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Sunday, November 13, 2016

Our Favorite Christmas Picture Books

Just last year, I decided we'd read a different Christmas picture book every day the entire month of December with our daughter. Ideally I would wrap them all up to open. After about 5 days of trying to wrap them on the fly, I just pulled a new one from the stash and we read it. I've been trying to discover new and fun Christmas picture books to read. Here are a few that we've read and loved. I'd love to have your suggestions!


Snowmen at Christmas and Snowmen at Night by Caralyn Buehner and Mark Buehner
I love the secret and silly nature of these books! What do snowmen do when the rest of us are sleeping? Go sledding, play snow games, eat frozen Christmas treats? Find out in these fun books. And there are more snowmen books to celebrate the whole year!


The 12 Days of Christmas by Jane Cabrera
I love Cabrera's books based on folk songs. This one has her signature sweet animal illustrations and a fun variation on this sometimes lovely, sometimes annoying Christmas song.


Here Comes Santa Cat by Deborah Underwood and Claudia Rueda
I love this cat! He was on the naughty list and now is desperate to have a chance at a present. The holiday books featuring this cheeky cat are some of my favorites!


Olivia Helps with Christmas by Ian Falconer
Olivia is always fun to read. I love how parents might enjoy the books more than kids. I certainly got a kick out of her Christmas antics, my daughter is a touch too young to get all the humor. Makes me miss being a kid at Christmas time.


The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
This is one I grew up reading and loving as a kid. I remember watching the slides of pages from the book and listening to the audio (that probably dates me) at school. This story never gets old and the amazing illustrations from Van Allsburg never fail to inspire awe.


Gingerbread Baby by Jan Brett
I love Jan Brett's fantastic illustrations! She has so many wonderful books that make me want to bundle up and head out into the snow (or, you know, the 80 degree winter here in Arizona). This is one that my mom has a copy of and we always pick it up to read when we are there. That cheeky gingerbread baby makes me hungry for a cookie.


The Christmas Quiet Book by Deborah Underwood and Renata Liwska
Sweet illustrations and a sly humor that is belied by this book's quiet nature - I love this book! The text is very simple, just a phrase on each page, but you can feel the emotion of the animals on every page. I probably love this more than my daughter, but I think she'll enjoy it more as she gets older.


Room for a Little One: A Christmas Tale by Martin Waddell
This is a sweet and simple tale that helps to bring the true spirit of Christmas into our home. I love the soft and lovely illustrations and also the idea of the animals being welcoming and peaceful enough to accept another little one into their stable.


If You Take a Mouse to the Movies by Laura Numeroff and Felicia Bond
There is something so appealing about these books and this is no exception. I always laugh at the irony of a kid racing around meeting the demands of the whimsical mouse. Probably because I'm racing around all day with my three-year-old dictator.


The Christmas Story by Robert Sabuda
I just got a copy of this gorgeous book for review and it is amazing! No text, but six lovely pop-up pages bring the story of Jesus' birth to life. I adore the very simple colors that allow the movement and feeling of each pop-up creation speak more. I can already tell this will be a family favorite with us.

What are your family favorites?

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Series Review: Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth

Call the Midwife: a Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times by Jennifer Worth
Call the Midwife: Shadows of the Workhouse by Jennifer Worth
Call the Midwife: Farewell to the East End by Jennifer Worth
Publisher: Penguin Books
Publication date: Originally 2002, 2005, 2009
Source: Library
For: Love the PBS series!
Series: Midwife Trilogy (three memoirs)

 

Summary:
These are three volumes of Jennifer Lee Worth, who as a very young girl left her pretty cushy life to become a midwife and work in one of the poorest parts of London during the 1950s and 1960s.

Things I Liked:
These stories are incredible! I wish I'd read the books before watching the series, but I was still blown away! It is absolutely amazing and awful and beautiful the kinds of conditions these women who were giving birth lived in. The midwives are incredible as well, but I read some of these stories and just felt almost embarrassed at how much I have and how whiny I can be about it. A wonderful look at a specific time and place and the women who played such a vital role. The first book was the most interesting to me, being more of a general collection of stories from Worth's experiences. The second and third were more general and had fewer stories of midwifery and the interesting people she met. Still, all of them were worth every minute reading. Can't recommend it enough and I adore the series as well (though not as much with Nurse Lee gone from the scene).

Things I Didn't Like:
It's been quite some time since I read these, and I don't remember anything in particular I disliked. It is pretty frank about sex and childbirth, so not exactly light reading. Also, abuse and other awful circumstances.

Read-alikes:
Nothing I can think of!

BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
s-factor: !@
yep

mrg-factor: XXX
not gratuitous, also not surprising considering the topic

v-factor: ->->
some of the stories are simply appalling

Overall rating: *****

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Mini Reviews 21

When in doubt, just chuck them all in at once! Here's some stuff I read a while ago, so nothing is fresh in my mind. Bleh.

Dearest by Alethea Kontis
This follows Friday as she becomes embroiled in an enchantment where seven brothers are all turned into swans by day. Can she find a way to break the curse with just a needle and her wits?

I really enjoy this series and I like how seamlessly the many different fairy tales are woven together into a fun story. I liked Friday and the brothers as well. A good, well-written fairy tale retelling. Definitely want more from this author!

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
When Kady and Ezra's planet is invaded and they must escape or die, they had to put aside the petty problem of just having broken up. But far from being safe on the escape ships, they are surrounded by lies, half-truths, and a whole different set of problems. Will they come out alive?

This story gripped me from the very start. I love the format, the fun files and emails and schematics that fit like pieces of a puzzle together into a strange and unexpected whole. This is definitely a story that will get your heart pounding and have you questioning everyone's motives throughout. The ending threw me for a big loop. Definitely need to get my hands on the next book.


Calamity by Brandon Sanderson
Things are looking bleak for David and his broken team, after Prof gave in to his epic powers. It would seem that nothing can stop him in his desires for power. But David refuses to give up and will go wherever and do whatever is necessary to save his friend.

I have really loved this series. It's fast-paced and exciting and funny. It has surprises around every corner and I definitely didn't expect the ending. I think I felt a little let down after all the build up, but perhaps I expected it to be, well, epic. Anyway, enjoyed the series, I would definitely read more about this world.

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
In 1945, there was an epic tragedy involving the Wilhelm Gustloff - a ship full of people hoping to escape the advancing Soviet army. This book tells the story of this disaster from the viewpoints of four very different young people.

This was a very painful story to read. It's hard to read about stories that you know are about disaster or tragedy, especially of this scale. I had absolutely no idea about this piece of history, as I think most people don't. It's surprising and sad how lost their stories are. I am glad to have learned more about it, would like to read historical accounts of these people. I did find that the one Nazi was kind of a caricature of badness. Just an all-around rotten person. Mind you, he didn't seem to notice he was evil, but I found him hard to believe. Anyway, I recommend it, just to get a taste of what happened in this very much ignored historical event.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Some Blog Love - I Dream in Print

Hey friends, it's your friendly sporadic blogger here. I just wanted to pop in and tell you about a newer blog that I've been following. It's published by a good friend of mine, who happens to have fabulous taste in books, both for the young and the not-so-young. Stop by I Dream in Print (also, fantastic name)- you won't be sorry!

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Book Review: The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy

The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy
Publisher: Several (I read Kindle edition)
Publication date: first published 1921
Source: Free on Kindle
For: Fun
Series: The Forsyte Chronicles #1-3

Summary (if that's even possible) (from goodreads):
The three novels which make up The Forsyte Saga chronicle the ebbing social power of the commercial upper-middle class Forsyte family between 1886 and 1920. Galsworthy's masterly narrative examines not only their fortunes but also the wider developments within society, particularly the changing position of women.
My Thoughts:
Crazy, epic story. Impossible to summarize and just so broad that I don't even know where to start. I love the real characters, you get into everyone's head and you see what makes them tick. I love to love the "good" characters and love to hate the "bad" ones, even though you can see that there are neither kind, really. Just everyone mixed up with good and bad. I especially loved the family gossip sessions, that sounded so real and just what a lot of family gatherings tend to be like. I thought it was interesting and I did like watching generations of the same family struggle to understand each other and change. I also found that I was terribly bored during vast amounts of the book. Sometimes, characters went off on enormous tangents and I lost interest. It took me months and months (possibly a year?) to finish this epic. Now what I really need is to watch the mini-series (or whatever it is), so I can see it all at once, succinctly.

Read-alikes:
Uh, I have no idea

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

mrg-factor: X
implied stuff, of course

v-factor: ->
a little bit

Overall rating: ***

Monday, July 25, 2016

Book Review: Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Publication date: September 2015
Source: e-book from the library
For: Recommended by ?

Summary (from goodreads):
My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.
But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.
Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.
My Thoughts:
Thank you for a great recommendation, whoever it was that recommended this (oh, my poor memory)! I really enjoyed this book. Not only do we have a unique character with very unique circumstances, but she's interesting too! I loved all the things she says, does, and experiences from her Rapunzel-like tower. I kind of figured this would be predictable. But I was quite surprised by the twists and turns that it took. Definitely one that kept my attention and intrigued me from beginning to end.

Read-alikes:
I really can't think of anything!

BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
s-factor: !@
I don't remember, but I imagine there was a bit of cussing

mrg-factor: X
there was a bit of implied stuff

v-factor: none

Overall rating: *****

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Double Feature Review: The Great Unexpected by Sharon Creech AND The Cabinet of Earths by Anne Nesbit

Anyone out there still read my poor, sad, neglected blog? :)
These books don't really have much to do with each other, both just middle grade and I didn't have tons to say about them.

The Great Unexpected by Sharon Creech
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication date: September 2012
Source: Review copy from publisher
For: Review


Summary (from goodreads):
Young Naomi Deane is brimming with curiosity and her best friend, Lizzie Scatterding, could talk the ears off a cornfield. Naomi has a knack for being around when trouble happens. She knows all the peculiar people in town—like Crazy Cora and Witch Wiggins. But then, one day, a boy drops out of a tree. Just like that. A strangely charming Finn boy. And then the Dingle Dangle man appears, asking all kinds of questions. Curious surprises are revealed—three locked trunks, a pair of rooks, a crooked bridge, and that boy—and soon Naomi and Lizzie find their lives changed forever.

My Thoughts:I was enjoying this as I read along, liking the characters and a little bit the story, but by the time I got to the end, I was wondering what this book was really about. I am still not sure. It seemed a little bit meandering and pointless. I guess I just didn't get it. Kind of a fun story with quirky characters, but didn't see much point to the plot.

Read-alikes:
Can't think of any

BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
s-factor: none

mrg-factor: none

v-factor: none

Overall rating: **
________________________________
The Cabinet of Earths by Anne Nesbit
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication date: January 2012

Source: Review copy from publisher
For: Review
Series: Maya and Valko, Book 1

Summary (from goodreads):
Twelve-year-old Maya is miserable when she has to move from California to Paris. Not speaking French at a school full of snobby French girls is bad enough, but Maya believes there is something sinister going on in her new city. A purple-eyed man follows Maya and her younger brother, James. Statues seem to have Maya’s face. And an eerie cabinet filled with mysterious colored bottles calls to her.
When James becomes the target of dark forces, Maya decides she must answer the call of the Cabinet of Earths, despite the danger.
My Thoughts: I thought this one had a fun and kind of unique, quirky plot. It was a bit aggravating to begin with - I kind of despise the whole discover strange things a tiny, confusing piece at a time plot. Anyway, it felt different than many of the middle grade fantasies I've read. That being said, I was not very intrigued and found it hard to keep reading. No particular reason I can pinpoint, just wasn't that thrilled. Guess there's no reason for me to pick up the sequels.

Read-alikes:
Maybe a bit like the Secret series by Pseudonymous Bosch

BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
s-factor: none

mrg-factor: none

v-factor: none

Overall rating: ***

Friday, June 17, 2016

Book Review: Bone Gap by Laura Ruby

Hello again, blogging world! Sorry for the radio silence - life gets in a way a lot lately. Plus, I pretty much single handedly planned girls camp (a youth camp for my church for girls aged 12-18). It was crazy times. And blogging is really falling by the wayside. But here! Have a random book review!

Bone Gap by Laura Ruby
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication date: March 2015
Pages: 368
Source: e-book from library
For: I heard good things and those shiny award stickers didn't hurt

Summary (from goodreads):
Everyone knows Bone Gap is full of gaps—gaps to trip you up, gaps to slide through so you can disappear forever. So when young, beautiful Roza went missing, the people of Bone Gap weren’t surprised. After all, it wasn’t the first time that someone had slipped away and left Finn and Sean O’Sullivan on their own. Just a few years before, their mother had high-tailed it to Oregon for a brand new guy, a brand new life. That’s just how things go, the people said. Who are you going to blame?

Finn knows that’s not what happened with Roza. He knows she was kidnapped, ripped from the cornfields by a dangerous man whose face he cannot remember. But the searches turned up nothing, and no one believes him anymore. Not even Sean, who has more reason to find Roza than anyone, and every reason to blame Finn for letting her go.

My thoughts:
I got really sucked into this story - right from the start. It's amazingly written, with gorgeous lyrical writing and there's some serious suspense going on. It also has a lot of surprising elements, though I did go in knowing there was an element of magical realism/fantasy. I liked figuring things out one little bit at a time and wondering if I'd been imagining it wrong all along. And I liked it. Worth the read, I think, despite some rather disturbing and adult-ish things.

Read-alikes:
Uh, drawing a blank here

BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
s-factor: !@#
there is some in there (no f-bombs, that I recall)

mrg-factor: X
some stuff

v-factor: ->->
it's been a while, but I think some intense stuff happens :)

Overall rating: ****

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Book Review: These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Publication date: December 2013
Pages: 374
Source: e-book from the library
For: At Suey's suggestion
Series: Starbound, Book 1

Summary (from goodreads):
Luxury spaceliner Icarus suddenly plummets from hyperspace into the nearest planet. Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Merendsen survive – alone. Lilac is the daughter of the richest man in the universe. Tarver comes from nothing, a cynical war hero. Both journey across the eerie deserted terrain for help. Everything changes when they uncover the truth. 
I enjoyed this a LOT more than I expected to. Generally, I've found a lot of YA space books to be kind of lacking in good solid science. Not that this is super good with science (there's a lot of stuff that you kind of have to roll with), but I found that those things didn't bother me. I was intrigued enough by the plot and the characters that I kind of forgot to be bothered. I found the ending to be surprising and I'm wanting to read the next books. Glad I listened to Suey and got my hands on this. I needed a good YA space book that entertained me enough to ignore the bad science :)

Read-alikes:
Reminded me a bit of Patrick Ness' Chaos Walking series

BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
s-factor: !
maybe one or two

mrg-factor: X
some implied stuff

v-factor: ->->
a bit of fighting gore

Overall rating: ****

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Mini Reviews 20

The Heart of Betrayal by Mary E. Pearson
Summary: *spoilers for The Kiss of Deception*
Lia and Rafe are being held captive in the kingdom of Venda with no chance of escape. While trying to navigate the horrors of being prisoners, they are also trying to learn all they can about their captors and are surprised to find much to praise in them. But their situation becomes more dire as the Komizar is determined to use Lia and her gift for unknown purposes.

My Thoughts:
Honestly, I can't remember what happens. I read it a few months ago now and I did like it. It was interesting how nothing they did was easy and no way out seemed plausible. Although I thought a few things seemed mighty convenient. Pearson managed to get all the characters into some seriously dire straits and I just didn't know what was going to happen to Lia. Now I need to read up on what actually went on.


The Outlaws of Sherwood by Robin McKinley
Summary:
This is not the Robin Hood you remember from those sweet, sly foxes in the Disney film. Robin an his band of grim and tired outlaws are nearly forced into hiding and inundated with those who also loathe sheriff of Nottingham and all he does to his people. But will things work out for them in the end or is there no happy ending in sight?

My Thoughts:
I love how it was messy and not what you expect. I loved Robin and I loved how very realistically it was portrayed that, yeah, they lived in the forest: no roofs, rain, dirt, etc. They didn't have an easy or terribly envious lifestyle. Things were not idealized, and I loved how Marian rocked the bow. Rather sad to read at times, but so glad I finally did it (thank you, Angie).


Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman
Summary:
When her father is brutally murdered, Kate is drawn into a world full of revenge, secrets, and hidden gold. She follows the trail of those who killed him, determined to take them on single-handed, but ends up in an alliance with some unlikely characters, soon to be friends.

My Thoughts:
This one was kind of good and bad for me. I think I was most interested in it for the local factor - a lot of it takes place right here in Arizona and even some of it near to where I am. That made it more interesting to me. Otherwise, I was kind of meh about the story and the characters. Her whole motivation for chasing folks down and being insane and doing stuff she shouldn't, at times was a bit unbelievable. I did, however, enjoy the story. For a wild west flavor, check it out.


Winter by Marissa Meyer
Summary: *Spoilers for the first three books*
Winter has been stuck under the thumb of her stepmother for years, but despite her delicate appearance and wandering mind, she's got more power than anyone knows. Cinder is ready to take on Queen Levana and determined to incite the Lunars to rise with her. With the help of her friends and some new allies, they are ready for an uprising, until everything seems to go wrong.

My Thoughts:
A nice finish for a series I adore. I loved how things worked out in the end, I loved seeing how hard it was for Cinder and all the characters. Winter was a really unique kind of person and I often had a hard time figuring out what to think of her and what she was thinking. All together, I think this is a fabulous and unique fairy tale retelling series that I just plain enjoy.

Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson
Summary:
Lee has a gift, an unusual power that her family has tried to hide for years: she can sense gold. Her life seems ordinary enough, until all she has and loves is suddenly taken from her unexpectedly. Now Lee must make her way across the country, hoping to escape her past and make a future, but how can she when everyone around her would do anything for gold?

My Thoughts:
Interesting, unique, a bit strange. Reminded me a bit of Dust Girl by Sarah Zettel. I loved Lee and the things she was determined to do. She had a difficult life and I thought her reactions to things was realistic. I didn't like how everything seemed to be put off for a later book, but I guess they had plenty of troubles along the way. A different kind of story, you don't often read about people going west and the difficulties that must have been.Though, two westerns in one mini review post!

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Book Review: All Fall Down by Ally Carter

All Fall Down by Ally Carter
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Publication date: January 2015
Pages: 310
Source: Library
For: Ally Carter
Series: Embassy Row, Book 1


Summary (from goodreads):
Grace Blakely is absolutely certain of three things:
1. She is not crazy.
2. Her mother was murdered.
3. Someday she is going to find the killer and make him pay.

As certain as Grace is about these facts, nobody else believes her -- so there's no one she can completely trust. Not her grandfather, a powerful ambassador. Not her new friends, who all live on Embassy Row. Not Alexei, the Russian boy next door, who is keeping his eye on Grace for reasons she neither likes nor understands.

Everybody wants Grace to put on a pretty dress and a pretty smile, blocking out all her unpretty thoughts. But they can't control Grace -- no more than Grace can control what she knows or what she needs to do. Her past has come back to hunt her . . . and if she doesn't stop it, Grace isn't the only one who will get hurt. Because on Embassy Row, the countries of the world stand like dominoes, and one wrong move can make them all fall down.

Things I Liked:
This book was unusual and at times a bit annoying.  I liked how convoluted the plot became and I really didn't have any idea of where it was going.  It's different from what I expected of an Ally Carter book, but that doesn't make it bad. I'm intrigued and want to know more. I loved the action and the mystery of the book. I'll take anything you have to offer, Ms. Carter!

Things I Didn't Like:
I think I was a bit annoyed at times with how angry Grace tended to get.  And how she didn't seem to be able to see what kinds of stupid mistakes she was making.  But, I think that she was pretty realistically portrayed for what happened to her. 

Read-alikes:
The Conspiracy of Us by Maggie Hall and Gallagher Girls books by Ally Carter

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

mrg-factor: none

v-factor: ->->
some frightening stuff happens

Overall rating: ***

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Book Review: The Winner's Crime by Marie Rutkoski

The Winner's Crime by Marie Rutkoski
Publisher: Farrar, Straus, & Giroux
Publication date: March 2015
Pages: 402
Source: e-book from the library
For: Love the series!
Series: Winner's Trilogy, Book 2


Summary (from goodreads): *Spoilers are inevitable for The Winner's Curse*
The engagement of Lady Kestrel to Valoria’s crown prince means one celebration after another. But to Kestrel it means living in a cage of her own making. As the wedding approaches, she aches to tell Arin the truth about her engagement... if she could only trust him. Yet can she even trust herself? For—unknown to Arin—Kestrel is becoming a skilled practitioner of deceit: an anonymous spy passing information to Herran, and close to uncovering a shocking secret.

As Arin enlists dangerous allies in the struggle to keep his country’s freedom, he can’t fight the suspicion that Kestrel knows more than she shows. In the end, it might not be a dagger in the dark that cuts him open, but the truth. And when that happens, Kestrel and Arin learn just how much their crimes will cost them.

Things I Liked:
Yes! Love this second book in the series.  More complicated and painful twists and turns and strategy and you don't know what Kestrel can do to get out of her difficulties.  It feels very constricting, just as it was for Kestrel.  I loved this one, felt like it didn't lack or lag in the second book department.  World is still fascinating, writing still very strong, characters still very real. 

Things I Didn't Like:
And love story still leaving me a bit meh.  Still, I'm really invested in the other aspects of Kestrel's story.

Read-alikes:
Reminded me a little of Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith

BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
s-factor: !
one or two

mrg-factor: X
some implied stuff

v-factor: ->->
a few scenes

Overall rating: *****

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

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Book Review: The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson

The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson
Publisher: Tor Books
Publication date: August 2007
Pages: 796
Source: Purchased
For: Fun
Series: Mistborn, Book 2


Summary (from goodreads): *Spoilers for Mistborn are inevitable*
The impossible has been accomplished. The Lord Ruler – the man who claimed to be god incarnate and brutally ruled the world for a thousand years – has been vanquished. But Kelsier, the hero who masterminded that triumph, is dead too, and now the awesome task of building a new world has been left to his young protégé, Vin, the former street urchin who is now the most powerful Mistborn in the land, and to the idealistic young nobleman she loves.

As Kelsier’s protégé and slayer of the Lord Ruler she is now venerated by a budding new religion, a distinction that makes her intensely uncomfortable. Even more worrying, the mists have begun behaving strangely since the Lord Ruler died, and seem to harbor a strange vaporous entity that haunts her.

Stopping assassins may keep Vin’s Mistborn skills sharp, but it’s the least of her problems. Luthadel, the largest city of the former empire, doesn’t run itself, and Vin and the other members of Kelsier’s crew, who lead the revolution, must learn a whole new set of practical and political skills to help. It certainly won’t get easier with three armies – one of them composed of ferocious giants – now vying to conquer the city, and no sign of the Lord Ruler’s hidden cache of atium, the rarest and most powerful allomantic metal.

As the siege of Luthadel tightens, an ancient legend seems to offer a glimmer of hope. But even if it really exists, no one knows where to find the Well of Ascension or what manner of power it bestows.
Things I Liked:
Brandon Sanderson - he has a gift for creating these intriguing worlds and people in them.  I really like his stuff and I always feel very engrossed when I'm reading his books.  The worlds come to life for me and there is so much depth and history.  I also really don't have a clue where the plot is going, even when I think I do.  Give me more of this story (I mean, it's already out there, but I just need to pick up the book). I kept being surprised by what happened and what motivated people.

Things I Didn't Like:
They are very, very long.  I keep thinking there has to be stuff to cut, and I'm sure there is, but all of it kind of seems relevant.  Still: long.

Read-alikes:
Start with Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson
Reminds me a bit of Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith

BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
s-factor: !
a few

mrg-factor: none
that I recall

v-factor: ->->
there's always some fighting

Overall rating: ****

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Book Review: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
Publisher: Razorbill
Publication date: April 2015
Pages: 446
Source: Library
For: Heard good things
Series: An Ember in the Ashes, Book 1


Summary (from goodreads):
Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.

It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.

But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.
Things I Liked:
I read this one after Winner's Curse and I think it suffered a bit in comparison.  The Roman inspiration for both was evident.  This one was a LOT more gritty and violent and depressing. It felt like a very real story with no easy answers and just a lot of bad stuff happening.  The Winner's Curse is a lot more about strategy than about violence.  I do have to admit, it was impossible to put down.  I had to know what would happen next - compulsively readable.  I'll be interested in more, though I'm not sure how I feel about love quadrangles and such.

Things I Didn't Like:
The violence was too much for me on a number of occasions.  Very gritty.

Read-alikes:
Reminded me of The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski

BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
s-factor: !@
some

mrg-factor: XX
yup

v-factor: ->->->->
a lot, as I mentioned

Overall rating: ***

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Book Review: The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski

The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski
Publisher: Farrar, Straus, & Giroux
Publication date: March 2014
Pages: 355
Source: e-book from Library
For: Fun
Series: Winner's Trilogy, Book 1


Summary (from goodreads):
As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions.

One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin.

But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined. 
Things I Liked:
Ooh, I enjoyed this one.  It was both what I was expecting and completely not - more! I loved the characters and especially the world - I seriously want to play bite and sting, but know I have very poor strategizing skills.  I just love how she thinks and how she knows what to say and not say, but also makes mistakes.  I don't know what exactly it was that drew me in, but I fell hard for this story.  I'm not even that big a fan of the romance, but I love how very impossible it feels and then how it isn't easy and nothing happens conveniently.  Very realistic world and very well drawn.

Things I Didn't Like:
Can't remember anything.

Read-alikes:
A bit like An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

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

mrg-factor: X
mostly talk

v-factor: ->
a little

Overall rating: *****

Friday, February 26, 2016

Book Review: Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication date: July 2015
Pages: 278
Source: Library
For: Harper Lee, duh!
Series: Sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird


Summary (from goodreads):
Maycomb, Alabama. Twenty-six-year-old Jean Louise Finch--"Scout"--returns home from New York City to visit her aging father, Atticus. Set against the backdrop of the civil rights tensions and political turmoil that were transforming the South, Jean Louise's homecoming turns bittersweet when she learns disturbing truths about her close-knit family, the town and the people dearest to her. Memories from her childhood flood back, and her values and assumptions are thrown into doubt. Featuring many of the iconic characters from To Kill a Mockingbird, Go Set a Watchman perfectly captures a young woman, and a world, in a painful yet necessary transition out of the illusions of the past--a journey that can be guided only by one's conscience. 
Things I Liked:
I enjoyed a number of parts of this book.  I really liked seeing Scout and just who she had grown up into and the funny things she said and thought.  I loved that part of her.  I really struggled with what the story was actually about, her seeing the truth of her hometown and father and not idolizing them anymore.  It was hard to read, hard for me to understand, and just not what I wanted to read, I guess.  It was a smart book, and definitely changes your perspective and thoughts in relation to To Kill a Mockingbird.  Still, I found as it went on that I wasn't much enjoying my read.  I did like it, but I didn't like it too.  Makes perfect sense, right? I read the book probably six months ago, but I'm only posting it now, just in time to hear of Harper Lee's death. Wish we had more from her!

Things I Didn't Like:
Think I covered both in the previous paragraph.

Read-alikes:
Well I'd start with To Kill a Mockingbird...and maybe end there too :)

BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
s-factor: !
a few

mrg-factor: none

v-factor: ->
maybe a little off-page

Overall rating: ***

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Book Review: Pioneer Girl by Laura Ingalls Wilder and Pamela Smith Hill

Pioneer Girl by Laura Ingalls Wilder and Pamela Smith Hill (editor)
Publisher: South Dakota State Historical Society
Publication date: November 2014
Pages: 400
Source: Library
For: Fun



Summary (from goodreads):
Pioneer Girl follows the Ingalls family's journey through Kansas, Missouri, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, back to Minnesota, and on to Dakota Territory sixteen years of travels, unforgettable experiences, and the everyday people who became immortal through Wilder's fiction. Using additional manuscripts, letters, photographs, newspapers, and other sources, award-winning Wilder biographer Pamela Smith Hill adds valuable context and leads readers through Wilder's growth as a writer. Do you think you know Laura? Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography will re-introduce you to the woman who defined the pioneer experience for millions.
Things I Liked:
This took me AGES to read.  Mostly because I could only check it out two weeks at a time and everyone kept putting it on hold, so I couldn't renew it.  It is also a very big book and a bit daunting at times.  Still, I am so glad I persisted.  I don't even remember if I've read the Little House books all the way through, or just listened while my mom read them to my siblings.  It didn't really matter, because this story is the true one.  I loved how very detailed and full of notes it was.  I can't read something with that many footnotes often, but when I do, I usually love it.  It was fun to see the author differentiate between what was real and what they changed for the kids novels.  If you are a huge fan of the Little House books, pick this one up.  It will more than satisfy every question about her life you may have.

Things I Didn't Like:
It was a bit dry at times.  I guess life can be that way :). You have to be a real fan to take this one on, I think.

Read-alikes:
The Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder :)

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 16, 2016

Book Review: Silver in the Blood by Jessica Day George

Silver in the Blood by Jessica Day George
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Publication date: July 2015
Pages: 368
Source: Library
For: Fun
Series: Probably?

Summary (from goodreads):
Society girls from New York City circa 1890, Dacia and Lou never desired to know more about their lineage, instead preferring to gossip about the mysterious Romanian family that they barely knew. But upon turning seventeen, the girls must return to their homeland to meet their relatives, find proper husbands, and—most terrifyingly—learn the deep family secrets of The Claw, The Wing, and The Smoke. The Florescus, after all, are shape-shifters, and it is time for Dacia and Lou to fulfill the prophecy that demands their acceptance of this fate... or fight against this cruel inheritance with all their might.
Things I Liked:
This was a fun fantasy tale.  I liked the Dacia and Lou, though I got annoyed on a number of occasions with one or both of them.  I really liked the unique Romanian setting - I had a chance to visit the Czech Republic a few years ago and it felt a lot like what I remember of that trip.  Also, my sister spent some time in Romania, so I feel like I have a little connection to it (but not really).  Either way, it was different and that in and of itself kind of recommends the book to me.  It did kind of disappoint in a few ways, but overall, I enjoyed it.  It felt rather empowering for the young ladies too.

Things I Didn't Like:
I felt like something was lacking, not sure I even know or understand what.  I do know, that a month or two later, I don't remember quite how it ends.  It did seem rather vague and quickly resolved near the end.  Still, I do know I enjoyed it.

Read-alikes:
Hm, I am drawing a blank...

BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
s-factor: none

mrg-factor: none

v-factor: ->
a little bit of action

Overall rating: ***

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Book Review: The Princess in Black by Shannon Hale

The Princess in Black by Shannon Hale
Publisher: Candlewick Pres
Publication date: October 2014
Pages: 90
Source: Library
For: Fun
Series: The Princess in Black, Book 1


Summary (from goodreads):
Princess Magnolia is having hot chocolate and scones with Duchess Wigtower when . . . Brring! Brring! The monster alarm! A big blue monster is threatening the goats! Stopping monsters is no job for dainty Princess Magnolia. But luckily Princess Magnolia has a secret —she’s also the Princess in Black, and stopping monsters is the perfect job for her! Can the princess sneak away, transform into her alter ego, and defeat the monster before the nosy duchess discovers her secret? From award-winning writing team of Shannon and Dean Hale and illustrator LeUyen Pham, here is the first in a humorous and action-packed chapter book series for young readers who like their princesses not only prim and perfect, but also dressed in black.
Things I Liked:
Yes! I love this book.  Short, silly, fun, quirky, and best of all it can easily help little girls feel like they can have the best of both worlds - pretty dress ups and fighting bad guys.  I feel like I love this book even more because of Shannon's extensive blogging about girls and boys and writing and stereotypes.  But really, just get this book for every young girl you know. 

Things I Didn't Like:
Want. More.

Read-alikes:
Nothing comes to mind...

BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
s-factor: none

mrg-factor: none

v-factor: none

Overall rating: *****

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Book Review: Code Talker by Chester Nez

Code Talker by Chester Nez
Publisher: Berkley
Publication date: September 2011
Pages: 320
Source: Library
For: Interesting!

Summary (from goodreads):
Although more than 400 Navajos served in the military during World War II as top-secret code talkers, even those fighting shoulder to shoulder with them were not told of their covert function. And, after the war, the Navajos were forbidden to speak of their service until 1968, when the code was finally declassified. Of the original twenty- nine Navajo code talkers, only two are still alive. Chester Nez is one of them.

In this memoir, the eighty-nine-year-old Nez chronicles both his war years and his life growing up on the Checkerboard Area of the Navajo Reservation-the hard life that gave him the strength, both physical and mental, to become a Marine. His story puts a living face on the legendary men who developed what is still the only unbroken code in modern warfare.
Things I Liked:
This book really intrigued me.  I loved reading about those Native Americans who played such a unique and vital role in WWII.  His particular experiences made me realize just how little I know about the treatment of Native Americans in our history. I mean, I know it's always been bad, but this wasn't even always deliberately bad, just neglect and ignoring the kinds of things they experienced.  It was eye-opening and just plain sad.  I liked hearing it from his perspective and he never sounded bitter or angry about it.  His experiences during the war seemed so different from what the "usual" soldiers might have felt, but was still very painful and hard.  An inspiring and interesting read.

Things I Didn't Like:
I did like how it was really his words written down, but that also made for some grammar issues that I would notice and be annoyed about before remembering it was his direct narrative.

Read-alikes:
Can't think of any

BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
s-factor: !@
some

mrg-factor: none

v-factor: ->->->
he went to war!

Overall rating: ****
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