Badass Women Bombing Nazi Butt - Night Witches by Kathryn Lasky Blog Tour + Review + Giveaway

Monday, March 27, 2017
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.

Continue Reading

A Heads up & Apology to All My RSS Feed Readers - You Should Consider Dropping Bloglovin' Pronto

Sunday, March 26, 2017
You Should Consider Dropping Bloglovin' Pronto

EDIT: Bloglovin' has fixed the canonical URL problem, and I have since then reverted my RSS feeds. They've claimed that this was a coding mistake, but whether that's true or not is up for debate. Either way, this debacle has brought to my attention just how dependent I am on Bloglovin', something I'd like to change, just in case something like this happens again, and unlike this time, is here to stay.

If you follow my blog through email, Bloglovin', or any other feed based service, then you have probably already noticed something different about this post. It's truncated. In light of recent events (Bloglovin' is apparently stealing blog posts and claiming them as their own, read Ashley's post to find out more),

I've decided I have to truncate my feed.

Because I'm on Blogger, I don't really have any other choice, it's either: let Bloglovin' steal my content and maybe even rank higher than Quartzfeather in search engines*, or shorten all my feeds, something I personally despise.

*Yes, this actually happens, see for yourself:

Bloglovin' Search Results

If it's possible, I'd urge you all to move to Feedly, email, feedburner, etc.

Even if the canonical URL/stealing posts thing is an accident, they're still doing some other things (i.e. adding a comment section), that can't possibly be mistakes, and point in a direction that isn't beneficial for bloggers.

The pesky thing about Bloglovin' is that you can't remove your blog.

Anyone can add it, and once it's added, it's added for good. There has been some speculation about whether you could sue them for copyright infringement, but there's no concrete answer.

Either way, I'm sorry for any inconvenience caused by this decision,

but unless Bloglovin' changes something, or the bulk of my following moves elsewhere, there's really no much else I can do. Thank you for your understanding.

What do you guys think of Bloglovin'? Know any good alternatives?
Continue Reading

Blogiversary Numéro Deux - All the Promised Sappy and Reminiscent Stuff

Monday, March 20, 2017
Quartzfeather is Two!!! and All the Sappy and Reminiscent Stuff

Quartzfeather is two, can you believe it? I can't. I don't even know where to begin... I've been blogging for two years, Quartzfeather has been a part of this world for two years. I can't imagine a life without Quartzfeather anymore, can't imagine a life without the online bookish community. So much has changed over the last two years, but at the same time, so much hasn't.

Quartzfeather has gone through many, many changes.

It's practically unrecognizable from the little blog that popped up two years ago on this day. It's had a name change, a url change, a blog topic change, multiple design changes (thank god... if you've been here from the beginning, you know how much of a pink monstrosity Quartzfeather used to be. To be honest, it still kinda is, but it's a less embarrassing pink monstrosity. Though, who knows, in two years I might be writing a blog post about how terrible my current design is. Haha, okay, this is getting too long so I'll cut it off here....), and countless other minuscule changes that I'm too lazy to mention.

I'm happy with where my blog is today, it's evolution, though not always beautiful, was a wonderful thing to experience.

(Yes, even it's awkward teenager phase, where it wasn't quite sure what it was.) Quartzfeather has become a huge part of my life and a huge part of me as a person, I have met so many amazing people, discovered so many awesome authors, and fangirled over so many phenomenal books because of it, because of you.

To the people who read my blog... thank you, thank you, thank you so very, very much.

I still can't believe that people read my posts, that people take the time out of their day to leave a comment. Comments, oh comments, those lovely things. Every single time I open my inbox and see a little comment notification sitting there, my heart fills with so much joy, and my face splits into such a broad smile.

To everyone who reads my blog, to Molly, to Tasya, to Mahriya, to Jord, to Lori, to Geraldine, and to anyone I had the ineptness to miss, thank you, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I am so grateful for every single one of you, and I hope to continue with you on this journey for many, many years to come.

Continue Reading

Diversity for the Win! - Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde Blog Tour + Review + Giveaway

Wednesday, March 15, 2017
Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde Review

First things first, let's talk about the glorious amount of diversity Queens of Geek has. Charlie is Chinese-Australian (when it was first mentioned, I literally squealed. Finding characters who share my cultural heritage is rather rare, unfortunately), plus she's also bisexual! (I've seen an increase in the amount of novels that include gay and lesbian characters recently, but sadly, very few bisexual ones so far. PS: If you have any recs leave 'em in the comments please.)

Synopsis & Details:

When BFFs Charlie, Taylor and Jamie go to SupaCon, they know it’s going to be a blast. What they don’t expect is for it to change their lives forever. Charlie likes to stand out. SupaCon is her chance to show fans she’s over her public breakup with co-star, Jason Ryan. When Alyssa read more... Huntington arrives as a surprise guest, it seems Charlie’s long-time crush on her isn’t as one-sided as she thought.

While Charlie dodges questions about her personal life, Taylor starts asking questions about her own. Taylor likes to blend in. Her brain is wired differently, making her fear change. And there’s one thing in her life she knows will never change: her friendship with Jamie—no matter how much she may secretly want it to. But when she hears about the Queen Firestone SupaFan Contest, she starts to rethink her rules on playing it safe.

Title: Queens of Geek
Series: N/A
Author: Jen Wilde
Publication Date: March 14th 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, YA
Source: I received an arc from the publisher for review consideration (thanks Swoon Reads and Xpresso Blog Tours!) this in no way affected my review, cross my heart.

Taylor, our other main character, is on the Autism Spectrum.

She has Asperger's, which affects one's ability to socialize and communicate. The third guy in the trio, Jamie, is of hispanic descent. I didn't know about any of this going into the book, so it was a wonderful and welcome surprise.

Queens of Geek was a fairly effortless and quick read.

I picked it up while attending a Chinese New Year celebration and had pretty much finished 50% of the book by the night's end. I'm not sure if it's just me (and my overthinking brain), but I'm getting the nagging feeling that effortless is a bit of an odd descriptor to use in a review, so I'm gonna lay down a quick explanation.... Recently, I've been reading a lot of books that are rather prosey and purpley, and with that type of writing, I typically have to reread some sentences a couple times before they actually make sense and settle in. I love a good, beautifully written book as much as the next person, but occasionally it gets tiring, so a light fluffy read, like Queens of Geek, was exactly what I needed.

There were definitely a couple of shortcomings though, particularly with characterization.

While Charlie and Taylor did get a couple good moments of development here and there, pretty much all of the characters ended up feeling rather flat, and consequently, the romantic relationships also came off as a bit underdeveloped. In my opinion, the romances moved a little too quickly, we just didn't have enough time to get to know the characters before we jumped into the relationships.

On the other hand, the POVs were fairly distinct.

I don't recall ever having to check who's chapter was who's while reading (which I generally have to do a lot due to my poor memory). The two narrators, Charlie and Taylor, both had clear and easily distinguishable voices.

Queens of Geek also touched on some pretty interesting issues by tackling the flip side of fame.

Being famous notoriously comes with a lack of privacy, something which we see Charlie, a rising star as a result of her role in the indie hit "The Rising" (ha), deal with countless times throughout the novel. Her fans, while generally well meaning, also stir up some trouble. The fandom fervently ships her with her co-star, Jason Ryan, a boy she wants nothing do with as a result of their nasty and very public breakup. While the fandom desperately wants them to get back together, Charlie couldn't want it less. This leads to some conflict between her and some of her fans.

Fandom references are to be expected, after all this is a novel that takes place in a convention, and it's literally titled "Queens of Geek."

The references fit in well with the story and don't feel forced at all, thank thor (brownie points if you can name the fandom). However, I must admit that many of them went over my head, like at least two miles above my head. Though, the ones I did get were extremely enjoyable (hey, I'm but a simple fangirl, mention my fandom and I shall screech in delight).

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

So, what fandoms are you in? I bet you all know which ones I'm in... I'm pretty obvious when it comes to my obsessions.
Continue Reading

An Early Blogiversary Giveaway - Win a Free Blog Design from Yours Truly

Friday, March 10, 2017
Win a Free Blog Design From Yours Truly

Remember Quartzfeather's first blogiversary where I gave away a free custom blog design? Well I'm doing it again! Quartzfeather's second blogiversary isn't technically till the 20th of this month, however, I decided to host the giveaway a bit early, since next week is spring break, meaning I'll have more time to work on the winner's blog design. (All the sappy and reminiscent stuff will be in a separate post, don't worry I didn't forget.)

If you'd like to see some of my web design work, check out my portfolio.

I've also been working on my (hopefully) first premade blog design, Classic Nellie. If you'd like to explore it, here's its test site. I'm think about looking for some beta testers soon, they'd get the theme for free on the condition that they provide some feedback. If your interested leave a comment down below and we'll see what comes of it.

Here's a quick screencap of Classic Nellie in case you're interested:

Classic Nellie Theme Screencap

Moving on, here's the giveaway rules:

(follow them or else... haha, ignore my weird sense of humor.)

  • Your platform must be Blogger (sorry Wordpress people, but I'm Wordpress illiterate).
  • You must have a blog/website of some sort, or at least one planned for launch.
  • If any graphics requiring purchase are used in the design, they will be purchased by you.
  • Also, keep in mind, I'm not creating a new template, just a design.

And finally, the giveaway...

a Rafflecopter giveaway
What would your dream blog design look like? What color scheme would you choose?
Continue Reading

Birthdays & AP Qualifiers, Perhaps Not the Best Combination - Quartz Gazette January & February 2017

Monday, March 6, 2017
Quartz Gazette January & February

February was that month, the one where I get older in the eyes of society thanks to the Gregorian calendar (jeesh self... I'm only 15, I shouldn't be this cynical already). I didn't pay my birthday that much mind this year (well aside from the mini Cassidy-mandatory freak-out session), mainly because the crazy-scary AP Human Geo qualifier I had the next day.

I wouldn't call it the hardest test I've ever taken...

(that honor goes to the SAT, no questions asked), but it's certainly up there. All the questions were multiple choice (thank god), but the multiple choice where they give you three right answers and you have to pick the best one (you know, everyone's favorite).

I was so stressed out during the entire thing, and was, of course, sorely regretting not studying more.

And that wasn't even the real test, only the qualifier, which determines whether the district pays for your test or not. My teacher has already assured us that the qualifier was much easier than the actual test *sweats at the thought*. In the end I qualified, but man was I a mess when we were getting told our scores, thought I was gonna throw-up.

One last very exciting thing happened in the last two months, I purchased a custom domain!!!

I'd been meaning to buy one for a really long time, and it became one of those things where you always mean to do it, but at the same time, it never feels like it'll actually happen cause it never does (catch my drift?). After connecting the domain with Quartzfeather, I spent a whole hour tussling with Disqus and Bloglovin trying to transfer all my comments and followers over (why can't Disqus's Blogger sync just work properly???), in the end, I spent less time actually buying the domain (which took like 30 seconds) than I did messing with 3rd-party stuff.

Books Read in January & February

(click on the titles to read the complete reviews)

Covers of the Books Read in January and February

Front Lines // First book of 2017 YAY! Anyways I quite enjoyed Front Lines, it was an interest look into World War II. I haven't looked much into either world war, even though I am a massive history nerd, mostly due to my dislike of wars, so I can't say for sure [...]

Extraordinary Means // I don't know how to feel about this book... On one hand I really loved the story, it just felt so genuine, and so so real. Lane was pretty relatable, especially with his drive to get into a good university. Overall I'd say he was [...]

Pride and Prejudice // I have been, for quite awhile, meaning to read a novel by Jane Austen, and as I have heard so terribly much about Mr. Darcy, I was very much inclined to pick up Pride and Prejudice first. I am pleased to say that this novel has in [...]

The Diabolic // (I was too lazy to write out a review, so enjoy this list...) Thoughts: swoony romance, amazing, well-rounded characters, some great clever plot twists (couldn't predict them all), an amazing setting and world, beautiful writing, was a bit gory [...]

The Best We Could Do // Told in a gorgeous and heartfelt way, The Best We Could Do is a timely story about the hardships refugees face, and how the effects of war can last generations. As the novel delves into her parents' backgrounds, we also get to see [...]

Covers of the Books Read in January and February

Blood for Blood // It's entirely possible that this judgment is a result of overly fond memories, and the fact that I've simply gotten picker since reading the first book, but, in my opinion, Blood for Blood wasn't quite as good as Wolf by Wolf. The story drags [...]

Queens of Geek // (Preview) First things first, let's talk about the glorious amount of diversity Queens of Geek has. Charlie is Chinese-Australian (when it was first mentioned I literally squealed. Finding characters who share my cultural heritage is [...]

Avatar: The Last Airbender // It's awful good to see some old faces again, now just to wait for Zuko to show up.... This issue delves further into the traditional culture vs. modernization conflict that was established in the first installment. It's an [...]

Wires and Nerve: Volume 1 // (Preview) I should've been writing an essay for English, but instead I decided to wisely spend my time reading Wires and Nerve. I told myself I'd only read a page or two, but that quickly became the entire book. I just [...]

By Your Side // I had some concerns about By Your Side, mainly because of the many not so positive reviews that came flooding in, but it turns out there was nothing to worry about, I loved this one. I still have yet to meet a Kasie West book I don't adore to [...]

Shows & Movies Watched in January & February

(click on the titles to read the complete reviews or see the trailers)

Shows Watched in January and February

Voltron: Legendary Defender (Season #2) // All 13 episodes of Voltron: Legendary Defender Season 2, were released simultaneously, as is the practice with all Netflix originals, this, of course, resulted in copious binging on my part. I watched all 5 [...]

Dragons: Race to the Edge (Season #4) // It was so great to see the gang again, the twins, as usual, were comedy gold, Viggo and Hiccup continued to duke it out, brain cell vs. brain cell, and of course, we got new dragons! All in all a great season, especially since (view spoiler)we got so much damn Hiccstrid, I mean it was about time!!! In relatively unrelated news, How to Train Your Dragon 3's release date recently got moved back one year, from 2018 to 2019 *pouts*.

Steven Universe (Season #4) // I hate to say it, but the most recent Steven Universe episode (at the time of me writing this) wasn't that great *cough* Rocknaldo *cough*. Ronaldo has never been my favorite character, and this episode did nothing to help my sentiments, in fact, it only further strengthened my dislike. Though, the rest of the episodes were fantastic; The Zoo further expanded the world of Steven Universe, always a positive, and Storm the Room broke everyone's heart into a million tiny pieces.

Star vs. the Forces of Evil (Season #2) // The second season of Star vs. got off to a bit of a rocky start, but it eventually began picking up steam, and the finale... that finale was certainly something. (view spoiler)I still can't believe that Star actually confessed to Marco, it was such a surprise! I don't have any strong feelings about the SVTFOE ships though, so I don't really care what the endgame is, but I'm eager to see how this plotline will unfold. Also TOFFEE, freaking Toffee is back and ready to claim his finger.... Speaking of him, Moon was so kick-ass this season, my love for her only grows. I can't wait for Season 3, SVTFOE is going somewhere great, I just know it....

Best Quotes from January & February

(some random quotes that I've taken a liking to)

  • This Above All And I think about the nature of censorship, of being told which way of thinking or being is acceptable and which way is not. And how sweeping something (say, gay students) under the rug or pretending they don’t exist won’t make it go away.
  • Wires and Nerve: Volume 1 Forgive me, Your Majesty. I'll attempt to enliven my temperament.
  • My Lady Jane After all, G knew from Edward’s pre-wedding talk, the one that went something like, “Hurt my cousin and I’ll kill you, even if I’m dead,” that Edward loved Jane, and maybe in more than a cousin kind of way.
  • Queens of Geek "If he messes with your head, I’ll mess with his face."
  • Voltron: Legendary Defender (Season #2) "It takes more than a glowing alien wound, a fall from the upper atmosphere, and crashing into a hard pan surface, at what I'm guessing is about 25 meters per second squared, to get rid of me."

Bookstagrams of January & February

(photos link to my instagram: @quartzfeathers)

Bookstagram Photos from January and February 2017

Words Discovered in January & February

(all the fantastically long & whimsically obscure words I've found)

  • Bellicose adjective; demonstrating aggression and willingness to fight.
  • Frisson noun; a sudden strong feeling of excitement or fear; a thrill.
  • Polysemy noun; the coexistence of many possible meanings for a word or phrase.
  • Homonymy noun; the relation between words with identical forms but different meanings.
  • Sessile adjective; (of an organism, e.g., a barnacle) fixed in one place; immobile.

Interesting Links from Around the Web

(posts & videos I'd like to share with y'all)

  • TED-Ed Since the Chinese Lunar New Year was in February, here's a little video about the the myth behind the Chinese Zodiacs.
  • Goodreads This is not a drill, I repeat this is not a drill, Goodreads finally introduced a function that let's you record rereads! *cheers*
  • Everything, Everything The trailer for the Everything, Everything movie was released, and it's okay. I'm not all to interested in seeing the film honestly, though, I'm rather disappointed that the mother isn't Asian like she is in the book.
  • Teen Blogger Awards If you might be so inclined, I would be absolutely delighted if you dropped me a little nomination over at the Teen Blogger Awards... #selfpromo.... *laughs nervously in the background*

Well, that's a wrap on my week late Jan-Feb recap... How has 2017 treated you so far?
Continue Reading