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Monday, March 30, 2015

Book Review: Clariel by Garth Nix

Clariel: The Lost Abhorsen by Garth Nix
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication date: October 2014
Pages: 400
Source: e-book from Edelweiss
For: Review
Series: Old Kingdom, Prequel

Summary from goodreads:
Sixteen-year-old Clariel is not adjusting well to her new life in the city of Belisaere, the capital of the Old Kingdom. She misses roaming freely within the forests of Estwael, and she feels trapped within the stone city walls. And in Belisaere she is forced to follow the plans, plots and demands of everyone, from her parents to her maid, to the sinister Guildmaster Kilp. Clariel can see her freedom slipping away. It seems too that the city itself is descending into chaos, as the ancient rules binding Abhorsen, King and Clayr appear to be disintegrating.

With the discovery of a dangerous Free Magic creature loose in the city, Clariel is given the chance both to prove her worth and make her escape. But events spin rapidly out of control. Clariel finds herself more trapped than ever, until help comes from an unlikely source. But the help comes at a terrible cost. Clariel must question the motivations and secret hearts of everyone around her - and it is herself she must question most of all.
Things I Liked:
Finally!  And I've forgotten pretty much everything about Sabriel and crew.  This book made me want to go reread all of those.  But I still fell into the whole world all over again.  I loved seeing the history of the abhorsens.  I loved the characters, though they had kind of an inevitable choices feel to them.  Like they would end up one way and there was no way it could be different.  Fated? I don't know.  It was a sad story.  I adore the magic and the way things are set up, even if I did pretty much forget everything I'd learned about the charter from before.  Such a great series.

Things I Didn't Like:
It was rather long and had a lot of extraneous detail, sometimes.  Also, very slow building.  Still, very well-written and hard to not enjoy :)

Read-alikes:
Sabriel, Lirael, and Abhorsen by Garth nix

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

mrg-factor: none

v-factor: ->->
some

Overall rating: ****

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

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Bloggiesta Wrap Up


Is bloggiesta over already? Man, that was a fast week.  I did pretty well with my goals, though I got kind of burned out by a crazy week from about...Wednesday on.  I did accomplish a few things: I've written and formatted a number of reviews, but really, considering I have 40+ titles waiting to be reviewed...well, I don't think I made much of a dent.  Here's the list of what I did do:

Updated Author and Title review archive pages
Wrote some reviews (not caught up, but pounded out some)
Cleaned up side bars
I also did a little bit from Ms. Bookish's mini-challenge to brainstorm blog post ideas (not the full challenge, but I made a short list)

I seriously can't believe I didn't make it to a single twitter chat! I really wanted to, but every time I planned to, I got busy with my daughter (she's rather a handful right now, which makes it hard to tweet and watch her :)
The new spokesperson for Ally Carter's books :)
Anyway, I loved having a whole week to work on it, because there were some days where I honestly didn't have the energy or time to sit down and work on it.  But there were still days where I could.  Nice! How did your bloggiesta go?

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

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Book Review: The Hero's Guide to Being an Outlaw by Christopher Healy

The Hero's Guide to Being an Outlaw by Christopher Healy
Publisher: Walden Pond Press
Publication date: April 2014
Pages: 528
Source: Won from publisher!
For: Fun!
Series: League of Princes, Book 3

Summary from goodreads:
Prince Liam. Prince Frederic. Prince Duncan. Prince Gustav. You think you know those guys pretty well by now, don't you? Well, think again. Posters plastered across the thirteen kingdoms are saying that Briar Rose has been murdered—and the four Princes Charming are the prime suspects. Now they're on the run in a desperate attempt to clear their names. Along the way, however, they discover that Briar's murder is just one part of a nefarious plot to take control of all thirteen kingdoms—a plot that will lead to the doorstep of an eerily familiar fortress for a final showdown with an eerily familiar enemy.
Things I Liked:
Ah, the League of Princes is at it again. Only on the wrong side of the law. And I just still love all the hilarious mix-ups and shenanigans that go on.  Healy is a hilarious writer and I will read anything that he puts out.  It's so relaxing to just read something light, frivolous, and fun.  Also, happy endings are not exactly as you'd expect!

Things I Didn't Like:
Nothing! Need more. A book of tales about Sir Bertram the Dainty perhaps?

Read-alikes:
Reminds me of Once Upon a Marigold by Jean Ferris
Maybe a bit like A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz

BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
s-factor: none

mrg-factor: none

v-factor: none

Overall rating: *****

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

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Book Review: The Vault of Dreamers by Caragh M. O'Brien

The Vault of Dreamers by Caragh M. O'Brien
Publisher: Roaring Press Books
Publication date: September 2014
Pages: 432
Source: e-book from library
For: Fun
Series: Vault of Dreamers, Book 1

Summary from goodreads:
The Forge School is the most prestigious arts school in the country. The secret to its success:  every moment of the students' lives is televised as part of the insanely popular Forge Show, and the students' schedule includes twelve hours of induced sleep meant to enhance creativity. But when first year student Rosie Sinclair skips her sleeping pill, she discovers there is something off about Forge. In fact, she suspects that there are sinister things going on deep below the reaches of the cameras in the school. What's worse is, she starts to notice that the edges of her consciousness do not feel quite right. And soon, she unearths the ghastly secret that the Forge School is hiding—and what it truly means to dream there.
Things I Liked:
Intersting premise - I thought the idea of a reality TV show about students was quite believable - (so many reality TV shows on now).  I also liked the sinister feeling of how it progressed and how Rosie wondered about things and then found out about them.  It made a slow steady change from reality TV drama to disturbing psychological drama.  Also, weirdest. Ending. Ever.

Things I Didn't Like:
Seriously, the ending. I was wondering how on earth O'Brien was going to wrap the story up, because it was really interesting.  But the ending was just so out there.  It seemed really strange and almost disconnected to the whole previous story.  I'm baffled.  I guess there will probably be sequels? I thought it would be better as a stand alone, if a weirdly ending one. Not sure how interested in sequels I am right now.

Read-alikes:
Uh...maybe a touch like Variant by Robison Wells

BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
s-factor: !
to be honest, I don't remember there being a lot, but probably some :)

mrg-factor: none

v-factor: ->
more creepy than gory

Overall rating: ** or ***

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

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Book Review: Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White

Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication date: September 2014
Pages: 288
Source: e-book from Edelweiss
For: Review

Summary from goodreads:
Jessamin has been an outcast since she moved from her island home of Melei to the dreary country of Albion. Everything changes when she meets Finn, a gorgeous, enigmatic young lord who introduces her to the secret world of Albion’s nobility, a world that has everything Jessamin doesn’t—power, money, status…and magic. But Finn has secrets of his own, dangerous secrets that the vicious Lord Downpike will do anything to possess. Unless Jessamin, armed only with her wits and her determination, can stop him.
Things I Liked:
This book was really entertaining.  I LOVED our heroine, Jessamin.  I loved how she was different in her world, from somewhere outside, but White kept her from being stereotypically an outsider.  She reminded me of Nimira from Magic Under Glass, except Jessamin was smarter, stronger, and so different from what you expect.  I really liked the magic in the story and I loved that it's a stand alone.  The love story was good too, if a bit hard to believe. Mostly, I found the magic system and story to be quite fascinating and the characters exhibited my favorite Kiersten White banter.  Enjoyed it all around!

Things I Didn't Like:
Hm, not sure I can remember.  I just quite liked it.

Read-alikes:
Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore

BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
s-factor: !
some

mrg-factor: none
just some kissing

v-factor: ->
a little bit

Overall rating: ****

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

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Bloggiesta!


Oh how I've missed participating in Bloggiesta! It's been three years?!?  How time flies when you aren't updating your blog :).  If you've no idea what Bloggiesta is, click on that link and find out!  Anyway, I'm so far behind in blog upkeep that a whole week wouldn't be sufficient even if I did have a week's worth of time.  But, maybe with some encouragement and participation in the blogging world again, I'll get some stuff done.  With that long and exceedingly drawn-out intro, here's my list:

Update Author and Title pages (sadly neglected)
Catch up on writing reviews (yep, still doing last year's books)
Maybe give my blog header some updating? (Meh, probably not - I'm not feeling inspired)
Clean up side bars (wow, some of that stuff is seriously outdated) As good as it will get :)

Write or brainstorm some non-review type posts

Well, it's not a long list, but I assure you there is enough work in there.  Participating in Bloggiesta? What are you excited to work on this week?

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

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Book Review: The Strange Gift of Gwendolyn Golden by Philippa Dowding

A Karissa Review
The Strange Gift of Gwendolyn Golden by Philippa Dowding
Publisher: Dundurn
Publication date: January 2014
Pages: 200

Summary (from goodreads):
This morning, I woke up on the ceiling ... So begins the strange story of Gwendolyn Golden. One perfectly ordinary day for no apparent reason, she wakes up floating around her room like one of her little brother’s Batman balloons. Puberty is weird enough. Everyone already thinks she’s an oddball with anger issues because her father vanished in a mysterious storm one night when she was six. Then there are the mean, false rumours people are spreading about her at school. On top of all that, now she’s a flying freak.
How can she tell her best friend or her mother? How can she live her life? After Gwendolyn almost meets disaster flying too high and too fast one night, help arrives from the most unexpected place. And stranger still? She’s not alone.
Things I Liked:
The idea of this book is a cool one. I like that it keeps to reality – what it’s like to fly in a world of non-flyers. I liked the main character, Gwennie – she’s a solid character. I loved her best friend Jez, and her flying mentor, Mrs. Forest.

Things I Didn't Like:
I didn’t like the overall incomplete feel of the book. Towards the end, you realize the author is setting up a second book for the character, but I was very frustrated, because she didn’t do it well. It’s funny, in the book, Gwennie mentions reading the Harry Potter books, and I have to make an unfortunate comparison to them. One of the reasons Harry Potter was so successful was because of the completeness of each book. You are fully immersed in that world, and each book can stand alone. It has a solid beginning, middle, and end. You want more books because of the fullness of the world Rowling created, not because she leaves you hanging at the end of each one.  This book is not like that. It almost feels like the author should have spent more time on it. The first 2/3 of the book is very reality based, and then kind of suddenly in the last 1/3 it veers off into more fantasy-ish.

Read-alikes:
Abby Carnelia’s One and Only Power by David Pogue (a much more satisfying and fun read)
Things Not Seen by Andrew Clements (A really solid, powerful book)
(Both of these would get an Overall Rating of: ****)

BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
s-factor: none

mrg-factor: none

v-factor: none

Overall rating: **

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

Monday, March 9, 2015

Top Ten Books for Readers Who Like Retellings


It's been ages since I've done a Top Ten Tuesday and I've really missed doing the lists.  It's no secret I'm a fan of retellings, so I thought I'd come up with a top ten.  Then, I realized I had too many faves, so I decided to cheat and separate fairy tale retellings from classic retellings.

Top Ten Twelve Fairy Tale Retellings:
League of Princes series by Christopher Healy (multiple tales)
Lunar Chronicles series by Marissa Meyer (multiple tales)
Entwined by Heather Dixon (12 Dancing Princesses)
Woodcutter Sisters series by Alethea Kontis (multiple tales)
Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier (12 Dancing Princesses, Frog Prince)
Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge (Beauty and the Beast)
A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce (Rumplestiltskin)
Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George (East of the Sun)
Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier (Six Swans)
Thornspell by Helen Lowe (Sleeping Beauty)
Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale (Maid Maleen)
The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale (The Goose Girl)
  
Top Ten Classic Retellings:
The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein series by Kenneth Oppel (Frankenstein)
For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund (Persuasion)
Dodger by Terry Pratchett (Oliver Twist)
The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King (Sherlock)
Scarlet by A.C. Gaughan (Robin Hood)
The Dark is Rising sequence by Susan Cooper (King Arthur)
The Once and Future King by T.H. White (King Arthur)
Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis (Cupid and Psyche)
Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan (Greek mythology)
The Actual & Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher by Jessica Lawson (Tom Sawyer)

What are your favorite retellings?
 
If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Series Review: The Selection Series by Kiera Cass

The Selection, The Elite, and The One by Kiera Cass
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication dates: 2012-2014
Source: Library
For: Book Group
Series: The Selection, Books 1-3

Summary (from yours truly, for a change):
In a world where castes rule the choices of career and love for many people, America Singer gets the chance of a lifetime - to vie against 34 other girls for the hand of Prince Maxon.  If only she had wanted that chance.  Already in love, she isn't interested in winning his hand.  Or is she?

Things I Liked:
The whole series is nice, easy to read, fluffy and entertaining.  It's not the kind of story that grips you, exactly, but I felt like I needed to read the series to the bitter end. (But not really the next books...).  I have to admit, it is somewhat fascinating reading about bachelor-style romances.  The very idea of them is so stupid, but it's dreadfully entertaining to watch them cat fight. 

Things I Didn't Like:
The last two books (in the original trilogy, don't get me started on more sequels) really annoyed me. I wanted to smack America over and over.  She just kept saying she needed to decide and then saying she would worry about it later.  No wonder you ended up with problems, girl.  You can't put that kind of stuff off forever.  Seriously, she was super naive and the books were all super predictable.  I almost had the entire ending figured out by the end of the first book.  And I really, really hated the love triangle disaster.  That was prolonged until I wanted to beat my head against a wall.  So why did I keep reading?  Entertainment. 

Read-alikes:
Eh, I don't know.

BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
s-factor: !
there might have been a few

mrg-factor: X
mostly snuggling and making out and such

v-factor: ->
some scary stuff and people die but very mildly described

Overall rating: ** or ***

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

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Book Review: The Opal Deception by Eoin Colfer

The Opal Deception by Eoin Colfer
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Publication date: April 2005
Pages: 352
Source: Library
For: Fun
Series: Artemis Fowl, Book 4
Summary from goodreads:
The evil pixie Opal Koboi has spent the last year in a self-induced coma, plotting her revenge on all those who foiled her attempt to destroy the LEPrecon fairy police. And Artemis Fowl is at the top of her list.

After his last run-in with the fairies, Artemis had his mind wiped of his memories of the world belowground. But they have not forgotten about him. Once again, he must stop the human and fairy worlds from colliding—only this time, Artemis faces an enemy who may have finally outsmarted him.
Things I Liked:
I really like the world Colfer has created.  The hilarious tongue-in-cheek and yet taking-themselves-seriously characters and just the whole idea of an underground world of fairies is so fantastic! And Mulch Diggums!  This is fabulous, witty, fun fantasy at its best.  I love the wicked plotter Opal and I love how Artemis is still an evil mastermind, but might be growing a conscience.

Things I Didn't Like:
Hm, not sure.  I just enjoyed the ride.

Read-alikes:
It's a bit of a young, silly Harry Potter read to me

BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
s-factor: none

mrg-factor: none

v-factor: none

Overall rating: ****

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

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Book Review: Chasing the Prophecy by Brandon Mull

Chasing the Prophecy by Brandon Mull
Publisher: Aladdin
Publication date: March 2013
Pages: 512
Source: Library
For: Fun
Series: Beyonders, Book 3
Summary from goodreads: *Spoilers are inevitable for the first two books*

Jason and Rachel were not born in Lyrian. They did not grow up in Lyrian. But after all of the battles and losses, the triumphs and adventures, and most of all, the friendships forged in this fantastical world, Lyrian has become home to them in a way they never could have imagined.

And so, armed now with the prophecy of a dying oracle, they have gone on their separate quests—each surrounded by brave and powerful allies—knowing that the chance for success is slim. But Jason and Rachel are ready at last to become the heroes Lyrian needs, no matter the cost.
Things I Liked:
Brandon Mull has some seriously interesting things going on in his imagination.  This series pulls out all the stops and throws it all out there.  I did like how all the characters had to work together and do everything they could and more to even have a hope of succeeding.  It was well-plotted and allowed us to see what each person's contribution should be.  I especially liked how it focused a lot on how Rachel and others had serious doubts about the success of their mission and how this was dealt with.  Each person was unique in their responses to the pressure and stress.  Some really interesting fantasy stuff too.  The ending was pretty good as well, if a little bittersweet.

Things I Didn't Like:
I had a hard time feeling motivated to read this one.  It felt really long and got bogged down a lot by repetitive character feelings and actions.  I struggled to keep going, even with the snippets of action and adventure.  There was just too much stuff that distracted from the story, I think.  Still, a satisfying conclusion and a series for fans of complicated and a little bit crazy fantasies.

Read-alikes:
Reminds me of Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
Also like the Fablehaven series by Brandon Mull

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

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Book Review: Calling Invisible Women by Jeanne Ray

A Karissa Review
Calling Invisible Women by Jeanne Ray
Publisher: Crown
Publication date: May 2012
Pages: 256


Summary from goodreads:
A mom in her early fifties, Clover knows she no longer turns heads the way she used to, and she's only really missed when dinner isn't on the table on time. Then Clover wakes up one morning to discover she's invisible--truly invisible. She panics even more when her family doesn't notice a thing. Her best friend immediately observes the change, which relieves Clover immensely--she's not losing her mind after all! But she is crushed by the realization that neither her husband nor her children ever truly look at her. She was invisible even before she knew it. Clover discovers that there are others like her, women of a certain age who seem to have disappeared. As she uses her invisibility to get to know her family and her town better, Clover leads the way in helping invisible women become recognized and appreciated no matter what their role.

What I Liked:
I loved, loved, loved this book. I loved the premise, and the way it deals with it on a literal and figurative level. For those of us of a “certain age,” well, we can really relate. At my library, I recommend this book to any of my patrons willing to admit they are over 40. Not only is the story clever and well written, there’s some fun humor in here. Here’s a teaser – She finds a meeting of other “affected” women, but they meet in empty hotel conference rooms. To make the room seem “empty” none of the invisible women wear clothes. (They are invisible, their clothes aren’t.) Her first encounter with this situation prompts my very favorite line of the book. I only sample adult fiction through Reader’s Digest Condensed books, because I really hate the language, sex, and blecgh you find in them. And RD takes all that out. So I read this book through RD first, and loved it so much, I went to a book store and rifled through the actual book to see if it was okay to recommend to others. And it is! It’s totally clean! (Except, maybe, for mental images of an invisible naked 50 year old woman...)

What I Didn’t Like:
The ending seemed plausible, but maybe too quickly wrapped up….

BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
s-factor: none

mrg-factor: none

v-factor: none

Overall rating: ****

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

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Second Star by Alyssa B. Sheinmel AND Peter and Wendy by J.M. Barrie

Peter and Wendy by J.M. Barrie
Publisher: Gutenberg Project
Publication date: originally published in 1911
Pages: 162
Source: Free e-book
For: Classic Double Challenge

Second Star by Alyssa B. Scheinmel
Publisher: Macmillan
Publication date: May 2014
Pages: 256
Source: e-book from NetGalley
For: Classic Double Challenge

Summary of Peter and Wendy (PW) from amazon:
Peter Pan is a character created by Scottish novelist and playwright J. M. Barrie. A mischievous boy who can fly and never grows up, Peter Pan spends his never-ending childhood adventuring on the small island of Neverland as the leader of his gang, the Lost Boys, interacting with mermaids, Native Americans, fairies, pirates, and occasionally ordinary children from the world outside of Neverland.
Summary of Second Star (SS) from goodreads:
A twisty story about love, loss, and lies, this contemporary oceanside adventure is tinged with a touch of dark magic as it follows seventeen-year-old Wendy Darling on a search for her missing surfer brothers. Wendy’s journey leads her to a mysterious hidden cove inhabited by a tribe of young renegade surfers, most of them runaways like her brothers. Wendy is instantly drawn to the cove’s charismatic leader, Pete, but her search also points her toward Pete's nemesis, the drug-dealing Jas. Enigmatic, dangerous, and handsome, Jas pulls Wendy in even as she's falling hard for Pete. A radical reinvention of a classic, Second Star is an irresistible summer romance about two young men who have yet to grow up--and the troubled beauty trapped between them.
Things I Liked about PW:
The story is so much more quirky than the movies have made it out to be.  More humor for the adults who read it than fun for the kids who enjoy it, I think.  Still, it's whimsical and fun and has some interesting thoughts about kids and their nature. The basic story is still there, though, with some added other adventures most movies have left out.
 
Things I Liked about SS:
I was really enjoying this book, like loving the twist on Peter Pan that it played - a surfing story complete with a Neverland beach of perfect waves.  I even enjoyed the James Hook character and his evil, but not too evil feel.  I was sucked into the story.  But I kind of found the ending disappointing.

Things I Didn't Like about PW:
Sometimes it was just trying too hard to be a book about adults talking about kids who never grow up.  I think this was more of my own expectations of what Peter Pan's story is really about.  Peter isn't really all that likeable, is he?
 
Things I Didn't Like about SS:
As I mentioned, the ending kind of threw me off.  I liked the concept, got sucked into the drama and the update and really liked seeing the elements of Peter Pan that made it in.  But, found the ending wasn't as satisfying. Not that I didn't think it could end any other way, necessarily, but I just thought it was weird (trying not to be spoilery here).  Also, Wendy kind of bugged me throughout.

Read-alikes:
Lots of Peter Pan spin offs out there, tho this one seems a bit different than others
  
BOOK CONTENT RATINGS for PW:
s-factor: none

mrg-factor: none

v-factor: none

Overall rating: ****

BOOK CONTENT RATINGS for SS:
s-factor: !@
some

mrg-factor: X
mostly just kind of implied stuff

v-factor: ->
it does get a bit intense in sections

Overall rating: ****

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

Friday, January 30, 2015

Book Review: The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan

The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Publication date: October 2011
Pages: 544
Source: Library
For: Fun
Series: Heroes of Olympus, Book 2

Summary from goodreads: *Spoilers are inevitable for the first book*
Seven half-bloods shall answer the call,
To storm or fire the world must fall.
An oath to keep with a final breath,
And foes bear arms to the Doors of Death.


Percy is confused. When he awoke from his long sleep, he didn't know much more than his name. His brain fuzz is lingering, even after the wolf Lupa told him he is a demigod and trained him to fight with the pen/sword in his pocket. Somehow Percy manages to make it to a camp for half-bloods, despite the fact that he has to keep killing monsters along the way. But the camp doesn't ring any bells with him. The only thing he can recall from his past is another name: Annabeth

Hazel is supposed to be dead. When she lived before, she didn't do a very good job of it. Sure, she was an obedient daughter, even when her mother was possessed by greed. But that was the problem — when the Voice took over her mother and commanded Hazel to use her "gift" for an evil purpose, Hazel couldn't say no. Now because of her mistake, the future of the world is at risk. Hazel wished she could ride away from it all on the stallion that appears in her dreams.

Frank is a klutz. His grandmother says he is descended from heroes and can be anything he wants to be, but he doesn't see it. He doesn't even know who his father is. He keeps hoping Apollo will claim him, because the only thing he is good at is archery — although not good enough to win camp war games. His bulky physique makes him feel like an ox, especially infront of Hazel, his closest friend at camp. He trusts her completely — enough to share the secret he holds close to his heart.

Beginning at the "other" camp for half-bloods and extending as far as the land beyond the gods, this breathtaking second installment of the Heroes of Olympus series introduces new demigods, revives fearsome monsters, and features other remarkable creatures, all destined to play a part in the Prophesy of Seven.
Things I Liked:
I started this once almost a year ago and had to return it unfinished.  Finally got around to checking it out again and finishing it.  I didn't start reading it all over again though, because I remembered most of the scenes that were important.  Riordan certainly has a way of creating very memorable scenes - with unusual things like the crazy burrito guy and all the birds circling him.  I love the new characters - Hazel and Frank.  There's a lot I don't remember from the previous book, so I'm right there with ya, Percy.  Still, lots of good stuff going on and I am amazed at how fresh Riordan's stories still are, even with all he's already written.

Things I Didn't Like:
Can't remember if there were things that bugged me or not.  Probably, but not strongly enough to recall now... :)

Read-alikes:
Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Kane Chronicles series by Rick Riordan

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

mrg-factor: none

v-factor: ->->
lots of battles

Overall rating: ****

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

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

2014 by the Numbers

Baby loves reading too!
And here's a bare bones record of stats for the year 2014.  Nothing too exciting or different this year, unfortunately, except my reading's gone down since having a baby.  Surprise, surprise :).  Then again, I didn't count the billion board books I read or the 50 or so picture books, so there's that. 

Books read in 2014: 74
(as a comparison, I read 130 in 2012, before the baby; 84 in 2013, baby born in June)
DNFs: 5

Formats: 
e-books: 30 (pretty big increase, actually)
audiobooks: 3
print books: 41

Source:
For review, both e-books and ARCs: 16
From my collection (not for review): 20 (yeah!)
Borrowed: 2
From the library (including e-books): 36

Reasons: (do we really need them?)
Rereads: 4 (fyi: Lord of the Rings is being counted as three books, since that's how I read them)
Book Club: 7
Read-along: 3 (delightful LOTR read-along)

Age groups/genres:
MG: 14
historical fiction: 2
fantasy: 9
realistic fiction: 1
classic: 1 (Peter and Wendy)
nonfiction: 1

YA: 46
historical fiction: 3
short stories: 9 (all sci-fi/dystopian)
sci-fi (including dystopian): 12 (+9 short stories)
fantasy: 17 (including 4 historical fantasy...)
realistic fiction: 4 (though, I'm not sure what to call Second Star - magical realism?)
classic: 1 (Tom Sawyer)

Adult: 14
historical fiction: 3
fantasy: 4
realistic fiction: 1 
mystery(!): 4 (I don't even like mystery, in general)
nonfiction: 2

Authors:
Female: 49 (dominated the YA category)
Male: 23 (dominated the MG category)
Male/Male: 1
Male/Female: 1

And despite my enthusiasm for stats, I have no desire to make charts or otherwise analyze my numbers.  I did, however, make a goal to read 80 books this year, a jump of 6 from last year.  Totally doable.  Especially if I count picture books :)

Monday, January 26, 2015

Book Review: Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater
Publisher: Scholastic
Publication date: September 2013
Pages: 416
Source: e-book from Library
For: Fun
Series: Raven Cycle, Book 2

Summary from goodreads: *Spoilers are inevitable for the first book*
Now that the ley lines around Cabeswater have been woken, nothing for Ronan, Gansey, Blue, and Adam will be the same.

Ronan, for one, is falling more and more deeply into his dreams, and his dreams are intruding more and more into waking life.

Meanwhile, some very sinister people are looking for some of the same pieces of the Cabeswater puzzle that Gansey is after...
Things I Liked:
This is kind of a strange and unique story.  I love how fascinating it is to see the different characters, all of whom are very detailed and real.  They have interesting interactions and they make decisions that seem in character and they deal with the real consequences.  But also, there's magic and it is woven very neatly into the real world.  Very well written and compelling in its ideas.  I'll read more.

Things I Didn't Like:
I have to admit, I didn't much care for anyone in the story this time.  I do like Gansey more than I did before and I felt real compassion for Adam and all he dealt with.  I still hate Ronan and didn't much care for Blue either.  I felt like there was a lot of really vague stuff going on in this one.  Nothing seemed clear or made much sense.  A lot of weird things happened and I kept waiting for Stiefvater to explain, but I was left pretty much wanting.  I don't know if it's my distracted reading, but I thought it was not clear enough for me.  I don't quite grasp how the magic works in her world.  I want to, though.  Also, there was just a touch too much f-bomb dropping for my taste.

Read-alikes:
It reminded me of Stiefvater's Lament and Ballad
It reads kind of like an Arthurian legend

BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
s-factor: !@#$
plenty of f-bombs throughout

mrg-factor: none

v-factor: ->->
quite a lot of violence, but not really on page, it just felt very violent

Overall rating: *** or ****

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

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Book Review: Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor

Dreams of Gods & Monsters by Laini Taylor
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication date: April 2014
Pages: 624
Source: Purchased
For: Fun
Series: Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Book 3

Summary from goodreads: *Spoilers are inevitable for the first two books*
By way of a staggering deception, Karou has taken control of the chimaera rebellion and is intent on steering its course away from dead-end vengeance. The future rests on her, if there can even be a future for the chimaera in war-ravaged Eretz.

Common enemy, common cause.

When Jael's brutal seraph army trespasses into the human world, the unthinkable becomes essential, and Karou and Akiva must ally their enemy armies against the threat. It is a twisted version of their long-ago dream, and they begin to hope that it might forge a way forward for their people.

And, perhaps, for themselves. Toward a new way of living, and maybe even love.

But there are bigger threats than Jael in the offing. A vicious queen is hunting Akiva, and, in the skies of Eretz ... something is happening. Massive stains are spreading like bruises from horizon to horizon; the great winged stormhunters are gathering as if summoned, ceaselessly circling, and a deep sense of wrong pervades the world.

What power can bruise the sky?

From the streets of Rome to the caves of the Kirin and beyond, humans, chimaera and seraphim will fight, strive, love, and die in an epic theater that transcends good and evil, right and wrong, friend and enemy.

At the very barriers of space and time, what do gods and monsters dream of? And does anything else matter?
Things I Liked:
I really like the world Laini has set up here.  She's created the mythology and the complexities to have our world coexist with her imaginary world.  She has such a unique way of writing that you would recognize something from her, even if you didn't know it was her (I think).  I love how strange and wonderful at the same time her creations are.  At once disturbing in its images and also beautiful.  Particularly the way she describes the beasts.  I was happy with the way things ended and wondered about more of what would happen.  It seems like she left it open to write more if she wanted to.  This series seems like from the premise it would be familiar, but it is much more interesting and unique than its idea.  Wonderful and rich and vivid.

Things I Didn't Like:
This story had a lot going on and I think it suffered a bit because of that.  There was a lot of jumping around and perspective changes that threw me sometimes.  I also thought the very ending felt like it didn't need to be included.  The denouement was loooong and I almost just wanted the book to end after the end of the main conflict.  It was kind of nice to see everything after, but I think I could have done without it all.  Also, I think some of the details about magic and how that stuff worked, while gorgeously described, was super vague and left me wanting.  Basically, I didn't quite understand everything she was writing about and thought it was sketchy on the details.  Still, enjoyed the final installment and will continue to devour anything Taylor puts out.

Read-alikes:
Wicked Lovely series by Melissa Marr
Lips Touch: Three Times by Laini Taylor
Demon's Lexicon series by Sarah Rees Brennan

BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
s-factor: !@
some

mrg-factor: X
implied, not on page

v-factor: ->->->
some gory details, it's got battles for sure

Overall rating: ****

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

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Book Review: United We Spy by Ally Carter

United We Spy by Ally Carter
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Publication date: September 2013
Pages: 296
Series: Gallagher Girls, Book 6

Summary from goodreads:
Cammie Morgan has lost her father and her memory, but in the heart-pounding conclusion to the best-selling Gallagher Girls series, she finds her greatest mission yet. Cammie and her friends finally know why the terrorist organization called the Circle of Cavan has been hunting her. Now the spy girls and Zach must track down the Circle’s elite members to stop them before they implement a master plan that will change Cammie—and her country—forever.
Things I Liked:
Lots of action, intrigue, twists and turns in this one. It doesn’t disappoint as a conclusion to the series. I also loved that even though the situations turned very serious and life-and-death throughout the run of this series, this is still one of the cleanest series there is. My ratings for the swearing and the mrg factor are very minor. The swearing is literally only a few. “Crap!” or D---!” or “H---!” Soooo very mild for finicky readers like me. And I gave it 1 mrg-factor, just because Cammie and Zack’s relationship matures – but again, Carter keeps it squeaky clean.

Things I Didn't Like:
That this is the end of the series! The characters were way too fun and interesting for it to end. But, I’m one of those who still wishes the Harry Potter series didn’t end….

Read-alikes:
The Heist Society Series by Ally Carter
Also Known As by Robin Benway

BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
s-factor: !

mrg-factor: X

v-factor: ->->->

Overall rating: ****
A Karissa Review

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

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Book Review: Out of Sight, Out of Time by Ally Carter

Out of Sight, Out of Time by Ally Carter
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Publication date: 2012
Pages: 320
Series: Gallagher Girls, Book 5

Summary from goodreads:
The last thing Cammie Morgan remembers is leaving the Gallagher Academy to protect her friends and family from the Circle of Cavan-an ancient terrorist organization that has been hunting her for over a year. But when Cammie wakes up in an alpine convent and discovers that months have passed, she must face the fact that her memory is now a black hole. The only traces left of Cammie's summer vacation are the bruises on her body and the dirt under her nails, and all she wants is to go home. Once she returns to school, however, Cammie realizes that even the Gallagher Academy now holds more questions than answers. Cammie, her friends, and mysterious spy-guy Zach must face their most difficult challenge yet as they travel to the other side of the world, hoping to piece together the clues that Cammie left behind. It's a race against time. The Circle is hot on their trail and willing stop at nothing to prevent Cammie from remembering what she did last summer.
Things I Liked:
As I mentioned in the reviews of the previous books, the subject and writing mature in this series – very similar to how the Harry Potter series evolved from its first book to the very deep and serious last book. But again, Carter balances the very scary events of Cammie’s past with the wit and wisdom of her friends.

Things I Didn't Like:
I read this one before Carter had written her last book of the series – so I had a long wait for book #6. And this one ends, leaving you hanging, and the 6th book picks up right where it left off – no easing into it. So you need to read this one and the next one back to back, or you’ll be stuck like me, having to go back and remind myself where all the characters were, because I had to wait a year between the books. At least they are all written now, and you don’t have that frustration!

Read-alikes:
The Heist Society Series by Ally Carter
Also Known As by Robin Benway

BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
s-factor: !

mrg-factor: X

v-factor: ->->->

Overall rating: ****
A Karissa Review

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