From the acclaimed author of Amelia Lost and The Lincolns comes more nonfiction at its very best—and a perfect resource for meeting Common Core standards. Here is the riveting story of the Russian Revolution as it unfolded. When Russia’s last tsar, Nicholas II, inherited the throne in 1894, he was unprepared to do so. With their four daughters (including Anastasia) and only son, a hemophiliac, Nicholas and his reclusive wife, Alexandra, buried their heads in the sand, living a life of opulence as World War I raged outside their door and political unrest grew. Deftly maneuvering between the lives of the Romanovs and the plight of Russia’s peasants—and their eventual uprising—Fleming offers up a fascinating portrait, complete with inserts featuring period photographs and compelling primary-source material that brings it all to life. History doesn’t get more interesting than the story of the Romanovs.
Thanks to the publisher, I have one copy of The Family Romanov to give away. Giveaway is U.S./Canada only and ends August 8th.
In the Shadows by Kiersten White (Text Story) Jim Di Bartolo (Art and Art Story)
Release Date:April 29, 2014 Publisher: Scholastic Press Age Group: Young Adult Rating: 1 2 3 4 5
From the remarkable imagination of acclaimed artist Jim Di Bartolo and the exquisite pen of bestselling author Kiersten White comes a spellbinding story of love, mystery, and dark conspiracy, told in an alternating narrative of words and pictures. Cora and Minnie are sisters living in a small, stifling town where strange and mysterious things occur. Their mother runs the local boarding house. Their father is gone. The woman up the hill may or may not be a witch. Thomas and Charles are brothers who've been exiled to the boarding house so Thomas can tame his ways and Charles can fight an illness that is killing him with increasing speed. Their family history is one of sorrow and guilt. They think they can escape from it . . . but they can't. Arthur is also new to the boarding house. His fate is tied to that of Cora, Minnie, Thomas, and Charles. He knows what darkness circles them, but can't say why, and doesn't even know if they can be saved. Sinister forces are working in the shadows, manipulating fates and crafting conspiracies. The closer Cora, Minnie, Arthur, Thomas, and Charles get to the truth, the closer they get to harm. But the threat is much bigger than they can see. It is strangling the world. Until one of the boys decides he wants to save it. Told in an astonishing mix of art and words, IN THE SHADOWS collides past against future, love against evil, and hope against fear. The result is both a mystery and a masterpiece.
My Review: Cover: This is a pretty boring cover (not to mention the title doesn't sound noteworthy or have anything to do with the book). I wouldn't have given it a second glance if I didn't see the illustrations in the book. I really liked the art, which makes you wonder why the cover turned out like this. These hand-painted covers by the artist are so much awesomer. Writing: (1/5) The chapters (the text part of the book) weren't that long. They were 2-6 pages each, but they were so hard to get through. They were so dull. I read a couple of chapters a day, even though they were so short, just because I couldn't stand how boring they were. Was the art so good that they were lazy with the writing? Art: (5/5) My favourite part was the art story. I would sluggishly try to read through the text chapters just to get to the art story. It was so much more interesting, probably because the art wasn't as dull as the writing. I really liked the style and the colors. There was just so much more life to it than the incredibly flat writing:
Setting:(1.5/5) Most of the book is set in a boarding house in Maine 1900. The setting in In the Shadows was incredibly lackluster. I wouldn't call it a cardboard backdrop, but it wasn't really good either. Like the writing, it was just incredibly boring. Plot:(2/5) The book has two separate storylines that eventually intertwine in the end. One is told in text and the other through the art (without any words). The text story was the most godawful boring thing ever. I'm not sure if any effort was even put into it. The art story on the other hand was so much more interesting and the only reason I didn't drop this book. I really liked that there were no words. The separate text story and art story felt like such a gimmick. The artist should have just tried to make his own story, the text only held the book back.
Main Character:(2/5) The main character is probably the main character in the art story, but I can't really spoil who that is. I did like him, but because there was more emphasis on the text story, we didn't really see his personality play out that much.
Villain:(1/5) The villains were poorly constructed. Their dialogue was trying too hard to be evil and impressive and just ended up being cringe-worthy. They were unmemorable. Not to mention there were just too many of them.
Other Characters:(1.5/5) The text story focuses on five characters: the sisters Minnie and Cora, the brothers Thomas and Charles, and Arthur. There are chapters from all their point of views. Minnie was energetic and irresponsible. She was the opposite of her sister Cora, who was nice and responsible. I hate when they have two sisters and give them opposite personalities. Thomas and Charles are boarders at the sisters' family boarding house. Charles is sickly and Thomas worries for him. Thomas was easily the most boring character. I liked that Charles didn't care much about his impending death, but that was about it. I found the brothers to be completely pointless. You could have taken them out and the story would have worked fine without them. Arthur was probably the best. He's very cliché, brooding, and with a dark past. He was the most interesting though, probably because he actually had some kind of conflict. The brothers did not feel like they should have been in the story and the sisters were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
There was also the local "witch" Mary, who is one of those poorly constructed crazy characters I loathe.
And there was the sisters' mother, who runs the boarding house. I liked her motherly personality and it sadly felt like she was the best character...
Overall:(14/35) The book is told through a text and art story that eventually intertwine. While the art story was fun to read through, the text story was so dull and poorly constructed that I can't recommend this book. Not even for the art story, considering it was so intertwined with it.
I love this edition of Peter Pan. It's the perfect size, the text size is perfect, and the cover is a chalk illustration. I've already read itand I really enjoyed it! I loved Peter Pan and Hook, the Disney movie just didn't pull them off right. My review will be posted soon.
Three plantations. Two wishes. One ancient curse. All her life, Barrie Watson has been a virtual prisoner in the house where she lived with her shut-in mother. When her mother dies, Barrie promises to put some mileage on her stiletto heels. But she finds a new kind of prison at her aunt’s South Carolina plantation instead--a prison guarded by an ancient spirit who long ago cursed one of the three founding families of Watson Island and gave the others magical gifts that became compulsions. Stuck with the ghosts of a generations-old feud and hunted by forces she cannot see, Barrie must find a way to break free of the family legacy. With the help of sun-kissed Eight Beaufort, who knows what Barrie wants before she knows herself, the last Watson heir starts to unravel her family's twisted secrets. What she finds is dangerous: a love she never expected, a river that turns to fire at midnight, a gorgeous cousin who isn’t what she seems, and very real enemies who want both Eight and Barrie dead.
1. Tell us 5 interesting facts about you?
I was born in Prague in what’s now the Czech Republic, which is probably the most magical city on earth (just ask Laini Taylor’s Karou or Zuzana). I think that probably explains my love of magical settings. There’s nothing like waking up every morning with a fairytale castle rising on a hillside above you, or going to sleep at night with the lights of a hundred spires wining into the sky to spark the imagination.
I love to travel and made it to twelve different countries last year. Well, eleven if you don’t count the U.S. Prague and Austria were, as always, two of my favorites, but I loved Turkey and Thailand, had a ball visiting an elephant orphanage in Sri Lanka, and despite my fear of heights, I forced myself to go to the top of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the world’s tallest building, and the Petronas Tower in Kuala Lumpur. I also climbed the 272 steps to the Batu Cave Temple, which wasn't so much a height problem as a distraction problem. I was so busy watching the monkeys sliding down the banisters that I practically took a header. I think my favorite place of all though—because it was completely new to me and full of incredible things everywhere I looked—was India. The Taj Mahal is truly incredible, but I was completely enchanted by the people and the mixture of old and very modern. I also collected the framework of a book I’m dying to write in Bermuda.
I’m afraid of heights. (And yes, I know I mentioned that above, but it’s still a fact, unfortunately :D )
I’m a sucker for a good spooky story. I used to tell Edgar Allen Poe stories at Girl Scout Camp and make people get creeped out.
I have bald eagles in my back yard, which makes me all kinds of happy.
2. Describe Compulsion in one sentence?
A Southern Gothic about three teens from southern families who own plantations, two wishes granted to two of the families that force them to behave in inconvenient ways, and an ancient curse that ties them all together and makes the romance between two of them very complicated and friendship between two of them unlikely.
3. Which animals best represent your characters?
Barrie would be an Arabian horse, very fine boned with big eyes and a lot of intelligence and curiosity, but a little flighty and prone to attacks of nerves. Eight would be a very handsome German Shepherd, driven to take care of the people in his charge, duty bound to be a hero, but longing to play and escape. Cassie would be a sleek, slinky panther, always watching for her opportunity and dangerously beautiful.
4. What are some of your favourite books, movies, and TV series?
My favorite books are usually what I’m reading at the moment. Some perennial favorites are Daughter of Smoke and Bone, The Scorpio Races, The Sky is Everywhere, Graffiti Moon, Anna Dressed in Blood, Mistwood, Wicked Lovely, The Raven Boys, Madman’s Daughter, What’s Left of Me, Shatter Me, and Out of the Easy. Also pretty much anything by Jennifer Armentrout and Wendy Higgins. My favorite movie is The Shawshank Redemption. I also love The Princess Bride, and the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice. As far as TV goes, I am obsessed with Game of Thrones and the Walking Dead. I also love Top Gear, Hart of Dixie, Vampire Diaries, Chicago Fire, and Blacklist. I’m also a fan of Pretty Little Liars and Scandal, but kind of haven’t loved the most recent episodes, so need to take a break.
5. What are you currently reading and what are you reading next?
I’m currently reading (and loving) The Taking by Kimberly Derting, after finishing Complicit by Stephanie Keuhn, which was WOW!!!!! Next up are A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray and Forbidden by Kimberley Griffiths Little. I’m also dying to get to Dangerous Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl.
Once they were inseparable, just two little girls playing games in a mighty castle. Now Princess Marie-Victoria, heir to the mightiest empire in the world, and Aelwyn Myrddyn, a bastard mage, face vastly different futures.
Quiet and gentle, Marie has never lived up to the ambitions of her mother, Queen Eleanor the Second. With the help of her Merlin, Eleanor has maintained a stranglehold on the world's only source of magic. While the enchanters faithfully serve the crown, the sun will never set on the Franco-British Empire.
As the annual London Season begins, the great and noble families across the globe flaunt their wealth and magic at parties, teas, and, of course, the lavish Bal du Drap d'Or, the Ball of the Gold Cloth.
But the talk of the season is Ronan Astor, a social-climbing American with only her dazzling beauty to recommend her. Ronan is determined to make a good match to save her family's position. But when she falls for a handsome rogue on the voyage over, her lofty plans are imperiled by her desires.
Meanwhile, Isabelle of Orleans, daughter of the displaced French royal family, finds herself cast aside by Leopold, heir to the Prussian crown, in favor of a political marriage to Marie-Victoria. Isabelle arrives in the city bent on reclaiming what is hers. But Marie doesn't even want Leopold—she has lost her heart to a boy the future queen would never be allowed to marry.
When Marie comes to Aelwyn, desperate to escape a life without love, the girls form a perilous plan that endangers not only the entire kingdom but the fate of the monarchy.
Cover: I love the cover for this book! It's basically the only real reason I picked it up, which I assume is the same for a lot of others. The paint splattered looking background, the flower crown, the typography, I love all of it!
Writing: (2/5) The problem with the writing was that the author would go on for pages and pages to describe the most insignificant things. Anything remotely pretty, the author would go on to describe it. While this did give a better sense of the setting, when this is the bulk of the book, what's the point?
Setting:(4/5) I did like the setting. It was a mix of arthurian legends, with alternate historical, plus the book would go on to describe tons of things that were basically "pretty" like clothes. Add that with palaces and balls and I'm pretty sure that was the whole point of the book. The setting and how pretty it was was basically what the author focused on.
Plot:(1/5) Ha ha, plot. What plot?"The plot" kicks in around 340 pages later. The most hilarious part is that it tells you all the plot points: so and so was evil, I did such and such to stop them, this was their plan, etc. Wow, I don't recall ever reading a book where the whole plot was done behind all the characters' backs and it was explained to me in the last chapter of the book!?
The whole book is about the pretty setting, add a bunch of rich teenagers and their love lives, and we got a soap opera that goes nowhere. And I really mean it goes nowhere, not even the rich teengers' love lives.
Oh, and if you read the synopsis of the book, that basically goes nowhere. The whole: Two girls. Which one rules? thing.
Main Character:(2/5) This book has more than one main character and storyline, like all great soap operas. I would consider plain and sweet Marie to be the protagonist though. Marie-Victoria is the heir to the Franco-British Empire. Marie was OK, her kindness felt genuine. Considering there was no plot though, I didn't really buy any character development that happened with her. I also don't like how the "plain" one has the largest role. Why? So all us ugly girls (or plain, whatever, books act like it's the same thing) can relate to her or something?
Villain:(1/5) As I said in the plot section, who the villain was was told you. You never witnessed them being a villain or anything. You didn't even know they were a villain until the end. This had to be one of the most poorly constructed plot twists.
Other Characters:(2/5) Aelwyn Myrddyn: The bastard child of Emrys (Merlin). For her being one of the two girls from the synopsis, it's funny how much we barely saw her. Ronan Astor: An American who wants to marry rich to save her family from decline. Another character that basically goes nowhere. Isabelle of Orleans: Ex-fiancée of Prince Leopold, who wants him back after his sudden engagement to Marie. Her whole plot was stupid to begin with and she had such a horrible and unfair ending. Leopold: Heir to the Prussian Crown. His character got sleazy and then it got beyond stupid. Wolfgang: Second Prince of Prussia and Leopold's brother. He probably had the best ending, but his whole plotline in the book was pointless.
The characters had entertaining personalities and they could have been really good if they had a plot or even a point!?
Romance: (1/5) There's tons of romance and pairs but, like the rest of this book, they all go nowhere.
Overall: (13/35) The highlight of The Ring and the Crown was the pretty setting and that's what the book focused on. There was no plot to speak of. It's not like I didn't enjoy reading it, and I did like the setting, but it was one poorly constructed book. It was a royal teenager soap opera that went nowhere.
Cassel comes from a family of Curse Workers - people who have the power to change your emotions, your memories, your luck, by the slightest touch of their hands. And since curse work is illegal, they're all criminals. Many become mobsters and con artists. But not Cassel. He hasn't got magic, so he's an outsider, the straight kid in a crooked family. You just have to ignore one small detail - he killed his best friend, Lila, three years ago.
Cassel has carefully built up a facade of normalcy, blending into the crowd. But his facade starts to crumble when he finds himself sleepwalking, propelled into the night by terrifying dreams about a white cat that wants to tell him something. He's noticing other disturbing things too, including the strange behavior of his two brothers. They are keeping secrets from him. As Cassel begins to suspect he's part of a huge con game, he must unravel his past and his memories. To find out the truth, Cassel will have to out-con the conmen.
Cover:I liked the old cover, but I do like this one better. It's really neat how the whole illustration is drawn from a bunch of circles. I like how this one had the female lead, the second one has the main character, and the last one has both of them.
Writing: (3/5) The book is really easy and smooth to read through, which is probably why I read it so easily and in one sitting. The only thing I didn't like was that the author would sometimes add a reference to something gross or random swearing to make the book, I don't know, more "gritty". It was plain pointless and could have been done without.
Setting:(4.5/5) The book is set in alternate world where there are people called Curse Workers. About 0.001% of people are Curse Workers. By touching people they can take or give luck, memories, emotions, etc. Everyone in this world wears gloves as a precaution to that. There's a lot of hate towards Curse Workers for what they can do. With the Curse Workers and the Mafia, the book had this really dark and sombre feel, but it was very light which I really liked. The only problem was that I felt an alternate world where there are Curse Workers and everybody wears gloves was slightly, lame? Funny? Basically, the setting was really fun and I liked the tone, but I don't think much thought was really put into it.
Plot:(4/5) I read the whole book in one sitting. It was easily one the funnest books I've read. It was light and a really fun read and very easy to get through. The only problem was that I basically guessed all the plot points very early on. Despite knowing most, if not all the plot points, the book was still surprisingly very enjoyable. Also, this book has several plot points which makes it more interesting than hinging on one huge plot point.
Main Character:(1/5) Cassel Sharpe comes from a family of Curse Workers (who work for a Mafia), but he's the only non Curse Worker in the family. Cassel was really, well, nothing. For some reason, male protagonists in YA tend to be not even flat, they're just nothing. But he really didn't annoy me, I read the story fine enough despite this.
Villain:(3/5) Who the antagonist was, was probably the only plot point I didn't guess (or at least not completely).
Other Characters:(3/5) The other characters are definitely more interesting than Cassel. They weren't amazing, but they were very fun and I enjoyed reading them.
Overall: (18.5/30) The main character had no personality, but White Cat was a fun read with a sort of light somber and dark feel that I really enjoyed. I'll be picking up the sequel.
Harry Potter is an ordinary boy who lives in a cupboard under the stairs at his Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon's house, which he thinks is normal for someone like him who's parents have been killed in a 'car crash'. He is bullied by them and his fat, spoilt cousin Dudley, and lives a very unremarkable life with only the odd hiccup (like his hair growing back overnight!) to cause him much to think about. That is until an owl turns up with a letter addressed to Harry and all hell breaks loose! He is literally rescued by a world where nothing is as it seems and magic lessons are the order of the day. Read and find out how Harry discovers his true heritage at Hogwarts School of Wizardry and Witchcraft, the reason behind his parents mysterious death, who is out to kill him, and how he uncovers the most amazing secret of all time, the fabled Philosopher's Stone! All this and muggles too. Now, what are they?
Cover:I do admit those new scholastic covers are really nice, but I'll always love the original illustrations for the Harry Potter series. The colored spines especially bring me a sense of nostalgia and fondness for the series.
Writing: (2/5) Reading it as a kid, I didn't realize how bad J.K. Rowling's writing was. She writes in this incredibly formal and dry way that, at certain points of the book, just makes me sigh with how boring it was. What saves it was, of course, the content. With her world and characters, she knew exactly how to describe them. Good story can save a badly written book. Similarly, a good story can save a low budget film. On the other hand, good writing can't hope to save anything with a bad story. At certain points of the book, with a more flat character like Harry, you realize how bad the writing is though. There are also a lot of awkward parts because of the writing:
Perhaps Snape had left the book in there? It was worth a try. He pushed the door ajar and peered inside—and a horrible scene met his eyes.
Snape and Filch were inside, alone. Snape was holding his robes above his knees.
... To say I burst out laughing for a long time was an understatement.
Also, instead of showing you if the characters were shouting or whispering or anything like that, she always told you, which can get annoying after a while and made the dialogue so much flatter:
"Good luck, Harry," he murmured.
"Up!" she screeched.
"Who's there?" he shouted.
"Oh yes, everyone's celebrating, all right," she said impatiently.
"You flatter me," said Dumbledore calmly.
Well you get the idea...
Setting:(5/5) Who's never dreamed about going to Hogwarts? Having your own owl and wand and going to Hogwarts to learn magic. You'd think the idea of wizards and witches would be the most used idea ever, but J.K. Rowling made a world that was beyond original and uniquely hers. The setting of the Harry Potter series will remain to be one of the main reasons (if not the only one), that the Harry Potter series will always be adored around the world.
Plot:(5/5) Another reason why the Harry Potter series is so amazing is because of the plot. Each individual book (or at least the first four) has its own plot and the entire series has an overarching plot. For me, the series only went bad (with the last three books) when it stopped following that. With the first four books, you can read any book, even out of order, and still be satisfied. The first I ever read in the series was actually the third one, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Now as for The Philosopher's Stone's plot, wow, you can see how polished this book was. It's obvious J.K. Rowling went through tons and tons of drafts and rearranging to get the plot to be as perfect as it can be.
I loved how in each chapter you learn more about the world J.K. Rowling has created and meet all these characters and at the same time get deeper into the plot. As far as the plot for Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone goes, I see no flaws. It's perfect.
Main Character:(1/5) For me, the largest flaw of the series was Harry Potter himself. I have not seen a flatter character yet. On one hand, you can argue that maybe we wouldn't have been able to explore the world as thoroughly if Harry Potter wasn't flat. Or maybe the plot couldn't have been so structured if he had a personality. But on the other hand, while all that is well and good, he's irritating. The whole world revolves around him and yes, he keeps the story together, but I hate him as a character. Everyone either loves or hates (!?) him. There isn't anybody who doesn't care or is in the grey when it comes to him.
Not to mention, he's flat. He's flat. AND HE'S FLAT!?
To me, the most important element of a story will always be the main character. J.K. Rowling managed to pull off the story despite him being flat. It is his story, true. He's not a self-insert, because who in their right mind would want to be Harry Potter?
But he's unlikable and as I kept reading, he really hit a nerve. You know why he's so terrible? Because everything else is so good. The plot, the world, the other characters, and when you compare Harry to that he's an eyesore.
Villain:(5/5) I don't want to spoil anything about the villain (even though I'm pretty sure everyone has already read or watched it), but I liked how J.K. Rowling revealed and added him into the plot. It was perfect.
Other Characters:(5/5) Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger: Harry's best friends. I actually really dislike the trio in Harry Potter. The only time I even liked these two was probably for the first two books, where they were cute because they were kids.
The Dursleys: The family that raised Harry Potter. I liked that the Dursleys were the only muggles in the book because they were really amusing. I also felt the Dursleys weren't that bad. Sure, they gave him no love, but they raised him ever since he was a baby. They could have put him in foster care or an orphanage, but they didn't. This was more favoritism on Harry's part, and probably making the abuse G-rated or something. I really feel that the author does not believe in grey people. You're either good or really bad, that's it.
Dumbledore: Dumbledore is headmaster of Hogwarts and possibly the most powerful wizard in the wizarding world. Although, he's such an archetype, his presence in the series is really important and he's also such a badass.
Hagrid: The groundskeeper at Hogwarts. Hagrid is one of my favourite characters in the entire series. Out of all the character in the first book, he's easily my favourite. He's so sweet! You can't help but love Hagrid. I find him sorely underrated. I really felt the movies butchered his character (especially the ones after the first two) and they ended up making him all gruff and stuff. It's really cool that he's a half giant and I love how he likes dangerous animals. Also, he's really not confident in himself, but because he's so sweet and kind, you can't help but cheer him on.
Severus Snape: A professor at Hogwarts. Snape is also one of my favourites, but he didn't become a favourite until the end of the series. His presence is definitely important in Hogwarts, but you really start appreciating him more and more with each passing book.
Draco Malfoy: A student at Hogwarts and Harry's arch-nemesis. Draco was surprisingly very different from the movies (in the first book anyway, don't remember him very well in the other ones). For one, he doesn't have a sneer, he was described as having a bored drawl. He's definitely not as unlikable as the films. He was pretty cute as a kid despite being very snooty and spoiled.
Neville Longbottom: A student at Hogwarts. I've always loved Neville more than the trio. One, he's so much nicer and two, he actually goes through some character development.
The Weasleys: I love the Weasely's, I think everyone does. They're a really big wizard family and show what wizard families are like. The twins, Fred and George, are probably my favourites. Percy was also really funny and I liked Molly's motherliness. I also really liked the mentions of their older brother, Charlie (actually one thing I really love about the Harry Potter series are all the mentions of the characters that you don't see until way later on. It makes the characters more real and like they always had a place, even if they didn't appear until later).
There are plenty of other characters, but those are the main ones to me in the first book. I loved all the other side and minor characters as well. Part of the reason J.K. Rowling's series feels so real is because she puts so much detail into all the side characters, even the most minor ones.
Overall: (23/30) The only reason this didn't get a 5 rating is because it had two huge flaws: the main character and writing. But the setting, plot, and the other characters were wonderful. Add that with the depth and themes this series had, and we have ourselves a modern classic.