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:

 

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

Guest Review- Slade House by David Mitchell

I would like to welcome my Mister Brian to Skipping through the stacks. He is a huge fan of David Mitchell and I was able to get him a review copy from Random House and Netgalley. Thank you to both for providing this copy for review. This is his first book review and I hope you enjoy it as much as I have. He says that if you have not read any of Mitchell’s other books there may be slight spoilers so please take that into consideration. Welcome Brian!

Title: Slade House

Author: David Mitchell

Publisher: Random House

Publishing Date: October 27th, 2015

Brief Overview

Every 9 years something spooky happens in an alley off Westwood Road…

David Mitchell’s newest release, Slade House, is a linear collection of 5 short stories weaved together over the span of 36 years. Beginning in 1979, we are introduced to a young boy and his fame-obsessed mother. They journey to a mysterious and difficult-to-find house in late October only to disappear forever. In 1988, we meet a detective who succumbs to the same fate while investigating the boy/mother disappearance from 9 years prior. In 1997, we travel to Slade House with a co-ed group of local college students following the leader of their paranormal activity club. Convinced it’s all a hoax they join the Halloween party at the mysterious and eerie establishment only to lose one of their own in the process. In 2006, we retrace the steps of the college co-ed who vanished in 1997 through the eyes of her older sister. Desperate to find answers that will explain her sister’s disappearance she gets too close and never returns. And in 2015, something truly special happens that upsets the 9-years-every-October cadence of horror at Slade House.

For those familiar with Mitchell’s work this linear progression comes as no surprise. He is a master of puzzles within puzzles and this collection of short, but intertwined, tales is no exception.

What did I like about this book?

The first thing I liked about this book is that it wasn’t 700+ pages! It’s a quick and fairly simple read, even for someone like myself who reads slowly. Next, in true Mitchell fashion, I loved how each every-9-years chapter had it’s own feel; it’s own place in time; and it’s own character development. Every chapter is truly it’s own short story, but interlaced with characters, events and materials important in other chapters of the book. Finally, I really enjoyed the character and location connections to other Mitchell books (for example, The Bone Clocks and The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet). I’m sure there were connections to his other books as well, but I haven’t read the entire David Mitchell catalog…yet.

What I did not like about this book?

Hard to say as I really did love this book. While I was happy to see a reduction in explicit sexual content in this book when compared to other Mitchell stories, there was still enough present for me to say this is not a story for anyone under 18. The details of violence is something I can handle without issue, but others may disagree and become upset by the destructive ways in which many characters meet their demise.

Rating

This is the ultimate haunted house story of our time, and I honestly have to give Slade House 5 stars.

Black Widow: Forever Red (Book Review)

Black Widow: Forever RedBlack Widow: Forever Red by Margaret Stohl
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

With the recent surge in superhero movies it’s about time that some of the female heroes get their stories told. Black Widow: Forever Red is an excellent tale of death and deception, family vs foe, and ultimately… redemption.

Ava Orlova is an average American teen with a dark past. She was trained by the evil Russian Mastermind Ivan Somodorov. Rescued by the Black Widow she escapes with just the clothes on her back and tries to forget her past. When children all over the world go missing she must team up with Natasha Romanov to stop a madman. But what do you do when you hate the one that saved you?

Black Widow was a fast paced, action packed read that leaves you hoping for a sequel. With the media pushing aside the popularity of the Black Widow Character this is a much needed book. It tells the tale of Natasha, her family, and her dark past while weaving in old and new characters that readers will enjoy. It is high on my list of recommendations for teens and one that I will be promoting heavily this fall.

I sincerely hope this is a series!

**Thank you to Disney Publishers and Marvel for providing a review copy. This in no way influenced my opinion.

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A Whole New World- Book Review

A Whole New World (A Twisted Tale #1)A Whole New World by Liz Braswell
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I really really wanted to like this book. I thought the premise was intriguing. Instead of the story we know it was about the dark side winning. The problem that I had was that the first few chapters are straight out of the movie word for word; all the way until you get to the part where Aladdin gets the lamp. Then it takes a very dark turn and does not stop even at the end.

I totally get where the writer was going with this book. I get why they wanted to explore the evils of Jafar as a ruler. However, having the first part of the book straight out of the movie threw me off. Instead of creating a whole new book it felt a little like a fanfiction take on the story.

What I did like is that weirdly everyone stayed in character. Even the Genie. I could hear Robin Williams voice in my head the entire time that I was reading. I liked the idea of Jasmine fighting for her people and being exposed to the lives of the poorest. That was a nice addition.

What ruined the story for me was the extreme violence and the utter destruction of several key characters from the original story. I think that maybe I am too attached to the original to really appreciate this one. I mean as a kid I really loved the magic carpet. Like wanted my own and dreamed of riding around on one. I also liked the humor. Yep… not in this book.

I can see some people wanting to see the story take on what would have happened if Jafar won. For me I think it would have worked better if the book had been original from the very start instead of using the movie. It was too much of a break when things went downhill. The transition was rough.

Will our library buy it? Yes. Will it be a feature on my Fall book talk list? No. Will I recommend it to some readers? Of course.

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