Sunday, July 9, 2017

Review: Cabinet of Wonders

Cabinet of Wonders (Kronos Chronicles #1)
Marie Rutkoski
middle grade historical fantasy

Petra Kronos has a simple, happy life. But it’s never been ordinary. She has a pet tin spider named Astrophil who likes to hide in her snarled hair and give her advice. Her best friend can trap lightning inside a glass sphere. Petra also has a father in faraway Prague who is able to move metal with his mind. He has been commissioned by the prince of Bohemia to build the world’s finest astronomical clock.
Petra’s life is forever changed when, one day, her father returns home—blind. The prince has stolen his eyes, enchanted them, and now wears them. But why? Petra doesn’t know, but she knows this: she will go to Prague, sneak into Salamander Castle, and steal her father’s eyes back.
Joining forces with Neel, whose fingers extend into invisible ghosts that pick locks and pockets, Petra finds that many people in the castle are not what they seem, and that her father’s clock has powers capable of destroying their world.

This book didn't look like much at first, but like all quality fantastic middle grade fiction, it quickly sucked me in. Set in 16th century Bohemia, the environment is already special and exciting. Also, the fantasy is unique. No vamps, wolves, angels and demons - introducing metal come to life. Artisans like glassblowers and metalworkers who have magic they add to their craft. It's different and artsy! I loved it. 

As for the characters- I liked Petra. For once, a MC who herself is not very magical (though around her everyone is) but relies on her bravery and wits to get the job done. About her decisions - they are very childish. I couldn't tell if this is a character flaw or something that exists in all children's fiction that I'm only aware of now (haven't read any new middle grade stuff in a long time). Let me know what you think. However, she does understand her mistake in the end after her father's anger... 

It's actually kind of nice to read about a 12-year-old acting like a 12-year-old and being reprimanded by her father. 

The supporting characters are also pretty cool. Includes some history on gypsies - or Romani, as they prefer to be called. Tomik/Neel could be a potential love triangle should the series progress until they're older. I'd like to meet more Tomik - a super talented boy, the-best-friend-all-Petra's-life character. I feel like there is so much more of him to enjoy that we didn't get. 

All in all, great book in and of itself, and also great introduction to a series (you can stop here, though. Pretty much ties itself up with the option to continue) if you can overlook Petra taking the adventure as a not-entirely-necessary risk.  

Have a wonderful beginning of summer!

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Review: A Long Way Home

A Long Way Home
Saroo Brierley

This is the miraculous and triumphant story of Saroo Brierley, a young man who used Google Earth to rediscover his childhood life and home in an incredible journey from India to Australia and back again...
At only five years old, Saroo Brierley got lost on a train in India. Unable to read or write or recall the name of his hometown or even his own last name, he survived alone for weeks on the rough streets of Calcutta before ultimately being transferred to an agency and adopted by a couple in Australia.
Despite his gratitude, Brierley always wondered about his origins. Eventually, with the advent of Google Earth, he had the opportunity to look for the needle in a haystack he once called home, and pore over satellite images for landmarks he might recognize or mathematical equations that might further narrow down the labyrinthine map of India. One day, after years of searching, he miraculously found what he was looking for and set off to find his family.

When my aunt first recommended this book to me, I didn't expect much. I mean, it's a cool news story, but what more can there be to it than what's in the blurb? 

So first off, I'll say- there isn't. Don't expect any crazy plot twists or surprises. However, I found A Long Way Home a sweet, fast, and easy read. It was intriguing to hear of his overseas adoption, of integrating into Western society as a child. I also moved halfway across the world at the age of seven, so for me personally it was interesting to compare the ability to remember. 

The issues of loving two families, of memory, of reconnecting to people you've lived a lifetime without - were unique and emotional. In general, I found this memoir one worthy of publication and thought-provoking for us the public. Recommended! (I've heard the movie has some scenes not for children- the book is completely PG.) 

Have a wonderful week!

Friday, April 28, 2017

Review: Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them

Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them
Newt Scamander (J.K. Rowling)

An approved textbook at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry since publication, Newt Scamander's masterpiece has entertained wizarding families through the generations. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is an indispensable introduction to the magical beasts of the wizarding world.

You can read my review of the 2016 movie here. 

Turns out I've been blessed with a truly magical boyfriend, who upon returning from vacation to visit family showed up with the new, revised, hardcover edition of this wonderful Hogwarts textbook. 

The only downside of the beautiful tome is that it seems the 2017 edition doesn't include Harry, Ron, and Hermione's notes. However, it does include an additional foreword referencing some of the events in the movie and some interesting hints at what's to come. Also- extra animals! I believe the new ones added were some of the beasts representing the Ilvermorny school houses; but the puckwudgie (my house) was left out. 

What was a wonderful surprise was how easy and fascinating a read FB was. Considering it's an informational textbook, you'd expect to use it only when looking up a specific beast, and otherwise dull. But Newt Scamander scattered anecdotes and even when he didn't - each and every one of these creatures had so many fantastic traits that I truly enjoyed it the entire time. 

A wonderful gift for your Hogwarts student- if they don't already have one. 

Monday, April 3, 2017

My Magical, British Room

Hey all! Eight months ago I moved a town with my family, and while you'd think 8 months is enough time to finish organizing and unpacking your room- I guess it isn't for me. *cue monkey covering eyes emoji*. As I'm only home every other weekend or so, I'm still choosing furniture and decorating.

So naturally, when I heard about Loot Crate's fun project, I had no problem coming up with ideas! Loot Crate is a crate subscription service that sends out all different kinds of pop culture theme crates. Different aspects of pop culture they tackle are movies, games, TV shows, books, anime, pro-wrestling, etc. Every month they send out a box of 4-6 cool items with more than $50 value! Recently they've been asking everyone to put together a list of what your dream crate would look like- and they may even make one a reality! 

As you can see from my blog theme, I love London. Be it Sherlock's home town, or the city The Infernal Devices takes place in, or because in it is King's Cross station that first takes Harry to Hogwarts- I've always been enchanted by this city. As I started to brainstorm and google things for my dream crate, it fused with my shopping list for my bedroom and behold, here is some English- themed merch I'd love to have. 

1. London Bridge bookends - I desperately need something nice to hold up the books on my shelves, and what better idea for bookends than a bridge? 

2.  Big Ben clock - what's more appropriate than a clock to represent London?

3. Rainy curtains- every local I've ever spoken to ABSOLUTELY HATES the constant rain in London, but as curtains that can be open and closed at will I think it's beautiful. 

4. Gryffindor hangings - while there are many great soccer clubs that are easily identifiable as British and are well-loved, I am a book lover who grew up on Harry Potter and my room is not complete without this. 

5. Harry Potter lights - I PROMISED myself I wouldn't be so typical and make my whole list about Potter, but I can't help it on this one. I mean, who wouldn't want to light up their bedrooms with a row of floating candles?? That's what I thought. Barring that, I absolutely loved the following stickers. 

So there you have it, ladies and gentlemen, my Dream Crate! Go crazy with your own and let me know in the comments! 

Have a wonderful week and wish me luck in my roommaking, 

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Once Upon A Mattress- Top 5 Tips for the Perfect Day In

Image result for leesa mattress

Hey all! Recently I've been challenged by Leesa Mattresses, an online mattress company, to come up with my ideal day in bed! If you've been thinking about a new mattress, you can read about a few here. Note: This is not a sponsored post, all opinions are totally my own! (: 

Of course, like every avid reader, and pretty much everyone everywhere, for me days in bed are the best. Behold, my top 5 recommendations for the ideal day in!

1. A clean and neat room- a cluttered room is a cluttered mind for me, and I find the activity of cleaning and organizing it is absolutely therapeutic! Once that's done, I can relax in my bed with a clear and free mind, ready to dive into a good read.

2. A calming aroma - open a window! The fresh air is a wonderful way to enjoy the day outside without leaving your blankets. Even when it's rainy! I personally love staying in bed on a rainy day even more. Also, I've recently taken to sheet spray- it's like perfume for your bed! Spritz a little between your pillows and blankets and instantly your room smells refreshed and just washed. 

3. Shams and little pillows- this goes without saying. Perfect for reclining and switching positions while reading. 

4. A cup of tea and a place to put it- need I say more?

5. An old favorite- sure, it's fun and thrilling to read new things, but for my ideal day in? Nothing beats a Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, or some other completely thumbed-through, folded-over, chocolate-finger-stained novel that I know by heart but never ceases to delight me. 

So those are my top 5 tips for the best day in! What do you do when you just need a mental health day? What do you read? Let me know! 

Also, if you're in the mood to do something good- check out Leesa's giving back page. They plant one tree per every mattress they sell, and donate one mattress for every ten. Thank you for the amazing work! 

Have a great week everyone! 

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Review: Eleanor and Park

Eleanor & ParkEleanor & Park
Rainbow Rowell
YA Fiction

It's 1986 and two star-crossed teens are smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you'll remember your own first love--and just how hard it pulled you under. A cross between the iconic '80s movie Sixteen Candles and the classic coming-of-age novel Looking for Alaska, Eleanor & Park is a brilliantly written young adult novel. 

Considering it takes place in 1986, it's funny to call this book a contemporary. Whatever. 

Beware: unpopular opinion stands before you.

Well, I'm not being fair. 

I picked this book up looking for a short, sweet, quick read. I was NOT expecting a heavy tearjerker. 

What I liked: 
I found their relationship adorably relate-able- the holding hands, being nervous and awkward, first kiss. I liked Park's nerdiness, his family, his wholeheartedness in falling for Eleanor. I like how the book took place in the 80's, and the small town feeling. Having both PoVs was great, and they flowed together smoothly and effortlessly. The short chapters also made it a quick read, so at least that was as expected.

I found that the side characters were important and lovable, and help the reader understand the place and environment. It was nice how in the beginning I judged people like Steve, Tina, and Park's dad, but it turned out that they were nothing like I expected them to be. I loved how Park's mom started to warm up and relate to Eleanor. 

What I didn't like: 
Eleanor's life story was hard for me to swallow in my light, happy mood. Her life was hard, and her decisions not always good. Maybe as a consequence of that, she became a character who was hard to swallow. She was never happy, always too hopeless to try. She never let herself get any help, even from those who could and offered. She never really let Park love her, or even truly agree to love herself. I wanted her to grow throughout the story, and while there were certain scenes towards the end when she allowed herself to enjoy herself with Park, she never allowed herself to love him fully the way he deserved. And that ending. Why?? Her choice is profound and meaningful in the story, and as a reader invested in her I wanted to understand her better. To me, she just made the wrong decision. And it made sad. 

If you can handle and open ending and tragic story, it is a beautiful read- just not my cup of tea on the day I opened it. It's a standalone that was totally meant to be that way, but the kind of novel that if Rainbow Rowell decided to write a sequel five years later or something, I'd totally buy it.