Friday, December 30, 2016

Book to Movie Review: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Image result for fantastic beasts

Fantastic Beast and Where to Find Them
Screenplay by JK Rowling
Directed by David Yates

I am unable to find a satisfactory description that I can copy, so allow me to tell you about it myself.

Fantastic Beasts follows the story of the writer of the book by the same name that Harry studies in school in Care of Magical Creatures. Newt Scamander's studies bring him to America 1926, where the magical community is governed by MACUSA. There is a no-maj anti-wizard group active, a NY senator's brother slowly discovering the community, and a dark wizard trying to hunt down a magical force.

It is great fun.

Basically I declare this movie of the year. It was everything you hoped for as a Harry Potter fan but so different and new that you can start the magical world here, too. You can tell it's going to tie in but it's beautifully indirect- Fantastic Beasts is its own story.

First of all, Newt is just a pleasure to watch. Smart and passionate, kind and lovely, geeky and British. He is also extremely talented and powerful!! I love him, and I am so excited to dive deeper into his world- his years at Hogwarts and his friendship/love for the Lestrange girl, his passion for animals and his research and travels, his family, his expulsion... tell me everything!! I didn't know going in that the franchise will be five films, but boy, was elated to find out. Also, a Hufflepuff!! Soooo refreshing.

Tina and Queenie are fascinating ladies. Two very different and very talented New Yorkers who can also do magic. Their sisterly bond was wonderful to watch, but I wondered at it. They seemed to old to be living together, definitely in the 1920s, no? I wonder if in the next films we'll explore their history a bit more. While I certainly found them interesting, it took me a while to get to like them- Tina seemed a bit desperate to me all the time, not happy ever. While in real-life that doesn't make her any less great a person, she didn't draw me in. Queenie did- though I couldn't really wrap my head around how quick she fell for Jacob, or how quickly both sisters trusted Newt and Jacob enough to let them into their home. I mean, for all Tina knew Newt was a criminal she was trying to arrest!

The music and graphics of this film were truly astounding. It was familiar and nostalgic but new and unique at the same time. The setting is gorgeous- NY in 1920 isn't something I'm used to seeing or reading about, and the creators of FB make it something really magical, no pun intended.

The wizarding system raises many questions- if he was expelled, how can Newt have his wand? Is it just pure muggle prejudice that fuels the restriction on marrying no-majs? However, loved that the president is a woman! So unexpected!

Before watching the movie I honestly didn't think I'd like the plot- I was never previously interested in magical creatures, and I didn't know what else was supposed to happen in the movie. I'm DELIGHTED to say that the beasts were FANTASTIC. I loved them all so much, it was amazing how the movie really allowed us to see them as Newt does. And the other stuff- the obscurials are a totally new concept that took me a while to accept (at first I was suspicious- if this existed, why haven't we heard of it before? Hmph. They just made it up to sell us a new movie) but then after thinking about it it made perfect sense, and raised thoughts about Ariana Dumbledore.

Could I go on and on? Definitely. But I'll leave it here. Happy Holidays everyone!!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Review: Lady Midnight

Lady Midnight (The Dark Artifices, #1)Lady Midnight (The Dark Artifices #1)
Cassandra Clare

In a kingdom by the sea…
In a secret world where half-angel warriors are sworn to fight demons, parabatai is a sacred word.
parabatai is your partner in battle. A parabatai is your best friend. Parabatai can be everything to each other—but they can never fall in love.
Emma Carstairs is a warrior, a Shadowhunter, and the best in her generation. She lives for battle. Shoulder to shoulder with her parabatai, Julian Blackthorn, she patrols the streets of Los Angeles, where vampires party on the Sunset Strip, and faeries—the most powerful of supernatural creatures—teeter on the edge of open war with Shadowhunters. When the bodies of humans and faeries turn up murdered in the same way Emma’s parents were when she was a child, an uneasy alliance is formed. This is Emma’s chance for revenge—and Julian’s chance to get back his brother Mark, who is being held prisoner by the faerie Courts. All Emma, Mark, and Julian have to do is solve the murders within two weeks…and before the murderer targets them.
Their search takes Emma from sea caves full of sorcery to a dark lottery where death is dispensed. And each clue she unravels uncovers more secrets. What has Julian been hiding from her all these years? Why does Shadowhunter Law forbid parabatai to fall in love? Who really killed her parents—and can she bear to know the truth?

Moment of truth- I had this book preordered back in March, ripped off the box and tweeted in excitement like everyone else. However, reality being reality I had to focus on exams at the time and only got to crack open this 668 tome of beauty in July before I left for to work in summer camp. In that case, why am I writing this review now in December? Alas, shame. 

To make up for this shame I actually reread it in the last few weeks so I could write my review with the book fresh in my memory. So with my notes from the summer and my thought from read #2, let's begin. 

Ah, Emma and Julian. I remember how before reading City of Heavenly Fire  (link to my review) I was debating reading on the Shadowhunter books but after the introduction of Emma and the Blackthornes I knew I was on the train already and would not get off. Julian is a truly exceptional character - choices like the kind he has to make are only usually found in Holocaust books. He got a lot of flack for being ruthless but I could never see him as anything but heroic, doing what needed to be done to save his family's lives. I wanted him to be with Emma because I wanted so badly for him to find solace with someone, for once have someone take care of him sometimes and take the burden off his shoulders a little bit. 

And Emma. At first I loved her, but at second reading I find myself a little more critical of her. I wondered why she hadn't taken a more active role with raising the children, and was a little shocked at her treatment of Cameron Ashdown. I admired her talent and determination to hone it, and also how she never gave up- not in her belief that her parents' death was something else, despite what the Clave told her, not in saving Julian's life even when the iratzes weren't working, not in chasing Sterling or training herself. I think that she'll become ever more complex and fascinating in Lord of Shadows now that her parents' murder has been solved, and she has (temporarily if we know Cassie Clare๐Ÿ˜ ) the presence of mind to do and be other things. 

As for the kids- I loved how in the center of a mainstream book was a family with a lot of kids, and I really related to that. However, unlike the Weasleys for example, I found that the author lacked the ability to give each of the kids depth and complexity. It was almost as if she made the mistake real people make about real big families- see them as a pile of loud little people instead of each one being a world unto themselves. Each kid was given their thing - Ty his autism, Dru with weight issues, Tavvy being little and Livvy protective of Ty - and nothing more. Dreams for the future, awareness of their situation, rebelliousness, friends or crushes... I especially felt that we got little of Dru. Weight issues and liking of emo things is really all we know of her. I'm really hoping for more in the next book. Ty and Livvy are the same age as Jace and Clary in City of Bones!

Other things I found relatable were the driving through LA (suddenly you find yourself wondering just how the characters of TMI got around in NY), ordering pizza, and overall more description on the people's day-to-day lives. Sometimes I find that missing in YA fantasy so it was beautiful and refreshing to read it here. 

Notable comments, especially spoilery:

Whipping scene was super intense and at the same time kinda pointless. If you gave away Gwyn's secret weakness, wouldn't the punishment be death? How is it helpful to whip people? And if you're already insisting on temporary punishment, why allow someone to take their place? And hello it's probably more sensible to let Mark take the whip anyway, he heals faster than you all. 

So many almost kissing!!


Annabel Lee theme - brilliantly done and so gorgeous. 


Perfect Diego jokes got me. every. time. 

Jem and Tessa- whyyyy don't you realize Jemma are in love and help them


Diana who are you?!?!

Did anybody else totally not predict Malcolm's betrayal? 


Lots of well-placed childhood flashbacks

How did Julian not break and tell Helen things?? She could have been a lot of help even from afar. 

Blackthorn motto be like we are too cool for you Clave 

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Dream Conference Panel !

Hi there! Recently I've been asked what my dream panel at a book conference would look like. I thought it was a great idea for a post and it got me thinking! So behold, the panels I'd sooo fly across the world to be part of.

Survival Skills in Unnatural Circumstances


Haymitch Abernathy and Sirius Black

Need I explain this one? Both Haymitch and Sirius have been through hell and back in their lives and still find the strength within to be sassy and lovable, and in their own ways, good parental figures to Katniss, Peeta, and Harry. I'd love to hear some practical advice about how to stay alive and (somewhat) sane in the arena and in Azkaban, and also about rehabilitating themselves (or not) in their lives afterwords.

Fantasy World-building 

JK Rowling and Rick Riordan


These two quite literally wrote my childhood. I'd spend hours dreaming I'm a witch and demigod, living out my days in Hogwarts and Camp Half-Blood (yes, I said AND not OR. It's all possible when you're 10) .

As an adult still reading their books, I'm astounded as to how well-rounded the worlds they built are. Clues about characters' pasts or futures were always subtly present, all questions answered in wondrous ways we never expected but made perfect sense. The characters were full and complex, the worlds with clear rules and ways in which they worked. 

If these two ever did a panel you can bet I'd break the bank to be there. After crying and possibly just being in awed silence for a while, I'd ask for world-building tips in writing fantasy. 

So those are mine! I'd love to hear from you what panels (imaginary or not) you'd like to attend. Make your own post, or just comment below. Then check out Eventbrite and see what's actually happening near you! (You never know, you may get lucky ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) or use their conference management tools to create and host your own amazing conference panel. Have a great week!! 

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Book to Movie Review: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
book by Ransom Riggs
Directed by Tim Burton

When Jacob discovers clues to a mystery that stretches across time, he finds Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. But the danger deepens after he gets to know the residents and learns about their special powers.
So. Moment of truth. Despite having reread Miss Peregrine in the last year looking forward to this movie, I totally forgot lots of it. Also, I came in late to the movie and was a bit distracted. THEREFORE, I will just tell you in short what I liked and didn't like.

The good: 

LOVED the character of Miss P. SUPERB acting. There was emotion, spunk, badassness, ladylike and queenlike and momlike. AWESOME.

The kids were cute, wished I could have seen more of them- more interactions, playing, anything really.

The scenery - views of Cairnholm were breathtaking, as was the home.

The end- awwwwwww. I doubt they'll make a second movie and truthfully this conclusion made little sense, but it warmed my heart.

The less good:

The character of Barren- I have so far NEVER liked Samuel L. Jackson's acting. Sorry.

The whole scene at the amusement park- like what??? Was that in the book???

 Emma's character and the whole Emma-Abe-Jacob mess of feelings. It wasn't really there, and I wanted it. It's important. On the whole, a story is beautiful to me if it's about people and their feelings and complexities (i.e. why I still read Cassandra Clare) and a lot of those were omitted from the big screen (like Victor and Bronwyn) , albeit understandably.

On Jacob's character I was pretty neutral. I also feel like there was too much buildup for the scene of the reset. I wasn't as wowed as other reviewers. Overall?

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Review: Six of Crows

Six of Crows (Six of Crows, #1)Six of Crows
Leigh Bardugo

Criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker has been offered wealth beyond his wildest dreams. But to claim it, he'll have to pull off a seemingly impossible heist:
Break into the notorious Ice Court(a military stronghold that has never been breached)
Retrieve a hostage(who could unleash magical havoc on the world)
Survive long enough to collect his reward(and spend it)
Kaz needs a crew desperate enough to take on this suicide mission and dangerous enough to get the job done - and he knows exactly who: six of the deadliest outcasts the city has to offer. Together, they just might be unstoppable - if they don't kill each other first. 

If you have never heard of her, please read Leigh Bardugo's Grisha trilogy RIGHT NOW. Truly a piece of the best fiction out there.

That said, Six of Crows is a very different type of read. It's set in the same world, making it the same genre, but it's more of heist drama than a fantasy-world adventure. It's told from the different POVs of the six, making each chapter unique and fresh. Also, each of the narrators have a backstory that most of the others don't know about- it's fascinating  and never repetitive, also allowing you a window into tensions and dramas within the group. 

Kaz Brekker is your deliciously complicated, tormented and brooding, talented scheming bad boy. In another story he'd also be the sexy hearthrob, but in this novel the romance takes a backseat. What was amazing was that the plot alone was so thrilling that I did not find myself searching for more steam in the romances at all. 

As for the rest of them- they were diverse, dynamic, funny and intriguing. You'll love them. 

Setting:  Ketterdam was cool - the gangs, the entertainment houses, the ports, the fights... oodles of awesome. Surprisingly, in Fjerda where all the action happens, I wasn't all that enthralled. Hoping that in the next book (releasing soon!) we'll get to go back to our beloved and magical Ravka *insert heart-eyes emoji here*. 

Two more points of praise:

These days, successful authors will almost always write some spinoff of our favorite stories in their worlds. They'll make it about new characters and if we're lucky they'll up the stakes, but in the end they'll always  have our old friends come in and make a cameo. Leigh Bardugo, however, really gave us a new story, and didn't even have to force the Grisha characters from before into the book to make us excited. Color me impressed.

And one last thing- I read Six of Crows from a paperback edition, BUT DID YOU SEE THOSE BEAUTIFUL HARDCOVERS?? WITH THE BLACK ON THE PAGES?? I WANNNNTT


Friday, June 3, 2016

Review: Troublemaker

Andrew Clements
middle grade contemporary

Clayton Hensley is accustomed to trouble: There’s a folder of incident reports in Principal Kelling’s office that’s as thick as a phonebook and growing daily. Most recently, Clay’s art teacher told the class to spend the period drawing anything they wanted, and Clay decided to be extra “creative” by drawing a spot-on portrait of Principal Kelling…as a donkey.
It’s a pretty funny joke, but Clay is coming to realize that the biggest joke of all may be on him. When his big brother, Mitchell, gets in some serious trouble, Clay decides to change his own mischief-making ways…but he can’t seem to shake his reputation as a troublemaker.

In elementary school, I loved Andrew Clements. An advanced kid and reader, I often felt books meant for my age were stupid. So like all academically strong and frustrated kids, I started reading YA early. Clements was never like that- he doesn't write down to children, and he recognizes them for how smart they really are. His characters are always dynamic and interesting, talented and full of life. They are fully capable of manipulating the adults around them. 

Troublemaker was satisfying in all those ways. Despite how smart and witty and independent Clay is, he openly worships his older brother and aims to be like him. I found that realistic and adorable.  He makes you laugh and you can't help but love him. 

I found his willingness to transform his ways entirely not exactly likely, and also the quickness in which he succeeds. In addition, the example the author used for his message was an exaggeration. Just because he was a troublemaker in 6th grade does NOT mean he's on the path to crime.  However, I thought the ideas behind it -that there are consequences to your actions, and that you can have fun without hurting anybody or breaking the rules, and that if you don't take responsibility for your life you can end up in places you don't want to be - were brought forward well and in a way that was light and enjoyable for a middle grade reader. 

Happy weekend!

Friday, May 13, 2016

Review: The DUFF: Designated Ugly Fat Friend

The DUFF: Designated Ugly Fat FriendThe Duff 
Kody Keplinger
YA contemporary

Seventeen-year-old Bianca Piper may not be the prettiest girl in her high school, but she has a loyal group of friends, a biting wit, and a spot-on BS detector. She's also way too smart to fall for the charms of man-slut and slimy school hottie Wesley Rush. But things aren't so great at home and Bianca, desperate for a distraction, ends up kissing Wesley. Worse, she likes it. Eager for escape, Bianca throws herself into a closeted enemies-with-benefits relationship with him.Until it all goes horribly awry. It turns out Wesley isn't such a bad listener, and his life is pretty screwed up, too. Suddenly Bianca realizes with absolute horror that she's falling for the guy she thought she hated more than anyone.

Unfortunately for all of us, I read The DUFF a few weeks ago and only got around to reviewing it now. I loved it, but am more critical after time has passed. Whatever I say, keep in mind that it was awesome. 

The Duff had a really great concept that was executed not as brilliantly as it could have been. For one, the amazing idea that was this book - how we all feel like the duff next to our friends - was spelled out and shoved in our a faces all the time, instead of subtly through the story as I, for one, would have preferred it. 

Another problem was the one-dimensionality of the supporting cast. Bianca's mother, Jessica, Toby... all just served their purpose in the story and showed no hint of complexity at all. Frankly, in the case of Jessica I actually felt that feminism was dealt a blow - a young, clueless, perky girl portrayed as nothing but that. Even the characters of Bianca's father and Casey, who both had potential to be interesting and realistic, well-rounded characters, ultimately were made to be cliches. 

Bianca, at least, I felt was very normal,  realistic and relatable. She was perhaps more aware of herself than a real person usually is, but I think in books that sometimes helps us tolerate our protagonist's flaws. 

Writing-wise, the novel is very, very immature. Phrases were repeated, the language structure used was simple, slangy, childish. (I confirmed my suspicions later... the book's reading level is 3.7 - at the end of third grade in America you should be able to read this. Content-wise of course, this is firmly high-school.) 

HOWEVER, like I said above, I really liked this book. I laughed, I fell for Wesley (even if he is your typical troubled YA popular bad boy), I felt for Bianca. I understood the need to escape from problems, the insecurity that has plagued every teenager from the dawn of time. The unrequited crushes, the parental problems, regrets, girls judging girls, girls trying to stop... it is, for all its faults, a very good coming-of-age story. 


Saturday, May 7, 2016

Review: To All The Boys I've Loved Before

To All the Boys I've Loved Before (To All the Boys I've Loved Before, #1)To All The Boys I've Loved Before
Jenny Han

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is the story of Lara Jean, who has never openly admitted her crushes, but instead wrote each boy a letter about how she felt, sealed it, and hid it in a box under her bed. But one day Lara Jean discovers that somehow her secret box of letters has been mailed, causing all her crushes from her past to confront her about the letters: her first kiss, the boy from summer camp, even her sister's ex-boyfriend, Josh. As she learns to deal with her past loves face to face, Lara Jean discovers that something good may come out of these letters after all.

This never happens to me - usually when I love a book I love it straight off the bat. I also usually never hate a popular, bestselling book - not always in love with it, but usually never hate it. I consider my tastes fairly normal. 

This book tho. 

I couldn't stand it for the first 50 pages or so, and seriously considered putting it down. (THIS NEVER HAPPENS)  Because I'm crazy about not DNFing, I continued. Boy am I happy.

From the second Lara Jean jumps on Kavinsky and I looked up from the book in bewilderment like did she just do that things took a turn for the awesomeness. I loved how funny things were, I love how I grew to care. I hurt for Josh, I hurt for the sisters. I liked how normal and boring our protagonist was, but how her story and life was beautiful and meaning to me nonetheless. I liked how she was Asian, and it was addressed - ahhahh I had never thought about the costumes thing. 

The romance was beautiful. It was slow, it was funny, it was natural. He grew on me, Peter. Totally had me in love with him by the end. My only real point of criticism throughout the novel was that Lara didn't dwell pretty much at all on who sent her letters. I felt that anyone else wouldn't rest until they found out who had done it. 

As for the person who had done it... without spoilers, I felt that that was a drastic move, and frankly an unforgiveable one. Not to mention the cause of Lara and Margo's fallout... the Song girls' ability to forgive each other was truly astonishing. 

THE ENDING. Like with Jenny Han's other books,  I had a bad feeling about where the sequel was going to go so I spoiled it in order to decide whether or not to read it. Fortunately, it seems things will end up where I believe they should be and have decided to continue(:

Soooo recommended.


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Book to TV review: SHADOWHUNTERS !

So I'm still so totally behind on reviews but I finally watched the first two episodes of this last night and OMG I just have to gush. 

Let's start with the most obvious and outstanding fact that this series was made of eye-candy. Jace- smoking hot. Simon- smoking hot (thank you, totally-unnecessary-absolutely-lovely-Simon-changes-shirt-onscreen-scene) Luke - OMG IT'S THE GUY FROM THE OLD SPICE COMMERCIAL. Magnus - smoking  hot. Hodge - WTH AREN'T YOU SUPPOSED TO BE OLD AND UGLY WHY ARE YOU YOUNG AND SEXY. Alec- HOTTEST OF THEM ALL. 

Was there anything else? All I can remember was beautiful men making me question my morals. 

Oh yeah (:

So I didn't like how Clary looked flawless. all. the. time. She cries, faints, gets sopping wet, fights, gets thrown through a portal, goes down into the crypts of the Silent City and still her long, clean, perfectly styled gorgeous hair says clean perfectly styled and gorgeous. Makeup - beautiful and flawless all. the. time. I wanted more grit, more realistic. The special effects and lack of worldbuilding made this show wayyy sillier than we wanted it already so the least they could do was get the heroes a little dirty and bloody every once in a while.

Also, what on earth was going on with all the cheesy lines and posing?? In the beginning, Jocelyn has an entire looooong scene in which she picks up a seraph blade and poses dramatically in the darkness. Oh come on. And "This is witchlight. We carry it to remind us that light can be found even in the darkest of places" or something like that. Sorry. Maybe I was quoting Dumbledore. 

I think the character of Dot added a lot to the story, and I'm interested in how Maureen's character arc is going to be played out. When it comes to personalities, I feel like the side characters are going to have a lot of cool developments and that we're going to have fun(: 

The foreshadowing was a little unnoyingly obvious at times (like when Simon was so obviously going to be attacked while alone in the car), but I totally busted out laughing when our two soon-to-be-vampires started singing Forever Young. 

I wished the worldbuilding could have been more fleshed out- everything was so rushed. I felt that they didn't properly explain what Shadowhunters are, the difference between demons and Downworlders, what the hell the circle is. We didn't even have time to really get to know or relate to Simon and Clary. If you haven't read the books I doubt you'll like it for anything more than the good-looking actors. 

As for the things I DID like- I LOVED how the Institute was hi-tech. Like, why shouldn't it be??? Why wouldn't Shadohunters use cameras and store their information in computerized databases?? I felt this was an actual improvement on the book world. Also, I thought Valentine was scary, smart, and menacing. His love for Jocelyn was evident and his shock at learning of Clary's existence came across as genuine. 

The funnies- yeah, I laughed. Simon you are so adorable I couldn't even. And Alec made me feel for him - even him being even more rule-abiding than in the book made him endearing. 

Anything else? Of course. Lots and lots. As with #AllThingsCassandraClare. Truthfully, it made me want to go back and read TMI again, and I haven't had that craving in a long time. So thanks, abcfamily freeform. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Review: The Red Tent

The Red Tent
The Red Tent
Anita Diamant 
Adult historical fiction 

Her name is Dinah. In the Bible, her life is only hinted at in a brief and violent detour within the more familiar chapters of the Book of Genesis that tell of her father, Jacob, and his twelve sons.
Told in Dinah's voice, Anita Diamant imagines the traditions and turmoils of ancient womanhood--the world of the red tent. It begins with the story of the mothers--Leah, Rachel, Zilpah, and Bilhah--the four wives of Jacob. They love Dinah and give her gifts that sustain her through childhood, a calling to midwifery, and a new home in a foreign land. Dinah's story reaches out from a remarkable period of early history and creates an intimate connection with the past.

The concept of this book fascinated me. I am familiar with the stories of Genesis like the story of my life, and have been educated thoroughly in the traditional commentary. Therefore, this book was scary to me - I didn't want it to besmirch the names that are holy to me. However, more than anything I found The Red Tent a beautiful story, and maybe a thought experiment on the people I'm descended from. 

The setting was one of the most incredible I've read - Dinah speaks to all the women of the generations, and tells us her story. She starts with that of her mothers' - with all the facts and all the feelings, and no anachronistic judgements to marr the picture. She describes the house of Jacob in such detail that you feel Cnaan in the late Bronze Age -  feel the heat, see the views, smell the food cooking and the animals. Hear the children, play in the red tent with the women, feel the pain and joy of motherhood along with them. Truly, it was an experience to read.

The climax in this story, the turning point, is also the only incident from which we hear of Dinah in the bible. This is also the place in which our story parts ways with the traditional narrative. It was beautiful, and happy and sad all at once. The dramatic bit itself was rushed - I found it hard to follow what was happening until later. 

The third part of the novel takes place in Egypt. This part was the saddest, but also the slowest and a little... boring. However, I found the existence of this storyline in which Dinah finds herself in Egypt very interesting, because there is a legend saying she did but no explanation was given.

The full circle in which we come to in the end basically made me cry. Like the rest of the book, it was beautiful and tragic. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Release Celebration - Think Twice!

THINK TWICEThink Twice (Don't Even Think About It #2)
Sarah Mlynowski

YA Contemporary

More secrets. More scandals. More ESP. The long-awaited sequel to Don't Even Think About It! We used to be average New York City teenagers. Then, in tenth grade, we got flu shots and developed telepathy. Yes. Telepathy. We could read minds, and it wasn't always pretty. We tried to keep our ESP a secret, but the news spread until everyone knew about our special ability. Our teachers. Our friends. The New York Post. We became C-list celebrities. We even had our own groupies. Now, it's senior year, and with graduation around the corner we have plans--big plans--that involve being telepathic. So when one by one we start to lose our ESP, we have to take action. Fast. With the class brainiac on our side, we should be able to save our telepathy before it's too late. Right? Or will we have to learn how to survive without it once again?

Hey all! You'll remember the post I did about Don't Even Think About It - well guess what? THINK TWICE is here and I'm super excited! 

Take a look at this excerpt !

Totally recommended for fans of Gallagher Girls and Heist Society. You can learn more about it here on Sarah's website. 

Sarah is the author of the Magic in Manhattan and Whatever After series, as well as Gimme a CallTen Things We Did (and Probably Shouldn't Have)Milkrun, and more.
Her books have been translated into twenty-nine languages and optioned to Hollywood. Sarah was born in Montreal but now lives and writes in New York City.

Absolutely loved the Bras and Broomsticks series back in the day, and the Whatever After series gets snatched off the shelves at the bookstore I work at! 

You can get Think Twice at Barnes and Noble and Amazon. Click here for the ebook(: 

Thank you so much to Deb Shapiro & Company for the links and excerpt! Enjoy!!

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Review: The Five Orange Pips + The Man with the Twisted Lip

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes 
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Classics, Mystery 

The Five Ornage Pips:                                           A tale of mystery, scandal and murder that may have been committed by the Ku Klux Klan in London. Who else but Sherlock Holmes can solve these series of deaths?
The Man with the Twisted Lip:                     Holmes discovers Dr. Watson in the black shadows of a smoke-filled opium den in the basement of the very house where Holmes is investigating his latest murder case! But of course the good doctor is only there to hunt down the drug-addicted husband of his wife's dear, but distraught, friend. Sound confusing? For all but The Great Detective, it probably is. And we haven't even talked about the murder yet!

You can read my reviews of other Sherlock Holmes stories here. 

I found The Five Orange Pips fairly predictable and classic for Sherlock Holmes stories - weird sign, death threat by terrorist organization, family member of threatened party contacts good old SH. However I think there were two points of interest for this particular story - the first being some beautiful writing. The vocabulary and the flow of the sentences were enchanting in my opinion. The second was the not-neatly-tied-up-ending which I've found is not usual for these stories. I'll say no more there. 

The Man with the Twisted Lip was overall much more to my fancy. This may or may not have something to do with the fact that in BBC's Sherlock (one of my true loves) they do an almost perfectly loyal adaptation of this story's opening scene. So obviously, I was hooked right off the bat. Truthfully, even if I hadn't seen Sherlock's version I think this chapter in The Adventures of SH is great - it starts off with a bang and a funny surprise, and has some great quotes of Watson deciding to throw in in his lot with that of the detectives'. Also, the end was altogether surprising and amusing, and exactly what you'd look for in a short story. Loved it! 

“...I could not wish anything better than to be associated with my friend in one of those singular adventures which were the normal condition of his existence." 
Happy reading!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Review: Champion

Champion (Legend, #3)Champion (Legend #3)
Marie Lu

He is a Legend.
She is a Prodigy.
Who will be Champion?

June and Day have sacrificed so much for the people of the Republic—and each other—and now their country is on the brink of a new existence. June is back in the good graces of the Republic, working within the government’s elite circles as Princeps-Elect, while Day has been assigned a high-level military position.

But neither could have predicted the circumstances that will reunite them: just when a peace treaty is imminent, a plague outbreak causes panic in the Colonies, and war threatens the Republic’s border cities. This new strain of plague is deadlier than ever, and June is the only one who knows the key to her country’s defense. But saving the lives of thousands will mean asking the one she loves to give up everything.

Click here to read my reviews of Legend and Prodigy

I totally FLEW through this book. Everything was just so fascinating, the stakes were so high.. there were politics, negotiations, love, loss, sad times and fun times. 

Day continues to be awesome. You just can't help but love him, and admire his loyalty despite everything he'd been through, and his determination to never give up. June is alright- she's very real, and that unfortunately means she's very flawed. Naturally, this made me want to read about Day all the time. However, she displayed really remarkable emotional intelligence in Champion, and was constantly there for everyone. 

Like I said about Prodigy, all the usual literary cliches for last-books-in-the-series were here, something that greatly pissed me off. I WAS NOT HAPPY WITH THIS ENDING. I won't spoil it, but it just wasn't probable, overally disappointing and unnecessary. I also felt that I wanted more information about the Republic for closure- we were told what we needed to know but I like Anden as a leader and wanted to experience within the story the happy ending for the country. 

What can I say? I loved it and was practically in tears to finish such a wonderful series but I can't not dock off a star for that ending. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Review: Bloody Jack

Bloody Jack: Being an Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary "Jacky" Faber, Ship's Boy (Bloody Jack, #1)
Bloody Jack: Being an Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary "Jacky" Faber, Ship's Boy
L.A. Meyer
YA historical fiction

Life as a ship's boy aboard HMS Dolphin is a dream come true for Jacky Faber. Gone are the days of scavenging for food and fighting for survival on the streets of eighteenth-century London. Instead, Jacky is becoming a skilled and respected sailor as the crew pursues pirates on the high seas.There's only one problem: Jacky is a girl. And she will have to use every bit of her spirit, wit, and courage to keep the crew from discovering her secret. This could be the adventure of her life--if only she doesn't get caught. . . .
I had this book on my shelf for the loooongest time. My friend had shoved it into my hands forever ago. At first it looked to me like a cute middle grade adventure, the kind I would've liked when I was younger, and therefore didn't strike my fancy during the period in which I was reading Fifty Shades of Grey, for example. However, a few weekends ago (yes I'm so behind in my reviews) I opened the first page to see what it would be like and I was hooked.

Let's start with the setting. EIGHTEENTH-CENTURY LONDON. DOES IT GET MORE PERFECT THAN THAT?? Notice my blog design and you get all you need to know about my favorite time and place to read about. Except this time it's not a grand Institute, no balls or seasons or corsets and carriages. No, in Bloody Jack we visited London as the regular people experienced it - dirty, people dying of diseases left and right and not even getting a proper burial as their bodies are getting picked up by experimenters. Starving orphans on the streets scavenging to survive- that is where we meet or protagonist, Mary.

We learn that Mary actually come from a semi-ok financial situation, and that she was even taught to read. But no money or education can stop the death of your parents by plague and being cast out onto the streets. There Mary is picked up by a gang of smart and tough kids led by the lovable Charlie.

I loved this first part of the book. The way it's written, in Mary's garbled street-speech, the fast pace, the childish way in which Mary understands things - it all sucked you right in to the tragedy that was those kids' lives, but also their fun and adventure and family that they built together.

Throughout the novel, we grow up with Mary. How she gets herself on that boat, cleverly hides her identity as a girl, and takes on the name and role of Jacky. It was incredible how a story about a child became a tale of a ship's boy, but then slowly to that of a woman. Despite the book's blurb, I didn't expect the book to dive that deeply into femininity and what it means to be a woman. The whole theme of it made the story so much more realistic - if you were a growing girl among boys who hasn't seen any grown women in years, it would also be a subject that kept you up at night. In this respect, Bloody Jack was very different from other stories where girls pass as boys, like Leviathan or Alanna.

So, behold:

Friday, February 26, 2016

Review: The Sword of Summer

The Sword of Summer (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, #1)The Sword of Summer (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard #1)
Rick Riordan
middle grade, Norse mythology

Magnus Chase has always been a troubled kid. Since his mother’s mysterious death, he’s lived alone on the streets of Boston, surviving by his wits, keeping one step ahead of the police and the truant officers.
One day, he’s tracked down by a man he’s never met—a man his mother claimed was dangerous. The man tells him an impossible secret: Magnus is the son of a Norse god.
The Viking myths are true. The gods of Asgard are preparing for war. Trolls, giants and worse monsters are stirring for doomsday. To prevent Ragnarok, Magnus must search the Nine Worlds for a weapon that has been lost for thousands of years.
When an attack by fire giants forces him to choose between his own safety and the lives of hundreds of innocents, Magnus makes a fatal decision.
Sometimes, the only way to start a new life is to die . . . 
Behold, the book I basically started reading in November and finished a week ago.  Round of applause, please.

No matter what, come hell or high water, Rick Riordan's books will be good. However, I realize now that the appeal will lessen the older you get. 

Unlike the Percy Jackson books, and like Heroes of Olympus, The Sword of Summer was a massive, almost 500-page book. Let's be honest - Heroes was not as good as PJ, but we loved it and read it anyway, partially because we loved the familiar characters and world. In the case of Magnus Chase, I found the size a bit of a problem. The Norse world and it's rules are not as familiar to the average reader as the Greek Gods and stories are (at least to me) and I found all the character arcs and backgrounds and subplots rather confusing. 

Also, I found the supporting characters rather dull and not as relatable as Annabeth, Grover, and Tyson always were. Blitz and Hearth were not young kids, and Samirah, while having cool and useful abilities, didn't usually add much to the scene. 

Truthfully though, all of the above is really just one flaw, and that is that the book was not Percy Jackson. If you can read it without expecting it to be what it cannot be, you should enjoy it(:

On to the things I loved: humor as spot on as usual, THE CHAPTER TITLES, the cover, the fact that it's a trilogy, pure originality, pop culture references, the dedication, Rick Riordan fandom inside jokes (passes out even more than Jason Grace), the talking goats, the talking sword. 

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Review: Demigods and Monsters

Demigods and Monsters: Your Favorite Authors on Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson and the Olympians Series
Demigods and Monsters: Your Favorite Authors on Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson and the Olympians Series

Which Greek god makes the best parent?Would you want to be one of Artemis’ Hunters?Why do so many monsters go into retail?
Spend a little more time in Percy Jackson’s world—a place where the gods bike among us, monsters man snack bars, and each of us has the potential to become a hero.
Find out:
Why Dionysus might actually be the best director Camp Half-Blood could have

How to recognize a monster when you see one

Why even if we aren’t facing manticores and minotaurs, reading myth can still help us deal with the scary things in our own lives

Plus, consult our glossary of people, places, and things from Greek myth: how Medusa got her snake hair extensions, why Chiron isn’t into partying and paintball like the rest of his centaur family, and the whole story on Percy’s mythical namesake.

When I bought this I thought it was going to be something like The Demigod Diaries or The Demigod Files - some bonus Riordan content. When I realized what it was though, I was a bit diappointed but interested. Behold, my thoughts:

The introduction was really cool to me - it's basically Rick Riordan expressing his amazement that people could find symbolism and deeper meanings in a bedtime story he made up for his kid. Includes interesting quote by Mark Twain. 

Monster Recongnition for Beginners- cute, entertaining. Liked the footnotes. 

Why Do So Many Monsters Go Into Retail? - found this boring, was unable to figure out the concrete claim the writer was trying to make. 

Stealing Fire From the Gods -  well written, but a familiar concept. 

Would You Want to be One of Artemis' Hunters? - a question I (and I bet every other female reader of The Titan's Curse) had thought about a bunch of times. The whole dilemma in one essay.

Dionysus: Who Let Him Run a Summer Camp? - ahhh loved this. Mr. D is my favorite. 

The Gods Among Us - heartfelt. A good and important read.

Percy Jackson and the Lords of Death - some new and interesting comparisons to Maya mythology, and a How To Build A Middle Grade Adventure guide.

Eeny Meeny Miney Mo(m) - oh, admit it. You thought about which godly parent you'd want a million times. This essay confirmed my choice! (APOLLO)

Percy, I Am Your Father - rating of the gods based on their parenting skills. An overlook over the whole series, some very good points. 

As Bad as They Wanna Be - all about Hades and Nico. I loved this! Always thought they deserved more credit than they got. 

The Greek Hero- New and Improved - agreed!

Not Even the Gods Are Perfect- nicely done, but a subject discussed in other essays. 

Frozen Eyeballs - about oracles and prophecies. Had more potential than it lived up to. 

The Language of the Heart - ehhh.

A Glossary Of Ancient Greek Myth - cutely written, actually had a lot of new info there, but I still stopped halfway through because you can only read a list of definitions for so long.

Overall? Not going to excite your middle grader, but if you have a thoughtful fan in mind this might work for them. Rating:

Happy 2016 dear people! So sad I missed December here on the blogosphere, and looking forward to a year filled with happiness and books!