Saturday, January 31, 2015

Review: The Magical Animal Adoption Agency, Book 1 Clover's Luck by Kallie George


SUMMARY FROM NETGALLEY.COM:
Ages 8-12
Despite her name, Clover has always felt decidedly unlucky. So when she stumbles upon a mysterious cottage in the Woods, she can hardly believe her good fortune. It’s the Magical Animal Adoption Agency, and it houses creatures of all kinds. Fairy horses, unicorns, and a fiery young dragon are just the beginning!
Mr. Jams, the Agency’s owner, agrees to hire her as summer helper and Clover hopes her luck has finally changed. But when she’s left alone to care for the Agency, a sneaky witch comes after the magical creatures! Will Clover outsmart her in time to protect the animals?
The first installment in a new illustrated chapter book series by Kallie George, featuring enchanting illustrations by Alexandra Boiger, will charm young readers as Clover learns that courage and heart can be even more powerful than good luck.

MY TAKE:
Most of the time, you can tell from the first book if a series is going to be successful, and I have a feeling that this series is one of those.

In The Magical Animal Adoption Agency, Book 1 Clover's Luck, Clover is a young girl who has terrible luck with pretty much everything. One day, her pet canary flies away. While she is looking for it, she stumbles upon a magical animal adoption agency. On a whim, she decides to volunteer there. The job involves helping the magical creatures in the agency get adopted by the people who are a perfect fit for them. It's not easy, though, as not everyone who comes to the agency has pure intentions.

I really liked this book. Clover, was more charming than annoying, which is what klutzy characters tend to be in unskilled hands. The people who come to the agency, as well as the pets themselves, are quite likable, except of course, for the villain in the story.

The first part of the book was mostly about setting the scene and introducing the agency itself. My first thought here was that if this had its own theme park or attraction, I would definitely visit it. The second part of the story, meanwhile, was where the real action took place. That is, several of the animals got adopted. I'd elaborate more, but it would spoil the rest of the story, which, I'd have to say is quite good.

I think this series would work well as a cartoon show. Each episode could be about one particular adoption story. The villain, on the other hand, can be introduced in the first episode and cause mayhem throughout every episode thereafter. Of course, they could be introduced midway through the season too. Either way, I'd watch that show for sure.

Thanks to NetGalley and Disney-Hyperion for the e-ARC. Publication date of \ The Magical Animal Adoption Agency, Book 1 Clover's Luck is on February 3, 2015.

THE GOOD:

  1. From the looks of things, this is one series you'll want to follow.
  2. The premise is interesting and has a lot of potential.
  3. Clover is likable. 

THE BAD:

  1. Given the plot twist at the end, I'm not exactly sure how the villain will be able to play a significant role in the next books. 

READ IT IF:

  1. You are an animal lover.
  2. You like underdog stories.
  3. You like stories that give you a warm, fuzzy feeling.

RATING:
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Friday, January 30, 2015

Review: Matilda by Roald Dahl


SUMMARY FROM GOODREADS:
Matilda is a little girl who is far too good to be true. At age five-and-a-half she's knocking off double-digit multiplication problems and blitz-reading Dickens. Even more remarkably, her classmates love her even though she's a super-nerd and the teacher's pet. But everything is not perfect in Matilda's world. For starters she has two of the most idiotic, self-centered parents who ever lived. Then there's the large, busty nightmare of a school principal, Mrs. ("The") Trunchbull, a former hammer-throwing champion who flings children at will and is approximately as sympathetic as a bulldozer. Fortunately for Matilda, she has the inner resources to deal with such annoyances: astonishing intelligence, saintly patience, and an innate predilection for revenge.
She warms up with some practical jokes aimed at her hapless parents, but the true test comes when she rallies in defense of her teacher, the sweet Miss Honey, against the diabolical Trunchbull. There is never any doubt that Matilda will carry the day. Even so, this wonderful story is far from predictable. Roald Dahl, while keeping the plot moving imaginatively, also has an unerring ear for emotional truth. The reader cares about Matilda because in addition to all her other gifts, she has real feelings.
MY TAKE:
I think I may have read this book as a child, but it's been so long that the only thing I remember is the movie Matilda.

In Matilda, Matilda is a young, brilliant child with neglectful parents. When Matilda starts going to school, her teacher takes an interest in her, mostly because of her intelligence and humility. Matilda's headmistress, Miss Trunchbull, however, is a horrible lady to everyone. She scares most of the children, but she meets her match in Matilda.

I like the illustrations in this book as I've come to expect this style when reading Roald Dahl books. They're not particularly beautiful but they are quirky and somehow fit with Roald Dahl's writing style.

If you've seen the movie, the book follows the same narrative, although there were some scenes and characters here that aren't in the movie. The vibe is a little different too. While the movie is charming and sweet, the book is slightly sharper and more biting in tone, but funnier.

As a kid, I liked that Matilda was smart and a bookworm. I still like that fact, and I appreciate that Matilda makes reading look cool.

From what I remember, the things I got most from the movie, was letting your light shine, and that punishing others when they do something bad can be hilarious and maybe even good. Now that I've read the book as an adult, though, I noticed a couple of things that I didn't really pay much attention or felt too outraged about back then.

Matilda's parents were terrible parents. It is absolutely unacceptable to treat your child in the manner that they treated Matilda. Miss Trunchbull is also a very bad person, and that kind of behavior is definitely not going to fly in this day and age.

If you've read Matilda before, I suggest you read it again as an adult. If you haven't read it at all, you should give this book a try.

THE GOOD:

  1. Matilda is an amazing child.
  2. The story isn't as simple as it sounds.
  3. There are some funny moments here. 

THE BAD:

  1. If you saw the movie first and loved it, you might find yourself preferring the movie over the book.

FAVORITE QUOTE/S:
“Here it is,' Nigel said.
Mrs D, Mrs I, Mrs FFI, Mrs C, Mrs U, Mrs LTY. That spells difficulty.'
How perfectly ridiculous!' snorted Miss Trunchbull. 'Why are all these women married?”
READ IT IF:

  1. You haven't read Matilda before.
  2. You like protagonists who are bookworms.
  3. You like bullied characters who fight back. 

RATING:
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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Devon’s Choice by Catherine Bennett Book Blast

Today, we are featuring Devon's Choice by Catherine Bennett.

devon's choice

Devon's Choice

Life holds no surprises for Devon Murphy. Her life consists of keeping tabs on her aging Irish father, working part time at a coffee shop, and building her online graphics design business. Devon’s only tricky situation is a shallow relationship with the pampered and affluent Michael Turner, who sees her as just another woman to conquer.
Following his father’s death, Brandon’s only goal is to expand the family business and live life on his own terms. That is, until he walks into the coffee shop one snowy evening and meets the enchanting, red-haired barista behind the counter. But can Devon and Brandon’s attraction for each other be strong enough to help erase their deepest disappointments and renew their faith in God?


Excerpt:

Brandon looked over at her neutral expression. Whatever kind of relationship she had with Michael Turner didn’t seem to be making her happy. At that moment, all he wanted to do was to make her forget all about the jerk.
As if sensing him watching her, Devon turned her head enough to make eye contact with him. The faint, milky glow from the streetlight showed enough of her features for him to see a soft blush warm her cheeks. Under her dark lashes, he watched her sea green eyes glint invitingly as her soft lips turned up at the corners. In that moment, his resolve to keep the date on a friendly level came crashing down.
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Catherine Bennett

Author Catherine Bennett

I grew up in Ohio where I currently live with my husband and our two rescue Labradors. Some of my favorite things include reading, shopping, pepperoni pizza, Hershey bars and hanging out with my two grown sons. I also love dogs; so going to the dog park is cheap entertainment for my husband and I!

Growing up an only child, I had many imaginary friends. I believe this - and a love of books - fueled my desire to write. It was many years later that my dream of becoming a published author came true.

I’m grateful to God for always keeping a story in my heart and hope you are blessed and entertained by my book.

Devon's Choice (1)
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$50 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash

Ends 2/15/15

Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Review: Super Secret Crisis War! Volume 1 by Louise Simonson and Derek Charm


SUMMARY FROM NETGALLEY.COM:
The devious demon Aku has called together a League of Extraordinary Villains — composed of malevolent miscreants from different cartoon universes.
When their evil robots show up in the world’s of The Powerpuff Girls, Ben 10, Samurai Jack, Dexter’s Laboratory, and (even) Ed, Edd and Eddy, it’s up to all these fearless heroes to band together and put an end to the League’s nefarious plot of interdimensional conquest!

MY TAKE:
I love a good crossover episode, and this was definitely a good one.

In Super Secret Crisis War! Volume 1, Aku (Samurai Jack), Vilgax (Ben10), Mandark (Dexter's Laboratory), and Mojo Jojo (Powerpuff Girls) have teamed up to create a robot army that will help them take over their worlds. It's up to Jack, Ben, Dexter and the Powerpuff Girls to stop them.

At first, I was a little confused by the story. Some of the confusion was due to the fact that this is meant to be read as a comic book/ paperback and I was reading an e-ARC which only allowed me to see things one page at a time. There were several panels that covered two pages or parts of two pages, and sometimes the story flowed from one page to the next then back. Once I realized this, the story became much easier to follow.

Now, while I know all of the main characters here, the only ones I really know from actually watching the shows were the Powerpuff Girls, Mojo Jojo, Dexter and Mandark. I don't know how many kids (or adults) out there today watch all four shows, but even if they didn't it should be a problem. By the end of the comic, I was already quite familiar with Aku, Samurai Jack, Vilgax and Ben10 and sort of understood their personalities and powers.

Bubbles is as cute as always, and Buttercup is still tough and no-nonsense. I thought that there was a little something going on between Blossom and Ben, and I would love to see that develop further if they're the same characters in volume 2. Mojo Jojo is a sweetheart here, which I liked as I remember him being my favorite Powerpuff Girls villain. Dexter was a bit more annoying than I remember him, though.

The story was pretty good, with several plot twists to keep it interesting. The varied layout, panel sizes and sound effects added to making the action seem even more exciting. The color palette for most of the comic was pretty dark, with lots of black and red, with the colors being provided mostly by the colorful main characters.

Thanks to NetGalley and IDW Publishing for the e-ARC.

THE GOOD:

  1. The story is interesting and action-packed.
  2. The layout, color choices and illustrations do a good job of making the story come to life.
  3. The characters have chemistry.

THE BAD:

  1. It can be a bit confusing to follow at first, if you're used to typical comics that flow one page at a time. 

READ IT IF:

  1. You're a fan of the Powerpuff Girls, Dexter's Laboratory, Samurai Jack or Ben10.
  2. You like crossover projects.
  3. You enjoy stories with lots of action.

RATING:
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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!



The way he kissed me felt like a brand. Like he was tattooing himself under my skin.
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Monday, January 26, 2015

Review: Zodiac by Stan Lee; Stuart Moore


SUMMARY FROM NETGALLEY.COM:
Ages 8-12
We are aware that due to the graphic elements within this text, certain pages may render strangely on the Kindle, but should still be readable. If not, please try the download button.
Don't miss our two free e-book prequels to Convergence! Download The Zodiac Archives and The Vanguard Archives from http://disneyzodiac.com or any e-book retailer.
Stan Lee presents a brand new, magical, super-powered adventure!
Think your life's too complicated? Use our handy Zodiac checklist and see:
1. Are you running for your life, hiding from a group of super-powered mercenaries, including a guy who can fly, breathe fire, and read people's minds?
2. Are your new friends, who saved you from the guy in question #1, possibly even more dangerous and definitely hiding something?
3. Are you suddenly able to punch through walls? (Which is, admittedly, pretty cool so far...)
4. Are you pretty sure that somehow this is all your parents' fault?
*Subsection 4(a): Are you also pretty sure that your parents are trying to take over the world?
5. All of this "running for your life" stuff means you're missing the start of school (at least that last part's not all bad).
If you've answered "yes" to any of these questions, well, keep on running. And welcome to Zodiac.

MY TAKE:
The premise of this book really excited me.

In Zodiac, Steven Lee suddenly finds himself with extraordinary powers after he stumbles upon a ritual while following a tour guide who was acting suspiciously. He's not the only one with new powers, though, as the powers of the animals of the Chinese Zodiac have been unleashed. Now he and his new team must find the others before the villain does.

The start of the book was a little confusing then a little bit meh for me. I mean, there was plenty of action from the start, but I wasn't feeling it at first. Things only started to get interesting for me in Chapter 5. Once things became clearer and the hunt for the other Zodiac members were on, it became more exciting. Pretty much every time someone used their powers after that was a highlight for me.

The story made me think of Avengers mixed with a little Jackie Chan Adventures. Of course, unlike the Avengers, Steven and his team are very inexperienced. Their opponents, on the other hand, are very combat-ready. That's why the battles were often lopsided, at first. I understand that Steven and his team don't have a warrior mentality, but it irritated me to no end. Jasmine and Carlos should really consider adding mental toughness to their training regimen, otherwise, they're in for a tough ride.

The members of Steven's team are pretty cool. My favorite character is Liam. He's tough, but he's laid-back. Steven is okay, but he still has a while to go before he matures. Maxwell, the villain, on the other hand, is like your typical evil villain or dictator. He's intelligent, believes that what he's doing is for a higher purpose or a greater good, but because he's morally bankrupt, he does terrible things.

The book is graphics-heavy, and the illustrations are predominantly black with shades of red. The style reminded me of The Punisher comics, for some reason. It's not my style, but Marvel fans will probably like it.

Thanks to NetGalley and Disney Book Group for the e-ARC.

THE GOOD:

  1. There's a lot of potential here.
  2. The characters are generally likable.
  3. The premise is interesting.

THE BAD:

  1. Reading about Steven and his team getting pummeled will make you want to cringe. 

READ IT IF:

  1. If you find the Chinese Zodiac fascinating.
  2. If you like the Avengers.
  3. You like books about people with superpowers. 

RATING:
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Sunday, January 25, 2015

In My Mailbox


In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren.

FROM NETGALLEY:



Zodiac by Stan Lee; Stuart Moore

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Saturday, January 24, 2015

Review: The Wild Orchid: A Retelling of "The Ballad of Mulan" (Once Upon A Time Fairytales) by Cameron Dokey


SUMMARY FROM GOODREADS:
"Once upon a Time" Is Timeless

Wielding a sword as deftly as an embroidery needle, Mulan is unlike any other girl in China. When the emperor summons a great army, each family must send a male to fight, tom-boyish Mulan is determined to spare her aging father and bring her family honor, so she disguises herself and answers the call.
But Mulan never expects to find a friend, let alone a soul mate, in the commander of her division, Prince Jian. For all of Mulan's courage with a bow and arrow, is she brave enough to share her true identity and feelings with Prince Jian?

MY TAKE:
I'm a huge fan of the Disney portrayal of Mulan, and we discussed the Ballad of Mulan in college, so I was curious about how this retelling of the Ballad of Mulan would play out.

The Wild Orchid tells the story of a young girl named Mulan, who is the daughter of a famous general. Unlike most girls, Mulan has a lot of skills that are usually only known to males. When the Huns threaten to invade China again, Mulan decides to serve in her father's place.

This particular retelling is somewhere in the middle of the Disney version and the older versions of The Ballad of Mulan. That is, obviously, there are no dragons here, but unlike the original stories, there's a love interest.

The style is relatively formal, which helps make it easier to imagine that this was written by a woman in Ancient China. Occasionally, there were Chinese words and phrases, but their meaning in English were stated immediately so comprehension isn't a problem.

The twists about Mulan's parents and her father not coming home right away is something new and adds depth to the story and Mulan's motivations. Mulan's childhood friend was interesting, and I'm glad that it wasn't made into a love-triangle sort of thing.

I liked the characters in this book a lot, however, I felt like the story was too short for me to be appropriately invested in their futures.

I'm glad that Mulan has a love interest in Prince Jian, who is certainly a match for her. My favorite moment between them was their impromptu archery contest. However, I felt like their romance was unexpectedly fast. Unlike in the Disney movie wherein Shang and Mulan were able to interact as male-male and male-female in combat and you can practically see the sparks, here it feels like insta-romance, almost.

I would have liked if the story was extended a bit so that Prince Jian and Mulan had at least one more scene to solidify their attraction/love.

THE GOOD:

  1. There are interesting plot twists.
  2. The characters are likable.
  3. The family drama makes Mulan's story more interesting. 


THE BAD:

  1. Mulan and Prince Jian's romance feels rushed. 


FAVORITE QUOTE/S:
All of us show many faces to the world. No one shows her true face all of the time. To do that would be dangerous, for what is seen can also be known.
READ IT IF:

  1. Mulan is your favorite Disney princess.
  2. You like reading fairy tale re-tellings.
  3. You like heroines that are smart and brave.

RATING:
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Friday, January 23, 2015

Review: The Demigod Diaries (The Heroes of Olympus) by Rick Riordan


SUMMARY FROM GOODREADS:
What dangers do runaway demigods Luke and Thalia face on their way to Camp Half-Blood? Are Percy and Annabeth up to the task of rescuing stolen goods from a fire-breathing giant who doesn't take kindly to intruders? How exactly are Leo, Piper, and Jason supposed to find a runaway table, dodge a band of party-loving Maenads (who just might be a little psychotic), and stave off a massive explosion...all in one hour or less? With his trademark wit and creativity, Rick Riordan answers these questions and more in three never-before-seen short stories that provide vital back-story to the Heroes of Olympus and Percy Jackson books. Original art, enlightening character interviews and profiles, puzzles, and a quiz add to the fun in this action-packed collection.
MY TAKE:
I enjoyed the Percy Jackson and the Heroes of Olympus very much, so I wanted to read more about the demigods.

The Demigod Diaries includes stories about Luke, Thalia and Annabeth (The Diary of Luke Castellan), Percy, Annabeth and Hermes (Percy Jackson and the Staff of Hermes), Leo, Piper and Jason (Leo Valdez and the Quest for Buford). There are also activities (quiz, word search, and word scramble) and a story written by Rick Riordan's son about a demigod who fought on Kronos' side.

I enjoyed the Percy Jackson and Leo Valdez stories the most. Both stories were funny and helped me learn more about Greek myths. Luke's story, on the other hand, helped me understand better his motivation for doing what he did during the Percy Jackson series.

Alabaster's story was more serious than the other stories here. It's a good stand-alone story, but I felt like it didn't fit the overall tone of the book. Two of the stories. plus the interview with George and Martha, were lighthearted and while Luke's story wasn't funny, it didn't feel as somber as Alabaster's story.

I kinda wish there were a couple more stories in the book. I felt like I was still in the middle of my reading rhythm by the time the book ended.

The activities were fun, though. The word scramble is quite easy, the word search was moderate, while the quiz/puzzle was just the right amount of challenging.

THE GOOD:

  1. The stories are true to the characters.
  2. The Percy and Leo stories are entertaining.
  3. The activities are fun.

THE BAD:

  1. Four stories doesn't seem like enough. 

FAVORITE QUOTE/S:
How do you greet a god? If there’s an etiquette guide for that, I haven’t read it. I’m never sure if I’m supposed to shake hands, kneel, or bow and shout, “We’re not worthy!” 
READ IT IF:

  1. You enjoyed the Percy Jackson series.
  2. You want to learn more about Luke Castellan.
  3. You wonder about the demigods who sided with Kronos.

RATING:
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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Review: Allegiant (Divergent #3) by Veronica Roth


SUMMARY FROM GOODREADS:
The faction-based society that Tris Prior once believed in is shattered--fractured by violence and power struggles and scarred by loss and betrayal. So when offered a chance to explore the world past the limits she’s known, Tris is ready. Perhaps beyond the fence, she and Tobias will find a simple new life together, free from complicated lies, tangled loyalties, and painful memories.
But Tris’s new reality is even more alarming than the one she left behind. Old discoveries are quickly rendered meaningless. Explosive new truths change the hearts of those she loves. And once again, Tris must battle to comprehend the complexities of human nature--and of herself--while facing impossible choices about courage, allegiance, sacrifice, and love.
Told from a riveting dual perspective, Allegiant, by #1 New York Times best-selling author Veronica Roth, brings the Divergent series to a powerful conclusion while revealing the secrets of the dystopian world that has captivated millions of readers in Divergent and Insurgent.

MY TAKE:
I put off reading this series because of all the negative buzz I heard about this book.

In Allegiant, the factions are no more, and Evelyn and the factionless are now deciding how things will be in Chicago. However, their tyrannical ways have inspired some, the Allegiant, to attempt to overthrow them. Tris, Tobias and some of their friends decide to head outside the city to see what is there. What they find, though, may be even worse than the world they know.

This book wasn't as terrible as I thought it would be. I had a hunch about the first major plot twist, and I was right. Really, this series, for me, is a big warning about what happens if people try to play God, and how society tends to operate. If people are oppressed enough, they have a tendency to fight back. There are some really terrible things here, but there's good here too.

Tris and Tobias' relationship is as explosive as ever, but it's also more mature than it was. My favorite quote (see below) felt to me like an accurate description of marriage (and relationships) in general.

I've forgotten what most people were angry about, but I think it was the ending. The way the conflict was resolved was peaceful and hopeful, and I felt like it was an acceptable end, unless we extend the series. The ending itself, though, what happened to Tris and Tobias and everyone else, made me feel empty and hollow inside. It was a bittersweet conclusion and made me so sad that I'll be taking a hiatus from dystopia for a while.

THE GOOD:

  1. Tris and Tobias' relationship has matured.
  2. It's pretty spot-on, if not occasionally pessimistic, about society in general.
  3. It's action-packed.


THE BAD:

  1. The ending is bittersweet. 


FAVORITE QUOTE/S:
I fell in love with him. But I don't just stay with him by default as if there's no one else available to me. I stay with him because I choose to, every day that I wake up, every day that we fight or lie to each other or disappoint each other. I choose him over and over again, and he chooses me.

READ IT IF:

  1. You want to find out what happens to Tris, Tobias and everyone else.
  2. You like books with bittersweet endings.
  3. You are against discrimination. 

RATING:
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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Review: Insurgent (Divergent #2) by Veronica Roth


SUMMARY FROM GOODREADS:
One choice can transform you—or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves—and herself—while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.
Tris's initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable—and even more powerful. Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so.

MY TAKE:
While I didn't love this book as much as I did Divergent, I felt like this was a good follow-up to the first book.

In Insurgent, Tris, Tobias, and many others are on the run from the Jeanine-supporting Erudite and the traitor Dauntless. There's few places to go, however, and with what the Erudite have in mind, nobody is safe.

This book is a lot darker and more violent than Divergent. While reading it, I felt like there was always a dull ache in my chest and my pulse was racing.

As you would expect, there's a lot of action in this book. The pacing and everything else contributed to making it easy to feel what Tris is feeling. Tris cries a lot more in this book, thanks to the terrible things she experiences, but unlike other books wherein I get angry at crybaby heroines, I found myself empathizing with Tris.

As the story unfolded, there were a few things that I didn't expect but didn't surprise me when I found out. The ending was a little surprising, though, in that omg-that's-disturbing kind of way. Of course, I'm not surprised by how everything panned out for this Divergent society because, really, history has shown us that things like this happen all the time.

Depressing stuff aside, I enjoyed Tris and Tobias' romance. While they have their I'd-rather-die-than-live-without-you moments, which were part-romantic, part-cliche for me, I liked that their love for each other, in general, didn't stand in the way of their goals of helping others.

Now I'm definitely excited to see the movie.

THE GOOD:

  1. Tris and Tobias' romance is both beautiful and heartbreaking to see.
  2. Human nature (groupthink, in particular) is portrayed well.
  3. It's action-packed.

THE BAD:

  1. It may be too violent and dark for some. 

FAVORITE QUOTE/S:
“I know that I am birdlike, made narrow and small as if for taking flight, built straight-waisted and fragile. But when he touches me like he can't bear to take his hand away, I don't wish I was any different.” 
READ IT IF:

  1. You liked Divergent.
  2. You liked The Hunger Games.
  3. You like action-packed books with complicated romances. 

RATING:
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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!



“I pout my lower lip for a second, but then I grin as the pieces come together.
"That's why you like me!" I exclaim. "Because you're not very nice either! It makes so much more sense now.” 
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Monday, January 19, 2015

Review: Divergent (Divergent #1) by Veronica Roth


SUMMARY FROM GOODREADS:
In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue--Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is--she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.
During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are--and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel her seemingly perfect society, Tris also learns that her secret might help her save the ones she loves . . . or it might destroy her.

MY TAKE:
I am so glad I finally decided to read this book despite the negative reviews of the final book in this series.

In Divergent, Beatrice is from the Abnegation faction. During the Choosing Ceremony, she decides to switch to Dauntless. Now she must survive the initiation process or else she will become factionless. Surviving Dauntless initiation is difficult enough on its own, but Tris is different and her uniqueness may be an advantage or it could be something that puts her in danger.

This book was even better than I thought it would be. The idea of factions based on values isn't necessarily original, but the portrayal of the people inside the factions does show some complexity. While people do tend to show one of the five faction's traits more than the others, that doesn't mean there isn't a little bit of the other factions in him or her too. Also, dividing people into factions in the hope of maintaining peace is not a super sustainable idea. Some people are just inherently selfish or evil or have so much pride in their abilities and superiority.

The amount of violence in the book made me cringe sometimes, although, since I am a fan of wuxia and action films, it wasn't as disturbing to me as it could have been. There wasn't any unnecessary violence anyway. Everything happened to prove a point.

The characters were all very interesting to me, even the noes I hated with a passion. Jeanine is nuts, though. She's intelligent, sure, but she completely lacks morals. That's the most dangerous kind of intelligence.

Four is quite swoon-worthy, in my opinion. He's smart, brave, and he has a good heart. I really liked Tris, too. I wouldn't go so far as too say she's my spirit animal, but a lot of the choices she made and the thoughts she had were the same reactions I had or would have had/done.

I'm going to start reading Insurgent soon and I hope it's as good as this one.

THE GOOD:

  1. Tris is tough.
  2. The world-building is terrific.
  3. It shows the complexity of human nature well.

THE BAD:

  1. It can be a little violent. 

FAVORITE QUOTE/S:
“Human reason can excuse any evil; that is why it's so important that we don't rely on it.” 
READ IT IF:

  1. You liked The Hunger Games.
  2. You like strong female characters.
  3. You like books that are practically a study on human nature. 

RATING:
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Sunday, January 18, 2015

In My Mailbox


In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren.

WON:



Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything (Freakonomics #1)
by Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner
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Saturday, January 17, 2015

Review: 1,000 Foods To Eat Before You Die: A Food Lovers Life List by Mimi Sheraton


SUMMARY FROM NETGALLEY.COM:
The ultimate gift for the food lover. In the same way that 1,000 Places to See Before You Die reinvented the travel book, 1,000 Foods to Eat Before You Die is a joyous, informative, dazzling, mouthwatering life list of the world’s best food. The long-awaited new book in the phenomenal 1,000 . . . Before You Die series, it’s the marriage of an irresistible subject with the perfect writer, Mimi Sheraton—award-winning cookbook author, grande dame of food journalism, and former restaurant critic for The New York Times.
1,000 Foods fully delivers on the promise of its title, selecting from the best cuisines around the world (French, Italian, Chinese, of course, but also Senegalese, Lebanese, Mongolian, Peruvian, and many more)—the tastes, ingredients, dishes, and restaurants that every reader should experience and dream about, whether it’s dinner at Chicago’s Alinea or the perfect empanada. In more than 1,000 pages and over 550 full-color photographs, it celebrates haute and snack, comforting and exotic, hyper-local and the universally enjoyed: a Tuscan plate of Fritto Misto. Saffron Buns for breakfast in downtown Stockholm. Bird’s Nest Soup. A frozen Milky Way. Black truffles from Le PĂ©rigord.
Mimi Sheraton is highly opinionated, and has a gift for supporting her recommendations with smart, sensuous descriptions—you can almost taste what she’s tasted. You’ll want to eat your way through the book (after searching first for what you have already tried, and comparing notes). Then, following the romance, the practical: where to taste the dish or find the ingredient, and where to go for the best recipes, websites included.

MY TAKE:
It took me a very long time, by my standards anyway, to read this e-ARC.

1,000 Foods To Eat Before You Die:  A Food Lovers Life List contains descriptions of food around the world that any self-respecting must try at least once. The book also includes movies, restaurants, magazines, books, paintings and markets relevant in some way to good food in that specific region.

The time it took for me to finish this book was partly due to its length (1000+ pages) and the fact that I finished this during the busy holiday season, but mostly due to this being the kind of book that you savor, not unlike the food mentioned within.

The food items are grouped by region, which helps with making it feel cohesive, despite there being no real transition between the items in each grouping. The food descriptions are very vivid, and the author's experience as a food critic is quite obvious in the pages.

Each entry is also very comprehensive. Not every entry has pictures, but most have their country(ies) of origin, where you can find the food (specific restaurants around the US and the world, online, etc.), and where you can find recipes that approximate it best.

The pictures aren't always appealing to me, although I think it may have to do with the size of the pictures and the overall layout, which sort of gives the pictures a Good Housekeeping-vibe for me. However, when I focused on the pictures and covered up the text around it, they weren't actually all that bad.

The food herein runs that gamut from things-I-want-to-eat-now to things-I-would-only-eat-if-you-paid-me-but-I-still-wouldn't-finish-the-whole-thing. The latter consists mostly of any item that has aspic and/or any internal organs.

I noticed that there were plenty of cheese in this book, which makes sense of you consider yourself a food connoisseur, but I would have liked it more if the cheeses were lumped together in one long item, much like what was done with dimsum, in order for there to be space for more entries.

Overall, I really liked this book. I just have two things that I was looking for here that I didn't find. One is a checklist that contained all the items mentioned in the book so it would be easier to check them off. The second one is that the Philippines was really only mentioned once, and it was only near the end of an entry. Other times, it was just lumped under the description "Southeast Asia(n)". I find this very disappointing. I can think of at least three dishes off the top of my head that deserve a mention: lechon, sinigang and halo-halo. The author mentions in the book that Anthony Bourdain said, on his show No Reservations, that the babi guling (Balinese Suckling Pig) was the best he ever had. I take it she hasn't seen a later episode wherein he says the lechon he tasted in the Philippines is better. I haven't seen that episode in a while, but this article (http://www.foodandwine.com/blogs/2009/10/14/anthony-bourdain-uncensored.mobi) was able to provide the following quote from Anthony Bourdain at the Times Talk:
On the hierarchy of pork he’s eaten around the world: “Puerto Rico’s lechon is great. In Bali, the lechon is even better. And in the Philippines, the lechon is slightly better than that. It’s the best of the best.”
Yes, I know I'm nitpicking and sour-graping, but it's hard to fight the urge when you're so eager to see what dish from your country made the list and then all you get is a brief line or you've been lumped with other neighbors. Perhaps there should be a part two of this book to cover all the other food that had to be edited out, not just from the Philippines, but from other countries that weren't represented here too.

Thanks to NetGalley and Workman Publishing Company for the e-ARC.

THE GOOD:

  1. You get to discover food you may otherwise wouldn't have heard of or tried.
  2. The descriptions are mouthwatering.
  3. The entries are quite comprehensive and practical. 

THE BAD:

  1. It would have been even better if there was a checklist at the back of the book or a companion website wherein people can keep track of the food they ate from the list.

READ IT IF:

  1. You consider yourself a foodie.
  2. You like completing lists.
  3. You like trying new things. 

RATING:
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Friday, January 16, 2015

Review: Psy-Q: Test Yourself With More Than 80 Quizzes, Puzzles, and Experiments for Everyday Life by Ben Ambridge


SUMMARY FROM NETGALLEY.COM:
PSY-Q: Test Yourself with More Than 80 Quizzes, Puzzles, and Experiments for Everyday Life (A Penguin Original / on-sale: December 30, 2014 / 978-0-14-312620-1 / $15.00) by Ben Ambridge is Psychology 101 as you wish it were taught: a collection of entertaining experiments, quizzes, jokes, and interactive exercises.
Psychology is the study of mind and behavior: how and why people do absolutely everything that people do, from the most life-changing event such as choosing a partner, to the most humdrum, such as having an extra donut. Ben Ambridge takes these findings and invites the reader to test their knowledge of themselves, their friends, and their families through quizzes, jokes, and games. You’ll measure your personality, intelligence, moral values, skill at drawing, capacity for logical reasoning, and more—all of it adding up to a greater knowledge of yourself, a higher “Psy-Q.”
Take Dr. Ben’s quizzes to learn:
If listening to Mozart makes you smarter Whether or not your boss is a psychopath How good you are at waiting for a reward (and why it matters) Why we find symmetrical faces more attractive What your taste in art says about you
Lighthearted, fun, and accessible, this is the perfect introduction to psychology that can be fully enjoyed and appreciated by readers of all ages.

MY TAKE:
If you love taking personality quizzes and learning why people tend to think a certain way, this book may be for you.

Psy-Q: Test Yourself With More Than 80 Quizzes, Puzzles, and Experiments for Everyday Life contains tons of quizzes, jokes, and tests that tell you a little something about yourself and how scientists came to that conclusion.

This book reminded me of the National Geographic show Brain Games. In fact, I spotted at least one (the invisible gorilla) which I saw on the show.

The format is also sort of like Brain Games. It usually starts with an activity of some sort followed by an explanation regarding what it says about you or what your answer may be. The explanation usually involves a scientific phenomenon or study that explains why the outcome is that way.

There were plenty of interesting studies and observations in this book. Some of the things that I enjoyed reading about were the Muller-Lyer illusion, the Mozart effect, and conspiracy theorists.

The book is very informative and if you're relatively new or a novice when it comes to psychology, you'll definitely learn a lot of new things. The great thing about this book is that it's written in an entertaining way, keeping you from being bored, and thus allowing you to absorb more information.

The tests are fun too, and they're the kind you'd want to do or share with family and friends, if only to compare their answers with yours and if the explanations hold true for them as well.

Thanks to NetGalley and Penguin Group for the e-ARC.

THE GOOD:

  1. It's an entertaining read.
  2. It's well-researched.
  3. You'll learn a lot about yourself, psychology and human behavior. 

THE BAD:

  1. If you don't like writing in your books, you're going to have to keep a pen and paper handy to keep track of your answers and compute your scores. 

READ IT IF:

  1. You wonder what makes humans tick.
  2. You like personality quizzes.
  3. You like learning new things. 

RATING:
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Thursday, January 15, 2015

The MD Factor Diet Blog Tour


Today, we have a recipe excerpt and giveaway from The MD Factor Diet by Caroline Cederquist. Enjoy!

RECIPE:

       Breakfast Frittata
Serves 6 | 16 grams of protein
4 grams of net carbohydrate per serving

INGREDIENTS
1 (10-ounce) package chopped, frozen spinach spritz of olive oil
1 teaspoon olive oil
3 teaspoons raw onion, minced
4 fully cooked chicken sausage links, diced into small pieces
2 whole eggs
1 cup egg whites
1 cup cheese, reduced fat

INSTRUCTIONS
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Thaw spinach and drain the excess water.
Spritz a pie pan with olive oil.
In a small skillet over medium heat, heat the teaspoon of olive oil, then add in the onion, sauté until translucent, and set aside.
In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs and egg whites.
To the eggs, add the onion, sausage, spinach, and cheese.
Pour mixture into pie pan and bake for 20–30 minutes until the eggs set.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Caroline J. Cederquist, MD has taken a road few physicians have traveled. Beginning in 1991, she started her career in family practice. As it often happens with conventional medicine, she found herself prescribing round after round of medication, while knowing that if her patients could lose around 20-30 pounds that they wouldn't need any medication at all.
With the desire to stop treating patients in a way that didn't address the root of her patients' problems, she came to a personal conclusion that conventional medicine did not provide all of the tools she needed to help her patients achieve optimum health.
Intent on discovering the underlying causes of her patients most common issues, like high cholesterol, diabetes, high blood pressure, and weight gain, she began to envision Cederquist Medical Wellness Center. She decided to move to Naples FL with her family, and committed to taking an entirely different approach to impact her patients' health. She wanted an approach that could reduce medications, decrease a variety of risk factors, and improve health and quality of life long-term, by using food as medicine, and working with patients on an individual basis.
Dr. Cederquist founded Cederquist Medical Wellness Center in 1997, with the primary aim of treating patients by addressing the causes of their health issues. By providing the right dietary and lifestyle treatment program, she has helped patients normalize cholesterol levels without any medication. Patients who have tried everything to lose weight finally find the answers they need, and they began to lose weight after years of failure. Patients who have diabetes are able to reduce or eliminate their medications. Most importantly, patients have been able to improve their health and well-being in life-transforming ways.
Every patient is evaluated as an individual, and receives personalized treatment. Dr. Cederquist understands that what works for one person does not guarantee it will work for another. With a customized treatment program created specifically for each patient, Dr. Cederquist has helped thousands of people lose weight and achieve better health.
One of only about 250 doctors nationwide to have achieved board certification in bariatrics - the specialty of medical weight management, Dr. Cederquist has appeared as a weight-management expert in a variety of venues, including:
The Dr. Phil Show
The Ricki Lake Show
The Ananda Lewis Show
The Today Show, Locally televised NBC affiliate in Fort Myers, FL
Local Radio "The Skinny on Your Health"
Hundreds of Publications in regional and national magazines and newspapers

ABOUT THE BOOK:

Are you finding that weight is easy to gain and hard to lose? It’s not your fault!

Over 89 percent of people struggling to lose weight have a metabolism dysfunction called the MD Factor. That’s approximately 150 million Americans suffering from this condition, and most do not even know it. The breakthrough concepts in The MD Factor Diet isolate metabolism dysfunction as the reason why millions of Americans cannot succeed in losing weight. Over the course of your lifetime, changes occur in your body’s chemistry that can reverse your ability to lose weight.

The MD Factor Action Plan outlined by Dr. Caroline J. Cederquist helps you:
Correct metabolism for lifetime weight loss
Improve cholesterol and blood pressure
Enhance sleep quality and boost energy
Reduce cravings for sweets and starches
Regulate blood sugar

Dr. Cederquist will help you identify whether you have metabolism dysfunction and also give you the proper action plan to reverse it. Achieve a more energized, lighter, and healthier you in just two weeks with The MD Factor Diet. 



GIVEAWAY:

Do you want to win a copy of The MD Factor Diet? Here's your chance. I will be giving away one copy of The MD Factor Diet. US/Canada only. Once I have chosen the winner via Rafflecopter, I will email the winner to ask for his/her shipping details, which I will then forward to BenBella Books. Prize fulfillment will be done by BenBella Books. Ready? Enter below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway



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