Book Review: Blood Song

Blood Song
Author: Anthony Ryan
Genre: Fiction, Fantasy

This story is basically about a boy whose father puts him in fighting school where he becomes a master at fighting.

There is more to that though and this is where the story gets interesting. The story follows the boy into adulthood where he learns more than just fighting. He forms a tight knight friendship with his “brothers” and learns who his mother was. He becomes a Lord for the king, he wins battles, and he falls in love. Through it all, he learns that there is an internal battle within himself. There is something or someone whispering to him, wanting to help him, or destroy him.

I enjoyed the writing and the flow of the story. I found it slightly on the fast side. A lot of information was provided in a telling kind of way to move the story to the main points. I found that I could easily skim over certain parts and I wouldn’t be missing much but skim too much and you’ll find yourself having to backtrack. Having said that, it was a fun read with great character development and world building.

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January 2017 Book Reviews

A goal this year is to only read about 12 books.  One book per month or around there.  I’ve really reduced it because I want to focus more on writing than reading.  I know I’ll probably end up reading more than 12 books but if I do, that’s okay.  I don’t want to stress out over trying to hit my numbers.  So far, I’ve read two books this month.  It wasn’t expected but once I learned Veronica Roth’s book, “Carve the Mark,” was out, I had to buy and read it.  Below are the reviews for the books I’ve read this month.

Behind Closed Doors
Author: B.A. Paris
Genre: Fiction, Psychological Thriller

behindcloseddoors_350This story is about a couple whom everyone thinks has the perfect relationship but deep down there are secrets.

Although the pacing is fast, the story starts out a bit slow.  There is a tenseness in the beginning especially when one of the supporting characters, Esther, questions their “perfect” marriage.

The characters were well developed and stayed true to themselves. The back stories to the main characters really helped in shaping them. The setting was clear and done well. The story line was interesting and kept me in suspense and intrigue, which was what kept me reading.

What bothered me most about the story was the protagonist and the main antagonist. Grace didn’t seem very smart or wise and Jack wasn’t as evil as he could be. I felt that Grace could have easily gotten away from Jack and even reported him but she let it go on for too long, doubting herself all the time, and not trusting her own intuition. She was so strong and determined at taking care of her little sister, I didn’t get why she suddenly gave in to Jack and put her sister on the sideline. As for Jack, I wanted him to be even more evil than he was but he seemed to also give in. There was no explanation why he gave in to Grace so much since his back story made him to be this person who enjoyed torture/pain, etc. If it was because he was afraid he’d get caught, then that fear should have somehow made it into the story or the back story.

Overall, I enjoyed the book. The suspense stretched out further than I had anticipated which almost led me to stop reading because it got to the point where I almost just didn’t care what happened (because as mentioned, Grace wasn’t very smart) but Esther got me hooked. She was the person who made the story interesting. I was annoyed by her at first but I was also curious as to why she was always prying. I was surprised by her at the end, and have to admit, I cried. She was amazing.

Carve the Mark
Author: Veronica Roth
Genre: Fiction, Sci-fi, Fantasy, Young Adult

carvethemark_350This story is about…I’m not even sure exactly what it’s about, to be honest, but I’ll do my best to describe it.  I believe it’s about two families who are enemies, where the evil family gains rulership and tortures the other family in hopes to continue ruling.

The story was interesting and the powers the characters had were unique. I liked the idea that it took place in outer space and other planets.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t as good as I had expected. It was pretty fast paced. Too many characters were introduced so I couldn’t feel for the main characters. Some characters were introduced and then only had small, almost irrelevant, parts. I tried to visualized the world they lived in and found it difficult because I felt as though there were pieces of Dune by Frank Herbert and Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. Every time I came across the word “Benesit, ” (the name/title of one of the families) I kept wanting to say “Bene Gesserit” from Dune.

As for the relationship between the two main characters, I felt very little for them. As mentioned, because it was so fast paced and so much information was being thrown in, I really couldn’t relate to the relationship or to their situation.

What was very obvious was the pain the protagonist felt and how she learned to deal with it. I think if the focus was solely on this as the story, how she was chosen to have this type of power that would cause herself pain, and how she learned to control or manage it, would have been a great story on its own.

I really wanted to like this story. I love sci-fi and fantasy combined and I love Veronica Roth’s style. The scenes merge seamlessly and the transition from first to third person was well done.  I’m just a bit bummed that there was so much thrown into it and it felt rushed.

Book Reviews and Ramblings

I’ve got quite a few book reviews to share.  It’s a busy time but I still found time to read, usually right before bed, and while I wait for my girls at the dance studio.  Lately, I’ve been finding that I’ve spent way too much time researching Korean skin care products.  Not sure how that was brought on but I think I was initially looking at Korean makeup (and I can’t think why I was looking at Korean makeup!)  which then lead to skincare.  I learned that Korean skin care technology is about 2 to 5 years ahead of the U.S.  I was fascinated and continued to read and learn about Korean’s advance products, including sunscreen, which I’m hoping to get my hands on because I am sold on the high SPF, broad spectrum, gel consistency or just less opaque compared to the ones I’ve used in the past, and cost.  Oh, and I might add that my curiosity got the best of me and I YouTube-ed a handful of Korean before and after plastic surgery.  I was saddened by their obsession for the V-shape jawline, big American eyes with thick eyelid folds, and super pale skin.  It made them look all very similar and reminded me of a book I read a couple of times called, Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley.  Interestingly, there was a time in my teen years in which I had wished everyone looked the same and lived in a socialistic totalitarian society, and I had good reasons for feeling that way, but as I got older I realized how bad that would be.

Anyway, let’s get the book reviews started.

Title: Shatter Me
Author: Tahereh Mafi
Genre: Sci-fi, post-apocalyptic, dystopian, paranormal, YA

This story is written in the first person through the eyes of a girl named Juliette.  She is gifted with the ability to absorb life from others and in the process kills them but she is aware of this so she tries not to touch anyone in fear that she’ll accidentally kill them.  She also has super human strength that she was unaware of until she broke down a metal door in her haste to escape The Reestablishment.  There is a love triangle going on.  Juliette likes Adam-a soldier of The Reestablishment, and Warner-the leader of The Reestablishment, likes her.  Warner wants her to use her ability to gain power but she doesn’t want to.  She escapes eventually and ends up in a facility with others who also have abilities of their own.

This book was recommended to me by my teenage daughter.  She loved it to death and couldn’t decide if she liked Adam more or Warner.  She compared the post-apocalyptic totalitarian world to the book, The Giver, by Lois Lowry.  Personally, I just found this book to be okay.  Juliette’s ability was exactly like Rogue’s from X-men so I couldn’t get a good description of her in my head because I just kept seeing Rogue.  The relationship between Juliette and Adam was okay.  Nothing new, nothing exciting.  The coddling was overdone and unrealistic.  I liked that Adam had a cute little brother whom he wanted to keep protected and that Juliette finally met up with others who had supernatural abilities as well, although, their abilities again reminded me of X-men.

 

Title: American Sniper
Author: Chris Kyle
Genre: Memoir, biography, war

This books is a memoir by Chris Kylie on how he became a SEAL and then a SEAL sniper and the four tours he fought in during the middle eastern war in the mid 2000’s.  He goes into some pretty good details about the weapons he used and what he did as a sniper.  He also talks about the friends he made and the soldiers, his “brothers”, whom he saved or tried to.  He talks about his family life and wife and their struggles while he was overseas.  There are clips of his wife’s point of view of his deployments which really helped in understanding the stress war and military life can bring on.

Overall, it was a good read.  Chris came across to me somewhat cocky but he is also quite humble.  He’s very proud of his country and would do whatever it took to take down the enemy for it.  I was very heartbroken over the other SEALs, marines, and army men who died.  The language/prose was very simple like someone speaking to you about their life.  This book is not for the faint of heart.

 

Title: Ralph S. Mouse
Author: Beverly Clearly
Genre: Children, fiction

This book is about a little mouse named, Ralph.  He lives in a hotel and is friends with a boy named Ryan and his mother who also live in the hotel.  He decides that he wants to get away from the hotel and maybe live in the school Ryan goes to.  While at the school Ryan tells him to stay quiet and not peek out of his shirt pocket but curiosity got the best of him and he peeked.  A classmate saw him and suddenly he becomes the center of attention.  He is put through a maze and also makes a new friend.

Read this with my daughter.  We both thought it was okay.

 

Title: Ribsy
Author: Beverly Clearly
Genre: Children, fiction

This book is about a dog named Ribsy who jumped out of his owner’s car to be with him but accidentally got into someone else’s car.  He escapes, and while trying to find his owner, ends up in meeting strangers who take him in.  Some treating him better than others.  In the end his owner finds him and they return home.

Read this with my daughter.  She didn’t like it so much but I thought it was cute.

 

Title: The Boy In The Striped Pajamas
Author: John Boyne
Genre: Historical fiction, war, children

This book is about a boy named Bruno, who’s father got promoted to Commandant, and they moved from Berlin to Auschwitz.  Bruno became very lonely and wanted someone to play with.  He saw people working in the distance from his bedroom window and found his way to where the people were to see if there was someone he could play with.  He becomes friends with a little boy his own age named, Schmuel, on the other side of the fence.  He doesn’t know why there is a fence separating them but he is determined to become good friends with Schmuel.  At one point Schmuel ends up at his house and he’s excited but when he learns that Schmuel was only there to clean the wine glasses for a big gathering he becomes confused.  He realizes that Schmuel is hungry so he gives some food to his friend to eat.  The soldier that had brought Schmuel in to do the work saw the food in Schmuel’s hand and berated him.  Schmuel told the soldier that his friend, Bruno, gave him the food.  The soldier asked Bruno if that was true and Bruno, scared of the soldier, said he didn’t know who the boy was nor did he give him any food.  Later on when Bruno went to the fence to meet Schmuel, he saw the bruise on Schmuel’s face and felt terribly bad.  Schmuel forgave him and they continued to be friends.  Bruno would sometimes bring food and pass it under the fence where a small opening existed.  Bruno’s mother, who didn’t like their new living arrangements in Auschwitz, decided that she was going to return to Berlin with him and his sister.  Bruno didn’t want to move back to Berlin because he now made a new friend that he really liked.  Just before they were to leave, Bruno and Schmuel arranged for Bruno to cross over the fence to help Schmuel find his father who mysteriously disappeared.  Life on the other side of the fence was not what Bruno had thought and he wanted to go home.  The soldiers were loud and vicious.  They made Bruno and Schmuel and a bunch of other people wearing the same clothing, the striped pajamas, get into a line and had them enter a large metal room.  The soldiers told them it was time for a shower.  The two little boys had no idea what was going to happen.

This was a very very very heartbreaking book.  This book was recommended to me by my teenager who read it in her language arts class and whom also saw the movie.  She loved it so much she had myself and her dad watch it with her her second time.  I totally loved the movie, more than the book, but both were very good.

 

Title: Tuck Everlasting
Author: Natalie Babbitt
Genre: Fiction, children

This book is about the Tuck family, a mother, father, and two sons, who drank from a spring in the Treegap woods that stopped them from aging and dying.  Over a hundred years had passed and the Tuck’s felt it was safe to return to their old home since everyone they knew had either died or were too young to remember them.  Jesse, the younger Tuck son who is about 17, stopped by the spring in Treegap to drink from the spring and a 10-year-old girl named, Winnie Foster, saw him and wanted to drink from the spring too.  He wouldn’t let her and told her she couldn’t.  They got into a little disagreement but luckily Jesse’s mother, Mae, and older brother, Miles, caught up to him and they were both surprised to see the girl.  The girl told them that because the wood belonged her her family she would drink from it when they left so in fear they kidnapped her.  They took her to their home and explained to her why she couldn’t drink from the spring and that for her to never tell anyone about the spring.  They didn’t know but there was a man who followed them who had heard rumors about the Tuck’s.  He stole their horse who had also drank from the spring and returned to town to tell Winnie’s parents that she was kidnapped and he knew who did it.  He told them that he would return Winnie to them in a trade for their woods.  He also reported the kidnapping to the constable.  Winnie was at first scared she was kidnapped but she learned to trust the Tuck’s and soon called them her friends.  Jesse really liked her and asked her to drink from the spring when she turned 17 so they could marry.  The man returned the next morning to the Tuck’s home and was going to take Winnie with him but Mae shot him.  The constable was on his way to the Tuck’s and saw the scene and took Mae in to be hanged for her crime.  The day before Mae was to be hanged she escaped.  Years rolled by and Mae and her husband returned to Treegap to find that the woods were no longer there.

Read this with my daughter.  She cried.  I cried.  Such a wonderful book.  I’ve read this book probably about 4 or 5 times and every time I always get so teary-eyed.

Title: Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea
Author: Barbara Demick
Genre: Memoir, biography, war, history, political

This book is biographically written following six North Koreans in their lives and escape from North Korea to South Korea from the mid to late 80’s up to about 2005.  I enjoyed the read and all the research gone into it.  The escape process was similar to the book, In Order to Live, by Yeonmi Park, whom is actually mentioned in a paragraph or so in this book.  It is really strange how I too have wondered about a free and united Korea.  I’ve wondered when that would happen, if it will be something similar to the coming down of the Berlin Wall in a nationally televised way, or if it would happen subtly, and if it will happen in my lifetime.

Once Upon a Time 2012 Rework

This is the reworked version.  I made it lighter and brought out more colors in the girl (my daughter).

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The original:

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Completed 100 Books in 2014

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This was beautiful to see.  I think I’m going to celebrate and rest this brain for a couple of days.  I’m kidding myself about that.  There’s no rest.  I’ve got 8 books waiting to be read yet.  I am glad to be done with this challenge though.  Now I can continue to read for pure enjoyment.  At the beginning of the challenge, I tried to tell myself that I was reading for enjoyment but as the year got closer to the end and I was behind (by about 16 books!), I felt the stress.  Took a break in July and August and that did it.  I quickly caught up though.

Not every book was chosen by me.  Some were recommendations and a couple were books the authors asked me to review.  Most books were researched by me via Goodreads.com, Amazon, and my local libraries.  Most the books were read on a Kindle my husband got me about three years ago.  Reading so many books makes it hard to remember what really happened in each book, especially that most the books are of the genre, Fantasy and Science Fiction, but there were a few that I truly fell in love with:

1. The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon.  This is a post apocalyptic paranormal sci-fi that has what might be a romance blooming.  I loved it so much I actually started to re-read it a couple of months back.  I wanted to finish it again before getting the next book in the trilogy (or series).  I thought the next book was going to be released a couple of months back but it’s actually going to be released in January so I’ve stopped reading (I’m halfway) and will pick up again once it gets closer to the new release.

2. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card.  This is one great sci-fi.  It’s set mostly in outer space.  I’m pretty sure all sci-fi fans have either read it or watched the movie.  They are both fabulous.

3. The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley.  The writing is beautiful and poetic.  It’s a paranormal historical romance that touched my heart.

Here’s the full list in photos.  If you want to read the author’s synopsis and see my reviews of the books, go here: Pretty Peony’s 100 Books Read in 2014.

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A Burial and Level Books

Sunday evening, Kylie learned that her favorite fish, a beta named Bubbles, had died.  He was found floating at the top of the fish tank.  Kylie cried and cried.  I’ve never seen anyone cry as much and as hard as she has over a little fish.  She thought it was the water frog, whom also shared the tank with Bubbles, that killed him so she wanted the frog returned to the pet shop asap.  Husband told her it wasn’t the frog.  Bubbles was just underfed.

We promised we’d take her to Lowe’s to buy some flowers and do an official burial.

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Kindergarten Level Books

I mentioned Kylie’s studying paid off in the blog post here.  The books she was studying are level books.  The back of the books show the reading level they are at.  The standard reading level for a Kindergarten before heading off to first grade should be level 3.  When I took the photos below, Kylie was reading at level 8.  Last week she was actually reading level 9 books.  These books are given to her by her teacher to read each week.  The readings often include a paper assignment in which they have to complete a comprehension bubble map.

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Kylie really enjoys reading these books but there are moments when there’s just too many big words or just way too many words that overwhelm her.  I tend to let her break when she wants a break.  Sometimes, when she’s up for it, she’ll go for 45 mins!  I find that amazing.  I never thought a kid could focus for that long at anything.

 

Studying Pays Off

KYREAD0008_600Even at this young age, studying pays off.  I’ve been practicing with Kylie once a day and sometimes twice a day for about half an hour (she used to only handle 10 to 15 minutes) on her reading and sight words and it has tremendously helped her do well on her tests!  Before, I was switching off with husband but I needed to just take control of this and do it all because she was only doing mediocre before.  She has been reading at least 3 books a week and practicing at least 20 sight words per week consistently!  On top of that she is also acing her math (addition) and spelling tests!  She only did badly once on her spelling test and that was during the first week she returned to school after winter break.

This morning, she wanted to do it all:  finish all her math, all her sight words, all her books, spelling practice, and her comprehension bubble map homework, but she accidentally flipped her papers too close to her eyes and got a paper cut in one eye so we had to stop because it was hurting too much.  By the time she felt better it was time for school.

She came home this afternoon and was so proud of herself for doing so well.  She showed me all her stickers for all the books she read and all the sight words she was able to test out of…which was about 3 pages of words.  I read her teacher’s notes and I was so proud.  Never have I felt this proud of Kylie.  She really put in 100% and it showed and she’s only in Kindergarten.