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My name is Ardis and I am an avid reader and budding writer. I want to share my love of books with others. I work with kids and am interested in finding and creating books that will ignite the reader in everyone. Contact me at: ardis.atkins@gmail.com

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MsArdychan's bookshelf: read

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


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Thursday, December 3, 2020

Audio ARC Review: Rebel Chef by Dominique Crenn with Emma Brockes


 

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

Synopsis (from Goodreads):


By the time Dominique Crenn decided to become a chef, at the age of twenty-one, she knew it was a near impossible dream in France where almost all restaurant kitchens were run by men. So she moved to San Francisco to train under Jeremiah Tower. Almost thirty years later, Crenn was awarded three Michelin Stars in 2018 for her restaurant Atelier Crenn, and became the first female chef in the United States to receive this honor.

In this book, the author writes of her childhood in Versailles. Adopted as a toddler, growing up she often felt like an outsider, and was haunted by a past she knew nothing about. But after years of working to fill this blank space, Crenn has embraced the power her history gives her to be whoever she wants to be. She also addresses restaurant culture, sexism, immigration, and climate change, this is a book of a chef's personal journey of discovery.


Review:

Perhaps because I always wished to be one, I'm quite drawn to memoirs by chefs.  And Dominique Crenn's story is compelling.  Growing up in France, she came from a loving home, but always felt to be a bit of an outsider.  This may have been due to being adopted.  But being an outsider allowed Crenn to look at life from a different angle.  A risk-taker who has inspired countless people with her work ethic, determination, and the poetic artistry of her cooking, she was never constrained by traditional thinking.  I loved this book, but if you need to visualize what her cooking is, you should also watch the episode of Netflix show, Chef's Table, that features Crenn.  Taken together, you will see a portrait of a dynamic force of nature. 

What I Liked:

Narrator:

Hope Newhouse does a wonderful job of using her youthful voice to show how new and refreshing Crenn's culinary viewpoint is.  She also seems to be fluent in French, as she demonstrates whenever a French phrase is used.  She helped show how wonderous Crenn's journey really was.


Insight into a Chef's Purpose:

While most of us diners go to a restaurant and anticipate a pleasant meal, Dominique Crenn uses a meal to tell a story through food.  This may seem pretentious, but her use of food is so well thought out, that one can't help but be moved by her outlook.  She sees beauty in ingredients, and finds joy in creating new ways to produce meals that touch the heart, as well as the stomach. 

Not a Tell-All:

I appreciated that this book was not a tell-all of who Crenn dated or horror stories of mistreatment by male chefs.  Certainly, she touches on these topics, but these are not the main points of the book.  The point of the memoir was to honor her father, who died of cancer.  Although she follows her instincts to pursue adventure away from France, she has deep guilt for being away from her family.  This is a tension I can identify with.  To their credit, her parents always encourage her travels.  But you can tell Crenn feels the tug of home, especially as her mother gets older.

 

A word about audiobooks:  

 If you like audiobooks, and want to support Independent bookstores, please consider buying your audiobooks from Libro.fm.  The money you spend supports Independent bookstores and not Amazon. 

If you are interested, please click on my link.  When you sign up, you'll get a free audiobook:

 http://libro.fm/referral?rf_code=lfm75477

Full Disclosure:  I do earn audiobooks if you sign up.

 

Rating:


 

Release Date:  June 9th, 2020

Author:  Dominique Crenn with Emma Brockes

Audio Narrator:  Hope Newhouse

Publisher: Penguin Audio

Audio Length:  5 Hours, 15 Minutes

Print Publisher:  Penguin Press

Print Page Length:  256 Pages

Source:  Penguin Audio

Format:  Audiobook

Recommendation:  This book will make you want to visit Crenn's restaurant as soon as the Pandemic is over!  A wonderful, inspiring memoir.

 

 

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Tuesday, December 1, 2020

ARC Review: Admission by Julie Buxbaum


 

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


Synopsis (from Goodreads):


From the New York Times bestselling author of Tell Me Three Things comes an of-the-moment novel that peeks inside the private lives of the hypercompetitive and the hyperprivileged and takes on the college admissions bribery scandal that rocked the country.

It's good to be Chloe Wynn Berringer. She's headed off to the college of her dreams. She's going to prom with the boy she's had a crush on since middle school. Her best friend always has her back, and her mom, a B-list Hollywood celebrity, may finally be on her way to the B+ list. It's good to be Chloe Wynn Berringer--at least, it was, until the FBI came knocking on her front door, guns at the ready, and her future went up in smoke. Now her mother is under arrest in a massive college admissions bribery scandal. Chloe, too, might be facing charges, and even time behind bars. The public is furious, the press is rabid, and the US attorney is out for blood.

As she loses everything she's long taken for granted, Chloe must reckon not only with the truth of what happened, but also with the examination of her own guilt. Why did her parents think the only way for her to succeed was to cheat for her? What did she know, and when did she know it? And perhaps most importantly, what does it mean to be complicit?

 

Review:

This book hit so close to home for me, as my daughter went through the college admissions process just prior to the college admissions scandal that rocked the nation.  She even applied to USC, one of the main universities involved in the controversy.  She didn't get in.  With the school's reputation now in shambles, I think we dodged a bullet.  While my daughter is very happy at an amazing college, we will always wonder if someone bribed their way into a spot she could have gotten.  

With this in mind, I read Admission, by Julie Buxbaum.  It was riveting to imagine what the young students must have gone through, as they came to realize what their parents had done.  Or were they in on it too?

 

What I Liked:

Characters:

I did feel sympathy for Chloe, the mostly clueless high school senior who is at the center of the fictional college admissions scandal.  As the daughter of a famous actress, she feels the pressure to attend a prestigious university.  But she's really not into it.  She's an average student at a high-priced high school where everyone is expected to achieve greatness.  While everyone is caught up in the admissions process, Chloe would be happy to attend a low-key college in Arizona.  But her Hollywood parents won't be content unless she can attend SCC (a fictional version of USC).   Chloe really doesn't realize what her parents have done.  But she does have inklings that something is off.


I liked that the character Chloe is actually a good person.  In the real-life scandal, it certainly didn't appear that the students cared how they got into college, or who they hurt along the way.


Inside Story:

What is so compelling is how the reader gets to see how the families lives are turned upside down once they are charged by the Feds.  There are lawyers, PR firms, and image consultants camped out in their living rooms.  Plus the students involved need lawyers for themselves. They are also not permitted (by the lawyers) to even talk to their parents about the case.  This creates a pent up anger for Chloe as her questions remain unanswered.  Did her parents think she was too stupid to get into college?  Was their true motive to help her, or was it just for bragging rights.  And how does this affect the other members of the family? 

 

What I Was Mixed About:

Characters:

While I liked most of the characters, I couldn't quite feel sympathy for the parents of the story.  The author paints a picture of entitlement that leaves very little room for empathy from me.  As they try to justify why they used the "Side-Door" to get their child into one of the best colleges in the country, it made me so disgusted.  They never truly understand how incredibly unfair all the consultants, private tutors, special SAT classes, and then bribes, and test cheating, were to students who play by the rules.    

 

Rating: 



 

Release Date:  December 1st, 2020

Author:  Julie Buxbaum

Publisher:  Delacorte Press

Genre:  YA Contemporary

Page Length:  304 pages

Source:  NetGalley

Format:  E-Book

Recommendation:  A very compelling book about how families get caught up in the college admissions process. Very timely.

 

 

 

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Saturday, November 21, 2020

My Reading Update: November 21st, 2020

 

Welcome to my reading update!  I'm going to post this on a few blog hops such as Stacking The Shelves run by Team Tynga's Reviews, and Sunday Post, run by Kimberly at Caffeinated Book Reviewer and a new Facebook group I've joined called The Sunday Salon

Seeing what other are reading (and finding a novel that everyone's talking about) is the reason I love looking at blog hop posts.  Please feel free to drop me a line and tell me what you're reading.

What a week it has been!  It's been a roller-coaster ride here in California.  We were all set to open up school with a hybrid model, on Monday. By Tuesday, our county went to the most restrictive (Purple) tier, and our plans for opening up schools were shuttled.  On Thursday, Governor Newsom issued a curfew to try and stop the spread of COVID-19.  It's getting scary out there, so a curfew is fine with me.  Whatever we can do , I'm in.

This has been a week of anxiousness about the virus.  So, what's the cure for my worries?  Books, of course!

I've been reading a lot, and acquired some exciting books.

What I'm Reading Now:




What I Finished This Week:





 

New Books on My Shelf:


 

I'm most excited to read A Promised Land, by Barack Obama.  I received this audiobook for review from Penguin Random House.  But, it is over twenty-nine hours long! Oh my gosh, this is going to take a while!

As you begin your weekend, I wish for you rest, relaxation and health.

Stay Safe!

Art by my daughter!




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Saturday, November 14, 2020

My Reading Update: November 14th, 2020

 

Welcome to my reading update!  I'm going to post this on a few blog hops such as Stacking The Shelves run by Team Tynga's Reviews, and Sunday Post, run by Kimberly at Caffeinated Book Reviewer and a new Facebook group I've joined called The Sunday Salon

Seeing what other are reading (and finding a novel that everyone's talking about) is the reason I love looking at blog hop posts.  Please feel free to drop me a line and tell me what you're reading.

 

This has been a much more relaxing week, since all the hoopla of the election.  In fact, I have mostly been catching up on my sleep, rather than doing much reading.  But, sometimes rest is just what is needed.  As the week winds down, I'm finally starting to get into two very interesting books.  And with the weather also finally getting colder, it's the perfect weekend to get lost in a book.


What I'm Reading:




What I Finished This Week:


New Books on my Shelf:







I'm lining up the books!  The Crepes of Wrath & A Room With A Roux are two cozy mysteries that look a bit cheesy, but also fun.  Plus there's a cat on the cover, so that sealed the deal.  I'm really looking forward to The Project, by Courtney Summers.  I loved her previous novel, Sadie.  It was full of suspense and heartbreaking realism.  

 

Have a relaxing weekend!


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Thursday, November 12, 2020

ARC Review: Tsarina by Ellen Alpsten

 


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


Synopsis (from Goodreads):


St. Petersburg, 1725. Peter the Great lies dying in his magnificent Winter Palace. The weakness and treachery of his only son has driven his father to an appalling act of cruelty and left the empire without an heir. Russia risks falling into chaos. Into the void steps the woman who has been by his side for decades: his second wife, Catherine Alexeyevna, as ambitious, ruthless and passionate as Peter himself.

Born into devastating poverty, Catherine used her extraordinary beauty and shrewd intelligence to ingratiate herself with Peter’s powerful generals, finally seducing the Tsar himself. But even amongst the splendor and opulence of her new life—the lavish feasts, glittering jewels, and candle-lit hours in Peter’s bedchamber—she knows the peril of her position. Peter’s attentions are fickle and his rages powerful; his first wife is condemned to a prison cell, her lover impaled alive in Red Square. And now Catherine faces the ultimate test: can she keep the Tsar’s death a secret as she plays a lethal game to destroy her enemies and take the Crown for herself?

From the sensuous pleasures of a decadent aristocracy, to the incense-filled rites of the Orthodox Church and the terror of Peter’s torture chambers, the intoxicating and dangerous world of Imperial Russia is brought to vivid life. Tsarina is the story of one remarkable woman whose bid for power would transform the Russian Empire."

Review:

Historical novels give the reader a glimpse into how life was like in another time.  And during the period that the novel Tsarina, by Ellen Alpsten, takes place, life is brutal for women.  This book is filled with all the historical details that brings this book to life.  I really enjoyed that.  But this book is also hyper-focused on how men brutally prey on women.  There are MANY scenes of rape, incest, and other brutality in this book.  While I know that it is probably a realistic scenario, it was tough to read through.  


What I Liked:

Historical Details:

The author clearly did a ton of research on life in the late 1600's.  As Marta moves up the social ladder, from serf, to servant, to mistress, and finally to Tsarina, the reader sees how each level of society lives.  The serf's life is one of hard work and servitude.  Marta and her family have a very basic existence.  But everything depends on the whims of the rich landlords.  As Marta moves up the social ladder, she is able to eat, and dress better.  Yet each situation she is in reveals a new brutality, a new humiliation that she must endure.

Story Structure:

I liked the structure of the book.  We see two timelines.  In one, we see the critical moments after Marta's husband, Peter The Great, has died.  Will she be executed?  Sent to a nunnery?  Or will she be able to remain the Tsarina.

We find out more about Marta in a series of flashbacks.  Starting from her childhood, and moving from her time as a servant, to a young wife, to becoming a mistress to the Tsar, we see how Marta has become the cunning, ruthless woman who just may be able to finally seize her own destiny.

 

What I Didn't Like:

 

Main Character:

Although I could feel sympathy for Marta being used and abused by men,  I found her to be an extremely unlikable character.  She is a survivor.  But the way she survives is by conveniently overlooking Peter's cruelty, and actively abusing others.  And when a woman tries to come between her and Peter, she has no problem ruining her rival's life.  This made it impossible to root for her. 

Hyper-Focus on Sexual Assault:

I know that Marta lived a life where rape and control was how men operated, but this was very hard to read.  Again and again, Marta is raped, beaten, and brutalized.  I didn't like the implied notion that this was happening to due to her astounding beauty.  Rape is about power and control.  It can happen to anyone.  At one point there is another girl who is being raped, as well.  She was probably beautiful at one point, but due to the repeated sexual assaults, she has become sickly and dangerously thin.  But the overall implication was that Marta's beauty was a curse.  It's only when she learns to "use" her beauty to manipulate others, that she gains any power.  What a lesson, huh?

Ending:

The whole book with it's two timelines (her rise to become the consort of the Tsar of Russia, and her rise even further to become the Tsarina) is a build up to when Marta becomes the sole ruler of Russia.  But the book abruptly ends just as Marta gains control and becomes the Tsarina.  With so much buildup, I wanted to see how she would rule, would she become a more benevolent ruler than Peter?  Will there be treachery?  Will others conspire against her?  There were many unanswered questions that I really wanted answers to.  It made for a very unsatisfying ending. 

 Trigger Warning for extreme violence against women

 

Rating: 

 

 

 

Release Date:  November 10, 2020

Author:  Ellen Alpsten

Publisher:  St. Martin's Press

Genre: Historical Fiction

Page Length:  496 Pages

Source:  NetGalley

Format:  E-Book

Recommendation:  Big on historical details, and violence, this book was a mixed bag for me.  If you want to read it,  I would recommend getting this from a library.


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Tuesday, November 10, 2020

ARC Review: The Camelot Betrayal by Kiersten White

 

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

Synopsis (from Goodreads):


EVERYTHING IS AS IT SHOULD BE IN CAMELOT: King Arthur is expanding his kingdom’s influence with Queen Guinevere at his side. Yet every night, dreams of darkness and unknowable power plague her.

Guinevere might have accepted her role, but she still cannot find a place for herself in all of it. The closer she gets to Brangien, pining for her lost love Isolde, Lancelot, fighting to prove her worth as Queen’s knight, and Arthur, everything to everyone and thus never quite enough for Guinevere–the more she realizes how empty she is. She has no sense of who she truly was before she was Guinevere. The more she tries to claim herself as queen, the more she wonders if Mordred was right: she doesn’t belong. She never will.

When a rescue goes awry and results in the death of something precious, a devastated Guinevere returns to Camelot to find the greatest threat yet has arrived. Not in the form of the Dark Queen or an invading army, but in the form of the real Guinevere’s younger sister. Is her deception at an end? And who is she really deceiving–Camelot, or herself?

Review:

I am a sucker for Arthurian based books.  There are so many wonderful takes on the legend, from the movie, Excaliber (1981), to more female-centric takes such as the book, and Netflix series, Cursed by Thomas Wheeler and Frank Miller.  I love them all.  The Camelot Rising series, by Kiersten White, has been a solid addition to this cannon.  The latest book in the series, The Camelot Betrayal, is a solid adventure, with plenty of conflicting duties and relationships to make this an exciting novel.

What I Liked:

Premise:

Even though her memory has been erased by Merlin, Guinevere has learned to appreciate Camelot.  She wants to use her magic to help protect the kingdom from the Dark Queen.  But, she risks being found out and killed for being a witch.  Can she sacrifice so much, even if she isn't the real Guinevere?

Characters:

Lancelot, in this version, is a female knight.  She is such a complex character.  Her life's ambition has been to become a knight and serve Arthur, but when she sees Guinevere, her focus shifts to wanting to become Guinevere's protector.  This take give the author plenty of space to explore female relationships, and the strain of being a trailblazer.  She craves acceptance from the other knights, but also values the privileges of being able to be alone with Guinevere without causing a scandal.  Is this just the strong attachment between two friends, or is this a case of unrequited love? 

Guinevere's conflict in her relationship with Arthur shows just how confusing emotions are for a seventeen-year old.  She loves him, but he isn't ready to have a real marriage.  And can she forget her other strong attraction to Mordred?  This take on the story drifts significantly from the standard Arthurian legend.  It's not Lancelot who tempts Guinevere, but Arthur's nephew (and son of Morgan Le Fey), Mordred, who makes Guinevere's heart go aflutter.  Will she give in to temptation, or can their marriage of convenience turn into something more?

Story:

The story follows much the same thread of any Arthurian story.  While neighboring kingdoms follow the "Might is Right" model, can Camelot survive when it's founded on such lofty ideals of fairness, justice, and shared work and sacrifice?

A new element that the author used in this book was the use of small tales, to illustrate key elements of the story.  I especially loved the Tale of Tristan and Isolde, reminding us that tales we think are well-established, may have other explanations.  How many same-sex relationships were swept under the rug by history?  This novel shows that this diversity was probably there, all along.


Rating: 



 

Release Date:  November 10th, 2020

Author:  Kiersten White

Publisher:  Delacorte Press

Genre:  YA Fantasy

Page Length:  384 Pages

Source:  NetGalley

Format:  E-Book

Recommendation:  A fun, diverse fantasy that will entertain you in these wild times.  But read the first book, The Guinevere Deception, first.



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Saturday, November 7, 2020

My Reading Update: November 7th, 2020

 

Welcome to my reading update!  I'm going to post this on a few blog hops such as Stacking The Shelves run by Team Tynga's Reviews, and Sunday Post, run by Kimberly at Caffeinated Book Reviewer and a new Facebook group I've joined called The Sunday Salon

Seeing what other are reading (and finding a novel that everyone's talking about) is the reason I love looking at blog hop posts.  Please feel free to drop me a line and tell me what you're reading.

 

No matter who you voted for, aren't you glad the Election is over?  I was obsessively checking the news, and social media throughout the week, which wasn't smart of me.  It was exhausting and emotional.  And I did very little reading, as it was too difficult to concentrate.  I really hope, after everything is finally completely finished, that the country can start to heal.  There's more we can unite behind, than divide over.


What I'm Reading Now:

 




What I Finished In The Past Two Weeks:



New Books On My Shelf:




I'm also dabbling in NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month.  I've had one really good day, and then the election got in the way. I hope to get back into it this weekend.  Are you doing NaNoWriMo?  If so, good luck!

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