but they weren't really part of the plots.  Not so in this book.  Jace and Clary are up to their superhero antics, and I couldn't be more pleased.  I love that Clary really is recognized for her efforts in this book.  Alec and Magnus are also a big part of the story.  I love their devotion to each other and to their family.

The Shadowhunter government in Idris has been taken over by extremists who want to isolate shadowhunters from downworlders and fairies.  In order to do this, Horace Dearborn and The Cohort (a group of young people reminiscent of Hitler's Brownshirts) stir up fear of downworlders, and are quick to silence any opposition.  I can't help but wonder if she is making parallels between the plot and the current anti-immigration sentiment throughout the world.  I appreciated that Cassandra Clare makes the point that a society can go from open and inclusive to isolationist quickly, particularly if people are uninvolved and complacent.

There is a lot of wildly romantic relationships in Queen of Air and Darkness.  Besides Alec and Magnus's, there is the huge dilemma for Julian and Emma.  They are parabatai, and have been told that romantic love for them would lead to disastrous results.  Yet they can't seem to stay away from each other.  This leads both Julian and Emma to extreme measures in order to either break the parabatai bonds, or stop their feelings completely.  

One of the most wonderful aspects of all the Shadowhunters books is the overriding message of acceptance for all kinds of love, all types of people.  There are several characters who are gay, and others who are bisexual.  There is also a transgendered character, and even a romantic relationship between three characters!  Okay, the three person relationship did make me uncomfortable, but I understood the point of it.  The author is showing many different types of genders, sexualities, and relationships in order to send the message that people need to stop judging others.  I think this is a message we all need right now. 


Release Date:  December 4th, 2018

Author:  Cassandra Clare

Publisher:  Margaret K. McElderry Books

Genre:  YA Fantasy

Page Length:  912 pages

Source:  Public Library

Format:  E-Book

Recommendation:  If you are a fan of this series, you will love this grand finale.  Full of beloved characters, this is a very satisfying read.

Be aware that although this is a YA book, there are several very sexy scenes in this story.  The descriptions never get to the level of mommy porn.  But I would say this would be more appropriate for high school readers and above.
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Tuesday, January 15, 2019

ARC Review: The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi

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):
Paris, 1889: The world is on the cusp of industry and power, and the Exposition Universelle has breathed new life into the streets and dredged up ancient secrets. In this city, no one keeps tabs on secrets better than treasure-hunter and wealthy hotelier, Séverin Montagnet-Alarie. But when the all-powerful society, the Order of Babel, seeks him out for help, Séverin is offered a treasure that he never imagined: his true inheritance.

To find the ancient artifact the Order seeks, Séverin will need help from a band of experts: An engineer with a debt to pay. A historian who can't yet go home. A dancer with a sinister past. And a brother in all but blood, who might care too much.

Together, they'll have to use their wits and knowledge to hunt the artifact through the dark and glittering heart of Paris. What they find might change the world, but only if they can stay alive.

Just by the description of The Gilded Wolves, by Roshani Chokshi, I knew I would be in for a fun reading experience.  This was a quick, fun book, filled with a glamorous setting, a wonderfully diverse cast, and a group of characters who form a family of thieves. 

What I Liked:
I enjoyed the universe that The Gilded Wolves is set in: late 19th century Paris.  This literally was The Gilded Age, and the setting was rich with the excitement of Paris as the Eiffel Tower was having its debut.

There is also the wonderful hotel L'Eden, where Séverin and his band of thieves live.  It is filled hidden rooms, secret gardens, and workrooms where the group invent and forge items used in their heists.

I love that there is a good mix of characters in this book.  Several characters are people of color, or of mixed heritages.  I liked that this was not just glossed over in the story, but had actual ramifications for the characters.  Enrique, for example, has some Spanish ancestry, but is mainly Filipino.  Because he looks more Spanish, he's not considered a true Filipino.  Yet that is the culture in which he is raised, and so he is constantly trying to prove he belongs among his fellow expats in Paris.

There are also a variety of characters who have various sexual orientations.  There are gay characters, straight characters, and people who are bisexual.  Although it was not explicitly stated, I think Zofia is an asexual character, as well.

There were also two characters, Zofia, and Tristian, who displayed traits of autism.  Sometimes Zofia and Tristian had trouble feeling comfortable among other people.  Sights, smells, and textures could make them anxious, but their friends always looked for ways to make them feel at ease.  They were both valued for what they contributed to the group.

Band of Thieves:
The camaraderie of the characters (and the fact that each had a specialized skill) reminded me of Six of Crows, by Leigh Bardugo.  This is a compliment, not a criticism.  I loved that each member of the team was equally valued.  I also enjoyed that they each had different relationships between each other.  We all get different things from different friends.  This book wonderfully illustrates this.  

What I Was Mixed About:
The world of The Gilded Wolves is rather complicated, and there were many passages early on used to explain how the mythology of the Houses, forging, the rings, and the Babel fragments work.  I wish the author had sprinkled this more evenly throughout the book, rather than write long passages of this at the beginning of the novel.  It came out rather like a lecture, and slowed down the action.

This is basically a heist book, with several puzzles that need to be solved in order to reach an artifact.  This is mostly fine, but when characters in books solve complex puzzles, the reader should also be able to solve it with them.  But in this story, the only way to solve many of these problems is if you have arcane, specialized knowledge of math or history.  This was frustrating as a reader.  

What I Didn't Like:
There was one scene that I found utterly ridiculous and a clear rip off of Indiana Jones.  I will not tell you what scene, but when you read it, you will roll your eyes!  This is a small quibble, nothing that would steer me to downgrade the book.


Release Date:  January 15th, 2019

Genre:  YA Historical Fantasy

Author:  Roshani Chokshi

Publisher:  St. Martin's Press

Page Length:  464 Pages

Source:  NetGalley

Format:  E-Book

Recommendation: A fun book filled with adventure, and a great mix of characters.  Very Entertaining
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Saturday, January 12, 2019

Stacking The Shleves #145 & Sunday Post # 109

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 Girl King by Mimi Yu
Tuesday:  ARC Review:  The Alchemist's Illusion by Gigi Pandian

Thursday:  ARC Review:  Firestarter by Tara Sim

So many books are coming out this month.  I was fortunate enough to be able to review several books.  Three of them came out this past week.  I especially enjoyed Firestarter, by Tara Sim.  The final book in the Timekeeper steampunk series, is full of intrigue, and romance.

In Real Life:
We are back to work at my school, and the week went by very quickly.  I've been working hard to read several books at once in order to meet all my ARC obligations.  And, of course, many books that I had on hold at the library came to me all at once.

My daughter is almost finished with college applications, and I'm so grateful.  She has already been accepted to a college in Boston!  But it would be great for her to have several choices.  Keeping my fingers crossed.

New Books:
Public Library:




That's it for this week.  I hope you are all having a lovely 2019.

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Thursday, January 10, 2019

ARC Review: Firestarter by Tara Sim

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):
The crew of the Prometheus is intent on taking down the world’s clock towers so that time can run freely. Now captives, Colton, Daphne, and the others have a stark choice: join the Prometheus’s cause, or fight back in any small way they can and face the consequences. But Zavier, leader of the terrorists, has a bigger plan—to bring back the lost god of time.

As new threats emerge, loyalties must shift. No matter where the Prometheus goes—Prague, Austria, India—nowhere is safe, and every second ticks closer toward the eleventh hour. Walking the line between villainy and heroism, each will have to choose what's most important: saving those you love at the expense of the many, or making impossible sacrifices for the sake of a better world.

I was fortunate enough to receive an advance copy of the first book in this series, Timekeeper, back in 2016. I fell in love with the fun steampunk style, the diverse characters (especially bi-racial Daphne), the heartbreaking romance, and the suspenseful story.  The final book, Firestarter, continues to deliver all those elements in a sweeping finale.

What I Liked:
Narrative Recap:
Thank you so much, Tara Sim, for recapping the events of the other books!  As a reader, I really appreciate this, as I can never remember what happens in a book that I read over a year ago!  Having said this, if you haven't read the first two books, Timekeeper, and Chainbreaker, you should.  The richness of the characters and story are best appreciated if you have read the other books first.

Steampunk setting:
The universe of this novel is set in Victorian England but is filled with futuristic technology such as automobiles, airships, radios, and automatons.  This makes for a great mix of reality and fantasy.

The roles of women are more modern, as well.  Women have jobs as clock mechanics, wear trousers, and don't need to walk with a male chaperone.  All of these would have been unheard of during the Victorian Era, but because this is a steampunk book, it works.

Diverse Characters:
I love, love, love all the diversity in this book.  There are gay characters, characters from India, and biracial characters, as well.  I love how accepting Danny's parents are of his relationship with Colton.  There is initial shock on their part.  But I think it's realistic, and makes when they accept Danny's choices all the more wonderful.

Daphne is half English and half Indian.  She has very light skin, so most people don't know her heritage right away.  Indians don't consider her a "true" Indian, and British people treat her differently once they know she is not fully British.  I love this because so many people, myself included, find themselves straddled between two cultures.  But this is the first book that explicitly addresses this complex situation.

There are two main romances in this book, and both are compelling.  Daphne is attracted to Akesh, an Indian she meets when she visits India.  As she starts to connect with that part of her heritage, Akesh shows her the respect that is her due.  He doesn't try to define her, or push a notion that she is not Indian enough.  In Daphne's position, that is so refreshing!

Danny and Colton have a classic, tragic love story.  Colton is a clock spirit, so he has already lived his life.  As their relationship grows, the inevitable resolution of their situation becomes dire.  If Zavier is successful in freeing time, Colton will disappear.  If he lets another group, the Builders, succeed, a sinister plan will cost many of the clock mechanics their lives.  And if Colton continues on as a clock spirit, what will happen as Danny ages?  Will Colton have to spend eternity alone?

There are several competing groups that want to change the world order.  Rebels want the British to leave India.  The Builders want to control the clock towers to seize power.  Zavier's group wants to free the time god so that there will not be a need for clock towers and mechanics at all.  All of these groups are vying for supremacy and are willing to do anything to achieve their ends.  This includes acts of terrorism, kidnapping, and torture.  Some of these scenes in this book are brutal in their realism.  But this also makes for a page-turning story.

Overall, this is a worthy third book.  The story was so compelling I wound up staying up reading late into the night.  I cried as people were tortured, and when couples were torn apart.  
Basically, I was enveloped in this world and it's characters.  This is the best kind of reading experience, and I highly recommend this book.


Release Date:  January 15th, 2019

Author:  Tara Sim

Publisher:  Sky Pony Press

Genre:  YA Steampunk Fantasy

Page Length:  488 Pages

Source:  Edelweiss 

Format:  E-Book

Recommendation:  A worthy conclusion to a fun fantasy series.

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Tuesday, January 8, 2019

ARC Review: The Alchemist's Illusion by Gigi Pandian

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):
Centuries-old alchemist Zoe Faust is tired of running from her past. She's finally got her life on track in Portland, Oregon, gardening and cooking in her fixer-upper house with her mischievous best friend, Dorian the gargoyle chef. It seems like the perfect life for Zoe—until she discovers that her old mentor Nicolas Flamel, who she thought had abandoned her, has been imprisoned.
A local artist holds the secret that could lead Zoe to her mentor, but the artist is murdered and the painting containing the hidden clue is stolen. To rescue Nicolas, Zoe and Dorian must explore art forgery, a transformative process that has much in common with alchemy and cooking—but one that proves far more dangerous.
Includes delicious vegan recipes!

I started reading this series midway, with The Elusive Elixir.  The author, Gigi Pandian, did such a wonderful job of summarizing previous events, that I didn't know this was a series until after I finished the book.  I loved the characters (and the delicious recipes!) immediately.

The Alchemist's Illusion continues to entertain with more Dorian, Zoe, and her skeptical boyfriend, Max.  With its dual storylines, and lots of new characters, this is a worthy addition to this series. 

What I Liked:
Zoe, and her circle of friends, are very entertaining.  I loved learning even more about the Gargoyle chef, Dorian, and his quest to become more than a sculpture come to life.  Zoe's policeman boyfriend, Max was appropriately grounded in reality.  It is his spot-on reactions to the magical that anchor the book.  This was both necessary and heartbreaking to read.  Newer characters such as the artist's widow, Perenelle Flamel, and Edward Kelly were complicated and made it hard to know if they were villains or not.  I liked the unpredictability of this.

A major reason I enjoy this series is for the delectable descriptions of cooking, and food!  Meals are lovingly detailed so the reader is salivating along with the characters.  Plus, there are several yummy looking recipes to be found at the end of the book.

The story alternates between present-day Portland, Oregon, and nearly four-hundred years earlier in Prague where we learn the origins of the painting that is the centerpiece of this book.  I liked the two different stories and the fact that it was ambiguous as to who the villain was.  Did Nicolas' wife Perenelle conspire with someone to imprison him?  Who is Edward Kelly?  So many little mysteries to solve!

What I Was Mixed About:
There was one aspect of the plot which I was quite dissatisfied with.  The plot relied heavily on coincidences to move the story along.  At the beginning of the book, Zoe randomly sees a painting in a window that may hold the key to finding her long-lost friend Nicolas.  Considering that this art work was made in Europe hundreds of years ago, how likely is it that it would find its way to present-day Portland, Oregon?  This happens several times throughout the book, which made it hard for me, as a reader, to accept.


Release Date:  January 8th, 2019

Author:  Gigi Pandian

Publisher:  Midnight Ink

Genre:  Mystery Fiction

Page Length:  336 Pages

Source:  NetGalley

Format:  E-Book

Recommendation:  An entertaining addition to this series, even with some very convenient plot twists.
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Monday, January 7, 2019

ARC Review: The Girl King by Mimi Yu

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 Goodreads):
Sisters Lu and Min have always understood their places as princesses of the Empire. Lu knows she is destined to become the dynasty's first female ruler, while Min is resigned to a life in her shadow. Then their father declares their male cousin Set the heir instead—a betrayal that sends the sisters down two very different paths.

Determined to reclaim her birthright, Lu goes on the run. She needs an ally—and an army—if she is to succeed. Her quest leads her to Nokhai, the last surviving wolf shapeshifter. Nok wants to keep his identity secret, but finds himself forced into an uneasy alliance with the girl whose family killed everyone he ever loved…

Alone in the volatile court, Min's hidden power awakens—a forbidden, deadly magic that could secure Set's reign…or allow Min to claim the throne herself. But there can only be one Emperor, and the sisters' greatest enemy could turn out to be each other.

This is a story with so many wonderful elements, I eagerly jumped at the chance to review it.  It did not disappoint.  With a world formed around empires and magic, this novel is a page-turner that was really fun.

What I Liked:
World Building:
I really enjoyed the creative world in which this book is set.  There are people who can shapeshift into animals, warriors, royalty, and mythical cities.  I loved the "Inbetween" realm, where a city hides from their aggressive neighbors.  And Min's secret abilities are exciting, and terrifying.  All of these elements were rich details that added to the story.

I really liked the strong women in this novel.  Lu has been training her whole life to lead her nation.  When it looks as if she won't get the chance, she doesn't accept this lying down.  She takes action.  The problem for Lu is that she doesn't anticipate how much resistance the men in her society have to the idea of a female ruler.

Min is harder to like.  But she learns through the story to embrace her talents and take control.  I did like that she went from an awkward, self-conscious young teen to an empress who demand respect.

Nok is a scrappy survivor.  He is the last of his people, after Lu's father has all but wiped out anyone who can shapeshift into an animal form.  Nok is also trying to understand his own abilities.  Even though Nok is not the best fighter or charismatic of young men, he knows his own worth and demands respect from Lu.  He will not be intimidated by Lu being a princess.

Set, although a thoroughly abhorrent human being, had a clear motive for his actions.  I liked that he had a backstory that contributed to his actions.  

I loved the bittersweet romance between Lu and Nok.  Considering how they were both from different stations, their love story was doomed from the start.  But I loved that Nok accepted Lu for who she really was.  He didn't assume she was a spoiled princess.  Lu also saw Nok as a young man with plenty to offer other than power or position.  I really rooted for them.

The story follows the power plays among the empire after the king dies.  Will Set become the emperor?  Or will Lu be able to overcome the sexism of her time and become the first girl king?  I love the ceremony of the court, with all its pageantry.  But I also love the everyday people and how they are affected by what the nobility does.

This was a fast-paced story that kept me guessing throughout the novel.

What I Was Mixed About:
As much as I loved the strong characters, it took me a while (quite a while, actually) to like anyone in the novel.  Every character had a mean streak.  I suppose characters need to grow through the course of a story.  But I found it difficult to empathize with Lu and Min, in particular, as they both were rather petty and self-centered.  Lu did begin to change by the end of the book, and I loved her growth.  I could not feel such a connection to Min.


Release Date:  January 8th, 2019

Author: Mimi Yu

Publisher:  Bloomsbury YA 

Genre:  YA Fantasy

Page Length:  432 Pages

Source:  NetGalley

Format:  E-book

Recommendation: An imaginative setting with strong characters, this is a fun book.
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2020 Reading Challenge

2020 Reading Challenge
MsArdychan has read 2 books toward her goal of 120 books.


80% 80% 100 Book Reviews 2016 NetGalley Challenge
clean sweep 2017

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