Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Stereotypes, Witches, and Chicago // The Best Kind of Magic by Crystal Cestari Review

The Best Kind of Magic Review

Magical Realism has been getting lots of love from the YA community recently, and for good reason too. It's the perfect balance, normal life with a dash of mythical. The Best Kind of Magic is without a doubt magical realism, it's set in a version of Chicago with a secret magical community. Many different types of magical creatures live among the city's human population, including: witches, who are at the very top of the magical food chain, goblins, fairies, leprechauns, vampires, precogs, etc.

Synopsis & Details:

Amber Sand is not a witch. The Sand family Wicca gene somehow leapfrogged over her. But she did get one highly specific magical talent: she can see true love. As a matchmaker, Amber's pretty far down the sorcery food chain (even birthday party magicians rank higher), but after five read more... seconds of eye contact, she can envision anyone's soul mate.

Amber works at her mother's magic shop--Windy City Magic--in downtown Chicago, and she's confident she's seen every kind of happy ending there is: except for one--her own. (The Fates are tricky jerks that way.) So when Charlie Blitzman, the mayor's son and most-desired boy in school, comes to her for help finding his father's missing girlfriend, she's distressed to find herself falling for him. Because while she can't see her own match, she can see his--and it's not Amber. How can she, an honest peddler of true love, pursue a boy she knows full well isn't her match?

The Best Kind of Magic is set in urban Chicago and will appeal to readers who long for magic in the real world. With a sharp-witted and sassy heroine, a quirky cast of mystical beings, and a heady dose of adventure, this novel will have you laughing out loud and questioning your belief in happy endings.

Title: The Best Kind of Magic
Series: Windy City Magic #1
Author: Crystal Cestari
Publication Date: May 16th 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult,
Source: I received an arc from the publisher for review consideration (thanks Disney-Hyperion!) this in no way affected my review, cross my heart.

Our main character, Amber, is a matchmaker, a skill which ranks pretty low on the magical hierarchy.

Basically, she can look into anyone's eyes and determine who their true love is. It's not uncommon for people to come to her to find out whether or not the person they're dating is "the one", in fact, it's practically a daily occurrence.

As you can imagine, when the answer is no, these people tend to respond rather negatively, lashing out at both Amber and her abilities. At the start of the novel, she has little sympathy for them, but as the story goes on, she gains insight and starts to understand their reactions more. I really appreciated this aspect of her character development, and I think it added a lot to her character and the book as a whole.

Amber's a pretty snarky narrator, and while that does make the story much more enjoyable, there were a couple times when I felt like she was almost border-line mean....

It's just, some of the things she thought and said left me with a bad taste in my mouth (well, then again, it's not exactly like I can really say anything about having a sharp tongue, I'm a pretty blunt snarkfest myself in real life).

As mentioned above, there's no shortage of magical species in The Best Kind of Magic, and most of their introductions included at least one or two stereotypes, typically negative ones. While it was noted several times that characters didn't necessarily have to live up to the stereotypes their species afforded them, ultimately, I was uncomfortable with the immediate assumptions Amber made of some of the characters due to their species.

Overall, my favorite part was definitely the romantic plotline.

I know *gasp*, haha I never say that, but this one's pretty unique. It's not the standard love story I've come to expect, I didn't immediately know how it was gonna end (something which is sadly not very common in YA these days). The romantic plotline had me clamouring for the next book in the series the moment I finished the last page.

Some Cover Thoughts:

The Best Kind of Magic's cover represents the story rather well and nicely evokes that Magical Realism feel, but (here I go again...) I'm just not a fan of the title font. I know, I know, I'm forever harping about the title font, but I can't help it, I never seem to be quite satisfied by it. Don't get me wrong, I adore the tag line and how it curves with the buildings, but the title and the author's name, just no....

Rating: 3/5 Stars

What magical creature would you be? Also, are stereotypes okay if they're about magical creatures, and not, say, race?
Win a finished copy of The Best Kind of Magic
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About Crystal Cestari
With rainbows in my hair and stories in my head, I am a writer drawn to magic in the everyday world. My debut novel, The Best Kind of Magic, arrives May 16, 2017 from Hyperion. Follow Amber Sand, a magical matchmaker who can actually see true love, as she takes off on a fun and romantic adventure toward happily ever after.

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Monday, May 15, 2017

Future Love Triangles, Start Taking Notes // The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich Review

The Love Interest Review

It's been a good while since I whipped through an eBook that fast. Although The Love Interest has technically been on my currently reading shelf since February 17th, I didn't start reading it in earnest till March 11th, when I picked it up on a long car drive back home. I ended up finishing it exactly a week later on the 18th (I know, I know, a week isn't that fast, but considering how sluggishly I've been reading lately, it's not half-bad).

Synopsis & Details:

There is a secret organization that cultivates teenage spies. The agents are called Love Interests because getting close to people destined for great power means getting valuable secrets. Caden is a Nice: The boy next door, sculpted to physical perfection. Dylan is a Bad: The brooding, read more... dark-souled guy, and dangerously handsome. The girl they are competing for is important to the organization, and each boy will pursue her. Will she choose a Nice or the Bad?

Both Caden and Dylan are living in the outside world for the first time. They are well-trained and at the top of their games. They have to be – whoever the girl doesn’t choose will die.

What the boys don’t expect are feelings that are outside of their training. Feelings that could kill them both.

Title: The Love Interest
Series: N/A
Author: Cale Dietrich
Publication Date: May 16th 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Fantasy, Romance
Source: I received an arc from the publisher for review consideration (thanks Feiwel & Friends!) this in no way affected my review, cross my heart.

The second I read the synopsis for this book, I knew it was going on my TBR...

and getting relentlessly stalked until it came out. I mean, a love triangle where the two boys end up falling in love instead?

Starting off, The Love Interest kinda disappointed me.

I just wasn't a huge fan of the way the world and characters were introduced. However, once we got out of the Love Interest Compound (LIC), things really started picking up.

I was expecting a dual POV for some reason, but the story ended up being narrated by one character. Honestly, I would've loved the chance to see into Dylan's head, but Caden was the perfect guy for the job. His narration allowed us to understand his internal struggles, and while snark isn't exactly a Nice trait, his snarkiness sure made the story much more entertaining.

The Love Interest has all the drama and intrigue of a love triangle,

but none of the annoying and aggravating picky, chosey stuff (brain couldn't come up with a better term). So basically, all the nice things about a love triangle, minus all the bad crap. Though, I will admit, the romance did have me banging my head on the wall a bit there, but that's like 100% normal for me. Haven't met a romantic plot line that hasn't annoy me at least a bit (yes, even you Snowbaz).

Speaking of romance, Caden and Dylan are completely Shippable (why yes, I do meme).

I shipped the two from the very beginning and fell in love with Dylan right along side Caden. (view spoiler)[When Dylan pulled the "I'm actually not gay" crap, my heart almost died from sadness, I'd thought my ship was a lie. Luckily, it turns out Dyl was just being a reprehensible ass (to be fair, he had his reasons, but still...).] It's been a while since I shipped a literary ship so hard.

All my gripes pretty much belong to the last 20% of the book.

The story hits its peak somewhere around the 75% mark (view spoiler)[when Juliet makes her decision], and it never really gets back up there. Also, the ending felt a bit rushed, almost as if everything was resolved too quickly and too easily.

For something that plays such a large role in the book, the LIC isn't very well developed.

We're just told that it's existed for like a millennia, and we never learn how it came about, who founded it, why it hasn't been discovered, and etc. If the LIC had been given a little more background, it would've made the whole thing a little more believable.

Some Cover Thoughts:

So, this cover.... Honestly, I'm not to sure how I feel about it, in fact, I even considered omitting this little section altogether just so I wouldn't have to deal with my all-over-the-place thoughts. On one hand, I really like the design, it quickly and beautifully informs the reader about the book's content and topic. On the other hand, there's something about it that I don't quite love.

It's probably the font, yeah, I think it's the title typography (yeesh, it's always the title design with me for some reason). The thing is, I can't decide what I would change given the chance. I'm not a huge fan of the two-toned title, but it's impossible to make the title one color. Well, not impossible, but it can't be black, white, or red for visibly purposes, and that basically knocks out all the good choices.... *Sigh* this was exactly what I was afraid of, anyways, just ignore my weird ramblings.

Rating: 5/5 Stars

What's your favorite love triangle? Did your side get the guy/girl in the end?
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Saturday, April 29, 2017

Answer My Burning Questions in the First Ever Quartzfeather Survey + I Explain My Impending Absence

Answer My Burning Questions

I've been a bit absent from the bookish community lately.

I'm super behind on writing reviews *sobs*, and I'm even farther behind on comments, all because of one terrible, horrendously terrifying thing, my upcoming AP test. My first ever college level exam is in less than two weeks... *shivers at the thought*. I promise I'm not ignoring y'all, I'm just seriously regretting the fact that I didn't start studying earlier. On top of my usual test anxiety, there's also my irrational fear of being timed, and of course, my brilliant idea to fracture my dominant wrist right before finals.

I am really, really mad at myself for being such a lazy butt and not studying more at the moment, and if I don't do well on this test... *feelings of inadequacy*. Basically, I'm in complete freak-out mode and will probably be relatively non-existent in blogosphere till at least May 12th. If you need me, email or Twitter (cause procrastination) is the way to go. Anyways, onto the survey....

I've always wondered how you lovely beings found your way to my blog, after all, Quartzfeather's quite literally a tiny fish in a humongous, practically endless sea.

I'd also like to know what types of posts you like best, and whether you guys enjoy my animation content, etc. I've been thinking about creating a survey for a while, and well, since I don't have anything else to post right now thanks to crunch time, voila...

Feel free to leave any questions you don't feel like answering blank, none of them are required. I'm thinking about writing up a post about the results, we'll see, it depends on how many responses I get.

Also, if the embedded form is acting weird, especially for you mobile people, here's a direct link to the survey.

Any of you have huge tests coming up? Did you guys like the survey? Should I do more in the future?
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Saturday, April 22, 2017

Look to the Stars. Aim. Ignite. // Geekerella by Ashley Poston Review

Geekerella by Ashley Poston Review

Well that was a good book, a very, very good book. It's been a while since I handed out a 5 star rating without much hesitation (I generally agonize about ratings, 5 stars in particular, so something like this only happens once upon a blue moon).

Synopsis & Details:

Part romance, part love letter to nerd culture, and all totally adorbs, Geekerella is a fairy tale for anyone who believes in the magic of fandom. Geek girl Elle Wittimer lives and breathes Starfield, the classic sci-fi series she grew up watching with her late father. So when she sees a read more... cosplay contest for a new Starfield movie, she has to enter. The prize? An invitation to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball, and a meet-and-greet with the actor slated to play Federation Prince Carmindor in the reboot. With savings from her gig at the Magic Pumpkin food truck (and her dad’s old costume), Elle’s determined to win…unless her stepsisters get there first.

Teen actor Darien Freeman used to live for cons—before he was famous. Now they’re nothing but autographs and awkward meet-and-greets. Playing Carmindor is all he’s ever wanted, but the Starfield fandom has written him off as just another dumb heartthrob. As ExcelsiCon draws near, Darien feels more and more like a fake—until he meets a girl who shows him otherwise.

Title: Geekerella
Series: N/A
Author: Ashley Poston
Publication Date: April 4th 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Retellings, Romance, Young Adult
Source: I received an arc from the publisher for review consideration (thanks Quirk!) this in no way affected my review, cross my heart.

It's also been a while since I've stayed up way too late reading.

1:00 am Cassidy, much to the chagrin* of 7:00 am Cassidy, decided reading was more important than getting a good night's sleep and not feeling like crap the next morning. So, you know, read at your own risk, sleep deprivation may be an unfortunate side effect.

*Hehe, new favorite word! You'll probably be seeing it quite a bit.

I was in love from the very first page, the writing is fluid and captivating, and the familiar elements of the Cinderella story make you feel right at home (is that a weird thing to say?).

Speaking of Cinderella, Geekerella is one of the most unique retellings I've read so far.

My love for all things fandom (well not the nasty shipping wars) combined with my adoration of retellings, makes this book absolutely perfect for me. Ashley Poston turns the beautiful dress from the original story into a cosplay, the ball becomes ExcelsiCon, and last but not least, the role of the famous pumpkin carriage is fulfilled by the Magic Pumpkin food truck (all this is just too clever!). While the plot is a bit predictable at times, because you kind of already know what's gonna happen with the Cinderella bit, there are plenty of new details and plot lines to keep you guessing and the story fresh.

With this book, Poston has pretty much inducted me into the Starfield fandom.

Whenever I see the phrase "Look to the stars. Aim. Ignite.", I get fangirl chills* (haha go Federation Prince Carmindor!!!). Every word of Geekerella is infused with pure geekiness and so much love for fandoms, that I can't help but adore it. White-washing is also brought up, which is great, because it's an issue and topic which I've seen discussed a lot within my various fandoms, so it made the Starfield fandom feel that much more real.

*Are those even real, or am I making stuff up again?

My only real complaint is that the side characters were rather flat; however, I was so enamored with the main characters, Elle and Darien, that it didn't end up having a huge effect on my reading experience.

Some Cover Thoughts:

Geekerella's cover perfectly represents the book, as it incorporates many elements of the story, including the Magic Pumpkin food truck, Elle's cosplay, and even Franco, a completely adorable dachshund, in a tiny coat. The minimalistic design, combined with the color block style of the art results in a very eye-catching cover. I've been seeing more illustrated YA covers lately, and am loving this apparent new trend. On the other hand, the dress on the cover doesn't really match the one in the book, I believe it was described as a darker shade of blue. Instead, the one on the cover is reminiscent of the dress in Disney's version of Cinderella.

After reading both Geekerella and Queens of Geek, I now really, really want to go to a con, be it BEA or San Diego Comic-Con.

Maybe I'll see you guys at one of them someday... (shhhh, let me dream and ignore the fact that being stuck in the American school system for the next eight years, lowers the possibly of this scenrio to about a .001 (AKA très tiny))*.

*Punctuation inception!!!

Before I go, here's a quick Ted Talk video about cosplay that's pretty interesting:

Rating: 5/5 Stars

Are you a fangirl? If so, which fandoms are you a part of? Do you have a favorite?
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Saturday, April 15, 2017

Not a Book You Should Read on an Empty Stomach // A Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi Review

A Crown of Wishes Review

A Crown of Wishes is a delectable read, simply scrumptious.... Roshani Chokshi once again shows how much of a magical wordsmith she is, the way she puts words together just amazes me. The Star-Touched Queen, the first book in this series, was one of my favorite books of 2016, so I had high exceptions, and I'm happy to say that A Crown of Wishes did not disappoint.

Synopsis & Details:

She is the princess of Bharata—captured by her kingdom’s enemies, a prisoner of war. Now that she faces a future of exile and scorn, Gauri has nothing left to lose. But should she trust Vikram, the notoriously cunning prince of a neighboring land? He promises her freedom in exchange read more... for her battle prowess. Together they can team up and win the Tournament of Wishes, a competition held in a mythical city where the Lord of Wealth promises a wish to the victor. It seems like a foolproof plan—until Gauri and Vikram arrive at the tournament and find that danger takes on new shapes: poisonous courtesans, mischievous story birds, a feast of fears, and twisted fairy revels. New trials will test their devotion, strength, and wits. But what Gauri and Vikram will soon discover is that there’s nothing more dangerous than what they most desire.

Title: A Crown of Wishes
Series: The Star-Touched Queen #2
Author: Roshani Chokshi
Publication Date: March 28th 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
Source: I received an arc from the publisher for review consideration (thanks St. Martin's Griffin!) this in no way affected my review, cross my heart.

First things first, let's talk characters....

Vikram was probably (don't ask me to make up my mind, I'm terrible with decisions) my favorite. It took me approximately 3 sentences and five seconds to fall in love with him. I mean, just look at all this fabulous sassiness:

Vikram had tired bribing them. At one point, he offered Gauri's hand in marriage, which earned him two sharp jabs in the ribs. For equality's sake, he offered his own hand in marriage, but that ended all bargaining negotiations on the spot.

Vikram's eyes widened. "What's this? Praise from Her Beastliness in the morning? Are you under a curse that makes you friendly before noon? If so, how do we make it permanent?"

While it did take me a bit to warm up to her, once I did, Aasha quickly claimed a spot in my heart. Her curiosity and hunger for knowledge and life won me over. Last but not least of our three narrators is Gauri, the Jewel of Bharata, she is such a badass, and her love and devotion for her country is beyond admirable.

A Crown of Wishes is not a book you should read on an empty stomach.

The descriptions of food throughout the novel made me so damn hungry. Read the following quote and tell me you aren't suddenly and inexplicably starving:

Split guavas sprinkled with cane sugar filled a crystal bowl. Saffron rice, buttery naan, savory onion and potato dishes, cold yogurt studded with pomegranate seeds like rubies and silver cups of spicy dal waited for us.

And if your mouth still isn't watering, here's another one:

When we sat, a lavish feast appeared on the table. I eyed it suspiciously. There were fragrant biryani with saffron rice, hard-boiled eggs white as moonstones in a thick curry, apple and mint chutneys in glass bowls, globes of gulab jamun drenched in cardamom syrup, and bright orange jalebis coiled like gold bangles.

Chokshi truly has a way with words doesn't she? Speaking of that, her portrayals of magic are equally lavish (though they do make me feel significantly less hungry).

Her beautiful writing makes the magic and the world that much more vibrant.

I must've reread the scene where Lady Kauveri was introduced at least 50 times, it's too pretty for words.... (okay that statement makes like no sense, I mean the scene is made of words, how can it be too pretty for words? Pfft, I need to stop overanalyzing my own logical fallacies.) Anyways, here's that scene I was talking about for all you curious peeps:

The Lady Kauveri smiled at us. She wore a sari of rushing water, and in her elaborate braids, small streams and pebbles, tortoises and crocodiles no larger than a thumbnail clambered through her hair. No immortal being betrayed any flaw, but there was something restless about her, a kind of anxious energy that belonged to someone expecting tragedy.

And since this review is already like 50% quote, I might as well share another. This one's my absolute favorite bit from the entire book, and I assure you it had a tonnn of competition, after all this book is literal quote candy.

She reached for the wispy wish, curling it between her fingers and bringing it to her lips. She uttered her wish without words— a wish for control and choice, for curiosity and courage.

If I had to pick one quote to describe the entire novel, I'd probably pick the one above. It wraps all the magic and beauty of A Crown of Wishes into a pretty two-sentence package. (And I'm off with the weird lingo again.)

There were so many wonderful and thought provoking quotes such as this little gem:

“You see,” said Kubera. “Nothing is yours. Not even a story is yours, though you may lay claim to it with the teeth of your mind.”

And this one:

“The world moves to the tune of logic, even if it wears the face of chaos."

While reading A Crown of Wishes, I did have the occasional bout of confusion, as, admittedly, the story lost me a couple times. Though, I haven't heard any similar complaints, so it could just be me. The plot also came off as a bit disjointed at places. The story is divided into two major parts, Gauri and Vikram's respective conflicts back home and the Tournament of Wishes, which takes up most of the book. For me, these two didn't always feel completely cohesive, unfortunately.

If I'm honest, I definitely didn't like A Crown of Wishes as much as The Star-Touched Queen,

it just never managed to entirely suck me in like it's predecessor. Though that could've just been because I read the two books at totally different times. I picked up Star-Touched in the summer and read it straight through in one sitting, while I read Crown of Wishes during school and in small bursts because I had like zero time.

Some Cover Thoughts:

The second I saw A Crown of Wishes' cover, I was in love. The color scheme is one of my favorites, the shades of purple and green go perfectly together and really help evoke a magical feeling. While I don't recall Gauri ever mounting a brown horse and riding across a field wearing a mile-long dress in the book, and even though I'm usually a huge stickler for story accurate covers, I think it's the perfect touch. On the other hand, I could probably do without that border, and I'm not a fan of the title font.

Luscious and vibrant, A Crown of Wishes is filled to the brim with exquisite imagery and Hindu mythology.

The Jewel of Bharata and the Fox Prince of Ujijain both live up to their names, and make an entertaining and compelling duo. If you adored The Star-Touched Queen or are just looking to add some magic to your life, Chokshi's new novel is a must read.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

When it comes to writing styles, do you prefer simple and sweet or beautiful and prosey?
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Saturday, April 8, 2017

Burning Books for Bookstagram: Yea or Nay?

Burning Books for Bookish Photos

When I first came across the bookstagram photos of burning books, my initial reaction was horror, after all the idea of burning a book makes my heart want to weep. However, despite my shattered heart, I did what I usually do with a debate or argument, which is research the heck out of it. My opinion is still a little shaky, this is one of those issues where I'm in the gray area, but I thought I might as well lay down both sides of the debate. Note: I don't necessarily agree 100% with all the arguments down below, I just think they're worth some pondering.

First up, the defense (AKA: pro-burn).

The Right To Burn:

If you own the book your burning, you have the right to burn it because it's your's, whether you do so or not is your business.

Not All is Sacred:

In today's society there are millions and millions of books, their roles in the exchange and spread of knowledge have changed in many ways, especially since many books today are wholly for entertainment purposes. As a result, you could argue that not all books are "sacred" anymore (*cough* Fifty-Shades of Gray *cough*) and that they don't all hold the prestige they used to, so therefore, burning one no longer holds the same weight as it has historically.

For the Sake of Art:

Photography is a form of art, so, by extension, bookstagram is too. The destruction of books allows for the creation of art. There are also many crafters who cut up or destroy books to create something new, like an origami flower or a pendent, and people seem relatively fine with that, so what's the difference?

Last but not least, the prosecution (AKA: pro-preserve).

A Waste of Resources:

When books are burned they generally can no longer serve their original purpose, which is to be read. Even if the original owner doesn't find a book to be helpful or enjoyable, if they donate it or pass it on, someone else might.

Negative Symbolism:

Throughout history, various groups, from the Nazis to the Qin dynasty, have employed the tactic of burning books with the intention to censor and/or to suppress. Book burnings are encapsulated by a dark and troubling past, and therefore, the act of burning a book shouldn't be taken lightly.

You're Destroying Someone's Work:

Authors put blood, sweat, tears, and heart into their books, and for many, their books are their pride and joy. Can you imagine seeing something of so much value to you being burned?

Some of those arguments were definitely weaker then the rest, but I tried to present both view points as equally and levelheadedly as possible. Anyways, time to share my opinion....

As I said before, I'm somewhere in the middle.

I don't personally agree with burning books because of the historical context, and well, I just don't like the idea of books being burned. However, if other people burn books, I'm not about to go on a witch hunt, unless of course, the burnings are for censorship or suppression purposes. This is a very interesting issue, and it led me to closely re-examine my values, even though I haven't really picked a side per se.

Sorry this post is late as hell, but I hope you still found it intriguing or helpful. I'm curious, where do you stand on this issue, and why?
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Monday, April 3, 2017

Magical Emotion Powers and Math Geniuses // Zenn Diagram by Wendy Brant Review

Zenn Diagram by Wendy Brant Review

The second I read the synopsis for this novel, I knew I had to read it. The main character, Eva Walker, can see/feel other people's emotions and memories with the touch of her hand. This is such an interesting idea, and I particularly appreciated the way this book shows how that skill complicates her life. The emotions and memories appear to her in the shape of fractals. Go check these fractals out, they're really cool.

Synopsis & Details:

Eva Walker is a seventeen-year-old math genius. And if that doesn’t do wonders for her popularity, there’s another thing that makes it even worse: when she touches another person or anything that belongs to them — from clothes to textbooks to cell phones — she sees a vision of their read more... emotions. She can read a person’s fears and anxieties, their secrets and loves … and what they have yet to learn about calculus. This is helpful for her work as a math tutor, but it means she can never get close to people. Eva avoids touching anyone and everyone. People think it’s because she’s a clean freak — with the emphasis on freak — but it’s all she can do to protect herself from other people’s issues.

Then one day a new student walks into Eva’s life. His jacket gives off so much emotional trauma that she falls to the floor. Eva is instantly drawn to Zenn, a handsome and soulful artist who also has a troubled home life, and her feelings only grow when she realizes that she can touch Zenn’s skin without having visions. But when she discovers the history that links them, the truth threatens to tear the two apart.

Title: Zenn Diagram
Series: N/A
Author: Wendy Brant
Publication Date: April 4th 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Fantasy, Romance
Source: I received an arc from the publisher for review consideration (thanks KCP Loft!) this in no way affected my review, cross my heart.

If you have no clue what a fractal is, then let me explain. Well, actually, I'll let Google do the heavy lifting, cause fractals are a bit complicated. Here's the definition:

A curve or geometric figure, each part of which has the same statistical character as the whole. Fractals are useful in modeling structures (such as eroded coastlines or snowflakes) in which similar patterns recur at progressively smaller scales, and in describing partly random or chaotic phenomena such as crystal growth, fluid turbulence, and galaxy formation. (source)

Now this fractal business might feel a bit out of nowhere, but it makes a ton of sense.

Fractals are pretty mathematical stuff, and Eva Walker is a math genius (teach me your ways). She lives and breathes the stuff, basically the ultimate nerd. (I'm more of a history nerd myself, but I would kill to be a math genius like Eva.)

When I first started Zenn Diagram, the book gave me more of a MGish feel,

however, towards the end, the story begins feeling a lot more like the YA novel it's marketed as. The plot starts off looking like your typical YA contemporary, however, by the end, the book is dealing with a complicated character dynamic between the mother and mc, and provoking interesting questions concerning the unusual connection Eva and Zenn share.

Some other smallish details I enjoyed about Zenn Diagram included: the title,

I'm always a sucker for a clever title (even better if it's referenced in the book), and this quote:
"Oh, lordy. He's using math analogies. I think I'm in love."

My biggest conundrum with Zenn Diagram was a small bit of the romantic plotline,

either way it wasn't too major and didn't really disrupt my enjoyment of the book too much overall. (view spoiler)But still, that obligatory break-up scene, I've just see it a couple times to many. The cursing in the novel also felt a little forced upon occasion, however, as with before, it wasn't a big deal.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

What's your favorite school subject? Least favorite?
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Monday, March 27, 2017

Bad Ass Women Bombing Nazi Butt // Night Witches by Kathryn Lasky Blog Tour + Review + Giveaway

Night Witches Review Night Witches Tour Banner

I grew up on Lasky's books, her's are among the ones that that I've had since childhood, a bit bent and a little tattered from being read over and over again. I haven't picked up a book of her's in a while, I don't reread that much anymore and I've pretty much moved away from middle grade, the genre she predominates. Nevertheless, when the opportunity to review her upcoming novel came along, I immediately jumped at the chance. Reading Night Witches was a bit like revisiting my childhood, so if I start getting terribly nostalgic, oops.

Synopsis & Details:

From bestselling and award-winning author Kathryn Lasky comes an explosive adventure following the teen girl fighter pilots who took on Hitler's army... and won. Fifteen-year-old Valya knows what it feels like to fly. She's a pilot who's always felt more at home soaring through the sky read more... than down on earth. But since the Germans surrounded Stalingrad, Valya's been forced to stay on the ground and watch her city crumble.

When her mother is killed during the siege, Valya is left with one burning desire: to join up with her older sister, a member of the famous and feared Night Witches -- a brigade of young female pilots.

Using all her wits, Valya manages to get past the German blockade and find the Night Witches' base . . . and that's when the REAL danger starts. The women have been assigned a critical mission. If they succeed, they'll inflict serious damage on the Nazis. If they fail, they'll face death... or even worse horrors.

Historical fiction master Lasky sheds light on the war's unsung heroes -- daredevil girls who took to the skies to fight for their country -- in an action-packed thrill ride that'll leave you electrified and breathless.

Title: Night Witches
Series: N/A
Author: Kathryn Lasky
Publication Date: March 28th 2017
Genres: YA, Historical
Pages: ^224
Formats: Hardcover, eBook, Audiobook
Source: I received an arc from the publisher for review consideration (thanks Scholastic!) this in no way affected my review, cross my heart.

As I remembered, Kathryn Lasky's writing is clear and precise, a great style for younger readers.

Night Witches is in a bit of a weird spot between MG and YA. I ended up categorizing it as YA because some of the language used (ie. the word shit) and some of the events in the novel, though I'd still say it's aimed at the younger end of the demographic.

I read quite a number of Lasky's historical novels as a kid, specifically her Royal Diaries books. Each one always introduced me to a new, intriguing piece of history, and Night Witches is no exception. We (or at least us Americans) rarely hear about the Soviet side of World War II, so naturally, I knew zlich about the Night Witches, who were formally knowns as the 46th "Taman" Guards Night Bomber Aviation Regiment. In case you're clueless like me, here's a short paragraph about them:

The regiment flew harassment bombing and precision bombing missions against the German military from 1942 until the end of the war. At its largest, it had 40 two-person crews. The regiment flew over 24,000 missions and dropped 23,000 tons of bombs. It was the most highly decorated all-women unit in the Soviet Air Force, each pilot having flown over 800 missions by the end of the war and twenty-three having been awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union title. Thirty of its members died in combat.

Aren't they so cool??? Speaking of history.... When ever I read historical fiction, I always end up hungrily devouring random articles about obscure topics from time period the book is based upon. In this case, I took an hour detour to look into the lives of Stalin's wives and children. Turns out pretty much all of their lives were terrible, and to my great surprise, Stalin was pretty much the reason behind all of their miseries (oh he was quite the swell guy, I'm sure). Anyways, I'm getting off topic....

Our main character Vayla loves planes and flying,

she excels at it, and it's one of the few things she does better than her talented older sister. By the end of the book, the marvelous descriptions had me loving flying (almost) as much as her. Don't just take my word for it, here's a quote to prove it:

As we walk, the ghost of the rubber pedals brushes the soles of my feet, as if I'm about to initiate a turn. I love that feeling of slipping beautifully into a turn, finding that curve in the geometry of air and speed. One becomes a sculptor, carving the air like a bird, an eagle, an owl, a gull.

The story didn't really have a set purpose, the plot didn't feel connected all the way through, and it meandered at times.

Night Witches reminded me a lot of the Royal Diaries books, which chronicled the day to day life of a certain historical person of royal blood, and often didn't have an overarching plot. There's nothing wrong with this approach, but some people might not like it.

There was a miniscule romantic element in Night Witches, and I really could've done without it.

I mean the sorta love interest was cute and all, but it never went anywhere, and I'm just not a fan of plot lines that never do anything.

The relationship between Vayla and her previously mentioned big sister, Tatyana, could've been developed more.

It later becomes a focal point of the story, and because of it's under development, the end falls a little flat.

If your looking for a quick historical, an interesting new perspective of the second world war, or just wanna see some brave women kick nazi ass, then you might wanna stick Night Witches into your hulking tbr, though if you love books with iron-strong plot backbones, then it's probably not for you.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Are you a history nerd? If so, do you favor a particular time period?
About Kathryn Lasky
Kathryn Lasky is the American author of many critically acclaimed books, including several Dear America books, several Royal Diaries books, 1984 Newbery Honor winning Sugaring Time, The Night Journey, and the Guardians of Ga'Hoole series.
She was born June 24, 1944, and grew up in Indianapolis, Indiana, and is married to Christopher Knight, with whom she lives in Massachusetts.

Book 15, The War of the Ember, is currently the last book in the Ga'Hoole series. The Rise of a Legend is the 16th book but is a prequel to the series. Lasky has also written Guide Book To The Great Tree and Lost Tales Of Ga'Hoole which are companion books.

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