Friday, November 18, 2016

Book Review: A World Without Princes (School for Good and Evil #2)

A World Without Princes (#2)
by  Soman Chainani
Date Read:  11/17/16
Rating: ★ ★ 

I’m going to start by talking about the length of this book. It was over 400 pages. Do you know how heavy that is to carry back and forth from work? How hard it is to keep a book that size opened and on the correct page while you’re eating lunch? I lugged this sucked around for WEEKS because my only reading time is during my lunch break at work these days (I love my 2-year-old to pieces, but she definitely has drastically changed my life)! 

There were times I felt like this book kind of dragged on…but that’s easy to do when you’re 400+ pages. About 300 pages in I was ready for answers.  I had a wait a little longer until things started piecing together and much longer for Agatha to put it all together. However, the positive to the length of these books is that nothing feels instantaneous. There is NO insta-anything. Everything is very believable through both books.

I also felt like I was able to relate to Sophie a little more in this book. Or at least I understood her motives more in this book than the first. I couldn’t stand her in the first one. I still don’t condone what she did, but at least she had good intentions (for herself anyway).  The only thing I wasn’t happy about was how long it took for Agatha to figure it out.  Sure, it had more impact having her make the realization at that point, but as the reader who has known since the beginning of the book, it was super frustrating. It would have almost been better if this book was told only from Agatha’s POV and we hadn’t known.

I also wasn’t a fan of how quickly Agatha and Tedros lost trust for each other. And did the honestly never think Sophie’s name when the mentioned the pink spell? I mean, honestly!
I did enjoy Agatha’s relationship with the witches. I really enjoyed every time the 4 of them got together. It also showed that good and evil can work together. There are blurred lines. Not everyone is black or white.

I thought it was an interesting concept that the towers of Good and Evil became Girls and Boys. It was also interesting how quickly they hated each other – though I suppose if I was evicted as rudely as the boys were, I’d be pretty upset also.

I think the concept that the author is working around about love vs friendship is so unique. Everyone always thinks you can’t have these best friends anymore once you get married. I love one of my best guy friends when I got married. So I’m really interested to see how this works out in the end.

I’ve really enjoyed the concept and I enjoy most of the characters. The world is super interesting. Looking forward to what is in store for Agatha and Sophie in the final installment.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Ebates Referral for Black Friday Shopping!!

Hi all! I know I've been a bit absent lately. Once November hits, our lives get pretty busy and time gets away from me. Black Friday ads have been leaking all over the place, so I've started putting my list together. The best part? I can do most of my shopping online and get cashback through Ebates!

I wanted to share this with you all. Most of the major stores do extra cashback for Black Friday and throughout the holiday season.  Most years, I end up with at least $50 cashback just from my Christmas shopping. It doesn't require any work. You just need to sign up, and then you can either just go to and click on the merchant link from there, or you can install the Ebates button on your browser so you'll never miss an opportunity for cashback - it notifies you when you are on a merchant website offering cashback.

The best thing about Ebates is that you still get the same amazing deals but you get a percentage of it back just by clicking the button!

TIP: Sign up through my referral link here and you will get a $10 bonus after you make your first purchase over $25 using Ebates.

So check it out and sign up before you start your shopping! I know everyone looks for great, easy ways to make extra cash, and this is a great way! You don't really have any extra work to get this cashback!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Usborne Book Party!

I hosted a party last night on facebook showcasing Usborne books. Have you heard of them? They have super unique and interactive books for ages infants through young adult!  If you haven't heard of them, you should follow this link to browse all the books they have to offer. These books would make great Christmas presents for the kids in your life (think your own kids, nieces and nephews, grandkids, godchildren, etc).

Here is the link to my shopping page. The shopping link will be open until midnight tonight!  Make sure when you check out to select my name, Kristen Ray! I hope you find some amazing books your kids will love!

Friday, October 21, 2016

Book Review: The School for Good and Evil

The School for Good and Evil
by  Soman Chainani
Date Read:  9/27/16
Rating: ★ ★ 

I listened to this in audiobook during my commute to and from work. It was a LONG book; I actually had to re-request it from the library in order to finish it.

I really enjoyed this book.  I was so intrigued by the plot summary that I had some high expectations.  It reminded me a lot of Harry Potter with the magic and the lessons, etc, and of course I absolutely love anything relating to fairy tales!

The main theme of this book was that you don’t have to be who people think or want you to be. You can choose your own path and make your own decisions.  Beauty is on the inside.

Sophie was utterly horrific. I hated listening to her. She went from annoying to completely evil over the span of the book.  Agatha was such a good, loyal friend to Sophie, and Sophie just used her.  She is really a terrible person. It’s frustrating that Agatha just won’t let go of that friendship.  Sometimes friends go opposite directions and that’s ok. That’s life. But Agatha fights till the bitter end to save her friend.

Agatha – I LOVE Agatha. It’s been a long time since I’ve enjoyed a main character so much. She isn’t your typical heroine. She loves to wear black, she hates conforming to what people want her to do, she doesn’t realize that she has a good soul underneath her not as pretty exterior. She has very low self-esteem and it takes her almost the entire book until she realizes her worth and her goodness.

I really liked how the book focused on friendship.  Even though Sophie and Agatha were told that they could never be friends (a princess and a witch can never be friends), they never stop fighting to get home together.

There were a few times that the story seemed to move slowly and there were some points where it seemed to wonder to things that didn’t seem important. In the end Agatha’s trip to Sader’s office is important, but I feel like it was just thrown in there for Agatha to have the revelation at the end of the book. It wasn’t written in as seamlessly as it could have been.

I hated the way the book ended!!!  It just ENDED. There was ZERO, I mean absolutely NO wrap up at all. After such a long book I wanted some closure for our characters but there was none. The author obviously knew he was going to write a series.  But I would have appreciated just a little wrap up.

Overall I really enjoyed it.  Looking forward to where the author takes the series. 

Friday, September 16, 2016

Book Review: The Scorch Trials (The Maze Runner #2)

The Scorch Trials
by  James Dashner
Date Read:  9/14/16
Rating: ★ ★ 

The entire time I was reading this story I was blown away by how different it was from the movie. For both “The Maze Runner” and “The Scorch Trials” I had watched the movie first.  I love the movies, I’m just wondering why they chose to make the second movie so vastly different from the book. It’s almost just loosely based on the book.  But that also made it fun to read the book because I still wasn’t sure what to expect.

I feel like this book was a little slower than the first book. Most of the book was about the gang traveling across the desert.  Yeah, there were some action scenes here and there, but it was still basically just a traveling book.  I wish it had been a little more exciting and diverted from the Scorch more often.

Thomas also passed out or slept (and dreamed) a LOT throughout this book.  It really slowed everything down. While I get that the author is making it real, it just really stopped the story and jarred me out of my rhythm.

The change between Thomas and Teresa in this book was done really well, I thought. It was very believable and just like Thomas, the reader has no idea who to trust. I definitely have some strong emotions about this and I tend to side with Thomas.

Several new characters are introduced in this book. Aris is an interesting character. I’m still on the fence about him. I liked Brenda a lot…but I didn’t like how forward she was. But once I got past that I really liked her.

We get a little bit more information on what the world is like now. There are still plenty of questions left open. The main ones being “What the heck is the killzone?” and “How is torturing children going to create a cure?”.  Dashner does a wonderful job of giving you just enough to keep reading and wanting so much more. Curious as to what this is all really about.

I hated the ending. It felt like the author just had a long story and decided to chop it right there. There was absolutely no wrap up at all. The story just ended. All of a sudden there were no more pages. What the heck? Ok, I get that you want a cliffhanger, but you can still successfully have a cliffhanger in your book while still having a little wrap up in other areas.

A little disappointed in this book following The Maze Runner. It’s still entertaining enough to get through, but it definitely took me a while to get through it … i.e. had to re-request from the library several times before I finished it…  I’m looking forward to reading The Death Cure to finally get some answers and see how this series ends.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Book Review: Max at Night (BLOGTOUR)

Max at Night
by  Ed Vere
Date Read:  9/8/16
Rating: ★ ★ 

I received a copy of Max at Night from the publisher, Sourcebooks, in exchange for an honest review. I’m so thankful they sent me this because my daughter and I will enjoy this story for years to come!

This book follows Max, a little kitten, as he is ready to go to bed, but he can’t find the moon to say goodnight. He goes on an adventure trying to get as high as he can to find the moon to say goodnight. Then he follows his steps back home to bed.

This sweet book is a wonderful bedtime book for toddlers and preschoolers. There aren’t that many words on the page and the length is perfect to help get a child ready for bed but not too long that they get bored. The illustrations are large and simple with a subdued color palette which keeps it from being too stimulating before bed. The repetition is perfect for preschoolers…you can ask the child what does Max have to do next to get back home?

My daughter and I really enjoyed this story and we are so thankful to Sourcebooks for providing us a copy.

Enter below for a chance to win your own copy of Max at Night and an original sketch by author and illustrator Ed Vere!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

If you’d like to learn more about the author and illustrator of Max at Night, you can find him by any of his social media below.
Twitter: @ed_vere

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Book Review: Toothiana: Queen of the Tooth Fairy Armies (The Guardians #3)

Toothiana: Queen of the Tooth Fairy Armies (#3)
by  William Joyce
Date Read:  9/3/16
Rating: ★ ★ 

The first thing I noticed about this book when we finally got the audiobook from the library was that is significantly shorter than the previous novels. Well, just be warned, that is because it ends on a huge cliffhanger and it just says “To Be Continued”.  SERIOUSLY?!

This book was actually much slower in pace than the previous books as well. It has a lot more background on Toothiana than we’ve gotten on the other characters.  Between this and the shorter length, there didn’t seem to be a whole lot of action in this book. I did really enjoy the background story on Toothiana. It’s pretty tragic and yet hopeful also.

I’m really interested to see what happens to Katherine and also to our heroes as their journey continues. Pitch is a pretty sympathetic villain – while he’s doing evil now, he wasn’t always that way and he lost his daughter.  Will Pitch and Katherine end up having some sort of connection that helps save him from the evil?

I really enjoy these storylines but I’m disappointed that book 4 in the series is not on audio. Someone needs to remedy that FAST.  My husband and I have both been listening to these on our commute to work – so having to read a physical book will be much more time consuming for us.

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.

Book Review: The Crown

The Crown (The Selection #5)
by  Kiera Cass
Date Read:  6/27/16
Rating: ★ ★ 

It has been a while since I finished “The Crown”.  I had to sit on it for a few days to get my feelings together about it…and then I forgot about it!

I really wanted to enjoy this book…and there were some parts that I did enjoy: I like the characters and the growth of Eadlyn and I like the world they live in and the change that has happened since the original story.

But overall I was disappointed with the book.  I was really rooting for Kile in this series. I know it’s a little cliché with him having lived in the palace with her all those years, but he was really the guy I liked best. And I liked their relationship with each other and how it grew once they got to know each other.  I liked some of the other characters as well, but I just wanted her to be with Kile. There weren’t really any that I hated by this book, which was nice.

I was constantly suspicious throughout the book: I was suspicious at Ahren’s disappearance and his lack of communication to his twin sister. I was suspicious about Marid’s mysterious appearance even though their parents hated each other. I was suspicious that something was going to happen at the interview and the coronation. Most of these do not come to fruition. Cass created the same type of thing in her first series too. The world and character building is great, and she makes you expect something big, but her execution is usually sub-par.  Same goes for this book. The conflict was really disappointing.

I thought it was hard to believe that Eadlyn would take the throne so young and that her parents would easily step aside. While all the reasons are sweet, it just didn’t feel very believable. It was just the only way Cass could get to the end point she wanted.

And speaking of that – she really just steps in and says, “This is what we’re doing” and the whole country has to go along with it? Without any sort of checks and balances from her cabinet members?  She could write a whole new series on what happens after that surprising (but not so surprising) announcement at the end of the book. There will be revolts and riots and things will not go smoothly – because she didn’t plan it out with anyone ahead of time!  So annoying!!!

I didn’t feel like the romance we developed well at all. While I did like the guy, all I saw was friendship, and then all of a sudden they were madly in love and she was willing to go against rules and everything to be with him. It felt forced and not believable. I loved Maxon and America’s story – it was slow and believable and adorable. But Eadlyn’s was not.

I’m pretty disappointed with this book and the ending of the series. I was initially excited to see a new generation in the Selection series, but I now almost rather that Cass has just left it at 3 books – America’s ending was good.

I did appreciate that it was only 278 pages. Most final books are stupid 700+ pages nowadays, so it was refreshing to have a short book. But at the same time, that came with a cost to the romance and storytelling.

Finally the main reason this will get 3 stars instead of 2 is that we get a good look at characters from the original book and how they’ve changed and grown throughout the years also. Most of America’s friends and family show up at some point during this book, and there are some tough topics addresses – like one couple unable to have kids. I thought that was what Cass did best in this second half of the series. I wasn’t really attached to many of the new characters or story, but I am still glad I read it so I could see the characters I did like all grown up!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Book Review: The Hero's Guide to Being an Outlaw (League of Princes #3)

The Hero's Guide to Being an Outlaw
by  Christopher Healy
Date Read:  6/17/16
Rating: ★ ★ 
★ ★ 

I am sad to see this series end. I have really enjoyed it. Christopher Healy has created such a humorous world and lovable characters.  All of our heroes and heroines are on the run since they have become the prime suspects to Briar’s purported murder!  All of the princes and princesses have a lot of story time in this novel – which is awesome, but at times cumbersome to keep track of who is where and doing what.

This was a pretty long book for a middle-grade book, but there were very few parts that were slow. One specific part that I thought was slow and took up a lot of time was when every single one of them made a wish from the genie… while it was one of the more humorous scenes, it also took up a lot of time all in one place without actually gaining much from the scene.

New characters are met in this book on a pirate ship, and old characters arrive again, either to help our heroes or to hinder them. Who is working with Rundark against the princes? How are they controlling all the different kingdoms?  I love that their plans never work out the way they are planned, although they somehow always win anyway!

I think Lila and Gustav were my favorites in this book. They had some good storylines and character development.  I wasn’t as big of a fan of Liam in this book as I was in the first book. Duncan is still just as annoying as he always has been.

I really liked that this was a group of unlikely heroes who want to do good and manage to do so in unique ways. Each one has their strengths and they always find a way to use that in their favor. It was a really good story and satisfying ending. 

I am fairly happy with who everyone ends up with at the end. I liked that it wasn’t necessarily the girl they originally started out with. Although I feel that relationships could have been handled differently, I liked that series showed that you need to complement each other – rather than be exactly alike or very different.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Book Review: How to Betray a Dragon's Hero (#11)

How to Betray a Dragon's Hero (#11)
by  Cressida Cowell
Date Read:  5/31/16
Rating: ★ ★ 

I am having a hard time typing up a review for this book. It was just so good that it’s hard to put my finger one what I loved about it.

I really liked how it focused on Snotlout.  The entire story you are wondering which side Snotlout is going to choose and how Hiccup will deal with Snotlout’s decisions.  You get to get inside Snotlout’s mind a little more in this so you can really see where he is coming from and why he is struggling to pick the right side. It was really very well done.

I can’t believe that the final two books happen within a 48 hour period. It just seems like so much to cover! But it means that it will be fast paced.  Hiccup fails a lot in this book – but you keep cheering for him and feel bad for all his failures. But it is those failures that makes him such a good hero as he keeps persevering.

Some things worked out really well for him tho, and it was humorous. Camicazi and Fishlegs had to work together in this book and it was utterly humorous. I absolutely love Camicazi – her bravery and loyalty make her lovable and then her strength and wisdom helps them move through this book. I love that she never loses faith in Hiccup.  Fishlegs’ new dragon is pretty awesome too!

Snotlout gives a really long speech in this book at the end when he is interacting with Hiccup. You really learn more about where Snotlout is coming from and you can see the change in his heart. It's the first time you really can connect with him.

The ending of the book is pretty grim. There is a death which is one of the most impactful deaths I’ve ever read.  I expected a death since they killed off Stoic in the second movie…but the way it happened was so well done. This death also has a huge impact on Hiccup. It will definitely help shape him to who he becomes after this series is over.

I am so bummed that the audio book for the final installment hasn’t been released yet! Now I have to wait a month for it to be released!  I need to know how it ends and what happens to the dragons!  How are Hiccup and his friends going to make it to the island when it has a magical border around it now? Will the Woodensfang follow through on his promise and bring the King to the Dragon Furious?  Will that be Alvin??  I can’t wait to get answers!

Book Review: How to Seize a Dragon's Jewel (#10)

How to Seize a Dragon's Jewel (#10)
by  Cressida Cowell
Date Read:  5/18/16
Rating: ★ ★ 

Apparently I never wrote my review for this one either!  It’s been a while since I listened to it, but it was also really good. We spend most of the time worrying about Fishlegs.  While I was never truly worried about him, we never had any idea what had become of him.

I really liked the new character that shows up in this book in the form of the little girl. I don’t expect to see her again, but I hope she made it back to her mom!

I think the best part of this story was Gober’s speech to Snotlout.  Snotlout has really become a terrible person and Gober has a really good speech about whether Snotlout has been a good leader to earn loyalty from his tribe:
'We are about to leave you here alone,' said Gobber calmly. 'So you will have plenty of time to think. And what you should think about is this: what have I done as a Chief that will make someone here want to come back and save me?'
There is also a great speech from Valhallarama at the end as well.  The shift in power makes the world very interesting and to see some of the tribes switch sides is amazing.

This story also completes Fishlegs' story. We never knew how he came to be on Berk floating in a lobster pot. You have no idea who his parents were. We finally get all those answers in this book. What a delightful and sad story. It's nice to know where he came from and where he inherited some of this quirks and talents from, but it is sad to know his family is gone.  But Fishlegs gets an awesome dragon!!!  I've been waiting for this, so it was rewarding to finally get this information!

This book really starts to set up the final climax of the series as you continue to cheer on Hiccup and his supporters against Alvin and his mother and also the Dragon Furious.  What will happen to the dragons? I’m just not sure how it’s going to all play out!

Book Review: The Hero's Guide to Storming the Castle (The League of Princes #2)

The Hero's Guide to Storming the Castle
by  Christopher Healy
Date Read:  6/2/16
Rating: ★ ★ 
★ ★ 

I am so happy that I decided to pick up this audio book from the library.  They are very humorous and the story is good.  We get to see more characters in this one, for instance Snow White and Rapunzel are a much bigger part of the story, as well as Briar Rose.

In this story Liam begins to have a lot of self-doubt about his heroic past after discovering that his father had orchestrated the fight that saved Briar Rose when he was 3 years old.  He was by far the most interesting character in this book. We see him learn to live with himself and that just because his heroics when he was 3 was set up, it doesn’t mean he can’t be a hero now.  He also treats his friends differently as he struggles with this fact.

Liam and Gustav are still my favorite characters. Although Liam wasn’t as heartwarming in this one as he was in the first while he was dealing with his issues. Gustav is just hilarious. I absolutely love him.

Briar Rose was obnoxious. But you were always wondering throughout the book whether she would come around or not.  She always acted in a way to help herself.

The bad guys are pretty bad in this book. The Warlard of Dar, Rundark, is a pretty scary dude.   And of course Rauber is still in it also.

The love triangle between Ella and Frederick and Liam is getting annoying. I hate love triangles. But this one seemed to focus on what love is really all about. So I guess I can live with the love triangle right now if it shows that a relationship is built on trust and compromise; that you can’t be too similar or too different – you need to compliment each other.  I hope everything works itself out in the final book.

I’m looking forward to what happens to our League of Princes!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Comic Book Review: Lady Justice

Lady Justice

Free Comic Book Day

by  C.J. Henderson

Date Read:  5/23/16
Rating: ★ 

We picked this up on free comic book day.

So, the first half of this comic was pretty good. I liked the setup of all the people around her getting killed and her wanting justice for them. It made total sense.

But then came the weird inner monologue or something making her come to the dark side of justice. I didn’t get it. It was just super strange to me. And then all of a sudden she could walk??? What in the world? Why does she wear a blindfold??  How did she learn to fight????

This could have been way better than it was. But it fell way short of the small expectations I had.  I feel like they should rewrite this from the point her brothers died and go from there.

I also wasn’t a big fan of the art style either.   And it was a little violent at the end also – but yet not very believable either.  Nothing really won me over with this one…

Friday, May 20, 2016

Children's Book Review: Llama Llama Home with Mama

Llama Llama Home with Mama
by  Anna Dewdney
Date Read:  5/18/2016
Rating: ★ ★ 

This was one of the two books read at storytime at the library today. The theme was about being sick. This is a cute book about llama llama who comes down with a cold. He has to stay home from school and it describes what happens. Then Mama comes down with the cold! Oh no! How does he take care of mama?

The rhyming is pretty cute but the story was just ok. This is a cute series, but this won't be a book that we have to have on our shelves.

Children's Book Review: Sofia the First

Sofia the First
by  Catherine Hapka
Date Read:  5/15/2016
Rating: ★ ★    

We saw this book at the library and had to pick it up. Sofia the First is one of my daughter's favorite characters and TV shows. We're currently watching the whole series on Netflix to watch in the episodes in order - we usually catch episodes on Disney channel but they're out of order.

I had always wondered how Sofia had gotten her amulet and why she was called Sofia the First. While the TV show does have an episode where Sofia describes the King giving her the amulet as a welcoming gift, I still just felt they needed to tell the story sooner than that.

Well apparently they did - in book version. This book was published several months before the TV show first aired in January 2013. This book tells the story of Sofia coming to live in the castle and learning to get along with her new step-siblings, her step-sister in particular, and struggling to fit in with Royalty having not been born in that world. At the end of the story, you also find out how the show ended up being called Sofia the First.

If you picked this book up hoping for a more thorough plot, I could understand you being disappointed. While it does show growth between Sofia and Amber's sister relationship, there isn't a whole lot else. However, if you're reading this knowing it is the set up for the premise of the TV show, I think you'll be happy like my daughter and I were.

If your child likes Sofia, this book won't disappoint.

Children's Book Review: The Day the Crayons Quit

The Day the Crayons Quit
by  Drew Daywalt
Date Read:  5/16/2016
Rating: ★ ★    

I absolutely loved this book. I've seen it once or twice before and stumbled upon it a couple of weeks ago. We found it at the library and finally read it last night. It had sounded like such a cute book so I was worried whether it would be as good as my expectations.

It definitely was! This was such a cute book. Duncan's crayons go on strike for various reasons. Each crayon has it's own personality and it's own beef with Duncan. Each color writes a letter to him about what he's frustrated about. Some of them were pretty funny. Accompanying each letter are pictures of the things he generally colors with that specific color (green frogs, purple dinos, red apples, etc) or how they wish he would color with them (black beach ball, pink cowboy, etc). There had to have been at least 10 different colors included in this story. It's a great way for kids to learn their colors and also learn what types of things are those colors.

At the end of the story, Duncan finds a way to please all his crayons and there is a huge two page spread of a drawing by Duncan. It was so much fun.

BTW: Yellow is right and Orange is wrong in their argument! lol

We can't wait to read the second book, The Day the Crayons Came Home.

Children's Book Review: The Day the Crayons Came Home

The Day the Crayons Came Home
by  Drew Daywalt
Date Read:  5/19/2016
Rating: ★ ★    

I actually liked this one even better that the first book, The Day the Crayons Quit! This one was even funnier because of all the strange situations these lost crayons found themselves in. Esteban the Magnificent (formally known as Pea Green) was really funny.

I liked that he got several postcards from the same crayon in this book. You really followed their story - like Neon Red crayon who was very very confused with her geography. And Esteban who runs away, but can't get out the door.

My husband and I found ourselves laughing out loud several times throughout this book. Most of it went over our 1.5 year old daughter's head, but she really liked the pictures. I thought the format with the postcards was really cute too. And of course Duncan has another brilliant idea to help his lost crayons.

The story still has pictures accompanying each postcard. The pictures are either drawn like Duncan drew them, or they have photographs of them in their current location. This again is a great way to help kids learn their colors and this one actually has some geography too!

FYI: We couldn't get the glow in the dark page to work. The actual crayon itself lit up a little bit, but the drawings didn't glow at all. It's in the middle of the book, so you don't really have enough time to get enough light on the page. My daughter wasn't going to sit there for 5 minutes while we just waited... cool idea though.

These are two books I definitely need to have on my bookshelf!

Children's Book Review: God Gave Us You

God Gave Us You
by  Lisa Tawn Bergren
Date Read:  112/16/2014
Rating: ★ ★    

This is a really sweet board book to read to your little ones. The book is a bit small to keep my 3 month old's attention, but the story is sweet. Would be a perfect gift for a baptism.

Children's Book Review: Fox in Socks

Fox in Socks
by  Dr. Seuss
Date Read:  1/2015
Rating: ★ ★  

This was a fun book. My mouth and brain were tired at the end from all the tongue twisters. Some were a lot easier for me to say than others. The pictures held my 3.5 month old's attention for a little while. I can see this one being fun to read to my daughter as she gets older and can laugh at me trying to say it all.
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