Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Book review: Be the One by Byron Pitts

Book Summary
Drug Addiction.
Mental Illness.

None of these should be realities for anyone, much less a young person. But for some it is the only reality they have ever known. In these dark circumstances, six teens needed someone to “be the one” for them—the hero to help them back into the light. For Tania, Mason, Pappy, Michaela, Ryan, and Tyton, that hero was themselves. Through stirring interviews and his award-winning storytelling, Byron Pitts brings the struggles and triumphs of these everyday heroes to teens just like them, encouraging all of us to be the source of inspiration in our own lives and to appreciate the lives of others around us.

Flo's Review
Be the One is essentially based off six interviews/profiles by ABC News Correspondent Byron Pitts. I picked up an ARC (advance reader's copy) of this book at ALA Midwinter in January, and it's been my on-and-off purse book for awhile. I finally committed and finished it this weekend. Be the One is good for that because it's six separate stories of a child who overcomes. This is the kind of book that makes you sad and mad that he world is what it is, but also proud that the world is what it is -- because all six of these children overcome. It's a short inspirational read that reminds you that your own life is not so bad, and it really gave me hope for the younger generation and their power to overcome. I will be donating my copy in hopes that it inspires someone else to overcome any and all obstacles that are put in his or her way.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Book review: The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling

Book Summary
The Tales of Beedle the Bard, a wizarding classic, first came to Muggle readers' attention in the book known as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Now, thanks to Hermione Granger's new translation from the ancient runes, we present this stunning edition with an introduction, notes, and illustrations by J.K. Rowling, and extensive commentary by Albus Dumbledore.

Never before have Muggles been privy to these richly imaginative tales: "The Wizard and the Hopping Pot," "The Fountain of Fair Fortune," "The Warlock's Hairy Heart," "Babbitty Rabbitty and Her Cackling Stump," and of course "The Tale of the Three Brothers." But not only are they the equal of fairy tales we know and love, reading them gives new insight into the wizarding world.

Flo's Review
This was cute. I grabbed it from the library to be my purse read (the book I keep in my purse at all times in case of emergency), and it served the purpose well. I found myself reading wizarding world fairy tales at the car dealership, while waiting for a friend to arrive, and in other random places. I had forgotten that we know the last tale, The Tale of the Three Brothers, from Deathly Hallows, so it was a nice surprise to read that story again.

The other four tales were crafted to sound similar to stories that we Muggle children hear growing up. I thought they were very well done. Of course, I had fun reading Albus Dumbledore's notes and interpretations on the stories as well. These gave this Muggle reader background and context for the Wizard tales, which helped with their enjoyment.

Finally, I love that this book was written as a fundraiser for Lumos. Stories help our children in many ways, and this is just one more. 

Friday, August 11, 2017

Audiobook review: Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare

Book Summary
Would you trade your soul mate for your soul?

A Shadowhunter’s life is bound by duty. Constrained by honor. The word of a Shadowhunter is a solemn pledge, and no vow is more sacred than the vow that binds parabatai, warrior partners—sworn to fight together, die together, but never to fall in love.

Emma Carstairs has learned that the love she shares with her parabatai, Julian Blackthorn, isn’t just forbidden—it could destroy them both. She knows she should run from Julian. But how can she when the Blackthorns are threatened by enemies on all sides?

Their only hope is the Black Volume of the Dead, a spell book of terrible power. Everyone wants it. Only the Blackthorns can find it. Spurred on by a dark bargain with the Seelie Queen, Emma; her best friend, Cristina; and Mark and Julian Blackthorn journey into the Courts of Faerie, where glittering revels hide bloody danger and no promise can be trusted. Meanwhile, rising tension between Shadowhunters and Downworlders has produced the Cohort, an extremist group of Shadowhunters dedicated to registering Downworlders and “unsuitable” Nephilim. They’ll do anything in their power to expose Julian’s secrets and take the Los Angeles Institute for their own.

When Downworlders turn against the Clave, a new threat rises in the form of the Lord of Shadows—the Unseelie King, who sends his greatest warriors to slaughter those with Blackthorn blood and seize the Black Volume. As dangers close in, Julian devises a risky scheme that depends on the cooperation of an unpredictable enemy. But success may come with a price he and Emma cannot even imagine, one that will bring with it a reckoning of blood that could have repercussions for everyone and everything they hold dear.

Flo's Review
I always know what I'm going to get when I read a Cassandra Clare book. Beautiful, rich descriptions of the characters. So close and so well done that I feel like I'm in the room with them. Like I know them intimately. Moments that are captured so entirely, with all five senses, that I feel like I am living them and not just reading about them. And agony at the end.

Silly me, I was reading the last forty pages or so thinking, "This might end on an alright note. What can possibly happen in just a few pages that will be so devastating?" Silly me. I forgot I was reading a Cassandra Clare book! Needless to say, I finished it a couple of hours ago and my heart still hurts. 

There is no other writer like Cassandra Clare. She has an amazing ability to make me feel like I am in the story, like I know these characters as my close personal friends and not just people I am reading about. I feel everything they feel. Hurt and power and fear and love and anger and injustice and responsibility and love. 

Julian Blackthorn. Daaang. This man was on in this book! Mad respect for that boy! Lord of Shadows felt to me more like Julian's story than Emma's, and I was okay with that. I want him on my side of life. But maybe not as my parabatai? Because I'd probably fall in love with him, too, and that's definitely no good.

Kit Herondale. I also really enjoyed reading his perspective. He went from skeptic to believer, from outsider to insider, and I am so sure he has a big role to play as the story continues. I can't wait to see it. Cristina was also amazing -- knowledgeable and kind. And ooooh the villians! I found Zara Dearborn more infuriating than the sea demons! 

I listened to this one on audiobook. My audiobook CD limit is usually between 6 to 8 discs. More than than is too long. This one was 19. I had to know what happened by the end, so I read the physical book instead of listening to the last disc, but I listened straight through 18 CDs. And I loved every minute of it. I was driving around thinking to myself, "This is a 5 star book. I love this." James Marsters did an amazing job with his reading. It was like I could tell a bit of the character's personality through his voicing of them. This was especially true for Zara, Ty, and others. He read Cristina, Jaime and Diego really well, and then the next chapter he was killing it reading Annabel or Malcolm. There are so many different characters in this book and he somehow made them all sound completely individual.

According to Goodreads, the third book in The Dark Artifices doesn't come out until 2019. Maybe by then I will have recovered from the ending of this one. That also gives you plenty of time to read Lady Midnight and Lord of Shadows -- which is no small feat with Lord of Shadows weighing in at 701 pages. But I'm almost sad that I'm done listening to it. I'm not sure I'm ready to leave the Blackthorns yet.

I thought it couldn't get better than The Mortal Instruments. Then there were The Infernal Devices. (Jem! Amirite?!) And now there are The Dark Artifices! So so good. 

Thank you so much to Simon and Schuster for sending me an audiobook copy in exchange for my honest review.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Book review: Lucky in Love by Kasie West

Book Summary
Can’t buy me love…

Maddie’s not impulsive. She’s all about hard work and planning ahead. But one night, on a whim, she buys a lottery ticket. And then, to her astonishment—

She wins!

In a flash, Maddie’s life is unrecognizable. No more stressing about college scholarships. Suddenly, she’s talking about renting a yacht. And being in the spotlight at school is fun…until rumors start flying, and random people ask her for loans. Now Maddie isn’t sure who she can trust.

Except for Seth Nguyen, her funny, charming coworker at the local zoo. Seth doesn’t seem aware of Maddie’s big news. And, for some reason, she doesn’t want to tell him. But what will happen if he learns her secret?

Of course this book is adorable! -- look how adorable the author Kasie West is!!
Flo's Review
Aww! I love Kasie West! This book was exactly what I needed today. I was worried in the beginning that I wasn't going to like Maddie, that she might be too rigid and uptight for my tastes, but that wasn't her at all. She was smart, clever, quick, and loving. I admired her tenacity to get what she wanted and her loyalty to her friends.

Lucky in Love felt to me like a very honest and realistic portrayal of the what would happen for a teenager (she just turned 18 when she bought the ticket) who wins the lottery. At first, to quote The Lego Movie, "everything is awesome!" Maddie thinks the money will solve her family's problems, and it does seem to for awhile. She makes some fun splurge purchases. But then the honeymoon ends and the reality sets in. Being a millionaire is certainly awesome, but it also brings its own slew of problems.

And now, for the rest of the review, let's dish about Zoo Seth. What a cutie! A perfect match for Maddie and definitely swoon-worthy, book boyfriend material. I pretty much thought everything he said and did was completely adorable. I had so much fun reading Seth and Maddie's relationship and rooting for them! 

I finished Lucky in Love in about a day. It was bright and happy. So easy to read, and I didn't want to put it down. So I didn't. If you're looking for a book to put a smile on your face, this is the one.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Book review -- Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo

Book Summary
She will become one of the world’s greatest heroes: WONDER WOMAN. But first she is Diana, Princess of the Amazons. And her fight is just beginning. . . .

Diana longs to prove herself to her legendary warrior sisters. But when the opportunity finally comes, she throws away her chance at glory and breaks Amazon law—risking exile—to save a mere mortal. Even worse, Alia Keralis is no ordinary girl and with this single brave act, Diana may have doomed the world.

Alia just wanted to escape her overprotective brother with a semester at sea. She doesn’t know she is being hunted. When a bomb detonates aboard her ship, Alia is rescued by a mysterious girl of extraordinary strength and forced to confront a horrible truth: Alia is a Warbringer—a direct descendant of the infamous Helen of Troy, fated to bring about an age of bloodshed and misery.

Together, Diana and Alia will face an army of enemies—mortal and divine—determined to either destroy or possess the Warbringer. If they have any hope of saving both their worlds, they will have to stand side by side against the tide of war.

Flo's Review
I love me some Leigh Bardugo. Seriously. She is super sweet and smart and her books are amazing. I fell completely in love with the Shadow and Bone trilogy, and I have a Six of Crows poster just above my desk. So of course I was over the moon to hear that she was telling a Wonder Woman story.

And it was so good, guys! Everything that I love about Leigh's writing was in strong showing: the witty banter between characters, the rich world-building, the high stakes of saving the world, the romance. Leigh took a character that I was already familiar with and made me love her even more.

Even though Diana is a powerful Amazon, she was written in a way that made her relatable. I felt I could understand her frustrations in the beginning of the story and the desires that fueled her throughout. I really loved how she looked at the human race and saw the beauty in it.

At one point in the story Diana warily thinks to herself, "This is too easy..." and I was feeling the same doubt and apprehension. And then -- BAM! -- plot twist! I wasn't expecting it, of course (I never do), so I completely blown away.

But Diana wasn't the only wonderful woman character in this story. I would choose Alia and Nim to be my sisters in battle any day! They were fully human, compared to Diana and other characters, but their humanity was their strength. It was really very cool.

Wonder Woman: Warbringer had some jaw-dropping and fun-to-read scenes in New York City and Greece. I cannot rave about this book enough. Just do yourself a favor and pre-order it. Or go out on August 29th and pick up a copy.