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In the beginning of my journey as a reader, I avoided buying books in fear of wasting money on something I would hate. I never ventured outside of my reading comfort zone, which was, at the time, an author named Ted Dekker. I practically only ever read his books, and in order for me to read something other than Ted’s work, you’d have to pry the book out of my hand and give me one of your own (because I loved sharing Ted!)

Finally, I began to realize that I wanted more of a passion for books, and so, I went on Instagram and followed as many bookstagrams as possible! Eventually I stumbled upon a monthly subscription called BooklyBox, where I had access to a social media page specifically for book lovers, would receive a book monthly, AND (the best part) was that every time I receive a book, so did a child in need. How could I say no? I couldn’t! But trust me, I still struggled with fear of paying for a book I may hate. Knowing that I was making a difference for a child somewhere else in the world was the ONLY thing that helped me push through my fear.

I received my first box from BooklyBox and was overwhelmed with joy! I have loved EVERY book (except for 1- haha) that I have received from them since I joined. I began to realize that my favorite reads were from Young Adult Genre, and decided I would look at other Young Adult Genre books. As I began searching for more books I found myself stumbling into pages and blogs that were reviewing books in depth. I was given the opportunity to fall in love with the book before I had even opened it! This gave me the confidence to begin purchasing new books that actually appealed to me, rather than just collecting books, because, well… I could.

I went through my collection of books and immediately purged my library of unwanted tit-tat that I had collected because they were “cheap” or free. Libraries do not deserve to be disrespected like that. They’re to be a collection of beautiful creations, a portal to another world- an escape. My collection was far from that. Books that were a bore, and were poorly written swarmed my shelves. This was the day things changed.

With a new bookshelf, and [nearly] a fresh slate, I began to create a list of TBR’s. I kept going and didn’t stop until my heart was content, (for the moment at least.) I finished off my list with 157 TBR’s, and that’s not including one’s that I had already had in my library (the few that I kept anyway) that just hadn’t been read, yet. Here I am just a few months later with 3 six-cubed bookshelves, and a swarm of books I’m just dying to read. I still have empty shelves, but instead of rushing to fill them with ANYTHING, I’ve realized the importance of appreciating your books- the importance of collecting, vs. hoarding.

This blog is designed to help all those reader’s out there that are like me, the one’s who are lost, and looking for a good read. Instead of rushing out to just buy a book, because they’re beautiful, and the smell is intoxicating- go into that book store INFORMED! Liberate yourself from the impulse to buy books you never intend to read, and go in confidently knowing you are truly EAGER to read the book in front of you!

Welcome to The Reading Phoenix.

The Cruelty

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four-and-a-half-starsΒ (4.5 Stars)

Author: Scott Bergstrom

Publishing Date: February 7, 2017

Publisher: Feiwell & Friends

ISBN:Β 9781250108180

Let me premise this entire review by saying this: I am reviewing the book that I read, not the man who wrote it.

I say this because as I’ve read other people’s reviews, most have automatically gone to good reads and have marked his book with a poor review without having even read it solely because they were upset and angry with things that he had said and done as an author that could be construed as rude and arrogant. I cannot speak to or for the man, but I can speak about his book, which is what I’m going to do. That being said, let’s begin.

WOW. I genuinely enjoyed this novel, and was pleasantly surprised. If you enjoyed the movie Taken (not Taken II, because we all know the sequel sucked,) then this book is for you! Gwendolyn Bloom, 17-year-old stuck in her shell as a “diplobrat” who has moved more times than I can count is stuck in your run-of-the-mill rich-kid societal school where she’s bullied because her daddy isn’t rich enough, and she lives in her head. Don’t get me wrong, if I didn’t know Gwen, and all I saw was that she often responded to her teacher’s questions about “benign indifference” in French, I’d think she was some arrogant show-off, too. In reality, however, that’s not the case.

When Gwen’s dad is kidnapped her world shatters. She’s faced with information she never anticipated that rocks her world. In a rush to save him since the government isn’t doing it’s job, she leaves behind a short-lived romance with someone whom she’s quickly and unrealistically fallen in love with as he becomes her only tie back to the world she’s left behind. It’s a race against time as Gwendolyn has to become as cruel as the people who have taken her dad.

We start the book off with a quote from George Orwell that really sets a unique tone:

“Part of the reason for the ugliness of adults in a child’s eyes, is that the child is usually looking upwards, and few faces are at their best when seen from below.”

Gwendolyn Bloom’s mom died when she was seven leaving her in the hands of her step-dad, seeing as she never knew her biological father. She has a close connection with her dad, and wouldn’t think of him as anything less. At one point she’s called into the principle’s office, and she corrects the principle who calls him her “step-father” and instructs her to just call him her father. We see early on that Gwen has a brave side to her, a side with tenacity, but it’s often beaten into submission. She has an innate sense of justice, too, one that she tries to see through even from the very beginning.

Gwen is an intellectual ruled by a mind that never stops. If it did she might be faced to confront the ugly past of her mother’s death, a past she was present for and remembers all too well. A sloppy gymnast for hobby, Gwen is raw power. Between her books and the balance beam she walks on, Gwen always finds an escape. She craves stability and normalcy, but what would a diplobrat know about that?

In the novel we meet several other characters, but we really only briefly get to know a few of them. We spend time with Gwendolyn’s neighbor, Bela, an ex-Musad agent who made a promise to her father never to feed her the lies of the government. He made good on his word, to say the least. We also spend time with Gwen’s long-lost aunt on her mother’s side. I’d like to say that I really appreciate the fact that Scott painted the Judeo-Christian woman as kind, and genuine, rather than cruel and twisted. Typically religious folks always end up being painted as nuts in the novels, and Lili was genuine through and through. She was a much needed support in the initial time that Gwen’s dad went missing.

One of the things that I loved most about this novel was that it was so true to it’s title… Cruel. It was genuine, hard-core, well written, and well researched. Over time I get sick of the traditional sugar-coated, watered down YA novels that are fed to us. The Cruelty was far from that. Fast paced, and extremely realistic, I didn’t feel like Scott was spoon feeding me a story he was going to wrap up in an unrealistic pretty bow. In fact, I loved the ending, which for me is rare. The end of the story was concise, and didn’t leave a ton of loose ends. I felt satisfied in the end, and noticed Scott left just enough of an “open-ending” to make room for a second novel. It didn’t leave me craving book two right away. Some novels leave you with your mouse hovered over the pre-order button on Amazon for the next book, but Scott didn’t do that to me. Like I said, I felt satisfied, but eager for the next book. Almost like after you finish a good meal, you’re full- not looking to eat more right away, but you’ll be ready when it’s time for dessert.

Another character we meet is Yael, a Musad agent covering as a dance, and krav maga teacher. Yael has a gentle spirit, but is a strict teacher. She doesn’t play games, and I love that she doesn’t coddle Gwendolyn. Often times when you get a YA you have these characters that are intended to support the protagonist and aid them in the shift between where they started and where they are going- character development. It isn’t uncommon that these supportive characters end up babying the protagonist, and being a shoulder to cry on. In some books that’s needed, but in this one it would have been an embarrassment. Scott portrayed his characters realistically, ugly at times even. I felt like he’d actually been to these other countries and had met these people because they were genuine. He wasn’t afraid to paint society for what it is- brutal, ugly, and cruel.

As a supporter of raising awareness on Human-trafficking I also appreciated his accuracy in the representation of that side of the world Gwen’s thrust into. It’s often times painted as glamorous and as a reprieve from being a run-of-the-mill whore, but Scott didn’t go that route. Again, unafraid to paint the ugly truth he was detailed and open about how things work and what happens to these girls. Though that wasn’t the focus of the story, or even a huge part of the plot, the fact that he didn’t neglect it, that he didn’t halfheartedly write that piece, I appreciate.

Overall I really enjoyed this novel. I rated in a 4 and a half stars because I felt like it was well-written, well-researched, and genuine to its title- cruel. From beginning to end I enjoyed this read, and though the first 30 or so pages were a bit slow, it picked up quickly. I never felt like I wanted to DNF this book, or put it down and take a break. Often times I had to tell myself to put it away because I needed to sleep, but I never did, because I needed to know what happened more. As I stated early on, if you were a fan of the movie Taken, or stories like that, then I definitely believe this book for you.

One of the things I have decided to start doing is rating books similarly to movies. This book, I would say, even as a YA novel is definitely a PG-13 based book. With heavy language, violence, death, human-trafficking, and prostitution, I don’t think this is something a twelve year old should read, or a thirteen year old for that matter, but if you’re open to that for your child, be prepared to explain and walk them through the emotions they will experience during this novel. Please be aware of this information when considering this book for yourself, a friend, or your child.

I hope you enjoyed my review, and if you’d like to discuss the book with me you’re welcome to comment below, or message me on any social media. If you’re unable to access those platforms feel free to email me!

 

XoXo,

Phoenix

Harry Potter & The Philosopher’s Stone

harry-potter-sorcerers-stone-new-uk-childrens

four-and-a-half-starsΒ (4.5 Stars)

Author: J. K. Rowling

Publishing Date: September 2014 (original in 1997)

Publisher: Bloomsbury

ISBN: 978-1-4088-5589-8

 

 

Almost everyone has read the Harry Potter books, if not even more than once, but I am just now getting around to joining this literary fandom. I’ve always loved Harry Potter from the movies, but as a kid I was not allowed to read them. Clearly, I’ve been over 18 for a while now, but I’ve been so painfully busy with my business and every other book I’ve been reading I just had not gotten to it. This being said, I believe that such a well known book deserves an insanely deep review. I probably have a hundred little post-its throughout the book. I can, however, jump ahead and, as suspected, confirm the book was way better than the movie. Let’s begin!

Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.

From the very first sentence of the book we are given a clear insight into who and how the Dursley’s are. By gosh, just 5 pages in J.K. Rowling confirms that Mr. Dursley doesn’t even “approve of imagination.” The Dursley’s are Harry’s Aunt and Uncle who were asked to take care of Harry since his parents had been killed by Voldemort. Rowling doesn’t just introduce us to the Dursley’s, though.

We quickly meet Professor McGonagall in the form of a nosy cat, and Professor Dumbledore before the first chapter is even out. Dumbledore is quick to admit he lacks powers that Voldemort, the Dark Lord, has. McGonagall wonders over how “You-Know-Who,” a rather annoying substitute for Voldemort’s name, could have killed so many people, and yet been outdone by a child. A few pages later we meet Hagrid, a sentimental, sweet, (half) GIANT, Teddy Bear! He comes with baby Harry in hands, sobbing away at the death of Harry’s parents, and the idea of saying good-bye to Harry.

As we keep reading we get a good look into Harry’s home life once he’s older. The Dursley’s have always treated him like he was a burden. He slept in a cupboard under the stairs, was never included in family photos, only ever got given Dudley (the Dursley’s plump and spoiled son’s) hand-me-downs, as far as clothes go, and was once gifted a coat hanger for his birthday. As far as his home-life was concerned, there never really was anything very homely about it. They even went as far as to teach him their “first rule for a quiet life with the Dursley’s” was “Don’t ask questions.” (Though I must say, I will forever remember “Dudley as a pig in a wig.”)

Personally I don’t see why it would make much of a difference even if he did ask questions since they’d lie anyway. Do you need an example? Oh, how about telling a young lad that his parents died in a car crash, which we all know IS NOT true.

During an unexpected surprise trip to the Zoo for Dudley’s birthday, after having found out Harry’s baby-sitter, an old, cat-loving hag had broken her leg and couldn’t watch him, we find out that Harry has a gift. He’s able to speak to snakes. Whaaaattt? That’s right. In the wizarding world of Harry Potter there are those who can speak to snakes!

Weird things have always happened when Harry got upset, or frustrated. After his bully of a cousin, Dudley, pushes him out of the way to see a snake that had ignored him earlier but was now responsive to Harry, Harry gets angry and suddenly the glass window of the enclosure vanishes knocking Dudley and his arrogant friend into the enclosure after the snake slithers its way out and “Thanksss” Harry! Of course, this anomaly somehow translates into being his fault and he’s later punished for it by Mr. Dursely.

The Dursley’s were abusive to Harry in how they treated him. I was genuinely surprised by the amount of compassion Harry had regardless of his circumstances. The Dursley’s spoke about Harry as if he wasn’t there, couldn’t hear, and didn’t matter. Even to the extent that when it came time to prepare for the school year and Dudley got accepted into an academy they bought him new uniforms but gave Harry Dudley’s old clothes and just dyed them in hopes no one else would notice he didn’t actually have a uniform. It’s as if they had the mindset that their money was too good to be spent on him.

One evening Harry receives a letter that Mr. Dursley won’t let him read. After having flooded the house, the fireplace, and surrounding their house with owls, Mr. Dursley transitions Harry from the Cupboard to Dudley’s largest bedroom – proof they knew that his living conditions were abusive. When the letters don’t stop, Mr. Dursley loads everyone up and drives to a hotel. Unfortunately for him, the hotel’s front desk was soon flooded with letters addressed to Harry, too. On Harry’s Eleventh Birthday, everything changes. Thanks to Mr. Dursley, he uprooted the family from the hotel, packed a gun, and placed the family in an old run-down shack in the middle of no where, where he believes no letters will be delivered. To his surprise, one was hand-delivered by our very own Rubius Hagrid – aforementioned giant teddy bear!

Hagrid brings Harry a birthday cake, the first Harry has probably ever had, and then hands Harry a letter that will forever change his life inviting him to the school for Witchcraft and Wizardry – Hogwarts. Hagrid begins to open up to Harry a bit about who Harry is, and when he finds out that Harry has been lied to all these years by the Dursley’s he becomes enraged. Harry’s parents had been killed Halloween night by Lord Voldemort, not by a car crash as the Dursley’s had told Harry. When Hagrid is challenged by Dursley he pulls out his umbrella and in an attempt to turn Dudley into a pig gives him a pig tail. Tsk, Tsk Hagrid! He’s not supposed to be doing any magic as he reveals he had his wand snapped years ago and was expelled from Hogwarts.

After Dursley puts up a fight about Harry going to Hogwarts, Hagrid puts him in his place and brings Harry along notifying Headmaster Dumbledore that he’s collected Harry and is taking him to get his school supplies in Diagon Alley. Before entering the Alley, Hagrid takes Harry through The Leaky Cauldron where we meet one of his professors, Professor Quirrell, and some admirers.

When we are introduced to this world within our world Harry began to consider this may be an elaborate prank, but “Harry had known the Dursleys had no sense of humor.” Before Harry can get his supplies, though, they have to stop by Gringotts, the only bank in the wizarding world, run by Goblins. Apparently his parents left him quite a fortune. Hagrid also had a package he needed to retrieve from vault 712!

Fun Fact: Albus Dumbledore was asked to be the Minister of Magic but refused the position so that he could remain at Hogwarts school of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Whilst Harry is traveling around to collect his school supplies we are introduced to a new character. Draco Malfoy, a white haired, arrogant, entitled prat. “Harry was strongly reminded of Dudley.” Apparently the two boys would be attending Hogwarts together in just a short period of time. Before the day was done, Harry collected all of his supplies and was even gifted an Owl for his pet to bring to school (which was quite useful for sending notes and letters.)

Once Harry gets into King’s Cross Station he meets a red-haired family known as the Weasley’s. He was unaware how his life would forever change after meeting them. We meet Molly Weasley, mother, Fred and George Weasley, twins, Ron Weasley, future best friend, and Ginny Weasley, not yet involved in the story. They board the train, and off to Hogwarts we go! The rest of the journey you’ll have to experience for yourself by picking up the book.

One of the things that I greatly loved about Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is that it was so intricately detailed. Knowing “most” of the story from the movies, and seeing details I have been missing out on, I can appreciate all the little things she includes. She is so beautifully gifted at wrapping up a story with a beautiful bow and taking you on a journey from beginning to end.

I love that she was so willing to explain magic to our Muggle minds, going as far as to express that Harry’s cloak of invisibility didn’t stop him from being solid. She tells us that the “wand chooses the wizard,” and that most bad magic folk seem to come from House Slytherin. (Not all are bad, because I’m a Ravenclaw-Slytherin Hybrid.) She even goes to the point of explaining their monetary system of Galleons and other coinage. After I did the math it turns out that Harry’s wand was $175! I guess instead of the latest smart-watch we could all upgrade to a wand… πŸ˜‰

Fun Fact: There are 42 stair cases at Hogwarts.

Rowling pulls in many real-life struggles into her story such as: racism with the “pure-blood” ideology, family with the bonding of house members, Harry’s insecurities and fear of rejection, and bullying from Dudley, Draco, and Snape. We experience the in-depth character flaws of normal humanity in most characters, one for example in that Draco Malfoy was a habitual liar and attention seeker due to the weight of parental expectations and toughness. If she didn’t have enough details as is she brought in an ENTIRE fictional sport, explained to us how it worked, and even expressed that a game had once gone on for an entire three months.

I guess what I’m trying to get at is what everyone has known for quite some time… J. K. Rowling is a literary Queen, and has a genuine gift. I know that she worked tirelessly on these novels, and wasn’t even published right away, but she created a masterpiece that I’m so excited to finally be a part of! Thank you for taking the time to read this insanely long review, but I felt that such a good book deserved my time and effort!

XoXo,

Phoenix

Dark Matter

Image result for dark matter blake

four-starsΒ (4 Stars)

Author: Blake Crouch

Publishing Date: July 26, 2016

Publisher: Broadway Books

ISBN: 978-110-1-904-220

 

This is twice this week that I’ve finished an incredible book, with what felt like a lazy ending. I’ll give Blake credit, Β though, the novel was a great thriller, and held my attention the entire time!

We start off with meeting Jason Dessen, family man, undergraduate physics proffessor, married to Daniela Dessen, used-to-be artist, and stay at home mom, with a 15-year-old son Charlie Dessen. Before long we realize that the Dessen’s lives have not turned out the way it was “originally” intended. Jason was a brilliant man working on an invention that would usher the world into the ability to explore the multiverse, while Daniela was an aspiring artist who was just beginning to tip-toe into the luxuries of the world of art when Daniela became pregnant with Charlie.

One night when Jason goes to a bar to greet a successful friend with congratulations, he is mysteriously abducted, stolen from, and thrown into a box within which when he wakes up, he finds himself in a new world entirely. New worlds sound wonderful, but not when it means that his wife is not his wife, and his son has never been born. We spend the entire novel journeying with Jason through this new world, and many other worlds as he is dead set on returning to his wife and son. Over time, however, there’s the lingering question of if the world where Daniela and Charlie were his, was ever real. In this new world he’s a renowned scientist who has achieved the unbelievable and is welcomed back with open and excited arms.

This story took me on a heart-wrenching journey that had my heart torn in so many different ways. The message of this novel is so very clearly focused on the importance of family, and valuing the life you have as the results of the decisions you made. We spend most of our lives questioning “what if,” instead of valuing what we have directly in front of us. Crouch grabbed me by my soul and put a mirror to my face and asked “are you happy with your life?” He thrust me into a world where I was forced to face possibilities, and realities I’d always imagined, but could never fully fathom.

If you don’t know, I am engaged, and listening to this novel tore my heart in moments where I had to question… What would I do in Dessen’s shoes? I know, without a doubt, I would fight to get back to my fiance! We may not have a child, nor have we been together as long as Jason and Daniela have been, but the life we’ve built together is beautiful and I would never want to lose him. Daniel, my fiance, is my Daniela, and I would literally, and figuratively search 1000 worlds for him, just as we do alongside Jason.

I rated this novel 4 stars because it gripped my attention from beginning to end, evoked emotion from me that I was not expecting, and is beautifully detailed and well written. All of this being said, however, I could not rate it a five stars because the ending felt cliche, and a bit like a cop out. To avoid spoilers I won’t go into details, but I will make it clear, you will most likely be disappointed with the end, but I doubt you’ll ever be disappointed with the read.

 

XoXo,

Phoenix

The Book Jumper

(4 Stars)
​Author: Mechthild Glaser

Publishing Date
: 2017

Publisher
: Feiwel and Friends

ISBN
: 978-1-250-08666-2

Where do I even begin? This book was amazing from the very start. Glaser doesn’t bother waiting to catch your attention, she brings Sherlock Holmes (one of my all time favorite characters) into the picture from the very first page. I fell in love with Amy quite quickly considering how easily I could relate to her as a book lover. Early on, when her and her mother are packing to leave Germany she says “the way I saw it, it was better to take one less cardigan than have to do without one of my favorite books.” That has “me” written all over it, especially since I’m known to bring a separate suitcase for books!
As we get to know Amy, we discover she is clumsy, and often times referred to as a “little giraffe,” by her mom Alexis. She has a love for food, even going as far as to stating “that was why [she] lived [her] life by a simple motto: never pass up an opportunity to eat anything greasy.” She’s fun, and though initially timid, is extremely passionate and develops into a bold individual. 
During Amy’s time in Stormsay, she discovers she’s a Book Jumper, and begins taking lessons by jumping at the stone walkway, the Porta Litterae, the entrance to the world of stories. She quickly learns that as a book jumper, it is vital she protect the plots of these books at all costs. If Amy were to intervene at any point, for example, by providing food for Oliver Twist instead of him following the plot and asking for a second helping, it would appear in every edition of the book ever printed (e-copies included.) The book world is clearly not a place for children to play, and is to be taken very seriously. 
Unfortunately, not everyone on Stormsay was taking things as seriously as they should have. I found Alexis’ behavior, Amy’s mother, appalling. At times I would begin wondering where Amy’s Mother was, and I’d remember she was present, but was more-so a roommate, or an equal to Amy. Alexis said that when she ran away, pregnant, that she wasn’t ready to be a mom, so when she gave birth to Amy, she taught her to call her Alexis. Though I understand struggling with your identity as a mother, and I can even understand how you’d question raising your child in different ways, I don’t understand how you could completely eliminate “mom” from their vocabulary. Often times I truly felt that Alexis behaved selfishly, and immaturely. She was more focused on her hurts, and her feelings, and her love life, than she was on the safety and protection of her daughter in what Alexis said was a “dangerous” world.
When Amy first arrives to Stormsay she meets 3 men with vicious burn scars on their faces. Desmond, Glenn, and Clyde are fictional characters who, after their story was destroyed in a horrible fire at the hand of the Macalister and Lennox houses feuding, became teachers to the following generations of book jumpers. They are able to live and maintain in the real world but must nap every few hundred years. They are the only known survivors of the story that had been destroyed.
In the novel, we also meet Will – a very dreamy, witty, intelligent, and kind book jumper. Throughout the story we see a well-paced romance develop between Amy and Will. I truly had such a good time watching their love unfold. They were beautiful, modest, and genuine. I was appreciative that Glaser didn’t hold out too long in the story, however, I wasn’t prepared for everything to unfold the way it did.

SPOILERS:__________________________

I think it’s safe to say the ending of this book ruined me… More than anything it felt like a cop out. I honestly felt like Glaser didn’t want to write a sad ending, but also didn’t want to write a traditional fairy tale ending either. I can understand that, and can even respect it, but this ending was just… too much. Once we finish this tale, and have hunted down the thief stealing the main ideas of stories we come to find out it’s the same princess from Desmond’s tragic story come back to haunt the world. 
This nine-year-old bratt (really about 500 years old,) threw the largest tantrum of her life and actually caused the death of Will, forcing him to commit suicide so that he didn’t kill Amy. Amy goes into complete and utter shock, and then jumps out of this story and into Peter Pan, Will’s favorite, in which Tinkerbell preserves him eternally as a Book Character. No worries, right? He’ll be like Desmond, Glenn, and Clyde (characters preserved from a story burned long ago.) Will, will be able to live in the real world with Amy, but as a fictional character, which is no big deal, because she’s half fictional. 
*Buzzer Blows* WRONG. This magic only preserves his life in Peter Pan and IF he ever left, he would die. 
WHAT EVEN AM I READING AT THIS POINT? 
The ending felt lazy, and as if Glaser was trying to be unique, so she added this “different” ending that I personally think just botched the whole story.

RESUME:_____________________________
Overall I do believe that the story was beautifully written. It was full of detailed imagery, genuine emotion, and well written characters. Personally, I had qualms with Alexis, and with the ending, but otherwise found it to be a good read. Glaser caused my heart rate to quicken, my mouth to dry, and my eyes to read at the speed of light during moments when I needed answers. It was a journey I dare not say I’ll ever forget.

Thank you for reading my thoughts, and feel free to message me anywhere if you’d like to discuss your thoughts on this novel with me!

XoXo,
Phoenix

Isle of Winds

isle-of-winds

four-stars(4 Stars)

Author: James Fahy

Publishing Date: December 23, 2015

Publisher: Venture Press

ISBN: 978-15196-2977-7

Isle of Winds is a children’s fantasy novel for ages 7-12, and is the first book in the Changeling Series by James Fahy. Similar to the styles of Narnia, and The Lord of the Rings, I can honestly say that I was pleasantly surprised by how much I genuinely enjoyed this book! Due to my love for mythology, my excitement for anything fae (a term for fairy) related, and the promise of a unique coming-of-age fantasy, I was intrigued from the very start.

Our journey starts through our introduction to the young protagonist, Robin Fellows. That being said, it isn’t long before Fahy picks up the pace, and takes us on a ride! When Robin experiences the trauma of his grandmother’s death this twelve year old boy is now thrust into a completely new world – literally. He’s placed in the care of a complete stranger, his now guardian, whom we know as Aunt Irene, owner of Erlking Hall. Robin’s life is quickly turned upside down as he begins learning that he is no ordinary young boy. He discovers that he’s not just Robin Fellows of the human world, but is actually a Fae, a natural born member of the Netherworld.

In his journey to discover himself, and find his place in this new-to-him world, he uncovers that he is a changeling, and to be even more specific, he is the last changeling. Now he must pursue the truth at all costs, learn of his ancestry and the magic that comes with it – and since that’s not enough for a twelve year old to manage, he must save the Netherworld.

From the interaction with an elderly man at the train station, to magic shards that build the most powerful weapon in existence, Fahy kept my attention from cover to cover.

The Netherworld, long lost home to the Fae people, has been taken over by the fierce tyrant, Lady Eris. While Robin is making new friends, finding himself, and studying the art of magic, he learns that his purpose in life is to use his unique position for the greater good by delivering the Netherworld back into the hands of the Fae people. With the fate of the Netherworld in his hands, seven Towers of Arcanian magic to learn, and the normal hormones of a twelve year old boy, does Robin have what it takes to save the Fae?

In reading this book, I was pleasantly surprised by the “easter eggs” that Fahy hid in plain sight. I began noticing little things early on, like a satyr named Phorbas who was clearly similar to the Greek God Pan. After discussing things with Fahy himself in an interview, and doing my own research, I soon realized that each name was directly linked to another influence. Phorbas, for example, is actually a part of Greek mythology, and is known for having saved a young boy from a cliff, and tutoring him. That  being said, it would make sense for Phorbas to become Robin’s tutor!

Fahy scrutinized his own work to refine it to near perfection. He included special information and tie-ins for all the geek readers, myself included, and developed a unique world that is unique to itself. He’s dedicated to this series and has just released book number 2. We will journey through all seven towers of the Arcania by the end of book seven, and I’m sure there will be plenty of easter eggs still to find.

Fahy not only kept my mind going with incredibly vivid imagery, but kept my heart pumping with well-developed and well-written characters. I, personally, fell in love with Woad, so much so that I hope to create/find fan art of him.

When we entered the book, Robin was weak, innocent, an confused; Karya was frightened, running for her life, and determined; Woad was a pestilence, but adorable all the same; Irene was stern and not personable; and Henry was just a young and excitable boy. All of those things changed by completion of book one.

Robin was stronger, open-minded, and eager to learn; Karya was happy, and determined to win this war; Woad was still irresistibly adorable, but was now clearly sassy, rather than annoying; Irene was kind, and growing into a softer person; and Henry was ready to take on the world by Robin’s side! There were so many unique attributes that made all of these characters stand out.

By the conclusion of this book, I was immediately ready to begin the second one. I’ve been irrefutably drawn into the Netherworld, and am now adamant about knowing the next steps taken to destroy Lady Eris’ empire. Thank you James Fahy for thrusting me into a new world of adventure and mythology, for introducing me to these characters, and even for crashing me into floating mountains!

XoXo,

Phoenix

Dandelion on Fire (Bk. 1)

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four-and-a-half-stars  (4.5/5)

Author: Sherry G. Torgent

Publisher: Blue Ink Press

Publishing Date: December 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-692-353-684

I received this book for Review from Blue Ink Press, and below you will find my honest review of this novel. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to Blue Ink for providing me with this novel!

This review is extremely difficult to write for an insanely simple reason: I loved AND hated this book. I know you probably went back and just did a double take because you saw that my rating was 4.5 stars, but I can assure you, you did read that correctly. This fast-paced Coming of Age, Mystery, Sci-Fi, and Fantasy novel kept my attention from the first page to the last. (Yes, there are four different genres that have been beautifully blended together in this one story.) Torgent is an incredibly talented author who painted her characters so realistically that I fell in love with them – this was to my own downfall. We’ll discuss that later on, though.

Our main protagonists and heroines of this story are Darcy and Hardy Vance, two high-schoolers who are trying to survive. Seen as juvenile delinquents in the eyes of the school board Darcy and Hardy are teamed together for community service for minor infractions. Though these two teens don’t hit it off right away, they eventually become close friends that you can’t help but love to be around!

Darcy, a freshman from out of town comes from an abusive home run by a single mother. As the youngest of her family, Darcy is subject to the abuse of her alcoholic brother, while her weaker sibling (who is still older than her) does nothing. Imagine a deviant twist on Cinderella. Evil mom, two dim-witted, ugly brothers, and a dead father. Granted, there are some key differences between the classic tale, and Darcy’s life, but I could clearly see the similarities.

Hardy, on the other hand, comes from a broken home, too, but in a much different way. Hardy’s father is dismissive and has left him with a male in the house who is only present to pay bills and piss him off. His lack of attention and consideration for Hardy, other than to bark chores and orders at him, leaves wounds that affect him greatly.

Hardy wants one thing: to complete highschool without anymore trouble so that he can attend college off the island. Of course, anyone who has ever been a high-schooler can attest to life never quite going as planned. Now that Hardy has been given community service he has been asked to keep an eye on Darcy. When he remembers that he has another responsibility to attend to, he’s forced to bring Darcy with him and the two take a pit stop to see Hardy’s grandfather, Olen. To both of their surprise, secrets are revealed that change absolutely everything. Upon the reveal of these secrets, a mysterious murder ensues. Hardy discovers his Grandfather dead the following day, and an entirely new world is opened before him. 

Once Hardy and Darcy stumble upon the clue that will ultimately lead them to world-shattering news (a dandelion) they then begin to venture off to find the truth behind all that has been stirred since the death of Olen. They are thrust onto a journey to discover the truth behind the mysterious deaths of local senior citizens, to combat the corruption in the local government, and ultimately get justice for the Murder of Olen.

This novel continued to take me on a fast paced journey that I never wanted to put down, and THAT is why I loved it. From the herd of cows that were mysteriously massacred by a rogue weed, all the way to the mysterious deaths of senior citizens, this book kept me on my toes the entire time!

With the mixture of four different genres there is enough to captivate you from the very beginning. That being said, however, now is when I must get down to the business of my qualms with this book.

(If you do not want to read the spoilers, please scroll down to the portion labeled Final Thoughts)

SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! 

 

As I continued to fall in love with Hardy and Darcy, of course I had moments where I was dying for them to get together. Hey, books were MEANT for shipping! (A slang term for fantasizing about two characters being in a relationship) With each turn of the page my love for Hardy and Darcy grew, and I wasn’t given that love that I undoubtedly knew existed until just shy of the end. As you are turning pages in any book you will start noticing when you’re approaching the end, which, in turn, heightens your awareness to the resolutions that are expected to come in the following pages.

Knowing that there is a second book, I was prepared for a cliff-hanger. I was fully ready to accept that I would need to immediately crack open book two and dive right back into Darcy’s and Hardy’s world. That being said, however, what I was not expecting was an end that left me in tears, and left me angry. I can’t say that I’m angry with Torgent, because there was nothing that made the conclusion to her book “bad.” Honestly, the ending of this book left me raw, and I wasn’t even sure how to function after the last page. I can only assume she was aiming for a shock-factor when she included this in the story, but, personally, I wasn’t shocked… I was wounded.

In the last twenty pages when the resolution begins to take place, in an altercation between protagonist and antagonist, Darcy is shot. She bleeds out and is rushed to the hospital and put on a ventilator in the ICU and labeled as Critical. Fine. I’m upset, but I can handle this because she’s going to live, right?

… RIGHT?

I begin picking up my reading pace as I needed confirmation that my heart had not just been ripped out of my chest. As I continued to let the information register in my brain, I didn’t know how to cope with the idea of the death of Darcy.

Hardy has the ability to see people’s spirits right prior to their death, so I was watching for him to see her spirit. That was my indicator that this book had taken a horribly wrong turn for the worse. While in the hospital with Darcy, Hardy wakes up to find her spirit standing next to him. They have a touching moment and FINALLY confess their love to one another. Darcy proceeds to tell Hardy that she has to say goodbye. She confesses that there is just too much internal bleeding for her body to survive, and she prepares to cross into the next life.

STOP. At this point, I can’t breathe. I’m ready to throw the book, pout, cry, and just be done. She can’t die. Nope, I can’t allow it. I’m just going to email Torgent now and let her know the end has to be re-written, because I CANNOT handle this.

Okay, okay… I still have to know what happens because there are about five pages left. I’m still clinging to a hope that he will rush to her bed and beg her to stay and she’ll miraculously wake up. No, of course not… Readers are subject to emotional abuse at the whim of authors. (Sorry, Sherry, but it’s true! Author’s love torturing us…)

Previously in the story, there is a brief meet and greet with Hardy at an after-prom-party and he’s addressed by a high-school senior named Emma Snow. She calls him out for staring at Darcy all night and informs him that tomorrow is not a guarantee and that he needs to confess his love for her. Upon reaching the ICU after Darcy has been shot, Hardy’s mom (a nurse at the hospital) informs Hardy that Emma is also in ICU after her Prom date drove intoxicated and crashed their vehicle.

Skip back to Darcy now – she’s said goodbye and her spirit is trying to move to the next life but she can’t continue and she doesn’t know why. She undergoes this weird tearing where she is thrust into another room (room 410, where Emma’s dead body lay) and has an interaction with the legendary Viola. Viola informs Darcy that she is a “shifter” and can find a new host body and heal it if she’s died. Darcy is focused on moving to the next life but Viola is adamant she stay and save Emma’s family from the heart-ache of a dying daughter, and with the hope that she can reconnect with Hardy AS Emma, not Darcy… She convinces her to take Emma’s body, instead of passing on to the next life.

WHAT? Okay, I get twists, and I get shock-factor but I was just NOT ready for this. I don’t think I have the emotional capacity to watch Hardy mourn over the love of his life being dead, even though she isn’t really dead, and then having to watch him fall in love with someone else, even though it’s still Darcy, but he won’t know that, so he’ll feel guilty! If matters weren’t bad enough, right before Viola leaves Darcy in her new body she tells her that if she ever informs anyone that she is in fact Darcy, everything will disappear.

HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO BE READY FOR BOOK 2?

Okay, so really… I’m going to read book two… how could I not? That doesn’t change the fact that I was so angry I called my best friend in a tizzy because I wasn’t prepared for THIS ENDING.

 

 

FINAL THOUGHTS – NO SPOILERS

 

My conclusion of this review is that I have to give applause to Torgent for rocking my world. She wrote an incredible novel that kept me glued from cover to cover. She wrote realistic characters who became so real that it invoked genuine emotion from myself. Though I was not prepared for, and don’t particularly like the ending of, book one, I am still genuinely glad that I read this book, and am eager to find out what happens next. If you did not read the spoiler section, and are concerned you won’t like this book, let me put you at ease… YOU WILL. You will like this book so much that the ending might as well be a full speed semi that collides with your heart. Bring tissues in the last 20 pages, and enjoy this unique novel. I know I did.

 

You can find this book at:

https://www.amazon.com/Dandelion-Fire-Greene-Island-Mystery/dp/0996867309/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

Visit Blue Ink Press:

http://www.blueinkpress.com

Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/blue_ink_press

All The Bright Places

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Author: Jennifer Niven

Publisher: Alfred Knopf

Publishing Date: January 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-75588-7

 

All The Bright Places is titled ironically since this book is based on teen suicide, which is clearly not a bright and happy subject. We start the novel where Theodore Finch, the school’s “freak show,” finds his way on the roof of the school where he talks Violet Markey, the school’s “wounded-yet-popular-girl-who’s-sister-died,” down from jumping off the edge. In the process he finds himself attracted to her and they end up forming a friendship. Later on they’re paired together during a class assignment and end up wandering Indiana together – but none of that really matters.

Every time I look back at the synopsis of this book I question if the author of the synopsis read the same book as me. They say that Theodore Finch, our protagonist, is fascinated by death… which isn’t true. I devoted myself to understanding Finch throughout this book, and I can tell you this, he is not fascinated with death. Finch is fascinated with life, he’s consumed by this need to evaluate life and how people lived. He looks at the life that lead up to the death, and then considers how those people exited this world. I can understand how it would be thought that his infatuation lies with death, but in reality, it lies with life, and what he can do to keep living it.

Violet is a young girl who, one night after a car accident, found herself an only child, having lost her older sister Eleanor. Nine months ago she down spiraled into a depression and just hasn’t seemed to have gotten out of that rut. She used to be a provocative party girl, but after Eleanor died she became a recluse. She used to be ambitious, though. With dreams of attending NYU to pursue her passion of writing, she feels guilty for being the one who has the chance to pursue her dreams while Eleanor is dead and gone. She’s shy, attitudinal, catty at times, and would rather be alone.

Finch, on the other hand is different. He, too, is battling depression but he shows it in a different way. While Violet drew in on herself, Finch is ready to take on the world. He’s a narcissistic, attitudinal, dramatic, attention-seeking, adrenaline junky. That being said, however, he’s at times incredibly deep. As someone who personally struggles with an “invisible disease,” autoimmune disorders, when Finch said “It’s my experience that people are a lot more sympathetic if they can see you hurting,” I connected with him on an intimate level. He struck a chord with me in that moment because it’s a painfully true statement that I’ve lived my entire life.

He’s not entirely arrogant and self-centered. He has a huge heart, and it’s seen in intimate moments that could easily be overlooked. At one point Violet experiences an embarrassing moment and to take the eyes off of her he purposely draws attention to, and embarrasses himself. With divorced parents, a homophobic abusive father, and absent-minded, victimized mother, and two sisters, it’s obvious why Finch is hurting. His family has been torn apart, his father hates his existence, his mom barely notices his existence, and the entire town knows him as the “trouble-making freak.”

Clearly you can tell that Niven did an admirable job in creating well-rounded, fully-developed characters. These two people felt real to me. By the end of the book Niven had taken me on a journey with Finch and Violet and I didn’t want that journey to end. I shed tears by the end of the book because I needed more of them, I needed them to continue on, but it was clear this would be a standalone.

The book isn’t something that’s designed to be a “debby downer.” It’s focus is on learning the importance and value that our lives have, and what we can do with it. All The Bright Places has the reader experience a journey through the eyes of kids but it touches on a deep subject about the meaning of life, and what we should focus on while we are here. Don’t get me wrong, this book will require tissues within the vicinity when you read it, but the author had a purpose and it was well communicated. I’ve got a hangover from this read because it left me with so much knowledge, and genuinely touched my heart in ways I wasn’t expecting.

I would most definitely recommend this book because it took me on a journey and invoked emotional responses from me. Niven hit me in the feels, looped my heart on a roller coaster, and had my heart beating out of my chest several times. If you’re ready for a ride you’ll never want to end, and a novel that’s easy to connect to it’s characters, this book is for you.