Monday, September 24, 2018

The Lantern's Ember by Colleen Houck
Blog Tour: Review & Giveaway
Hello! Welcome to the next stop on the The Lantern's Ember blog tour hosted by Rockstar Book Tours. I'm really happy to share my thoughts on this book with you! 

Author: Colleen Houck 
Pub. Date: September 11, 2018
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Formats: Hardcover, eBook
Pages: 416
Find it: Goodreads, Amazon, B&N, iBooks, TBD 

Welcome to a world where nightmarish creatures reign supreme.

Five hundred years ago, Jack made a deal with the devil. It’s difficult for him to remember much about his mortal days. So, he focuses on fulfilling his sentence as a Lantern—one of the watchmen who guard the portals to the Otherworld, a realm crawling with every nightmarish creature imaginable. Jack has spent centuries jumping from town to town, ensuring that nary a mortal—or not-so-mortal—soul slips past him. That is, until he meets beautiful Ember O’Dare. 

Seventeen, stubborn, and a natural-born witch, Ember feels a strong pull to the Otherworld. Undeterred by Jack’s warnings, she crosses into the forbidden plane with the help of a mysterious and debonair vampire—and the chase through a dazzling, dangerous world is on. Jack must do everything in his power to get Ember back where she belongs before both the earthly and unearthly worlds descend into chaos.

I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. Any quotes I use are from an unpublished copy and may not reflect the finished product.

Fall has officially started (despite Texas not getting the memo), which makes this the perfect time to read spooky stories and eerie tales! I save all of my horror, suspense, and mystery books for the end of the year -- eeep!

The Lantern's Ember was inspired by the legend of Sleepy Hollow, which has always been one of my favorites. I enjoyed the little references that were peppered in throughout the story! Jack is a Lantern and carries his soul in a pumpkin, he compared Finney to Ichabod (a wizard he terrorized by appearing to look like a headless horseman), and then Ember's Sleepy Hollow. There were others, but I'll let you discover those on your own.

Ember was my least favorite character. I found her to be incredibly naΓ―ve as she continued to make bad decision after bad decision. She feels drawn to the Otherworld, but ignores all of Jack's warnings. He explained that the two worlds would start blending together, entire towns disappearing on both sides, but she was undeterred. Her decisions only get worse when she meets Dev and the two of them take off without Jack's knowledge. She was way too willing to trust Dev, a vampire that she had just met, even though she sensed he was hiding something and had ulterior motives.

Jack was many things. I thought he was sweet and kindhearted, but he would also bully humans and try to be intimating just for fun. He wanted to justify his actions by saying he was only protecting the crossroads, but he enjoyed tormenting people and giving them reasons to be superstitious. He himself has caused much of the lore surrounding his name, and simply because he was toying around while serving his time.

Dev was something else. He started off cocky and self-assured, but he quickly became hesitant and possessive. I'm not really sure what sparked the change, but it felt sudden and rushed. I also didn't care for the way he used Ember like a battery. He offered her to anyone that could use her powers, but he made sure he benefited from everything she did. He also seemed to know more than he should, about her powers specifically, which didn't really make sense. He's known witches in the past, but his knowledge seemed extensive. 

I wish Ember had had another motivation or reason for going to the Otherworld. Yes, she felt compelled to go there, but she never questioned it. She never asked Jack what it might mean, or even Dev. She just carried on like it wasn't abnormal or concerning. I wanted her to question everything and hesitate before siphoning off her power for unknown reasons. There were a few times when I wanted to shake her and tell her to think about what she was doing.

A Lantern's Ember was slow at times, because they spend a lot of time doing nothing as they travel through the Otherworld, and we get a lot of descriptions about the nothings they're doing. Nevertheless, I devoured this book in a single sitting. I don't know if it was the atmosphere of the book (think spooky steampunk), my desire for cooler weather, or just my interest in the legend of Sleepy Hollow (there were other tales sprinkled in, too). Overall, I enjoyed Colleen Houck's writing, and I thought the story had a very unique twist!

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Book Blogger Icon Tags!

A few years ago, Parajunkee made a set of book blogger icon tags that she sold through her blog. When I was blogging in college, I thought they were really fun and unique, so I happily bought them to use on my site! Unfortunately, all of that information was saved on a laptop I used in college, which has been at my parents house for the last few years. I recently got it back and found the old icons while looking through my files.

I decided to use some of the old icons again while reviewing, but suddenly had an itch to make my own! It's taken me a few days, but I think I've created an interesting set to share with everyone. Additionally, I will not be charging anyone to use these icon tags. Please feel free to use them however you wish! I would love it if you gave me credit and linked back to my blog, but it's not a requirement. (A blog follow would be nice, too!)

I also have a Ko-fi account, so you could always buy me a coffee! Any money I receive through Ko-fi gets funneled back into my blog (giveaways, upkeep, and new creative ideas). I've researched icon tags, and they can be really expensive, but again these are free. If you're able to buy me a coffee for using these tags, thank you in advance! (There's a button over on the right!)

If you would like an icon that isn't included in this set, just email me with your requests! I would be happy to make one that compliments this set.

For the full set (there are currently 132 total) please see the tab at the top, or click here to view them.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

I Do Not Trust You
by Laura J. Burns & Melinda Metz

Synopsis (via Goodreads): Memphis "M" Engle is stubborn to a fault, graced with an almost absurd knowledge of long lost languages and cultures, and a heck of an opponent in a fight. In short: she's awesome.

Ashwin Sood is a little too posh for her tastes, a member of an ancient cult (which she’s pretty sure counts for more than one strike against him), and has just informed Memphis that her father who she thought was dead isn’t and needs her help. 

From the catacombs of Paris to lost temples in the sacred forests, together they crisscross the globe, searching for the pieces of the one thing that might save her father. But the closer they come to saving him—and the more they fall for one another—the closer they get to destroying the world.


I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. Any quotes I use are from an unpublished copy and may not reflect the finished product.

How did I feel about this book? Short answer: it's complicated. There were aspects that I really enjoyed, like the mythology and archeological sites, but I needed to suspend a lot of belief for this book to work. I also felt like the story progressed with very little conflict, despite the direness of their situation. Everything had a simple solution, and I would have preferred more risk and excitement. I love it when characters overcome challenges and obstacles!

I could tell the authors did a lot of research regarding the temples and various other sites Memphis and Ash travel to, but I was a little iffy on the language of Horus. I wish there has been more details surrounding this hidden language that only three people knew how to read. Was this a language the authors made up themselves, or was is based on fact and history? The language itself was never elaborated on, so I'm not sure about the specifics. Also, why were there only three people that could decipher the language, and how did her father learn? Maybe I missed something.

I wasn't fond of referring to Memphis as "M," but that was her preferred nickname for the majority of the book. It was just a weird thing to think as I read, and I actually like the name Memphis. She says only her friends and family call her M, but she never explains why.

Whenever Ash and M found themselves in a difficult situation, it was too easy for them to find a solution. They needed to search for an artifact that was underwater, and M happened to know a lady with a boat full of the equipment they would need. This lady also happened to be living in exactly the right place, and M was able to phone a friend. Speaking of the boat, Ash mentioned it belonged to a university and not the woman herself, but they never addressed what happened when they returned with a damaged boat. They were obviously able to get back to land, but how did they explain what happened?

When they were at another location, they thought the airports were being monitored and were afraid to buy plane tickets. Unsurprisingly, M knew a guy who knew a guy, and they were able to score seats on a private plane. It was too easy. Her phone seemed to full of endless contacts that could solve their every problem. Why weren't any of these people mentioned before? Why did she only think about them when Ash couldn't just throw money at it?

It also bugged me how quickly M and Ash were able to solve the riddles left in the hieroglyphs. They sped through the ancient map with relative ease, even though she's been working with Mike (this really random person she only ever texts for information) for nearly a year after her father's death. Additionally, this map is something her father worked on for years prior to his death, but they're able to solve it in a matter of days.

Ash's personal story had too many holes, and I'm surprised M wasn't able to see through them. The title is also misleading, because it's clear from the start that these two trust each other, even if they won't admit it out loud. They may have had two different motivations, but they were a team. Ash also has a unique quality that allows him to save M from two Nile crocodiles (very unrealistic part of the story), yet he doesn't use this same quality on the enemies they face. Why wouldn't that have been his first thought?

My feelings for I Do Not Trust You are complicated. It's probably not a book I will read again, but it was mildly entertaining while it lasted. (Side note: I think this book is listed as YA, but she's 18 and he's older, so I'm going to go with NA on this one.) Oh, and everyone uses Google a lot. 

Friday, September 21, 2018

Hunt For Wolverine: Mystery In Madripoor (#1-4) by Jim Zub

Hunt for Wolverine: Mystery in Madripoor (#1-4) by Jim Zub, Thony Silas (Illustrator), Greg Land (Illustrator),
Giuseppe Camuncoli (Illustrator)
WHAT MAYHEM HAS THE RETURN OF THE MUTANT WITH METAL CLAWS CAUSED IN MADRIPOOR? When Wolverine's former alter-ego Patch is sighted on the streets of Madripoor, the infamous island of ill-repute, Kitty Pryde pulls together a group of Logan's closest friends to try and find him: Storm, Rogue, Psylocke, Domino, and Jubilee. What they discover is a twisted cabal of crime and dark mysteries that will take these X-Men from the depths of Lowtown to the stars circling overhead in the Hunt For Wolverine.

Out of the four Hunt for Wolverine mini series, Hunt for Wolverine: Mystery in Madripoor was easily my favorite. Everyone is looking for Logan's missing body, so each series focuses on a different group of people as they search for its whereabouts. Logan's body is dangerous whether he's dead or alive, and the ramifications of its loss are unfathomable. What could someone do with his DNA? What if he was cloned? What if someone did something to his brain so he hurt others? The possibilities are endless, which is why it's imperative that someone finds him as soon as possible.

Kitty's team is the only all-female group, and they kicked ass. I loved watching everyone work together despite a few disagreements at the start. They questioned Domino and her reasons for being there, but she has her own past with Logan. I'm also a little partial to Domino since I've been reading her comic -- girl has had a rough life. It isn't much easier now, but she's learning more about herself and making friends along the way. (You can find my review for the first two issues of Domino here.)

It was surprising how many twists Zub managed to squeeze into just four issues, but the all-female villain team might be my favorite. I knew they would encounter someone or something when they arrived in Madripoor (there's always conflict in comics), but their adversary was unexpected. I enjoyed Zub's writing and thought he did a wonderful job portraying some of my favorite characters.

There were so many layers to this one, too. Psylocke is struggling in a way only Psylocke can, Kitty is scrambling trying to put her team back together, and the others are fighting to stay alive and save the day. It was interesting to see how everyone fought against each other, since they all have such unique gifts.

If you have a chance to read one of the Hunt for Wolverine mini series, I highly recommend Mystery in Madripoor (or all of them). The others are good (especially Tom Taylor's team), but this was the one I looked forward to the most. I think they all play off one another a little to create the final one-shot issue, but you can read them individually with no problems.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Mosquitoland by David Arnold

Narrated by Phoebe Strole
Synopsis (via Goodreads): I am a collection of oddities, a circus of neurons and electrons: my heart is the ringmaster, my soul is the trapeze artist, and the world is my audience. It sounds strange because it is, and it is, because I am strange.

After the sudden collapse of her family, Mim Malone is dragged from her home in northern Ohio to the "wastelands" of Mississippi, where she lives in a medicated milieu with her dad and new stepmom. Before the dust has a chance to settle, she learns her mother is sick back in Cleveland.

So she ditches her new life and hops aboard a northbound Greyhound bus to her real home and her real mother, meeting a quirky cast of fellow travelers along the way. But when her thousand-mile journey takes a few turns she could never see coming, Mim must confront her own demons, redefining her notions of love, loyalty, and what it means to be sane.

Told in an unforgettable, kaleidoscopic voice, Mosquitoland is a modern American odyssey, as hilarious as it is heartbreaking. 
“When you were born, you cried while the world rejoiced. Live your life so that when you die, the world cries while you rejoice.”
I didn't know what to expect when I started this, because I initially chose to read the book based on its cover. There was just something about it that piqued my interest. I'm really glad I went with my gut on this one, because David Arnold has crafted a really beautiful, sometimes heartbreaking, story with lovely language and imagery.

I really enjoyed listening to the audiobook, and thought the narrator did a wonderful job expressing Mim's unique personality. Mim likes to leap before she looks, and then she just deals with the consequences. She sees detours as opportunities, and finds friendship in the unlikeliest of places.

“So I float in silence, watching the final touches of this perfect moonrise, and in a moment of heavenly revelation, it occurs to me that detours are not without purpose. They provide safe passage to a destination, avoiding pitfalls in the process.”

I hated that Mim felt so alone in her life, and that her father had stopped thinking about her interests. He was too focused on the past, and a future that may or may not happen. He subjected Mim to medication simply because he was afraid of what might be. He thought he was educated on the subject matter because he read a book about it, and that one decision impacted his daughter in a really profound way.

“I have limited experience, but I know this: moments of connection with another human being are patently rare. But rarer still are those who can recognize such a connection when they see one.”

I loved that this book was more about Mim's journey than the outcome, which is good, because I found the ending to be unsatisfactory. She's trying to get to her mother the entire book, and her experiences were often unpleasant and disasterous. She's a young girl traveling alone, and people aren't always decent and kind. They're often cruel and self-serving, despite Mim's positive outlook.

Speaking of the dangerous situation she placed herself in, I don't think her actions were adequately addressed. She was almost assaulted, comes close to dying a few times, barely mentions personal hygiene (which is important because a wound she received), and ate questionable food that could have ended her life right then and there. Mim was able to get through these things relatively unscathed, but others were not as lucky.

Mim is brilliant, but she's also reckless and a little lost. I think she's trying to find herself while also trying to find her mother. The sporadic journal entries were interesting, and allowed us to glimpse Mim's past while being in her present. She's a complicated mess, but I really enjoyed her outlook on the world. Her mother taught her to view people and places with love and understanding. She's not your typical teenager, but an old soul walking around in a young (albeit broken) body.

Beck and Walt were her people, and I adored them both. Beck's history was questionable at first, but I quickly understood Mim's instant attraction. There was just something special about him. He's older than Mim, but they address that issue pretty early on. They both know it would be wrong for them to start a relationship and instead choose to admit their feelings and form a really solid friendship. There is a potential for something later on, and I like that Arnold left us with some hope at the end. Hope for Mim, her family, Beck, and Walt.

“And even though things are heavy right now, it occurs to me how happy I am just to be with my friends. Sure, I'd love to kiss-hug-marry-hold Beck, but for now, I'm happy just to be with him. Sometimes being with gets overlooked I think.”

Walt is a beautiful person inside and out, and I am so frustrated and angry on his behalf. He has a disability, something that makes him different but no less amazing, and his father abandons him after his mother's death. He just handed Walt some money and sent him on his way. He was still a child incapable of truly taking care of himself, and his circumstances killed me. He deserved so much more, and I'm thrilled he stumbled across Mim and later Beck. They're his people, too.

“Beck’s smile is intense and sincere, a smile with, not a smile at. Mom used to say you could tell a lot by the way a person treats the innocent, and Walt is nothing if not innocence personified.”

There were so many quotes and passages that I wanted to share from this book, but there just wasn't enough space for all of them. There were entire chapters that I wanted to mark, highlight, and annotate to my heart's content. It's definitely a book I will buy and re-read in the future. Mim's story is one for the ages, and I hope more people aspire to live their lives with as much love and acceptance. Sometimes we're wrong, but it's how we choose to right those wrongs that matters. We should all want to help the Walt's of the world, and be willing to embrace the unexpected detours in our lives.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

My Weekly Pull [38] & Can't Wait Wednesday [8]

My Weekly Pull is something I do every Wednesday to show which comics I had pulled for me that week! If you're into comics, or you're looking to start, please join me! If you decide to do your own post, leave a link in the comments. I would love to stop by and check it out!

West Coast Avengers #2 by Kelly Thompson, Stefano Caselli, Tony Fleecs
Amazing Spider-Man Renew Your Vows #23 by Jody Houser, Scott Koblish, Eduard Petrovich

Jacob's comics for the week!
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #86 by Tom Waltz, Dave Wachter, Kevin Eastman
Hit-Girl #8 by Jeff Lemire, Eduardo Risso, John Paul Leon
Kick-Ass #7 by Steve Niles, Marcelo Frusin
Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1 by Saladin Ahmed, Garry Brown, ACO
Venom #6 by Donny Cates, Ryan Stegman
Venom First Host #4 (of 5) by Mike Costa, Mark Bagley, Tak Miyazawa

If you want to read my review for West Coast Avengers #1, you can find it here. Short version: it flarking rocks! I love the team Kelly Thompson has put together, and she's just so damn creative with her writing. I'm already madly in love with the cover for this week's issue, too. It's like an old school movie poster, and I think I'm going to frame a copy so I can hang it on my wall. (It's a slightly more expensive cover, but totally worth it!)

Amazing Spider-Man Renew Your Vows is getting dicey! I think our Spiders are going to finally confront their main villain for this arc. I cannot wait to see how that battle goes! I'm also curious what the next story arc will be... 

Can't Wait Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Tressa at Wishful Endings, that highlights upcoming releases that we're anticipating and excited to read. It's a spinoff of the feature Waiting on Wednesday that was hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine

Knights vs. Dinosaurs by Matt Phelan
Expected publication: October 23rd 2018
Synopsis (via Goodreads): Renowned for their courage, their chivalry, and their ability to fight mythical creatures, the Knights of the Round Table must face their most dangerous opponents yet—DINOSAURS!

This heavily illustrated middle grade novel from award-winning author and artist Matt Phelan is a hilarious, rip-roaring tale of derring-do perfect for reluctant readers and fans of
How to Train Your Dragon and The Terrible Two.

Let me tell you a secret about the Knights of the Round Table: they don’t have much to do. The realm is at peace and dragons are few and far between. So Merlin decides to send the knights out on a real adventure to a world filled with the most terrible lizards of all: DINOSAURS!

Knights vs. Dinosaurs is a highly illustrated, fast-paced adventure full of uproarious knightly hijinks, surprising secrets, and terrifying dinosaurs. With art on nearly every page, including an epic fight scene depicted in several graphic-novel style spreads, this engaging story is Monty Python for young middle school readers.

A great choice for reluctant readers, aspiring knights, and fans of Peter Brown’s
The Wild Robot.

This sounds like it'll be so much fun to read with my kid! I've always been a fan of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, but throw in some dinosaurs and I'm sold. My son is also obsessed with dinosaurs, so win-win! This synopsis says it's full of "uproarious knightly hijinks," so I'm hoping it delivers. We're also big fans of How to Train Your Dragon.

Have you read The Wild Robot? I recently borrowed the audiobook from my library, but haven't had a chance to read it yet. The synopsis mentioned it as well, so...

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
(Harry Potter, #2) by J.K. Rowling

Synopsis (via Goodreads): The Dursleys were so mean and hideous that summer that all Harry Potter wanted was to get back to the Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry. But just as he's packing his bags, Harry receives a warning from a strange, impish creature named Dobby who says that if Harry Potter returns to Hogwarts, disaster will strike

And strike it does. For in Harry's second year at Hogwarts, fresh torments and horrors arise, including an outrageously stuck-up new professor, Gilderoy Lockhart, a spirit named Moaning Myrtle who haunts the girls' bathroom, and the unwanted attentions of Ron Weasley's younger sister, Ginny.

But each of these seem minor annoyances when the real trouble begins, and someone -- or something -- starts turning Hogwarts students to stone. Could it be Draco Malfoy, a more poisonous rival than ever? Could it possibly be Hagrid, whose mysterious past is finally told? Or could it be the one everyone at Hogwarts most suspects . . . Harry Potter himself?

“When in doubt, go to the library.”
This review may contain spoilers for the first book. Read at your own risk!

I always love re-reading this series, and I'm thrilled to finally be sharing them with my son. He's still a little to young to fully understand the story, but it's been lovely reading these to him before bed. He gets so excited about the small things -- a car that can think for itself, a tree that fights back, and he was absolutely fascinated by the basilisk. It's hard not to keep reading once he's fallen asleep, but I force myself to dog-ear the page and wait until the next night.

I feel like I notice something new or different each time I re-read these books. There were a few things that irked me when I read this one, and I'm not sure the issues are addressed in later books. One, Malfoy confessed to Harry and Ron (when they were Crabbe and Goyle) that his father had a hidden room in their house where he stored his really dark artifacts. Ron says something about sending an owl to his father, but then nothing comes of it. Did Mr. Weasley raid Lucius Malfoy's house? If so, why wasn't Malfoy imprisoned or charged with something? You'd think that would have been notable information.

Another thing that I'm upset about -- Hagrid. We know he was expelled from Hogwarts ages ago, and his wand was broken in half. When it becomes clear that Hagrid was falsely accused of a crime, why wasn't he reinstated as a wizard? I'm sure someone could have fixed his wand, or allowed him to finish school (even do some owline courses). I feel like Riddle's wrongdoings were never addressed, and Hagrid is still seen as somehow being less than others. It's infuriating because I love Hagrid to death. He's a gentle soul that truly loves Dumbledore, and he cares deeply for Harry and his friends. 

I'm also pretty flarking upset that Hedwig was locked in a tiny cage all summer. It was cruel and unnecessary. You're telling me Harry can fight Voldemort, take on a basilisk, and be the schools youngest Seeker, but he couldn't pick a lock on his owl's cage so she could stretch her wings at night? His aunt and uncle wouldn't have noticed as long as she made it back by morning. Speaking of his aunt and uncle, they are cruel and heartless people. Harry was a child and they locked him in a room and fed him barely edible food. They could have given him a decent home despite their animosity towards wizards. He was still family.

Despite my new issues with some of the content, I will forever love this series. I was always the same age as the characters, so it felt like we grew up together. Now when I read these books, there's a sense of nostalgia. I remember a younger version of myself, and how thrilled I would be to get the next book in the series. I was a different person then, and I'm much older now, but the feelings of wonder and joy are the same.