Lets talk about… The Dollmaker of Krakow by R. M. Romero

dollmaker of krakowIn the land of dolls, there is magic.
In the land of humans, there is war.
Everywhere there is pain.
But together there is hope.

Karolina is a living doll whose king and queen have been overthrown. But when a strange wind spirits her away from the Land of the Dolls, she finds herself in Krakow, Poland, in the company of the Dollmaker, a man with an unusual power and a marked past. 

The Dollmaker has learned to keep to himself, but Karolina’s courageous and compassionate manner lead him to smile and to even befriend a violin-playing father and his daughter–that is, once the Dollmaker gets over the shock of realizing a doll is speaking to him. 

But their newfound happiness is dashed when Nazi soldiers descend upon Poland. Karolina and the Dollmaker quickly realize that their Jewish friends are in grave danger, and they are determined to help save them, no matter what the risks.

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Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This does not sway my opinion in any way.

To start out, I am a huge reader of books during WWII/The Holocaust time period. I feel like this time period is such an important part of history and I am always interested in how authors tell different stories (whether they are true or just based on the time period) about events that happened. There are a lot of stories out there about heroics during this time, whether that was on the battlefield or in the small towns across Europe. The Dollmaker of Krakow is one of those stories about the city of Krakow, Poland before and during the invasion of the Nazis. It follows a dollmaker and a doll that he brings by magic from the Land of the Dolls, Karolina, while they navigate this rapidly changing world of Nazi occupied Poland.

This book is a middle school level book and I think Romero does a great job of weaving a good story for that age group. Especially the ability to help them understand what horrible things occurred during the time period. She brings to life not only a doll but that time period and how it looked to someone younger and innocent. As a reader you make friends with a multitude of characters in the book, from a young Jewish girl and her father to a mouse that is brought back to life by the Dollmaker. You also meet people that you aren’t the biggest fan of, and they aren’t just Nazis. Each character had their own little personalities that you learn to love or hate.

One aspect of the book that I really liked was the fact that the author brought into play the culture and the different mythical creatures of Poland, which are different then what I grew up with. For instance, we are introduced to a Lakanicas, who are mythical creatures who rule over fields. It is always interesting to me to learn little bits like this in a book and I enjoyed the different aspects they bring to the story. I also really enjoyed seeing the Dollmaker and Karolina grow together through out the book. They helped each other realize that they can make a difference, whether it is helping one person or many. That no matter who you are, you deserve love, which is a good feature to have in a middle school aged book.

The only parts that I had a hard time with was the switching back and forth between Land of the Dolls and Krakow. Sometimes it seemed really random when they went back to the Land of the Dolls and it didn’t match up with the story that she was trying to tell in Krakow. Sometimes I wished there was a little more story in the Land of the Dolls and what happened to them afterwards. Though this didn’t take away too much from the story, it still stuck out to me and made me drop one star from my rating.

Overall I really did enjoy this book and it definitely deserves the 4/5 star rating. So if you are looking for an interesting book to read for the start of the school year, this book comes out September 12th! So only a few weeks away!

arika

 

 

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Lets talk about….The Waking Land by Callie Bates

the waking landLady Elanna Valtai is fiercely devoted to the King who raised her like a daughter. But when he dies under mysterious circumstances, Elanna is accused of his murder and must flee for her life.
Returning to the homeland of magical legends she has forsaken, Elanna is forced to reckon with her despised, estranged father, branded a traitor long ago. Feeling a strange, deep connection to the natural world, she also must face the truth about the forces she has always denied or disdained as superstition powers that suddenly stir within her.
But an all-too-human threat is drawing near, determined to exact vengeance. Now Elanna has no choice but to lead a rebellion against the kingdom to which she once gave her allegiance. Trapped between divided loyalties, she must summon the courage to confront a destiny that could tear her apart.
 

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I received a copy of this book through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not sway my opinion in any way.

My Initial Reaction:

While this book wasn’t a huge hit with me, I definitely wasn’t mad that I read it. I saw a lot of potential throughout the book and I really did enjoy the magic and the basic premise of the story. The only thing I wasn’t so keen on was that I had a hard time falling in love with the characters.

My Overall Reaction:

The main premise of this book is that Elanna, our main heroine, is a girl who grew up as a political prisoner in a country that has taken over her homeland. She now considers the King who captured her more of a father then her actual father (we will get to this a bit later). The one thing nobody knows though is that she has hidden powers that allow her to control the earth around her. I enjoyed this form of magic that she portrays throughout the book and (without giving away too much) I love how she grows into these powers. I also like that she wants to be a botanist and learn about plants, which goes along with her powers. But all of these plans she sees for herself are thrown out the window when the king is mysteriously killed and she is blamed for it. She is now thrown back into the life she thought she would never know and goes on a wild adventure to prove her innocence and free her homeland from the country she thought was home.

This story had a great base to it but I felt at times it fell flat. I wasn’t as keen on all the relationships throughout the book, I didn’t feel like I wanted to root for any one character or relationship to happen. She flipped/flopped a lot with how she felt about characters. For instance, it seemed that Elanna wanted a good relationship with her father one moment and at other times she would totally forget about him and act like he never mattered to her. It was confusing at times. I did enjoy her adventure throughout the land though, and how she had to meet all different types of people in her homeland, it helped her rediscover the place she was born and was meant to be in. It also helped her discover the magic that has always lived inside her.

Another downfall for me was that the story itself sometimes felt like it was being dragged along and some parts probably could have been cut out or condensed. Mostly this was because of repetition of thoughts and feelings over one character that I felt could have been summed up in a couple pages, when in fact, it took a few chapters. But all in all, a good writing style that helped build a good picture in my mind. Overall I gave this book 3/5 stars. While it wasn’t my favorite book, I would definitely read something again by Callie Bates in the future.

This book came out July 4th, 2017, I think it deserves a chance if your looking for a book to read.

Question: Have you read this book? What are your thoughts?

arika

 

Let’s Talk About…The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord

30038906

When it all falls apart, who can you believe in?

Everything is going right for Lucy Hansson, until her mom’s cancer reappears. Just like that, Lucy breaks with al

 

l the constants in her life: her do-good boyfriend, her steady faith, even her longtime summer church camp job.

Instead, Lucy lands at a camp for kids who have been through tough times. As a counselor, Lucy is in over her head and longs to be with her parents across the lake. But that’s before she gets to know her coworkers, who are as loving and unafraid as she so desperately wants to be.

It’s not just new friends that Lucy discovers at camp—more than one old secret is revealed along the way. In fact, maybe there’s much more to her family and her faith than Lucy ever realized.

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Initial reaction upon finishing:

Wow. I really am not even sure where to start this. Originally I wasn’t going to post anything, but this book hit me so close to home that I really can’t help but share. I closed this books with tears in my eyes, tears that found another book that I could relate to so much. Throughout this story you follow Lucy as she is trying to navigate her life after finding out her mom was diagnosed with cancer for a 2nd time. To have your world rocked a 2nd time…that would be tough. The 1st time is hard enough as is, but to know the possibilities of everything all over again is something I cannot even comprehend.

Now…I will try to put into words a few of the things that I absolutely loved about this book.

  1. I could relate to this book so much. My father was diagnosed with cancer when I was 13, and the feelings and emotions that Lucy has in this book are exactly what I have had. I felt betrayed just like Lucy. I questioned God and why in the world He stopped listening to my prayers. My relationships with people changed and my outlook on life changed. If you haven’t been through this experience I would highly suggest this book for that reason alone. The topic of faith and religion wasn’t over the top, and though I am a religious person myself I don’t think that it was at all in your face. On top of that, the depiction of someone fighting with cancer seemed real to me. There were no ribbons, no walks, but sickness. Because people with cancer are sick. They lose their hair and lose weight. They throw up because chemo makes them sick and foods just stop tasting good. Though this book doesn’t go into the nitty gritty, it does give you that image of things not being perfect. This book got real in those areas and I think that was really important.
  2. There were some awesome characters. I related to Lucy so much in so many ways, as I have already said. But Lucy is so much more than her grief and her situation. Throughout the book we see Lucy grow, discover, and learn so much about her life and the world around. She becomes a strong individual, ready to tackle any of life problems. This growth is definitely in thanks to her friends that she makes at Daybreak. All of these characters felt real to me. They broke down and took breaks. They were sarcastic but also serious. They were there for each other no matter what happened. Each one has a complex background filled with challenges they had to overcome, but none of that seemed forced. Everything flowed and their relationships really worked so well together. I just adored this group and I want to be a part of it.
  3. Emery Lord just has a way with words. Within the first few pages I was sucked in. The words flowed and they hit me. They hit me in so many ways that I found myself diving in for more. A few of my favorite quotes…

    “Here’s what I am learning: Sometimes, the bg changes seem to happen in small, fast moments. A diagnosis. A breakup. A crush. But usually, there was something there – underlying, building up – all along.”

    Hasn’t Daybreak shown me, day after day, that people can outlast unbelieveable pain? That human hearts are like noble little ants, able to carry so much more weight that you’d expect.”

    “It is not the type of love that ends.”

In the end, this book was everything I wanted and an excellent reminder of why I love Emery Lord’s books. I felt like this book was written directly for me. It gave me so many things to think about and almost gave me a little bit of closure on old wounds that have been there for a long time.

I think everyone needs to read this book. It will give you an account of grief that you can’t find in a lot of places. It will give you something real, raw, and something that I went through (as well as many others). Definitely pick up this book.

QUESTION: What are some of your favorite contemporaries?

emily

Let’s Talk About…Follow Me Back by AV Geiger

32470611Tessa Hart’s world feels very small. Confined to her bedroom with agoraphobia, her one escape is the online fandom for pop sensation Eric Thorn. When he tweets to his fans, it’s like his speaking directly to her…

Eric Thorn is frightened by his obsessive fans. They take their devotion way too far. It doesn’t help that his PR team keeps posting to encourage their fantasies.

When a fellow pop star is murdered at the hands of a fan, Eric knows he has to do something to shatter his online image fast—like take down one of his top Twitter followers. But Eric’s plan to troll @TessaHeartsEric unexpectedly evolves into an online relationship deeper than either could have imagined. And when the two arrange to meet IRL, what should have made for the world’s best episode of Catfish takes a deadly turn…

Told through tweets, direct messages, and police transcripts.

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I received a copy of this book through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not sway my opinion in any way.

Initial reactions upon finishing:

HOLY. CRAP. The two words I uttered over and over again as I sat and stared at a finished book. This book was a page turner and had me constantly on the edge of my seat. It had a little bit of everything – action, intrigue, romance, humor, TERRIFYING MOMENTS! I finished this in a matter of a few days, which is a huge feat when I am in the middle of dealing with so much work stuff. So what was it that worked for me?

  • Characters I could relate to. I do not have agoraphobia as Tessa does, and I am not a famous celebrity like Eric. I am, however, a human being…one that deals with my own forms of anxiety and insecurities. Both Tessa and Eric have some anxiety, insecurities, and a lot of self-doubt. Though our reasons are different for these feelings I found that a lot of their story really hit home in some areas for me. I think we can all relate to holing up in social media sometimes, because we can be someone that we aren’t. I understood why both Tessa and Eric took solace in it, found relief in talking to each other on there. This is a situation that so many of us understand. On top of that they were both pretty funny and I really enjoyed their online banter. They were strong characters who were doing their best to move past their fears. This is a strength that really grew throughout the book as various situations came up. I loved that you could see them grow up and become more than they were before.
  • A reminder of internet safety. I think this book really had me thinking about my interactions on the internet and how genuine they are. Also had me thinking about how much I reveal about myself. There are so many people on the internet…so many. And each person is a different type of person, which is both good and bad. Though I think I have mostly run into the good I can honestly never be sure. There is so much unknown. There are so many good things. I have met a lot of awesome people online and have fallen into a lot of positive and welcoming communities here, but I also never know when I might fall into something bad. Be safe on the internet everyone. Be smart. Be safe.
  • Page turning thriller. This book really did have a bit of everything. It tackled some tough issues, like various phobias and mental illnesses. It showed characters opening themselves up to something that seemed scary and coming out with friends on the other side. This book had a romance that started to blossom and had you aching in your chest. There were plot twists and turns that I had either forgotten about or just didn’t pay attention to. This book got super creepy and I found myself unable to put it down. There were so many questions that I just needed answers for. I honestly could not get enough of this book.

This book had me hooked from the beginning, and as the story continued to build I found myself more and more involved in it’s plot. I would think I would predict one thing and then it would turn out to be wrong and I would get comfortable. I learned the hard way that getting comfortable is so wrong…so very wrong. I was reminded that ANYTHING can happen, even if you only have a few pages left in the book. BECAUSE OH MY GOSH THAT ENDING YOU GUYS!

This book comes out on June 6th, 2017. Make sure you get your hands on this thriller right away.

emily

Let’s Talk About…Seeking Mansfield by Kate Watson

32713479Sixteen-year-old Finley Price has perfected two things: how to direct a world-class production, and how to fly way, way under the radar. The only person who ever seems to notice Finley is her best friend, the Bertram’s son Oliver. If she could just take Oliver’s constant encouragement to heart and step out of the shadows, she’d finally chase her dream of joining the prestigious Mansfield Theater.
When teen movie stars Emma and Harlan Crawford move next door to the Bertram’s, they immediately set their sights on Oliver and his cunning sister, Juliette, shaking up Finley and Oliver’s stable friendship. As Emma and Oliver grow closer, Harlan finds his attention shifting from Juliette to the quiet, enigmatic, and thoroughly unimpressed Finley. Out of boredom, Harlan decides to make her fall in love with him. Problem is, the harder he seeks to win her, the harder he falls for her.
But Finley doesn’t want to be won, and she doesn’t want to see Oliver with anyone else. To claim Oliver’s heart—and keep her own—she’ll have to find the courage to do what she fears most: step into the spotlight

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I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

Reaction upon finishing:

WOW! This book was excellent. Can we just take a moment to be impressed with how contemporaries are KILLING IT with me this year. I typically am hit or miss, but I think this year I have read about as much contemporary as fantasy and have very similar success rates. This particular book was everything. It was cute, without being too cutesy. It was real, without being too real. It was gut wrenching, but not all the time. It was a little bit of everything rolled into one. I ate this book up in just a few short sittings because I simply couldn’t get enough. I was completely lost in the world of Finley and Oliver and the things they navigated each and every day. From the absurd to the 100% real, I was all in all the time. What was it that I liked in particular, you may ask?

  • Jane Austen retelling! Ok, I know that Mansfield Park isn’t everyone’s favorite. I mean, I tried to read it a few times and just couldn’t do it. It was one that I felt like I wasn’t in the mood for and would come back to later. Kate Watson takes that story and puts her own twist on it, making it enjoyable and memorable without taking away some of the things we love about Austen (because the SWOONS GUYS! THE SWOONS!). I really felt like this retelling did it justice and I even think I like it more than Mansfield Park. But I also wonder if I should give it a try once again.
  • Finley was amazing! She became almost and entirely new person by the end of the book. When we meet Finley she is shy, timid, but so grateful to be where she is at. She works hard to make sure that no one questions how thankful she is for all that the Bertrams have done for her. She has big dreams, but she starts off being scared of them. As you read on you really get to know why she is this way and your heart breaks for her. For so long she has hid from her past, for so long she has suffered from some form of PTSD from it all. But something changes in her, or someone helps her change (OOOOOOOOHHHHH). She finds ways to grow and find herself. I don’t want to give too much away because it is too good, but I grew so incredibly fond of her. She became so much more than what I had anticipated.
  • The love triangle makes sense. I have to give you that warning. I know some people (ME) dislike love triangles. I am flashing back to the whole Bella/Edward/Jacob thing and how horrible that ended up being. I was skeptical about the love triangle at first, but it made sense. It became something that I, as a reader, got so wrapped up in. I fell for it all and I didn’t know who to choose. It was stressful, it was heartbreaking, it was heartwarming (yes, somehow it was both), and it kept me going. Because these boys…oh these boys…they were fantastic. They brought so many good things out in Finley and helped her get to some amazing realizations about her life and OH GOSH I NEED TO STOP NOW!
  • This book had some real life issues and messages that I could not stop thinking about. Ok, I have to admit that some of the plot seemed a bit unreal to me. But I don’t run in a crowd of well off people so I kind of wrote it off because to me…it’s not that easy to meet and befriend a celebrity. Despite that there were some things that tugged at me. First, there was the issue with PTSD and abuse. For so many people this is a real life situation and it hurt my heart. It made me want to reach out, to make the hurt go away, and to help in whatever way I can. If you are in any sort of abusive relationship PLEASE…please don’t hesitate to talk to someone and report it. You deserve so much better!  It also made me remember that even in the darkest of situations you can come out stronger. Finley is an excellent, fictional example of that. I am not at all saying that we have to go through these situations in life to grow, but I am saying that even at your weakest it is possible to come out stronger. I really loved seeing that in this book.

BONUS: Oliver (all the heart eyes), betrayal (so much shock), theater, pop culture references, a companion novel set to come out next year!

This book comes out on May 16th, 2017 and I definitely think you need to give it a shot. It has humor, romance, heartache, and an ending that will have you feeling all kinds of emotions. If you are a Jane Austen lover I think you will definitely appreciate Kate Watson’s take on a classic.

I am so glad that I was able to read this and I honestly can’t wait for it to be out in the world. Get your copy ASAP!

QUESTION: What’s your favorite classic?

emily

Let’s Talk About…Violet Grenade by Victoria Scott

violet-grenadeDOMINO: A runaway with blood on her hands.

CAIN: A silent boy about to explode.

MADAM KARINA: A woman who demands obedience.

WILSON: The one who will destroy them all.

When Madam Karina finds Domino in an alleyway, she offers her a position at her girls’ home in secluded West Texas. With no alternatives and an agenda of her own, Domino accepts. It isn’t long before she is fighting her way up the ranks to gain the madam’s approval…and falling for Cain, the mysterious boy living in the basement.
But the madam has horrible secrets. So do the girls in the house. So does Cain. Escaping is harder than Domino expects, though, because the madam doesn’t like to lose inventory. But then, Madam Karina doesn’t know about the danger living inside Domino’s mind.
Madam Karina doesn’t know about Wilson.

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*I received an e-copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review*

Initial reaction upon finishing:

This book was an intense ride that I could not put down. Once I finished I started to think about my expectations of this book, and I honestly can’t even remember what they were. I knew it sounded thriller-eque, and I knew it sounded like a book about someone wrestling their inner demons which are two things I was definitely wanting in a book. In the end what I got was so much more…it was a story about overcoming those obstacles in your past and finding your people. It’s about facing down those terrible moments and finding a way to rise above them. This book got dark and went to some places that I was not entirely prepared for…I was constantly turning pages and dying to know what was going to happen next.

So…what are some of the reasons that I really enjoyed this book?

  • It’s YA but borders adult so much. When reading books like this I honestly don’t understand what the line is. I get that the characters involved are young adults, but the situations are so adult. The situations get dark. There is murder and blood-thirst and the need for characters to release their darker selves. It’s a sad reminder that so many young people are exposed to things darker than we adults could ever imagine. I can imagine that this book will do well with a wide variety of readers.
  • Domino is a force to be reckoned with. When you meet her at the beginning of the book she is scared. She has so much in her past that she is constantly hiding, and she has Wilson. Throughout the book she really starts to come into her own. She sees the need to fight for what is right and for those that she is started to become attached to. And honestly, you have to give the girl credit once you do figure out her past. She has seen more than I have ever seen, done more dark and horrible things than I have ever done, and yet she seems to be doing ok. Obviously there’s issues and she clearly needs to see someone, but she is functioning as well as any person in her situation could ever ask for. And she grows. She starts to realize that it’s ok to be on her own, but it’s also ok to rely on someone you can trust. Her confidence skyrockets and becomes a character that I am really cheering for. She is a main character that I can get behind.
  • Cain and Poppet are perfection. First you have Cain, this quiet guy that you know has more to tell than what he is letting on. He comes across as this strong, tough guy that you don’t want to mess with, but in the end he is a big softie to those he cares for. He protects and takes care of the girls in the house, even when they belittle him. He is a man caught in the game of blaming yourself for something that isn’t entirely your own fault. He grows and matures a lot throughout this book and I really started to like him. Poppet is one I struggled with at first. I found her to be weak and unsure of herself, which she was. Once she is taken under Domino’s wings she grows. She also starts to really gain confidence in herself and eventually is capable of so much more than she had ever imagined. I think I could see a little bit of myself in her. I am unsure, cautious, and not always confident in my abilities. I get her, and I think that’s why it took so long to warm up to her. I am so glad that she grew on me.
  • This book was a page turner. I tend to be a bit of a slow reader unless I have nothing but hours of time to dedicate to reading. Even on those days I tend to kind of take my time getting through a book. I finished this book in just a couple of sittings. I was hooked at the beginning. The writing drew me in and I was intrigued to see where this was going and what would be happening with Domino. The further I got into the book the more I realized I couldn’t put it down. There were so many things happening with the plot, so many questions that I had, and I just found that I couldn’t stop. I only kind of predicted some things, but many of the plot twists caught me by surprise and I was floored by what had happened in so many of these character’s lives. It’s a dark, slightly mess up book that has you begging for more.

All in all, this book was a hard to put down ride that constantly had me guessing. I was shocked by how deeply I cared for the characters in the end (because how many times do you read thrillers that you find you don’t care at all for the characters. Looking at you Gone Girl). I wanted the best for them, ever step of the way, and I was heartbroken when things didn’t work out as planned. I am so glad that I was able to read this book, and I definitely think that you should give it chance. Who knows…this could be your thriller that you take to the beach.

This book comes out on May 2nd, 2017. Make sure to grab a copy for yourself!

QUESTION: What are some of your favorite thrillers (if you read thrillers)?

emily

Let’s Talk About…Geekerella by Ashley Poston

30201136Geek girl Elle Wittimer lives and breathes Starfield, the classic sci-fi series she grew up watching with her late father. So when she sees a cosplay contest for a new Starfield movie, she has to enter. The prize? An invitation to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball, and a meet-and-greet with the actor slated to play Federation Prince Carmindor in the reboot. With savings from her gig at the Magic Pumpkin food truck (and her dad’s old costume), Elle’s determined to win…unless her stepsisters get there first.
Teen actor Darien Freeman used to live for cons—before he was famous. Now they’re nothing but autographs and awkward meet-and-greets. Playing Carmindor is all he’s ever wanted, but Starfield fandom has written him off as just another dumb heartthrob. As ExcelsiCon draws near, Darien feels more and more like a fake—until he meets a girl who shows him otherwise. But when she disappears at midnight, will he ever be able to find her again?
Part romance, part love letter to nerd culture, and all totally adorbs, Geekerella is a fairy tale for anyone who believes in the magic of fandom.

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Initial thoughts after finishing:

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Oh. My. Gosh. This book was completely and totally adorable in every single way. I am a huge sucker for Cinderella stories, and this one did not disappoint. Ashley Poston did an excellent job of bringing it into a world that a lot of us really understand and can relate to. I ate up every single word and found myself flying through this book (and regretting flying through this book because then it’s over and I have nothing left).  So, what are some of my takeaways….

  • Cinderella retelling! Yes, I know that retellings of this particular story can get old, but I don’t think this one falls into that category. I think that this one felt fresh, modern, and one that we can all kind of relate to. These days it common to be a part of a fandom if you are online. I can’t say I am 100% in one, but I know many people that are. This fact alone brings this Cinderella story into a world that we all kind of understand. Yes, it is a BIT far fetched for you to be the Cinderella in this story, texting the new lead of a reboot and falling in love with him, but we can dream right?
  • Elle and Darien! Ok, so it’s a good thing that I like the Cinderella and Prince Charming of the story right? Obviously they fit the stereotypical roles, but something about these two are different. Elle is something that I can relate to. She seems to be comfortable with who she is online, but who she is in person she is a little unsure of. She is a bit shy and really just figuring herself out. Darien is the movie star, the guy that everyone is in love with (and after this book I think I could join that group). He shows us that there is more to a person than what meets the eye. He is criticized for being the pretty boy, in it for the money…but in the end he is just as nerdy as Elle and wanting to do this reboot justice.
  • Swoons! I got VERY invested in the romance of this book. I loved how it started as texts from strangers. They got to bond over whatever they were talking about and not how they look or anything like that. It was almost a way for them to get to know each other on a deeper level before even seeing if there was a physical attraction (no worries, there was). I love how this book progressed from there, and gave me many moments to scream about why they weren’t together yet and nothing romantic had happened yet. It really built and kind of had me in tears in the end (ok, I was in tears. I am such a sucker for Cinderella stories guys!).
  • Friendships! Elle develops a friendship with a young woman named Sage, often referred to in negative ways because of the way she dresses. In reality, Sage is a force to be reckoned with. She takes what is hers without really thinking about the consequences. She is brutally honest, but in the best sort of way. And she would do anything, ANYTHING, for a friend. She proves that time and time again with Elle.  She gives Elle a friend when there isn’t anyone else to turn to. She gives her a family that she hasn’t had in years. Sage became one of my favorite characters.

Bonus: Pop culture references galore, Cal because someone I could tolerate, Evil stepmother was pure evil, OMG I CRIED A LITTLE GUYS!

I am so happy with how this book turned out. I was hooked from the beginning and seriously believe that I would have finished it in a day if I didn’t need to work. I found myself completely lost in this world and wanting to be a part of the Starfield fandom. I was sold on every aspect of this Cinderella story, even though we all know some of the parts won’t really happen. This was such a cute retelling of a classic fairy tale. I highly recommend you scroll right on up and buy this book. Seriously. You do not want to miss out. It comes out tomorrow (April 4th!)

QUESTION: What are some of your favorite retellings?

Let’s Talk About…Last Stand by Rachel E. Carter

last-stand

He’s the Black Mage and she’s the traitor to the Crown.

Ryiah’s world was shattered the night she discovered King Blayne’s nefarious plans. Now, she has to betray the one she loves most in order to save the realm from war. Torn between love and duty, Ry finds herself on a perilous mission to help the rebels and convince the kingdom of Pythus not to honor its pact with the corrupt king of Jerar—all the while deceiving the most powerful mage in the realm, the very man sworn to protect the Crown and hunt the rebels at all costs: her husband.

She’s one step ahead, but sooner or later the curtain will fall.

Sooner or later, she’ll have to fight.

Witness the epic conclusion of The Black Mage series, and see just how far one girl will go to save her kingdom and the boy she loves—even when that boy has become the enemy.

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Guys….I finished my first series of the year and I am so sad to see it go! I started out on this journey a few years back when the author herself approached me to read her book…I was immediately drawn in and I haven’t looked back since. The characters in this series have so much to offer and the action and adventure is amazing.

My feelings on finishing the series:

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It took me forever to write this post after finishing Last Stand. I really didn’t know how I could put into words how much I adored this series. (And if you haven’t heard of this series or read the first book called First Year, I suggest you go get it now because you won’t regret it! ) This last book was literally a roller coaster of emotions for me. So many twists and turns that I wasn’t sure which character was on which side and who to trust to not break my heart.

First and foremost the character development throughout the series just got better and better. I felt that each book there were new angles that you saw each character in and Carter couldn’t have done a better job. Since Ryiah is the main character, you see the most growth out of her. She still makes mistakes throughout the book but her heart is pure and you know she is trying to do whats best for her country. She sacrifices so much and you see how she struggles with decisions she makes. Ahhh I would tell you more but you have to read the book. The other character I love and so glad she shows up in this last book a little bit is Ella. She has been one of my favorite side characters in a series since day one. There is just something about her that always makes me happy when she comes into the scene, she is smart, genuine, and always tries to steer Ryiah in the right direction. Darren also changed quite a bit in this series and you see the softer side of him. But I hurt so much for all the decisions he had to make and they weren’t the easiest ones either. In the end there are so many characters that show their true colors in this final book and you don’t realize what’s about to happen until it hits you square in the face.

The type of magic in this series is also different and I like how we learn more about it as you progress in the series. Not everyone in the book has magic and there are the different types too. And also as the series moves on, you find out how important mages are too the kingdom of Jerar. That magic doesn’t go very far outside of the kingdom of Jerar. And not to give away anymore but there is even more ways to use magic that you find out in this last book.

And lastly…the ship that I loved…Ryiah and Darren. I swear by the end of the book that I was going to have my heart break in two with those two but I couldn’t have scripted it any better than Carter did. There were parts that I was cheering and knew they were meant for eachother. Then there were other times that I was about to cry my eyes out cause I couldn’t believe what was happening. In the end I believe Carter wrote a perfect ending and my heart and head were happy.

I just want to thank Rachel Carter for giving us a great adventure these last few years and I will be recommending this series to every YA reader out there. Can’t wait to see what else she has in store for the future. Till then I will be patiently waiting. 🙂

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Why You Should Read A Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi

29939047Gauri, the princess of Bharata, has been taken as a prisoner of war by her kingdom’s enemies. Faced with a future of exile and scorn, Gauri has nothing left to lose. Hope unexpectedly comes in the form of Vikram, the cunning prince of a neighboring land and her sworn enemy kingdom. Unsatisfied with becoming a mere puppet king, Vikram offers Gauri a chance to win back her kingdom in exchange for her battle prowess. Together, they’ll have to set aside their differences and team up to win the Tournament of Wishes—a competition held in a mythical city where the Lord of Wealth promises a wish to the victor.

Reaching the tournament is just the beginning. Once they arrive, danger takes on new shapes: poisonous courtesans and mischievous story birds, a feast of fears and twisted fairy revels.

Every which way they turn new trials will test their wit and strength. But what Gauri and Vikram will soon discover is that there’s nothing more dangerous than what they most desire.

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Initial thoughts after finishing this book:

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Wow guys. Just wow. If you remember, I reviewed A Star-Touched Queen way back when, and though I loved the book and it’s writing, I really struggled with the world. NOT THIS TIME! I think I was more prepared for it this time, and I think that there was more that I connected with. This book followed different characters, and the things that these characters dealt with in the plot created even more of a page turner in my eyes. I really liked A Star-Touched Queen, but I LOVED A Crown of Wishes. Why did I love this book?

  1. The writing. Roshani has, once again, blown me away with her writing. She created this absolutely gorgeous world that I am always longing to learn more about. The world lived alongside with the plot. It changed as the story changed. It created more questions for the characters, more challenges for them. It evolved with them. And the plot…OH MAN THE PLOT. It was full of twists and turns, full of ways to further develop the characters and get them to think about what was happening. Her writing is perfection.
  2. Guari and Vikram. Unlike A Star- Touched Queen, this story follows Guari and Vikram as they compete in the Tournament of Wishes. Though I loved Maya and Amar I felt like I connected even more with Guari and Vikram. Something about these two characters just clicked with me. The banter between the two of them was fabulous. I felt like I got to know the personalities of them within the first couple chapters of the book. They fed off of each other so well, even with the feelings of somewhat dislike between the two of them. You watch their relationship grow and develop until the feels kind of hit you hard. I won’t give much more away about them, but MAN did they give me a serious case of the swoons. Both were tough individuals that could easily hold their own but relied on each other to get even further. I loved watching them grow and make more sense of the world and their lives.
  3. The Tournament of Wishes. I really though this was cool. I was constantly left guessing because this tournament did not follow a particular pattern. I thought winning two trials and making a sacrifice seemed pretty straightforward, but there were so many things that I didn’t even think of that happened. This is a tournament that challenged the characters and helped them to grow beyond what they even thought they were capable of. I loved that the book centered around this, but yet added a little more at the end.

BONUS: Aasha (new character that was honestly a friend I would love to have), Fantastic ending, feels galore.

I absolutely loved this addition to The Star-Touched Queen story line. I found that when I did have the time to sit down and read (I got busy for a bit and reading just didn’t happen as often as I wanted it to) that I was unable to stop. Definitely on the list of one of my favorite reads of 2017 so far. If you haven’t read this series, I highly recommend you start. And if you were unsure of continuing, I think you should reconsider. This book blew me away. It comes out TOMORROW (March 28th, 2017). Don’t miss out!

QUESTION: Have you read this series? I would love to hear your thoughts!

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“But I have the conch!”-Emily Reads Lord of the Flies

I don’t think I am alone when I say that there are a lot of Classics that I haven’t read. I think I have at least an entire shelf of classics that I SWEAR I am going to get to soon, but it never happens. Lord of the Flies by William Golding was one of the books on that shelf.

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I was feeling like I was reading a lot of fantasy a few weeks back. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good fantasy. But sometimes you read too much of a particular genre and it starts to blend. You get to the point where you just need a break. I was there, so I asked my husband to pick a book for me. He stared at the shelves for awhile and walked back with this book (making sure to let me know this was one of his favorites). With that pressure in mind I gave it a shot, and really enjoyed it. In the end, there is ONE thing that Lord of the Flies taught me….

I really need a conch.

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Think about it. That conch seems to have powers over everyone. If you are holding on to it then everyone is listening to you. It has the power to stop EVERYTHING  and get all the eyes on you. That conch would save me a lot of trouble. The students I work with would obviously listen to me more as would my family. Don’t act like you guys don’t tune me out from time to time.

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The conch has the power to call assemblies. If something really important needs to be said or discussed all you need to do is blow into the conch and it will happen. This means that all the times when I need help at my house I would simply blow into it and all who lived with me would come running. And since I would already be holding it they would listen to every word I was saying.

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The conch gives you an idea of who you should focus on, and tells others to be quiet. When Piggy was holding the conch everyone was supposed to be listening. If someone else wanted to talk after him he would just pass it off so that they could talk. If I had a conch I would avoid the confusion that comes with everyone talking at the same time. I would be able to get what I needed to say out and then to pass it off so someone could add in.

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The conch would make a great decorative piece. The conch is fairly big, colorful, and kind of shiny. Can you imagine what that would look like in one of your more decorative shelves? I think it would be a definite conversation starter.

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Seriously, I need a conch.

But in all seriousness, I did enjoy Lord of the Flies. Is it my favorite classic ever? Nope. But I do think it was worth the read. I think it’s an excellent lesson in how you treat people and on the importance of knowing the facts before jumping to conclusions. It shows the importance of working as a team and shows what can happen when we don’t. It was dark and a bit gruesome. There were definite things that I was not fully anticipating happening, but I got through it. Not having it as required reading probably helped in my liking it, but I did enjoy a lot of the books that I read in high school so who knows.

I am pretty excited to have knocked a classic off of my TBR. I wonder which classic I should tackle next.

QUESTION: What are some of your favorite classics? Also, do you have a conch?