Thursday, July 28, 2016

Review: Empire of Dust by Eleanor Herman

Title: Empire of Dust
Author: Eleanor Herman
Series: Blood of Gods and Royals #2
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Publication Date: June 28, 2016
Source: Trade with another blogger

Empire of Dust is the 2nd book in the Blood of Gods and Royals series by Eleanor Herman.  As you may recall I have written a review for the first book Legacy of Kings (found HERE) and for the prequel novella Voice of Gods (found HERE).  If you decide to continue on reading my review of Empire of Dust and have not read Legacy of Kings yet, I warn you that there may be some spoilers for the first book.  Continue at your own risk.

Empire of Dust starts off pretty much where Legacy of Kings ends.  Very little, if any, time has passed between the end of the first book and the beginning of the second.  I like that it picks right up where we left off.  I don't really like when series let time pass between books.  It makes it feel like we took a vacation from the world and have to be briefly filled in with the details of what happened in the gap.  I would rather have the complete story than the quick recap of the gap!

Empire of Dust, like Legacy of Kings, is told from quite a few different point of views.  I expected this, so it was of no surprise to me.  It also took me less time to get used to all the point of views this time than it did with the first book.  

With so many point of views, there are quite a few story lines that all intertwine with one another that make up the overall story of Empire of Dust.  The best way that I can come up with is to give you a very quick synopsis of what is happening with each individual character instead of trying to give you an over all glance of the story as a whole.

Katerina - She is trying to figure out how to navigate her life knowing that Queen Olympias wants her dead.  Also, she is still working on figuring out her true identity as she discovered in Legacy of Kings and how to work with her blood magic.  

Prince Alexander - He has been left in charge of the kingdom while his father is off battling.  He is trying to figure himself out in his new role as leader.  He is confused and doesn't know who he is, who he wants to be.  He is trying to be a leader, but he still has much to learn.

Hephaestion - He is still just as whiny as ever.  He is struggling with the majority of his relationships.  His relationship with Prince Alexander is as strained as ever and he is finding himself more and more attracted to Katerina.  An attraction that he feels is forbidden.  He and Katerina get sent off on an important mission for Prince Alexander.

Zofia - She is still on a journey with Ochus.  While he thinks she is taking him to find the mythical pegasus, she is trying to find the Spirit Eaters.  She wants to find them so she can change her fate into one that will allow her to be with Cosmas.

Jacob - He is trying to reconcile his feelings for Katerina and trying to find acceptance that they can no longer be together.  He is still with the Aesarian Lords and working on moving up their ranks.

Cynane - She has been captured by the Aesarian Lords where they torture her over and over to the brink of death.  She has an uncanny ability to heal and they are trying to find the root of it.  Jacob is often left in charge of watching over her and standing guard.

Queen Olympias - She is still a snake loving evil woman.  She is still focused on killing Katerina.  She still is trying to bring her lover, Riel, back.  She is still just as rotten as she ever was.  Nothing has really changed for her since book one.  She has the same goals and desires and will do whatever it takes to achieve them.

This book, in my opinion, was even better than the first!  And I really liked the first book, so that is saying a lot!  Eleanor Herman really pulled out all the stops on Empire of Dust and brought her A game.

There were quite a dark scenes, more than I remember there being in Legacy of Kings and they were written wonderfully.  I kept finding myself really drawn in and totally devouring them.  The visuals I got from them made me shudder.  And this happened more than once!

The battle scenes, there was more than one, were also wonderfully written!  I think even better than any that were in Legacy of Kings.  They were bloody and gory and I really felt as though I was there i the fight.

Yet, even though I was a huge fan of the battle scenes and the darkness in Empire of Dust, there was still a lot of beauty too.  And the beauty was written just as well.

I cannot wait to get to continue with this series.  I know it will be awhile for the next book, but I will definitely be reading it!

My Rating
5 Stars

This review is based on an ARC received by trading with another blogger.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Blog Tour: Reliquary by Sarah Fine

Title: Reliquary
Author: Sarah Fine
Series: Reliquary #1
Publisher: 47North
Publication Date: June 14, 2016
Source: Irish Banana Blog Tours

Do you see this cover?  Do you? It is absolutely gorgeous!  And I wont lie, it is what pulled me to this title and made me pay attention to it.

Then I read the excerpt from chapter one for Reliquary and I was hooked.  Now I need to read it for myself from start to end.  And I will!  You can definitely be expecting a review for Reliquary from in in the future :)

But for now, check out this excerpt, enter the giveaway, follow the blog tour, and go buy/read the whole book for yourself!


RELIQUARY, Chapter one, part one excerpt: 

The night before everything fell apart was the best of my life—the last purely happy, uncomplicated hours I would ever have. Looking back, I’m amazed by how lies can soothe the soul, quell every fear, blind you to reality in the most pleasant of ways. Not forever, of course. And only if you really want to buy into the illusion. But back then, I did. Even as the truth sharpened its knives and hunted me down, I refused to see it.
I was too worried about whether I’d made enough deviled eggs.

“We really could have had this catered,” Mom said, stopping to rub my back as I balanced each egg half on the platter and then sprinkled them all with paprika.
I blew a lock of curly hair off my forehead. Outside I could hear laughter and the faint caress of Lake Michigan against the shore. “How many people are out there?” I asked, ignoring her comment. “Should I do another dozen?” It’s my engagement party and I want to feed people, I had said. Just appetizers and beer. I’ll be done with plenty of time to spare.
Ugh. My mother was right. Again.
Her soft hands closed over my wrists. “We’ll have plenty. But Mattie, you need to be on the deck with Ben, not stuck in the kitchen. Your guests want to congratulate you—that’s the whole point of the party! Let me finish this up.” She held up my hands and glanced at my fingernails, short but coated with a bright-orange polish that set off my mustard-yellow dress and strawberry blond hair. “You’ll ruin these if you keep this up.” Smiling, she grabbed a dishrag and wiped a smear of mayonnaise off my ring finger, and the diamond that now lived there sparkled in the light. “Look—you’ve already done all the prep on the perperoncini wraps and the bruschetta. I’ve got this covered. Go.”
I glanced out to where my fiancé (fiancé!) was standing, a bottle of beer in one hand, flashing that smile that could melt glaciers. His hair ruffled in the breeze off the lake, the sun glinting off golden strands. I bit my lip and stared. Seriously—how had I gotten so lucky? “You sure, Mom? I feel terrible leaving you with all this work.”
She chuckled and shook her head. “Honey, that’s my job.”
My mind skipped through memories of all the times she’d rescued me from my own ambitious schemes. Like when I’d taken on decorations for the senior prom (DIY string chandeliers are harder than they look, damn you, Internet!), or the time I’d decided that I totally had time to make three hundred cupcakes for my sorority’s homecoming party despite the fact that I had to cheer in the actual homecoming game. “I guess I’m the queen of biting off more than I can chew.” I sighed. “Sorry.”
She pulled me into a hug, brushing my unruly hair off my face. “It’s just one of your many charming qualities.” She inclined her head toward Ben, and when I turned, he was watching the two of us, his honey-brown eyes full of affection and invitation. “And clearly Ben thinks so, too.”
“Remind him of that after he takes a look at the supply closet at the clinic, okay?” I nodded as he beckoned me to come outside. “I might have tried to install a new shelving system while he was fishing with Dad yesterday.” Ben had told me that it was my practice, too, even though he was the vet and I was just the lab tech and assistant. I’d wanted to show him I could pull me weight. And I could…but unfortunately, the new shelving system could not.
I explained the catastrophe that had once been Ben’s tidy closet. Mom just said, “We can get Dad over there to take a look at it tomorrow morning. He gets a kick out of fixing other people’s messes.” One of the reasons my dad was the most popular real estate agent in Sheboygan was that he actually seemed to enjoy patching holes and installing crown molding, and it certainly helped with sales.
“You guys are the best parents. I don’t deserve you.”
Mom handed me the egg platter. “Pay me back by making sure Grandpa’s having a decent time, okay?”
“You got it.” I grinned. “I’m a ray of sunshine. I even dressed the part.” I kissed her cheek and scooted through the open sliding door to the deck, where I set the platter on a table already crowded with food.
A warm hand closed over my arm. “Finally,” Ben said, his voice full of gentle teasing.
I leaned my head back and let him kiss me, savoring the taste of taste of beer on his lips. “Mm. I think I read somewhere that anticipation is a fine aphrodisiac.”
He laughed, and it accentuated the adorable dimple in his right cheek. “Is that what this is? I thought maybe you were avoiding me because of the supply closet.”
“You weren’t scheduled to go in until tomorrow!”
His arm slid around my waist, and he pulled me against his muscular body. “I had to go pick up some eyedrops for Barley.” His aging golden retriever was falling apart at the seams, but Ben was determined to give him a good life for as long as possible. “And it’s okay, really. It’ll be easy to fix.”
I buried my face against his shoulder. “You are amazing.”
  He tipped my chin up. “And I’m marrying an amazing woman. Come on. Your friend Chelsea’s just gotten here, and I know you haven’t see her in a while. Also, a couple of your aunts and uncles have already asked me when you’ll appear. We need to greet your guests.”
Your guests.
I laced my fingers with Ben’s and looked out over my parents’ sprawling backyard, crowded with my extended family and everyone from my mother’s book club to my preschool gymnastics coach. Chelsea, my best friend from college, lifted her glass and grinned from her spot at the makeshift bar next to the pool.
“They’re not all mine,” I said quietly. Feeling lame, I waved toward Franz, one of a handful of Ben’s patients (or, rather, the family members of Ben’s patients) I had invited to beef up his part of the guest list.
Ben laughed as Franz waved back enthusiastically, looking a little lost and desperate as he stood among a group of my parents’ church friends. “I’m really flattered he decided to come,” Ben said. “He’s much more comfortable surrounded by books and wine.” A professor of anthropology at University of Wisconsin-Sheboygan, Franz had invited us over to his home a time or two, where I spent the evening playing with his dachshund, Lemmie, and Ben and Franz huddled in his library discussing lofty topics they claimed were too boring for me to sit through.
“I’m glad he came, too.” I bit my lip. “But he’s not your family. We could have invited Asa, you know.”
Ben’s grip turned to iron. “You can’t be serious.”
“Come on, Ben. He’s your brother.”
“Listen, even if we could find him, and even if he were sober enough to show up, trust me—you don’t want my brother here.” His jaw clenched over the tremble in his voice. “And I don’t, either. He’s a criminal. A lowlife. He’s—”
“Ben, he’s the only family you’ve got left.” My heart ached for him. His mother had taken off when Ben was only a toddler, and he and Asa had been raised by their father, who died a few years back. “Weddings bring people together!”
“But with some people, that’s more of a curse than a blessing.”
“You don’t think he’d be happy for you?”
“Mattie, the last time we saw each other, he threatened to kill me.”
“What?” My eyes went wide. “You never mentioned that before!”
He bowed his head and shrugged. “It was a long time ago, and I don’t like to talk about it. But Asa’s just…he’s messed up. He’s got rage inside of him. And he’s always been jealous of me. Do you think it would help if he got a good look at all of this?”
I leaned my head on his shoulder. “I just wish you two could find your way back to each other. Family is important.”
“I’m building a new family, Mattie. And there’s no one I’d rather do it with.” He shoved his left hand in his pocket, and I knew his fingers were running over his lucky agate. Just one of the odd, endearing habits that had made me fall deeper in love with him. I watched his face as he took a deep breath and closed his eyes. And when he opened them, he smiled down at me. His hand rose from his pocket to stroke my cheek. “You are so beautiful,” he murmured.
I shivered with sudden pleasure. His touch was like a drug to me, and I was the happiest of addicts. As his fingertips trailed down my throat, my entire body tingled, and my hands balled in the fabric of his shirt, barely keeping me from sliding my palms up under it to feel his bare skin. “Do you think anyone would notice if we disappeared for a few minutes?”
My old bedroom was a few steps away, and I was already envisioning myself on the bed. His grip on my hips would be bruising and delicious. My body was already slick and soft and hot. I felt like I was one deft touch away from having an orgasm, right there on the deck. Ben’s hand spread across my back, steadying me, and he glanced down at my flushed cheeks with an appreciative grin. “What were you saying about anticipation?”
“Screw it. Or, wait, screw me. That would be even better.”
“If someone doesn’t bring me a damn plate of food, I’m going to starve!” said a gravelly voice to my left.
Ben released me instantly and clasped his hands behind his back, like a little boy caught stealing. My reaction wasn’t much better—I slapped my hands over my warm cheeks and turned toward the source of the complaint. “Grandpa! I-I was just coming to find you.”
Grandpa looked up at me from his wheelchair. Dad had parked him in the corner of the deck so that he could look out over the lawn. His wide-brimmed straw hat shaded his watery, red-rimmed eyes, and his gnarled hands were clawed over the armrests. “Yes, that much was obvious.”
Great. Grandpa had probably heard every word of my scheme to sneak in a quickie with my boyfriend (fiancé!). I blushed from my forehead to my toes. Could I just control myself for once in my life? “What would you like, Grandpa? Summer roll? Deviled eggs?”
“Surprise me.”
Grabbing a plate and a napkin, I listened to Ben doing his best to make nice—and to Grandpa having none of it. I scooped up a few appetizers from each platter and turned just in time to see Ben reaching out to shake Grandpa’s hand. When my grandfather didn’t let go of the armrests, Ben saved face by giving Grandpa’s hand a friendly pat.
Grandpa jerked away like he’d been burned, first glaring at the back of his liver-spotted hand and then up at Ben. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?” he snapped.
Ben blinked down at his fingers, the shock on his face similar to my own. “I’m…sorry?”
“You should be,” Grandpa growled. “Don’t think I don’t know what you’re up to, boy.”
“Try the eggs!” I said, rushing forward with the plate and nearly tripping in my strappy sandals. Stepping between my gaping fiancé and the tight-lipped old man who for some inexplicable reason had chosen the occasion of my engagement party to lose his mind, I put the plate in Grandpa’s lap because hey, snacks can fix nearly anything. (Despite everything that’s happened, I still believe that.)
“Mattie, I think I’m going to…um…I’m going to go make sure Franz is having a good time,” Ben said.
I threw him and apologetic look over my shoulder. “I’ll be there in a few.”
Grandpa didn’t touch the food. His hands were shaking as I knelt next to him, my sunny skirt fanning around me. “Grandpa,” I said gently. “Are you okay?”
“Don’t take that tone with me,” he said, though his voice had lost its edge. “My hospice nurse uses the same damn voice when I dare to express an opinion about anything other than whether I would or would not care for raisins in my oatmeal.” His tremulous fingers clutched at mine, and he sighed. “Never get old, Mattie.”
“I won’t.” My chest squeezed with regret. Just a few weeks ago, the doctors had announced he only had months to live. He looked okay—apart from the rattling couch that kept him up nights and fatigue and pain meds that made him groggy during too many of his waking hours—but lung cancer was taking him down. After the doctors’ verdict, my parents had shipped him all the way to Wisconsin from his home in Arizona so they could take care of him until the end. They’d said it was the best thing for him, and to my surprise he hadn’t objected. But he didn’t seem happy about it—especially because everyone was tiptoeing around him like he was going to keel over any second. I tried to take a different approach. “Hey. In exchange for not using the you’re-a-crazy-old-man voice, I want to know what just happened with Ben.”
He grunted. “It was nothing.”
“Nothing? You refused to shake my fiancé’s hand! I mean, if you overheard us just now, that was as much my fault as—”
“Mattie, how much do you know about him, really?”
“We’ve been together for three years!”
“That doesn’t mean you know his secrets.”
I frowned. “How about you tell me what you’re getting at?”
Grandpa rubbed at his chest as he looked over at the lawn, where Ben was mingling like a pro. “Ask him.”
Frustration began to creep in. Seriously, he had to pick this night to get all protective of my virtue? They’d spoken for two minutes. What could have gone that wrong that fast? “Grandpa, what did he say to you that has you this upset?”
“Find out everything you can about him. You owe it to yourself.” He turned back to me, his chin trembling. “You and I haven’t spoken much since your grandma died.”
I looked away, ashamed. “I’m sorry. I should have written more.” Or called. Or visited.
“Come have lunch with me tomorrow?”
“I have to work.”
“Tuesday, then.”
“Okay.” I’d have to arrange with Jan, our practice manager, to cover the waiting room during what was usually her lunch break, but that wasn’t anything a box of Girl Scout cookies couldn’t fix.
“Mattie?” Ben called from the lawn. “The girl cousins are here.” His tone said, Help.
My aunt Rena’s four teenage daughters were a handful. I stood up and smoothed my skirt. “I’d better get down there before they stick one of their iPhones in Dad’s speaker dock and turn this into a rave.”
Grandpa squinted at me. “Are you speaking English?”
“Never mind.” I rubbed his shoulder. “Enjoy those eggs.”
I floated over to Ben, the incident already behind me. This was my engagement party, and I was marrying the love of my life. Nothing—and especially not my cranky old grandpa—was going to ruin it.

Re-printed with permission from 47North, copyright © 2016 by Sarah Fine

Buy the Book

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

All These Perfect Strangers by Aoife Clifford

Title: All These Perfect Strangers
Author: Aoife Clifford
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Alibi
Publication Date: July 12, 2016
Source: Chatterbox

All These Perfect Strangers is lucky I didn't put it down and stop reading it.  Though I should have.  There are so many books out there that I really shouldn't be wasting my time on books that really don't float my boat whatsoever that I should be spending my time reading books that I actually enjoy.

Sometimes not being able to put down a book is a curse.  I always hold on to hope that the book will get better.  Then, when I am ready to give up all hope, I find that I am so far in that I may as well continue on to the end.

My list of books that get put down is actually very small.

Yes, I have a problem.

All These Perfect Strangers has an excellent premise.  We have Pen who is off to university in a town where no one knows who she is and no one knows her past.  She starts to make friends with some of the people who live on the same floor as her, and she is doing normal college kid stuff.  You know, going to classes, drinking, and all that jazz.  Then things start to happen.  Bad things.  And it is bringing up her past...and she really doesn't want to go there.

The story is actually told from Pen's perspective.  It is supposed to be like we are reading a diary where she is recounting what happened while she was at university at the request of her Psychologist.  She also will write a bit about those meetings with him and about things going on in current time.  She has to meet with the Psychologist because she needs a report from him to get some sort of settlement money from the university for what happened to her there.

He is the same Psychologist that met with her when the dark thing happened in her past.  So, naturally, he keeps trying to get her to revisit it.  She refuses.

Pen is actually kind of a pain in the butt.

I really did want to like this book, but so many things held me back.

First, it took me forever to figure out what exactly was supposed to be going on.  It felt as though nothing was happening for a very good chunk of the book.  Then, I couldn't connect with any of the characters.  None!  They were all flat and just boring.  I no one really felt fleshed out or real.  It was just a bore reading about any single one of them.

Pen, herself, was no exception.  I found it hard to care about whatever it was that was haunting her from her past.  I didn't really care that she had an aloof mother who kept dating all the wrong guys that were just trying to steal money that she didn't have.  Maybe it would have felt different if Pen seemed to care herself, but it never really seemed that she did.  Thus she really didn't make that excellent of a narrator.

Then there is the part where I just couldn't find myself caring.  It kept getting hinted at that something big went down in Pen's past, but it took a really long time to tell us what that something was exactly.  It kept getting built up bit by bit, and in the end I was like "okay thanks for finally telling me."

Oh! And it took me forever to figure out where this book was taking place.  For awhile I thought it was in England based on words and lingo used, but I was very wrong.  Eventually I was able to piece together that they were actually in Australia some where.

Things happened, things didn't happen.  It didn't matter to me.  The writing, overall, wasn't bad.  It was easy to read, it was just the story itself.  The story just didn't do anything for me.  I was rather disappointed to say the least.

My Rating
1.5 Stars

This review is based on an eARC provided by the publisher through the Chatterbox program.  All thoughts and opinions are my own and are in no way influenced by others.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Doodletopia: Manga by Christopher Hart

Title: Doodletopia - Manga: Draw, Design, and Color Your Own Super-Cute Manga Characters and More
Author: Christopher Hart
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Watson-Guptill
Publication Date: June 21, 2016
Source: Blogging for Books

It has been quite awhile since I tried to draw in the manga style.  No really, it is has probably been a good couple of years.  I used to draw in it all the time.  I was quite a fan of manga and anime, but over time that love decreased and I kind of forgot about it.

Then I saw the opportunity to get the Doodletopia: Manga book off of Blogging for Books in exchange for a review and I found myself thinking "why not?"  I have been feeling the urge/need to be creative and to draw again, so I figured that this book would give me some inspiration and that it would help me get back in to it.

And this book is definitely filled with inspiration.  It teaches you about facial expressions and how to get the emotion you want them to show across.  Also, it teaches you about how to work with the body of your character and gives you some suggestions and tips on how to to draw certain emotions.

However, probably my favorite bit of what it teaches you to draw is the little animal characters.  It has quite a few of them in there and they are all so cute!  I think that the pandas and the elephant are probably my favorite.

It also shows you examples and teaches you how to draw "cute" things that you can add to your drawing in manga style aside from animals.  Like cupcakes!

There really is quite a bit to this book, and it covers a lot...but what it doesn't cover is how to draw things like hair or eyes and stuff like that.  It seems to think that you already have the basic idea of how to draw in the manga style.  That this book seems like it is more meant to help you hone your craft than to teach you how to draw the manga style.

All in all, it is a great book and I definitely will be learning a lot from it!

My Rating
5 Stars

This review is based on a copy provided by Blogging for Books in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

The Picture Book Wall (#11)

Hi Everyone!

I hope storytime is going well with you all and that you are getting a lot of reading done this summer!   If you signed up for any summer reading programs with local libraries, bookstores, etc, I hope you are blowing them out of the water!

I apologize for not getting The Picture Book Wall up last month.  I was out of town visiting family for a few weeks with the bug and away from the majority of my picture books.

Anyways, I have four books to share with you this month!  I hope you enjoy!  Keep on reading with your littles!

Title: Black Cat & White Cat
Author: Claire Garralon
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Publication Date: June 7, 2016
Source: Publisher
Rating: 3 Stars

Black Cat & White Cat is a nice sized board book meant for those younger kids that are still a bit rough on their books.  Board books are nice, they hold up to a lot.

Black Cat & White Cat is about, you guessed it, a black cat and a white cat.  The black cat lives in a white world, and the white cat lives in a black world.  They want to play with each other, but every time one tries to visit the other, one of them disappears!

The artistry in this book is very simple.  It is in black and white, so it is a really good book for younger kids/babies that like to look at contrast and having them do so even helps develop their vision!

However, I feel that there is an underlying message to this story.  An important one... but I think it will get lost on the littles.  You can always use it to open up a discussion with them, but depending on the age, it still may be quite a bit over their heads.

This review is based on a copy provided by the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Title: First Grade, Here I Come!
Author: D.J. Steinberg
Illustrator: Tracy Bishop
Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap
Publication Date: June 28, 2016
Source: Publisher
Rating: 3 Stars

This story is more or less meant for a child entering into, or in the first grade.  However, you could change the grade when you are reading it, or just say school in general, and it would still work.

Actually, this story isn't really a story.  It is a collection of little verses/poems for different aspects of the school day/year.  So you have one for math, spelling, snack time, etc.  It tries to cover a bit of everything one can expect to happen in an average first grade school year.

Some of the verses are really cute and fun, while others fall short.  But over all the whole collection is fun.  It is definitely a storytime read that will help get kids excited about school!

This review is based on a copy provided by the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Title: Blue Boat
Author: Kersten Hamilton
Illustrator: Valeria Petrone
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: May 24, 2016
Source: Publisher
Rating: 3 Stars

Blue Boat is about a rescue boat that happens to be, well, blue.  The story within its pages is that the boat is off to save a family that is stuck out in the water and a super dangerous, scary storm in coming in.

There really isn't much more to the story than that.  I would say the majority of this story is in the artwork which is fun and bright.  It is entertaining enough, but as a parent, I would like a bit more to the story than was actually there.

The nice thing though is that not only does this book come as a normal picture book, but it also comes as a board book.  So you can get a much harder to destroy copy that you can let your little boat lover have to look at whenever their hearts desire!

This review is based on a copy provided by the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Title: A Dark, Dark Cave
Author: Eric Hoffman
Illustrator: Corey R. Tabor
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: May 24, 2016
Source: Publisher
Rating: 3 Stars

A Dark, Dark Cave is a story of two kids exploring a cave.  And things happen in the cave, scary things, wonderful things, all sorts of things.  Then a father figure appears and knocks the kids back into reality and tells them that they have to play quietly because the baby is asleep.  Then they are no longer in a cave, but some where else.

This is a story about imagination.  The kids are playing in some sort of blanket/pillow fort that they built in a room in the house.  For this story it is a cave, but it really could have been anything.

I don't really like that the parental figure had to show up and ruin the imaginary play.  I would have preferred it much more if the story told us it was an imaginary cave in a different manner that didn't make it appear as if us adults are imagination killers (I admit that I could very well be reading way too much into that part of the story).  

Otherwise it was a cute story and the illustrations were nice.  What you see on the cover is pretty much how all the illustrations look within.  It just depends on what is going on in the story on what and how much illustration you get.

This review is based on a copy provided by the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Behind the Blog: My Fascination (Addiction) to Adult Coloring Books

I have a confession to make.

I like adult coloring books.

Actually, I like all coloring books.  I don't care what age they are intended for...

But I mean it.  I like them.


Alright.  I am still not being completely honest with you all.


There.  I said it.  I am an addict.

I don't really know how it happened.  At first I had only one...and then I had two....and then...

Dang... I even have magazines devoted to coloring.

I don't even know how many I have now.  All I know is that I have a lot.  Probably more than I can ever actually finish in my lifetime.  But I think that is okay.... it gives me more choices on what I can color in depending on my mood at the time.

Shhh!  Let me live in my happy oblivion!

Where did my collection come from?

How did I get all of these coloring books in my life?  A lot of different ways.  A lot I have bought for myself, with my most recent acquisition to my collection being my Tokidoki ones.  I audibly squealed when I discovered their existence.  Then, quite a few of them have been gifts that I have received from various people.  And then finally, I review them, so I have received them for that purpose as well.

Oh and I have won some from giveaways too!

To be fair though, there have been coloring books that I have received for review or from giveaways that I haven't been my most favorite...and that is okay.  You can't like them all.  So I have managed to separate from a few of these.  I have given them to others that I know could really enjoy them and use them for entertainment or for therapy for things like PTSD.  So I know they have gone to good homes and are appreciated it.

Why do I love adult coloring books?

But anyways, let's get real for a second.  There are some real reasons why I am obsessed with adult coloring books.  The first and foremost reason is quite simply that they give me a creative outlet.  I tend to get stuck creatively a lot.  And I hate it.  With coloring, I at least don't have to come up with the picture, I just have to come up with the way to color it.  And sometimes, for me, that is still hard and I hate it!  I get blocked so often and so easily.  It is very frustrating.

The second reason is that coloring gives me something to do other than read.  It is another thing in my life that I can do to unwind, but is still easy to stop in the middle of when my 17 month old decides I need to pay full and undivided attention to her (and this happens a lot).

Third, I find coloring to be pretty cost effective.  When you really think about it and pretend to do the math, an adult coloring book provides hours of entertainment for very little money.  One picture in any given adult coloring book can take me HOURS to finish.  So I find them to be a huge bargain!

And finally, and this one is much more personal, is that I find it to be good therapy for my hands.  Once upon a time, my hands pretty much stopped working.  I couldn't really get them to do anything, and I couldn't feel much with them.  Don't worry though!  They work now!  This only lasted 3ish months or so, but they get tired super fast, especially when I am writing, drawing, coloring, etc.  This means I have to take breaks much more often than I would like, but I figure the more I use them in these ways, the more I am working on the muscles that are weaker now.  I hope by coloring and other similar activities, the muscles will work more and I will be able to last longer.

Whats Next?

My newest bit to go with adult coloring books is post cards.  I really like that I can color them and then snail mail them out to whomever I choose.  I sadly don't have too many postcard options in my collection yet, so that is definitely something I need to make grow!

Oh, and I really like the poster type of coloring books, despite not actually having any yet.  I need to fix this ASAP!  Though, I will probably have to wait until the holidays or something to actually solve this problem.

You know what is really sad though, is that even though I have all of these coloring books and desire more (dang addiction) I don't spend as much time coloring them as I want/should.  I still spend most of my time reading (my much worse addiction).

I do, however, intend to create a coloring club with my friend who lives locally if we can ever get our schedules to match.  This is so much harder said than done though.  But have you ever sat down and colored with other people?  It is actually so much fun!  You just chat and color and the time flies by!  It is a great way to be creative and still be social!  It is actually a huge thing in the world!  I may need to find some coloring clubs online and do some research to see if I can find any that meet locally too!

Then finally, I really want to do some crafts with my colored creations.  I have seen a lot of amazing ideas in my coloring magazines that I have picked up over time and I really want to do them.  Now I just need to actually do them!

Thanks for sticking around!

I don't see this addiction getting better any time soon.  I only seeing it getting worse, but I think I am okay with that.  However, I don't know if other people in my life (my husband) will be!  I guess they will just have to get over it though.  Adult coloring books, even if I am not currently coloring just give me so much joy!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse

Title: Girl in the Blue Coat
Author: Monica Hesse
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: April 5, 2016
Source: Publisher

World War 2 historical fiction books are not in short supply.  There are quite a few of them out there, a lot of which I haven't read.  However, I have read some really great ones - ones that most everyone else has heard of.  You know the ones I am talking about - The Book Thief...Sarah's Key...  And so many more.  They are powerful, emotional, and intense.

Girl in the Blue Coat belongs right up there with all of them.  It is a story that is going to stick with you once you finish it.

Girl in the Blue Coat is about Hanneke.  Hanneke is the main provider for her family despite being a teenager.  However, where her parents assume she is working a fair and honest job, she is in fact working for an underground black market.  She is the middle man.  She is the one who will either go get the desired hard to find item, or she is the one that will deliver it.  Cigarettes, chocolate, and all the other hard to get "luxury" items that have become hard to find.

Then one day, one of her regulars asks her to find something different.  Hanneke is asked to find a missing girl.  However, she isn't just any missing girl...she is a Jewish missing girl in the middle of the Netherlands while it is occupied by the Germans.

Not a good place to be missing.

Hanneke then goes against her better judgement and begins to hunt for the missing girl in the blue coat.  And through this journey, the story unfolds into its full glory.

Through Girl in the Blue Coat we learn a lot about the Netherlands while it was occupied by the Germans in World War 2.  I found this very interesting.  Not many stories I have come across have showed this particular country and what it was like then.  The fears of the people, both the Jewish and others.  The way friends can get torn apart because of war.  The loss of loved ones...

Girl in the Blue Coat really covered a lot and it covered it beautifully.  Well, as beautifully as one can cover something as horrific as World War 2.  And even though it is technically historical fiction, I still felt as though I learned a lot from the story.  It opened my eyes to a lot of different aspects of World War 2 and for that I am thankful.

This is a story that I think any World War 2 historical fiction buff needs to add to their TBR if they haven't already.  And be ready to suffer from many many feels.

It is worth it though.

My Rating
5 Stars

This review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Monday, July 11, 2016

The Chasm by S. Usher Evans

Title: The Chasm
Author: S. Usher Evans
Series: The Madion War Trilogy #2
Publisher: Sun's Golden Ray Publishing
Publication Date: July 12, 2016
Source: Author

For those who don't know this about me, I normally do not read books in a series back to back.  I like to spread them out, sometimes almost indefinitely, because I don't want the world to end.  I like to take my time with the world in question and savor it.  That way, when I do return it is more like I am visiting old friends and not like I am rushing through the story.

There are exceptions to this rule of course and I don't make them often, but I did make it for this The Madion War Trilogy.  I went directly from book 1 in the series - The Island (find my review HERE) to the second - The Chasm.

That being said, this is a review for a second book in a there may be some spoilers for book one.  If you haven't read book one, I suggest you stop reading this review and either go check out my review for that one or go and buy it and read it for yourself.  Then come back to this review (or just go get a copy!).

Consider yourself warned.

The Chasm starts almost where The Island ends give or a take a month or two.  Galian is working at the hospital in Kylae and doing everything he can to avoid his father while Theo is making appearances and being a public figure in Rave.  Each is trying to make the changes that they promised the other in their countries so that they can be together once again, but neither one of them is making any head way.

For the first half of the book, I felt like I was mostly reading about how Galian and/or Theo was missing the other one and pining away.  It just felt like the book was stuck on how much our two main characters were missing each other.  And, honestly, I found it to get a bit old and a little boring.  It definitely took me longer to get through the first half of the book than it took me to get through the second.

However, when I got to the second half, and all that "I'm so sad" stuff seemed to taper off, the story got quite a bit more interesting and a lot more started to happen.  It definitely picked up the pace and got very interesting!  There were some twists and turns in the story, and events that I did not expect at all!

So of course now I need book 3, The Union, and it isn't out yet.  I guess that is what I get for devouring what is available of the series now...

The Chasm had a bit of a 2nd book in a series feel to it, and that is okay! It is a 2nd book after all!  I am glad that I stuck with it and I cannot wait to see how things finally turn out in The Union!

My Rating
4 Stars

This review is based on a copy provided by the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Explore Your Creative Side (#9): DO Magazine: Fall 2016 Issue #5

Title: DO Magazine
Volume: Fall 2016  #5
Source: Purchased

Once upon a time, while standing in line to check out at a grocery store, I noticed a magazine with a cool looking dragonfly on the cover.  I picked up that magazine, flipped through, and found myself having to buy it right then and there.

That particular magazine was premier issue of DO Magazine.  And if you are interested, I do have a review that I wrote up for that issue that you can find HERE.

Not long after my discovery of this crafting magazine, I found myself asking for and receiving a subscription for it from a family member as a holiday gift.  Thanks to this gift, I have yet to miss an edition of this magazine and I have grown more and more fond of it.

Now, let us fast forward to the newest edition to the DO Magazine 

The Fall 2016 issue is by far my most favorite edition of DO Magazine thus far!  There is just so much to it!  I have already gone through it a few times, and I know I will be going through it even more.  Each time I look at the pages, I find something I previously missed!

There is just so much in this edition!  There are, of course, the coloring pages that we have come to expect when it comes to DO Magazine.  However, they have really upped their game when it comes to these.  Some of the coloring pages now come with suggested color palettes to use on that particular page.  Of course, you don't have to if you don't want to!  And a few of the other pages are blank enough in the initial design that if you wanted to add to them with your own doodles or tangles before coloring you could!

But guys, this is not why I am in love with this issue.  It was like the editors of DO Magazine looked straight into my brain and saw what kind of coloring and zentangling crafts that I have been wanting to do for so long and put them all into this one magazine!

The crafts are just amazing!  There are suggestions on how to use your coloring to make jewelry using Shrinky Dinks, bottle caps, and plastic bottles (can we say upcycling!!!) that look absolutely adorable and like they will be a fun afternoon craft to do with friends.  Then there is the section on creating an art journal!  I have been wanting to make one these for a few months, so I really appreciate having an article to read about them (before this it was mostly looking at pictures of them on Pinterest).  Then there are the directions on how to make your own watercolor doodle mugs!

However, the craft that really took my breath away was the pumpkins and what you can do with them with zentangle.  Even my husband was hugely impressed with the pumpkins when I showed him the spread.  Now I need to get a hold of a pumpkin as soon as possible so I can get started on mine!

I really don't think there was a craft in this issue that I don't want to try some time very soon!

Then there were the articles that weren't about crafting, but talked about crafting tools, or more importantly National Coloring Book Day!  I had no idea this day even existed until I read about it in DO Magazine!  Now I want to come up with something to celebrate this day, which works out well since my friend and I are planning to start a coloring club (which there is an article on that in this edition too!).

DO Magazine is only growing more and more into my most favorite crafting, coloring, drawing, creating magazine ever!

My Rating
5 Stars

This review is based on a copy that I purchased on my own. All thoughts and opinions are mine and mine alone.

F*ck That: An Honest Meditation by Jason Headley

Title: F*ck That - An Honest Meditation
Author: Jason Headley
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Three Rivers Press
Publication Date: April 12, 2016

While browsing through the available books for request on Blogging for Books I came across F*ck That: An Honest Meditation and it reminded me of my older brother.  Long and very boring story, so I won't go into it.  So, I had to go ahead and request it and see what it was all about!

This may be one small and simple book, but it definitely has a big message.

As you read through the pages the books goal is to help you let go of all the stuff going on in your life so that you can move past it and not worry about it any more.  And I will be honest, I didn't think it would work, but it did.

By the end of it F*ck That I had actually (temporarily at least) forgotten a lot of my problems.  And it even got me to chuckle a couple of times!

However, I don't think this is a book you buy for yourself.  I would say it is more of a book that you buy someone else that is going through a hard time that could use and may even need the chance to forget their problems for even just a short bit of time.

That all being said though, the person you are wanting to give it to needs to be okay with swear words as they are used in more than just the titles.

In regards to the pictures that are used through out the book, they do bring about a sense of serenity, but I didn't find them to be anything spectacular or unique.  Which is some what disappointing, but they were all still pretty and nice to look at.

All in all, this is a great gift for a friend that could use this sort of message in their lives!

My Rating
3 Stars

This review is based on a copy provided by Blogging for Books in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Blog Tour: Frayed by Kara Terzis

Title: Frayed
Author: Kara Terzis
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Publication Date: June 7, 2016
Source: Irish Banana Blog Tours

Frayed... Frayed...

What can I say about Frayed?


This book has such an interesting premise.  The story takes place a few months after Ava's (our main character) sister, Kesley, has died.  Kesley didn't die a normal tragic death - nothing mundane like a car accident or anything...  No, Kesley died a horrible death.  She was MURDERED.  And no one knows who did it.  It is an unsolved crime.

So of course, Ava has to take it upon her self to figure out who the murder is (that is how stories like Frayed work after all) and she finds herself working with people she would have rather not talked to in any other circumstance.

So, I did enjoy Frayed.  I read through it rather quickly and I was anything but bored with the story, I would have to quite simply sum this book up as a guilty pleasure read for me.

Why would I say that?  Because Frayed is far from perfect...  There are some issues within it.

I don't want to fully detail out any of these issues for you... I would hate for you to go looking for them while you are reading Frayed for yourself.  But they are there and it is highly likely that you will discover at least a few of them on your own without anyone pointing them out.

But you know what?!  If you can find it in yourself to be able to look past the issues in Frayed, you will really enjoy the story.  Once I started reading it, I was pulled in.  I would start reading and then, eventually, I would look up and a lot of time had passed and the amount of pages I read through during that time...Yeah I got lost in this book!

Also, something that I really really liked in Frayed was the use of Ava writing a letter to Kesley.  The letter parts were my favorite pieces to read.  I felt that the really let us see Ava for who Ava is.  It was a great tool employed by Kara Terzis.  Honestly, I don't think I would have minded if the whole story had been written in letter form!

Oh and on a super weird side note...I think I read Kesley's name incorrectly for probably half the book before I realized that her name wasn't Kelsey...

All in all, if you want to get lost in a quick read that is going to suck you in, and you don't mind some imperfections (we are all only human and I am sure that Kara Terzis will only become a better author...I think Frayed shows she has a lot of promise!) then I think you will really like Frayed!

My Rating 
3 Stars

This review is based on a copy provided by the publisher via Irish Banana Blog Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review


Tour Schedule:
Week 1:

Week 2: