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:

 

Books make great gifts

The holidays will soon be here and one of the best things to put on your shopping list is books! This past weekend our library had their top 2016 books you can gift to friends and family. I’m tackling the YA list and to be honest, it’s been a bit of a tough year for groundbreaking YA titles. I have seen lots of amazing sequels, prequels, and series finales. But I am still waiting on the next big trend in YA. I know I’m not alone in this feeling. I have talked with quite a few colleagues and they all feel like we are in the dreaded “what’s after Hunger Games” slump. Which is sad because there are some wonderful books getting overlooked while we wait for the next big breakout title.

My goal with this post is to highlight my top 5 picks from my presentation that would be great for Middle and Young Adult Readers. It is by no means exhaustive, since there are tons of great books that I have missed getting to read this year. My TBR pile is massive! I would also love to hear some of your recommendations. If you have a book or books that everyone should read and/or gift please let me know in the comments below.

Historical Fiction for Teens

Salt to the Sea- By Ruta Sepetys

By far this is one of my top 3 favorites for 2016. It is heart wrenching and beautifully written. Told from the perspective of 4 teens who are seeking freedom on the Wilhelm Gustloff during WWII, we learn the heavy price of perceived freedom. The sinking of this ship claimed 9000 lives and is one of the worst little-known disasters of WWII. I had never heard about this ship until I read the book. It’s tragic, raw, and the pace is very fast. This is a good one for teens that love well researched historical fiction.

 

Fantasy Fiction for Teens

 Rebel Of The Sands- By Alwyn Hamilton

This books is a mix of western and fantasy with dash of romance for good measure. It has some familiar elements from Arabic mythology but does a good job of coming up with an original story line with lots of adventure. Amani is a talented sharpshooter with one fatal flaw, she is a girl. Determined to get out of her dusty town she dresses as a boy and enters a shooting contest. When chaos ensues and she is on the verge of being discovered, she takes off into the wild desert sands with a boy who is not who he seems and has the entire army of the Sultan after him. There is lots of action and adventure with a romance that doesn’t take over the whole plot. This is a good one for teens that liked “Girl of Fire and Thorns” and other stories with a strong female lead.

Fantasy Fiction for Middle Grade

The Night Parade- By Kathryn Tanquary

Saki leaves the comforts of Tokyo and her friends for to visit her Grandmother in the Mountains. Her family gathers there to take part in the yearly Obon ceremony to honour their departed ancestors. Bored out of her mind, Saki decides to cause some mischief in the graves with some local “cool” kids. However, all that messing about at the shrine has stirred to life an ancient curse. A curse that will lead Saki on a night time journey through the most fantastical parade on earth, with special  guides who are not quite what they seem. She only has a few days to set things right before she is trapped in the land of the dead forever.

This book would be a good choice for fans of “Spirited Away” and other popular Studio Ghibli films. It has a bit of a slow start, but readers will soon be caught up in the adventure and the magical creatures they meet along the way. 

Fantasy Fiction for Middle Grade

The Inquisitor’s Tale- By Adam Gidwitz

One night in the year 1242, a man hears a story about 3 amazing children and their magical dog. The tale starts in France with a capture, follows them to a castle where they dine with a King, expands as they save a kingdom from a dastardly farting dragon, and ends at Mont Saint-Michel where they will attempt to thwart the burning of ancient texts. Can these children really perform miracles? Did their dog really come back to life?

This book is hilarious and full of adventure. Not only are you reading a story in the text but there is another story happening in the margins of each page. Which tale is really the truth? Gidwitz is a master of gross out humor and dark twists. This was one of my favorite books of the year and a ton of fun to read. Perfect for readers who like snark, blood and guts, good adventure, and lots of laughs. 

Realistic Holiday Fiction for Teens- 

What Light- By Jay Asher

Sierra’s family runs a Christmas tree farm in Oregon—and every year, they pack up and move to California to set up their Christmas tree lot for the season. Sierra has always lived two lives and this year she is missing home more than she expected. When she meets a cute local boy with dark past, will she learn about forgiveness or will with rumors end their relationship before it even gets started? 

This was a wonderful book and perfect for the holidays. I so enjoyed reading this and it totally warmed my heart. It’s sweet and has a nice message about the power of forgiveness and trust. A total fluffy romance that is perfect to read during the holiday season.

 

 

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 Rose and the Dagger- Book Review

The Rose and the Dagger (The Wrath and the Dawn, #2)The Rose and the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh
My rating: 5 of 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. I did feel that the wrap up with Shahrzad’s Dad was rushed. He was such an integral part of the first book and I wanted a bit more of his story at the end.

Other than that I loved the book and plan to share this with my teens and put it on my lists for strong female leads, romance, and rewritten tales. A fantastic book duo for teens and adult readers who love traditional tales with a twist and epic romance.

Five Stars!!

Thank you Penguin Random House and Edelweiss for the DRC book to review!

* full review will come closer to publishing date.

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The Rose Society- By Marie Lu

The Rose Society (The Young Elites #2)The Rose Society by Marie Lu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Rating 4 stars-

Wow… this book has left me completely breathless. Adelina Amouteru is quite possibly the most evil villain that you hate to love. Filled with an awesome power that is fed by fear and hate this book explores her revenge in the darkest ways imaginable.

I could not put this one down. I have sat up late hours agonizing over this book and how well it is written. It is a very dark tale and there are no happy outcomes. This is a true villain origin story at it’s finest. I have enjoyed how different this book is and I cannot wait for the next.

This is one that I will recommend to my readers looking for something unique that is dark and twisty and will challenge them to consider what truly makes a villain. Love her or hate her Adelina will challenge what you think about right and wrong.

View all my reviews

The Tournament at Gorlan- By John Flanagan (Book review)

The Tournament at Gorlan (Ranger’s Apprentice: The Early Years, #1)The Tournament at Gorlan by John Flanagan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

First, I must admit that I am a huge fan of John Flanagan. He is one of my top 5 go to authors for reluctant readers, fantasy lovers, and adventure seekers. His Ranger Apprentice books are very well done and I have enjoyed all of them.

The Tournament at Gorlan is a prequel to Ranger’s Apprentice. It follows the story of Rangers Halt and Crowley as they take on the Dark Lord Morgarath who is trying to steal the throne. With the King a Prisoner, the Prince in disgrace, and the Ranger Corps disbanded, it will take all their strength and cunning to defeat his evil plan.

Things I liked:

This is a interesting prequel to the original series. It was fun to read about Halt as a new Ranger. The best part is when he gets his new horse (very classic to the story). I also enjoyed the banter between Halt and Crowley. There was lots of laugh out loud snark and witty commentary.

Getting to see how evil Morgarath really is and getting that backstory helps define the series as a whole. It also introduces some of the history and people briefly mentioned in the main series. It even has Pauline! (fangirl squeal)

Lastly, the battle at the end and the horrible twist (ugh.. why???!!!! Rip my heart out) makes me want to read the next book right now!

Things that were disappointing:

While this is another great addition to the story-line, it was a bit slow. I think that it compliments the series as a whole but I doubt I would recommend it to a reader who is not already a fan of the series.

There is a lot of camping, cooking, conversation, riding, thinking, descriptions… etc .. etc.. It really started to drag on a bit. While I love how Flanagan describes things so you feel like you are there, I got a bit bored with the constant mentions of the food and camping. (I actually feel terrible writing this. Like that I am going to be struck by lightning for not giving a glowing review) The summary made me think that this would be an action packed story that was fast paced and full of adventure. Unfortunately the action didn’t really start until the last few chapters of the book. Then it was non stop and had some twists that I was not expecting!

Final thoughts-
Like I said before this is a good addition to the series and it does build the story. I won’t recommend it as a first introduction to the series but I will recommend it to fans who will enjoy the backstory. I will definitely purchase this for the library and recommend it in my fall book talks to readers familiar with the tale. I also am excited to read the next in the series since this ended on such a tragic cliffhanger!!

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