Saturday, February 28, 2015

Review: 999 Frogs and a Little Brother by Ken Kimura


SUMMARY FROM NETGALLEY.COM:
Everybody's favorite frogs are back in Ken Kimura and Yasunari Murakami's ticklish tale about size! "Are you my big brother?" The last (and littlest) tadpole to be born is thrilled to hear that anyone thinks he's BIG—even if it's a baby crayfish. And the two form a fast friendship, until deep in the night Mommy crayfish finds her baby and takes him home. But when the little tadpole finally becomes a frog, he doesn't forget his little brother and it all pays off when the little frog meets a BIG snake! Who will save the 999 frog brothers? Never underestimate the size of true friendship!
MY TAKE:
I'm not fond of frogs or tadpoles, or crayfish, for that matter, but I enjoyed this book a lot.

In 999 Frogs and a Little Brother, a frog that develops slower than the rest of his brothers forms a friendship with a tiny baby crayfish who mistakes him as his big brother. When Big Brother frog is chased by a snake while looking for Little Brother crayfish, who will be able to save him?

I thought this story was very cute, charming and sweet. I had a smile on my face almost the entire time I was reading this. The baby crayfish was an endearing thing, and so was the big brother frog. I think that kids who are feeling left out by their older siblings or peers will empathize with the frog. I think mothers, on the other hand, will be able to relate to the mommy crayfish and her protective, caring nature. I certainly did.

Thanks to NetGalley and NorthSouth for the e-ARC. Publication date of 999 Frogs and a Little Brother is on March 1, 2015.

THE GOOD:

  1. It is a sweet story.
  2. Kids who are feeling left out may be able to relate and find hope in the story of the frog and crayfish.
  3. It teaches a good lesson about friendship.

THE BAD:

  1. I would have liked it more if the colors used for the illustrations were brighter and more eye-catching. 

READ IT IF:

  1. Your child is feeling left out.
  2. Your child likes frogs.
  3. Your child likes funny stories about friendship. 

RATING:
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Friday, February 27, 2015

Review: Fairy Tale Reform School: Flunked by Jen Calonita


SUMMARY FROM NETGALLEY.COM:
Would you send a villain to do a hero’s job?
Flunked is an exciting new twisted fairy tale from the award-winning author of the Secrets of My Hollywood Life series. “Charming fairy-tale fun.” —Sarah Mlynowski, author of the New York Times bestselling Whatever After series.
Gilly wouldn’t call herself wicked, exactly…but when you have five little brothers and sisters and live in a run-down boot, you have to get creative to make ends meet. Gilly’s a pretty good thief (if she does say so herself).
Until she gets caught.
Gilly’s sentenced to three months at Fairy Tale Reform School where all of the teachers are former (super-scary) villains like the Big Bad Wolf, the Evil Queen, and Cinderella’s Wicked Stepmother. Harsh. But when she meets fellow students Jax and Kayla, she learns there’s more to this school than its heroic mission. There’s a battle brewing and Gilly has to wonder: can a villain really change?

MY TAKE:
I found the description for this book quite intriguing, so I just had to have it.

In Fairy Tale Reform School: Flunked, Gilly's family has fallen on hard times since business at her father's shop has slowed down considerably. To put food on the table, Gilly resorts to stealing from royals. However, she ends up getting caught and sent to Fairy Tale Reform School. The school aims to reform wayward kids and fairy tale creatures and is run by former fairy tale baddies like Cinderella's stepmother. Ginny settles in okay at the school, however, things aren't as they seem, and all of Enchantasia may be in danger.

I liked the premise of the book. It could be a cartoon show on Disney Channel or Nickelodeon. I can definitely see young kids enjoying the adventures of Gilly and her friends. Since it's a middle-grade book, the story is not too complex, but there's enough twists here to appeal to slightly older kids. I can't think of a similar book to this one, but if pressed, I'd say there's elements here of Harry Potter mixed with Disney and Shrek.

The world of Enchantsia was interesting too. It reminded me of a PC game I used to play around 8 years ago. There's all sorts of fairy tale creatures and references to rhymes, like Gilly who lives in a boot with her family.

The kingdom is ruled by royals, with Princesses Ella (Cinderella), Rose, Snow, and Rapunzel. Obviously a strange way to rule a kingdom, but hey, it's a fairy tale kingdom. Despite being a fairy tale kingdom, life isn't a fairy tale for everyone. As sad as it is, it's nice to see that this book doesn't ignore the reality that life isn't rosy for everyone.

I liked a lot of the characters in this book. Maxine was an underdog who's easy to root for, and Jax and his roommate Ollie were mischievous but not annoyingly so. Gilly's roommate Kayla was a flake for a huge portion of the book, so I didn't really care for her. As for Gilly, I didn't really like her for most of the book. Her boyishness was okay and helped her seem more realistic and easy to relate to. However, I disliked how she just shrugged off the bad things she was doing on the basis that it was for her siblings. Her heart was in the right place, but she was very misguided and stubbornly refused to acknowledge it. I really only warmed up to her during the last part of the book when she became a little bit more mature.

Thanks to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Jabberwocky for the e-ARC. Publication date of Fairy Tale Reform School: Flunked is on March 3, 2015.

THE GOOD:

  1. The world is fun to imagine.
  2. The premise is interesting.
  3. Gilly and her friends are easy to root for.

THE BAD:

  1. Gilly can be too stubborn for her own good sometimes.

READ IT IF:

  1. You like fairy tales.
  2. You're intrigued by stories of villains becoming heroes.
  3. You like stories with magical creatures in them. 

RATING:
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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Review: Rodeo Red by Maripat Perkins


SUMMARY FROM NETGALLEY.COM:
A rip-roaring new sibling story illustrated by Caldecott Honor winner Molly Idle. Rodeo Red and her hound dog Rusty are happier than two buttons on a new shirt… until Side Swiping Slim shows up. Red is sure that anyone who hollers that much will be hauled to the edge of town and told to skedaddle, but her parents seem smitten. When that scallywag sets his eye on Rusty, Rodeo Red had better figure out a way to save her best friend in all the world. Can she make a bargain with a varmint?
MY TAKE:
I never went through a country/cowgirl phase, but I loved this book nevertheless.

In Rodeo Red, Red is a young girl who pretends she's a cowgirl. She has a stuffed toy named Rusty, which her little brother swipes one day. What's a cowgirl to do?

I liked the book's use of country slang. It injects personality into the story and makes Red fun to watch. I don't think I've ever read a children's book written this way, so this was a new experience for me.

I thought it was clever of Red to imagine her parents as a Sheriff and her Deputy, and to imagine her little brother as an outlaw. I'm sure older siblings have felt like their parents have favored their younger siblings at one time or another, so young kids with younger siblings will be find this interesting and be able to relate.

Red seems like a clever girl, and her brother is pretty cute. The illustrations are done in a way that really fits the Old West theme.

Overall, this is a very cute, sweet story, and it has the potential to be a series.

Thanks to NetGalley and Peachtree Publishers for the e-ARC. Publication date of Rodeo Red is on March 1, 2015.

THE GOOD:

  1. It's fun to read aloud.
  2. The illustrations are charming and fit well with the story.
  3. The characters are likable.

THE BAD:

  1. Some children may find the muted colors used to be unappealing.

READ IT IF:

  1. Your child likes anything to do with cowboys.
  2. You're looking for something that's fun to read aloud.
  3. You're looking for a children's book that has something new.

RATING:
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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Review: Positive Discipline: The First Three Years, Revised and Updated Edition: From Infant to Toddler--Laying the Foundation for Raising a Capable, Confident Child by Jane Nelsen, Cheryl Erwin, Roslyn Duffy


SUMMARY FROM NETGALLEY.COM:
The celebrated Positive Discipline brand of parenting books presents the revised and updated third edition of their readable and practical guide to communicating boundaries to very young children and solving early discipline problems to set children up for success.
Over the years millions of parents have used the amazingly effective strategies of Positive Discipline to raise happy, well-behaved, and successful children. Research has shown that the first three years in a child's life are a critical moment in their development, and that behavior patterns instilled during that time can have profound implications for the rest of a child's life. Hundreds of thousands of parents have already used the advice in Positive Discipline: The First Three Years to help set effective boundaries, forge strong foundations for healthy communication, and lay the groundwork for happy and respectful relationships with their young children. Now this classic title has been revised and updated to reflect the latest neuroscientific research and developments in positive discipline parenting techniques.

MY TAKE:
One of the hardest things about being a parent is finding the right way to discipline your child and get him or her to listen and obey you.

Positive Discipline: The First Three Years, Revised and Updated Edition: From Infant to Toddler--Laying the Foundation for Raising a Capable, Confident Child covers topics and discusses techniques that can help parents understand their child's temperament and needs, and how to use that in disciplining and teaching them. The focus is on positive discipline, as opposed to punishing the child.

I was intrigued by the concept of this book, as I'm more used to seeing parents use punishment or similar techniques to discipline their child. The book discusses positive discipline, which involves a lot of things, but in a nutshell, it's not allowing your child to do everything they want, but at the same time, not saying no to everything either. It uses techniques like distracting kids or offering alternatives when they do things or touch things they shouldn't, and also giving the child more autonomy and giving them more choices to help them become more involved in the process and feel like they're not being ordered to do something.

The book was a bit of a paradigm shift for me. There were things I did instinctively that I was pleased to find out where things the authors recommend, but at the same time, I never really thought about why I did this things. When I get frustrated because my son doesn't do what I say or keeps doing things even though I told him not to, it never occurred to me to look at things from his point-of-view. This is an idea that the authors repeat, and it makes sense. Depending on the child's age and developmental needs, he sees the world differently from us, and what makes sense to him and what he feels like doing, may not be what we think is acceptable socially, but it doesn't mean its wrong.

I found a number of useful tips here that I'll be trying soon. One of which is, when children keep hitting you or someone, try catching their hand and then guiding them while saying "touch nicely". It seemed to work for the person in the given example, and I think it may work with my son, who seems to be starting his hitting phase already. There are plenty of tips and tricks here that parents can try on their kids, and they're all pretty easy to do. The trick is to remember them and put them to use, and to not get frustrated if they don't work the first time.

If you're a new parent or you have a toddler that seems to never listen to you or obey you, you should consider giving this book a try.

Thanks to NetGalley and Harmony for the e-ARC.

THE GOOD:

  1. It presents interesting ideas that may make it easier for parents to understand their kids' perspectives.
  2. The tips and tricks mentioned are easy to do.
  3. It emphasizes thinking in the long-term, how discipline affects your child in the future. 

THE BAD:

  1. It would be even better if there was a summary of key concepts at the end of each chapter. 

READ IT IF:

  1. You're having a hard time disciplining your child.
  2. You're a new parent.
  3. You wonder why some kids are so easy to handle, while others are so difficult to deal with. 

RATING:
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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Teaser Tuesdays

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!

When parents understand developmental appropriateness, Erikson's social and emotional stages of development, and temperament, eve the definition of "mischief" will shrink.

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Note: This post may contain Amazon affiliate links.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Review: The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant by Joanna Wiebe


SUMMARY FROM NETGALLEY.COM:
“Even when readers think they have it all figured out, Wiebe delivers a blow that will keep them energized and panting for the next installment.” -- Voya Magazine
***
So many secrets for such a small island. From the moment Anne Merchant arrives at Cania Christy, a boarding school for the world’s wealthiest teens, the hushed truths of this strange, unfamiliar land begin calling to her—sometimes as lulling drumbeats in the night, sometimes as piercing shrieks.
One by one, unanswered questions rise. No one will tell her why a line is painted across the island or why she is forbidden to cross it. Her every move—even her performance at the school dance—is graded as part of a competition to become valedictorian, a title that brings rewards no one will talk about. And Anne discovers that the parents of her peers surrender million-dollar possessions to enroll their kids in Cania Christy, leaving her to wonder what her lowly funeral director father could have paid to get her in… and why.
As a beautiful senior struggles to help Anne make sense of this cloak-and-dagger world without breaking the rules that bind him, she must summon the courage to face the impossible truth—and change it—before she and everyone she loves is destroyed by it.

MY TAKE:
I wasn't quite sure what to expect when I read the summary for this book.

In The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant, Anne is sent to a Preparatory Academy in a small island in Maine, in the hopes that she'll be able to do well and earn a full scholarship to Brown. However, everyone in her class seems to be aiming to be valedictorian, which is not necessarily unusual in itself. There are, however, some odd things about the people and the island itself. Anne makes it her mission to find out the truth, but once she does, will she be ready the answer?

I usually figure out plot twists in books right away, so it was a nice feeling that while I was able to guess a few things here, at least a couple of the bigger plot twists were a surprise to me. These plot twists didn't come entirely out of left field, either. There were clues in the earlier chapters, but their significance was glossed over so while you might get a niggling feeling, you'll probably quickly dismiss it anyway.

While I was reading, I tried to classify this book. At first, I figured it was a gothic novel, then a mystery book. After finishing the book, I'd say that it definitely has gothic fiction elements, with a some supernatural and mystery elements thrown in.

I enjoyed the parts wherein Anne was figuring out what's going on in the island and Cania Christy. For those who are used to the fast-paced action in most novels these days, they may find the reveal too slow. Personally, I think the pace is perfect because it keeps you guessing along with Anne.

Anne was a fun heroine, mostly because her comebacks to mean comments were sharp. She started out pretty strong to me, but near the end, when she and Ben were on almost-romantic terms already and her decisions were even more motivated by love, she started to lose me a bit. Ben is an okay guy, but I kinda wish he wasn't so perfect physically. Very few guys are, and the emphasis on Ben's looks were kind of a turnoff for me after awhile.

Thanks to NetGalley and BenBella Books for the e-copy.

THE GOOD:

  1. The plot twists are interesting.
  2. You're kept guessing.
  3. It's a creative plot. 

THE BAD:

  1. Ben may be a little too perfect. 

READ IT IF:

  1. You like books about the supernatural.
  2. You're looking for original concepts.
  3. You like books set in boarding schools.

RATING:
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Sunday, February 22, 2015

In My Mailbox


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

FREE FROM BUQO:



Vern and Verniece A Life and Style Diary by Vern and Verniece Enciso

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Saturday, February 21, 2015

Review: City of Lost Souls (The Mortal Instruments #5) by Cassandra Clare


SUMMARY FROM GOODREADS:
The New York Times bestselling Mortal Instruments continues—and so do the thrills and danger for Jace, Clary, and Simon.
What price is too high to pay, even for love? When Jace and Clary meet again, Clary is horrified to discover that the demon Lilith’s magic has bound her beloved Jace together with her evil brother Sebastian, and that Jace has become a servant of evil. The Clave is out to destroy Sebastian, but there is no way to harm one boy without destroying the other. As Alec, Magnus, Simon, and Isabelle wheedle and bargain with Seelies, demons, and the merciless Iron Sisters to try to save Jace, Clary plays a dangerous game of her own. The price of losing is not just her own life, but Jace’s soul. She’s willing to do anything for Jace, but can she still trust him? Or is he truly lost?
Love. Blood. Betrayal. Revenge. Darkness threatens to claim the Shadowhunters in the harrowing fifth book of the Mortal Instruments series.

MY TAKE:
I'm starting to agree with the people who think that maybe the series should have ended with the third book.

In City of Lost Souls, Sebastian and Jace are now bound together and hurting one means hurting the other person as well. Jace and Sebastian invite Clary to join them, and she does, thinking she can find a way to save Jace. However, Sebastian and Jace's plan is far more sinister than it seems, and Clary will need all the help she can get.

This book reads like a series on The CW. By that i mean there's lots of supernatural elements that could be dark, but here it feels light. The romance is also a bit more dramatic than what you'd expect.

There were some things I liked, though, particularly Sebastian and Jace's plans and some of the Downworlders' reactions to it. With a bit more focus on it, or with a more somber tone, this would have been a four-star book for me.

I didn't like Clary in the fourth book, and she's still not my favorite person here. She's impulsive and emotional and ends up hurting people in the process. Some of the other characters are aware of it and mention it to her, but Clary still does things recklessly, probably because some of the other characters tell her it's a good thing.

At least Simon and Isabelle's and Alec and Magnus' relationships are fun to watch, even if they do have their emo moments as well.

THE GOOD:

  1. Sebastian and Jace's plan is actually evil.
  2. The final battle looks like everyone will go all out.
  3. The romantic relationships are moving along nicely.

THE BAD:

  1. Clary is still being reckless. 

FAVORITE QUOTE/S:
“Basia coquum," Simon said. "Or whatever their motto is."
"It's 'Descensus Averno facilis est.' 'The descent into hell is easy," said Alec. "You just said "Kiss the cook." 
READ IT IF:

  1. You liked the first books.
  2. You like relationships that have a lot of drama.
  3. You like shows on The CW.

RATING:
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Friday, February 20, 2015

Review: City of Fallen Angels (The Mortal Instruments #4) by Cassandra Clare


SUMMARY FROM GOODREADS:
The Mortal War is over, and sixteen-year-old Clary Fray is back home in New York, excited about all the possibilities before her. She’s training to become a Shadowhunter and to use her unique power. Her mother is getting married to the love of her life. Downworlders and Shadowhunters are at peace at last. And—most importantly of all—she can finally call Jace her boyfriend.
But nothing comes without a price.
Someone is murdering Shadowhunters, provoking tensions between Downworlders and Shadowhunters that could lead to a second, bloody war. Clary’s best friend, Simon, can’t help her—his mother just found out that he’s a vampire, and now he’s homeless. When Jace begins to pull away from her without explaining why, Clary is forced to delve into the heart of a mystery whose solution reveals her worst nightmare: she herself has set in motion a terrible chain of events that could lead to her losing everything she loves. Even Jace.
The stakes are higher than ever in the #1 New York Times bestselling fourth installment of the Mortal Instruments series.
MY TAKE:
There were some things I liked about this book, but I felt like it wasn't as good as the first three books.

In City of Fallen Angels, Valentine has been defeated and life seems to have gone back to semi-normal for everyone. However, a new evil has come and things are going to be even more complicated than before.

I liked the big picture of this book. I was able to figure out who the main villain was going to be for the next books, although the getting there wasn't straightforward. It was nice to see Simon and what his Mark can do, although there was one time that I thought the Mark's effect was comical. Alec and Magnus' relationship was also a highlight for me. Except for the whole one-is-immortal-one-is-not, their's seems to be the most realistic relationship here. Or the most mature one, anyway.

There were a few new supporting characters introduced here, but none of them were particularly noteworthy to me. I mean, they were okay, but they didn't make me feel any strong emotions. The one I felt strong emotions for were Clary and Jace. I started out liking the two of them, but as the series goes on, I find myself getting more and more annoyed with Clary. Honestly, her impulsiveness and stubbornness end up hurting people and she makes no effort to act more prudently. As for her and Jace's relationship, the dramatics went up a notch higher than in the previous books. I didn't really mind before because it was truly a strange situation. However, in this book, it felt like the degree of emo-ness was exaggerated as to be unbelievable.

Overall, the book felt to me like it was just a prelude and not the real start of the series. I hope things pick up in the next book.

THE GOOD:

  1. There were some interesting plot twists.
  2. Alec and Magnus are fun to read about.
  3. The conclusion can mean very intriguing things in the next books. 

THE BAD:

  1. It felt like a prequel than the main part of a series. 

FAVORITE QUOTE/S:
“I can see why you like it here," he said,making a sweeping gesture that encompassed Kyle's collection of movie posters and science fiction books. "There's a thin layer of nerd all over everything." said Jace.
"Thanks. I appreciate that." Simon gave Jace a hard look.” 
READ IT IF:

  1. You enjoyed the first three books in the series.
  2. You like Alec and Magnus.
  3. You're intrigued by what Simon's Mark could mean. 

RATING:
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Thursday, February 19, 2015

Review: City of Glass (The Mortal Instruments #3) by Cassandra Clare


SUMMARY FROM GOODREADS:
To save her mother's life, Clary must travel to the City of Glass, the ancestral home of the Shadowhunters - never mind that entering the city without permission is against the Law, and breaking the Law could mean death. To make things worse, she learns that Jace does not want her there, and Simon has been thrown in prison by the Shadowhunters, who are deeply suspicious of a vampire who can withstand sunlight.
As Clary uncovers more about her family's past, she finds an ally in mysterious Shadowhunter Sebastian. With Valentine mustering the full force of his power to destroy all Shadowhunters forever, their only chance to defeat him is to fight alongside their eternal enemies. But can Downworlders and Shadowhunters put aside their hatred to work together? While Jace realizes exactly how much he's willing to risk for Clary, can she harness her newfound powers to help save the Glass City - whatever the cost?
Love is a mortal sin and the secrets of the past prove deadly as Clary and Jace face down Valentine in the third installment of the New York Times bestselling series The Mortal Instruments.

MY TAKE:
So far, I find The Mortal Instruments series to be enjoyable.

In City of Glass, Clary needs to travel to Idris to find the warlock who can help her mother. Meanwhile, Valentine is planning an attack on Idris, the likes of which have never been seen before.

The book started off quite slow for me. Thankfully, the action and the pace picked up and Idris started to get interesting.

In general, I liked the direction of the story. The battle scenes were detailed, and we got to see more about Clave politics. There were also some funny lines here, not all Simon's or Magnus' too.

There are three things, however, that diminished my enjoyment of the book a bit. First, most of the plot twists were easy enough to guess. I was pleasantly surprised, however, to see the solution that Simon comes up with at the end, and I'm eager to see what it means for the next books. Second, the conclusion felt too deus ex machina to completely satisfy me. The happy ending was nice, if expected, but I hoped that the path to it would have been slightly altered. Third, was Clary. I don't despise her as much as Bella from Twilight and Cassia from Matched, but she did annoy me a fair number of times with her impulsiveness and occasional lack of emotional control (i.e. drama queen).

Despite the things I didn't like, I'm still very much interested in finding out what happens in the next book, especially between Alec and Magnus.

THE GOOD:

  1. We learn more about Idris and the Clave.
  2. Alec and Magnus are a cute couple.
  3. There's a happy conclusion.

THE BAD:

  1. A lot of the plot twists were predictable. 

FAVORITE QUOTE/S:
Magnus looked concerned. "That's terrible. Someone should have told you." He glanced at Luke. "Tell him the wards are down.” 
READ IT IF:

  1. You liked the first two books.
  2. You like Alec and Magnus as a couple.
  3. You like books that have an assortment of supernatural beings as characters. 

RATING:
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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Review: City of Ashes (The Mortal Instruments #2) by Cassandra Clare


SUMMARY FROM GOODREADS:
Clary Fray just wishes that her life would go back to normal. But what's normal when you're a demon-slaying Shadowhunter, your mother is in a magically induced coma, and you can suddenly see Downworlders like werewolves, vampires, and faeries? If Clary left the world of the Shadowhunters behind, it would mean more time with her best friend, Simon, who's becoming more than a friend. But the Shadowhunting world isn't ready to let her go — especially her handsome, infuriating, newfound brother, Jace. And Clary's only chance to help her mother is to track down rogue Shadowhunter Valentine, who is probably insane, certainly evil — and also her father.
To complicate matters, someone in New York City is murdering Downworlder children. Is Valentine behind the killings — and if he is, what is he trying to do? When the second of the Mortal Instruments, the Soul-Sword, is stolen, the terrifying Inquisitor arrives to investigate and zooms right in on Jace. How can Clary stop Valentine if Jace is willing to betray everything he believes in to help their father?
In this breathtaking sequel to City of Bones, Cassandra Clare lures her readers back into the dark grip of New York City's Downworld, where love is never safe and power becomes the deadliest temptation.

MY TAKE:
This was one of those books wherein I didn't really like the female protagonist, plus a few other things, but I liked where the story was headed so I rated it high anyway.

In City of Ashes, Jace and Clary are being pulled deeper into the tangled web that their father has been weaving. Can they escape him or will he able to convince him to join his side?

Like with City of Bones, we learn a lot of new information in City of Ashes. I'm used to the pacing and flow of information at this point so it really didn't bother me. I enjoyed reading more about the Downworlders, especially about the Seelie Court. By the way, there's a scene when they were in the Seelie Court that can be either gross or romantic, depending on how much you know about the future books or how you feel about Clary and Jace as a couple.

It's a lot more gory than City of Bones, but the violence isn't unnecessary. I liked the scene in the City of Bones better than the final fight sequence, though, as I felt it was more subtle but more powerful at the same time.

My biggest issue with this book was Clary. She was such an emo drama queen at times. It really got on my nerves. I certainly hope she learns to pull back a little on that urge in the next books.
  
THE GOOD:

  1. The story is getting interesting.
  2. The abilities and background stories of the Downworlders are more complex than I first thought.
  3. The action sequences are pretty good.

THE BAD:

  1. Clary can be a drama queen. 

FAVORITE QUOTE/S:
“I've got a stele we can use. Who wants to do me?"
"A regrettable choice of words," muttered Magnus.” 
READ IT IF:

  1. You liked City of Bones.
  2. You're curious about what will happen to the Jace-Clary-Simon love triangle.
  3. You like the Downworlders.

RATING:
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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Teaser Tuesdays

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!

“Well, I’m not kissing the mundane," said Jace. "I’d rather stay down here and rot."
"Forever?" said Simon. "Forever’s an awfully long time."
Jace raised his eyebrows. "I knew it," he said. "You want to kiss me, don’t you?”

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Monday, February 16, 2015

Dead of Winter (The Art of Eating Through the Zombie Apocalypse) Blog Tour


Today, we have a recipe straight from the book: Take the Burrito Highs with the Lows, as well as a graphic for you to enjoy. Enjoy!

RECIPE:


      


      
Take the Burrito Highs with the Lows
      Yields: 2 Hungry Survivor servings, 4 Regular Joe servings
      This recipe takes 2 totally gnarly-sounding ingredients, freeze-dried meat and a pathogenic corn fungus, and makes them into a delicious bunker burrito—no joke. Frying up freeze-dried meats with onion and spices is one of the best ways of making them less shelf-stable-esque. The “corn mushroom” huitlacoche is actually a popular ingredient in Mexican cooking— quesadillas, burritos, and soups will often feature its interesting earthy and slightly exotic flavor. This ugly-looking fungus often impacts corn crops and is largely viewed as blight (“corn smut”) by North American farmers, and as a result huitlacoche has never really taken off among American eaters or cooks. But you can find it in specialty grocery stores or online for your pre-zpoc stocking needs—it will bring a little pizzazz to your WSSH stores and this burrito.  
      Requires:
Chef’s or survival knife and cutting board 

3 medium bowls1 large plate1 large sauté pan
Wooden spoon or other stirring utensil
      Heat Source:
Direct, Rocket Stove (page 77) or other Stovetop Hack (page 42) 
      Time:
10 minutes prep

10 minutes attended cooking time
      Ingredients:
1 c. freeze-dried chicken, ground beef, or Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP)

2 tbsp. freeze-dried onions1 c. freeze-dried cheese
2 tbsp. oil½ tsp. ground cumin
½ tsp. chili powder1 tbsp. freeze-dried garlic
½ c. powdered sour cream 4 flour tortillas (see Flour Tortillas, page 214)      1 small can huitlacoche 
      2 tbsp. pickled jalapeno, roughly chopped 
 Hot sauce of your choice, to taste 
      Method: 
1.      Set up a Rocket Stove or other Stovetop Hack. Rehydrate the protein and onion in separate bowls using warm water as per package instructions. In the meantime, rehydrate the cheese on a large plate (see Rehydrating Freeze-Dried Cheese, page 213).
      2.      Heat a large sauté pan with oil over medium-high heat. Drain off excess water from the onions and protein, setting aside for soup making, watering plants, or some other appropriate reuse.
3.      Sauté the onions 2–3 minutes, until soft and slightly browned. Add the protein and sauté an additional 2 minutes or so until browned. Clear some space in the pan by pushing aside the protein and onion, then add the cumin and chili powder to this cleared space and toast, stirring continuously, until fragrant. Add the garlic to the pan, then mix the cumin and chili powder into the other ingredients and cook another minute or so. Remove from heat and set aside.
4.      Reconstitute the sour cream in a bowl and spread onto the tortillas. Add a thin layer of huitlacoche on top of the sour cream. Divide the protein evenly among the tortillas, then top with cheese and pickled jalapenos. Season with hot sauce to taste. Roll up and enjoy.

ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE FISHING:




ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
*Author portrait by Kristian Bauthus
Lauren was infected with a rare strain of undead enthusiasm over a decade ago while fighting off the zombie menace of Raccoon City in the original Resident Evil. From video games to comic books, zombie walks to online communities, there are few corners of the culture she has not explored. And she’s got a decent zed t-shirt collection, to boot.

When not nerding out about zombies, space, or Adventure Time, Lauren works in the world of food as a professional cook and writer. Since completing her culinary training at Toronto's George Brown Chef School in 2008 she has done a variety of work—from restaurant cooking to cheesemongering, online sales to catering, teaching cooking classes to writing for print and online media. She completed research and course development work at George Brown examining the career motivations, ambitions, and expectations of students with the aim of better understanding low female representation at the executive level of professional kitchens.

After eating up all the good bits of Toronto, Lauren followed a trail of crumbs to Brooklyn, where she is cooking, eating, writing, and teaching happily.

ABOUT THE BOOK:

You duck into the safest-looking abandoned house you can find and hold your breath as you listen for the approaching zombie horde you’ve been running from all day. You hear a gurgling sound. Is it the undead? No—it’s your stomach.
When the zombie apocalypse tears down life and society as we know it, it will mean no more take out, no more brightly lit, immaculately organized aisles of food just waiting to be plucked effortlessly off the shelves. No more trips down to the local farmers’ market. No more microwaved meals in front of the TV or intimate dinner parties. No, when the undead rise, eating will be hard, and doing it successfully will become an art.
The Art of Eating through the Zombie Apocalypse is a cookbook and culinary field guide for the busy zpoc survivor. With more than 75 recipes (from “No Knead To Panic Bread” and “Apocalypse Soup for the Survivor's Soul” to “Pasta Aglio e Oh No!,” “Down and Out Sauerkraut,” and “Twinkie Trifle”), scads of gastronomic survival tips, and dozens of diagrams and illustrations that help you scavenge, forage, and improvise your way to an artful post-apocalypse meal. The Art of Eating is the ideal handbook for efficient food sourcing and inventive meal preparation in the event of an undead uprising.
Whether you decide to hole up in your own home or bug out into the wilderness, whether you prefer to scavenge the dregs of society or try your hand at apocalyptic agriculture, and regardless of your level of skill or preparation, The Art of Eating will help you navigate the wasteland and make the most of what you eat.
Just because the undead’s taste buds are atrophying doesn’t mean yours have to! 

GIVEAWAY:

Do you want to win a copy of The Art of Eating Through the Zombie Apocalypse? Here's your chance. I will be giving away one copy of The Art of Eating Through the Zombie Apocalypse. 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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Review: City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments #1) by Cassandra Clare


SUMMARY FROM GOODREADS:
When fifteen-year-old Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder― much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Then the body disappears into thin air. It's hard to call the police when the murderers are invisible to everyone else and when there is nothing―not even a smear of blood―to show that a boy has died. Or was he a boy?
This is Clary's first meeting with the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons. It's also her first encounter with Jace, a Shadowhunter who looks a little like an angel and acts a lot like a jerk. Within twenty-four hours Clary is pulled into Jace's world with a vengeance, when her mother disappears and Clary herself is attacked by a demon. But why would demons be interested in ordinary mundanes like Clary and her mother? And how did Clary suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know...
Exotic and gritty, exhilarating and utterly gripping, Cassandra Clare's ferociously entertaining fantasy takes readers on a wild ride that they will never want to end.
MY TAKE:
I saw the movie before starting this series, and I can say without a doubt that this a hundred times better than the movie.

In City of Bones, Clary lives in ordinary life, until one day, her mother disappears and Shadowhunters enter her life and reveal that she might not know as much about her mother as she thought.

I put off reading this series for the longest time because I was aware of the whole Cassandra Clare-Harry Potter fanfiction plagiarism accusations. Now that I've read the book, well, Jace does bear a resemblance to Draco, and the whole wiping out the half-breeds was a very Voldemort thing to do. There were also some things and scenes that reminded me vaguely of things I've read elsewhere. Given these, though, I still enjoyed the story.

There were a lot of things going on here, and at times it felt like the book was trying to establish a lot of backstory quickly. This made me feel a little restless at times. Once I got used to the pace, however, it was easier to settle into the story. I like the idea of Nephilims and Shadowhunters, and all the other creatures and half-breeds as sometimes-enemy of the Shadowhunters. I also liked the use of runes like tattoos to serve a variety of purposes. I can't really say much about the plot twists since I already know most of them from the movie, but the ones I didn't were not bad.

As for the characters, Clary annoyed me sometimes because she's too emotional and impulsive, but when she isn't she's okay. Jace was meh for me, although it may have something to do with the fact that I keep imagining the actor who plays Jace in the movie. Simon had a number of funny lines, so he was entertaining for me. I liked Isabelle the most, I guess. I didn't really feel particularly passionate or attached to any of the characters at the end of the book.

THE GOOD:

  1. The Shadowhunters are pretty cool.
  2. It's a complicated world.
  3. There are some really funny lines. 

THE BAD:

  1. There's a lot of backstory and information here.

FAVORITE QUOTE/S:
The meek may inherit the earth, but at the moment it belongs to the conceited. Like me. 
READ IT IF:

  1. You like stories with angels, nephilims, vampires, werewolves, faeries, etc.
  2. You like action scenes.
  3. You are looking for a new series to read. 

RATING:
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Sunday, February 15, 2015

In My Mailbox


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

FROM NETGALLEY:



Me, Too! by Annika Dunklee
Rodeo Red by Maripat Perkins

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Saturday, February 14, 2015

Review: The Tower Treasure (The Hardy Boys #1) by Franklin W. Dixon


SUMMARY FROM GOOODREADS:
A dying criminal confesses that his loot has been secreted "in the tower." Both towers of the looted mansion are searched in vain. It remains for the Hardy boys to make an astonishing discovery that clears up the mystery.
MY TAKE:
Growing up, I was more interested in Nancy Drew stories, so it's only recently that I started reading Hardy Boys books.

In The Tower Treasure, Frank and Joe Hardy are the sons of a well-known detective. They crave to follow in their father's footsteps. One day, while chasing a mystery involving a friend's missing car, they come across a much bigger mystery.

The summary was a bit misleading. The events described don't happen until over halfway through the book. The first half of the book sets the stage for the event described in the summary.

The mystery was interesting enough. It was solved much in the same way books like these are: a combination of hard work, deduction and luck. Since this is the first book, Mr. Hardy mentors Frank and Joe and gives them clues or steers them in a particular direction worth exploring. It would be cool to see how their relationship changes as the series continues.

This book was first published in the late '50s, which explains why I got a distinct Pleasantville vibe while I was reading it. There were multiple uses of slang that don't really exist nowadays, even if a lot of us can still understand what they mean. Some examples include: chum, jalopy and fella. Personally, I liked it. It was a simpler time, and it made me feel a little nostalgic.

THE GOOD:

  1. It's an interesting mystery.
  2. The use of '50s slang makes you feel nostalgic.
  3. It's nice to see how Frank and Joe Hardy got started as detectives.

THE BAD:

  1. The structure and the pacing probably is something you've seen before if you read a lot of mystery novels, especially those for kids. 

FAVORITE QUOTE/S:
"No workee, no eatee," said Iola flatly. 
READ IT IF:

  1. You like mystery novels.
  2. You want to learn how the Hardy Boys got started.
  3. You like the movie Pleasantville or anything set in a similar era.

RATING:
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Friday, February 13, 2015

Review: Members Only: Secret Societies, Sects, and Cults Exposed! by Julie Tibbott


SUMMARY FROM NETGALLEY.COM:
Clubs aren't just for kids anymore. Since the earliest days of human culture, people have banded together to pass on traditions, climb up the social ladder, and sometimes just avoid being excluded themselves. Some of today's groups have been around for centuries and others have developed in just the past few decades. But members of these clubs walk, talk, and live all around us; we just don't always know it. Members Only provides a glimpse into the underground cults people love, fear, and cannot resist. Delving into different groups like Opus Dei, the Freemasons, and the Skull and Bones, the book uncovers the how, what, when, where, and why of these mysterious groups. Members Only reveals the shared beliefs and actions of these organizations so that we, too, can access secret worlds we didn't even know were there.
MY TAKE:
I thought this book would be fascinating, and it definitely did not disappoint.

In Members Only: Secret Societies, Sects, and Cults Exposed!, readers learn more about different secret societies and cults. The book also includes additional material like interviews with a few members of some of the societies.

As you would expect, this book was chockful of information. There were some features that condensed a few cults and societies into one essay/article, but for the societies and cults that were focused on, readers got a summary at the top which contained: year founded, status, exclusivity factor, secrecy factor, threat factor, and quirk factor. The bulk of the feature includes information on the group's history and background, membership requirements, and life in the society.

I've heard of most of the groups mentioned, but I did find some groups I've never heard of before. Of the groups I have heard of before, I was still able to learn something new, which was nice.  Of the groups, the one I thought I would be best suited for is the SCA, mostly because I like the Middle Ages.
 
I found the book to be very entertaining. There were occasional jokes and asides that made me think that the author didn't take the material too seriously. That is, the tone was generally respectful and straightforward, but during a few moments wherein the information presented seems strange and ridiculous, the author isn't afraid to make comments that will make you laugh out loud.

The only thing I can think of that would help me enjoy this book more would be the addition of color to the pictures or text. Right now, it's mostly in black and white, except for the cover.

Thanks to NetGalley and Zest Books for the e-ARC.

THE GOOD:

  1. You'll learn a lot.
  2. It doesn't feel too formal and reference-book-like.
  3. The additional material are fascinating and helpful.

THE BAD:

  1. It would be better if there was just a bit more color. 

READ IT IF:

  1. You think secret societies are interesting.
  2. You like learning new things.
  3. You like nonfiction books that don't feel like a chore to read. 

RATING:
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