Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Zaria Fierce and the Secret of Gloomwood Forest by Keira Gillett

25091986Author: Keira Gillett 
Format: eBook 
Publisher: Keira Gillett 
Number of Pages: 224 
Date Published: March 6 2015

Source:  In exchange for an honest review, an ebook was provided by the author for free. 

Opening Line: 

"A timid thing was Zaria Fierce.  The antithesis of her last name, the young girl was shy, quiet, and self-contained.  She kept to her own company most of the time, as she and her family often moved due to her adoptive father's military career.  Because of his new post, the family was stationed in Norway."  

 The Secret of the Gloomwood Forest begins on Zaria's  birthday, while she is running across a bridge to catch up to her friend Christoffer.   Zaria stumbles upon Olaf, the river's guardian, who threatens to eat her.  Drawing from her knowledge of fairy-tales (The Three Billy Goats Gruff), Zaria attempts to dissuade him and makes a bargain to bring him a feast within three days in exchange for him letting her pass.   When Zaria tries to tell her family and friends about her encounter with a troll, they laugh it off as one of her "stories" and she quickly forgets the promise she made.  However, it doesn't bode well for Zaria to trick a river troll,  Olaf did warn her that there would be consequences if she didn't keep her promise, and he always collects his fee.  When Zaria's friend Christoffer  ends up missing, Olaf agrees to make a new bargain, in exchange for her bringing him the hart of gloomwood forest, he will release her friend.  So, Zaria agrees to his terms and begins a quest with three of her friends to try and retrieve the hart for him.     

Very quickly I was able to relate to Zaria, having been an Army brat  and moving just about every four years growing up.  I'm sure most people would've thought I was shy back then too.  Like Zaria, I  spent lots of time reading and dreaming up adventures.    I especially enjoy that Zaria  doesn't stay this shy and quiet girl, and begins to develop confidence in herself, offering her opinion, fighting off wolf attacks and  develops stronger friendships with Geirr, Filip and Aleks.   Zaria and her friends journey through the forests of Norway, visiting various magical kingdoms, like the underground cavern of Trolgar, Alheim, Jotunhem, and even the high court of the dwarves.  Along the way they encounter trolls, elves, wolves and a winter-wyvern.  The story is a mix of modern day Norway with fantasy/magical kingdoms.  You get the flavor of the country, and  Gillett even throws in a Welsh word like "bussed," which after a quick search I learned means kiss, as in "he bussed his wife on the cheek."  What really makes the story come to life are the illustrations by Eoghan Kerrigan, which are gorgeous, just look at the one of the troll on the cover with Zaria, or checkout the link.  Overall this was a wonderful fantasy/adventure story, I loved the setting, and that the action begins from the get go, there were a few places were closer editing might have picked up some small grammar errors, but hey I'm not the best at this myself, and it didn't detract from my overall enjoyment of the story.   I'm looking forward to continue with Zaria Fierce and the Enchanted Drakeland Sword next.       

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday with Ten Book Resolutions

Top Ten Tuesday is a Meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish  This week's Top Ten Tuesday is a Freebie, or pick whatever topic you want.  I decided that I would come up with some book resolutions.

Some of these stem from my reading for the Cybils.  I always enjoy how it introduces me to new release or self published authors, diverse books and genres that I might not have otherwise seen before.   So in no particular order... here are my resolutions.....

1.  To read more diverse books-I have Kwame Alexander's Booked on my list, but I also want to check out WeNeedDiverseBooks  for some more recommendations.

2.  To read more classics-Last year I read about eleven classics adding Trixie Belden, Mary Poppins Comes Back, Hatchet, To Kill a Mockingbird etc.  This year I hope to read about the same amount. 

3.  To read at least 100 books this year- Yeah, that's what I put down for my Goodreads goal.  It's about 20 books less than usual, but I've gotten off to a slow start this year, so yeah that's a nice round number for me.  

4.  Finish some of the books that I own- I've got books stacked up on my bedside, in a basket, looking at me each day.  I really need to not buy anymore books until I get some of the one's I've purchased read.  But I own them, so I usually get to them when I get to them.  I will try to finish at least one of them.  

5.  Read more YA- Now that the kiddo is growing out of middle grade, I want to read some fantasy and realistic YA that I don't normally get a chance to read.  I'm setting a goal of reading at least two, but hopefully more than that.   I did just say that I plan to read Dumplin and Truthwitch, so I defiantly have ideas.  

6.  To weed my Goodreads TBR list down to about 300- This seems reasonable, but I may need to adjust it some.  Truthfully it doesn't completely bother me, but there are a few books that I don't think that I will ever get to, so they can probably be taken off the list now.  

7.  To read more science fiction- Really anything sci-fi would be nice.  I used to read more when I was younger, but somehow haven't read much in quite awhile.  

8.  To read at least one non-fiction book this year-This one will be much harder, but I think if I stick to middle grade I might be able to find a few that I will enjoy.  I had one in mind about some boys during WWII (I think) but for the life of me can't remember the title.  I'm going to explore this further for sure. 

 9&10.  To finally read the Illustrated edition of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.  (I used to re-read these books each year, but for the past two years I just haven't gotten to it).   And to draw in my Harry Potter Colouring Book 


So what did you choose for your freebie this week?  Feel free to comment or add the link to your Top Ten Tuesday.  

Monday, January 25, 2016

Blog Tour: Andy Smithson Vision of the Griffin's Heart by L.R.W. Lee

28260101 Andy Smithson Vision of the Giffin's Heart
 by L.R.W. Lee
Published: January 13th 2016 by Woodgate Publishing

Genres: MG Fantasy 
Pages: 218 pages
Format: Ebook
Source:  In exchange for an honest review, an ebook was provided by the author for free. 


Andy has once again returned to Texas, but things have not been quiet since he left Oomaldee.  King Abbadon has been relentless in sending his minions to attack Andy and his family in Texas, and they've barely been able to escape.  Things have been very stressful at home, and being away for over a year has been very difficult on Andy.  He is very eager for news from his friends Alden and Yara, but especially from Yara since they've been growing closer.  And the end of book 4, Imogenia hinted that there is a chance that Andy's sword, Methuselah, may not be able to kill Abbadon as he once thought.  Andy is anxious to receive his next clue, return to Oomaldee and get himself one step closer to defeating Abbadon,  But, since he has been gone, more and more of the citizens of Oomaldee have been turned into Zolt's, making it more difficult to determine the good guys from the bad.  Plus, his next task is to collect the claw of a griffin which will be more challenging then he even knows. Griffin's have not historically trusted humans and getting one of them to give up his claw might be more than Andy bargained for.  

My Thoughts-

Each time I read one of L.R.W. Lee's Andy Smithson books, I keep thinking to myself this is the best one yet, and Vision of the Griffin's Heart is one that I thoroughly enjoyed reading. As I've said in previous reviews, I like the way that Andy is aging and maturing across the series. He is slowly learning that he can't control everything in the way that he wishes and that growing up is difficult, but necessary for him to be a good king. I've always enjoyed how the Andy Smithson series also incorporates "life values" or principles in a way that doesn't feel heavy handed, while telling a wonderful adventure/fantasy story.  Lee is quite a creative writer, tying in other famous literary texts into her stories.  In the Griffin's heart she uses the theme of courage in the form of Andy's next clue, with a special nod to The Wizard of Oz.  

“The start of the story let me remind, Each one had need and sought to find, The scarecrow a brain, the tinman a heart, But the lion, what did he seek for his part? Level thinking is yours, when removed from your fear. Compassion and love fill you plenty, be clear. But the tempest of doubt doth toss you about, When you set your eyes on the terror without. Shift now your gaze to the power you hold. Look not to your sword for deliverance, but be bold. Resolve in your mind, trust in your heart, And find courage within, already a part. Ne’er alone in the fight, with your fellows unite, To bring low the enemy, his might to smite.” 

 Andy faces many challenges in the Griffin's Heart, in previous stories he usually relies on his friends Alden, Yara and Hannah, this time his mother comes along on their quest providing assistance as only a mother and Queen can.  I enjoyed how she was there to provide guidance, but at the same time she gives Andy some space to make his own decisions.  She helps him understand that learning isn't easy and that he needs to determine what is necessary. Yet, Andy is also helping her come to terms with him growing up and that once the curse keeping her immortal is broken, she may loose him forever.   A very tough position for Andy to be in, which is why I like the presence of his inneru, which for some reason he is now taking to calling "MiniMe." Andy's inneru is his conscience offering advice while also helping him to see that he isn't playing a game with Abbadon, the stakes are high and that he must have courage. While the story ends on a cliff hanger, I will still be eagerly awaiting the release of Book Six.  In the mean time feel free to check out my thoughts on her other books here:  Book 1: Andy Smithson Blast of the Dragons Fury, Book 2: Venom of the Serpent's Cunning Book 3: Disgrace of the Unicorn's Horn and  Resurrection of the Phoneix's Grace .  

Favorite line: “If I know I’m afraid, I have the choice to either let it rule me or I can face it. I may still be scared, but I can fight it.” 

                       L.R.W. Lee On THE DEPTH OF THE ANDY SMITHSON SERIES

 If you’re an adult looking for a clean series you can sink your teeth into, Andy Smithson is definitely it! In it I develop four layers simultaneously: 1) Andy Smithson in Lakehills, TX 2) Andy in Oomaldee 3) the Afterlife 4) a meaning layer. 

A few examples to demonstrate the depth… Symbolism is used extensively (a couple examples):

*   The fog of the curse symbolizes blindness and oppression. 
*   The magic key unlocks doors, brings stone statues to life, as well as revives. Put another way, it symbolizes bringing forth, opening up, and revealing (aka taking responsibility).
*   Methuselah is not only a weapon and helper, but also represents justice as it divides good and evil. Consistent with life, justice requires diligence to uphold.

 Names are also important in this series (a few examples):

*   Andy means brave or courageous. 
*   Alden means helper.
*   Hannah means favor or grace. 
*   Imogenia means blameless. 

Alchemy used throughout the series (a few examples): 

*  Alchemy played a significant role in the development of modern science. Alchemists sought to transform base metals into the gold or silver and/or develop an elixir of life which would confer youth and longevity and even immortality. 
*   In the series, the first instance of alchemy begins with the gold weavers, Max, Oscar, and Henry, spinning straw into gold to manufacture the wealth of the kingdom.
*  The four elementals: air, earth, fire, and water are then seen on Methuselah’s hilt. 

The titles of the books manifest yet another layer of meaning and reveal Imogenia’s evolution.

*  Beginning with Blast of the Dragon’s Fury, Imogenia is furious at what has happened to her and she fuels her emotional hurt.
*  In Venom of the Serpent’s Cunning, Imogenia turns venomous (or spiteful) and cunning in seeking ways to continually punish her brother. 
*  Disgrace of the Unicorn’s Honor has Imogenia act in a manner disgraceful to the honor of royalty.
*  In Resurrection of the Phoenix’s Grace we see Imogenia’s grace reborn as she begins to reflect.
*  In Vision of the Griffin’s Heart, Imogenia realizes she is gripped by hatred and distrust she has harbored for so long. Unlike griffins who choose to trust others, Imogenia cannot yet make that leap when it comes to her brother.


 L. R. W. Lee credits her love of fantasy with her introduction to C. S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia. Later on, she enjoyed the complex world of Middle Earth brought to life by J. R. R. Tolkien in Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. The multiple dimensions of the worlds mixed with a layer of meaning, captivated her and made her desire to invent Young Adult Fantasy and Epic Fantasy worlds others could get lost in, but also take meaning away from. More recently, L. R. W. Lee has found inspiration from J. K. Rowling and her Harry Potter series as well as Brandon Mull and his best selling Fablehaven, Beyonders and Five Kingdoms series. L. R. W. Lee writes to teach her readers principles that can transform their lives – overcoming frustration, impatience, fear and more. She also shows why responsibility, diligence and dignity are the keys to true success in life. She lives in scenic Austin, TX with her husband. Their daughter is a Computer Engineer for Microsoft and their son serves in the Air Force.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Top Ten Books I've Recently Added To My TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is a Meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish  This week's Top Ten Tuesday is Top Ten Books I've Recently Added to my TBR, in no particular order


1.  Finding Perfect by Elly Swartz
The story centers on a girl named Molly who really wants to win a slam poetry contest.  What really piqued my interest is that Molly has OCD.   
2.  Gertie's Leap to Greatness  by Kate Beasley   Gertie is said to be "The new Ramona Quimby."  Okay, for that alone I added it to the TBR.  

21424669272064323. Crown of Three: The Lost Realm by 
J.D. Rinehart  This is the second book in the series.  The first foretold of a prophecy, has some intrigue and some good fight scene's.  Here's a link to my review for the first book.  

4.  Counting Thyme by Melanie Conklin
22453777I first heard of this at The Hiding Spot  where the author was doing a preorder campaign and donating proceeds of each sale to Cookies for Kids Cancer.  This sounds like a very memorable, heartwarming story.  

257856745.  This year for the Cybils, I had the opportunity to read a genre that I often don't read much from, science fiction (with titles like MiNRS, Mars Evacuees and Masterminds).  Bounders by Monica Tesler seemed to have an interesting premise and fit in nicely with the one's that I've read recently.    

6.  Hour of The Bees by Lindsay Eagar
I think I saw this on a Twitter post.  A girl and her grandpa, storytelling, dementia.  Why am I drawn to these realistic fiction books so?

510707.  The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, aged 13 3/4 by Sue Townsend Not sure where I found this one, but I was intrigued by the title, premise and it seemed like it would be a funny read.  One to explore further.  

8.  The Classy Crooks Club by Alison Cherry
I found this one on a giveaway from Goodreads.  What a cute cover and  there are grandmother's who instead of playing bridge, have a "heist club." 

21414439250945699.  Fridays with the Wizards by Jessica Day George
It's Jessica Day George and Castle Glower, yep need to continue this series.

10. Truthwitch by Susan Dennard
I saw this one on a bunch of Top ten lists, so call me curious.  

And one more I added by Becky Albertalli , which doesn't have a title yet, but is "a loose companion to Simon, starring the friends and family Abby left behind in D.C."  

So, what books did you add to your TBR list recently?  Feel free to comment and add links to your Top ten list.  

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Classic MG Read-a-long: Mary Poppins Comes Back by P.L. Travers

Cover of Mary Poppins Comes BackI first read Mary Poppins in 2010 for a Children's Book group on Goodreads.  I remember being pretty excited about reading it for the first time.  I've always loved watching the movie when I was a child, maybe it's because I enjoy musicals or just that Dick Van Dyke does such a wonderful job of imitating a penguin. But, reading Mary Poppins was a whole different experience.  Mary Poppins was much more stern then I expected and at times the children seemed to be scared of her, but also intrigued.  The movie will always be my favorite.  Here's a link to my original review

To prepare for the read a-long with The Midnight Garden, I decided to try out the second book in the series, Mary Comes Back on audiobook read by Sophie Thompson.   I really wanted to see if reading the
 second book would bring the charm that I so much enjoyed about Mary Poppins from the movie to light, without having the reference of a movie to compare it to.

Sometime has passed since Mary Poppins has been at Number Seventeen Cherry-Tree Lane, and things at the Banks house are in total disarray.  "Nothing ever goes right--hasn't for ages! Shaving water to hot and coffee too cold."  The children have been through three governesses  and now that there is the addition of twins John and Barbara,  Mrs. Banks is at her wits end.  Trying for some peace, she sends them all out to the park to play.  While there, they are pleasantly surprised when Mary Poppins comes back being pulled on the end of Michael's kite string.   With no explanation or apologies, she once again takes over the care of the Bank's children. 

While reading Mary Poppins Comes Back, I think I've finally realized what it is the children adore about her.  Mary brings spontaneityadventure and excitement to their day, there was a whole chapter where the children were bored and fighting, and Mary takes charge and gives them such fun adventures.  She takes them on trips to visit Mr. Turvy and his bride Miss Topsy, tells them stories about a King of the Castle and the Dirty Rascal and even takes them to a circus in the stars.  Maybe they respect her firmness and calm that she brings to their family while she is there.   I can't say that Mary Poppins became more agreeable or pleasant, in fact she even seemed somewhat more conceded then I'd recalled, she spends a lot of time looking at her image in the mirror then I remembered from the first book.  I guess that it intrigues me that she comes off as so stern, while at the same time being magical, dancing in the circus and sharing wonderful adventures with the children.  Maybe "A Spoon Full of Sugar" is still dancing in my head and I'm still seeing Julie Andrews too.  Oh well, it still makes me want to read one of the next stories though.  


Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Top Ten 2015 Releases I Meant To Get To But Didn't

Top Ten Tuesday is a Meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish  This week's Top Ten Tuesday is Top Ten 2015 Releases I Meant to Get To But Didn't, in no particular order


1 and 2 are a few that I  really did mean to read, but their release date's ended up being during my Cybil's reading.  The Sword of Summer By Rick Riordan

and Neverseen by Shannon Messenger

20734011220244883.  I purchased A Night Divided  because I really enjoy Nielsen's work, so I really want to get back to reading this.  

4.  I won Rules for Stealing Stars in a giveaway and it sounds really good.  

24951698185006895&6.  I adore the covers of A Sliver of Stardust and The Wrinkled Crown, every time I see those covers, I really want to pick them up and read.  

23607981186297307.  The Secret Files of Fairday Morrow I've been following their Monday Riddles on their blog for quite a long time and have been meaning to read their book too. 
8.   I read The Map to Everywhere, but City of Thirst snuck in under my radar somehow.  

9&10 are Two YA's from 2015, with one I've started, and another that I would really like to read.............


What books were on your list for 2015 that you may have missed?  I'd love to hear your comments or feel free to post the link to your Top Ten list.  

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Getting Back into the Swing of Things

It's been a busy few months what with reading for the Cybils (120 of the 151 books nominated), holidays and getting the house back in order. 

But now, I finally feel like I'm ready to get back into blogging, which I really have missed.  It was fun to look at everyone's best of 2015 lists and looking toward 2016 posts though.    Hope your holidays were enjoyable and filled with happy times with family and friends!  

So there were a few books I read that didn't get nominated for the Cybils, but I really enjoyed reading.  They're worth a look if you've got the time. Links to Goodreads and my review.    

22639675Link to Goodreads  

This is about a family that moves from L.A to a farm they inherited from a great-uncle.  Sophie begins to see signs of chicken's around the henhouse and starts to learn more about how to care and feed them.  But, these are no ordinary chickens, they have superpowers.  Unusual Chickens is wonderfully illustrated, funny and just down right cute. 

"Told in letters to Sophie’s abuela, quizzes, a chicken-care correspondence course, to-do lists, and more, Unusual Chickens is a quirky, clucky classic in the making."

Link to Goodreads

Nory wants to enroll in her father's magic academy, but she's been having difficulty in controlling her magic.  Having to pass a test of her shape-shifting abilities, proves to difficult and now she has to go to a public school with other kids who have "wonky magic".

Upside Down Magic has a lovely elementary school appeal and  enjoyed the novel way that diversity and acceptance of others was addressed.  

22400478My Review

Cupid and the Grim Reaper switch job roles over a shared kiss, with some interesting results.  

So, those are a few of the books that I really enjoyed, although there are more.  Plus there are so many more 2015 books that I have yet to read. Like Magnus Chase, why weren't you nominated for the Cybils so I could have read you earlier?  Could be because you were released toward the end of the nominating period and people didn't get a chance to read you yet. I'm coming for you. 

But, now onto 2016 books that I'm looking forward to..

2515264123300078 About a boy who attends an Academy with four hundred and seventy-five girls. 

It's Natalie Lloyd, Snicker of Magic.  Can't wait.  


25897953I enjoyed Crossover, and this one is in verse about soccer 

I know it's probably silly and filled with pranks, but I'll probably still look for The Terrible Two Get Worse at the library.  
And there is at least one YA that I'm waiting on from one of my favorite authors, Jacqueline West's Dreamers Often Lie


Wishing you all the best for 2016 and looking forward to reading your comments and thoughts as always.  And if you have any suggestions for a middle school'er who enjoyed The Maze Runner, Fabelhaven, and The Eye of Mind or even just a good science fiction book, I'll take your suggestions.