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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Empress of a Thousand Skies

Empress of a Thousand Skies
Written by Rhoda Belleza
Published by Razorbill

It had been a long time since I had found a decent book to read. There had been many new authors attempting to write amazing stories, but some ended up, in my opinion, with unrealistic romances, weak plot lines, and characters that just weren't believable. As someone who enjoys writing, I know that it is hard build the characters and plot into a complex, great story. Just when I had realized that I couldn't find I good book, I had stumbled across Empress of a Thousand Skies. I started it, not really expecting to like it, but soon, I couldn't stop reading the book.

Empress of a Thousand Skies was an interesting and enjoyable book. While the plot was not entirely unique, the story was not as predictable as one might expect. Yes, there were some obvious clich├ęs and it seemed to have been written for a certain age group, rather than being universal. However, the characters were intriguing and the setting was impressive. The author was able to portray the characters in such a way that caused the reader to sympathize with them. I also enjoyed the diversity of the characters. They were all from different planets and were subjected to stereotypes. The plot was written around an captivating concept that not many authors choose to write about. While I usually don't enjoy books that go back and forth between two separate characters, Belleza made it work out okay in the end. I did not enjoy everything about this book, though. It was strange that the two main characters had never really crossed paths in the book, and were both extremely different. The transitions between characters were not very smooth, either. While the readers were able to sympathize with the characters, it is hard to relate to them as their situations are so difficult to compare with real-life situations. At the beginning of the book, it was easy to get lost in the foriegn words of different planets and the odd people of the government. Belleza could have expanded her book much more in order to fully develop the plot, characters, setting, and much more. I look forward to the sequel book she writing.

I would compare this book to a soup. Everything is blended well and the "flavors" mostly go together. There are garnishes that complement the finished product, and the use of "spices" enhances the base flavors. There may be a few parts that are not mixed in well, and a few ingredients that not everyone enjoys "eating" in their "soup". And some people just don't like soup. Some people need more "seasoning" in their soup, and some people need less. It all depends on what the preferences of the person who "eats" it are. Overall, I would guess that most people would "eat" it again. Personally, I would read this book again, and I would give it 3.5 out of 5 stars.
If you want to know more about Empress of a Thousand Skies or the author, visit her website at


Thursday, April 6, 2017

The Baby

The Baby
by Lisa Drakeford

The Baby by Lisa Drakeford is a well-written piece about a high school girl and her four friends. She did not know that she was pregnant, and has to give birth in the middle of her best friend's house party. This book gives teens a good glimpse into what their future would look like if anything were to happen to them regarding high school pregnancy. This book uses multiple voices in a shifting point of view in five different sections. The five sections are titled by the characters names to let you know which life you are going to get a peek into.
This book, while it has it's crazy baby plot, the other plots are super cute such as the pursuit for friendship, the pursuit for a partner, and, in some ways, the pursuit for truth. This book could be viewed as a health video in some ways, but compared to it, it's SO much BETTER. Depending on a video, the book is not corny or cheesy, and when it get too intense, you can put it down and pick it up later, and when you pick it up later, read at your own pace. A health video, depending on the video, is cheesy and corny and NOT well written.

If this book were a food, it would be watermelon and feta cheese. The watermelon, which is really yummy but can get everywhere really fast and then start to stick even quicker, is like the main plot with the baby being a serious issue. The feta cheese, which adds flavor to the already good watermelon, is like the mini plots because they are the toppers on the baby plot.

I really have to give this book a five out of five stars and a recommendation for the Teen's Top Ten because of its great execution of describing the teen mom life, and my information is based off of totally awkward health videos. I should mention that the ending should have deducted a fraction of a star because it left a cliffhanger, but it's all the more reason to add, even though it's not possible, another star. It also makes me want Lisa Drakeford to write another one. Oh, I looked her up online and coming up this year is a book called The Crash that I really want to read when it comes out because it looks so amazing, and I love books! If you think that you might love this book as much as I do, check her out at


Saturday, April 1, 2017

Entangled and the Splintered Trilogy

Ensnared and the Splintered Trilogy
by A.G. Howard

Ensnared is the conclusion to the Splintered series, a series that is, essentially, a spinoff of Alice in Wonderland. I started following this series right after it came out, and it is honestly one of my favorite book series- ever.

Alyssa is a descendant of Alice, and is afflicted by a strange issue- she heard the plants and insects talk to her. Her mom had the same thing, and everyone thinks that she is crazy- but Alyssa finds out differently. On her journey(s), she has to fix Alice's mistakes, defeat an evil queen, and a lot more. This series is packed with adventure, romance, and an incredible plot. This book, Ensnared, is the conclusion to this series.
I, personally, was worried that this series would fall flat on the second book and the third (like so many others have done in the past). However, it surprised me by continuing to be amazing all of the way through; a very rare thing for a trilogy to do. This book was a fantastic conclusion to the trilogy. Without giving too many spoilers, I just have to say that I was scared the love interests would get messed up in the end- but A.G. Howard came up with the perfect conclusion that satisfied this worry without ruining the series for me. I was even more pleased when the romance did not take over the entire plot, because I have always been... well, not the biggest fan of romance. This series has just enough romance to add to the plot, but not too much to make the book focus on it.

This series is simply amazing- one of the best I've read in a long time. I highly suggest it to anyone who may ask (and have done so on numerous occasions). If you are interested in Wonderland, spinoffs of famous tales, romance, or just reading an amazing book, find this one! It is AMAZING!!!

If I was to relate this book to a food, it would be Altoids. "Whaattttt?" is what you are probably thinking right now... here's why Altoids are the perfect food to represent this book; in my house, Altoids are not just an after-meal breath freshener. They are a snack. We can eat a box of Altoids and enjoy it. You can never eat too many, and they taste good no matter what. You don't feel bad after you eat a ton of them either... they are like the infinity snack that you can just. keep. eating. This series is like that- you can keep reading it and never get sick of it. I give it 5 out of 5 stars.
For those of you who are like "Cool, I'm in!"or "I want to find out more about this supercool author", you can check her out at
If you are someone who is interested in the idea of reading a spinoff of a classic tale, A.G. Howard also recently released a spinoff of The Phantom of the Opera, so if that peaks your interest more than Wonderland, check it out! You can find information on this book, called Roseblood, at the website cited above.

I contributed towards another blog post in 2014 about trilogies that do not get worse in the middle and actually deliver to the reader (I used this trilogy as an example). If you want to read more about this, you can find the post at

Enjoy reading!

Thursday, March 30, 2017

A Conjuring of Light

A Conjuring of Light
By V. E. Schwab

A Conjuring of Light is the third book in the Shades of Magic series by V. E. Schwab.  We did not get this as a Galley, but this book is so phenomenal that I had to review it.  I honestly can't express all the emotions I felt when reading this book, but I can say that tears were shed.  The Shades of Magic series is one of those rare series that get better with each book that comes out.  There was neither the sequel-slump nor the third-book-letdown that can often occur in fantasy series; instead, each book grew exponentially in quality as the series progressed.  While the plot of the books initially draw you in (who can resist a world of alternate universes with varying degrees of magic that can be traveled by a select few), the characters are the ones who keep you reading.  The series is centered around a cast of main characters: Kell, the eternally grumpy adopted brother of the prince who uses his magic to run a smuggling business between worlds; Lila, an aspiring pirate who steals her way into the plot; Rhy, the dashing prince with a rebellious streak and a heart of gold; Holland, whose redemption arc rivals that of Zuko; Alucard, who has a cat; among others.  These characters are so lovable and genuine and flawed that I felt proud of all their development over the three books.

A Conjuring of Light picks right up from the cliffhanger at the end of the second book, and the first hundred pages are pure action.  I don't want to give away any spoilers, and hopefully this review remains mildly dignified as I try and contain all the emotions I have for this perfect ending to a pulchritudinous series.  The blood never seemed to stop flowing, the evil kept multiplying, and the pirate ship battles increased in intensity with every quest.  At the end of the book, a few plot points were left open, leaving me very hopeful for a sequel series!

Overall, I would compare A Conjuring of Light to the tiramisu I could have eaten in an Italian restaurant had my brother not gotten completely lost on a mountain (it was all his fault, he deserves no sympathy).  Wonderfully fluffy, slightly exotic given that tiramisu is not as common in the United States as it is in other parts of the world, subtle notes of chocolate, and a unique taste that reminds you of far off places and foreign adventures.  The Shades of Magic series is a brand of fantasy that is completely exciting and a bit more piratey than expected, but totally deserving of 5 out of 5 stars.

In November, I had the delight to meet V. E. Schwab in Cambridge, Massachusetts, at a Y.A. conference.  She was on a panel discussing the development of magical realities, as well as presenting her other book, This Savage Song, which deserves its own blog post.  Pictured are members of our Y.A. Galley club as well as V.E. Schwab (left) and Malinda Lo (right), author of Ash and Huntress.  It was wonderful to meet both authors and to hear their thoughts on creating magic!

To learn more about V. E. Schwab and her books, visit her website at

Friday, January 13, 2017

The Valiant

The Valiant
by Lesley Livingston

Ancient Rome has always attracted a lot of interest from historians and nonfiction writers, because it holds a lot of fame for its government and, most importantly, its Games. Chariot races, gladiator fights, animal fights, animal hunts, and even water games and fights were all stages in arenas like the colosseum for the Roman people to enjoy. Nowadays, people look back on this and can't even think what it would be like- to see people fighting to the death right in front of you. But in The Valiant, a novel by Lesley Livingston, you get not a view of what the games might have been like to witness, but what it might have been like to have fought in them- with a twist. Even though this book, unlike the majority of its predecessors, is fictional, it still contains the context and detail of Ancient Rome,although from the point of not a male gladiator (as it was historically), but a female one. In this novel, Fallon, the daughter of a Celtic king, is part of a society that resists Roman rule- at great personal costs. This means that people in their kingdom learn to be fighters- and Fallon is one of those fighters. On the eve of her seventeenth birthday, she hopes to gain status as a warrior in her father's royal war band. On this same eve, a chain of surprising, and somewhat unfortunate, events ensue that carries her all the way to Rome- but not in the stands, where the Roman people all get to enjoy the games. Instead, she is introduced to the life of a gladiator- in which you kill, or die.
A thrilling adventure that enamors the audience with its fantastical plot, while including a fair number of historical details such as Caesar and Cleopatra, the types of gladiator, the tribune of the plebs, and the grammatical structure of diminutives in latin, this novel is completely enjoyable as well as one that completely absorbs the reader.

If this book was a meal, I think that it would be lentils with coriander. This dish is an enjoyable, consciously healthy dish- and the book is fiction, yet with some historical facts- it contains enough fantasy to spark your imagination while still giving you some historical background (just like healthy food tasting good). A classic Roman dish, lentils with coriander uses lentils (one of the foods commonly used in Ancient Rome) as well as many spices acquired in that region of the world at the time. Lentils represent the book because lentils were one of the Roman staples of food. They were used commonly in many recipes, and hold a fair amount of nutritional value that helped a lot of people to stay healthy. This book captures the essence of the gladiator games, which was another essence of the Roman times- they used the games for happiness. The spices used in this dish are representative of all of the historical tidbits thrown into this novel- the latin grammar of the diminutives, latin vocabulary for gladiator kinds, etc. These facts added a little spice to the gladiator games and the book, just like these spices add to the taste of lentils, which-like the gladiator games-are a Roman staple.
This is a really good book, but I still would have enjoyed a little more Ancient Roman and Latin input. I give it 4.5 stars out of 5.

If you are interested in this book or want to see more by Lesley Livingston, you can check out her website at


Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Singing Bones

The Singing Bones
Illustrated by Shaun Tan
Foreword by Neil Gaiman 
     A brand new outlook on the Brothers Grimm Tales, Shaun Tan provides inspiring and thought-provoking images to correspond with each story. Each tale has an excerpt from the original story, and Shaun uses objects that are so realistic and primitive-looking that you can almost feel them through the picture. Each object looks worn and touchable, tempting you to reach into the page and hold it, stroking the material while you read the story. Each picture embodies the story- it is not just a single snapshot from a scene in the story- it embodies the entire thing. Shaun Tan uses lighting and color to draw your attention to certain details and focus the aesthetic of the art. The foreword by Neil Gaiman is very attractive to any reader who knows his works, and the foreword itself is well written and causes the reader to gain interest in the artwork, as well as the artist. I think that this is a really interesting book that changes your view and interpretation of the Grimm stories in new and insightful ways. However, the book only contains excerpts from each story. You almost don't even need to read the stories themselves, as "a picture is worth a thousand words." Shaun Tan, using his skill and insight, manages to illustrate the entire tale through one singular image, conveying the entire story while giving the emotions that go along with its components through lighting and how the clay is molded. If you want to see the Brothers Grimm Tales rather than read them, enjoy this book!
       If I was to attribute this book to a food, I would say that it is a really well decorated cake, with details and scenery decorated all over it. This is because this book was very visual and "tasted" pretty good!
       If you are interested in seeing more by Shaun Tan, visit

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The Passion of Dolssa

A young woman in 12th century provincial France preaches to her people, and performs miracles that could only come from the divine. The Catholic Church, fresh from the crusades, seeks to “purify” the soul of christendom, and secure their hold on Europe. This young woman, Dolssa, refuses to be silent, and is branded a heretic. The Church hunts her across the land until Botille, a matchmaker in a small seaside town finds Dolssa on death door, nurses her back to health and hides her. However, with the Church bearing down on them, they only have so long, and the more time Dolssa spends in this town the more the Church will likely damn it.
Julie Berry weaves a tale of feminism, religion, and the thin line between being a saint or a heretic in medieval Europe. The prose of the novel is gorgeous, littered with Provincial French, and the characters are captivating. Botille and her sisters are outspoken and feminist in a time when women had few if any rights. Dolssa is an innocent whose words come from truth. She is also courageous and in the face of overwhelming power refuses to be cowed. The whole novel is told from many perspectives including those who pursue Dolssa. We are given a whole narrative and see both side of a complex history. The end in many ways feels inevitable, but the book is an epic ride the whole way through.

This book is a provincial meal. Full bodied and complex the book brings many different events, symbols, and themes together in harmony. It creates an image of a world long gone, but just as visceral as glancing out a window. The deep faith of Dolssa, and Botille’s belief in her grasps the reader, and after every twist you only become more attached. This book is one of the best pieces of historical fiction I have read in a long time and fully deserves 5 stars.

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