Monday, February 11, 2019

The Gilded Wolves Review

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The Gilded Wolves, by Roshani Chokshi
Age Range: 12-18 years



It's 1889. The city is on the cusp of industry and power, and the Exposition Universelle has breathed new life into the streets and dredged up ancient secrets. Here, no one keeps tabs on dark truths better than treasure hunter and wealthy hotelier Séverin Montagnet-Alarie. When the elite, ever-powerful Order of Babel coerces him to help them on a mission, Séverin is offered a treasure that he never imagined: his true inheritance.

To hunt down the ancient artifact the Order seeks, Séverin calls upon a band of unlikely experts: An engineer with a debt to pay. A historian banished from his home. A dancer with a sinister past. And a brother in arms if not blood.

Together they will join Séverin as he explores the dark, glittering heart of Paris. What they find might change the course of history--but only if they can stay alive.





Guys, I love a good treasure hunt. And this book was a GOOD treasure hunt. (It was actually the thing that made me want to watch National Treasure.) And while I love the adventures and the prospect of treasure, I love the cast of characters even more.

I honestly tried to pick a favorite from the group, and couldn't. I love all of them for different reasons!

One of the things I love most about Séverin is that he is a man of action. He had so much unfairly taken from him, and I loved watching him risk everything to get it back. He is a natural born leader, and would rather die than let anything happen to any member of his group. And in addition to being a leader, trouble making comes pretty easily to Séverin as well.

via Giphy

Tristan, who Séverin vowed to protect when they were just mere children, is as kind as they come. He pours his heart into each of his creations in the garden of Séverin's hotel, and adores nature so much as to keep a pet tarantula named Goliath, much to Laila's chagrin.

Laila possesses a unique gift that allows her to read any object she touches--where it is from, who made it, etc--as long as it's not Forged. And while that gift may be useful for Séverin's treasure hunting purposes, she's not proud of how she came to possess that talent. A baker, dancer, and the only member of Séverin's group not bound by an oath, Laila is a woman of many talents, and a powerful asset to the team. But that doesn't mean she intends to stay with them. Laila's on her own treasure hunt, searching for the only thing that can save her life, before her time runs out.

In addition to all that, Laila is also a great friend. Especially to Zofia, a Polish girl exiled from her school after she was charged with arson. Zofia's mind rotates around numbers, and she's as intelligent as they come. For this, I absolutely adore Zofia. I can totally relate to her social ineptitude. XD (Although, I would never start a fire in a school, or like math.) And even though I love Zofia, not everyone does.

Enrique, the resident historian and complete nerd of the group won my heart over the minute he danced across the page. He's always striving to be the best, and cannot stand it when Zofia outshines him. (He also tends to be rather snarky, which I always enjoy.)

Roshani Chokshi did a fantastic job creating a diverse group of characters, and included people from all different religions and ethnicities--a detail I loved about her book.

I will admit, at some points of the book, I was only reading for the characters. Roshani's writing is pretty flowery, and with a plot as complicated as hers, there were points where I had absolutely no idea what was going on.

I generally lean towards books with more dialogue than description, and although this book did not meet that profile, at the end of the day, I still enjoyed it. That being said, the end of The Gilded Wolves is by-far better than the beginning. There are a lot of things that need to be foreshadowed and set up to play out later, and while this does kind of weigh down the pacing at the exposition, it is totally worth it in the end.

You can find Roshani's website here and you can read a free excerpt of The Gilded Wolves here


So, have you guys read any of Roshani's books? If you have, did you enjoy it? Why or why not?

Monday, February 4, 2019

January Wrap-Up



January! Is! Finally! Over!

I don't know why--but January always seems to pass so slowly for me. Probably because I no longer have Christmas to look forward to, and so the cold weather is much less bearable than it was in December.

Me, waiting for Spring to come around.

Writing


This January, I started the fourth draft of my manuscript, and I'm feeling really good about this draft!

I also had some new ideas, and while I want to focus on my manuscript, I may or may not have already made Pinterest boards for them . . .


Books Read


To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

The Gilded Wolves, by Roshani Chokshi (review coming soon)

Renegades, by Marissa Meyer

Archenemies, by Marissa Meyer

Cinder, by Marissa Meyer (you can find my review here)


Television/Films Watched


I watched National Treasure for the first time, and man, was I missing out! I am a sucker for a good treasure hunt.

And I've been rewatching some episodes of Psych and Gilmore Girls lately.

I've also been watching the new Riverdale episodes every week, along with pretty much every other girl in my high school, haha. I have mixed feelings about season three, though.

Things Done


Such a specific title, I know.

This January, I survived my midterms. There was lots of studying. And lots of stressing. Lots and lots of stressing.


On a much brighter note, I went to New York City last week, because my mom is literally the best.

I went up to attend the Rick Riordan Presents event at Symphony Space, where Roshani Chokshi, J.C. Cervantes, Yoon Ha Lee, Rick Riordan, and Carlos Hernandez talked about all things writerly and mythological.

The presentation was recorded to be shown in classrooms, and so we were treated as a live studio audience. They had to restart things a few times, and we were given cue cards for things like Gasp, Chatter, and Laugh.


All in all, it was super fun. (Save for the child who kicked the back of my seat for ten minutes straight.)

And after the presentation, we got to go to a signing for all of the authors, except for Rick. All four of them were super nice and personable, and it was a wonderful experience.

I also went to a Lindt store, (their strawberries and cream truffle was to die for) and to the top of the Empire State Building. It was cold and windy, but still something that I was happy to check off my bucket list. (Especially because of its role in the PJO series :P)

And in other news, taking the subway no longer scares me! I'm now completely cultured and never have to leave my room again.


All GIFs via Giphy

Anyway, how was your January? What were some of your top reads this month?

Monday, January 28, 2019

MMGM--Cinder

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Cinder, by Marissa Meyer
Rating: 12+



Humans and androids crowd the ravenous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth's fate hinges on one girl. . . 

Sixteen-year-old Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She's a second class citizen with a mysterious past and is reviled by her stepmother. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai's, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world's future. Because there is something unusual about Cinder, something that others would kill for. 




I know I was supposed to post something last week, but in my defense, I had midterms last week, and my brain was kind of dead.

Via Giphy


Anyway, I've been busy these past few weeks and haven't had much time to read new books. I did, however, read the first two Renegades books, also by Marissa Meyer (reviews on both coming soon. Probably.) as per request of a friend. After I finished those, I was like, "Wow--why have I not read any of her other books before?!" and checked Cinder out of the library. Thank you for listening to my life story. 

I have to admit--I didn't enjoy Cinder as much as I did Renegades. I felt like the plot was a little predictable, and that the secret identity of Cinder was kind of an obvious one. It was very trope-y compared to her other series, but I suppose that that's a given when you're retelling any fairy tale. 

That being said, I did think that the cyborg, future-esque setting of the novel was a very original idea, and I enjoyed learning about the world of New Beijing. 

I do admire Meyer (hey, that rhymed) for taking on such an interesting take as to turn Cinder into a cyborg. I think that she did as good of a job as she could, making a not-completely-human character read as human. But, Cinder cannot cry, or blush, or feel everything the same way a human would and I felt that her character was a little hard to relate to as a result of this. 

The Lunar people (who also aren't human) that Meyer introduced into her world were a great addition, and a fantastic way to intertwine some other traditional fairy tales with this one. The Lunar Queen made a compelling antagonist, and I can't wait to see what she'll have in store for Cinder in Scarlet. 

I also adored Prince Kai, the charming emperor of New Beijing. In my opinion, the scenes that included him were the most enjoyable to read. I think it's safe to say that I have a new favorite character. XD

Me--fangirling over Kai


However, as much as I enjoyed the setting, I wasn't very invested in the story until about half way through. The pacing at the beginning was a little slow for my taste (but then again, I am very picky about pacing). 

I was told by a friend who'd read the full series, that Cinder was sort of the "before story" and that the rest of the books are where the real action happens. 

I have high hopes for Scarlet, and I think that Meyer left off at a good point, leaving herself a good chunk of action to let unfold in the sequel. 

Overall, I give Cinder 3 out of 5 stars, but have higher expectations for the rest of the books. 

So--have you read any Marissa Meyer books? If so, who were your favorite characters. 

Monday, January 7, 2019

Top 5 Reads of 2018 + Mini Reviews

Wowza--2018 is over already! (It's been over for about a week now. But I'm just going to ignore that for the sake of the GIF.)

via Giphy

I didn't really make any New Years Resolutions this year, because I can never keep them. I am, however, hoping for less rain in 2019. It's rained A LOT where I live. 42% of the year--to be exact.

I think I'm done with rain for a long while. The only kind of precipitation I want to see is snow. XD

via Giphy

The only thing that's kind of appealing about rain is the fact that it forces me to stay inside, which means that I get more reading done. I have to say--2018 was a pretty good year for me--book-wise.



Image result for flashback shannon messengerShannon Messenger is my favorite author—and she did not disappoint with the latest installment of her Keeper of the Lost Cities series. The beginning of this book didn’t move quite as quickly as the others in the series had, but it was a fantastic read all the same. Unlike all of my other top reads of 2018, I was already familiar with the characters when I started Flashback—but I think that Messenger did an excellent job exploring each character’s personality. The only thing that I was *slightly* sad about was the fact that my favorite character wasn’t as involved with the story as he normally is. (Although—Keefe tends to be a scene-stealer, so I totally get why he wasn’t there as much as he was in Nightfall. XD) There were also some new characters, and plot lines introduced in Flashback, that I thought Messenger pulled of fantastically. This is *definitely* a series you should read!





Image result for renegades marissa meyerThis was the first Marissa Meyer book that I'd ever read and wow--I was missing out on a lot! Meyer has flowing prose and gorgeous descriptions that narrate a highly compelling story centered around a modernized Superheroes vs Supervillains story. I admit that I have a soft spot for books revolving around Superheroes (their powers are just so cool!) so I was thrilled to find Renegades. I'd put it on the bottom of my TBR pile--until I realized that the book was told from a villain's point of view. I know that it's kind of odd--but I just really love the juxtaposition that comes from hearing a story told from the "Bad Guy's" point of view, as opposed to the "Good Guy" telling the story. I ended up finishing the book in under 24 hours, and immediately moved on to Arch Enemies, the squeal. This book definitely earns 5 stars from me!





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The Fault in Our Stars absolutely destroyed me. Which is why I think all of you should read it. John Green’s writing style is snarky, and hilarious, and did an excellent job of portraying a teenager girl’s innermost thoughts. Despite the life-threatening cancer that the main character faces, John Green still managed to make me smile, and borderline laugh-out-loud with some of Hazel’s narrative. That was in the beginning of the book though. The end made me sob like a baby. It was nearly impossible to keep from falling in love with the characters, and I was especially sad to see the book come to an end. This book is a 10-out-of-10 on my scale, even though it ripped my heart out just a little. XD








Image result for anna and the french kissAnna and the French Kiss, is another falling-in-love story, although it wasn’t nearly as painful when I finished it. Set in Paris, this book made me wish I could fly across the Atlantic to learn at a French boarding school. (Even though I would probably get homesick within a week and want to fly back home. :P) A little like John Green, Stephanie Perkins definitely has a snarky edge to her writing, which I absolutely adore. Anna Oliphant, the main character, is such a normal teenager, I think it would be hard for someone not to like her. So many times, I see teen-aged main characters written like their 25—but that was never the case for me with Anna. Over all, the cast of characters was well written, and carried the plot beautifully.








Image result for #murdertrendingI hadn’t been so hooked by a cover in a while, as I was with #murdertrending. There’s just something so intriguing about a headless stick-figure. The plot of this story is very original—and caught my attention from page one. The main character—Dee Guerra—is framed for murdering her step-sister, and is sent to Alcatraz 2.0. The island is home to two groups of people—those convicted, and a group of serial killers, each with their own trademark homicide techniques. The convicts are given an identity and a home, and their main goal is to avoid the killers, and survive as long as possible. But Alcatraz 2.0 isn’t just a prison—it’s the set of a live-stream, where viewers can follow the convicts in their attempts to survive, and view their eventual murders. The story, based in the twisted new reality, was one that I could not put down. The characters were fully developed, and the plot twists were major game-changers. All around a magnificent read!



So--have you guys read any of these books? 

If not--what were a few of your favorite 2018 reads?

Monday, December 24, 2018

Merry Christmas!



Okay--yes, technically it is still Christmas Eve--but I'm trying to stick to my posting schedule, okay? Okay. :)

I hope everyone has a wonderful day filled with family and Christmas cookies and fluffy pajamas!

Sorry for the short post--I've been spending a lot of time with family, and last-minute Christmas shopping, and didn't really have time to write a coherent post. *Totally ignoring the fact that I had two weeks to come up with a post but I'm a chronic procrastinator*

And here is what might be my favorite Studio C skit ever. XD





Monday, December 10, 2018

Shannon Messenger on Tour

Hey--look! It's me! And Shannon Messenger!


I'm pretty sure I've mentioned that Shannon Messenger is my favorite author before. If not--now you know. And my wonderful mother took me to see her on tour for her new novel, Flashback, this year.

Via Giphy

We got to the bookstore area a little early, so my friend (who my mom had so graciously let me bring along) and I waited inside a coffee shop that looked like Pinterest had come to life. I didn't take any pictures (no clue why *facepalm*) but it was probably the most aesthetic place I've ever been to.

Shannon Messenger's presentation was super fun to listen to, although if you're not in the fandom, you'll probably have no idea what I'm talking about. :P

It turns out that Fitz was originally 97 years old, because when she first started writing about elves, she wanted to have their entire lives stretched out. So, while Fitz was going to be 97, he would still play the part of a teenage boy.

Not only that--but Fitz wasn't even created for Keeper of the Lost Cities. Shannon had originally written him into a scene from another book she was writing, and when she had writers block, she decided to explore her side characters more in-depth. And then the short story she'd written to explore Fitz's character became the short story that inspires Keeper of the Lost Cities.

And unfortunately for us, Shannon emphasized that while she still doesn't know who Sophie is going to end up with--she does have her theories. She explained that she thinks of it like she controls the plot, but not the characters' emotions, so she tries not to pre-plan the way the characters feel about things.

Contrary to popular belief, Shannon does not end her books of cliff-hangers because she likes to torture her readers. She does it because she doesn't want her readers to lose interest in the series. She explained that when she was a kid, she would stop reading a series because a book would end on a sportive note, and she didn't want to have to watch everything fall apart again, and she didn't want that to happen with her books.

Shannon also admitted that she actually hates love triangles.

Via Giphy

She elaborated that although there is a Team Keefe and a Team Fitz, she doesn't *really* consider Sophie's whole square-triangle-fan-club thing to be a *true* love triangle. The way she defines a love triangle is when the girl knows that both boys are legitimate options, and she spends an entire book running around in circles saying "I don't know who I love!" Sophie is oblivious to it all.

Interestingly enough, Dex happened to be a white-blonde, not a strawberry blonde in a majority of the drafts of Keeper. Shannon revealed that her editor had her change his hair color because it looked too similar to Sophie's on the cover of the first book. Apparently there is a middle-grade genre called sibling adventure, and her editor didn't want Keeper falsely put under that category because Sophie and Dex's hair colors made them look like siblings.

And while Keeper went through twenty drafts, a small mistake still managed to slip into the final draft--the fact that Shannon accidentally gave Stina's family two last names. (Those two last names being Logner and Heks.) Apparently, while Shannon was writing book two, she got to a scene with Stina, where she needed her last name, and she couldn't recall her last name. She looked back to her notes, where she had written down that Stina's last name was Whethers, but that she didn't like that name, and left a note for herself that she had to come up with something else.

So, she assumed that Stina was never given a last name, and asked her editor if she could fit it in the manuscript of Keeper, before it went to the printer. Logner was put in the first book, and Shannon didn't realize she'd given her two last names until her editor gave her notes on book two, asking why she was calling them Logner when their last name was Heks.

And, most excitingly of all (for me at least) Shannon revealed that there will be a Keeper of the Lost Cities short story book, where she will explore all of the things she's briefly touched on, but not given us a full explanation of, like the Great Gulon Incident, which will be told from Keefe's POV.

Via Giphy

Keefe is definitely my favorite character. :P

What about you? Have you read any of Shannon Messenger's books? (If you haven't, you definitely should.) And if you have--who's your favorite character?

Monday, November 26, 2018

Life-y Things

No--there is no MMGM review today--sorry!

I've been rather swamped with schoolwork and Thanksgiving festivities, so I haven't had much of a chance to read any new middle grade books for a review.

The only book that I finished in the past two weeks was called #murdertrending, by Gretchen McNeil. And while I have reviewed YA books for MMGM before--I figured this one *might* not be passable for middle grade readers.

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First of all, two weeks ago, I attended the Aaron's Books Kid Lit festival, where I got to attend some author panels, and a class led by author Shawn Smucker on world-building. One of his tips on describing a setting was to look at things through a one-inch picture frame. For example, instead of saying that a room is messy, describe the things that make the room messy.

Also--I broke my record for most words written in a day with a total of almost five-thousand words. For being a slow writer--I did fairly well.

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Thirdly--this was my first time Black Friday shopping--ever.

And guess where I went.

Barnes and Noble.

(You probably aren't the least bit surprised.)

Seriously guys--even if you're not a huge shopper (I know I'm not) I highly recommend checking out Barnes and Noble next year. All top books of 2018 were 50% off, and they had a *huge* collection of signed editions.

A few that I'm most excited to read are The Darkest Minds, by Alexandra Bracken, and The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas.

There will definitely be reviews of all of the middle grade books once I finish them.

 My apologies for the short blog post. As I mentioned, I've been busy. (And this Monday, I'll be doing some super-cool writerly things that I'll be sure to post about.)

I hope everyone had a fantastic holiday break!

The Gilded Wolves Review

The Gilded Wolves , by Roshani Chokshi Age Range: 12-18 years It's 1889. The city is on the cusp of industry and power, and the...