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Sunday, May 27, 2018

Review: Goth Girl and the Fete Worse than Death by Chris Riddell!



Title: Goth Girl and the Fete Worse than Death
Series: Goth Girl #2
Author: Chris Riddell
Format: Hardcover, 218 pages
Pub. Date: September 25th 2014
Source: Half Price Books


Book Description:



Preperations are under way for the Full-Moon Fete and the Great Ghastly-Gorm Bake Off.

Celebrity cooks are arriving at the hall for the big event, and as usual Maltravers is acting suspiciously. On top of all this, Ada's elusive lady's made Marylebone has a surprising secret, and everyone seems to have forgotten Ada's birthday!






Review:


★★★★

So, my aesthetic and interests are definitely slanted more to the "goth" end of the spectrum. So when I see a book with goth in the title, especially about a goth girl, it's a big sell for me. Plus, there's illustrations and the binding is super pretty. I haven't read book one of the series but figured I'd give this one a try. I didn't feel like I was missing anything from the first book.

First, let's talk illustrations. They're super fun. They're done in a style that reminds me a bit of the Series of Unfortunate Events. Sort of dark, but well detailed and a bit whimsical. There's also fun little footnotes used to further explain things.

I think this is a book that works on two levels, sort of like Shrek. I know that's a weird comparison. But have you ever watched a movie or tv show for kids, and realized you and the kids are watching two different shows? Like they're laughing at a fart joke, but you're laughing at a more adult one? That's sort of how this book works. There are so many jokes and word play and references that I'm sure kids don't get. Not dirty ones, but for example there's a chef in this book named William Flake. His pet's name is Tyger, Tyger. As an English grad, I laughed. There's also a chef modeled after Gordon Ramsay whose signature dish is "A Nightmare in the Kitchen". I love Kitchen Nightmares. There's poodles named Belle & Sebastian, which is a band. The book is chockablock full of these sort of in-jokes, and I loved it.

It blends fantasy really well. There's vampires, there's a magical circus. There's pastries that defy physics. There's even a bear who's a housekeeper. I found it both silly and endearing, and I think that's good in a kid's book.

There's even a little mini-biography included in a sleeve on the back cover of the hardcover edition that helps to tie up the loose ends.

The only criticism I have is that the end scene is a bit sudden and rushed. It felt very "rips-off-the-mask-of-the-housekeeper I would have gotten away with it too if it wasn't for those meddling kids".

This is a fun read for kids or kids at heart. It's written in a similar vein to Series of Unfortunate Events or The 9 Lives of Alexander Baddenfield. It's a bit dark but a lot of fun, and I'd definitely read the other ones in this series.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Guide Review: The Fangirl's Guide to the Galaxy by Sam Maggs



Title: The Fangirl's Guide to the Galaxy: A Handbook for Girl Geeks
Author: Sam Maggs
Format: Hardcover, 208 pages
Pub. Date: May 12th 2015
Source: Quirk Books


Book Description:



Fanfic, cosplay, cons, books, memes, podcasts, vlogs, OTPs and RPGs and MMOs and more—it’s never been a better time to be a girl geek. The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy is the ultimate handbook for ladies living the nerdy life, a fun and feminist take on the often male-dominated world of geekdom. With delightful illustrations and an unabashed love for all the in(ternet)s and outs of geek culture, this book is packed with tips, playthroughs, and cheat codes for everything from starting an online fan community to planning a convention visit to supporting fellow female geeks in the wild.





Review:




Yikes. Let's get this over with, shall we?

This definitely wasn't the book for me, that's for sure. From the get-go, I'm not sure who the demographic for this is. It's written in a really juvenile tone, but it mentions getting fandom tattoos, so... Not sure the age that this is meant for. It says in the book that this guide isn't just for girls to learn from, yet that's what the title of the book is. The word fan isn't gendered in the first place, so it was a choice to market it to women. This book also says that no one can be classified and we're all special... Then proceeds to talk about labels of fans and what defines them.

It's supposed to be a relatively feminist text, based on the cover, title, and introduction to the series. But I didn't feel that way. The male casts of shows are described not as talented, but as "yummy". There's also a fair amount of discussion of shipping characters and having crushes (like Han Solo). There's nothing wrong with ships or having character crushes, but it shouldn't be a focus of why to watch a show. People watch for talented actors, good writing, and plot lines that keep you hooked.

There's also a section that addresses how annoying "fan speak" is, but the book is still full of it. Words like glomp, squee, and feels are all in play. There's even a textual representation of a .GIF in this book. Like.... why though? I can see including it in an ebook or digital copy but it seems silly in a hardcover. That said, there's some interesting word/reference origins here, but most of it isn't new to you if you spend as much time on the internet as I do.

It's been 4 years since this book was published, and it's already incredibly outdated. Ben Affleck as Batman is a reality. This is something that, in the book, hasn't happened yet. There's also a ton more Star Wars and Avengers films (which, Avengers is really the only love Marvel gets). No one thinks of Aquaman as a lame hero anymore, not since Momoa got cast. Slang is off, shows are no longer relevant. I'm sure it was better years ago, but it doesn't all hold up.

A lot of this book is common sense. "How do I convert a friend to my fandom?" Watch stuff together. Not that hard of a concept. "How do I bring fangirl to my life?" Wear merchandise and hang a poster. "How do I notice a Harry Potter fan?" I mean, talk to people? Also a Hogwarts shirt is a pretty clear sign. I don't know why things like this needed explaining.

Though I clearly have issues with this book, I do give credit where credit is due. There's a section on comic con etiquette and what to expect your first time that I think is incredibly helpful. There's a highlight of popular conventions and where they're held, and some good resources for finding meets and stuff in your area. For me though, that's all I enjoyed about this book.

Maybe it's just me. If you learn something from this book, great. Genuinely. But it wasn't for me, and I don't recommend it.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Review: Hollow Beauty by Khristina Chess



Title: Hollow Beauty
Author: Khristina Chess
Format: Paperback, 225 pages
Pub. Date: September 13th 2014
Source: Goodreads First Reads


Book Description:



When tall, gorgeous Brody asks Olivia to the prom, she’s ecstatic—until he suggests that she use the two months before the dance to lose some weight. Does he think she’s fat? His comment sends Olivia on a spiral of insecurity and dangerously rapid weight loss that borders on anorexia.

As her pounds vanish, her friendship deepens with Ross, the new prep cook at the diner where she works. Despite his mysterious limp, he doesn’t suffer crippling low self-esteem like Olivia does; usually, she can’t even look at herself in the mirror anymore. But when she’s riding dirt bikes and searching for caves with Ross, she doesn’t feel ugly or fat, just herself again—hanging out and having fun.

With Brody, instead of finding the romance and true love she had hoped for, she feels like a terrified rabbit that he’s going to devour. She refuses to think about that. She’s almost thin enough to be beautiful for the prom.

And then the unthinkable happens.






Review:


★★

I'm always interested in realistic young adult books. The ones that address the tough stuff: eating disorders, self harm, conversion therapy, depression. Those are the books that helped me the most when I was that age, and I still look to them in adulthood. This isn't the first book on eating disorders that I've read, and it's something that I've dealt with in real life as well. Unfortunately, I didn't think that Hollow Beauty did a very good job with this topic.

What bothers me the most, I think, is how quickly the eating disorder issue presents itself. The boy she has a crush on tells her she needs to lose weight on page 4 of the book. And she just clings to this and the disorder starts. Did she have self-esteem issues before? Is weight something she's struggled with before? Was she already thinking about slimming down? I don't know. In the first few pages up to that point, she is happy with some fries after a sports meet. And then like lightning, out of nowhere, it begins. I wish that there was more about Olivia at the beginning, because it is so instantaneous that it comes off as odd.

I also don't really think her weight loss seemed realistic. People noticed the second she lost even a tiny bit of weight, and felt the need to comment on it. No one notices a pound or two, especially for athletes, who are always getting into shape. Not to mention that she's super rude to anyone who even shows a little of concern.

Her version of love just makes me sad. That you need to be all oogly eyed and lovey dovey and holding hands. Her judge of character at one point is that the jerk she likes doesn't open her car door, but the friend who zomg she can't POSSIBLY have feelings for, does. Such an odd little thing to use as a measurement, but whatever floats your boat I guess?

Another thing that bugged me is that while Jerk is talking about sex with her, and she's clearly uncomfortable with all of it, she has the bright idea that maybe she should just drink first so she'll like it. I'm sure that some girls out there really think like that but GOOD GOD, NO. In another moment of oddness, Olivia- who gets upset when she is even just a few calories off of where she thought and can't eat much without hating herself- slams a hard lemonade without thinking about it. Alcohol is terrible for you, weight loss wise, especially something as sugary as a Mike's.

I know I have a lot of problems with this book, but it wasn't ALL bad.

I liked that at the start of each chapter, it gave Olivia's current weight, and her goal weight. It was a good way to organize where she is in the journey and to keep track of what's going on.

I loved Ross, the friend she makes at the diner. He has a scar and a limp and is always kind to her. He's patient when she asks a million questions about his hobby, he shows concern for her weight loss, and I think it's cute that, as he's a cook, he just wants to feed her. If he was in this story more, I would have liked it more.

The book also does a good job of showing how toxic the internet/online groups can be. She joins a weight loss site called Blubber Busters which has a forum. She realizes quickly that support isn't always helpful, and that some of these girls take the weight obsession too far. While I'm not on eating disorder/weight loss apps, I am in other communities that definitely have some cesspools. I think it was a good thing to include.

There's also discussion questions in the back, if you're reading this for a club or class or something.

Overall, I found this book problematic and it wasn't for me. But it wasn't a total loss. There were some parts that were well represented, and enough interesting points that kept me reading until the end of the book. This might be a case of "it's not you, it's me", since other people seem to really like it. But, it just wasn't the book for me. Perhaps it'll be a better read for you.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Review: Hades Speaks! by Vicky Alvear Shecter



Title: Hades Speaks!: A Guide to the Underworld by the Greek God of the Dead
Series: Secrets of the Ancient Gods
Author: Vicky Alvear Shecter
Illustrator: J.E. Larson
Format: Hardcover, 128 pages
Pub. Date: September 1st 2014
Source: Blog Win


Book Description:



Hades, god of the dead, welcomes readers on a dangerous tour of his underworld kingdom, filled with monsters, furies, giants, and vampire demons. Along the way, he reveals ancient death rites and sinister curses, tells hair-raising stories, and cracks jokes to die for. With his witty voice and ghoulish sense of humor, Hades is the perfect guide through this fresh and imaginative work of nonfiction that reads like a novel. Includes a glossary, bibliography, and index.





Review:


★★★★★

It's no secret that I love mythology. I have a degree in ancient civilizations and classics for a reason! No matter if they're historical texts or picture books, I'm always a sucker for myths. Of the Grecian pantheon, my favorite god is the often misunderstood and underrated Hades. So when I saw this book, I had to give it a go. I wasn't disappointed.

Hades Speaks! is a book that stands apart to me because it's actually written from the perspective of Hades giving the reader a tour of the Underworld. That's such a cool way to present this information, especially since it's a middle grade-ish age book. It makes learning fun, and makes it easy to forget that you're even learning at all.

I appreciated that Hades wasn't boring or cookie cutter. He had some depth and development as a character. He was bitter towards his siblings and a bit of a complainer- which if you've read anything about Hades, that's pretty accurate. But he cracks a few jokes and just wants to clear up his side of history that pop culture has gotten wrong. There's even a reference to Harry Potter & Fluffy.

The journey through the afterlife of the fallen Greeks is a very enjoyable one. There's a good flow. The information is explained by way of story telling, so it's not just an information dump of Greek facts. You're introduced to different monsters and underworld inhabitants that aren't really mentioned much, at least here in the US. (Shoutout to my girl Hecate who never gets much representation).

There's also illustrations throughout the book. They're well done, and really accentuate the texts.

If you, or your children, are interested in learning about Greek gods, this book is a great way to learn. Hades Speaks! should be a welcome addition to any classroom or library. I look forward to reading other books about the gods in this series.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Mini Review: Rebels: City of Indra by Kendall Jenner, Kylie Jenner, & Maya Sloan



Title: Rebels: City of Indra
Series: The Story of Lex and Livia #1
Authors: Kendall Jenner, Kylie Jenner, & Maya Sloan
Format: Hardcover, 352 pages
Pub. Date: June 3rd 2014
Source: Goodreads First Reads/Publisher


Book Description:



Kendall and Kylie Jenner, stars on the hit reality show Keeping Up with the Kardashians, present their debut novel—a thrilling dystopian story about two super-powered girls who embark on a journey together, not knowing they’re twins.

Two girls, two worlds apart.

Lex lives down below, close to rock bottom. She grew up in the orphanage, alone, and now is training to be a Special Op so she can finally destroy the rebels with her own hands. She needs no one.

Livia lives miles above everything on a floating island in the city of Indra. She is training too, but for a life that she doesn’t want. She wants to be free, to finally leave her floating island, and to run with her beloved horse until she can’t run any longer.

And then there’s Kane—Lex’s only friend, whom she would walk through fire for. And when she finds that Kane is in danger, she doesn’t hesitate to leave her post and blast her way to the top of Indra to save him. She just needs to get one stubborn, unexpectedly clever airgirl to tell her where he is first.

In this fast-paced, dystopian thriller, Lex and Livia reluctantly team up to save Kane after discovering that they share a mysterious identical mark—not realizing that their biggest danger is in each other.






Review:


★★

I want to start this off by saying I have no grudges, or opinions, about the Jenner/Kardashian clan. I didn't go into this to poke fun at the Jenner sisters for writing a book. I went into it because it sounded like something that I would enjoy. For reasons (almost) completely unrelated to the cache of the authors, I didn't care much for this book.

It felt forced. There are elements of so many other science fiction/dystopian tropes here, that it all becomes muddled and confusing. Mysterious underground civilization? Check. Weirdly affluent above ground kingdom? Check. Plastic surgery being almost required of the upper crust? Check. Orphanage? Check. Love triangle? Ugh.

That said, I thought the world building was okay. It was a bit overwhelming and overdone, but painted a pretty good visual picture.

I didn't care for either of the main characters. They seemed to be made from cardboard. They're boring, they're flat. They don't seem too developed or interesting, even. Because of that, I didn't care about the plot. I wasn't invested in the characters, so what happened to them was sort of a moot point.

I do think it's a little funny though (this is the one point where the authors mattered to me) that one of the lead girls poo-poos plastic surgery/body modifications because she doesn't need it to be herself. From a Jenner. I'm just saying, compare the author photo on the back of this book to their current faces.

I can see maybe where young teens would maybe like this, but if you've read good sci-fi or dystopia before, I feel like you're going to have some problems with this. Enter at your own risk.

I received a copy of this book from the Goodreads First Reads program in exchange for my honest review. Thank you.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Blog Tour Review & Giveaway: From the Earth to the Shadows by Amanda Hocking!



Title: From the Earth to the Shadows

Series: Valkyrie #2

Author: Amanda Hocking

Pub. Date: April 24th 2018



About the Book:


The epic conclusion to the thrilling Valkyrie duology by New York Times bestselling YA author Amanda Hocking, From the Earth to the Shadows.

While dealing with dark revelations about her life and her world, Malin finds herself with new allies--and new enemies. Her quest for the truth leads her to places she never thought possible, and she's never been one to shy away from a fight. But for all her strength and determination, will it be enough to save the world before it's too late?

Get It Here:


BAM | Powells | IndieBound | Amazon | B&N

About the Author:


Amanda Hocking is the author of over twenty young adult novels, including the New York Times bestselling Trylle Trilogy and Kanin Chronicles. Her love of pop culture and all things paranormal influence her writing. She spends her time in Minnesota, taking care of her menagerie of pets and working on her next book.

Blog | Website | Twitter | Facebook



Review:


★★★

I was very excited to get a chance to read this book. It's no secret that I'm a fan of Amanda Hocking's work. Plus, I had read book one in this series - Between the Blade and the Heart - earlier on in the year and I enjoyed it very much.

From the Earth to the Shadows contains the same lovable cast that were in book one. I appreciated the characters in this book as well, since even the ones that I didn't care for, I understood why I didn't care for them. Not all people in life are likable, so why would fictional people? I feel like I liked Malin a bit more this time around, she seemed more approachable. Maybe I'd just gotten used to her. Either way, it worked.

There is a lot of action packed into this book, as is true with the first one. There's a lot to take in, and a lot to follow. On the one hand, this is great because it feels like it could be an action movie. It keeps the pace quick, and it feels like you're flying through the story. I appreciate that- one of my least favorite feelings is when a book d r a a a a a a g s on forever.

But on the other hand, it is a lot to take in. There's a lot of characters to remember, and background/plot information to keep straight. Some times it felt a bit rushed, like it moved along too quickly, or like some plot steps were a bit too convenient.

Ultimately though, I enjoyed this book. It felt very similar to the first in tone and pace, and I loved a chance to go into the world that Hocking created. I definitely recommend reading book one before you read this one, though. If you've read book one and enjoyed it, then I'll think you'll like the second part of the duology as well. It mixes romance, mythology, and a kick butt heroine into one fast paced adventure through the underworld.

Giveaway:


- One (1) winner will receive a finished paperback copy of FROM THE EARTH TO THE SHADOWS, U.S. entries only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Review: Can a Princess Be a Firefighter? by Carole P. Roman



Title: Can a Princess Be a Firefighter?
Author: Carole P. Roman
Illustrator: Mateya Arkova
Format: Paperback, 36 pages
Pub. Date: March 25th 2016
Source: Author


Book Description:



Two little girls pepper their father with questions about whether or not they can be a profession and still be a princess. Motivated by her granddaughter's fascination with all things 'princess,' Carole P. Roman penned this adorable poem celebrating all the wonderful possibilities waiting ahead for them.





Review:


★★★★★

What a wonderful children's book.

First, I'd like to talk about the actual story. As the title suggests, the lead little girls ask the question, "Can a Princess Be a Firefighter?" I think all of us as little kids grow up with some version of this dream job that smooshes multiple jobs together. Maybe an astronaut who studies dinosaurs, or a ballerina veterinarian. When the world is our oyster, and we aim for the sky. This book reaffirms that girls can do anything they put their minds to. There's nothing wrong with wanting a stereotypically "girly" career- like a ballerina, a nurse, or a princess. But there is also nothing wrong with wanting to be in a STEM field, a doctor, an astronaut, a cop. The sky's the limit. It's a message worth repeating, and not just to our daughters but our sons too.

The book is written in a rhyming, nursery story way. It makes it more fun to read aloud, and also is a clever way of making the story flow. As a kid, my favorite stories were always the ones that rhymed!

And then there's the artwork. It's very fun and detailed, and very colorful. It'll hold a young reader's attention, and the pictures match well with the text on the page.

I recommend this to the parents and teachers of young children. This story has a great message, and goes about exploring it in a really fun way.