Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Book Review: How to Fight a Dragon's Fury (How to Train Your Dragon #12)

How to Fight a Dragon's Fury (#12)
by  Cressida Cowell
Date Read:  8/5/16
Rating: ★ ★ 

I completely forgot I never wrote my review for this either!!

Alright, I’m first going to bring up that if you hate amnesia stories, then you’re going to hate the first half of this book. I’m one of those people. I think it is a cheap cop out for authors. While I know Cowell likely used it as a way to recap the entire series (11 books), it was super frustrating as a reader.  Once Hiccup got his memory back, it got a lot better. Hiccup knew what he was fighting for and why it was so important for him to become King of the Wilder West.

What I was probably most disappointed in was the fact that Fishlegs and Comikaze were barely a part of this book. Hiccup was on his own for most of the book, and even when they began the war, he was still fighting by himself.  They have been such a strong part of Hiccup’s story that it was really disappointing to see him not require their help in this situation.

I really enjoyed the war at the end of the book. I think every single dragon we encountered along the 12 book journey was mentioned, and every single character we’ve encountered was participating in the war.  It was nice to see some characters that had iffy morals make the right decisions, and it was nice to see the bad guys get their comeuppance.

The Dragon Furious’ transformation in this book was pretty impressive and she did it pretty well.  It didn’t seem forced or too fast. His ending is heart-warming and heart-wrenching. I’ll say no more to this.

While you initially get the ending you want, it wasn’t as epic as I was hoping for. It’s still really good and definitely worth the read through the entire series. This is one of my favorite book series, and by far my favorite audiobook I’ve ever listened to. David Tennant is incredibly talented and I hope he reads more books because I will listen to them all!!!

My favorite part of this book was the epilogue. Holy. Cow. Probably one of the best I’ve read.  It was probably a little longer than it needed to be as Hiccup repeated the moral of the story over and over again about the human race, but it’s a good message. You get the answer to the question: What happened to the dragons??

It was a satisfying conclusion to an amazing adventure. I wish it was more epic and didn’t have the cheap amnesia plot device and had Hiccup’s friends a much larger part of his attaining his Kingship, but I am still happy with the ending. Thank you for giving us such a wonderful adventure, Ms. Cowell! I can’t wait until my daughter is a little older and we can read this with her again.  Perhaps if we read it to her early enough, she will love dragons as much as we do, and work hard to help bring the dragons back.  ;-)

Book Review: The Hidden Oracle (The Trials of Apollo #1)

The Hidden Oracle (#1)
by  Rick Riordan
Date Read:  8/2/16
Rating: ★ ★ 

I completely forgot that I hadn’t written my review for this yet!  Hopefully I remember everything I wanted to say now…4 weeks later…

Let me start with what I loved about this book: 
  1.  Riordan went back to just ONE POV.  While I enjoyed the Heroes of Olympus series, it was too overwhelming having 4 or 5 POVs in each book. Over the course of that series you had seen at least 7 POVs, but I think it was more than that.  Having just the one POV made it much easier to follow and you really got to connect with Apollo. I feel like Riordan does a much better job with his characters when he is only focusing on one of them.
  2. Percy!!!  While this series is not specifically about Percy, it is still in his world. Percy was in this book for a lot longer than I thought he would be at the beginning.  Percy is by far my favorite character from all of these books so it’s a lot of fun to catch up with him.
  3. Updates on a lot of our favorite characters!  We get to see a lot of previous characters in this book. We also meet a few new characters. You’ll love seeing where everyone is today and what they’ve been up to since the end of Heroes of Olympus.
  4. The Oracles. Having actually been to Delphi and saw where the Oracle actually sat, I’ve always been intrigued with this part of the story-line. I really enjoyed learning about the other oracles and the end explanation for what was going on. Riordan does a good job of making things seem irrelevant to each other, and then bringing them back so it make sense at the end.
  5. Apollo learns a lot in this book.  I didn’t particularly like him much at the beginning, but by the end I was rooting for him. He grows a lot and learns a lot. He makes some connections with his kids and Meg.
  6. Meg was an interesting character.  I can’t say too much about her without spoiling things, but I really liked her and her history.
Things I didn’t like about this book:
  1.  Apollo was way too self-absorbed at the beginning. While I understand that it’s the personality of the God, it just didn’t translate well in book format. I also think that Riordan may have over done it so that it was more obvious the growth that Apollo has in the book.
  2. The book was a little slow in the middle. Not a lot of action happens in the middle of the book and you are not given many answers…which leads me to #3…
  3.  I HATED the plot device Riordan used of Apollo’s amnesia-like situation. Apollo would know everything and have the background info you needed, but then he’d always conveniently “forget” it before he translated that info to another character and the reader. As a reader, it’s infuriating to be teased with info and answers, to only have it dangled there and then pulled away.
Overall I enjoyed this book. I feel like it was a little better than Heroes of Olympus, just because more happened in the book when it wasn’t following 7 characters at the exact same time, and you really got to know the main character much better in one POV.  But it didn’t surpass Percy Jackson.  Riordan just does Percy right, so I don’t think he’ll ever be able to top his original series – unless he goes back to writing only from Percy’s POV.

I’m interested to see how the remainder of the series goes and how often we’ll see previous characters and how involved they will be in helping Apollo with his quest.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Book Review: E. Aster Bunnymund and the Warrior Eggs at the Earth's Core (The Guardians #2)

E. Aster Bunnymund and the Warrior Eggs at the Earth's Core
by  William Joyce
Date Read:  7/26/16
Rating: ★ ★ 

It feels like a long time since I finished this. Though really it’s only been like 1.5 weeks. This one is harder to review for me than the first book in the series. I think it was a little slower, especially to set everything up.

What I did really like about this book though, is how much back story we get on Pitch. It really sets Pitch up to show you he was a normal guy, with a family and he was a hero. But the darkness got to him and transformed him in to the villain we now know today. It really makes Pitch related and creates empathy for him in the reader. These are the types of villains that I love right now. The ones that you really get to see their transformation. While we didn’t actually see him as a good guy, Joyce does a wonderful job making the reader feel as if they did.

Bunnymund didn’t come in to the story until much later. I was surprised how late he entered the story, considering he is the title character…  but he is worth the wait. I really liked his personality.  He was so unique and was the last of his kind. It made sense why he would become part of the Guardians. I really liked his Warrior Eggs. Joyce is very creative. And I loved the little tidbit about Humpty Dumpty at the end of the story. What a master weaver Joyce is.

I’m looking forward to continuing this series. I’m so glad I somewhat stumbled upon it. Next up is the tooth fairy – she’s probably the one I’m the least interested in, so we’ll see how this one goes.

Book Review: Magic Marks the Spot (The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates #1)

Magic Marks the Spot
by  Caroline Carlson
Date Read:  7/29/16
Rating: ★ ★ 

I’m not really sure how to review this book. I think it is probably better in book format rather than audiobook. There were a lot of letters going back and forth throughout the story, and it was hard to follow sometimes listening to it.  I actually was worried that it was going to be diary format for the 5% of the book!

The one thing that I will say about this is that the narrator of the audiobook actually hurt my ears. She has a high pitch and then when she starts yelling or the story gets exciting, it just hits an octave that really hurt my ears. I was constantly cringing. And because of this, I’m not sure I’m going to pick up the subsequent stories.

I thought Hilary was a good character. She had a strong sense of who she was and she never really wavered from it. She made good friends and was a pretty good judge of character. I really liked her relationship with the Gargoyle.

The thing I liked the most about this story was the magic.  I liked that there was only so much magic and someone had taken almost all of it away. If you had some, you had to keep it hidden. It was really unique. I also liked the ending related to the magic.

However, when the big reveal happens about who the Great Enchantress is, it just fell a little flat. There was a lot of buildup and the reveal and character just didn’t really live up to it. I think perhaps the backstory of the Enchantress needed to be built up a little more rather than just told at the end.  And it all seemed to go really fast at the end. The wrong thieves are put in jail and very quickly the real thieves are discovered and the plot is resolved.

I think the story may have had too many things going on, so it couldn’t quite decide which part it wanted to focus on. So instead of narrowing it down a little to do it well…it did all of them mediocre.

Overall it was decent. I may have enjoyed it more if my ears weren’t constantly cringing. Perhaps one day I will pick up the books to read the sequels, but for now, I think I’ll just stick to this one.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Book Review: A Dragon's Guide to the Care and Feeding of Humans (#1)

A Dragon's Guide to the Care and Feeding of Humans

by  Laurence Yep, Joanne Ryder
Date Read:  7/11/16
Rating: ★ ★ 

This book was pretty good. I forgot to write my review so it’s been a while since I actually finished it, so parts are hard to remember.

The beginning is a bit hard because it’s silly that a dragon thinks that the human is her pet. Clearly the human race runs the world – the magicals all hide from them…  so that was hard to adjust to. But perhaps that was just because the dragon’s personality was hard to relate to initially.  Once the story got going she wasn’t as hardended and it was easier to get to know her.

I really liked Winnie.  It just took a long time for the author to set up what was really the plot of the story. I was surprised as I was about half way through and read the description more carefully about Winnie’s sketchbook. By the time the sketchlings get out to wreak havoc, the book is almost over. They’re search and capture of the sketchlings happens to quickly the reader barely gets any satisfaction.  I think the author should have spent a little less time setting up Winnie and Ms. Drake’s relationship and spent more time on the sketchbook and the chase.  It felt like they escaped and they captured them all within a few hours. Not satisfying.

I thought the world the author set up was interesting though - with the magical beings able to live in hiding from the humans. I liked that the dragon could turn in to human form. The magic was fun.

It was a solid 3 star book. It was a nice, easy book to listen to during my commute to and from work.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Gilmore Girls Discussion - Who Should Rory End up with?

I have been a die hard Gilmore Girls fan since I was in high school.  I started high school in 2000, which was when Gilmore Girls first aired.  Being just a year behind Rory, I could almost always relate to what she was dealing with on the show.  I adored her relationship with her mother, and the way they played off each other with such ease. I’d never seen that in a TV show. I’d also never seen people talk so fast in my life!  It had charm and was artsy and some really great side characters. I will easily say it’s been my favorite TV show I’ve ever watched. I was soo sad when the show ended in 2007.  Ever since then, there has not been a TV show that has been able to equal that show.

When I heard that Netflix was bringing a continuation to the Gilmore Girls story, titled A Year in the Life, I was so ecstatic. I didn’t even know how to react I was so excited.  It was even more exciting when I heard that the entire cast, even all the side characters and towns people were coming back!  So in my euphoric state, I decided that since it’s been a whole 9 years since I’d watched the show (with the exception of a few occasional reruns on TV), I needed to binge watch all 7 seasons!

Now that I’ve finished watching all 7 seasons, I remembered how frustrated I was at how the series ended.  Most of it comes from the relationships. Since all 3 of Rory’s boyfriends are supposed to appear in the continuation on Netflix, I thought that I showed weigh in my opinion of who I feel Rory should end up with in the end.

I was never a fan of Dean. Sure, when you watch those first 2 seasons he is super sweet and loyal to Rory. The way he was able to banter with the girls and knew them so well was endearing…But he was always kind of immature and just not on the same level as Rory. He didn’t have that many goals in life, he didn’t value his education, and he just didn’t really fit in to her life.  And of course we cannot forget his infidelity to his wife, Lindsey. He cheated on his wife, with Rory. Once a cheater, always a cheater. There is no way Rory could trust him.

Before I re-watched the entire series this year, I thought I was on Team Jess. For some reason I always liked Jess. He had that bad guy attitude, but yet always seemed to take care of Rory. It was that personality that is so popular in YA novels now…before it was cool. Rory had a lot in common with Jess in the fact that he was very literate.  However, he also didn’t take school very seriously and it was hard to make him focus on something.  I was so happy to see him succeeding in those final seasons of the show.  But I feel that Rory had moved on – she even tried to cheat on Logan (to get back at him) with Jess, and it didn’t feel right. She has moved on from this relationship. So while I still enjoy Jess and feel that definitely should be close friends for life, I don’t think he’s the guy for her.  And can we just address the fact that if Luke and Lorelei are still together and plan to get married, that makes Rory and Jess semi-related????  While it’s not blood and it would be her step-father’s nephew…it’s still a little too close for me to be okay with that.

Where do I even begin with Logan?  I’m clearly on Team Logan now. I liked how their relationship progressed on the show.  It was slow and believable… starting with just being this jerk she ran in to, to running in to him some more, then using him to write a story on the Life and Death Brigade, to becoming friends with him and his friends, then dating casually.  Once Rory realizes she can’t do the casual thing, he makes a decision to be monogamous to her.  From then on, Logan was my guy.  Yes, he was rich and privileged and arrogant, but he used it in a good way. He took care of Rory and was very protective of her – especially against his obnoxious mom and dad. He challenged her often to keep pushing her and helping her to live life in the moment.  He made her take more chances and be less fearful of things (sometimes that was bad… remember the boat incident?). He was determined and loved Rory for her quirkiness. He was actually very smart as well, but didn’t take school as seriously – he actually got kicked out of boarding schools just like Rory’s father. [Girls always pick a guy that is like their father].  He was very witty and had a great sense of humor (remember the theatrical stunt he pulled in the classroom?)  He was always there for Rory when she needed him and had great apologies when he did something wrong or there was a misunderstanding. He was just perfect. Perfect for her.  A great balance between them – similar and yet different enough to push each other and lean on each other. And they way he would look at her?  SWOON!  Every girl wants a guy to look at her that way - total adoration and love. 

While I watched the end of the series for the second time, I started remembering how frustrated I was at the ending of the show.  As it got closer and closer to the end, I started getting angry. And then I watched the infamous episode where Logan asks Rory to marry him in front of all her friends at her graduation party… (and can I just say that my life even ended up paralleling Rory’s in that way also? A year and a half later when I graduated college, my boyfriend proposed to me at our joint graduation party!)  I said YES!  Why couldn’t she?  I didn’t feel I was too young and it definitely didn’t hinder my career either. I felt Rory’s reasoning was really lame. If you’ve met the right man, why does age have anything to do with it? UGH.  And it's not like she had a job lined up on the East coast at the time. She could have easily applied to papers in the Bay Area. I was so mad at the end of that episode, that I actually told my husband that I almost don’t want Logan to give Rory a second chance in the continuation. But now that I’ve cooled off, I still want her and Logan to get back together. If that’s the case, and I sincerely hope it is, then they will have missed out on 9 years of happiness together because of Rory’s stupid decision.

According to IMDB, Matt Czuchry (Logan) is in all 4 episodes, Milo Venitimiglio (Jess) is in 3 episodes, and Jared Padalecki (Dean) is only in 1 episodes. My hope is that this information means that Logan is the one she ends up realizing she still loves and wants to finally make her life with!

I also want to take a moment to vent about the Lorelei and Luke and Christopher thing as well. I was so, so angry that they had Lorelei go to Christopher at the end of Season 6. Yes, Lorelei had every reason to be mad at Luke, but going to Chris was so immature. While she finally takes responsibility for it at the end of season 7, I hated that she tried to make it be okay by completely breaking up with Luke and then marrying Chris. Everyone knew she wasn’t supposed to be with him. Even though it was nice for Rory to have her parents together, she wasn’t even that excited. So it was a boring plot line that dragged on for too long. And it took the writers way too long to get them back together – the last 2 minutes of the series???

I’ve done so much research with this new A Year in the Life and I have learned quite a bit. I wasn’t aware that the original writers of the show only wrote seasons 1 – 6. Once the WB became the CW, they couldn’t agree to contracts so new writers wrote the final season. Apparently the events that take place in season 7 are not how the original writers had seen the series going. In fact, she even said she knew what the final 4 words of the series would be very early on in the series. Unfortunately, we never got to hear those words. She’s kept quiet about it ever since, and we’re finally going to get to find out what it was!  I’m really hoping that since the original writers are doing the Netflix show that it will get back to what it’s good at and will bring some happiness and closure to the Gilmore Girls’ lives.

Weigh in on who you think Rory should end up with in the comments!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Book Review: Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King

Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King (The Guardians #1)
by  William Joyce
Date Read:  7/5/16
Rating: ★ ★ 

I was having trouble finding an audiobook for my husband and I to listen to on our commute to work. I somehow stumbled across this, and since we enjoyed the movie, I checked it out.  We are so happy we did.  (Side note: this story also has a series of picture books titled "The Guardians of Childhood" as well with origin stories of the Man in the Moon, Sandman, and Jack Frost – and the illustrations are absolutely gorgeous.)

The book was a little slow to start up – it gave a lot of back history on Pitch (the nightmare King) and how he came to be (a fallen hero) and setting up the setting of the story in Big Root and what was going on there with Umbric and Katherine. Once Nicholas St. North actually shows up in the story it really started getting interesting.

The background story is all needed to really understand the story – and it’s a very interesting world. I love the magic and the twists on the childhood characters. I liked how protective North became of Katherine even though he started out as just a thief. Everything was built up really well and in a believable amount of time.

Overall a great story. I feel like I missed out though listening to the audiobook. Reading others reviews, it sounds like there are illustrations in these chapter books as well. I might have to go look at in the library just so I can see the illustrations. The ones that are included in the picture book series are just marvelous (haha, I couldn’t think of any other words that describe how beautiful they are!).

I’m really excited to read more of North’s story to see how he eventually becomes Santa Clause. I’m also really excited to see how Joyce brings to life and twists more of our favorite characters like the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny.
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