Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows #2) #BookReview #SpoilerFree

Crooked Kingdom, the conclusion to the Six of Crows duology, is an epic Fantasy novel that has the magic of Harry Potter and Sword of Truth, mixed with the friendships of The Lord of the Rings, the adventure of The Wheel of Time, and the sneaky, twisty plot of Game of Thrones. 📚

Crooked Kingdom

 

Title: Crooked Kingdom

Author: Leigh Bardugo

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy, LGBTQ

Publisher: Henry Holt and Company

Date published: Sept 2016

Page Count: 546

 

 

synopsis

When you can’t beat the odds, change the game.

Kaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn’t think they’d survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they’re right back to fighting for their lives. Double-crossed and badly weakened, the crew is low on resources, allies, and hope. As powerful forces from around the world descend on Ketterdam to root out the secrets of the dangerous drug known as jurda parem, old rivals and new enemies emerge to challenge Kaz’s cunning and test the team’s fragile loyalties. A war will be waged on the city’s dark and twisting streets―a battle for revenge and redemption that will decide the fate of the Grisha world.”

My Review

photography – READING UNDER THE RAIN

After hearing I didn’t need to read the Grisha Verse trilogy before reading Six of Crows, I decided to go ahead and give it a go. The first book of the duology, Six of Crows, was great, but Crooked Kingdom mashed together everything I love about all my favorite books.

Let’s start by talking about the beautiful cover, and unique red pages which clearly represent bloodshed and love. The maps at the beginning of the book help immerse the reader into this world. Crooked Kingdom is divided into six parts: Forsaken, A Killing Wind, Brick By Brick, The Unexpected Visitor, Kings & Queens, and Action & Echo.

Mohammed Arabey’s review of Crooked Kingdom

Angela Jones-Cuéllar on Twitter: "I'm so pumped for ...

Crooked Kingdom starts one month after Kaz Brekker and his crew left Djerholm. They have been back in Ketterdam, a city on Kerch island, for a week. Told with multiple perspectives, I enjoyed learning more about each character through another’s eyes.

The Six of Crows

Kaz Brekker, 17 year-old gang member of The Dregs, ruthless, resourceful, devious Leader of the Six of Crows, focused on getting revenge against Van Eck and Pekka Rollins. I love his witty sarcasm: “It was that or snap her neck and make it look like she fell down the stairs, Wylan. I think I showed remarkable restraint.”

 

 

 

 

 

Inej: 16-year-old tenacious, talented, and nicknamed the Wraith. She has a strong connection to her Suli heritage. To one of her captors, also a Suli, she said, “You are forsaken. As you have turned your back on me, so will they turn their backs on you.”

 

 

 

 

Jesper: 17-year-old carefree, comical, Grisha sharpshooter with a gambling addiction. Crooked Kingdom gives us Jesper’s heart-breaking story of losing his mother as a child. He moved to Kerch to study at University, but was drawn to the other part of town where he met Kaz.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nina: 17-year-old confident, beautiful, Grisha Heartrender. In Six of Crows, Nina was able to make Wylan look like Kuwei by using jurda parem, an addictive drug that boosts a Grisha’s power. The withdrawal from the drug almost took her life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Matthias: 18-year-old big, tough, former Grisha hunter, in love with Nina. She helped open his mind so he could better understand the good of Grisha abilities. He helped her through the jurda withdrawal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wylan: Van Eck’s 16-year-old son, illiterate, with exceptional demolition skills. His father tried to have him killed, he ran away and joined the Six of Crows.

 

 

 

 

 

Other Characters
Van Eck: powerful, Ketterdam mercher (Wylan’s father).

Pekka Rollins: leader of the Dime Lions (another gang in Ketterdam) who swindled Kaz and his brother Jordie when they were new to the city.

Kuwei: Grisha Inferni. His father helped to create jurda parem, a powerful drug that enhances Grisha power, and now that his father is dead everyone wants to know where Kuwei is so they can gain access to the recipe.

Colm Fahey: Jesper’s father, jurda farmer.

Throughout Six of Crows I struggled to care about Wylan. Crooked Kingdom gave me everything I needed to add him to my long list of favorite characters. We get to see just how horrible his father treated him and it broke my heart.

“The letters from his father continued to arrive, once, sometimes twice a week. Wylan didn’t know what to make of them. Were they threats? Taunts? He stashed them in a stack beneath his mattress, and sometimes at night he thought he could feel the ink bleeding through the pages, up through the mattress and into his heart like dark poison.”

I will also admit that I wasn’t a fan of Kaz after reading the first book. Crooked Kingdom unveiled a new Kaz that I fell for.

“He was going to break my legs ,” she said, her chin held high, the barest quaver in her voice. “Would you have come for me then, Kaz? When I couldn’t scale a wall or walk a tightrope? When I wasn’t the Wraith anymore?”
Dirtyhands would not. The boy who could get them through this, get their money, keep them alive, would do her the courtesy of putting her out of her misery, then cut his losses and move on.
“I would come for you,” he said, and when he saw the wary look she shot him, he said it again. “I would come for you. And if I couldn’t walk, I’d crawl to you, and no matter how broken we were, we’d fight our way out together—knives drawn, pistols blazing. Because that’s what we do. We never stop fighting.”

Jesper + Wylan ♥ I love how Bardugo wrote about the attraction between Jesper and Wylan. It’s always refreshing to see LGBTQ representation in popular Young Adult books.

My one and only complaint is that there was too much romance for me. Nina + Matthias, Wylan + Jesper, Inej + Kaz…did they really need to pair up romantically? However, they are a group of teenagers, so it is realistic for them to pair up I suppose.

Quotes

“Sometimes,” said Kaz, “a proper thief doesn’t just take. He leaves something behind.”

“When fear arrives, something is about to happen.” – Inej

Suspenseful, surprising, and filled with action, Crooked Kingdom weaves important topics such as race, freedom, and slavery within a story that will keep you thoroughly entertained and leave you heart-broken, but satisfied.

About the author.jpg

Leigh Bardugo is the #1 New York Times bestselling and USA Today bestselling author of the Six of Crows Duology and the Shadow and Bone Trilogy, as well as the upcoming Wonder Woman: Warbringer (Aug 2017) and The Language of Thorns (Sept 2017).

She was born in Jerusalem, grew up in Los Angeles, and graduated from Yale University. These days, she lives and writes in Hollywood where she can occasionally be heard singing with her band.

http://www.leighbardugo.com/index1.html

https://twitter.com/Lbardugo

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Book Review ~ Gemina (Illuminae Files #2)

📓 Gemina, the second book of the Illuminae Files series, is a Young Adult Sci-Fi thriller set in the future that takes place in space. If you haven’t read the first book, be warned –  this review is full of spoilers. 📚 😌 Both books are a compilation of emails, instant messages, security camera footage, pictures, and “regular” narrative.

Gemina

 

Title: Gemina

Author: Amy Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Genre: YA Sci-Fi/Thriller

Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers

Date published: October 2016

Page Count: 659

 

 

synopsis

Moving to a space station at the edge of the galaxy was always going to be the death of Hanna’s social life. Nobody said it might actually get her killed.

The sci-fi saga that began with the breakout bestseller Illuminae continues on board the Jump Station Heimdall, where two new characters will confront the next wave of the BeiTech assault.

Hanna is the station captain’s pampered daughter; Nik the reluctant member of a notorious crime family. But while the pair are struggling with the realities of life aboard the galaxy’s most boring space station, little do they know that Kady Grant and the Hypatia are headed right toward Heimdall, carrying news of the Kerenza invasion.

When an elite BeiTech strike team invades the station, Hanna and Nik are thrown together to defend their home. But alien predators are picking off the station residents one by one, and a malfunction in the station’s wormhole means the space-time continuum might be ripped in two before dinner. Soon Hanna and Nik aren’t just fighting for their own survival; the fate of everyone on the Hypatia—and possibly the known universe—is in their hands.

But relax. They’ve totally got this. They hope.”

My Review

Survivors of the Kerenza attack on January 29th, 2575 fled aboard the Hypatia, Copernicus, and Alexander. Pursued by the Lincoln, a Beitech Industries spaceship, Hypatia is the only remaining ship. Reaching the Heimdall Jump Station is their only hope to escape and let the rest of the universe know what Beitech has done. According to a comment Jay Kristoff made on Goodreads, Gemina begins 5 minutes after Illuminae ends, 15 days prior to Hypatia’s estimated arrival at the Heimdall Jump Station (home to over 10,000 people).

Mikhail Malikov is the leader of the House of Knives. Living on the Heimdall, he and his nephew, Niklas, inject worm-like creatures into living cow’s brains to create an addictive drug called “dust”. Nik is Hanna Donnelly’s drug dealer. She is the Heimdall‘s commander’s daughter, and is dating the incredibly handsome Jackson Merrick. A highly trained crew hired by Beitech attack the Heimdall, planning to use the jump station to reach Hypatia, destroy all people and evidence of the Kerenza attack.

In a strange turn of events, Hanna and Nik find themselves having to work together to try to save Heimdall and Hypatia.

Hanna is a lot like Kady, the main character from Illuminae. I love reading about smart, bad-ass women like Hanna and Kady. Nik is the bad boy that you’d love to date, Merrick is the guy you introduce to Dad. As you’ve probably guessed Hanna and Nik end up crushing on each other. The slow-burn/romantic triangle is slightly annoying at times, but I was able to put it aside thanks to the relatively fast-moving plot. My FAVORITE character is Nik’s cousin Ella, a genius 15-year-old hacker.

Gemina is a fast-paced, action filled page turning thriller that made me laugh.

I didn’t like that we don’t read about the character’s from Illuminae until the 55% mark. Even though the mixed-media delivery of this novel does make this a fast read for a book with over 600 pages, there is a lot that could have been cut. Even though they are strong, female leads, Hanna and Kady feel like the same character. The way they talk in the emails and instant messages felt like it could be the same person. I also had a hard time believing 18 year olds could outsmart well-trained adult agents.

I rate this one a strong 3.5 stars. Illuminae Files had better characters, Gemina had a better plot, I’m hoping the third book Obsidio will give me both. I would not recommend the e-book version, it just doesn’t work very well with the book format.

In case you’re interested, here’s my review for Illuminae Files.

Whichwood (Furthermore #2) By Tahereh Mafi #BookReview #SpoilerFree

📓 Whichwood, the sequel to Furthermore, is a Young Adult Fantasy novel about a thirteen year old girl named Laylee who is overwhelmed by her fated task of washing dead bodies before sending them on their journey to Otherwere. Alice and Oliver (two characters from Furthermore) come to help Laylee. 📚 😌

Whichwoodcover

 

Title: Whichwood (Furthermore #2)

Author:  Tahereh Mafi

Genre: YA Fantasy

Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers

Date published: November 2017

Page Count: 368

 

 

synopsis

A new adventure about a girl who is fated to wash the bodies of the dead in this companion to Furthermore.

Our story begins on a frosty night…

Laylee can barely remember the happier times before her beloved mother died. Before her father, driven by grief, lost his wits (and his way). Before she was left as the sole remaining mordeshoor in the village of Whichwood, destined to spend her days washing the bodies of the dead and preparing their souls for the afterlife. It’s become easy to forget and easier still to ignore the way her hands are stiffening and turning silver, just like her hair, and her own ever-increasing loneliness and fear.

But soon, a pair of familiar strangers appears, and Laylee’s world is turned upside down as she rediscovers color, magic, and the healing power of friendship.” Goodreads

 

My Review

This dark and tragic story takes place during Winter in a magical city called Whichwood, a mystical place connected by rivers and canals. In Summer residents travel by boat, in Winter they travel by sleigh over ice. The city smells of cinnamon-mint, and all you can hear is music and laughter. A girl named Laylee Layla Fenjoon lives far from the city, unable to hear the melody or feel happiness, she takes her anger out on everyone around her, and must somehow learn how to forgive others and herself.

The main character from Furthermore, Alice, arrives in Whichwood so she can fulfill her task of helping Laylee. I can’t figure out why, but Alice drives me right up the wall. She’s incredibly self-centered and annoying. Oliver’s character was flat and almost completely unnecessary. Laylee’s neighbor, Benyamin, is my favorite character. He’s a thirteen year old boy who’s always covered in insects – and can CONTROL all insects by speaking with them.

If the dead aren’t washed by a mordeshoor within 90 days then their ghost could break away from their body’s location and “steal skins from the first persons they could find”. We are on day 87, 88, and 89 – this fact creates a fantastic feeling of necessity, tension, and excitement that help to make this book a page turner.

I love how we get lots of little details that enrich the five senses. The idea that every mordeshoor is “born with two skeletons: one they wore under their skin, and another they wore on their back” is an outstanding detail that is super creative and unique.

I do have a major beef with the marketing of this book. I don’t think this is a Middle Grade read. Here’s why:

1. Laylee  has some very dark thoughts. “But even the strong and the wise and the ancient have faltered without compassion or companion, and while Baba had madness and Maman had nonsense, Laylee, in their absence, had locked hands with loneliness, darkness feeding darkness until all light was lost.” I know there are children who suffer from depression/anxiety (I was one), but I think there are many young readers who will find Laylee’s thoughts excessively dark.

2. There are some graphic details which I find more suitable for a Young Adult novel than a Middle Grade one. For example, when Laylee pulled the fingernails and toe nails off the dead bodies.

3. TV and movie ratings say that for children aged 7-12 the story can have bloodless violence. Yet, in Whichwood there most certainly is blood, and in fact the book says “a strange and bloody madness awaits”.  This story also has strange physical abnormalities, and self-reflection, which is more suitable for a Young Adult story.

Middle Grade is usually accepted as geared towards children aged 8-12 years old. I strongly feel that Whichwood is not fitting for a child that age. That being said, I REALLY liked this read and give it 4 stars.

Whichwood is a unique, dark tale about pain, depression, anxiety, but also about gratefulness, second chances, and compassion. I recommend this one to fantasy fans older than 15 years old.

About the author.jpg

She was born in a small city somewhere in Connecticut and currently resides in Santa Monica, California, where she drinks too much caffeine and finds the weather to be just a little too perfect for her taste.
When unable to find a book, she can be found reading candy wrappers, coupons, and old receipts.” Goodreads

New Middle Grade Book: Tournament Trouble (Cross Ups Book 1) #BookReview #SpoilerFree #CrossUps #Netgalley

I received an advanced copy in exchange for my honest, unbiased opinion. Thank you to the publisher, author, and NetGalley, for allowing me to review.

Tournament Trouble

 

Title: Tournament Trouble

Author: Sylv Chiang

Genre: Children’s Fiction, Teen,

Publisher: Annick Press

Date published: March 13, 2018

Page Count: 200

 

 

synopsis

“An exciting new middle reader series from a debut author. All twelve-year-old Jaden wants to do is be the best at Cross Ups, the video game he and his friends can’t stop playing. He knows he could be—if only he didn’t have to hide his gaming from his mom, who’s convinced it will make him violent. After an epic match leads to an invitation to play in a top tournament, Jaden and his friends Devesh and Hugh hatch a plan to get him there. But Jaden’s strict parents and annoying siblings, not to mention a couple of bullies and his confusing feelings for his next-door neighbor Cali, keep getting in the way! Tournament Trouble marks the first book in a planned series by Sylv Chiang, a captivating new voice in middle reader fiction. With sharp dialogue and relatable characters, it chronicles the ups and downs of middle school with a relevant, contemporary twist. Accompanied by Connie Choi’s lively illustrations, Tournament Trouble invites readers into Jaden’s world, and will leave them eagerly awaiting his next adventure. Look for Book 2, coming in Fall 2018”.

My Review

According to the publisher, Tournament Trouble is the first book of a series expected to have 3-4 books total. The next book, Anyone’s Game, is expected to be published in Fall 2018.

Jaden is a likeable character who learns a practical lesson while gaining self-confidence. The characters have different races and backgrounds, Jaden, his family, and next door neighbor are Chinese, and Jaden’s friend Dev is Indian. This will enable children to see themselves represented in the narrative.

 

 

A fun, quick read for the whole family. Perfect for young hesitant readers who like video games.

One of the best books I’ve read this year – The Astonishing Color of After #BookReview

I feel incredibly grateful to have received an advanced copy of The Astonishing Color of After in exchange for my honest, unbiased opinion. Thank you to the publisher, author, and NetGalley, for allowing me to review. This is one of my most favorite books ever. I can’t wait to buy my own copy!

the astonishing color of after

 

Title: The Astonishing Color of After

Author: Emily X.R. Pan

Genre: Teen/YA Contemporary Romance

Publisher: Little Brown Books

Date published: Expected March 20, 2018

Page Count: 480

 

 

synopsis

“Leigh Chen Sanders is absolutely certain about one thing: When her mother died by suicide, she turned into a bird.
Leigh, who is half Asian and half white, travels to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time. There, she is determined to find her mother, the bird. In her search, she winds up chasing after ghosts, uncovering family secrets, and forging a new relationship with her grandparents. And as she grieves, she must try to reconcile the fact that on the same day she kissed her best friend and longtime secret crush, Axel, her mother was taking her own life.
Alternating between real and magic, past and present, friendship and romance, hope and despair, The Astonishing Color of After is a stunning and heartbreaking novel about finding oneself through family history, art, grief, and love.”

My Review

The Astonishing Color of After is a freeing, haunting, quirky, contemporary romance novel about depression, suicide, grief, family secrets, forgiveness, and love. This story takes place in America and Taiwan. Told with luxuriant writing, I wish I could share some of my favorite passages, however because this is an advance copy I’m not allowed. The writing quality is exquisite.

Leigh, the main character, is a girl who thinks of every life event as a color, yet only sketches in black and white. Leigh’s best friend is a guy named Axel, who creates pictures using colors and shapes to match the song in his head, then he makes the music to match the image. He calls it opera electronica. And yes, he is as cool as he sounds. Though Leigh has a secret crush on Axel, this is not an insta-love situation. Her other close friend, Caro, is a lesbian with a super quirky, loving family. Caro’s grandparents are absolutely adorable, and definitely a couple of my favorite characters.

When Leigh travels to Taiwan we get to meet her grandparents. As Leigh travels around Taiwan, visiting her mother’s favorite places, we get to learn a lot about the food and places. Feng is a close family friend who accompanies Leigh during her travels, teaching her more about the traditions and language. In her room at her grandparents place, Leigh finds some very dark sticks of incense. Burning each incense stick transports Leigh to a world of “Smoke & Memories” where she gets to relive moments of the past from her loved ones perspective. Flashbacks can sometimes be annoying, however these “Smoke & Memories” chapters are absolutely fantastic. Leigh’s mother always wore a cicada necklace, and I was curious about what the symbolism was for this. I learned that the cicada is a symbol of immortality or rebirth, which fits perfectly.

I appreciate how much time and careful consideration it must have taken to create a narrative centered on suicide in such an authentic and gracious manner. I smiled, I laughed, I cried tears of sadness and joy. I even got goosebumps many times reading the last 15% of this magical tale. I can’t recommend this one enough – 5 STARS!

 

About the author.jpg

Emily X.R. Pan lives in Brooklyn, New York, but was born in the Midwestern United States to immigrant parents from Taiwan. She received her MFA from NYU, where she was a Goldwater Fellow. She is a co-creator of FORESHADOW: A Serial YA Anthology, and a 2017 Artist-in-Residence at Djerassi. She logs the books she reads in an Excel spreadsheet and a secret other Goodreads account.Goodreads

Emily Pan’s Website

Pre-Order “The Astonishing Color of After”

Currently Reading: Stray City #LGBT #AdultFiction #Contemporary

Stray City.jpg

Stray City is expected to be published March 20, 2018, I was sent a complimentary copy in advance in exchange for my unbiased review.

Title: Stray City

Author: Chelsey Johnson

Expected Publication: March 20, 2018

Publisher: Custom House

432 pages

Adult Fiction, Literary, LGBT, Contemporary

 

“One of the most anticipated debuts in years, Stray City strikes a perfect balance of hipster charm, sparkling literary acumen, and the sort of timely themes that make for the most popular book club selections.” Edelweiss+

A warm, funny, and whip-smart debut novel about rebellious youth, inconceivable motherhood, and the complications of belonging—to a city, a culture, and a family—when none of them can quite contain who you really are.

All of us were refugees of the nuclear family . . .

Twenty-four-year-old artist Andrea Morales escaped her Midwestern Catholic childhood—and the closet—to create a home and life for herself within the thriving but insular lesbian underground of Portland, Oregon. But one drunken night, reeling from a bad breakup and a friend’s betrayal, she recklessly crosses enemy lines and hooks up with a man. To her utter shock, Andrea soon discovers she’s pregnant—and despite the concerns of her astonished circle of gay friends, she decides to have the baby.

A decade later, when her precocious daughter Lucia starts asking questions about the father she’s never known, Andrea is forced to reconcile the past she hoped to leave behind with the life she’s worked so hard to build.

A thoroughly modern and original anti-romantic comedy, Stray City is an unabashedly entertaining literary debut about the families we’re born into and the families we choose, about finding yourself by breaking the rules, and making bad decisions for all the right reasons.” Goodreads

  • Stray City will appeal to readers of LGBTQ-themed titles such as Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, Emily M. Danforth’s The Miseducation of Cameron Post, Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts, and Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City, as well as fans of general coming-of-age stories such as the ‘90s cult classic Reality Bites, or Nick Hornby’s classics High Fidelity and About a Boy.” (Edelweiss+)

 

Book Review: Children of Daedala by Caighlan Smith

All of my reviews are always SPOILER FREE 🙂

I received an advanced copy in exchange for my honest, unbiased opinion. Thank you to the publisher, author, and NetGalley, for allowing me to review.

Children of Daedala

 

Title: Children of Daedala (Children of Icarus #2)

Author: Caighlan Smith

Genre: YA, Sci-Fi, Dystopian

Publisher: Capstone http://www.capstonepub.com/library/

Date published: Expected Publication April 2018

Page Count: 336

 

 

synopsis

Sequel to Children of Icarus.

Six months alone in the labyrinth has made her strong. But the search for the exit means gambling on an old ‘friend’ and going against everything she’s been taught to survive. You know the labyrinth will have yet more horrors lurking in its depths. You’ve learned few people can be trusted. But freedom is tantalizingly close. Are you ready to take the risk?” (Goodreads) https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36049722-children-of-daedala

My Review

I haven’t read the first book in this series. I searched for the e-book high and low, but couldn’t find it. I didn’t want to shell out $20 for the first book at Chapters without knowing if I would like it. My local library did not have a copy, there was no ebook available on Amazon.ca or KOBO. If the publisher or author somehow see this review – please consider making the first book more readily available. I ALMOST didn’t read Children of Daedala because I didn’t read Children of Icarus. Now that I have read the book, and know that I LOVED it, I will go purchase the first book.

When I reached the final page of the Children of Daedala e-book, I discovered the author was born and raised in the same province as me, and is attending the same University that I did! I had no idea Caighlan Smith was from Newfoundland, but now that I do, I will most certainly purchase and read everything she writes. Be assured, my opinion of this book was formed well before I knew the author was a fellow Newfoundlander. As I was reading, I kept raving to my husband about how much I was enjoying the story, characters, and monsters.

Children of Daedala, inspired by Greek mythology (Icarus and Daedalus), takes place in a labyrinth filled with deadly creatures. The story begins six months after our female main character was kicked out of Fates and entered the soul-crushing maze. She has not given us her birth name, but we know she has been called Clara, and Fey Bell, by other Icaari. Fey’s mentor, the Executioner, has died, and she’s been surviving on her own. Within this giant labyrinth there are other groups of Icaari: Kleos, a group of male Icaari led by Gammon; and Harmonia, a group of female Icaari, led by Polina.

While hunting, she comes across a group of Icaari from Fates. Members of this group have treated her badly in the past. She tackles Ryan and holds him hostage. She wants to trade him for another Fates member named Addie. They make an agreement to meet for the exchange. Fey arrives hours early, without Ryan, to spy on them when they arrive. Collin comes with a few others, but no Addie. She overhears them say they were never going to do the trade, and Collin made the deal so he could try to capture Fey.

Fey returns to her secret underground base where she left Ryan bound and drugged. As she opens the door he knocks her down. After a struggle, Fey manages to get his arms and legs bound. She confesses that she wanted Addie to decipher a journal she found. Ryan says he knows some Ancient Daedalic and thinks he can decipher it. They make a pact to help each other escape the labyrinth. The war between Harmonia, Kleos, and Fates complicates Ryan and Fey’s plan to decipher the map and escape the labyrinth.

Can we talk about the cover? WOW! Isn’t it fantastic? I absolutely love it. The story is told from Fey Bell’s first person perspective, which effectively leaves the reader out of the loop. Fey Bell is a badass female protagonist who has become hard, calculating, cunning, and extremely skilled thanks to her training from the Executioner and Fey’s time alone in the labyrinth. There are a lot of characters introduced early on in the story from both the Kleos and Harmonia groups. Ryan is one of my favorite characters, but my absolutely most favorite is the Mud Maid. The short chapters and suspenseful writing worked together to create a thrilling page-turning story. I will warn you – you may end up staying well past your bedtime wanting to read “just one more”. The ending is a cliffhanger that will leave you on the edge of your seat.

There are only a couple of small things that hindered me from giving Children of Daedala 5 Stars. I don’t like Elle at all. I found her terribly annoying, and I couldn’t care less if she was kidnapped or killed. Which is problematic because I think I was supposed to care about her. I would have loved a map at the beginning of the book to help visualize the labyrinth. Some of the dialogue was a little clunky and didn’t feel authentic.

Children of Daedala is a dark tale filled with conflict that reminds me of Lord of the FliesThe Maze Runner, and The Hunger Games, all rolled into one.

Children of Icarus (Book One) Amazon.ca

Children of Daedala (Book Two) Amazon.ca

About the author.jpg

As a child, Caighlan Smith loved to build and navigate pillow mazes. An adoration of Greek mythology soon followed. Canadian born and raised, Smith studied English Literature and Classics at Memorial University of Newfoundland. Her first novel was published when she was nineteen.

https://www.caighlansmith.com/

Book Review for Upcoming Mystery/Thriller “A Guide for Murdered Children” by Sarah Sparrow

All of my reviews are always SPOILER FREE.

I received an advanced copy in exchange for my honest, unbiased opinion. Thank you to the publisher, author, and NetGalley, for allowing me to review.

 

Title: A Guide for Murdered Children

Author: Sarah Sparrow

Genre: Adult Fiction, Mystery, Thriller

Publisher: Blue Rider Press

Expected Publication: March 20, 2018

Page Count: 400 pages

 

 

synopsis

We all say there is no justice in this world. But what if there really was? What if the souls of murdered children were able to return briefly to this world, inhabit adult bodies and wreak ultimate revenge on the monsters who had killed them, stolen their lives?

Such is the unfathomable mystery confronting ex-NYPD detective Willow Wylde, fresh out of rehab and finally able to find a job running a Cold Case squad in suburban Detroit. When the two rookie cops assigned to him take an obsessive interest in a decades old disappearance of a brother and sister, Willow begins to suspect something out of the ordinary is afoot. And when he uncovers a series of church basement AA-type meetings made up of the slain innocents, a new way of looking at life, death, murder and missed opportunities is revealed to him.

Mystical, harrowing and ultimately tremendously moving, A Guide for Murdered Children is a genre-busting, mind-bending twist on the fine line between the ordinary and the extraordinary.” (Goodreads)

 

My Review

A Guide for Murdered Children is separated into three books: “Closely Watched Trains”, “The Spirit Room”, and “Local and Express”. While reading the first 25% of this book the first time around I was terribly confused. I honestly had no idea what in the world was happening. The story flipped from past to present and it was challenging to keep everything straight. I almost decided to stop reading it, instead I flipped to the beginning to try again. I’m SO GLAD that I did, because I understood it much better the second time around.

Detective Willow “Dubya” Wylde is presently at a rehab in Arizona. He’s made some really bad choices in life, ruining his career and family. It’s time to make amends and restore balance. The story flips to the past where we meet brother and sister, Troy and Maya on the day they were murdered in Saggerty Falls, Michigan. Back to the present we meet Deputy Lydia Molloy as she falls to her death at the Macomb Orchard Trail and Deputy Daniel Doheny, who dies from a heart attack. In the present eleven year old Winston is also murdered around the same time that Renée “Honeychile” Devonshire dies from an asthma attack. The murdered children’s spirits enter the body of those who have recently died (usually adults except for Honeychile) in order to achieve their moment of balance by killing the person who took their life.  As the murdered children’s spirits enter their “landlords”, the “landlord” body comes back to life – so the people who know the “landlords” don’t realize they have died. I hope that made sense. I’ll wait while you go back and re-read that part…Okay, you following me?

Annie, the Porter, greets the new arrivals on the train, giving them the address for the meeting.  There are also Subalterns on the train, who are ancient, shadowy beings. Annie, The Porter, knows her replacement is coming soon but doesn’t know who it is yet.  At the meeting the murdered children are given the Guidebook of rules they must follow.

Detective Willow has a recurring dream of being on a train. In the dream the Porter gives him an address. When he wakes up he decides to go to the address, discovering it’s the new house of his ex-wife and her new husband Owen, who is Willow’s old cop partner. He makes up a story that he’s there to make amends with both of them, and Owen asks Willow to join his new Cold Case team. In Book Two and Three there are a lot of twists and turns, it kept me turning the pages wondering what in the world was going to happen next.

A Guide for Murdered Children is an extremely out-of-the-box concept of balance and forgiveness. It’s a little far-fetched for a Mystery/Thriller, you’ll have to put aside your questions and just let it be revealed to you.

The main character, Willow, is seriously annoying. I don’t think he experiences enough of a transition to make me like him in the end. If you like unlikable characters he might be right up your alley.  Although I did not enjoy Willow’s character, I enjoyed Annie, and Willow’s ex-wife. I would have loved more information about the Subalterns.

The book is too long and can benefit by an editor not afraid to trim the unnecessary bits.  If you can get past the first 25%, and let your mind wander outside of reality, then I think you’ll enjoy this thriller.

 

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From what I could figure out A Guide for Murdered Children is written with a pen name, Sarah Sparrow. I attempted some digging around online, but wasn’t able to figure out the real name of the author.

The Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King

I’m finally getting around to writing a book review for The Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King. As always, this review is spoiler-free.

the bazaar of bad dreams

The Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King

Mass Market Paperback: 686 pages

Published 2016 by Pocket Books

synopsis

“Since Night Shift was published more than thirty-five years ago, Stephen King has dazzled an entire generation of readers with his genius as a prominent writer of short fiction. Now, in his latest collection, he once again assembles a generous array of unforgettable, tantalizing tales. There are thrilling connections between these works – themes of morality, the afterlife, guilt, and what we would do differently if we could see into the future or correct the mistakes of the past. Magnificent, eerie, and utterly compelling, The Bazaar of Bad Dreams is one of Stephen King’s finest gifts to readers everywhere – a master storyteller at his very best.” (Book Back Blurb)

Includes the new story “Cookie Jar”

Stephen King delivers an “outstanding” (USA TODAY) collection of stories, featuring revelatory autobiographical comments on when, why, and how he came to write (or rewrite) each story.” (Goodreads)

My Review

The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, vivid stories that will haunt your dreams. King’s imagination is limitless. The first story, “Mile 81” is about a monster car that kills people. My favourite stories are “The Dune”, a “magical place where an invisible Moving Finger would write terrible things in the sand”, “Morality”, a story to make you wonder about how much money would someone have to pay you to commit a horrible sin, “Ur”, a story that Amazon asked King to write about the Kindle (this one has references to The Dark Tower series), “Under the weather”, an extremely disturbing love story, and “Obits”, a tale which I won’t give any info because it will give it away. Just read it.

Some reviewers have said that the stories weren’t scary, but for me, the frightening part is that aspects of each story reflect a version of events that COULD happen “in real life”. King doesn’t write simple heart-pounding typical creepy stories, he gives me that “goosebumpy” feeling of “Wow, I know this character is an ass for doing this, but I might do the same, (or know of someone who would do the same).

I think my fellow “Constant Readers” will quite enjoy these stories, but I’m not sure how someone who’s never read King’s work would enjoy The Bazaar of Bad Dreams. Have you read it? What did you think? What were your favourite stories?

Until next time…

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Wonder by R.J. Palacio #BookReview #thewonderofwonder #choosekind

All of my reviews are always SPOILER FREE 🙂

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Title: Wonder

Author: R.J. Palacio

Genre: Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction, Contemporary

Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers

Date published: September 2017 (originally published 2012)

Page Count: 352 pages

synopsis

A special movie tie-in edition of R.J. Palacio’s #1 New York Times bestseller, now a major motion picture starring Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson, Jacob Tremblay, Daveed Diggs, and Mandy Patinkin.
Over 5 million people have fallen in love with Wonder and Auggie Pullman, the ordinary boy with the extraordinary face, who inspired a movement to Choose Kind. This special movie tie-in trade paperback edition features an eight-page full-color insert with photos from the film, a new introduction by the author, and a family discussion guide.

August Pullman was born with a facial difference that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid–but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face. Wonder, a #1 New York Times bestseller, begins from Auggie’s point of view, but soon switches to include his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend, and others. These perspectives converge in a portrait of one community’s struggle with empathy, compassion, and acceptance.
In a world where bullying among young people is an epidemic, this is a refreshing new narrative full of heart and hope. R.J. Palacio has called her debut novel “a meditation on kindness” –indeed, every reader will come away with a greater appreciation for the simple courage of friendship. Auggie is a hero to root for, who proves that you can’t blend in when you were born to stand out.
Join the conversation: #thewonderofwonder, #choosekind

My Review

If you haven’t heard of Wonder, you’ve been living under a rock. Both the book and movie are a big hit, and have made an enormous impact on millions of people. I do not have the talent to write a worthy review for such an important piece of literature – but I’ll give it a shot, in hopes that you’ll pick up this book, read it, then have your kids read it, and tell everyone you know to read it. Our western society is at a fork in the road, and it’s books like Wonder that may help shift the tide so we can all choose kindness.

 

Wonder is a story about acceptance, courage, compassion, loyalty, and kindness. It’s told from many perspectives: August, his sister Via, his friend Summer, his other friend Jack, and Via’s friend Miranda.

The characters feel authentic and reminded me of people I know in real life. I cried when August cried, and I laughed when he laughed. His school principal, Mr. Tushman, is like so many principals that I have worked with, hard, but kind. They work to bring the best out of you. August makes some great friends at school, Jack, Charlotte, and Summer – and he also makes some enemies, Julian. Mr. Browne, the teacher who is amazing at his job and understands how to connect with his students, not to just teach the curriculum, but to teach life changing lessons. As a parent I couldn’t help but feel connected to Augusts’ parents who struggled, like many parents, with trying to protect their children, yet give them the room to grow.

Summer is most definitely my favourite character. I would love to read an entire book about her, and I wonder what she would be like as an adult. She’s the kind of friend I wish we could all have, and the person I hope I am.

August’s first day of school
“I went straight to room 301 on the third floor. Now I was glad I’d gone on that little tour, because I knew exactly where to go and didn’t have to look up once. I noticed that some kids were definitely staring at me now. I did my thing of pretending not to notice.” page 37

“In the hallways, which were always crowded, my face would always surprise some unsuspecting kid who maybe hadn’t heard about me. The kid would make the sound you make when you hold your breath before going underwater, a little “uh!” sound. This happened maybe four or five times a day for the first few weeks: on the stairs, in front of the lockers, in the library. Five hundred kids in a school: eventually every one of them was going to see my face at some time.” page 61

“This precept means that we should be remembered for the things we do. The things we do are the most important things of all. They are more important than what we say or what we look like. The things we do outlast our mortality. The things we do are like monuments that people build to honor heroes after they’ve died. They’re like pyramids that the Egyptians built to honor the pharaohs. Only instead of being made out of stone, they’re made out of the memories people have of you. That’s why your deeds are like your monuments. Built with memories instead of with stone.” August, explaining Mr. Browne’s precept, Your Deeds Are Your Monuments. page 65

 

I purposefully read Wonder slowly, because I didn’t want it to end. One of my top 10 books I’ve ever read – maybe even top five. If you haven’t read Wonder, READ IT NOW! And…Choose Kind.

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“R.J. Palacio lives in NYC with her husband, two sons, and two dogs. For more than twenty years, she was an art director and graphic designer, designing book jackets for other people while waiting for the perfect time in her life to start writing her own novel. But one day several years ago, a chance encounter with an extraordinary child in front of an ice cream store made R. J. realize that the perfect time to write that novel had finally come. Wonder is her first novel. She did not design the cover, but she sure does love it.” https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4859212.R_J_Palacio