Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Review: Hades Speaks! by Vicky Alvear Shecter

Title: Hades Speaks!: A Guide to the Underworld by the Greek God of the Dead
Series: Secrets of the Ancient Gods
Author: Vicky Alvear Shecter
Illustrator: J.E. Larson
Format: Hardcover, 128 pages
Pub. Date: September 1st 2014
Source: Blog Win

Book Description:

Hades, god of the dead, welcomes readers on a dangerous tour of his underworld kingdom, filled with monsters, furies, giants, and vampire demons. Along the way, he reveals ancient death rites and sinister curses, tells hair-raising stories, and cracks jokes to die for. With his witty voice and ghoulish sense of humor, Hades is the perfect guide through this fresh and imaginative work of nonfiction that reads like a novel. Includes a glossary, bibliography, and index.



It's no secret that I love mythology. I have a degree in ancient civilizations and classics for a reason! No matter if they're historical texts or picture books, I'm always a sucker for myths. Of the Grecian pantheon, my favorite god is the often misunderstood and underrated Hades. So when I saw this book, I had to give it a go. I wasn't disappointed.

Hades Speaks! is a book that stands apart to me because it's actually written from the perspective of Hades giving the reader a tour of the Underworld. That's such a cool way to present this information, especially since it's a middle grade-ish age book. It makes learning fun, and makes it easy to forget that you're even learning at all.

I appreciated that Hades wasn't boring or cookie cutter. He had some depth and development as a character. He was bitter towards his siblings and a bit of a complainer- which if you've read anything about Hades, that's pretty accurate. But he cracks a few jokes and just wants to clear up his side of history that pop culture has gotten wrong. There's even a reference to Harry Potter & Fluffy.

The journey through the afterlife of the fallen Greeks is a very enjoyable one. There's a good flow. The information is explained by way of story telling, so it's not just an information dump of Greek facts. You're introduced to different monsters and underworld inhabitants that aren't really mentioned much, at least here in the US. (Shoutout to my girl Hecate who never gets much representation).

There's also illustrations throughout the book. They're well done, and really accentuate the texts.

If you, or your children, are interested in learning about Greek gods, this book is a great way to learn. Hades Speaks! should be a welcome addition to any classroom or library. I look forward to reading other books about the gods in this series.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Mini Review: Rebels: City of Indra by Kendall Jenner, Kylie Jenner, & Maya Sloan

Title: Rebels: City of Indra
Series: The Story of Lex and Livia #1
Authors: Kendall Jenner, Kylie Jenner, & Maya Sloan
Format: Hardcover, 352 pages
Pub. Date: June 3rd 2014
Source: Goodreads First Reads/Publisher

Book Description:

Kendall and Kylie Jenner, stars on the hit reality show Keeping Up with the Kardashians, present their debut novel—a thrilling dystopian story about two super-powered girls who embark on a journey together, not knowing they’re twins.

Two girls, two worlds apart.

Lex lives down below, close to rock bottom. She grew up in the orphanage, alone, and now is training to be a Special Op so she can finally destroy the rebels with her own hands. She needs no one.

Livia lives miles above everything on a floating island in the city of Indra. She is training too, but for a life that she doesn’t want. She wants to be free, to finally leave her floating island, and to run with her beloved horse until she can’t run any longer.

And then there’s Kane—Lex’s only friend, whom she would walk through fire for. And when she finds that Kane is in danger, she doesn’t hesitate to leave her post and blast her way to the top of Indra to save him. She just needs to get one stubborn, unexpectedly clever airgirl to tell her where he is first.

In this fast-paced, dystopian thriller, Lex and Livia reluctantly team up to save Kane after discovering that they share a mysterious identical mark—not realizing that their biggest danger is in each other.



I want to start this off by saying I have no grudges, or opinions, about the Jenner/Kardashian clan. I didn't go into this to poke fun at the Jenner sisters for writing a book. I went into it because it sounded like something that I would enjoy. For reasons (almost) completely unrelated to the cache of the authors, I didn't care much for this book.

It felt forced. There are elements of so many other science fiction/dystopian tropes here, that it all becomes muddled and confusing. Mysterious underground civilization? Check. Weirdly affluent above ground kingdom? Check. Plastic surgery being almost required of the upper crust? Check. Orphanage? Check. Love triangle? Ugh.

That said, I thought the world building was okay. It was a bit overwhelming and overdone, but painted a pretty good visual picture.

I didn't care for either of the main characters. They seemed to be made from cardboard. They're boring, they're flat. They don't seem too developed or interesting, even. Because of that, I didn't care about the plot. I wasn't invested in the characters, so what happened to them was sort of a moot point.

I do think it's a little funny though (this is the one point where the authors mattered to me) that one of the lead girls poo-poos plastic surgery/body modifications because she doesn't need it to be herself. From a Jenner. I'm just saying, compare the author photo on the back of this book to their current faces.

I can see maybe where young teens would maybe like this, but if you've read good sci-fi or dystopia before, I feel like you're going to have some problems with this. Enter at your own risk.

I received a copy of this book from the Goodreads First Reads program in exchange for my honest review. Thank you.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Blog Tour Review & Giveaway: From the Earth to the Shadows by Amanda Hocking!

Title: From the Earth to the Shadows

Series: Valkyrie #2

Author: Amanda Hocking

Pub. Date: April 24th 2018

About the Book:

The epic conclusion to the thrilling Valkyrie duology by New York Times bestselling YA author Amanda Hocking, From the Earth to the Shadows.

While dealing with dark revelations about her life and her world, Malin finds herself with new allies--and new enemies. Her quest for the truth leads her to places she never thought possible, and she's never been one to shy away from a fight. But for all her strength and determination, will it be enough to save the world before it's too late?

Get It Here:

BAM | Powells | IndieBound | Amazon | B&N

About the Author:

Amanda Hocking is the author of over twenty young adult novels, including the New York Times bestselling Trylle Trilogy and Kanin Chronicles. Her love of pop culture and all things paranormal influence her writing. She spends her time in Minnesota, taking care of her menagerie of pets and working on her next book.

Blog | Website | Twitter | Facebook



I was very excited to get a chance to read this book. It's no secret that I'm a fan of Amanda Hocking's work. Plus, I had read book one in this series - Between the Blade and the Heart - earlier on in the year and I enjoyed it very much.

From the Earth to the Shadows contains the same lovable cast that were in book one. I appreciated the characters in this book as well, since even the ones that I didn't care for, I understood why I didn't care for them. Not all people in life are likable, so why would fictional people? I feel like I liked Malin a bit more this time around, she seemed more approachable. Maybe I'd just gotten used to her. Either way, it worked.

There is a lot of action packed into this book, as is true with the first one. There's a lot to take in, and a lot to follow. On the one hand, this is great because it feels like it could be an action movie. It keeps the pace quick, and it feels like you're flying through the story. I appreciate that- one of my least favorite feelings is when a book d r a a a a a a g s on forever.

But on the other hand, it is a lot to take in. There's a lot of characters to remember, and background/plot information to keep straight. Some times it felt a bit rushed, like it moved along too quickly, or like some plot steps were a bit too convenient.

Ultimately though, I enjoyed this book. It felt very similar to the first in tone and pace, and I loved a chance to go into the world that Hocking created. I definitely recommend reading book one before you read this one, though. If you've read book one and enjoyed it, then I'll think you'll like the second part of the duology as well. It mixes romance, mythology, and a kick butt heroine into one fast paced adventure through the underworld.


- One (1) winner will receive a finished paperback copy of FROM THE EARTH TO THE SHADOWS, U.S. entries only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Review: Can a Princess Be a Firefighter? by Carole P. Roman

Title: Can a Princess Be a Firefighter?
Author: Carole P. Roman
Illustrator: Mateya Arkova
Format: Paperback, 36 pages
Pub. Date: March 25th 2016
Source: Author

Book Description:

Two little girls pepper their father with questions about whether or not they can be a profession and still be a princess. Motivated by her granddaughter's fascination with all things 'princess,' Carole P. Roman penned this adorable poem celebrating all the wonderful possibilities waiting ahead for them.



What a wonderful children's book.

First, I'd like to talk about the actual story. As the title suggests, the lead little girls ask the question, "Can a Princess Be a Firefighter?" I think all of us as little kids grow up with some version of this dream job that smooshes multiple jobs together. Maybe an astronaut who studies dinosaurs, or a ballerina veterinarian. When the world is our oyster, and we aim for the sky. This book reaffirms that girls can do anything they put their minds to. There's nothing wrong with wanting a stereotypically "girly" career- like a ballerina, a nurse, or a princess. But there is also nothing wrong with wanting to be in a STEM field, a doctor, an astronaut, a cop. The sky's the limit. It's a message worth repeating, and not just to our daughters but our sons too.

The book is written in a rhyming, nursery story way. It makes it more fun to read aloud, and also is a clever way of making the story flow. As a kid, my favorite stories were always the ones that rhymed!

And then there's the artwork. It's very fun and detailed, and very colorful. It'll hold a young reader's attention, and the pictures match well with the text on the page.

I recommend this to the parents and teachers of young children. This story has a great message, and goes about exploring it in a really fun way.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Review: Fun Home by Alison Bechdel

Title: Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic
Author: Alison Bechdel
Format: Paperback, 232 pages
Pub. Date: June 5th 2007
Source: Half Price Books

Book Description:

In this graphic memoir, Alison Bechdel charts her fraught relationship with her late father.

Distant and exacting, Bruce Bechdel was an English teacher and director of the town funeral home, which Alison and her family referred to as the Fun Home. It was not until college that Alison, who had recently come out as a lesbian, discovered that her father was also gay. A few weeks after this revelation, he was dead, leaving a legacy of mystery for his daughter to resolve.



I didn't know anything about Fun Home when I saw it on Broadway in Chicago. My sister is a season pass holder to the theatre, and so we went. I was told, "I don't know, it's a musical about lesbians or something". Seeing as I'm LGBT, that was enough. I didn't expect to fall in love with the musical and the story, but I did. I was eager to get my hands on Bechdel's book to get a deeper experience out of it. I wasn't disappointed.

I wasn't expecting this book to be so smartly written. I know that sounds insulting, and I definitely don't mean it to be. I know Alison Bechdel is smart (understatement of the year, since I'm pretty sure she's a MacArthur grant recipient). But wrongly, I assumed that because it was a graphic novel, it wouldn't contain much.

I was wrong, and I stand corrected.

The amount of literary comparison and quotation and references in this book are insanely plentiful. Not to mention well done. As an English grad, it warms the cockles of my cold, cynical heart. I too speak of my life, and the people in it, in terms of literature. I related strongly. Sometimes I even, admittedly, had to go back and read again to make sure I understood the bookishness fully. It's not a fast read, despite the illustrations.

I also related strongly with the idea of loving one's father, but also hating them. It is confusing to people who don't understand. My father could be warm and charming in a room full of people. But home with us, he was cold, and he was cruel. I lived my life in a state of confusion, because which of these people was my father? I have people who don't believe he was abusive, because he was so fun. I have people who know how abusive he was at home, who have gotten angry at me for staying in contact with him. It is a very weird mix of feelings to even explain to myself, let alone to other people. Alison Bechdel, while having drastically different circumstances, managed to convey this perfectly. Far better than I could ever say. Alison, I feel your heart saying hi.

And then, there's the artwork. It's very odd to see such an emotionally driven biography in this medium, but it's super effective. At first I was disappointed that these illustrations aren't in color. But in a panel, she explains why she doesn't use color anymore.... And I unfortunately relate to that too. It no longer disappointed me. The art style is well done, familiar but with detail. I appreciated the many references to Sunbeam Bread throughout the course of the book.

I also liked that the book wasn't just somber all the way through. There are moments of humor. There are moments that as a young LGBT woman that made me smile, or upset me, or just hit home. Like when I first realized what it was like to be different. Like life, this book is filled with ups and downs and complications and emotions. It can be rough in spots, but it's worth it.

I'd absolutely recommend this to anyone who enjoys the musical Fun Home, who grew up queer, or who likes gritty, realistic autobiographies. It's so well done, both in text and in illustration. It will remain on my sexuality shelf for the foreseeable future.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Stacking the Shelves [110]

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews where we get to show off the books we've won, bought, or otherwise received in the past week. If a book catches your eye, *click* the picture to go to the Goodreads page of that book.

I wish spring would come already!

In My Mailbox

Passion Ignites by Donna Grant

In My E-Mailbox

Theo and the Forbidden Language by Melanie Ansley
Dark Desires by Aja James
Pink by Stephanie Powell

Mini Review- Cave Kiddos: A Sunny Day by Eric Jay Cash

Title: Cave Kiddos: A Sunny Day
Author: Eric Jay Cash
Format: Paperback, 26 pages
Pub. Date: February 6th 2016
Source: Publisher

Book Description:

Cave Kiddos is a fun book about four Paleolithic children who share the experience of developing and learning important words and concepts. Join Alk, Haha, Lala, and Zee as they discover the world around them.



I'll start off with the positive thing I liked about this book, and that is the illustrations. They're very cartoonish and animated, and they're very cute. They will certainly hold the attention of younger readers. They are colored well and can be appreciated without having text along the way in the book.

But there is text in the book: albeit very, very little. The book follows these four little cave children as they explore the world around them. They learn the word "water"..... And that's it.

This might be good for really, really, really early readers, or as the author's bio suggests, for kids with speech delays/problems. But for most kids, this won't hold interest for very long. I wouldn't recommend it.