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Friday, December 12, 2014

One Librarian's Holiday Bookish Gift Guide

So I started this post earlier and had looked up a bunch of lovely items.  And then my post didn't get saved (BLAH!).  All this boils down to: short and sweet.  Here's last year's Holiday Gift Guide, I've included some of the same items, because they are still awesome.

A beautiful version of a childhood favorite. Bonus points for nostalgia-inducing choices! Like this gorgeous The Secret Garden illustrated by Inga Moore (see more of the lovely illustrations here)

 

Or The Annotated Charlotte's Web for a true E.B. White fan:


Bookends:
I'm partial to the globes, but you can't go wrong with dragons.  Right?

Bookish t-shirts:
I saw a teen wearing a shirt that said "Perfect men only exist in books."  I love it!  Plus, with t-shirts, you can either make it yourself with a favorite quote (it's super easy to iron on) or purchase one.  I like these ones:
from Zazzle.com
from OutofPrintClothing.com

Signed Books:
Lots of indie bookstores have stock on hand of books signed by the author.  Changing Hands, my local, has some. A few others you can peruse online Parnassus Books in Nashville or The Strand in NYC, and even Barnes and Noble. Or you can track down your own local indie bookstore and buy a signed edition in person.  Then you get the added bonus of personalized help!  Find your local independent book store.

Tote Bag:
Everyone wants to haul around their books in style.  I love the Anne of Green Gables tote from Litographs - it's got the full text of the book printed on it!  Also, the Little Women tote from Out of Print Clothing is just darn cute.
Book + Movie:
There are loads of options for this kind of gift and it satisfies movie-lovers as well.  You can try The Fault in Our Stars (movie and book) or Divergent (movie and book) for modern hits or go classic with Pride and Prejudice (there are several movies and book versions) or North and South (movie and book).  You can buy movie tickets for those still in the theater like The Hobbit or The Maze Runner.  Or if they prefer plays, you can buy tickets to a play the accompanying book, like Wicked, Les Miserables, or The Wizard of Oz.  There are lots of combinations to choose from and either way, I'm quite sure your bookish friend or family member will love it! 

What gifts are you dying to receive this year?


If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Book Review: Inheritance by Christopher Paolini

Inheritance by Christopher Paolini
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication date: November 2011
Pages: 860
Source: Purchased (and signed!)
For: Fun
Series: Inheritance, Book 4

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/037584631X/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=037584631X&linkCode=as2&tag=rambofalibr-20&linkId=C55KSSQB7GVPBJIJ
Summary (from goodreads): *Spoilers are inevitable for the first three books*
Not so very long ago, Eragon — Shadeslayer, Dragon Rider — was nothing more than a poor farm boy, and his dragon, Saphira, only a blue stone in the forest. Now the fate of an entire civilization rests on their shoulders.

Long months of training and battle have brought victories and hope, but they have also brought heartbreaking loss. And still, the real battle lies ahead: they must confront Galbatorix. When they do, they will have to be strong enough to defeat him. And if they cannot, no one can. There will be no second chance.

The Rider and his dragon have come further than anyone dared to hope. But can they topple the evil king and restore justice to Alagaësia? And if so, at what cost?
Things I Liked:
You've got to give Paolini credit for coming up with a rich and detailed world and a problem that seemed unsolvable.  The bare bones of this story are really good, exciting and fast-paced.  The characters are interesting and flawed and at times simply annoying.  There is so much detail and so many different people and things to keep track of.  I was really happy there was a summary at the beginning to remind us what happened in the previous books (yeah, so I reread them right before I thought I was going to read this...and then more than a year passed before I finally got to it).  I'm pretty satisfied with how it ended as well, though there are some issues I had, of course.

Things I Didn't Like:
Ok, the main thing about these books that bothers me is their length and how they're packed with details that just need to be cut.  It's been said by many many people in much more convincing ways, but he could really have benefited from an editor chopping out much of the fluff.  Yes, there is a lot that he's created in his imagination.  I think it would have been better if he'd put some of those stories and details into some kind of appendices or additional book about the world if he really wanted people to know about it.  Those who are dying for more would have devoured it, but the books would have been tighter and flowed a lot faster.  Also, shorter.  Yeah, the ending left me unsatisfied in a few ways (hello, Aria) and the way the king was defeated (spoiler?  probably not) was a bit out of the blue, but still I could handle it.  And yes, he drew on a lot of source material and I don't really even have much of a problem with that, but it's just the ridiculous length and side stories and jumping from character to character and every single thing must be written out in detail.  Glad I read the end and glad that it's the end.

Read-alikes:
Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien 
The Dragonriders of Pern by Anne McCaffrey

BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
s-factor: !@ 
some here and there

mrg-factor: none

v-factor: ->->->->
Ok, it's a really long book about a really long war and there are a LOT of battles

Overall rating: story: ****, experience **

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Book Review: UnSouled by Neal Shusterman

UnSouled by Neal Shusterman
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication date: October 2013
Pages: 416
Source: e-book from Library
For: Fun
Series: Unwind, Book 3

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1442423706/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=1442423706&linkCode=as2&tag=rambofalibr-20&linkId=REGYJHARL4C2AF2R
Summary (from goodreads): *Spoilers are inevitable for the first two books*
Connor and Lev are on the run after the destruction of the Graveyard, the last safe haven for AWOL Unwinds. But for the first time, they're not just running away from something. This time, they're running toward answers, in the form of a woman Proactive Citizenry has tried to erase from history itself. If they can find her, and learn why the shadowy figures behind unwinding are so afraid of her, they may discover the key to bringing down unwinding forever.

Cam, the rewound boy, is plotting to take down the organization that created him. Because he knows that if he can bring Proactive Citizenry to its knees, it will show Risa how he truly feels about her. And without Risa, Cam is having trouble remembering what it feels like to be human.

With the Juvenile Authority and vindictive parts pirates hunting them, the paths of Connor, Lev, Cam, and Risa will converge explosively;and everyone will be changed.
Things I Liked:
This has signature Shusterman deep, thought-provoking moral dilemmas.  I love that he mixes in with his story (which at times, can seem incredulous), real clips from articles that make you realize just how realistic the story can be.  There are situations and difficulties that the characters face that seem impossible.  The kids are making impossible choices with really horrible situations that they experience.  I'm quite glad I read the short story Unstrung before this one, because I would have been rather confused if I hadn't.  There were a lot of details and some characters that I'd forgotten from the previous books (it's been a long time since I read them), but I didn't think I got too lost.  Compelling story and world-building.  I'm interested to see where the next book leads us.

Things I Didn't Like:
This book was quite difficult for me to read.  Even though I mentioned all the really thoughtful things, it suffered from lack of plot to me.  It seemed like they went nowhere, did nothing, and spent a lot of time worrying and wondering and trying to figure out what they should do.  I mean, this book is like 1000 pages long, so that is a lot of time to spend thinking on page.  It honestly felt like a filler book, which considering it's book 3 seemed rather unfortunate.  I'm still invested in the story, because I'd like to see how Shusterman can possibly end this series and not make the world just fall apart.  But, I didn't much care for this book. 

Read-alikes:
Start with Unwind by Neal Shusterman
Jenna Fox Chronicles by Mary Pearson

BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
s-factor: !@
there are some

mrg-factor: none

v-factor: ->
glimpses here and there, but nothing too graphic

Overall rating: ***

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Monday, November 17, 2014

Book Review: Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai

Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication date: February 2011
Pages: 272
Source: Review copy from Publisher
For: Review (and Newbery)


Summary from goodreads: 
No one would believe me but at times I would choose wartime in Saigon over peacetime in Alabama.

For all the ten years of her life, HÀ has only known Saigon: the thrills of its markets, the joy of its traditions, the warmth of her friends close by . . . and the beauty of her very own papaya tree.

But now the Vietnam War has reached her home. HÀ and her family are forced to flee as Saigon falls, and they board a ship headed toward hope. In America, HÀ discovers the foreign world of Alabama: the coldness of its strangers, the dullness of its food, the strange shape of its landscape . . . and the strength of her very own family.

This is the moving story of one girl's year of change, dreams, grief, and healing as she journeys from one country to another, one life to the next.
Things I Liked:
What a wonderful story!  I loved seeing what it must have been like for a young girl growing up in Vietnam during the war.  I know next to nothing about the time period or the war or Vietnam, so this was a true eye opener for me.  It was so interesting to read about the hardships they endured pretty much everywhere they went, but so sad to see how they were received in America.  And I really liked that it was in verse.  I admit to not reading a lot of books in verse, but this was well written and the format only contributed to the story.  Obvious reasons that this was the National Book Award winner and a Newbery Honor book.

Things I Didn't Like:
Hm, not much.  I wish we could have had a few more details about what her family experienced in America, but it was told from her viewpoint and the limited detail was quite accurate.

Read-alikes:
Can't think of anything...

BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
s-factor: none

mrg-factor: none

v-factor: ->
well, maybe not violence, but some bad stuff does happen to her

Overall rating: *****

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Book Review: War Brides by Helen Bryan

War Brides by Helen Bryan
Publisher: Penguin Books
Publication date: 2007
Pages: 496
Source: Purchased e-book
For: Book Group


Summary from goodreads:
With war threatening to spread from Europe to England, the sleepy village of Crowmarsh Priors settles into a new sort of normal: Evacuees from London are billeted in local homes. Nightly air raids become grimly mundane. The tightening vice of rationing curtails every comfort. Men leave to fight and die. And five women forge an unlikely bond of friendship that will change their lives forever. 

Alice Osbourne, the stolid daughter of the late vicar, is reeling from the news that Richard Fairfax broke their engagement to marry Evangeline Fontaine, an American girl from the Deep South. Evangeline's arrival causes a stir in the village but not the chaos that would ensue if they knew her motives for being there. Scrappy Elsie Pigeon is among the poor of London who see the evacuations as a chance to escape a life of destitution. Another new arrival is Tanni Zayman, a young Jewish girl who fled the horrors of Europe and now waits with her newborn son, certain that the rest of her family is safe and bound to show up any day. And then there's Frances Falconleigh, a madcap, fearless debutante whose father is determined to keep her in the countryside and out of the papers. 

As the war and its relentless hardships intensify around them, the same struggles that threaten to rip apart their lives also bring the five closer together. They draw strength from one another to defeat formidable enemies: hunger, falling bombs, the looming threat of a Nazi invasion, and a traitor in their midst, and find remarkable strength within themselves to help their friends. Theirs is a war-forged loyalty that will outlast the fiercest battle and endure years and distance. When four of the women return to Crowmarsh Priors for a VE Day celebration fifty years later, television cameras focus on the heartwarming story of these old women as war brides of a bygone age, but miss the more newsworthy angle. The women's mission is not to commemorate or remember; they've returned to settle a score and avenge one of their own.
Things I Liked:
There really is no concise way to summarize the book.  I was really immersed in the historical story, the war story of all the very different women's lives.  I found the details and the interactions of each of the women fascinating.  I wanted to laugh and cry with them and all they struggled with.  During that portion of the book, I really enjoyed the story.  It was fantastic historical fiction and obviously well-researched and well-written.  I had some real issues with the end, though, that kind of tainted my enjoyment.

Things I Didn't Like:
As I mentioned, there were a number of things I didn't like.  First, the prologue was very confusing.  I found that starting in the "present day" (1995, I think) left me just not sure what or who or anything.  But most of what I didn't like was the ending.  The very last parts of the historical story were rushed and then abruptly cut off.  It seemed only half-finished, and obviously Bryan wanted to complete the story from the present looking back, but I think it could have been more gently done.  I was a bit angry that we didn't get more of Alice at that point, as things were going in an interesting direction (finally).  And at the end when they are having their reunion I was just plain appalled at what happened.  It seemed really out of character for some of them and completely out of the blue.  I can understand some of what they are feeling, but honestly, it did not seem to fit the rest of the story.  Despite my disappointments with the way things ended for the characters back in the 40s, the ending of the book really made me end up disliking the whole thing. 

Read-alikes:
Well, the historical part reminded me a bit of Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
s-factor: !@
yep

mrg-factor: XX
a bit too descriptive at times

v-factor: ->
some, since there was a war, but not too graphic

Overall rating: **

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Book Review: Into the Still Blue by Veronica Rossi

Into the Still Blue by Veronica Rossi
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication date: January 2014
Pages: 400
Source: e-book from Library
For: Fun!
Series: Under the Never Sky, Book 3

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/14288998-into-the-still-blue
Summary from goodreads: *Spoilers are inevitable for the first two books*
The race to the Still Blue has reached a stalemate. Aria and Perry are determined to find this last safe haven from the Aether storms before Sable and Hess do—and they are just as determined to stay together.

Within the confines of a cave they're using as a makeshift refuge, they struggle to reconcile their people, Dwellers and Outsiders, who are united only in their hatred of their desperate situation. Meanwhile, time is running out to rescue Cinder, who was abducted by Hess and Sable for his unique abilities. Then Roar arrives in a grief-stricken fury, endangering all with his need for revenge.

Out of options, Perry and Aria assemble an unlikely team for an impossible rescue mission. Cinder isn't just the key to unlocking the Still Blue and their only hope for survival--he's also their friend. And in a dying world, the bonds between people are what matter most.
Things I Liked:
Exciting, fast-paced end of a good series.  I like this series a lot, especially because it doesn't seem to fall into the second and third book issues I don't enjoy.  I did think things got a little convenient in the end, and I wasn't happy with how things happened with Cinder, but overall, a good end to the series.  A fascinating world and pretty well fleshed out.  Loved the many different kinds of characters and how they all felt very individual.  Aria and Perry were a little too cheesy at times, but I guess they earned it.  But Roar is the one who fascinates me.

Things I Didn't Like:
It has its flaws, but I really just enjoyed the read.  The end, as I mentioned, sometimes was a bit too convenient, particularly in what happened with Perry, but still.

Read-alikes:
Still reminds me a tiny bit of Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
Dust Lands series by Moira Young
 
BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
s-factor: !@
some

mrg-factor: X
generally implied

v-factor: ->->->
quite a bit

Overall rating: ****

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Monday, November 10, 2014

Book Review: Dangerous by Shannon Hale

Dangerous by Shannon Hale
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Publication date: March 2014
Pages: 416
Source: Purchased
For: Hale!


Summary from goodreads:
Maisie Danger Brown just wanted to get away from home for a bit, see something new. She never intended to fall in love. And she never imagined stumbling into a frightening plot that kills her friends and just might kill her, too. A plot that is already changing life on Earth as we know it. There's no going back. She is the only thing standing between danger and annihilation.
Things I Liked:
This was a departure from Shannon Hale's usual fare.  But I loved it.  I liked our main character Maisie and I watched what happened to her with great interest.  There were many surprises in store, only a few of which I actually guessed before hand.  I thought the story was pretty cool, even if it didn't seem terribly original.  I love superhero stories, so it was kind of destined to be enjoyed by me.  I really liked how not everything worked out to make Maisie happy ever after.  It felt more real.  Good story!

Things I Didn't Like:
I pretty much just liked it and didn't notice any flaws that may have been visible to others.

Read-alikes:
False Memory by Dan Krokos
I'm really drawing a blank, seems like there are a lot!

BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
s-factor: !
I think there may have been one or two

mrg-factor: none

v-factor: ->->
there are some surprisingly violent scenes

Overall rating: ****

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Literary Costume

Better start indoctrinating her while she's young :). Literary costumes are the best! Here's our very hungry caterpillar:

And the two pear(ent)s that she ate through:

Of course, for our church trunk or treat, I figured, why not?

Now I've got to decide what I can dress her as next year...

Monday, October 27, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Halloween Books


It's been ages and ages since I did a Top Ten Tuesday (apparently not since I had a baby...over a year ago). I'm finally getting around to it and I forgot how much I love coming up with lists! This week is Top Ten Books To Read To Get In The Halloween Spirit.  I'm not much of a scary book person, but here are some books that scare my socks off!

For a bit of classic scary:

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
Seriously, one of the creepiest books ever.  Plus, there are a few retellings of it now that can give you an update on the creepiness.

The Murder at the Vicerage by Agatha Christie
Just finished listening to the audio of this one - there's a reason Agatha Christie is the queen of mysteries.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
One of the best horror books ever, in my not-very-well-read-in-horror opinion.  And again, there are tons of retellings and spin-offs to enjoy.

The Woman in White by Wilkie CollinsAn excellent classic book with mystery and suspense round every corner. 

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
This book is so weird and creepy, it will definitely get you in the mood for some frightening good times.  Several retellings of this one too, including The Turning by Francine Prose

For some more modern frights:

The Lynburn Legacy series by Sarah Rees Brennan
I swear with each book, the story gets more and more disturbing.

The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab
This book gave me delicious shivers.

The Forest of Hands and Teeth series by Carrie Ryan
Just looking at these covers gives me the willies!

Coraline by Neil Gaiman
Buttons!  The book made me fear buttons.  That's seriously creepy.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Bod lives in a graveyard, that ought to get you in the mood for some scary fun!

What are your favorite Halloween books? (But not too scary, cause I'm a wimp!)

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Sunday, October 26, 2014

My Bookish Birthday Gift

Just wanted to show this beauty off. Does my husband know me or what? (There might have been some strong hints, but still :)




Love feeding my Tolkien obsession!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Book Review: Lady Thief by A.C. Gaughen

Lady Thief by A.C. Gaughen
Publisher: Walker Children's
Publication date: February 2014
Pages: 320
Source: E-book from NetGalley
For: Review
Series: Scarlet, Book 2
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0802736149/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0802736149&linkCode=as2&tag=rambofalibr-20&linkId=MZ4VNE4IRTXCQGBX
Summary from goodreads: *Spoilers are inevitable for the first book*
Scarlet’s true identity has been revealed, but her future is uncertain. Her forced marriage to Lord Gisbourne threatens Robin and Scarlet’s love, and as the royal court descends upon Nottingham for the appointment of a new Sheriff, the people of Nottingham hope that Prince John will appoint their beloved Robin Hood. But Prince John has different plans for Nottingham that revolve around a fateful secret from Scarlet’s past even she isn’t yet aware of. Forced to participate at court alongside her ruthless husband, Scarlet must bide her time and act the part of a noblewoman—a worthy sacrifice if it means helping Robin’s cause and a chance at a future with the man she loves.
Things I Liked:
I enjoyed seeing how Scarlet manages to still be tough and fight back even when injured and in a very restricted position.  I think she's an interesting and unique person, one with many very apparent flaws that I still seem to like.  The story was a little bit thin and slow, but I wanted to know the outcome all the same.  It seemed very much a battle they were unable to win.  The author manages to make the ending both happy and horrifying at the same time.  Win but still lose.

Things I Didn't Like:
I have to admit, I spent much of this book not being interested at all.  It felt like nothing ever happened, Scarlet was doing and saying the same things over and over.  The ending was quite fast and exciting, but pretty much everything before was dull, slow, and very thin on plot as I mentioned above.  It was a drag to read it, even if I liked hearing about Scarlet and the way she could fight back despite her situation.  I'll probably continue to read the series, but with less enthusiasm.

Read-alikes:
The Outlaws of Sherwood by Robin McKinley (which I still haven't read!  ACH!)

BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
s-factor: !
some

mrg-factor: X
mostly kissing

v-factor: ->->
some rather brutal scenes

Overall rating: ***

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Book Review: The Demon's Surrender by Sarah Rees Brennan

The Demon's Surrender by Sarah Rees Brennan
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: June 2011
Pages: 400
Source: I think I bought it :)
For: Fun
Series: Demon's Lexicon, Book 3

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1416963839/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=1416963839&linkCode=as2&tag=rambofalibr-20&linkId=4IPTAVOCFAW3GRR6
Summary from goodreads: *Spoilers are inevitable for the first two books*
The Goblin Market has always been the center of Sin’s world. But now the Market is at war with the magicians, and Sin’s place is in danger. Thrown out of the Market she loves, Sin is thrown together with brothers Nick and Alan—whom she’s always despised.

Alan has been marked by a magician and is being tortured so that the magicians can get to Nick. As Sin watches Alan struggle to protect the demon brother he loves, she begins to see him in a new light—but she and Mae are locked in a fierce rivalry over who will inherit the leadership of the Goblin Market, and a decisive battle with the Aventurine Circle is looming. Mae’s brother, Jamie, is holed up with the magicians, his loyalties in question. And Nick—well, who knows what a demon might do to save his brother? How far will Nick go to save Alan—and what will it cost them all?
Things I Liked:
Glad I finally finished off this series!  It's been patiently waiting on my shelf forever (apparently 3 years).  I should have reread the first two, but let's be honest, it wasn't going to happen.  I was pretty well able to pick up what I needed, and the main characters had really stuck with me.  Mainly, I couldn't quite recall what happened to Mae and Jamie.  It was a pretty interesting conclusion, not entirely what I expected.  I liked hearing from Sin, though I thought she was a little too removed from some of the action for me to completely understand and enjoy the story.  There were some flaws that I was a little bit confused about and details that didn't quite make sense, but I do love Brennan's writing style and her descriptions, not to mention her very interesting characters. 

Things I Didn't Like:
There were a few things that really bothered me during the story.  I was annoyed about what seemed like a super obvious solution to what happened to Alan that no one even mentioned.  I think if it had been addressed as a what if, I might have been ok, but it never came up.  Maybe just me.  Also, what in the world happened in the end?  I think maybe I missed something, but didn't quite follow what happened with the demons in the end.  It seemed like maybe the author kind of couldn't quite figure out how it would work, so fudged it a little bit.  Again, this might just be me.  I did enjoy it, but thought the ending was a little lacking.

Read-alikes:
It's a pretty unique series, I think

BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
s-factor: !@
a number of them

mrg-factor: XX 
mainly sensuality

v-factor: ->->
ah, those demons (and magicians, and everyone else too)

Overall rating: ***

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Monday, October 13, 2014

Book Review: Evertrue by Brodi Ashton

Evertrue by Brodi Ashton
Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books
Publication date: January 2014
Pages: 368
Source: E-book from Library
For: Fun
Series: Everneath, Book 3
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/006207119X/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=006207119X&linkCode=as2&tag=rambofalibr-20&linkId=D47ZC7UURQPG7R6E
Summary from goodreads: *Spoilers are inevitable for the first two books*
Now that Nikki has rescued Jack, all she wants is to be with him and graduate high school. But Cole tricked Nikki into feeding off him, and she’s begun the process of turning into an Everliving herself... which means she must feed on a Forfeit soon — or die.

Terrified for her survival, Nikki and Jack begin a desperate attempt to reverse the process using any means possible. Even Cole, who they expected to fight them at every turn, has become an unlikely ally — but how long can it last? Nikki needs to feed on Cole to survive, Cole needs Nikki to gain the throne in the Everneath, Jack needs Nikki because she is everything to him — and together, they must travel back to the Underworld to undo Nikki’s fate and make her mortal once more. But Cole isn’t the only one with plans for Nikki: the Queen has not forgotten Nikki’s treachery, and she wants her destroyed for good. Will Nikki be forced to spend eternity in the Underworld, or does she have what it takes to bring down the Everneath once and for all?
Things I Liked:
I enjoyed reading the conclusion to this series.  I like what Ashton has done with the Persephone myth and how she's created her own mythology in the Everneath.  I found this book had plenty of surprises and twists just as the other two did.  I spent much of the second book being annoyed and feeling like it was a time waste, only to have a new perspective at the end.  This one not so much.  I do remember thinking we don't see enough of Nikki's family and what happens with them.  I was intrigued by Cole throughout, though I'm still not sure what to make of him.

Things I Didn't Like:
This one was more interesting than the second book, but I found some of the brooding and worrying made for slow reading.  There were definitely lulls and highlights in the book, so it had some pacing issues for me.  Otherwise, it felt like a nice easy read.

Read-alikes:
Some other Persephone retellings:
Abandon by Meg Cabot
The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter
Radiant Darkness by Emily Whitman

 
BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
s-factor: !
a very few

mrg-factor: X
mostly intense emotional things rather than "scenes"

v-factor: ->
some fighting

Overall rating: *** 

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Book Review: Untold by Sarah Rees Brennan

Untold by Sarah Rees Brennan
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Publication date: September 2013
Pages: 384
Source: E-book from Library
For: Fun!
Series: Lynburn Legacy, Book 2

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0375871047/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0375871047&linkCode=as2&tag=rambofalibr-20&linkId=G7TDQ3MMNW5VUM2J
Summary from goodreads: *Spoilers are inevitable for the first book*
On the surface, Sorry-in-the-Vale is a sleepy English town. But Kami Glass knows the truth. Sorry-in-the-Vale is full of magic. In the old days, the Lynburn family ruled with fear, terrifying the people into submission in order to kill for blood and power. Now the Lynburns are back, and Rob Lynburn is gathering sorcerers so that the town can return to the old ways.

But Rob and his followers aren’t the only sorcerers in town. A decision must be made: pay the blood sacrifice, or fight. For Kami, this means more than just choosing between good and evil. With her link to Jared Lynburn severed, she’s now free to love anyone she chooses. But who should that be?
Things I Liked:
Ah, still love this story.  I love Kami especially and her interactions with other characters.  She is so real and also just so funny.  It makes the book so much more fun to read when you can laugh every few pages despite dire things happening to characters.  The plot itself was pretty good, but secondary for me to the characters.  And the writing is fabulous.  Can't get enough of those descriptions!

Things I Didn't Like:
I didn't care much for the plot or the villains and their villainy.  I felt pretty meh about what was happening to the town.  But, as I said, this is about characters for me.

Read-alikes:
Has a Gothic feel, kind of like Daphne Du Maurier books

BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
s-factor: !@
some, a few f-bombs

mrg-factor: none
though they all have the feels

v-factor: ->->
mostly just terrifying stuff, but some fighting

Overall rating: ****

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Monday, October 6, 2014

Book Review: Vortex by S.J. Kincaid

Vortex by S.J. Kincaid
Publisher: Katherine Tegan Books
Publication date: July 2013
Pages: 400
Source: E-book from Library
For: Fun
Series: Insignia, Book 2

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0062093037/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0062093037&linkCode=as2&tag=rambofalibr-20&linkId=3JREUFFVMAF4IJ2L
Summary from goodreads: *Spoilers are inevitable for the first book*
The impossible was just the beginning. Now in their second year as superhuman government weapons-in-training at the Pentagonal Spire, Tom Raines and his friends are mid-level cadets in the elite combat corps known as the Intrasolar Forces. But as training intensifies and a moment arrives that could make or break his entire career, Tom’s loyalties are again put to the test.

Encouraged to betray his ideals and friendships for the sake of his country, Tom is convinced there must be another way. And the more aware he becomes of the corruption surrounding him, the more determined he becomes to fight it, even if he sabotages his own future in the process.

Drawn into a power struggle more dramatic than he has ever faced before, Tom stays a hyperintelligent step ahead of everyone, like the exceptional gamer he is—or so he believes. But when he learns that he and his friends have unwittingly made the most grievous error imaginable, Tom must find a way to outwit an enemy so nefarious that victory seems hopeless. Will his idealism and bravado cost him everything—and everyone that matters to him?
Things I Liked:
I still love the concept and enjoy seeing what new crazy sci-fi tech will pop up next.  Plus, the story is full of action and adventure and crazy twists and turns.  It's been a while since I read this one too, so the details are vague to me now, but I remember being sufficiently surprised by many things that happened.  It's a big book, but it kept me reading to the end. 

Things I Didn't Like:
I think it kind of suffered from middle book syndrome.  Not a whole lot actually happened, though there was a lot of running around and trying to make decisions.  Menacing things and people appear, but it didn't seem to move forward plot-wise.  Anyway, I'm invested enough to keep reading the next book.

Read-alikes:
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
Epic by Connor Kostick
Heir Apparent by Vivian Vande Velde

BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
s-factor: !
some

mrg-factor: none


v-factor: ->->->
some intense stuff at times

Overall rating: ****

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Monday, September 15, 2014

Book Review: Cress by Marissa Meyer

Cress by Marissa Meyer
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Publication date: February 2014
Pages: 560
Source: Purchased
For: Fun
Series: Lunar Chronicles, Book 3

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0312642970/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0312642970&linkCode=as2&tag=rambofalibr-20&linkId=3YXBECWOP3XQFPSZ
Summary from goodreads: *Spoilers are inevitable for Cinder and Scarlet*
Cinder and Captain Thorne are fugitives on the run, now with Scarlet and Wolf in tow. Together, they’re plotting to overthrow Queen Levana and her army.

Their best hope lies with Cress, a girl imprisoned on a satellite since childhood who's only ever had her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress an excellent hacker. Unfortunately, she’s just received orders from Levana to track down Cinder and her handsome accomplice.

When a daring rescue of Cress goes awry, the group is separated. Cress finally has her freedom, but it comes at a high price. Meanwhile, Queen Levana will let nothing prevent her marriage to Emperor Kai. Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder may not have signed up to save the world, but they may be the only hope the world has.

Things I Liked:
This series just gets better and better.  I can't seem to get the stories and characters out of my head.  I love, love, love the fairy tale aspects Meyer squeezes in.  It seems ridiculous to imagine a sci-fi/space version of Rapunzel, but Meyer does it perfectly.  I loved the other parts of the story just as much.  The fight against Queen Levana is engrossing and I love that all the stories weave together with characters from before, but also new perspectives and characters.  Pitch perfect and exciting enough to keep me wanting the next installment.  Which is apparently going to be the story of Queen Levana (Fairest)!

Things I Didn't Like:
Honestly, I'm not sure I can think of anything.  Except that I want the next book now!

Read-alikes:
Start with Cinder by Marissa Meyer
Some other fairy tale retellings, though this is pretty original

BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
s-factor: !
maybe a handful

mrg-factor: none

v-factor: ->->
some fighting

Overall rating: *****

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Monday, September 8, 2014

Book Review: The Runaway King by Jennifer A. Nielsen

The Runaway King by Jennifer A. Nielsen
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Publication date: March 2013
Pages: 352
Source: Purchased
For: Fun
Series: The Ascendance Trilogy, Book 2

Summary from goodreads: *Spoilers are inevitable for the first book, The False Prince*
Just weeks after Jaron has taken the throne, an assassination attempt forces him into a deadly situation. Rumors of a coming war are winding their way between the castle walls, and Jaron feels the pressure quietly mounting within Carthya. Soon, it becomes clear that deserting the kingdom may be his only hope of saving it. But the further Jaron is forced to run from his identity, the more he wonders if it is possible to go too far. Will he ever be able to return home again? Or will he have to sacrifice his own life in order to save his kingdom?  
Things I Liked:
I'm still a fan of Jeron.  He's a character that is difficult to forget - brash, full of himself, but also full of heart and who wants to do what's best for everyone.  I liked the plot and the interesting places it took us.  I enjoyed the scenes with the pirates and found the conclusion of Jeron's difficulties interesting, if not entirely believable.  Overall, I enjoyed reading this installment, though not as much as the first book. (On a totally unrelated note, I bought this book when I met the author - she was super inspiring to hear speak, I think.  Really wonderful with the younger kids who came!)

Things I Didn't Like:
As I said, this one did not entertain nor surprise me quite as well as that first book did.  I thought some of the characters changes did not seem plausible.  Admittedly, it's been a while since I read this, so I'm not remembering all I felt, but I do remember being a bit disappointed.

Read-alikes:
A bit like Ranger's Apprentice series by John Flanagan

BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
s-factor: none

mrg-factor: none

v-factor: ->
some fighting

Overall rating: ***

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Monday, August 25, 2014

Book Review: The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani

The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication date: May 2013
Pages: 512
Source: Review copy from publisher
For: Review
Series: The School for Good and Evil, Book 1

Summary from goodreads:
The first kidnappings happened two hundred years before. Some years it was two boys taken, some years two girls, sometimes one of each. But if at first the choices seemed random, soon the pattern became clear. One was always beautiful and good, the child every parent wanted as their own. The other was homely and odd, an outcast from birth. An opposing pair, plucked from youth and spirited away.

This year, best friends Sophie and Agatha are about to discover where all the lost children go: the fabled School for Good & Evil, where ordinary boys and girls are trained to be fairy tale heroes and villains. As the most beautiful girl in Gavaldon, Sophie has dreamed of being kidnapped into an enchanted world her whole life. With her pink dresses, glass slippers, and devotion to good deeds, she knows she’ll earn top marks at the School for Good and graduate a storybook princess. Meanwhile Agatha, with her shapeless black frocks, wicked pet cat, and dislike of nearly everyone, seems a natural fit for the School for Evil.

But when the two girls are swept into the Endless Woods, they find their fortunes reversed—Sophie’s dumped in the School for Evil to take Uglification, Death Curses, and Henchmen Training, while Agatha finds herself in the School For Good, thrust amongst handsome princes and fair maidens for classes in Princess Etiquette and Animal Communication.. But what if the mistake is actually the first clue to discovering who Sophie and Agatha really are…?
Things I Liked:
I loved the story idea - a storyteller who steals children and takes them to a school for good or a school for evil.  Then the storybooks show up later.  Also, I enjoyed seeing both Amelia and Sophie show both good and evil sides.  The mix up was quite fun.  I also loved the clever ways that they dealt with the mix up, particularly Sophie's ingenuity.  It was a great fairy tale background kind of story and I really got into it.

Things I Didn't Like:
It was a bit heavy-handed in its message at times (looks do not make someone good or evil).  I felt like that one whacked you over the head a lot.  Also, a bit predictable (or so I thought).  Until the ending, which seemed to come completely out of left field in the last five pages or so and left me totally confused and rather disappointed.  Not sure I'll get around to a sequel any time soon.

Read-alikes:
I haven't read them yet, but it reminds me of Shannon Hale's new series Ever After High

BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
s-factor: none
that I recall

mrg-factor: none
some kissing

v-factor: none
though it was a bit intense in parts

Overall rating: *** (until the ending, which dropped it to **)

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Classic Double Challenge Link-Up for August & September

Sign up for the Classic Double Challenge.

Link up with any reviews/thought posts you've done or will do in August or September (or really any time, it doesn't matter)! I finished Second Star, a retelling of Peter Pan, and I managed to start Peter Pan, but haven't gotten very far.  Anybody out there working on this challenge still?  Hopefully you are still reading retellings and their originals, even if you aren't doing it for my challenge!
 

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Book Review: Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
Publisher: Philomel
Publication date: March 2011
Pages: 352
Source: ARC from publisher
For: Review

Summary from goodreads:
Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they've known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin's orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.

Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously--and at great risk--documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father's prison camp to let him know they are still alive. It is a long and harrowing journey, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives.
Things I Liked:
This was such a unique view of WWII and something I know nothing about.  It really never ceases to amaze me how horrible humanity can be and also how resilient humans can be.  We can do such cruel things to one another and then justify it.  We can also survive in such dreadful circumstances and some can even be so positive about it.  It's at once heart-wrenching and hopeful to read such stories of survival.  I wish I knew more about the Lithuanians who were taken from their homes and sent so far away.  There is so much that people will never know about.

Things I Didn't Like:
I kind of expected this to blow me away, and I really was impressed and loved it, but I found it a bit more simplistic in style and a bit less gripping in story than I expected.  Obviously, this is a fault of my own expectations.  Still very much worth the read.

Read-alikes:
Reminded me of The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom

BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
s-factor: !
a very few

mrg-factor: X
a little bit of implied stuff

v-factor: ->
there are some cruel things that happen

Overall rating: ****

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage
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