BOOK REVIEW: The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic by Leigh Bardugo

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Author: Leigh Bardugo
Genre: Fantasy/Fairy Tale/Dark

The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic: ★★★★★/5

SUMMARY: Travel to a world of dark bargains struck by moonlight, of haunted towns and hungry woods, of talking beasts and gingerbread golems, where a young mermaid’s voice can summon deadly storms and where a river might do a lovestruck boy’s bidding but only for a terrible price.

Inspired by myth, fairy tale, and folklore, #1 New York Times–bestselling author Leigh Bardugo has crafted a deliciously atmospheric collection of short stories filled with betrayals, revenge, sacrifice, and love.

Perfect for new readers and dedicated fans, these tales will transport you to lands both familiar and strange—to a fully realized world of dangerous magic that millions have visited through the novels of the Grishaverse.

This collection of six stories includes three brand-new tales, all of them lavishly illustrated with art that changes with each turn of the page, culminating in six stunning full-spread illustrations as rich in detail as the stories themselves.

* * * * *

REVIEW: This book is a collection of six different stories. I won’t be reviewing each story but instead just reviewing the book as a whole. My favorite story of the six was the last one, which was a spinoff of the Little Mermaid. I’m not a huge fan of the Little Mermaid movie, so it was a surprise to me that I enjoyed this story so much. It’s much more of a prequel to how the Little Mermaid and Ursula came to be.

Each story was innovative and filled with a dark, yet magical retelling of well-known fairy tales that children grew up reading and watching. The writing was fantastic as usual; I expect no less from Leigh Bardugo. She has a way with her words that really pull you into the world you read about. Even though there were colorful illustrations throughout each story, evolving as you delved deeper, her words were more than enough to paint the picture in your mind.

The illustrations were positively beautiful. It made the book even more magical. Each story starts with a small, humble image. However as you continue to read on, more and more details are added to the illustrations, until the end where a full illustration emerges. I’ve never seen a book quite like this and it can be considered a classic on its own.

Overall, I would highly recommend you pick up a copy. It’s definitely something you’ll want in your collection. And when you’re feeling a little dangerous, crack open this book and read yourself a dark bedtime story.

Get your copy of The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo here!

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BOOK REVIEW: What Do You Do With A… by Kobi Yamada

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Author: Kobi Yamada
Genre: Picture Book

What Do You Do With An Idea: ★★★★★/5
What Do You Do With A Problem: ★★★★★/5
What Do You Do With A Chance: ★★★★★/5

SUMMARY:

What Do You Do With An Idea: This is the story of one brilliant idea and the child who helps to bring it into the world. As the child’s confidence grows, so does the idea itself. And then, one day, something amazing happens. This is a story for anyone, at any age, who’s ever had an idea that seemed a little too big, too odd, too difficult. It’s a story to inspire you to welcome that idea, to give it some space to grow, and to see what happens next. Because your idea isn’t going anywhere. In fact, it’s just getting started.

What Do You Do With A Problem: From the same author and illustrator as the #1 nationally best-selling What Do You Do With an Idea? comes a new book to encourage you to look closely at problems and discover the possibilities they can hold. This is the story of a persistent problem and the child who isn’t so sure what to make of it. The longer the problem is avoided, the bigger it seems to get. But when the child finally musters up the courage to face it, the problem turns out to be something quite different than it appeared.

What Do You Do With A Chance: In this story, a child is visited by his first chance and unsure what to do with it, he lets it go. Later on, when a new chance arrives he reaches for it, but this time he misses and falls. Embarrassed and afraid, he begins ignoring each new chance that comes by, even though he still wants to take them. Then one day he realizes that he doesn’t need to be brave all the time, just at the right time, to find out what amazing things can happen when he takes a chance…

* * * * *

Despite what you may think, picture books are not just for children. There are deep meanings hidden between its simple wording and colorful pages. Yamada’s three picture books, What Do You Do With An Idea, What Do You Do with A Problem, and What Do You Do With A Chance, are by far one of the cutest and most meaningful children’s picture books that I have ever read.

The illustrations are so tasteful and creative that you can’t help but want to turn the page to see what’s on it. The one aspect of the illustration that really stuck out to me was the gradual saturation that increases as you continue to read the book. By the end of the book you get your full glorious brightness of the illustration.

What Do You Do With An Idea: The idea is illustrated as an egg. Eggs are viewed as fragile but also the beginning of life. You need to keep an egg warm and close to you for it to hatch into this new life. I thought it was the perfect representation of something intangible as an idea. This was the first book of Yamada’s that I read. I was attracted to the simple cover and ended up reading the whole book in a Target. Once I finished, I immediately bought it. I had to have my own copy because it was such an innovative idea (see what I did there? haha). I then proceeded to ordering all of Yamada’s other books as well.

What Do You Do With A Problem: The problem is illustrated as this dark ominous cloud in the sky that follows the little boy. Problems never disappear and will hover and cast a shadow over you for as long as it may. The ending illustration for this book was fantastic! The two-page spread was explosive and shows that though problems may look dark in the beginning, they can reveal great new opportunities.

What Do You Do With A Chance: The chance is illustrated as an origami butterfly. It’s small in the beginning, but bright and magical. Like a butterfly, chances will flutter around but eventually it flies away if you don’t take a hold of it. Third book by Yamada and I wasn’t disappointed.

Overall, I recommend all three books to read. If you have children or if you want to take a little breather from the more serious pieces of literature, these three books are a great choice.

Buy your copy on Amazon:

What Do You Do With An Idea
What Do You Do With A Problem
What Do You Do With A Chance

PICTURE BOOK: Moon Lily

Excited to say that I will be publishing my first children’s picture book by the end of April!

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Moon Lily is about a white flower who wants to be beautiful. She journeys to become beautiful and meets many beautiful things, but can’t seem to find beauty in herself. When she meets a guiding light, the true meaning of beauty is revealed to Lily.

Paperback and hardcover copies will be available on Amazon!

 

BOOK REVIEW: Six of Crow by Leigh Bardugo

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Author: Leigh Bardugo
Genre: Young Adult
Series: Six of Crows (Duology)

SIX OF CROWS: ★★★★★!!! (5)

Buy it on Amazon

SUMMARY: Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price–and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone…
A convict with a thirst for revenge.
A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager.
A runaway with a privileged past.
A spy known as the Wraith.
A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums.
A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes.
Six dangerous outcasts. One impossible heist. Kaz’s crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction―if they don’t kill each other first.

REVIEW: I loved the Grisha trilogy by Leigh Bardugo so I was sure I was going to love Six of Crows as well. I am actually a bit obsessed with Bardugo’s writing style. There is a special complexity with they way she weaves her words together that truly brings the whole story to life. I started this book months ago, but because life got really busy I wasn’t able to finish it until now (though I read the remaining 200 pgs in one night!)

The first thing I’ll mention is that the book is written from six different perspectives. When I first heard this, I was a tad bit skeptical because I’ve read books that bounce between characters and sometimes they begin meshing and you end up losing track of who’s who. But, not once did I get confused while reading Six of Crows. I always knew who was speaking because they each had such a specific feel. And I appreciated the fact that Bardugo delved deeper into the background of each character, really only giving us small tastes into each personal drive for committing themselves to this impossible heist. There was no repetition of the story and it flowed so flawlessly that I really felt as if I was part of the heist itself!

Weakness. Six outcasts with special sets of skills, yet still human with their own weakness. First driven by money and greed, each outcast discovers something about themselves and their true reasoning for agreeing to the heist. The way Bardugo unravels the history of each character humanizes them and even though they have done terrible things, you feel for them. Everyone has a weakness, even someone who seems so untouchable as Kaz Brekker, it only takes one moment to realize that no one is without a weakness.

KAZ BREKKER: Kaz is the leader, the brains, the mastermind. Despite his bad leg and young age, people fear him and know he is a force to be reckoned with. Kaz is a thinker and a solver; never giving in to failure, he always finds a way. I can’t wait to see what Kaz has up his sleeve for the next book. He has been so hardened by his past that he doesn’t allow himself to show any vulnerability, but I do hope he’ll find that there is more to life than money.

INEJ: Inej is a Suli girl who makes a name for herself as the Wraith of the Dregs. She’s a strong and capable young girl. Despite her past at the menagerie, she devoted herself to overcoming the darkness and becoming someone others fear and respect, while staying true to herself and her Suli beliefs.

NINA: Nina is a Corporalnik Grisha. Despite her beauty, she has a sharp wit and mouth. Despite what you may think, Nina is the most selfless character. She’s never really thinking of herself and acts for the greater good of others.

MATTHIAS: Matthias has a bittersweet past with Nina as he was betrayed and convicted of a crime he had never committed. He’s a Fjerdan who is also betraying his home country, ironically to be reinstated his freedom to it. He made me nervous at times because if anyone was going to betray the group, it would be Matthias. But as Kaz says, Matthias is too “decent” a man.

JESPER: Jesper is a sharp-shooter. There’s a secret reveal during the heist too that I didn’t see coming. Kaz always has something up his sleeve and he chose Jesper for the heist for a specific reason. There’s a subtle undertone of homosexuality with him and Wylan, though it’s not outright confirmed in this book. Maybe the next…

WYLAN: Wylan is a mercher’s son who ran away. At first Kaz adds him to the heist more so as leverage for the exchange after the heist, but Wylan proves to be quite useful during the heist. At the beginning, he acts like a nervous, naive young boy who doesn’t belong with the seasoned group. However, he grows stronger and more confident in himself as he finds a place among the other outcasts.

One thing I do want to know is if others noticed the similarities between Fjerdan-Grisha conflict and Nazi Germany. I’m not sure if the connection was intentional or if I’m just reading into it too much, but it reminded me of the Nazi regime. The Fjerdan (Nazis) hate the Grisha (Jews) and basically burn them on stakes and run tests on them because they’re different and have powers they don’t believe they should have. I guess I made the connection more so because the Fjerdans are described to have blonde hair and blue eyes. It might not have been intentional, but I thought it was something worth mentioning. I’m curious to see if anyone else made that reference too.

I’m also very proud to say, that I did see that twist at the end coming! I guess after reading into Kaz’s mind so much, I started to think like him as well 🙂

Anyway, I DEFINITELY recommend you read this book. It’s fantastic and you will not be disappointed. It’s also a duology and Crooked Kingdom is slated to release in September! I can’t wait.

Buy it on Amazon

ARTICLE: So, what do you do?

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So, what do you do?

What have you been up to?

 Did you find a job?

As a millennial in her mid-20’s, this question has easily become the bane of my existence. My life in regards to employment is unconventional to say the least. I’m ridiculous busy, yet not busy at all. If you don’t know me personally, let me give you a brief overview of the things I do (in order of importance).

  1. Club. I own a volleyball club that runs year around because there is a girls and a boys season. My responsibilities include all bookkeeping, ordering equipment/gear, coaching at practices and tournaments, and general admin work. (aka it’s almost tax season and I’m kind of stressed.)
  2. Coaching. In addition to owning a volleyball club, I’m also the head coach at a high school for a boys volleyball team. This is a lot of work as well because I have to invest more time into it. I practice 2-3 hours every week day and two of the days there are travel games, not to mention weekend tournaments. Once March rolls around, until the end of May, my scheduled is BOOKED.
  3. Weddings. I also started my own wedding videography business a couple years ago. So whenever I don’t have a tournament on a weekend, I book weddings to film. Usually this is an all-day affair for filming and consists of about one month of editing.
  4. Writing. While I would love to dedicate more time to writing it is more of a hobby as of now. I just finished Kalcyon (The Phoenix Ashes, #2) and I should probably start on the last installment of the trilogy soon.

Anyway, you’ll notice I’m not the traditional 9-5 type of person at all. I dabble into a lot of different things and so organizing my life is kind of a nightmare sometimes because I have to make sure to meet deadlines for each “job.” Which brings me back to the original dreaded questions. “So, what do you do?” People/family always ask this; it’s the question to fill silence with an answer that may or may not be interesting. The real question is, “What don’t I do?”

Typically, I’ll answer depending on my mood at that given moment. I hate to list the things I do because it usually leads to a lot of questions, so I stick with one and don’t mention the others. I have the luxury of trying new things at this moment in my life and I’m always thankful for the chance to discover what it is I want to dedicate my life to. I think it’s easy enough for me to find an office job and work a 40-hr week, but that’s just not me and I would probably go insane. (I’ve worked in an office for a fashion company before and when month three hit, I just couldn’t take it anymore).

I guess what I’m trying to say is that even though the road is tough and may not yield immediate spoils, seek your dream job or passion if you have the opportunity. You’ll be pleasantly surprised with how easy it is to put in hours and hours of your time without it feeling like work at all. Most of the times, you won’t end up where you thought you would five years ago. I never imagined I’d be where I am today and I’m ecstatic with what I’ve accomplished in my 25 years of life. I might not be rolling in the dough, but I can confidently say that I am more than satisfied with where I am right at this moment. I can just feel that this year will be an incredible milestone for me. Keep reaching for the stars, they’re closer than you think.

Stop asking, “So, what do you do?”

It’s time to be asking, “So, what do you want to do and what are you going to do about it?”

Kalcyon Soundtrack

Kalcyon will officially be released on January 31, 2016. And I’m happy to say that the e-book, paperback, AND hardcover will be available for purchase!

To have a little look into what to anticipate, here is the soundtrack that inspired me throughout the writing journey of Kalcyon. Enjoy!

I made both the Karnage and Kalcyon playlists public on Spotify if you want to listen to them at your own leisure.

Karnage Soundtrack

Kalcyon Soundtrack

KALCYON SOUNDTRACK

  1. i believe by Christina Perri
  2. human by Christina Perri
  3. Wings by Birdy
  4. One the Water by Finding Favour
  5. Stars by Marie Hines
  6. Young Blood by Bea Miller
  7. The Call by Regina Spektor
  8. Feels Like Coming Home by Jetta
  9. If You Say So by Lea Michele
  10. The Sun Is Rising by Britt Nicole
  11. Cassiopeia by Sara Bareilles
  12. Crystals by Of Monsters And Men
  13. Hunger by Of Monsters And Men
  14. Black Water by Of Monsters And Men
  15. I of the Storm by Of Monsters And Men
  16. Monsters by Katie Sky
  17. Poison & Wine by The Civil Wars
  18. Don’t Wanna Be Your Girl by Wet
  19. Statues by Nina Nesbitt
  20. Pilgrims On a Long Journey by Coeur De Pirate (Instrumental)
  21. Pau hafa sloppio undan punga myrkursins by Olafur Arnalds (Instrumental)
  22. Four Walls by Broods
  23. Run – Snow Patrol by Eklipse (Instrumental Cover)
  24. Runaway by AURORA
  25. Who We Are by Tristan Prettyman
  26. Brother by The Brilliance

Wrapping up 2015. Hello 2016

In 2015, I published my first book (Karnage) and completed my second (Kalcyon). When I was a senior in high school, I could only dream of this moment. Writing was my medicine for boredom and though some people found it a strange prescription, I found it absolutely right (pun intended!).

As I occasionally fan through the pages of my book, I still can’t believe it myself. I wonder how I sat my scattered mind down to write 600+ pages of a story. I’ve immersed myself in the fantasy world of Celestria this past year and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I have the last book of the trilogy slated to be completed by the end of this year and I’m not only sad but excited for this adventure to come to an end. (Though I don’t think this world will ever come to a complete end for me and I’m sure I’ll venture back to Celestria, and maybe expand beyond just Selena’s story).

One thing I’ve learned in 2015 that applied to every aspect of my life was a realization I had when writing the dedication for Kalcyon:

For everyone who had a dream that seemed too far to reach–greatness is achieved when you transform your weakness into strength.

I’m a hopeless dreamer when it comes to life and I always believe that there is something greater out there, so I continue to reach forward no matter how impossible things may seem. And I want to encourage everyone out there with a dream that you may have had as a child or still currently keep close to your heart because anything is possible. I know it sounds cliche, but you will only get as far as you believe you will. It may take five days or even five years, and even if you have to crawl to get there, every move forward gets you closer to achieving that dream.

It’s worth it.

The things you love the most are the things that get you the most frustrated. I’ve wanted to bang my head against the wall multiple times during my writing process, but I never gave up and continued to look forward because I knew all the blood, sweat, and tears would be worth it in the end. 2015 has been a hallmark year for me in terms of personal achievements and I’m sure 2016 will be no different. Happy New Year!

Leigh’s 2016 Writing New Year’s Resolutions

I. Complete The Phoenix Ashes Trilogy
II. Complete book 1 and 2 of the Death Wish Undone Trilogy
III. Get traditionally published
IV. Publish “Moon Lily”
V. Read 30 books!

 

What did you learn in 2015 and what do you hope to achieve in 2016??