To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

In this timeless story, a little girl named Scout comes of age during a difficult time for her family. Her father, a lawyer, is defending a black man charged with the rape of white woman. Scout learns about racism from both children and adults. 

Part of the charm of this story is that it is all through Scout’s eyes, so sometimes you have to infer what’s going on in the adult world – sometimes it takes a careful reading. However, Scout is intelligent and she picks up on a lot of stuff, so it’s the perfect combination of inference and easy-reading. I loved the ending for a couple of reasons – it was beautiful and touching, and I laughed because I could tell exactly why my mom said “I didn’t get it.” She’s so literal. ūüôā

This book is considered one of the first of the Young Adult/teen genre, though I feel that it’s only placed there because of the age of the protagonist. I would highly recommend it to everyone teen and up.¬†

The Serpent King, by Jeff Zentner

The Serpent King, by Jeff Zentner
Dill is no stranger to hardship. He’s dirt poor, financially supporting his mother, and seems to have zero future prospects. His father, a snake-handling preacher, is in prison; many of his former parishioners blame Dill. Yet Dill has two things that keep him getting up in the morning – his friends Travis and Lydia. The three are strikingly different but are pushed together by their mutual status as social outcasts.¬†

This is a story about friendship, futures, and fighting. It’s the first book in a long time that’s made me just start bawling – I generally avoid crying if I can, but this book deserved a good cry. It was that moving. I didn’t just feel for Dill and his friends, I felt with them – which is saying a lot since I personally have not experienced most of the hardships that Dill and his friends were going through.¬†

The characterization and mood of this book were what made it amazing. The characters were real. They were flawed. They got angry for stupid reasons or were sometimes bossy and blind to the needs of others. Yet they were perfect. They were just what good friends should be. They knew how to love, how to inspire, how to live. The mood of the book was remarkably well-kept. It somehow mixed the darkness of hardship with the light of an amazing friendship. 

Overall, I would recommend this book to anybody who likes gritty teen realism. Personally, I volunteer for a texting crisis hotline for teenagers, and I find reading books like these helps me to better relate to the teens that text in. I am currently collecting books that I think would either be good to recommend to troubled teens, or help others in the crisis center to empathize with teens in crisis. I consider this an important collection, and carefully think about each book that I include. This one is a definite yes. Issues that I consider important in this book Рreligious extremism (and how it impacts youths), family members in prison, bullying, grief, mental illness, and coping mechanisms. 


Curio, by Evangeline Denmark

Curio, by Evangeline Denmkark
ARC provided by publisher through NetGalley
in exchange for a fair and honest review
Grey Haward lives in a world where people can’t digest food unless they drink a potion provided by a tyrannical ruling group. When her friend Whit gets punished for saving her life, Grey discovers a hidden trait inside herself – she is a Defender who protects people from tyranny. Just as she’s discovering her new powers, she is thrown into a strange new steampunk world in which she must find the Mad Tock in order to escape.¬†

Curio had unique plot-line and world-building, and the mystery remained throughout the book. It was good, clean fun with no sex and minimal violence. Both worlds in the book were quite fascinating, and I wish I knew more about each. However, I did have some difficulty because the transition from the first world to the second was quite abrupt. I was just starting to get emotionally involved in the first when it was taken away, and I suddenly had to start from scratch learning the rules of a foreign world. I would have preferred reading two books each with one world than one book with two. It was a little confusing. Overall, I think Denmark has a lot of potential as an author, and will keep a look-out for other books by her.

How to Train Your Dragon, by Cressida Cowell

How to Train Your Dragon, Book 1
by Cressida Cowell
Narrated by David Tennant
Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III isn’t what you would call a Viking hero, He’s small and scrawny, and prefers scholarly entertainment rather than ruffian ones. However, he is the son of the tribe leader, so he must be a hero. When, in an initiation-to-tribe trial he must find a baby dragon to train, he ends up with the smallest, toothlessest dragon he could imagine. But he must persevere in order to be accepted into his tribe. Little does the tribe know that danger lurks near.¬†


This was the funniest book I’ve listened to in a long time. And, of course, it’s narrated by David Tennant, which makes it absolutely fantastic. This isn’t just a story for 5th graders, anybody can enjoy it. But don’t expect it to be anything at all like the movie.¬†

How to be a Pirate
by Cressida Cowell

Narrated by David Tennant
In order to learn to be pirates, Hiccup and his friend Fishlegs learn to sail ships and sword fight. But while sailing, they find, floating in the ocean, a coffin labeled “do not open.” Of course they open it, and when the dead rise, unlikely¬†adventure¬†ensues. I’m really enjoying this series so far.¬†

How to Speak Dragonese
by Cressida Cowell

Narrated by David Tennant

In this installment, Hiccup and Fishlegs must learn to board enemy ships.  But when they accidentally board a Roman ship, they are kidnapped. They must escape before they are killed in a tournament. Again, fantastically funny with wonderful narration. 

How to Cheat a Dragon’s Curse
by Cressida Cowell

Narrated by David Tennant
In the fourth installment of How to Train your Dragon, Hiccup find out Fishlegs has been bitten by a tiny poisonous dragon. Hiccup must steal the vegetable-that-must-not-be-named from a dangerous nearby tribe in order to save his friend. 

All four were hilarious. I loved Tennant’s narrations. I will certainly pick up the rest of the series soon.

5 stars for all of them


The Three Sisters, by Sonia Halbach

The Three Sisters (The Krampus Chronicles Book 1), by Sonia Halbach
This book was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange 
for a fair and honest review. 
Every Christmas Eve, Maggie has the same dream. Santa is walking on the top of her grandfather’s manor, when suddenly he slides off the end. But this year is different. This year, it’s a nightmare in which he is pushed by something sinister. Awakened from her dream, she decides to go sledding – ending up in an accident that leads to meeting the handsome (but older) Henry. Henry has come with strange claims: that Maggie’s grandfather, who is well known for writing the poem ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, had plagiarized his poem.¬†


While exploring the mansion for proof of plagiarism, Henry and Maggie are accidentally swept into a strange underground village named Poppel – a village strangely resembling Santa’s fabled home. But not all is right in Poppel. It is ruled by tyrants called the Garrison, and Nikolaos is missing. She and Henry must find three hidden objects before the end of Christmas Eve, or else Maggie, Henry and their families are in terrible danger – as is the hidden village of Poppel.¬†

This was a refreshingly unique story based on the poem ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas and Alpine German folklore of the anti-Santa named Krampus. Who knew a world could be built just around such a short poem? And I’d never heard of Krampus before reading this book. (Of course, just yesterday I went to the theaters and found out that a movie named Krampus is soon to be released, though there seems to be no relation between the two.) I really enjoyed reading this book. It was cute, adventurous, and had a tad of romantic tension. And one thing I really loved about this book is that the story was complete at the end. That is the perfect¬†beginning¬†to a series, as far as I’m concerned. I will definitely watch for¬†the next in the series.¬†

4 snowflakes for creativity, action, romance, and fun

Girl of Nightmares, by Kendare Blake

Girl of Nightmares, by Kendare Blake

After listening to the audio version of Anna Dressed in Blood, by Kendare Blake (and disliking the narrator), I decided to pick up an old-fashioned copy its sequel Girl of Nightmares. 

Cass Lowood has now become used to life in Thunder Bay. He’s finished a school year in the same school for the first time in years. He has friends: the beautiful and popular Carmel Jones and nerdy voodoo teenage witch Thomas Sabin. The three have tried to move on from the¬†devastating events in Anna Dressed in Blood. They’ve been going to school by day and killing ghosts by night. But when Anna starts haunting Cass, he becomes obsessed with saving her from whatever hell she is suffering. His quest to save her drives a wedge between him and his friends, and leads him across the ocean to follow ominous clues sent by anonymous people.


I enjoyed Girl of Nightmares even more than Anna Dressed in Blood. I began the book with an attachment to all the characters, and was genuinely¬†concerned¬†about Anna’s fate. Cass, Carmel, and Thomas begin to develop more rounded¬†personalities¬†in this book – showing sides of themselves that weren’t obvious in the first book. Girl of Nightmares had a good mixture of action and intrigue, which kept me turning the pages. I’m hoping there will be another book coming up soon.¬†

4 stars for fluffy YA fun

Anna Dressed in Blood, by Kendare Blake

Anna Dressed in Blood, by Kendare Blake; narrated by August Ross
Anna Dressed in Blood, Book 1

Cas Lowood has always worked alone on his quest to dispatch murderous ghosts and discover the demon who killed his father. Imagine his annoyance when he moves to Thunder Bay to kill the intensely horrific ghost Anna Dressed in Blood and he accidentally picks up a couple of teenaged tag-a-longs. When he attempts to dispatch Anna, he discovers that she’s unlike any ghost he’s ever fought before. She’s frightening and mesmerizing in her power. Cas digs deeper into Anna’s story and begins, for once, to see a ghost as an unwilling victim rather than simply a supernatural murderess.


Initially, I picked up this book because of the fantastic cover art (Yup! I’m one of those people). Turns out Anna Dressed in Blood was a really good choice if you’re a fan of teen horror. I hadn’t read a good ghost story in a long time, and this one was quite refreshing. The characters were easy to like, and the mystery kept the book interesting. This book was fun and quick.¬†

Unfortunately, I listened to the audiobook rather than reading the book. I don’t¬†recommend¬†this course. Ross annoyed me with his too-clear annunciations, his pauses, and his slow reading. It ruined the rhythm of the narrative, and made the dialog fall flat. There were several times I wanted to give up on the book just because the narration was annoying me. But I couldn’t do it because I was enjoying the story too much.

4 snowflakes for fluffy YA fun

This post is for R. I. P. X @TheEstellaSociety and the 2015 Halloween Reading Challenge @ReadingEverySeason. It is also for #Diversiverse, @BookLust, which is all about reading books by people of a variety of ethnic/racial backgrounds, so I will provide tell you a little about the author, Kendare Blake. 

Kendare Blake


Kendare Blake was born in Seoul, Korea and was adopted by her American parents when she was very young. She writes dark fantasy including, but not limited to: The Girl of Nightmares series and The Goddess War series (beginning with Antigoddess). 

After enjoying The Girl of Nightmares series so much, I’ll probably be picking up Antigoddess sometime soon.¬†

The Hobbit, by J. R. R. Tolkien

The Hobbit, by J. R. R. Tolkien, narrated by Inglis
Caution: There will be spoilers!

A couple of months ago I had the immense pleasure of listening to the Rob Inglis narrations of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. If you ever have the slightest wish to listen to these books,¬†just do it. Inglis’ voices are fantastic; he even sings the songs! It was a true delight.¬†

A humble hobbit named Bilbo Baggins is unwillingly thrown into a “nasty adventure” when the wizard Gandalf thrusts himself into Bilbo’s home, a troop of dwarves in his wake. Gandalf has misinformed the dwarves that Bilbo is a burglar – the dwarves want¬†Bilbo to burgle a gigantic horde of treasure from the dragon Smaug, who had stolen the treasure (with their mountain kingdom) from the dwarves’ ancestors decades before. This is a strange coming-of-age story, since the character is 50 years old already (which is youngish for a hobbit, but still firmly in the adult range). But as the story progresses, Bilbo recognizes that he is a brave hobbit, an¬†adventuresome¬†hobbit, and a very¬†sneaky burglar.¬†



The Hobbit was Tolkien’s first major work about Middle Earth, and although it is an excellent book on its own, it is unfortunately overshadowed by his later work The Lord of the Rings. Although LOTR is a sequel to The Hobbit, these two books are very different styles. The Hobbit was intended for children, and therefore has a light-hearted, almost silly air to it. The songs tend to be funny and childish rather than somber and chilling, as in LOTR. An example is when the dwarves are teasing Bilbo with the song:¬†

Chip the glasses and crack the plates!
Blunt the knives and bend the forks!
That’s what Bilbo Baggins hates‚ÄĒ
Smash the bottles and burn the corks!

Cut the cloth and tread on the fat! 
Pour the milk on the pantry floor!
Leave the bones on the bedroom mat!
Splash the wine on every door!

Dump the crocks in a boiling bowl;
Pound them up with a thumping pole;
And when you’ve finished if any are whole,
Send them down the hall to roll!

That’s what Bilbo Baggins hates!
So, carefully! carefully with the plates!


Another factor of the young audience is that the characters in the book¬†are much more silly than they are in the live-action movies. (I will discuss the movies in a later post.) A striking example is of Thorin’s character, who in the book is silly and long-winded, but who in the movie is dark and romantic (not to mention quite handsome).¬†

The spider scene in the movie is dark and scary. Bilbo is heroic and rescues his friends through cleverness and brave swordsmanship. In the book, he swings through the trees singing a silly song that diverts the spiders’ attention.¬†

Old fat spider spinning in a tree!
Old fat spider can’t see me!
Attercop! Attercop!
Won’t you stop,
Stop your spinning and look at me!
Old Tomnoddy, all big body,
Old Tomnoddy can’t spy me!
Attercop! Attercop!
Down you drop!

You’ll never catch me up your tree!

After dragging the spiders off on a wild goose chase, Bilbo is able to return to his friends and cut them down from the webs. 


The themes in The Hobbit also tend to be a bit black and white Рprobably for the sake of the young audience. There is a clear good and evil. The good characters always end up choosing mercy and righteousness over power and wealth. (Though, there is a bit of wealth to go around!) As in any good book, there are momentary shades of grey. Thorin, who is otherwise quite honorable, is temporarily blinded by greed Рthough he eventually redeems himself. 



An interesting fact that I found out while researching this review is that J. R. R. Tolkien changed The Hobbit after writing LOTR in order to better fit with the dark purpose of the One Ring. Originally, Gollum willingly bet the ring in the riddle contest. Gollum was dismayed when he found out that he could not keep his promise of the ring, and he instead bargained to lead Bilbo out of the cave. They parted on good terms. 

In LOTR, the ring changed from a helpful charm to a powerful device that would suck the soul out of the wearer. Because of this change in the ring’s nature, The Hobbit‘s Gollum had to turn¬†murderous¬†when he discovered the ring was missing.¬†

Overall, this story was quite enjoyable, and I’m glad that I decided to “re-read” it as an adult. I got a lot more out of it this time around than I did when a child.¬†

4.5 snowflakes for originality, adventure, humor, morals, and fun

Reason for reading: Interest, TBR Pile, Classics Club List
Format: Audiobook

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, by Holly Black



2015 Media #6 / Book #3: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, by Holly Black 

Reason for reading: This was the January pick for my bookclub.

Summary:¬†In this near-future book, vampires have emerged into the public eye due to an outbreak started by a sloppy newly-made vampire who left his victims living instead of completely draining them. Vampires, and the Cold (people infected with the vampirism disease, but who haven’t yet tasted the blood of humans and so haven’t turned) are forced to live in ghettos called Coldtowns. In this setting, the story starts out with Tana waking up to a vampire-related disaster, which begins both a physical journey away from the disaster and a spiritual journey of self-discovery.

What I thought: This book was fast-paced and difficult to put down. It asked some interesting philosophical questions. Do we all have monsters within us? Do we crave immortality and beauty at the price of humanity? If not, why are so many people attracted to paranormal romances? Is it because we want the ultimate bad-boy? Or, in the opposite line of questioning, why do so many people seek good in what seems evil?T

Fire & Ash



Fire & Ash, by Jonathan Maberry

Reason for reading:¬†This is the fourth and final book in a series that I’ve been reading. I’m making a goal this year to get farther in / finish as many series as possible

Summary: In this fourth and final book in the Rot & Ruin series, Benny, Chong, Lila, and Nix battle the genocidal Reapers while keeping the zombies at bay. But they might have to become monsters to fight monsters. And who is more of a monster: The zombies or the humans? 

Thoughts:¬†This book was filled with action and adventure with a dash of intrigue. Like most Maberry books that I’ve read, the action got a little too much at times, to the point of feeling a little B-rate. But Maberry has some interesting plots and his philosophy about who really is the monster is quite interesting. Overall, a good finale. If you liked the first three books, you’ll like this one as well.