Isle of Winds

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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

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Dandelion on Fire (Bk. 1)

dandelion-on-fire

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:

Visit Blue Ink Press:

http://www.blueinkpress.com

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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.

 

 

The Girl on The Train

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 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Author: Paula Hawkins

Publisher: Riverhead Books

Publishing Date: January 13, 2015

ISBN: 9-781-594-633-669

 

This novel had me itching for an excuse to find something else to read before I picked it up. I know that it was labeled a “Thriller,” but the synopsis screamed “Contemporary,” and “Drama,” to me- both genres I tend to dislike. Hawkins, however, rocked my world off its axis with Rachel’s journey. It was everyone’s journey, really, because Hawkins took special care to give voices to those who played vital roles.

Let’s start by analyzing the main characters. First we are introduced to Rachel, who narrates most of our story from her own view. Rachel, a lonely drunk, battling depression and severe anxiety finds herself fantasizing about the lives of four people who live on her old street, which she passes daily when commuting on the train. Rachel is reeling after her now-ex-husband has an affair and leaves her. It seems she just hasn’t recovered. Of course, she no longer had a place to stay after the divorce, which lead her to stay with Kathy, her old schoolmate who is far too kind, far too patient, and far too tolerant of Rachel’s behavior.

I think one of the most revealing things Rachel said was “Some days I feel so bad I have to drink. Some days I feel so bad I can’t.” She’s genuinely torn about her addiction, but she’s constantly hungry for a buzz- anything to numb the pain. When she’s anxious she drinks until it subsides, and if the alcohol doesn’t kick in fast enough she’ll pull at her nails until they bleed. Initially, the thought is that her alcoholism started because of Tom’s (her ex-husband) infidelity, but we soon learn that’s not the case.

Rachel has an odd sense of justification, often times feeling that unless she can remember a memory to the point where she can literally feel it, she can’t own up to her actions. During her binges she often blacks out and forgets what has been said and done until she is later put to shame by whomever reveals it to her. She of course feels regret about what happened, but she claims she can’t feel remorse because the memory doesn’t feel like it “belongs” to her. With deep rooted insecurity, Rachel found her identity in Tom, so when he slipped from her grasp she blamed herself. Full of nightmares she can’t make sense of, an unwavering need to be numbed by alcohol, and a lack of purpose without Tom we witness an unraveled woman who seems to be spinning to her demise.

We’re immediately introduced to Tom Watson through Rachel’s memories of their time together, but it’s not long before we meet him for ourselves. Tom was unfaithful to Rachel after her inability to conceive drove her to drink. Personally, I felt disdain towards him for his choice to please himself over supporting his wife, Rachel. Granted, having heard the stories from both accounts, I’m not saying that she was the ideal wife. She was far from innocent and at times he was very patient with her. That being said, not once did he go out of his way to save his wife’s life. Intervention programs were designed for people like Rachel, and she was so infatuated with Tom that had he asked she would have gone. Initially I thought Tom’s reason for cheating was a desire for his own biological child, but I soon realized he was way too physically driven to care about that. It boiled down to sex. No one wants to make love to a woman covered in her own bile, who smells of alcohol, and hasn’t bathed in days. His justification? He had needs. He got bored. Both of those are insufficient excuses in my eyes.

How about the harlot who willingly slept with a married man? Anna, a materialistic snob. She hires Megan, another vital character, to babysit her child, Evie. Why? Because she’s just so overwhelmed as a stay-at-home mom of one child, with a husband who makes enough money that she’s not concerned with bills. In reality, she hired her so that she could nap in the middle of the day. Anna has a burning hatred for Rachel, whom she believes is dangerous. If you need a reason to hate Rachel just ask Anna. She could list 10 in her sleep. Rachel’s very existence causes Anna paranoia and anxiety, which I quite truly believe is irrational. Then again, I’m sure I have a bit of bias considering that I literally know Rachel inside and out. I know her most intimate thoughts and beliefs. I know that her character would never allow for her to hurt a child- drunk or not.

Obviously Rachel has her sights set on the family unit Tom has, the one that was rightfully hers, in her eyes. Tom, and Anna, however, are not the only two people that Rachel focuses on. There is a lovely couple just a few doors down from the Watson’s. Rachel has never met them, but for the sake of fantasizing she names them Jess and Jason. Through a series of events, Jess, later known to be Megan, goes missing. This is when the story radically changes, this is where Rachel finds her purpose.

Megan, a petite girl with a thin frame is a starving artist whose wings have been clipped. Physically she spends her days watching the Watson’s little girl, but mentally she’s back in her art gallery before it closed down. Megan is married to Scott, whom carries her through thick and thin. She struggles with insomnia and a lack of passion. Obviously she loves art, however, once her gallery closed she was unable to pursue it. She greatly hates caring for the Watson’s child and desires more than anything to quit. Megan, much like Mr. Watson, is also unfaithful. Scott is aware that she has had affairs before, and he cannot trust her because she is a pathological liar. She feels that she can’t help the way she feels, nor her desire to have sexual encounters with whomever, whenever she pleases, and still have a loving husband to return to.

Megan has a deep-rooted insecurity of abandonment (from a hidden event, and the death of her brother when she was 15) that leads to a fear of commitment. She desires to run away, to beat people to the punch by leaving and hurting them first. Throughout the first portion of the book we follow Megan through her journey of releasing an old hurt. There is a secret she’s buried so deep that even she, at times, can’t remember it. A promiscuous woman, eager to experience the rush of being desired, irresistible even, to men other than her husband.

Scott, patient man that he is, struggles to trust Megan- which is understandable after repeated infidelity. He is possessive, jealous, and nosy. Don’t get me wrong, he isn’t all bad. He’s loving, and gentle. He’s a safe place for Megan- even if she doesn’t trust him. Scott is desperate, and terrified of losing Megan. He’s diligent about caring for her, supporting her and prompting her to seek help for the damage done by her brother’s death. When Megan does agree to seek out help we meet Dr. Kamal Abdic. Initially, Kamal comes across as protective, inviting and sweet, even. He prompts Megan to consider her husband’s behavior, and her own. Most every encounter with him is described as warm and inviting. He has a talent for listening, and easily shows his genuine desire to help.

Through a series of events, Megan goes missing, the world around Rachel crumbles, and she finds it necessary to play detective after seeing Megan kiss another man other than Scott. Eventually everyone’s paths cross- scratch that -collide. Rachel knows that if she doesn’t find out what happened to Jess- sorry, Megan -she will never be able to sleep again. She will never be able to move on and surpass this innate need to be numbed constantly.

Hawkins takes her readers on a journey that twists and turns more than the windiest of rivers. Every time I would tell myself, “I know exactly how this story is going to end,” Hawkins would provide an ounce of information that would, due to reasonable doubt, have sent my theories to death row. This novel is full of well-rounded characters who are so realistic I can’t imagine this being a work of fiction. She’s a champion of tying things together, a queen of foreshadowing, and a professional at masking the truth. The journey Hawkins provides for her readers is one that will have you sitting in your seat, jaw dropped, as your heart beats our of your chest with love, hatred, and everything in between.

I can quite easily say that this is one of the best books I have ever read.

Throne of Glass (#1)

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Author: Sarah J. Maas
Publisher: Bloomsbury

Publishing Date: August 2012

ISBN: 978-1-61963-034-5

Celaena Sardothian, ruthless assassin, and teenage girl. From the beginning of the book we see how Celaena laughs in the face of fear. Rough-around-the-edges, and issues with authority, Celaena finds herself surrounded by a broken land full of broken people. Trained to be a mercenary from the day that Arobynn find her, Celaena has become known as “Adarlan’s Assassin,” though her identity has remained a secret. One might expect some signs of remorse for their actions, especially as a murderer, however Celaena takes extreme pride in her deadly work.

Having grown up under the influence of a man who taught her killing was her only purpose in this life, Celaena began making a living through the death of others. She is intelligent, and resourceful- with a love for reading! From the very first moment that Dorian and Celaena meet, the unbreakable walls they’ve surrounded themselves in for protection begins to melt. Suddenly, Celaena isn’t the cold-hearted assassin that everyone assumed she’d be.

A beautiful young woman, with honey hair and dark eyes continues to capture the hearts of many as she repeatedly uses her good looks to her advantage. Strong, determined, and inspirational (even though, she’s a mass murderer.)  Throughout this book I enjoyed reading the detail oriented portions, and the points in which Maas drug my emotions through a pig pen and I just got to enjoy the ride.

I’ve enjoyed this book thouroughly and already have the second. So long as Sarah J. Maas doesn’t change, I believe it’s safe to say I would add her in my top authors. I can’t recall any qualms that I had with this book other than the emotional roller-coaster Maas took me, and every other reader, on! Don’t, get me wrong, even by the end of the book I was dying for more Celaena and Dorian, and Celaena and Chaol. I’m genuinely torn about who I’d prefer her with.

Maas is detailed, and imaginative. She doesn’t fail to take you on a journey with Celaena that you’re bound never to forget. When you include all the “sub genre” pieces she includes in her story, the book is extremely well rounded. We have Action and Adventure, Mystery, Romance, Magical (Paranormal), etc. All of these things contribute to a well rounded book that you can’t put down! I’m glad to have added it to my library, and highly suggest you read the series yourself!

BooklyBox vs. OwlCrate

First, let me start by saying I know I’ve been horrible about posting recently. During BookTube-A-Thon I got sick, read a difficult read, and then got into a slump. I’ve been struggling to read since then, and I’m just not getting back into the game! In the meantime, while I finish my current book, let’s talk about two of the most well-known subscription boxes!

BooklyBox is a unique subscription in that every time you receive a book they send a book to a child in need! It’s not only an invaluable gift to the next generation, but it means that as a subscriber YOU are making a difference. BooklyBox also provides you the opportunity to choose between several different genres, rather than solely providing YA. That is a position that no other subscription can provide you with (that I know of.) Each box contains a bookmark, a book, two bags of tea, a pack of sticky notes, and as a member you receive unlimited access to an online social media called “BooklyBuddy.” BooklyBox also includes a “Thank You” card inside the box providing detailed information about who they paired with the give books to children, and where those children are located in the world. They also have a blog and podcast available to the public! I’ve never been disappointed by BooklyBox.

In OwlCrate, a YA book subscription box, you receive 2-5 Bookish Items and a book. Each month the boxes are themed, and include items that not only relate to the book but relate to well known fandoms. This subscription box usually pairs up with etsy sellers, and growing artistic companies for some of the items inside their boxes. I have enjoyed every box I’ve received from them.

Let’s go ahead and dive into each box:

BooklyBox, YA Genre Box – July 2016:

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Provided:

The Spring of Kasper Meier by Ben Fergusson

Bookmark

BooklyBox Post-it Pack

Thank You Card

BooklyBox Bag

[2] Bags of Tazo Tea (Not included in picture, but was received)

Savage Owlcrate

This was the Owlcrate box for July 2016.

This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

YA Covers to Color

Coloring Bookmark

Funko Pop Figure – Draco Malfoy

The Death Star Necklace by Vector Engraving

Author’s signature sticker

 

These two boxes differ in many ways, including price. Owlcrate rounds out to about $40 dollars while BooklyBox is only about $30. (Less if you use my code for a recurring 10% off – thereadingphoenix) Ultimately it is up to you to decide which box best fits your desires. Personally, I prefer BooklyBox because I know that I’m not only getting things for myself, but I am also giving back to the world with each box I get! Best of luck deciding, beauties!

 

Xoxo

The Reading Phoenix

 

Summer’s List

summers list Book

Gold StarGold StarGold Star

Author: Anita Higman

Publisher: Moody Publishing

Publishing Date: May 18, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8024-1232-4

This is the first time I’ve ever rated a book less than four stars. Allow me to tell you why I struggled with this book… I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it either. This book was mediocre. If you enjoy reading books where the plot goes the exact direction that you expect it to, then this book may suit you well. I on the other hand, seek out books that will take me on a journey, books that will take twists and turns that I never expected.

Let’s dive into some of the details of the actual story, to give you a basis for my opinions. The first character we meet, aside from Summer in her first person view, is Elliot Whitfield, acharming, smooth-talking politician who will have it no other way than his way. Though he is Summer’s fiance, he has no problem talking up other ladies- he’s your stereotypical beautiful, yet dreadful, man.

After dinner Summer ends her relationship with Elliot expressing that she isn’t prepared to be a Senator’s wife, and that what he really needs an assistant more than he needs to be wed. As a reader, I’m happy for her to have stood up for herself! That is, until she gets home and begins whining. She comes across very juvenile, and almost flat as a character, initially. I remember thinking “as much as my grandmother, and even my mother are my best friends, I wouldn’t whine this much to them.” She goes back and forth, she whines and then whines about whining.

Granny was also just your average, run-of-the-mill grandmother. It was difficult reading what she had to say because it was like “I could literally see her in a cheesy frosted flakes commercial.” I didn’t hate everything about the book, though. See the story was sound when it comes to its structural stand points. It hit all the parts it needed to, had a few “plot twists,” your expected love story, etc. I did enjoy the little saying she had with Summer, though. “I love you big and high” while the other would chime in “as the Texas sky,” a regular way of saying goodbye between Granny and Summer!

I don’t think I admired a character much until Martin was brought into the picture. Of course Granny and Summer talked him up like he was a saint, but when we actually get to interact with him he’s witty, thoughtful, sweet, and eccentric. He was definitely my favorite character. He showed love and patience, even when it wasn’t deserved, throughout the entire book.

Of course, Higman did include certain details that provided some insight into the main characters, but they still felt like they were missing a piece of their face, of their identity. They didn’t seem like unique beings (minus Martin.) Summer was your average insecure, pretty girl who had dated a few too many guys for the wrong reason. Martin was the sweet childhood love that moved away and but was never forgotten. His brothers were like the evil stepsisters from Cinderella but just happened to be boys.

Everything in this book seemed mundane and at times cliche, which made it a difficult read. The book overall was an easy read because it was so well written structurally. It wasn’t fast paced, and didn’t even tug you to find out what happened next. It was just easy to keep turning pages. The only time I felt emotion, was when Marvin and Summer came together. Their childish, and innocent attraction was cute, and I wanted to see them continue to fall in love.

But that’s part of the problem. Before I’d even gotten to page 100 I knew how the story would end. It would be a classic “happily ever after,” boy-gets-girl, everyone reunited and loved, kind of wrap up. I can only speak from personal experience, but that isn’t a good wrap up to me. If you enjoy “happily ever afters” that are so blatant you can tell them from page 1, then this is a book you’ll enjoy. I, however, know that real life doesn’t always end with a happily ever after. I mean, look, reality is, Martin’s brothers probably would not have changed in their feelings towards him so quickly.

As an author, if you write a happily ever after, I feel there should be pieces that don’t wrap up so perfectly. If you can’t stop yourself from making everything come together then throw it in the epilogue years later. Just because you’re writing a work of fiction, doesn’t mean you should throw realism out the door.

Over all, my rating for this was a book three stars because I won’t read it again, and wouldn’t suggest it to others. It’s not bad, it’s just not worth sharing with.

 

Children of Icarus

Gold StarGold StarGold StarGold StarGold Star

Author: Caighlan Smith

Publisher: Switch Press

Publishing Date: August 1st, 2016

ISBN: 1-63079-057-8

 

When we first enter this incredibly unique world, it seems no different than if we were just following the life of average teenagers. Sure, Clara is a bit of a daredevil, and we don’t even know the name of the protagonist, but it seems pretty traditional at first. When we begin to hear about “Fallen Day,” and how these children are being sent in to become angels, my ears perked up a bit. Who willingly sends their kid to their death? Well, I guess everyone in the Towers (where they live.) Clara is an attention seeker, and she loves having everybody’s eyes on her. The protagonist (for writing purposes we’ll call her Nameless.) Nameless even says “others laugh. I wish they wouldn’t. It encourages her.” When these children are selected on Fallen Day they are robed and sent into the labyrinth, deemed “Icarii: to enter the labyrinth to become angels.” I doubt anyone was prepared for this labyrinth. Not as well as they thought they would be.

What I loved about the story was Caighlan’s attention to detail, her ability to paint pictures in my mind. She did a wonderful job with imagery! I also enjoyed her plot. This book seems so unique, which is incredible considering that she touched on a subject author’s have written and re-written hundreds of thousands of times. Caighlan was also able to draw emotions out of me. My heart would race at certain parts, anger would strike within me, and my heart would even break. Caighlan really takes you for a journey, so hold onto your seats.

What I didn’t like, was so minor it seems more of a reader error. The end of the story seemed to be drug out a bit much, however, I have a strong feeling that I only felt that way because I was unable to put the book down because I was dying to know what happened. I don’t know that I will want to put down the second book either! Open endings are key suggestions to a second book.

I highly suggest that you read this book and get to experience the labyrinth for yourself. Caighlan will definitely take you on a ride you’ll never forget.

Vinegar Girl

Vinegar Girl.jpeg

Author: Anne Tyler

Publisher: Hogarth

Publishing Date: 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8041-4126-0

 Gold StarGold StarGold StarGold Star

As I have often told my readers, I am a PAINFULLY honest reviewer. Initially, I hated this book. It was a difficult read and was slow going. I had a hard time keeping my attention focused. I couldn’t stand Kate, who had a horrible attitude and outlook on everything. She is bitter, blunt, and at time cold-hearted. Aside from her love for gardening I couldn’t imagine Kate liking, much less loving, anything in this life. As I continued to read, I did begin to ask myself, “Is Kate horrible because she is, or is she horrible because she’s hurting?” She proceeded to be immature at times, even participating in arguments with 4-year-olds. I couldn’t fathom loving this protagonist. Each passing page begun to answer my question. Eventually we got to see that Kate does in fact have a heart. She even admires a few of her students! It seems more and more that Kate struggles with authority, and adults of her age. It’s shocking at times how childish she is.

The book introduces us to her Father, who is not well-rounded in the least. Married to his work, he’s rarely home, and often forgetful. He’s far more interested in his career than in his family by the looks of things. Maybe this is why Kate is so awful? Growing up without a mother, and having an absent Father can be difficult, I imagine. Within the same household we’re also introduced to her “air-head” sister, Bunny. I had a hard time not gagging when her Father called her “bun-buns.” Bunny is selfish, immature, and boy-crazy. How surprising for a 15-year-old character with an absentee father, and dead mother! Not.

Here’s where the story begins to become interesting. Pyoter Shcherbakov, 3-year-running assistant to Dr. Batista (aka Father,) foreigner, and generally a jolly man enters into the picture! He’s outgoing, kind, and to Kate- disgustingly annoying. Kate continues to be rude and bitter through a good portion of the story. Can she possibly remain unhappy? The book takes unexpected twists and turns, hearts melt, hearts harden, and the world is suddenly much different than it was prior to Pyotr entering the picture.

As I stated before, I hated this book- that is, until I loved it. Towards the end of the book I was craving more, smiling ear to ear, and was pleased that I pushed through my initial emotions toward the book. I came to realize it wasn’t the book I hated, because Anne’s writing is wonderful. It was Kate. I hated Kate and her attitude so much that I was struggling to read the book. I cannot reiterate enough how happy I am that I finished this book, and once you get your hands on it- you will be, too!

Better Books, Lower Prices

As we all know, our love for books greatly impacts our lives- and our wallets. Books, especially the usually prefered Hardcovers, can be extremely expensive. I know that in my visits to Barnes and Noble, and similar book stores I have either wounded my bank account, or wounded my soul leaving empty-handed. As my TBR list continued to grow, so did the cost of each book.

 

In a devastating slump I suddenly realised that there was no way I would ever be able to afford to keep up with my growing library- not without winning the lottery, anyway. In a desperate attempt I took to Google in search for a better way! I had to hold out hope that I could both fill my library without emptying my bank! To my relief I found several jaw-dropping options.

 

With my goal to gain followers on Social Media, such as Instagram, I promoted myself through a giveaway. In the past, before I found these websites, I never would have imagined myself being able to afford buying a book for myself, much less someone else. When I opened up this giveaway, I did so internationally (which I highly suggest you do your research on shipping cost prior to announcing this). I found myself blown away by the cost and wasn’t sure I would be able to afford to honor my promise.

 

Continuing on this journey and seeking anything that would allow me to be able to honor this giveaway without breaking my bank I stumbled upon Bookdepository.com. Book Depository ships worldwide- yes, I said worldwide– for FREE. When I announced the winner of my first giveaway, I discovered that they reside in Serbia, which would have cost me a minimum of $40 to ship, and they would have to pay 60% percent of their country’s fees. As you can see, Book Depository saved my life, and my reputation.

 

That’s not all, though. In my research I was also introduced to BookOutlet.com. Book Outlet is an incredible resource that provides me with a large selection at an even better price. My most recent order saved me over $123, and included the infamous Rainbow Rowell’sEleanor & Park.” I find that Book Outlet is probably the most scandalously (in a very good way) priced! I’ve gotten brand-new Hardcover books for $3.99. I really don’t think you can beat that anywhere else!

 

Thrfitbooks.com is another fantastic provider.Thrift Books ships for free with any order over $10. That’s a steal if I’ve ever seen one! My most recent order placed with them cost me $54 with free shipping, and I received 13 books, 7 of which were Hardcover. In that same order I received all 3 books in the “Kane’s Chronicles” series by Rick Riordan. Those three Hardcover books, cost me less than $12 total. I was undeniably proud of myself for finding that steal!

 

Last but not least, I implore you to take to the world-wide-web and search around to find local bookstores, yard-sales, estate sales (I find a lot of great reads there), and even local Salvation Armies, and such. One of the very places that helped me develop my love for books was actually my local library. I was surprised to find that they had a small in-house store where they sold paperbacks for $1 and hardcovers for $2. That’s when I was finally able to begin my collection , even though my wallet was very small.

 

I also found that in my area I had a local store that sold a ginormous selection of books at a low price. This store, Mojo Records and Books– yes, they sell turntable records AND books -had three entire rows dedicated to YA novels alone! They are unique in that every day they place out boxes of books that they no longer have room for, that they are giving away for FREE. The last time I went I found an entire collection of classics from the year 1952. They were gorgeous antiques and I display them proudly in my library! When I had finally managed to bring some cash with me I was able to get ¾ of the Divergent series (2 hardcover, and 1 paperback) for less than $15.

 

I encourage you to really seek out ways to be wise with your money and fulfill your desires to explore the worlds between pages! I’ll include the links to the aforementioned websites, below. Please don’t forget to like, comment, and share this post! I’d love to know what amazing deals you’re able to find, and if you feel this article was helpful! Share your newfound knowledge with all your bookloving friends!

Xoxo,

Phoebe Stone

 

http://www.bookoutlet.com

http://www.thriftbooks.com

http://www.bookdepository.com