Posted in Middle Grade

Zaria Fierce and the Dragon Keeper’s Golden Shoes

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Zaria Fierce and the Dragon Keeper’s Golden Shoes by Keira Gillett, narrated by Michele Carpenter.

Rating: 5 stars

Narrator Rating: 5 stars

 

I was given a copy of this audiobook in exchange for my honest review. These thoughts are my own.

I have given a synopsis in both of the previous books in this series, therefore, I will skip out on a synopsis here and go in to talking about what I enjoyed about the book and finishing up any lasting thoughts I have of the series.

Out of the three books, Zaria Fierce and the Dragon Keeper’s Golden Shoes is my favorite. This story was action packed, enlightening, heart breaking, and heartwarming all rolled up into 300 pages of warm, fuzzy, goodness.

The Zaria Fierce trilogy is a great show of a team comprised of unique, different, individuals that come together to work towards a common goal. All of the characters had significant growth, and frankly Hart becomes one of my favorite characters, right next to Aleks (the pretty awesome Changeling) and Hector (Stag Lord). I am looking forward to Aleks’ follow up trilogy. I can’t wait to dive back into this world and will be sad if it finishes.

The whole story set leaves you wanting more. Each character is brought to life by Michele Carpenter, which makes listening that much more enjoyable. This series is a great fantasy read geared towards middle ages but is so good parents and older readers will enjoy it as well. There is so much constantly going on in this book that it is massive stimulation constantly. I like books that really hit the ground running and I finished this story pretty quickly. By the end, I was left breathless, heartbroken, yet satisfied, and happy. This book was truly enchanting.

If you haven’t read it yet, please do so. You will not be disappointed.

Posted in Middle Grade

Zaria Fierce and the Enchanted Drakeland Sword

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Zaria Fierce and the Enchanted Drakeland Sword by Keira Gillett, narrated by Michele Carpenter.

 

Goodreads Rating: 5 stars

Actual Rating: 4.5 stars

Narrator Rating: 5 stars

 

I was given a copy of this audiobook from the author in exchange for my honest review. These thoughts are my own. I have not been paid for this review. 

 

Zaria Fierce and Enchanted Drakeland Sword is the second book in the Zaria Fierce trilogy. This story follows the aftermath of Hart being stolen by Olaf. Hector comes for Zaria and her friends for another adventure into the heart of many lands in Norse mythology.

Zaria continues to be haunted by nightmares and self blame regarding the loss of Heart, the Staglord of the Elkenfolken’s son, Hart. All of the children set off in hopes to find the Enchanted Drakeland Sword and find where Hart is being kept by Olaf. Along the way, they meet many Giants, some who are helpful and others who are not. Eventually they make their way into the land of dwarves.

Zaria keeps having these visions where she sees a spector of sorts who looks like her. She is sleeping in her bed when it wakes her up. It tells her it is slowly turning into her and will eventually make his way up to surface with people of Earth and will fool them all into thinking he is her. He then flees, which causes Zaria to follow after him down the dwarvan tunnels through a hidden magical door. Once through, she finds Hart, and frees him with her newly acquired Drakeland Sword. Only, it wasn’t Hart, it was Koll, the deadly dragon Olaf is desperate to free from the Under Realm where he has been trapped for thousands of years.

To save from any spoilers, I will end the synopsis here because the adventure is worth the read, or listen. The narrator is fantastic, bringing each of the characters alive. Each character is well written and has continual growth. The reason I gave this 4.5 stars, instead of 5, was simply because Zaria was almost whiney, and it got annoying after a while. Also, out of all 3 books, this one was my least favorite. I felt that it did not accomplish as much as book 1, and book 3 (review to come soon). I felt it took me longer to get through and I needed frequent breaks. It is worth reading, and getting through, because book 3 was spectacular and a fantastic way to end the trilogy.

Final thought: This is a great series filled with Norse folklore adventures for young readers, but can be enjoyed by all

Posted in Middle Grade

The Mystery of Hollow Inn

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The Mystery of Hollow Inn, written and narrated by Tara Ellis

Rating: 3.5 stars

Narrator: 3 stars

 

The Mystery of Hollow Inn is one of the many books on my 2016 Books to read list.  This book also satisfies one of my challenge books for the Mount TBR challenge. I am trying to “clean up” my TBR pile, though it seems to be ever growing.

This book was cute, and I feel for the age it is targeted towards, it will be enjoyed by its readers. At a certain point in this book, I was thinking to myself, this sounds awfully familiar….and then I kept laughing to myself thinking “those meddling kids…” Know where I am going with this? Yes…all they needed was this beloved childhood dog:

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By the end, I was literally waiting for the villain to say this. I was a bit sad he didn’t, but I am sure that is copyrighted. The story line is appropriate, it is a quick read/listen. Sam was a smart cookie, and it sounded like she will have great stories to tell her friends after her little vacation.

I want to point out…who in the world would send 2 12 year olds out on their own on a 10 hour bus ride?! Seriously! That is my big qualm with this book. This book felt a bit Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew to me, but I feel like it is supposed to be a more modern take on Nancy Drew. I think it is appropriate with the current times. I also like that both kids talked about the pressure they felt with technology, social media, and texting. Twelve year olds do not really need to be doing all that anyways 😉

Posted in Middle Grade, Uncategorized

The Hidden Oracle

The Hidden Oracle

The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan

Goodreads Rating: 3 stars

Actual Rating: 3.5 Stars

I am normally a HUGE supporter of anything Rick Riordan. This book rubbed me the wrong way on so many levels that I am having a hard time comprehending what I actually read.

I didn’t like how modernized the book was. Not that his other books weren’t modern, I just felt weird with multiple Social Media sites, bands, etc were constantly referenced. I understand that Apollo is a bit self centered (okay more than a bit). I just thought it was too much. To the point of annoying. Feeling this way makes me so sad. I can usually overlook such actions, because it is the character, and I try to have that mindset.

I will continue with the story, but for once, I am saddened that I just was not head over heals for this book 😦

I do think that the age range it is meant for will enjoy it. I believe it has a lot of promise, and by the end of the book, I noticed a change in Apollo’s behaviors and thought processes. My only hope is this continues and that self centered, crap, attitude he has falters and he becomes someone you want to be around. I won’t give away the ending, but I was VERY happy to see it. Much like the new Magnus Chase series, I was happy to see old favorites and meet new loves!

Posted in Middle Grade

Loki’s Wolves

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Goodreads Rating: 3 stars

Actual Rating: 2.8 stars

Rating Breakdown:

  • Originality: 2.5
  • Writing style: 2.5
  • Character Development: 3
  • Plot: 3

Genre based ratings:

  • Middle Grade: 3

 

I had some trouble with this book. As many may know, I am a HUGE fan of Rick Riordan. I have read the Percy Jackson Series (Greek), The Heroes of Olympus series (Greek/Roman), The Kane Chronicles (Egyptian), and have read the first book of Magnus Chase, Riordan’s new Norse Mythology series. I am anxiously waiting for book 2 and the start of his new series, Trials of Apollo. Having said that, lining up Loki’s Wolves with Magnus Chase, I have to admit, Riordan did it better. I think the concept of the Blackwell Pages series is a good one, however, the delivery is where it truly fell short for me. When reading, I could definitely tell it was a Melissa Marr book, and some of her works are hit and miss with me. She has a very distinct writing style that is different and like coffee, an acquired taste. I am hoping as the series continues, that it will pick up and will fall more into place. Also, the Blackwell Pages join the ranks of with killing of likeable characters (but let’s face it, we all saw that coming, it was Balder). I have been meaning to wipe this off of my TBR list for a while, and with the Mount TBR challenge, I finally dove in.

How does this book compare to likes of Riordan’s? It starts with 3 kids, going off to find other kids to join their little group, all champions of certain gods, in order to prevent Ragnarock from happening. By the end of the story, there are about 6 of them” Frey, Freya, Loki (2), Thor, and Balder (ish) and a witch sent by Odin. Cameo appearances from the Norns, Valkyries, and Odin. There are also trolls, wulfenkind, and maras (nightmares). The setting takes place in South Dakota. Throughout the story, I kept comparing it to Magnus Chase, which to be fair, I shouldn’t have. But I also compared it to Riordan in general and his master storytelling. There were some instances in the story that felt forced. A push to make the characters interact or respond a certain way that just did not make sense. Some instances in which it made the main character, Matt, Thor’s champion, seem too trusting and too innocent. Also, there were many instances in which the lack of confidence was TOO much. The inner dialogue lost it’s touch by the middle of the book. Desperate almost. Matt is supposed to beat the Serpent. As a 13 year old kid facing the challenge of saving the world, it is acceptable to feel overwhelmed and nervous. Totally acceptable. I am 30 and I do not think I could handle that kind of responsibility. At some point, you have to put your big kid pants on and get going, not going back and forth with yourself about if your lack of confidence is showing.

Of all the characters in the book, I believe Fen, Loki’s Champion, had the most character growth, even though he still struggles. Fen was on his own for so long, that he finally accepted his little rag tag group was his pack and he belonged. He was a member of the team. And no one judged him from his upbringing. Fen is wulfenkind. Laurie, also a descendant of Loki, is still learning her powers, but is a homing beacon of other descendants. Ray and Reyna (which I have a problem with Reyna being the name of descendant of Freya…seriously…Heroes of Olympus anyone?), Each character had some sort of growth, but Fen had the most. I am hoping desperately that Matt has some growth in later books. He needs it the most.

A major positive with Loki’s Wolves is that it hits the ground running. There was never really a lull in the story. It just started and kept going. I like that there was not a cliffhanger. This is a trilogy, of which all books have been completed. I like not having to wait for books. The overall premise is that this group of 13 years olds are tasked to save the world. Each one a champion of the god they are descendant from. Matt, Fen, and Laurie are tasked to go find the others in order to band together in order to save the world. There were attacks by trolls, attacks by Raiders (group of Viking like wulfenkind), and even maras causing confusion and fear. And of course, there was betrayal and death. Couldn’t have a Norse mythology book that did not involve betrayal and death. I have to admit, I enjoyed the book more towards the end, and my heart was broken for Baldwin (Balder) and Fen. 

 

 

Posted in Children Books

Cupcakes vs Brownies

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Goodreads Rating: 4 stars

Audible Rating:

  • Overall 4 stars
  • Performance 4 stars
  • Story 4 stars

Narrator Rating: 4 stars

 

I was given a copy of this book for free through Audiobookblast.com in exchange for my honest review. I have not been paid for my review. These opinions are my own. 

This book is a Middle Grade adventure of Karim, a young boy, who finds a Djinn’s lamp (the Djinn’s name is Zimmah). Karim wishes for the world to be a happier place, and WHAM! Everything is dessert. EVERYTHING. #Candypunk Though this world should be a happy place, there is a war going on between the Cupcake King and the Brownie Queen. Rewinding a bit, prior to finding the lamp, Karim overheard an argument between his mom and dad. Karim has gluten allergies. His father was supposed to pick up vegan gluten free brownies for his birthday his mom had special ordered, he forgot. So Father went to a different bakery, believed to be gluten free and brought cupcakes, which after mom swatted them out of his hands, engaged in a verbal altercation. Results? Dad asked for a divorce.

The Cupcake King is Karim’s father, but the King does not know Karim in the new setting. The Brownie Queen is Karim’s mother, and again, does not know Karim. Karim races through the story with his dog (turned into a Lion) trying to get Zimmah to turn the world back to normal, and that a world made of treats was not what he meant by Happy World.

Karim learns that his parents will always argue. Always. He learns through this adventure that he can be happy even if they are not together. There are a lot of lessons that Middle Grade kids can learn and take away. The lessons are presented in a fashion that are enjoyable and not in your face about what the issues are.

My only qualm with this story is that the story ended, the lamp was tossed in concrete to be buried, but there is a second book. It is not a traditional cliffhanger, just confusing. I do look forward to reading the next book though!

Posted in Children Books

The One and Only Ivan

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Goodreads Rating: 5 stars

This review contains spoilers. Through the ENTIRE review. I don’t usually do that, however, I cannot explain my rating without telling why.

The One and Only Ivan is such a sweet book. It is a fast read told from the perspective of Ivan, a Silverback that was captured in the wild when he was a young gorilla. He was ultimately brought to a roadside Big Top circus by Mack, the man who bought him when he was captured.

Ivan thinks his life is perfect the way it is, he does the same thing everyday and never really thinks anything about it. One day, a baby elephant named Ruby is brought to the show in order to bring more people in. The older elephant, Stella, immediately takes to Ruby and helps her get adjusted. But one night, Stella dies, leaving Ruby all alone. Ivan made a promise to Stella that Ruby would know better in the world, and not be left in that Big Top like the rest of them.

After Stella’s death, Ivan thinks and thinks of ways that he can get Ruby to a Zoo where she could be taken care of by good people and run with other elephants. Finally, Ivan gets an idea. This idea is sparked through his love of art, and a little girl named Julia (her father cleans the Big Top every night after it closes) provides Ivan with finger paints and teaches him to use it. Ivan sees a commercial for the local zoo and paints a picture on MANY pages of paper. Once it is complete he tries giving it to Julia so she can see it. Julia doesn’t understand, but eventually sees letters that spell out the word HOME. Julia and her father set to figuring out the puzzle and eventually see that Ivan painted a picture of Ruby at the local zoo (logo included) with the word HOME at the bottom. Julia begs her father to put the sign up over the current billboard logo, and he finally relents. The next day lots of people show up at the Big Top to see Ivan and Ruby. There are also protesters outside of the Big Top. Eventually a news crew comes by to take photos of Mack and Ruby, and of Ivan. During an interview with Mack, the cameraman goes around the Big Top and spots the claw-poke that Mack uses to get Ruby to do tricks. You know the one, that circus trainers poke the back of elephants with? The really MEAN device….and this claw-poke gets aired on TV! The next day, an inspector comes to inspect the Big Top. After that, someone comes with a Ruby sized crate, and will click a clicker whenever Ruby touches it and gives Ruby a treat. After that, an Ivan sized crate comes and the same process is repeated. Finally, both boxes arrive. Ivan goes into his box so that Ruby will not be scared. After Ivan goes into his crate, he is sedated. When he comes too he is in an enclosed room with a bunch of people who are taking care of him. Soon, the lady who brought the Ivan sized box comes in and puts a show on TV for him. It is of gorillas. Two females and a juvenile male. He notices there is no silverback to protect them. He watches them. Everyday. Until one day, the woman opens the windows. Ivan looks outside and sees the gorillas he has been watching on tv. The zoo slowly introduces him with the other gorillas. One day while out in his zoo jungle, he goes to the highest peak. Where he can see Ruby playing with the other elephants. Ivan is very happy. Ivan is finally home.

This book made me cry happy tears. The change in Ivan when he accepted that Ruby deserves better than what he has grown up with. Ivan did not remember prior to be captured. He only remembered being at the Big Top. This book was very moving. I found myself entranced, even in the simplicity of the writing. Simplicity is not always a bad thing. There was no need for fluff in this story. Applegate did not need it.

If you want to be moved, I suggest it. Even with the spoilers I provided, I left out a lot. I have never read this particular writing style, but I enjoyed it. I have wanted to read this book for a long time, so I am glad I finally bought the copy to read.