Flame In The Mist: Book Review

Title: Flame in the Mist

Rating: 4 stars

Mariko is the daughter of a prominent Samurai. Her only duty is to marry well. When her family ships her off to become the wife of one of the Emperors sons, she feels that her future is over. Bound by honor, but cursed with a bright mind and clever spirit, Mariko is conflicted about her future. When her envoy is attacked in the forest by the gang know as the Black Clan her future suddenly takes a drastic change.
Determined to find out who is trying to kill her she dresses as a boy to infiltrate the clan. But what she finds is not what she expects as her loyalty is tested to its limits. A rich lyrical tale set in feudal Japan.

I confess that I was frustrated with this book. I had heard over and over in the publishing world and through bloggers that this was a Mulan retelling. I think that I spend half of the book being super frustrated because that is what I was expecting. I finally decided to view this as a new story with familiar themes and I ended up enjoying quite a bit more.

What I liked:

It took a long time for me to warm up to the story. I confess that I didn’t like Mariko for a long time. She is nothing like your typical Disney princess. (On that note: Stop comparing books to movies! It’s set the reader up for disappointment and frustration) She is logical, independent, and a bit naive. She spends much of the book asking question after question after question. She is also doesn’t spend the book in a romantic fog. Her actions are planned and plotted almost to her demise.! Which is exactly why she drove me crazy and why I ended up loving her story. She grows on you. It’s a nice change of pace from most fairy tale type stories. I love that she feels like a real character with legit flaws instead of a fluffy Mary Sue.

I also enjoyed the setting and the little twists and turns introduced along the way. There is a slight magical element that I hope, takes a more central role in the next book. The book also reveals itself slowly at a pretty comfortable pace. It isn’t an action packed page turner until the very end! (no spoilers!)

Bonus: NO LOVE TRIANGLES! This story is not romance centric. While there are some pretty steamy scenes, (PG-13) don’t expect this to be a hard core romance from front to cover.

Things that were a bit frustrating:

I love a good backstory and got it with “Wrath and the Dawn.” I felt like this element was missing throughout much of “Flame in the Mist.” There is very little known about the motives of the Black Clan. How did they start? What is their purpose? Are they really good or more a Robin Hood type gang? I think that the author may have done this on purpose to give them a mystical feel.. Unfortunately, it didn’t really work for me. I want to know more about the supposed bad guys before I love or hate them. I’m hoping that their story and backstory takes a front seat in the next book.

Final thoughts:

Once I got past the Mulan thoughts I really enjoyed this book. I’m am very much looking forward to the second. Renee Ahdieh is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors to recommend to readers at the library. I am very much looking forward to sharing this as a great summer read.

Added note: 
This book is pitched as Mulan meets 47 Ronin and I would love if you forget that you ever heard this. Why? Because these comparisons sell it short. This is a story that stands on its own and one that might disappoint you if you are expecting the Disney Mulan treatment. I encourage you to read this as a new story with some familiar themes and only a squint (and you have to squint pretty hard) of Mulan. I have not seen 47 Ronin so I cannot compare it to that movie.

A Free Range Librarian in Denver

Welcome back friends! I have finally made it to Denver, Colorado after 2 long months of packing and selling our house. It has taken every ounce of brain power to leave one life behind and start another. I haven’t had a chance to blog or much less read. My life has been boxes, packing tape, contractors, and goodbyes. It’s nice to finally be a bit settled.

One of my first stops was the Arapahoe Library’s Castlewood Branch for a new library card. This is a smaller branch that reminds me a lot of the Schweitzer Brentwood Branch Library in Springfield, Missouri. The layout is open and welcoming with lots of seating for all ages. I am in love with their maker-space and looking forward to using it now that I’m in a tiny one bedroom apartment. It was really easy to find things and all the librarians have been very friendly. Bonus: You get to choose the color of your library card!!

I’m taking a bit of a break from job hunting right now. My hubby joked that I’m a free range librarian. I’m looking at my options and taking my time with the search. It’s hard to imagine having another library job that was as awesome as my last. I’m feeling a bit lost at the moment as I sit here writing this blog at the library. A huge part of me wants to be behind the desk helping patrons find books or planning a new teen program. For now, I think that I need some sleep and a few more weeks to get to know where I live! All good things are worth the wait.

So, what does this mean for Skipping through the stacks? I plan to do more book reviews and to revisit some of my library programs that I haven’t had a chance to blog about. I’m also going to add some book promos for upcoming titles that I think my readers would love. I also might throw in a craft project or two! I am debating on changing the look of the blog again or even going pro. It’s all up in the air, so be prepared for all of the above!

 

Finally here is a short list of books that I’m loving:

Read:

 

 

The Valiant By Lesley Livingston

Epic gladiator book featuring a kick butt female lead. Romance is a tiny bit predictable, but the twists and turns in this book kept me reading. Review to come.  4 stars

 

 

 

 

 

Currently Reading: 

 

Flame in the Mist vy Renee Ahdieh

Isn’t this cover gorgeous?!! I just started this one and I’m already hooked. It’s publish date is May 16, 2017. I’m so stoked that I got an egalley of this book. Thank you times a billion!! I loved Wrath and the Dawn and The Rose and the Dagger. Be sure to add this to your list of hot summer titles for fantasy readers.

 

 

 

 

 

TBR Pile:

 

Ghosts- By Raina Telgemeier

GhostsGhosts by Raina Telgemeier
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Cat is not happy about moving to the northern shores of California and leaving her friends behind. But she will endure if it means her little sister Maya will breathe a bit easier. Maya has cystic fibrosis and the salty air will help her lungs. When the girls meet their new neighbor, he tells them a secret about their new town. It is full of ghosts! While Maya is determined to meet one, Cat is not so sure. As Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) approaches, Cat will have to face her fears and be there for her sister. A charming tale with a lovely story about tradition.

What I loved:

Out of all of Raina Telgemeier’s books, this is my favorite. I love the setting and the tone of the book. She deals with the topic of death in a wonderful and refreshing way that highlights beautiful traditions and the love of family. She also, did a great job explaining the Day of the Dead and the traditions surrounding this sacred day in a way that younger readers can understand.

The illustrations are fun with just a hint of moodiness. I really like her work and the bright colors that she uses in her books. This one is a bit more muted to fit with the chill of northern California. The Day of the Dead characters are bright and friendly. I appreciate that she choose not to scare readers with gruesome ghosts.

I also liked that she included facts about the Day of the Dead and how she came to write this book.

What was okay:

I have to confess.. I really liked this one! I know a lot of other readers like her other books because they are more realistic. I can see a few readers who aren’t fans of the paranormal maybe shy away from this at first. However, her popularity as an author will make up for any hesitation.

Final thoughts:

Again, I enjoyed this book. I think it is a fun fall read that will be very popular at the library! Fans of Telgemeier will enjoy this new tale that takes a small step away from reality to explain death and tradition in a gentle way. Grab a warm blanket and a mug of tea and enjoy!

View all my reviews

March Clean Sweep Reading Results

Last month I challenged myself and my readers to do a “Clean sweep” of their bookshelves. The goal of this challenge was to read 15 books on your TBR pile. I am happy to say that I nailed this one and read a total of 17 books!  I am really excited because I always seem to either run out time or energy before I finish any of the challenges I set for myself. This time I was able to read some of the books on my sadly neglected shelves. I still have a ridiculous amount to finish, but such is the life of a Librarian. So many books, so little time..

 

Here is a highlight of what I read in March: Feel free to friend me on Goodreads if you want to see more of what I am reading.

Salt to the Sea- By Ruta Sepetys

5 stars

This was my favorite book. Sepetys is a fantastic author and her historical tales are always a treat. This is no exception. 4 teenagers, 4 secrets, and one terrible event. I honestly (and a bit shamefully) have never heard of the wreck of the Wilhelm Gustloff during WWII. After reading this book I spent quite a bit of time researching this horrible tragedy. Sadly, there are not many books out there about the Wilhelm Gustloff. I recommend this article from Time about the book and her research.

This is a fantastic historical book that will break your heart.

 

 All the Feels- By Danika Stone

5 stars

This book was so much fun and one of my favorite romantic reads of 2016. Check out my review here.

 

 

 Famous Last Words- By Katie Alender

3.5 stars

Willa is seeing things… Ghostly images, dead bodies floating in a pool, sinister messages on the wall. Could these things be connected to the Hollywood killer that is murdering young women and putting their dead bodies into creepy scenes from a movie?

This one was pretty predictable for me. It still was an interesting story and I think that mystery lovers will still like it. It says horror, but it’s pretty light.

 

 The Girl From Everywhere- By Heidi Heilig

3.5 stars

This book promises time travel, high seas adventure, and romance. While it does have all of those things, was expecting more. The time travel aspect is pretty low for a book titled “The Girl From Everywhere.” I think that was my main disappointment. It is a good story and I did like the love interest and the mystery. I really really wanted there to be a ton of time travel and more adventure on the sea.

I can see this being popular with the Doctor Who crowd and with teens who like time travel.

 

 Deception’s Pawn- By Esther Friesner

2.5 stars

This is the second book in of the Deception series that is set in  first century Ireland. For the most part I liked the first book. It had a good adventure with a strong female protagonist. This book  however, was not as good as the first. I felt like the whole book was just other characters constantly commenting on her beauty. Then there was the whole bullying aspect from the other girls. I really struggled to finish this one. It may have been my mood at the time. It is an okay finish to the series. It just doesn’t have that wow factor that I was hoping for.

 

 

What were your favorites for the month of March? I would love to hear about them and maybe add a few more to my TBR pile! Stay tuned for my April Reading Challenge.

 

All the Feels- By Danika Stone

All the FeelsAll the Feels by Danika Stone
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

OMG! All the feels!! Normally I am not a romance reader. However, the title of this book was so enticing that I had to grab it. It did not disappoint. This book was hard core geek wrapped in squees and swoon worthy dialog.

College Freshman Liv, is navigating the trials of newly won adulthood while still under her mother’s roof. When her favorite character of all time is killed off she is left a pile of sobbing fangirl desperation. Determined to bring him back she launches #SpartanSurvived with her steampunk loving (and totally gorgeous) best friend Xander. The tag takes on a life of its own much to the chagrin of her mother who thinks that this fandom thing needs to die yesterday. Now Liv must balance college classes, an online rebellion, her mother’s nagging, and her budding feelings for her best friend.

What I loved-

This is book sums up fandom, feels, online obsession, and geekdom in the most perfect way possible. I loved Liv. She is awkward and determined without becoming the typical Mary Sue of her own story. I could totally relate to her love of Starveil because I am an epic fangirl of all things Star Wars.

Xander… wow.. um not a romance girl here but dang bring on the swoons! He is dreamy and chivalrous. I found myself blushing during some of the dialog! Who wouldn’t love him?!

DragonCon.. Hello, yes.. this is exactly what it feels like to be at your first con. Especially for someone with a touch of social anxiety. You totally feel at home with your people, but at the same time there are so many of them that you want to run screaming for the door. It is overwhelming in the best and worst ways possible. The author does a fantastic job of describing what it is actually like.

Online fandoms.. YES!!! This is what happens when you meet someone you have only talked to online. Sometimes it’s awesome and sometimes you are thrown for a huge loop! Loved this part!

The romance.. Hello steamy without being smut! This book has been mentioned under the umbrella of New Adult. At first this was a bit of a turn off for me. Many of the New Adult books can be pretty hardcore leaving little to the imagination. Thankfully this one manages to stay fairly clean with no sex scenes. It does have some really steamy dialog and blush worthy kissing moments but manages to stay pretty PG-13. I would not have a problem recommending this to my high school students.

Mild issues-

There are a few plot holes. Mostly involving her mother and her mother’s boyfriend. (Who is just icky!) Another involves the actor from Starveil. That one left me hanging. I won’t say anymore because I feel like it would give away the big twist!

Final thoughts-

This is the book that all fangirls should read. It nails fandom and feels perfectly. The romance is real and not rushed even though it’s sooo dreamy! I adored this book and will be recommending it to all my geek girls who need a mostly clean romance with plenty of swoon!

View all my reviews

February Favorites and completing book challenges..

yes we crab

I was invited to a book challenge at work called “Yes we crab.” The goal is to read a select number of books and then work on your blogging habits during the month of February. I decided to try and read 20 books and blog once a week. Needless to say, I didn’t make it. Thankfully this is a low key challenge and nobody is going to come and get me for not finishing. I am happy to say that I did read 10 books and I blogged twice. It was a bit more challenging because I chose lengthy YA chapter books to complete. Usually I am pretty hard on myself with book challenges but this time I am actually pretty proud that I got though half of what I wanted to complete. February was a busy month at work and in my personal life so reading 10 books was pretty awesome!

Most of the time I avoid book challenges. They tend to make me anxious and feel like a bit of a failure when I don’t finish them. Plus, in 2015 I was stuck in the worst book slump ever. I had picked up a few books that were just terrible. After that nothing was appealing and I was burned out.  Completing a book challenge sounded like torture.

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However, “Yes we crab” was a simple enough challenge without the usual guilt trip. This month I am doing my own personal book challenge and calling it the “Clean sweep.” I have stacks of galley books and a huge TBR pile that keeps staring at me from my crowded shelves. I hope that I can clean up at least 15 of them before the month of March ends. Feel free to join. I don’t have any fancy hashtags but you are welcome to tweet me about what you are reading from your own piles. @MsVal313

Here is what I read in February.

Fullscreen capture 322016 71619 PM

Full list:

The Night Parade by Kathryn Tanquary: (4.5 stars) If you are a fan of the Studio Ghibli films then this is the book for you. It is charming and full of adventure. I really liked this one! (Full review coming soon)

The Great Hunt by Wendy Higgins: (3.5 stars) This book is filled with action and lots of romance. Perfect for those teen readers that love to gush over handsome boys and daring deeds. While the romance was not my favorite (so not a romance reader), I did love the action. Aerity is a strong female character that I actually liked despite her brush with insta-love.

The Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love by  Sarvenaz Tash: (4.5 stars) A geeky love story that unfolds at New York City Comic Con. Follow 4 teens as they profess their love for artists, authors, and each other in this fun coming of age story.

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi: (3 stars) The words in this book are rich and enthralling like the tapestry they describe. Blending Greek mythology and takes from India, the author takes you on a twisted tale full of colorful characters and plotting demons.

The Red Wing by Jonathan Hickman: (2 stars) This one was just weird. Too much story and not enough book. Very heavy handed on the message of “leave the world a better place.” This easily could have been a longer series. Very disappointed that it’s just one book.

 

Seconds by Bryan Lee O’Malley, Nathan Fairbairn: (3.5 stars) This one was pretty fun. I enjoyed reading an adult graphic novel. Lots of humor, plenty of adulting, and the graphics are fab.

Trail of the Dead (Killer of Enemies #2) by Joseph Bruchac: (3 stars) This book took me a few weeks. It was not as good as the first in the series and I kept putting it down. I did love the story of Coyote and the additional Native American mythology. That part of the story was very well done.

We Are All Made of Molecules by Susin Nielsen: (2 stars) This one frustrated me! The characters read way younger than they really are and there are too many themes for such a short book. I don’t know who I would recommend this too because it is complicated mess.

The Isolator, Vol. 1 (The Isolator #1) by Reki Kawahara: (3 stars)  This was my first trip into the “light novel” world. It wasn’t horrible and the story was fairly good. Not a series that I would likely continue but one that I would recommend to my anime fans.

The Rose and the Dagger (The Wrath and the Dawn #2) by Renee Ahdieh: (5 stars) The Wrath and the Dawn was my absolute favorite read of 2015. I have been anxiously awaiting the final book after a heart wrenching cliffhanger!
This book was everything I wanted it to be. The story is rich and complex just like the first with humor, thrills, daring deeds, strong female characters, and a lush romance. I love what Renee Ahdieh has done with story of “A Thousand and One Arabian Nights.” The ending was almost perfect.

Best wishes on your March reading list!! Feel free to join the “Clean Sweep!”

 

 

 

The Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love- By Sarvenaz Tash

The Geek's Guide to Unrequited LoveThe Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love by Sarvenaz Tash
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

4.5 stars

A geeky love story that unfolds at New York City Comic Con. Follow 4 teens as they profess their love for artists, authors, and each other in this fun coming of age story.

The Feels!!!

Oh man was this one fun! I really loved all of the characters in this book. Even the handsome British side character bent on foiling the love plot with his nice manners and perfect hair! You are thrown into the story right at the beginning and you have to get to know the characters as the story unfolds. Usually this doesn’t work for me but it was a fun change of pace in this novel. I loved the main character and his undying affection for his best friend. I also liked the portrayal of the Con. It didn’t follow the cliches that other authors have used to describe the epic nerdiness of the event. It also didn’t make fun of fans and geeks. I also liked that the focus was on the main characters and it didn’t throw in a weird adventure side story into the mix. You stayed with the group through the whole story and it felt like an experience any teen fan could have at a con.

The meh-

A bit of teen drinking is thrown in with this one. It doesn’t detract too much from the story but is something to note in case of parental restrictions.

Final thoughts-

This is the top choice for a story that takes place in a Comic Con. It’s lots of fun and has fantastic geeky references sprinkled through out the book. I loved the romance and the humor. I think this will be a fun title for my book talks this summer.

Pairings- (If you like this read this)

The Improbable Theory of Anna and Zak- By Brian Katcher
The Rest of us just live here- Patrick Ness
Fangirl- Rainbow Rowell
Geek Girl- Holly Small

View all my reviews