Let’s just say it’s been a while since I’ve read some of these books [Mini-Reviews]

There are so many books that I read last year that I still haven’t gotten around to reviewing. Hopefully, this post can make a (small) dent in that list.

mini-reviews

The Conspiracy of Us and Map of Fates by Maggie Hall

map of fates

conspiracy of us

I really thought I was going to like these books because it seemed like it was going to be one massive treasure hunt. Instead, we’re gifted with insta-love and a completely unnecessary love triangle. I also don’t really understand why there’s this slight magical element? I mean, one of the characters is literally fireproof and I don’t know how that can be explained without magic. The main character is so naive and very annoying. I never understand why protagonists have such a hard time being left behind on “missions” when they have no training and would clearly only get in the way. I, personally, would be happy to sit on my behind in the hotel room and let people with ACTUAL TRAINING take care of the dangerous stuff. I honestly don’t know why I even bothered with the second book, but I am definitely NOT going to be reading the third one. 3/5

Orphan Monster Spy by Matt Killeen

Orphan Monster SpyI wasn’t super impressed by this book. I thought it actually started off pretty strong, but it didn’t maintain that excitement through to the end. While I felt like it had a different tone from most books, that didn’t really make things any more interesting. The plot was fine, but not super engaging and I had a hard time figuring out what the end goal was supposed to be. Our main character is going through a bunch of stuff, but for what? I also didn’t find myself connecting to any of the characters. The main character was…fine. Kind of bland–you really don’t get to know her that well.¬†The author also chose to include some pretty messed up characters, but I didn’t really feel like they added to the story. 3/5

The Archived by Victoria Schwab

The ArchivedThis book had been on my TBR forever because I really liked the Monsters of Verity duology. Also, I love any kind of twist on the “library” so if you know any good alternate library books, let me know in the comments! To get into my review, I felt like the world was pretty complex and didn’t really get explained very well at the beginning, which just left me feeling confused. I was also very confused for the first three chapters because I didn’t realize that Da and Dad were not both Mackenzie’s father. I liked Mackenzie as a main character, but she made some really questionable decisions. I never really understood her resistance for sharing information with the librarians, but especially Roland. He seemed to obviously be on her side and some things could have been prevented if she had been more transparent. I thought Wesley was a bit much as a character, but I did like watching his relationship with Mackenzie develop. Owen, on the other hand…that relationship seemed to come out of nowhere. In the end, there was a twist that I did NOT see coming and I’m just left with so many questions. Like, what is up with Ms. Angelli? Such a mystery. 4/5

ebook | Paperback

The Christmasaurus by Tom Fletcher

The ChristmasaurusThis is such a fun middle grade Christmas book. The language was pretty silly throughout, so I would definitely recommend for younger middle grade readers, but I think that age will find the silly language really enjoyable. This book has wheelchair representation which I don’t think I’ve seen in any other books–let alone middle grade. I’m no expert, but it felt like it was portrayed accurately and definitely felt super respectful. I also thought that the characters developed in a realistic way. Even though Brenda is horrible, I felt like I understood her and that’s not always the case with antagonists. I loved all of the illustrations throughout and the Christmas feels were SO STRONG. There’s a twist at the end that I didn’t see coming (am I just oblivious???) which was such a fun surprise. I recommend getting the version of the book that comes with the soundtrack–not necessary, but a really fun and festive bonus.¬†4/5

ebook | Hardcover | Musical Edition

Two Dark Reigns by Kendare Blake

Two Dark ReignsOkay, I’m hoping to get through this review without any spoilers, but it’s book three in the series, so I’m really sorry if I reveal anything from the first two books–unintentional. After the second book I wasn’t sure how invested I would be in the rest of the story–I didn’t really see where Blake could take it from there. However, the third book got me reinvested real quick. I found myself liking this book much more than the second one and the different POVs continued to be a nice change of pace. I enjoyed each POV equally. There continue to be many, many questions and I need the next book asap. The ending took me by surprise and I’m still not sure exactly what’s going on or what’s going to happen. There’s some interesting things going on on the island and I guess we’ll just have to see what happens next. 4/5

ebook | Hardcover

My Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand, Jodi Meadows, & Brodi Ashton

my plain janeI love this series! The tone is fun and light and easy to enjoy. Once again, I thought the rotating perspective worked well, but Jane’s sections were probably my least favorite. I do wish that I’d read Jane Eyre first, though, because there are certain plot points that were so strange and I don’t know if they were extra or if they’re part of the original text. This is partly why one of my 2019 reading goals is to read Jane Eyre. I also liked that this is somewhat of a “Jane Eyre origin story”. The plot itself was good, but not completely thought out or explained. Why do the talismans work on ghosts? What really determines if a ghost moves on or not? Is a special “moving on” room really necessary? I also felt like red rooms were mentioned several times and I don’t really know why. Despite all that, the tone of the book is so enjoyable that I happily overlooked the times when things weren’t fully explained and I’m excited to continue on with this series. 4/5

ebook | Hardcover


Recommended from this post:

I am now extremely thankful for all my senses | The Disappearances by Emily Bain Murphy [ARC]

The DisappearancesAila and her brother have just moved to Sterling, the town their recently deceased mother grew up in. Right away, they notice some strange things–the flowers have no scent and there doesn’t appear to be any mirrors in the house. As they investigate, they’ll learn secrets about the town and about their own family. Is it a curse? Or is there another explanation? And what does their mother have to do with it?

This is a strong debut from this author and I’m very excited to see what she brings us next. I was decidedly NOT expecting much from this book. The premise intrigued me, but I didn’t really know what I was in for. As it turns out, I ended up LOVING this book. The writing was so beautiful and the entire atmosphere of the book was ethereal but grounded at the same time. This book seemed to have some magical realism elements woven throughout, but then there was also a sciencey aspect to it and I really enjoyed that contrast.

The main characters are all terrific. I love Aila. She’s fierce but kind at the same time. Her relationship with her brother Miles feels genuine and imperfect, but strong. My heart seriously broke for Miles so many times in this book. I thought that the relationships between Aila and Miles and the Cliftons felt realistic. It helps that every single character had depth–that makes their relationships feel like so much more. The only character I felt lacked a little bit was Will. His motivations could have been developed a little more, but at this point I’m just nitpicking. Even the mean kids at school had depth, which doesn’t usually happen in YA books.

I loved the time period. The book is set during World War II which is the perfect backdrop for the plot. The plot would not have worked in any other time period. We’re immersed into this town that has so much shared history. It’s really created this community that’s had to band together through these trials. Perfect setting.

The story itself is so interesting as well. As Aila starts to try to solve this mystery, the reader feels like they can follow along as well. I mean, Aila’s just reading Shakespeare–I can do that! This book made me want to read some Shakespeare to try to find clues as well. Ultimately, though, I wish that the Shakespeare clues played a bigger role in solving the mystery. It would have been really cool if the reader could solve the mystery by fitting those pieces together, but as the story is written, we can’t. I guess I wish there had been a little bit more of a treasure hunt-ish aspect, but I get why the book wasn’t more like that.

Overall, I thought this book was SO GOOD. Seriously, I think everyone should read it. At this point, it’s super underrated. I have literally heard nothing about this book. So when it comes out on July 4th, I expect everyone to go out and pick up a copy–I don’t think you’ll regret it.

Overall Rating: 5
Language: None
Violence: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: None

Note: I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

HW Assignment: Boys in the Boat (Prompt #6)

51ri3drmqpl-_sx324_bo1204203200_1) Where is the book on the narrative continuum? A mix (combines highly narrative moments with periods of fact-based prose).

2) What is the subject of the book? Rowing (both collegiate and at the Olympic level), impacts of the depression and WWII on the American people.

3) What type of book is it?¬†It’s a sports book.

4) Articulate appeal
What is the pacing of the book? 
It’s a quick read, but the pace is pretty leisurely until about the last 50 pages when it ramps up tremendously.
Describe the characters of the book.¬†Our main character is Joe Rantz, one of the crew members. The reader gets an in-depth look into his life, but we’re also given brief snippets into other characters’ lives.

How does the story feel? Triumphant and uplifting.
What is the intent of the author? To describe a specific period of time and help readers come to some realizations.
What is the focus of the story? The main character and the University of Washington crew team that would eventually make it to the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

Does the language matter? Yes.
Is the setting important and well-described? Yes. The author does a very good job of describing the Seattle area as well as Germany.

Are there details and, if so, what? There is a lot of detail about rowing and crew. The author gets very in-depth about the techniques of rowing which could turn some readers off.

Are there sufficient charts and other graphic materials? Are they useful and clear? Pictures are used throughout but are not necessary to the story.

Does the book stress moments of learning, understanding, or experience? The book really stresses moments of understanding and experience. The reader comes to understand what it was like to live in America during the depression and they will experience the triumph of the final race and the relief that everything leading up to that moment paid off.

5) Why would a reader enjoy this book (rank appeal)?
1. Tone
2. Subject
3. Learning/Experience

BLOG TOUR: Nora & Kettle by Lauren Nicolle Taylor [GIVEAWAY]

NKNora & Kettle
by Lauren Nicolle Taylor
Publisher: Clean Teen Publishing
Release Date: February 29th 2016

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SYNOPSIS: What if Peter Pan was a homeless kid just trying to survive, and Wendy flew away for a really good reason?

Seventeen-year-old Kettle has had his share of adversity. As an orphaned Japanese American struggling to make a life in the aftermath of an event in history not often referred to‚ÄĒthe internment of Japanese Americans during World War II and the removal of children from orphanages for having ‚Äúone drop of Japanese blood in them‚ÄĚ‚ÄĒthings are finally looking up. He has his hideout in an abandoned subway tunnel, a job, and his gang of Lost Boys.

Desperate to run away, the world outside her oppressive brownstone calls to na√Įve, eighteen-year-old Nora‚ÄĒthe privileged daughter of a controlling and violent civil rights lawyer who is building a compensation case for the interned Japanese Americans. But she is trapped, enduring abuse to protect her younger sister Frankie and wishing on the stars every night for things to change.

For months, they’ve lived side by side, their paths crossing yet never meeting. But when Nora is nearly killed and her sister taken away, their worlds collide as Kettle, grief stricken at the loss of a friend, angrily pulls Nora from her window.

In her honeyed eyes, Kettle sees sadness and suffering. In his, Nora sees the chance to take to the window and fly away.

Set in 1953, NORA AND KETTLE explores the collision of two teenagers facing extraordinary hardship. Their meeting is inevitable, devastating, and ultimately healing. Their stories, a collection of events, are each on their own harmless. But together, one after the other, they change the world.

Free gift

REVIEW: This book…wow. I’ve never read anything quite like it. First let me start by saying that this book deals a lot with the mistreatment of individuals based on race as well as domestic violence/abusive relationships. If these are things that you have a hard time reading about, I advise you away from this book. That being said, I personally feel like these are really important things to read about and I feel like this book changed some of my perceptions.

The book started off a little slow for me. The reader is placed in the middle of some action so we have to play a little catch-up to really figure out just what is going on. I had a hard time figuring out what the plot might be or where this book was headed. It also seemed like it took forever for our protagonists to finally meet. For whatever reason I felt really anxious the whole time about them finding each other and that kept me from fully enjoying the first half of the book.

I really liked the historical portrait that was painted for us. It’s a very stark picture and it makes me so glad that I live in the time that I do. It’s hard for me to read about kids living on the street or being discriminated against based on race though I know it¬†did (and still does) happen. Taylor did a great job of making the setting come alive and creating a believable backdrop.

Despite the fact that this book is based off of the Peter Pan story, I feel like this book really transcends that idea. Like I said earlier, it deals with really important topics and I am so glad that I read it. I definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction (especially Post-WWII era), fairy tale retellings, or just likes to read things that make them look at the world a little differently.

Overall Rating:4
Language: Moderate. Some stronger language scattered throughout.
Violence: Heavy
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: None


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Click on the picture above to be taken to the giveaway!


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lauren Nicolle Taylor lives in the lush Adelaide Hills. The daughter of a Malaysian nuclear physicist and an Australian scientist, she was expected to follow a science career path, attending Adelaide University and completing a Health Science degree with Honours in obstetrics and gynaecology.

She then worked in health research for a short time before having her first child. Due to their extensive health issues, Lauren spent her twenties as a full-time mother/carer to her three children. When her family life settled down, she turned to writing.

She is a 2014 Kindle Book Awards Semi-finalist and a USA Best Book Awards Finalist.

Website|Goodreads|Twitter|Facebook


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Note: I received this book free from the author/blog tour in exchange for an honest review.

HW Assignment: The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown (Kirkus Review Style)

51ri3drmqpl-_sx324_bo1204203200_1936 was a hard year for a lot of people, but in backwater Seattle something exciting was happening–the crew team from the University of Washington was preparing for the row of their lives at the Olympic Games in Berlin.¬†As the youngest team with the least experience, the UW crew team were the obvious underdogs but despite all of this, they were determined to beat the odds.

This book primarily focuses on the life of Joe Rantz–one of the boys to make it with that crew team to the 1936 Olympic Games. The reader is transported to 1930’s America where we’re given a view of how desperately Americans needed something to cheer for. The United States was still recovering from the first World War when the Great Depression hit and many people were having a hard time making ends meet. Joe Rantz was no exception. He only joined the crew team in order to help him pay for his schooling but it wasn’t long before he fell in love with the sport and the feeling of being out on the water. Despite¬†facing a trying childhood where he’d been abandoned¬†multiple times by his father and his family Joe¬†would need to learn¬†about love, life, and how to trust in his teammates. Joe and the other boys in his crew only had one chance to win. With everyone back home depending on them and war looming on the horizon, the boys in the boat would have to give this last race everything that they had and more.

Brown takes readers on an emotional journey as he weaves the backstories of those involved with descriptions of just how difficult rowing actually is. Even though the ending is already set in stone, given the circumstances leading up to the final race readers will doubt that the boys from Seattle will really be able to pull this off.

ANNOTATION: The Amber Room by Steve Berry

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The Amber Room by Steve Berry

Genre: Adventure

Publication Info: 8/26/2003, 416 pages

Plot Summary: When Rachel Cutler’s father, a WWII survivor, passes away under suspicious circumstances, she’s launched into a dangerous treasure hunt. Using clues unwittingly left by her father, Rachel travels to Germany to discover the truth behind the stories of the mysterious Amber Room. Followed by her ex-husband, the two go on a deadly adventure to find out just what happened to the Amber Room during WWII and where it might reside today.

Characteristics of Adventure: Treasure hunt, foreign setting with detailed descriptions, the sense of a ticking clock, main characters encounter multiple dangers, extremely evil villains, extravagant characters and far-fetched plot.

Appeal Terms: Descriptive, suspenseful tone, character-driven

Read-alikes:¬†The Istanbul Puzzle by Laurence O’Bryan; The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown; The Templar Legacy by Steve Berry

COVER REVEAL: Blood for Blood by Ryan Graudin

As I’m sure most of you know, I LOVED Wolf by Wolf, the first book in the series. I seriously recommend it to anyone and everyone. So when I saw this article pop up on my Facebook Newsfeed, I was ecstatic. I cannot wait for this book to come out. Goodreads says the beginning of October, but EW reports November. Whenever–it’s not soon enough. Click the link above for the full EW article and an excerpt from the book.

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