Monday, May 29, 2017

Anne Bonnie Volume #1: The Journey Begins by Tim Yates

Anne Bonnie #1: The Journey Begins by Tim Yates. Blue Juice Comics, 2014. 180 pages.

Hands down, this was easily one of the most entertaining and enjoyable things I've read this year. 

This is a fast-paced, not overly serious comic series of a young girl named Ariana who wants nothing more than to be a pirate on her own ship like all of the pirate legends she's grown up hearing about. And because of this passion, she gets into more than a bit of trouble on the high seas. Right off the bat, you know that this is going to be a great adventure, and it doesn't disappoint.

Ariana is someone you can't help but love. She's crazy and makes some rather impulsive decisions that can be frustrating, but it's also what makes her so endearing -- and also what makes us wish we could be more like: someone who takes risks and lives life to its fullest, even if it might not always go our way. 

The additional characters, such as Shen Kenoshi, Mary Reed, and Finn, are all wonderful additions and only serve to make this story pop even more. I loved that it was such a diverse cast not only in appearance but also in personality. Ariana is loud, outgoing, and rash, whereas Kenoshi is more thoughtful and knows when things should be kept quiet. Finn is also on the quieter side and less sure of himself, but still a strong character in his own right who is quite charming. Another character I loved was Mary Reed, who is a wonderfully badass woman who you can't help but love for her strength and dominating force. 

In addition to the wonderful characters and exciting plot were the beautiful illustrations, which I loved. There is something so easy and relaxed about them, and I found the bright, vibrant colors to add an even more pleasant addition the this adventure story. The personality of each character was rendered brilliantly, and it is obvious that Yates knows what he's doing. 

This comic seems incredible age-less to me. As an adult, I love this, and I can also see teens and even younger kids enjoying this as well. I don't really know what the target audience is supposed to be for this one, but I definitely see this as appealing to any adventure-lover.

Anne Bonnie is a blast, and I cannot recommend this one enough to anyone who loves pirates, adventures, or characters that are full of personality. Overall, I'm giving Anne Bonnie five stars! I can't wait to read more -- and stay tuned for more Blue Juice Comic reviews coming soon!

*I received a copy of Anne Bonnie courtesy of Blue Juice Comics; this is no way influences my review.*

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Friday, May 26, 2017

Memorial Day Reading Recommendations

This Monday is Memorial Day here in the states, a day in which we honor, celebrate, and remember the brave men and women who have served in our armed forces. To commemorate the occasion, I have put togethe a small array of books that feature members of the military.

The Things They CarriedThe Outside LandsMatterhornA Farewell To Arms

The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien: This will always remain one of my favorite books. This book is a series of short stories (which I definitely somehow didn't realize when I first read this as a freshman in high school!) of a man's experienced during the Vietnam War. 
The Outside Lands by Hannah Kohler (review): If you want historical fiction that focuses on both the war itself and those back home, then this is a great one set during the Vietnam War. 
Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes: Another fantastic Vietnam War novel that I cannot recommend enough.
A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway: This is, of course, a classic novel of an American soldier during World War I. I actually haven't this one because I'm not a huge fan of Hemingway (I'm sorry), but I had to include such a well-loved book.

Consequence: A MemoirThank You for Your ServiceThe Barracks ThiefSlaughterhouse-Five

Consequence by Eric Fair (review): Consequence isn't an overly positive, light-hearted book (though what books about war are?), but it is a fascinating, must-read account of an Army translator who becomes involved with interrogations in Iraq. 
Thank You For Your Service by David Finkel: This one is slightly more modern and consists of a collection of short stories about soldiers in Baghdad from 2007-2008.
The Barracks Thief by Tobias Wolff: This is a short novella one set during the Vietnam War, and also yet another fascinating story.
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut: I'll be honest: I'm not a huge Vonnegut fan, but I won't deny that is indeed a classic in the field of war books. Slaughterhouse-Five is an "absurdist science fiction" of an American prisoner of war in Dresden, Germany.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Confessions of an Accidental Zoo Curator by Annette Libeskind Berkovits

Confessions of an Accidental Zoo Curator by Annette Libeskind Berkovits. Tenth Planet Press, 2017. 

Confessions of an Accidental Zoo Curator was such a surprising and unexpected book that I wasn't sure how I felt about it at first. However, as I continued reading and then continued reflect on everything I read, I realize that this truly is a fascinating, informative book about the development of zoo conservation and education, and more specifically about an incredible woman's life.

Berkovits introduces us to her life and guides us through her many life changes and experiences in an engaging manner with humor, honesty, and graceful writing. Her personality shines through her words, and I was captured by her insightful and detailed storytelling.

I loved Berkovits' passion. I could feel her determination, strength, and love for her family and work with every word she wrote. I felt that this book had a good balance of both her personal family life -  from her birth in Kyrgyzstan to details about her family members - and her professional life. Her passion for learning and education is seen at an early age, and I enjoyed reading about her progression to her eventual career. She comes across as a sort of woman who is easy to admire, as she both faced and surpassed many different obstacles ranging from her own personal self-doubt and struggles to issues such as sexism and learning how to work in an unfamiliar environment. 

What surprised me the most about Berkovits was the fact that she didn't really have a very animal-heavy childhood, and she didn't really seem to be the extreme animal lover that one expects of anyone involved with zoos. I had expected this book to focus more on the animals themselves, but Berkovits focuses more on the conservation education aspect, which proved to be extremely interesting. Zoo-based wildlife conservation is not something I think about very often, so I really enjoyed learning about this from a woman who has based her life and career around this topic.

There has been a bit of controversy over zoos and some wildlife conservation in recent times, and I think Berkovits does a wonderful job explaining both her and zoo members' goals of protecting, saving, and bringing awareness to others about the purpose of zoos and how they hope to benefit the animals that they care for. Although I did enjoy learning as much as I did, I did think that this book would focus a bit more on the animals themselves, so that was slightly disappointing. Her writing style captures you, but is also a time a bit brief, which left me wanting to hear more about certain aspects of her life. 

Overall, I have given Confessions of an Accidental Zoo Curator four stars! If you are at all interested in zoos, wildlife conservation, or if you simply enjoy reading about interesting and successful women, I highly encourage you to check this one out.

About the Author:
Annette Libeskind Berkovits was born in Kyrgyzstan and grew up in postwar Poland and the fledgling state of Israel before coming to America at age sixteen. In her three-decade career with the Wildlife Conservation Society in New York, she spearheaded the institution’s nationwide and worldwide science education programs. Her achievements include the first-ever agreement to bring environmental education to China’s schools. The National Science Foundation has recognized her outstanding leadership in the field.


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday: Strange Practice by Vivian Shaw

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights exciting upcoming releases that we can't wait to be released!

This week's upcoming book spotlight is:
Strange Practice by Vivian Shaw
Publication Date: July 25th, 2017

From Goodreads:

Strange Practice (Dr. Greta Helsing, #1)
"Meet Greta Helsing, fast-talking doctor to the undead. Keeping the supernatural community not-alive and well in London has been her family's specialty for generations.

Greta Helsing inherited the family's highly specialized, and highly peculiar, medical practice. In her consulting rooms, Dr. Helsing treats the undead for a host of ills - vocal strain in banshees, arthritis in barrow-wights, and entropy in mummies. Although barely making ends meet, this is just the quiet, supernatural-adjacent life Greta's been groomed for since childhood.

Until a sect of murderous monks emerges, killing human and undead Londoners alike. As terror takes hold of the city, Greta must use her unusual skills to stop the cult if she hopes to save her practice, and her life."

I'm not usually drawn to stories with 'find out who the killer who is' as the main plot unless it is in addition to some other interesting storylines. In this case,  being a doctor for the undead seems to fit that 'interesting storyline' bill pretty well, and I'm intrigued! I have no idea what to expect from this book, but the fact that it is such a weird storyline completely grabs me.

What do you think about this upcoming release? What are your anticipated upcoming releases?

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday: China Dolls by Lisa See

First Chapter Tuesday is hosted every Tuesday by Diane over at Bibiophile by the Sea. Join the fun by making your own post and linking up over at Diane's blog, or simple check it out to find more new books to read!

This week I've chosen to feature China Dolls by Lisa See! I'm about three-quarters of the way through and have been really enjoying this book about three women set in 1940s San Francisco and the many struggles they face as Chinese American and Japanese American citizens. So far, I have found this entire book to be extremely difficult to put down and am really enjoying so far. 

China Dolls by Lisa See

China Dolls

Part One: The Sun
 October 1938–July 1940 
 A Measly Girl

"I traveled west—-alone—-on the cheapest bus routes I could find. Every mile took me farther from Plain City, Ohio, where I’d been a flyspeck on the wallpaper of small--town life. Each new state I passed through loosened another rope around my heart, my legs, my arms, yet my whole body ached and I couldn’t shake my vertigo. I lived on aspirin, crackers, and soda pop. I cried and cried and cried. On the eighth day, California. Many hours after crossing the boundary,I got off the bus and pulled my sweater a little more tightly around me. I expected sun and warmth, but on that October afternoon, fog hung over San Francisco, damp, and shockingly cold.

Picking up my suitcase, I left the bus station and started to walk. The receptionists at the cheap hotels I visited told me they were full. “Go to Chinatown,” they suggested. “You can get a room there.” I had no idea where Chinatown was, so that didn’t help me. And I’ll say this about San Francisco: lots of hills, water on practically every side, and, it seemed to me, not a single street ran purely in any one direction. Finally, a man at a fleabag took my money—adollar a day, in advance—and gave me a key to a room."

What do you think? Would you keep reading this? (And feel free to join in and make your own post!) 
If you're enticed by this chapter, be sure to check out the full synopsis on Goodreads!

*Excerpt taken from the novel itself; I do not claim to own any part of the excerpt.

Monday, May 22, 2017

The Empire's Ghost by Isabelle Steiger

*The Empire's Ghost is now available!*

The Empire's Ghost
The Empire's Ghost by Isabelle Steiger. Thomas Dunne Books, 2017. Hardcover. 432 pages.

Although The Empire's Ghost is only a little over 400 pages, it took me an exceptionally long time to read this book. I think reading this book slowly really enhanced my enjoyment of it, especially because now I find it disappointing not to have this book as my go-to on my Kindle to read for when I'm at university or on the go - it become such a companion to me. But I digress, let's move on to the review!

The Empire's Ghost is the first book in a new fantasy series in which the great empire Elesthene rose and at the same time ended the use of magic. (If you want a more thorough summary, I definitely recommend you check out the Goodreads summary, as it will provide much  more information.) Honestly, the more  I think about this book, the more I love it, and I definitely plan to purchase a copy of this book for myself.

The most prominent thing about this book, in my opinion, is that there is a lot of dialogue. That might sound odd, but it really is true. Fortunately, I found Steiger's dialogue to be extremely entertaining and realistic, and I really enjoyed it. I have never been a huge fan of extensive action scenes in the first place, so the amount of action  that was interspersed throughout this book was perfectly balanced. Plus, the actions scenes were wonderfully written, and every sword battle or confrontation was written with precise detail and an engaging narrative.

There is a lot of politics, strategy, and social play at work here, and I loved every second of it. The political interactions and discussions included so many subtle snide remarks and wisdom that I could not help but hang on to every word.

The characters in The Empire's Ghost are amazing. There is a wide variety of characters, which extremely impressed when I discover how distinct each character's voice was. Along with the many characters, there are also many alternating third person points of view throughout this book, and I - surprisingly - didn't really mind. Each character had such an interesting storyline and fascinating personality that I sincerely enjoyed each one.  I'm tempted to go into more depth about some of the characters, but trust me when I say that if I did that, this review would be far too long, so I will not do that for this review for the sake of brevity. (You're welcome.)

The worldbuilding in this book is subtle in how it is told, but strong in the way in which it draws the reader in. There is no info-dumping (yes!), and there really isn't much of an exposition either. It took a little while to get into the world Steiger has created in this book simply due to being thrown right into the world, but her charismatic characters really help to lead the way kept me interested.

The best part of this book, in my opinion, is the sheer depth of history of the world and the character backgrounds that are presented. The attention to detail made this book so real and I could not draw myself away from it. Steiger has also proven herself to be incredibly deft at carefully writing in twists and elements that impressed me immensely.

I can already imagine that there are going to be two main camps for this book: those who love it because they enjoy slow character-building and a plot that is mainly focused on settings things up, and those that hate it because it is too slow-paced. I'm in the former category and I cannot recommend this one enough. Overall, I am giving The Empire's Ghost five stars!

*I received an ARC of The Empire Ghost courtesy of NetGalley and Thomas Dunne Books in exchange for an honest review.*

You might also like:
Red Sister by Mark Lawrence
Kings or Pawns by JJ Sherwood
Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey
The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

Friday, May 19, 2017

Anticipated June 2017 Releases!

The fact that we're already gearing up for June releases is nuts, but also a little exciting because, as usual, there are some fantastic books coming out next month. I've gathered a few of the ones that have most grabbed my attention to share with you below. Let me know if you're looking forward to reading any of these or if there are any books not on this list (of which there are many) that you can't wait to read!

Beren and LúthienOur Dark Duet (Monsters of Verity, #2)The Lioness of Morocco
The Court of Broken Knives (Empires of Dust #1)A Gathering of RavensSoul of the World (The Ascension Cycle #1)
Dividing Eden (Dividing Eden, #1)Song of the Current (Song of the Current #1)Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore
The Fortune TellerAmatkaThe Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter
The Refrigerator MonologuesMidnight at the Electric

What are your anticipated June releases?