Red Queen

By Victoria Aveyard

This is a young adult fantasy novel set in a world where there are two distinct castes of people. The Reds who have no special abilities and are slaves to the Silvers who have special powers and whose blood is literally silver. This story follows Mare, a Red, who lives in the slums called The Stilts, and earns money by pickpocketing from her fellow Reds. Reds are expected to have a job or they are sent to the war to fight the enemies of the Silvers. Mostly it’s a death sentence. Mare meets a stranger and afterwards finds herself working in the Silver Palace and learns she has a power of her own. 

This book gets very good reviews and is the first book in the series. I wish I could say I loved the book but sadly I did not. I really wanted to like it but it just didn’t appeal to me at all. This is not to say it’s not a good book and if it’s your favorite book then we simply have different tastes.

The writing is good and the characters are fully fleshed out but I found that I just did’t care for Mare. She just didn’t grow as a person given all the political intrigue and machinations. She makes some very poor decisions which lead to some pretty disastrous consequences. Let’s just say I would NOT want to be an acquaintance of hers at all.

The title of the book is very misleading. I don’t want to give away the ending so I’ll leave it at that.

This book is also very dark and very brooding, which I admit is not my favorite type of book so take that for what it’s worth. I’m not saying it’s a bad book I’m just saying it is not a series I will continue to read. 

What I liked about the book was the world building. It is fully developed and so intense. I could picture this very dark and depressing world and it elicited some very strong feelings. 

The ending does have a surprise I didn’t see coming and the author does a good job of setting things up for the next book. 

Full disclosure: I listened to the audiobook and in all fairness I wonder if I had read the physical copy if I would have gotten more out of the book. But to be honest I have no desire to do that mostly because I couldn’t bring myself to care about the main character. 

So I give the book 3 out of 5 stars. Like I said, not my type of book so take my rating with a grain of salt.

Until next time my friends.

Therese

What I Read Last Week

I believe I talked about this before but I have recently discovered I can read paper books without having any blurring of my eyes. I’ve spoken to my eye doctor about this and there is nothing wrong with my eyes he says it’s eye strain and to take frequent breaks. This can be very frustrating when I’m reading on my Kindle and completely immersed in a story and have to stop. Now I can read for as long as I want and it has significantly increased the number of books I’m reading and my enjoyment. 

I thought I would share with you what I read last week and I’m going to include audiobooks as well. It was a pretty productive week and having found a fireplace app on my cable box I can set a very cozy atmosphere that makes reading so much more fun. 

Ok enough of the jibber jabber. Here’s what I read last week.

A Gathering of Shadows by VE Schwab: I really loved this book. This is the second book in the Darker Shades of Magic series and here we follow Kell, Lila, Rhy and Alucard as they participate in a tournament where magic is used in duels that will determine the champion. This tournament includes competitors from other kingdoms in this world and so we meet other people and learn about their cultures. There is a subplot which is setting up for the third book in which Holland is back as King of White London but he is possessed by a god, Osaron, from Black London. The tournament is held but I won’t give away any of the details because it makes for some great reading. There is also some conflict between the King and Kell that leads to a brilliant ending. I won’t say anymore and I thoroughly enjoyed this book. My only complaint is I saw the ending coming but what I loved about the book is the depth of character development. In the first book we met three of the main characters and they were fleshed to the extent that we fell more deeply in love with them even if they were doing some questionable things and making some poor decisions. The author gives us much more time with the characters in this book and we learn about their strengths and, more importantly, their weaknesses. Alucard is introduced in this book and he is a wonderful character. A pirate and a cheerfully dangerous man. He is smart, funny and loyal as well. We also learn he is keeping a secret from his crew which was a total surprise. Over all I give this book a four out of five stars.

Keeper of the Lost Cities by Shannon Messenger: This is a middle school book that is lovely and engrossing. This is the first book in a series that, at this time, has eight books. We meet Sophie who is a twelve year old girl who is telepathic and is struggling to control her power. This has caused her to be withdrawn and without any friends in school. On a field trip to the natural history museum she meets a boy who tells her she isn’t human and is, in fact, an elf and her power is considered normal. He takes her away from the human world and she finds that for the first time since she was five years old she can’t hear other people’s thoughts. I read this book in about 8 hours, spread out over two days, and I think this it is almost as good as the Harry Potter books. My only complaint is the supporting characters, specifically Sophie’s nemesis in school, aren’t as well developed as they could be and but we still enjoy the drama of being a twelve year old in school, albeit a magic school. Give me a magic school and some cool classes and I’m all in. What I loved about this book is the magic system and the world the author creates. There is a mystery that unfolds in a very interesting way that leads to some intense scenes. The author isn’t afraid to have her character’s experience some pretty bad situations and experience intense emotions. I found myself so wrapped up in these that at one point I looked up and thought “wow this is a book in the juvenile section at the library?” All in all I thoroughly enjoyed this book and already have the second book. I give it 4 our of 5 stars.

Hidden by Benedict Jacka (audiobook): This is an adult urban fantasy set in London and is about Alex Verus who is a mage that owns a magic shop. He was once the unwilling apprentice to a dark mage and escaped only to spend most of his youth running away from his master who eventually disappears. Now he is learning how to live life without constantly looking over his shoulder. This is actually the fifth book in the Alex Verus series and I have enjoyed them all immensely. In this book Alex is asked by his apprentice, Luna, to talk with her best friend, Ann, because she decided to leave the light magic’s apprentice program. Doing so means Ann is out in the world without a master and is vulnerable. Dark mages will often abduct apprentices and press them into service, torturing them until they comply. Ann initially rejects Alex’s help but is soon missing and his search for her is the main story. My only complaint about this book is it took a little while for the story to set up. I found myself starting and stopping because I wasn’t engaged. Eventually things get very interesting and intense and I was totally hooked wondering how they were going to get out of a very sticky situation. Oh and there is a bit of a surprise that I didn’t see coming at all. The characters are written so well that they feel like real people struggling not only in their situations but with internal demons and their pasts. The narrator does a brilliant job and I always knew who was speaking and when the situation called for some truly intense emotion moments her didn’t hold back. I also liked the book being set in England because it added a unique flavor and style. I really loved this book just as I’ve loved all the books I’ve read in the series. I give this a five out of five. 

It was a good reading week for me. I found myself getting up early to read because I wanted to spend time with the characters in these books. 

My TBR (to be read) pile for this week includes Keeper of the Lost Cities: Exile (book 2) and A Conjuring of Light (the third book in the Darker Shades of Magic trilogy). I’m also listening to Golden in Death by JD Robb a long running series. This is the 50th book which I’ve been looking forward to for many months. I’ll update you next week. 

As always thank you for visiting and make sure to follow me so you’re notified about new blog posts. 

Have a wonderful week my friends.

Therese

24 Hour Read-A-Thon

I am hopelessly addicted to YouTube and recently I’ve been watching jessethereader and PeruseProject. They both did a 24 Hour Read-A-Thon which sparked an idea. Basically they chose some books they wanted to read over a 24 hour period to see what they could accomplish. Now they did NOT read for 24 hours straight, that’s not the point. Rather it’s setting a goal, spending time reading and enjoying yourself. They did record their read-a-thon for YouTube, obviously, but I decided to do it via my blog so we’ll see how this goes.

So, here’s the plan. 

I’m going to start my read-a-thon on Saturday, January 25, 2020 at 2:00pm EST. The books I plan to read are “The Darker Side of Magic,  “A Gathering of Shadows” and “A Conjuring of Light” all by V.E. Schwab. These are books in a trilogy that I checked out of the library this past Tuesday. I’m already reading “The Darker Side of Magic” so I’ll be starting on page 71. Just being honest. I’m also going to listen to “A Curse So Dark and Lonely” by Brigid Kemmerer via audiobook which I started a couple days ago. I have 9 hours and 44 minutes left. Again, being honest. 

Now, I DO plan on sleeping, eating and walking my dog so the audiobook will come in handy during meals and walks. Sleeping..no I will not be reading. I’m going to shoot for finishing the first two books in the trilogy, the audiobook and see how far I can get in the third. It depends on how much attention Libby, my dog, wants during that 24 hours. Priorities.

Let’s Begin

It’s Saturday 2:00pm I’m all settled into my favorite chair, comfy blanket in place, Libby is sleeping on the couch and I’m going to start reading. I’ll check in throughout the next 24 hours. 

Here we go.

Hi! It’s Saturday at 5:30pm and I’ve been reading “A Darker Shade of Magic” this afternoon. At first I wasn’t sure I was going to like the book. I had read a little yesterday before I decided to do this read-a-thon and thought it was interesting but now I know it is really a great story. So different from what I thought it was going to be. Basically there are multiple Londons and the main male character, Kell, has magic to travel between them. One London has magic, another does not, a third has magic but has warped it so that they are basically evil and the last one the magic has destroyed so it’s dead. He meets Lila who is human and is from the London that doesn’t have any magic. Things get very intense when they meet and that’s where I am right now. So good! I’m on page 177 of 400 so almost half way. I still have a few more hours to read tonight. I will check in before bed. Back to the story! What will happen? Exciting!

Well it’s bedtime. Things got pretty intense in the book. I wondered about Kell’s future. I was actually so engrossed in the story I didn’t hear Libby whining to go outside. Oops. I’m at the halfway point now. I was hoping to finish tonight but that just didn’t happen. I usually listen to audiobooks because when I read on my Kindle my eyes blur but I’ve recently discovered that paper books don’t do that so I can actually read again. It feels so good! I think I’m out of practice and read a little slower but I’m hoping with time I’ll read a little faster. Ok, off to bed I go. I’ll pick things up tomorrow morning. Night!

Good Morning! I’ve been up for a few hours, had coffee, set up my planner (paper) for the day while listening to my audiobook and have been reading for a couple hours. So much has happened. Basically Kell and Lila are now together on the run from someone who is trying to kill them. I don’t want to give away a lot of the book but magic is used, blood is spilled and lines have been crossed. Such a good story and I can’t quite figure out how this will all end. Right now I’m going to have some cereal and then walk Libby while I continue with my audiobook. It’s also getting pretty good. It’s a retelling of Beauty and the Beast but from a much darker perspective. I’ve listened to about two hours since I started and am using that as reading time when I’m not physically reading a book. All in all I’m really enjoying myself. I’ll check in at lunch time. 

Good afternoon! I just finished “A Darker Shade of Magic” and it is a great book. Lots of action, magic and wit. The characters of Kell, Lila and Rhy are so interesting and the story was so intense. Lila is a strong female character who accepts herself for who she is and doesn’t make any excuses or apologies. I’m so glad I chose this as my first book to read. I’m also making good progress on the audiobook “A Curse So Dark and Lonely”. I have a little under 3 hours left and things just got interesting.  The beast has just appeared! 

So onto the next book in the series, “A Gathering of Shadows” (509 pages) but first I have to take Libby out. She’s been so patient and I think she likes the fireplace app on my cable box. It’s been quiet and cozy. I’ll check in after the read-a-thon is done for a final update. Time to read! 

Well it’s 2pm and the read-a-thon is done. I had to do a load of laundry and also start editing audio for a podcast I work on so I only read 48 pages into the second book and it’s really good so far.  Lila seems to be the main character in this one which is great. I also have about 2 hours left in my audiobook. I think we’re heading to the part in the story where beauty and the beast come together to save the village. I’m not sure because this is a totally different story than the Disney movie. 

The challenge has been a great experience. I read so much and taking the time away from watching tv was definitely a plus. I guess the question I’m left with is, would I do it again. And the answer is a definite yes. Spending 24 hours reading was relaxing, calming and just the escape I needed from my everyday life. Is Libby really happy with me right now? Probably not but all in all she’s been very good. She’s slept though most of it and as long as she got her beef jerky she was satisfied. 

Thanks so much for reading this far. I definitely didn’t read as much as I thought I would but that’s ok. I also didn’t intend for this post to be so long but I want to inspire some of my reader friends to give this a try. I hope you enjoyed this blog as much as I enjoyed the read-a-thon. 

Until next time!

Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch

Book Review

Did you ever have that feeling after you’ve finished a book and, as you’re closing the cover, you feel a little sad? That is exactly how I felt after reading “Snow Like Ashes”.  Let me back up a little bit. 

This is a Young Adult Fantasy novel written by Sara Raasch, which was released in 2014. Yes, I’m late to the party. Oh and I’m definitely not a young adult. I’m not even a new adult. I’ve been around the block a few times. What makes this book so good is it is a fantasy book whose protagonist just happens to be a sixteen year old girl. At no point does the author dumb down the story or pull any punches. She puts her characters through some pretty rough stuff but not so bad that the book tips over into the category of adult fantasy. She walks that line with finesse. 

Let me start with the story. I promise, no spoilers. We open with a mock sword fight between Meira and Mather both refugees from their kingdom that was destroyed and its people taken into slavery. Meira, Mather and a small band of their people are the only refugees that have escaped and they’re trying to free their people and rebuild their kingdom. I’m not going to give you anymore than that because I really want you to meet the characters with the same expectation that I experienced.

Speaking of the characters they are well thought out and three dimensional. They’re heroic and flawed. Meira is young and questions authority, acts rashly and just wants to figure out where she fits in.  All things people both young and old feel at one time or other during their lives. I loved her and I was rooting for her throughout the whole story but, being an adult reader, at no time did she frustrate me with her actions. They made total sense given her circumstances.

The writing is crisp and tight and flows very quickly. At no time is it bogged down by a lot of flowery, unnecessary paragraphs describing the landscape or event. It is straight forward and yet you still get that picture in your head that is rich and real.

I can highly recommend this book for both young adults and older folks too. You will be transported to a world that is exquisitely built and rich in vision. And the good news? This is the first book in a trilogy. I’m deep into the second book and it’s actually better than the first. I’ll review that one once I’m done but I am taking my time because I have that great feeling where you don’t want to finish the book because you don’t want to leave the world or your friends. Read this book. You’ll thoroughly enjoy yourself.

Five Things To Know About Your New Puppy

It’s that time of year. Christmas is my favorite holiday. Family. Friends. Food. It’s also the time of year where puppies come into our lives as Christmas gifts. It’s exciting and new and the kids, if you have them, are over the moon. Sometimes it’s love at first sight. Sometimes it takes a little time for everyone to come together.

Getting a puppy from a breeder, rescue group or shelter will require a lot of patience, love and time. We can’t expect our new furry friend to be perfect right away. So here are five things you can do to make the transition easier for the both of you.

ONE

If you have children, it’s time to teach them the proper way to handle animals. When you’re introducing the child and dog to each other it’s important to give your pooch a lot of space and time to meet. It’s exciting and our first instinct is to pick up the puppy and squeeze it tight with all the love in our hearts or if it’s an older puppy to run up to it and give it a big hug. This can cause a significant amount of stress on the dog. With a young puppy have your child or children sit down, put the puppy on the floor and let him or her approach your kids. The puppy will sniff and investigate and that’s important because that is what dogs do when they meet another dog or a human. At this point a puppy will either back off or crawl up into their lap. If the puppy backs off give them their space because they might be shy. After all, there’s a lot going on. Eventually they’ll settle into the situation and approach you or your kids again. Puppies are inquisitive.

If you’ve rescued an older puppy give them plenty of space. Again, let them approach your kids on their own. Let the dog set the pace. This is a lot for a dog to take in. Hopefully when you talked to the rescue they paired your family with a dog that is good with children but it still takes plenty of time for them to get used to new people. 

In your home make a special space for the puppy. This space is off limits for kids and adults. This is a safe place where the dog can go and de-stress. Put their crate and/or bed there and if your the dog goes into its crate let them stay there until they’re ready to come out and socialize again.

I know this seems hard to do but it really is important for you to give your dog time and space to become part of the family.

TWO

You new puppy will probably be a little mouthy. What I mean is they will want to put their teeth on you. This is normal and can be handled gently and humanely. Puppies need to learn bite inhibition and if you don’t have another puppy or dog, that job falls to you. Ideally if you don’t have another dog take your puppy to a good, reputable doggie daycare. They should match up your puppy with other puppies or even an older dog who have similar temperaments not just throw all the dogs in one big room with very little supervision. In a good daycare facility there are playgroups which are closely monitored. Spray bottles are NOT used to diffuse fights. Do your research. Make this a positive experience for your puppy. The reason I recommend daycare is because in as little as a day your puppy’s mouthing will improve significantly. I’ve seen it myself time and time again. 

If daycare is not in your budget then it’s up to you to teach your puppy how much pressure is too much. The best way to do this is to play with your puppy. When they mouth continue to play until the pressure is too much. When it is, playtime is over. This is what other puppies will do as well. Wait a couple minutes and if the puppy still wants to play continue. Everytime the pressure is too much stop playing. Your puppy will learn. Trust me.

THREE

House training is necessary as puddles in the house or piles of poop on the carpet is not fun but with patience and vigilance it can be done humanely and quickly. First, buy a crate. Some people think putting a puppy in a crate is cruel. Dogs are den animals and having a place where they feel safe is super important and if your puppy learns the crate is fun they won’t mind going in and spending some time in their safe space. I don’t recommend giving your puppy free reign in your home until they are reliably going outside. Pee pads are nice tools but don’t rely on them unless you plan on having your puppy pee on them for a longer period of time. It’s worth it to spend the time teaching your dog that outside is the only place for pee and poop. 

Puppies will need to pee within 15 minutes after drinking water and poop 30 minutes after they eat. When I was house training my puppy I used a paper schedule that I hung on the refrigerator to track their fluid and food intake times. This helped a lot and we had only a few accidents all of which were my fault because I wasn’t paying attention. 

When you take your puppy out it is not playtime. It’s all business. I recommend, at first, to take your puppy out on a leash and take them to the spot in your yard where you want them to pee and poop. This will make clean up much easier. Then it’s a waiting game. Give them about 5 minutes. There will be a lot of sniffing which is normal. If after 5 minutes they don’t pee or poop take them back into the house and put them in their crate for about 10 minutes. Then try again. Repeat this until the puppy relieves themselves. Also once they do go don’t immediately run back into the house. Hang out for a couple minutes to make sure they’re done.

If you like you can train your dog to pee or poop on command. Just as they are getting ready to go say “good pee or poo”. This sounds silly but if you stick with it when they get older you can say “go pee” and they will know what needs to be done. This can really come in handy in inclement weather.

FOUR

I should have put this first because it’s so important. Sign yourself and your new puppy up for behavior training. This will not only help your puppy to become a good member of the family but will also form a wonderful bond between the two of you. There is so much to say on this topic. As a certified dog trainer myself I could write a whole separate blog post about this subject. All I’ll say right now is to do your research. I think you’ll find that experts now recommend positive reinforcement training. I personally recommend clicker training. It works and makes training much easier because the clicker acts as a communication tool between the two of you. I’ve been clicker training for over 10 years and I’ve seen the benefits even with dogs who have had a hard start in life. 

Expect to invest your time at home in the training not just in class. The trainer will show you how to train your dog and the practice at home will reinforce the training. It takes time and patience but the benefits are huge. 

That’s all I’ll say on the matter. I’ll write another post on this subject in the future.

FIVE

Finally enjoy yourself and your new furry family member. Playtime is a great way to form a lasting relationship with her or him. Tug is fun and, contrary to popular belief, does not make your dog aggressive. Fetch is also a great game and is pretty easy to teach. You can also use playtime to train your dog as well. Keep it all positive, fun and kind. Kindness goes a long way.

Patience is key and it can make the time you spend together a positive experience for the both of you. I wish you and your puppy happiness and a long and healthy life together. Happy New Year!

Therese

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