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Book Review: Magic Steps by Tamora Pierce (2nd Read)

Image via Goodreads | 2000 cover

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Series: The Circle Opens, book 1
Rating: 5/5
Recommend to Others?: Yes

 

Summary (via Goodreads):
Lady Sandrilene fa Toren knows all about unusual magic – she herself spins and weaves it like thread. But when she witnessed a boy dancing a spell, even she is confounded. To her dismay, Sandry learns that as the mage who discovered the power of the young dancer, she must be his teacher. Before lessons can begin, however, Sandry and her uncle, Duke Vedris, get news of a mysterious murderer stalking a clan of local merchants. The killer employs the strangest magic of all: the ability to reduce essence to nothingness. As the murders mount and the killer grows bolder, Sandry’s teaching takes on a grave purpose. For it becomes clear to everyone that the killings can only be stopped by the combined workings of two people: the young teacher and her even younger student.

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My Review:
Magic Steps is just as wonderful as I remembered. It had me feeling bittersweet nostalgia and oh-so-happy. A great beginning for fans of Tamora Pierce who didn’t want the Circle of Magic stories to end. But Magic Steps remains a joy to read despite the gruesomeness of the plot.

Seeing Sandry really put to work all she has learned in the past four years was a joy to see. Strong willed and very intelligent, Lady Sandrilene fa Toren (a 14-year-old “stitch witch”) has all the makings of a great mage and leader. She’s so mature that I sometimes forget she’s just 14.

Such a thrilling book with many characters to know and love. There’s Duke Vedris, the ruler of Emelan who commands respects that’s fully earned – I’ve always enjoyed seeing his character in action. Kwaben and Oama, Sandry’s personal guards – I always love seeing kickass, loyal teams. Yazmin, a renowned dancer, who teaches Pasco to dance – she is a spitfire to love.

I like the humor Pasco’s character adds to the story. Here we have someone coming late into his magic – an anomaly in Pierce’s universe – who must quickly learn to control his newfound power and assist in a murder investigation. And he’s 12. That’s a lot for a 12-year-old boy wrap his head around. But I think coming from a family with generations of harriers made some of his actions and reactions pleasantly surprising.

However, I wish Pasco was a bit more in the foreground of the story. We get three different third-person limited points of view – the majority’s Sandry’s – and third person omniscient mixed in. A little jarring here and there for me but the way the story is woven works nonetheless.

There’s so much to love and talk about this story. Awesome universe. Interesting characters. Creative plot. Everything I love about Tamora Pierce’s remarkable stories. This was a fun re-read.

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ARC Book Review: The King’s Champion by Xina Marie Uhl

Thank you to NetGalley and XC Publishing for providing me with an e-ARC to read and review. The King’s Champion by Xina Marie Uhl is expected to be released October 15, 2017.

Image via NetGalley

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Series: The King’s Champion, book 1
Rating: 3/5
Recommend to Others?: Maybe

 

Book Summary (via NetGalley):
The first book in a fantasy series of swords, sorcery, and adventure.

A generation ago, a great war convulsed Cantwin. Amidst blood-soaked battles the Stormlifter kings rose up to save the kingdom by imprisoning the dark god Moleck in hell for all eternity.

Or so they thought.

Seventeen-year-old Lance thinks his life is just about perfect now that the prettiest girl in the village wants him. Sure, he dreams of fighting far off battles, but that’s nothing more than a fantasy. Until the elders order him away to find a name for himself.

In the dazzling capital, Lance navigates court intrigues with Prince Kieran’s unlikely friendship. Yet the glitter and gold obscures a dark conspiracy. Soon the two friends find themselves propelled to the edges of the world on a desperate quest. The stakes: Lance’s life, Kieran’s throne, and the survival of the Land itself.

Hunted by assassins, and haunted by the awakening of a strange and frightful power within them, they must find proof of Kieran’s claim to the throne before a dark god’s vengeance destroys them all. For the Power is summoning a champion, and it will not be denied.

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My Review:
This was an interesting read – okay but not what I expected. The material here is good but could be even better.

We have two great main characters – Lance and Kieran – whose adoring friendship I haven’t seen much of in YA. The story goes by quick, which, unfortunately, forces the friendship/brotherhood – and other events – to develop quickly. Lance and Kieran are very much alike with their upbringing the only stark differentiation. But I don’t feel what we get is enough to truly distinguish them as individuals.

I like the premise and setting but the pacing doesn’t help me become fully engrossed in the story. Things “skipped around” or were “cut out” a lot as if I was reading a condensed version of the story. This often made me think that there had to be more than what I was reading.

I liked that what “magic” we see seems to come from the Land in a kind of one-with-nature feel. But it’s effect leaves several questions for me and, I would have thought, from the characters.

Post-read I’m not 100% sure I will read the next book because it seems like I’d being going into book 2 still very much in the dark. But a part of me wants to read more of Lance and Kieran’s story because I love their friendship. I think the premise of book 2, Trials by Sword, will largely dictate my decision.


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ARC Book Review + Book Release Day: Me, Me, Me by Annika Dunklee, Illustrated by Lori Joy Smith

Thank you to NetGalley and Kids Can Press for providing me with an e-ARC to read and review.
Happy Book Released Day to Me, Me, Me by Annika Dunklee!
Note: I received an e-ARC before the publication date

Image via NetGalley | Published September 5, 2017 by Kids Can Press

Genre: Picture Book, Children’s Fiction
Rating: 3.5/5 (NetGalley rating was a 4)
Recommend to Others?: Yes

 

Book Summary (via NetGalley):
When best friends Annie, Lillemor and Lilianne learn their school will be having a talent show, Annie says they should enter as an all-girl singing group. Her friends are all in — until Annie tries to force everyone to go along with her choice of song, costumes, band name and lead singer. When Lillemor and Liliane tell Annie they’ve had enough of her “me, me, me” attitude, the band splits up, with Annie intent on performing solo. But it doesn’t take long for her to realize it’s just not the same without her friends. Can Annie find a way to make things right before it’s too late? Annika Dunklee’s trio of multicultural friends will charm and delight young children with their true-to-life relationships and spot-on dialogue, while Lori Joy Smith’s irresistible art brings a playful humor to the girls and their enthusiasm. Annie, the lovable, perfectly imperfect girl, will have readers rooting for her as she struggles to find her way to doing the right thing. With its positive, non-preachy approach, this book could easily spark conversations about friendships and dealing with hurt feelings. With select words in French and Swedish included in the story (with translations) as well as other details sprinkled throughout that illustrate the girls’ different backgrounds, this makes a terrific title for exploring other cultures in social studies classes. And the intriguing idea of a talent show shines a light on the performing arts and creativity within a school setting.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My Review: [* slightly edited *]
While I wasn’t surprised by what happened, I did enjoy reading this book. Me, Me, Me is a lovely mixture of art, dialogue and language. It exposes kids to other languages – French and Swedish – and includes translations that are clearly indicated out of the way on the page. The only thing I had trouble with was telling who was who. You know who Annie is but which girl is Lillemor and which girl is Lilianne?

Annika Dunklee touches upon things all kids need to learn. That it is important to include, not exclude. You should be open and listen to all other’s ideas. Friends don’t boss each other around. That you should treat others the way you’d want to be treated. The illustrations by Lori Joy Smith are so cute and really suited the story and characters.

Playful but serious, I would recommend this book as a fun story to read to kids but also as a teaching tool on friendship.


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ARC Book Review: Blood Guard by Megan Erickson

Thank you to NetGalley and Loveswept for providing me with an e-ARC to read and review. Blood Guard by Megan Erickson is set to be released September 12, 2017.

Image via NetGalley

Genre: Paranormal Romance
Series: A Mission Novel, book 1
Rating: 4/5
Recommend to Others?: Yes

 

Book Summary (via NetGalley):
Enter a world of immortal danger and desire—and discover an incredible fate borne of blood.

Tendra: One minute, I’m a bartender in gritty Mission City; the next, I’m whisked away by a vampire named Athan who tells me that I’m the lifeblood of his clan. It sounds unbelievable, but he’s got evidence I can’t deny. Turns out, Athan belongs to an underground society of vampires who feed only on humans with their consent. Their enemies have no such qualms, and they want me dead. The only thing standing in their way is strong, sexy Athan. And the closer we get, the more tempted I am to let Athan feed. . . .

Athan: How could I have known when I snatched this snarky, beautiful human off the streets that she would change my destiny? As a loyal soldier, I must deliver Tendra to our future king—my brother. Empowered with the blood of ten generations of the Gregorie breed, she is fated to rule as our queen. But there’s something between us that’s so intoxicating, so carnal, I can’t help wanting Tendra for myself . . . even if it’s treason.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My Review:
Warning: This book contains explicit romantic scenes and language. For mature readers only. Reader discretion advised.

Blood Guard by Megan Erickson is a new series involving vampires that I immediately fell in love with.

I’ll read anything about vampires as long as the plot and makeup of the vampires is different and unique. Blood Guard does a good job setting itself apart. I was intrigued by the concept the author developed and I think it was executed well.

Tendra is a protagonist to love. She’s bold and brave but knows her weaknesses. She has a great sense of humor and I love it when she makes references that Athan doesn’t understand – it’s adorable. I like her not-going-down-without-a-fight attitude.

Athan I really liked though there where times I had mixed feelings about his character and wasn’t quite sure why. He’s clearly a natural born leader. His path in life has always been focused on his duty as blood guard to the Gregorie Sanguivtia (Tendra). Yet sometimes his interactions with others wasn’t always consistent with what I believed his character to be. He has a dynamic personality but I couldn’t help but wonder at times “Is this the same guy you’re initially led to be believe?” But towards the end everything began to make sense. His emotions are so pure and raw; he is without a doubt a very likable and loveable character.

Themes of loyalty, duty, and self-sacrificing for the sake/good of others are heavily woven in this book. Each compliments the other and what Tendra and Athan go through, creating much tension and conflict that I liked.

I was worried that the majority of the book would be spent going from Point A to Point B. So happy that wasn’t the case but we could have gotten to Point B much sooner. There was also one moment a little more than halfway through that made me hesitate. I’m glad with what the author decided to create in that moment. It took me a moment to get used to this new idea presented. But once I did, I was all on board and really liked how it played out. I think it will provide great action and plot in the next book.

And then there’s Brex, Tendra’s cat. I loved him the most. He was so adorable and every scene he was in was just too cute for words.

Blood Guard was perhaps too short for me but still enjoyable. I’m very much invested in this story and am definitely going to be reading book 2, Blood Veil.


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2017 Reading Challenge COMPLETED!!!

I finally finished my 2017 Reading Challenge on Goodreads! My goal was to read 30 books this year and I managed – miraculously – to accomplish that goal. To celebrate I thought I’d look back on some of the books I read as a part of this challenge, including post-read thoughts and highlights from the reviews I wrote. Note: title links lead to my review of each individual book.

 

The Battle of Hackham Heath by John Flanagan

Fate of Flames by Sarah Raughley

Dead Heat by Patricia Briggs

Dawn Study by Maria V. Snyder

Image via Goodreads

A book finale I won’t soon forget. I gave this book a 4 out of 5 but it still makes me smile with happiness and sadness to this day – so is the way of a story come full circle.

Review Excerpt: “The storyline was amazing and suspenseful. I thought, Holy guacamole! That just happened. and Oh no! and What in the world?! and Please tell me there’s a way out of this. I had no idea what would happen next or how characters would overcome, which made me feel fearful for everyone involved. The strain of it was exhausting but I enjoyed every minute of it. It was an entertaining story.”

Frost Like Night by Sara Raasch

Image via Goodreads

Goodness, this whole series was a lot to take in but so worth it. I enjoyed each book and it all culminated into a wonderful finale. Snow Like Ashes series is now one of my new favorite YA Fantasy series

Review Excerpt: “A long read but worth it. I’m very satisfied with how everything came together as the conclusion of this series.”

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

A Promise of Fire by Amanda Bouchet

Image via Goodreads

I remember needing a book to read for something but I couldn’t use this one. I still kept the title written down to read later because the plot interested me and the cover was just gorgeous. I was so glad my local library had a copy. This book was amazing – as was book 2 – and I cannot wait to read book 3, Heart on Fire, when it’s released in early 2018.

Review Excerpt:A Promise of Fire was really good. I couldn’t put it down and finished reading it within a couple of days. It’s been a long time since I’ve read a 400+ book so fast and laughed so much.”

Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

Zodiac by Romina Russell

Image via Goodreads

I am so happy to have discovered this book because I am in love with this series. It’s so good and different and everything I love about YA sci-fi and fantasy. Rho is such aThe fourth and final book of the Zodiac series just came out and I can’t wait to read it.

Review Excerpt:Zodiac has been one of the best YA books I’ve read in a long time. This book was amazing – I loved it so much. I had only read a few chapters before I decided that I had to read the other books in this series.There are so many twists and turns that’ll keep you guessing and enthralled for the entirety of the story.”

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

Wandering Star by Romina Russell

Breath of Fire by Amanda Bouchet

From This Moment On by Lynn Kurland

Image via Barnes & Noble

I remember adding this to my reading list this year because the book I had read before it was just….ugh. I needed a pick me up and a Lynn Kurland romance novel was just what I needed. I would read this book a third time, it was that good.

Review Excerpt: “This is my second time reading this book and it was just as good and sweet and lovely as I remembered.”

Black Moon by Romina Russell

Linger by Maggie Stiefvater

Poison Princess by Kresley Cole

Paintbrush by Hannah Bucchin (ARC review)

Image via NetGalley

This was the first ARC I’ve ever read and reviewed and also the first book I read and reviewed for NetGalley. It was so good and refreshing to read. Loved it and the strong sense of community it highlights. I also did an interview with the author, which was really cool.

Review Excerpt: “Hannah Bucchin’s debut novel, Paintbrush, was a delightful story that had me falling in love with the characters, on the edge of my seat with its plot, and feel all the feels with its touch of romance. This was a big win for me. And I look forward to reading more from her.”

Yak and Dove by Kyo Maclear, Pictures by Esmé Shapiro (ARC review)

A Pattern for Pepper by Julie Kraulis (ARC review)

Prophecy Awakened by Tamar Sloan (NetGalley review)

Image via NetGalley

I really really want to read book 2 because this book was so amazing. I love werewolves in fiction so this was just right for me.

Review Excerpt: “This book was everything and then some – perfect for a paranormal romance-loving, wolf-obsessed, hopeless romantic like myself! One of my new favorite books ever and of 2017.”

Ever My Love by Lynn Kurland

Waiting for Sophie by Sarah Ellis, Illustrated by Carmen Mok (NetGalley review)

The Hunters by John Flanagan

All Things New by Lauren Miller (ARC review)

Image via NetGalley

I’m so glad I got to read this book! It’s just…everything you want from a book and does a great job expressing what mental health issues look and feel like.

Review Excerpt: “Beautiful, poignant, and honestly portrayed, All Things New is an enchanting story that gives hope for a brighter today and an even brighter tomorrow. I underestimated how good All Things New would be – it was unbelievably fantastic!”

Mustaches for Maddie by Chad Morris and Shelly Brown (ARC review)

Image via NetGalley

I am still reeling over how amazing this book was. I highly recommend this wonderful middle grade novel based on a true story.

Review Excerpt: “Maddie’s voice is clear, distinct, and her personality shines through every line. Her active imagination colors every word and phrase, making the reading experience extremely enjoyable. Her perspective on life made me think about my own, especially when I was her age. I felt included in her world. Maddie is a sweet, admirable individual who anyone would feel lucky to have as a friend.”

Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley

Once and for All by Sarah Dessen

Image via Goodreads

This was the first book by Sarah Dessen I ever read and oh my goodness it was good. Any recommendations which other books by Dessen I should read?

Review Excerpt: “This novel really pulls at the heart-strings, especially with what incites the conflict and every obstacle that follows. What made me pick up this book was that it involved wedding planning and the premise seemed really interesting. Those two things combined surely would make a great story, right? It did. Also, let’s not forget that the cover is simple but gorgeous.”

Blood Guard by Megan Erickson (ARC review COMING SOON)

Me, Me, Me by Annika Dunklee, Illustrated by Lori Joy Smith (ARC review COMING SOON)


Thanks for reading today’s post! I hope you enjoyed it. More reviews are to come within the next four months.

My Fall 2017 TBR List is up – check out what books I’ll be reading. I update my Currently Reading page and Goodreads regularly when changes in books occur. I’m still reading Slaves of Socorro by John Flanagan and The King’s Champion by Xina Marie Uhl (ARC), but I hope to finish those really soon.

You can also follow me on Twitter for updates on my reading list and about the blog.

As always, happy reading!


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ARC Book Review: Mustaches for Maddie by Chad Morris & Shelly Brown

Thank you to NetGalley and Shadow Mountain Publishing for providing me with an e-ARC to read and review.
Save the date!
Mustaches for Maddie is set to be released October 3, 2017.

 

Image via NetGalley | Published by Shadow Mountain Publishing

Genre: Middle Grade
Rating: 5/5
Recommend to Others?: Yes

 

Book Summary (via Goodreads):

Maddie is a normal twelve-year-old girl. Well, except for the fake mustaches she carries in her pocket. She likes to make people laugh and slapping on a mustache, especially a fuzzy pink or neon green one, always gets a smile. Maddie hopes that the class queen, Cassie, will find her mustaches as funny as she does and want to play with her at recess. She’s been self-conscious lately because her right arm only feels normal when it’s curled against her chest and she’s constantly tripping over her feet. But that’s probably just part of growing up and not something weird, right?

When Maddie’s arm continues to bother her, her parents take her to a doctor who gives them a shocking diagnosis: the cause of the abnormal behavior of her limbs is a brain tumor and she must have surgery to remove it. She’s understandably afraid as he describes the procedure, but knows she must find a way to be brave and must face her fears–all of them–at the hospital, at home and at school.

She will need all of her courage not only to face her illness, but also to face Cassie at school. Both Cassie and Maddie are auditioning for the same role in the school play, but when Cassie accuses Maddie of lying about her tumor in order to get attention, Cassie’s bossiness turns into bullying.

And as Maddie’s surgery approaches, she begins to worry more and more about the outcome. What if something goes wrong? What if the doctors don’t get all the tumor out of her brain? What will happen to her family? What will happen to her?

It will take all of Maddie’s vibrant imagination, a lot of kindness-both given and received-and of course, the perfect mustache to overcome the tough stuff ahead of her.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My Review:
Mustaches for Maddie is everything: charming, imaginative, funny, beautiful, heartwarming. Based on a true story about the authors’ daughter, Maddie, this novel will give you strength in your darkest times and prove that mustaches make everything better and funnier.

I loved this novel from the start. Maddie is innocent, bright, kind, and has a wild imagination. She wants to be friends with everyone and make people happy, even the most popular girl in her grade who’s not exactly the friendliest. When it’s discovered that Maddie has a brain tumor, she struggles to find strength to overcome this scary monster. It may take more than mustaches to pull through.

Maddie’s voice is clear, distinct, and her personality shines through every line. Her active imagination colors every word and phrase, making the reading experience extremely enjoyable. Her perspective on life made me think about my own, especially when I was her age. I felt included in her world. Maddie is a sweet, admirable individual who anyone would feel lucky to have as a friend.

This story is the perfect middle grade novel that should be included in school curriculum. Not to over-analyze but to teach kids how we should treat each other and to understand that everyone has struggles we may be too afraid to face on our own. And, of course, that mustaches are awesome. I like that there are discussion questions included at the end to help extend and guide the important discussions this novel brings up.

Mustaches for Maddie gets a golden mustache from me. Loved it and need to add this to my bookshelf. One of the best books of 2017 so far, one of my favorite books of 2017 and of all time, and my favorite middle grade novel. This novel is a must-read.


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Blog Milestone: My 200th Post! + Book Review Blitz

This is unbelievable as I just celebrated my 100th post back in February of this year! It’s crazy to think that I’ve done another hundred posts within five months.

Thank you, all, for stopping by my blog and reading my posts and all them other good stuff. Please enjoy another short series of book reviews in celebration of this milestone. Title links lead to a Goodreads summary of each book.


Image via Goodreads

Deadly Little Secret by Laurie Faria Stolarz

Touch, book 1 | Published by: Hyperion | (First) Released: December 8, 2008

Young Adult Fantasy

This five-book series is really good. It’s been a long time since I read it but it’s still one of my favorites. The set-up of the first book you may find familiar – curious girl and mysterious bad boy rumored to have committed murder – but there’s more to it than what the summary provides. There’s more to our main character, Camelia, than you or she realize. All I’ll say is, Camelia has a uncanny talent for art. There’s a lot of suspense in each book – all of which builds upon each other – and the tension will have you on the edge of your seat. Not to mention all the covers are simply beautiful.

 


Image via Goodreads | Cover Reprint November 15, 2006 by Scholastic

Magic Steps by Tamora Pierce

The Circle Opens, book 1 | Published by: Scholastic Press | (First) Released: March 1, 2000

Young Adult Fantasy

It would not be a book review blitz without mentioning a book by Tamora Pierce. Magic Steps is the first book of the The Circle Opens quartet which takes places a few years later after the Circle of Magic quartet. Our four main characters – Sandry, Tris, Daja, and Briar – are now (I believe) teenagers and off on their own. This book focuses on Sandry and it’s my favorite of The Circle Opens books. She happens upon a boy, Pasco, performing unusual magic as he routinely dances a ritual to help the fishermen bring in a bountiful catch. Because she is the one who discovered this clearly untrained mage, she must be the one to teach him – as the rules dictate. But soon they must work together to discover who is killing a clan of merchants in Emelan. Sandry has grown and matured so much and is really coming into her own person. Her thread magic develops and strengthens in a cool way in this book. Despite a few gruesome parts, it’s a really enjoyable story.


Image via Goodreads

Another Chance To Dream by Lynn Kurland

de Piaget, book 1 | Published by: Berkley Publishing | Released: December 1, 1998

Historical Romance, Fiction

Ah, the book that (chronologically) began the wonderful de Piaget series. Rhys de Piaget must earn money, title, and land in order to be with his love, Gwen, who is betrothed to another. Like all of Lynn Kurland’s books, Another Chance To Dream is a very sweet and romantic tale. Rhys and Gwen are such lovely characters and the plot is really good. In publication or chronological order, this book can be seen as an origin story of the de Piaget series but not so far back in time as there’s a book centered on each of Rhys and Gwen’s children when they’re older.

 


If you’re new to The Bookshelf Corner and want to learn more about it, check out the About Me page. You can also follow me on Goodreads to keep up to date on the books I’m reading, as well as by checking out the side bar on the blog or the Currently Reading page. TBC is also on Twitter @bookshelfcorner.

As always, happy reading and happy writing!